Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I was not a big a fan of the movie "Doubt" as some, but what I did enjoy was the acting, especially those two-person scenes involving Meryl Streep and one of the actors in the film: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Viola Davis or Amy Adams. I especially enjoyed her scenes with Ms. Adams, who is the most refreshing talent to come into the movie world in the last 10 years.
Now Ms. Adams and Ms. Streep are co-starring in another film together, but judging from this trailer and what I know about the film, I can't see them having any scenes together. Ms. Streep plays Julia Child (and, typically, she seems to have the Child voice down cold) and Ms. Adams plays a young woman who, probably 50 years after Ms. Child wrote her cookbook, decides to do her own book based on cooking all of Ms. Child's recipes. Think of it as a lighter "The Hours" with no nervous breakdowns or suicides, but lots of food.
It's time to end the mudslinging, especially that coming from those dirty, rotten, cross-dressing slimeballs who oppose my agenda and are avoiding the real issues in this campaign. It's time to turn our backs on the politics of attack, especially when it comes from my chief opponent who is known to cheat on both his wife and his taxes on income he made from starring in porno films. It's time to do away with innuendos, like those coming from the rich and powerful closeted bigots financing my opponents, who spend more time with hookers than they do with their own families. It's time to end scare tactics and if you don't so so immediately, I promise you the world will come to a sudden, violent end by this time tomorrow.
Yes, dear friends, enough is enough!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
It is located at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin and it was opened to researchers and the public this week.
Here's an excerpt from one story written about the collection:
Filling more than 300 archival boxes, the paper portion of the collection includes De Niro's heavily annotated scripts and correspondence, makeup and wardrobe photographs, wardrobe continuity books, costume designs and posters and extensive production, publicity and research material.
"This is an important and incredibly rich collection," said Steve Wilson, associate curator of film at the Ransom Center. "It covers so many aspects of filmmaking, from scripts and screenwriting to costumes and film and video. Scholars and students can follow the development of such films as 'The Deer Hunter' from the printed page to the screen. I simply don't know of another film archive quite like it."
With about 8,500 items filling more than 1,000 boxes, the costumes and props within the collection constitute the center's largest single costume holding and include such iconic items as the leopard-print boxing robe worn by De Niro in "Raging Bull" and the voluminous, body-length coats of the creature in "Frankenstein."
The collection, appraised at more than $5 million, took more than two years to process, organize and catalog.
Another reason to make a pilgrimage to the state capital.
Her reasoning is that Texas is shortchanged because only 92 cents of every dollar we pay in federal fuel taxes ever finds its way back to Texas. Alaska, on the other hand, receives $4.21 for every dollar their citizens pay, so I'm doubting Hutchison's bill is going to get that much support from the big state up north.
Here are my problems with her idea. It's all highway driven and no transportation program or idea should be undertaken today without including some rail, especially high speed rail, components. And just when the federal government, thanks to the current administration, is beginning to address the nation's need for rail infrastructure, Hutchison's bill would exclude Texas from participation.
Second, according to the story about the bill in the Dallas Morning News, "Her Highway Fairness and Reform Act would let states keep all of the federal fuel taxes collected within their borders, on condition they use the funds to maintain interstate highways and for other road projects." Rail projects -- those that are needed the most here -- would be barred from receiving these much needed funds.
But, like I said, earlier, this legislation is not about solving Texas' transportation woes -- it's about positioning Sen. Hutchison against criticism from her probable GOP gubernatorial foe, Gov. Hair, who has accused the state's senior senator of not looking out for the best interests of Texas (as though Gov. Hair had looked out for the interests of anyone but the rich fringe right wing of the Republican Party).
If Hutchison was really interested in transportation in her home state she would demand an audit of the all the funds that Texas currently receives from both the federal and state gas taxes and then make sure more of those funds were dedicated to regional and statewide rail projects. We need to find ways to get polluting cars off the roads, not to build more roads to put more cars on.
Parker played 41 minutes and scored 43 points but had only 12 after the break and none in the final 7 minutes, 33 seconds. His teammates mustered only eight points during that stretch, allowing the Mavs to win despite getting diddly from both Dirk Nowitzki and Terry.
