Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Portentous Death of Facial Hair and Resulting Vast Global Impact

I'm not good with the chronological memory thing, but sometime around 1990 I grew a goatee. And with the exception of one hazy week or two in the early 90s I have it ever since.

Until about 1:30 this morning. Part of having summer vacation is an almost moon-tidal pull toward going to sleep later and later. I'm a week into this year's model, and I'm already staying up until 2:30. Maybe it's the 2.5 hour naps.

Anyway, early this morning, while a really nice dead of night breeze sprung up amid the South Valley quiet, I suddenly grabbed a now very dull razor and went to work.

It is the end of an era.

I don't follow fashion trends, but I'm guessing that if I grew a goatee circa 1990, there's a good chance that goatees are considered no longer stylish. That is, if they ever were. The reasons to start growing my "goat" seventeen years ago aren't particularly interesting (a scar thing, a preternatural inability to grow a full beard reaching any level of symmetry, an ex-girl friend), but for some weird reason I'm finding this new clean shaven feel and look very meaningful.

Meaningful in some aging, uncovering scars, unashamed to open myself to the world guy way that simply goes to show I am very egocentric and think my actions and appearance have deeper meanings than simply making my face smoother. Or my weak chin far more noticeable.

Needless to say, there are no pictures accompanying this blog post. I'm not sure if I will be leaving the house for the next two weeks.

I had this increasingly gray chin hair for the entirety of my life in Albuquerque. It predates Nirvana's Nevermind record and the Clinton Presidency. It had about as many consecutive days as Cal Ripken's streak.

If you think about it, it's just like that last scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey where the surviving astronaut wakes up in that totally white bed and white room and some old guy knocks over a cereal bowl. Or whatever the hell happened before we saw the fetus pictures and the 3 plus hours of Kubrick were over. The end of my goatee is almost exactly like that. We, all of humanity, are definitely beginning a new age.

P.S.: The solipsistic nature of this blog posting is in honor of "Brangelina", "Amercian Idol" and all other faux news stories that serve to take our minds off all the important, usually awful, news out there. Now back to your regularly scheduled and unfortunate spew of death, grief, sorrow and murder. Or deeper analysis of how Angelina and Brad chose the name for their baby. Your choice.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lights, Camera, Default!

Dan Mayfield has a story in today's Journal on the short, and bumpy, history of NM loans to film companies shooting in NM. (ad/$$ required)

Leaving aside the aesthetic argument that NM taxpayers shouldn't have their money wasted on interest free loans to make crappy movies starring Jessica Simpson, et. al., did anyone else have another reason to come out from reading this article by violently shake their head in an almost Exorcist level of head shaking? Like head-spinning level head shaking?

Maybe me and my terribly sore neck is alone on this one, but the idea of a government investing in filmmaking as a means to make money makes about as much sense as the city of Albuquerque selling Amway and Herbalife products. Actually less sense.

Now there are reasons for governmental entities to invest in locally produced films. Providing jobs: great reason. Showing off the city/state to outsiders involved in productions: good reason. Showing off the city/state to movie viewers: great reason. Highly increased chances of seeing Jessica Simpson at Flying Star: kinda crummy reason, but alright, sure.

What doesn't make sense is taking the total crap-shoot commercial venture that is "independent film" and glomming a governmental entity onto it. I say "independent" because let's face it, extreme high box office films like Shrek 2 or the Chronic-what?-cles of Narnia are not the kind of films New Mexico is going to attract.

Yes, some independent films make money. Some, e.g. Blair Witch Project, make an obscene amount of money. But most films don't make money, a point made more obscure by things like DVD sales and international box office (check this metafilter discussion for some of the obscuring details). Unfortunately, like other artistic endeavors such as music, the business of film is all about putting up with the losses of the many in order to hit the Blair Witch Project home run once in a while.

One small subplot of this season's The Sopranos has Christuphur Moltisanti trying to talk Tony S. into investing in straight-to-video slasher films like Saw. Tony S. always looks at Christuphur like Chris is suggesting getting involved in something so morally unclean and stupid that it makes running strip clubs and selling credit card numbers look like Red Cross work.

And now we have the State of New Mexico playing Christuphur and who's playing Tony S.? Nobody at the State, and evidently nobody else in NM as I don't see peep one about how morally unclean and stupid state investment in film might be.

