The House


Bad Housekeeping

Bad Housekeeping

When Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House in 2006, she famously vowed to "drain the swamp." It was a cute metaphor, but to actually drain the swamp she and her fellow Democrats in Congress would have to get their hands dirty. This week, the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of finding former Bush advisor Karl Rove in contempt of Congress for his refusal to testify before the panel, but the AP reported that Pelosi would not decide whether to bring the measure to a final vote until September. The delay, likely due to Congress's summer recess, wouldn't be so alarming if Pelosi hadn't already refused to follow through with almost every other pursuit of justice regarding the Bush administration's flagrant disregard and contempt for the rule of law.

Pelosi appeared on The View this week to promote her new book, Know Your Power: A Message to America's Daughters. The message, apparently, is to know your power but not to act on it. When co-host Joy Behar asked why Pelosi ruled against the impeachment of George W. Bush, she claimed there is no evidence "that this president committed these crimes." Quite the contrary, Mrs. Pelosi: A new book by The New Yorker's Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, cites a secret Red Cross report stating that the CIA was guilty of using torture and that high-level administration officials who approved the use of those techniques could be tried for war crimes; earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the President does not have the authority to conduct warrantless wiretaps on American citizens as part of the criminal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; an internal Justice Department investigation determined that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales aides Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson violated federal law by politicizing the hiring of U.S. attorneys (though the report apparently only cites civil violations, not criminal); and then, of course, there is the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, and on and on.

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TAGS: dick cheney, george w. bush, karl rove, nancy pelosi


Pulse

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse, about dead souls spilling through the Internet, isn't just scary, it's primally disturbing. Its deadpan chills surpass the usual don't-open-that-door genre clichés and tap into dream logic. Like Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, The Shining, The Innocents, The Tenant and similarly subdued, circumspect, psychologically oriented shockers, it's the kind of movie that is only intermittently scary while you're watching it (it's easy to make fun of), but gets scarier as you think about it later. Kurosawa dispenses with most of the clichéd elements we've come to expect from commercial horror (including the mandatory scene where a character explains the nature of the threat, a stock moment that's amusingly parodied here) and instead dips into horror's roiling emotional undercurrent: the dread that comes from contemplating death.

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TAGS: Haruhiko Kato, Kenji Mizuhashi, kiyoshi kurosawa, Kumiko Aso, pulse


Fleet Foxes

Funny things happen on comment boards sometimes. Last week I weighed in on the new Dr. Dog over at the Onion A.V. Club, which is always fun: they have some of the most restless and inventive commenters around, and it's always interesting to watch people spin out weird tangents I couldn't have seen coming. Sometimes things are predictable: even before my Tapes 'N Tapes went up, it was a safe bet that the usual disgruntled fucktards would be up in arms at someone reviewing something "indie" and hence elitist, obscure, bloodless, etc. But something different happened with Dr. Dog—who, I want to make it absolutely clear, I quite like, despite some minor reservations about their latest. This is how I opened: "The market seems just about perfect for Dr. Dog's fifth album: Fate is logical kin to Wilco's Sky Blue Sky, Fleet Foxes, and other recent attempts to reboot slacker Americana for people who don't know or care about The Band." I meant this neutrally: you can listen to all this stuff and not really miss much if you don't care about The Band. And I don't; point in fact, they represent exactly the kind of plodding, humorless, strum-and-nod Americana bullshit I have no use for (at least if The Last Waltz is enough to go off of; probably isn't, but let's pretend it is). But that, apparently, isn't how it read. Sample outraged responses: "don't be calling me uneducated and shallow for listening to motherfucking Wilco." "i didn't know the av club shat on their readers." So apparently what happened is my sentiments came back around in weird karmic form: there's plenty of other people out there tired of being hectored about The Band who also like this stuff—i.e., the stuff without which you allegedly have no business listening to without a working knowledge of the Robbie Robertson back catalogue—and they thought I was doing it again.

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TAGS: feed the animals, fleet foxes, girl talk, gregg gillis, ragged wood, sun giant


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TAGS: andrew dignan, extra credit, hbo, kevin b. lee, matt zoller seitz, moving image source, museum of the moving image, the wire


The Surge: Debunking the Myth

There's an illuminating article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs detailing the events that led to the Sunni Awakening and the subsequent (relative) peace that has been credited to the U.S. troop surge in Iraq. Increasing opposition to the war among the American public and, in turn, the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006 signaled to Iraqis—specifically the Sunnis, who viewed the Shiites, the U.S. and the Iraqi faction of al-Qaeda as occupiers of their land—that American troops weren't going to stay indefinitely, thereby removing us from their shitlist and forcing them to protect their interests while we still had their backs. With Sunnis and the U.S. allied, they were able to eradicate much of the insurgent and intertribal violence in the Anbar Province. The lesson learned: the risk of abandonment will force the Iraqi people to action, and writer Colin H. Kahl proposes a "conditional engagement," which entails "a phased redeployment of combat forces with a commitment to providing residual support for the Iraqi government if and only if it moves toward genuine reconciliation."