This reinforces the dominant theme of the Spurs' season: not enough help. Parker rarely played 41 minutes during a playoff game in past seasons, let alone 41 minutes of handling the ball for 15 to 20 seconds on nearly every possession. San Antonio got 68 points from Parker and Tim Duncan, but only 22 on 6-of-28 shooting from the others. Once Dallas clamped down on those two after halftime, the Spurs scored only 35 points in the second half.
According to reports, Schuster has 90-mile-an-hour fastball, "a nasty slider and curve, each of which he trusts enough to throw on 3-2 counts." He has struck out 60 during his current string of four consecutive no-hitters.
Here's the deal, however: Two other high school pitchers threw six consecutive no-hitters -- Chris Taranto in Mississippi in 1961 and Tom Engle in Ohio in 1989 -- and neither of them became major league stalwarts.
The complete tour schedule:
GCS Ballpark, Sauget, Ill., July 2
Coveleski Stadium, South Bend, Ind., July 4
Slugger Field, Louisville, Ky., July 8
Fifth Third Field, Dayton, Ohio, July 10
Classic Park, Eastlake, Ohio, July 11
CONSOL Energy Park, Washington, Penn., July 13
Coca-Cola Park, Allentown, Penn, July 14
New Britain Stadium, New Britain, Conn., July 15
Centennial Field, Essex Junction, Vt., July 17
Alliance Bank Stadium, Syracuse, N.Y., July 19
McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket, R.I., July 21
First Energy Park, Lakewood. N.J., July 23
Ripkin Stadium, Aberdeen, Md., July 24
Harbor Park, Norfolk, Va., July 25
Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham, N.C., July 28
Smokies Park, Sevierville, Tenn., July 29
The Dell Diamond, Round Rock, Texas, Aug. 4
Whataburger Field, Corpus Christi, Texas, Aug. 5
QuikTrip Park, Grand Prairie, Texas, Aug. 7
Camelback Ranch, Glendale, Ariz., Aug. 11
Cashman Field, Las Vegas, Nev., Aug. 12
Chukchansi Park, Fresno, Calif. Aug. 14
Banner Island Park, Stockton, Calif., Aug. 15
Monday, April 27, 2009
Now comes word that Mexico has postponed its planned premiere of the film and may even close many of the theaters scheduled to show it because of the swine flu epidemic.
Here in the United States, the feat of contracting the contagious disease may result in a jittery public opting to stay away from communal gathering spots such as movie theaters until the threat subsides. And, if the outbreak gets worse, word is that domestic theater chains may close their outlets this weekend as well.
Oh, well, the world is quickly passing me by. Thankfully someone dug into the vaults of Life magazine to dig up these photos of truly classic beauties. I gotta tell ya, the young whipper snappers on the People list just can't compare to these regal ladies.
Hotel for Dogs (2009) ** A decent family film, sure to please animal-loving kids and their parents alike. Well-acted, the movie also looks good and is stocked with lots of goofy gadgetry. Agreeable Saturday afternoon piffle — friendly, formulaic, completely harmless.
JCVD (2008) **½ A canny piece of autobiography that looks at the man behind the legend and the legend behind the man.
Nothing But the Truth (2008) **½ In the spirit of its title, the film pivots on a plot twist that's both good and fair. And kudos to the ever-earnest Kate Beckinsale for surviving a prison brawl as splatterific as anything Mickey Rourke had to endure in "The Wrestler." Competently constructed and nicely acted by Beckinsale and Vera Farmiga. A fairly gripping cautionary tale.
The Uninvited (2009) *½ As is generally the case with Hollywood movies that use Asian horror films as their inspiration, the directors Thomas and Charles Guard seem to have glanced at the original, borrowed a few images and then made the movie according to some preconceived template of what makes audiences jump — instead of burrowing into the stuff that haunts our dreams. Weak even by the standard of uninspired recent Asian-horror remakes, this is more likely to induce snickers and yawns than shudders and yelps.
