The Answer Guy Online

Providing information to unwitting victims on a "don't-need-to-know" basis since 1974.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Another dreary, rainy day here in the District of Columbia. But hey, at least my cell phone is finally fixed. Woohoo!

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Distribution for Beltway Bandits:

(Note: If you're using the old distribution from the GWACC website, feel free to continue doing so. This one is a lot simpler to manage, and probably, to write in.)

4-5 / 4-5 Film
Should have comedy, drama, romance, action, and sci-fi/fantasy/horror all represented at least once somewhere in the packet. Should include both "good" (i.e. Oscar-type) and "bad" (i.e. "The Hot Chick" and it's ilk, or stuff like "Plan 9 From Outer Space"). Should include both old (<10 years) and new.

4-5 / 4-5 Television
Should mix comedy, drama, action, sci-fi/fantasy and "other." Should have at least one show currently showing first-run episodes, and at least one show >10 years old.

4-5 / 4-5 Music
Again, please be inclusive. Rock(classic and modern), pop, R&B/soul, and rap/hip hop should all be represented. Gettable questions on other genres, including jazz, Latin, gospel, and "world" music are recommended but not required.

4-5 / 4-5 Sports
Emphasis should be on the "Big Four" - pro/college football, pro/college basketball, pro baseball, and pro hockey. All of the above should be represented. There should be at least one question on either golf, tennis, or both. There should be at least one question somewhere on women's sports (team or individual) as well. Go easy on professional wrestling.

1-2 / 1-2 Literature
This includes trash-worthy printed material, either fiction (sci-fi, romance, mystery, children's, etc.) or non-fiction (current events, comedy/humor, celebrity biographies, other stuff). Also includes comic books, magazines, newspapers, and online journalism of any variety (please keep the latter to a minimum, thanks)

1-2 / 1-2 Games/Toys
This includes board games, card games, RPGs, and video/computer games. Mix them up. If you absolutely must write two different questions about video games, at least have them come from different platforms and different eras. Some "kid stuff" goes here, but more of it will be in TV, movies, or lit.

1-2 / 1-2 Food/Products
This includes anything about food, beverages, cooking, consumer products, or companies (restaurant chains, stores, automobiles, etc.)

1 / 1 Weird/Bizarre/Evil
Trashy current events, "true crime," sex/sexuality, general weird knowledge (roadside Americana, urban legends, Internet subculture etc.) To the extent that there is any meta-QB (and that's best avoided), it goes here. Physical challenges, if reasonable and feasible, go here. Use your imagination.

1 / 1 Wild Card
We only ask that you not write a 6th question dealing exclusively with any one of the four major categories. Interdisciplinary stuff (actors who had flops of a singing career, pro athletes crossing over into acting) can go here.

The whole thing should add up to 25/25 when you're done.

A few other notes:
*A specific requirement to write what Edmund calls "floof" has been lifted. This is NOT a license to write a frat boy theme packet. We want some chick flick questions, soap opera questions, female-skewing music questions. The spirit of the requirement remains, but, I'm tired of seeing everyone write the same five "floof" questions.

* The "geek" requirement has been revamped, but we still want to see sci-fi and fantasy TV, movies, literature, and game products get their fair share of question material.

* Three distinct clues per tossup, at a minimum. Keep most tossups it to six lines or less.

* Most boni should be three or four parts. Two part boni should be kept to a minimum. Single-part, single-answer boni are not acceptable. And if you're going to have five or six parts to a bonus, the parts had better be short.

* Answers should be underlined _LIKE THIS_ if at all possible.

* .rtf (Rich Text) or .doc (MS Word) files are preferred.

* Sunday, Feburary 23rd is the no penalty deadline.

Talkin' Baseball

I started a Yahoo! fantasy baseball league. My franchise plays in the my NationStates country of Borealium.

The league ID # is 21748.
The password is, well, the common name (first word only, all small letters) of the tournament that my organization, GWACC, is running next Sunday.
We're scheduled to draft about 48 hours from now, but if there's not enough people ready to go, we'll probably autodraft at a later date.

So Dangerous, You'll Have To Sign A Waiver

I can't resist the urge to pass this link on.

