David Roberts

David Roberts

Energy, politics, and more

David Roberts is a staff writer for Grist. You can follow his Twitter feed at twitter.com/drgrist.

Montreal snit

The Bushies were annoyed that Clinton came to Montreal to try to move things along, so they took their toys and stormed out: Two weeks of treaty talks on global warming neared an end today with the world's current and projected leaders in emissions of greenhouse gases, the United States and China, still refusing to take any mandatory steps to avoid dangerous climate change. The Bush administration was sharply criticized by environmental groups for walking out of a round of informal discussions shortly after midnight that were aimed at finding new ways of curbing gases beyond steps taken so far. Lovely.

Our inaugural open thread

I apologize for the barren postlessness of the blog today. Some of our editorial folk are out of town, and consequently the rest of us are swamped. Woe is us, I tell you. So why don't we try one of those "open thread" things so popular on other blogs? Talk amongst yourselves.

Gaghan’s Syriana not at all the feel-good film of the year

Syriana, written and directed by Traffic screenwriter Stephen Gaghan, is a brave and daunting piece of filmmaking. It plunges without apology into hot-button territory few U.S. news outlets, much less Hollywood productions, have dared explore, and does very little to smooth the rough edges for a moviegoing audience accustomed to frictionless entertainment. In a pop-culture landscape dominated by the aesthetics of adolescents, it is the rare film for adults. The least explosive scene in Gaghan’s new movie. Photo: Warner Bros./Glen Wilson.   When I first heard about the “oil movie,” I figured it would be about oil the same way …

Google Transit

I was going to write something about the just-debuted Google Transit -- a very cool new tool from Google that aspires eventually to have all the nation's local transit information in one easy-to-use tool -- but Jeremy Faludi went and did it for me. So go read that.

Montreal in a nutshell

Good quote:"You are watching 163 nations do an elaborate dance to try to make progress when the United States is sitting in the middle of the road trying to obstruct," said Alden Meyer, a representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that has long criticized the Bush administration's climate approach. "It's getting to be like Charlie Brown with Lucy holding that football," he said. "Every time, at the last minute, the U.S. pulls it away."

Syriana thoughts

My review of Syriana will be published tomorrow, but in the meantime, a few stray thoughts and links that didn't fit in it. First: Go see it. Really. Second, director Stephen Gaghan is a smart, articulate guy, and gives good interview. Check out this interview on AintItCool. Also worth reading is the transcript of this interview of Robert Baer (the ex-CIA agent whose book See No Evil inspired Gaghan) by Robert Siegel. Third, several reviewers seem aggravated by the complicated, hard-to-follow plot. They think it reduces the chances of mainstream success, which is probably true, that it reduces the chances that the movie's message about oil will sink in, which may or may not be true, and that it reduces the movie's artistic merit, which is certainly not true. Gaghan has said he made the plot convoluted and confusing on purpose. It's an artistic choice certain to reduce the movie's popularity, but I think it works. It tosses the viewer into action that seems like it's already ongoing -- like we missed the beginning and it will continue after we're gone, like we're getting a peek into places we're not supposed to see. Several strong and contradictory points of view fly past, making it hard to discern what's really going on, but that's how the world is. Gaghan said: I would travel around the world, I would meet people, and they would seem so certain of their point of view. Just articulate, brilliant, knowledgeable. An hour later, I would meet somebody articulating the exact opposite position. Brilliantly, nuanced, certain. And it was scary. Scary. Lots of people don't like to be scared and confused, so I can understand not enjoying the experience, but it's a mistake to think it reflects some sort of failing on Gaghan's part. Fourth, I would take issue with the conclusion of Oil Drum's Super G:

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