Saturday, January 31, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
Five hours and 14 minutes. The longest Australian Open match, ever! Longer than Andy Roddick's 21-19 5th set quarter final against Younnes El-Aynouai. And it was high quality tennis throughout. Either man could have won this match. Welcome, to the big stage, Fernando Verdasco! He pushed the top player in the world around for several hours, finally succumbing with a double fault fter saving two match points 6-7(4) 6-4 7-6) 6-7(1) 6-4.
|Dinara Safina RUS (3)||Dinara Safina RUS (3)|
For the fourth time in her career Serena Williams is in the final of the Australian Open, the first major tournament of the year. She has previously won the title in 2003 (over Venus Williams), 2005 (over Lindsay Davenport) and 2007 (over Maria Sharapova). Sharapova won the title over Ana Ivanovic last year, somewhat making up for the shellacking Serena had dealt her the year before. However, the defending champion is not here this year and with the mathematical inevitability indicated by the curious pattern of winning in every odd year this decade, the 9-time champion has been the overwhelming favorite to win her second consecutive Grand Slam title for the first time since she won all four in a row in 2003.
This time her opponent will be another Russian, although she's not "another 'ova" as the Americans once dismissed the large group of Russian and eastern European players years ago, she is Dinara ("no longer just Marat's little sister!") Safina. Whoever wins the match on Sunday will also receive the bonus of being crowned the World #1. Head-to-head, Serena has only lost to Safina once (last year) during the Russian's "dream tournament" in Berlin whens she beat (in successive rounds) Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Elene Dementieva to win her first Tier 1 title. Safina's brother won this title four years ago and she has been playing excellent tennis ever since her Berlin breakthrough. She did quite well to fend off a surprisingly stiff challenge from Vera Zvonareva in the Women's semis, winning 6-3 7-6(4).
In the other semifinal Serena was able to obain revenge for three consecutive losses against Dementieva by handing the vastly improved Russian her first loss of 2009 in three tournaments 6-3 6-4 relatively easily. She similarly dispatched Safina in the semifinals of the U.S. Open just over 4 months ago (how time flies!) and Saturday's final is very unlikely to have a different result.
Mad Professah's pick: Williams in 2 sets.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Sigurdardottir, 66, is currently the social affairs minister and once was a flight attendant and union organiser.
Now she is the consensus pick of the two main parties forming the next parliamentary governement as well as the most popular politician in her financially distressed country.
Ms Sigurdardottir has two grown-up sons. She entered politics via the labour movement, was first elected to parliament in 1978 and was given her first ministerial office in 1987. She will be Prime Minister of a minority caretaker government composed of her Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Greens, with outside support. It is only expected to hold office for two or three months, until fresh elections are called.
"In opinion polls Johanna has repeatedly been chosen as the most popular politician in Iceland," said the government source. "She is a good choice, because one of the problems the government is facing is lack of trust. Getting Johanna to become Prime Minister was a way of saying trust is an issue. Politicians want a fresh mandate from the electorate and, before they get it, they need to rebuild trust. Choosing Johanna is a way of saying, 'Let's bridge this gap, let's have peace to be able to implement the emergency measures'."
[A] poll in November [that] gave Ms Sigurdardottir a 73 per cent approval rating, she was the only minister to improve on the previous year's score.
"She is often described as the only politician who really cares about the little guy," wrote Icelandic journalist Iris Erlingsdottir in a blog this week.
She did stand for the leadership of her party back in 1994 and lost badly, but in her concession speech she predicted "my time will come". And some 15 years later, it truly has.
(When) do you think that America will have an openly gay President?
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Andy Roddick USA (7) vs. Roger Federer SUI (2). Federer has played the American with gigantic serve 17 times and has only lost twice to the recently married Andy Roddick, although one of those wins was the last match these two relatively friendly competitors played. Roddick has to be on something of a high after outlasting the defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinal round, garnering revenge against the person who knocked him out in quarterfinal of the US Open last year. Federer has not been kind to Roddick in the past, calling him "a great server" (in comparison to World #1 Rafael Nadal, whom he called "a great player"). Roddick has been working with a new coach (Larry Stefanki who previously coached Fernando Gonzalez) and over the last two years or so (*cough* Jimmy Connors *cough*) has markedly improved his backhand and (much more recently) his movement.