The second half of the article comes courtesy of William E. Odom, a retired three-star General and former Director of the National Security Agency who believes that the focus should be on regional and tribal stability (as exemplified by the Sunni Awakening) rather than forcing a centralized democracy. Odom thinks the U.S. should leave Iraq post-haste; a gradual redeployment of troops, he says, would put our soldiers at risk. I've long held the belief that pulling out of Iraq unconditionally would be a mistake, that hemorrhaging begins the moment you remove the knife. And it's just bad manners to walk into someone else's house, make a mess and then leave without helping to clean it up. That is, if they want you to help. Two weeks ago, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he supported Barack Obama's proposal that U.S. forces leave the country within 16 months.

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TAGS: george w. bush, iraq war, john mccain, surge


My Winnepeg

Hello non-listeners! We've wound down and have enjoyed our new time off. Vadim's taken up sewing, Keith has found new ways to get sick, and I've become oddly fascinated by snake moves on the Sci-Fi Channel. Of course, before all that, we met up with Adam Nayman and Andrew Tracy who were in town for a Reverse Shot shindig.

We took the time to chat about Canadian director Guy Maddin, with both Vadim and Andrew giving us their thoughts on My Winnipeg. We also have a rather lively discussion on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Spielberg Wet Dreams (which goes off on many, many tangents). Plus, our favorite scenes from The Happening!

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TAGS: adam nayman, andrew tracy, guy maddin, john lichman, live at grassroots tavern, my winnepeg, vadim rizov


The Wire

In conjunction with the Museum of the Moving Image's symposium on HBO's The Wire, the museum commissioned a series of video essays for its online magazine, Moving Image Source, breaking down the show's distinctive opening credits; the essays are based on Andrew Dignan's 2006 article "The Wire and the Art of the Credits Sequence." Adapted and narrated by Dignan, and edited by Kevin B. Lee and Matt Zoller Seitz, the series of short films, titled Extra Credit, is now up and running at MOMI's website. The piece on the Season One credits is here; the Season Two essay is here. Each installment also includes the text of Dignan's narration. For information on Seasons Three and Four, click here.

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TAGS: andrew dignan, extra credit, hbo, kevin b. lee, matt zoller seitz, moving image source, museum of the moving image, the wire


Mad Men

Welcome, friends, to The House Next Door's recap of the first episode of Mad Men's second season, "For Those Who Think Young." It's been a huge thrill to see the show come out of nowhere to become the buzz program of the past year (as well as a multi-Emmy nominee), but obviously not as big a thrill for the fans as for the cast and the show's creator, Matthew Weiner, who doesn't waste any time on recaps or self-congratulation, instead throwing viewers right into the deep end to the strains of Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again" ("...like we did last summer"). In that spirit, let's get right down to business.

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TAGS: for those who think young, mad men, matthew weiner, recap


Doctor Who

"The Stolen Earth" is a wonderful and sometimes frustrating episode. Wonderful because it skillfully brings together not only all three of the series in the Russell T Davies Whoniverse, but also numerous other elements from his four seasons of Doctor Who. It also truly kicks off the big finish of Season Four and ends with a big ol' insane cliffhanger. It's maybe frustrating for all the same reasons, but that doesn't mean it isn't a hell of a lot of fun.

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TAGS: Billie Piper, catherine tate, david tennant, doctor who, elisabeth sladen, Freema Agyeman, recap, the stolen earth, tommy knight


Generation Kill

I still don't feel connected to Generation Kill, now almost halfway through its run on HBO. It has fallen into a rhythm of grunt soldiers trying to keep on keeping on while their superiors make foolhardy decisions based on opportunism or an absurd loyalty to the marine corps handbook. They're still routinely scolded for their "grooming standards" and its effect on army behavior ("Our protective posture is weakened!"). Meanwhile, the marines are engaging in firefights with enemy personnel, firing at targets and being fired upon, and wondering whether some of the villagers they are laying siege to are legitimate targets. When children's bodies are brought out for medical attention, it's difficult to navigate the moral terrain because the superior officers don't want to take any of their men out of the game on behalf of collateral damage while their tactical position is extremely precarious and they're far behind enemy lines.

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TAGS: david simon, generation kill, recap, screwby







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