Friday, June 25, 2010

Soccer: The Perfect Socialist Sport

By C. Edmund Wright
June 23, 2010

The world's most popular sport? Puh-leeze. This is like saying that dirt is more popular than gold simply because there is more of it. Last time I checked, soccer was very popular where starvation, archery, and badminton were the alternative activities. Where soccer has to compete with the NFL, college football, and basketball -- not to mention WWE, the X Games, cheerleading contests, and cage-fighting -- not so much.

And no, I am not some redneck soccer newbie who has never been exposed to the sport. Actually, I attended the prep school that brought the sport to the Research Triangle area of North Carolina -- one of the first soccer hotspots in the country. We are talking multiple decades ago. And frankly, I rather enjoyed playing it in one of the southeast's first little league soccer organizations and in high school PE class.

But watching it? Oh my God. The only thing more predictable than Barack Obama blaming George W. Bush and BP is that when you flip over to World Cup coverage, the score will be 0-0. I don't care who is playing or where you are in the, match. It will be 0-0. And for those who think watching the grass grow is more exciting, I think these matches are so long they do have to mow the pitch at halftime. (Hey -- I know they call it a pitch, not a field. Told you I was not a redneck newbie.)

At its heart, soccer is the perfect socialist sport. That's why it will never catch on among Americans the way football or basketball has -- regardless of how hard ESPN or ESPN Deportes tries to force feed it to us. Soccer is a redistributive dreamer's delight, with most of the potential risk-reward strategy of the sport removed by rule. It is a self-esteem cornucopia, where a blistering rout of, say, 2-0 seems so close in the score book. No one's feelings get hurt at 2-0. And on and on the socialist feel goes.

A liberal's only complaint with soccer is that it entails such low scoring that there's no point trying to have a youth league where no one keeps score. It's 0-0. We all know that already. You can't even pretend not to know the score. Then again, 0-0 is the perfect score for a "no score" league, I guess.

Consider other ways in which it is the quintessential socialist sport:

Soccer is biggest where the "national teams" are the main sports focus of a nation. Hey, you can't get much more socialist than that. And everyone on every street and in every town pulls for the same team. Wow. Isn't that exciting? Whom do you pull for? Oh yeah, the national team.

And let's not forget the off-sides rule. Without getting buried in minutiae, suffice it to say that off-sides in soccer is like making the bomb illegal in football or the fast break illegal in basketball. This is a socialist sport. We can't be having any risk-reward equations here. You see, in soccer, it's not fair that you might take a chance to weaken your defense in order to spring a man deep downfield behind the defense. That would be unfair in a free-market, venture-capital-type way. No, no, no! You must let the defense be behind you. You cannot beat them downfield until you have the ball. That would be unfair and, no doubt, mean-spirited.

So ingrained is this into the soccer psyche that many of the world's best defenses employ what they call "the off-sides trap." In other words, they use the socialist rules to the hilt. Here, a defenseman gets beaten downfield on purpose to get a call against his opponent.

It's a lot like using high tax rates and the IRS to keep everyone's financial strata the same.

This leads to the another socialist issue, which is the low scoring and the self-esteem protection involved in that. In international soccer, 2-0 is a rout and 3-0 an absolute blowout. And yet, it seems so close. Hey, we only lost by three.

In reality, it's like losing by 21 in football -- or worse, actually, given the paucity of scoring. It's a total destruction, but it sounds so innocent at three-nil.

Another way soccer is the perfect socialist sport is the power vested in the nameless bureaucrats and their ability to never have to answer for their screw ups. This sounds like big government to me for sure.

Consider "stoppage time." In soccer, the official clock does not stop for out of bounds or other play stoppages. No, it rolls on, I guess to keep the carbon footprint of the clock operations low. You see, like socialists, the bureaucrats don't actually want to trust the real movers and shakers with information like, well, how much time is left. It's kind of like not knowing how much longer you can keep your current health plan if you like it.

The little bureaucrats on the field -- the referees, kind of like lawyers -- keep the time to themselves. No one else knows. It's the perfect case of untalented bureaucrats having power over the real talented people who make things happen (such that anything ever happens in soccer).

And no liberal or socialist sport would be complete without a generous dose of self-importance, arrogance, and snobbery among its followers. I mean, it's bad enough that we have to see the kids running around in almost soft-porn thigh-highs and sandals every Saturday as they pile out of mini-vans at every Shoney's, Applebee's, and Hampton Inn everywhere. But it's the "yeah, but it's the worlds most popular sport" attitude that really gets to me.

No it isn't! See the perfect dirt and gold analogy in paragraph one, please. Where people have a choice, soccer is not the most popular sport.

And it really gets bad every four months -- or is it four years -- when the World Cup rolls around. That's where the arrogance of soccer folks meets up with the one-world feeling and the can't-we-all-just-get-along crowd and all sorts of international bodies that want to treat the U.S. like just another country like Cuba or Iran. It's nauseating.

And what's so deliciously ironic is that when push comes to shove, the international referees will always manage to screw the United States, even as our PC crowd does all it can to convince the planet that we can love soccer, too.

No, we can't. Not as spectators. Hey, I am all for the fitness involved in soccer or any sport that involves that much cardio activity. But please don't make me watch it -- and please stop insulting my intelligence with the "most popular sport in the world" stuff.

Now, back to the game. It's nil-nil. Still.

Obama vs. the U.S. Army

by Patrick J. Buchanan

In confiding to Rolling Stone their unflattering opinions of the military acumen of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones, Dick Holbrooke and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff were guilty of colossal stupidity.

And President Obama had cause to cashier them. Yet his decision to fire McChrystal may prove both unwise and costly.

For McChrystal, unlike Gen. MacArthur, never challenged the war policy -- he is carrying it out -- and Barack Obama is no Harry Truman.

Moreover, the war strategy Obama is pursuing is the McChrystal Plan, devised by the general and being implemented by the general in Marja and Kandahar, perhaps the decisive campaign of the war.

Should that plan now fail, full responsibility falls on Obama.

He has made the Afghan war his war in a way it never was before.

If the McChrystal strategy fails, critics will charge Obama with causing the defeat by firing the best fighting general in the Army out of pique over some officers-club remarks that bruised the egos of West Wing warriors.

And though those remarks never should have appeared in print, they may well reflect the sentiments of not a few soldiers and Marine officers on third and fourth tours of duty in the Afghan theater.

Had Obama, instead of firing McChrystal, told him to shut up, can the interviews and go back to fighting the war until the December review of strategy, he could have shown those soldiers he is a bigger man than they or McChrystal's team give him credit for.

And if success in Afghanistan is the highest goal, how does it help to fire the best fighting general? Do you relieve Gen. Patton during combat because he vents his prejudices or opinions?

This city may draw the parallel, but the Obama-McChrystal clash does not remotely rise to the historic level of the collision between MacArthur and Truman.

Truman had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ordered the airlift that broke the Berlin blockade, and produced the Marshall Plan and NATO. He had won election in his own right with a legendary comeback in 1948.

Obama has nothing like Truman's credibility as a war leader.

And MacArthur was the most famous U.S. soldier since Gen. Grant. No. 1 at West Point, he was a legendary commander in France in 1918, leading troops out of the trenches with a swagger stick.

Driven out of the Philippines in 1942, he had declared, "I shall return," and led the liberation of the islands in 1944. He conducted the famous island-hopping campaign up the archipelagos of the South Pacific and took Japan's surrender on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

As military proconsul, he presided over the reconstruction of Japan, wrote her constitution and converted her into an ally.

When North Korea invaded the South and drove the U.S. Army into the Pusan perimeter, MacArthur landed Marines far behind enemy lines at Inchon in a flanking maneuver that destroyed the North Korean army and will be studied at military academies for centuries to come.

In late 1950, MacArthur was stunned by the intervention in Korea of the armies of Mao Zedong, lately victorious in China's four-year civil war.

MacArthur's clash with Truman was not over something so trivial as a gossipy article in Rolling Stone. MacArthur's hands had been tied by Truman.

He was not allowed to bomb the Yalu bridges over which Chinese troops were pouring into Korea. He was not allowed to bomb Chinese troop concentrations and munitions dumps in Manchuria. He was not allowed to use Chiang Kai-shek's armies on Taiwan. He was not allowed hot pursuit of enemy aircraft into Chinese or Russian airspace.

MacArthur was being restricted to fighting the war Mao wanted to fight, a war of attrition against the world's most populous nation, and largest army, while China was allowed to remain a privileged sanctuary, off-limits to U.S. bombers like those that smashed Germany and Japan.

In his address to Congress, after his firing by Truman, MacArthur put it this way: "'Why,' my soldiers asked of me, 'surrender military advantages to an enemy in the field?' I could not answer."

MacArthur's letter to Rep. Joe Martin, in response to a letter from the GOP leader, was indeed a challenge to Truman's policy of avoiding any risk of a clash with Russia, even if it meant U.S. soldiers would pay the price of Truman's timidity.

Events would prove MacArthur right.

Truman's restrictions would ensure a "no-win war" for two more years that would cost tens of thousands more American lives, and Harry would be sent packing with the lowest rating of any president in history.

Gen. Eisenhower would take office, two years after MacArthur's firing, and threaten the exact escalation MacArthur envisioned, ending the Korean War in six months.

Obama and his party may be celebrating his cashiering of Gen. McChrystal as a macho moment, but by firing the fighting general, for his foolish remarks, Obama has deepened the gulf between his party and the U.S. military.

Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of "Churchill, Hitler, and The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World", "The Death of the West,", "The Great Betrayal," "A Republic, Not an Empire" and "Where the Right Went Wrong."

Violence Expert Visits Her Dark Past

The New York Times
June 24, 2010


A Memoir of Terror

By Jessica Stern

300 pages. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $24.99.

Jessica Stern is among the world’s experts on violence and evil, a woman who spends her time thinking about bad men and bad deeds. She has lectured at Harvard about terrorism and is the author of a respected book, “Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill” (2003). During the Clinton administration she was on the staff of the National Security Council. She presents herself as hard, no-nonsense, buttoned up. She is certainly possessed of the perfect surname. “If the plane goes down,” she writes in “Denial,” her new memoir, “you want me at the controls.”

