Saturday, July 23, 2005

inaction figure Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"To a surprising extent the war-lords in shining armour, the apostles of the martial virtues, tend not to die fighting when the time comes. History is full of ignominious getaways by the great and famous."
George Orwell

Washington Meltdown

A number of fairly incredible things are happening in Washington---where it's hotter than hell in more ways than one. The Democrats held a forum on the Plame affair that revealed just how serious this is, the Bush administration has stopped release of new Iraqi prison torture photos and wants a law to prevent similar photos from Guantanamo and elsewhere, reports have surfaced of Cheney ordering a plan to attack Iran that includes use of nuclear weapons, and the Patriot Act is very close to being made permanent with virtually no public debate.

We’ll try to deal with each of these separately, so for now, some highlights of the Plame hearings.

This was an unofficial forum assembled on Friday morning by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), co-chaired by Dorgan and Congressman Henry Waxman. Some eloquent testimony was given and some action was proposed, but perhaps the quote of the day is this one, from former CIA operations officer Jim Marcinkowski:" Each time the leader of a political party opens his mouth in public to deflect responsibility, the word overseas is loud and clear: Politics in this country does, in fact, trump national security."


Friday, July 22, 2005

not fictional Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

“In the United States, the pursuit of wealth, stripped of its religious and ethical meaning, tends to become associated with purely mundane passions, which often actually give it the character of sport. No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance.”
Max Weber : '>The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Not Fictional

It was a mostly ignored hearing on a busy news day. Only three Senators bothered to show up. But the words of the new head of the National Science Foundation were fateful.

Ralph Cicerone, who happens to be a climate scientist, spoke to the Senate Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on climate change. There were other witnesses, from the Bush administration. They hedged on the problem. Yes, one grudgingly admitted (as did Prez Bush recently) that it appears human activity has contributed to climate change.

Climate change is caused primarily by human activity, principally the burning of fossil fuels, Cicerone said bluntly, and that’s the consensus of climate scientists throughout the world.

A different Bush official talked about the need to balance measures to ameliorate climate change with economic growth.

But while in some sense that makes sense, Cicerone had a different take on what it meant. It’s not clear from this story whether he was asked about the 2004 Pentagon report that even many scientists dismissed as extreme, or whether he volunteered his view.

“It was well done,” Cicerone said. “I didn’t think it was fictional.”

The report made news partly because it described a possible scenario similar to that dramatatized in the movie, “'>The Day After Tomorrow,” in which global heating causes the sudden onset of a new Ice Age by 2020. It also predicted the possibility of widespread flooding of coastal areas by 2007---less than two years from now.

Not too surprisingly, the Senators who showed up were from states with coastal cities.

The prospect of coastal cities being flooded was mentioned last week by President Clinton in South Africa. But that’s only a near-term scenario presented in the Pentagon report. It also discussed major warfare over water, as droughts spread over the next few decades.

Speculative, yes. But those two words from the head of the National Science Foundation ought to be echoing through the halls of government, and reverberating through cyberspace:

Not fictional.

White Hot House News

Earth is not the only planet that’s getting hot: Bushworld is getting scorched around the edges, and the flames may be making their way into the center.

The latest shoe to drop is the report, first from a blog reporter and now from Bloomberg News, that because the Grand Jury testimony of Karl Rove and Lewis Libby (v.p. Cheney’s chief of staff) on how they learned the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (they said from reporters) was contradicted by the testimony of the reporters, they may be facing perjury and obstruction of justice charges.


James Garner & Julie Andrew's favorite movie Posted by Picasa

DVD FRIDAY: The Americanization of Emily

Of all the movies he made, James Garner said this was his favorite. So did Julie Andrews, his co-star. So did James Coburn, who had a more prominent role in many other films than he did in this one.

It was producer Martin Ransohoff's favorite of his movies, and Arthur Hiller's favorite of the many movies he directed. Script writer Paddy Chayevsky, who wrote several classics and an Academy Award winner, said this was one of his two favorite films.

