I just dropped my lovely wife and wonderful girls off at the airport. They're leaving for a 12-day visit with her parents in Wyoming. Since I'm still new at the job, I don't have that kind of vacation to spend. (But at least we're able to afford the tickets!)
It'll be a strange two weeks, being a bachelor again. On the one hand, I'll have time for all the geeking out I kvetch about not having time for. On the other hand, we'll really miss each other badly. And that's not all; I promised Cecilia I'd email her pictures of the pet fish she got for her birthday.
I'll also miss cooking for them. I enjoy cooking, but doing so for just myself generally doesn't seem to be worth the trouble. I expect to revert to my bachelor eating habits, eating fairly decently but mostly out of cans. (I laid in a supply of frozen pizza and other goodies last time I went to the store, too.)
Two positive developments of the time alone is that I'll be able to make headway on fixing the settings that prevent my CD burner from working, and clean up my review to-do list for Destroy All Monsters. I also hope to share some fun time with friends.
I'm sure I'll post about my experiences more later on. I just dropped them off, and their flight hasn't even left yet, so right now their absence hasn't quite hit me.
Update: Byzantium's Shores has a prediction of the result of my solitude.
ultracool japanese zombie flick to get us dvd release
Color me happy: the Japanese rockabilly/zombie film Wild Zero, starring the ultracool band Guitar Wolf, will be released on DVD in the United States September 30. You can pre-order it at Amazon.com or HKFlix.com. For a taste of what the film is like, check out this review at Teleport City.
Tonight's the night for an Indianapolis FARK party, to include a serious drinking session at the famous Slippery Noodle Inn. I won't be attending, unfortunately, as I've planned to spend some quality time with my lovely wife and The Girls tonight.
I just had a thought bearing on my earlier post contending that hatred of Bush among members of the left doesn't begin to compare with the way the right hates Clinton.
Come January 2005, when Bush has been voted out of office and can no longer damage this fine nation, when he's gone back to practicing his personal mediocrity in the private sector where his failure can harm no one but those foolish to invest in him (or are willing to pony up for "perosnal appearances," or his ghostwritten memoirs), I'll stop blogging about him. Indeed, I doubt I'll give him a second thought.
As I said -- contempt, certainly. But hatred? I don't think so.
Brad De Long notes that American songwriter Stephen Foster "lived in Pittsburgh pretty much his entire life. Yet this guy from Pittsburgh created an amazing amount of what we now think of as southern and western folk music: "The Old Folks at Home", "My Old Kentucky Home", "Old Black Joe", "Massa's in the Cold, Cold Ground", "Oh, Susannah!", "Camptown Races", and others," and asks "What's a guy from Pittsburgh doing writing songs about ... Kentucky plantation mansions?"
In the comments, I note that "I can't speak to any of the other songs, but having grown up in Louisville, Kentucky, I can attest that My Old Kentucky Home actually exists. Foster's cousins owned the home, and he wrote the song after a visit. I've toured the place, which is actually in Bardstown, myself."
A couple of weeks ago, I finally watched (in two separate sessions) the DVD of Lawrence of Arabia my lovely wife gave me back in February. Inspired by the film, I dusted off my copy of Lawrence's book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which I've owned for years but never read. (It'll take much more than two days to finish this sucker, too.)
Cooped Up reminds me to link Dwight Meredith's excellent post on yet another campaign Bush broke. Jeff's comment is spot-on: "Of the many promises that George W. Bush made during the 2000 campaign, few rankle so much today as his pledge that, if elected, he would govern as 'a uniter, not a divider.'"
From the way he's run his presidency* -- indeed, from his actions during the Florida dispute -- isn't it obvious he never had any intention of abiding by that promise anyway?
*One small but significant exception: Bush deserves credit for denouncing the wrongheaded attacks on Muslims in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and asserting that America's beef is not with Islam. That gesture, welcome and necessary as it was, hardly excuses his other actions, though.
CalPundit notes that Republican have been most generous in their advice to Democrats lately (translation: Your tactics are disturbingly effective, and we'd like you to stop acting like a real opposition), and helpfully sums up their suggestions.