“Denial” is Ms. Stern’s plainspoken and very raw account of why, long before 9/11, she was driven to study terrorism and to put herself repeatedly into danger as she flew around the world, like some scholarly twin of the former CNN war correspondent Christiane Amanpour, interviewing committed terrorists. Central among the reasons, it turns out, was her own experience of terror. On Oct. 1, 1973, when Ms. Stern was 15 and her sister 14, the two of them, alone in a suburban house in leafy Concord, Mass., were raped by a man who cut the house’s telephone lines before walking inside and leading them upstairs.

Ms. Stern describes that evening in brutal detail. It was a night that changed her and taught her a dire lesson: “Shame can be sexually transmitted.” The crime wasn’t properly investigated. The police didn’t believe her when she said the rapist was a stranger. Because her story and those of others were not publicized or taken seriously enough by the police, the same man was able to rape some 44 girls — an incredible, heart-collapsing number — from 1971 to 1973. “The entire community,” she writes, “was in denial.”

About these facts Ms. Stern is understandably bitter. Her pain is amplified by other sinister aspects of her upbringing. There was the grandfather who took naked showers with her and may have molested her. This same grandfather, a doctor, thought X-ray machines had curative powers and accidentally killed Ms. Stern’s mother, who he believed had an enlarged thymus. She died at 28 from lymphoma caused by an overdose of radiation; the author, at the time, was 3. Ms. Stern’s father, who had twice remarried, did not care enough, upon learning that his daughters had been raped, to return immediately from a trip abroad. This was a family with issues — issues that, like the sun, were stared at only glancingly.

Ms. Stern recounts these stories, as well as her decision finally to look into the details of her own rape. She reads crime files. With the help of a policeman she discovers the identity of her rapist (he is now dead, a suicide) and begins to interview people who knew him. This man’s childhood was blasted by darkness in much the same way hers was. One of the arguments in “Denial” is this: Humiliation and shame are risk factors for savagery.

“Denial” is a hard book to read, in part because of its subject matter, in part because Ms. Stern’s id floats very near the surface. Her anger is barely sublimated and emerges in unexpected and jagged ways, ways that feel authentic but somewhat beyond her control as a narrator.

Imagining a meeting with her rapist, she writes: “He will realize that he wronged the universe, and his brain will explode. Also his penis will fall off. I will leave him there, his brain on his plate.”

About a psychiatrist who evaluated her rapist in prison and described him as “not a sexually dangerous person,” she thinks: “I imagine this doctor’s penis wilting and shrinking in terror, as small as a bean, and there is some satisfaction in this cruel thought. But wilting is not enough: I want to bloody him. In my mind’s eye I swing a bat right at this doctor’s learned head, smashing his skull, the skull that contained his bad, addled brain.”

There are other passages like these, and Ms. Stern ultimately admits, “There is something attractive about the idea of becoming a terrorist in response to being terrorized.” (She loathes that statement’s moral implications.) Reading “Denial” is like ingesting a novel from a particularly damaged Joyce Carol Oates protagonist come to life; Ms. Stern can seem like a potent distillate of every Oates character ever put to paper.

The talented Ms. Oates has fought for the right of women to write about violence, noting in The New York Times Book Review in 1981: “If the lot of womankind has not yet widely diverged from that romantically envisioned by our Moral Majority and by the late Adolf Hitler (‘Kirche, Kinder, Kuchen’), the lot of the woman writer has been just as severely circumscribed. War, rape, murder and the more colorful minor crimes evidently fall within the exclusive province of the male writer, just as, generally, they fall within the exclusive province of male action.” Men, she wrote, don’t take women who write about these topics altogether seriously.

It is possible to take Ms. Stern very seriously indeed, though, and to consider “Denial” a profound human document without considering it a profound literary one. It lacks allusiveness and distance. It is hot to the touch in ways that are both memorable and disturbing.

Ms. Stern writes vividly about how her rape numbed her. (“Instead of feeling terror, I studied it.”) As an adult she came to feel little pain but also little joy. That lack of joy is evident in “Denial.” When this book isn’t scalding, it is cold; it spits out data like a computer. “I wanted to be outrageously inefficient,” she writes — her way of saying she’d like to let her hair down.

The final scenes of this book are a coming to terms with her father, to whom it is dedicated. They share their grievances with each other and confront many subjects they’d long avoided. “This feels like the end of an age,” Ms. Stern writes. “The end of an age of denial.”

The line I will remember from “Denial,” however, is one in which she describes a desire to scream after feeling muffled for most of her life. “I will roar argon into chlorine, xenon into fluorine, all the noble gases into reactive ones,” she writes. “My lament will terrify even the stars.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010


By Ann Coulter
June 23, 2010

In The New York Times' profile on the family of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, her aunt was quoted as saying: "There was thinking, always thinking" at the family's dinner table. "Nothing was sacrosanct."

Really? Nothing was sacrosanct? Because in my experience, on a scale of 1-to-infinity, the range of acceptable opinion among New York liberals goes from 1-to-1.001.

How would the following remarks fare at a dinner table on the Upper West Side where "nothing was sacrosanct": Hey, maybe that Joe McCarthy was onto something. What would prayer in the schools really hurt? How do we know gays are born that way? Is it possible that union demands have gone too far? Does it make sense to have three recycling bins in these microscopic Manhattan apartments? Say, has anyone read Charles Murray's latest book?

Those comments, considered "conversation starters" in most of the country, would get you banned from polite society in New York. And unless you want the whole room slowly backing away from you, also avoid: May I smoke? I heard it on Fox News and Merry Christmas!

U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan prepares to address the forum "Striking the Balance: Fair and Independent Courts in a New Era" at Georgetown University Law Center May 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. A former Dean of the Harvard Law School, Kagan's name has been included on many peoples' short list of possible candidates to the Supreme Court to replace Justice David Souter, who is retiring this year. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Even members of survivalist Christian cults in Idaho at least know people who hold opposing views. New York liberals don't.

As Kagan herself described it, on the Upper West Side of New York where she grew up, "Nobody ever admitted to voting Republican." So, I guess you could say being a Democrat was "sacrosanct."

Even within the teeny-tiny range of approved liberal opinion in New York, disagreement will get you banned from the premises.

When, as dean of the Harvard Law School, Kagan disagreed with the Bill Clinton policy of "Don't ask, don't tell" for gays in the military, she open-mindedly banned military recruiters from the law school, denouncing Clinton's policy as "discriminatory," "deeply wrong," "unwise and unjust."

From this, I conclude that having gays serving openly in the military is "sacrosanct" for liberals.

Having gays NOT serve in the military is a position held by lots of people in other parts of the country, but I do not recall any Christian colleges banning military recruiters because the schools believed "Don't ask, don't tell" went too far the other way.

Not only is every weird, shared delusion of the New York liberal deemed sacrosanct, but what ought to be sacrosanct -- off the top of my head, human life -- isn't.

As Stan Evans says, whatever liberals disapprove of, they want banned (smoking, guns, practicing Christianity, ROTC, the Pledge of Allegiance) and whatever they approve of, they make mandatory (abortion-on-demand, gay marriage, pornography, condom distribution in public schools, screenings of "An Inconvenient Truth").

When liberals say, "nothing is sacrosanct," they mean "nothing other Americans consider sacrosanct is sacrosanct." They demonstrate their open-mindedness by ridiculing other people's dogma, but will not brook the most trifling criticism of their own dogmas.

Thus, for example, liberals sneer at the bluenoses and philistines of the "religious right" for objecting to taxpayer-funding of a crucifix submerged in a jar of urine, but would have you banned from public life for putting Matthew Shepard in a jar of urine, with or without taxpayer funding.

These famously broad-minded New Yorkers -- "thinking, always thinking" -- actually booed Mayor Rudy Giuliani when he showed up at the opera after pulling city funding from a museum exhibit that included a painting of the Virgin Mary plastered with close-up pornographic photos of women's vulvas.

(The New York Times fair-mindedly refused to ever mention the vulvas, instead suggesting that the mayor's objection was to the cow dung used in the composition.)

Has a decision to fund or not fund "art" ever gotten a politician in any other part of the country booed in public? And how might the Times refer to citizens booing a mayor who had withdrawn taxpayer funding for a painting of Rosa Parks covered in pornography?

If New York liberals insist on bragging about their intellectual bravado in believing "nothing is sacrosanct," it would really help if they could stop being the most easily offended, P.C., group-think, thin-skinned weanies in the entire universe and maybe ease up on the college "hate speech" codes, politically correct firings, and bans on military recruiters.

With that in mind, here are some questions it would be fun to ask a New York liberal like Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan at her hearings next week:

-- Roughly one-third of Americans are Evangelical Christians. Do you personally know any Evangelical Christians? Name two.

-- In 1972, Richard Nixon was elected president with more than 60 percent of the vote, winning every state except Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. How many people do you know who voted for Nixon?

-- Appropriate or inappropriate: Schools passing out condoms to seventh-graders? Schools passing out cigarettes to seventh-graders?

-- Who is a greater threat to America, Sarah Palin or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?


McChrystal had to go

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Thursday, June 24, 2010; A21

In 1932, during a lunch in Albany with Rexford Tugwell, an adviser, New York Gov. Franklin Roosevelt paused to take a telephone call from Louisiana Gov. Huey Long. When the call ended, FDR referred to Long as the second-most dangerous man in America. Who, Tugwell asked, is the most dangerous? FDR answered: Douglas MacArthur.

As Army chief of staff, MacArthur had just flamboyantly conducted the violent dispersal of the bedraggled "bonus army" in Washington. Nearly 19 years later, he was to become most dangerous to himself, as another commanding general has now done. But Stanley McChrystal is no MacArthur.

MacArthur had some of the genius and much of the egomania of a former artillery captain, Napoleon. This made MacArthur insubordinate and got him cashiered by a former artillery captain, Harry Truman. Although McChrystal is a fine soldier who rendered especially distinguished service in Iraq, there is no reason to ascribe to him either egomania or insubordination. He did, however, emphatically disqualify himself from further military service and particularly from service in Afghanistan. There the military's purely military tasks are secondary to the political and social tasks for which the military is ill-suited, and for which McChrystal is garishly so.

The American undertaking in Afghanistan is a fool's errand, and McChrystal is breathtakingly foolish. Even so, he and it were badly matched. This, even though the errand is of the president's careful devising and McChrystal was the president's choice to replace the four-star general who had been commanding there.

It may be said that McChrystal's defect is only a deficit of political acumen. Only? Again, the mission in Afghanistan is much more political than military. Counterinsurgency, as defined by McChrystal's successor, Gen. David Petraeus, and tepidly embraced by Barack Obama for a year or so, does not just involve nation-building, it is nation-building.