Federer is ``The Mighty Fed," and although he faced a near-death 5-set experience against the perennially dangerous Tomas Berdych in the 4th round he followed it up by delivering a vicious beatdown to World #6 Juan Martin del Potro and there's nothing to indicate his desire to win majors has diminished since his ranking has slipped from the lofty #1 spot to the current #2. He is in his 19th consecutive Grand Slam semifinal and the only final the Swiss player has missed since the 2005 French Open was last year's 2008 Australian Open final (after losing to eventual champion Djokovic)!
Roddick will not be able to prevent the 13-time Grand Slam champion from competing for his record-tying 14th major title.
PREDICTION: Federer in 4 sets.
What Vinge excels at is inventing, descrbing and fleshing out completely alien world with cultures, mores and societal rules completely different from what we have seen before. In this case he creates two cultures: one is an interstellar mercantile based society where profit, sales and customers are their central organizing principles; the other culture is filled with arachnid-like creatures living on a very special planet which goes into a cyclical 200-year long ice age every 200 years.
A Fire Upon The Deep and A Deepness in the Sky are part of the Zones of Thought series of which there are only two books so far, although Vinge was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2007 for Rainbows End (which he later won). There are reports that his next book will be a sequel to A Fire Upon The Deep.
A Deepness in the Sky is incredibly engrossing. The reader is immersed in both cultures and although one group is attempting to exploit the other it was hard for the reader to sit by powerlessly and watch the events unfold.
I won't say more about what happens in the plot but suffice it to say that you will not be disappointed. A Deepness in the Sky is an incredibly satisfying read.
OVERALL GRADE: A.
Vera Zvonareva RUS (7) vs. Dinara Safina RUS (3). "Marat's little sister" no more, Dinara Safina is well on her way to becoming a fixture in the very top tier of women's tennis. Her career changing moment occured last Spring in Berlin when she beat 7-time Grand Slam champion Justine Henin in her very last tour match (to date!) Safina also defeated fellow 2009 Australian Open semifinalists Serena and Elena Dementieva on her way to winning that title and followed up that amazing performance by remaining the hottest player on the Tour for most of the rest of the year, although she failed to win any of the major tournaments, she did reach her first Grand Slam final in Paris, losing to Ana Ivanovic.
She will be facing fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva who is notorious for her hot and cold streaks on the court. Miss Vera has been serving up bagels at this year's Australian Open, delivering no less than five in the first five rounds of the tournament, including a double bagel against the hapless Edina Gallovits in the third round and a bagel in her quarterfinal drubbing of 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli, who unceremonialy bounced World #1 Jelena Jankovic from the tournament. The matches between Russians are often not very pretty.
Safina has a 5-4 career head-to-head against her lower ranked countrywoman, but the last three times they played (including during Safina's hot phase in 2008) Zvonareva came away the victor. It's doubtful that this will happen in 2009, but it won't be pretty.
PREDICTION: Safina in 3 sets.
Elena Dementieva RUS (4) vs. Serena Williams USA (2). The winner of this semifinal will be the 2009 Australian Open Women's champion. This is truly an example of what happens when an immovable object matches up against an irresistible force. Dementieva has won every one of the first 16 matches she has played in 2009, picking up two WTA Tour titles along the way (Auckland and Sydney), her 12th and 13th of her career. The Russian who has long had the reputation of having the Tour's best groundstrokes and most embarassing serve has previously been to two major finals and last year won the Olympic Gold medal in Beijing (over Safina). However, Dementieva is facing a living legend, the woman who holds the most Grand Slam titles of any active player (9!) and who not only won the last Grand Slam played in 2008, but has won this major tournament with metronomic regularity every other year since 2003.