It's a list of artists' riders found in contracts between the artists and concert promoters. Want to know what J. Lo. demands to have backstage in her dressing room?

Revelations of no significance in particular...
1. People who don't seem ask for that much include Vince Gill, Neil Diamond, and Sting. At the other end of the scale, we have Prince, Sammy Hagar, and...J. Lo. (Shocker, I know.)
2. I guess I should be happy that so many stars demand organic produce, free range meats, etc.
3. The lights in Fred Durst's dressing room MUST BE DIMMABLE!
4. DAVE [Grohl, Foo Fighters] LIKES STINKY CHEESE!
5. Kansas (yes, they're still touring) wants prune juice backstage.
6. Barry Manilow's dressing room is decorated by his fan club.
7. The Black Crowes demand a spread of deli that includes "no processed meats," and yet specifically asks for bologna and salami.
8. Both Prince and Ozzy Osbourne specifically demand a doctor ready to administer injections of vitamin B-12.
9. Mary J. Blige demands to be paid in cash, specifically in $100 bills. What's that all about?
10. No one in the trade wants to be called a "reunion tour" by promoters. References to "original members" are similarly frowned upon across the board.

This is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Close To The Edge

[Yikes. 1100 words of stuff guaranteed to piss most people off. I must have a death wish or something.]

No, I don’t hate America. Why do you ask?

Ever had that female friend or relative that always ends up in the most dysfunctional relationships with the worst boyfriends, mooching, abusive, possessive, compulsively womanizing, psychotic or whatever? Or the male friend or relative who always went for deranged and obsessive or insanely clingy or two-timing girlfriends? And they won’t dump the guy/girl, giving him or her chance after chance after chance, and you’re getting tired of trying to get them to do so? Or, heck, maybe you’ve been that person. (Props to you for recognizing that, if you are. It’s the first step to recovery.)

Anyway, that’s kind of how I feel about my country right now.

It takes considerable imagination to conceptualize a worse leadership than what we have right now, short of a fascist dictator or a dissolute king or a fanatical mullah. (A real cynic would see at least some elements of all three in this administration.)

Every economic idea they put forth seems designed to bring back the good ol’ Victorian plutocracy. Every proposed (large or small) tax change, every shift in budgetary priorities, every last domestic policy initiative – even the ones inspired by Democratic pressure, like the prescription drug benefits - coming from this White House seems specifically designed to create two Americas, one growing ever richer, the other growing ever poorer. The rationale for this set of policies is in constant flux. (When the economy looked good, we needed tax cuts because “America deserves a reward”; now, with the economy gone south, we need them to stimulate the economy.) Now I suppose one naturally wants to reward one’s campaign contributors with favors, but some of the changes they have proposed go well beyond mere payback into the realm of kleptocracy.

Every social policy idea is geared towards a small but influential cadre of people trying to inject radical religious views into public life. And not just on the “hot button” issues that clutter the airwaves and newspaper editorial pages, either. Or the federal largesse this administration is so eager to shower upon the religious right. Scientific boards are being stacked with people chosen primarily for their religious views. Our position as leader of the scientific world will be severely jeopardized if we continue down this path.

Every foreign policy initiative this administration undertakes further isolates America from the rest of the world. And as much fun as it is to make fun of the French, well, it’s not just them. Even if one comes to the quite reasonable conclusion that the regime of Saddam Hussein needs to be dealt with, this bunch running the show is almost uniquely unqualified to improve the situation there. Not only are we the ones that created this monster in the first place, but, of all the times to start a war in the Middle East, why would you pick this time? Our international “Q rating” is at an all-time low, we’re already trying to stabilize Afghanistan, it’s still clear Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida have no love (for the clueless, “infidel” is about the nastiest thing a Muslim fanatic can another person) for each other, and it’s painfully obvious to everyone not getting their information from Fox News or far-right talk radio that a war with Iraq will lead to more terrorists and terrorism. Our leaders would have us risk this much to prevent a far-fetched scenario of Saddam sacrificing the power he craves above all else just to spite the United States or Israel in some sort of suicidal attack? (Or for that matter, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or Iran?) The only person that wants this war more than George W. Bush is Osama bin Laden.