What Doesn’t Kill You (2008) *** It is worth seeking out for a brutally honest, achingly realistic, and emotionally compelling look at the other side of petty crime — the slow, painful path to legitimacy.
While She Was Out (2008) *½ Embracing outraged victimhood the way Angelina Jolie embraces a close-up, Kim Basinger, doing double duty here as a star and executive producer, appears oblivious to the script's idiocies.
Friday, April 24, 2009
I have yet to buy into the Judd-Apatow-is-genius theory and Adam Sandler is like nails-on-the-blackboard to me. But folks who have seen this film have raved about it -- not so much as to say it will be an Oscar nominee for Best Picture, but so much as to say Sandler could be an actor nominee and Apatow's script could be nominated for original screenplay. And I must admit I reacted very positively to this trailer.
However, if you throw the names of a pair of Republicans who are not announced into the mix, Attorney General Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, they come out on top in matches against Sharp and White.
On the governor's side, both Hutchison and incumbent Gov. Hair seem comfortably ahead of the one announced Democratic candidate, Tom Schieffer. Hutchison has a 57-35 percent lead, while Hair's advantage is 52-37.
I'm posting this in case you are one of the half dozen people in the world who hasn't heard Susan Boyle. I had heard all the stories about her, but had never actually heard her, until I viewed this today.
I have never watched an episode of "American Idol," which is the American version of this British TV show and I don't intend to start now. But, I will admit, this is something special.
What is does question is whether McClatchy "will be able to generate enough cash to keep its lenders happy through the rest of the year."
Here's what appears to me the most dire paragraph in this report:
Falling out of compliance could force McClatchy to enter prickly negotiations with its lenders, as it had to do last fall to win greater flexibility at the cost of higher interest rates and requirements for more collateral. (Fitch Ratings analyst Mike) Simonton said those lenders might be reluctant to give the publisher much more leeway because of the widespread decay eating away at the newspaper industry.
I'm not sure what all that means, but it doesn't sound like it means the Startlegram won't see the beginning of 2010 -- at least not to me.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Jacques Audiard's Un Prophete
Marco Bellocchio's Vincere
Isabel Coixet's Map of the Sounds of Tokyo
Michael Haneke's Das Weisse Band
Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock
Ken Loach's Looking for Eric
Ye Lou's Chun Feng Chen Zui Se Ye Wan
Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void
Chan-Wook Park's Bak-Jwi
Alain Resnais' Les Herbes Folles
Elia Suleiman's The Time That Remains
Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds
Johnnie To's Vengeance
Ming-liang Tsai's Visage -
Lars Von Trier's Antichrist
The festival runs May 13-24.
Our city leaders, showing their typical timidity on any subject that's halfway controversial, put off a vote until May 13 when Da Mayor decreed a decision will be made, one way or another. (Yesterday was the second public hearing without action on the matter.)
I thought most of those on the council were looking at this proposed ordinance in entirely the wrong way. They were seeing it as a potential hardship on kids and their parents who would have to pay the fines if their offspring were nabbed during curfew hours. They saw it as a "punish-the-kiddos" ordinance.
I have not talked to Police Chief David Kunkle about this, but I'm betting he's not viewing the proposal this wa, but as a crime-deterrent ordinance -- another tool he needs to keep reducing crime numbers in the city, including the most prominent crimes being committed, automobile and house burglaries. If these kids know that there could be repercussions for cruising the streets looking for cars or houses to break in, they won't be doing that. It doesn't matter whether the kids are in school, although I'm betting Kunkle would advocate that's where they should be.
Now, here's my problem: I'm convinced deterrents don't work. I've always been an outspoken opponent of capital punishment because I believe killing is wrong, regardless of who is committing the act. The argument I've always heard in favor of capital punishment is that it serves as a deterrent -- the possibility of death by lethal injection will prevent two men from barging through the door of a Fort Worth residence and killing a guy; it will stop a father from strangling his 2-year-old son; a 37-year-old man won't be gunned down in the parking lot of an Oak Cliff Mexican restaurant; will mean Kathleen Garza will be found alive and well; the fatal stabbing of Carl Dupree Willis; all of this would have been avoided; and Christine Robertson would still be alive.