Interestingly, Dementieva has beaten Serena the last three times they played (on Elena's hometown court in the Moscow final in October 2007, in the Quarterfinals of the Olympics last year and last week in Sydney--that last one in straight sets!) although Serena won the first four times they two met on the court.
Well, that is history, this is now. Who will win?
I would love to see Elena Dementieva win a major title but, sadly, it will not be the 2009 Australian Open. I do think she will reach a major final in 2009, though.
PREDICTION: Williams in 2 sets.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
the Spaniard last year to reach his first Grand Slam final.
The Australian Open is heating up (literally). Unfortunately, World #3 Novak Djokovic couldn't take the heat while World #2 Roger Federer seemed to thrive in it. MadProfessah will have more on the upcoming semifinal matches, which I believe will be Federer v. Andy Roddick and World #1 Rafael Nadal v. last year's finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Monday, January 26, 2009
The abstract (academic summary of the article of "Cliff's Notes" version) reads:
Larger penis size has been equated with a symbol of power, stamina, masculinity, and social status. Yet, there has been little research among men who have sex with men assessing the association between penis size and social-sexual health. Survey data from a diverse sample of 1,065 men who have sex with men were used to explore the association between perceived penis size and a variety of psychosocial outcomes. Seven percent of men felt their penis was “below average,” 53.9% “average,” and 35.5% “above average.” Penis size was positively related to satisfaction with size and inversely related to lying about penis size (all ps < .01). Size was unrelated to condom use, frequency of sex partners, HIV status, or recent diagnoses of HBV, HCV, gonorrhea/Chlamydia/urinary tract infections, and syphilis. Men with above average penises were more likely to report HPV and HSV-2 (Fisher’s exact p ≤ .05). Men with below average penises were significantly more likely to identify as “bottoms” (anal receptive) and men with above average penises were significantly more likely to identify as “tops” (anal insertive). Finally, men with below average penises fared significantly worse than other men on three measures of psychosocial adjustment. Though most men felt their penis size was average, many fell outside this “norm.” The disproportionate number of viral skin-to-skin STIs (HSV-2 and HPV) suggest size may play a role in condom slippage/breakage. Further, size played a significant role in sexual positioning and psychosocial adjustment. These data highlight the need to better understand the real individual-level consequences of living in a penis-centered society.I'm glad that the research was done, but the first person I told about this study said it could be improved if the researchers actually did the measuring instead of relying on self-reported dimensions, as men tend to exaggerate. Any volunteers? Do you think we live in a ``penis-centered world"?
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The Equality Summit blog will have links to the video of the plenaries at this weekend's plenary sessions of the Equality Summit in Los Angeles. The above video is of the much-anticipated public forum with the leaders of the NO ON PROP 8 campaign.
Anne Marks (Equality Summit organizer)
UCLA Law School's Williams Institute Visiting Scholar Catherine Smith
Equality Summit Planning Committee co-chair Andrea Shorter
MadProfessah and Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addressed the
Equality Summit during MadProfessah's panel
- Repeal Prop 8 only
- Repeal Prop 8; and include language making it clear it does not force the teaching of same-sex marriage in schools and re-affirming the rights of churches to marry (or not marry) whoever the hell they want
- Do #2 AND include other language which precludes the matter from being voted on again and/or possibly includes explicit language which would incorporate non-discrimination language previously endorsed by the California Supreme Court (i.e. sex, sexual orientation and race are suspect classifications)
13-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer was simply outplayed for slightly more than two sets in his fourth round match against Czech 23-year-old Tomas Berdych at the Australian Open yesterday. After finding his form about half-way through the Federer still managed to win the match 4-6,6-7(4), 6-4,6-4,6-2. The World #2 had 25 unforced errors in the first two sets and was overpowered by the Czech youngsters power and accuracy. In the last three sets, Federer had a mere 15 unforced errors and Berdych was hampered by a loss of mobility due to a strained hamstring. MadProfessah is a huge Federer fan so I'm glad that he was able to get to his record nineteenth consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal, where he will face the 19-year-old 6 foot 8-inch Juan Martin del Potro of Argetina, who he has a 3-0 record against.
