Sunday, July 30, 2006

A job I believe I would enjoy

Editor of those "Previously on..." montages at the beginning of television shows, designed to quickly catch viewers up or remind them of key plot points.

UPDATE -- And you? Post your oddball someone-gets-paid-to-do-it-why-not-me? dream jobs below...

That's life!



Saturday, July 29, 2006

Friday, July 28, 2006

Via SurveyUSA, a St. Louis station's poll on the Illinois governor's race has Blagojevich at 45%, Topinka at 34%, "Other" at 17% and Undecided at 5%...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Case of the Grinning Cat

Chris Marker likes grinning cats. Who doesn't? The title of his 1977 movie Le fond de l'air est rouge was a French idiom that doesn't translate well ("The Essence of the Air is Red"), but its English title was A Grin Without a Cat. Marker's newest movie The Case of the Grinning Cat is about literal cats, more or less--icons painted on Parisian walls. The cat seems to have some connection to the French left, and placards and posters of him keep popping up at protests and marches. The Case of the Grinning Cat, which I saw last night at the Siskel Film Center, follows the appearance of these cats, weaving them into a narrative of French politics.

Marker is probably best known for La Jetee, the short film composed entirely of still images whose plot Terry Gilliam adapted to feature length for 12 Monkeys. Marker's editing talent is also well-displayed in A Grin Without a Cat and his later movie Sans Soleil, which are both extended montages documentary footage and news clips, serving as a meditation on politics, idealism and disillusionment. These films were stunningly effective, and deeply conceptual, often following social movements and philosophies more than characters or narratives. The premise of The Case of the Grinning Cat is more straightforward, and although Marker never really gets to the bottom of the case, maybe it's a mistake to assume there's always a bottom to get to.

Though his intellect is impressive, sometimes Marker's abstractions seem unmoored from reality. This problem occasionally infects The Case of the Grinning Cat, as when it equates the Parisian city government erasing the cat graffiti with the Taliban's destruction of Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. "I am not kidding" about this parallel, the narrator assures us. Sitting in the row in front of me in the theater, a man threw up his hands and groaned "Oh, please."

Shot in ugly DV, the hour-long documentary catalogs probably hundreds of instances of the cat graffiti (which remind me of these Radiohead mascots), and tells the story of France's 2002 elections. That year far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen won a surprise second-place finish in the first round of voting through appeals to nationalism and xenophobia. In the run-up to the election, France's splintered left wing never imagined that Le Pen could defeat them; his advancement into the second round was a stark wake-up call to those who chose ideological purity over politics. Voters then banded together to give Jacques Chirac--a corrupt, conservative politician, but not a Nazi sympathizer!--a landslide 82 percent of the vote against Le Pen. And through it all, in graffiti and at leftist protests, the grinning cat presided.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pancakes! Pancakes!

AMillionMonkeys covers the Pancake Breakfast in the Woods. A school project. Word to my group members Michael Joe and Melanie G. Rogers...
Big box ordinance passes by veto-proof 35-14 vote.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bigger boxes, bigger problems

Eric Zorn is too flip, I think, about the real possibility that the big box ordinance really will mean fewer jobs for Chicagoans. His argument is not with merit, see for yourself:
[T]he bigger reason I'm skeptical of these Chicken Little forecasts is that we always, always hear them when pro-worker reforms are proposed.

When have business interests not predicted unintended calamities at proposals to raise the minimum wage, institute workplace safety measures or impose environmental restrictions?

Threats that jobs will dry up and communities will suffer if employees get a better deal are the "Wolf!" cry of the industrial age. If the free-market alarmists had had their way at every turn, we'd have no minimum wage, no regulations to cushion workers riding the roller coaster of pure capitalism, toxic air and water, and even less of a labor movement than we have now.
What this overlooks is the simple and easy-to-imagine possibility that Wal-Mart and Target will simply divert new stores to the suburbs. They'd achieve their desired business effects, and poor neighborhoods on the south and west sides would remain economic deserts. This is not a desirable outcome.

