Sunday, September 28, 2008

Review: Michael Clayton

I finally saw a DVD for the first time in months. I chose Michael Clayton, a film I wanted to see since it was released in mid-2007. It stars George Clooney, one of my favorite actors, who plays Michael Clayton. It's a film with great promise, and contains some wonderful performances, but it never reaches its potential. As a thriller the movie fails horribly because it relies on the audience to make a superhuman leap in logic.

Clayton is a lawyer by trade, but he’s mostly a fixer, or janitor, cleaning up messes created by clients of a super humongous law firm Clayton works for. A lawyer with great promise, Clayton is a recovering gambler, divorced, penniless, and in debt after a restaurant that was to be his salvation goes belly-up. Clayton wants out but he has no choice but continue to be the firm's fixer. A job he does very well a senior partner, played by the late Sydney Pollack, often reminds him.

Clayton's latest headache is when the firm's top litigator, Arthur Edens, played wonderfully by British actor Tom Wilkinson, decides to strip naked during a deposition and then run into the parking a lot. The client, a major agro-business, who is being sued for poisoning small farmers with its fertilizer, is not very happy about the turn of events. Clayton is sent to defuse the situation and bring Arthur in from the cold, so to speak. Clayton realizes Arthur, a manic-depressive, is not only off his medication, but is happily working for the plaintiffs, making their case. The corporation’s chief counsel, an ambitious lawyer named Karen Crowder, played by a rather underutilized Tilda Swinton, takes matters into her own hands. She employs a couple of thugs to murder the litigator and make it look like a suicide. Clayton is deeply disturbed by the litigator's sudden death, and finds out that he was murdered. Crowder decides it would be better to get rid of Clayton as well.

I guess we are suppose to hate Karen Crowder for the power hungry corporate tool that she is, but she comes off more pathetic than evil – lame rather than diabolical.

Clayton manages to survive a car bomb, but how he manages to make the connection to Karen Crowder is never bothered to be explored, leaving me, and the probably the audience, scratching their heads. It's a movie that clocks in around two hours, but the directors try to explain it all in the last five, failing miserably at it and leaving me with a bad taste.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Gun Culture In Pakistan

From an editorial in The Pakistan Observer:

A BAG full of sophisticated weapons was found from a lawn of the Punjab University on Sunday. According to police, the bag containing five Klashnikovs, 12 hand grenades and 1100 rounds, was spotted by one of the gardeners of the university.
Only in the writer's deluded mind can Klashnikovs, which are made virtually everywhere, including Pakistan, be considered "sophisticated" weapons. But, then again, the whole editorial, the editorial board and the newspapers jingoistic owners are all deluded to begin with. Here'are some more delusions:
One of the main causes of the lawlessness and rising rate of crimes in the country is easy and free availability of weapons of all sorts. It is known to every body that almost every house in the tribal area is a gun-manufacturing unit and weapons produced there proliferate in each and every part of the country.
It's just not in tribal areas where guns proliferate. Like the editorial states, the gun culture dominates almost every corner of Pakistan. But this isn't some new phenomenon, but something that predates Pakistan itself. No where is the gun culture more revered, and rife, than in the NWFP, specifically the city of Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan.

The city is filled with bazaars selling all types of weapons conceivable, from homemade shotguns to cheap copies of Klashnikovs, like those found on the grounds of Punjab University. No one gives them any mind, of course. Here any terrorist group, domestic or foreign, can buy what they need without gaining any attention whatsoever. My guess is the culprits are somewhere there, if Pakistan can find them.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why Help AIG?

Anyone who unflinchingly says the United States practices free market capitalism should get their head examined after taxpayers will have to pay $85 billion to bail out a company that made some bad business decisions. At $85 billion, there is nothing free about it, nor does it have to do anything with markets. I'm so pissed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Review: Who Do The Hell Is Pansy O'Hara?

Who the Hell Is Pansy O'Hara?: The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World's Best-Loved Books is filled with interesting factoids about some of the most beloved books - both fiction and nonfiction - in the English language. The list is eclectic and, mercifully, limited only to 50 books. It's a canon, of sorts, I suppose. Everybody seems to be writing these kinds of books: about music, movies and, of course, books. This mania to create lists is mostly a male pathos, but women seems to be joining them in droves. Those familiar with literature will find this book a bore, but there are some interesting tidbits that have been underreported.

For example, did you know that the Guiness Book of World Records started out as a promotional item given out by the Guiness Brewery Company to pubs all over Britain to settle arguments on what and/or who is the fastest, tallest, mostest, and every other piece of trivia that are asked in a drunken stupor? It became so popular it was later reprinted and sold to the public. As of today, it is only second-best selling book in the world, behind the Bible.

And what's the deal with the title? Well, according to this news item, Pansy O'Hara was a precursor to Scarlet O'Hara, the heroine of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind.

Friday, September 12, 2008

J.D Salinger: Fomer Short Story Writer

Did you know that J.D. Salinger, before he wrote The Catcher in the Rye, was a prolific short story writer for a number of prominent magazines? And that these stories stories have yet to be collected in a book form? With the writer being such a recluse, it's no real surprise

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Typical Obama Supporter

Took this while driving: a Prius driver who supports Obama. Yeah, sounds about right.

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