An image from Akira Kurosawa's magnificent Ran, lifted from Byzantium's Shores, courtesy Cornell University's Japanese Cinema Studies Home Page. I was lucky enough to have seen it on the big screen at the time of its initial release, at the late, lamented Vogue Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky.
Ran is basically a chambara version of King Lear, with conflict arising when an aged daimyo tries to divide his feudal holdings among three sons. (Kurosawa even works in the parable of the broken arrow -- that a man can easily break them individually, but can't break a united bundle.) One of the "evil" sons is actually driven by his wife, pictured here. If memory serves me right, her character is named Lady Sue Kaede. Spoiler alert -- Jaquandor, if you haven't finished the film, don't hover over this link.
Update: Here's Roger Ebert's Great Movies essay on the film. In it, I learn that the character I'm thinking of is named Kaeda, not Sue. Ebert also singles out the shot I mention for particular praise ("a masterstroke of timing and execution").
I just got a unique piece of spam that gave me momentary pause about how to deal with it (as opposed to, of course, automatically deleting it).
This is a confirmation email that you would like to get offers from us in the future.
if you would like to opt out please click reply if you would like to keep recieving offers then do nothing you will be given the chance to opt out any time we send you an offer.
Ypour privacy is of the upmost importance to us we will never sell or trade your information to any other company to use for email solicitation.
Great deals by emails
qyfzvfofvbk yxasb iepm dyyyviv wh
tuhjzwxjeuliff vt u n
I'm still inclined to ignore and delete it, following the rule that replying to spam -- even for the phony opt-out promises -- lets them know that the email address is live (it was obviously addressed to a randomly generated list, and the typos in the message do little to assure mne of their professionalism...).
I'm also planning on picking up the swank 1959 Hong Kong flick Air Hostess, once again thanks to a review at Teleport City, and some anime. I seem to be on track to buying a batch of DVDs, every one of which is Asian. I really need to see what American movies I need to add to my collection.
Walter Pincus's article in this morning's Washington Postdetails how tenaciously the Administration clung to its bogus story implying that Iraq had an actrive nuclear weapons program. Rather than a single instance of "miscommunication" that somehow allowed the phony African uranium claim to "accidentally" slip into the State of the Union address, what emerges is a clear pattern of Bush and other Administration officials beating the uranium drum, despite the CIA's reservations about relying on forged documents to support it.
[B]y the time the president gave the speech, on Jan. 28, that same allegation was already part of an administration campaign to win domestic and international support for invading Iraq. In January alone, it was included in two official documents sent out by the White House and in speeches and writings by the president's four most senior national security officials.
The White House has acknowledged that it was a mistake to have included the uranium allegation in the State of the Union address. But an examination of how it originated, how it was repeated in January and by whom suggests that the administration was determined to keep the idea before the public as it built its case for war [emphasis added], even though the claim had been excised from a presidential speech the previous October through the direct intervention of CIA Director George J. Tenet.
Dan Bartlett, White House director of communications, said yesterday that the inclusion of the allegation in the president's State of the Union address "made people below feel comfortable using it as well." He said that there was "strategic coordination" and that "we talk broadly about what points to make," but he added: "I don't know of any specific talking points to say that this is supposed to be used."
The allegation appeared in a draft of a speech Bush was to give Oct. 7 to outline the threat that he said Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. In that draft, an unnamed White House speechwriter wrote, "The [Iraqi] regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa."
The statement the Iraqis "had been caught" was described as "over the top" by a senior administration official familiar with the sketchy intelligence on which the statement had been based. Tenet succeeded in having it stricken the day the speech was given on the grounds that intelligence did not support it.
The CIA arranged to have a similar allegation deleted from a speech that John D. Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was to give Dec. 20 before the U.N. Security Council.
Yet in the days before and after the president's State of the Union address, the allegation was repeated by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz and in at least two documents sent out by the White House.
The first of those documents was a legislatively required report to Congress on Jan. 20 on matters "relevant to the authorization for use of military force against Iraq." [Emphasis added] It referred to Iraq as having failed to report to the United Nations "attempts to acquire uranium and the means to enrich it." The second document, a report distributed to the public Jan. 23 covering Iraq's weapons concealment activities, highlighted Baghdad's failure to explain "efforts to procure uranium from abroad for its nuclear weapons program."