World #1 Jelena Jankovic lost easily in the 4th round to 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli 6-1 6-4. When Bartolis is on, she can hit very hard and paint the lines, reminscent of her idol Monica Seles, who she patterns her two-handed forehand and backhand on. Additionally, Bartoli has been practicing exclusively with male players and has become extensively fitter. She faces Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinal and has a good chance to meet Dina Safina in her first Australian open semifinal later this week.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
"Do they have shrimp?" I asked.
"No, they are a completely vegetarian restaurant" he replied.
"Wow," I said. "Hardcore."
"But, believe me," he said, "you will think you are eating meat. It's
"Mmmm, hmmmm." I murmured, disbelievingly.
Friday, January 23, 2009
GetToKnowUsFirst.org is a website devoted to educating the public about the actual lives of LGBT people in California. They tried to air one of the above public service announcements during KABC's coverage of Barack Obama's presidential inauguration on Tuesday and were rebuffed.
To let ABC know how you feel about there decision that showing ads about lesbian and gay families was "too controversial," here's some contact info:
Arnold J. Kleiner
President & General Manager
500 Circle Seven Dr.
Glendale, CA 91201-2331
KABC-TV general telephone: (818) 863-7777
KABC-TV general fax: (818) 863-7654
MAIN ABC NETWORK ADDRESS:
Susan Lyne, President
500 S. Buena Vista St
Burbank, CA 91521-4551
telephone: (818) 560-1000
(NY-Corporate): (212) 456-7777
UPDATE FRI 01/24/09 8:22PM PST: KABC has agreed to air the ad on this Sunday's edition of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" at 8pm PST. From the press release:
The 30-second ad initially rejected by KABC features two married African
American men raising five children ages 6 to 25. However, the ad was
broadcast before, during and after the inauguration in 42 of California's
58 counties, where Proposition 8 garnered the majority of the vote. In Los
Angeles, the ad appeared on NBC's owned-and-operated affiliate KNBC.
KABC President and General Manger Arnold J. Kleiner attended today's
meeting along with GetToKnowUsFirst.org Project Coordinator John Ireland
and GLAAD Director of Entertainment Media Damon Romine. Kleiner explained
that independent of the ad, the station had made a decision that during
the inauguration they would not air any advocacy advertising, regardless
of the content or subject matter.
"I regret that the decision to not air the ad was communicated in a way
that was misleading and inaccurate, and I apologize for the
misunderstanding that resulted," said Kleiner. "Having seen the ads, we
believe these spots are suitable for airing during any day part on our
schedule. Gay and lesbian families are part of our KABC family, and issues
of equality are certainly not a controversial subject for us."
Kudos to GLAAD for getting such a quick resolution on this matter.
Yesterday, I watched Serena Williams overcome a surprisingly stiff challenge from Gisela Dulko and win 6-3, 7-5 despite being down multiple set points at 3-5 in the second set. The 9th game of the match was a see-saw 18 minute affair (the first set was won by Serena in 21 minutes). The 3-time champion was not moving well and several times she became tentative while waiting for Dulko to miss, and instead made an unforced error herself.If she wins her next match, she will face former World #1 and 2006 Australian Champion Amelie Mauresmo in the 4th round.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Now comes word that many other people would love to get their hands on Aretha's unique headgear.
There are no words.
DETROIT – The calls began to flood Luke Song's hat shop not long after Aretha Franklin finished belting out "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at President Barack Obama's inauguration.
The hat worn by the "Queen of Soul" was hand-molded and would cost upward of $500 — if it were for sale, the 36-year-old designer said. Customers instead were offered a satin ribbon version for $179.
"They want the same hat, but they understand it's for the 'Queen' only," he said. "Ninety-nine percent said, 'That's fine. I'll get the next best thing.'"
The design for Franklin's hat came from two different hats at the store.
