Monday, June 18, 2007

Early Bird, Before the Worm

Sometimes Abby gets up awfully early. Like 3:45 am early. That's what she gave me for Father's Day. I was able to get her to go back to sleep, but that usually means 15 minutes to a half hour if we're lucky. But at 4:15 I brought her into bed and she slept on my chest for another hour. I never fell back asleep, though I didn't want to anyway. I listened to her breathing, heard the first birds begin their chatter and felt overwhelmed. With gratitude, with joy, with wanting to hold on to the moment. "You're my kid," I kept thinking. "You're who makes me a Dad." I'm damn lucky.

Enough sap to make up for the maple shortage.

Friday, June 08, 2007

DVDs and (the Woeful Lack of) Accompanying Texts

In his latest Global Discoveries on DVD column for Cinema Scope magazine, Jonathan Rosenbaum discuses why he's never rented a DVD-- namely that they lack the accompanying booklets or special features that come with so many reissues. Criterion DVDs, for example, often includes lavish brochures or booklets with scholarly essays, photographs and other enlightening materials. And with box sets, as Rosenbaum points out, "the differences become more pronounced," with the sets including "larger booklets and even book in some of these packages."

Of course, for those of us who aren't film critics for a living but have insatiable appetites for film, to say nothing of salaries that don't exactly encourage the rampant buying of all that we'd like to see, renting DVDs is usually our only option. But what a bummer to not have those accompanying texts.

One of the many things I adore most about film, especially those works that challenge me, is to read what others, especially those with more time, resources and insight than myself, have to say about it. After watching Michael Haneke's masterful and devastating debut film, The Seventh Continent, a few weeks back, for example, I was lucky enough to find a couple highly astute essays that greatly enhanced my own muddled understanding of the film. It's one of the great joys in my life, and clearly I'm easily gladdened-- to luxuriate in a piece of film criticism that manages to direct all my inchoate thoughts (of which there are many) about what I just saw, that takes the raw emotional charge of the film as it's still reverberating through me, and begins to give it structure or, with the best criticism, adds depth and texture to my nascent understanding of the film. So obviously I miss those accompanying texts that Netflix removes (where do they the trash?) in order to keep its overhead costs in check. But I'd be willing to pay a couple extra bucks a month to have them make quality scans of this material and make it accessible to members through their website.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Let Me Bind Your Governement Accountability Document

When I worked at the Northwestern Law Library one of my more pleasurable responsibilities was binding the latest Government Accountability Office reports that arrived as part of the Federal Depository Library Program. In a nutshell, the GAO is a nonpartisan "investigative arm of Congress" that "studies how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars." The reports are concise, well written and fascinating. For a policy wonk dabbler like myself, the relative brevity of the reports coupled with the fascinating range of issues they cover makes for worthwhile reading.

For my Internet Fundamentals class I read a May 2006 (GAO-06-426) report on broadband infrastructure and access in the U.S. Rural areas, for a variety of reasons, don't have nearly the broadband infrastructure that urban and suburban areas enjoy. But not because they'd rather be growing ethanol corn than surfing the Web. The biggest reason, unsurprisingly, is that providers of broadband don't think they'll make a profit. The three main reasons the broadband providers give for not deploying infrastructure in rural areas is population density (namely, the lack of it), terrain (mountains, lots of trees) and something known as backhaul. And the Amish.

Other recent GAO reports that I wish I had more time to peruse include electronic voting challenges, FEMA and The Department of Homeland Security's continued waste, abuse and fraud in regards to their ongoing response to Hurricane Katrina, and a look at the $420 million the U.S. provided to entities in the West Bank and Gaza over the course of 2005 and 2006 in hopes of reforming the Palestine Authority and supporting the piddling Middle East peace process.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Lefty Wholesomeness

There's a great cast in The Family Stone (not to be confused with Sly and his own Family Stone), one of those films that came and went over the holiday season of 2005 and will no doubt go on to find a snug place on December back-channel television lineups, sandwiched between Jingle All the Way, Love Actually and The Santa Clause 3. I caught it yesterday afternoon over the course of a couple Abby naps courtesy of HBO's On Demand movie fare.

The great cast is headed up by Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson who play the loving parents of the Stone family. But the great cast are slathered over 103 minutes of warmed over Hollywood liberalism and equally soft-hearted sentiment dolled out with an almost admirable sense of guilelessness.

There's a scene around the dinner table on Christmas Eve that plays like CNN's Crossfire as Keaton, playing the matriarch Stone, protects her beatific deaf and gay son (but no incurable disease for him!-- that honor goes to Keaton, who's cancer has returned thus allowing for a long parade of tears, hugs and gently falling snow) from the slings and arrows of Sarah Jessica Parker's Meredith Morton, an anxious, materialistic, illiberal type who may actually marry Mr. and Mrs. Stone's first son, played by a zombie-like Dermot Mulroney.

Parker's Morton repeatedly sticks her foot in her mouth, the end of which has her character awkwardly declaring that no reasonable parent would ever wish their child to be gay, life being difficult enough as it is. This is too much, of course. Such a dazzling check list of conservative homophobia is met with righteous indignation. And it isn't so much that I disagree with this indignation, a proper response to the strong currents of homosexual intolerance that run through so much of America, so much as the whole scene, like much of the movie as a whole, feigns innocence while serving us a primer in lefty wholesomeness every bit as white bread and stilted as Sam Brownback dancing to YMCA at a wedding.