Sunday, May 30, 2004

Maxing and Relaxing

Been at home maxing and relaxing. Have been reading the Da Vinci Code. It was sitting on the kitchen table, I picked it up and couldn't stop reading it. I'm near the end and a little annoyed right now because he keeps using the same little tricks and puzzles and they're getting a tiny bit tiresome. A couple of clever manuevers are enough, you can only do so many before you start tipping your hand. It's still fun though and I'll finish it this afternoon.

Just read an interesting article on the intellectual origins of America-bashing. Basically, it argues that the failure of traditional Marxism to play out has tranformed the intellectual movement towards a new theory - the global immiseration thesis.

Marxist theory wasn't interested in utopian fantasies - it was a scientific theory that speculated once profit fell in capitalist countries, workers would become poorer and poorer, and eventually revolt based on their NEED to do so. (to feed themselves, etc) In practicality, this has not happened, workers in capitalist countries have become richer over time, albeit not as quickly or as rich as the owners, but richer still. Therefore, Marx himself would point out that the first premise of his theories has not been met, and hence the rest will not and cannot follow.

What has followed intellectually is the global immeseration thesis, that the people in capitalist countries have become rich at the expense of people in the 3rd world countries. In short, the workers in capitalist countries have become capitalists themselves. Supposing this is true, it still undermines traditional Marxist theory. Marx argues that it would be an internal class war that would start a revolution, out of the need by the workers. With the global immiseration thesis, the war would be between nations - 3rd World against Capitalist countries. That is a lot different than an internal Civil War - and a lot less winnable.

Imagine if the 3rd World tried to fight the 1st World in a war. It would be a joke. And what would the demands be? How could you mobilize people to fight in such a war? How would it benefit them?

Some point to 9/11 as the first shot in this war. But is it? Clearly not. 9/11 was not an action with political demands. It was a group of fanatics - with a fantasy ideology, not a scientific argument (ie. Marxist) for why large groups of people would revolt against, in this case, the United States. In fact, if anything, it gave the US more solidarity amongst ourselves and with the rest of the world (admittedly short lived b/c of numerous global-political reasons, but not because of an identification with the misery of 9-11).

Marx himself warns of fantasy ideology or utopian fantasies. They are both impractical, ie impossible, and can be immoral. Especially if one thinks there is a short-cut towards the elimination of human suffering. There isn't. It's a long road of small victories in small battles that lead to a better and more prosperous world. To think there is a short-cut by toppling the most powerful and the most rich and that all of a sudden the world will come into perfect harmony is not only stupid and short sighted, but cause to support and do atrocious acts in the name of a fantasy that can never be.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Light Blogging

I'm in the Bay Area right now and my parents internet is not the most reliable, hence the blogging will be light for the next couple of days.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

The Worst

Was listening to 90.7 around 9pm tonight on a segment about the middle east. They had a bunch of callers call in opining about the injustice of Israeli and the US and what they've done in the middle east and what the US is currently doing in Iraq. None of these callers had any qualifications, they just seemed like an angry bunch of hippy's enjoying the sound of their own voice, repeating the same old gripes about the thousands of Iraqi's that we are killing over there and so forth. Of course, no mention of Saddam or the War on Terror or alternative solutions other than to pull out all our troops from everywhere around the world and let people be. As if pre-United States the world was one big happy family dancing around in circles at a Phish concert.

Then a caller calls in and starts talking about the Baath party and his experience of living under the Baathists in Syria when he was 19. He described the horror of his best friend disappearing and being too scared to talk about it, for fear he would be abducted. His voice was shaking in his description of the horror of living under the Baath party, and although he was no fan of George Bush, that he was a hell of a lot better than the Baathists. It was one of the most compelling things I've EVER heard on radio, I was literally being moved in my car by just listening to this man speak from his own personal experience. So what happens? The host on the show CUTS him off and says, "I'm sorry sir, I wish you had called earlier, but we've run out of time." WHAT!?! Are you freaking kidding me? I had just spent 15 minutes of these retards blab on and on about something they know little about other than what they've read on communist leaflets or ANSWER mass emails....and I'm cut off from listening to someone with first hand experience pouring his heart out and nearly breaking down on the radio in the description of his own life and how it relates to the world situation we're in.

Now, this isn't a partisan thing. We all should listen to those with experience and access and hear those voices. Those are the voices that count and need to be heard. Not some angry Chomskyite who has nothing to do now that Jerry passed away, Vietnam is over, and now Trey and gang are embarcing on solo careers. If we just listened rather than rant, we might have a more civilized and reasonable discussion which might actually lead to a better alternative than the neo-con strategy of reshaping the middle east through Baghdad.

That's what people want to hear - a better solution. Not some pipe dream about America "pulling out." Come on, that's not only undesirable, but shows a fundamental lack of understanding about the interconnectedness of the world. It's a denial of the information age and globalization - it's protectionist, isolationist, nationalistic, and wishing for a world that not only doesn't exist, but has never existed.

And I can't believe this man got cut off from speaking. He wasn't saying what the host wanted to hear and he denied the rest of us a compelling bit. That was something worth listening to, worth holding off the advertisements for a few minutes, something meaningful. I mean, if you're gonna do that, what they hell are you in the business for in the first place? Did you get in to shove political rhetoric down people's throats? Cause if that's the case, they ought to be fired. It really saddens me. It's like there's these stories and people out there, everywhere waiting to he heard, that are compelling and interesting and relevant and we get all caught up hearing the political positions of freaking media people - reporters and talk show hosts and editors. I dunno, man.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Poker

The next big sport?
The A.N.S.W.E.R.

Last night I attened an ANSWER meeting to see what they were up to...ANSWER is one of the principal organizers of the anti-war protests and defines itself as a coalition of different organizations who do marches, etc. I originally landed on the list because I was doing a little research for a documentary and they wanted the heads up on marches and stuff, so I signed up.

In any case, I never go to political events, despite having an interest in politics and thought I'd give them a go, knowing full well I probably didn't agree much with their politics.

I arrived and was surprised to see a lot of older people at the meeting (it actually was more like an office party welcoming to their new office). They were a scraggily bunch, dejected, unhappy, weird. Basically if you gathered the old non-homeless folks from hollywood blvd, you'd get the idea. There were some younger folks - 30ish, lawyers, who were the most organized and the leaders of this particular chapter. Very nice folks. We talked movies.

I sat next to this odd older guy, obviously gay - the I've-turned-gay because I couldn't get chicks or because I suffered some sort of emotional/physical/sexual abuse gay and NOT my parents knew it when I was five years old gay. (Disclaimer: there are variations on these two groups).

Around 40 people showed up, not bad. There was this yuppie guy, around 35 who I spoke with, he acted as though he knew exactly what I was all about since I was from Marin County. He was a "retired" M&A attorney and he pointed out to me he used to work for Goldman Sachs. Like I cared.

Mostly white folks, but a surprising lack of diversity. One cute, younger 20s, blonde girl was there, but I didn't get a chance to talk with her.

After the cheese and sodas, we sat around a podium while one of younger organizer lawyers spoke. Her basic position: bring US troops home from everywhere around the world. They seem to think the US role in the world is that of a capitalist imperialist nation and that our entire system is fundamentally flawed and unjust. Basically, they're communists.

She was nervous and not well spoken. A few nods of agreement, and some others of dozing off (like I said, these guys were old).

A bald guy from SF that looked like the bad-guy (clarence) from Robocop came up and spoke about the issues going on around the world and a few things about organizing the June 5th March. He was well spoken and pointed out to cheers that some pundit in the press lately has been saying in re: Iraq "We don't have an exit strategy and shouldn't have one." The bald guy's point: We don't plan on ever exiting. Therefore, we're imperialists. He also talked about McGovern's 1972 campaign for President talking about Vietnam and how we should have been in the Middle East and not in Vietnam at that time because of our oil interest - because at the time we basically had subcontracted stability to Israel and Iran. He was well-spoken and articulate.

Some hippy band started playing and I had to excuse myself. Pepple told me that meetings usually have more discussions, but that this meeting was more of an office party.

Not a single word on the war on terror. Not a single word on the way people around the world live, unless it had something to do with how the US was mistreating them. They constantly used "THEY" in reference to the United States, when it seems to me, they should have been using "WE."

If I ever go again, I'm going to ask how they feel about how North Korea treats their own citizens or how Saddam did. Is that better simply because the US wasn't involved? Just a question.

On a final note, the weird old gay guy was telling me about a movie he saw the prior weekend. He remarked how it was "eye-opening" about how we treat people around the world, the terror we subject folks to. I said, wow, sounds interesting. Where, what countries, details? He said - ummmmm, I kind of forget, it was late, I was sleepy. I'll bring a copy of it sometime.

Yeah, sure buddy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Tear

In loving memory of late high school and early college.

Here's to PHISH.
Sketchy Production Company?

Does this sound sketchy or is worth sending a short film to?
Dissecting the Left

Check out this post. I don't know if anyone else has noticed lately, but there's certainly been a lot of "as a former liberal" or "ex-liberal", etc, etc, out there in the blogosphere lately. That poll on bloggers the other day showed that 40% of blogger were Dem, 20% Repub, and 10% Libertarian. I wonder if they did some type of liberal, conservative, progressive, type of poll what would show up? I guess the point is, a lot of people who embraced the liberal agenda of the 60s, of Kennedy, LBJ, the party of the Civil Rights movement that became anti-Vietnam are strongly rejecting the current liberal agenda of opposing the war in Iraq.