Let's recap that one, folks. The Bush Administration knew by then that the African uranium claim was so much Bush-wa, and yet it sent it to Congress anyway. The Administration's embrace of tainted figures from the Iran-Contra scandal clearly reveals how little import its members attach to lying to Congress, but even so, the audacity of this fib is rather breathtaking.
The same day, the op-ed page of the New York Times included a piece by Rice that said Iraq's Dec. 7 declaration of its weapons of mass destruction to the U.N. Security Council "fails to account for or explain Iraq's efforts to get uranium from abroad." In a speech that same day before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Wolfowitz said: "There is no mention [in the declaration] of Iraqi efforts to procure uranium from abroad."
Three days later, Powell, in a speech before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, asked: "Why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium and the special equipment needed to transform it into material for nuclear weapons?"
Answer: It wasn't, and Powell likely knew it. Remember, he excised the uranium claim from his February speech to the UN...
...When it came to the State of the Union speech, the White House has said that it was an unnamed speechwriter who reviewed a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq and perhaps a British intelligence dossier and came up with the 16-word sentence that Bush delivered: "The British government has learned Saddam Hussein has recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
The NIE, dated Oct. 2, 2002, carried only four paragraphs on the subject, on page 25 of the 90-page document, according to unclassified excerpts released last month.
The first of those paragraphs said: "Iraq also began vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake." Support for that characterization was an item saying "a foreign government service reported" that Niger was planning to send several tons of "pure uranium" to Iraq and that, as of early 2001, the two countries "reportedly were still working out arrangements" for as much as 500 tons. A second item said: "Reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
According to the intelligence official, the "vigorously" language was "quoted verbatim out of a [Defense Intelligence Agency] paper," along with other paragraphs relating to Niger, Somalia and Congo.
The CIA, which had its doubts about the intelligence, did not include the uranium item in the NIE's "key judgments," nor even as one of six elements supporting the key judgment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program, Tenet said in written answers to questions posed by The Washington Post. He added that the four paragraphs, which had originated from the Defense Intelligence Agency, were kept in the NIE for "completeness."
Tenet, in a statement July 11, described the CIA as having only "fragmentary intelligence" related to what he termed "allegations" of Hussein's efforts to obtain additional raw uranium from Africa.
The British dossier, published Sept. 24, said in its executive summary: "We judge that Iraq . . . sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, despite having no active civil nuclear power program that could require it." It did not say the British had "learned" anything about Iraq and uranium. Support for that judgment was the single statement, "There is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
...At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing July 9, Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) asked Rumsfeld to supply information for the committee record on why he, on Jan. 29, and the president, the day earlier, had made this "very significant statement" at the same time "the intelligence community knew in the depths of their agency that this was not true."
Nothing had been supplied as of Wednesday, a committee aide said.
Imagine my surprise.
What's wrong with this picture? The CIA had little faith in the claim -- which was, remember, based on documents that were not only forged but also crudely and obviously forged -- and had repeatedly communicated to National Security Council officials that it didn't hold water.
The article paints a clear picture of an Administration obviously reluctant to let go of a piece of information, however bogus, that cast Iraq as a nuclear threat. There's no doubt that a nuclear-armed Iraq would have posed an unacceptable security risk. There's also no doubt that Iraq simply wasn't anywhere close to posing that kind of threat. A nuclear program is basically impossible to hide, and under the current circumstances it's safe to say Saddam had little but ambition.
Perhaps Bush could have sold the war on the post hoc justifications being peddled by his apologists -- that Saddam was an intolerably bad dictator, or the neocons' grand fantasy strategy of a Middle East under perpetual domination by the US military.
He chose not to.
In its march to war, Bush and crew portrayed Iraq as a security threat of such magnitude that no course short of invasion -- and right now -- was thinkable. It's abundantly clear by now that these claims were simply a lie.
In related devlopments, Al Gore pegged it in a speech decrying the Bush Administration's prevarication in selling its coveted war.
