Journal 08/19/2012 (p.m.)

    • And it actually takes pains to portray many teachers as impassioned do-gooders who are as exasperated as parents are by the education system’s failures — and by uncaring colleagues in their midst. But I understand Weingarten’s upset. The union that represents one of those do-gooders (Viola Davis) has lost its way, resisting change, resorting to smear tactics and alienating the idealists in its ranks. What’s more, some of the people who are assertively promoting “Won’t Back Down” are those who cast teachers’ unions as a titanic impediment to the improvement of public education. So “Won’t Back Down” is emerging as the latest front in the continuing war between those unions and their legions of critics, and it has become yet another example of how negatively those unions are viewed.

       “When did Norma Rae get to be the bad guy?” asks a union leader (Holly Hunter) in the movie. I don’t know, but that’s indeed the state of play when it comes to teachers’ unions, and it’s a dangerous one.

    • Somewhere in Delaware, a sleepy village finds itself without an idiot as Vice President Joe Biden again is on the loose, tilting at presidential windmills.
    • Known in some circles as the Galloping Gaffe, Biden is Romney’s second-best secret weapon, with President Barack Obama being the first. Unfortunately for Romney, Biden clearly is becoming a mouthy liability for the Democrats as he fumbles to focus the public’s attention on anything but the broken economy.
    • His latest craziness? Biden told Virginia voters that Mitt Romney’s policies would put “you all back in chains” by letting “the big banks once again write their own rules,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
    • I spotted riffs on sequences from Lang’s Metropolis and Eisenstein’s October  and there are extensive borrowings from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities in the  film’s second and third act.
    • . I spotted riffs on sequences from Lang’s Metropolis and Eisenstein’s October  and there are extensive borrowings from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities in the  film’s second and third act.
    • Nolan has denied the film criticizes the Occupy movement and insists that  none of his Batman films are intended to be political: “I’ve had as many  conversations with people who have seen the film the other way round. We throw a  lot of things against the wall to see if it sticks. We put a lot of interesting  questions in the air, but that’s simply a backdrop for the story. What we’re  really trying to do is show the cracks of society, show the conflicts that  somebody would try to wedge open. We’re going to get wildly different  interpretations of what the film is supporting and not supporting, but it’s not  doing any of those things. It’s just telling a story. If you’re saying, ‘Have  you made a film that’s supposed to be criticizing the Occupy Wall Street  movement?’ – well, obviously, that’s not true.”[216]


      Alternatively, politically  conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh alleged that the film was biased  against 2012  Republican presidential nominee Mitt  Romney due to Bane’s name being a homophone  for Bain Capital, the  financial service company Romney used to head.[217][218][219] In  response, Nolan said that the comments were “bizarre”,[220] while Dixon and  Freeman said that the comments were “ridiculous”.[219][221] Similarly,  comparisons between Bane and Bain have also been made by bloggers on both sides  of the political spectrum,[219] with  Democratic adviser Christopher  Lehane noting the similarities between the narratives of the film and the  presidential campaign.[222][219]

    • The first surprise was how much I enjoyed the villains. I thought Bane would  be a total bummer to be around, but I found him almost charming: He sounded  funny and could be funny when the moment commanded it, he was menacing  as hell, and — utilizing Tom Hardy’s sympathetic eyes to full effect — could  elicit even pity. Anne Hathaway was perfection incarnate; her rendition of  Selina Kyle is my favorite ever, in any form. It’s a tricky feat to convince the  audience that Bruce Wayne and Selina are right for each other, but Nolan  delivers just enough interplay to make it work.

      And The Dark Knight  Rises is a movie of “just enoughs.” Just enough Catwoman & Batman, just  enough Bane, just enough Gordon, just enough time spent in a dank prison and at  occupied Gotham. There are so many moving parts that too much or too little of  any element threatens to throw the movie out of its orbit. Nolan keeps it all in  balance. However, I’d still question him on Juno Temple’s character. How useless  was she?