"She walked through the shop and said 'I want that bow (put) on that hat,'" he said. "She had the coat already, but she needed the hat to set it off."
Capitol Weekly has an article in the Thursday January 22 edition on Solis' confirmation process that also mentions some intriguing details on the intricate positioning that other politicians are doing to fill in the holes in the Southern California political power structure as one of their own is elevated in Washington.
Got all that? On one side you have John Perez, Antonio Villaraigosa, Ed Hernandez and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor with Chu versus Romero and Polanco with Cedillo in a 62% Latino district. I presume L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina (who previously rejected a run for the seat herself) will be on the side of Romero/Polanco/Cedillo, but only time will tell.
On Thursday morning, both the Service Employees International Union and and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor endorsed Chu.
There have been tensions between Romero and Maria-Elena Durazo, head of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. But Capitol sources say Romero decided to focus on the superintendent’s race after consulting with former Sen. Richard Polanco, among others.
The potential Congressional showdown has also divided the Capitol’s Latino Caucus, of which Cedillo is chair. Cedillo has tangled with Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, and has even threatened to challenge Perez for his Assembly seat in 2010.
Perez is the cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Villaraigosa is said to be leaning toward endorsing Chu, though his office did not return calls seeking comment.
Cedillo and Villlaraigosa were once close political allies, with Villariagosa using his clout to help Cedillo’s election to the Assembly in a 1997 pecial election. But tensions between the two childhood friends quickly grew, and eventually boiled over after Villaraigosa's failed race for Los Angeles mayor in 2001. Villaraigosa threatened to run against Cedillo for Senate after his 2001 defeat, and the rift has never healed between the two. Cedillo stuck with Hahn when Villarigosa eventually defeated Hahn in 2005.
If Chu is to win the seat, she will have to earn some Latino support. The 32nd Congressional District is about 62 percent Latino. Asians make up about 20 percent of the district population. Latinos make up about half of the district’s voter registration. Asians comprise about 13 percent of registered voters.
Chu has already secured the endorsement of Assemblyman Ed Hernandez, D-El Monte, who has his eyes on Romero’s senate seat in 2010. Chu and her husband, Assemblyman Mike Eng, D-Los Angeles, -- two of Hernandez’s top potential rivals -- are said to be backing Hernandez for the Senate seat.
Romero’s exit from the congressional race sets up a 2010 showdown between Romero and Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, for state superintendent. The current superintendent, Jack O’Connell is being pushed out by term limits, and has announced his intention to run for governor in 2010.
An article written by Seth Hemmelgarn entitled Summit planners stingy with No on Prop 8 dollars was published by the Bay Area Reporter.
With hundreds of LGBT marriage equality advocates expected to attend the Equality Summit in Los Angeles Saturday, January 24 it appears that more than half of those organizing the event failed to contribute to the No on Prop 8 campaign during last year's election.
And records show that the lead organizer of the summit contributed only $111.
An analysis of data filed with the secretary of state's office indicates that 60 percent of the 57 members of the planning committee for this weekend's Equality Summit did not make any financial contributions to the efforts to defeat Prop 8 last year.
The summit, to be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, is meant as a gathering of community leaders and others committed to winning back marriage equality in California to share information and resources, and to plan next steps.
According to the state data, Oren Shepher, one of the committee's co-chairs, was among those who didn't contribute financially. But Shepher, who started the Facebook group Coalition for Equal Rights the day after Prop 8 passed, said he had contributed directly to the Gay and Lesbian Center of Los Angeles and to Equality California. EQCA didn't respond to a request to confirm Shepher's contribution and the Bay Area Reporter could not verify the LA center contribution.
Andrea Shorter, who spent months working to defeat Prop 8 through the group And Marriage for All and who's also a committee co-chair for the summit, said financial contributions weren't a requirement for being on the planning committee, and there were plenty of other ways that people may have contributed to the campaign that aren't immediately obvious by looking at the secretary of state's data. People may have made donations through spouses or in other ways, she said.
