21 December 2002

Good Evening

Tonight was my idea of a good evening. But before we get to the why, let's catch up on the Old Business.

Saw The Two Towers. It was pretty much what I expected. You don't need a review from me, they are everywhere. My only disappointment was that two very key (and highly visual) scenes from the book (one the denoument of the whole thing, fer pete's sake) was not present in the film. I think it was a mistake to leave this out, even if they include it in the next film (and why should they do that? The scenes were in The Two Towers, not Return of the King. If you're going to pride yourself on making films closely tied to the spirit and narrative of the books, you do not add scenes from one book into the film of another book).

As a result of an idea I had earlier this evening, I will soon be announcing a new (additional) blog in this space that is dedicated solely to film. As I've mentioned increasingly often in these ... er, pages? ... I'm a movie fan on par with people like Roger Ebert and Kevin Murphy. Murphy wrote a book called A Year At the Movies in which he saw one film per day. To that I say "wimp!"

It occurred to me that I'm interested in writing about films, but that a personal blog should have more ... variety ... than that. So we'll split that off into it's own blog. Whether I can keep that going is another thing we shall see in the fullness of time, hmmm?

On to the matter of Trent Lott. As I predicted, he has gone as Senate Majority Leader but retained his seat in the Senate. He's far too power-hungry to actually contemplate resigning of course, and he believes this move will be enough to get the story out of the papers. He's probably right, but I have news for him: this is his last term in the Senate. He'll not be re-elected (or more likely he will announce retirement when election time approaches).

Rush Limbaugh and several people like him have suggested that this brouhaha over Lott's remarks is at least partially the work of The Nameless Liberal Conspiracy (you know, those guys with the rainbow-coloured hoods who burn peace symbols on Republican lawns) and/or the (finger quoting, Dr. Evil voice) "Liberal Media."

Can I just point out that Democrats, Liberals, Bleeding Heart NAACP Agenda Advancers and other Enemies of the Right had absolutely nothing to gain from Lott's resignation as Majority Leader? It's not like they're going to replace Lott with a screaming liberal Democrat or anything, is it? Lott's not going to resign from the Senate, so there's no gain for the opposition at all in all of this. So much for the convenient and overused "liberal conspiracy" theory. The only way the Dems would have gained is if Lott actually left the Senate entirely (and there was nobody who thought that was going to happen) and if the Mississippi governor appointed a Dem (which he probably would have), which would have given the Dems a one-vote majority -- until the special election a few months later.

The reason nobody in the opposition cared much one way or another if Lott stepped down is that the people who were first named as most likely to succeed Lott -- Don Nickels, Mitch McConnel and Rick Santorum -- are all more or less clones of Lott when it comes to racism and their voting records on civil rights -- they are all against the concept. They all voted against the MLK holiday, they all vote against affirmative action every chance they get, and so on.

Now emerges Bill Frist, the choice of the Bush administration and (at least so far) he does indeed seem to pass the sniff test and doesn't appear to be racist. Good move, right?

Only Bill Frist is literally part owner of the powerful HMO HCA/Columbia Healthcare machine, the company that was recently fined $750 million for illegal activity and Medicare fraud. Does anyone besides me see this as a problem? What the hell is this guy doing in the Senate in the first place? I thought they had strict "conflict-of-interest" rules there but you can be in bed (literally) with an HMO and still take a job that is pivotal in the regulation of HMOs?

Whoever said "we get the government we deserve" was a genius. The hanky-panky of the Clinton administration is starting to look about as harmless as fratboy "panty raid" parties compared to the current administration. Things are definitely worse now then they were then. I never thought I'd be nostalgic for the Clinton years, and I certainly couldn't imagine it would only take two years to induce that feeling, but compared to Bush the worst thing Clinton was guilty of is "shenanigans." (South Park reference, if you don't get it -- nevermind.)

Let me put it this way: the Bush administration is so corrupt and incompetent they are making Al Gore look good! I mean really good! Now that's saying something!

Okay, enough of the Old Business, now on to the New Business. Tonight Heather and I (along with our brother Mark) went out with Suburban Limbo's Rich Grula and his wife Natalie. It is always a treat to spend time with these guys, and it was all the more enjoyable because we gathered at the Enzian Theatre (which we both have strong connections to) to see Standing in the Shadows of Motown, a lovely documentary on the Funk Brothers and their unique and largely-overlooked contribution to American popular music for the better part of two decades.

Rich has been a professional musician, and I was raised on a steady diet of documentaries, so music docs are among our favourite types of movies. This one seemed to start off as a rant about not getting paid/credit for the work, but rapidly improved into an enjoyable (if lightweight) look behind the scenes for many of the songs people around my age (40) and older will remember as the soundtrack to their childhoods. The film basically chronicles the lives and anecdotes of the brothers as they laid down the music of Motown on so many hit records it makes your head spin. Punctuating the good-natured interviews and recreations are stunning performances from the surviving members as they reunited a couple years ago with a range of guest vocalists to produce steaming-hot yet resolutely-faithful renditions of just a handful of the dozens of Number Ones they played on.

As the two oldest members of our group, Rich and I noticed a lot of omissions from the Motown stories told by the Funk Brothers -- it was like they wanted to say bad things about Berry Gordy but couldn't (so that they could get into and film in "Studio A," the legendary "snake pit" garage studio in Hitsville USA), we noticed that none of the singers who made their reputations on the backs of this band (apart from the always-real Martha Reeves) appeared at all, and we noticed that the array of singers chosen to show up at the reunion gig (Joan Osborne, Ben Harper, Bootsy Collins, Chaka Khan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Gerald Levert etc) were decidedly second-string stars. (Bootsy and Joan did great jobs of course, as did Levert and Khan, but hey Smokey and Diana aren't exactly dead, are they?)

After the movie we hung out a bit and analysed the film. The younger people, not being as familiar with the times and music, didn't have much to say except that they liked what they heard and wanted to hear more. It's stunning to realise that these cats played on more Number One hit records than Elvis, The Beatles, The Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones combined. If the film plays your town, and you remember names like The Supremes, The Contours, Smokey Robinson and Little Stevie Wonder fondly, you won't want to miss this. If you can't see the movie before it hits DVD, at least buy the soundtrack.

After the movie we went to grab some sushi at Fuji Sushi, one of only two really world-class sushi places in Orlando. By the end of the meal all the friends (old and new) were gone and it was just me, Heather and Mark, so we ran an errand to pick up a Christmas gift (of sorts) and went home. A great way to spend an evening.

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