Monthly Archives: April 2009

Lost Forum: “The Variable”

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Christian Bale and Jeremy Davies: Two guys who have gotten disgustingly skinny just to make a movie.

 

As you may have already heard, somebody dies this episode. So we’ll hum and dance for a moment to allow you to decide, if in fact you have not already seen “The Variable,” whether or not to continue reading. Hey, did you see that T-Mobile ad last night with the woman driving in the desert who pulls over, grabs a chainsaw out of the trunk and proceeds to cut down a telephone poll, which falls over and pulls another pole down, then another, and so on like a row of dominoes? It’s a dumb ad. The woman is wearing a tiny dress, which is hardly appropriate apparel for operating dangerous equipment. And who channels her rage over high home phone bills by taking it out on our already fragile public infrastructure? That’s hardly a constructive way of dealing with one’s anger. But what’s really dumb is the small print that appears at the bottom of the screen as the chainsaw is cutting into the telephone pole. The text reads: “T-Mobile does not encourage vandalism. Do not attempt.” Really, T-Mobile? Don’t you have a bylaw stating that any company ad which requires this kind of fine print disclaimer should automatically be canned? Next thing you know Jeremy Piven will be hawking T-Mobile products.

Ahem. Hopefully that gave the hesitant enough time to get off the fence. Pressing forward then.

Eloise Hawking is a terrible mother. For maybe the first time in the entire show, we have a character with mommy issues, not daddy ones. Poor Daniel Faraday. He might’ve been a great pianist, or at least a solid keyboardist for Drive Shaft. But his mother closes the lid on the piano keys and looks deeply disappointed that Daniel should ever experience a shred of what the rest of us call “fun” or “joy.” Presumably she made him keep his braces on an extra six years just to ensure he never got a date to prom. 

We also think Fionnula Flanagan, who plays Eloise Hawking, may be our least favorite actor on “Lost.” She plays Eloise to the point of camp: the arched eyebrows, the sinister smirking. She lays everything on real thick. There’s nothing especially complicated about her character — she’s just manipulative and evil. So is Widmore, but Alan Dale shades his character with a little more subtlety. When he talks to John Locke in the Tunisian hospital, you understand why Locke might believe Widmore’s version of events. 

That’s not to say that Eloise Hawking the character isn’t as formidable a monster as any father yet seen on the show. She has used her son as a pawn in a chess game we still don’t understand yet, withholding her approval and being awfully nasty to a potential daughter-in-law just to get what she wants from Daniel. If we’re supposed to feel conflicted by the “sacrifice” she alludes to when talking with Widmore outside the hospital, it’s difficult to do so when we don’t know for what (or whom) she’s actually sacrificing. Her inscription in Daniel’s journal reads, “No matter what, remember I will always love you. Mom.” Apparently her pen ran out of ink before she could add, “P.S. I will kill you.”

What does she gain by killing her son? Hopefully we’ll find out soon, but until then this episode left us dissatisfied. Talk about a downer. Quixotic Daniel, the one man who seemed capable of outthinking the island, gets rubbed out by mum and pop. Before he goes he does set into motion several key events, notably planting a seed of doubt in Dr. Chang’s mind (and introducing him to his son Miles). He also tragically reenacts his scary old man speech to Charlotte at the swingset. Is this a heroic gesture that will (for the time being) save Charlotte? Or just one more instance of Daniel’s “Whatever Happened, Happened” theory eclipsing Daniel’s own free will? “We can’t be so naive as to think nothing can happen to us,” Daniel tells Jack as Jack treats his neck wound. “Any one of us can die, Jack.” And so one does.

The good news, at least if you’re Mike Allen: Next week’s episode, “Follow the Leader,” showcases … you guessed it … Richard Alpert. And possibly The Templars. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Christian Bale, Lost, television

Kittens Inspired By Kittens

Thank you, Bevin, for pointing us toward this highly educational video.