So, Hell...sure, I'll play Tony S., and right now I'm giving those involved in this state investment thing that look. You know the look. The one that says "I might have to whack you, you're so &(#)@#$* stupid. "

Obviously a big reason for support of this program is that THEY ARE MOVIE STARS! MOVIE STARS AMONG US! REAL CELEBRITIES BUYING COFFEE AT FLYING STAR! Yes, the celebrity bug has gripped humanity in a way Avian Flu can only dream of (that is, if viruses can dream). To illustrate how insane idol-worship might alter how we think about state film investment let's close by comparing it to another proposed public/private investment strategy.

Namely, Social Security. Some time back our currently so-unpopular-as-to-be-hard-to-believe President decided to use some of his "political capital" at the time to call for a privatization of Social Security. Simplifying the idea a bit, the proposal called for those paying into social security to be able to invest in things like mutual funds with the money they sent in instead of the monolithic government-run program.

People on both sides of the political aisle, especially Democrats, went beserk. You would have thought the currently unpopular President had suggested social security funds should be invested in lottery tickets and crap games. Oh, the hue and cry was vociferous.

Maybe the problem was that the currently unpopular President didn't propose using the money to invest in celebrities drinking coffee in your neighborhood. Because while the scale of investment is nowhere near that of Social Security, the stupidity of state investment in film is far greater than just telling folks they can plug personal investments into a no-load small cap. But where's the glamour in that?

Much better to bask in the brush-with-Jessica-glow crap shoot of independent film production. Besides, isn't becoming Los Angeles what all Burqeans/New Mexicans want? Really?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

It's Not Just a Puppy, It's the Friggin' Bill of Rights We're Talking Here

And you thought the NSA snooping issue was a constitutional crisis. Albuquerque attorney Penni Adrian (photo above) is starting a recall petition for ABQ City Councilor Sally Mayer because of the HEART ordinance, which Adrian calls:

"a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent the Fourth and Fifth amendments to the Constitution." (quote from ABQ Journal story by Isabel Sanchez)

And stupid us, we thought it was a thickly overwritten attempt to crack down on puppy mills.

Adrian claims she has "hundreds" of volunteers helping with the recall petition effort, which must be especially sweet from a multi-tasker's perspective as Adrian is also running for a District Judge position as an independent. In a District Judge race with zero name recognition across the board (thanks Andrew Jackson!), it certainly can't hurt to latch your name onto a controversial issue, regardless of how overblown and melodramatic you are in doing it.

Overblown and melodramatic has been an apt description of the entire HEART ordinance brouhaha to this point. I certainly wish the U.S. Congress had considered the invasion of Iraq as much as the City Council discussed HEART, and if we'd had half as many crying public commenters on Iraq as with HEART who knows how many lives would have been saved?

And special thanks to Penni Adrian for focusing on the important challenges to our constitutionally guaranteed rights. That whole NSA wiretap, phone record, ECHELON thing is just a smokescreen. Just like flouridation, the real totalitarian plot is being hidden in seemingly innocuous, cuddly things. Like puppies. They're using puppies, I tell ya! Will they stop at nothing?!?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Marty Chavez: The Good and the Political Stunt

We are all flawed human beings. Nobody is arguing that point. The better angels of our nature are in constant fistfight with our darker side.

But nobody sums up this psychological struggle more than Marty Chavez. At least no NM politician. Chavez is a veritable Willie Stark of conflicted good and evil. Okay, he's no Willie Stark from All the King's Men, but he certainly has a glimmer of the Stark ethical dichotomy going on. More of a glimmer than any current NM politician I can think of. And no, Manny Aragon doesn't count anymore in my book.

Case in point: yesterday in the space of about six hours Marty goes from defending the human rights of "illegal" immigrants on a C-SPAN national call-in to demanding the city buy the downtown Icehouse strip club for $500,000 and turn it into a teen center. (Long boring "interactive" ad or $$ required both times)

In such a short space in time we get perfect examples of the two Martys:
  1. A truly compassionate guy who is defending a group of popularly vilified human beings on national public access television.
  2. An icky faux compassionate guy, politically grandstanding by spending an unnecessary $500k of city money so he can be publicly identified as against strip clubs and for teen centers.
He takes a brave stand, then not-so-bravely attacks the all-powerful strip club lobby. I read the Journal recap of his C-SPAN performance and thought "hey, I actually agree with Marty on something and find him honorable". It was a strange, vaguely uncomfortable feeling, not so much from my agreement with him on an issue as from the impression that Marty is honorable.

