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Film Review: Medicine For Melancholy

| Mon May 19, 2008 9:45 PM EDT

melancholy-250x200.jpgRacial identity, gentrification, and indie rock frame Barry Jenkins' breakthrough film, Medicine for Melancholy; a sweet, provocative, and sometimes redundant film about two hip, African American twentysomethings who spend one full day together in San Francisco after hooking up at a party the night before.

San Francisco has been the backdrop for a ton of moviesVertigo, Bullitt, the Towering Inferno, 48 Hours, So I Married an Axe Murderer—but in Jenkins' film, the city's giant hills, bustling city streets, museums, renters-rights debates, and indie music actually shape the story's narrative. As the two main characters walk up and down hills, ride their bikes downtown, attend exhibits, walk past an open-door neighborhood town-hall meeting, and get drunk at a mostly white hipster bar, locales actually help focus and shape conversation.

Jenkins' "medicine"—constructive debate, the excitement of meeting someone new—for "melancholy"—struggling to understand and define racial and cultural identity—can feel a little forced. Arguments between the two main characters sometimes fizzle and come to no conclusion or consensus. But this frequently funny, often endearing look at life in San Francisco will serve as a worthwhile time capsule for the City by the Bay, and many of its complexities.

Medicine For Melancholy screened at SXSW in Austin in March, and more recently at the San Francisco International Film Festival. It will screen in Los Angeles June 19.

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Music: Compare and Contrast: Portishead vs. SCTV

| Mon May 19, 2008 8:22 PM EDT

mojo-photo-mojo.jpgOkay, I know I've been talking a lot about the Portishead album, which I love more and more with each passing second. But while my adoration for Third is nearly boundless, I'm not blind to its more, shall we say, "mockable" aspects. Case in point: listening to track two, "Hunter," today, I was suddenly reminded of another piece of music that it resembles. A long-buried German cabaret number? An obscure album track from the soundtrack to an early Bond film? Norwegian funeral dirges? No, no, no: "Hunter" seems to have borrowed its dramatic piano melody and swerving chord changes from the theme to SCTV's brilliant soap opera parody, "The Days of the Week." After the jump, compare and contrast for yourselves. Hmm, maybe we should also be looking for hidden references to "The Great White North," or perhaps the organ sounds came from Tex and Edna Boil's Organ Emporium?

New (Leaked) Music: Ladytron - Velocifero

| Mon May 19, 2008 6:48 PM EDT

mojo-photo-ladytronv.jpgLadytron have always been kind of sneaky. They're better than they should be, with a far-from-unique formula of vaguely out-of-date electronica and breathy female vocals, plus a name that seems culled from Barbarella or something. Yet each of the foursome's three albums so far, starting with their 2001 debut, 604, has risen above generic retro-futurism or pretentious glam-techno, utilizing a diverse stylistic palette as well as an wry playfulness (witness their cover of Tweet's "Oops (Oh My)"). Plus, they just write really good, catchy songs: "Seventeen," "Destroy Everything You Touch," and "Playgirl" could all take on the best Depeche Mode songs in an electro battle of the bands. Most intriguingly, they seem to have gotten better with every album; does Velocifero, out next month, continue the Tron's evolution?

Clinton Camp Flaming Her Supporter's Sense that Obama's Win Is Unfair?

| Mon May 19, 2008 4:47 PM EDT

Even though Hillary Clinton is campaigning onward, a key question for her is how gracious a loser she can be. How she handles what seems to be her pending defeat could affect Barack Obama's prospects in the fall and her own future political career, especially if Obama is defeated by John McCain in the fall. Regarding the former, much media attention has been showered on the possibility that many Clinton voters are so mad-as-hell that they won't vote for Obama in November. On Monday, The Washington Post front-paged a piece on PO'ed women who support Clinton and suggested that some of these voters will choose John McCain rather than vote for the guy who dashed Clinton's glass-ceiling-breaking dreams.

For Clinton, a test will be what she does to mitigate the anger of her followers and lead them into Obama-land. Right now, she appears to be putting off this challenge until after the primaries end of June 3. Which is fine. But her campaign does seems content until then to flame her voters' sense of being aggrieved.

Declaring Victory? Bad Idea, Obama

| Mon May 19, 2008 4:43 PM EDT

Barack Obama reportedly is not heading to Des Moines tomorrow to declare victory in his race against Hillary Clinton. After the North Carolina and Indiana primaries on May 6, an unnamed Obama staffer pointed to the Kentucky and Oregon primaries slated for tomorrow night. "On May 20," he said, "we're going to declare victory." Now, the Obama camp is taking a milder approach.

That said, Obama doesn't have to actually declare victory for the impression to be delivered. After all, he's speaking in Des Moines, site of his victory in the Iowa caucuses four and a half months ago. The campaign has come full circle, is the obvious suggestion. The campaign started here and it ends here.

It's too late for the site of the event to be changed, but there's still time for me to insist, in agreement with Dana Goldstein, that this is a bad idea. The Clinton campaign has legions of supporters who feel their candidate is being unfairly pushed out of the race by the media and, to a lesser extent, the Obama campaign. Why lend (even more?) credence to their complaints? These are Democrats that Obama will need in the fall. He should avoid alienating them at all costs.

Montana and South Dakota, the final primaries, are June 3. Obama can't wait 15 days?

