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Archive for June, 2010

I’m not sure if it’s as amazing as the last one, but it’s surely amazing anyway.

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because their ignorance is not much greater than that of the U.S. Senate.

It’s easy for me to pick on Tea Partiers for saying things like “Keep your government hands off my Medicare,” but they’re just doing what they’re told.

And increasingly, it appears that U.S. Senators do the same thing. Yesterday, the Republican members of the Judiciary committee seemed to decide that they should bash Thurgood Marshall, of all people, as an “activist judge” (a term we have discussed before). When pressed, it turns out they had no specific cases or instances of “activism” in mind.

They don’t even know why they said it. Their staffs told them to say it, who probably had Judicial Watch or some such organization write the script.

When the leaders of your party are acting like this, it’s hard to blame the old folks who show up at Tea Party rallies.

As Thurgood Marshall put it:

Benjamin Franklin had it in mind when he said: “A republic if you can keep it.”To me, that means much. It’s not a republic if we keep it. With me, “It’s a democracy, if we can keep it. And in order to keep it, you can’t stand still. You must move, and if you don’t move, they will run over you.

UPDATE: John Boehner is not much better.

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The long tracking shot has been expounded by the likes of Andrew Sullivan and Roger Ebert. A virtuosic feat requiring plenty of practice and technical facility, the long tracking shot is usually more of a flourishy show off than a requirement to make the film. Yet, this show-offy quality fits music videos perfectly, which need that 3 minutes of undivided attention to suck a viewer into a song.

Many best-of lists have been compiled for films, but music videos often use the same technique of the single take, as in this fine new single by J. Cole, featuring a Mr. Cole, a marching band, exploding cars and the city of Fayetteville, N.C. (Warning: Not Safe For Work… coarse language)

I tried to think of other music videos that use the same long tracking shot. A few immediately come to mind, but most are recent.

The cheap-o version: the fixed camera take, as in OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again.” I’m sure the take required plenty of choreography and practice, but there’s something about the fixed camera that keeps this video from the kind of artistry visible in some of the other videos. I wonder if this classifies as a “tracking shot” video, in the same way that I wonder if Ozu fixed-camera shots belong in the same category as, say, P.T. Anderson’s panning around in “Boogie Nights.”

There’s Vampire Weekend’s imitation of Wes Anderson storytelling, which moves between scenes of varying interest (not unlike J. Cole’s video above).

There’s Michel Gondry’s “Is that really one take?” Radiohead video for “Knives Out.” The video tells a distinct story, while keeping the usual Gondry whimsy amidst Radiohead’s gloom.

There’s the over-the-top production number, which has a tendency to flame out. Feist gets it right, though, with “1 2 3 4.” I’m pretty sure the video is what sold me on the song.

Even the venerable (and often boring) band-plays-the-song video can be gussied up with a little single-take magic. Observe…

One category of tracking shot video that deserves special mention is the fan-made lip dub variety that has made the rounds. The sight of joyous people singing an otherwise horrific pop song is enough to redeem even “Hey Soul Sister.” This kind of video encapsulates the pros and cons of single-take music videos: sometimes the gimmick overpowers the song or the visual onscreen, but the overall enjoyment of the technical achievement and the rapturous experience of the people in the video are enough to wipe away any qualms.

Finally, the one-of-a-kind split-screen single-take altogether perfect music video. I’m pretty sure this is the Platonic ideal. Solid pop song, video subject material tangentially related to song, band-playing-song trope still evident, insertion of band members into story, unsatisfying yet satisfying ending — it’s all there folks.

Anyone got more?

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The Supreme Court today, in an altogether unsurprising decision, tossed out the Chicago handgun ban. This expands the umbrella of gun rights protections to cities and states.

It’s worth noting that many of the arguments made in Heller v. District of Columbia and in McDonald v. Chicago involve the application of the phrase “the right to keep and bear arms.”In its original context, “to bear arms” had a distinct military meaning, and “defense of themselves” meant defense of one’s nation, not one’s backyard. As Justice Breyer noted in oral arguments, the “well-regulated militia” part of the Second Amendment has taken a distinct backseat. This is often ignored, but it was the very foundation of the nation’s first major Second Amendment ruling in Miller v. United States:

The Constitution as originally adopted granted to the Congress power — “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view.

[…]

The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they [307 U.S. 174, 179] were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia- civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion.

The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. ‘A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.’ And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.

Despite the original meaning of the Second Amendment being quite far from the interpretation of Heller, the conservative vein of judicial thought calls itself “originalist.” Yet, the ideology that we know today as the gun rights movement only came into existence after the passage of gun control acts during the violence in the Western states (Kentucky, Tennessee, etc.) during the 1820s and 1830s.

Cases such as McDonald unveil the originalist movement for what it is: an ahistorical facade to justify an ideology after the fact. Originalism stands for states’ rights, yet here is the federal government telling localities what they can and can’t do. (One wonders whether Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Co. would have looked at such a broad view of the substantive due process clause in a case involving prisoner voting rights or environmental litigants against an oil company.) Originalism stands for the original intent of the Constitution, even though the Second Amendment’s militia clause is well-established as essential to the original intent of the framers. Originalism stands for the strictest possible interpretation of the words on the page, but the Second Amendment deserves broad interpretation, deviating from existing caselaw dramatically.

My point, however, is not that the Court ruled incorrectly — simply that “original intent” is not a sturdy enough concept upon which to build a judicial philosophy. Our understanding changes over time. “To bear arms” used to have a purely military meaning; today, without native populations or foreign enemies, “to bear arms” has an individualized meaning.

If anything, we have become too attached to this idea of perfect founders of the Constitution. There’s a reason they made the document easy to change and amend over time; they knew they weren’t perfect. In Heller and McDonald, the Roberts Court has succeeded in rewriting the rules; the right wing should at least quit pretending that they’re still using the original rulebook.

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One common theme in deficit-reduction circles is raising the retirement age, which seems fine to me, I guess. The rise in life expectancy means that old folks stay on the public dole for longer, which leads to higher spending.

One thing I wonder, though, is who will be employing all these senior citizens? In our systems of employment, the longer you work somewhere, the more you get paid. Once you approach 40, though, your chances for advancement diminish greatly. Employers are much less willing to interview or hire older workers. Age discrimination has just been made very hard to prove. Put all this together, and instead of a bunch of voluntarily retired 65-year-olds, you’ll just have a bunch of involuntarily retired 65-year-olds who can’t receive Social Security benefits. Current trends seem to back me up.

Retirement age seems to be yet another canard that won’t save that much money, as opposed to, say, directly cutting benefits.

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After having read the Rolling Stone McChrystal piece in its entirety, I’m not at all surprised to see that the most inflammatory stuff is hidden in anonymous quotes from “close sources,” an “aide,” and a “member of the general’s team.”

I understand the importance of the anonymous source, particularly in journalism of a sensitive nature. By contrast, this is the kind of anonymous sourcing that lets cowards mouth off without owning up to their statements.

How interesting that the tough guys who insist that they are the last true brave men are too scared to put their names behind their words.

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You won’t see it coming, I swear.

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