Then I read the Icehouse idea and my internal comfort returned. Just as with Warren's Willie Stark, when you look down deep, past the political bombast, with Marty Chavez it's all about Marty Chavez. Plain and simple. And there's something comforting about that, I suppose.

P.S.: I just found out a film remake of "All the King's Men" is coming out very soon. Why? How can they top Broderick Crawford's Stark or Mercedes McCambridge's Sadie Burke. Ugh.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

An Important, Yet Humble, Announcement From the King of All Blog Media

For those of you unfortunate enough to read yesterday's Babble post, I feel compelled to first apologize for its vague navel-gazeriffic ponderousness. I also feel a need to speak on the massive, earth-shattering changes you will see over the summer here at the Babble. The seismic importance of the following announcement will, of course, also be simultaneously sent to all news media around the world, probably replacing stories on who won "American Idol" last night.

Announcement: Burque Babble will have more postings this summer, but the postings will be shorter and will be devoted more strictly to politics.

Man, I hope you were sitting down for that announcement. Seriously...catch your breath. You look a little green. Just take your time and let me know when you're ready to keep going.

I won't get into the reasons for this probably imperceptible change in blog delivery, other than the point about politics. It seems that the huge dedicated throng of Babble readers likes to read about stupid things said regarding NM politicians more than anything else, especially more than vague navel-gazeriffic ponderings.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about....

Steve D. Gallegos is running for NM Public Regulation Commission and he has always bothered me. He's the Gallegos who allegedly represented the South Valley on the Bernalillo County Commission and was also an ABQ City Councillor. He's running for PRC because he has nothing else to do following his termination as "Department of Transportation Legislative Liaison", a phony position created by Big Bill Richardson.

The New Mexican has a story about Gallegos and regarding the phony position the following sentence can be found:

"Gallegos was paid $83,000 a year in the job, and he said he was unaware that legally the position was only temporary."

Now I know we have some public officials in NM who aren't the hottest intellectual chile in the ristra, so to speak, but how stupid does a guy have to be not to know a job like that is temporary? And do we want a dude so blinded by $83,000 a year as to not ask questions about job permanency sitting on the PRC? Not to mention that Gallegos worked for US West/Qwest and never met a real estate developer he didn't like as Bernalillo County Commissioner.

Not exactly the guy we want setting public utility policy.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hi Honey, I'm Home!

And where the Hell have I been? It's true that I have a set a personal record of not posting to Burque Babble. And I'm about personal records, AKA "PRs".

So what about my personal responsibility to readers of this blog? Somebody the other night asked pretty much this exact question, and it was hard not to laugh. Then it was even harder not to laugh when I launched into a serious answer to the question. My friends and wife at the table did, in fact, start laughing...and laughed harder the more serious I got.

Which does make one question this whole blog thing, both in terms of what "service" bloggers actually provide and how the word "responsibility" could possibly get mixed-up with what amounts to a few periodic silly paragraphs about various subjects.

Now I don't expect you to continue reading as my mind rattles off 500 meandering words on what this all means. God that would be boring. So I'll just throw the questions out there (the ones explicitly or implicitly laid out above) and move on.

But not right this second.

The big reason for my not posting to Burque Babble Personal Record has been the denouement of the school year. Now that denoue has ment, so to speak, and I have eleven weeks to recover from a great, wild, fascinating, at-times devastating couple of semesters, I now need another break to "process" what it all means. Blogs included.

So, I'm gonna just sits around and think for a day or two. Yeah, I'll be thinking about Robert Vigil kinda stuff. Pondering how much that rogue juror from Roswell might have been paid to hold out against conviction. I'll think about the HEART ordinance, an ordinance only about three pages shorter than Hilary Clinton's nationalized health care bill of years back. Yeah, I'll be batting around "blog worthy" topics such as these.

But maybe more than anything, I'll be thinking about what a term like "blog worthy" really means, and that it might be a classic oxymoron when you get down to it. Or maybe not. Or maybe just an oxymoron when applied to Burque Babble.

I'll spend a day or two cleaning my blog brain while also cleaning my semester-long neglected house. After two days I predict my brain will be cleaner than my house, but both will still have plenty of cobwebs and hairballs. That's why having eleven weeks off in the Summer is the greatest thing since...forever. By the end of the vacation you just about get to that last cobweb, the very last one deep in the psyche's dark corners. Then the new school year starts and you're right back where you were after about a day and a half.

