Tokyo Story

Dir: Yasujiro Ozu
I can’t remember when I first watched Tokyo Story,
but I know it was on crumb-bum video and I hadn’t lived enough.
So here comes Jon Crow shoving DVDs in my hand, shaming me for not watching Mizoguchi and Ozu enough. Fortunately, Criterion are finally getting around to releasing Ozu’s films on DVD. A good transfer of an old film is essential to its enjoyment, I think.
Anyway, “Tokyo Story” is a masterpiece, and not just because everybody says so. It has the emotional cruelty and sparse interior landscape of Chris Ware, but the sort of heart that Ware is only beginning to attain.
The story of an aging couple making a rare trip from their countryside home to the big city, only to be treated as mostly a nuisance by their grown children, doesn’t offer easy explanations to the conflicts on the screen, but suggests much more beneath the surface. That is, we could blame Shige’s bad treatment of her parents to being obsessed with making money, but there are hints that she has some sort of reason, some issues that she hasn’t worked out, something she hasn’t forgiven.
Not that “Tokyo Story” is a post-modern “everything’s opposite” twist-o-rama text, just that the film’s handling of character is so well-drawn that multiple viewings are bound to bring out the numerous levels on which these people think. The father, Shukichi, was apparently a bit of a drunk (as was the deceased son), and may explain the children’s differing responses to him.
The film asks a lot of questions about the parent-child bond, what motivates the breaking of that bond, reality vs. a parents’ expectations, and whether there’s anything to be done about it. When the youngest daughter vows at the end that she’ll never be as selfish as her older sister, there’s no way to say if she’ll be able to keep her word. “Tokyo Story” leaves the viewer wanting to know what will happen to so many of the characters. What will happen to daughter-in-law Noriko, (Setsuko Hara, an Ozu regular), now a struggling widow still young enough for remarriage? What will happen to Shukishi, especially after he is cheerfully damned in a way by the neighbor at the end of the film? (“You will be lonely” she says to him, which could be the film’s brutal message).

Buy Me This for Christmas

As blogged on BoingBoing this morning, this keychain remote will turn off all TVs in a room, regardless of make.

Wired News: Inventor Rejoices as TVs Go Dark
Altman’s key-chain fob was a TV-B-Gone, a new universal remote that turns off almost any television. The device, which looks like an automobile remote, has just one button. When activated, it spends over a minute flashing out 209 different codes to turn off televisions, the most popular brands first.
For Altman, founder of Silicon Valley data-storage maker 3ware, the TV-B-Gone is all about freeing people from the attention-sapping hold of omnipresent television programming. The device is also providing hours of entertainment for its inventor.

After lunch I went to grab some coffee in a local shop here. One TV above the counter had the insufferable “Crossfire” on mute and another one above the door was showing soap operas. And nobody was watching either. This is why I want this keychain…

Jon Stewart will save us all…

I wish I could have heard this, instead of just reading the transcripts. This is amazing stuff. Jon Stewart goes on Crossfire and lets both of ’em have it, for downgrading American political discourse. Wow. And again: Wow!
UPDATE: QT Video clip is here

STEWART: But the thing is that this — you’re doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great.
BEGALA: We do, do…
STEWART: It’s not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.
CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you’re accusing us of partisan hackery?
STEWART: Absolutely.
CARLSON: You’ve got to be kidding me. He comes on and you…
STEWART: You’re on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.
STEWART: What is wrong with you?
(APPLAUSE) CARLSON: Well, I’m just saying, there’s no reason for you — when you have this marvelous opportunity not to be the guy’s butt boy, to go ahead and be his butt boy. Come on. It’s embarrassing.
STEWART: I was absolutely his butt boy. I was so far — you would not believe what he ate two weeks ago.
STEWART: You know, the interesting thing I have is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.
CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.
STEWART: You need to go to one.
The thing that I want to say is, when you have people on for just knee-jerk, reactionary talk…
CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.
STEWART: No. No. I’m not going to be your monkey.

The man has integrity. One of the few! (“Butt boy”? Real classy, Tucker)

Thanks, Ted

Ted’s gracious welcome means that I may let him look in the Palantir, if he continues his fulsome praise of my beard and my style!
I am honored to be here, and will attempt to contribute much of a muchness. I’d like to try something, in terms of uploading a file. We’ll see if it takes.
Most readers of the Left Sphere of Darkness in blogging terms will remember George Bush’s disastrous appearance at the Unity Conference, the minority Journos annual get-together. Bush got handed a quite good question on the role of sovereignty in the 21st century as it applied to Federal/Tribal issues. He responded with a 4th grade Social Studies definition of the term sovereignty as opposed to answering the quite nuanced question itself. Well, we know that Bush doesn’t do nuance, but his clear lack of anything resembling a policy clue is just startling. So here’s the clip.
So, what’s the deal with this clip, why does it matter?
The clip itself is representative of the degree to which Bush is NOT the master of the town-hall format, that’s what. The whole ‘Bush will do better in debate #2’ meme really pissed me off to no end. That meme was generated by pundits (I won’t call them people) who felt very strongly that the scripted love-fests Bush has been attending all year on the campaign trail were somehow ‘real’ public appearances. Odd that these pundits should be so convinced by all this Parlockian nonsense and frippery. Really quite peculiar.
This clip from the Unity conference, however, is Bush at a real townhall-style meeting. To get any comparison, you’d have to go back to New Hampshire 2000 and find footage of Bush doing pre-primary meetings. Who won? John McCain by 16%. Ouch.
I post this not just to point out the staggering obviousness of Bush’s unnuanced answer to the sovereignty question, but also to illustrate the point that I made in my (dare I say) virgin post: the cable media, and most of the network punditocracy in this election cycle, are simply in the tank for Bush. They have bolstered his credibility at every opportunity, and have then stuck their fingers in their ears and gone ‘lalalalala’ whenever reality intrudes.
March of 2003, less than a month before the invasion of Iraq , E.J. Dionne wrote a column in the Washington Post in which he asserted that the President was on medications to control anxiety and affect. The White House did not deny it. The SCUM, however, continues to ignore all evidence to the contrary, and plays in its happy sandbox.
To anyone reading this:
I fear an Australian outcome for this election. Let’s work as hard as we can to avoid rewarding not simply the secrecy, mendacity, and belligerency of the Dry Drunk Presidency, but let’s also KICK THE SCUM in its useless butt.
Now, I need mead.

Welcome Saruman! Nice beard.

Folks, I want to extend a warm welcome to our new co-conspirator in justice, Saruman, who has beaten me to the punch and blogged his first entry below. Mr. S is a good friend of mine and was sharing his writing skills with the world over at Media Whores Online. Was it under the same name? I can’t say. Much like Dr. Who regenerating, he’s now in a different body, but the same chap underneath.
I will also say that the S-Man knows his stuff and will surely put me to shame in his analysis. Onward! We have nothing to lose but democracy itself!

Bush Like Me

Liberal journalist goes undercover and infiltrates the Republican party in Florida. What he finds may or may not surprise you. But first, the set-up

My cover story was a travesty, an idiotic tissue of halfhearted lies. I said I was a New York City schoolteacher named Tom Hamill, in Orlando to spend a summer with a girlfriend who was from the area. It was the best thing I could come up with to explain my Northern accent, my lack of local connections and all that free time.
The story’s only saving grace was that the truth was so much more unbelievable. Republicans are paranoid enough to expect a mole from the Kerry campaign, but I was far worse than that — a dissolute, drug-abusing anarchist who reads the battle diaries of Vietnamese generals on rainy days, roots for Russia at the Olympics and once published an article titled ‘God Can Suck My Dick.’ I was, in short, the most offensive individual who could conceivably be planted in the campaign of George W. Bush. I was tempted to feel guilty about this. But in the end I figured that it was only fair. Since John Ashcroft has made it easy for FBI agents to infiltrate anti-war groups, it seemed to make sense that an anti-war journalist should infiltrate Ashcroft’s party.

My Grief

So anyway, I’ve been transferring these old tapes of mine from back when I was a kid, recorded with my partner in crime at the time, Gabe. I’m surprised and happy to say that these tapes are still in pretty good condition, at least listenable. I have about 35 or so and hold them very dear to me, as you might expect.
But last night I flipped over a tape and found that one side was completely blank. It somehow had been erased…when? I couldn’t figure it out. The tabs were popped out to protect against that sort of thing, so this must have happened years ago. But how? If I had done it, I surely would have remembered my complete stupidity and chastised myself accordingly. But I didn’t or haven’t.
What can I say? I just lost another 30 minutes of my childhood. Weep! This makes me nervous to go through the rest of the tapes. What other surprises lay in store?