In late July, news surfaced that Iran had executed two gay teenagers--ostensibly for sexual assault, but most likely for the crime of being gay.
Americans do not capitulate easily to adversity, which is why President Bush's elegy last week--and his stirring promise to rebuild--comforted us. "Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to cope, but to overcome," he said, standing in front of the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, my hometown. "We want evacuees to come home for the best of reasons--because they have a real chance at a better life in a place they love." It sounds uplifting. But, sadly, it is wrong. New Orleans should not be remade.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the most emotionally affecting moments of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow comes, unfortunately, during the closing credits, when jazz vocalist Jane Monheit sings "Over the Rainbow." It's a wistful, haunting rendition that plays beautifully off Judy Garland's Wizard of Oz version, becoming at once old and new, an homage and an original. It's this challenge, of simultaneously conjuring the classics and offering something fresh and vital, that largely eludes Sky Captain, released on video today.