So, I'm writing a book..."Obama Goes to Europe!" Think fievels american tail in reverse and with throngs of germans in the streets. It is really a bit silly...200,000 germans came out to see our presidential candidate. Or let me put it this way...200,000 germans came out to see the junior senator from the state of illinois. Do either of those make sense??? Furthermore, besides the photo-op...why did he go? THESE PEOPLE CAN"T VOTE. Furthermore, while Obama may already envision himself as President...he will never be president of the world (thats what Bill Clinton wants...remember his "run" for secretary general). His speech was pretty much devoid of any real content and sort of sounded like a self-parody. It was so over the top with optimism and unity, I almost threw up in my mouth watching it last night on C-Span. Really, there was nothing controversial about it...that is fundamentally the problem...the only things worth discussing are those in which opinions differ. So, are we to vote for obama because Europeans like him? Are we to suppose that Europeans really do know whats best for us and want that? That they will be able to act entirely devoid of self-interest? When a country elects a president they should do so entirely in their own self-interest (not necessarily on an individual level but on a national level), and yet our candidates campaign outside our borders. Again...WHY? It seems to me that the risk he runs is the media catching up to the fact that this was his FIRST visit to europe as an elected official. So, we have John McCain who has been multiple times to Europe and spends time in the good ol' US of A thinking about our issues and apparently eating german sausage with lindsay graham (seriously, thats where he was yesterday).The final nail in the coffin was watching McNeil Lehrer News Hour on PBS. They wanted a European perspective on Obamania. The commentators in both France and Germany both essentially said that Obama was a symbol that it was ok to believe in the american dream again. Ummm...why did they need Obama for that. Nothing says american dream like being abandoned by your father, raised in foreign countries and becoming a corporate lawyer. I think not. The american dream is in the family that struggles for years to own their own home and eventually succeeds because the country allows it. The american dream is in China town where imigrants form a pocket of another country while at the same time being american in every sense of the word. The american dream is the huddled masses, and the suburban family not the lawyers and CEOS and certainly not the government...those things are all working very hard against the american dream...republicans and democrats both do it. The only difference is that one knows their doing it and the other has convinced itself its not. But who am I to tell the French anything of that. Do the french have a dream...is it the disenfranchisement and exploitation of foreigners pushing them to the point of riots and violence in the capitals streets. I'm glad they have something to believe in here in the US, because they aren't going to find it within their own borders. Patrick OUT!!!
To start, the movie is directed by christopher nolan and stars christian bale, heath ledger, morgan freeman, maggie gyllenhall, and that guy from thank you for smoking (which also gets a healthy seal of approval). Obviously the movie focuses around batman and his associated dering-do in battling the JOKER. Heath ledger as the joker is really quite spectacular. It is further than I ever imagined he could go with a character and makes the old TV series Joker and even Jack nicholson's Joker, look downright silly. Seriously, this joker is flippin creepy. The plot has him pretty much appearing out of nowhere with no backstory whatsoever which was a little strange but I'm glad they didn't waste time with something really campy. Of course, the movie is two and a half hours long so whats another 30 minutes...but I digress. Anyways, the Joker appears and begins a not so sophisticated scheme of stealing money from mob bosses and pretty much scares them into believing that the real problem is batman. Of course, we the audience know this is only half way true but the mob bosses are fairly easily convinced and essentially hire the joker to kill batman...so now we have a movie. There is a somewhat convoluted plot with a chinese business man and shady business dealings that really felt like a relic of an earlier script but it did allow for some cool action sequences in the high rises of hong kong. Without giving too much away, lots of plot twists ensue and new enemies are made and other defeated. Among those defeated is one of the heads of the mob who is played by Eric Roberts (Julia's brother) who still sucks...this guy really can't act at all and should be barred from the studios at the first opportunity. Apprarently acting ability is not genetic...who knew??? Anyways, back to the movie itself. The acting was well done on the part of ledger, gyllenhall, and freeman. Christian bale needs some work in places but part of the problem was some really cliche dialogue for his character. In addition, he has a certain voice as bruce wayne and then another voice as batman. Unfortunately the batman voice just sounds like bruce went on an alcoholic bender the night before and has not fully recovered. That got really old really quick. Batman also has a lot of new toys to play with in this one...including a bat cycle (motoycycle with guns and really big tires), a new costume (still has pointy ears but not with projectile razor blades on the wrist), and a weird kind of sonar thing. Morgan freeman plays lucius fox who is essentially batman's R&D and makes all of the neat stuff for batman to use. At one point in the movie he threatens to quit over this sonar system thing saying, "this is too much power for one man and I won't be a part of it." OK...let me get this straight...you have no problem building, rocket cars, machine gunning motorcycles, bat grenades, razorblade projectiles, and other objects of mayhem but when bat sonar comes on the table, "oh no batman...thats going TOOOO far!" Please...that is rediculous...ok, so you need a reason to not have it in the second movie (and there will be another movie) but please don't let that reason be some half-assed moralizing. Along those same lines, the movie tries real hard to be really profound in its address of civic virtue, heroics, self-sacrifice, and public service. A little of that would be fine but they wanted more...and I wanted more too...more of batman pounding heads together that is and less talk about who is a bigger hero and guy in rubber bat suit, the DA, or commissioner gordon. Lets be simple here...the hero is the guy willing to go out in public and pick fights in a bat costume....ummm, thats bravery my friends. Overall, aside from those minor miscues, the movie is definately worth seeing...if you can get tickets...apparently it already setting records for attendance. Fandango is selling 12 tickets per second, ALL DAY. A blockbuster if I ever seen one...Patrick OUT!!!