    • Take, for example, the scene where police rush the thugs. It’s ridiculous. Why  would you charge headlong? That’s suicide. Did the cops forget their tactical  training while huddled underground? A scene like this would have no place in  BB or TDK. In Rises, it’s a good fit. In that moment,  the story gets a big push forward, crucial when this late in the movie. A  slowdown in the narrative would be deadly. Again, was this realistic? Nope. But,  believable. A master storyteller like Nolan knows where to make that incision,  prescient of how many little details you can remove before you lose the audience  and they revolt.
    • The Avengers was a culmination of a decade of films and staggering business  mergers. The Dark Knight Rises closes one of the best trilogies ever, one that  redefined what can happen when comic book and cinema collide. We’ve entered what  seems to be a curious age for filmmakers. It’s not quite the ’70s again, but  with Joss Whedon and Nolan writing and directing these films, it’s almost like  the emergence of blockbuster auteur theory. Where will the superhero movie go  from here?

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Journal 08/19/2012 (a.m.)

    • The long-simmering resentment that Selina has built up for Gotham’s gilded  classes gets a hearing during her dance with Wayne at a masked charity  ball:



      There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down  the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought  you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us. 

    • But Selina’s warning is still one of those ice-water moments which Nolan and his  brother/co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan scatter throughout this overly baroque  film; they help snap it into place.
    • Later, Wayne realizes that in his exile from crimefighting he’s let some of  the details fall by the side, in this instance, the funding of the orphanage  that Blake grew up in. It’s the sort of careless oversight of the aristocrat  that would make Selina’s claws itch.

    • The Dark Knight Rises is no editorial grounded in reality: if nothing  else the epic improbability of the great, stirring third-act street battle  between the Gotham PD and Bane’s henchmen, should make that clear. Nolan isn’t  staking out a side in the current, or any, political debate. That is, unless  noting that the more oppressed a city’s underclass feels the more easily swayed  it would be by a powerful demagogue, is choosing a side.


      But by taking economics ever so slightly out of the realm of mere cops and  robbers (i.e., currency as a mere McGuffin to be stolen and retrieved), returns  it to a realm in which money matters; most especially to those who don’t  have it and crave the freedom they believe it can impart.

    • , “Batman Begins” and “The Dark  Knight” supplied all that and still somehow reflected the anxieties and tensions  of America in the post 9/11 world.


      No other blockbusters have been  so overtly fixated on terrorism — wanton destruction for destruction’s sake —  and the price to be paid for responding in kind. If fans care more passionately  about “The Dark Knight” than the more lighthearted and frankly enjoyable Marvel  movies, it’s surely because there’s more here than meets the eye.


      The 9/11 subtext is more explicit  than ever here, with masked bogeyman Bane (Tom Hardy) wreaking havoc on the  Stock Exchange and threatening to blow Gotham sky-high. He may not wear the  beard of the jihadist, but the (literal) hellhole he comes from sure looks like  it belongs in Afghanistan.

    • She’s no Joker (who is?), but Hathaway’s slinky, light-fingered, high-kicking  thief is the film’s best idea of fun, even if she’s also weighed down with the  Nolan brothers’ irrepressible urge to smuggle topical, half-baked Occupy sermons  into the script (as others have noted, the movie’s defense of the establishment  in the form of philanthropic billionaires and an incorruptible police force  gives it a conservative gloss and makes you wonder what on earth Nolan saw in  the two films he’s cited as inspirations, “The Battle of Algiers” and “Prince of  the City”).
    • The Dark Knight Rises” doesn’t really rise to the occasion.  This concluding movie in the “Batman” trilogy isn’t just dark, it’s pitch black.  Director Christopher Nolan has literally gone over to the  dark side.
    • That’s spelled B-a-n-e, not B-a-i-n.
    • Selina Kyle, there wouldn’t be a single character in “Rises” who cracks a smile.

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Journal 08/13/2012 (a.m.)

    • Florida is a swing state that many politicos saw favoring Romney ahead of his selection of Ryan, but that may be an open question now.


