Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s new running mate and author of the very unpopular budget plan passed by House Republicans, says that the problem with President Barack Obama is that he is “out of ideas” on the economy.
** QUICK HITS. Here’s that interview, now available in close to its entirety, of Governor Jerry Brown by writer Marc Cooper for Pacific Standard that I previewed a while back. I’ll have a lot more on this as we go. (And when my back isn’t feeling stressed.) … Brown will campaign in San Diego on Monday for his Proposition 30 revenue initiative. … The California state PTA, the only major endorser for heiress Molly Munger’s sort of rival but really zombie income tax hike for nearly all initiative, reacted somewhat defensively to a brushback pitch letter from Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer decrying some still rather mild Munger criticism of Brown’s initiative. They did so in a methinks protests too much response letter. Which means they heard the message, whether Munger and her well-paid consultants did or not. … Meanwhile, in the realm of real “brushback” political rhetoric, i.e., incendiary, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not stepping lightly through the ongoing Gulf crisis with Israel and the US, declared that the existence of Israel is “an insult to humankind.” He was speaking today at the annual Quds Day holiday, on which Iran urges the return of Jerusalem from Israeli control. Ahmadinejad’s comments came as Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak seem to have become more defiant in their advocacy of a potential attack on Iran even as opposition mounts internally.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THE TROUBLE WITH ROMNEY, PART 47 (COUNTDOWN EDITION).
** RECALLING TOTAL RECALL: INTRIGUE, ULTRA-VIOLENCE, HUMOR AND WHAT ELSE THAT IS MISSING FROM THE SCHWARZENEGGER REMAKES. To be clear, Total Recall — the original, that is — is one of my favorite movies of all time. By which I do not mean, simply one of my favorite action movies or favorite Arnold movies.
I remember talking with a well-known filmmaker some years ago who asked me what my favorite films of all time were. My answer: “Chinatown, Apocalypse Now, Reds, Lawrence of Arabia, Total Recall, Vertigo, Citizen Kane, They Were Expendable, Raiders of the Lost Ark …” The Oscar winner got a look on his face like he had finally realized that he was dealing with a deranged person, and not because he preferred North By Northwest in the Hitchcock oeuvre, either. (The list, incidentally, which is changeable — perhaps a euphemism for my being fickle — though Chinatown is always top of the list, was accurate at the time. When it comes to more intimate drama, I look more to television than to movies, especially now, which is why I write so much about Mad Men.)
Since I consider the 1990 film an outrageous classic of the genre — a great mind frak film with intriguing notions about layers of reality long before Christopher Nolan’s classic Inception — I had a great deal of trepidation about the 2012 remake, which is now working its way through the global distribution mill after a less than scintillating start at the domestic box office. After seeing the trailers and looking at reviews, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the new version. It looked like a mostly no-fun retread. But curiosity got the better of me.
So I saw the Total Recall remake after I went to see The Dark Knight Rises for a second time, preparing to write about the Dark Knight Trilogy now that the dust has mostly settled from the Colorado massacre which placed the final film’s debut in such deep and tragic shadow.
Putting aside my great attachment to the original to accept this version for what it is, I enjoyed the Total Recall remake to a certain extent for the first 40 minutes. Then it just got pretty tedious the rest of the way. Not much humor, wit, heart, mystery, excitement, unlike the original, and a whole lot of endless generic action. As a result, it’s just the latest disappointing remake of an Arnold Schwarzenegger film, following in the footsteps of the recent remakes of Conan the Barbarian and Predator. …
One of the few fascinating things about the remake is how weightless its violence feels. While the action is relentless, the violence is relatively bloodless, especially compared to that of the original, which is a relative gorefest.
The original Total Recall revels in its ultra-violence, even though it was toned down somewhat for the censors. It forces its fans to confront the fact that they enjoy violence, even, or perhaps, especially, when seeing its effects.
The remake casts violence as “action,” bloodless and more politically correct, to be sure, but not at all realistic or shocking. The original, in the hands of Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger, is hyper-realistic in its violence. When Schwarzenegger-as-Quaid kills someone with an axe, or a forearm blow to the head, not to mention a spike through the head, it’s visceral, both on screen and on the soundtrack.
