Her chiseled profile.
Swept into coiffed elegance.
To rest on the breastbone,
Nameless as the sea
From which she came.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the prisons in California are overcrowded; they are so overcrowded in fact that the federal court mandated that state officials reduce the number by no fewer than 30,000 inmates. There is a disturbing picture on the front page of The New York Times of an open gymnasium-style room jam-packed with inmates and what Justice Kennedy described as “telephone-booth-sized cages without toilets.”
Listen these people belong in prison and must be segregated from the rest of society – law abiding citizens; but if you see these pictures there is no question in my mind and obviously in the eyes of the law that this is cruel and unusual punishment. This I find unbelievable but according to The New York Times, an inmate dies needlessly every week because of overcrowding. California crams in more inmates into a prison facility than in any other state – 80% higher. (Don’t ask me how they figure this out.)
There are three solutions to the problem: 1. early release. We definitely do not want this; if the inmate is a violent predator, that person does not get out – period. I would consider early release or transfer to a drug treatment or rehabilitation facility if the inmate is held on possession or even distribution as long as the individual did not commit a violent crime. As a matter of fact I don’t think we should even incarcerate individuals with drug problems, we should mandate that they serve his or her time in drug rehabilitation facilities (another blog). 2. New prisons – This is the obvious and only long-term solution however 2 issues crop up – a. California is broke and has a $10 billion dollar deficit and b. No one wants a state prison in his or her backyard. My response to this is too bad and besides there is plenty of open space where we can build these prisons so that they are not literally in one’s backyard. The last solution which is a temporary one is 3. Transfer the inmates to the county jails. Now again common sense is in order here; do not send the “Night Stalker” – Richard Ramirez to a county jail and have him bunk with an individual who is overdue on his parking tickets. Send the less violent criminals to county until the state prison facilities are built.
This is a short blog but I think I have succinctly made my point and l will certainly blog a lot more on crime and punishment.
So now it’s your turn WHADAWETHINK ?
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Norman Mailer (renowned American novelist, 1923 – 2007) stated a few years before his death that if he were a young man today, his dream would to be a great director of films. He went on to say that in his youth everyone fantasized about being the great American novelist – which he in fact turned into a reality. He went on to say that today he could think of nothing more satisfying than bringing one’s artistic vision to film; using actors like pawns, directing the cinematographer to create one’s aesthetic vision, utilizing camera angles, the use of sound, post-production, directing, writing, and orchestrating everything not unlike a great general of vast armies.
I do not recall to whom Mr. Mailer made this statement but if he had said it to Woody Allen, I am sure Woody would have said something to the effect of “Well have fun trying because it’s impossible buddy!”Woody Allen was once questioned what his own favorite movies were. If memory serves me right, I believe he said Matchpoint was because the final product came closest to the artistic vision he had in his mind – more so than to any other film he had ever directed before – and it still was not right.
When a writer like John Banville writes a sentence such as: “All morning under a milky sky the waters in the bay had swelled, rising to unheard-of heights, the small waves creeping over parched sand that for years had known no wetting save for rain and lapping the very bases of the dunes. ” Try creating that image onto film and see if you can do it?(On the flip side there are visual images that are impossible to put into words.) The aforementioned is of a very particular setting.
Try to conceptualize the characters you have created and see if you can direct the actors to become the characters you have in your head come to life and have them act exactly the way you envisioned him or her to look or act.
If you are a writer or a painter and you are talented you can artistically express yourself with razor-like precision. There are hundreds of players involved in making a film and it is a team effort in every sense of the word. It is probably impossible to get exactly what you want. I am a film aficionado but I think that 99% of movies that are released are awful. Why are they so bad ? Because it is unspeakably difficult to make a good film because of all the different variables I just mentioned. Let us just say that hypothetically you had a perfect cast with the best cinematographer in the world, now you have to concern yourself with the people underwriting the film. Unfortunately, everything is about money and films exist because unbelievably no matter how awful a movie is, someone, somewhere, at some time thought the piece of garbage could somehow turn out a profit. Books are so much better than film because typically if someone is reading literature, the individual is smart and the writer does not have to worry about dumbing it down or making it more accessible to the reader. Fortunately, we are getting better films because Independent Niche films make it possible and the director’s hands are not tied down as much. The only problem is finding investors who share or can relate to your dream.
