Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Napoleon Dynamite

This was the perfect movie for me to watch this evening. I loved the main character, found him totally hilarious. The supporting guys and girls were for the most part good, but Napolean was awesome. "What the frick?" "Sa-weeet." He was just funny to look at, too.

I could apply the USC film analysis to the film, but don't care to. I bought in early and went along for the ride. The one confusing thing to me was that it felt like it took place in 1995 or so, but there was a small part with a cell phone and a sub-plot involving the internet...which I suppose was around at the time, but those two elements made me unsure when it was supposed to take place.

It ain't quite as good as Election, but it's in the ballpark, or at least the same league. Plus it's made by a guy younger than me - Jared Hess, whose about 25 now. Great first effort, young filmmaker.
My Fear of the Liberal Position Confirmed

In rare moments I feel like I'm headed towards Dante's worst level of hell for betraying my supposedly liberal views when it comes to my opines about American foreign policy and specifically about the Iraq war. But then it becomes revealed to me how vastly different I see the world that the uber left establishment...and it is exposed though a simple thought experiment that I did not invent.

James Lileks blogged the other day about his liberal friends preferring to see Bush lose the election than Osama Bin Laden being caught. I thought - Noooo, that's just crazy hawk-talk, no liberals actually think that.

But at my internship yesterday I was chit-chatting with the other intern, a nice girl, going into her senior year at USC, a critical studies major. We were talking about our friends and their political ideologies and our own...I posed to her the big question (not that one - the other one): what you you rather see happen, OBL caught or killed, or Bush gone in 2004?

She paused and thought about it for awhile and said simply and reasonably that she would rather see Bush gone and that many of the liberals she knows feel the same way.

She argued that OBL isn't much of a threat - so long as we keep chasing after him. She argued it would be nice if both things happened - but that's not the point of the thought experiment. OBL, dead or caught, she said, wouldn't stop terrorism. Bush, not reelected, however, would make the world like us again, or so the reasoning goes...

And while I can respect this opinion because, well, this is America, I also must respectfully say it is a freaking ludicrous, preposterous, and frightening position for reasonable people to take.

Using a Hitler/Nazi analogy is intellectually cheap, but emotionally persuasive, so I'm going to delve in here...

What amazes me in highsight of Nazism is that the Nazi's didn't ever really hide their agenda. Hitler published Mein Kampf in 1925. He laid himself out for the world to see what kind of man he was. Nazi films are rife with anger and propaganda. They came out and said it: Germany's woes were because of the Jews. They started rounding them up - this was no secret. It was only a matter of time and logistics before the "Final Solution" was proposed. Now, nearly 60 years later, the world still has fewer Jewish people than prior to WWII. That's the effect of killing 6 million people of a single race. Not to mention the lost culture and art of Warsaw prior to the war, as depicted in Roman Polanski's the Pianist. 90% of Polish Jews were killed and nearly made existinct.

We look back at that time and cringe when we hear tapes of Neville Chamberlin declaring peace in our time. We embarassingly know that while France was overrun by Nazi's, there was a pro-Nazi French government in Vishay and that 10,000 French were arrested after the war for colloboration.

And we were not much less guilty...we knew about concentration camps. We also knew about Japanese atrocities against the Chinese and the Koreans. But we sat around, not wanting to get involved with a war that wasn't about us and didn't concern us and years later 50 million people were dead.

We never could have stopped all of that, for sure. In fact, we may have never even got involved had not Pearl Harbor happened. And we had our own evils here and abroad. The Japanese internment camps (although it's worth noting no one was systematically murdered or treated as sex slaves in them) as they were in China and Germany. We bombed civilian populations in Dresdan. If we had lost the war, our generals would have been guilty of war crimes. Without question.

And after knowing all of this, we still know in our gut that despite our fuck-ups, we were right and they were wrong. Looking back on history we don't ask: why did we get involved, we look back and say: how did all that happen not that long ago?

Today we have another insane ideology that doesn't hide itself.

Hizbollah is very clear in their statements: They do not want to talk, they want to eliminate. Hamas is no different. They've yet to declare war on the US, only Israel and the Jews.