Yet until the newly released DVD, '>The Americanization of Emily had all but disappeared. Perhaps because in many ways it was unclassifiable: a romantic comedy, a war movie, an anti-war movie, or as director Hiller insists, "an anti-the-glorification-of-war movie."


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Paul Newman in "Trumbo," at the Westport Country Playhouse Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"…but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, which, by often rumination, wraps me in a most humorous sadness."
Jacques, in Shakespeare's As You Like It

James Doohan's last public appearance, last August, with Star Trek cast members and astronaut Neil Armstrong. photo by Kowinski. Posted by Picasa

R.I.P. Scotty 1920-2005

James Doohan, Star Trek's beloved Scotty, died on July 20, the 36th anniversary of the first steps taken on another celestial body by a human being. Doohan's last public appearance was at a convention held in his honor last August in Hollywood.

At the benefit dinner held as part of that convention, Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, was a featured speaker. Addressing Doohan as his character Scotty, Armstrong said, "From one old engineer to another, thanks, mate."

Before Trek, Doohan taught acting at the famous Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. He liked to quote Joanne Woodward as saying he taught her everything she knows about acting.


Books in Heat Wednesday: An American Theatre

(or Summer and Theatre, Part 2)

'>AN AMERICAN THEATRE: The Story of Westport Country Playhouse by Richard Somerset-Ward: Yale University Press

Cities were hot, the country was cooler. This condition before air-conditioning led to summer theatre in America, beginning early in the twentieth century. But the Westport Playhouse in the affluent Connecticut town also began with high artistic purpose.

Though this large format book is liberally illustrated and generously sprinkled with celebrity names, the text is substantial. With this informal, almost conversational history of some 75 years of this unique theatre inevitably says a lot about American theatre in general.

Now under the direction of Joanne Woodward, this theatre's history is replete with famous names, from George Bernard Shaw to Groucho Marx. Readers may absorb insights into the business of theatre, its dependence through changing economics on remarkable individuals (many briefly profiled) and other lovers of theatre, who create shared experiences that include the risk that audiences share with everyone in the production every night.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Casting his spell: Harry Potter breaks one day book sales records in UK and US Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"…[H]ere and now we are playing for the highest stakes that have ever been played for, and winning will depend in no small part on continued moral growth. Which is to say: winning will depend on not wanting other peoples to lose."
Robert Wright: '>Non Zero

Climate Crisis Witch Hunt Begins

You'd think that the failure of leadership in the U.S. on dealing with the climate crisis couldn't get any worse. Clinton-Gore dawdled and G.W. Bush denied it exists, ignored the growing scientific consensus, tried to censor government documents, forced the G8 to do considerably less than the other 7 nations wanted to do.

Now it's unleashing the greatest weapon of ignorance: the witch hunt.

Republican Congressman Joseph Barton, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has sent official letters to two scientists whose study of climate showed that the 1990s were hotter than any decade in the past thousand years.

He cites alleged flaws and errors, but his demands clearly suggest he suspects them of fraud. He is demanding a full accounting of all of their climate research, the grants and financial support for their studies and other information related to financing, and details on their data, including computer source codes.

Other studies support their findings, but the Bush attack machine has achieved many successes through the strategy of attacking their opponents' strengths. Attack a war hero's war record. Attack a U.S. government covert agent's courage and patriotism. Attack the scientific community's science. Don't let evidence stand in your way.

But the information being demanded is a warning: Undermine a position of the rabid right (even though their opposition on climate is not either conservative or religious but based on being coopted by particular corporate interests) and you'll spend your time and money to defend yourself in witch hunt show trials. From HUAC to phony impeachment, this is one of their favorite abuses of power.

Other scientists and international scientific organizations are reacting with outrage, but not everyone is unhappy. "We've always wanted to get the science on trial," Myron Ebell of the Competitiveness Enterprise Institute told BBC News. "We would like to figure out a way to get this into a court of law."

