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King Kong review

I saw two movies recently: King Kong and (yes) Brokeback Mountain. The second was, as you might expect, the result of intense lobbying from my girlfriend. I actually thought Brokeback Mountain was pretty good. Nice cinematography, and you could really feel the movie going through the two decades or however long it lasted.

I actually liked it more than King Kong. King Kong did nothing for me. Maybe it was because, as I realized at some point afterwards, it was essentially just a remake of... Brokeback Mountain! You just have to think of Naomi Watts in the Jake Gyllenhaal role (not too hard, with those pouty lips) and then it all makes sense. Here's the story: it's about a young woman who aspires to be in showbiz; she ends up in a rugged, semi-deserted location with a gruff, anti-social guy. The guy broods a lot and barely says more than a few words, but he's had a rough life and there's something alluring about him. The two are mistrusful of each other at first, and her attempts to entertain him fall flat, but after getting to know each other better (and fighting off some lethal animals) they develop a nice rapport; before you know it they're making googly eyes and stroking each other lovingly. She still has to deal with her "official" love interest, who's completely clueless about the relationship and a bit of an airhead to boot. Things really fall apart when he comes over to visit her, and once people get wind of the relationship it has to be destroyed. This is partly because society can't deal with things it doesn't understand, but mostly because there was realistically no other way to end the story.

Anyway, that's my view. I predict King Kong will do for man-ape love the same thing Brokeback Mountain did for homosexuality (i.e. nothing).


Wafah du jour

America must have gone Wafah DuFour-crazy! GQ's new issue, with a photo spread on her, came out recently. She's Osama bin Laden's niece (although she says she's never met him) and she's in New York trying to make it as a singer. I wrote this little post about her way back in April, where I suggested that, if she wants to make it, she should be an M.I.A.-like militant rapper instead of a singer (hey, that's the kind of career advice you get for free). Pretty much as soon as the magazine hit the stands last week the search engine queries started coming, and they never stopped; I'd guess I've gotten a few thousand already.

If you're curious about her, Ace has a post with both more insightful commentary and more cheesecake than I offered. But that's why he's the big success.


Quick hits

That transit strike was really another battle in the pensions war. Our 70-year-old pension system won't go down without a long fight (though declining birth rates mean go down it will).

Ken Wheaton's photos from New Orleans. Damn, these make the Superdome look like a nice vacation getaway.

Eliot Spitzer behaves thuggishly.

The NSA wiretapping "kerfuffle" turns out to be a Clinton-era data mining initiative, according to Ars Technica. Not that that makes it good or bad.

What's the big story of 2005?


No transit, dammit

I'm taking the day off, not because of the transit strike but because of a package delivery. I went out before and car traffic on Flatbush, the main street near where I am, was at a crawl, not much faster than walking speed.

Jessica has a William Carlos Williams-style poem that captures the mood. Well, I'm inspired now, let me give it a try:

So much depends

a Trinidadian guy who gets
on my nerves

and should probably
be in jail.

Karol says that this strike might convince New Yorkers that unions are not their friend. I hope she's right. I especially hope that Randi Weingarten, head of the United Federation of Teachers, which has done the most to keep vouchers and charter schools out of New York City, gets her reputation trashed. She's been at every press conference showing "solidarity".

Jane Galt is much more pessimistic, alas: "the union will win, as unions always win in New York City."

UPDATE: Turns out he's Trinidadian, not Haitian! I found this out a few hours after I wrote the post but never got a chance to edit it.


Iraq War: 2003-2005?

Is it too early to declare an end to this war? Obviously, there will be no climactic moment when we know it's over, like a peace treaty signed or piece of land conquered. The actual "war" war ended less than a week after it started, when Saddam Hussein went into hiding and our troops rolled into Baghdad with minimal resistance. But the level of insurgent fighting since then has been significant enough that no one could say peace had arrived. Look at the situation now, though: there's a massive election going on in Iraq, with all ethnic groups actively involved (I recommend this Iraq the Model meta-post for a roundup of election information, by the way). Thousands of candidates across the political spectrum ran, this time openly and not (unlike January's election) in secret or semi-secret. Moqtada al-Sadr (remember him?), who at one point represented the specter of destabilization and anti-democracy, was heavily involved in campaigning this time around. Yes, there were some explosions, one fatality, and insurgent attacks aren't going to end anytime soon. But at what point do you say it's no longer a war and just low-level unrest?

I was flipping through the news channels on TV this morning for updates, and they were barely covering the elections, unlike in January. Even Fox News spent less than 50% of their time on it, as if democracy in Iraq were so commonplace by now that it's not worth spending a lot of time on.

Will peace be official when U.S. forces leave Iraq? I don't know a good 60 years since we saw any action over there. Well, maybe it's wishful thinking, but maybe now is as good a time as any to call this thing a wrap.


Tough choices

Three big things going on for New York Jews on Dec. 24... I'm still on all sorts of mailing lists so I figured I'd share:

Ironic that it's all happening on Christmas Eve, which is when usually the hardest choice for Jews is whether to eat at "Hunan Delight" or "Empire Szechuan".

I myself will be going to none of these things. For once, I've got some bona fide pre-existing Christmas Eve plans, suckaz.


My latest gig

I'll be playing bass in this production this weekend, on Friday and Saturday (subbing in for the main bass player, who's got some Christmas gigs - hey, subbing is what keeps me in the 'biz). It's a new musical, an adaptation of "Lysistrata", written by Galt MacDermot, who wrote "Hair". Like "Hair", it hits the trifecta of sex, anti-war politics and classical references ("Hair" had a bunch of allusions to "Hamlet", of all things). It's also got the same mid-60's sound that "Hair" did; I guess unlike, say, Andrew Lloyd Webber, MacDermot never bothered to change his style; probably for the best.

Anyway, Friday and Saturday nights are when I'm playing, if anyone's interested in seeing it. I saw it and I was entertained; it's not really a political show, per se, and it doesn't have any cheap applause lines or anything. It's nicely put together.


The Squid Movie

I saw "The Squid and the Whale" over the weekend. It's about an dysfunctional family in the middle of a divorce, in mid-80's Park Slope, Brooklyn. I wouldn't really recommend it, unless you want to see two hours of miserable people doing miserable things to each other. The two parents are both authors, and they both (especially the father) come off as self-centered and amoral, basically just worried about getting published and scoring notches on their bedpost.

The neat part of the movie is that was filmed to a large extent within a few blocks of my apartment. I saw them filming one evening last year (and posted about it too - too lazy to look it up now), and saw one of the Baldwin brothers on the corner (turns out - Billy). It's neat that there's this little memento of my home now.

I don't know if it's a common perception of authors that they're narcissists, by the way - I recall another movie a while back, a French movie called "Look At Me", that said basically the same thing. Apologies to any authors reading this - maybe I'm thinking about it because I had a run-in recently with a novelist that didn't do anything to alleviate that perception.

Though maybe in this movie they were just bitter because they were the only family with an 80's car, on a block full of 2004-era cars. That would tee off anyone.


Quick hits

Fifty Cent, George W. Bush fan.

Apparently not everyone loves Canada's health care! "In a recent poll, more than 80 percent of Canadians rate the system 'in crisis.'" Socialism not working again?

How bad are political experts at making predictions? even worse than average schmoes, says a New Yorker article.

Also via Jane Galt: free brunch on New Year's Day. Pancakes with an economics expert, sounds not bad.

Israeli politics: Shaister says it's no longer "incredibly boring".

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