I wonder where Reagan and Clinton fit in all of this. A lot of liberals hate Reagan, but are these the same liberals who oppose Bush? Most liberals supported Clinton...I guess what I'm trying to define is the "ex-liberal." Are these people anti-Vietnam, pro-Civil Rights, pro-Clinton, pro-choice, fiscally responsible, pro-War in Iraq (as a front on the war on terror)? And are these people re-thinking Reagan? Or did Reagan shift them over?

Hmmmmm
War is Miscommunication - Al Contrare Monfrare

Here's an interesting post on understanding the Muslim world - the War on terrorism is not the result of misunderstanding, rather, it's a result of coming to understand the people we are dealing with.

Here's the best parts:

"The facts, should we face them, hold an ugly truth. A pregnant Israeli mother and her four young daughters are slaughtered one-by-one at close range by Hamas terrorists, part of a group who later literally appear on video holding the minced bits of Israeli corpses hostage. (And have no doubt, those people are our enemy, too.) An American altruist is savagely slaughtered on camera by men shouting "Allahu Akhbar." And who, reading the narrative put forward in the Western Media emerges as the villain in these weeks? Why, Don Rumsfeld and George Bush of course.

The truth being screamed out at us on video by these people is ugly. It is difficult to face, and some people don't want us to face the whole truth because it doesn't fit their desired conclusions - because perhaps they couldn't control our reactions to the truth were we to really face it. But the terrorists are circumventing the press in their own way. They, also, are harnessing the power of the modern edge to communicate their message to us.

And this communication isn't bringing peace any closer. No, in fact it's showing us, if we have the guts to see what's before our eyes, that this may just be an enemy with whom there is no accommodation to be made."

The whole thing is worth reading.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Gary Rydstrom Commencement Speech

Compliments of Bondelevich (whose name I still don't know how to spell). This is a funny and good speech. I just wish he stopped it one paragraph short. But he's a sound guy, not an editor...

Mary Pickford Award and Commencement Speech
USC School of Cinema-Television
Gary Rydstrom
May 14, 2004

Thank you to Dean Elizabeth Daley and the Board of Councilors for honoring me with the Mary Pickford Award. I am very proud of my ongoing association with this School, and once, while I was a student here in the 70’s, I got a perm that accidentally made me look like Mary Pickford, so the Award is doubly meaningful to me.

I also truly appreciate the opportunity to address the Class of 2004. Congratulations on your graduation from this storied School. I know you will do marvelous things, for which I plan to take credit.

When I went to USC film school, I wanted to be a director.

But I couldn’t get my 580 thesis film approved, so I made an animated film about the faculty as an act of revenge, which turned out better than my 580 would have. Wasn’t interested in animation, though, so went about becoming a writer, got a writing scholarship, didn’t write anything. Was a personal projectionist for Francis Coppola, who always called me “Barry,” and asked how things were going at UCLA. If he ever did call with a great opportunity, it probably went to some jerk named Barry at UCLA.

I met Sydney Pollack, who hired me to picture-edit a documentary for him, until one day Dustin Hoffman had the first director of “Tootsie” fired and replaced by Sydney Pollack, who cancelled the documentary.

Then Ken Miura came up to me in the courtyard of the old Cinema building and asked if I wanted to work at Lucasfilm. Next day, I drove up to Marin County and started working in the machine room of what would become Skywalker Sound. Ben Burtt, famous sound man and USC graduate, wasn’t available to do the sound for a short film by John Lasseter called “Luxo, Jr.” so I filled in, and did the sound for every Pixar film since. A love of silent comedies first drew me to the film business, in which I had a wonderful, fascinating, rewarding 20-year career in film sound, after which I win an award at USC named for a famous silent film star. And this year I’m beginning a whole new career, in animation, at Pixar, where, a mere 27 years after leaving for film school, I’m a director.


And so my theme for these remarks: Embrace the Unexpected. Knowing what’s going to happen next is boring in the movies, and it’s boring in life. In your careers, in your writing, in your characters, in your filmmaking, be attuned to unexpected twists, and let them lead you down unexpected paths. Characters in the movies chase after what they want, then discover what they need. There’s more to discover on a crooked path. In an early piece of advice to screenwriters, Emily Dickinson wrote:

Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise

Come at your work from an angle. From new and numerous angles. Inspiration tends to find you, not the other way around, and, believe me, it comes from mistakes, flaws, and accidents more than from Day Planners and outlines. You don’t really know what’s coming next. Film audiences love that, and so should you. Take time to stop and smell the plot twists.

I’ve given a lecture on film sound once every semester for many years here at USC, and thanks to you it has been one of the great experiences and joys of my life. One student wrote in his teacher evaluation: “The class was okay, but wasn’t useful for me because I plan on being a director and hiring someone to do that stuff.” To be accurate, he didn’t use the word “stuff.” I have prayed ever since that he became a sound person. There is so much more to filmmaking than directing, so many ways to creatively contribute, so many fantastic careers possible. I wouldn’t give up my 20 years in film sound for anything. It was an added bonus that it turned out to be the fast track to directing.

From film sound I learned to make use of the unexpected. While flossing one day, I was inspired by a horrific, high-pitched screech made while pulling my floss out of its container, and used this sound for a Pteradactyl scream in the second “Jurassic Park.” From film sound I learned that less is more, but a lot less is pushing it. I learned to aim not for reality, but emotional reality. The fires in “Backdraft” came alive after mixing in the sounds of cougars, coyotes, and whispers. I learned that sound is key to our memories, from the veterans who helped me recreate the sounds of battle in “Saving Private Ryan,” and that memories are key to film.

I learned from working with Steven Spielberg that the best filmmakers are able to turn their heads around and be their own audience. Second-guessing your audience is a perilous practice; audiences react best when you are true to yourself. From James Cameron I learned that passion doesn’t work without dedication. Working for George Lucas, I learned how indispensable mavericks are. From Robert Redford I learned how film can reach for poetry, towards the seemingly impossible. For “Quiz Show” he asked me to come up with a “Morality Tone,” a sound to reflect Charles Van Doren’s struggles with moral choice. I loved that he pushed me like that. And, of course, never did come up with the stupid “Morality Tone.”

I learned that the richest source of sounds isn’t any synthesizer, but the real world. Those of us who grew up loving movies sometimes have a funny relationship to the real world. A dark theater is a safe place to experience intense emotions, and filmmakers too often recreate experiences fondly recalled from movie-going, giving us second-hand emotions. Take what you’ve learned here, and from great movies, as method, as technique, but draw the essence of your work from life. Imagine a sign hanging over your graduation saying “Reality Starts Here.” Live a life apart from your passion for film. Read, travel, love, explore. Creating empathetic characters requires leading an empathetic life. Film is about feeling. It’s about using our head to reveal our heart.

Learn history well, so that someday we will repeat history more in the movies than we seem to be doing in the world.

Embrace the unexpected in life, and you’ll have more fun – and more fodder.

Thinking about commencement themes, I’m reminded of the valedictory address at my high school, which was entitled: “Life As a Sponge.” There we were, at the crossroads, with so many good animal metaphors available, and we were being called on to march into the world as Sponges. I bring this up only to make “Embrace the Unexpected” sing in comparison.

Niels Bohr said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” But the future hangs, tantalizingly, over graduation. It will be full of superb surprises, but there are some things you can expect.

Throughout your careers you will veer between cocky self-assuredness and panicked self-doubt. Learn to enjoy the 3 to 4 seconds of relative balance as you swing between them.

Your passion won’t be enough; it needs to be leavened with professionalism.

It takes more than one person to make a film. I don’t like the auteur theory, because I’ve seen how successful films depend on a magical combination of talented people, bringing unique experiences, passionate about their jobs and the film, encouraging and enlivening each other. I advocate changing the auteur theory to the ranconteur theory.

Films should be a conversation, not a sermon.

Commencement speeches, on the other hand, can be a sermon.

You should always try to work with people smarter than you are. The people you believe aren’t smarter than you are, really are, you just haven’t figured out how yet.

It takes machines and people equally to make movies, but only people go to see them. As the technology improves, it has, and will, become harder for a sense of humanity to survive the process.

The truest friends you will have in your careers are sitting around you today. I suggest you pay off your debts to each other, forgive your disagreements, and return borrowed CD’s, because you are the ones who will be helping yourselves get started, and you are the ones who will be helping yourselves get through it all.

And if all goes right, you are the ones who will be making better movies and television.

Our industry is not like any other. The people who make Kleenex pretty much have making Kleenex down; their job is to sell more and more of it each year. Our industry needs gleaming, brand-new ideas every year. This is where you come in. The future is bright, usually right around 14 foot-lamberts. Take risks. Take crooked paths. The world is full of experiences and inspirations waiting in unexpected corners, waiting to be soaked up, as you begin your exciting Life As a Sponge.