It may be getting hotter, but the age is still getting dark.


The action was intense inside the Beltway and its media all weekend: columnists and anti-Bush partisans screaming scandal and infamy, pundits and pro-Bushers screaming that the real villain is the supposed victim, the outed CIA agent and her husband.

Some of those who've been obsessed with nothing else in the political game expressed surprise that Rove still had a job as of Monday. But that quick an exit really shouldn't have been expected.

The Bushers had to make various calculations. How close is the prosecutor and Grand Jury to actually indicting anyone? That's a timeline they have to watch very carefully. Another calculation is: how is this going over with the public? Who is winning the spin wars?

They got some answers to that second question, and from their point of view, it ain't pretty.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Remember the future? Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"Humanity…is building its composite brain beneath our eyes. May it not be that tomorrow, through the logical and biological deepening of the movement drawing it together, it will find its heart, without which the ultimate wholeness of its powers of unification can never be fully achieved?"
Teilhard de Chardin The Future of Man

Remember the Future? Forget It!

This past week, from July 12th to the 15th, a global Technology, Entertainment and Design conference was held in Oxford, England to consider the future, including the roles of politics, the environment and social issues in shaping 21st century life.

Among the more than 300 participating scientists, technologists, thinkers, designers, musicians and playwrights were Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis and Nokia director of design strategy Marko Ahtisaari.

From the fairly sparse reports (mostly from the BBC), this conference seems to represent the usual confusion of which futurism is heir to. There seem to be a lot of technologists plugging their products (as well as plugging them in, except for the wireless of course) and authors flogging their books. Every expert ignores the field of every other expert. And one biotechnologist extols the complexity of life while proposing to apply reductionist techniques to create more artificially.

Asked about the digital media future, one expert predicted “fifty years of chaos.” With these folks, who could predict anything else?


Science for Sale

The Bush administration has made in mark on science by ignoring and twisting it, but that seems to be something it brought as much from the corporate sector as from certain religious constituencies.

Now a House subcommittee found that 44 government scientists violated ethical rules, and nine may have broken laws, all involved with pharmaceutical companies.

Review Finds Scientists With Ties to Companies - New York Times

Late Thoughts Sunday

Two summers ago (unless it was three?) I spent a happy month or so writing a play, which I subsequently worked on over several months until it felt finished. I thought it had a very attractive premise, and even if it wasn't perfect it would prove intriguing. Actually I thought it was quite good, and it fulfilled my intentions and expectations, which I can't say about a whole lot that I've tried to write.

I logged in my feelings about it at the time, and my hopes for it. Unfortunately I have found no one who feels the same way about it, no one in fact who has shown any interest in it at all.

So it is getting to be a bit late in the day for me to hold on to any hopes of even one more creative experience in the theatre. Apparently my judgment of the work of others fails me when I apply it to my own, which is probably not unusual but does leave me at a loss. However, the point I am getting to here is that it is unlikely I will honor the creative process of theatre (or film) by being permitted to participate in it.

I still write about the work of others occasionally, though seldom for publication anymore. It's a tiresome experience to be obligated to do so as a reviewer or critic, and I've seemed to have passed the age when a regular obligation seems attractive, even if it were possible.

But these thoughts were inspired by a more common kind of experience, repeated today when I watched the DVD of the'> Emma Thompson/Ang Lee movie of Austen's "Sense and Sensibility." I watched it, as I prefer to do, thoroughly: I watched it innocently, and then with commentary (Thompson's, though not yet the director's) and subtitles. I watched the deleted scenes, and would have watched other "bonus" material if it had been offered. I took delight in the finished product, and delight in the process as it was described. As much as I project myself into the characters of a movie or play I admire, I project myself into the process and the people creating it. In the presence of a superior work as this, I am enthralled by it all.