 

p.s. We are eating pepper and chips.

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This Ends The Jazz Posting.

The end of Utah’s season also means — to the relief of 98% of the Voreblog readership — the end of Utah Jazz posts. At least until next October.

But the Voreblog NBA Playoffs Readers Forum goes on. Throughout the playoffs, we’ll keep that forum going for those of you desperate for an NBA fix. Eager for Scott Guldin’s take on the resurgent Bulls? Or the latest on inter-office romantic tension at Yellow Thunder’s place of employment? Or Andrew Cashmere’s most recent love poem to his man crush Bruce Bowen? Then chime in!

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Dear Woman Who Needed Two Spots For Her Dodge Caliber Hatchback At The Skyline Chili In Oakley,

We’ll admit at first we thought you were simply incompetent at parking. Wow! we thought. Maybe she’s just blind!

But of course we were wrong. What we failed to understand — what sunk in as we sat in our booth by the window at Skyline marveling at your vehicle’s masterful command of two spots in an otherwise filled-to-capacity lot — is that you deserve two spots. Silly us! Here we thought the basic rules of parking decorum applied to you. But why would they? Because, after all, you drive a Dodge Caliber Hatchback!

I mean, just behold this miracle of vehicular ingenuity!

dodgecaliber

Now that’s a car! You’d better put that puppy in two spots so everyone can get a good look all right! 

Tell us what it’s like being too important for just one, measly parking spot? We’ll be straight with you: we have no idea. We’ve never pulled into a parking lot and thought to ourselves, Dadgummit, another lot without a suitably enormous spot for me to occupy! Looks like I’ll have to take two again. Sigh.

Hey, here comes another car looking for a spot. Ha! It’s a riot watching car after car think it can pull in on either side of you. Dolts!

Look, this guy is pulling into that open handicap spot. And he sure doesn’t appear to be handicapped! But hey, so what if some real handicapped folks pull in and can’t use that spot? I mean, they always get preferential treatment, right?

Not to beat a dead horse here, but it’s worth saying one more time: You drive a Dodge Caliber. What’s the horsepower on that baby? I bet we’re talking 0-60 in, what, eight seconds? And let’s not get started on the torque!

It sure would be interesting to see what you actually look like. I mean, we’ve scouted out the joint while we’ve been eating our black bean burritos, but nobody in here looks like they belong to the topmost echelon of the automotive caste system that Dodge Caliber owners occupy. Of course, if you were here, we would not be worthy even to gaze upon thy holy countenance. You would reside in that spot reserved for the Holiest of Holies, while we could only present our meager offering at the altar of the Outer Court, interceding through another so as to not be overcome — nay, obliterated — by your numinous, radiant splendor. 

Consider this floor plan of the holy tabernacle.

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You — and the other deific Dodge Caliber owners, of course — would reside in the small chamber at the top of the diagram where the Ark of the Covenant resides. We, the plebeian peasantry, who would arrive at the temple in our used 2002 Suzuki Aerio and 1995 Grand Jeep Cherokee with 187,000 miles on it, or even — how pedestrian! — on foot, our weathered feet thick and leathery with calluses and blisters from the long walk over desert terrain in our shoddy, dilapidated sandals, would present our two mites before kneeling down in humble submission, foreheads pressed against the hard, stone temple floor so that we could lick it with our tongues should it be thy holy bidding, regretting every little bit of air we must consume for ourselves when it could be better used to thy service, bringing eternal glory to thy exulted self, thy who looks upon divinity face-to-face, thy who should rightfully trample us underfoot like mere ants, oh how we despise our fallen nature, we ungrateful, slovenly, provincial, vulgar Philistines, we who should be content to fill out stomachs with the pods that pigs eat and not this delicious black bean Skyline burrito. Woe! Woe! Woe is us!

Wait, is that you? You appear to be walking toward the Dodge Caliber. Yes, it’s you! Where did you come from? We didn’t see you leave Skyline. You must have been across the street! In other words, not Skyline! Which is curious, because this parking lot is specifically reserved for Skyline customers. 