Funny thing, that human brain. I'm gonna take it for a vacation test drive and probably come back with some changes to things like Burque Babble and my life while simultaneously shaking the foundations of truth and knowledge as we perceive them. I dunno, it could happen. I'll be back in a day or two for a progress report.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Guardsmen!

I have a suggestion for those who feel that major societal problems like racism are exclusively a thing of the past. You know, the sentiment that the holocaust could never happen again, lynchings ditto, therefore the problem is over.

The tendency is for folks to think the present day is historically superior to the past. Well, for people thinking this way I want you to record/tape/tivo/whatever ANY "Lou Dobbs Tonight" show on CNN, and then watch the program 20 years from now. My guess is that upon viewing the show years from now you will say: "I was actually alive when such a racist program was nationally broacast in my own country? How was that possible?"

I am a very infrequent viewer of Mr. Dobbs' show, but evidently the show has "evolved" from a general "news" program focusing largely on Dobbs' former career as a financial news talking head into "Broken Borders", an unceasing rant with newstoid icing about the failure of U.S. immigration policy. An example of the newstoid inclusions....yesterday a "story" of Mexican President Vincente Fox's response to Prez Bush's National Guard-becomes-Minutemen proposal had video of Fox with the caption below reading: "Mexican President Fox: talks much but offers very little".

The vitriolic slant is directed at any Mexican, period, as well as any American who would dare say illegal immigration is not the single biggest threat to the United States since school desegregation. And that includes Pres Bush, who Dobbs obviously sees as a spineless traitor, selling our sacred country down the Rio Grande river.

Now I admit I'm fairly naive when it comes to watching heavily slanted "news" programming. I took Fox "News" off the surfing station list on my remote control years ago, and know almost nothing of shows like "Geraldo" because, well because why the Hell would I watch a "news" show with Geraldo Rivera? Naivete understood, my reaction to "Lou Dobbs Tonight" is twofold:

  1. The program has the complete look and feel of the Jack Van Impe Show. Now if you haven't seen that program, it's because you: 1. don't have religious stations on your surfing station list on your remote; 2. don't have a bizarre sociological fascination with wacky religious TV programming. Jack Van Impe isn't my all time favorite wacky religious program. That was Dr. Gene Scott. But check out Van Impe some time and see him and his giant hair-shielded female assistant host walk you through current events and how they all inevitably lead to Apocalypse and Rapture. It doesn't matter what the current event is: Barry Bonds passing Babe Ruth is a sure sign of the Apocalypse. Albuquerque's HEART Ordinance...sure sign of eventual eternal damnation for all but those who are taken in the Rapture. Anyway, watch Jack Van Impe sometime and then watch "Lou Dobbs Tonight". It's the same show! Just replace "illegal immigrants" with "Jews and Arabs" and the sentences are exactly the same!
  2. Remembering that Lou Dobbs was a financial reporter/talking head, it is easy to make the logical leap that Dobbs and his Illegal-Immigrants-are-destroying-this-country mindset is all about keeping your stuff and private property. Just as many folks with lots of stuff like to live in gated communities to protect it, Dobbs and his ilk see "America" as an entire and of lots of stuff. "And it's ours Goddammit! And we gotta protect it. It's our F&*^%$* stuff, man, and we deserve it and they don't, and they're coming over here trying to get it, but it's ours! Ours I tells ya! And we're shooting anybody who dares make a move for it!"
Obviously Lou Dobbs is related to a famous movie character (and why should we think the "news reporter" Lou Dobbs is any more real than a fictional movie character?). Clearly, Lou Dobbs is the son of Fred C. Dobbs. Very clearly.

Monday, May 15, 2006

And Down The Stretch They Come....

Heading into the last week or so of school and the posting is getting less frequent here at the Babble. I apologize for those who've taken the time to click on by and seen no new postings, but we teachers actually have to do icky things like grade papers and such as we get to the final ticks of the 180 day schedule.

Not that much seems to be going on or anything. The upcoming primary seems to be a real snoozefest, the biggest local news in the last two weeks has been a windstorm, and then there's been all these papers I've had to grade. Like a big stack.

A big part of the big stack was a bunch of student policy proposals on the subject of U.S. Immigration. We did a week looking at the subject in class, and I guess President Bush was paying attention. He's gonna be on TV tonight, according to all reports, talking about sending the National Guard to the Mexican border. The Prez is gettin' all Minutemen on us as an attempt to convince the more wingnuttery among his conservative base that maybe deporting 11 million illegals isn't such a good idea.