It occurs to me that this is my part of the creative process, and perhaps will be the only part: I honor the process by being the most fully appreciative audience, entering into it with as much heart and imagination as possible, within the role. I honor it and celebrate it, and complete the connection, even if Emma Thompson never hears my commentary.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Is that the new Harry Potter Harry Potter is reading? Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

If the brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't."
Emerson Pugh

Harry Day

This isn't supposed to happen anymore. Sure, there were times when it probably seemed that everybody was frantic to read the latest installment of a Charles Dickens novel, and people lined up on the pier in American cities to get the books as they came off the boat.

But that was the 19th century, the era of print. Those who try to describe the Dickens mania usually fall back on the comparison, "like a rock star."

But no rock star, no blockbuster movie director or actor can claim to have the frenzied following of the author of a set of novels about a kid named Harry Potter.

The latest was published Saturday, and the world took notice. There aren't ten novelists in the world who sell as many copies of their novels as John Grisham. And Grisham doesn't sell as many novels in a year as J.K. Rowling did Saturday.

I can't tell you how good the new novel is, even though I bought a copy on Saturday. Margaret is out of town and I'm sworn not to even peek. We were introduced to the Potter novels by a couple who read them aloud to each other, and so we did the same. So our reading begins Tuesday.

However, I did re-read the last one, HARRY POTTER and the ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, all 870 pages in the past two days. Given what's gone on in the world in the past year, the political machinations in the background of this one are even more revealing.

Reading it aloud demonstrates its dramatic strengths, and the humor in its characterizations. Reading it as a novel reveals its literary strengths, the patterns and shadings, the resonances with our world.

Dickens didn't have movies--let alone the movies from his own books-- to compete with. But even though the movies are popular, they don't seem to interfere. Not only are new children reading the books, but children who've grown up with them continue to read the new ones, and re-read them, again and again.

Movies, even rock music have their own influences on these books (it's not just in the movies that Harry looks like he could grow up to be John Lennon), and they are myths and texts for our time. But they've got those old print virtues, and children are reading, and that's not a bad thing. Nor is reconciling the adult with the child within, at least for a few isolated hours.


A third rate burglary. A bungled leak to discredit a political enemy.

All the pieces may not tumble this time, but it's becoming clearer how they might. And how this may not be as big as Watergate---it may be bigger, and deeper.

Because for all the threats and wounds to the Constitution, and all the daunting abuses of power in Watergate, no one died as a direct result. This time, people are dying all over the world. Americans and Iraqis in Iraq. Londoners in London. People in Turkey, in Afghanistan, and no one knows where next.

Justin Raimondo writes in

This isn't about Rove. It's about a cabal of war hawks inside the administration

He suggest Rove may even have been an unwitting accomplice, though just as involved in the stench. Now Frank Rich in the New York Times adds this:

...we shouldn't get hung up on him - or on most of the other supposed leading figures in this scandal thus far. Not Matt Cooper or Judy Miller or the Wilsons or the bad guy everyone loves to hate, the former CNN star Robert Novak. This scandal is not about them in the end, any more than Watergate was about Dwight Chapin and Donald Segretti or Woodward and Bernstein. It is about the president of the United States. It is about a plot that was hatched at the top of the administration and in which everyone else, Mr. Rove included, are at most secondary players.

This scandal is about Dick Cheney and the neocons, it's about President Bush and all who led America into war under false pretenses, which included lying and covering up those lies, and subverting the very institutions of government they are sworn to uphold and protect.

Follow the Uranium - New York Times


The Trekalog: The Final Frontier

It was during the feature films---around Star Trek III and IV---that William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy became close friends. These days (in 2005) they're often seen on stage together at Star Trek conventions, doing a kind of comedy improv, answering questions, baiting and teasing each other. (At the Farewell Scotty convention last summer, Shatner took lavish advantage of Nimoy apparently not knowing that a moon is not a planet.) Towards the end of their DVD conversation, Mind Meld, Nimoy spontaneously says to Shatner, "you're my best friend." Nimoy has come to appreciate the "bad boy" in Shatner, and Shatner clearly admires Nimoy.