Wednesday, June 29, 2005

June 29th Birthdays

Here are some other people who share my birthday:

Vixxxen (porn actress)
Zoe R. Cassavetes (sister of Frank Cassavetes)
Judith Hoag (actress, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Eva Truffaut (daughter of Francois Truffaut)
Don Dokken (musician, Dokken)
Gary Busey (actor, Predator 2)
Robert Evans (writer, filmmaker, Chinatown)
Ray Harryhausen (special effects artist, Clash of the Titans)
Ralph Burns (film composer, All the Jazz)
Slim Pickens (actor, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)
Bernard Herrmann (film composer, Psycho)
Frieda Inescort, (actress, The Alligator People)
Michael Carter (actor, Return of the Jedi)

Monday, June 27, 2005

How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You, No Religion in the House!

Today the Supreme Court ruled on cases involving 10 Commandment monuments in public spaces. First, the monument located outside the Texas state capital building is legal apparently because it is outside of the building and serves a historical and educational purpose. From the decision for Van Orden V. Perry, written by Justice Rehnquist:

"There are, of course, limits to the display of religious messages or symbols. For example, we held unconstitutional a Kentucky statute requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments in every public schoolroom . . . The placement of the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds is a far more passive use of those texts than was the case in Stone, where the text confronted elementary school students every day. Indeed, Van Orden, the petitioner here, apparently walked by the monument for a number of years before bringing this lawsuit. The monument is therefore also quite different from the prayers involved in Schempp and Lee v. Weisman. Texas has treated her Capitol grounds monuments as representing the several strands in the State’s political and legal history. The inclusion of the Ten Commandments monument in this group has a dual significance, partaking of both religion and government. We cannot say that Texas's display of this monument violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. "

In McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, 10 Commandments monuments were deemed illegal because of they were placed inside the courthouse and served to proselytize. I found this excerpt from the decision, written by Justice Stouter, to be very pointed:

"We are centuries away from the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and the treatment of heretics in early Massachusetts, but the divisiveness of religion in current public life is inescapable. This is no time to deny the prudence of understanding the Establishment Clause to require the Government to stay neutral on religious belief, which is reserved for the conscience of the individual."

This is a very slippery distinction and it will probably lead to more court battles over these kinds of monuments. Given the current boldness of the religious right, it is going to be an uphill battle to keep this country from becoming a theocratic state.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More Film Lines

As an addendum to my earlier post on the AFI's 100 Years, 100 Movie Lines, here are some of my picks that were not on their list. A few of these were on their list of nominated lines, but most were not.

"All righty then!" - Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

"Don't knock masturbation. It's sex with someone I love." - Annie Hall

"Throw me a frickin' bone here!" - Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

"Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads." - Back to the Future
"Great Scott!" - Back the the Future

"I'm gonna make you squeal like a pig. " - Deliverence

"Big gulps, huh? All right. Well, see you later." - Dumb and Dumber
"Man, you are one pathetic loser! No offense." - Dumb and Dumber
"The town is back that way!" - Dumb and Dumber

"You're mother sucks cocks in hell, Karras!" - The Exorcist

"We have such sights to show you." - Hellraiser
"Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some. Angels to others." - Hellraiser
"We'll tear your soul apart!" - Hellraiser

"They're here all ready! You're next!" - Invasion of the Body Snatchers

"You yell shark, we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July." - Jaws
"10, 000 dollars for me by myself. For that you'll get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing." -Jaws
"Come on down and chuck some of this shit!" - Jaws
"Smile you son of a bitch!" - Jaws

"Free your mind." - The Matrix
"Welcome to the real world." - The Matrix

"One two, Freddy's coming for you . . ." A Nightmare on Elm Street

"Welcome to prime time, bitch!" - A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

"Damn you all to hell!" - Planet of the Apes

"If it bleeds, we can kill it." - Predator
"I ain't got time to bleed." - Predator

"I'm prepared to scour the the Earth for that motherfucker. If Butch goes to Indochina, I want a nigger waiting in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass. " - Pulp Fiction
"The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd." - Pulp Fiction
"I used the same fuckin' soap you did and when I got finished, the towel didn't look like no god-damn Maxi-Pad." Pulp Fiction

"Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?" - Raiders of the Lost Ark
"Now, what shall we talk about?" - Raiders of the Lost Ark

