Vive la république!

I Voted TodayI was talking to Will this morning and he asked how I was going to vote Prop. 29, the California cigarette tax. I told him that I thought it was a good idea. He countered that he didn’t like the idea of making smokers, who are generally poor in more than one way, pay this tax. If he could tax the cigarette companies, he would feel much better about it.

The fact is that the cigarette tax is going to be approved overwhelmingly. But Will was still struggling with the right way to vote on it. He isn’t alone. Most people I talk to take voting very seriously. They don’t consider what the polls say. For most people—and this includes most devoutly religious people—voting is the most sacred act they perform.

We should at least have a system where people are compelled to register to vote, like they have in New Zealand. Or a system where people are automatically registered to vote, like they have in Finland.[1] In fact, I am for compulsory voting, like they have long had in Australia. And just in case there are any libertarians out there, this is not a question of freedom. Citizenship implies certain responsibilities and if voting is not one, the concept has no meaning.

Not to mention that we cannot win if we do not play.[2]

So to all those people who take their citizenship seriously today, I salute you. Vive la république!


I was wrong. The cigarette tax went down. Vive la corporation! So neither of the ballot measures went the way I wanted. Typical.

[1] Finland, Finland, Finland! The country where I want to be!

[2] Here is Little Stevie Orbit:

A Tale of Two Stories

This morning, Will sent me two stories from the Press Democrat that are revealing. Sunday, we have A flurry of flipping. It tells a glowing story of Blue Mountain Realty:

In an unprecedented effort to buy and flip distressed properties in Sonoma County, a Vacaville company has purchased more than $15 million worth of foreclosed homes across the county in the past six months.

And then on Monday, we have Funding for affordable housing dries up:

Even as Sonoma County faces tremendous demand for government-subsidized apartments, affordable housing proponents say[1] the money to pay for new projects is drying up.

Housing groups expect to lose $1 billion a year in redevelopment funds as a result of recent cutbacks. Other state and federal funds have been reduced or eliminated.

You would think that the loss of $1 billion dollars in yearly funding would be a bigger story than some vulture capitalist spending $15 million total to flip properties. And maybe it is. But the house flipping story was twice as long as the affordable housing story. But you know how it is: poor people are so depressing. And rich people are fun.

The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. And anyone who notes this fact is engaged in class warfare.

[1] Note how the amount of money Blue Mountain Realty has spent is just a fact. You can trust a company! But money for affordable housing may or may not be drying up. Proponents say it is. But you can’t trust these do-gooders. What’s more, they don’t deserve the time it takes to research the claim.

The Raven Doesn’t Suck

Edgar Allan PoePreviously, I made a bit of fun of the new film The Raven. And I didn’t follow through on my promise to be the first person in line on opening day. It got away from me; it wasn’t exactly well publicized. But I saw it today.

First the bad news: my reading of the film based upon its trailer was totally wrong. The idea is that this film takes place in the few days before his death on 7 October 1849. His wife died two years earlier (this is briefly mentioned, but if you didn’t know anything about his life, you would have missed it). He is in love with another young woman. His wife was 13 years younger and the actor playing Emily (Alice Eve) is 15 years younger than John Cusack. So that all works. Another criticism of the trailer was that the works Poe is most known for were written in the couple of years before his death. But given I was wrong about the time of the film, this is all perfectly fine.

Last the good news: The Raven is surprisingly good.

The Raven is getting mostly bad reviews and it hasn’t been all that successful commercially. And I can see why! The Raven doesn’t suck. The screenwriters, Ben Livingston & Hannah Shakespeare, clearly know Poe well. It isn’t just all the references to his work, either. It is that the serial killer’s notes sound just like Poe’s horror fiction.

One great surprise is that Poe does not get the Sherlock Holmes treatment: he is not an action superhero. There is one scene where he tries to follow the murderer over the swinging walkway over a theater, but even in this scene he falls and drops his gun. What’s more, the denouement[1] depends entirely on Poe as a writer. How about that? Screenwriters actually honoring their subject!

Making this film was a brave act, because I’m sure I was not the only Poe fan watching it. I was just waiting for the film to get something really wrong. And it was flawless. Of course, others probably don’t like it that Poe dies at the end of the film.

This is not to say that the film was great. It’s an entertainment. James McTeigue directed it, and it is certainly as good as his V for Vendetta. But the whole serial killer thing has so much baggage that there is no way it couldn’t clutter up the film. The script has problems too. The opening of Poe in a bar trying to get respect is tone deaf. The behavior of the killer is often ridiculous. And the film takes what would have been a really good (unsettling) ending and makes it pat.

Otherwise: not bad. I thought the film was a bit dark (I worry what it will look like on video). But there’s no doubt that Danny Ruhlmann set the right mood. This was helped with the post-production sound, which interacted effectively with the music. John Cusack was about as good as you could expect. Alice Eve seemed quite good, but it could be just that I think she’s so lovely. And it is a thoroughly professional film, of course.

You are far better off seeing The Raven than Marvel’s The Avengers. But best of all would be to go straight to the master:

[1] For fans of Adaptation, that’s de-nu’-ment if you’re Donald and de’-nu-ma if you’re Charlie.

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