Here is another problem – length. The perfect film would probably have to be about 20 hours long. Character development that is so important and essential for any good story takes time. A few select films like the Godfather was able to do this to a certain degree. I hate sit-coms, weekly TV dramas and Soap Operas but people are drawn to them because they get to know the characters. That is why the Sopranos has worked (one of the reasons). I have probably seen every great movie known to man and nothing comes close to the great books I have read. Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying; there are good movies and occasionally I’ll get that euphoric feeling a person feels from reading a great book. I average watching about a movie a night and lately it seems that I say to myself maybe once every 4 months – “wow, that film wasn’t half bad. Good acting and good cinematography”.
I will close this blog by saying that occasionally there are moments in film that are so awe-inspiring that only film can deliver with the poignancy that an artist is looking for or sometimes it is a scene that just happens accidentally. It is rare but it does happen. This can only happen when self-consciousness completely disappears and the actors forget they are acting and something magical happens. That is why I love film.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. A subject this arcane is difficult to make crystal clear in 750 words and I hope I managed to lucidly make my point.
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Say you’ll never die.
Let me always be the child
In the arms that cradle
Drawing from your strength
When there’s none of my own.
My Grecian pillar
Carved from stone,
The face of brave Ulysses.
Now more than ever, because people DON’T read as much as they used to, there is a prodigious trove of great literature that goes unread.
Last year I received as a gift – a hefty book – one of those “1001 things you must do before you die”series that are so popular today but this was entitled ‘1001 Books you must Read Before you Die”. To my great surprise this was a collection of truly magnificent literature from Aesop’s Fables to Moby Dick to Don Delillo’s Underworld, Ian McEwan, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Paul Auster and so much more. I was expecting to see Harry Potter , Danielle Steele, Tom Clancy, Deen Koontz, John Grisham, James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, Anne Rice, Harold Robbins, and Stephan King (poor Mr. King, I heard that he doesn’t like the fact that the literary critics don’t see him as a gentleman of letters. Too bad, he just must accept his limitations and count his money; one cannot even find SK in the fiction section, let alone literature. He’s in the horror section right next to adult animation – comic books) No this was the real thing. When you looked at the 3 dozen or so contributors, you could see that they were all literary critics with Ph.Ds.
Every one of my favorites was in here but there were so many geniuses I’ve never read like E.L. Doctorow, T. Coraghessan Boyle and 100s more. I suddenly thought of myself of one who rather instead of being well-read but well quite frankly – ignorant. Everyone knows that great literature is so much more important than non-fiction. Literature like great classical music lasts forever and their words will forever be etched into our collective consciousness to be handed down from generations to come until the end of time. In terms of what art form leaves the longest, strongest, most influential, most resonant, and most powerful legacy – the power of great literature is the best. Artists and composers may differ with me but I say the written word if it is true, will remain true forever and the eternal truths it teaches us can and must only be conveyed via fiction.
So that you get the right book, it’s – 1001 books You Must Read Before You Die, edited by Peter Boxall and the text is written by scores of literary critics. I read a lot and I used to read more (yes I read when I’m driving – at lights or when there’s traffic.) Now if I’m awake – I’m reading, writing or watching film. I also have been watching a lot of C-SPAN – 1,2 and 3. I used to only watch C-SPAN 2 for Book TV but all 3 channels are great. They have intellectual talk shows with no commercials everyday – not just congress in action (even I get bored with that).