This does not require just political acumen; it requires the wisdom of Aristotle, the leadership skills of George Washington and the analytic sophistication of de Tocqueville. But, then, the grinding paradox of nation-building is this: No one with the aptitudes necessary for it would be rash or delusional enough to try it.

The McChrystal debacle comes as America's longest war is entering a surreal stage: The military is charged with a staggeringly complex task, the completion of which -- if completion can even be envisioned -- must involve many years. But when given the task, the military was told to begin bringing it to a close in a matter of 18 months.

The not quite seven months that have passed since the president announced his policy have seen sobering military disappointments and daunting evidence of how intractable is the incompetence and how manifold is the corruption of the Kabul government. For as long as we persist in this Sisyphean agony, the president will depend on forthrightness from a military commander whose judgment he trusts. That could not be McChrystal; it is Petraeus. If McChrystal had been retained, he would have henceforth been chastened, abject, wary and reticent. It is unthinkable that he could still have been a valuable participant in future deliberations with the president and his principal national security advisers. The president demanded, and the Americans in harm's way in Afghanistan deserve, better.

It is difficult, and perhaps unwise, to suppress this thought: McChrystal's disrespectful flippancies, and the chorus of equally disdainful comments from the unpleasant subordinates he has chosen to have around him, emanate from the toxic conditions that result when the military's can-do culture collides with a cannot-be-done assignment. In this toxicity, Afghanistan is Vietnam redux.

In July 1945, with the war in the Pacific still to be won and Winston Churchill engaged in the Potsdam conference, the British electorate turned him out of office. When his wife, Clementine, suggested that this might be a blessing in disguise, he replied: If so, it is very well disguised indeed.

The shattering of McChrystal is a messy blessing if the president seizes upon it as a reason for revisiting basic questions about whether Afghanistan matters so much and what is possible there and at what cost. It may be said that with the Afghan mission entering -- or soon to enter; it is late and now may become more so -- a crucial military phase in Kandahar, the cradle of the Taliban, McChrystal is indispensable. Any who may say that should heed the words of another general, one of the 20th century's greatest leaders and realists. Charles de Gaulle said: The graveyards are full of indispensable men.

New TV show 'Memphis Beat' puts Bluff City in spotlight

By John Beifuss
The Memphis Commercial Appeal
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Y'all are here because you care about Memphis, am I right?" detective Dwight Hendricks (Jason Lee) asks a group of police officers in the first episode of the new TNT crime series, "Memphis Beat."

Dwight -- whose home is decorated with Elvis memorabilia -- moonlights as a musician, performing "Heartbreak Hotel" at the start of the premiere episode and a later Presley tune, "If I Can Dream," at the end. He describes his hometown of Memphis as "sacred ground."

The makers and stars of "Memphis Beat" say they, too, consider the title city a sort of holy place, even if their program was shot almost entirely in New Orleans.

"We think of Memphis as one of the great American cities," said Joshua Harto, who created the series with his wife, writer Liz W. Garcia.

Memphians will be able to judge whether the makers of "Memphis Beat" are keepers of the flame or cultural carpetbaggers when the program -- described by TNT publicists as a "soulful blend" of "blues music, Southern charm and crime" -- debuts at 9 p.m. today on the cable network.

Tonight's episode -- about a scheme involving an elderly woman who was a legendary disc jockey on WHER (the program borrows the call letters from the "all-girl" radio station launched by Sam Phillips in 1955) -- is titled "That's All Right, Mama." All 10 first-season episodes are named for Elvis recordings. (If the series runs long enough, will we get to "Do the Clam" and "Yoga Is as Yoga Does"?)

"Memphis Beat" arrives less than two weeks after the Broadway production "Memphis" collected four Tony Awards, including best musical. Another Memphis music-inspired show, "Million Dollar Quartet," won a Tony for best featured actor.

Why is Memphis in the air these days, even in places too far away to smell the barbecue or fried chicken? (A box of Gus' chicken is seen on the dashboard of a police car in the premiere episode.)

"I had this idea of Memphis in my head, that it was sort of a city with two sides -- it has a vibrant, quirky fun side and a more complicated and, for lack of a better word, gritty side," said Harto, 31, who was born in Huntington, W. Va., and was introduced to Memphis music by a country musician grandfather.

"We wanted to make this show a balance of comedy and drama, so it seemed like Memphis was the perfect location," Harto said. "Once we decided on that, Memphis became the platform. Everything was born out of that."

"We want it to be a show that will make people laugh and make people cry," said Garcia, a writer on the CBS police procedural, "Cold Case." "So we've done it in a city that has had tragic events happen there, a city with a bit of haunted history, but also a city that has contributed so, so much in the way of vital American art."

Also an actor (he was the blackmailing Coleman Reese in "The Dark Knight"), Harto describes "Memphis Beat" as a "throwback" to the days when crime shows were "about character as opposed to the science of it all." He said "Memphis Beat" strives for a sort of "Rockford Files" vibe.

Produced by Warner Horizon Television and George Clooney's Smoke House Pictures, "Memphis Beat" casts Lee -- a year after the end of his NBC-TV series, "My Name Is Earl" -- as Dwight Hendricks, a police detective who listens to his instincts and does "not always do things by the book," an officer comments in the first episode.

Supporting characters include Dwight's new boss, a no-nonsense but maternal lieutenant (Alfre Woodard); Dwight's actual mother (Celia Weston), widowed since Dwight's police officer father was killed in the line of duty; and a Barney Fife-like patrolman (DJ Qualls, an actor with genuine Memphis experience thanks to his role in Craig Brewer's "Hustle & Flow").

"I love music and the South and the blues, and I remember being turned onto musicians like Robert Johnson and Otis Redding and Elvis early on, and just appreciating the South in general," said Lee, 40, who said he first visited Memphis during his pre-acting days, when he was a professional skateboarder and often "road-tripping."

"I was a little bit nervous (about playing Dwight), to be truthful about it, because I know people in the South are different, and I wanted to do it justice," Lee said. "There's a sincerity to this guy, and a sense of respect for his upbringing, and where he comes from. It's not about collecting a paycheck; he has a genuine desire to protect and serve." (TNT publicity describes Dwight as "the keeper of Memphis"; although Dwight is a singer who specializes in Elvis covers, he is not an Elvis impersonator, as frequently is reported.)

So far, about six of the 10 hourlong first-season episodes have been shot, on location and on sets in New Orleans. Some cast and crew members have been to Memphis a couple of times, however, to capture footage of characters cruising down Beale Street, contemplating the Mississippi River, rolling past the Pyramid, and so on. Lee said he and Sam Hennings, who plays Dwight's "old-school detective" partner, were in Memphis earlier this month with "the old 1964 GTO" that is Dwight's signature car, to film some establishing shots.

The soundtrack, meanwhile, is heavy with Memphis music. The premiere episode features more than a half-dozen relevant recordings, including "Time Is Tight" by Booker T. & the MGs, "Walking the Dog" by Rufus Thomas, "Born Under a Bad Sign" by Albert King and "Son of a Preacher Man" by Dusty Springfield, from her album Dusty in Memphis.

"Wherever we can be, we try to be faithful to Memphis geography, landmarks, restaurants and certainly the music," said Garcia, 33, who scripted the first two episodes of the series with Harto.

"The music really inspires the tone of the show, listening to all that great Sun and Stax music. ... We've done a lot of getting to know Elvis Presley the man, and Elvis as a young Southern gentleman who was also a pioneer and a rebel. That really inspired the character of Dwight. Singing is really cathartic for him. Some cops maybe drink too much or behave badly, but what Dwight does is, he sings, to have the inspiration and strength to go back to work every day." (Incidentally, Lee doesn't do his own singing in the series. "I went into the studio and laid down a couple of takes on a couple of songs, but it wasn't really there," he admits.)

Garcia and Harto both said they had hoped to shoot "Memphis Beat" in the town where it takes place, and they worked hard with the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission to try to make it work. Ultimately, however, Louisiana's tax incentives for filmmakers were too generous to turn down, especially for such a modestly budgeted series. Also, Garcia and Harto said they doubted the local crew base was large and experienced enough to enable them to set up shop in Memphis without having to pay to relocate a lot of crew members -- and equipment -- for the months-long duration of the shoot. ("Memphis Beat" began filming in New Orleans in April, and is scheduled to complete the 10 episodes in July.)

"Frankly, it's frustrating as creators when you're trying to make something as authentic as possible, and when the city is such an important character in the show, not to be able to spend the majority of our time there," Harto said.

"We would love to be back in Memphis soon," Lee said. "Absolutely love it."

Watching 'Memphis'

"Memphis Beat" premieres at 9 tonight and repeats at 11 p.m. on cable channel TNT.

Watch parties for the premiere will be held at South of Beale, 361 S. Main, and Calhoun's Sports Bar & Grill, 115 E. G.E. Patterson.

Television Review 'Memphis Beat'

Take Your Time, Crime Will Wait

The New York Times
June 22, 2010

Darren Michaels/TNT
Jason Lee in a scene from “Memphis Beat,” a new crime drama that is set in the title city. Mr. Lee plays a police detective who also moonlights as a singer.

Slow Food, a movement that began in Italy in the 1980s as a protest against agribusiness and fast food, promotes organic farming and regional cooking. That cult of less-is-more parochialism spread to other fields, including tourism (Slow Travel) and investment (Slow Money).

Now there is Slow Television.

“Memphis Beat,” a crime drama that begins on Tuesday on TNT, is a classic procedural — unorthodox cop meets by-the-book lieutenant — framed by the smoky, neon-lit romance of the blues and Southern decay. Jason Lee (“My Name Is Earl”) plays Dwight Hendricks, a police detective who moonlights as an Elvis tribute singer, which is not to be confused with an Elvis impersonator. Dwight’s rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel” in an after-hours bar is a respectful homage to the King, not a rip-off.

This series is to Memphis what the HBO series “Treme” is to New Orleans and “Justified” on FX is to Harlan County in Kentucky — timeless indigenous music is set against the exoticism of temporal subcultures. Atmosphere is the real hero of all these shows and music is the sidekick, be it R&B, jazz, or as is the case in “Justified,” bluegrass tinged with rap.