It's fun to see the Prez squirm on the issue, but we must have a absolute buttload of National Guard troops just sitting around, what with lots of them going to Iraq and Afghanistan. I haven't seen numbers on the proposed border deployment, but 1,951 miles of border is alot of ground to cover. Evidently that "can't get Guard troops to Katrina areas" problem has been taken care of.

Meanwhile, maybe Halliburton/KBR can get some contracts to put some of those mega-mall mess halls up along the more lonely border spots. Antelope Wells, NM could certainly use a giant mega-mall or two. Funny, in trying to find a good picture of said mega-malls, I ran across the KBR webpage which says "site is temporarily unavailable". When times get tough, those web development jobs are always the first to go....

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sam Being Sam?

photo from Santa Fe New Mexican, January 1, 2006

Up to now I've avoided the whole former NM Treasurer Robert Vigil trial shindig. This is mostly due to my strong feeling that he is guilty and why are we bothering with a trial. Yes, I am in favor of the Constitution and its little tasty flavor nuggets of legal protections such as trial by jury. But's let's face it, the Vigil case has just screamed guilt with its video tapes of money changing hands, warehoused sports memorabilia and other unusual loot, and the long history of Treasurer corruption in the state.

In blunt, pop culture terms....I've been pretty Nancy Grace about the whole thing. You know, wearing revolting Stella Stevens-at-age 70 wigs and bitterly ranting to anyone who will, or won't, listen that "they're all guilty, ALL OF THEM, BURN THEM ALL!!! What is WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY?!?"

Then I/we read the Albuquerque Journal this morning (long boring ad or $$ req.) and find out that Vigil's...uh, daffy?....defense attorney Sam Bregman chooses not to call any defense witnesses and instead lambasts the State's case, saying it "failed to even come close to meeting the burden of showing Robert Vigil committed a crime". Bregman even went so far as to petition that the case and all 28 counts be thrown out before the jury even gets to tell us what they think.

So what is the average person with a Nancy Grace level of Vigil guilt certitude and a short attention span of trial details to think? My first thought is to recall that our "public" experience of reading about this trial is so vastly different than being at the trial every day, start to finish. Of course, being human, that doesn't stop us from having strong opinions about guilt/innocence, and many of us feel perfectly fine about lecturing everyone we can find on our profound views on the subject.

This has always bothered me.

I'm not slamming the media here. All I'm saying is that without a total immersion into a trial one cannot really have a handle on what's going on in the courtroom. Reporters have a very difficult job in highlighting trial details, but humans/jurors have a funny way of choosing to highlight some pretty strange things in their own mind. Perceptions are inherently subjective, too.

And speaking of perception, what the hell is Sam Bregman doing here? I don't know. In baseball circles there is a famous expression for Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez, a talented player with an equal talent for doing strange, eccentric things. When Ramirez does another eccentric thing, we say it's "Manny being Manny". Maybe this is just Sam being Sam. I don't know. Maybe Sam is just theatrical and/or wanted to keep Robert Vigil as far away from a witness stand as Constitutionally possible. Maybe the State's case really is that bad.

I don't know. What I do know is that if Vigil gets acquitted the national press will pick up the story far more than with a conviction. New Mexico will be pointed to as a place where political corruption not only thrives but is vindicated in the courts. The case will create its own writ-small famously fallen prosecutors, ala O.J.'s Marcia Clark & Chris Darden.

I'm not saying that's deserved. I'm just saying that is what will happen.

So whatever the reason Sam Bregman decided to call no defense witnesses to this trial, he did accomplish something. He got me and my Vigil-already-guilty short attention span mind to notice the trial, and even write a little blather about it. Maybe getting some more people to notice the trial and Sam Bregman is really all he really wanted to accomplish. Maybe a lot of things....

We don't know.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Tinseltown Submission: Or How I Learned to Stop Whining and Love the Shiny Tent

You might have seen in the Journal a few days ago a story about a Hollywood film company's plans to build a "large Los Angeles-style soundstage and backlot 'campus' at Mesa del Sol". ($ or long snoooze waiting for interactive ad to finish) Having just finished my once a month trip to the Downtown Sports & Wellness (thus proving that I am "working out" & "in training"), I can report that the entire 'Burque downtown is one giant "large Los Angeles-style soundstage and backlot 'campus'".