But listen to us! Such outlandish presumption! What blasphemy has spilt from our lips? WE HAVE GAZED UPON THAT WHICH WE WERE NOT WORTHY TO BEHOLD. You asked, “Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?” Our ears had heard of you but now our eyes have seen you. Therefore we despise ourselves and repent in dust and ashes.

Godspeed to you and your fiery, winged chariot, the Dodge Caliber Hatchback!

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Where Shenanigans Happen: A Special NBA Playoffs Voreblog Readers Forum (or, “If You Think ‘Maverick’ Won’t Bring Up Baron Davis’s Dunk Over Andrei Kirilenko In Game Three of the 2007 Warriors/Jazz Series, I Have A Bridge In Brooklyn To Sell You”)

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Given the somewhat disastrous Golden Readers Readers Forum we attempted earlier this week (though we would be remiss not to acknowledge our new favorite Golden Reader, “Nonni,” who bravely chimed in), we (and by “we” we mean “Ben”) would like to atone with what we (Ben) will call The Voreblog Readers Forum 10.5. Subject: The NBA Playoffs. Topic: What you love about the NBA Playoffs. Could be your favorite game. Or the image of Dikembe Mutombo, now seared into your brain, lying on the court and crying/howling after Denver upset Seattle in 1994. Or O.J.’s freeway chase during the 1993 Finals. Or KG screaming “Anything is possible!” after you watched the Celts win it all at the Cicaks. Or the 63-year-old Joe Smith putting up 19 points and 10 boards to help Cleveland go up 3-0 on Detroit last night. Or running back from evening vespers on Sunday, June 14, 1998, at Summer’s Best Two Weeks, where there was no television to watch Game Six of the Finals between the Jazz and Bulls, although you had spent hours in your bunk finding just the right frequency on your walkman (contraband) to get a faint, crackly feed of NBC’s audio, so that when you threw on your headphones to see if the game was still going and the first words you heard out of Bob Costas’s mouth were, “When you lose by so close a margin, it’ll be a long summer of ‘what if?’ for the Utah Jazz,” you just broke inside, went numb, thought to yourself, “Why could I have at least been there when Stockton’s final shot didn’t go in”?

Or, you know, some other memory that just happens to cross your mind or whatever.

Other possible topics for discussion: the awfulness of playoff broadcasters; fixed NBA playoff games (2002 Lakers/Kings Game 6; 2006 Heat/Mavs, Games 3-6); favorite segments of Ahmad Rashad and Willow Storm’s “Inside Stuff” (the correct answer here being “Jam Session”); whether or not Tim Duncan has a soul; most annoying bench players on championship-winning teams (see Madsen, Mark; Scalabrine, Brian; Simpkins, Dickey); Bruce Bowen being the devil incarnate; and the weird green patches of hair you see above Hubie Brown’s ears when he’s not looking straight at the camera, which is all the time.

We can expect Scott Guldin, Brad Daniel and “Maverick” to turn out, but who else will join the festivities? Comment now!

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Friday Recommends: Carlos Boozer

dnews jazz lakers

Deron Williams advises Carlos Boozer where to get his next tattoo. Jazz rule.

 

He’s been much-maligned in Salt Lake all season. But Carlos Boozer’s 23 points and 22 rebounds — and a left-hand flush late in the game which led Denys Lai to text Ben, “Boozer is a manimal!” — helped Utah salvage its playoff dignity and at least entertain the possibility of making a series of it against Los Angeles.

Suck it, Lakers.

 

[photo: The Deseret News]

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The Dark Side

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Last week’s revelations from the declassification of the Interrogation Memos — though we should call them what they are, which are Torture Memos — have triggered a justifiable uproar. But what’s hypocritical about many of the reactions this week — from media commentators as well as politicians across the spectrum — is that none of this should have been a surprise. One reason it shouldn’t have been is because of a book Jane Mayer wrote last year called The Dark Side, based on her meticulous reporting for The New Yorker. Anyone in Washington who pretends to be surprised that harsh interrogation techniques were authorized at the highest levels of our government has willfully not been paying attention.