And that helps explain why George Clooney and his longtime collaborator Grant Heslov, who are better known for movies like “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” are executive producers of “Memphis Beat.” Their previous television series — “K Street” and “Unscripted” — were on HBO and mostly experimental. This TNT series tries to rise a little above the genre without veering too far from the cable network’s core cops-and-robbers curriculum.

It’s not a bad way to go. “Treme,” created by the same team that made “The Wire,” is broodier than “Memphis Beat” and far more ambitious, but it is also a lot less focused and digestible. The same is true of “Justified,” which is based on an Elmore Leonard story, but without the sizzle. These two series are too slow even for Slow Television. “Memphis Beat” is easier to follow, and certainly more lively.

Mr. Lee, in sideburns and cropped hair, gives Dwight some of the roguish charm of the character he played on “My Name Is Earl,” but in a more downbeat and restless register. Dwight reveres Memphis music and the Memphis way of life, but at times he is as weary and broken-down as the city he lives in.

He is protective of his mama, calls all women “sweetheart,” brakes for the Elvis impersonators that swarm into town for Elvis week, and has a Southern way with criminals. “I know the boss is busy but I’m going to need an audience with him,” he soothingly tells the bodyguard of a local Mr. Big. “You think you can make that happen for me?”

Dwight isn’t as deferential to his new boss, Lt. Tanya Rice (Alfre Woodard, “Three Rivers”), and when he disregards an order, he explains “how we do things down here.” She grows increasingly impatient with his breezy contempt for authority and his sloppy paperwork. “You know, you are not a single-cell organism,” she scolds. “We all live together on this coral reef.”

Dwight’s devotion to the blues is established in the premiere, in which a homicide case revolves around an abandoned, senile woman who turns out to have once been a legendary local D. J., famous for playing “Delta Hits From Three to Six.” Dwight is heartsick at what has become of her, and passionate in tracking down those who neglected and abused her. As she stares blankly into space, Dwight tries to tell her what the radio show did for him. For one thing, it introduced him to Elvis Presley. It also provided solace after the death of his father when he was still a child.

“You know how they talk about a ‘light in the darkness’?” he tells her. “I hung on every word you said, about Memphis, about it being sacred ground.”

And the filmmakers take a similarly reverent look at Memphis, shot at odd angles, in amber light. At times and in some frames — particularly icy-blue pulp from a slushie machine that spills to the ground during a robbery and into a puddle of blood — it looks like a foreigners’ romantic reinterpretation of the South, akin to Wim Wenders’s rendition of the far West in “Paris, Texas.”

The whodunit is not as sophisticated, but it comes at the end of all the prerequisite twists and feints. There are many new crime series on network television and cable coming up this summer and next fall; this one solves homicide cases to the sound of Otis Redding, B. B. King, and, of course, that other king.


TNT, Tuesday nights at 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.

Created and written by Joshua Harto and Liz W. Garcia; pilot directed by Clark Johnson; George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Ms. Garcia, Mr. Harto, Scott Kaufer, John Fortenberry and Mr. Johnson (pilot only), executive producers; Abby Wolf-Weiss and Sean Whitesell, co-executive producers; Cathy Frank, co-producer (pilot only); Keb’ Mo’, composer. Produced by Smokehouse Pictures and Warner Horizon Television.

WITH: Jason Lee (Dwight Hendricks), D J Qualls (Davey Sutton), Celia Weston (Paula Ann Hendricks), Sam Hennings (Charlie White), Leonard Earl Howze (Reginald Greenback), Abraham Benrubi (Sgt. J C Lightfoot) and Alfre Woodard (Lt. Tanya Rice).

Memphis Beat Hits the Right Note

In an era of openly “transgressive” anti-heroes, doesn’t anyone in Hollywood realize that a majority of viewers still prefers traditional law enforcement stories where good cops put away bad criminals? Yes, thankfully.

June 22, 2010 - by Jim Kearney

In this publicity image released by TNT, Jason Lee stars as Dwight Hendricks, a Memphis police detective, left, and Alfre Woodard stars as Celia Weston in "Memphis Beat," which premieres Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 10 p.m. EDT on TNT. (Associated Press / June 18, 2010)

In recent years Hollywood has been quick to praise a succession of dramas with protagonists on the wrong side of the law. On Showtime alone, Dexter is about a serial killer and Weeds celebrates a suburban pot dealer who branches out into smuggling. The title character in Nurse Jackie is a “functioning” junkie, and two other Showtime series are set in the porn business.

In an era of openly “transgressive” anti-heroes, doesn’t anyone in Hollywood realize that a majority of viewers still prefers traditional law enforcement stories where good cops put away bad criminals? Yes, thankfully. Michael Wright, head of programming at TNT, knows drama well enough to ensure that the audience has its empathy respected and its values affirmed. So it has been with the network’s top hit, The Closer, and so it will be with a new series, Memphis Beat, which premieres Tuesday evening.

Wright says that TNT develops “populist” dramas with an “everyman spirit.” Memphis Beat is just that, and Jason Lee (My Name is Earl) as Detective Dwight Hendricks is a heartland character who should have broad appeal. Hendricks is second generation law enforcement and relentless in the pursuit of justice. He lovingly watches out for his mother and cares deeply for the city he protects. He lets off steam by singing in a blues club, but can be a perfect Southern gentleman when the situation requires it. That includes explaining his loose methods to a tough new boss played by the always formidable four-time Emmy winner (and fifteen-time(!) nominee) Alfre Woodard.

The pilot story is elegantly simple and compelling, a case of elder abuse against a beloved but forsaken local radio legend. Along the way there is a homicide and a surprise twist, but Memphis Beat spares us the forensics, the ballistics, and the confusing complications which have come to overcome the stories in so many contemporary procedurals. Co-creators Liz W. Garcia and Joshua Harto stick to basics: witness interviews, exceptionally strong defense of the victim, and a hero willing to follow his instincts even at the expense of his own career.

The best police dramas not only exalt the crucial role of those who protect and defend, they also explore deeper human questions about the human condition. Recently this quest for deeper meaning has too often fixated on the psychopathology of serial offenders and the grisly horrors they inflict. Not so in Memphis Beat. The smart, economical final interrogation scene says more by saying just enough about the criminal’s motivation. The theme being weighed, motherhood, is explored through the prism of crime but also via other more positive refractions. It’s courageous of the writers to take on such a true-blue theme in the pilot, and I hope they will continue to explore future themes with equally powerful contrasts of both wrongful and righteous behavior.

Memphis Beat comes from the production shop run by actors George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Co-creator Joshua Harto is also an actor, and the pilot was directed by actor Clark Johnson (formerly of The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street.) TNT’s Wright is himself a former thespian. This high concentration of stage talent behind the scenes is likely to result in a character-driven drama, a welcome respite from the many series driven by their digital effects.

Backing up Lee and Woodard is a fine supporting cast, including DJ Qualls as Davey Sutton, a quirky, earnest, but clumsy fellow who adds welcome lighter moments. Strong support is also offered by Memphis itself. Memphis Beat is suffused with the city’s music. The slower Southern pacing of the dialogue and storytelling will differentiate this program from typical TV police dramas. Touches of authentic regional flavor will be crucial to the show’s chance for success. What the audience doesn’t want is yet another mournful tale of woe about a city overwhelmed by one of the nation’s highest crime rates.

Tone is a challenging creative problem for drama producers these days. Musical scores can polarize audiences as much as invite them. Network and studio executives have known this for a long time, and during the 1990s the best drama franchises kept the music down, and the audiences wide.

In the last decade, however, there was a sharp departure. Assertive young-skewing music (often rock, rarely country) now punctuates many a broadcast drama, telling viewers exactly what to feel and in some cases what to think at the end of the episode. Gross, shocking imagery also took hold, along with the usual steady slide into more permissive explorations of sex and profanity. The Sopranos was interpreted by some in Hollywood as signaling that the audience had switched sides and was in a mood for graphic violence and criminal psychopaths. “Woke Up This Morning … Got Yourself a Gun” set the tone.

A few shows have fought the tonal tide. TNT’s The Closer uses a gentle, jazzy score, and further demonstrates its broad populism by keeping a handful of boomer and older actors in the regular cast, something rarely seen on networks targeting the young, urban, and hip. Memphis Beat takes TNT’s populism a step further by heading straight for the center of the heartland, the Mississippi Delta.

Memphis Beat balances traditional values with the rebellious attitude of its independence-minded hero. The plot is a mystery, but it’s not a “cozy.” Older characters are included and treated with respect, but there’s a youthful energy to the show, underscored by the program’s signature electric Delta blues. Co-creator Joshua Harto grew up in the South, and identifies Memphis with musical strains including Elvis and Aretha, Johnny Cash and Isaac Hayes. That’s a solid canon to shape a show’s tone around.

One of the trickiest tonal achievements to maintain will be the pilot’s post-racial sense of community. Hendricks’ relationship with his boss seems to be complicated more about gender and age than race. He navigates relationships with all ages and classes of black witnesses smoothly. An interracial relationship between a victim and a key suspect is just business as usual. Race-neutrality may not be a realistic depiction of everyday police work in the city where Dr. King was killed, but television is also about wish fulfillment.

For decades television’s police dramas have struggled with the baggage of race. If you accurately represent the percentage of black crime, you create unfavorable stereotypes and visit a world which middle-class viewers resist watching. If you make all criminals white, you get credibility issues and familiar clich├ęs: countless murderous executives, crazed war veterans, neo-Nazis behind every bomb plot, frustrated citizens embracing guns and religion. (See also: Law & Order.) By now, viewers understand the problem. I believe that most will give a police drama the benefit of the doubt as long as it steers a middle path and endorses morality without moralizing.

On the front page of its website, the Memphis Police Department offers a racial breakdown of its officers. Among females, black officers outnumber white by more than three to one. So it is not unrealistic that on Memphis Beat Detective Hendricks reports to Lt. Tanya Rice (Alfre Woodard.) Having an actress of Ms. Woodard’s talent and stature in the role guarantees that Lt. Rice will be complex and fascinating every minute she is on screen. When a character is as fully dimensioned as Ms. Woodard’s tend to be, race becomes secondary to a more widely identifiable humanity anyway. So in this key relationship, Memphis Beat will probably be able to transcend racial boundaries, so long as it continues to be written up to Ms. Woodard’s customary standard of performance.