Sure. Fine. Whatever. The U.S. is one of the few civilized countries in the world that still employs capital punishment and we have the highest murder rate of any of 'em. Yeah, that's some deterrent.
I've also recently completed a course geared to helping parents deal with children's behavior called "Love & Logic." It is based on the premise that deterrents, especially when dealing with the young, don't work. Why? Because our youngsters are fighting for control in a world in which they have very little control. The one thing they can control is their own behavior and they are going to go down swinging to maintain that control. What our city leaders should be doing, according to this theory, is giving juveniles incentives to modify their behavior, not threats of punishment if they don't.
But I'm willing to give Chief Kunkle the benefit of the doubt on this one. If I was sitting on that Dallas City Council come May 13, I would ask the chief to conservatively estimate by what percentage he expects auto, home break-ins and other crimes he feels are being committed by juvenile truants to be reduced during the next year. Then I would move to implement the daytime curfew for school days during the next year, to be made permanent only if these crime reduction numbers are reached or exceeded.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I never heard of this guy before, but he looks like he might be someone to keep an eye on.
"As the recession deepens and stretches out quarter after quarter, more companies will close or will shut divisions," the publication said in its story. "More brands will disappear because their parents firms fold or can no longer afford to support them. Other brands will be obliterated by mergers."
The story then lists the 12 brands and gives the reasons why it thinks that brand will not be around to see the year 2011.
However, the reviews from London on the latest Star Trek film, which re-imagines all the original characters during their formative years, make it sound like something completely different. Here's an excerpt from the Times of London review:
Star Trek, released in Britain on May 8 and given its premiere last night, is perfectly pitched to satisfy Trekker nerds and a more general action-flick audience. Abrams, who directed Mission Impossible III, brings his blockbuster flair to bear on a story that starts with a massacre and rarely draws breath for the next two hours as it unravels a deadly battle between the Federation and a rogue Romulan from the future who is bent on destroying Earth.
Then there's this from the London Daily Mail:
The result is not only by far the best of the 11 Star Trek movies, it must rank as the outstanding prequel of all time.
For those too young to remember the original TV series and its spin-off movies, or (like me) unconvinced that they were in all respects works of untrammelled genius, the movie ticks all the boxes as regards big set pieces.
We see space battles, planets sucked into black holes, chases, space aliens. Stupendous special effects and a magnificent score by Michael Giacchino make it a treat for the eyes and ears.
The picture moves at a terrific pace, and is a satisfying tale of good versus evil, with Eric Bana a highly hissable villain.
The movie is scheduled to open here May 8.
But things didn't go as planned. Erosion widened the canal from its original 650 feet to its present average width of 1,500 feet. Not only that, the canal is not even being used. On average, one ocean-going vessel a day uses the short cut, which costs $13 million a year to maintain. But that's not all.
Three months before Hurricane Katrina struck, Hassan Mashriqui, a storm surge expert at Louisiana State University called Mr. Go a "critical and fundamental flaw" in the hurricane defenses prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After Katrina struck, an engineering investigation and computer modeling revealed Mr. Go intensified the initial surge of water by 20 percent, raised the height of the wall of water by three feet and increased the velocity of the surge from three per second to eight feet per second. "Without MRGO, the flooding would have been a lot less," Mashriqui says. "The levees might have been overtopped, but they wouldn't have been washed away." Levees along Mr. Go were breached in 20 places along its length during Katrina, directly flooding most of Saint Bernard Parish and East New Orleans. The storm surge along Mr. Go is also said to be the cause of the three breaches in the Industrial Canal.
Here's where the plot thickens. It's almost impossible to sue the federal government over collapsing levees. Something called the Flood Control Act of 1928 prohibits suits against the United States for damages resulting from floods or flood waters. However, last month U.S. District Court Judge Stanley R. Duval Jr., who ruled in January 2008 that the Corps of Engineers was immune in a federal lawsuit directly related to the levees and flood wall failures during Katrina, has now said he will hear a suit by property owners on the canal's contributions to the flooding. He based his decision on Graci v. United States, a 1971 ruling that said there is no immunity for flooding caused by a federal project unrelated to flood control. And Judge Duval ruled, Mr. Go was built for navigation, not for flood control.
