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Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Parade of Lost Souls

ghoulish barker

ghoulish barker, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

Ah, the Parade of Lost Souls, an annual Vancouver tradition. As is my attempting to take photos of it with a camera never really meant for low-light situations.

innumerably Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

twolaneblacktop.jpg “Well, here we are on the road.”
“Yup, that’s where we are, all right.”

A big part of my cinephilia is the search for the new and unexpected. I’ll take the bold and original over the well-crafted but trite any day. I actually watched Two-Lane Blacktop for the second time last weekend with my brother and as with my first viewing, I’m not sure what to think of it, but it really stuck with me. It’s an existential road movie starring James Taylor and Dennis Wilson as two Zen gearheads who enter their 55′ Chevy in a cross-country, winner-take-all race with Warren Oates (who’s brilliant as a garrulous phoney) and his brand-new GTO. But the race never really gets going and all three men get side-tracked by a bed-and-car-hopping hitchhiker (Laurie Bird). Turns out it’s all (spoiler alert!) just an excuse to get these four characters on the road in search of America, themselves, and the meaning of life.

It’s incredibly ambitious and feels haphazard, but somehow also clear-eyed. I still haven’t managed to wrap my head around it, but I plan to be giving it a third and fourth viewing in the not-too-distant future. What I do know is that it’s pure cinema: sound and speed and loneliness and poetry played out on the American landscape.

But if you’re still not sold, here’s Richard Linklater’s list of things to love about Two Lane Blacktop. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look through my Pauline Kael books to find her review.

when Herzog met Danzig


These t-shirts are possibly the only ones that can top my Nethack shirt in pure geeky awesomeness. I want the Herzog one just because he’s my favourite director and spiritual idol, but the Fassbinder-Metallica one is probably the coolest, and the Bergman-Maiden one is the funniest. The AV Club comments also have some pretty awesome suggestions that I would pay to have on T-shirts: The Doors-The Coens, Guns ‘n’ Roses-George Romero and Altman-Anthrax are all pretty bitchin’ ideas.

The lovely Janelle also uncovered this charmingly dorky attempt, which has to win some kind of irony award (especially since Herzog: not so strong with the whole irony thing to begin with).

Election Thoughts 2: American Edition

Okay, first, if you haven’t seen Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barak Obama, check it out. I doubt it will change things very much, but it’s far and away the most eloquent and moving thing I’ve seen come out of either side of the campaign.

I can’t vote in the US, but I like to make-believe I can. When Obama and McCain started the campaign, I was actually hoping more for a McCain presidency more than an Obama one. Obama seemed unproven and the beneficiary of a cult of personality, whereas McCain seemed like a reasonable, honourable moderate who would be able to work well with a Democratic senate and congress and possibly steer his own party toward the center, or at least center-right. But in any case, I thought, either would be vastly better than the Bush presidency.

Turns out I was completely wrong. In picking Palin, McCain showed himself to be unreasonable, unprincipled, and beholden to the Republican far right. He also raised the spectre of a president who would be everything wrong with Bush, but somehow even worse. Pretty much everything the pair has done since then just reinforces that. (I can’t imagine McCain is happy about any of this, either: when it comes time to tell the story of John McCain, it’s going to be downright Shakespearean.)

At the same time, pretty much everything Obama has done has shown him to be the kind of person who should be president. I don’t buy that Obama is a new JFK, or even a new Clinton, but I do completely buy that he’s the man for the job. I have a strange and unfamiliar feeling when I read about American politics now. I think it’s… hope? Or at least hope’s little brother, cautious optimism?

election thoughts

First off, this is just funny:

And so, another Canadian election has come and gone. To be honest, while I’m no particular fan of the Tories, I think the outcome we got was the best available. I may not agree with or even personally like Harper, but I do think he’s a competent and committed servant of the people and not the closet ideologue he’s sometimes made out to be. And I think he’s done the right thing in not overreacting on the financial crisis, given that the foundations of our financial system really do seem to be relatively sound. However, I’m not ready yet to think Stephen Harper should be given a majority, and far and away the number one reason for that is his short-sighted view on climate change. I predict that as a nation, we will increasingly come to see our inaction as a major political, economic and moral failing in years to come. Particularly since even if John McCain manages, against all odds, to win, the US will still have a greener chief executive than Canada. Hopefully, pressure from the opposition parties, the provinces, the EU, and the post-Bush US, combined with the drop in oil prices, will tip the political scales in favour of an aggressive Tory environmental plan. It may make the base unhappy, but seriously, where are they going to go? It could even be what the Tories need to pick up some extra seats in the cities and the east.

I have a lot of respect for Dion as a person, and even as a politician, but I’ve never once seen him giving a speech or interview and thought, “now, he would be a good leader”. Hopefully he’ll be able to act as environment minister in a future Liberal government under… Prime Minister Ignatieff, perhaps? The Grits need more than just a leadership change, but having an effective leader who isn’t the compromise choice looks to me like an essential first step back to power. Ignatieff is looking less and less like an American carpetbagger, and I suspect the idea of a eloquent, slightly glamorous intellectual as leader is only going to look better when Barak Obama wins. Plus, he’s ruthless and arrogant enough to just feel right as a Liberal PM.

No, the real disappointment this election has been, as it has been for years, the Green party. Canada’s electoral system essentially disenfranchises people who chose to vote according to their conscience rather than strategically. Under this system, the Greens are pretty much destined to lose. They’ve had several elections now to find a way to turn their support into actual political power and the fact they haven’t been able to do it yet kind of suggests to me that it can’t be done. I’ve usually voted Green in the past, despite serious misgivings over their anti-science and slacktivist tendencies. But I didn’t this time, and barring a sudden leap to a sensible, Australian-style preferential ballot, I don’t know if I will again (sorry, mom and dad!).