But, Al Queda has. They declared war on us and said they consider all US Civilians legimate targets. They don't hide in the least bit, with their writings, their words. They say with each videotape to us - if we could, we would chop of the heads of every single one of you. There is no doubt, no compromise, they're aren't even sneaky about it at all. They come right out and say it to our faces.

And for some reason the far left (in America, Europe, elsewhere) likes to push this problem towards the back burner, because the bigger problem is this behemouth country run by a crazy, stupid texan.

Now I'm all for the arugment that GW Bush isn't the man to get OBL and that we need a new boss, a new sheriff that can get our intelligence and our diplomatic relationships in order to get that bastard. But that's not the argument I hear. I hear the argument that America and Bush is the problem with the world. I hear that we, lefted unchecked are the festering brewing Nazi's, wanting to take over the world. And I think that is both ludicrous and deeply irresponible to think that way.

After 9/11, we looked back and saw the signs of it happening. There was a steady escalation of attacks that we didn't take seriously. We didn't take the Arab and Muslim's world complicity with the attacks seriously. And instead of retreating into a hole of self-blame for the whole thing, we instead took the position that "This shit is wrong and shouldn't be happening. To us, or to anyone." So we made a checklist of assholes.

Hitler had a checklist- with Charlie Chaplin on it. Our lists was Saddam, Ayatolla A and B, and Kim Jung the II. That's the difference. And in time, we should and will deal with all of the assholes, in different ways...and for me, if it takes sending our assholes to deal with their assholes, well I'm happy to do it.
Life Imitating Art, Imitating Life, Imitating PORN...

See this and this. Hmmmmm.

I know it's wrong, but it's also pretty cool. Who am I kidding, it's VERY cool. She's hot, for chrissake.
Big News

Well Howard Stern has been promoting his big announcement all week and today it was revealed: he's going back on the air in 9 different markets that he was kicked off of by clear channel. Great!

And then there's the rumors that Michael Powell might resign as FCC chief (I remember reading this last week, heard it on the radio today and for some reason can't find any articles about it on the about burying a story).

I always thought this was more about business than about censorship or ideology. Clear Channel made a bad business decision to cave to the goody-two-shoes at the FCC, who caved to the right wing-zealots who for some reason seem to not understand the history of censorship. Clear Channel must have thought the backlash against indecency would hurt their profits...but they forgot how popular and funny Howard is. It was just plain stupid.

As far as the folks running around trying to stop people from listening to Howard and get theater owners to not play F 9/11 - well, they are the reason God invented irony - here's Moore thanking them for boosting his movie profits. Yeah!

And with respect for censorship history - has anyone anywhere at any time ever looked back and said, Jeez, ya know, if we had to do it over again, we would have censored that book or movie or political activist. He/she/they just ended up causing too much trouble and pain and suffering to make their "freedom of speech" worthwhile. If anyone can find an instance, I'd love to hear about it because the predominant thing that happens is 5-10-20-50-100 years later, we end up looking back at how amazingly stupid those trying to censor things were. It happens time after time, in all countries everywhere over the course of human history and for some reason someone thinks that because they don't like Michael's movie or Howards show, that NO ONE should be allowed to see or hear it. I wish Bush displayed the same balls he had going into Iraq without the world's consent towards those idiots (to him, his base) who try to do such things...

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Post Structuralism

I've always sort of nodded and smiled when I heard the term, not really knowing what it was, not really interested in letting some pretentious philosophy major try to explain it to me. I think today I got my first understanding of post-structuralism at my internship today.

I was talking to the guy I'm interning for about finding what he called counter-narrative articles. We are doing a documentary about how Arabs are depicted in the media as terrorists and such (it's more complicated - we go into other stereotypes and historical associations). The counter-narrative language to that would be, Arabs are depicted as terrorists, because most terrorists are Arab. Some may call that common sense.

We then went into Arabs arguing such a point and he talked about being an Uncle Tom. I expressed my extreme dislike for the term because it presupposes that there is a "correct" way for certain people of certain races to behave or think because it is consistent with the rest of the way the race thinks - as if there is some type of collective consciousness. I'm still a hold out for individual autonomy....that a black person doesn't need to apologize for being a Republican, if they agree more with the Republican party than the Democrats.