It’s disturbing even as it’s entertaining. After all, when one laughs — as I do, every time — when the hapless bystander on the escalator is bracingly shot to death by the bad guys as they close in on Schwarzenegger, who then uses the dead body repeatedly as a shield before flinging it on Richter and his henchman in order to make good his escape, it’s not as a member of a high order civilization.
The question of violence in films is very current, of course, in the wake of the horrifying massacre in the Colorado movie theater.
I always think back to the classic sequence in 2001 in which the ape man invents technology by discovering that a large bone can be used as a club. After indulging in the joys of hunting, he and his cohort attack another band of ape men at a watering hole, killing their leader, driving their rivals off, and seizing the water for themselves in pre-history’s first military operation. Savagely celebrating by pounding his rival leader’s lifeless body, the inventor of the first weapon flings it joyously into the air. As it turns, end over end, in director Stanley Kubrick’s breathtaking vision it becomes another piece of technology, another tool, a satellite in orbit far above the Earth.
I was able as a kid to join a small group which talked for hours with 2001 author Arthur C. Clarke — rated with Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein as one of the “Grand Masters” of science fiction — after one of his lectures, not long after 2001 appeared. In the heyday of anti-Vietnam War sentiment, this celebration of violence, and especially the beginnings of organized, industrialized violence, was very much a topic of discussion with Clarke. Who, though no hawk (he was an early advocate of communication satellites to knit the world together), was unapologetic about the scene. It neither celebrated nor denigrated violence, he argued. It simply placed it at the center of human history, where it has always been.
The Dark Knight Rises massacre again raises the question of violence in the culture. Did the Dark Knight films cause the massacre? Are violent movies why the deranged right-wing man attacked Sikhs in the Midwest? Or why an apparently deranged left-wing man attacked a right-wing political group in Washington?
Probably not. Do they help desensitize the culture? Naturally. But then so does any serious exposure to the news.
One thing I know for sure is that I don’t want to have to choose a cinematic diet consisting solely of Woody Allen movies and Disney comedies.
For his part, Verhoeven joyously showcases ultra-violence in Total Recall, sticking it in the audience’s face. Indeed, the entire milieu of the film is as downbeat as it is shot through with glee. …
For all the talk of whether Schwarzenegger was the biggest action movie superstar, it’s often gone unremarked that Schwarzenegger is the biggest science fiction movie star. In fact, aside from Conan and the comedies, his biggest movies are all either straight scifi, such as the Terminator films and Total Recall and, as it turned out, Predator (the only film in history to star not one but two future governors), or have major scifi elements, such as True Lies. (Which is spyfi.)
For all the jokes about his acting ability, many of them generated by himself, Schwarzenegger was long a major presence at the Saturn Awards, which honor the top science fiction and fantasy films.
Which only makes sense, since Schwarzenegger has had a longstanding interest in technology, something which became very clear during his two terms as governor of California. That’s especially true with regard to the potentially liberating force of Promethean technology, as seen in Total Recall.
Tech can be liberating, it can be stifling, it can be both, even at the same time, as we see in Total Recall.
Before Total Recall, like most movie-goers, I certainly knew who Schwarzenegger was but wasn’t sure I took him all that seriously as a movie star. Well, actually, I was sure. I saw his movies and enjoyed them, but didn’t hesitate to use them for humor.
In fact, I took great glee in teaching Conan’s creed to the very young son of friends who grew tired of having me prompt the equally gleeful tyke to say, when asked “what is best in life,” in his tiny voice: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women.”
During this period, a politician I worked with, a Democratic state senator named John Garamendi who had just wisely pulled out of a race for governor, happily reported that he had secured Schwarzenegger to headline his big fundraising dinner in LA. But I talked him out of it, arguing that Schwarzenegger was too conservative, which would turn off Democrats in Hollywood and elsewhere down the line. And that, anyway, while his movies were kinda fun, he would never ever, and I mean ever, be a big movie star.
Garamendi, now a congressman, later became Schwarzenegger’s lieutenant governor, to the ultimate displeasure of both men. But before their falling out, he never tired of reminding me of how wrong I’d been about Schwarzenegger’s prospects.