Thank you.
Gmail vs. Hotmail

To put things in perspective, I just sent myself a big data file from work to my gmail account - it took up 4MB. This file is too big for my entire free hotmail account, which I believe is 2MB. For 59.95 a year, I can upgrade to a "super" hotmail account and get 100MB of storage. I have thought of upgrading in the past...

In any case, this semi-large file plus all my other emails in my gmail account still account for 0% of my storage capacity. That's right, 0%! The storage capacity is 1000MB. That is 500 times as large as my hotmail and is 10 times as large as the super hotmail account - and it's free.

I like gmail thus far. It works more like a database application than a traditional email system, which I'm used to working with. You can run searches on lines from emails and it'll drag it up - just like the Find function on a word document, but it'll search every single email in your whole account.

Also, for sorting email, you tag messages. Messages don't exist in one place or another, they exist in a single place, but can be filtered by the tag. It runs similar to Microsoft Access Queries.

I've yet to see the downside, I'm still getting used to the format on the screen and it's functionability...but it seems fine thus far.
Ahhh, the Onion...

...responds to my James Jones From Here to Eternity Post

Aquarius: (Jan. 20—Feb. 18)
Not everyone finds the kind of love they want. Then again, so far, no one has had to settle for you, either.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Another Book

As a precurser, my massive amount of blogging today has been to avoid reworking my script that I need to register with the WGA. Pathetic how most of the interesting things I do tend to be in opposition to the things I schedule. For instance, I do my best writing when I'm scheduled to be at work. I do my best reading when I'm scheduled to be writing. I see the most interesting movies when I should be out drinking and I go out drinking when I should be working. It always more fun that way, though.

So I started a book I got for Christmas and can't believe I haven't look at it before now. It's called Conversations with Walter Murch and it's with Michael Ondaatje, who wrote the novel the English Patient, which of course, Murch edited. I love the stories of film school days spent with Lucas and Coppola and company. Am I having those times? It's hard to know while you're experiencing it. I certainly feel thrilled creatively, sometimes. I dunno. I look up to those guys, but at the same time, don't feel that connected to Lucas or Coppola. I mean, I love Star Wars like anyone else, but the new ones? Come on. And Coppola made some magnificant movies in the 70s, but honestly, hasn't done shit in 20 years as far as I'm concerned. And he keeps re-releasing things...and I saw Apocolypse Now Redux last night and I must admit, it was interesting....but I feel like it was interesting from a film student with an interest in cultural and political things versus an interesting movie.

It's like reading an old manuscript of a great novel.

But he tried to release some musical last year that was a bust in the 80s and turned out to be a bust again. And now I hear Lucas is re-working THX 1138. Porque?

I saw Lucas speak at school earlier this year. He said that after he completed his Star Wars project that he would probably go back to making avante garde movies on the cheap. Yeah right. That guy doesn't have the balls to do something like that anymore. Because it's freaking hard to make movies and it's scary to put in on the line and take risks and he has no need to do so anymore. And secretly, I'm not sure he trusts his talent - which he has, incidentally, but it's so hard to trust yourself.

I've just noticed that people seem to have a couple movies in them. It's really amazing how many great filmmakers make terrible movies. Some of my friends think it's because they take the money and let other people's hands on their work. But I'm not so sure. I think we idolize these people who touch us in a certain way at a certain point in time, but they're just people trying to tell a story and sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail. To blame "producers" or the studios is BS. I mean, Lucas is the perfect example of that. He's done the new star wars outside the studio and they massively suck. But who honestly knows...
From Here to Eternity

Finally finished this amazing book. Can't figure out how he did it - creating this Warden character. So moving and melodramatic and interesting. I love the entire sequence of Pearl Harbor when Warden organizes the company and they get off shooting down Japanese planes from the roofs of their barracks. The sheer glee was amazing.

Some quotes from pages I marked:

"Society does everything it can to prevent love like ours and what it cant prevent it destroys. Securely married American men dont like to think their wives have the right to leave them - not for love, which has never bought anything yet. And securely married American women who have been talked into believing it, know they've been duped, that why they hate that kind of love worst of all because have all had to sacrifice it for security and hate themselves for doing it so much they dont want anybody else to have a chance at it."
------
"Either he forgot all about it in the excitement of the music, or else he wanted to keep his real love and his business separate. It was as if this queer only propositioned men who were too dull and insensitive to appreciate guitar, so he could degrade them for their lack, and himself for associating with them."
-------
"I've never been ashamed of anything I ever did in my life," Warden snorted. "Includin that. Shame aint a spontaneous emotion; shame is an induced emotion. A man who knows his own mind dont know what shame is."

There's much much more. I highly recommended, if you like big broad novels to get lost in, checking this one out.
What a Photo

This sums things up. I can't tell what the expressions on the kids faces are thinking...
Good Teachers

Make all the difference...I couldn't agree more.
Wow

I only read half of this, but it's amazingly articulate and correct. I guess it's going to be a book soon.

Basically, he's correct: we have no other choice than to win the war on terror and the only one's who can defeat us is ourselves. We know it. Europe knows it. Even the terrorists know it - because that's their strategy. We've beat back much tougher opponents in the past and we'll do it again. But it's hard, no doubt about it.
A Prize at Canne for $218

Here's an interesting bit of news. Howard Hawks once remarked on the cost of making movies - there was a time when a movie could make back the budget by a single showing in a single theatre. Here's a good, albiet rare, example of that.
Seattle International Film Festival...

...looks amazing. Spurned on by Sarah and Ben who live up there, I think I'll be attending. Some of the films I want to check out:

1. Hero (China) - June 5th 9:15pm or June 7th 4pm
2. Nina's Tragedies (Israel) - Friday June 4th 5pm
3. Deep Breath (Iran) - June 6 9:30pm
4. Walk on Water (Israel) - following weekend

If anyone looks at the list and sees something else interesting, please let me know.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The Search For Lindsey Lohan and Discrimination in Korea Town Booking Joints
Last night began oddly - I planned on writing because I had gotten a good start during the day and was interrupted by my obligations to my part time job. I was reminded by Chuck, however, about a "party" at our old TA's apartment that was going to double as a scene in the movie he was shooting. I gave up on the writing to head over to the "party," I mean it's summer, right?

The party turned out to be the cast and crew of the film. I felt a bit awkward having arrived basically as they were wrapping. I took down a few streamers. Our TA handed out some nice bourbon to celebrate and the evening got started.

Our stated goal: Hang out with Lindsey Lohan. I called my friend Alana who seems to know everything regarding all teenage stars and she, in utter seriousness, prophesized she would be at the Von Dutch party in the hills. Alana, however, did not express much interest in going, and to me it sounded complicated, involving a shuttle, doormen, and lists.

So we compromised and went walking around, 7 guys and 2 girls, Koreatown, bar to bar. The first bar hated us because I brought a PBR inside. They had pornography on the walls. I apologized to the bar matron as we left, who I think unfairly, snubbed my apology.

The second bar we went to was a Korean Booking joint, who made us wait outside to contemplate whether we were worthy, or more accurately, wealthy to enter. Finally, they let us in to the 3/4 filled place and herded us to a strange back room with the sign "employees only" on the door. Bringing us a Hite and small glasses, they insisted the door remain shut - for the karokee, of course.

We played with the machine and the remote, which was all in Korean, confused how to make it work. We finally got happy birthday to play and it made the drunk crowd happy.

At some point I went out into the regular bar, which was 100% populated by people of Korean ancestry. The maitre'd looked at me as though I had gotten lost and insisted I remain in the special booth for people of European decent. I wonder if being half Chinese meant anything to him.

The groups growing frustration from being treated as objects to be hidden grew, and we were wary when the host came offering us women. I was interested, but the group seemed to think it was going to end up costing us a lot of money, so we declined.

In the end, all we could do to save a little dignity was pay the bill and steal the karokee microphone (credit my TA).

We went to two other bars that night, but the Korean place had driven the steam out of the party. Or perhaps it was the time. I hopped into my car to drive home, too drunk, and pondered what to do. A cop drove by and I took it as a sign. I kicked down the seat and took a nap.

I awoke at 5am, cold, and drove home. Alana called me at 11am and woke me up. She said, "You want to hear something funny? Lindsey Lohan was at the Von Dutch party."

Friday, May 21, 2004

GMAIL

Word. I just found out that having a blog means I can set up a gmail account. I just did and I haven't been this excited about something since I started this blog. Awesome!

gmail me: gregblakejohnson@gmail.com
Simon Says

Roger Simon, who I haven't read much, has some good points. Money quote:

"Meanwhile, the Zarqawis of the world are winning this war. And I can promise you one thing -- it's a lot more important than George W. Bush, John Kerry, anybody in Congress and the Media and any one single person. It's about civilization versus a death cult. Make a choice!"

I hope enough of us can remember that.

Fascism in America

The other day, Anuj, Gabe, and I went to the Avalon to crash a birthday party for this guy we knew in college. We watched the Laker game at my house, headed over there, knowing we were supposed to be there by 11pm. We arrived at 11:04 and the sternly homosexual bouncer would not let us in. A Laker girl arrived at the same time in a Lexus SUV and was not admitted either, which made us feel a little better.