The secretary of state's data don't reflect any contributions from Shorter, but she said that she contributed $200. Shorter, who isn't married, also set up a wedding registry on EQCA's Web site where friends and family contributed to the No on 8 campaign.
Referring to the percentage of planning committee members who appear not to have made contributions, Shorter noted there are "a number of people coming from nonprofit communities that have been hit very hard in the economy, so that's been tough."
Despite all the work they've likely put in to organizing the summit, many committee members apparently are reluctant to talk about it. When asked for planners' contact information, Anne Marks, coordinator of the summit responded, "Not everyone on the planning committee has expressed comfort with talking to the media."
Marks contacted committee members about speaking with the Bay Area Reporter and a handful responded.
The secretary of state's data indicate Marks donated $111.11 during the campaign, but she said the correct figure is $161.11. Marks was Northern California deputy field director for No on 8 during the campaign.
Interestingly, I was one of the members of the planning committtee who responded and talked with the reporter, but I guess since the official records show that I donated $370 directly through NO ON 8 (not counting another $500 given by attending The Task Force's Los Angeles Leadership Awards over $1000 raised by readers of my blog, The Mad Professah Lectures and at least $1000 by people who attended my August 8, 2008 wedding and donated to Equality California) those facts didn't fit into Seth Hemmelgarm's "story."
Here goes the actual list of Oscar nominations in the top 8 categories:
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
"The Dark Knight"“The Reader”
David Fincher, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Ron Howard, “Frost/Nixon”
Gus Van Sant, “Milk”
Christopher Nolan, "The Dark Knight"“Stephen Daldry, “The Reader”
Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”
Frank Langella, “Frost/Nixon”
Sean Penn, “Milk”
Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler”
Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married”
Angelina Jolie, “Changeling”
Cate Blanchett,"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"“Melissa Leo, “Frozen River”
Meryl Streep, “Doubt”
"Revolutionary Road"““The Reader”
Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, “Milk”
Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder”
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, “Doubt”
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”
Dev Patel, "Slumdog Millionaire"“Michael Shannon, “Revolutionary Road”
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, “Doubt”
Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Kate Winslet, "The Reader"“Viola Davis, “Doubt”
Taraji P. Henson, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Marisa Tomei, “The Wrestler”
Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
"The Dark Knight"“The Reader”
Best Original Screenplay
"Rachel Getting Married"“Frozen River” "Vicky Christina Barcelona"“Happy-Go-Lucky” "The Visitor"“In Bruges”
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button leads with 13 nominations followed by Sumdog Millionaire with 9 and Milk and The Dark Knight with 8. The Reader was nominated in 4 major categories (5 overall).
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
- Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
- David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
- Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
- Gus Van Sant, Milk
- Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
- Angelina Jolie, Changeling
- Meryl Streep, Doubt
- Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
- Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
- Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
- Sean Penn, Milk
- Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Best Supporting Actress
- Amy Adams, Doubt
- Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
- Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
- Kate Winslet, The Reader
- Josh Brolin, Milk
- Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
- Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
- Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
- Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Original Screenplay
- Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- Dustin Lance Black, Milk
- Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married
- Tom McCarthy, The Visitor
- Robert Siegel, The Wrestler
Best Adapted Screenplay
- Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
- Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
- Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight
- Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.
We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.
And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
That's pretty cool! After all the kerfuffle over Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop Gene Robinson it was nice for the President to acknowledge the fact that there are people (like yours truly) who do not worship any God whatsoever. "Not that there's anything wrong with that!"
The Oscar nominations come out on Thursday January 24th and most Oscarologists expect "Ben Button" to be in the elite group of Best Picture nominees, and may have the most nominations overall.
As the above pictures indicate, the film stars Oscar winner (The Aviator) Cate Blanchett and (2-time) World's Sexiest Man Brad Pitt and was written by Oscar-winner Eric Roth (Forrest Gump). Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) also has a pivotal role. However, the real star of the film is the stunning visual effects that depict the reverse-aging of Brad Pitt's character Benjamin Button as well as the forward-aging of Cate Blanchett's Daisy.