It’s not that I think it’s necessarily about oil. I have no idea what this Iraq thing is supposed to be all about, even after reading a lot of news for the last two weeks. Is it about disarming Saddam of his “weapons of mass destruction?” Is it about bringing “democracy” to Iraq? Is it about the son avenging the father’s old grudges? I know there’s thousands of troops there now. I have every confidence in their ability to do exactly what their commanders want done. I have every confidence that Saddam Hussein can be removed from power if that ends up being an American goal. I have no confidence, however, that anything good can ultimately come of this war. I have no confidence that Iraq won’t degenerate into the anarcho-state Afghanistan became and may become again. I have no confidence in this regime currently in power in Washington to rebuild any nation, anywhere on earth.

And as bad as this administration’s policy choices are for this country, their approach to power is arguably worse. Everything is an excuse for more power, more secrecy, fewer liberties, fewer checks and balances. This was the most secretive administration the nation has seen in quite some time, and that began well before September 11, 2001. Their modus operandi seems to be to instill panic, fear, paranoia, and more panic in the population. (What makes this even worse is that there actually things out be quite concerned about, but these vague “alerts” to an already on-edge public serve no real purpose and might be seen as crying “wolf” some day.) That way dissenters or would-be dissenters are afraid to say anything, lest they be branded as unpatriotic or worse. (They’ve never actually bothered with specifying their criteria for “enemy combatants.”)

I guess it will help them get re-elected.

Though there is something inherently foolish about all this, it is not the work of fools. Though at one level it’s one blunder after another, it can’t be called incompetence. It is the work of a self-contained cell of badly misguided and reckless people hell bent on grabbing ever more power for themselves.

If you’re in a mood to be generous to the public, you can call a lot of this a bait-and-switch snow job, or maybe a stolen election. (No, I have not “gotten over it,” or forgotten about it.) If you’re not, and there’d be no reason to be if this bunch is still in the driver’s seat come January 20, 2005, well…

“Anyway, America, honey, dump this guy and his entourage, before you really get hurt. I think maybe there’s a better future for you somewhere.”

I get the sinking feeling she won’t leave him anytime soon. But I love her, damnit.

And as much as I might enjoy the fleeting self-satisfaction of an “I told you so” or two, I’d rather she not be put through what she’s about to go through.

Close to the edge, round by the corner.
Close to the end, down by a river.
Seasons will pass you by.
I get up, I get down.

(OK, now I’m quoting Yes lyrics. I think they mean something profound, but I'm not sure what. Time for me to go to sleep.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Washington still hasn't dug itself out of the past few days' worth of snowfall. The sidewalks here in Adams-Morgan are treacherous.

Got no mail today, tomorrow doesn't look good either, and the nearby Post Office was closed.

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow..huh?

Oh, yeah, I starting laughing out loud when I saw a snowplow truck stuck on 18th Street this afternoon.

All in all, it was almost a relief to have a state of emergency in the area that had nothing to do with terrorism.

Monday, February 17, 2003

The Obligatory Oscar Odds

Based on my imperfect knowledge, here are my odds for who’s going to win the major Academy awards on Oscar night.

(Note: I have seen all of the following: “About Schmidt.” “Adaptation.” “Catch Me If You Can.” “Chicago.” “Far From Heaven.” “Gangs of New York.” “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” “Road To Perdition.” I have not seen “Frida,” “The Hours,” “The Pianist,” or “Unfaithful.”)

Best Picture
Chicago - 3:2
The Hours - 2:1
Gangs of New York - 8:1
The Pianist - 12:1
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers - 22:1

I guess we’ll start with the obvious. “Lord of the Rings” isn’t winning. It pains me to say that because I loved it so much – masterful, stunning, action-packed. The quick and dirty explanation: Director Peter Jackson was left off the Best Director list, in favor of Pedro Almodovar. If the director of a Best Picture nominee isn’t at least nominated, the film doesn’t win. (This is one of the few hard-and-fast Oscar prediction rules that never fails.) But even if Jackson had gotten a nomination, “Two Towers” would be a longshot. Big sci-fi, fantasy, or other high-concept-type movies get nominated from time to time but don’t win, even if they are enormous critical and commercial triumphs. “Two Towers” is this year’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” this year’s “Star Wars.” Some say that the filmed version of Tolkien’s saga has a shot to break that mold; however, it’s long been thought that the trilogy’s best chance at a Best Picture win lies with the final installment, next year’s “Return of the King.”

