Monday, February 28, 2005

Oscar Fest!

I was woken up this morning by a helicopter buzzing outside of my apartment. This was at noon.

By four o'clock, the noise was nearly unbearable. When I walked outside to toss some trash, I looked up to see three helicopters, two airplanes, and the Goodyear blimp.

This is my life living three blocks from the Kodak Theatre.

And in keeping with tradition, Claire and I held an Oscar viewing party. While no nominees showed up, we did have a handful of guests who arrived after working on catering for the event. Fancy stuff.

Anyway, my thoughts...

There were few Oscar results that satisfied me, but given the slate of movies that were up for grabs this year, nothing would have satisfied me. 2004 was one of the worst years for movies in a long time.

Million Dollar Baby was a decent movie, but an average Clint Eastwood film, and if his name wasn't attached to it no one would have even cared. In a year of mostly mediocre films, though, it managed to walk off with a some of the top trophies of the evening.

The Aviator, the biggest disappointment of 2004, fortunately received all the awards it deserved - costumes, cinematography, and Cate Blanchett for best supporting actress, but as one of Scorsese's worst films, I'm glad he didn't walk away with best director or picture. Let him work for the next one.

The biggest surprise of the evening wasn't an award - it was that Chris Rock was actually very funny. I'm not a big fan - nothing personal, I just don't think he's as witty or humorous as any other possible choice for host could have ever been - but Rock was the highlight of the evening. I still cross my fingers for Ellen Degeneres to host next year...

Of course, my favorite films of last year all missed the Academy's votes for the year. So, before its too late, I thought I'd share my picks for 2004...

Most Disappointing Film of 2004
"Fahrenheit 9/11"
I hotly anticipated Michael Moore's opus for over a year. The trailers were awesome, the buzz was hot, and if one individual liberal filmmaker with his three hour movie could cause conservatives to dedicate thousands of hours of radio and television time disputing his work, even before it had been released, it had better live up to the hype.
It didn't.
The clips of George W. were good, but unless you were only reading USA Today for news coverage ever since 9/11, Moore wasn't reporting anything new. Even worse, his conspiracy theories were paper thin and took minimal efforts for an internet surfer to dispute.
Which isn't to same the whole movie was a waste of time - his footage as an embedded reporter in Iraq, while going on house to house raids with the troops gave us an intimate look at what our forces are actually doing that the common news media ignores. This should have been the whole movie.
And while I still remain a Michael Moore fan, I could do without any more of his sappy and clumsy political acceptance speeches.
Sidebar: "9/11" wasn't nominated for an Oscar because it wasn't submitted for consideration.

Best Actress
Bryce Dallas Howard, "The Village"
In spite of repeated warnings of this being M. Night's worst film, and already knowing "the twist" going in, I still ended up loving this movie. Bryce's performance was a big reason why -- or maybe it was just that she's a delicious red head. Whatever. She still deserves the trophy.

Best Actor
Paul Giamatti, "Sideways"
A few years ago it was my pal Jeff Bacon's dream to cast "Pigface" from "Private Parts" in his short film "Birth of a Salesman". Bacon has an eye for talent, because Giamatti exploded soon thereafter, but why he was totally igored for an Oscar this year is beyond me.

Best Film
"Shaun of the Dead"
This is an indication of how lame 2004 was. My favorite movie all year was a zombie comedy. But don't let that cheapen my admiration of "Shaun of the Dead", which has been written up about so much on other geek sites that I'll leave selection of it as Best Film of 2004 as an 'nuff said.

Runner up:
"The Passion of the Christ"
As Chris Rock pointed out, this was not a very funny film. It even lacks a real "plot".
Still, if nothing else, this film helped make me understand why many people are charged with the story of Christ, and why, even for non believers like me, even as a "mythological figure" Jesus is worth admiring and learning from.
It also helped confirm the fact the some of our own leaders who brag about their own worship of Jesus, don't show it by their actions.

I do find it somewhat ironic that two favorite films of the year involved people rising from the dead.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

So, what moron still doesn't want to admit Fox News is biased?

One of the signs of alcoholism is that the supposed alcoholic always argues that he's not as bad a drinker as his pal, or his brother, or whoever. Someone else is always drinking more, so they're not as bad.

This is my assessment of Republicans, and their blind devotion to their party.

For example, when it comes to Fox News and its accusations of it being biased, every Republican I know denies that its biased, and then when I present an example, they say that CNN is much, much worse... besides occasional statements by pundits, who are there to give an opinion, they can't find an example.

So, toss this one into the evidence that Fox News is run by a bunch of right wing zealots who put their agenda first and journalism second.

FOX News doctors AP reports to mimic White House terminology

Since April 2002, FOX News has consistently doctored Associated Press articles featured on the FOX News website concerning terrorist attacks in the Middle East to conform to Bush administration terminology. Without any editorial notation disclosing that words in the AP articles have been changed, FOX News replaces the terms "suicide bomber" and "suicide bombing" with "homicide bomber" and "homicide bombing" to describe attackers who kill themselves and others with explosives. In at least one case, FOX News actually altered an AP quote from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) to fit this naming convention, and then revised it to restore the quote without noting either the original alteration or its correction.

The Associated Press noted in April 2002 that FOX News first began using the term "homicide bombing" in its own reports immediately after Bush administration officials -- such as then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer -- adopted the term. While other news organizations continued to use the term "suicide bomber," the AP reported, "Dennis Murray, executive producer of [FOX News'] daytime programming, said executives there had heard the phrase ["homicide bombing"] being used by administration officials in recent days and thought it was a good idea."