The point is there is so much great literature and great information (and sadly a whole lot of s**t but you can just ignore that stuff) out there that one can’t get to it all, especially if you have kids. I’m a book worm and I feel that I need another 50 years to get through this amazing list. Plus I do read non-fiction, the paper, and The New Yorker every day.
It saddens me that a majority of these amazing books are going to go unread; but it does make me feel good that the great will be around for future generations. Greatness lasts forever. Sure Deen Koontz and the like are best sellers now but they will be gone in 100 YEARS AND David Foster Wallace will still be with us RIP.
I’ve said this a million times and I will say it again- ‘Life is short and art is long’ I am poor in terms of money but I’m the richest man on the planet when I allow Marcel Proust into my life.
You know the deal – hover, click and shop away. Perhaps you can purchase this book if wish. I am personally hooked on this book. For the past week, I haven’t gone anywhere without it. Even if you don’t read the actual books listed in here, the reviews are wonderful. So much greatness, so little time.
Capitalism and the free market system has always been unfair in terms of how much money an entertainer makes compared to i.e. what a neuroscientist makes. Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin made more money than people who worked at NASA or even the president of the United States back in the 1970s.
Forbes just released their annual top 100 entertainers list ranked in terms of how much money he or she made in 2010 and it is not pretty. Warning: Before reading this, I highly recommend that whether you are an unemployed or a barely- eking- out- a -living Doctor, Surgeon, computer programmer, CPA, Lawyer, scientist, Investment Banker or any other hard working gifted professional in this dreadful economy; please stay away from sharp objects, rope (even a tie), heavy machinery, tall buildings, benzodiazepines or any other object with which one can seriously injure or kill oneself. That includes any other substance which if ingested in large amounts can also result in death.
Lady Gaga passed up Oprah Winfrey and made more money than any entertainer made last year. She made a cool 90 million dollars touring plus tens of millions of dollars associated with advertising on the social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In addition to which, Lady Gaga has a whole storage room of gadgetry including personalized make-up products, monster headphones, virgin mobile phones she features in her videos, her platform shoes and on and on and on. Bottom line she has made more than 300 million dollars in 2010.
The list is top 100 but I will just cover the top 10.
#2 – Oprah Winfrey made 290 million bucks, so she was just beat by Lady Gaga by a mere 10 million bucks.
#3- Justin Bieber – again like Lady Gaga he actually made $53 million with his music but it was the other endorsements that put him into the 200 million + category. That youngster with all that money because he sings okay and he’s cute. (But aren’t there another 100 million or so boys that are cute too.)
#4 – U2 – $195 million. I don’t like U2 but I do admire their staying power and drive.
#5 – Elton John –150+ million. Hey he’s better than Liberace ever was and he’s been around forever.
#6 – Tiger Woods – The greatest golfer to ever play the game. He’s making a comeback.
#7 – Taylor Swift – I don’t like her music.
#8 – Bon Jovi – 125 million in 2010. This guy is a no talent if there ever was one. He can’t sing, doesn’t play an instrument and he initially made it because of his extraordinary good looks and he’s still around because he’s still good-looking. Bon-Jovi’s music “sucks” big time.
#9 – Simon Cowell – $90 million dollars for Simon Cowell ???????????????????????? That insipid, unfunny, no-talented English guy from that awful show American Idol. Wow – what a world we live in – only in America – right Don King !!
10. Lebron James – $48 million dollars. He’s the only guy I’m happy for. I mean I certainly think he’s overpaid, I don’t think a basketball player should make more than a college professor but he’s super-talented and I’m happy to see a kid from the projects make some serious money. I remember right before he turned pro, there was all this controversy because he accepted a little bit of money when he was in high school by his people. It was only a few thousand dollars for t-shirts. I remember thinking to myself – ‘Don’t mess it up Lebron – just wait it out and you will be richer than you could ever imagine. “
Well there you go – the world is falling apart and Lady Gaga is making $300 million dollars. In my opinion she’s dumber than a box of rocks, she’s mediocre as a performer and is rich because her handlers marketed her right. ONLY IN AMERICA !!!!!!
