Weekend Book and Movie Reviews

With more than 20 hours spent on planes to and from Amsterdam this past week, I had a lot of time to read books and watch movies on my laptop. Here are some of the best:

Crashing the Gates by Markos of Daily Kos and Jerome Armstrong of MyDD. This Nation review says it all:

Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics is both of the blogosphere and beyond it. Writing with the outrage of outsiders and the access of insiders, the two bloggers analyze a Democratic Party they find oddly complacent despite its losing record and tarnished reputation. They argue that the party's most consequential problem is not branding but its sclerotic leadership, quarrelsome coalitions and anachronistic fundraising methods [...]

In the end, Armstrong and Zúniga have written the rare polemic that focuses more on fostering innovation than defending a particular worldview. They decline to outline a progressive policy agenda and humbly reject attempts to anoint themselves leaders of their website communities, let alone the netroots. Instead, they are trying to develop a decentralized progressive movement that draws strength from its members and has no traditional leaders to be co-opted. It is an admirable vision of "people-powered politics," and one that the Democratic Party sorely needs.

Next up is Instapundit Glenn Reynold's An Army of Davids, about "how markets and technology empower ordinary people to beat big media, big government and other goliaths."

In Army of Davids, author Glenn Reynolds, the man behind the immensely popular Instapundit.com, provides an in-depth, big-picture point-of-view for a world where the small guys matter more and more. Reynolds explores the birth and growth of the individual's surprisingly strong influence in: arts and entertainment, anti-terrorism, nanotech and space research, and much more.

The balance of power between the individual and the organization is finally evening out. And it's high time the Goliaths of the world pay attention, because, as this book proves, an army of Davids is on the rise.

As I read this article in today's LA Times about a 21year old named David Lehre who aired a short movie he made about his My Space experience online and ended up with a development deal, I was brought back to the points Glenn makes in his book and how true they are. (Not to mention, Lehre's movie has been viewed online 6 million times.)

Then there is A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror by Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin who also wrote The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia.

McCoy analyzes Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib as well as past programs and shows that the CIA has been on a massive mission for the past 50 years to develop new and more frightening techniques for pyschological torture.

Thanks to a TalkLeft reader, I am in the midst of reading James Risen's State of War on "the secret history of the CIA and the Bush Admnistration." It covers secret spying by the NSA, torture, and the overwhelming evidence in possession of the CIA that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

On to movies.

Imagine, about John Lennon is fascinating. There is so much footage of the early Beatles and early John and Yoko that I've never seen. Same for interviews. I thought it would be like a replay of past efforts, but it's anything but.

This "biography" evolves around the nearly 240 hours of film and videotape fortuitously taken by Lennon of his life. The archive footage is transformed into a fascinating life story of one of the most complex and fascinating men of the modern music era. This effort includes a 36 song soundtrack. Includes some very personal and insightful footage, never before made available to the public.

Another one I liked a lot was The Beautiful Country.

One of the consequences of America's involvement in the Vietnam war, was the children of GI's by their Vietnamese wives and lovers. For years those women who were involved with Americans were social outcasts, treated as collaborators while their children, even when living with grandparents, endured taunts and abuse. This is the story of one such love child, Binh (Damien Nguyen), being forced from his village at 17, going to Saigon to find his mother, then trying to escape to America with his much younger half brother, Tam (Dang Quoc Thinh Tran), in 1990. The film lingers on the rigors of the voyage: the sampan, the Malaysian detention camps, the illegal refugee ship, and the underground economy with near slavery in New York City. It finally opens up when Binh leaves New York for Houston to find his father.

I loved Walk The Line about Johnny Cash and June Carter, which I watched twice (once because it was shown on the plane and once in my hotel room in DC where Amanda and I got waylaid our first night.) Reese Witherspoon definitely deserves the Academy Award, in my opinion.

Speaking of the Academy Awards, the Constant Gardener and Crash, both available on DVD, are must-sees.

Movies I didn't much care for: Elizabethwood and Two for the Money. About a Boy (lent to me by Ezra) was just okay.

One other cool thing is MovieLink. It has no monthly fee and for $1.99 to $4.99 lets you download a movie onto your computer. You can keep it there until you watch it, and then you have 24 hours to finish watching or watch it again. For traveling, it's great not have to take DVD's with you. The quality is the same as a DVD from what I could tell.

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    Re: Weekend Book and Movie Reviews (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 25, 2006 at 12:56:23 PM EST
    Ms. Talkleft: I live in Ventura County, California. Some libraries here have a set of computers for the general public and another set for kids. However, when all the adult-OK computers are occupied, sometimes adults make us of the filtered computers, which are supposed to protect kids from internet evils such as pornography and "web-based chat." Yesterday all the adult-OK computers were filled at my local library and I therefore began to make use of one of the filtered computers. After checking my email, I decided to visit our favorite blog: Talkleft. However, the library filter informs me that I cannot view your website (when I am on one of the filtered computers) because of "illegal content." Perhaps you could help me know where is the "illegal content" on your blog. I am just curious. Usually "illegal content" would be found on websites hosted in certain Eastern European nations, but I don't remember any on yours. In any case, I hope you are happy to know that people under the age of 18, unless they have parental consent to view it, are protected from the pernicious illegal content on your website.

    Re: Weekend Book and Movie Reviews (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Feb 25, 2006 at 01:17:42 PM EST
    Thanks for letting me know. If you send me the address, I will contact them about it. There is no objectionable content or language on TalkLeft, so it's a puzzle. But it has happened before, and it's one of the reasons I don't allow profanity on the site.

    Re: Weekend Book and Movie Reviews (none / 0) (#3)
    by Pete Guither on Sat Feb 25, 2006 at 03:00:45 PM EST
    MovieLink only supports Windows 2000 or XP, so forget about it if you're using Linux or Mac (you can't even browse the site).

    Re: Weekend Book and Movie Reviews (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Feb 26, 2006 at 01:41:20 PM EST
    So you're sure there is nothing on your website that would interest the FBI? The library in question is at Camarillo Library 3100 Ponderosa Drive, Camarillo, CA 93010 (805) 482-1952

    Re: Weekend Book and Movie Reviews (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Feb 26, 2006 at 02:21:37 PM EST
    Jeralyn, YOU KNOW there's no legitimate reason for them to monitor TL and I KNOW there's no legitimate reason for them to monitor TL but one must remember that we're talking about an illegitimate administration with zero credibility and no history whatsoever of candor or honesty and an intelligence community whose ancestors spent five years and countless man hours and taxpayer dollars trying to monitor and decipher the performance of and lyrics to "Louie Louie" while monitoring John and Yoko and having Cointel undercover agents in tie-die t-shirts and wingtips approach Abbie Hoffman asking "Hey, Man, got any papers?" when they really meant "VARE ARE YOUR PAPERS?!!" Evidently, everything old is new again.