We were astounded by the lack of flexibility, but not entirely used to the phenomenon of not being let in, being that we're all familiar with LA and other hip cities.

Ultimately, we did the only thing three guys kicking it together on a Saturday night could do, we snuck in the back door. But what arose out of this incident was Gabe making the point that the Federal Government is not the one that takes away our rights and our freedoms. It is local governments and city ordinances that state "The Avalon" cannot have patrons enter after 11pm.

I noticed the same thing today in the UV parking lot (I work part time during the school year and right now at the UV) - they are super rigid with parking time limits and bring in uniformed security and towing companies to tow cars at the stroke of 3 hours, or when they suspect students are parking for classes at USC instead patronizing the UV.

Because of that, I moved my car to a meter on the street after parking 2.75 hours in the UV lot. I put in a quarter and noticed the meter blinking "fail." I call the number to report it, hoping I get a free spot and she warns me that I must move my car to a working meter, lest I run the risk of getting a ticket. She did admit that I could contest the ticket, but is saving $0.50 really worth it? So I moved my car and drop in the extra $0.50 on top of the $0.25 I wasted.

This is not all. The reason I need to even do such is that I parked in my parking space the other day from the school year and got a $35 ticket for doing so. Apparently, my permit time was over, but my card still allowed me to get into the lot. Why not shut of the card reader for those not working permits, rather than allow people to park in the spaces and then ticket them? I'm guessing because that way it's a source of revenue. I dunno? And certainly in the first few days after school, shouldn't it be a fix-it ticket, as opposed to a fine? Further, the price of the fine is equal to what it costs to park in the lot for the entire month during the summer. Isn't that completely disproportionate?

Another example - I spent 3 hours on the phone last weekend with ATT Wireless over charges I did not agree to. I tried to switch over to the GSM network a couple months ago and the service worked considerably worse than my ditigal service. So I switched back. Then my bills came and they exceeded their regular rates, including a $60 charge for the GSM phone itself, for which I had gotten for free for signing a new 2 year contract and a $15 set up fee. The set up fee was reasonable, a little cost to switch to GSM, get a new contract, get a new phone. Everyone's happy. But then, the service doesn't work...so I still need to pay the set up fee? Apparently, I did. After 1 hour, the agreed to give me a $15 credit, not for the set up fee, but because I'm entitled to such for being a customer for such a long time. Fine.

But what about the phone itself? It was supposed to be free, but then it came, didn't work, and then they charged me for it? What? I talked to a guy who insisted the phone wasn't under promotion when I got it and therefore was legitimately charged for it. Second, I missed the 30 day return period and therefore was ineligible to return the phone. In short - you owe us $60 for a phone that doesn't work.

I argued why would I order a phone that costs money, when you give them away free every month. The only reason I called your stinking outfit in the first place was to see if I could get a new phone. He said, there are no notes from the representative, blah, blah, blah.

He then proceeded to tell me that ATT Wireless merged with Cingular and the service was much better and tried to urge me to switch back. Why? I said, so you can tack on another $15 charge for a service I was unhappy with? I guarantee it will be better, he said. Make sure you put that in your notes, I said.

After another hour, I got forwarded to (by the way there are different people to talk to about the $15 fee and the equipment, because one person apparently can't do all that, and each of them is super busy and requires a wait) another person, someone higher up on the chain to state my case. I waited a good 10 minutes on hold, finally got through, and she drops my call. What the FUCK! I thought. I was so incenced at this point, I had no choice but to call back, redescribe my entire story to another guy, told him I wanted this higher up to call me back cause I don't have all day for this shit.

And so it goes.....the point IS after all this, is the annoying limitation of human freedom and justice and fairness and decency are more a result of a) Local Government and b) Unethical business practices.

The government agencies, especially the parking folks in LA preside like the gestapo over where cars are parked. When people move to LA they literally need to budget parking tickets, because you will inevitably get them. There are so many residential areas in LA, especially on the west side, where you are literally not allowed to park without a proper permit at all. And the way they go about it is so insidious and devious, the delight with which they give out tickets (I'm sure they get bonuses for issuing tickets). My friend even got a ticket five minutes early on a street cleaning day, because the parking person wanted to make his/her rounds quickly.

And the business practices, especially phone and software companies....I mean, ATT literally stole 3 hours of my time for no reason other than their mistake. I finally got most of the money back, although they insisted I pay for the tax on the phone - $10 or so, which to me was so odd, because it was as if they were making a big compromise. But the point was, it isn't a compromise, it's a correction of a wrong doing. To compromise misses the point entirely, but I just didn't have the energy to fight anymore.

This is where we see fascism creeping up these days in America - because we all know the human tendancy to bully and boss one another around, if left unchecked. We all worry about the Feds, but when have they ever raided any of our houses or done anything illegitimate? To me, it's the asshole cops who liked busting teenager and making us do pushups or the parking attendent who greedily gives tickets to any all all perps of minor infractions. It's the ATT operative who somehow thinks it's the burden of the customer to prove they were misbilled or the car insurance company that ridiculously overcharges students in Los Angeles. These are the things that mess with our freedoms and liberty on a day to day basis. And these are the things we should get outraged over, because they affect us.
Burgers

LA is not known for great food, but I've noticed LA is pretty good about a couple things, namely Burgers and Burritos. Burritos, by the sheer number of joints are bound to have some good spots. According to citysearch, Yuca's beats the hell out of everything else. I used to live right there and still have never been there. Gotta go this weekend. But, they have no rice, which doesn't set well with me...my current favorite is still Machos Tacos on Vermont and Prospect.

But, with respect to burgers, here's a link for the whole of LA.
More Torture of Arabs

PLO causing violence amongst Palestinians. Like I said before in this post, it's only an outrage when committed by Americans.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

GMail

Gmail should be awesome! I'm switching ASAP.
Syria, Syria, Syria....

when are they going to get it? They are calling the sanctions both a joke and a humiliation.

Well, which is it? This is the big lie that's being pounded down to the people of the middle east - the US is both powerless and the cause of their humiliation. First, it's a joke. But second, it's terribly humiliating.

I can't tell you how goddamn tired I am about hearing how humiliating our policy is toward the Arabs. Shut the fuck up and stop whining already!?!

In this article they point to Syria's support of the US invasion of Kuwait as if we should be thankful to them. Wha? Isn't that completely backwards? They should be thanking us for stopping Hussein from taking over the whole region.

Now looking back, maybe we should have let Saddam take over the region. I wonder...according to the UN and the Arab world, Saddam was so containable, perhaps it would have been more beneficial to us to let Saddam control the region and just deal with him, get our oil, and not give a shit about the people over there. Why not? Saddam never showed any animosity towards us, until after we beat him back. We could have just traded with him and we probably would not have any problem with Arab terrorists. Just let Saddam and the Mullah's and Al Queda's fight it out amongst themselves, we trade with both and keep our hands clean.

Then would everyone be happier and better off? Well, we would be, at least.
Who Wants Us to Lose

This is something I touched upon yesterday, the media as a weapon.

From The NY Post.

The most important factor is all of this is who it harms. Sure, it harms us, but the real victims are those living in the middle east who have the Al Jazeera's lying to them - and in the long run, pepetuating their misery.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Out and About

Oh, and by the way, just to show that I don't only see movies and wax political - the other night we went to a super cool bar called the Chalet up in Glendale (actually Eagle Rock, or some close town to Glendale). Place is owned by the 4100 and Daddy's folks, so it's hip and affordable and totally out of the way. A majorly cute bartender as well.

The other cool place we went to was Hank's, a cheers-like bar to watch some hoops. Free wings, $3 bud. Can't beat that.
Selective Outrage

Another interesting article compliments of Instapundit.

The money point on Abu Gharib - this is selective outrage. These types of abuses happen in prisons across the world, especially in the middle east, and the only time the world feels outraged by it is when there is proof that the American troops did it against Iraqi enemy combatants.

I guess the overall point is, we are being held to a higher standard than the rest of the world - which is fine by me. I just think it is stupid for people to hate us so much BECAUSE they hold us to a higher standard. It doesn't make any sense. Hold us to a higher standard, call us on our mistakes, but recognize that the rest of the world isn't any better.

I wish we could take pictures of North Korean prison camps, or would show images of people jumping from the towers during 9/11, or show the stoning of women in Pakistan, the cutting off of hands in Saudi Arabia, the castration of men in Saddam's prisons. If we did, there would be hurt and fear and sadness, but no outrage. The outrage only occurs when it is US troops - despite the US Army condemning and punishing those responsible. In all those other cases, the torturers are not punished.

Where are the wise French, the ballsy Arabs, the courageous German's or Italians who will say these things?

Why do people applaud Michael Moore for 20 minutes in Canne for criticizing Bush? These same people wouldn't applaud a US soldier for helping to free the Kurds from massacre's by Saddam. They wouldn't applaud a US soldier who stands on the DMZ line facing 1 million North Korean troops, who have been willing and ready to invade and "reunify" the Korean peninsula for the past 50 years into a Stalinist state.

It's so easy to criticise and point out hypocracies in people and countries and ourselves. It so much harder to have the courage to do the right thing in a morally ambiguous situation when you know someone is looking over your shoulder ready to critique you no matter what you do.
The SF Chronicle has some inflamatory headlines today:

Wedding Party Massacre and Israeli Tanks Kill Innocents.