“The Pianist” is the so-called “fifth film.” Most observers had the other four nominees penciled in and speculated as to what the fifth would be. I had considered “Pianist” as a possibility, but thought the Academy could also go with “Antwone Fisher” or “Adaptation.” But in doing so I forgot something important; the Academy can’t resist Holocaust movies. Seriously, folks, if it weren't for the existence of "Jakob the Liar," I'd swear that Michael Bay could make a Holocaust movie, cast Rob Schneider, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Madonna in the main roles, and it'd still get a Best Picture nomination. Anyway, “Pianist,” which has a name director in Roman Polanski but no major stars, is the “little movie” of the bunch. Three of the other four movies are larger-than-life extravaganzas - “The Hours” is more modest in scale but is loaded with star power. And the “little movie” (“Chariots of Fire” and “Shakespeare In Love” notwithstanding) doesn’t generally win. It doesn’t help that it’s not being seen or talked about much.

Then there’s “Gangs of New York.” I loved it; not all critics agreed with me. It has been something of a disappointment at the box office, though the Oscar nominations will help.
It was grand, it was epic, and it made no apologies for either. Martin Scorsese has made better films, but it was a thrill to watch what he did when given a canvas this massive to realize his vision. (Don’t ever let anyone tell you American history is dull.) It was derided by some as overly long and pretentious and excessively bloody. I think the mixed reviews will doom its chances at Best Picture.

In short, it’s coming down to “Chicago” versus “The Hours.” My guess is that voters are opting for “Chicago,” despite the fact that “The Hours” is the sort of highbrow flick they adore, with stars they’ve nominated before (Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris.) Why? The Academy loves the musical. They want to see the musical brought back to prominence like R. Kelly wants underage girls in his dressing room. They love it so much they elevated “Moulin Rouge” to Best Picture nominee last year despite it getting nearly as many negative reviews as favorable ones. With “Chicago” getting critical praise for its many fine performances on top of good box office numbers, this is the Academy’s chance at giving the musical a boost.

Best Director
Martin Scorsese, “Gangs of New York” – 2:1
Rob Marshall, “Chicago” – 2:1
Stephen Daldry, “The Hours” – 4:1
Roman Polanski, “The Pianist” – 9:1
Pedro Almodovar, “Hable con ella (Talk To Her)” – 30:1

Usually, the director of the Best Picture winner wins Best Director. The Academy has split its ticket twice in recent years, however. For 2000, it awarded “Gladiator” Best Picture but Steven Soderbergh won Best Director for “Traffic.” For 1998, “Shakespeare In Love” beat out “Saving Private Ryan” for Best Picture, but Steven Spielberg did win the consolation prize of Best Director.

However, even in those kinds of years, the Best Director winner at least had his film nominated for Best Picture. (I say “his” because women directors are still a rarity.) So Almodovar is immediately eliminated; “Talk To Her” wasn’t even nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

I think Polanski is a longshot, for the same reasons his film is a longshot. Not to mention his own little “R. Kelly problem,” which means he likely won’t be at the ceremony, something some voters might consider.

Something tells me that this might be a split-ticket year, and it’s clear who the beneficiary would be. Something tells me Martin Scorsese is finally getting a Best Director Oscar, sort of like a Lifetime Achievement Award, even if I don’t think his movie is winning Best Picture. Amazingly, he doesn’t have a gold statuette yet. On at least two occasions – 1980 (Robert Redford won for “Ordinary People” over “Raging Bull”) and 1990 (Kevin Costner won for “Dances With Wolves” over “Goodfellas”) - he was robbed. (Polanski doesn’t have one either, but his best case was for “Chinatown” in 1974, and, well, he was up against Francis Ford Coppola for “The Godfather, Part II.”) Despite a stunning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, “Gangs” is all about Martin Scorsese. His movie was good enough to get a Best Picture nod. His main opponents are not exactly household names. Although there are probably some voters who dislike Martin Scorsese’s use of violence (although “Chicago” isn’t violence-free either) and others who might object to the three-hour length of his film. This is as good a chance as any for the Academy to reward a legend like Scorsese.

