Tuesday, January 20, 2009



Certainly the Presidency of Barack Obama marks a major milestone in the drive to achieve in The United States Of America the standard set out in the Declaration Of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men..."

We had not secured these rights when the Declaration was embodied in our first constitution -- which allowed, among other things, slavery. (We also, of course, need to take "Men," in the sense of "humans," not "males".) We have not fully secured these rights even now, but we are getting closer.

But there is another kind of change that also seems to be taking place with his Presidency:

In his campaign, Obama talked about "change. " Media commentators, noting that Obama's cabinet was largely composed of Washington insiders, not outsiders, speculated -- and often seemed confused -- on what he meant by "change."

The biggest change, it seems to me, is in trying to unapologetically place government at the heart of solving problems that need a communal, nation-wide approach to solve, and to do this with the greatest possible expertise. He chose Washington insiders who were uniquely brilliant, practical do-ers; not brilliant theoreticians from academia; not idealogues.

At least since Roosevelt, we have not seen such a whole-hearted commitment to the value of government.

"...everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth."


"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works..."


"To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it. "

Obama is a community organizer on a scale that encompasses the whole country -- and even the whole world -- as the community to be organized... in order to improve itself.

Here is the text of the whole speech:

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

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Monday, January 19, 2009



I was tremendously impressed by one after another of those (ordinary) people (from all over) who -- standing around when a microphone and camera were suddenly stuck in their face and they were asked to comment by a TV anchor -- spoke with simple impromptu grace, joy and eloquence!


Saturday, January 03, 2009



Clint Eastwood at the NYFF. In 2008, Clint was hailed for
directing The Changeling and
directing and acting in Gran Torino.
Photo by Eric for QPORIT.

Here is a retrospective of some of the most notable films of 2008. Best films, popular films, fun films, terrible films, cult films, thoughtful films, indie films, etc. Often one critics worst film is another's best, so this is not a rating, just a bunch of suggestions for films that I or others thought could be interesting to see.

A few abbreviations for festivals genres and other things:

** Award worthy work
*** All time great work


CANN = Cannes
NYFF = New York Film Festival
HIFF = Hamptons International Film Festival


COM = Comedy
ROM = Love story or romance
DRA = Drama
WAR = War film, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, WW2 & Holocaust
HOR = Horror (including Gothic, and horror/romance/comedy like Twilight)
ACT = Action
RUF = Rough action; not for the tender.
ANI = Animated
KID = Child Safe
CBC = Comic book character
DDR = Docudrama, including bio pix
DOC = Documentary
ISS = Strong issue oriented message
SEQ = Sequel
$$$ = Popular film that made lots of money
WST = On a worst list also
FUT = Takes place in the future
PER = Period piece

FL-F = Foreign language: French
FL-G = Foreign language: German
ENG+FL-H = ENGLISH & Foreign language: Hindi


These films were at the top of many critics' best lists:

Slumdog Millionaire -- IND ROM DRA ISS ENG+FL-H D:**Danny Boyle -- The horrors of growing up in the slums of Mumbai told in flashback while competing on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire".

Curious Case Of Benjamin Button -- DRA ROM D: **David Fincher C: **Brad Pitt, **Cate Blanchett -- From a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona -- COM ROM D: **Woody Allen, C: Rebecca Hall (Vicky), **Scarlett Johansson (Cristina), **Penélope Cruz, **Javier Bardem - This is THE classic film of a summer holiday romance abroad.

Milk -- DDR D: **Gus Van Sant, C: **Sean Penn (Harvey Milk), **Josh Brolin (Dan White), Victor Garber (Mayor Moscone) - Biopic story of Harvey Milk, the openly gay supervisor in SF, who was assassinated, along with Mayor Moscone, by Dan White.

Wall-E -- COM, ROM, ANI, KID FUT-- PIXAR -- Animated robot romance set in the future.

The Wrestler -- DRA D: **Darren Aronofsky, C: **Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood


These films were noted especially for great acting performances or unique quality (ie The Class):

Changeling -- DRA DDR MYS PER D: **Clint Eastwood, C: **Angelina Jolie -- A child is kidnapped. When the mother is told her child has been found, she denies the boy they return is her child. NYFF.

Dark Knight -- DRA HOR MYS CBC RUF ACT D:Christopher Nolan, C:Christian Bale (Batman), ***Heath Ledger (The Joker), Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman & more!-- Fantastic film, except that the last few minutes are very confusing: check imdb for what the plot was. If the last few minutes were clear, this would be one of the greatest movies ever. (New director's cut, please.) ***Heath Ledger's Joker is one of the greatest movie characters ever.

Wendy & Lucy-- DRA D: Kelly Reichardt, C: **Michelle Williams (Wendy) -- Lucy is a dog. Wendy is lost.

Iron Man -- CBC DRA FUT ACT D: Jon Favreau, C: **Robert Downey Jr. Arms Dealer with cool.