Now it’s your turn WHADAWETHINK ? Are you angry or do you think these celebrities deserve this much $$. At least Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin was an awesome guitar player. The Beatles were talented and released some of the greatest songs ever made.
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This four-star thriller/legal Drama where most of the action happens outside of the courtroom is such a joy to watch. The main protagonist, Michael Clayton, adroitly played by George Clooney is known in the legal industry as a “Fixer” – yes I know – what is a fixer? A fixer is an attorney who does not practice law but rather puts out fires. Michael Clayton refers to himself as a “janitor”, he’s charming, smart, is connected to everyone, uses his influence and finds legal loopholes. He is not only good at what he does, he is the best, and he works for one the most prestigious Law Firms in the world. If one listens to the commentary it is made crystal clear that “Fixers” exist in real life and everyone in the know is aware of this fact.
Anyway if the movie is flawed, it’s because it’s a little confusing in the beginning and in some other parts but after seeing the movie twice (that’s the beauty of DVD, besides it’s better the second time) it’s easy as pie to follow along. Anyway, the movie starts out showing Michael Clayton playing poker with some serious players and based on the dialogue it becomes clear that Clayton probably has a gambling problem. He is interupted by a phone call by his boss/lawyer and this establishes the fact that he works for a law firm but in what capacity we are not sure yet.
It’s the middle of the night and Michael Clayton is on his way to help, we assume, a very important client. He also is not aware nor is the audience at this time cognizant of the fact that two men who want to kill him are also following him. Clayton reaches his destination and it is clear that this client is super-rich and has just been involved in a hit and run. The client is very upset and is initially irate that MC is as cool as a cucumber. The client starts ranting, raving, and states that he’s going to call MC’S boss. Clayton softly says “maybe you weren’t driving the car.” Scene ends
It’s almost morning and it looks like MC is going home. As you will see later in the film MC has a habit of just driving aimlessly to allay stress. Clayton is taking in the beautiful landscape and he then spots 4 beautiful horses. MC stops his car and goes up to greet the gorgeous animals. Then –BOOM! His car explodes. Are you confused? I’ve written 425 words and the film has just started.
The film now jumps back to 4 days earlier. We find out Michael owes money to some loan shark concerning a failed business deal with his brother ( this part of the movie is a little vague and not developed real well but it’s good enough to know he owes $$.) The real crux of the story is that MC works for perhaps the most prestigious law firm in the world- Kenner, Bach & Ledeen, and throughout the years, being the fixer for this firm MC has been a key pawn in the success the firm. We also know that YES, the law firm is successful but all their clients are crooked and dishonest. This story is about their biggest client, U-North (an agricultural products conglomerate) who is being leveled with a multi-billionaire dollar class action suit against it because many of their products carry carcinogens and as a result, several people have died.
U-North knows they are definitely going to be fined but it wants to settle and stay in business. A problem has arisen when Arthur Edens (magnificently played by Tom Wikenson) the best attorney money can buy stops taking his medication (he’s also bi-polar) and does something incredibly bizarre at the deposition (I won’t spoil it for you) and jeopardizes the entire case. The message of the film is that his behavior had nothing to do whatsoever with his action but rather he grew a conscience. Nevertheless, the law firm brings in MC – “The Fixer” to get Edans into shape in order to help U-North and salvage a settlement.
A lot of action takes place from this point on until the end of the movie. So I won’t spoil this, I’ll just mention that since Edens has grown a conscience and he knows that U-North ‘s products are killing scores of people, Edens intends on filing a suit against his own client - U-North.
If I write anymore I’ll give away the whole movie so I’ll stop here and just encourage you to go see the movie – it’s great. There is so much more to come and the tension and intrigue just builds. Oh, I must mention the fact that Clooney’s acting is superb as usual but Tilda Swinton, who plays the role as U-North’s general counsel (Karen Crowder), is outstanding. At the end of film, There is an interaction between Michael Clayton and Karen Crowder that is absolutely PRICELESS! That one scene alone is worth the price of the movie.