Meanwhile, I find myself in the disconcerting position of agreeing with the Tribune's editorial board. And with Daley! What is going on?
Game Theory the Roots' best album? The Roots a rap equivalent of The Band?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

AMillionMonkeys gets all huffy

More, much more, on Ald. Joe Moore's big box ordinance in advance of city council's vote on the bill this week:
  • Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell characterizes the proposed legislation--to my mind quite correctly--as a battle between Wal-Mart and unions, with unskilled black workers as collateral damage. As usual.
  • An interesting but finally unconvincing piece by Richard F. Carnahan at Gaper's Block:
    When businesses extort communities to avoid paying real taxes or being a good neighbor, we shrug and call that development. When communities try to get theirs, we're degenerating into authoritarian communism. Look — everybody is just trying to make a living.
    One thing to note about Carnahan's piece--which typifies the approach to the subject by a segment of the left--is that it's so adversarial toward Wal-Mart as an entity that it spends very little time thinking about the real-world effects of the legislation on neighborhoods, families, individuals. Carnahan is hostile to the question itself, characterizing it as "faulty logic" and "get[ting] all huffy"; it is "bull" to say that "Wal-Mart/Target/Home Depot/business generally needs to be handled with kid gloves, or jobs will go poof." But what of areas where jobs have already gone poof?
  • The Trib's John Kass gives us the Daley angle, which is:
    Daley must decide whether he has the strength to buck the unions on the issue and whether to risk a veto of the council if aldermen support it.

    If aldermen override his veto, he'll look weaker than he has ever looked before, spelling disaster for a man who has relied on intimidation to impose his will.

    Recently, Daley strongly criticized the ordinance, which would mandate starting pay for the big-box stores. However, he wouldn't go so far as to promise a veto.
Some blog reactions here, here, here; MSM here. Will update this week when the vote is taken. I am conflictedly against Moore's bill, but expect it to pass. What does your alderman say?

UPDATE: Mine, Manny Flores, is voting for it.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Everybody welcome my j-school colleague Jim Monteleone to the blogiverse, and check out his new North by North-Left.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It's not about pacifism, it's about employing tactics that will actually do some good

Steve Chapman, Tribune columnist and possibly the world's most reasonable Libertarian, is to my mind pitch-perfect on the current Israel-Hezbollah war and "the limits of military force":
No one doubts that [Israel] was responding to a genuine security threat when it struck last week: Hezbollah guerrillas in the southern part of the country had fired hundreds of rockets into northern Israel, and they had abducted two Israeli soldiers in a raid across the border. But whether Israel's response will enhance its security is anything but a foregone conclusion.

... Jerusalem entertains the delusion that it can cure the affliction with bombing raids. Many of them are aimed at suspected rocket sites. But many are aimed at Lebanon's infrastructure, including airports, power stations, roads and bridges, causing widespread suffering and death among the innocent. When Israel is done, it is likely to find the Lebanese people more hospitable to groups like Hezbollah.
Read the whole thing, as the bloggers say...
Via Kell: Cocking one's head to the right and putting one's hand to one's chest: a timeless way to look cool.
Big-ups to Skillet Doux for the positive write-up it received in this morning's Trib. Big-downs to the Tribune, though, for a.) not including any of the paper edition's photographs with its web story, and b.) not making the link to Skillet Doux (or any of the other food blogs) included in the text of the story live, actual links. Sure they'll run a profile of a blogger, but actually linking to that blogger would be entirely too webby!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

So if you live in Cook County, this November you get to choose between nepotism and intolerance. I guess nepotism? Or is killing the machine the most important thing just now? Either way I resent the Cook County Democratic Party for forcing this choice upon me...

What to do about Wal-Mart?

This seems like a complex issue to me. The church and community leaders who are protesting Ald. Joe Moore's proposed "big box" regulation are not doing so from the pocket of Wal-Mart or anyone else. I'm inclined to believe that they're speaking out because they genuinely believe that their neighborhoods would benefit from the jobs and cheap stuff a Wal-Mart would provide. Moore's cushy North Side district looks nothing like the jobs-stricken south and west sides that his legislation would most affect. Shouldn't he have, you know, talked to people in those areas first?

All the same, just because Moore is sanctimonious doesn't mean the opposition is correct. Minimum wage today is not a living wage, and Wal-Mart's history of unfair labor practices suggests that regulation is the only way to get the company to treat its workers fairly. The Tribune story linked above quotes the mayor of Santa Fe saying that a similar ordinance didn't stop Wal-Mart from opening stores there. Maybe the company is exaggerating the losses that would result from the wage regulation; maybe it is issuing idle threats.

I do not know the answer on this. Economics wizard Saxdrop has been largely supportive of Wal-Mart in the past on the "rising tide" theory. I am very interested to hear what other people think about this. Is it a good or a bad idea to require 'big box' retailers to pay higher than minimum wage?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Thursday, July 13, 2006

AMillionMonkeys, your go-to music reviewer for 2xCD disco compilations

Larry Levan and Tom Moulton were not enough! I have barely scratched the surface of double-CD disco compilations! This week Planet Magazine offered me a short review of an Italo Disco comp. called Confuzed Disco for its fall issue. Obviously I jumped on it, and I don't think I'm giving anything away if I relate that it is pretty sweet. Next week: hot disco sounds from Kyrgyzstan...