"The very idea of self-government depends upon honest and open debate as the preferred method for pursuing the truth," Gore said, "and a shared respect for the rule of reason is the best way to establish the truth. The Bush administration routinely shows disrespect for that whole process, and I think it's partly because they feel as if they already know the truth and aren't very curious to learn about any facts that might contradict it. They and the members of groups that belong to their ideological coalition are true believers in each other's agenda."
...Gore stitched together his criticism of Bush on several issues with a common thread: That in each case, deeply flawed policies were based on "false impressions" that Bush deliberately fostered in public opinion to get what he wanted.
"Here is the pattern that I see," Gore said. "The president's mishandling of and selective use of the best evidence available on the threat posed by Iraq is pretty much the same as the way he intentionally distorted the best available evidence on climate change, and rejected the best available evidence on the threat posed to America's economy by his tax and budget proposals.
"In each case," he said, "the president seems to have been pursuing policies chosen in advance of the facts -- policies designed to benefit friends and supporters -- and has used tactics that deprived the American people of any opportunity to effectively subject his arguments to the kind of informed scrutiny that is essential in our system of checks and balances."
Gore said he once thought Bush's advisers were responsible for what he called the "curious mismatch between myth and reality" in the administration's policies. But now, he said, "I've just about concluded that the real problem may be the president himself and that next year we ought to fire him and get a new one."
Update: Matthew Yglesias's comments are exactly right:
The point, however, is that it vastly weakens the case for having George W. Bush in the White House. This time around you approved of the policy he tried to manipulate the country into adopting, but who knows what you'll think next time. Even worse, next time you may well be one of those people who gets swayed by the lie. Having a foreign policy team that's more interested in making the facts fit the policy than making the policy fit the facts is dangerous. Indeed, it's about as dangerous as having an economic team that does the same thing. Luckily for us, we have both.
*Just FYI, I'm rereading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, so by saying "Indeed" I'm aping Hunter S. Thompson's style, not someone else's.
In the latest of his ever-shifting justifications for his coveted deficit enhancement plan tax cuts, Bush played the voodoo trickle-down economics card, claiming his tax cuts were a "jobs and growth" package.
Hardly anyone could take that argument seriously, but just inc case, Dwight Meredith ran the numbers: In order to meet Bush's promises, "the economy will now have to create 2,382,125 jobs in the last five months of the year. That works out to an average of 476,425 jobs per month."
In fact, the recent increases in productivity, while good economic news in some regards, basically mean that the businesses can meet any feeble upticks in demand without hiring new workers. While the economy may not be bleeding jobs at quite its former rate, a hiring boom hardly seems likely. In other words, jobless recovery.
As it is, Bush's economic record resembles no one's so much as Herbert Hoover. Bush has so far presided over a net loss of more than 3 million jobs.
George Herbert Hoover Bush...has kinda a ring to it, doesn't it?
Talking Points Memo has a facinating article on Mahdi Obeidi...you know, the Iraqi scientist who revealed he had a nuclear centrifuge part buried in his rose garden. It seems that the US appears to be reneging on a deal to let Obeidi emigrate ot the US. Josh Marshall has several speculations (the government doesn't want Obeidi showing up on Larry King Live to say Saddam really did scrap his WMD programs, for example). He also notes, correctly, that any way you slice it, this policy doesn't bode well for encouraging other Iraqi scientists -- the ones we don't have in custody yet, since they obviously aren't leading us to weapons either -- to come forward.
Coming as a surprise to no one after the wet summer we've had so far, but Indianapolis is now home to a veritable plague of mosquitoes. Indeed, the wet weather has resulted in a bumper crop of the bloodsucking bugs, as eggs that have lain on dry ground for several years have been hatching.
Mosquitoes by the millions are swarming Hoosiers, forcing them to reach for the bug spray or driving them indoors as city officials log hundreds of complaints a week and increase spraying.
"I've been staying in. It's just too annoying to be out there," said Paula Ortman, of Knightstown, who's been bitten recently by swarms of mosquitoes around home, at Turkey Run State Park and at a ballgame in Greenfield.