We talked about Condi and Powell and Clarence T, all of whom rode the back of affirmative action to get where they are and now disagree with it as a principle. I put forth the possibility that affirmative action was once needed and that it has served it's purpose and now is more of a problem than a solution. I don't actually agree with this, but I think an African American is certainly entitled to have that view.

He argued that such a view is to say, "I got here on my own merits and all you who didn't - it was your own damn fault." Perhaps. Perhaps they're both true.

But the post-structural aspect. He agreed that everyone, no matter what race, is entitled to think and take action however they want. Condi, Powell, CT, included. But his point was this - the power structures elevate those with true beliefs (or even false beliefs) that are consistent with the structure. The point isn't about the individual, the point is what type of individual excels within the structure they are a part of. The structure serves itself and to what extent the individual is useful for the structure, is where the individual finds him or herself.

He didn't say it exactly like that, but it is what I got out of it. That is to say, take 6 black children, all Condi, Powell, and CT's age. All six have equal intelligence, aptitude, blah, blah, blah. But they all have different ideology and characters and some are threatening to the preexisting power structures and others reinforce the preexisting power structures. Now, the argument, I guess, is that these power structures have no legitimacy outside themselves...that is, they are entities interested in self preservation - just like anything else. The three, Condi, Powell, and CT rise and succeed, reinforcing the structures. Others fall by the wayside or die, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Magic kinda get the point.

I'm not sure I agree with it all, but it's some food for thought.

Monday, June 28, 2004

A Clockwork Orange

Just watched it again and liked it much better than when I saw it high school. I remember it being awfully brutal back then, I felt like I had watched an hour and a half of people torturing each other.

I got a lot more out of it this time, particularly Kubrick's use of space and some type of funky camera set up I'll have to ask my DP friends about, where you have this long focus and curvey sides, almost like a mini-fish eye or something.

But what struck me most was the charm of the lead character...a murderous nut, with a certain code and affection for Ludwig Van, as he calls him. I, of course, was inspired by today's events, working at 5am and watching Clockwork and am composing a small script about a jerk-off working at an office job who one day awakes to find his penis has been replaced with a flap of skin. Visually I imagine it being like Marilyn Manson, and undoubtedly has to do with the Druug costumes from the movie. How's that for high concept?

I hung out this weekend with an old TA of mine and he got me thinking about adapting short stories and consequently books, etc for films. I used to be not so into this - I thought of film as telling a story I'd like to tell - the Woody Allen model. But he wisely pointed out that probably many of my favorite films were once books - true. Just recently Fight Club, Election, and The English Patient (alright, that was a joke)...

If I ever made a movie half as good as one of those, I'd consider myself successful. He also put forth the truth that people spend years on books and months on're going to get better characters and stories. Further, you're more critical and objective about others writing than you are about your own. That will help you make a better film.

All good points.

I'm either older, or have seen too much violence, or know too much about the mechanics and process of filmmaking, but the violence didn't bug me, really at all in this film. That's what Kill Bill and Passion of the Christ will do, I guess....lessen the images of yesteryear.
Listening To Muslims

Instead perhaps of listening to George Bush or Michael Moore, we might be better served to listen to Muslims...

NPR had a great little radio segment today reporting on the hand over of sovereignty a few days early. First they spoke with the US military commanders who felt it was a wise strategic move to avoid spectatular attacks by Al Zarqawi and crew on the actual turnover date. A smart PR move to steal some positive headlines before any acts of terror could grab negative headlines (which are generally more popular and more widely reported).

In the second part, they spoke to a couple of Iraqi's who were happy to be symbolically and practically in control of their own country. One man wisely said, Iraqi's have been around for 8000 years. One year under occupation is not such a big deal. He was happy to be out from under it.

The third part intervied a couple of folks in Pakistan. One Pakistani computer programmer pointed out that there were two forces fighting in Iraq: the Jihadi's and the Americans. Who did she prefer to win? The Jihadi's.

