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Space Saver
December 28, 2005

Serenity, writer/director Joss Whedon's exuberant space opera, opens with one nod to the power of love and closes with another, the first concerning a brother's affection for his sister and the second, a captain's for his spaceship.

Paint it Black
November 29, 2005

It's rarely an attractive sight when a lifelong good guy decides it's time to show everyone he can be bad.  For most men, such crises of character involve the midlife acquisition of a motorcycle or sports car, though in some cases an electric guitar suffices. (The leather jacket and sunglasses are givens.) The metamorphosis can be particularly disturbing in filmmakers, who after all have more vivid ways of dramatizing their states of mind than mere automobiles and accoutrements.

Past as Prologue
September 26, 2005

My street was deserted Sunday, when a couple of friends and I checked on it. A few military types were cutting away at the trees blocking a major intersection nearby, and, at one point, two guys who live around the block stopped by because they saw our cars outside. Beyond that, the neighborhood was a ghost town, just like most of the rest of New Orleans. The people who lived here until two or three weeks ago have gobbled up real estate in Baton Rouge. Or they're holed up with relatives.

Trailer Trash
September 26, 2005

Recent headlines have offered hope that President Bush may yet do right by the victims of Hurricane Katrina. After the first days of shameful ineptitude, he secured more than $60 billion in relief, named somebody with actual disaster experience to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency (fema), and, rather uncharacteristically, admitted his administration made serious errors in the storm's immediate aftermath. But there is one reason to think the Bush administration hasn't learned from its past mistakes: its plan for housing the people that Katrina has rendered homeless.

Poverty Line
September 19, 2005

It took a few days after New Orleans flooded for the press to breach the mental levee blocking comments on the victims' race and class. But, once that levee finally broke, it washed away pretty quickly. In a furious rant on Thursday, CNN's Jack Cafferty lashed out at journalists' unwillingness to take on the "elephant in the room" and complained that "almost every person we've seen, from the families stranded on their rooftops ...

Gulf Stream
September 19, 2005

On Monday morning in Baton Rouge, Josephine Bell was trying to tidy her family's living area. "Help me sweep up now!" she yelled at one of her sons, handing him a broom and pointing to a pile of spilled cereal beneath a cot. "I want this area clean!" Bell, her husband, and her two sons had arrived in Baton Rouge eight days earlier, when, heeding the call to evacuate New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina approached, they left their home in the city's Uptown neighborhood and headed, on a special bus, 80 miles west on I-10.

My Son, The Doctor
September 05, 2005

The saga of Jews and medicine.

Failed State
September 05, 2005

Can any governor succeed in California?

Bully Pulpit
August 15, 2005

Last fall, a Bush-bashing ad in The New York Times included among its signatories the name of Norman Pattiz, the celebrated creator of Radio Sawa, a radio network fashioned to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world. This year, some say as a result of the ad, Pattiz has found himself battling for his seat on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent government commission that oversees the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/ Radio Free Liberty, and Radio Sawa and its sister TV network, Alhurra.

Familiar Haunts
February 08, 2005

First time tragedy, second time farce. Fifth time? Judging from Takashi Shimizu's The Grudge, by then you know what you're doing. The Japanese director has essentially been recycling the same eerie ghost story since 2000, first in two installments made for Japan's video market (entitled Ju-On and Ju-On 2), then in two theatrical-release remakes (Ju-On: The Grudge and Ju-On: The Grudge 2), and now in a Hollywood-produced English-language version, The Grudge, just released on video.

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