      “If you presume that Florida was Romney’s to lose, then did you just put Florida back in play unnecessarily?” asked one Florida-based GOP strategist

    • Now when David Axelrod whines that these guys are “ideologues” it sounds almost like a compliment — those guys believe in something.
    • Antidoping enforcement is 1,000 percent better than in my era of competition, and that brings me great satisfaction. But we must support these efforts even more.
    • We put so much emotion into marketing and idolizing athletes, let’s put that same zeal into giving them what they really want: the ability to live their dreams without compromising their morals.
    • People who end up living their dreams are not those who are lucky and gifted, but those who are stubborn, resolute and willing to sacrifice. Now, imagine you’ve paid the dues, you’ve done the work, you’ve got the talent, and your resolve is solid as concrete. At that point, the dream is 98 percent complete but there is that last little bit you need to become great.

       THEN, just short of finally living your childhood dream, you are told, either straight out or implicitly, by some coaches, mentors, even the boss, that you aren’t going to make it, unless you cheat. Unless you choose to dope. Doping can be that last 2 percent. It would keep your dream alive, at least in the eyes of those who couldn’t see your heart. However, you’d have to lie. Lie to your mother, your friends, your fans. Lie to the world. This has been the harsh reality laid out before many of the most talented, hardest working and biggest dreaming athletes.

       How much does that last 2 percent really matter? In elite athletics, 2 percent of time or power or strength is an eternity. It is the difference in time between running 100 meters in 9.8 seconds and 10 seconds. In swimming it’s between first and ninth place in the 100-meter breaststroke. And in the Tour de France, 2 percent is the difference between first and 100th place in overall time.

    • The answer is not to teach young athletes that giving up lifelong dreams is better than giving in to cheating. The answer is to never give them the option. The only way to eliminate this choice is to put our greatest efforts into antidoping enforcement. The choice to kiss your childhood dream goodbye or live with a dishonest heart is horrid and tearing. I’ve been there, and I know. I chose to lie over killing my dream. I chose to dope. I am sorry for that decision, and I deeply regret it. The guilt I felt led me to retire from racing and start a professional cycling team where that choice was taken out of the equation through rigorous testing and a cultural shift that emphasized racing clean above winning. The choice for my athletes was eliminated.
    • hanks to the rise of social media, r
    • But it was only the latest example in a week of sniping that included brutish commentary from Conan O’Brien and others about Holley Mangold, the American weight lifter and sister of the New York Jets center Nick Mangold. “I predict 350 lb. weight lifter Holley Mangold will bring home the gold and 4 guys against their will,” Mr. O’Brien posted to his Twitter account.

       The British swimmer Rebecca Adlington’s looks were criticized. “I worry that Rebecca Adlington will have an unfair advantage in the swimming by possessing a dolphin’s face,” wrote the comedian Frankie Boyle.

       Ms. Adlington’s American counterpart, Allison Schmitt, may have fared even worse. The Canton, Mich., native was said to look and sound “retarded” by a multitude of social media users, as the sports site Deadspin pointed out.

    • Ms. Douglas, at least, showed considerable savvy. Appointed a Procter & Gamble beauty ambassador just before the Olympic trials, she took the opportunity to inform Us Weekly: “I use great Pantene products in my hair. They make my hair silky, shiny and healthy.”
    • conservatives are convinced that Romney is losing because he’s not assertive or conservative enough. So I agree with the New Republic’s Noam Scheiber when he writes this:


      Ryan is the way Romney and his aides escape blame for their now-likely defeat — blame which would have vicious and unrelenting — and pin it in on conservatives instead. With only minor historical revisions, they will be able to tell a story about how Romney was keeping the race close through early August, at which point the party’s conservative darling joined the ticket and sent the poll numbers into steady decline.