However, the Academy usually keeps the awards together. And if, as I think they will, they go with “Chicago,” there will be a lot of support for giving Rob Marshall, making his feature-film directing debut, the Oscar instead. The director’s role in a musical production is obviously extremely important, and the Academy has been willing to give Oscars to first-time directors.

Scorsese has a better chance of benefiting from the split if the Academy goes with “The Hours.” Stephen Daldry is also largely unknown – he had his breakthrough of sorts in 2001 with “Billy Elliot.” But more importantly, “The Hours” seems like more of an “actors’ picture” that lives or dies not with its direction but with its cast. Its principal roles are all filled by veteran, well-known, well-respected actors. It’s easier to see someone supporting “The Hours” for Best Picture and yet deciding someone other than Daldry deserving Best Director than it would be for supporters of any of the other three dual-nominated films.

Best Actor
Jack Nicholson, “About Schmidt” – 5:2
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Gangs of New York” – 3:1
Nicholas Cage, “Adaptation” – 7:2
Michael Caine, “The Quiet American” – 6:1
Adrien Brody, “The Pianist” – 13:1

Brody is the proverbial “won by being nominated” here. Usually, you have to be a name to win Best Actor (or Actress.) Caine is very much a name, but few people saw or talked about “The Quiet American,” a movie that sat on the shelves for the better part of a year due to Miramax being skittish about releasing a movie questioning American interventionism overseas after 9/11.

Nicholson is the slight favorite here, because he won the Golden Globe against the exact same competition, and because, well, he’s Jack Nicholson. His role in “About Schmidt” was a bit of a change for him – he played an understated Everyman character in an honest, human-scale picture rather than his usual over-the-top role that never lets the viewer forget he watching “Jack Nicholson.” That, and well, he showed his backside, which I wasn’t terribly interested in seeing, mind you, but that could have been the most ridiculed scene of the year in the wrong film.

I liked Nicholson and “About Schmidt,” but I’m hoping that one of the other two guys gets the prize. Not only does Jack have enough hardware, but Cage and Day-Lewis deserve it more.

Cage’s deft handling of dual roles in “Adaptation” was dead on – and the more I learned about how it was done, the more amazed I was by it. One character was shy, consumed with self-doubt, a tortured artist. The other was full of self-confidence, likeable but without much in the way of intellect or creativity in such a way that not everyone might notice. There was no blending – you always knew whether he was playing Charlie or Donald, despite the absence of obvious visual cues. (Of course, it also meant I left “Adaptation” lamenting how Cage wastes his presence on so many bloody awful films.)

Daniel Day-Lewis stole center stage from Leonardo DiCaprio in creating among the deepest, most complex, most unforgettable villains in movie history with Bill “the Butcher” Cutting in “Gangs of New York.” It’s easy to act in an over-the-top fashion, but this role was an achievement in that it mostly avoided caricature, not easy for a villain in a fairly melodramatic picture. In lesser hands, the Butcher could have fallen into self-parody.

Best Actress
Nicole Kidman, “The Hours” – 3:1
Julianne Moore, “Far From Heaven” – 3:1
Selma Hayek, “Frida” – 4:1
Renee Zellwegger, “Chicago” – 4:1
Diane Lane, “Unfaithful” – 9:1

This one’s very much up for grabs. I don’t see Lane winning it since “Unfaithful” was a spring picture that got mostly lukewarm reviews, even though most critics praised her portrayal of a wife in a troubled marriage.

When I first did these odds, I had Selma Hayek firmly in the “won by being nominated” category. A lot of reviewers were cool to “Frida,” and some even specifically panned Hayek’s performance. This is also the first time she’s been within a country mile of an Oscar, and the Academy is not known for its generosity to new actresses in this category.
However, two things changed my mind. First, the Academy likes artist biopics and performances in such movies are treated favorably. Second, well, she’d be the first Latina to win Best Actress. It’d be another “historic moment” the Academy could pat itself on the back for. (Halle Berry was third at best on many people’s predictions last year.) I’d still rate Kidman and Moore as having better chances, since “Monster’s Ball” was higher on critics’ “must see” lists last year than “Frida” was this year.