Tons of street blocked off. Shiny semi-trucks cabs and party tents everywhere. Shiny to the point you know those trucks and party tents get pampered like movie stars. Fifteen-foot high cyclone fence holding secrets like shiny, vaguely prison-like Wizard of Oz curtains. A mix of the mysterious and capitalistic encasing pretty much everything from the definitely unshiny Greyhound Station to the dormant La Posada.

Some might even call it a big mess, but even the most cynically put-out driver has to admit there's an allure there. What is going on behind that curtain?

And, in fact, I'm not 100% sure it was a movie shoot, having seen no reports or anything, but it probably was, and isn't Hollywood, if any, about a suspension of disbelief?

Now, as an alleged "film teacher", occasionally people ask me what I think about all the hi-fi filmmaking activity around 'Burque. Most of these people know me well enough to cringe when they ask the question, as I am probably the biggest film snob in the city's history. I know...there's a lot of competition there, but I'm pretty obnoxious about it.

I know. That's hard to believe. But I just want it out there.

As a lover of lo-fi cinema, I do admit a mild distaste for the shiny party tent ambiance and big budget cyclone fences. Okay, sometimes a large stomach cramp of distaste. And yes, I rather prefer the underground Primer/Pi type film where the entire production budget would barely equal the cost of a shiny semi-truck cab.

But I still like the fact that these films are being shot all over Albuquerque and New Mexico. Really, I do. Even when they block me going down 2nd Street after doing my once-a-month workout.

My only complaint about these locally shot films so far has been that the films, ur movies, have universally sucked. Or at least it certainly appeared they were going to suck...I have to admit I haven't seen any of them, save for a short segment of the "Wildfire" pilot in which my wife appeared for upwards of 1.2 seconds way in the back, well behind the now-deceased Dennis Weaver. And despite my wife's 1.2 seconds of subtle, yet thought-provoking acting (walking well behind Mr. Weaver's still-living head) "Wildfire" sucked. And not only we film snobs thought so.

Perhaps not strangely, "Wildfire" seems to still be on the cable air (sans Weaver, I guess), and I will have to rely on other, more adventurous viewers, for input on the show's current suckiness. "Wildfire" is only the tip of the sucky...hey, wait, we're film snobs here. "Wildfire" is only the tip of the inferior cinematic product 'Burque/New Mexico has produced. I will spare readers the list as I don't recall many of the productions. That's not unusual....nobody else remembers many of these productions either.

We in ABQ mainly remember these past shoots because of things like: "I saw Adam Sandler at Flying Star" or "that actress in "Tin Cup", the redhead, what's her name? Anyway, I saw her eating vegetarian at Annapurna. Or was it Claire Danes? I need to see more movies, but anyway, it was one of them, or at least a movie star. You could just tell."

These sightings serve to help us 'Burqueans feel better about ourselves in a way that a Forbes' survey or Kiplinger's recommendation on 'Burkyworthiness can't. Damnit, we're cool enough for Claire Danes or that actress in "Tin Cup" to eat here! And I admit it, I'm like everybody else on this score.

Well, like everyone else except for my point that all the movies up to now have suc...ur, been cinematically inferior. Until now. As reported everywhere but 'Burque Babble, the latest ABQ film shoot is a Coen Brothers' film. The Coen Brothers. The same Coen Brothers who make even the most hardened film snob turn into Homer Simpson spotting free doughnuts (mouth agape, drooling while gutturally moaning like a Tuvan throat singer).

It's the friggin' Coen Brothers, man! "We've got spillage, bro!" Like "Raising Arizona" and "Blood Simple" and "Fargo", man! (but not that rancid Billy Bob Thornton thing called "The Man Who Wasn't There", which reeked)

Now we can call our friends out of town and bust out with, "yeah, they're filming a Coen Brothers' movie in town. No, it's not gonna be like "The Man Who Wasn't There". No, nothing like it."

And when's the last time 'Burque was cool enough to make a phone call like that. I'm waiting. Still can't think of the last time, can you?

So displace me from my 2nd street sojourn, o' cyclone fence. Dazzle me with your pearly white shine, o' party tent. We be makin' a Coen Brothers' film here. Right here next to the scuzz and grime of the Greyhound station. OUR Greyhound Station. Our scuzz and grime. I'm proud to drive around your cinematic wonder anytime, Mr. and Mr. Coen. Maybe I'll see you at Flying Star. The Buddha Bowl is on me, my new cinematic legend friends.