That the Justice Department authorized making these documents public is a testament to open government. There are valid concerns from those, especially within the C.I.A., who opposed declassification. But none of those concerns trumped the fact that releasing these memos meant we could finally stop lying to ourselves that we don’t torture. We have tortured. Mayer documents it in brutal detail: Abu Zubaydah, the first major Qaeda figure captured by our military, was waterboarded as often as ten times a week, and up to three times a day. Prisoners were subjected to extreme heat and cold, irregular and insufficient periods of sleep, confined spaces, no bathroom breaks and constant threats and humiliation. As Atul Gawande wrote in The New Yorker several weeks ago, there is a strong case to be made that solitary confinement itself is torture.

President Obama has done far more right than wrong in his handling of this issue. On day two of his presidency he revoked all legal opinions on interrogation and ordered that the C.I.A.’s secret prisons be closed. And had he not been behind the push to release these memos, they certainly would not have been released. But Obama also weighed in on a decision that was not his to make: whether or not to pursue criminal investigations against the people who authorized these techniques as well as the people who carried them out. That authority lies with the Attorney General and the Justice Department itself, which in principle should function independently of any political persuasion. 

Being against torture shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It should be an American issue. It’s sad to think it must even be a debate. Arguments in defense of the enhanced interrogation have claimed that it did indeed produce intelligence that saved lives. This may in fact be true. The people making this claim have demanded that Obama deauthorize other memos that they say will vindicate their argument. But what is also true, and what Mayer (very persuasively) shows, is that not torturing produced intelligence that saved lives.* It is also true, according to Mayer, that torture produced evidence that was simply wrong — as Sheikh Ibn al-Libi confessed, saying he gave a fabricated confession simply to stop being tortured — and that this evidence was used to drum up congressional authorization of the Iraq War.

Mayer quotes Arthur Schlesinger Jr. a “liberal Democrat but also an admirer of muscular foreign policy,” as saying of our country’s authorization of enhanced interrogation techniques, “No position taken has done more damage to the American reputation in the world — ever.” 

Repentance means “to turn around”; in the Christian practice, repentance involves an admission of guilt followed by a dedication to atone for one’s wrongs. Our country has stumbled to an admission of guilt with regard to torture, but what we apparently lack the political will to do is turn around, to amend and change ourselves. Can atonement happen without holding anyone accountable? As any recovered alcoholic can tell you, step four is to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” In this, we are still searching for our fearlessness.

——————-

The Dark Side comes out in paperback (with a new afterword) on May 5.

 

—–

* Ali Soufan, who turns up in The Dark Side and as a hero in Lawrence Wright’s excellent The Looming Tower, makes the same point in an op-ed in Wednesday’s Times. Soufan argues from firsthand experience that traditional interrogation techniques — i.e., not torture — were working with Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. A former F.B.I. agent who talked directly with Zubaydah, Soufan praises the release of the memos but says that prosecuting C.I.A. officials for following orders would be a mistake.

UPDATE: Soufan is profiled in this week’s Newsweek.

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Thud

Is it too soon to say: Worst. Readers. Forum. Ever? 

Golden Readers, we are disheartened.

If anyone has any advice of any kind, there’s still time to share it here.

We would advise that if you have not already seen David Simon’s appearance on “Bill Moyers Journal” last week, you do so here.

Hearing Simon talk about the correlation between the decline of newspapers and the decline of civic institutions made us think of … the decline of NBA beat reporting and Kevin Garnett’s injury?

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Calling All Old Timers (er, “Golden Readers”): The Tenth Voreblog Readers Forum

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If you can Wii, you can definitely join the Readers Forum.