Bug experts say all those rains in early July soaked dormant eggs laid by mosquitoes over the past several years in wooded areas.
"We're getting all the eggs from last year and the year before that and the year before that and the year before that," said Robert Waltz, state entomologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
"You end up getting large numbers of mosquitoes rapidly," Waltz said.
Luckily, these curse-inducing pests are not the main carriers of West Nile virus. Call it the silver lining in the dark cloud of mosquitoes hovering around your head.
But local officials are fighting back anyway.
In Marion County, the mosquito control division of the Health Department has doubled its evening crews spraying for adult skeeters.
Up to 16 trucks a night are heading out to attack hungry swarms. One recent night, the trucks sprayed 334.7 miles. In the daytime, up to 14 employees spray wet areas with oil to kill mosquito larvae.
"We're probably fielding anywhere from 200 to 300 complaints a day, and we've been doing that for the last two weeks," said Rick Mack, a supervisor in mosquito control.
We sometimes take a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. Lately, our spontaneous jaunts have given way to a NASA-like ritual of changing into light or long-sleeved clothing and hosing ourselves down with repellent.
...to Self Made Pundit, who has this excellent post on Bush's deadly wishful thinking, which makes the crucial point that Bush's prevarications about Iraq not only served to generate support for the war on the false premises of Iraq being about to develop nuclear weapons which it would provide to its close ally al Qaeda, but also served to shut off an open and honest debate about the costs of the war.
Musashi has posted the second installment of his Hunter S. Thompson-style recount of our adventures at GenCon. In today's episode, our enounter with the Philippino delicacy balut, and much more.
Musashi also reviews Giant Monster Rampage, an incredibly fun kaiju rumble wargame based on plastic monster toys. We participated in a fun demo of the game the Sunday of GenCon courtesy the good folks at Mystic Eye Games. Yours truly was the first one out, but not before hurling one my my rivals into a tar pit, the damage from which eventually led to his being taken out next. After a tense mano a mano showdown with the other survivor, I'm pleased to say Musashi wound up the winner!
Riffing on Stephen den Beste's binge of anime buying, I thought I'd provide a few informational anime links for the benefit of potential anime fans who are curious about the genre, but don't have the disposable income to blow on multiple boxed sets.
The Anime Pocket Guide (text version) was the reference I relied on while I was beginning my own anime collection in the early 1990s. It's somewhat dated now -- you won't find references to recent series like Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Fruits Basket, Kare Kano or even Revolutionary Girl Utena or Martian Successor Nadesico, but it's an excellent primer on old-school anime.
Speaking of old-skool anime, here's a small graphics library of images from several older series like Bubblegum Crisis, Ranma 1/2, and Kimagure Orange Road, in GIF format, yet. A text list of the images is here. Pictured: Priss from Bubblegum Crisis.
The Anime Web Turnpike is such a vital resource for anime information, it's been permalinked here for some time. It contains links to a wide variety of series, old and new.
And, of course, you can find a host of anime reviews -- many by yours truly -- and discussion at Destroy All Monsters.
den Beste's comments are interesting, especially as they provide an unusual perspective of a relative newcomer who immerses himself in the genre. (Apparently, den Beste and I share that trait: When something sparks our interest, we want to learn all we can about it.)
I will say, however, that given den Beste's quite approriate admiration for the superb Princess Mononoke, he needs to watch Spirited Away pronto. (Of course, so does Jaquandor...)
Update: Jaquandor raises an excellent point in the comments: "That guy must have disposable income, well, out the wazoo," since he keeps referring to buying multiple DVD sets of anime he's never seen but only heard of.
Slate's Fred Kaplan reports that North Korea had in fact agreed in principle to multilateral talks some time ago. So what made last week's announcement such big news? Apparently the Bush Administration dropped a long-standing objection of its own and agreed to bilateral talkms within the multilateral framework.
Really, this development doesn't change my earlier opinion all that much. The talks are still a good development. But let's be clear: This isn't a case of "Bush held firm and the North Koreans blinked." Rather, it is, not surprisingly, a case of both sides giving a little.