As the lead actress in the most nominated film, and as a previously nominated actress (for last year’s “Bridget Jones’ Diary”) Zellwegger has to be considered to have a shot. However, I’m of the opinion (and at least some observers agree with me) that Catherine Zeta-Jones’ performance (for some reason in the “Supporting Actress” category) in “Chicago” upstaged hers. And my gut instinct says voters would rather reward Moore or Kidman.

Nicole Kidman has a plum role in “The Hours” as author Virginia Woolf. (Even if she had to wear that big prosthetic nose.) She was up last year for “Moulin Rouge,” but a lot of people think this is her year.

Julianne Moore is in the position of being nominated both as a lead actress (for “Far From Heaven”) and as a supporting actress (for “The Hours.”) She almost certainly will not win both. History suggests that an actress in that position has better odds in the Supporting category; to add to that, “The Hours” has had a higher profile than “Far From Heaven.” But I still like her chances here. “Far From Heaven” got great reviews. I get the feeling the Academy really wants to give Moore an Oscar, and something tells me they’d rather pass on Nicole Kidman than on Catherine Zeta-Jones in the Supporting category.

Best Supporting Actor
Chris Cooper, “Adaptation” – 3:1
Paul Newman, “Road To Perdition” – 3:1
Ed Harris, “The Hours” – 4:1
Christopher Walken, “Catch Me If You Can” – 5:1
John C. Reilly, “Chicago” - 7:1

This is the most wide open of the big six categories. I would not be especially surprised with any result.

Cooper, a veteran character actor, has a good shot against big-name competition due to snagging the Golden Globe in this category, for his role as a deceptively smart Florida swamp-rat obsessed with orchids in “Adaptation.” His character was among the most memorable in all of cinema this year. I hesitate to make him any more than a co-favorite because he’s up against some very big names.

Paul Newman is an Academy favorite, and his name alone is enough to put him in the running, for his low-key portrayal of an Irish mob boss in “Road to Perdition,” a summer film otherwise largely overlooked (Conrad Hall did get a nod for cinematography – it was a visually stunning picture) by the Academy. Like Daniel Day-Lewis in “Gangs of New York” (though nowhere near as dramatically) Newman plays a villain that an audience can actually identify with, and pulls it off.

Christopher Walken, who won in this category over 20 years ago for “The Deer Hunter,” is up for his charming role as Leonardo DiCaprio’s father in Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can.” (Interestingly enough, Oscar darling Tom Hanks was in both the above movies and received no nominations.) The man who virtually defines the term “character actor,” Walken has always managed to carve a distinct imprint onto everything he appears in and always looks good no matter how bad the surrounding picture is around him. It’s a real treat when he actually appears in a quality film like “Catch Me If You Can.”

Ed Harris, perennial Oscar bridesmaid, has now been nominated for a third time in this category (1996, “Apollo 13”; 1999, “Truman Show”) in addition to his Best Actor nod for his portrayal of the title artist in “Pollock.” In “The Hours,” he plays a man dying of AIDS. Could this be his year?

John C. Reilly plays an unloved husband in both “The Hours” and “Chicago,” and was nominated for his role in the latter. (As if that wasn’t enough, he also appeared in “Gangs Of New York,” and received won a Sierra award for that role from the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards for that role.) The string of performances in three notable films worked for Jim Broadbent last year, so Reilly has a chance as well.

Best Supporting Actress
Catherine Zeta-Jones, “Chicago” – 7:3
Julianne Moore, “The Hours” – 5:2
Meryl Streep, “Adaptation” – 4:1
Kathy Bates, “About Schmidt” – 9:1
Queen Latifah, “Chicago” – 9:1

As I said above, Catherine Zeta-Jones was the leading light in “Chicago.” I had no idea she could sing or dance like that.

