Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thompson's Train Wreck

‘A Lackluster Candidate’ - Newsweek's rapid post-mortem analysis of Fred Thompson's failure to ascend.

The sad fact is that Fred Thompson's biggest ally was ignorance and a large degree of uninformed political crushes. I wrote of my own doubts about the man before he even declared his candidacy. When he finally did, it was with relative obscurity, and soon after, he fell into irrelevancy, with only rumors and hopes still keeping his candidacy alive. He never acted like a candidate who wanted the job, and his playful excuses about not being obsessed with the office or with electioneering didn't cut it. He never made headway in his campaign because he did not run.

Now he has wasted the time and money of many well-intentioned Republicans, and lowered morale by disheartening ardent followers and hopeful-but-hesitant supporters.

People thought he was going to be the next Reagan. I've been pointing out that, Hollywood experience aside, he was behaving more like Dole. This article shows I got something right, he actually consulted Dole.

For anyone wondering who I'm interested in voting for, guess what? There isn't anyone. McCain is not a conservative, I don't care what he says now. Rudy is out for the same reasons among others. Everyone seems to like Huckabee, though how anyone can court the homeschoolers and the National Education Association at the same time is beyond me. Plus, Huckabee's affiliation with a certain leader by the name of Bill Gothard is very concerning. My guess is that Romney will pull into the lead - besides being Mormon, there are few legitimate objections against the man as a conservative.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Review of Disney's "Enchanted"

In these modern days of Disney animation, who would have thought anything short of Pixar could save them. And word is that Pixar actually did collaberate with Disney on this film. Whatever the cause, the effect is stellar. All the right ingredients went into this film, and to complete the analogy, it was baked at just the right temperature.

ACTORS: Amy Adams perfectly captures what the Disney princess is all about, with her winning, sometimes-naive charm. James Marsdan finds no trouble portraying the handsome-heroic-and-knows-it Prince Edward, while Patrick Dempsey fits the bill of "everyday hero" quite well. Susan Sarandon also exemplifies the antagonist, sounding almost like Eleanor Audley, the classic Disney "evil villainess" voice (Evil Stepmother, Maleficent, etc). And you already know the gist of the plot; fairy tale princess gets sent to the real world and has culture shock times ten.

What really makes the movie so fantastic is the way those two worlds blend.

PLOT: Watching these characters step out of the far fields of fantasy and encounter the "real world" is simply magical, whether it be the exaggerated heroism of Prince Edward in stabbing the "metal monster" bus, or the tender bewilderment of Giselle at feeling anger for the first time. Yet, the blend is not one-sided. Going in, I assumed fantasy would be handled as the current trend in movies so often is - getting its butt kicked by reality to the refrain of a needle abruptly sliding off a record.

But instead, a little bit of pixie dust goes a long way, and the gilded gleam of fantasy holds steady against the culture shock of real life; even winning out in some cases. The mix (and transformations) are enchanting, showing it's not just the fantasy characters who need to "grow up"; fairy tales have something to teach us too. Just as the real world forces Giselle to undergo a maturation process without completely discarding her princessy ways, fantasy helps Robert learn to believe in love again, and brings out his humanity without leaving him in euphoric naiveté.

This isn't just fantasy meets reality. This is past meets present. This is the spirit of childhood meets the realities of being grown-up. And it's a stroke of genius to forge this connection. Disney clearly recognizes that times are changing, and that in contemporary cinema - and in the culture overall - the era of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty is all but gone. But instead of permitting parody (brought on largely by Dreamworks' "Shrek") to sweep fantasy away utterly, Disney blends the two together, to ease the transition and, hopefully, to preserve the past.

And the past is certainly worth preserving. I was impressed by the exhibitions of honor in the film. For example, When extending compassion to the rain-soaked princess, Robert allows her to come to his apartment. When she falls asleep on his couch, he reluctantly permits her to remain...and informs his daughter she'll be sleeping in his bed, to avoid the obvious implications of having a strange woman sleeping in his apartment. (Not all princes wear cloaks and carry swords.) Honor among men is not a quality oft-exhibited in modern cinema any more; it was practically a thrill to see it in Enchanted.

Likewise, the unselfishness of the main characters also stood out. When Prince Edward makes his debut, he seems first to be the self-obsessed narcisist reflected in parodies like Shrek 2 (IE, hair net under the helmet to preserve those golden curls.) But when it comes down to it, Edward sacrifices his own love for the happiness of the Giselle. When his kiss cannot break the spell, his desire to see Giselle saved overcomes every other thought, and he insists that Robert kiss her. Similarly, Nancy sacrifices what she thought was her dream, not just by permitting but by insisting that Robert kiss Giselle.

The movie works wonderfully for youngsters, with just a tinge of spook as all classic Disney movies have. But on a higher level, adults can identify too. Like the film, members of the Disney generation (or any generation) have had to grow out of their simple, ideal world and meet full-on all the joys and pains of the "real world." This movie is a wonderful melding the two.

MUSIC: The music too hearkens back to Disney's grander days. The smashing compositions of Alan Menken and lyrics of Stephen Schwartz (the two collaborated on The Hunchback of Notre Dame) are appropriately cheerful, perky or sentimental as the situation requires. Additionally, James Marsdan and Amy Adams do their own singing - and excel beautifully.

Watching this movie was like being reunited with an old friend whom you haven't seen in so long that you've nearly forgotten he exists. Let's admit it, most of us grew up on the Disney classics like Peter Pan, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. And let's also admit that, while shades of those Disney memories existed in the sequels and prequels and threequels that Disney has been mass-producing (falsely believing that the characters were what made the classics so grand), it wasn't the same. But Enchanted represents a return to the glory days.

Thanks, Disney, for refreshing old memories and the chance to make some new ones.

Walt would be proud.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Did You Ever Have One of Those Days?


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Are Rainforests Not As Doomed As We Thought?

No Convincing Evidence For Decline In Tropical Forests
Claims that tropical forests are declining cannot be backed up by hard evidence, according to new research from the University of Leeds.

This major challenge to conventional thinking is the surprising finding of a study by Dr Alan Grainger, Senior Lecturer in Geography and one of the world's leading experts on tropical deforestation.

"Every few years we get a new estimate of the annual rate of tropical deforestation," said Dr Grainger. "They always seem to show that these marvellous forests have only a short time left. Unfortunately, everybody assumes that deforestation is happening and fails to look at the bigger picture -- what is happening to forest area as a whole."

In the first attempt for many years to chart the long-term trend in tropical forest area, he spent more than three years going through all available United Nations data with a fine toothcomb -- and found some serious problems.

"The errors and inconsistencies I have discovered in the area data raise too many questions to provide convincing support for the accepted picture of tropical forest decline over the last 40 years," he said. "Scientists all over the world who have used these data to make predictions of species extinctions and the role of forests in global climate change will find it helpful to revisit their findings in the light of my study."

Dr Grainger does not claim that tropical deforestation is not occurring, as there is plenty of local evidence for that. But owing to the lack of frequent scientific monitoring, something for which he has campaigned for 25 years, we cannot use available data to track the long-term global trend in tropical forest area with great accuracy.

"The picture is far more complicated than previously thought," he said. "If there is no long-term net decline it suggests that deforestation is being accompanied by a lot of natural reforestation that we have not spotted."
It's always helpful when someone begins raving that the earth is doomed to arm yourself with facts like these. I was told in several different classes throughout the semester that people were dooming the earth, and that their short-term greed would cost our descendants a lot of long-term grief. Maybe we should cut more down to see if we can't solve this whole global warming problem.