I recall, as it were, talking with Schwarzenegger the year before he ran for governor, discussing his hopes for renewable energy in California. I sensed the enthusiasm we see as he settles back in the chair at Rekall for his trip to Mars. …
A newly-recruited Afghan police officer opened fire today with his service weapon, minutes after US military trainers gave it to him. Two American Green Berets were killed. Another shooting in another part of Afghanistan, also carried out by an Afghan colleague, wounded two more American soldiers.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He then met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Obama, who campaigned extensively around the country this week, has no scheduled public events today.
But he has a renewed crisis of “green on blue” violence, i.e., Afghan security forces attacking their American colleagues, to assess and deal with.
And there is the ramped up talk in Israel of an impending Israeli military attack against Iran.
Israel is awash in heightened media speculation and breathless headline coverage, even as much if not most of the country’s security leadership appears opposed to an attack.
Israeli President Shimon Peres was reprimanded today by a spokesman for Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu for coming out against an Israeli attack.
A new CNN poll shows that the Obama/Biden ticket still has the edge in Wisconsin even after the ballyhooed roll-out of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time. The time in Manila, on the South China Sea, is fifteen hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown got some good news this morning with the new report on job growth in California.
For the 12th straight month, the state’s economy added a significant number of new jobs.
The number of new jobs in June was already upgraded.
As a result, California has now added over 365,000 jobs over the past year, which is the most since 2000.
California’s job growth rate of 2.6% over the past 12 months is double the national average of 1.3%.
Steve Levy, longtime director of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy, had this to say in his report:
“The Bay Area remains the state job growth leader with gains of 40,900 jobs in the San Francisco metro area, 30,400 in the San Jose metro area and 19,800 jobs in the East Bay.
“Southern California is finally participating in the recovery with job gains above the national average in the Los Angeles, Orange County and Inland Empire markets.
“San Diego job levels are up 35,100 (+2.9%) over the past 12 months and for the first time the Sacramento region posted significant job growth with a gain of 21,800 jobs or 1.8%.
“The high unemployment rate of 10.7% reminds us that California still has a long way to go to recover the jobs lost in the deep construction led recession.
“But today’s report is another sign that the state economy is on the recovery road.”
Brown joined with Silicon Valley leaders yesterday afternoon to announce and sign a memorandum of understanding with Japan’s Samsung Semiconductor to build a new and expanded research and development facility in San Jose. The company, which has long had a presence in Silicon Valley, had been looking at other options for expanding its R&D capacity in the US.
At 3 PM , Brown joins San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President George Shirakawa, and officials from Samsung Semiconductor Inc. for a major announcement about the company’s future plans.
Samsung is planning a major expansion of its presence in California.
Brown kicked off the pre-Labor Day portion of his drive for the Proposition 30 revenue initiative yesterday with an appearance at New Technology High School, a charter school in south Sacramento.
The No on 30 campaign, as well as the Molly Munger Initiative campaign, tried to draft off Brown’s press coverage, to little avail.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … RECALLING TOTAL RECALL.
** LONDON’S GRAND OLYMPICS, ON AND OFF THE TRACK. … From my August 13th essay.
** GORE VIDAL: REMEMBERING A BRILLIANT, CONTROVERSIAL LEGEND OF THE SORT WE DON’T FOSTER ANY MORE. … From my August 3rd essay.
** ROMNEY’S DANGEROUS BUFFOONERY. … From my August 1st essay.
** SUNRISE IN CALIFORNIA? … From my July 26th feature.
** CHINA MOVES SWIFTLY ON NEW “CITY” ENCOMPASSING SOUTH CHINA SEA, GULF CRISIS SIMMERS. … From my July 24th feature.
** THE DARK KNIGHT SHOOTINGS: “ALL IT TAKES IS A LITTLE PUSH.” … From my July 21st column.
** MITT WHITMAN = MEG ROMNEY. … From my July 19th column.
** CRISES CHAOTIC AND BUBBLING: THE GULF AND THE SOUTH CHINA SEA. … From my July 17th essay.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 feature.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
The first trailer for former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand has been released. A drug cartel leader busts out of a Las Vegas courthouse and speeds to the Mexico border, where the only thing in his path is a sheriff and his inexperienced staff. The film will be released in January 2013. Schwarzenegger co-stars in The Expendables 2, out this weekend.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations in the region, and the Arab awakening underway, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer from the Russia Today channel. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the state-run channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $96 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $62 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down about $18 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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