Julianne Moore is up for her supporting role in “The Hours” as well as her lead role in “Far From Heaven.” She’s not going to win both, and there’s at least some possibility the double nomination works against her in both categories.

Streep was not nominated for “The Hours,” as many expected, but for her role as a journalist captivated by one of her subjects in “Adaptation,” her 13th Oscar nomination. I think it’s more like that Zeta-Jones or Moore will win, but Streep has to be considered a possibility, since her multi-faceted performance, though quieter than those of co-stars Nicholas Cage and Chris Cooper, was strong, and, well, she’s Meryl Streep.

Kathy Bates has garnered another improbable nomination (after she unexpectedly won Best Actress for “Misery” in 1990, she was nominated for in her role in 1998’s “Primary Colors”) improbable acting career. This role (“About Schmidt”) even included a hot tub scene. But she’s up against some very tough competition, and she didn’t get a lot of screen time. I think she’s a longshot. Besides, I’m not sure I want to hear the hot tub jokes that would come with her acceptance speech.

I have to conclude that Queen Latifah is window dressing. Her number in “Chicago” was quite impressive, but her screen time compared to all the other nominees (except Bates) was very short. I can only conclude that the Academy would have been embarrassed if they had nominated no black actors or actresses just one year after they made history with the Oscar wins by Halle Berry and Denzel Washington. (Which makes me even more puzzled the Academy passed entirely on “Antwone Fisher.”)

Or perhaps it’s just a tougher year for men, the way last year seemed tougher for women.
The list of un-nominated male actors included Richard Gere, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, and Dennis Quaid.

Random Notes on Other Categories:

Best Screenplay (Original) – Very tough category this year; all five of these picks would be reasonable. I’m puzzled that neither “Hable con ella” nor “Y tu Mama Tambien,” both up for Original Screenplay, were nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Although “Gangs of New York” and “Far From Heaven” are both heavily nominated films, something tells me that this may be where the Academy chooses to reward “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

Best Screenplay (Adapted) – “Adaptation” is the obvious choice, especially if it loses elsewhere. The script may actually, despite fine (and nominated) performances from its cast, be the best part of the film. And of course there is the nomination for the screen adaptation of “Chicago.” I’m pretty confident “About A Boy” isn’t winning, and, again, I think “The Pianist” is a long shot. I’d also be surprised if “The Hours” won here, despite David Hare being a name playwright (which worked for Tom Stoppard and “Shakespeare In Love”) The other big story here was that “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” which got a nod in this category last year, was denied this year.

Best Documentary – “Bowling For Columbine” is the only one of the nominees I’ve seen. Something tells me it’s not winning. I just think the voters would rather encourage audiences to see more movies in this category, and people are already going to see “Bowling For Columbine.” The early buzz is on “Daughter From Danang,” about the reunion of a Vietnamese woman with her “Americanized” daughter. (Although watch out for the Holocaust picture “Prisoner of Paradise.”)

Best Animated Feature-Length Film – I guess they needed to fill a list of five, since “Treasure Planet” made the list. I’d like to see Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” win rather than yet another Disney flick like “Lilo & Stitch” or even Dreamworks’ “Ice Age.” I’m just afraid that people will confuse “Spirited Away” with “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron”

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Wow. This is more snow then I've ever seen in Washington.

At least it gives me an excuse to be lazy and go nowhere today.

Friday, February 14, 2003

So are we going to be going through this sort of stuff every time there's a coaching change in the NFL from now on?

Look. They had someone specific in mind, someone with a well-known track record. When he became available, they canned their incumbent specifically so they could hire him. They called other candidates because they were ordered to, and those candidates refused to interview, because they knew the thing was a charade. What do you want the Lions to do? (And given their recent history with draft picks, I'm not sure what how much difference stripping draft picks from them would make.)

I'm far from a right-winger, but this is really stupid.

And as long as minorities are receiving intentionally substandard health care (even controlling for income level), there are far bigger fish for the civil rights community to fry than this one on behalf of a handful of well-off coaches and a few dozen professional athletes. Oh, yeah, Johnnie Cochran can't make money as easily fighting for that cause.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Duck And Cover

Again, sorry about the delays between blogs.