    • As for Ryan himself, to begin with, what policies turned Clinton-era surpluses into Bush-era deficits? In large part, two tax cuts, two wars and a massive prescription drug benefit, and Ryan voted for all of them. (He also voted for TARP, by the way; his fiscal rectitude only included actually voting against massive expenditures once President Obama took office.) His “serious” debt-reduction plan doesn’t balance the budget until 2040.
    • LONDON (AP) — Sebastian Coe, the organizer-in-chief who more than anyone made the London Games possible, is absolutely right. The Olympics really are the Greatest Show on Earth.

      So cheers, mate, to you, London, for reminding us of that fact.

      Unlike four years ago in Beijing, we could wrap ourselves in the sport and the human drama here without having to ignore our conscience. In this splendid world city that proved so telegenic, with marathoners sweating past the Tower of London and cyclists zooming by Buckingham Palace, the hairs on the back of our neck tingled for all the right reasons.

      In short, after the 2008 Summer Games that were as much about dissidents and control as about sport, we, the world’s people, got our Olympics back. And they are just that — games for the entire planet.

    • Because these were games with good humor aplenty. Moviemaker Danny Boyle set the tone, parachuting in stunt doubles of Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond to his quirky opening ceremony that sent the message that this Olympic host country was proud to show itself off to the world, as they all are, but could laugh at itself, too.

      Above all, these were two weeks devoted to sport and not the baggage that often goes with it. And because sport is one of humanity’s greatest inventions, it was two weeks devoted to us, a group hug for the human race.

    • As the Spice Girls and The Who cleared their throats for Sunday night’s closing ceremony, footballers from Manchester City and Chelsea spent the afternoon hacking at each other in the Community Shield game that starts the English season, collecting eight yellow and one red card. This was sport returning to business as usual, ruled by money and a stage for oversized egos, not sport the noble endeavor and higher calling it can seem at the Olympics.
    • “Seem” being the operative word. Because there was ugliness at the London Games, too — although in mercifully small doses. Hypocrisy reared its head in badminton, where administrators suddenly got all righteous and made an example of eight players who didn’t try hard enough to win. British media vented about empty seats at venues before Team GB athletes gave them gold medals to write home about. The French sniped at the success of their favorite enemies, the British.
    • So, too, was the 9.3 billion pounds ($14.5 billion) Britons forked out for this party. That was far more than they were initially told the games would cost. Olympic gigantism is still a problem (other than to add to Michael Phelps‘ record medal haul, do the games really need 34 swimming events?) But the use of temporary venues showed future Olympic hosts alternatives to building white elephants. The basketball and water polo arenas are among those that will be dismantled. And Olympic Park will become a green lung for the long deprived east of London, with ducks paddling on cleaned-up waterways and trees to picnic under.
    • But let’s not get too serious. Not after these Olympics where Usain Bolt had us in stitches with his exuberant antics and declaration, “I am now a living legend. Bask in my glory” — surely the gold-medal quote of the games.

      Not after the Incredible Hulk — a.k.a German discus thrower Robert Harting — gave us a hilarious victory celebration, ripping open his shirt and jumping the hurdles.

      And not after the cheery honesty of British rider Scott Brash who, asked about his gold medal in equestrian team jumping, replied: “I really hope it improves my pulling power with women.”

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Journal 08/12/2012 (a.m.)

    • The fact that romney distanced himself for the ryan budget immediately after he announced the ryan selection shows that romney just doesn’t get it. He’s put himself into an impossible to escape box on this budget–just like he has done on his tax returns, romneycare, and Bain.
    • by passing on Sen. Rob Portman, Romney gives up an opportunity to strengthen himself in Ohio, a state that he absolutely needs to win and where he has been running behind.
    • The outcome of this election is now hugely consequential. If the Romney-Ryan ticket wins, conservatives will claim a mandate for Ryan’s radical budget ideas. But if Obama wins, conservatives will no longer be able to argue that the public was given a tepid choice by a philosophically inconstant Romney. A rejection of Romney-Ryan would be a huge blow to the conservative agenda. It will settle the argument over the role of government that we have been having since Barack Obama took the oath of office.

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Journal 08/10/2012 (a.m.)

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