Of course, the notion that North Korea apparently responded to a US concession reinforces the notion that the United States can influence -- not control, but influence -- NK's actions, for good or ill. That being the case, Bush does indeed deserve credit for this positive development, and simultaneously must take partial responsibility for the series of less-than-ideal precursors.
All that said, if Bush does manage to acheive a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, I'll be among the first to applaud, even if the US has to offer a carrot or two to achieve its security goals.
Solvalou.com has an amusing list of randomly generated arcade game names. You can also create your own randomly generated name ("Omega Evil," "Galaxy Dunk," "World Takeda") by entering your name in the text box.
Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum had posts up yesterday commenting on comparisons of the left's "hatred" of Bush II to the right's hatred of Bill Clinton. (Marshall also posted an update based on the responses he received.)
Here's my two cents: The two are not even close.
First off, let me stipulate that there are indeed partisans on the lefty that go so far as to hate Bush. But most of what I see is anger, not hatred. And most of that hatred is based on what Bush does and the methods he uses to do it.
I have to admit, I've never, ever been able to fathom why people consider the man likable. But for me personally, a commentor on CalPundit's post summed it up about perfectly:
To be clear: Contempt, derision and scorn? You bet. Anger? Got that in spades. Disgust? Hell, if I were studying that I'd have my PhD already. But no-one I know has expressed personal, visceral hatred of Bush in the way that I saw expressed towards Clinton in 1992.
There's an added dimension, too, and I think it's worse than the notion of hating the President: I don't trust him. Many of my posts have observed how Bush's rhetoric simply doesn't match reality. And the spin of Bush's defenders -- usually to the effect that what Bush says is/was "technically true," however misleading -- cuts to the heart of the matter. With Bush, you always have to read the fine print. There's just no way you can trust the guy. I certainly don't trust him to have my best interests, or the interests of my children, at heart in his policy decisions.
But once again -- that isn't a personality judgement. Anger, contempt, derision and scorn is, in my view, a perfectly valid response to Bush's record. And while I agree that Democrats should not be careful to be blinded by hate, I believe that a coldly rational, unwavering and irrefutable case that Bush just can't be trusted is essential to victory in 2004 and saving this great nation from the damage the Bush has done and is sure to make worse in the future.
I've been shamefully remiss in sharing my recollections and impressions of GenCon the weekend before last. I'm going to try to catch up this week with a series of short posts, rather than the long wrapup I'd originally planned.
As should be obvious, one thing Musashi and I were keeping an eye open for was anime. Anime had been a minor component of cons I'd been to before, and GenCon promised three -- count 'em, three -- rooms showing anime 24 hours a day, one hosted by Indy's own Indiana Animation Club. (There was also a room showing 24/7 Hong Kong action movies, but we never found it...)
Indeed, my first-ever exposure to hentai anime was more than ten years ago at RiverCon. Someone showed an unsubtitled videotape of the "Pop Chaser" episode of the hentai series Cream Lemon in one of the suites where I was hanging out. (And speaking of hentai, props to Mr. Oni for nod, once again! I'll have some links to some cool stuff there presently.)
Other than the rooms, the official anime presence was fairly sparse, limited basically to a booth representing ADV Films. (They gave me a decent DVD containing previews for their entire catalog. Most appear to be whatever trailer or preview is included on the DVDs themselves -- I recognized several from discs I won -- but it'll be a handy resource for at least getting an idea of the look and feel of several series I'm not yet familiar with.) Much more space was devoted to displays representing anime-based collectible card games. There were also only a few anime characters represented among the con's cosplayers.
We did, however, discover several booths in the exhibit hall selling DVDs of anime and Asian movies. One featured a batch of expensive -- and obviously pirated -- discs of classic Saturday morning entertainment like Jason of Star Command and The Herculoids, and a hefty dose of hentai anime to boot. We also stumbled across a booth run by a guy from Texas who sold a bunch of reasonably priced Asian import DVDs and soundtracks.
We perused his stock and returned the next day to pick up a trio of Japanese flicks. I got Musashi a copy of The Returner as a belated birthday present. For my part, I picked up a copy of wild-man director Takashi Miike's over-the-top gangster flick Dead or Alive, which I knew by reputation and had been eager to see, and a flick I'd never heard of called A Frightful School Horror.