"Why am I Mr. Pink?" - Reservoir Dogs
"Listen kid, I'm not gonna bullshit you, all right? I don't give a good fuck what you know, or don't know, but I'm gonna torture you anyway, regardless. Not to get information. It's amusing, to me, to torture a cop. You can say anything you want cause I've heard it all before. All you can do is pray for a quick death, which you ain't gonna get. " - Reservoir Dogs

"I always tell the truth, even when I lie." - Scarface

"Get busy living, or get busy dying." - The Shawshank Redemption
"I believe in two things: discipline and the Bible. Here you'll receive both. Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me. Welcome to Shawshank." - The Shawshank Redemption
"Andy Dufresne - who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side." - The Shawshank Redemption

"Live long and prosper." - Star Trek: The Motion Picture

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

"All who gain power are afraid to lose it." - Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
"I have brought peace, freedom, justice and security to my new empire." - Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
"So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause." - Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

"I am your father." - Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
"Do or do not. There is no try." - Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

This is by no means a complete list, just a few of my own ideas. Comment and contribute your own ideas.

AFI's 100 Year Lists: Quite Frankly, I Don't Give a Damn

The American Film Institute has announced its list of the top 100 movie lines, as a part of their "100 Years" series. You can see the list here.

I've always had a sort of ambivalent attitude toward the AFI and these kinds of lists. On one hand, the AFI does a lot of good promoting film as an art, does important work on film preservation, advancing film technology, and advancing the discussion of film beyond when Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes will get married.

However, when I see lists or rankings of film, or any other art form, I start to get that same creepy feeling I get when I hear William Shatner sing. By ranking films we start to assume that all films can be measured by the same scale and I do not believe that is the case. On Maverick at the Movies I have always avoided using number or star scales because it insinuates that there is a universal aesthetic to measure the quality of these films. I love Dumb and Dumber and Caddyshack but how do I compare them to Hotel Rwanda or Schindler's List? I can't, because they are not comparable.

And why 100? I know there are practical reasons for this. A list of 300 films would be too long for a television special. And 100 is a psychologically satisfying number. Aside from these market driven reasons, the 100 is arbitrary but it gives the lists the appearance of some kind of definitive quality.

Also, the AFI has its own preferences and prejudices. Many pictures on their lists are large studio films from the 1940s and 50s. Their 100 Movies list included few films created outside the major studios and lacks films from genres of comedy, horror, or science fiction. Personally, I would have taken the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre over Fargo and Natural Born Killers over Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The 100 Movie Lines list had nothing from Quentin Tarantino and very little from Woody Allen.

There is some irony that yesterday USA televised the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony for George Lucas, who, in his acceptance speech, called himself "the king of wooden dialogue." While I will argue that Lucas does deserve this award, it was quite obviously timed to coincide with the release of Revenge of the Sith. Although the AFI is an artistic organization, it is also part of a business and decisions are made with business in mind.

As I wrote earlier, the AFI is a helpful organization. But when they come out with lists like this, please take them with a grain of salt and remember that there is not that much difference between their lists and the lists created by Entertainment Weekly and VH1.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Rushdie, Deliver Me From the Salvation Army

Today, June 19th, has two significant anniversaries.

The first is the birth of Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. Following the publication of the book, a fatwah was issued on Rushdie's life and he had to go into hiding.

Also, on this date in 1961 the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Torcaso v. Watkins and overturned a provision in the Maryland state constitution requiring that "a declaration of belief in the existence of God" be required as a qualification for any office in the state.

I find the shared date of these two events rather ironic for the ways in which US culture has turned. As was seen in the 2004 presidential election, a political candidate's faith can be made a central issue in the debate over his ability to effectively execute the duties of the office.

Rushdie's persecution (and I do not use the word lightly) is showing signs in America. When raising questions about your government has become a crime and is shouted down as anti-American, this seems just as fanatical and idiotic as claims of defamation against an invisible man in the sky.

Earlier this year, there was a controversy in Janesville, Wisconsin over the construction of a Salvation Army building that would serve dual purposes as a homeless shelter and a place of worship. The City Council approved the dispersal of funds to the Salvation Army with the addition that the building could not be used for religious services, in accordance with federal rules.

The Salvation Army would have none of this, saying that they could not complete their objectives with these restrictions. Complaints were sent to the White House and even George W. Bush contributed his thoughts, telling an audience that, "Anybody who accepts money from the federal government, any faith provider, cannot discriminate based on religion. It's an important concept for our fellow citizens to understand, that no one in need will ever be forced to choose a faith-based provider" and that "The city had no right to tell the Salvation Army that the price of running a center was to give up its prayers."