Its really great...written by a husband and wife team who have cooked all over new england and new york. They have lots of neat posts on the science and experimental side of cooking and really do some innovative things with food. Also, their photography is excellent. I'm thinking about including a link-out to some other blogs here on this site and they would certainly be close to the top. Check them out
The movie focuses around the slow descent into megalomania of a California oil man at the turn of the century and into the 20s and 30s. Day-Lewis is absolutely phenomenal...though I admit I set myself up to like this movie because I am such a fan of his...that not withstanding the movie did not disappoint. He was so consistent in his portrayal yet laying down that ever so subtle change from beginning to end that his very complex character demanded. Furthermore, the movie has strong undertones (is a strong undertone an overtone...i'm not sure) of revenge which culminate in perhaps the finest movie bludgeoning I have ever seen (not that I can name very many outside of fight club...but this is better than any of those...besides the first rule is you don't talk about fight club...or is that the second rule???). Anyways, there are also a lot of neat religious elements that really get me going because I am becoming more of an atheist every day and a movie that shows the corruptive power of religion has a not so subtle appeal to me. Of course, we can always extrapolate the movie a little further to say that its a battle really between two men who represent the worst of business and the worst of religion. Each of them is trying to capitalize on and take advantage of a generally ignorant population. Anderson is content to have them fight amongst themselves but is this an allegory for our modern situation...I tend to think the model still fits. Though I might vote republican anyways. The soundtrack while mostly scored is also great...really adding to the tension of the film at just the right moments and to exactly the right effect. My only gripe about the movie is the clear distinction between those who know and those who don't. In short, a few characters seem to be absolutely brilliant...most others are nameless faces in the crowd...and i'm not just talking about extras here. Characters with dialoge often come across as robotic without real need while other characters show such depth it makes their idiot counterparts all that much harder to tolerate. Either way, the acting of Day-Lewis carries the film...and its a good thing it did because he is in almost every scene of the film. Before I close out this review let me share a particularly good quote in relation to oil drainage.
Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry. I'm so sorry. Here, if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. And my straw reaches across the room, and then I start to drink your milkshake... I... drink... your... milkshake! I DRINK IT UP!!!
I understand that all that might seem like a silly quote...but once you see the film you'll understand...until then, count the days until that happens. PATRICK OUT!!!
The image plays upon a lot of the things that have plagued obama over the past few months including accusations of him being a muslim, the fist bump with his wife (apparently a terrorist greeting...I always thought it was just something college kids did), and of course the ever present idea that he is somehow anti-american. In response both the Obama and McCain campaigns issued public condemnation on the New Yorker for I guess encouraging these negative images. So I suppose the thinking is as follows: most people are stupid, these people will see this cover, stupid people will not get the satire inherent, most people will therefor believe that this is a commentary on actual events on the part of the new yorker editorial staff. Now I don't claim to be the smartest guy in the world (OK, I have made that claim on a few occassions but not right now), but this cover seemed pretty clear to me. I can see why the campaign might be a little bit disappointed in it but at the same time to issue public condemnation is pretty lame. I think the real problem presented by this flare-up is not that the new yorker is going after barack or michelle obama, not that there are undertones of bigotry or racism, not even that the cartoon is in bad taste...its more that the cartoon is edging on that line of being too hard to interpret for the average person (in the opinion of the Obama and McCain campaigns). This of course suggests that these campaigns are counting on the votes of people who are less intelligent than me and, for that matter, anyone I know because I have yet to meet someone who interpreted this as anything different than I did, mainly SATIRE. Of course, the other problem is that many of the cartoons in the new yorker that are so lauded over, really are over the head of the average person (assuming you take my head as that of an average person). For instance the following cartoon appeared recently.
What does that even mean? Is this humor? Should I have laughed when I saw this? Is it social commentary on something I've never heard of. I would seriously encourage anyone to leave me their explanations of why this clearly elitist dribbel deserved to be published and what I as consumer should have gotten out of it. The New Yorker's humor pages, which they take great pride in, are absolutely useless. They far too often forget that if people don't get the joke...its not funny. That the fundamental requirement for writing, humor, and communication in general is that people understand. Language bogged down in obscure terminology or arcane references is not communication at all, rather it is boastful in its superiority to the desired reader. I believe that too many readers of the New Yorker are ashamed to admit that these things just don't make sense. Of course, after looking at the latest cover...I think I know why it all works out this way. For once, the magazine publishes a comic that is an effective satire of topical and familiar nation wide events...the response, public damnation. Go on New Yorker comic writers...keep on being obscure...its safer. Patrick OUT!!!