It used to be that summer was television’s off-season, but that has changed. The fall premieres of the broadcast networks offer occasional treats (like last season’s Modern Family and The Good Wife and hopefully this season’s Blue Bloods starring Tom Selleck), but most won’t surpass their hype. Meanwhile, the niche cable networks are now prosperous enough to offer substantial alternatives to summer reruns and second-tier reality shows. (My personal favorite, by the way, is Mad Men, returning July 25 on AMC, and picking up where the series left off last year — with the heroes launching their own business venture!)

Memphis Beat premieres tonight 10PM on TNT. Also on TNT, season six of The Closer launches on Monday, July 12, the same night the network debuts Rizzoli and Isles, based on a series of mystery novels by Tess Gerritsen. Angie Harmon, fondly remembered as Law & Order’s toughest prosecutor, Abbie Carmichael, stars as Detective Jane Rizzoli. Sasha Alexander plays medical examiner Maura Isles, and Lorraine Bracco portrays Harmon’s mother.

That adds up to three summer originals where the cops are the good guys. And that speaks volumes about the difference between TNT and Showtime.

Jim Kearney, a television critic for Pajamas Media, teaches Mass Media and Television Programming at Loyola Marymount University. A former TV critic for KPCC-FM and The Hollywood Reporter, he has also worked as a TV executive and consultant. He is on the web at

A Foreign Game Looks Very American

The New York Times
June 23, 2010

After a mad scramble in front of the net that sent Clint Dempsey sprawling over the ball and into the net, Landon Donovan found it right on the doorstep.(Photo: Simon Bruty/SI)

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - Tim Howard was playing hurry-up, booting the ball in desperation, watching the backs of his teammates, American athletes, as they raced downfield trying to save four years of effort.

“It wasn’t a soccer match,” Howard said. “It was an athletics match, track and field.”

Sprinting has been, in its way, an American sport, whereas soccer has always been a foreign sport that frightens people — well, except for the millions of Americans lined up in pubs and dens and offices all over their country on a weekday morning, going crazy after the best, or the most dramatic, or the most important soccer match in American history.

The 1-0 win over Algeria, on Landon Donovan’s goal in the first minute of added time, put the Americans into the second round of the World Cup. They will play Ghana on Saturday, in what appears to be one of the more comfortable corners of the draw — though with the Yanks, nothing is easy. But they have achieved their goal, to get out of the first round, a reasonable plan for nouveau soccer nations.

Wednesday’s match turned into a track meet, with wicked elbows and vicious kicks at full tilt, played by Americans with great legs and cardiovascular systems — plus that collective organ known as heart.

“The old 90-second minute,” said Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States Soccer Federation and an American born in Allahabad, India.

The Americans made those seconds pay off in one more frantic rush downfield, producing the goal that changed everything.

This was epic, touching off messages on Gulati’s handheld P.D.A. — one from a friend on Wall Street, saying the brokers were going nuts (and not even over money), and another from a contact within the White House, saying staffers were celebrating en masse. Bill Clinton visited the locker room after the match, praising the players’ spirit.

This was huge, not because it put that foreign sport over the top, which is never the point, and not because it meant anything less about Algeria — a smaller nation and a skilled, competitive team — but because it felt like a sporting event that could unify America for a few screaming moments.

These were not foreign athletes. These were Americans doing something recognizable — Jordan thumping his chest, taking the court for the last shot; Jeter clapping his hands upon getting to second base, summoning something from within, something Americans have seen before.

“We bring something to the table, the American people as a whole,” said DaMarcus Beasley, a reclamation project from the past two World Cups and just about the last American included on the bus to South Africa.

Beasley, the aging sprinter, was inserted into the match in the 80th desperate minute. The Americans knew that England was leading Slovenia, 1-0 (eventually the final score), and they knew they had to win or end this quadrennial project of trying to inch up among the world powers.

They needed a goal. They had gotten a lucky goal in the first match, had been murdered by a referee in the second, and hit the post in the third, but then again, Algeria had hit the crossbar earlier. Luck is usually bad in this sport of not much scoring.

To produce a goal requires a great act of will, sometimes individual but usually a result of a team effort. Bob Bradley coached one of the great games of his four-year term, now sure to be extended. For instance, he was willing to face that Oguchi Onyewu was not up to playing defense on his rebuilt knee, replacing him in the starting lineup with Jonathan Bornstein.

As the need for a goal increased, Bradley sent in Benny Feilhaber at the half, Edson Buddle at the 64th minute, then Beasley. Now it was the old pro football drill of everybody go long. How American was that? Only instead of Joe Montana sending everybody deep, it was Howard, the American keeper who plays in England, half-Hungarian, half-African-American.

Howard fielded a moderate header at 90 minutes 33 seconds, with four extra minutes having been signaled by the referee. This time Howard threw the ball upfield, and the fleet Donovan caught up with it at midfield in full stride, racing into Algerian territory.

After a few wide-open steps, Donovan flicked the ball to the right to Jozy Altidore, the Haitian-American, who banged it into the center to Clint Dempsey, who grew up playing with his Mexican friends in the dusty fields near the border in Texas. Dempsey tapped the ball at the keeper, who could not hold on to it, and there was Donovan to bang it home at 90:45.

Midway through the second half, while watching Howard rush the ball toward his mates, I thought about something Alexi Lalas told me more than a decade ago when he was playing for Calcio Padova in the Italian Serie A. Some players on that weak team would give up if they fell a goal behind on the road, Lalas said, but American athletes would never give up.

It was an interesting point of view, and I was reminded of it again on Wednesday when Tim Howard sent the ball downfield, and a whole track team of runners sprinted after it for the goal that did, at least for three days, change everything.

E-mail: geovec@nytimes.coM

Darke sheds light on soccer thriller

Thursday, June 24, 2010
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

First off, as they like to say on the talk shows, let me just go on record with the opinion that everything should be timed the way these World Cup soccer games are timed, and I mean everything: Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf, weddings, funerals, the symphony, major motion pictures, minor motion pictures, nights at the theater, tax audits and invasive surgeries particularly.


When it comes to the clock, bend it like soccer.

With nothing but net in front of him, Donovan scored his 44th career international goal, the most in U.S. history. "You can't miss from there," he said after the match. (AP)

In soccer, the event starts on time, and it's over in less than two hours, no matter what. No timeouts, no replays, no committee meetings (huddles), no trips to the mound for casual conversation. Save for the 15 minutes of idleness at halftime necessary to prevent lungs from exploding, the clock stops for nothing, just like in reality, where time waits for no man and no beer commercial.

This is a huge public service.

Say you are watching the U.S. vs. Algeria, as I was Wednesday beginning at 10:02:21 a.m., which I know because the clock read 2:21 when I sat down. A pizza going into a preheated oven at precisely that time, therefore, is done at 22:21 of the first half.


Second of all, let me just go on record as saying that everything, and I mean everything -- football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf, weddings, funerals, the symphony, major motion pictures, minor motion pictures, nights at the theater, tax audits, and invasive surgeries particularly -- should be narrated by Ian Darke, who did play-by-play yesterday for ESPN. Darke's done several of the World Cup games I've wandered in and out of when I wasn't trying to keep the dog from tearing the clothes off the neighbors.

Darke brings big-time sports an eloquence rarely heard in a world of high decibels and inverted linguistics, that world where "take" is a noun and "filthy" means exquisite.

A veteran on the British soccer scene, Darke chose to augment the swelling drama yesterday with precise and polished language rather than suck the life from it with reflexive screeching.

As both clubs searched desperately for a goal late in a scoreless tie, Darke said they would "just need a spark of wit or invention." Much superior to the common "Somebody's gotta step up!"

When Clint Dempsey's attempt nearly snapped the tension earlier in the match, Darke raised his voice a bit, but not to describe what he calls "a chance gone begging." What he said was, "And the cheers are stilled in the throats of the massive American support."

He called one Algerian shot "crazily optimistic" (shouldn't that be co-opted by Pirates fans?) and advised that the roiling drama flowing through the morning's final minutes must be diluted by bloodless calculation end efficiency. "Emphasis must be on quality," Darke said, "to engineer the chances that are required."

Landon Donovan finally got the fateful chance during four minutes of extra time at the end of the standard 90 minutes. Extra time, or stoppage time, is apparently the time officials figure was wasted by players rolling on the pitch as if they had been shot with an elephant gun after collisions that barely wrinkle their collars.

When Donovan drove home the hockey equivalent of a rebound in the 91st minute, the U.S. had not only advanced to the round of 16, but had won its group for the first time since 1930, which happened to be the first time they staged the World Cup.

This electrifying chapter may or may not bring soccer additional attention in the United States, where something like half the population would, were the games being played in their backyards, demonstratively draw the blinds. I admit to knowing about as much about the game as I do about the modern techniques of vuvuzela manufacturing, but the pace and the language of soccer have a certain prideful permanence, and those things aren't to be dismissed.

Even Donovan, having just scored the goal that could lead to the U.S. stunning the world in this tournament, rose to the rhetorical occasion established by Ian Darke. Asked about his winner, Donovan told Jeremy Schaap, "The ball fell to me and time kind of stopped. You can't miss from there."

Donovan didn't, and he didn't miss when asked about seemingly legitimate U.S. goals being disallowed in the past two games.

"We embody what Americans are all about," he said. "We can moan about it, or we can get on with it."

So we get on with it, because the clock doesn't stop. Not really.

Gene Collier:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Islamic Law Comes to Dearborn

[Click on article title to see video of incident - jtf]

by Pamela Geller

Is it illegal to preach Christianity to Muslims in America now?

Acts 17 Apologetics, a Christian evangelistic group, was banned from passing out fliers at this year’s Arab Festival in Dearborn, Mich., but they went to the festival anyway and ended up getting arrested.

On Saturday, I got this message from David Wood of Acts 17: “Muslims threatened to kill Nabeel [Qureshi, an ex-Muslim and David’s colleague] and me if we showed up again at Arab Fest in Dearborn, so we went there yesterday. They didn’t kill us. Instead, police arrested us and we got to spend a night in jail (along with two others who were video recording us).”

David Wood being handcuffed at Arab Fest 2010

Wondering if they were arrested for passing out fliers in defiance of the ban, I asked David about the ban. He answered, “Yes, we’re banned from handing out literature, but we didn’t do that. We followed the rules, and still got thrown in jail. They flat out lied about us. We can prove they lied with the video footage (just like last year), but the police took our cameras and won’t let us have the footage. There’s major oppression of anyone who criticizes Islam.”