It's too bad, but we can't really deny that the media is playing a huge role in this war. I guess media has always played a role in war, but in the hearts and minds battle, which is probably the most important battle in this unique fight, the media has an unprecedented amount of power. If the media is a major determinant in the outcome of this war, and the media is looking at the bottom line, ie money - what we're going to see is the ultimate form of reality entertainment: War-tainment.

To what extent do we contribute to human misery by being entertained by it? I wonder.

And has anyone from the anti-gun movement in the US bothered to mention to the Arabs that shooting guns in the air for a wedding celebration probably isn't the wisest tradition to keep around during a war? I'm not saying they deserve to die for such, but they should at least be aware of the risks. And to be honest, it wouldn't surprise me to find that this was in a fact a weapons cache and the "wedding" was staged. Although, I doubt that will make the headlines.

UPDATE: Military says they were enemy fighters. Stay tuned.
I find horoscopes excessively lame and got into one of those annoying discussions last night with a classmate trying to convince me of the validity of such....

Her logic: my horoscope said someone from my past would get in touch with me...and sure enough she got an email from some guy from her past. How do you explain that?

I dunno, a coincidence? Do things like that need explaining?

I love how only certain horoscopes apply - like the LA times one day, and the Daily Trojan the next, MSN the next, whenever they happen to be accurrate.

All that being said, here's one about Gemini for me....

We also discussed how it was odd that I was a Gemini, that I should have been a virgo or leo, or something else.
451

Moore at Cannes.

Were they clapping for the movie, for Moore, or for the politics? Does it matter?

Unfortunately, I think it does. Why is Bush such an object of easy hatred? I don't even like the guy, but I sure as hell don't hate him, and don't think he deserves to be so easily reviled amongst artists and the media. If we had a movie showing the behaviour of various Arab states and their relationships to terror, what would that be? Racist propaganda, I'm guessing.

The world is just a really weird place right now...
Yesterday

I meant to attend an ANSWER meeting yesterday to hear their point of view and probably start an argument. ANSWER is this super left wing organization who organizes a lot of the anti-war, anti-globalization protests. From what I gather by their emails, they support bringing all the troops home from Iraq to Korea. I find their positions are preposterous, but I was interested in listening to their POV and reporting on the blog....

However, instead I got stuck at the Grove yesterday watching movie after movie to get my money's worth from a matinee - 8.75. Isn't that outrageous? They've raised the price on Fri and Sat night to 12.50. Tack on the $2 parking and you're looking at $15 a pop for a movie on Sat night. A family of 4 - $60. Yipes! Nowadays you can got to ballgames for cheaper than that - unless you buy food, of course. But the same goes for movies - $4 for a small popcorn (which could feed a family)...I'm full with three handfuls, to be honest.

Anyhow, I saw Troy, part of Van Helsing, and Supersize Me. I was surprised how much I liked Troy - I think I went in with the right attitude: who cares summer fun...and I remembered how much I liked the various characters from the Iliad. Achilles the nut, Odysseus the smart and admirable leader, Hektor the family man and reluctant and capable warrier, Paris the wuss, Agamemnon the greedy. I was reminded of reading Homer freshman year in college and got into parts of the story. I will say, the Orlando Bloom and unknown Helen were by far the worst elements of the movie - frightfully uncharismatic and unconvincing as lovers and of capable of starting a war.

But I was also reminded how much I don't really care for historical epics -which are almost always a let down. They nearly all try to take themselves too seriously and fail. One exception for me was Braveheart, which I really liked, because of the plot surprises and Sophie Marceau (aye, mama!). So Troy, from a genre I don't really care for and from the low expectations, ended up being worth about the $4.50 I paid for it.

On another note, there seems to be a few actors who have found a place as actors in historical or fantastical stories - Orlando Bloom, who seems only able to do so, Sean Bean, Brian Cox. Also, was that huge guy at the beginning Stone Cold Steve Austin???

Supersize Me was quite good. A funny look at a guy who ate nothing but McDonalds for a month. The politics of food has become a big to-do lately with the popularity of Fast Food Nation and the buzz regarding the Atkins diet. The crazy stuff that happens to his body from eating McDonalds - putting himself at risk of liver damage, heart damage, etc, was pretty disgusting, but not completely unexpected. The movie made me want to eat better, but didn't leave me with any ill feelings towards McDonalds. I still think lawsuits aimed at Fast Food companies are silly, despite the problem with obesity in this country. I think we are on the right track in that education and more emphasis on exercise is the ultimately the solution - not forms of litigation.

Interesting note: McDonalds got rid of Supersize as a result of the movie. I never ordered supersize anyway...

And Van Helsing, from what I saw, was pretty damn stupid. Hugh Jackman was particularly bad at delivering his lines with any ooommph.
More good news from Iraq the Model. A quote on Sadr:

I agree, but I don’t understand your people there. Why do they support them!?

-Do you really believe that?? I swear to God they are no more than a couple of thousands terrorizing millions and hiding behind slogans like jihad and resistance. The whole city has got sick and tired of their doings. We just want to work, feed our children and take a break. We are tired of all this bullshit. They can’t deceive us anymore.
This idiot is taking advantage of his father’s name and we know the people who are gathering around him. Most of them are gangsters and ex-convicts with some foolish teenagers. They are anything but Muslims. Every now and then one of these cowards come hiding his face and fire against the American troops and when the Americans respond innocents get hurt.
I was encouraged by his attitude and asked:
-Why don’t you try to do something about it?

Read more on the site itself.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The Olympics

Call me weird, but I'd like to see the transsexuals vs. the Jihadists.

That's bound to offend someone.
Getting Involved

A guide to getting involved politically...ironically, a right wing slant from the SF Chronicle. We live in strange times. He forgot one thing, however, START A BLOG.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Just added a new feature allowing comments to be posted. We'll see how it works and if anyone uses it. It's also a good feature for referencing old posts.

See this post and this post for fun.

Gotta love theonion:
Film-School Graduate Goes Straight To
Video-Store Job
SANTA MONICA, CA—The theatrical career of recent USC School of Cinema-Television graduate Neil Hemmitt was put on hold indefinitely as the aspiring director went straight to video-store clerking Monday. "The big studios never gave me a chance," Hemmitt said, as he shelved a Big Fish DVD at Blockbuster. "But it's because they didn't understand me." Hemmitt's producers, Harold and Francine Hemmitt, pulled his financial support in March, after calling his predicament "hardly original."



A Spike In Traffic

I've been reading a lot of popular blogs lately and all of them have noticed a spike in traffic. Instapundit had 200,000 hits the other day. Donald Sensing and Andrew Sullivan each noted a big increase in traffic. Now, I'm not even remotely close to that level, but my meter has been getting 4-5 hits each time I update something, which is more than I'm used to. So, first, thanks! But second, and more interestingly, people seem to reach out to blogs during certain times....

Blogs blew up after 9/11. Absolutely exploded in popularity - especially political blogs. This is when I started reading blogs. I couldn't get what I wanted from ordinary news coverage, I started reading foreign policy magazines and blogs, all of it trying to make sense of a world that all of a sudden felt a lot more menacing and troublesome and frankly, scary. Blogging became both a way of getting information, but also connecting to people, reading there thoughts and opinions, to help shape my own.

Now, a sudden increase in blogging as a result of the prison photos and Nick Berg. What to make of this? One, people are looking for answers again, because of the wariness about how we feel about the actions of our own army and the actions of our sworn enemy. It's freaking scary, folks, and we're all just trying to figure out what the hell is going on, why it is, and what to do about it. Plus, it's summer vacation.
A Really Smart Speech

A lot of good points in this speech by the prime minister of Malayasia.

He draws a very important distinction between local "terrorist" groups and those with global ambitions...ie Al Queda.

It seems to me there are several levels of misunderstanding of the threat of global Islamo-Fascist terrorism.

1. Denial of terrorism as a problem. Mostly these folks will invoke the idea that the US and Israel are terrorist states and that "terrorist" is just a term the powerful use to demonize the oppressed enemy. Very few reasonable people fall into this category of understanding - if one cannot see the difference between Al Queda's claims to a legitimate cause versus the US claims to being a legitimate government, one has a serious lack of understanding of the way the world functions.

2. The US/Israel as a principal cause of terrorism. There are others who view terrorism as a problem, but see Israel and/or the US as principal cause of the problem. The US for our support of various anti-communist groups during the cold war, Israel for occupying Palestine, etc. There is an appeal to this argument, but I find it fundamentally flawed...it is to blame the victim for the crime. Essentially, it is saying the women deserved to be raped for dressing a certain way.