Which brings me back to our local Trinity River toll road which is being built for transportation, not for flood control. We've already heard from the Corps that our levees are unacceptable. Using the Mr. Go precedent, couldn't the Corps consider the toll road a potential legal liability just waiting to happen? I know if I was an attorney advising the Corps, I would be hesitant in telling it to give an OK to the toll road inside the Trinity River levees.
Mr. Go, meanwhile, is coming to a stop. Late last year, the Corps began dumping rocks into the channel to permanently dam it. It is expected to be completely closed by this summer.
So here's what Florida Republicans are going to do. First they are going to pass a law that will make it illegal for anyone to get within 100 feet of a line of voters. That means those volunteers who make themselves available on election day to help explain the voting process to potential voters will suddenly become criminals. That's right -- criminals.
Also, all voter registration forms must be turned into election officials within 48 hours, thus putting an end to all those voter registration drives that work to sign up minorities.
Elderly voters will no longer be allowed to use the photo IDs issued by retirement centers or neighborhood associations. What, you say you are 95 years old and no longer need a driver's license? Tough luck, old timer. No license, no vote.
Fortunately, we still do have courts in this land to protect many of those that will be disenfranchised by these laws. I'm betting the provision that prohibits anyone from giving legal advice to a potential voter standing in line will never survive a court challenge. But, dammit, Florida legislators -- you shouldn't force the courts to tell you that what you are trying to do is blatantly unconstitutional.
Monday, April 20, 2009
So begins this assessment of Gov. Hair which goes on to list four specific areas in which he has exerted either abysmal or no leadership at all. The assessment was written by Philip Martin, who was born in Austin, received his master's from the University of Texas writing his thesis on Bob Dylan's great album Highway 61 Revisited and even has his own Dylan Web site. He also predicts (at least the way I read it) that Gov. Hair will defeat Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson in the Republican gubernatorial primary by appealing the party's far right wing, which is a fairly good sized wing here in Texas.
Notorious (2009) **½ This is half pop fable, half naturalistic docudrama. Not a bad movie, but nowhere near as strong as its soundtrack.
The Wrestler (2008) ***½ Director, Darren Aronofsky, and the writer, Robert D. Siegel, have turned the story of this washed-up faux gladiator into a film of authentic beauty and commanding consequence. Both Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei bring a tender, lived-in honesty to their sad roles. Rourke looks like a truck ran over him, but at 52 he’s still ripped enough to get away with the role; in the end the movie is about his indomitability more than the character’s.
- 67 per cent of all homicides in Dallas occur in a residence, an apartment or an apartment parking lot.
- 61 percent of all homicides are carried out with a handgun (yet we insist on making these damn things easy to obtain)
- 78 percent of all victims are between the ages of 18 and 49
- 89 percent of all victims are males
- The most fatal time of the week is Tuesday between 6 p.m. and midnight.
- 53 percent of all murders came under the jurisdiction of either the Southeast or the South Central Patrol Division.
Overall, however, the crime numbers continue to be improving. The Committee will see that violent crime is down 19.6 percent in Dallas over the last year and non-violent crimes (burglaries, auto thefts) are down 18.6 percent.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
2. Adaptation (2002)
3. A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
4. Ratatouille (2007)
5. Sideways (2004)
6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
7. No Country for Old Men (2007)
8. The Queen (2006)
9. Almost Famous (2000)
10. Gosford Park (2001)
11. Apocalypse Now Redux (2001)
12. House of Flying Daggers (2004)
13. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
14. The Lives of Others (2007)
15. Lost in Translation (2003)
16. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
17. Finding Nemo (2003)
18. Away from Her (2007)
19. Capote (2005)
20. Ghost World (2001)
21. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2002)
22. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005)
23. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
24. The Departed (2006)
25. In the Bedroom (2001)
26. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
27. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
28. Traffic (2000)
29. Atonement (2007)
30. You Can Count on Me (2000)
31. Milk (2008)
32. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)
33. Children of Men (2006)
34. Far From Heaven (2002)
35. Happy Go Lucky (2008)
36. Mystic River (2003)
37. Shrek (2001)
38. The Quiet American (2002)
39. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (2004)
40. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
41. The Three Burials of Melquaides Estrada (2006)
42. Vera Drake (2004)
43. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
44. Rachel Getting Married (2008)
45. Frozen River (2008)
46. The Constant Gardener (2005)
47. The Dark Knight (2008)
48. Michael Clayton (2007)
49. Eastern Promises (2007)
50. Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Saturday, April 18, 2009
She also called Perry's statement that Texas could secede anytime it wanted to as "a beloved piece of state folklore despite its unfortunate drawback of being totally untrue." And she took several swipes at those who attended last week's "tea parties."