Last year, Nabeel, David and friends went to the Arab Festival and filmed a video that went viral. It is amazing to see in that video what happened in America. It was free speech under siege.

Nabeel and David were harassed and intimidated, aided and abetted by law enforcement. Said David and Nabeel: “The conclusion of this video is a mob of festival security attacking our cameras, pushing us back, kicking our legs, and lying to the police. We ask you, is it a coincidence that the city with the highest percentage of Muslims in the United States is the city where Christianity is not allowed to be represented (let alone preached) on a public sidewalk?”

The video was shocking because it exposed the lack of freedoms for non-Muslims in America where Islam is involved. Muslims are given special rights, treated as a special class that gets special treatment.

And this year, these good, decent Americans were arrested based on Islamic Sharia law. Islamic law forbids Christians to preach to Muslims.

Nabeel tells the story: After a festival volunteer approached the group and asked them to put their camera down (and they complied), “about 20 minutes later, to shouts and cheers of ‘Allahu Akbar!’ we were all being led away from the festival in handcuffs. From the brief description we were given by the police of why we were being arrested, it sounds like the festival volunteer said we surrounded him and didn’t give him an opportunity to leave, thereby ‘breaching the peace.’ This is as blatantly false as an accusation can get.”

This is against basic American rule of law. America was based on individual rights—no special rights for special classes. Human rights fly out the window and Sharia (Islamic) law seamlessly takes over when Islamic supremacism rears its ugly, aggressive head.

This is evidence of the onslaught of Islamic oppression and intimidation of infidels in America that is made possible by law enforcement and the judicial system. Our freedoms are disappearing at a deadly speed—we are being subdued. And the media is silent—handing us over like lambs.

Nor was what happened to David and Nabeel an isolated incident. In June 2009, law enforcement again caved to the demands of Islamic supremacists in Dearborn, in breach of rights guaranteed in the Constitution. The Dearborn Police Department told the group Arabic Christian Perspective (ACP) that they could not hand out literature to Muslims at the Arab Festival on public sidewalks, but had to stay on a single corner and not mingle among the people at the festival.

Dearborn has also prohibited the running of our Freedom Defense Initiative religious liberty bus campaign that offers help to Muslims threatened for leaving Islam. For that, I am suing.

Muslims seem to be craving a civil war in the Detroit area. Where is the inter-faith dialogue, the building of bridges, the mutual respect, mutual understanding?

It goes one way. These are fancy terms for surrender.

Pamela Geller is the editor and publisher of the Atlas Shrugs website and former associate publisher of the New York Observer. Her op-eds have appeared in the Washington Times, WorldNetDaily, the American Thinker, Israel National News and other publications.


Ken Salazar Gets a Kick in the You-Know-What

By Michelle Malkin
June 23, 2010 12:01 A.M.

For all his John Wayne rhetoric on the BP oil spill, President Obama has failed to administer a swift kick to the ample, deserving rump of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. No matter: Federal judge Martin Feldman has now done the job the White House won’t do.

In a scathing ruling issued Tuesday afternoon, New Orleans–based Feldman overturned the administration’s radical six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling — and he singled out Salazar’s central role in jury-rigging a federal panel’s scientific report to bolster flagrantly politicized conclusions. In a sane world, Salazar’s head would roll. In Obama’s world, he gets immunity.

The suit challenging Obama’s desperately political ban was filed by Louisiana rig company Hornbeck Offshore Services, which sued on behalf of all the “small people” in the industry whose economic survival is at stake. As the plaintiffs’ lawyer argued in court, the overbroad ban promised to be more devastating to Gulf workers than the spill itself. “This is an unprecedented industry-wide shutdown. Never before has the government done this,” attorney Carl Rosenblum said.

Scientists who served on the committee expressed outrage upon discovering earlier this month that Salazar had — unilaterally and without warning — inserted a blanket drilling-ban recommendation into their report. As Feldman recounted in his ruling:

In the Executive Summary to the Report, (Salazar) recommends “a six-month moratorium on permits for new wells being drilled using floating rigs.” He also recommends “an immediate halt to drilling operations on the 33 permitted wells, not including relief wells currently being drilled by BP, that are currently being drilled using floating rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Much to the government’s discomfort and this Court’s uneasiness, the Summary also states that “the recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering.” As the plaintiffs, and the experts themselves, pointedly observe, this statement was misleading. The experts charge it was a “misrepresentation.” It was factually incorrect.

Allow me to be more injudicious: Salazar lied. Salazar committed fraud. Salazar sullied the reputations of the experts involved and abused his authority.

And for what purpose? To exploit the Gulf crisis, appease the eco-extremists, and stymie the economic recovery to which the Obama White House pays oily lip service.

The scientists whose views were misrepresented reportedly received an apology from the evidence-doctoring Salazar, but where are the consequences? Where is the accountability? Terrific news: Salazar, the report-rigger, is in charge of overseeing it. That’s right. The Teflon Interior Secretary spent Monday afternoon swearing in another bureaucrat, litigator Michael Bromwich, who will head the newly named “Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement” (formerly the beleaguered Minerals Management Service).

According to Salazar, Bromwich “will be a key part of our team as we continue to change the way the Department of the Interior does business.” Present company exempted, of course.

Feldman soberly illuminated the way the Department of the Interior does business in concluding that Salazar’s “invalid agency decision to suspend drilling of wells in depths of over 500 feet simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country.” Salazar, with his boss’s blessing, imposed the blanket moratorium on Hornbeck and 33 permitted rigs without a shred of threat/safety analysis. Of course, Hope and Change have always been implemented with Arbitrary and Capricious power.

The White House immediately announced plans to appeal the ruling. But for once, Chicago-on-the-Potomac has run smack into the rule of law and lost. For all the other small people over whom the Obama administration has run roughshod, let’s hope it sets a lasting precedent.

— Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies. © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Amid crises, Obama declares war -- on Arizona

By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner
June 22, 2010

The Obama administration has a lot of fights on its hands. Putting aside real wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there's the battle against leaking oil in the Gulf, the struggle against 9.7 percent unemployment across the country, and clashes over the president's agenda on Capitol Hill. Despite all that, the White House has found time to issue a new declaration of war, this time against an unlikely enemy: the state of Arizona.

The Justice Department is preparing to sue Arizona over its new immigration law. The president has stiffed Gov. Jan Brewer's call for meaningful assistance in efforts to secure the border. And the White House has accused Arizona's junior senator, Republican Jon Kyl, of lying about an Oval Office discussion with the president over comprehensive immigration reform. Put them all together, and you have an ugly state of affairs that's getting uglier by the day.

First, the lawsuit. Last week, Brewer was appalled to learn the Justice Department's intentions not from the Justice Department but from an interview done by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with an Ecuadorian TV outlet. "It would seem to me that if they were going to file suit against us," Brewer told Fox News' Greta van Susteren last week, "they definitely would have contacted us first and informed us before they informed citizens ... of another nation."

But they didn't.

"There certainly seems to be an underlying disrespect for the state of Arizona," says Kris Kobach, the law professor and former Bush administration Justice Department official who helped draft the Arizona law. Kobach points out that during the Bush years, several states openly flouted federal immigration law on issues like sanctuary cities and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. Respecting the doctrines of comity and federalism, the Bush administration didn't sue. Now, when Arizona passes a measure that is fully consistent with federal law, the Obama administration, says Kobach, "goes sprinting to the courthouse door."

Then there is the matter of the White House's assistance, or nonassistance, in Arizona's border-security efforts. On June 3, the president, under criticism for refusing to meet or even talk to Brewer, reluctantly granted her an audience in the Oval Office. After the meeting, Brewer told reporters Obama pledged that administration officials would come to Arizona within two weeks with details of plans to secure the border.

June 17 marked two weeks, and there were no administration officials and no plans. There still aren't. "What a disappointment," Brewer told van Susteren. "You know, when you hear from the president of the United States and he gives you a commitment, you would think that they would stand up and stand by their word. It is totally disappointing."

And now, there's the Kyl controversy. On June 18, Kyl told a town meeting in North Phoenix that Obama personally told him the administration will not secure the U.S.-Mexico border because doing so would make it politically difficult to pass comprehensive immigration reform. "I met with the president in the Oval Office, just the two of us," Kyl said. "Here's what the president said. The problem is, he said, if we secure the border, then you all won't have any reason to support comprehensive immigration reform."

"In other words," Kyl continued, "they're holding it hostage. They don't want to secure the border unless and until it is combined with comprehensive immigration reform."

After Kyl's statement went viral on the Internet, the White House issued a sharp denial. "The president didn't say that and Senator Kyl knows it," communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog. "There are more resources dedicated toward border security today than ever before, but, as the president has made clear, truly securing the border will require a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system."

Kyl is not backing down. "What I said occurred, did occur," he told an Arizona radio station. "Some spokesman down at the White House said no, that isn't what happened at all, and then proceeded to say we need comprehensive immigration reform to secure the border. That is their position, and all I was doing was explaining why, from a conversation with the president, why it appears that that's their position."

Even if it didn't have so many other fights on its hands, it would be unusual for an administration to align itself against an American state. But that's precisely what has happened. Soon it will be up to the courts and voters to decide whether Obama's campaign against Arizona will succeed or fail.

Byron York, The Examiner's chief political correspondent, can be contacted at His column appears on Tuesday and Friday, and his stories and blog posts appears on

Today's Tune: The Killers - Human

(Click on title to play video)

Monday, June 21, 2010

An NCO recognizes a flawed Afghanistan strategy

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Sunday, June 20, 2010; A19

Torrents of uninteresting mail inundate members of Congress, but occasionally there are riveting communications, such as a recent e-mail from a noncommissioned officer (NCO) serving in Afghanistan. He explains why the rules of engagement for U.S. troops are "too prohibitive for coalition forces to achieve sustained tactical successes."

Receiving mortar fire during an overnight mission, his unit called for a 155mm howitzer illumination round to be fired to reveal the enemy's location. The request was rejected "on the grounds that it may cause collateral damage." The NCO says that the only thing that comes down from an illumination round is a canister, and the likelihood of it hitting someone or something was akin to that of being struck by lightning.

Returning from a mission, his unit took casualties from an improvised explosive device that the unit knew had been placed no more than an hour earlier. "There were villagers laughing at the U.S. casualties" and "two suspicious individuals were seen fleeing the scene and entering a home." U.S. forces "are no longer allowed to search homes without Afghan National Security Forces personnel present." But when his unit asked Afghan police to search the house, the police refused on the grounds that the people in the house "are good people."