Well enough out of me. WHADAWETHINK ? Have you seen Michael Clayton? If not this is a must- see film and if you have seen it, see it again.
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Life is short and art is long which is the reason I am very selective when it comes to watching film. I watch many movies and I do not want to waste precious time watching garbage. Having said that, I think VHS, DVD, AND Netflix is an absolute dream come true. I can watch any movie in the world instantaneously. (Or maybe wait a day or two.) I am a serious film viewer (I watch movies just for fun too – I’m not a film snob)and I fell in love with movies when I was a child. (I believe I’ve blogged about this so I won’t elaborate again).
Today’s movie is ‘Noise’ – 2007, written and directed by Tony Spiridakis. Be careful to get the right one because there are two other films out there with the same name. This is a hard –to – find independent gem in every sense of the words. It’s a psychological and suspenseful thriller that leaves you on the edge of your seat but it is subtle and understated. (Subtlety, good direction, and good acting means everything to me. I want to become engrossed, get into the characters’ shoes, and forget that I am watching a movie.)
If you have ever had an apartment for any length of time, it’s impossible not to identify with this film on some level. This film is also clearly a homage to Roman Polanski; A stunningly beautiful woman who is completely innocent of any wrongdoing and becomes victim of some of the most wicked things.
Joyce Chandler (Trish Goff )is a recent divorcee, who’s trying to get her life back together; she lands a job with a company as a copywriter and also finds what seems like a perfect apartment in the village, N.Y.C. but soon realizes that her neighbor directly upstairs from her is a noisy “nut-job” who is keeping her awake all night. Incidentally the lunatic in the upstairs apartment is played by Ally Sheedy and her name is Charlotte Bancroft ; and her performance as this annoying- beyond- words woman is simply amazing. In addition, while I am on the topic of acting, it’s Trish Goff’s (a “Supermodel”) first film role and she is stupendous. As a matter of fact the whole cast is phenomenal even in the small bit roles. The cast is made up of seasoned actors (mostly theater) and they were all amazed at how astonishingly natural Trish Goff is. The director, Tony spiridakis was shocked how good she was; sure she’s beautiful but an off the charts actor to boot – and her first film role. She makes acting look easy.
Joyce initially tries to handle the situation civilly, writes a note, and leaves it under Charlotte’s door. Presumably, the next day or so Charlotte knocks on Joyce’s door and Charlotte and Joyce meet for the first time. Charlotte apologizes, and maybe goes on a little too long but Joyce thinks that things are now all “peachy-keen’. WRONG! Things get worse – a lot worse. Charolette continues to blast the stereo and TV and will not let poor Joyce get any rest.
The one person Joyce has befriended, Giancarlo Esposito (Hank), tells her to simply move out and find another apartment. Joyce is obstinate – she will not relent and give in to this terrible person. She even devises a plan ( I won’t tell you and spoil it for you) but the crazy woman upstairs continues to torture her and and things get even worse.
At this point in the film, Joyce’s world is falling apart – she starts drinking heavily and becomes promiscuous, loses her job and the viewer at this point starts to wonder whether or not she is losing her mind.
I think I have given you enough information without giving everything away. This really is a wonderful movie and can be viewed on so many different levels (just like all good movies). The question is, maybe Joyce is imagining things at some point. There are lots of things to think about and ponder over when watching this simple but well-acted gem. I’ll give you one hint – Joyce is very guilty about something and it is haunting her.
So WHADAWETHINK ? Have you seen this movie ? If not, add it to Netflix or buy it at Amazon (I, personally own the DVD). Good movies can always be watched more than once. Enjoy and thanks for reading my blog. Many of my readers have been requesting that I do more Film reviews. I will try to do one a day, as well as continue on with the other good stuff.