There is something very smart about her statement that seems to be forgotten or unknown by most Americans - the definition of who is fighting. Notice how she refers to the sides - it's not America vs. Iraqi's but rather America vs. Jihadi's. The difference is of course, Jihadi's are religious fighters, foreign fighters from all around the Muslim world and led by Zarqawi, a Jordanian pretending to be fighting a Civil War. There is no Civil War. There is no widespread Iraqi resistance. The fighters are old Baathists trying to regrab power and foreign fighters disinterested in a stable Iraq. This is where the money and manpower and ideology comes from.

Regular Joe Iraqi's, while not fans of Bush, or of the occupation, I think are less fans of foreign fighters and Jihadi's. And that's why there training to become policemen and opening businesses, instead of fighting the occupation which no longer exists.

There seems to be more intellectual resistence to the American presense in Iraq from outside Iraq than within Iraq.
The Handover

Well, we handed over sovereignty to the Iraqi governing counsel a bit early. Critics of the war and occupation bemoan the falsity of such a handover...what good is sovereignty when the electric grid doesn't work? Is it really sovereignty if we have 130,000 US troops there? What if the new Iraqi government decides it wants US troops out of there?

Good questions. Unfortunately for war critics and occupation critics (I guess you can't quite call it that anymore, but they will...), while they are good at pointing out the problems, I still don't hear any solutions. Is it because I'm deaf, dumb, or stupid? **Tangent....

Perhaps I am. I started working my shift today at, gasp, 5am. This means I woke up at 4am. In all previous times of being awake at 4am it's because I've stayed up all night. Now that trend is going to completely flip flop, as I'll be waking up at that ungodly hour, driving on empty highways to work while it's dark. When my alarm went off this morning I thought: This is one big colossal personal equivalent to Napoleon invading Russia. But it's cool to be going home in a hour or so after working a full day, so we'll see....but honestly, who am I kidding? 4am. Yipes.

But back to more political matters...the point is, so long as Bush is in office, there will be a rather large contingent of people in the country (in dollars about 26.1 million dollars per opening weekend) that considers whatever happens in Iraq to be BAD and WRONG.

If Bush asks for UN help, turns over sovereignty, removes US troops, does anything anywhere in that region, those 26.1 million dollars (people) will decry it as wrong.

I guess the same could be said of war supporters - if Iraqi's are starving, getting killed in a civil war WE started, unable to have drinking water or electricity, or have US troops torturing prisoners, they'll keep supporting the case.

I imagine the positions won't change in 5 years. I hope some of us, however, are suspending complete judgement until that time, willing to acknowledge the terrible things that happen to our troops and the Iraqi people, and the ruptured alliances...and at the same time have hope about the possibilities of a more progressive and free Middle East that is unfriendly to Saddam-like dictators and terrorists alike.

Oh and by the way, what ever happened to Afghanistan?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

F 9/11

I'm pretty tired of talking about it, but I figure I ought to give my Farenheit 9/11 thoughts. The film was about what I expected it to be. There were some startling revelations and connections made:

The Carlyle group, with members Bush I, James Baker, amongst others, was scheduled to meet on 9/11 with one of their principal investors: a member of the Bin Laden family. Weird stuff.

Out that of 535 congressmen, only one has a child serving in the military. Very sad.

Beyond some of the interesting tidbits of info, I'm glad someone is out there making popular political documentary-type movies. That's exciting.

But from a story teller standpoint, I think Moore has gotten in a little over his head. I liked his early work, Roger and Me, especially, when he was super funny and showed us this part of America that people didn't think about all that much: people in a company town after the company leaves.

This movie is way more serious and I find myself more critical of a serious film than a funny film. For a funny film, if it makes me laugh, the veracity of the information doesn't matter. If it's serious, then I put my thinking cap on and start to question.

There's an edited sequence of happy go lucky Iraqi's, cut to a big US missle attack, cut to Iraqi children in hospital. The footage itself isn't of the same people or the same place, but it's clear what the edit says - these were happy, normal people, we bomb innocents, the kids end up in the hospital. No exactly traditional documentary....

Kuleshov did his famous experiment on editing, showing a shot of a actor, a cut to a cup of soup in one take, a cut to dead women in a coffin in another, and a cut to a child playing with a teddy bear in another. The test audiences interpreted the emotional state of the actor differently each time, despite it being the exact same shot of the actor. It demonstrated the power of editing.