Social Stability: The ability of a government to suppress free speech and action as a means of limiting descent and the inate rights and liberties of its people.
Economic Progress: The forced relocation of millions of impoverished citizenry for the purpose of providing labor conducted under inhumane conditions with little economic benefit for those performing said labor.
alt definition: halting humanitarian intervention in foreign countries committing genocide for percieved economic benefit
Healthy Life: Living in a city where the average person loses 7-10 days/year of productivity due to air pollution close to 5 times above WHO safety standards.
International Recognition: Inability of IOC members to see past heabily censored media coverage of a country with more skeletons in its closet than an anatomy lab.
On a more positive note, I was able to visit some of the olympic venues while I was there and they really do look spectacular (through the smog). The birds nest stadium is huge and really a sight to behold as an engineering marvel of the highest kind. The aquatics building sits just across the way and is equally a sight to behold. These both sit fairly close to the center of the city which I think will provide an interesting cultural backdrop to the games. A nice mix of an event determined to bring all countries together for competition and fair play and a government determined to eliminate competition to ensure its own survival and ignore international standards whenever possible for whatever reason. All that being said, China was a very interesting country and I wish I could have seen more because its seems impossible that a country with more than one city like Beijing could survive in a modern world. For certain, China has a long way to go before they will be up to my standards. Hopefully these games will have them on their way sooner rather than later and that the international attention will do some good to expose not only China to the world but also the world to China and its people. Patrick OUT!!!
Brian and I checked into our hotel/hostel on the first day and I would say I think we were both surprised by it. To begin with, it wasn't really a hotel...actually it was a church with some guest rooms in it. You wouldn't have necessarilly known it was a church but you definately knew it wasn't a hotel. Luckilly it was only about 3 blocks from Elsa's family's apartment complex. The room was pretty tiny...though I imagine not so much by hong kong standards. To put that in perspective, the whole thing would have probably fit into my youngest sisters bedroom...which is fine for one young girl but not as good for two guys with lots of luggage and such. All in all, we ended up fitting in OK there without too much adjusting save for two things in particular. Firstly, the beds were quite firm. Of course by firm I really mean...hard as a rock. OK, that might be overstating it, but not by much. It was firm enough that when I lied straight on my back, there was a space beneath the small of my back where the spine curved because the bed had no deflection at my shoulders and hips. I guess I kind of got used to it but it still felt good to be back in a western bed. The second issue was with our hot water. First two days we had fine hot water and actually exceptional hot water pressure (one of the few improvements hong kong utilities have over their US counterparts). Then suddenly, we no long had hot water. Brian and I showered in the cold one day (not togther but it was cold enough that it seemed like less of an absolutely absurd idea by the end) but didn't have a chance to talk to the hotel management on account of a busy schedule, so we showered in the cold for a second day. It wasn't until day 3 that we finally figured out that every room has their own hot water heater that can be turned on and off. That big box we thought was an exhaust fan was actually behind our water supply. Upon flipping the proper switches...proper water was restored...our pride was not.
Food...this could easily fill 3-4 posts but I will try to give highlights here. First off...food is abundant, and cheap, and you eat a lot, all the time, everywhere, with everyone...but I lost weight (that is the great conundrum...its like the french paradox but with chinese food). Also, as I'm sure you might have imagined the chinese food is quite a bit different there than here. In general, many more things are steamed and almost nothing is deep fried. Also, the chinese have a knack for backed goods of all sorts that is strangely ignored here. Food also tastes like the ingredients...which might sound like a truism of sorts but really the most notable absense is in the heavy sauces usually surrounding chinese food in the states. Outside flavors are much lighter and so food there tastes like its primary ingredients and not like the spice applied to them. Restaurants are different too...first off, they are a bit chaotic with lots of staff moving around serving lots of tables. Individual tables usually dont have a particular waiter or waitress but instead you can ask for anything from virtually anyone. Usually this is convenient, but sometimes you just don't ever get what you wanted. I guess that system is a toss up for me in terms of improvement over our methods. Menus were almost always in chinese which made it difficult/impossible for us gwailo to order but its ok because even when the menu had english i usually had no idea what things were. We typically ate whatever was placed in front of us. Thankfully (or perhaps not) things tend to not only taste like their ingredients but also look like their ingredients. One particular instance involved the ordering of pigeon (dove). The bird was roasted and quartered and put on a plate. It was cut and prepared to little that with a little stiching you could have reassembled the animal at the table and maybe even shocked it back to life. Along those same lines, after finished the bird, one piece remained that brian though he might try. After reaching across the table and fumbling with his chopsticks he managed to get the last piece that he was shocked to find out was actually the roasted head of the recently deceased. He didn't eat it (most people don't, but unsurprisingly some do). Also, everything is shared by the table which is not uncommon in the states but usually all the food is eaten, which is a bit more uncommon. Often times towards the end of the meal, it was a trial to see who would finish the last dishes. Sometimes even resorting to rock paper scissors to see who would take in the last bits of tofu soup or char siu bao (though that was a dish rarely left untouched, and unlike revenge...it is best served warm). More on food to come in my post of chinese commerce...also pictures. Patrick OUT!!!