This is clearly film-making at a very high level, with the art direction, cinematography and score particularly notable. The producers of this film often work with Steven Spielberg and clearly they intended The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to have the magic of some of his classic films and/or Forrest Gump. Sadly, "Ben Button" does not reach those heights; it is a very good, but not great film.
The central conceit of the film, that someone would be born very old and physically age in reverse actually is quite effective. This plot device actually provokes some serious ruminations on the nature of life by the viewer which is often the hallmark of great art. Interestingly, despite having a structural lack of suspense (we know that Benjamin Button is going to have to "grow young and die") Eric Roth's script does an excellent job of still providing twists and turns that surprise and delight.
Both Blanchett and Pitt give spellbinding performances. Pitt, especially astounds in his physical ability to embody younger and younger versions of himself. However, I was also struck by Blanchett's even more difficult (albeit more traditional) performance that contains more physically humbling scenes. Taraji P. Henson plays Brad Pitt's adoptive mother as one of several "magic negroes" that mar the film's emotional impact. The shooting of the film in and around New Orleans, Louisiana does provide an interesting emotional frisson as well as the inclusion of the somewhat controversial Hurricane Katrina sub-plot featuring Julia Ormond.
Overall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is one of the best films of the year; with outstanding performances by both lead actors and an intriguing plot devices that provides an opportunity for self-reflection.
Running Time: 2 hours, 46 minutes, MPAA Rating: PG-13.
OVERALL GRADE: B+/A-.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Dalia Lithwick has a transcript up at Slate.com of the bizarre verbal flubs made by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during today's swearing-in of Barack Oabama as the 44th President of the United States:
ROBERTS: (working without a text, and also without an overcoat): Are you prepared to take the oath, Senator?
OBAMA: I am.
ROBERTS: I Barack Hussein Obama ...
OBAMA: (interrupting) I Barack ...
ROBERTS: Do solemnly swear ...
OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear ...
ROBERTS: That I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully...
OBAMA: That I will execute ... (pauses, smiles, waits for Roberts to put "faithfully" in correct spot)
ROBERTS: ... The off ... faithfully the pres ... the office of president of the United States...
OBAMA: The office of president of the United States, faithfully ... (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em)
ROBERTS: And will to the best of my ability ...
OBAMA: And will to [the] best of my ability ...
ROBERTS: Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
OBAMA: Preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
ROBERTS: So help you God?
OBAMA: So help me God.
ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.
Maybe in 2013 Roberts will get it right? Obama will definitely will!
President Barack Obama has spent much of his career fighting to strengthen civil rights as a civil rights attorney, community organizer, Illinois State Senator, U.S. Senator, and now as President. Whether promoting economic opportunity, working to improve our nation's education and health system, or protecting the right to vote, President Obama has been a powerful advocate for our civil rights.Can you smell that? That's the fresh air of change blowing the stench of the Bush-Cheney administration!
* Combat Employment Discrimination: President Obama and Vice President Biden will work to overturn the Supreme Court's recent ruling that curtails racial minorities' and women's ability to challenge pay discrimination. They will also pass the Fair Pay Act, to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
* Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: President Obama and Vice President Biden will strengthen federal hate crimes legislation, expand hate crimes protection by passing the Matthew Shepard Act, and reinvigorate enforcement at the Department of Justice's Criminal Section.
* End Deceptive Voting Practices: President Obama will sign into law his legislation that establishes harsh penalties for those who have engaged in voter fraud and provides voters who have been misinformed with accurate and full information so they can vote.
* End Racial Profiling: President Obama and Vice President Biden will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice.
* Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support: President Obama and Vice President Biden will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama and Biden will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.
* Eliminate Sentencing Disparities: President Obama and Vice President Biden believe the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.
* Expand Use of Drug Courts: President Obama and Vice President Biden will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.
Support for the LGBT Community
"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."
-- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007
* Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
* Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
* Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
* Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
* Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
* Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
* Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.
* Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.