 

We alluded to Donna Vore, Ben’s mom, in yesterday’s “Voreplay” post. And we poked a little fun at her for calling it “the YouTube” instead of just “YouTube.” But the truth is, we could get away with it because Donna does not read Voreblog. It’s not because she isn’t a wonderful, supportive mother who devoutly cares about her son and daughter-in-law — it’s that the day-to-day commitment of checking a blog eludes her. In her defense, it does take the Vore’s home computer about ten minutes to boot AOL. (AOL! we hear many of you young whipper-snappers hooting. Yes, tis true.)

Just because Donna isn’t a regular Voreblog reader doesn’t mean that there aren’t others of you out there in the “parent” demographic who make it a point to check in now and then. We ran into one of you (John Tolos) last week. You said, “I’ve tried reading your blog a couple times but it’s a little past me. I’ll tell you which one I liked though: that one about the grandchildren.” 

Not to stereotype, but our oldest demographic seems to share John’s view. They like posts about grandchildren. They like posts about our parents wanting grandchildren. They seem less enthralled with anything having to do with pop culture in general and Nic Cage in particular. So what’s on the minds of our senior demographic? 

Pardon us before we go any farther, but instead of “oldest,” “parent” or “senior” demographic, can we just call you, say, our Golden Readers? Is that offensive? Better than Old Farts? We know this is a sensitive subject. Some families howl and cackle about age (even death) while others tiptoe around it like it’s a slumbering bear. We know. We descended from one of each.

So “Golden Readers” is okay? We mean it when we say that we don’t think of you as old. If you’re our parents age, you’re not old. You’re just our parents or our friends’ parents. Some of you officially qualify as senior citizens now, but you’re not senior citizens to us. You see the dilemma here? What we don’t want is for you to think we’re joking around behind your back, jabbing our thumbs in your direction and whispering, “Hey, who invited the fogies?” Trust us, we’re not doing that. Really.

As a way of officially recognizing you Golden Readers and inviting you into the conversation, we’d like to dedicate our Tenth Readers Forum to you. This naturally lead us to ask, What would an Old Tim–we mean, a “Golden Reader” — want to discuss in a Readers Forum? We generally like to do Top 5 lists. Top 5 favorite grandchildren? Top 5 Harrison Ford movies? Top 5 favorite colonoscopies? (Sorry, below the belt.) We decided maybe Top 5 lists are a generational thing. So we racked our brains a little while longer until we finally came up with this:

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

It could be about life. Marriage. Work. Faith. Colonoscopies. Anything. It just has to be good advice that someone gave to you.

As always, anyone is free to comment and share his or her wisdom, which resides in young and old alike. But here are a few disclaimers we make specifically to you, Golden Readers, for your peace of mind:

  1. Commenting on our blog does not mean faceless cyber-criminals will hack into your bank account. The only thing you will expose yourself to by sharing your thoughts in the Readers Forum is the unconditional love of the virtual Voreblog community.
  2. You will be asked to enter your e-mail address, but that does not mean anyone else gets to see it. Only us. And only so we know you are not a cyber-criminal trying to hack into our bank account. 
  3. We don’t share or sell your e-mail address to third parties who want to sell you time shares in Florida. Unless the price is right, of course. Or we’re really hard up for some cash.
  4. No, seriously. We don’t do that. Seriously.
  5. You also won’t get e-mail spam about penis size enhancement. Unless you’ve specifically requested it via other sites.

 

So, Golden Readers, lead the way! You have a captive audience. We sit at your feet awaiting your pearls of wisdom.

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Olive Kitteridge

You may recognize this year’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge from Voreblog’s Best of Books: 2008 post. If you’re averse to short stories or prize-winning fiction, may we recommend Elizabeth Strout’s Abide With Me, which is spiritually and geographically right at home with the stories in Olive Kitteridge but without the off-putting short story format or pretentious award seal on the dust jacket.

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