Here's how she ended her piece:
(Texas Gov.) Perry, who is the sort of person who calls other guys “dude,” used to be a cotton farmer, a group that seems to have a special talent for combining rugged individualism with intransigent demands for government assistance. Even as we speak, the Obama administration budget-cutters are trying to end a longstanding federal practice of paying the costs of storing the entire national cotton crop every year. No other farmers get this kind of special treatment, and I am sure Perry’s failure to mention it when he calls for an end to corporate bailouts is a terrible oversight that will be corrected immediately.
The big mystery here is why the tax-protest crowds were behaving as if the world was coming to an end when all Obama’s infant presidency has done is lower taxes for a vast majority of the public. And why people like Perry seem to feel compelled to egg them on.
The answer is that what’s left of the Republican Party is intent on cutting off the knees of the administration before it actually manages to fulfill any campaign promises on reducing the huge economic gap between the top 5 percent of the country and the rest of the populace. In pursuit of that mission, fortune favors the hysterical and rewards politicians who behave like gerbils that just bit into an electric wire.
We don’t want to blame all Texans for the high jinks in Austin. It’s a state full of lovely people, three-fourths of whom, according to a recent Rasmussen Reports poll, have no desire whatsoever to secede from the United States.
But Perry really understands how that other quarter feels.
Friday, April 17, 2009
The next time you set out to make a movie like "Duplicity" or "State of Play," do it without Julia Roberts, Russell Crowe and all the other "movie stars" with which you populate these films. Not that Roberts or Crowe detract from the films; far from it, they and the other stars of these films are fine actors. But they cost you a lot of money; more money than I think these films are capable of recouping at the box office.
There's not that big of a market for smart thrillers like "Tell No One," which did not feature one recognizable Hollywood name (OK, there's Kristin Scott-Thomas, but, still ...), but they need to be made because there are plenty of folks out there like me who crave films like these and ones like "In Bruges" and "Transsiberian." Let these movies rise or fall on their own merits, not on the bankability of the leading actors.
I'm betting if you do this, you will, when international box office and DVD sales are factored in, make a nice profit from these ventures. But if you keep using big stars with big salaries, the movies won't make money, studios will be far more reluctant to green light them and the discretionary movie-going public will be the big losers.
At least think about it.
The Web site also contains this information about the tax revenue bonds that would be used to finance the hotel's construction:
"ITS TAX-EXEMPT REVENUE BONDS ARE THE BEST OPTION FOR FINANCING SUCH A PROJECT BECAUSE TOURISTS WILL PAY FOR THE HOTEL. This is NOT a hotel paid for by taxpayers but a hotel paid for by conventioneers! The City has used revenue bonds regularly and has, in fact, issued over $2 billion in the last several years. These revenue bonds -- which are completely different than general obligation bonds used for city bond programs – will be repaid by people who use the facility (such as Love Field airport), not all the taxpayers. Tax revenue bonds have been used successfully by many other cities to build hotels … it’s a well proven model."
So there's that, too.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Consider this. When President Clinton left office, the U.S. government was operating under a balanced budget. Now, eight years later, we are not only facing the largest budget deficit in our nation's history, but one that would take a contribution of $184,000 from every man, woman and child in this country to overcome. What happened during those eight years? George W. Bush.
But you never saw any Fox protests against the Bush's reckless spending that got us into this mess. No, because then the spending was being done by one of their own.