Certainly, there are legitimate concerns with the US and Israel's behaviour as states. In no way, however, does this legitimate terror as a tactic. Further, it's simply not true that the US is a root cause of terror. The causes of terrorism are ideology mixed with means, mixed with money. The US is not responsible for Wahabbism. The US government is not responsible for people's misery. I do not blame the US government when I'm lonely and cannot get laid and can't get a job. And I live in the US. I don't see how a celibate, unemployed Saudi thinks the US government is somehow responsible for him not having a job and getting laid - our reach simply isn't that far. It's his own local government and country that deny him those things (and in a global age, we are connected yes, but that does not mean the powerful are responsible for the well-being and happiness of each individual. That is still up to the individual and the community)

3. We are not in a war against terrorism. Some recognize global terrorism as a problem, not principally caused by the US/Israel, but deny we are at war...or to the extent we are at war - it has been our doing. We've been attacked several times over the past 10 years, each time growing in escalation. Osama declared war on us and we laughed. We can pretend we are not at war, but they are at war with us, so it's an inescapable fact that we must fight, or else lose.

4. How we are conducting the war is wrong. There are many, many levels to this argument that I will not go into in this post, but I think if we all get here, it's a good start for discussion.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Straw Dogs + some other movies

While it's in my head, I must write about several movies I've seen in the last couple of days. By far the most compelling and interesting film I've seen in a long time was Straw Dogs, a Peckinpah film I watched at the Egyptian Theater last night. Holy shit, what a movie!

Peckinpah has this amazing ability to create a sense of menace and fear. He builds a tremendous amount of tension through looks, camera angle, cutting. The terror felt by the couple, whose decided to return to Amy's (the wife) hometown in rural England, builds and builds unrelentingly.

I've heard Peckinpah was a misogynist and I guess I can see that intepretation of the "rape" --> consent scene. But he does it in such a sophisticated way, that it's worth examining anyway. I interpreted the scene more from a sense of character need. Amy needed to feel safe, which she didn't with Dustin Hoffman.

I can't say enough about this film. I watched it as part of a double feature when I was tired and it kept me completely engaged the entire time. Some absolutely amazing visuals of this lonely farmhouse in foggy England. The end, vicious and exciting, is more than worth the wait....but truthfully, I found the entire build up just as compelling.

And at risk of being labeled a pervert, it is the most erotic rape "scene" I've ever seen. And that makes it ever more powerful.

The second part of the double feature was Junior Bonner, another Peckinpah film about a rodeo family. The son, played by Steve Mcqueen (who I honestly don't really get), comes home to find his brother getting rich and his charming father being drunk.

A lot of interesting things going on in this film, some of the same type of things I've been exploring in Soccer Bums, trying to hang on to sporting glory, the brother (or friend) in my case, finding financial success, the relationship between son and father. Overall, I was honestly too tired at this point and fell asleep a couple of times. Most interesting was the way he shot the rodeo itself, lots of slow motion close-ups, very powerful, especially when compared to the look of the regular action. The first scenes are amazing, a washed out blue-jean type look to a rodeo, with split screen editing and freeze frames all over the place. Very suave for 1972.

In constrast, the two nights ago, I watched Saved!, an absolutely terrible movie with Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Maculay Culkin. It was the premiere, which is almost always worth going because of the free popcorn and soda, but I nearly walked out on this story about a Christian high school and a girl struggling with her gay boyfriend, who ends up getting pregnant. The movie couldn't figure out whether to be funny or serious, neither of which was working too well, to be honest. They had worthless voice over, crappy emotional music to make you feel something that wasn't there between the characters and action, boring characters, lame story, nothing visually interesting at ALL. There were a few good cracks at Christians and gays, and that's about it. Easy, easy jokes. The highlight for me, however, was the afterparty, filled with teenage stars from the movie and elsewhere. Lindsey Lohan made an appearance - awesome. I rubbed elbows with Jena Malone. I pretended to Rich Schroder's agent that I was an aspiring soap opera star. I got a prom picture taken. I ran into a girl from the hollywood reporter I met at the Dresden. I ate free food and drank free chardonnay. I met the director and congradulated him. He said to me, "If I can make a movie, anyone can." Funny thing was, I totally believed him.

Friday, May 14, 2004

It's a Gen X and Gen Y War.

The sad thing is, I'm not in touch with a single person over there. The fact is, growing up in a wealthy suburb of San Franisco, very few people go volunteer for the army. I know "of" a few people, but no one personally.
I've never been sold on the Iraq-Al Queda connection, but here's an interesting article nonetheless.

I do think it was reasonable to look into Iraq - here's an interesting piece on the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. (Sorry, it's real long)

Bottom line with 1993 - we were lucky. The cynide in the bomb burned in the explosion and Yousef was unable to get as many explosives as he wanted and therefore only six people were killed. He came into the US with an Iraqi passport and he stayed with Iraqi's when he lived here. One of the co-conspirators arrested with him had placed 26 calls to Baghdad, presumably to an uncle there. I dunno, there's some evidence to point to the 1993 World Trade Center being connected to Saddam, especially in light of the plot to kill Bush I in Kuwait post-Gulf war. This lingering evidence is enough for me to think looking into an Iraq connection to 9/11. I don't think it was unreasonable to do so.

That being said, I don't think we've established a clear connection and don't think that is the reason we went to Iraq. But what is clear to me is that getting rid of Saddam will help the region and help us because it'll give us one less major thug to worry about.
The UN and sex workers. Man ole man.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

This is a deeply sad article about the depth of anti-Americanism across the world, specifically in Central Asia. The conclusion: it'll never, ever go away. We're going to be hated for a long long time and no matter what we do, it's going to somehow be interpreted as selfish, wrong, and unfair. It's too bad.

Here's a sad section:

The quietest girl in the class shyly suggested, "But Muslims have to defend other Muslims against attack"

I stopped her mid-sentence. "What if the Muslims are in the wrong? And what happens when Muslims attack other Muslims?"

"Muslims don't attack other Muslims," she insisted.

"Iran and Iraq? The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait? Should I go on?"

A boy in the back raised his hand. "But Muslims have no choice but to hate the United States and declare a jihad, since the United States is always attacking Muslims," he said.

"Is that true?" I pressed. "Where have we attacked Muslims?"

"I don't know. That's what people say."

"In Bosnia and Somalia, we were supporting Muslims," I said. "And in the war against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait, we were supporting Muslims who were attacked by other Muslims."

A stony silence, more of bewilderment than hostility, enveloped the room, as if I'd just announced to a group of American students that the earth wasn't round, or that Utah was just a cartographer's fantasy. It was the first of many retreats in the face of an unaccustomed challenge to official truths.

Tired and cranky, I filled the void by turning a table: "Can you explain to me why there's never been a call for a jihad against Russia?"

The room tensed. "Why should Muslims be angry at the Russians? The Russians are our brothers."

"But your 'brothers' have been attacking Islam for decades," I countered, ticking off the list: the suppression of Islam in Central Asia, the invasion of Afghanistan, the war in Chechnya.

"But the Russians are poor," they responded.

My second lesson in Anti-Americanism 101 followed swiftly in my afternoon class.

"America got what it deserved because it always meddles in everyone else's business," exclaimed a senior named Rada, just moments after her classmates offered me their formal sympathies for the attacks on New York and Washington.

"What 'meddling' are you talking about?" I asked.

They all shouted at once: Vietnam, Bosnia, Serbia, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq. Their knowledge of history, well beyond what American teenagers could have mustered, was cold comfort. Could they really see no difference between Vietnam, which I thought of as old-style American imperialism, and Bosnia or Haiti, President Clinton's postmodern brand?

I interrupted the litany: "If Uzbekistan invaded Kyrgyzstan to annex the Kyrgyz part of the Fergana Valley, what would you want the United States to do?" The lush valley had been split between the Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik Soviet Socialist Republics by Stalin, no slouch in the "divide and conquer" department. But in the post-Soviet era, many Uzbeks lusted after the entire basin.

"You must defend us," they said.

"But we can't," I responded. "That would be meddling."

"Oh, no, it would be different if the Uzbeks invaded. You wouldn't be meddling. You would be defending us."
------------------------------
Why don't people go with what benefits them the most? Who cares about American intentions? And why do people have this sense of entitlement, that American needs to or should help them when they're in danger. They should freaking help themselves.
This is an absolutely amazing blog. Is it true? I don't know...

An exerpt:

My uncle has a somewhat unusual sense of humor that doesn't fit quite well in his somewhat religious family. He winked at me and turned to his son and asked him "What do you think of the Americans?" His son answered, "They are occupiers". "So you think we should fight them?" his father asked. Ibrahim said "No, but I don’t like them". My uncle said, pretending to change the subject "Do you like your new computer that no one shares with you?" "Yes of course dad". "Ok, are you satisfied with the satellite dish receiver we have or do you need a better one?" "This one is fine but I heard there’s a better one that gets more channels" "ok I’ll get you that next week". Then he said, "Is there anything else you’d like to have son?" "No dad I have all that I need". "Ok but how about a car?" Ibrahim was astounded and said "Really? a..a CAR.. for me!?". "Of course for you! I’m too old to drive now and my eyes are not that well and you are the older son. So whom else would it be for!?" "Oh, dad that will be great! When will that happen?" "Just finish your exams and you’ll have it". "I will dad". "Are you happy now son?" "Yes dad, sure I am!" "Then why do you hate the Americans you son of a b***h!? I couldn’t get you a bicycle a year ago, I could hardly feed you and your brothers and sisters. You didn’t know what an apple or a banana tasted like, I couldn’t buy you a damned Pepsi bottle except in occasions, and now you can have all that you wish, and a car of your own! Who do you think made that possible!?" My cousin’s face turned red and didn’t answer as we laughed and I said "What do you think Ibrahim?" He said, "Well it’s true but it’s our money. They are not giving us a charity" and I said "Of course it’s our money, so let’s forget the Billions of dollars they are giving to rebuild Iraq and the efforts they are making to cut down our debts and lets talk about our money. Why didn’t your father, I, my brothers and all the Iraqis have anything worth mentioning before the Americans came?" He said, "Because Saddam used it to buy weapons and build palaces". "There you have it Ibrahim, but Americans are not touching our money. Can you tell me who’s better; the ‘occupiers’ who are helping us or the ‘patriot’ who did all that you know to us?" He said in a faint voice "They are better than Saddam but still they are not Muslims". "So do you want them to be Muslims?" "I wish they were." "Will you fight them to that?" he said, "No, of course not. I don’t like fighting." We didn’t want to pressure and embarrass him further and didn’t go further, as he’s still young but he’s smart and good-natured and will get it soon.