More at link above.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

More Video!

Just put up a few new pieces on my video page.

I'm most proud of the bios for Veronica and Carly - not their real names or ages - these are supposed to look like edited versions of the video auditions people mail in to be on reality shows.

The Slowly Evoving Work of David Markland

I need to fancy the page up a bit at some point - as of now its just raw HTML.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

"Why should my past prevent me from having a future?" - Jeff Gannon aka James Guckert

I've only now been catching up on this whole "White House Press Plant" story, so please, as I post a few thoughts on the topic, will anyone with more knowledge of the issue please correct me or fill me in?

1. The guy's not a reporter. He's a publicist for the White House, unofficially, nonsanctioned, or otherwise. Unless you consider merely reciting press releases without questioning any details "reporting".
2. The guy was a hooker. A gay hooker. I have no problem with this. But he claims that all sorts of journalists use pseudonyms, and he chose his (Jeff Gannon), because James Guckert is too hard to pronounce (like Christiane Amanpour), but that it had little to do with his past.
3. He believes that credibility has nothing to do with your past.
4. In the wake of the Gannon expose by bloggers, Fox News hack Sean Hannity says that bloggers aren't to be trusted, just months after Hannity blessed bloggers for revealing the Rathergate documents as fakes.

But the big question I have is - Gannon/Guckert - is obviously an overzealous, flamingly gay right winger... but where's the evidence that he's a White House plant?

Thanks to Bunny McIntosh to posting this link to an interview with Gannon/Guckert by Anderson Cooper, as well as some fun details on his callboy past...

Friday, February 18, 2005

Blockbuster = Ballbuster

(I wanted to write something more vulgar, but sometimes my niece visits here)

While it doesn't compare to the suck factor of Kinkos, Blockbuster is still run by a bunch of asshats.

A few years ago I rented a handful of $1.99/week videos, and waited just under two weeks to return them. Common sense would dictate that the late fee would be about $1.99 each week... Nope. I was charged about $10 per video upon return. When I complained, they told me I didn't look at the fine print on the advertising posters. Silly me, they were right. I swore off Blockbuster from then on and started getting into Netflix. Soon thereafter, Blockbuster was faced with a class action lawsuit over unclear late fees.

Now, they're at it again.

You've seen the ads, where mobs of people swarm a Blockbuster in celebration of there being "no more late fees". It seems pretty clear.
But its a bit of a sham.
If you hold the video for over a week, you're charged $1.25... conveniently labeled a "restocking fee".
It ain't much, but its still a lie.
If you hold the video for over a month, they consider it lost and charge you retail value for the product... this, I understand, otherwise, people would never return anything - but it seems the combination of the two policies are the subject of a lawsuit filed by the state of New Jersey:

CNN/ "Blockbuster sued over late fees

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey sued Blockbuster Inc. Friday, claiming the video rental chain is deceiving customers with its new 'No More Late Fees' rental policy.

The lawsuit accused the movie rental chain of deceptive advertising and violating the state's consumer fraud laws.

"Blockbuster boldly announced its 'No More Late Fees' policy, but has not told customers about the big fees they are charged if they keep videos or games for more than a week after they are due," the attorney general said in a statement.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Video now available

$19.95 on BetaMax, or watch it all for FREE at this link:

The Slowly Evolving Work of David Markland

I am alive...

Work has actually been great, although all consuming.
Video to follow...

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

George W. Bush. Still sucks.

Decent speech by our President tonite. I like that we have at least have a focus on the Iraqi elections as a climactic victory for the United States, and allows the rest of us (who blindly believed his administration feel when they told us we had to invade Iraq because we were 100% certain they had WMDs) like there is some closure in sight.

Never mind that while he talked about how important a democracy and freedom and American values are, he quickly mentioned that he'd support changing the Constitution to restrict the rights of homosexuals, and then moved on to other, more palletable matters. Yeah - freedom rocks, except for fags.

As for Social Security reform, economics are not my forte, but while Republicans have exagerrated the severity of how bad of shape SS is in, the Democrats are equally ignoring what will inevitably be a problem a few generations from now. So, the Bush platform to fix it now works for me. But, to claim it has less to do with making money in the here and now for already wealthy bankers, brokers, and such, is more disingenuine as alluding to Iraq being responsible for 9/11.

Besides, if we're worried about future generations, why no mention of the enviornment? But I digress.

Good speech and all.

And conveniently, as Bush apologists continue to defend their distrust in the UN during the prewar buildup, this article conveniently hit CNN today:

US Condoned Iraq Oil Smuggling
Documents obtained by CNN reveal the United States knew about, and even condoned, embargo-breaking oil sales by Saddam Hussein's regime, and did so to shore up alliances with Iraq's neighbors.

The oil trade with countries such as Turkey and Jordan appears to have been an open secret inside the U.S. government and the United Nations for years.

The unclassified State Department documents sent to congressional committees with oversight of U.S. foreign policy divulge that the United States deemed such sales to be in the "national interest," even though they generated billions of dollars in unmonitored revenue for Saddam's regime.

The trade also generated a needed source of oil and commerce for Iraq's major trading partners, Turkey and Jordan.

Rep. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, one of five panels probing the oil-for-food program, told CNN the United States was "complicit in undermining" the U.N. sanctions on Iraq.

"How is it that you stand on a moral footing to go after the U.N. when they're responsible for 15 percent maybe of the ill-gotten gains, and we were part and complicit of him getting 85 percent of the money?" Menendez asked.

"The reality is that we were either silent or complicit, and that is fundamentally wrong."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005