Every once in a while I'm glad that I'm an old codger who is not going to be around to see this country destroyed by hate, a day that is coming even sooner than I expected because of things like the misguided secessionist remarks offered by Gov. Hair during the Texas gatherings.
There is room in this country for honest, serious debate. That's the bedrock of our form of government. But the extremists who went to these tea parties don't want debate. They want to destroy. They don't disagree, they despise. They don't want to fix our country, they want to hurt something or somebody. (And they want to make sure they have plenty of guns to hurt someone with.)
It makes me cry whenever I look into the innocent eyes of my 3-year-old granddaughter. I want a better future than that for her. Hell, I just want a future for her.
Monday, April 13, 2009
The Reader (2008) **½ The film is neither about the Holocaust nor about those Germans who grappled with its legacy: it’s about making the audience feel good about a historical catastrophe that grows fainter with each new tasteful interpolation.
The Spirit (2008) * Plunges into a watery grave early on and spends roughly the next 100 minutes gasping for air.
Splinter (2008) **½ There’s potential for a lot more excitement in this film, but director Toby Wilkins seems content just to bring it across the finish line.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Oh, what to do!!! To the surprise of absolutely no one, I have a solution. I would like City Manager Mary Suhm to get her staff to put together a menu of city services options she believes the city needs, wants and/or could use. I'm not talking about the essentials like basic police, fire, sanitation services, etc. I'm talking about those that might be in line for "painful cuts" or those Ms. Suhm feels the city should have. Then, just like the menu you find at any restaurant, you put the cost of that service alongside it, in terms of tax-per-$100,000-valuation, or however it's determined.
Then you have the various city council members call town hall meetings, where these menus are distributed to those attending and an assistant city manager explains the options of everything listed on the menu as well as the implications of including it or excluding it in the next budget. Each item contains a box alongside it and those attending are asked to check what services they want and leave the box blank for those they don't want, knowing that those they check could increase their property taxes as indicated. Then you collect all that information and begin planning your budget knowing that constituents told you they were willing to pay for some services, but not others.
I think the council members might be surprised to learn what their constituents might be willing to cough up a couple extra dollars for. But the important thing here is to give the people a voice, let us tell you what we want and what we want to pay for, instead of you telling us.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
The Ties That Bind (first time this has been performed on the current tour)
Out In The Street
Working on A Dream
Tougher Than the Rest (first time this has been performed on the current tour)
The E-Street Shuffle (first time this has been performed on the current tour)
Waiting On A Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Racing in the Street (first time this has been performed on the current tour and one of my favorite Springsteen concert songs--the ending of it gives me the chills)
Kingdom of Days
Born To Run
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Land Of Hope And Dreams
Glory Days (featuring a couple of versus of "Louie, Louie")
From those who have seen all six of the shows on the current tour, I am told this 2-hour, 46-minute one was far and away the best of the lot.
Next up: Wednesday and Thursday in Los Angeles.
But one, according to the story, that's getting a lot of traction is a traffic accident response fee that's charged to the driver who's judged to have caused the accident. The theory behind the fee, which is a sound one to my way of thinking, is that the burden for the cost of fire department and police department response to accidents should not be shared by all the taxpayers, but only by the person responsible for the accident. That sounds great, I guess, until you get that $300 bill from the city for responding to your traffic accident.
Some cities have gone as far as hiring a company like Cost Recovery Corporation out of Dayton, Ohio, which, for 10 percent of every bill, sets up the collection systems. Some, however, want 100 percent of the fees, so they opt to handle collections themselves. In places like Winter Haven, Fla., that hasn't worked so well. It has collected only about $6,400 of the $32,000 it billed at-fault drivers.
“We chose not to contract out the collection part of this, and frankly, because of staff cuts, we don’t have enough people to handle all the paperwork,” says Joy Townsend, the city’s communications officer. “We’re now evaluating how cost-effective this program is.”
It sounded like a good idea at the time.