I admit this type of thing gets me...and if I find out it's bullshit, it's going to be really annoying.
I'm totally ripping from Instapundit and the Belmont Club, but this is so smart, that I wish to archive it:

"This was not supposed to happen. April was supposed to mark the death rattle of the American occupation in Iraq. It was never meant to lead to joint Marine-Iraqi patrols in Fallujah or Iraqi commandos hunting down Moqtada Al-Sadr in Najaf. Yet the change did not proceed from "more American boots on the ground" nor from the provision of additional guards for the Baghdadi antiquities or an influx of NGOs. Still less was it the consequence of a grant of legitimacy from the United Nations or the messianic arrival of French troops. In fact it coincided with the departure of the Spanish contingent from Iraq. The change sprang from the correct application of the original strategy: building a democratic and free Iraq by recognizing the leadership which arose from the circumstances. It arose not from an imposed set of politically correct commissars in Baghdad but in complementing indigenous efforts with American strengths."

This is brilliant. In Directing Actors, we are instructed to create a safe space and set of circumstances, built around specific directions to give actors the freedom to perform. Be specific. The more specific you are as a director, the more freedom it gives the actor to bring emotional life to the performance. You can't lay out a rigid set of movements or facial expressions and expect to get a natural performance. What you do is lay out wood and gasoline and throw a match onto the space and capture the explosion on film. You can't control the explosion itself, nor would you want to. That's the actors choices and that's what performance is all about.

What can be considered bold and reckless by some, the invasion of Iraq without a grand strategy, can also have another intepretation - creating a safe space for leaders to arise and nations to be built by their OWN people, with our help and support. Great leaders are always products of their time and circumstances.

As horrible as the prison photos are, as horrible as the troops fighting and dying are, so long as we stay the course, I believe things will be better in Iraq in the long run. And the entire world will be better off, safer, and happier.

I watched a segment of Letterman just now with John McCain. It was quite amazing, actually, a completely serious and joke-less interview with McCain about the prison abuses. I felt like the issue of the war and the prisoner abuse is really important to Letterman and he was using his position as a talk show host to talk about it and to literally help Americans go through a difficult time. I must admit, I am completely impressed that Letterman would do such a thing, because I think it is a difficult time as an American, how we are to interact with the rest of the world, both our allie and our enemies. I think it is a time to be candid and serious with one another and frankly, I'm happy there are the David Letterman's of the world, willing to talk about what's important, when it's important.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Interesting new blog from Iraq.
Gotta stand up for Reynolds on this one.

I've known lots of pot smokers and for all the annoying laziness, one thing I can vouch for is that pot being a major factor in a shooting is highly unlikely. Alcohol has a much stronger relationship to violence. It's correlation, not causation.
From Glenn Reynolds

Publishing images that might inflame Arabs against Americans is responsible journalism. So is not publishing images that might inflame Americans against Arabs. And, TND notes, "media squeamishness has now extended beyond images to the written word."

Hmmmmm.
This is a rather scary thought,

"There is another path, of course. Simply put: if a US city is nuked, the US will have to nuke someone, or let it stand that the United States can lose a city without cost to the other side. Defining “the other side” would be difficult, of course – do you erase Tehran to punish the mullahs? Make a crater out of Riyahd? These are exactly the sort of decisions we never want to make. But let’s say it happens. Baltimore: fire and wind. Gone. That horrible day would clarify things once and for all. It’s one thing for someone in a distant city to cheer the fall of two skyscrapers: from a distance, it looks like a bloody nose. But erasing a city is a different matter.
Everyone will have to choose sides. That would be one possible beginning of the end of this war."

If were were nuked, I think the horror and anger and fear would be so great, we would undoubtedly do something horrible in return. Winning the war on terror is the only option, the only choice we have is how we win it. We fight this now to avoid the greater fight in the future. I still think it makes sense.
I'm sort of becoming political bedfellows with Dennis Miller, although he's majorly pro-Bush.

Here's the money quote, ""\I'm shocked it didn't change everybody as much as it changed me," Miller said at a CNBC news conference about his new show. "In dangerous times, I think this county has to cover it's a**. Simple fact is, I'm of both persuasions. If two gay guys want to get married, I could care less; if some psycho from another country wants to blow up their wedding, I expect my government to kill him preemptively."

He had a preemptive crack ready for those who complain that the war in Iraq is a distraction from the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. "I wish there was a country called al Qaeda and we could have started the war there," Miller said, "but there wasn't. And Hussein and his punk sons were just unlucky enough to draw the Wonka ticket in the a**hole lottery."

Now that's funny....because it's true (you need to say it with the right tonal adjustment....now that's funny (funny-jokey tone)....because it's true (utterly serious)) Get it?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Andy Warhol would love this - pre-fab modern housing.

This idea sounds amazing to me. I mean, there's a certain romance to having your own unique looking house, but I love my car, and there's nothing unique to it...plus in the end, the idea of housing being affordable deeply resonates with me.

For the first time in awhile, I've notice cool neat things become cheaper and cheaper. First, blogging and information availability. The internet has made it cheaper (free) and easier to get information. That, to me, is amazing. Also, digital video. I believe that a new kind of filmmaking is on the horizon, one in which the artist is able to write with video like a pen, freed from the constraints of large equipment and crews. What will come of this? Who knows, but it'll sure be exciting. Two-buck chuck at Trader Joes - it's democratizing wine drinking.

And now housing, along with music...what's next? Education, possibly, especially text books?

Gosh, if it weren't for international terrorism, I'd say things are headed in the right direction - how cool would it be to actually decrease the cost of living? Imagine how much aggregate freedom could be gained by more affordable ways of living - cheap, owned homes, Trader Joes food, a 5000 camera/computer/software set up that can make films....imagine the possibilities of living a rewarding life, not needing to devote oneself to making money to support a family. We may be poorer money-wise than our parents generation, but we could live richer, more fullfilled lives.

Wouldn't that be interesting?
Being a math SAT tutor, my gut instinct is that the new SAT will be more fair than the old test. The current test can be mastered with the help of a tutor and by spending vast sums of time figuring out the nuances on the test. Preparation can boost your score 100-300 points easy.

I'm not sure whether that is good or bad, however. Most things in life are about preparation, so maybe being able to "prep" well for the SAT is a good reflector of aptitude. But it does seem unfair to me that rich students are able to get private tutors (me) whereas poor students don't have that luxury. But the same goes for private vs public education...and on a moral level it's unfair that some students are born smarter than others...so perhaps fairness should have nothing to do with it.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Before I forget...I saw Mean Girls the other night. It was pretty good. For some unknown reason, I thought it would be darker - just the name, I guess. Apparently, the lead actress, Lindsey Lohan, is a Disney kids star (i admittedly know very little about this stuff for being a film student), so I should have expected it to be what it was: a synthesis of Disney and Saturday Night Live. It was written by Tina Fey - interesting, huh?

The story is about Lindsey Lohan moving to an American high school after years of being home-schooled in Africa by anthropologist parents. There are quite a few funny flashback moments of the young Lindsey in Africa and cut-in jokes about home schooled children. When she gets to high school, she befriends the arty-outsider types who reveal to her the social hierarchy of "plastics" within the school - three hot chicks who dominate the school. Lindsey fake befriends the girls as a joke and soon starts to become a mean girl herself. In the end, well, you can see for yourself, but it is a clean, let's wrap everything up and be happy ending...

Notable things: Tim Meadows as the principal is freaking hilarious. I never liked him all that much on Saturday night live (he's been on it for freaking ever, right). I have a theory that his injured wrist was from masturbating too much - the beginning scene, he comes across as a horn dog, after which Tina Fey asks him what happened to his wrist - "carpal tunnel" he says, which I took to be a facetious response (how would a principal get carpal tunnel?) The people I saw it with thought it was a stretch, but I dunno...

Also, Sat Night Live movies tend to have this sketch comedy feel to them where scenes happen that aren't necessary plot-wise, but are there for a joke. Sometimes these work well, other times, they don't. They have both in this movie. One that works: hilly billy kids talking about being home-schooled. Watch the kid on the far left - I couldn't stop laughing. One that doesn't: Gay-friend in the girls bathroom. The audience laughed, but I wasn't feeling this guy's performance all that much. I thought he had a tendency at the end of scenes to stop acting, which was weird, sketch comedy-esque.