How Female Military Pilots Spell Relief

| Mon May 19, 2008 3:46 PM EDT

As an armchair historian, I'm always scouring for info on how chicks in the Old West etc. went to the bathroom and dealt with their periods in all that long sleeved, flowing train, Texas-heat get-up. As a sci-fi geek, I'm always frustrated not to know how the Star Trekkers went (will go?) potty in the 24th century and whether periods were ever conquered before the Cylons invaded Earth. Well, I still don't know the answer to these questions (though I can't wait for you commenters to tell me how stupid I am) but I know how US military pilots did until recently. (With great difficulty, especially chicks). CNN:

"Piddle packs"—heavy-duty bags containing absorbent sponges—have been blamed for at least two crashes over the years, and they're not always tidy.
...When nature's call becomes too pressing to ignore, a pilot has to fly and unbuckle the harness at the same time—while using both hands to maneuver around in a seat to which he or she is virtually molded.
The aerobatic maneuver is even harder for female pilots.

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The Wisdom of Crows

| Mon May 19, 2008 3:15 PM EDT

I'm fascinated by crows and the fact that they are always left off the list of super smart animals (dogs, dolphins, chimps). In fact, crows use and even create tools in impressive ways, and adapt to their environments so quickly it may shock you. Here's an interesting video on this subject from TED.com, where you can find a wealth of videos on perhaps more serious topics like how the news is geographically distorted and why we eat all wrong.

Naughty GOPers Won't Go Quietly

| Mon May 19, 2008 1:22 PM EDT

It's every ethically troubled man for himself in today's GOP. MSNBC nails it:

How about things you missed in politics because they had nothing to do with the presidential primaries... Start with Vito Fossella and lump him in with Larry Craig and Ted Stevens. The three, if the full barrage of the national political press corps had focused on their issues, all three would likely have made different decisions. Craig and Fossella probably would have resigned; Stevens probably would have retired, saving, potentially three seats that shouldn't be in play -- two in the Senate and one in the House. But all three are in play now. Now, scandal alone isn't the reason why the GOP is on the brink of another disastrous downballot election cycle, but the decisions by these three lawmakers haven't helped things. That Idaho Senate seat should have an appointed incumbent Risch running for a full term; the GOP should be dealing with a fascinating primary to replace Stevens in Alaska; and if Susan Molinari's offspring were old enough to run for Congress, then Fossella might have already been forced out. Seriously, Alaska, Idaho, and Staten Island shouldn't be where the GOP is playing this fall.

I would add Rep. Don Young (also of Alaska) to that terrible trio. Republicans are dying to unseat him in the primary. Young (who shares responsibility with Stevens for the Bridge to Nowhere, is awash in Abramoff money, and is under criminal investigation because of his links to an oil company) has won reelection with over 70 percent of the vote in the past; Charlie Cook currently has his race rated as a toss up.

McCain-Huckabee: Dream Team?

| Mon May 19, 2008 12:45 PM EDT

Every time one of my more moderate Democratic friends mentions that they could probably vote for John McCain because they think he's a moderate, I jokingly remind them that a vote for McCain could also be a vote for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. He's a longshot, but it's clear that Huckabee is stumping for the VP slot.

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Huckabee said,

"There's no one I would rather be on a ticket with than John McCain...All during the campaign when I was his rival, not a running mate, there was no one who was more complimentary of him publicly and privately. ... I still wanted to win, but if I couldn't, John McCain was always the guy I would have supported and have now supported. But whether or not I do the best for him, that's something that only he can decide."

While McCain's best hope, of course, is to ignore the Christian Right and run as a centerist, if he does at some point decide he needs someone on the ticket to mobilize evangelicals in November, there's nobody better out there right now than Huckabee. The Baptist minister won the Iowa caucuses and seven other states before dropping out of the presidential race. As someone who can't get enough of the squirrel-in-the-popcorn-popper story, I'm rooting for him. The only thing better for political reporting this fall than a McCain/Huckabee ticket would be if McCain picked Ron Paul as his running mate.

Is Charlie Black Next to Fall?

| Mon May 19, 2008 10:52 AM EDT

If you've been paying attention, you know that John McCain has a lobbyist problem. A longtime critic of special interests and Washington's lobbying culture, John McCain has built a campaign with lobbyists in dozens of key positions. Under pressure to clean up his shop last week, McCain forced all of his staffers to fill out a disclosure form that detailed lobbying contracts and possible conflicts of interests. The first to leave this week, and the fourth to leave in the last two weeks due to lobbying connections, is one of McCain's national finance chairman, Tom Loeffler. Loeffler's lobbying for Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments was revealed by Newsweek over the weekend.

McCain's critics are pushing hard for the resignation of Charlie Black, the man who reportedly plays the role of McCain's Rove. McCain told the media that "Charlie Black and Rick Davis are not in the lobbying business; they've been out of that business." (Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, is also a former lobbyist.) But according to the Washington Post, Black was the chairman of the super-powerful lobbying shop he helped found, BKSH and Associates, until March 2008. So Black has been "out of that business" for all of two months. And don't forget that Black doesn't mind mixing his lobbying work with his campaign work; in February, he admitted that he makes lobbying calls from on board the Straight Talk Express.

In February, we posted all the lobbying clients of BKSH and Associates that we could find since 1998. They are below.

Update: Black responds here.