I read about the government's suggestions to buy plastic wrap and duct tape to protect from biological, chemical, and nuclear terrorist attacks, and all I could think of was, well, "duck and cover."

It's not that I don't recognize there might be danger.

It's not that I necessarily think anyone is crying wolf, although I do worry about that phenomenon.

Some things are true, even if the Bush administration says them.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Sorry, dear readers. I know it's been a while....

All About The Benjamins?

OK, here’s the not-quite-hypothetical question presented.

Suppose A, B, C, and D are co-workers. All four live on the west side of Washington, and the workplace is east of the city. A and B are essentially neighbors, as are C and D. The distance to work for A and B is about 11 miles; C and D live about 9 miles from work. A has a car, and B, C, and D do not. While C and D do not quite live on the most direct route to work for A, the route to stop by C and D’s neighborhood is on most days a damn good shortcut to work for A, allowing A (and B) to avoid downtown Washington entirely. Picking up C and D adds essentially nothing to the duration of the trip and very little in terms of extra distance. D started working at the workplace a couple weeks after A, B, and C did.

If you haven’t figured it out, yet, the Answer Guy is D. I got along fairly well with the other parties. I had been friends with C for some time, and I sort of bonded with A over her interest in weblogs and other things. I’d still like to get along with B and C, but who knows?

OK, so A wants to be reimbursed. (Well, apparently not anymore, but that’s another personal story not worth delving into.) Fair enough. The costs to be recouped are fairly small but are worth accounting for in at least some fashion. I’m going to guess A’s vehicle gets, in city rush hour traffic (not actually as bad as that sounds, since it’s essentially a reverse commute most of the way) between 25 and 30 miles to the gallon.

There was a misunderstanding about what A wanted to charge. I’m not going to go into the nature of the misunderstanding, since, well, it’s not all that interesting to anyone save the parties involved. I had thought it would be $4 a day – turns out it was $8 a day.

Doing the math, that’s $120 a week profit, minus whatever her fuel and other costs actually are. It’s not so much the sheer number of it that so perturbed me, it’s more the idea that she turns what seems more like a favor (one I’m willing to defray the actual costs of) into a profit-making enterprise.

Suffice to say I was prepared to accept $2 each way with a stoic demeanor with maybe some private, down-low grousing. It was somewhat less than I was going to be paying Metro and more convenient. $2 isn’t that far above what it would cost her to make the trip alone, or to make the trip along, picking up only me along the way. But a of charge $4 each way. $8 a day, somehow struck me as different, in a way I found offensive. I thought was she was doing was unseemly. I thought that we were friends. I get very upset when I sense someone is trying to take advantage of my situation. I don’t like being used.

I am now not on speaking terms with A. It was less civil than perhaps it should have been, to be sure. But, I’ve seen that there are always people, friend, foe, and otherwise, looking out to get whatever they can out of you. Partly because I aspire to something better, and partly because I want to believe in the fundamental goodness of humanity, I avoid dealing with such people whenever possible.

However…from the standpoint of Homo economicus, the kind of creature that inhabits intro microeconomics textbooks, the whole thing makes perfect sense.

From the opposite perspective, it of course makes sense to charge whatever price you think the market will bear for your good or service. Sometimes you’ll find people unwilling to pay. As far as I know, B and C seemed willing to pay, which seemed strange to me, but whatever.

Operating under the assumption that time = money, and that it’s a time suck to be riding transit for over two hours a day (it will, however, allow to catch up on my reading I suppose), it would make sense to suck it up and accept being “used” in this fashion.

Well, needless to say, I am not, for better or for worse, Homo economicus.

In some contexts, I accept the inevitability of having the position of inferior bargaining power. But anywhere I can possibly draw the line, I will. I’m not saving much money in strict dollar-cents terms, and I’ve just made things really awkward at work. But I’m stubborn that way.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Another World

What, dear readers, would happen if the Answer Guy got his own country?

More broadly, it might look like this. Or maybe it wouldn't. (Based very loosely on what would happen if there were a hypothetical small republic with a population full of Answer Guys and Gals. )

All I know is that I have the feeling that is probably addictive.

Thanks to Kristin and Tricia for turning me on to the site.

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