Overall, this was a fairly enjoyable movie, not as good as Night at the Roxbury, though.
The preview for Stepford Wives looked awesome, though. Matthew Broderick, Chris Walken, Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler - inspired casting choices.

UPDATE: Chuck weights in

saw mean girls last night.
wasn't really impressed. i'm sure this doesn't surprise you. I thought the movie didn't go nearly far enough down the dark humored, outside reality path. As a result, the whole middle of the movie was boring and then end was so schmaltzy as to be sickening. It was punctuated with moments of excellent humor, just wish there was lots more. I thought the racial stuff was good, and Regina's sister in front of the tv taking off her top. But many things needed to be amped up a lot more.

time meadows was good. too bad we didn't see more of him. tina fey was pretty awkward at times I thought. her lines weren't funny enough so her talents went to waste.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On another note, a lady from my work commented it was way too dark - her daughter took her granddaughter to see the film and was surprised at the vulgarity of the humor.

Guess you can't please everyone.
A couple of interesting new blogs. One is Africapundit which has a whole series of interesting posts on Africa - particularly Sudan.

The other is defamer.com, a funny hollywood gossip rag type blog forwarded by Chuck. I've put it up to the side, I ought to be more up-to-date on Hollywood goings on.
There's an easy and legitimate solution to this...lower the drinking age to 18.
Another interesting Tompaine entry.

The UN is ready to take over in Iraq? Why aren't we hearing more about this? This seems to me a plausible way to get out.

Reading Tompaine is weird. For awhile, I couldn't figure out if they were trying to be funny or not. Clearly, they are angry - but this is often a good starting point for humor, as most funny people tend to be angry. The problem, I thought, was they simply weren't funny - which leaves them, well, just angry.

However, that changed with the above post. A description of George Will, "the bow-tied conservative pundit who most resembles the kid who always got his lunch money stolen..."

Now that IS funny.
Tompaine has an interesting post on "international imperialism."

Apparently, this is a watered-down version of the neocon American unilateral imperialist agenda, that instead involves international instutitions. In short, the "Kerry" version.

Hmmm....now this sounds promising.
From Andrew Sullivan:

"The one anti-war argument that, in retrospect, I did not take seriously enough was a simple one. It was that this war was noble and defensible but that this administration was simply too incompetent and arrogant to carry it out effectively. I dismissed this as facile Bush-bashing at the time. I was wrong. I sensed the hubris of this administration after the fall of Baghdad, but I didn't sense how they would grotesquely under-man the post-war occupation, bungle the maintenance of security, short-change an absolutely vital mission, dismiss constructive criticism, ignore even their allies (like the Brits), and fail to shift swiftly enough when events span out of control. This was never going to be an easy venture; and we shouldn't expect perfection. There were bound to be revolts and terrorist infractions. The job is immense; and many of us have rallied to the administration's defense in difficult times, aware of the immense difficulties involved. But to have allowed the situation to slide into where we now are, to have a military so poorly managed and under-staffed that what we have seen out of Abu Ghraib was either the result of a) chaos, b) policy or c) some awful combination of the two, is inexcusable. It is a betrayal of all those soldiers who have done amazing work, who are genuine heroes, of all those Iraqis who have risked their lives for our and their future, of ordinary Americans who trusted their president and defense secretary to get this right. To have humiliated the United States by presenting false and misleading intelligence and then to have allowed something like Abu Ghraib to happen - after a year of other, compounded errors - is unforgivable. By refusing to hold anyone accountable, the president has also shown he is not really in control. We are at war; and our war leaders have given the enemy their biggest propaganda coup imaginable, while refusing to acknowledge their own palpable errors and misjudgments. They have, alas, scant credibility left and must be called to account. Shock has now led - and should lead - to anger. And those of us who support the war should, in many ways, be angrier than those who opposed it."

Gee, I don't really remember this argument being made. Either it wasn't made or wasn't made very vocally...

This is what Kerry must jump on to win my vote. He needs to say, "Mr. Bush made a tough, but correct decision to start this war, but he is not the one capable of winning the peace. I am and this is how I'm going to do it - by repairing our relationships with our allies and reattempt to solve the Palestinian issue."

Sunday, May 09, 2004

This is VERY interesting. Jared sends me this link to Bruce Eckles, a pioneer in web publishing. I'll have to read his book. My mind is racing right now - why do movies need to be constructed in secret? Why not get feedback on films while they are being made? Wouldn't this save movies from being busts? And wouldn't it encourage good work to keep going?

Can you imagine reading a screenplay as it is being conceived? Watching dailies as they are shot? Wouldn't that be interesting? It would celebrate the process of movie making, something we do in film school, and what I personally love.

Hmmmm....

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Sundance labs. They were accepting admissions up until May 1. Whoops, missed it. Gotta wait until next Feb.
Hmmmm. This is scary. I hope there aren't more of these unassuming types with ties to terrorism. They scare me the most.
This is an old post on Iraq from Glenn Reynolds, but one worth reading.

Just last night I was discussing this with Kevin. His basic premise: war is not the answer, nor will it ever be. It's an idealistic position. He correctly points out that the prisoner abuse scandel is an inevitable product of war, in short, it is something you accept upon declaring war. I agree with this. The difference between the US and Saddam and other dictators isn't that we, as human beings, are morally better - we aren't. As we can see by the prisoner abuse scandel, Americans have the same horrible tendencies as all men - and women, you'll note. The difference is that our system condemns and punishes those responsible, rather than encouraging and rewarding torturers.

The point isn't about moral superiority. The point of the war is to have a more-US friendly Middle East. We will not live under fear of terrorism. And that is worth fighting against. The way to alleviate terrorism, is to A) Fight terrorists and B) Fight the causes of terrorism - and the autocrats of the region, Saddam, Arafat, Assad, the Royal's, in addition to the mullah's, are the primary causes. Not all of the fighting will involve guns. An important fight is for the minds of the Arab world. We are trying to counteract Al Jeezera, with a less inciteful Arab news source. We need our enemies in the region (and there are a lot of them) to fear us. And we need our allies in the region (they're a lot of them, too) to be able to rely on us to fight with them.

I've always been about 60-40 in favor of the war, because as the last month has proven, there are many drawbacks - high cost in money and lives and support from the rest of the world. But I think it is folly to think the war is for money, or because we're a war-mongering nation, or more importantly, that "peace" is some type of morally superior position. After the Holocaust, everyone always said "Never again would we stand by and let such atrocities happen." But we know such atrocities have happened and continue to happen in many places around the world - Sudan, Rwanda, Bosnia, North Korea, Iraq. How is doing nothing while people live under a Stalinist a morally superior position than fighting against it?

But let me be clear - I don't think we went to Iraq to liberate Iraqi's. We went to Iraq as a bold move to reshape the middle east and it's attitude toward the West. As a result, I think Iraqi's will be better off in the long run and I think when they are better off, they will be more amiable towards us and we will be safer. But it is not a moral question - it is a strategic one.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The end of school blues. All the stress at the end of the semester leaves one in a funky state. All of sudden a large chunk of your mind devoted to your work is free and it has no idea what do with itself. Or at least mine doesn't.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Interesting summary of Rorty's beliefs.

An idea I'd like to explore more,"This is what Freud calls “the narcissistic origins of compassion.” Most moral philosophy or theological ethics fail to take into serious consideration the realm of the unconscious and assumes that ethical thought and action can be tracked to reason, will, responsibility, and conscious decision, except perhaps in cases of unspeakable evil, where the darkness of unconscious forces are given their due. However, Freud is not referring to the narcissistic origins of evil here but rather to the narcissistic origins of compassion. What does this mean? It means many things of course, including the possibility that a disciple might work for peace and justice, live a self-sacrificial, holy life, and even go to the martyr’s fiery stake for the cause. Perhaps this disciple is driven by the love of Jesus and the neighbor, or perhaps he is driven by the imprint of an exceptionally severe and punishing super-ego, or perhaps, and most likely, he is driven by some of both in addition to any number private fantasies folded unevenly into public metaphors or moralities. This is the story of conscience, morality and selfhood that intrigues Rorty. In this account, morality is nothing to get too moralistic about as one tracks its plural, particular, and ambiguous sources."

Have I become super racist or am I the only one who thinks the Iraqi prisoner abuse isn't the biggest deal in the world? It seems to me only signficant insofar as it demonizes the US as an abusive oppressor. I mean, I feel the same way about it as the college hazing incidents, or police brutality, which hardly amount to an international outrage, sick and twisted as they are.

How about the Sudan comparing genocide to prisoner abuse.

The glee with which people cling to this prisoner abuse reminds me of the ugly side of myself who can sometimes feel relieved when a classmate makes a poor movie. It enables me to say, gee, my movie is better than that piece of crap. This of course, happens all in my head, and I hate it when it happens, because it is the worst side of myself. As Chuck says, "I really, really don't want to be a hater."

Maybe the world deserves an isolationist and less powerful US. I doubt it would be better off.