A US Marine fires a Javelin anti-armor missile at a Taliban position on the outskirts of Marja, Afghanistan. The Marines, assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, are supporting Operation Moshtarak to clear Taliban fighters from the city. US Marine Corps photo by Corporal. Andres Escatel.

On another mission, some Afghan adults ran off with their children immediately before the NCO's unit came under heavy small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and the unit asked for artillery fire on the enemy position. The response was a question: Where is the nearest civilian structure? "Judging distances," the NCO writes dryly, "can be difficult when bullets and RPGs are flying over your head." When the artillery support was denied because of fear of collateral damage, the unit asked for a "smoke mission" -- like an illumination round; only the canister falls to earth -- "to conceal our movement as we planned to flank and destroy the enemy." This request was granted -- but because of fear of collateral damage, the round was deliberately fired one kilometer off the requested site, making "the smoke mission useless and leaving us to fend for ourselves."

Counterinsurgency doctrine says that success turns on winning the "hearts and minds" of the population, hence rules of engagement that reduce risks to the population but increase those of U.S. combatants. C.J. Chivers of the New York Times [1], reporting from Marja, Afghanistan, says "many firefights these days are strictly rifle and machine gun fights," which "has made engagement times noticeably longer, driving up the troops' risks and amplifying a perception that Marja, fought with less fire support than what was available to American units in other hotly contested areas, is mired in blood."

The value of any particular counterinsurgency must be weighed against the risks implicit in the required tactics. The U.S. mission in Afghanistan involves trying to extend the power, over many people who fear it, of a corrupt government produced by a corrupted election. This gives rise to surreal strategies. The Wall Street Journal [2] recently reported U.S. attempts "to persuade [President Hamid] Karzai to act more presidential by giving him more responsibility for operations inside his country." Think about that.

Ann Marlowe, a visiting fellow of the Hudson Institute who has been embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan six times, says there have been successes at the local and even provincial levels "but nothing that has lasted even a year." And the election fraud last August that secured Karzai another five-year term was symptomatic: His "government has become more egregiously corrupt and incompetent in the last three or four years." Last month Marlowe reported: "The Pentagon's map of Afghanistan's 80 most key districts shows only five 'sympathetic' to the Afghan government -- and none supporting it." She suggests that Karzai might believe that President Obama's announced intention to begin withdrawing U.S. troops next summer "is a bluff." Those Americans who say that Afghanistan is a test of America's "staying power" are saying that we must stay there because we are there. This is steady work, but it treats perseverance as a virtue regardless of context or consequences and makes futility into a reason for persevering.

Obama has counted on his 2011 run-up to reelection being smoothed by three developments in 2010 -- the health-care legislation becoming popular after enactment, job creation accelerating briskly and Afghanistan conditions improving significantly. The first two are not happening. He can decisively influence only the third, and only by adhering to his timetable for disentangling U.S. forces from this misadventure.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Film Reviews: 'Toy Story 3'

Voyage to the Bottom of the Day Care Center

The New York Times
Published: June 18, 2010

This movie has been designated a Critic's Pick by the film reviewers of The Times.

Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Pictures

Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) is hoisted by his friends in “Toy Story 3.”

“Toy Story 3” begins with a rattling, exuberant set piece that has nothing to do with the tale that follows but that nonetheless sums up the ingenuity, and some of the paradoxes, that have made this Pixar franchise so marvelous and so successful. The major toys — Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), the Potato Heads (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Rex (Wallace Shawn) and the others — are in a setting at once wholly unfamiliar and instantly recognizable. They’re in a western, albeit one made in the amped-up modern action style, rather than the more stately idiom of old-time oaters. A train is hurtling down the tracks; a bridge explodes; stuff is falling out of the sky. There are force fields and laser beams and a big noisy surprise every time you blink.

At first glance your heart may sink a little. Can it be that “Toy Story,” built over 15 years and two previous movies out of the unlikely bonds that flourished among a band of beautifully animated inanimate characters (and Andy, the mostly unseen boy who collects them), has succumbed to flashy commercial blockbuster imperatives? Or would we be fooling ourselves to suppose that it has ever been anything else?

The resolution of the opening scene in the latest episode shows this to be a false choice. The action is taking place in Andy’s head as he plays with his toys. All those crazy effects are the products of his restless and inexhaustible imagination, which is no less his for having been formed and fed by movies, television shows and the cheap merchandise spun out of them.

And how many real kids who have grown up with Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody have unspooled their own improvised movies on the rec room floor? Perhaps no series of movies has so brilliantly grasped the emotional logic that binds the innate creativity of children at play to the machinery of mass entertainment. Each one feeds, and colonizes, the other. And perhaps only Pixar, a company Utopian in its faith in technological progress, artisanal in its devotion to quality and nearly unbeatable in its marketing savvy, could have engineered a sweeping capitalist narrative of such grandeur and charm as the “Toy Story” features. “Toy Story 3” is as sweet, as touching, as humane a movie as you are likely to see this summer, and yet it is all about doodads stamped and molded out of plastic and polyester.

Therein lies its genius, and its uncanny authenticity. A tale that captured the romance and pathos of the consumer economy, the sorrows and pleasures that dwell at the heart of our materialist way of life, could only be told from the standpoint of the commodities themselves, those accretions of synthetic substance and alienated labor we somehow endow with souls.

Cars, appliances, laptops, iPads: we love them, and we profess that love daily. Its purest, most innocent expression — but also its most vulnerable and perishable — is the attachment formed between children and the toys we buy them. “I want that!” “That’s mine!” Slogans of acquisitive selfishness, to be sure, but also articulations of desire and loyalty. The first “Toy Story” acknowledged this bond, and “Toy Story 2” turned it into a source of startlingly deep emotion.

When Woody chose life with Andy and the others over immortality with Stinky Pete at the museum, he was embracing a destiny built on his own disposability. When we grow up, or just grow tired of last year’s cool stuff, we don’t just put away those childish things, we throw them out. “Face it, we’re just trash,” says a bitter pink teddy bear near the end of “Toy Story 3.” Though the movie, directed by Lee Unkrich from a script by Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”), labors to dispel the gloom of this statement, it can’t entirely disprove it.

As Andy prepares for college, Woody surveys the depleted ranks of his pals, noting that some have passed on (rest in peace, Wheezy) and reassuring the others that everything will be fine. They’ll live in the attic until the next generation comes along. But instead they wind up at the Sunnyside Daycare Center, which at first seems like a paradise where the problem of obsolescence has been magically solved. Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty), its seemingly jovial patriarch, explains that there, toys are played with every day, and when one group of youngsters outgrows them, another cohort arrives. It’s a perfect reversal of the single-owner predicament, and most of the toys are relieved and happy — especially Barbie, voiced by Jodi Benson, who finds a Ken with a fabulous wardrobe and the voice of Michael Keaton.

The change of scene, and Woody’s subsequent journey to the home of a little girl named Bonnie (Emily Hahn), allows the filmmakers to introduce a bevy of new toys, including a talking phone and a purple octopus who sounds a lot like one of the hosts of “The View.”

“Toy Story 3,” which makes remarkably subtle use of 3-D, also explores a range of cinematic techniques undreamed of in the first two chapters, and refined in recent Pixar films like “Wall-E” and “Up.” There are swiftly edited action sequences worthy of a “Bourne” movie; low-angle compositions and nimble tracking shots; changes in the color saturation and the texture of the light — just like in a “real” movie! When the truth about Sunnyside is revealed, the movie has fun evoking prison escape pictures and horror films, darkening the Pixar palette to captivating (and, to some small children, possibly frightening) effect.

In providing sheer moviegoing satisfaction — plot, characters, verbal wit and visual delight, cheap laughs and honest sentiment — “Toy Story 3” is wondrously generous and inventive. It is also, by the time it reaches a quiet denouement that balances its noisy beginning, moving in the way that parts of “Up” were. That is, this film — this whole three-part, 15-year epic — about the adventures of a bunch of silly plastic junk turns out also to be a long, melancholy meditation on loss, impermanence and that noble, stubborn, foolish thing called love. We all know money can’t buy it, except sometimes, for the price of a plastic figurine or a movie ticket.

“Toy Story 3” is rated G (General audiences). Some of the mean toys might be a little scary, and the danger the nice toys face becomes pretty intense at times.


Opens on Friday nationwide.

Directed by Lee Unkrich; written by Michael Arndt, based on a story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Mr. Unkrich; directors of photography, Jeremy Lasky and Kim White; edited by Ken Schretzmann; music by Randy Newman; production designer, Bob Pauley; produced by Darla K. Anderson; released by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes. This film is rated G.

WITH THE VOICES OF: Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear), Joan Cusack (Jessie), Ned Beatty (Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear), Don Rickles (Mr. Potato Head), Michael Keaton (Ken), Wallace Shawn (Rex), John Ratzenberger (Hamm), Estelle Harris (Mrs. Potato Head), John Morris (Andy), Jodi Benson (Barbie) and Emily Hahn (Bonnie).

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Movie review: 'Toy Story 3'

A welcome love note to movies that has fun with its endearing characters yet isn't afraid to put genuine emotion onscreen.

By Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times Movie Critic
June 18, 2010

If Pixar is the only sure thing in movies today — and it is — then the "Toy Story" franchise is its most reliable component. So while it's not exactly a surprise to say that "Toy Story 3" is everything you hoped it would be, it is something of a relief.

For as survivors of say " The Godfather, Part III" remember, the third time can be the death knell for a much admired series. "Toy Story 3" has prospered where others have faltered because it has simultaneously stayed true to its roots and expanded its reach. And because in ways both small and large the people behind the franchise simply love movies to death.

Directed by Lee Unkrich and starring the familiar voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn and the rest of the toy gang, "Toy Story 3" pays attention to the reasons we return again and again to the motion picture experience.

As written by Michael Arndt, an Oscar winner for "Little Miss Sunshine," "Toy 3" manages to offer jeopardy and thrills plus unexpected moments of melancholy while never forgetting to have the most fun possible. Best, and most characteristic of Pixar overall, it understands genuine emotion and is not afraid to get it up there on the screen.

On one level the story of a group of toys trying to live up to their responsibilities and deal with change, on another a treatise on the end of childhood and the importance of love and meaning in life, "Toy 3" continues to do the impossible by making us believe that toys are people too, idiosyncratic individuals with lives and minds of their own. The film's unobtrusive 3-D version enhances this reality without calling attention to itself.