P.S.: Again, I am not sure what I saw tonight was a Coen Brothers-related "shoot", or even a movie thing. It could have been a national convention for shiny semi-truck cabs or something. But don't pop my bubble with "information" or "reality" if it doesn't confirm my driving-inconvenienced brush with film greatness.

P.P.S.: And yes, the shoot could have been for an upcoming episode of "Wildfire", which would really depress me. Please don't tell me it was "Wildfire".

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Let's Lynch the Landlord, Let's Lynch the Landlord


At least in blogland, a frequent argument (which I paraphrase here) is whether 'Burque is "cool", as in hip, or not. As with all such arguments, with the exception of whether Dick Cheney is evil incarnate, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Still, in my humble opinion, this town will never slant to the top end of the cool-o-meter until Kirtland Air Force Base closes.

Yes, I'm bringing that up again. Today's its because I read this story at NewWest about what Denver's doing with both the closed Stapleton Airport and Lowry AFB. Yes, we're talking housing subdivisions and such, but at least they are thoughtfully constructed housing subdivisions. More important, they show that there is LIFE AFTER BASE CLOSURE. In fact, a hipper life with fewer weapons of mass destruction. By the way, I still submit we're talking years and years of job creation for folks willing to clean up all the bomb sites at KAFB. Not to mention the Superfund Haz Mat opportunties.

In today's little allergy-addled antihistamine reverie, I see Feudal Prince Marty creating a Base Closure Future Planning Commission comprised of forward-thinking types instead of typical real-estate developers. I dimly see that Commission heading up to Denver and other "best practice" sites around the country where base closure has led to economic revitilization. Even more dimly, hazy to the point of barely visible, I watch the Commission members appear before the Congressional Base Closure Commission in D.C. and argue FOR the closure of the base as a means to help 'Burque grow, develop and "get way more cool, man".

Maybe I better switch my allergy medications, but I gotta admit the future looks great through these pharmaceutically-tinted rose colored glasses.

Update: Honest to God/Goddess or Todd Rundgren, the photo leading this entry comes from the Kirtland AFB website, with the caption "Cops-1, Protestors-0". I'm tellin' ya, ya can't make this stuff up. Orwell would just be taking dictation at this point.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Drowning By Numbers: Invasion and Immigration Edition

Listening to that Godless Canadian Neil Young and his new Bush-bashing "Living in War" release, (rr) (available for free download here) while doing a little research on the immigration issue for a school seminar next week. Dangerous combo and one that led me back to a couple of money facts I find interesting.

I realize there are at least 2,400 reasons to oppose the invasion of Iraq and 12 million reasons to wonder about U.S. immigration policy, but for those fiscal conservatives who defend the gruesome folly in Baghdad I like to break out the financials just to show that the whole enterprise is as stupid fiscally as it is morally.

I read at the BBC that the U.S. Congressional Budget Office says the total real cost of the Invasion/War/Occupation may end up being $811 billion, and that right now expenses are at "$8 billion a month". Funny, I had to read that at the BBC site...but anyway, if true, that means we're spending right near $100 billion per year at the going rate.

Then I go to the CIA World Factbook and find out that the Mexican federal budget for 2005 was $184 billion. Total. The entire Mexican federal budget is not even twice what we're spending in Iraq.

I'll leave it to the reader to complete the syllogism initiated by those numbers toward whatever logical conclusion they politically prefer. I'm just sitting here listening to Neil and rolling those numbers around in my admittedly math-deficient brain. I also admit it's hard not to get real, real preachy here...but I'll just leave it at those numbers. For now.

Actually, in honor of the little poetry unit we're currently doing in class, I'll close with a quote from e e cummings...

"He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water"

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Weekend in Review: Politics in Remission

Unlike about 95% of recent weekends, I actually interacted with humanity this past weekend and experienced some things I deem blogworthy (high praise that). To wit:

  • Friday Night: Went to see Albuquerque High School's production of Eric Bogosian's "SubUrbia" and was impressed on two fronts:
    • 1. The production was unexpurgatedly there in all its Bogosianistic bad language and misogyny. I was surprised a bit given that it was a high school production, and very glad as messing with Bogosian's speaking cadences and brutal character satire would leave the work largely meaningless.
    • 2. The acting was good! I don't mean that in a bad way, but I think we'll all been at at least one high school production where the acting evoked nothing but cringing. No cringing here. And no, I'm not just saying that because they were all ex-students of mine. Only one ex-student in a fine, well-trained cast. Thanks for a good time AHS Drama!
  • Saturday Night: Took the Missus on a birthday dinner to Ambrozia. I think I wrote somewhere sometime back that I thought Ambrozia is the best restaurant in Albuquerque. To a degree I'm still debating, I'm revising that after our experience Saturday night. Still adventurous food done in interesting styles, but not the knockout food as performance I've experienced in previous trips. Service wasn't up to the usual standard, either, something I usually avoid talking about because I know I would be the absolute worst waiter in dining history. Let's just say the service matched the food for a general air of lackadaisicality. Not awful but missing a certain energy.
  • Rest of Saturday Night: Did not go to "Spring Crawl". I don't know that I'll ever be going to one of those again unless I decide to pursue that Ph.D. in Sociology centering on pack attitudes of drunken young humans in Western cultures.
  • Sunday Night: After the usual hemming and hawing of the aged toward going out to hear live music, the Missus and I decided to see the Son Volt/Drive-by-Truckers show at the El Rey.
    • Perhaps some readers know about the hemming-hawing process in this regard. One starts out saying, "definitely man, I am definitely there for the show!". This turns to "yeah, we're going...I'm pretty sure we're going" and then almost invariably leads to "oh, we decided not to go. You know, it was a school night, and the El Rey sucks and standing up is hard on my back...etc. etc. etc.". This pattern is followed religiously for about 55 shows in a row, but every once in a while the aging couple breaks the cycle, demonstrates their inner freaky child and ends up attending the gig.
    • Alot of aging couples who go through this cycle were at the Son Volt/Drive-by-Truckers gig. I overheard at least three sets of folks saying "oh, we only get out to shows every other year or so".
    • Another sign of aging couples breaking the cycle: massive numbers of ear plugs.
    • Another sign: lots of folks leaving by midset of the 'Truckers (who were closing).
  • As for the music itself, we made it just as Son Volt hit the stage and by the time Jay Farrar & Associates left said stage my accompanying friends and I had decided not only the proper course of psycho-counseling for Mr. Farrar, but also that he should stop touring, put the drummer front and center of the stage instead of himself, and that he should immediately accept our offer to create a Jeff Tweedy reunion concert tour in which both guys play all the tunes on "Anondyne" acoustically, in order of CD appearance. Seriously, Farrar's was a sad set, not from the mournful, soulful tunes, but from the simple fact that Farrar doesn't enjoy playing live and has zilch chemistry with the latest incarnation of Son Volt. By the time Farrar and the disengaged backing band got to the big hits of "Trace" I was almost crying from the obvious pain the whole outfit was experiencing in playing these years old tunes as if they were on "The Perry Como Show" or something. It was the opposite of nostalgia.
  • Then there were the Drive-by-Truckers (DBT). The Missus and I saw DBT at Burt's Tiki Lounge in 2000, and the difference in ambiance between seeing them from a distance of about 15 feet six years ago and the Tingley-esque acoustics of El Rey last night was from one end of the Ambiance-o-Meter to the other. God the El Rey sucks. People talk about this town not having a really good 5,000 seat arena, but I'm more concerned with having a really good large bar with sound acoustics. It would also help if said large bar wouldn't give the impression that someone could be inexplicably killed in one of the dark corners at any time.
  • Okay, enough about the El Rey and my lame memory lane trip about DBT at Burt's. The important thing is that, despite the venue, DBT rocks. Having them close instead of Son Volt was probably controversial to many folks in attendance, and the way people were clearing out indicated a lack of interest in sticking around to hear the DBT tunes. At the same time, many of the folks who left were the aging couple types, and they were probably only there for Son Volt anyway.
  • The drifting off of large hunks of folks actually had a positive impact on the show, however. Shorn of their wishy-washy brethren, the remaining audience found a new energy in smaller numbers and got more rowdy and more fun. DBT members, such as head honcho guy Patterson Hood, had been drinking Jack Daniels and Amstel Light's (a remarkable dieting combination) since the first tune and were more than ready for some rowdy. It wasn't perfect, but the smaller crowd and increasingly raucous band helped push the El Rey to be at least a little like a venue like Burt's.
  • Songs got louder, solos more piercing, Patterson Hood's Belushi-esque capering on stage more aggressive and angular. To be honest, the band seemed much more relaxed the smaller the audience got, and by the time we left during the 2nd encore song the bond between audience and band was sweatily palpable. This was a band having fun. This was the Un-Son Volt.