Massive tubes!

Probably this has been linked to all over the place already (I am stealing it from TNR), but this techno remix of Sen. Ted Stevens' explanation of the internet ("It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes!") is well worth a listen. Or seven.

One reason I'm excited about Lollapalooza

Oh wait. I'm not excited about Lollapalooza.

Monday, July 10, 2006


  • To my ears "Promiscuous Girl" is not quite it, more like a song for mid-February or early March. But here it is mid-July and it's #1, so I suppose I must stand corrected. And what about "Deja Vu"? Sort of falls apart in the second half.
  • Christina's song is much closer, a monogamy anthem in fine form. The James Brown breakbeat comes correct, the Beyonceish fast-chorus is nice. Rihanna's new one is very good too, to no one's surprise.
  • Paris Hilton. We can all agree that this song works, it's kinda dreamy and easy. Un petit chanson. (Though Lohan still wins out...)
  • But "Hips Don't Lie," this is the one! Mock-heroic trumpet, Wyclef in high spirits breaking out the Spanglish, slightly froggy Shakira sounding hot, it is all good... This is the song you want coming out of your car window, emanating from your earbuds.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Lucky Louie: pretty much Curb Your Enthusiasm with a poor guy? Or no? I am really asking...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A good point. The Hamdan ruling makes the phrase "enemy combatants" obsolete as a matter of law. Gitmo detainees really are POWs now.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Missile launch may have weakened North Korea's bargaining position?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Daley getting nervous yet?

When Andrew Jackson sort of invented patronage--the practice of appointing friends and allies to political positions--it was a way for him to combat a set of corrupt, entrenched powers who were holding democracy hostage. Funny how things change...

Robert Sorich, Mayor Daley's patronage guy, is guilty of doing the ugly, illegal stuff that in Chicago is called old school machine politics. It will not be a shock to very many people to learn that a Chicago mayor named Richard Daley practiced political hiring, pushing through nephews and cousins and political foot-soldiers. But it's still illegal, and it's still bad government.

In rare form, the Tribune hilariously casts Daley's corruption as purely passive:
Daley didn't spend political capital to halt the illicit patronage hiring that for many decades has bonded the futures of Chicago pols and their pals. He didn't reform a city contracting system that cheated businesses whose lower bids or genuine minority status couldn't compete with the insiders' clout. Not until his administration was cornered by federal investigators did he overhaul city government's personnel and inspector general's offices.
The poor guy just hadn't gotten around to cleaning up Chicago government! Trib apologists also helpfully reassure readers that the massive Democratic machine only provided "help [Daley] didn't really need." Upon which data they base this assertion, the writers do not say...

Probably having a party tonight: Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Daley's likely challenger in next year's mayoral primary...
Y'all have heard these new Outkast songs by now? They are exactly as weird and excellent as you'd hoped...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

SCOTUS postgame

The New York Times' Linda Greenhouse has the comprehensive wrap-up of the Supreme Court's 2005-06 term, first with a bird's-eye summary of the term and the Court's shift to the right, and then with a breakdown of significant rulings on a range of issues from executive power to the environment.

The writing is excellent and worthwhile, and it's accompanied by graphics that are much fun to play with. The well-designed multimedia page "The End of the Supreme Court Term" has important decisions listed by subject, each with a thumbnail sketch of the important 2005-06 case followed by its key precedents, and the whole thing is easy to navigate and doesn't feel like an avalanche of info.

Of special interest to politics-of-SCOTUS obsessives like AMillionMonkeys is the "Judicial Agreement" graphic (scroll down and look left), which illustrates how often the justices voted together on nonunanimous cases. Some storylines present themselves:
  • Longtime buddies Thomas and Scalia agreed 84 percent of the time, and Thomas was in agreement with Scalia more than with any other justice. But this year Scalia agreed the most not with Thomas but with Roberts, at 88 percent. New best friends?

  • Or maybe not; the two judges most in lockstep were of course the two Bush nominees, Roberts and Alito, who agreed 91 percent of the time. (I'm inclined to believe this pattern will hold, but it should be noted that Alito didn't serve a full term.)

  • The conservative bloc is stronger than the liberal bloc. Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas voted together 84.25 percent of the time, while Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens voted together at a rate of 70.25 percent.

  • Of greatest concern is Justice Anthony Kennedy, the supposed moderate conservative and the swing vote in so many cases. He agreed with Alito (now the Court's most conservative member) fully 87 percent of the time, and voted with the conservatives on 70.5 percent of cases. He voted with the liberals a paltry 46 percent of the time.
See anything interesting I'm missing? We have to make this one last; no more SCOTUS now until October...