Friday, April 10, 2009
I mention all this only because it goes to say how incensed I was at the remarks made by state Rep. Betty Brown during Wednesday's testimony in the House Committee Elections on the Voter ID bill. Her remarks, her incredible insensitivity, sum up all the reasons I oppose this discriminatory legislation. I waited a couple of days to reflect on this because I wanted my anger to subside so that I might see if any good could come from it. And perhaps some good has: Her remarks have attracted nationwide attention, has unmasked the Voter ID bill and those who support it for what it is and who they are and may be the very thing that derails this legislation.
For those who don't know what I am talking about, let me try to re-create the scene. Rep. Brown asked a man of Asian ancestry, who was testifying against the bill, to disown his family name so it would be easier for ignorant people like Rep. Brown to deal with. Specifically, she told Mr. Ramey Ko:
Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese - I understand it's a rather difficult language - do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?
Those are her exact words. Like I said earlier "a name is the most personal possession its bearer owns." It's that person's life story, his or her heritage. To ask someone to just give it up because it was make it easier on some ego-centric elected official or anyone else, for that matter, is unconscionable. And above all, it should not be used as an excuse to deny someone the right to vote.
But this is the type of thinking that's going into the Voter ID bill.
Austin mayoral candidate Lee Leffingwell has three interesting plans to help local businesses and to stimulate the local economy:
1. Provide free assistance services to local businesses.
2. Create a standing commission on existing local businesses.
3. (The most important one, from my point of view) Try to award more city contracts to local businesses.
He says attracting new high-tech, green businesses to Austin is important, but that the focus should be on protecting businesses already there.
Novel thoughts. Anyone in Dallas listening?
- A tax on the sale of gasoline not to exceed 10 cents a gallon but which would be adjusted annually according to inflation.
- A "mobility improvement fee, in an amount not to exceed $60" that would be "imposed on each person registering a motor vehicle in the county other than a person who initially registers a vehicle after acquiring the vehicle." (Huh?)
- A $1-an-hour tax charged for using public parking places.
- An annual motor emissions fee based upon the amount of pollutants your car ads to the Dallas air. The maximum tax here would be $15 a year. I'm guessing that would be added to the cost of your annual auto inspection.
- Doubling the fee for renewing your driver's license with the added charge going into the transportation fund.
- A maximum $250 "new resident roadway impact fee ... imposed on each person registering a motor vehicle previously registered in another state or country and collected at the time of registration."
I still don't like this plan, even if sales taxes are not involved. My opposition, as stated earlier, is based upon my belief that:
- Rail transportation, especially high speed rail transportation, which is desperately needed, is a regional, even a statewide issue, and shouldn't be approached on a county-by-county basis.
- To impose these fees would require two votes: The first a statewide vote just to approve the concept and then local county-by-county votes every time the commissioners decided they wanted to fund another project. Frankly, in these economic times, I don't think highway loving Texans are going to vote to raise their own taxes for projects designed to pry them out of their pickups.
- I still think someone should more carefully analyze where the money we currently pay in federal and state gasoline taxes is going and to report why those funds can't be used to fund these projects.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Out In The Street
Working on A Dream
I'm On Fire
Working On The Highway
I'm Goin' Down
Waiting On A Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Kingdom Of Days
Born To Run
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Land Of Hope And Dreams
Dancing In The Dark
However, I am glad to learn Coca-Cola makes kosher Coke for the holidays and now I've got to find out whether the Tom Thumb at Preston Forest or the one at North Central & Meadow carries it.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Here is an analysis of the legislation:
Currently, veterans who are not Texans but who want to attend a public college or university in Texas are required to pay out-of-state tuition and fees until they have lived in Texas for one year. Non-Texas veterans who may be interested in settling in Texas may be hesitant to attend college here because of the out-of-state tuition costs. Senate Bill 297 would deliver real support to veterans while helping strengthen Texas' economy by attracting and keeping talent in the state. Expanding in-state tuition benefits to military veterans and their spouses and children is a fitting way to recognize those who have served, led, and protected our country. SB 297 would allow veterans and their spouses and children to pay in-state tuition and fees without regard to the length of time they have resided in Texas.
The following 20 Republicans (a 13 percent minority), for some inexplicable reason, voted against this bill: