Friday, December 31, 2004

Montana Supreme Court Justice James C. Nelson: Bravo 

In a concurring opinion to the Montana Supreme Court majority decision that Montana's state-owned universities must offer insurance to domestic partners of all university employees, not just the domestic partners of heterosexual employees, Justice James C. Nelson had this to say about Montana's recently approved constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage:
"Sadly," Justice Nelson wrote, "many politicians and 'we the people' rarely pass up an opportunity to bash and condemn gays and lesbians despite the fact that these citizens are our neighbors and that they work, pay taxes, vote, hold public office, own businesses, provide professional services, worship, raise their families and serve their communities in the same manner as heterosexuals."

The University system offered employees the opportunity to sign an affadavit that their living arrangement was a committed relationship known as common-law marriage and that the two parties had "assumed all the responsibilities and duties which the law attached to such a relationship." The Montana Supreme Court determined that barring this option to gay employees violated Montana's own equal protection clause. Since the decision was not based on the state constitution, not the US Constitution, any attempt at appeal to the US Supreme Court would face likely denial.

The opinions and various party and amicus briefs can be found here, at the website of the State Law Library of Montana. The case is Snetsinger v. Montana University System (03-238).

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:47 AM

It Worked for Bush... 

Some Iraqi insurgent groups have apparently taken a page from the US Election 2004 campaign playbook.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:00 AM

Underworld Character: Selene 

Courtesy of The Creeping Unkown:

Which UNDERWORLD character are you?

Selene


SELENE: You are Selene!

Beautiful, vivacious, fierce and seductive, Selene vowed she would destroy Lycans after her family was murdered by the werewolves. So ruthless is she that Selene is a member of the Death Dealers. This elite Vampire warrior class's mission is to make the Lycans extinct.

brought to you by Quizilla

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:54 AM

Closer 

We had two Lowe's movie passes left, and they were set to expire today. The catch: not valid during the first 10 days of a film's release. So sadly I had to pay 7 bucks for a MATINEE showing of Phantom the other day, and The Girl and I ended up using the passes to see Closer last night. There were other movies we wanted to see instead, but this was playing at the right time, at the right theater, and was available with the passes.

Getting there was quite a trip as well. The Girl had her drum lesson from 6:30-7:30, and the movie was playing at the Liberty Tree Mall at 7:55. According to Mapquest, the drive from the lesson to the movie is 15.71 miles (mostly highway) and a 21 minute drive. So yeah, we were cutting it close. Especially when she didn't emerge from her lesson into the parking lot where I was waiting until 7:35. But off we went. She was full of hope and optimism, but I was driving. It was actually going fairly well until traffic ground to a halt about a mile before our exit. So I took the exit before ours, and wound our way through the back roads and found our way to the mall. The Girl insisted that there would be at least 15 minutes of commercials and previews (but I love watching the previews!), so we would still make it.

Pretty good line at the ticket counter, but it moved along. Then at the entry to the theater area itself, there was some sort of confusion about Meet the Fockers. A group of kids had tickets to the just-started show, but the staff said there were no more seats. This went on for an excruciating amount of time (okay, maybe 45 seconds), but the large growling man behind us who kept shouting, "Come on, come on," sufficiently intimidated the ticket taker and he let the kids, then us, in. Theater 5, where we were headed, was of course at the far end of the very long hall, and was packed. But The Girl took charge and found us 2 seats in the middle of a row, and we sat down at 8:10. Sure enough, 15 minutes after the scheduled starting time, the feature presentation began running about 15 seconds after we sat down. I should have listened.

So anyway, the movie. About an hour in, I leaned over and whispered, "This movie kind of sucks."

So far in the awards season, Closer has won the National Board of Review award for Best Acting by an Ensemble and and was named by the NBR as one of the year's Top 10 Films, and is up for 5 Golden Globe Awards (Best Picture: Drama, Best Supporting Actress (Natalie Portman), Best Supporting Actor (Clive Owen), Best Director (Mike Nichols), and Best Screenplay (Patrick Marber). Oddly enough, I think perhaps (okay, maybe I still have a few misgivings) all these nominations and awards are due, except for the Best Picture ones. The acting was superb, the direction was great, and the dialogue was well-written. But as a whole, it just didn't work for me. It was a series of character studies of people in crisis.

The soundtrack for the film was also great, but they really should have worked in the Indigo Girls song Reunion.


I laughed as I said it
This is my situation
It's not pictures or privilege
It's just self preservation
I don't want you to feel
Any obligation
It feels so funny to be free
All you pretty pretenders
Negligent vendors
Aren't you precious inside
I have no need for anger
With intimate strangers
And I got nothing to hide

Check out the rest of the lyrics here - they're perfect for this film of intimate strangers who dance and weave and change partners over the course of four years, only revealing truth in moments of desperation, both quiet and raging. I think the only character who was really honest throughout was the one waging the most consistent deception.

Clive Owen and Jude Law are driven by testosterone, sexual obsessions, and a desire to be the alpha male by possessing the beautiful prize. But who is the most beautiful prize? Usually the one you don't have.

Natalie Portman and Julia Roberts come across as sunflowers who turn all their attention to whichever sun is shining most brightly on them at any given moment. Portman's sunflower snaps her attention quickly and without hesitation, while Roberts' is more cautious and extends the transitions. When we first meet Natalie Portman's Alice, Jude Law's Dan describes her as "disarming." I agreed, until the scene switched to Julia Robert's Anna at work in her photography studio. My definition of disarming completely changed, and I had to agree with the comparison that Clive Owen's Larry made later on, that Alice is a girl, while Anna is a woman. He describes the attractiveness of early 20-somethings as "full of the moronic beauty of youth." I would have taken Anna over Alice any day. Until Anna began to appear to have accepted her role as a chew toy to be fought over by the two burly dogs, that is.

The jumps in time were problematic for me, not because of the jumps themselves, but because of the landing points. All we see of these four characters are their moments of crisis and angst. Any brief scene of happiness is surely just a setup for the soon to follow fall. It was exhausting, and it all just left me feeling hollow and empty and disturbed. Of course, I think that's how at least three of the characters were left feeling, so perhaps that's what Nichols (whose films I generally love) was going for.

Note of caution - don't go to this movie with anyone with whom you'd feel uncomfortable reading or hearing graphic sexual language, because you'll be both reading it and hearing it throughout Closer.

Reality Check: The Girl likes disturbing movies because it reassures her in her choices, life situation and relationships. She came out of this one feeling very good about us. And she thinks that Natalie Portman is more attractive than Julia Roberts because she doesn't like Julia Roberts' big lips. But she liked the first outfit that Julia Roberts was wearing.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:28 AM
Thursday, December 30, 2004

Phantom of the Opera 

This film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Weber's successful theater production is spectacular, beautiful, lush, grand, full of beautiful people, sights and sounds. And sometimes it even works.

Sadly, at other times it's just too much. Of everything. There's a fine line between really cool execution of a really cool concept and just showing off all your neat toys, and unfortunately director Joel Schumacher jumps back and forth over that line throughout the show. When it works, it's fabulous. When it doesn't, I just really couldn't wait for the scene to end so they could move on.

Emmy Rossum has been nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actress: Musical or Comedy, and received the National Board of Review award for Breakthrough Performance by an Actress, and she does put forth a great performance. I wouldn't look for her at Oscar nomination time, but one of the nice features of the Golden Globes is that they have separate categories for "Drama" and "Musical or Comedy," which allows a wider variety of performances to be recognized. Rossum seems to glow from within through much of the film, and many of her expressions reminded me of Jennifer Beals in a combination of Flashdance and The Bride ("You didn't tell me about cats. I thought it was a tiny lion." BWAH!) - that sort of wide-eyed innocence combined with deer in the headlights look. But too much of that can be, well, too much. During the latter part of the movie Rossum's Christine becomes a little darker, a bit more jaded, and it's in these scenes that Schumacher allows Rossum to dig deeper and bring some power and layers to the show. Here we get a glimpse of what I hope we'll see develop in her future projects.

The first time I felt that Schumacher had gone astray was when Christine first comes face to face with the man who is the Phantom (up until that night he had stayed hidden, contacting her as a disembodied voice). It turned into one of those trippy, camera spinning, Vaseline on the lens while our heroine stares glassy-eyed into the camera kind of things, and it was more distracting than anything.

The final instance of directorial missteps for me was the swordfight scene towards the end. The shots alternated between distance and way too close, artsy and action, and it just didn't work. It would be like trying to combine the Uma Thurman - Lucy Liu swordfight in the snowy zen garden (Kill Bill, Vol. 1) with the Uma Thurman - Darryl Hannah swordfight in the dingy trailer (Kill Bill, Vol. 2). Both good scenes, but not compatible.

But when it worked it gave me goosebumps. The rooftop scene at the end of Act I, the underground sing-off among the Phantom, Raoul and Christine, the Phantom's Don Juan performance between the Phantom and Christine, and of course the chandelier-induced transition from the "present" to the "past" of the opera house, which was just spectacular (in a good way). Ironically, the "present" is shot in grainy black and white, while the "past" appears in full color and looks more modern. This was a nice choice, as it imbues the characters in their later settings with a sense of loss, longing, and thoughts of better times, while the "past" is full of the brightness and vigor of youth and the beginning of life's journey.

Speaking of vigor, Patrick Wilson was quite manly as Raoul, but he rather reminded me of the post-curse Beast in Beauty and the Beast - all chest, muscles and blonde mane. Then the contrast with the porcelain-skinned and soft glowy Christine made the comparison all the more pressing. To cap it off, the stained glass window in the Chapelle was quite reminiscent of the stained glass of the young pre-curse prince in the Disney show.

I've seen some mention that Minnie Driver overacted in her role of Carlotta, and I agree. But I also feel that it was entirely appropriate for the part. She was the most prima donna of them all, and the performance felt perfect for the part. She was one of the best things in the show, and usually came along just when the extravaganza was becoming a little overly extra.

Miranda Richardson as Madame Giry and of course Gerald Butler as the Phantom were marvelous.

Now if I could only get "The Music of the Night" out of my head, where it's been lodged since yesterday afternoon...

Reality Check: The Girl didn't see it, and I didn't press her to. She's a fan of neither opera, musicals nor period pieces, and this is all those rolled into one. Much of the dialogue is sung rather than spoken, and it just would have been way too much to ask of her.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:45 PM
Wednesday, December 29, 2004

De-Lovely 

This look into the life and complicated relationship of Cole Porter and his wife, Linda Lee Porter, takes place in the form of Cole sitting in an empty theater with the "director" Gabe and looking back through his life. De-Lovely overall is a fabulous movie, but I found the first 15-30 minutes a little shallow and the characters difficult to care about. Once the Porters move from Venice to New York, however, the story and the characters begin to come through, and by the end The Girl and I were completely entranced.

Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) was an emphatically gay man who fell madly in love with the lovely Linda Lee. She loved him madly in return, with full knowledge that theirs wouldn't be a particularly exclusive or physical marriage. At times Cole's extramarital activities went beyond what Linda could accept, and Ashley Judd conveys her depth of emotional turmoil with a wondrous skill.

A bevy of musical guests perform some of Porter's songs, and I think I'll be picking up this soundtrack this weekend as well. My favorites were Elvis Costello ("Let's Misbehave"), Alanis Morissette ("Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love"), Sheryl Crow ("Begin the Beguine") and Natalie Cole ("Ev'ry Time You Say Goodbye"). I was quietly crying all through "Ev'ry Time You Say Goodbye," and when the whole cast of characters, led by Jonathan Pryce as Gabe, belted out "Blow Gabriel, Blow" I was sobbing, complete with gasps for air.

Reality Check: Granted, I'm a sap for musicals and The Girl really, really isn't, but she was right there grabbing the Kleenex with me.




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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:02 PM

Jerry Orbach - 1935-2004 

Actor Jerry Orbach, most recently of Law and Order but with a prodigious body of work on television, film and the theater, died last night in New York City. He had been receiving treatment for prostate cancer.

You may also remember him as the father-doctor in Dirty Dancing (the clear winner in the "Which 80's dance movie rules?" poll - see left sidebar) and as the fabulous voice of Lumiere in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. I'd really like to have his recording of Be Our Guest announce at our upcoming wedding reception next summer that "we proudly present... your dinner."

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 11:15 AM
Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sky Captain DVD 

In addition to today's news (to me, at least) about the awesome soundtrack CD for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, I just also discovered that the DVD is going to be released on January 25!!! Psych!!!!!

The Guyfriend and I went to Barnes & Noble at lunchtime, as he was in search of the 2005 Star Trek: Ships of the Line calendar for his office, so I took the opportunity to check out the soundtrack. They promote that in their music department you can listen to any CD before you buy, but it's a very limited selection within any given CD. I was able to hear a short (maybe 10-15 second) clip from the opening track and the Over the Rainbow remake. But those two short clips sealed the deal for me - I'll be getting the CD this weekend.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:57 PM

Susan Sontag, 1933-2004 

Award winning author, film maker and human rights activist Susan Sontag died this morning at the age of 71 in NYC, where she resided with photographer Annie Leibovitz. Her passing was announced Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

You can learn more about Sontag at her website. In 2001 the book Women was published, a joint project of Sontag and Leibovitz.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:37 PM

Sky Captain Soundtrack Available 

SciFi.com has posted up a review of the recently released film soundtrack CD for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. They give it an A, and even classify it as good car driving music - not a classification generally assigned to sci-fi soundtracks. Then again, SciFi.com's audience is assuredly skewed toward sci-fi geeks, and speaking as one myself, I admit that I do have a number of sci-fi soundtracks on my MP3 player, and if The Girl isn't along for the ride, I do enjoy them in the car.

I think perhaps I'll be acquiring the CD this weekend, and I'll let you know how it fares. The score is by Edward Sheamur, and is performed by the London Metropolitan Orchestra, with one vocal performance by Jane Monheit.

On a related note, my own recommendation for a book-CD combination for hard core space/science/soundtrack geeks: Music From the Galaxies CD by Dr. Fiorella Terenzi, which is the auditory companion to her book Heavenly Knowledge: An Astrophysicist Seeks Wisdom in the Stars. Dr. Terenzi is an Italian astrophysicist who developed a program that converts the radio waves sent out from various stars and other celestial bodies, and converts them into sound audible to the human ear. The book follows the project through its development, and the CD contains the final product. She's got a gift for presenting what could be an incredibly dry and overwhelmingly technical subject and makes it exciting and fast-paced. Check them both out.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:54 AM
Monday, December 27, 2004

Trailer of Geeky Intrigue - Sin City 

One of the trailers we saw before The Aviator was for Sin City, a film of which up to that point I had not been aware. It looks intriguing - not like Sky Captain, mind you, but intriguing nonetheless.

Like Sky Captain, this one has the live actors filmed on digital cameras in front of green screen, and the backgrounds will all be digitally inserted later. It also resembles Sky Captain in the color scheme, with the trailer being mostly black and white, but with carefully placed colors and spots of brilliant glare. Sin City is the project over which Robert Rodriguez resigned from the Directors Guild of America, which also forced him to resign from the now-titled John Carter of Mars. Ironically, that gig then went to Kerry Conran, writer and director of Sky Captain.

Sin City is based on the graphic novels of Frank Miller, whose co-directing credit was the reason Rodriguez resigned from the DGA. Quentin Tarantino also directed one segment. The cast is loaded with big names, such as Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Maria Bello, Elijah Wood, Carla Gugino, Michael Clarke Duncan, and on and on. Check out the promo photos on Yahoo! Movies.

Definitely a dark, noir, crime, sex and violence type of movie, but it looks cool. The Girl has already rejected the idea of seeing it, so I guess I'll be on my own for this one.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:56 PM

Welcome to Mooseport 

Lots of names and lots of fun in this movie about a mayoral race between former US president Monroe Cole (Gene Hackman) who moves into his Maine vacation home after losing his Maryland house in a bitter divorce, and Handy Harrison (Ray Romano), the local plumber and hardware store owner. Adding to the competition is Cole's interest in Handy's long-term girlfriend Sally (Maura Tierney - yay!), the local veterinarian who is tired of waiting for Handy to take a risk and commit.

Contributing to the star-studded fun are Christine Baranski, Marcia Gay Harden, Fred Savage and Rip Torn.

The ex-president and his staff try to maneuver the potential risks and rewards of a small town campaign that was supposed to be a symbolic gesture, while Handy tries to make sense of his own choices and what's really important to him. Sally and Grace (Monroe Coles' chief of staff, Marcia Gay Harden) each try to deal with both stagnation and change in their lives and those around them. The golf course snack shop scene between Sally and Grace is understated perfection for these two fabulous actors.

My biggest question after this DVD, which I watched twice since The Girl fell asleep at the first very late-night viewing, was why is it that when Maura Tierney wears old jeans or cargo pants, a t-shirt and a flannel shirt she looks great, but when I wear it I'm a slob? I just don't understand.

Reality Check: The Girl enjoyed this one too, and thinks that Maura Tierney can wear anything and look great because she's a movie star and that's just the way things are.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:37 PM

Mango Kiss 

It's occurred to me that I tend to post about movies I like, and not so much on movies that didn't really do much for me. So as a public service, I now make note of my thoughts on one of the new DVDs marketed to lesbians, Mango Kiss.

Dreck. Don't bother. Full of stereotypes and completely self-centered characters without much in the way of redeeming value, this one falls into the usual traps of indie lesbo films. First, it's poorly cast. The main characters are supposed to be early-20s recent college grads, but I'd say the actors portraying them haven't seen college in at least a decade. If they couldn't find any actors who could pull off a character of that age (because, you know, there's such a shortage of young actors out there), they could have written the characters as late-20's, early-30's. Second, the dialogue bounces around between annoying play fantasies and equally annoying attempts at profound feminist sociological analyses, succeeding at neither. Third, the filmmakers rely on lots of fun-filled montages to show us how fun and thrilling every little moment of the characters' lives are. That is, when those lives aren't filled with self-inflicted drama.

A well-done, well-placed and carefully utilized montage can impart lots of useful information and advance a storyline in a nice compressed timeframe, but when used like this they're just bad.

I think this movie could have been done better, but it just didn't quite reach its mark. Instead of Mango Kiss, check out Treading Water, Out of Season, or Go Fish. Low budget indies that did it right.

For review with a more favorable view, check the article on AfterEllen.

Reality Check: The Girl, with her usual directness, said, "It sucked. Terrible."

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 11:54 AM

The Aviator 

The Girl and I stopped at the movie theater in Woburn on our way home Christmas night, and saw The Aviator. We were not alone in our Christmas night movie-going, as the theater was packed for the 8:00 pm showing of this three hour film.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars and excels in this Martin Scorcese project about Howard Hughes, from the filming of his ground breaking, Oscar nominated 1930 film Hell's Angels through the lone flight of the Hercules (aka Hughes Flying Boat), better known to history as the Spruce Goose, and to a glimpse of his vision for the future of jets. I saw the Hercules in its former museum hangar in Long Beach, right near the Queen Mary. It's an astoundingly massive piece of engineering. I can't imagine what it must have been like to see it flying over the harbor. You'll have to travel to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in Oregon, where the craft has been since 1992, if you want to see it now.

In The Aviator we see Hughes go from an eager young man ready to conquer the world to a man in his 40s who engineered many revolutions, most notably in this film in aviation and film making, and who while he still retains his eagerness for the next big thing, has had to deal with a lifetime of internal battles as well as crushing physical injury, and who had the psychic and bodily scars to prove it. He battled the laws of physics, the Board of Censors, the price of fame, business competitors, OCD and more than a touch of paranoia, the FBI, IRS and United States Senate.

DiCaprio deserves whatever rewards come his way for this performance.

Cate Blanchett also nailed her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn, whose relationship with Hughes ended with the commencement of her decades long relationship with Spencer Tracy. Katharine Hepburn is one of my personal heroes, and Blanchett does her honor.

Kate Beckinsale is noteworthy as Ava Gardner, as is John C. Reilly as Hughes' long-suffering right hand business manager. For you Trek fans, keep an eye out for Brent Spiner.

I had mixed feelings about the manner in which they wrapped it up, but after pondering it for a couple of days, I think it's a work of genius. The Aviator has already received a good number of awards and nominations, and you should definitely look for it to be among the Academy Award nominees in more than one category, to be announced on January 25th.

Reality Check: The Girl liked it, but felt it was too long. She agrees that Leonardo DiCaprio is a very talented young actor, and urges everyone to see What's Eating Gilbert Grape (I rather shame-facedly admit to not having yet seen it...).

For more on Howard Hughes:
Wikipedia entry
IMDB entry
The Howard Hughes Corporation
Howard Hughes Medical Institute



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:43 AM

The Girl is a Horror... 

Novel, that is. Her results from Quizzilla:

The picture of dorian gray

Oscar Wilde: The Portrait of Dorian Gray. You are a horror novel from the world of dandies, rich pretty boys, art and aesthetics, and intellectual debates between ethical people and decadent pleasure-seekers. You value beauty and pleasure but realize their dangers, as well.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:42 AM

Blog at One Year + One Day 

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my very first blog post. It's been quite a year. Sitemeter is clocking the blog at 17,416 visits since this time last year, and I appreciate each and every one.

Well, okay, perhaps some more than others, but what's life without a variety of viewpoints?

Seen a lot of movies, watched a lot of shows, did a lot of studying, had some big losses and some big moments of joy.

It's been lovely. Here's to all the coming year may bring, and to meeting it head on with grace and enthusiasm.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:11 AM

I am a Mystery... 

Novel, that is. According to the latest online quiz (via soxfan), I am:

The name of the rose

Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose. You are a mystery novel dealing with theology, especially with catholic vs liberal issues. You search wisdom and knowledge endlessly, feeling that learning is essential in life.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:04 AM
Friday, December 24, 2004

Too Young for Safe Zones? 

For six years, pink triangle stickers have been on the doors of certain classrooms in the Bedford, MA public school system, to indicate that the classroom is a Safe Zone, where LGBT students can receive advice and support. Until now, there have been no complaints.

But about 30 parents have now formed "Families For Truth," and they are protesting the presence of the stickers in the middle schools.
[Group leader Pamela] Clare said she would have no problem with the stickers being displayed in the high school, but that middle school children are too young.
"You as a committee have not used common sense or decency in your policy making," she said. Other parents called the program immoral.

Too young to know that there is a safe place for them to discuss any issues they might be having? Too young to be assured that they're not misfits or worthy of condemnation? Lots of kids start dating in middle school, they have school sponsored dances and other social events in which dating plays a definite role. Kids who are gay start realizing things at this age just like the straight kids. What is immoral about providing a safe haven for these kids to talk about what's going on in their lives, rather than making the kids themselves feel immoral and shunned?

By the way, here in Massachusetts it's illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

What exactly is the Truth that these Families are For? Sounds more like their Families for Denying the Truth.

In this article from the Bedford Minuteman, some of the members of Families for Truth are more specific about their various concerns, and they definitely aren't dealing with the truth here. They seem to be willing to grab at whatever reasoning they can for getting the Safe Zones out of the schools. On the one hand, they refer to health concerns, citing "promiscuity, which is relatively high in that community, is a problem from the standpoint that sexually transmitted diseases are contracted and we have so many things these days antibiotics can't take care of." Then they move on to the strategy of turning an attempt at assuring that one group doesn't feel ostracized into an exclusion of every other group. "Who decided that they are more important than Irish people, or Latinos or Blacks?" Then they move right on into labeling the other side as aggressive: "What happened after my original complaint is that three more stickers went up," Clare said reached later by telephone. "They're like in your face with this stuff." Then the coup de grace, denial: "Clare said she doesn't understand why there is a need for a safe zone, because she believes there isn't much bullying that happens at the middle school age."

Gee, why would teachers feel the need to create more safe zones after a group of people begin attacking the very group for whom the safe zones were created, and denying that these kids face any sort of bullying or intimidation? Hmm.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:52 AM

Christmas Eve Without Shopping 

It's barely after 9:00 am on Christmas Eve, and I am completely and thoroughly done with my gift purchases. Thanks once again to The Girl, I just barely averted yet another of my Christmas Shopping Meltdowns earlier this week. This has been going on for decades. But she took charge, dragged me out from beneath the soft blanket under which I was hiding on a cushy living room chair one evening this week (I was also enjoying the fact that I could just sit there with no guilt about whatever legal reading I wasn't doing at the moment), and forced my organizational genes to kick in and do their stuff. Now that she's seen the Magic Folder, I suspect she won't be putting up with any further bouts of being overwhelmed by such easily conquerable tasks as Christmas shopping. Sigh.

I mentioned that throughout the year I always see things that I think would be nice for one relative or another, and perhaps this coming year I should just get the items when I see them rather than trying to remember them and relocate the store at the end of the year. She thought that was a good idea, and I'm sure she'll be reminding me of it every couple of months.

The Christmas Shopping Meltdown has been my steady companion for most of my life - what will I do without it?

Oh, yeah - enjoy the season instead of dreading it...

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:18 AM
Thursday, December 23, 2004

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 

In case you've been waiting on the edge of your seat, like me, for the next Harry Potter book, here's some good news. You'll have to wait a while more, but you can get your order in now! The book is slated for release on July 16 of next year. I think The Girl is more than a little relieved that it won't be available for me to take on our honeymoon earlier that month. I took the last one with us on a trip to San Francisco, and spent most of my free time with my nose in the book. Stinson Beach: she's in the water, I'm on my towel, reading. Airplane: she's watching the movie, I'm reading. Early morning hours: she's sleeping in, I'm on the patio, reading. You get the idea.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:13 PM

Ray 

The Girl and I caught a late showing of Ray this past weekend. It was good, but a little long. A friend of mine saw it before we did and warned that "If he had been on heroin for ten more years, we'd still be in the theater."

Ray follows the most tumultuous years of Ray Charles' career, from when he first set out to make a living on the road as a musician, through his growth and success as a commercial artist, as well as his years of addiction and eventually road to recovery from heroin. Through flashbacks, we also see him as a child, dealing with the loss of both his younger brother and his eyesight, and how he deals with both of those events throughout his life.

Jamie Foxx does a great job as Ray, who you probably won't particularly like through much of the movie, but you'll end up admiring him and rooting for him to grow beyond his own flaws. He's already been nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actor: Musical or Comedy, and won the National Board of Review award for Best Actor. While we're on the subject of awards, the film itself was chosen as one of the NBR's Top 10 Films of the Year, and received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture: Musical or Comedy.

I think it deserves the nominations, but I don't think the film should get the top award. It was definitely long, and not in the fashion of, "Wow, was it really 2-1/2 hours? It just flew!" More like, "Okay, I get it, move on." But what really bothered me was the frequency with which the microphone, and occasionally the boom from which it was suspended, drifted into the top of the frame! The first time I noticed it was during the hummingbird scene, but it made several appearances throughout the rest of the film. I felt like I was watching Dark Shadows or Star Trek (the original series). There's just no excuse for a mainstream, well-funded movie to have visual errors like that in the final cut. Would it have been that hard to fix it? It just made me feel like I was watching out takes instead of the feature presentation.

On an up note: C.J. Sanders, in his film debut, was amazing as Ray as a child. But the performance of note for me was Regina King, as Margie Hendricks - one of the Raylettes, and one of Ray's long-term on-the-road lovers. You may remember her first as the wife of Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s character (which earned Gooding a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) in Jerry Maguire. She burned up the screen (especially in the "Hit the Road, Jack" sequence), and even when her character wasn't actually on screen but was the subject of dialogue, I could still picture the character. Great performance.

Check it out, but don't go when you're hungry or tired.

Reality Check: The Girl liked it, loved the music, but didn't think it was anything spectacular. She didn't notice the microphone issue at all, so maybe I'm just obsessive about that kind of thing...

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:03 PM

Solstice Gift - "Movies to Check Out" 

I had my usual biweekly lunch with my friend Not a Freak (who still hasn't done anything with her blog I set up almost a year ago - hint, hint) today, and she gave me the coolest Solstice gift from her and her girlfriend: Movies to Check Out: A Do-It-Yourself Movie Guide!

It's this cool little spiral bound book, with a section to list "Movies to See," a review section where I can make notes on the title, director, cast, genre, my rating, etc., a section to list My Favorites, and a couple of little pockets in the back.

I will have to have it in my bag at all times, ready for making note of promising trailers, and notes of note of movies I've just seen. Just what every Movie Fan needs!!!



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:03 PM
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Can't Take the Sky Away From Me 

The Girl just couldn't contain herself and insisted on giving me one of my Christmas presents early.

She's the best, she's the best, she's the best!!!!!

I am now holding in my hot little hands the complete series DVD set of Joss Whedon's FIREFLY!!!!! That's right - all 14 episodes, including the three that were never broadcast in the US, in the originally intended order, plus commentary, behind the scenes featurettes, and much, much more!!!!!!!!!

I was considering putting in for a few vacation days from work between Christmas and New Year's. Now I must. I'll be in my bunk.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 6:28 PM

Peaceful Solstice to You 

I dug around a bit more to see what some of the folks working hard at this fight against "Happy Holidays," and the incident at this particular school. Focus on the Family thinks the outraged parents did just what they should have done, by "hitting" the school system "in the pocketbook." Never mind that they're also hitting they're own children and those of the community in the educational future. Focus on the Family also recommends this article to learn more about their battle against the scourge of secularism. This second article, posted yesterday, is all about how Macy's Department Store, the very setting of Miracle on 34th Street, is allegedly BANNING CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!! From the article:
I'm not trying to suggest by this that Macy's has deliberately launched a campaign to rid the world of Christianity. It is simply being deceived by an enemy who has eyed that as his goal since the dawn of time.
Too bad the author (editor Gary Schneeberger) took the chosen Federated Stores (corporate owner of Macy's) quotes out of context, is giving a completely false impression, and didn't provide any links for the website's dedicated readers to check it out themselves.

So as a public service, here is the link to Federated Stores' homesite. Note the prominently displayed "Merry Christmas" greeting, complete with holly leaves and berries (whoops - aren't those a bit pagan? Never mind...). They also have a link in case you "have questions" about their use of the phrase. That link brings you to this page, the source of Mr. Schneeberger's quotes.

This explanation page starts right up front by pointing out that their individual divisions are free to reference Christmas as they feel appropriate. Christmas is mentioned no less than seven times in the opening paragraph. They continue that they hope no one will be offended by the use of "Merry Christmas" and that they also hope that no one will be offended by any efforts also to be inclusive of all their customers, even those who might not celebrate Christmas.

But it's the closing paragraph that really hits it home:
It is regrettable that an attempt to bring all people together in peace and love at this time of year is being perceived as offensive by some when clearly the intent is just the opposite. Nevertheless, we are proud of our commitment to diversity, and we believe this is a tradition worth embracing during all the seasons of the year.
Here, here.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 5:03 PM





Your Dominant Intelligence is Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

You are great at finding patterns and relationships between things. Always curious about how things work, you love to set up experiments. You need for the world to make sense - and are good at making sense of it. You have a head for numbers and math ... and you can solve almost any logic puzzle. You would make a great scientist, engineer, computer programmer, researcher, accountant, or mathematician.
What Kind of Intelligence Do You Have?
How about you? (link via Kim's Lilypad)

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:44 PM

No Christ? No New School. 

Earlier today I posted a sideblog item on the publicity craze of the day, that of Christians who are mad as heck and not going to take it anymore. Don't wish them Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings, or ask when their Winter Break is. Christmas is about Christ, and to deny them the right to impose this belief on everyone in the vicinity is simply persecution of their religious expression.

My Con Law professor mentioned before our exam that President Bush even caved in and wished people "Happy Holidays" during a press event the other day. He also speculated that the Republican Party would be coming down hard on him for that.

This morning this American holiday phrasing and display fracas was even a topic on the BBC broadcast on NPR, and now I see it's one of the main Yahoo! headlines.

Several pieces of that article triggered some raised eyebrows on my part, but particular the following paragraph:
In Mustang, Okla. on Dec. 14, parents incensed that a Nativity sequence had been dropped from a school holiday program organized to help defeat an $11 million school bond referendum.

I did a little Googling to find more information on this bond issue, and sure enough, the local voters were so outraged that the school superintendant allowed Santa Claus, a Christmas tree, and Hanukkah and Kwanza symbols to be displayed in the pageant, and let the kids sang Silent Night, but had the manger props removed, that they voted down two school bond issues. They needed 60% to pass but only got 55% of the votes.

One of the bonds was to build a new elementary school.

Great plan. Stop the town from improving the facilities and educational opportunities for your children because the mean superintendant didn't include enough specific Christian religious icons into the school play. Actually, this works well with No Child Left Behind. Perhaps eventually the existing school will fail to meet the minimal requirements for federal funding, and the angry parents can receive federal vouchers to send their kids to Christian schools. Then the public school will have fewer kids and even less funding, the quality will go down some more, and on and on until there's no public school and the Christian parents can send their Christian kids to the private Christian school on the taxpayers' dime.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:34 AM
Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Welcome to the RSLS Holiday Lounge 

this is an audio post - click to play

Featuring special guest Esquivel.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:06 PM

Glory Days 

I still have proudly displayed in my home office my three trophies from high school victories in this sport, which is now an Olympic sport and the national championships of which were held in Las Vegas last week.

Yes, I was a geek at an early age. And I have the yearbooks to prove it.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 11:08 AM

Stress Relief Via Bubble Wrap 

My fabulous sister sent this link to me. Too bad it didn't arrive in time for exams - it would have come in handy.

If you're feeling especially stressed, I recommend clicking the Manic Mode option.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:49 AM

Wonder Woman Speculation and Desire 

SciFi Weekly and its sister site Sci-Fi Wire delivered a double-whammy this week, with news and speculation about the much-longed for movie remake of Wonder Woman, and also a rumor of interest regarding Superman.

First they report that Ain't It Cool News reported and then TV Guide Online confirmed that Joss Whedon is "on the verge" of signing on to write and direct the big screen project. SciFi also references continuing unspecified sourced rumors that Sarah Michelle Geller and Charisma Carpenter are on the list of possible Wonder Women.

Then they report rumors found on Cinescape Online that Charisma Carpenter is also in the running to play Lois Lane in Bryan Singer's revisit with the Man of Steel, Superman Returns, along with Amy Acker (mm, Ilyria). The full list of Potentials includes Mischa Barton (The OC - this rumor was labeled false by Dark Horizons and Ain't It Cool News), Mia Kirshner (The L Word), Evangeline Lilly (Lost), Natalie Portman (Closer, Star Wars, Cold Mountain, Anywhere But Here, and on and on), and Keri Russell (Felicity). Sounds like they won't have trouble attracting an audience. I know I'll be dragging The Girl to the theater! FYI: After much speculation, Superman himself is now listed on IMDB as being played by Brandon Routh.

Finally, in the "Parts I Wish For," Minnie Driver discusses her wish (and her acceptance that it's not likely) to land the Wonder Woman role, preferably with Debra Winger as her costar, playing Wonder Woman's sister Drusilla. Winger's character was known as Wonder Girl in the tv series, as she was Wonder Woman's younger sister, so they'd have to do some tweaking there for the remake... But I'd go, nonetheless.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:40 AM
Monday, December 20, 2004

Timing is Everything 

Isn't it traditional to get sick right AFTER exams are over, what with the sudden drop in the adrenaline levels that had been staving off all the little germs? Why then do I seem to be coming down with something now, with my last exam tonight? Did I prepare too well, so I wasn't putting out enough stress-based endorphins? Fine - now I'm stressed out again, okay?

Grr.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 6:37 AM
Sunday, December 19, 2004

Lugar on Rumsfeld 

Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has gotten himself into another stew of his own disconnect, this time over the discovery (first published in Stars & Stripes) that he's been having the Autopen sign his condolence letters to the families of military personnel who were killed in Iraq. As he so often does, he fell back on the rationale of efficiency, but has promised that he will personally sign them from now on. It seems that people were about as impressed by efficiency when it comes to expressing your sorrow and regret at someone's death as it is by the efficiency of going to war with the army you've got, not with the army you wish you had.

Various congressional leaders, including many leading Republicans, are questioning the wisdom of Rumsfeld's staying on as SecDef.

I found rather puzzling the statements of Republican Senator Richard Lugar, the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he:
...expressed concern on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that removing him from office could threaten national security.

"He should be held accountable and he should stay in office," the Indiana Republican senator said. "The fact is a change of leadership in the Pentagon (
news - web sites) at this point might be as disruptive as trying to get someone in Homeland Defense," he added.
Why is it that every time a change is suggested, someone waves the "threat to national security" card. Don't change horses midstream!!!!! But what if the horse has a broken leg and is dragging you under the water with him?

How does he propose that Sec. Rumsfeld be "held accountable" and yet "stay in office?" Put a reprimand in his permanent file? If there are serious enough issues for which he must be held accountable, is it reasonable to put an absolute bar on removing him from his position? After all, the issues do have to do directly with his performance in that very position.

And finally, regarding the potential disruption being as bad as the disruption surrounding "trying to get someone in Homeland Defense," I have this to say: What? Wasn't that a rather self-inflicted "disruption?" If the Bush Administration wants to avoid that kind of disruption, make better choices in the nominees. Bush put forth an untenable nominee for Homeland Defense, so the country should potentially put up with an untenable Secretary of Defense?

The spin rate is increasing exponentially, and appears to be getting just a bit beyond the control of the handlers.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 7:35 PM
Friday, December 17, 2004

Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act 

It's official. President Bush signed into law the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. I must say, this is a very odd photo of the occasion. Bush looks like he's concentrating very, very hard on his penmanship, while Joe Lieberman looks a bit like a sock puppet.

But anyway - hopefully many, many people will be analyzing the legislation to check for any little surprises that might be lurking. I know all the law students will be looking for some light reading over winter break!

If you are inclined to do some more research, here are some links that might be of use:
US Senate Select Committe on Intelligence
US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
CIA Homepage
NSA Homepage
President's Statement at the Signing


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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:23 PM

Two Views of Tort Law 

In addition to the Social Security system, another topic of conversation on which President Bush chose to address participants of the White House Conference on the Economy was lawsuits.

After quickly reading through the transcript from the White House website, I don't even know where to start. Plus I'm pressed for time, so I'm just not going to. Have a look at it yourself, and see what you think about some of the characterizations and leaps of logic: President Discusses Lawsuit Abuse at White House Economy Conference.

Now, a starting place for some other points of view: Conference mocks trial lawyers: WHITE HOUSE SESSION ON LIMITING LAWSUITS SHOWS CONTEMPT

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:31 PM

Junk Food Delight 

For lovers of junk food, it's the best of both worlds - a chewy, gooey chocolate bar dipped in batter and deep fried.

That's right - the Deep Fried Mars Bar is apparently a hot item at fish and chip shops in Scotland. I love dessert, and batter dipped items such as fish and onion rings are always yummy (just ask my cholesterol level), but this would be too much even for me.

I do hope to take a trip to Scotland at some point (perhaps a golf and fishing trip with The Girl, FMB and a few select others?), and I fear that I'll feel compelled to try one of these and find that I crave more. They could be one of those things that at first glance you think, "Oh my god, how can one survive eating one of those?" Then when you take one bite you find that they're so addictive that you simply cannot stop.

Just say no, just say no.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:48 AM

Torts, Class Actions and Scapegoating 

Evan Schaeffer over at Notes from the (Legal) Underground posted yesterday on the latest round of class action bashing, and provides plenty of links for more information on the role of class action and the motives of tort reformers.

I have this to add, a note particularly for movie goers. Big screen depictions related to class action and other large tort cases (some true, some fictional) and the professionals behind them:

Erin Brockovich - Julia Roberts depicts then law firm file clerk Erin Brockovich, whose investigation led to the successful suit against Pacific Gas and Electric which eventually settled and got $333 million for the 600+ residents of a town exposed to and suffering from Chromium 6 that was in the groundwater because of actions at PG&E's compressor station.

A Civil Action - John Travolta portrays Boston area attorney Jan Schlictman, who represented families in Woburn, MA, whose family members (mostly children) had become sick and/or died of leukemia after one of the town's drinking water supplies had become contaminated by a number of toxic chemicals.

The Insider - Russell Crowe as Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco company executive who gave an interview to 60 Minutes (which was shelved) and later testified in state-based actions against the tobacco companies. His former employer filed suit against Dr. Wigand for his disclosures, but that case was dropped as part of the eventual settlement between the tobacco industry and the 40 states which were suing the industry for smoking-related health costs.

Class Action (1991)- Gene Hackman portrays the lead attorney in a class action suit against an automobile manufacturer whose faulty design led to severe injuries (think Pinto), and who finds himself facing his daughter (played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), attorney for the defense.

Class Action (2005) - This film will be released next year, but looks like it has potential. It's described by IMDB as "A fictionalized account of the first major successful sexual harassment case in the United States -- Jenson vs. Eveleth Mines, where a woman who endured a range of abuse while working as a miner filed and won the landmark 1984 lawsuit." Among the cast members are Frances McDormand, Sissy Spacek and Charlize Theron. Couldn't they line up any more Academy Award winners than just these three?

For every tale of a tort action that is extreme (hello, recent Wal-Mart filing?), there are any number of cases in which the class action is the best way for a large number of plaintiffs, each of whom don't have much in the way of personal resources, to take on a large corporation which they claim has caused them damage in some way. Sometimes the goal is funding to pay for the damage or the health-related costs of the injury, sometimes the goal is just to get to the truth.

There doesn't seem to be any widespread movement to cap the amount corporations can spend on their own efforts to keep the truth from getting out there. Why this big push to cap the financial penalties (in the form of damages awarded) imposed on those corporations who have caused real damages to real people, when the truth of their actions is proven?

I can hear some thoughts out there - "McDonald's coffee case." Take a closer look. And by the way, the judicial system worked its magic when on appeal the award was lowered to $480,000, a number probably much more reasonable-sounding than the original award. That's how the system works. Cases without merit either don't make it past the pleadings, are settled, dropped, or lose. Cases that have unusual outcomes are often brought back in line with expectations on appeal.

But what about that case in which the defendant caused severe damages to large numbers of people, and acted with reckless disregard for the consequences? How will advance legislation placing an arbitrary and very low cap on their liability encourage them not to continue these actions in the future?

And lastly, what are you going to do if you suffer an injury, and the corporation that was the apparent cause of that injury has been completely unwilling to acknowledge or assist you in any way? My guess is that you'll start asking around for the name of a good lawyer.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:51 AM
Thursday, December 16, 2004

Bush and the Economic Pep Squad 

Once again, President Bush today stated at the closing of his White House Conference on the Economy that the Social Security system needs to be overhauled, and some of the investment needs to be privatized so that individuals can control their own retirement funds.

The AP article about the conference, which wrapped up today, pointed out that:
All participants on Thursday's panel, including financial service firm officials, supported Bush's Social Security plans.
What a shocker. Everyone invited by BY THE PRESIDENT to the WHITE HOUSE economic conference at the White House agrees with their host. Who here believes he would invite a single person who disagrees with his policies?

He certainly didn't invite these people. Or these people. Or these people.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2:19 PM

Ten Commandments Robe Feedback 

How Appealing kindly provided a link to a Mobile Register article on response to Judge McKathan and his Robe of Many Embroidered Commandments.

Apparently the judge has continued wearing the robe (picture here), since its debut on Tuesday, and it's causing quite a stir, but his secretary Susan Sansom claims that the calls to his office from around the country have been nothing but supportive.

If anyone cares to change the numbers from 100% in favor vs. 0% complaint, the number for Judge McKathan in the Covington County Courthouse down in Andalusia, Alabama (as listed by the Alabama Bar Association) is 334-428-2585. I'm sure Ms. Sansom would be happy to take your call.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:35 PM

Semester Countdown 

Appellate Brief: Check.
Oral Argument: Check.
Property Midterm: Check.
Evidence Final: Double-plus check.
Con Law Final: T minus 4 days and counting.

Seriously, that Evidence exam last evening was exhausting. The Property exam had been pretty intense, but that's a full year course so the stakes weren't as high.

I think most of us had gone a little over the edge of sanity when trying to work our way clear of the fog of the FRE, as the corny puns and hysterical laughter over mildly amusing comments were way over the top of the sliding scale in the 30 minutes prior to the start of the exam. But this was the exam I was most concerned about, now it's over and I survived.

Monday night is Constitutional Law at 6 pm. I really enjoyed this class - I wish it were still a full year course. Oh well, I guess that's what electives are for.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:15 PM
Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Terry Gross Has Incredible Patience 

At this moment on Fresh Air, Terry Gross is hosting Richard Viguerie, described as the "funding father of the conservative movement."

This guy is making incredibly outrageous statements about liberals and gays, and Terry Gross is trying politely to get him to clarify and back up his accusations, and is managing to maintain a wonderfully pleasant tone all the while.

She's amazing.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:22 PM

New Blog on the Block 

Fellow geek and movie fanatic Creeping Unknown (previously known as FMB in earlier posts: such as on eyewear and on Sky Captain, ) has FINALLY started up her own damn blog, The Creeping Unknown: A Rubbish Forum.

Hopefully she won't let thinking and perfectionism get in the way of letting the posts fly.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:17 PM

Bush and Berlusconi 

President Bush met today at the White House with Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi, and made a few policy statements during the meeting and at a later photo session.

With regard to the U.S. trade deficit, which in October hit a record monthly high of $55 billion:
"That's easy to resolve," Bush said. "People can buy more United States products if they're worried about the trade deficit."
Of course - why didn't anyone else think of that? Hey, that approach might work with lots of problems. Worried about unemployment rates? Hire more workers! Worried about homelessness? Build lots of affordable housing units! Worried about the drug trade? Don't buy drugs!

While these suggestions could work, it might help if people in leadership put their heads together and provided some incentives for people to do any of the above.

He also gave notice to Iran and Syria that:
"meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq is not in their interest."

That kind of activity is only appropriate for the United States. As I'm sure the Bush Administration will be happy to demonstrate to Iran and/or Syria should they fail to heed his friendly note of caution.

He also declared his intention to work with Congess to reduce the deficit. Given his concurrent determination to cut funding sources (i.e. taxes), the only way that's going to happen is to cut investment in America (i.e. spending on infrastructure, healthcare, education, etc.). On that note, he led right into identifying one of the types of deficit the government is dealing with:
"the unfunded liabilities that come with Social Security and health programs for the elderly."
There you go. We're wasting money on the retired and the elderly. Get out there and fend for yourselves, dammit!

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:55 PM

Alabama Judge Takes Sartorial Stand 

ACS of NESL notes that another Alabama judge is in the headlines for a courthouse display of the Ten Commandments.

Going for a much more efficient medium than the 2.6 ton monument that was the issue of contention between then Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, this judge chose to have the edicts embroidered directly onto his robe. Sort of a portable display of his opinion of where the line between church and state is not.

Perhaps some more progressive judges should consider having the Bill of Rights embroidered on their robes?

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:20 AM

Season of the Hat Head 

Okay, it's finally cold. I was just remarking to a friend a couple of days ago on how mild a winter we've been having. Temps in the 30's, dips into the 20's.

But today I broke out the winter coat (red L.L. Bean Maine Warden's Parka, nice and toasty) from its summer storage hanger to keep me warm on the commute in 17 degree weather. I unlocked my car (Jeep Wrangler Sport) door for the drive to the T station, but the door wouldn't open. I opened the passenger door and tried pushing the driver's door open from the inside, but it wasn't budging. I ended up climbing over the stickshift and emergency brake from the passenger's side to wedge myself down into the driver's seat. Glad I've been doing some stretching lately.

What really puzzles me is watching the other commuters waiting for buses at Copley. So many people stand there, shivering, looking all agitated and put out about being cold, but their jackets aren't fastened all the way up, or are completely open. Or they have perfectly good hoods going to waste. I didn't have my hood up either, but that's only because my hat was doing a fine job keeping my head warm. If the temperature drops, if I'm going to be standing there longer or if the wind picks up, I'm fully prepared to bring up the hood and fasten the wind flaps securely across my nose and mouth.

What's the point of having winter gear if you don't use it to keep warm?

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:10 AM
Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Justice Kennedy at NESL 

NESLReference announced this week that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the featured speaker at this spring's Law Day Banquet. While still a conservative, Justice Kennedy is so much better than last year's speaker, Bill O'Reilly. I'm much more inclined to attend this year.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:21 PM

B5 in 2005? 

Sci-Fi Weekly cites a Production Weekly article which announced that a Babylon 5 feature film will start shooting in Great Britain this coming April. J. Michael Straczynski wrote the script for The Memory of Shadows, which will be directed by Steve Beck.

Not much was revealed about the characters or storyline, and the only named character from the previous B5 projects is Galen, the technomage, whose main character development occurred on Crusade (which costarred Daniel Dae Kim, now Controlling Korean Guy Jin on Lost).

It's likely that other characters from the original series will be present, however. I wasn't aware that Richard Biggs (Dr. Franklin) had died earlier this year, but sadly that was the case. In the IMDB notes on Biggs' bio, the bio writer notes that Straczynski announced since then that he would not be recasting the role. That seems to me to indicate that the script included Dr. Franklin and other B5 characters and the original actors.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1:45 PM

Islamic Scholar, Visa Revoked, Gives Up Post at Notre Dame 

World-renowned Islamic scholar and promoter of cultural and spiritual bridge-building Tariq Ramadan has given up his position as head of the Program in Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at Notre Dame's Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies because his visa, which had been issued in May, was revoked without any concrete explanation in August in the days before Ramadan was to move from Switzerland to Indiana, and efforts to have the visa reinstated have been without avail and without further explanation.

Department of Homeland Security merely cited the USA Patriot Act to support their decision.

Ramadan was named by Time Magazine as one of the world's Innovators of note, in the field of spirituality. From the Time profile:
Ramadan's chosen task is to invent an independent European Islam: "We need to separate Islamic principles from their cultures of origin and anchor them in the cultural reality of Western Europe." With 15 million Muslims on the Continent, Ramadan believes it's time to abandon the dichotomy in Muslim thought that has defined Islam in opposition to the West. "I can incorporate everything that's not opposed to my religion into my identity," he says, "and that's a revolution."

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 11:29 AM

Google to Digitize and Publish University Collections 

New academic research tools are now becoming available for folks who can't make the journey to the fine research collections of major universities. Google is working with (for now) five "prestigious universities and public libraries" to digitize and make available online selections of their collections. The initial focus is on public domain material (works which are no longer under copyright), with copyrighted text being searchable but only available for viewing in small peeks.

The current participants are Stanford University, Harvard University, University of Michigan, Oxford University and New York Public Library. Users will only be able to access the digitized books through Google searches, plus students and faculties of the institutions of origin will have full access.

Google is footing the bill for the conversion of thousands of books from the NY Public Library collection, in a pilot program that will include public domain books of wide interest. Harvard is also launching a pilot of about 40,000 texts. Univ. of Michigan is going all out and making all of their 7.4 million books available (the first of these will be available today).

This is just so cool. We're truly moving toward a time when books and research tools will be available to anyone who wants to learn. Ever wonder how Willow was able to just pull up all kinds of esoteric dark arts data by doing a little online digging? She wouldn't have been able to in the real world (perhaps Google should institute some precautions based on Willow's experiences in scanning). But the real world is moving closer to to the research world of Sunnydale. And closer to the world of Jean Luc Picard, where every book ever written on earth, every musical piece ever performed, and every piece of visual art ever created is stored in The Computer's database.

Geek life is good, and getting better.
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UPDATE (1:15 pm): NY Times has a more in-depth article on the various agreements, projected scanning rates, and projected impact on the publishing world.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:42 AM

Finding Neverland 

A truly wonderful movie. Full of wonder, awe, joy, grief, failure, triumph, regret, hope, and above all, imagination.

Johnny Depp is full of quiet understated joy and energy as J.M. Barrie, the Scottish playwright who created Peter Pan. Kate Winslett is Sylvia, the widowed mother of four sons, who through a chance meeting in the park one afternoon finds herself and her children experiencing life as they hadn't been able since the death of her husband. Radha Mitchell (photo editor Syd from the fabulous High Art) is perfect as Mary the socially ambitious wife of Barrie. She seems as determined to quash any glimmer of whimsy as her husband is of encouraging that glimmer to grow wings. Julie Christie is perfectly proper as Sylvia's mother and the social pillar that Mary would love nothing better than to emulate. Dustin Hoffman returns to the world of Neverland (remember him as the titular Hook, opposite Robin Williams?) as the patient but not endlessly patient producer of Barrie's plays.

The characters could have been overplayed or one-sided, but instead they are all subtle and multifaceted, and all demonstrate the capacity to grow in many directions. The blend of reality and imagined scenes draws you in and make you wish to be a part of the game. The soundtrack is sublime, and lifts the film even higher than it would have been otherwise.

Go see this movie, and see it on the big screen. Then pick up the DVD when it comes out next year, so you can enjoy it whenever you need to reinvigorate your love of life.

Reality Check: The Girl's unprompted comment upon leaving the theater: "That was the best movie I've ever seen."
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UPDATE (10:40 am): It's official. The Girl has now proclaimed that Finding Neverland has replaced Jerry Maguire as her all-time favorite movie.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 7:59 AM
Monday, December 13, 2004

2004 New York Film Critics Circle Awards 

The New York Film Critics Circle today at about 2 pm announced the winners of their 2004 awards:
Starting to see some trends...

The Girl and I are going to see Ray tonight.
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UPDATE (12/14, 9:15 am): Schedules worked out such that we saw Finding Neverland instead. A welcome turn of events, as it turned out!

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:16 PM

Joan of Arcadia - Dive 

God wants Joan to do something that scares her. Within moments of receiving the latest vague directive, she spots the recruiting table for the diving team. Since she's afraid of heights, she decides this must be the ticket.

Joan is also having lots of dreams about Judith, who keeps telling her to let go and enjoy life. After the diving team comes into the picture, Judith's dream appearances are combined with Joan on the high dive, with Judith (and then Cute Guy God) telling Joan to just let go and take the leap.

Unfortunately, Joan's first attempt at diving ends in a massive belly flop. Maintenance Woman God's response - "Belly flop. Eternally funny."

The good side is that seeing Joan face her fear of heights encourages Luke to face his fear of comparison to Kevin, and also tries out for the team. Luke's courage in turn prompts Grace to speak up to her mom.

But turns out that God wasn't talking about diving. He was talking about visiting Judith's grave and accepting the fact that she's really gone. In another amazing closing scene, Adam and Joan go to the cemetary, and Joan goes alone to the grave. She talks to Judith, spills her fears, lets go and takes her first steps at moving on. The Girl and I moved on to a new box of Puffs Plus.

Highlight of the episode: Judith in a yellow dress, performing a spectacular twisting, rolling dive from the high board, then bursting into a brilliant display of pixie dust and starlight over the pool.

In other news: Lucy sort of reveals her feelings for Will. Kevin gets back together with Beth, whose anxious glance at the back of his wheelchair spells bad things for the future, Helen reveals to Will her fear of God, and Will asks Ex-Sister Lilly to help Helen through this, thus revealing his acceptance of Helen's spiritual quest in spite of his own nonbelief.

But nothing beats Judith as starlight.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3:01 PM

2005 Golden Globe Noms - Television 

The Hollywood Foreign Press this morning announced the nominees for the 2005 Golden Globe Awards. The awards will be given on Sunday, January 16 at 8pm EST on NBC. The full list of nominees can be found here.

Truthfully, I don't follow the television awards as closely as the film awards, and pretty much only pay attention to those categories in which a show I particularly enjoy is a nominee. Those nominees are as follows:

Best Series: Drama
  • 24
  • Deadwood
  • Lost
  • Nip/Tuck
  • The Sopranos
Best Actor: Drama Series
Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
  • American Family - Journey of Dreams
  • Iron Jawed Angels
  • The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
  • The Lion in Winter
  • Something the Lord Made
Best Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
  • Glenn Close - The Lion in Winter
  • Blythe Danner - Back When We Were Grownups
  • Julianna Margulies - The Grid
  • Miranda Richardson - The Lost Prince
  • Hilary Swank - Iron Jawed Angels
Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
  • Drea De Matteo - The Sopranos
  • Angelica Huston - Iron Jawed Angels
  • Nicollette Sheridan - Desperate Housewives
  • Charlize Theron - The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
  • Emily Watson - The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:33 AM