(In the process, I reluctantly passed up quite a few other flicks, like The Bride with White Hair and Jingoku.)
I watched Dead or Alive last Monday night, and I just loved it. The opening sequence is wonderfully crazy, sleazy, action-packed and stylish -- and accomplished with barely a word of dialogue. Indeed, when I spun it for my lovely wife later on, I didn't notice that I'd forgotten to invoke the subtitles! As I noted in my review of Audition, Miike is skilled at lulling the audience into believing they're watching a certain kind of film, and then hitting them out of nowhere with a twisted image.
Between these two Japanese flicks and the batch of Hong Kong movies I ordered for my birthday, my Asian cinema menu is certainly replete for the next several weeks. I plan to get a little anime, and I should be all set.
See Cooped Up for a cogent rundown on the latest developments in the Valerie Plame Wilson affair. (Especially interesting is Joshua Marshall's hint that the CIA is investigating the matter.) And Mark A. R. Kleiman has an excellent summary of the entire affair. I agree with Jeff Cooper that this story deserves more attention than it's getting.
This weekend we celebrated our oldest daughter's fourth birthday. We had a fun-filled, active weekend.
Saturday we traveled down to Louisville for Cecilia's celebration with my family. We grilled bratwurst and hot dogs and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon on my mother's front porch as Cecilia, Naomi, her aunt Katie, and her cousins Mason and Sam played with my siblings' and my old Fisher-Price toys.
I even got to see my friend Dodd briefly as he arrived to pick up my brother. I understand his house renovation is proceeding apace, and we certainly wish him the best of luck. (My lovely wife, who restored a house in the Germantown area of Louisville, definitely sympathizes with the amount of work he has to do, and knows how rewarding it can be as well.
It was such a big day, Cecilia actually fell asleep in the car on the way back home -- a rare occurrence these days.
Saturday night, my lovely wife and I attended a party thrown by the parents of one of Cecilia's preschool friends. Several of the guests perfromed old '50s and '60s cover tunes as a house band. It's relatively rare these days that we get to go out and enjoy an evening of grown-up activities, so we certainly appreciated the chance to socialize.
Sunday was Cecilia's party for her preschool and neighborhood friends, which we held at Chuck E. Cheese's. It was, not surprisingly, somewhat chaotic and overstimulating, but a lot of fun for all the kids. Cecilia really enjoyed the animatronic character's show; she and the other kids stood at the foot of the mechanical Chuck E. Cheese yelling to get his attention. (I explained that he couldn't answer them while he was singing...it's technically true, after all.) The kids had pizza and cake and got to play the various games and activities. At 4, Cecilia is still a bit too young for skee-ball, but she'll grow into it, I'm sure.
When we got home, we prepared the aquarium my brother gave Cecilia for her birthday. Jeff gave us the sound advice to consult a local pet store -- not a chain -- about how the local water needs to be prepared, and we added the appropriate solution. Cecilia also chose the gravel -- black, with neon-colored bits -- and a tropical reef backdrop. We capped off the evening by assembling the bicycle we got Cecilia for her birthday. (The task was surprisingly easy -- all I needed was a crescent wrench, and the entire process took less than an hour.) I had hoped to cap off the evening with a little Grand Theft Auto 3, but a line of unusually pyrotechnic thunderstorms that rolled through the area put the kibosh on that notion.
This morning, Cecilia was absolutely delighted to see the beribboned bicycle waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. Tonight, I'll cook her the dinner she's requested (spaghetti) and bake her a chocoloate cake. After dinner, we'll troop out to the pet store to buy her a fish for the aquarium.
I've already been thinking about my own 36th birthday, coming up later this month. My lovely wife has bought me a new Palm computer to replace my old one, which inexplicably fried a couple of months ago. And I took advantage of a sale at HKFlix.com to order six assorted Hong Kong movies for less than 35 bucks. These orders have both arrived, and are sitting in my closet until the day I get to open them.
And while we're celebrating birthdays, many happy returns to Susanna as well.