September 2010


Gus Van Sant VS. Lars Van Trier

We are prone to making comparisions, blame it on a liberal arts education. We call Lebron James the black Margret Thatcher (freedom of labour markets under the guise of private corporate incentives, HOLLER). These are two directors with three names. One of them made a great TV show about a haunted hospital and a bunch of high art films waltzing around in meangingful dresses; the other one made a bunch a films that have been about the romance of junkies and some street guys who were good at math. We are preferential to one Gus. But first Lars.

What is the story? To make something to challenge us as the audience is fine, but there should be joy in overcoming that challenge, something we are better for. In the Element Of Crime or in Dogville there was none of that beyond the feeling that the director was making a statement. Statements are great. But in making them the audience should feel the joy of having pushed the rock up the hill, knowing that the misery of it was worth something. Dancer in the Dark was not about that, neither was nothing else we have seen of his.

Vague imagery, congested dialogues, heavy handed symbolism is really 11th grade stuff maaaaan. Look at Gus Van Sant. He is doing things: giving imagery and voice to the boys in Columbine, giving life to the last few days of Kurt Cobain in there retarded junkie realness.

So we, being the judge and jury in this particular face off – Gus Van Sant wins!

BONG BONG

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A pod of 74 pilot whales stranded themselves on a remote northern New Zealand beach — the second time in a month that a mass beaching has happened in the region, officials said Wednesday.

Twenty-five of the animals were already dead when officials arrived at Spirits Bay beach, Department of Conservation area manager Jonathan Maxwell said. In addition to the 49 still alive and stuck on the beach, another 50 were spotted just offshore, he said.

”We need as many volunteers as possible, as it will be at least until tomorrow (Thursday) before we can look at refloating them, which means caring for them over the next two days,” he said.

Volunteers from Far North Whale Rescue, conservation officials and the local Maori community were preparing to stay at the beach overnight to help keep the whales alive, Maxwell said. They would have to battle a strong swell and high winds in an effort to refloat the animals Thursday.

In mid-August at nearby Karikari Beach, a pod of 58 pilot whales stranded. Despite hundreds of helpers fighting to save them, just nine were eventually floated off the beach and returned to the sea.

A pod of 101 pilot whales stranded on the same beach in 2007.

New Zealand has one of the world’s highest rates of whale strandings, mainly during their migrations to and from Antarctic waters, one of which begins around September.

Since 1840, the Department of Conservation has recorded more than 5,000 strandings of whales and dolphins around the New Zealand coast. Scientists have not been able to determine why whales become stranded.

A Heroic Return to Fashion

By SUZY MENKES

NEW YORK — Beyoncé Knowles, in a silver sequined dress, sashayed toward Tom Ford. She turned by the marble fireplace, where vases were filled with cherry blossoms intertwined with orchids, tossed her ample curls and revealed a hazy tease of nudity on her famous booty.

The performing artist was one of a stream of famous women who showed off the first Tom Ford women’s collection in the intimacy of the designer’s Madison Avenue store — an event so private that it took fashion back to a distant past when there were no banks of paparazzi or images whizzing off into cyberspace.

Only the photographer Terry Richardson, splaying himself across the floor in his enthusiasm and excitement, captured this exceptional fashion moment, when Julianne Moore, the female star of “A Single Man,” Mr. Ford’s first movie, walked the store runway with her daughter, Liv Helen Freundlich, laughing and applauding. Ms. Moore wore a silk fringed dress, one of several on that theme, with threads parting to show sensual shoes with gleaming ankle bows.

Then there was Emmanuelle Seigner, Roman Polanski’s wife, the epitome of perverse Parisian chic in her black hunting jacket and pants. And Lou Doillon, in Le Smoking, an inky tuxedo reincarnated from the oeuvre of Yves Saint Laurent, Mr. Ford’s dream master.

The returning fashion hero regained his glory in this cut-to-the-chase collection, to go on sale in February only in Tom Ford stores worldwide, according to Domenico De Sole, the designer’s business partner. Mr. Ford came back to women’s design with all the dash and detail, the expertise and the irony of his earlier collections …

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Follow the Dirty Money

By ROBERT MAZUR

Tampa, Fla.

LAST month, a federal district judge approved a deal to allow Barclays, the British bank, to pay a $298 million fine for conducting transactions with Cuba, Iran, Libya, Myanmar and Sudan in violation of United States trade sanctions. Barclays was discovered to have systematically disguised the movement of hundreds of millions of dollars through wire transfers that were stripped of the critical information required by law that would have enabled the world to know that for more than 10 years the bank was moving huge sums of money for enemy governments. Yet all federal prosecutors wanted to settle the problem was a small piece of the action.

When Judge Emmet Sullivan of federal district court in Washington, who ultimately approved the deal with Barclays, asked the obvious question, “Why isn’t the government getting rough with these banks?” the remarkable response was that the government had investigated but couldn’t find anyone responsible.

How preposterous. Banks can commit crimes only through the acts of their employees. Federal law enforcement agencies are simply failing to systematically gather the intelligence they need to effectively monitor the crime.

The Barclays deal was just one in a long line of wrist slaps that big banks have recently received from the United States. Last May, when ABN Amro Bank (now largely part of the Royal Bank of Scotland) was caught funneling money for the benefit of Iran, Libya and Sudan, it was fined $500 million, and no one went to jail. Last December, Credit Suisse Group agreed to pay a $536 million fine for doing the same. In recent years, Union Bank of California, American Express Bank International, BankAtlantic and Wachovia have all been caught moving huge sums of drug money, but no one went to jail. The banks just admitted to criminal conduct and paid the government a cut of their profits.

Wachovia alone had moved more than $400 billion for account holders in Mexico, $14 billion of which was in bulk currency that had been driven in armored cars or flown to the United States. Just who in Mexico did anyone think had that kind of cash? Of course, the government did a thorough investigation but could find no individuals responsible.

Bankers are escaping prosecution because law enforcement is failing to expose the evidence that some bankers market dirty money. Years after the transactions occur, any effort to prove what was known at the time is practically impossible. The bankers simply say they didn’t know where the money came from. Naturally, prosecutors look for ways to get around trying to prosecute those sorts of cases, and instead make deals.

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