Director Unkrich was an editor on the original "Toy Story" and co-directed "Toy Story 2," but that is not the only way franchise continuity has been maintained. A "Toy Story" brain trust, including executive producer John Lasseter and producer Darla K. Anderson, met to block out the main action, Andrew Stanton (who co-wrote the first two scripts) then did a treatment, and finally Arndt, who's worked for Pixar since 2005, took on the script.

Given that it's been more than a decade since the previous chapter, "Toy Story 3's" core notion is nothing if not organic: Andy (John Morris), the young boy who owns all the "Toy Story" toys, has quite simply gotten older and is in fact only a few days away from heading for college and leaving his toys behind. As Lasseter has explained, in the toy world "when you're broken, you can be fixed; when you're lost, you can be found; when you're stolen you can be recovered. But there's no way to fix being outgrown by the child."

Not that Andy's toys have given up, far from it. Led as always by top gun Sheriff Woody (Hanks) and intrepid spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Allen), the gang launches Operation Playtime, a desperate maneuver to remind Andy of their existence and get him to play with them one more time. Needless to say, it doesn't work, and that sends the toys into a tailspin.

"This is just sad," one of them says, dinosaur Rex (Shawn) moans that he "hates all this uncertainty," Buzz Lightyear suggests everyone get ready to go into "attic mode," but Woody steadfastly insists that "Andy's going to take care of us." Furthermore, he maintains that it is a toy's responsibility to always be there for Andy no matter what sacrifices that entails.

Through a series of mistakes and misadventures, Andy's toys end up in Sunnyside, a cheery-looking daycare center where they are welcome with open arms by Lots-o-Huggin' Bear, Lotso for short, the head toy in the place voiced with a folksy silver-tongued brio by Ned Beatty.

Forget those fears of daycare as a dumping ground for unwanted toys, Lotso says. "No owners means no heartbreak," the bear proclaims. "We own ourselves, we control our own destiny."

Despite these assurances, Woody escapes from Sunnyside because of his loyalty to Andy, but before he can reach home he is adopted by a little girl named Bonnie (Emily Hahn) and gets to hang out with her toys, who view themselves as a kind of amateur theatrical troupe. "We do a lot of improv here," Woody is told, and the very proper Mr. Pricklepants ( Timothy Dalton), a hedgehog in lederhosen, approvingly inquires, "Are you classically trained?"

It's at Bonnie's that Woody finds out some dark truths about Sunnyside — "a place of ruin and despair," says the morose Chuckles the Clown (Bud Luckey) — and determines, in his best all-for-one-one-for-all mode, to attempt to rescue his beleaguered friends.

This is but the merest outline of a plot "The A-Team" team would envy, but even though there's a great deal of atmosphere and suspense in "Toy 3" (the production design team visited Alcatraz to get in the mood for Sunnyside) it's the film's comic moments which linger longest. To see Lotso's pal Ken ( Michael Keaton) show off his extensive wardrobe for Barbie ( Jodi Benson) or to witness Buzz Lightyear when he goes into an unexpected flamenco mode is to be in the presence of the unforgettable.

Lots of connections to other films dot "Toy Story 3," nods to the westerns of John Ford, the animation of Hayao Miyazaki and the kind of prison films where someone plays the harmonica on death row. But more than that, by creating the emotions we have always counted on and so rarely find anymore, this film becomes the kind of love note to movies we want and need.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

TIME's Review of Toy Story 3: 'An Instant Classic'

Monday, Jun. 14, 2010

Sheriff Woody is doing his durnedest to save the world from Hamm the piggy bank, alias Dr. Evil Porkchop — "That's Mister Dr. Evil Porkchop to you!" — before the Old West train Woody's on and the orphans inside crash to their doom. His cowgal pal Jessie rides to the rescue, and space ranger Buzz Lightyear is, as always, eager to take his friends "to infinity — and beyond!" But even they may be no match for the spaceship that descends and, when its doors open, reveals ...

... Reveals, in the first scene of Toy Story 3, that the boy Andy has a terrific time playing with his toys. In a bedroom strewn with all kinds of characters, from cowboys and astromen to a Slinky dog and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, the 7-year-old mashes genres together to accommodate them all. Toys trigger what the movie's director, Lee Unkrich, calls a child's "crazy, non sequitur imagination." They unlock his creativity, let him play out elaborate scenarios inspired by films and TV shows he's seen and then remade in the wild innocence of a young mind — one that knows all the rules of narrative but doesn't mind smashing them with Dadaist abandon.

That's the creative strategy at Pixar, which produced the first computer-animated feature, Toy Story, in 1995 and has bloomed ever since, through Finding Nemo, WALL•E and last year's Up. Pixar filmmakers have to be able to tap into their vestigial child, their inner Andy. In that sense, the Toy Story series is their collective autobiography. Like Andy, the Pixarians — from creative director John Lasseter on down — are smart kids who never renounced their childish belief that anything is possible. Why, to make an instant classic like Toy Story 3, it just takes an unfettered imagination, several hundred artists and technicians, about $200 million and four years of nonstop work. Child's play.

In 15 years, the Pixar unit has produced just 11 features. The first 10 — Toy Story; A Bug's Life; Toy Story 2; Monsters, Inc.; Finding Nemo; The Incredibles; Cars; Ratatouille; WALL•E and Up — are not just some of the best computer-animated films but some of the liveliest, brightest, most heartfelt movies of the recent past. That they have earned lots of money ($5.6 billion worldwide) for Pixar and its parent company, Disney, is almost beside the point. Like the earliest Walt Disney fables, Pixar films are for children and their parents and everyone who can be touched by moving images. "We don't make movies for kids," Unkrich says emphatically. "Our mission statement is to make films for everybody." That includes the Motion Picture Academy: Pixar has won five of the nine Oscars for Best Animated Feature and the last three in a row.

Okay, but a third Toy Story, from a studio where nine of the first 10 features were total originals? Lasseter, who directed and co-wrote the first two Toy Story films and who's supervising second episodes of Cars and Monsters, Inc., allows that some people "make sequels as a way of printing money, and they tend to rehash the same idea." He insists Pixar returns to favorite characters because "they are alive in us. We think of them as friends and family. We want to see what new, deeper emotions we can find."

For Toy Story 3's screenwriter Michael Arndt (who won an Oscar for writing Little Miss Sunshine), that meant rethinking each old toy and finding unsuspected human wrinkles. The film's visual style, bracingly clear in its 3-D version, is both state-of-the-CGI-art and faithful to the simple design of the first two films. "I wanted it to look great," says Unkrich, who served as editor on the first Toy Story and co-director on the second. "But it also had to look like Toy Story." What's more potent is the upping of the emotional ante. TS3 puts its characters and the moviegoing children who love them in their severest crisis yet. Not since the early Disney classics have cartoon characters faced so dire a threat with such heroic grace. Lasseter recalls a meeting of the Pixar brain trust for the first reading of the story. "By the end," he says, "I had tears streaming down my face. I looked around the table, and we all had tears."

The Philosophy of Toys

In Toy Story 3, Andy is now a teenager, ready to go to college and wondering what to do with the toys that nurtured him through kidhood but that he hasn't played with for years. Unkrich admits that this is a dilemma he and his colleagues haven't had to face. "Pixar," he says, "is filled with people who don't get rid of their toys."

Lasseter, whose office at the company's Lego-like headquarters in Emeryville, Calif., is crammed with hundreds of gewgaws from his films, is an expert on the secret life of toys. "If something inanimate were to come to life," he posits, "it would want to do what it's been manufactured to do. A toy wants to be played with by a child, to make that child happy. If it's not played with, that causes severe anxieties. If a toy is lost, it can be found. If broken, it can be repaired. The one thing toys are most anxious about is being outgrown, because there's no way that can be fixed."

Andy's toys are a needy bunch. Woody (again voiced by Tom Hanks) is the leader and the most loyal among them, in part because he's Andy's favorite. The cloth cowboy suffered a case of battery envy when Buzz (Tim Allen) joined the team in Toy Story and a displacement complex when a toy collector filched him in TS2. But now trauma looms over all his friends: Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Jessie (Joan Cusack), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Rex the Dinosaur (Wallace Shawn), Slinky Dog (Blake Clark) and the rest.

Like many working stiffs, the toys fret about losing their jobs; like adopted children, they fear being sent back. There's a touch of Stockholm syndrome in their dependence on Andy — once their playmate, now their inattentive jailer, their absent God or Godot. With Andy heading off to college, the toys could be relegated to the attic. Or worse, the dump truck.

Hey, guys, come to Sunnyside Day Care! It has kids galore — no toy left behind — and new friends: Ken (Michael Keaton), enthralled to finally find his Barbie (Jodi Benson), and Lotso (Ned Beatty), a folksy stuffed bear with a strawberry scent. If only the 2-year-olds to whom Buzz and the rest are assigned as playthings weren't such violent little beasts. If only Lotso didn't have a hidden agenda. If only the toys from the first two films didn't have to attempt a great escape that leads to ... well, we said the movie is intense. Unkrich calls it "taking toys to their endgame."

The Next Generation

What's a happy end for a toy? Perhaps to be passed on to the next generation of kids. Pixar may be approaching a similar torch-passing. So far, nearly every Pixar feature has been directed by a man who has been with the company since its founding; the only exceptions (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) are the films helmed by Brad Bird, a college friend of Lasseter's who joined a decade ago. Pixar releases just one feature each year, a schedule that has created a talent logjam at the top (Pete Docter waited eight years between Monsters, Inc. and Up) and the risk that gifted, ambitious, younger animators might be lured to another studio.

Now, by chance and design, the kids will get their shot. Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL•E) is away filming John Carter of Mars; Bird, the fourth Mission: Impossible feature. And the studio will release three movies in 2011-12: a sequel to Cars, a film involving the Monsters, Inc. characters and Brave, the first Pixar feature directed by a woman (Brenda Chapman, who also helmed DreamWorks' The Prince of Egypt). "With Andrew and Brad off in live action," says Unkrich, "it makes sense that we'd be nurturing the next generation of Pixar."

Yet continuity remains a studio hallmark. John Morris, the child who voiced Andy in the first two films, is back as older Andy. And next year there'll be a short film with the same characters. Some toys — and Toy Storys — are to be treasured forever.

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