The Salvation Army's website plainly says that the intent of the organization is to provide "social and spiritual services to Janesville area communities with the mission of giving people purpose, hearts hope and souls redemption." If this is what they meant by being able to pursue their objectives, then the purpose of the shelter was not for a-religious social services but to proselytize and the Salvation Army would be therefore barred from receiving federal funds. Coincidentally, the city council did relent and the shelter was built.

As a sidenote, the commander of the Janesville Salvation Army was arrested for sending pornography to a Florida detective undercover as a fourteen year old boy.

The more things change, the deeper the religious must stick their head in the sand.

No, I Won't Buy You Lunch

I was mentioned in the June issue of the MSU Campus Newsletter.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Oscar Has a Reason to be a Grouch

As I have said before, the Republicans are making calls right out of Joseph Goebbles playbook. Disturbed that they do not have complete control over the media in this country, the Republicans have launched an attack on National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). They are working on this in two fronts. First, they have threatened the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s (CPB) funding. The House Appropriations Committee voted yesterday to cut NPR and PBS’s funding by twenty-five percent, with the long-term goal of completely ending CPB’s funding in two years.

Second, the Republicans are attempting to put the assistant secretary of state and former Republican National Committee co-chairwoman Patricia de Stacy Harrison as the president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). This article further explains the conflict of interest.

Here are some fast facts about CPB from their website:

CPB is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 to promote public telecommunications services for the American people. CPB invests in more than 1,000 local radio and television stations.

These CPB-funded stations reach virtually every household in the country.

CPB funds diverse and innovative programming that's useful, educational and cultural.

Most CPB-funded television programs are distributed through the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). CPB-funded radio programs are distributed primarily through National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Radio International (PRI).


Also, according to John Lawson, the president and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), “the subcommittee effectively threatened public broadcasting’s editorial freedom by proposing to rescind $100 million from the advance appropriation the Corporation for Public Broadcasting received in 2004.”

If things go according to the plan, the Republicans will be able to mortally wound the resources of CPB and take control of its means of production. As we saw in the coverage of the Iraq war the corporate media have now lost their integrity and dance to the White House’s tune. Should CPB fall under control of the government and be reduced to a pathetic mouthpiece, conservatives will have eliminated dissention in radio and television, leaving the Internet as the only unregulated mass medium.

For those who may be wondering, 90.5 KGAC FM in St. Peter, Minnesota would be affected by these cuts but 89.7 KMSU FM in Mankato is a member of IPR and would not.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

DEEP THROAT: THE REMAKE

A couple of weeks ago Mark Felt publicly announced he was Deep Throat, the confidential source that brought down the Nixon administration. This comes at the same time as documents of similar, if not greater, political significance are coming to light.

The Downing Street memo plainly spells out that the UK and the US made the decsion to invade Iraq before July 2002. "Participants at a meeting of [Prime Minister Tony] Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was 'necessary to create the conditions' which would make it legal." You can read more about the memo here.

This comes on the heels of other revelations. It was no secret that the US ran monthly and sometimes weekly bombing attacks on Iraq during the imbargo but now it has been revealed that the United States doubled their bombings in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into retaliating and giving the US an excuse to invade.

This should be taking us to impeachment proceedings for Bush, Rumsfeld, and others in the administration. This article summarizes the case against Bush. An exerpt:

"Our president and all of his administration are war criminals. It's as simple as that. They lied to the American people, have killed and injured and traumatized thousands of American men and women doing their patriotic duty, killed at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians, destroyed Iraq's infrastructure and poisoned its environment, squandered billions and billions of our tax dollars, made a mockery of American integrity in the world, changed the course of history, tortured Iraqi prisoners, and bound us intractably to an insane situation that they have no idea how to fix because they had no plan, but greed and empire, in the first place."

There are lawmakers trying to address this. Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) has written an open letter to President Bush asking him to be more forthcoming about what went on behind the scenes of the war.

Here is a link to information on impeachment proceedings.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Welcome to the New Blog

Welcome to my new blog. Those who reguarly visited my personal website are aware that I kept a news page in the form of an htm file, updated about once a week, that drew attention to stories and articles I thought were noteworthy. This new format will allow visitors to comment upon the links and ensure a continuing presence on the web after I graduate and lose my web space at MSU Mankato.

To view this page within the context of my website, there are is a link to your right.