Laurence Cantet, director of The Class at the NYFF
with Richard Pena, Chairman of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Photo by Eric for QPORIT.

The Class -- FL-F ISS DDR D:**Laurent Cantet -- A year in a racially mixed, tough French school. NYFF CANN.

Frost/Nixon-- DRA DDR D: Ron Howard, C: **Frank Langella, Michael Sheen -- Nixon interviewed by David Frost.

Doubt -- DRA ISS D: **John Patrick Shanley C: **Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams -- A priest suspected of improper behavior with a youth; written and directed by Shanley from his award winning play.

Gran Torino-- DRA D: **Clint Eastwood, C: **Clint Eastwood -- Clint Eastwood being an older Clint Eastwood in a Clint Eastwood film.

Che I & Che II- DRA DDR ACT WAR ISS D: **Steven Soderbergh C: **Benicio Del Toro (Che), Demián Bichir (Fidel) -- Note- "Che" is apparently pronounced "chay". Part I describes the Cuban Revolution. Part II is unique in film:a description of failure -- the defeat of Che in Bolivia. NYFF CANN.

Burn After Reading -- COM DRA D: **Ethan Coen, **Joel Coen C: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, **Brad Pitt -- Amateur blackmail concerning espionage; a la mode Coen Bros.

Reader -- DRA ROM WAR PER D: Stephen Daldry C: Ralph Fiennes, **Kate Winslet -- WW II aftermath.

Note added Jan 22...: Here are some of the Academy Award nominations. (The awards show is Sun Feb 22 on ABC.) In addition to saluting many of the films noted above, there are a few additional movies hailed here!

Note added Feb 23...: Winners in bold red.

Best Picture
'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
'The Reader'
'Slumdog Millionaire'

Best Director
Danny Boyle, 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Stephen Daldry, 'The Reader'
David Fincher, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
Ron Howard, 'Frost/Nixon'
Gus Van Sant, 'Milk'

Best Actor
Richard Jenkins, 'The Visitor'
Frank Langella, 'Frost/Nixon'
Sean Penn, 'Milk'
Brad Pitt, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
Mickey Rourke, 'The Wrestler'

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway, 'Rachel Getting Married'
Angelina Jolie, 'Changeling'
Melissa Leo, 'Frozen River'
Meryl Streep, 'Doubt'
Kate Winslet, 'The Reader'

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, 'Milk'
Robert Downey Jr., 'Tropic Thunder'
Philip Seymour Hoffman, 'Doubt'
Heath Ledger, 'The Dark Knight'
Michael Shannon, ' Revolutionary Road'

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, 'Doubt'
Penelope Cruz, 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'
Viola Davis, 'Doubt'
Taraji P. Henson, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
Marisa Tomei, 'The Wrestler'

Best Animated Feature Film
'Kung Fu Panda'

Best Foreign Film
'The Baader Meinhof Complex' (Germany)
'The Class' (France)
'Revanche' (Austria)
'Waltz With Bashir' (Israel)

Best Original Screenplay
Dustin Lance Black, 'Milk'
Courtney Hunt, 'Frozen River'
Mike Leigh, 'Happy-Go-Lucky'
Martin McDonagh, 'In Bruges'
Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Pete Docter, 'WALL-E'

Best Adapted Screenplay
Eric Roth, Robin Swicord, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
John Patrick Shanley, 'Doubt'
Peter Morgan, 'Frost/Nixon'
David Hare, 'The Reader'
Simon Beaufoy, 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Best Documentary Feature
'The Betrayal'
'Encounters at the End of the World'
'The Garden'
'Man on Wire'
'Trouble the Water'

Best Cinematography
Tom Stern, 'Changeling'
Claudio Miranda, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
Wally Pfister, 'The Dark Knight'
Chris Menges, Roger Deakins, 'The Reader'
Anthony Dod Mantle, 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Best Costume Design
Catherine Martin, 'Australia'
Jacqueline West, 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'
Michael O'Connor, 'The Duchess'
Danny Glicker, 'Milk'
Albert Wolsky, 'Revolutionary Road'

Best Live Action Short Film
'Auf der Strecke (On the Line),' Reto Caffi
'Manon on the Asphalt,' Elizabeth Marre, Olivier Pont
'New Boy,' Steph Green, Tamara Anghie
'The Pig,' Tivi Magnusson, Dorte Høgh
'Spielzeugland (Toyland),' Jochen Alexander Freydank

Best Animated Short Film
'La Maison de Petits Cubes,' Kunio Kato
'Lavatory - Lovestory,' Konstantin Bronzit
'Oktapodi,' Emud Mokhberi, Thierry Marchand
'Presto,' Doug Sweetland
'This Way Up,' Alan Smith, Adam Foulkes

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Friday, January 02, 2009



Here's an amusing summary of the news from 2008... as
Uncle Jay Explains... (courtesy of YouTube):

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Thursday, January 01, 2009







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