In the end, I think Moore will make a grip of money off this film. But if his goal is to rally support away from Bush, I'm not sure he's convincing the "on the fence crowd" much. Sure, he's got a bunch of supporters, but I found myself feeling bad for Bush in this movie. I kept imagining what someone could do with various clips of my life - they could make me look awesome or horrible.

Speaking of which, how did they get all that archive footage? Amazing stuff.

In the short term, the movie's got buzz, but in the long term, I think the comedy (the type Moore uses in his early films) has a larger societal impact. This film won at Canne because of the political stance. And while there's a place for political posturing and debate, those types of arguments tend to feel dated quickly.

Hitler put Charlie Chaplin on his short list of American's to be dealt with. It's safe to say, Bush is no Hitler and Moore is no Charlie Chaplin.

UPDATE: Not according to this guy. Whoa.

UPDATE UDPATE: Per the comment - I should have referred those "these folks" instead of this guy (who was merely archiving the allusions to point out their stupidity).

But hey, it's something to talk about...

Friday, June 25, 2004

Bombings and Incompetence

Listening to the radio on the way home from work, I heard the chairman of the Intelligence committee questioning a Bush Admin spokesman about who was behind the attacks in Iraq yesterday. His response: We don't know.

What the f@#$!

Are you kidding me? It's obvious: Zarqawi. He's an organizer, he's gaining support and he's got mentors, OBL and Ramsi Yousef, his uncle. He made a phone call to the Baathists and gave them a date to coordinate attacks. This is the perfect example of what the Bush administration was trying to argue prior to the war: the coordination between seemingly different groups - the secular Baathists and the Islamist Al Queda. Now we see they're capable of teaming up. One can argue that we instigated that teaming up by going into Iraq, but I think it's better that it happens there, on our terms, rather than happening in shadowy backrooms in Prague while we sleep.

The tactics are the hallmarks of Al Queda - the timing and coordination and leads me to believe that these groups are going to be soon run by Al Queda (or some mutant form of it), if not already. Just like the Taliban were being run by Al Queda, the remaining Baathists are falling into line.

I do think if we were to lose in Iraq, and a more democratic government fails, that we might see a fight between the secular Baathists and Al Queda. But that's the irony, that Baathists and Queda types will only fight with each other when one of them is in power. If they are both removed from power, they become allies, flip sides of the same coin, trying to fight freedom and fairness for the regular joe Iraqi.

What does the world think is going on in Iraq? Isn't it clear that the US WANTS to leave the country? We are trying to hand over the state to the governing counsel. What are they trying to achieve with the attacks? Are they trying to get the United States to stay? I think not.

Clearly they are trying to show that democracy and secular self government cannot and will not work in the country and the region. Why isn't the world more outraged by this? Why isn't the UN helping? Why isn't the world standing up together to fight this menace? Is it spite for the US? Spite for Bush? Aren't we doing exactly what the world wants by trying to step away from Iraq?

And how freaking incompetent is our intelligence? Ok, I'm willing to give a pass on pre-9/11 to Clinton, Bush, the CIA, everyone. But it's been three years since then and we seem to have no more good information that prior to 9/11 on how Queda operates or where they're leaders will be. This headline tells it all: Falluja Strike Almost Kills Zarqawi. Are you kidding me? That's like: I almost got pregant. Who gives a shit, almost. Since when is almost worth anything in war. Almost is for losers. I cannot imagine losing this war. I cannot fathom it, really. But I fear we might for a couple of reasons...

1) The Bush admin and our intelligence communities incompetence. I think Bush has the right idea - taking the fight to terror and not just the simple organ of Al Queda, but the states that create the opportunity and cover for terror to thrive. But the poor diplomacy and poor what I will call "smart fighting" is a nightmare. We can win in big battles and take over Iraq and Afghanistan without too much effort. That is impressive. But I'd be more impressed if we caught or killed Bin Laden or Zarqawi. There has to be a way to get Bin Laden. Somewhere, somehow, in his chain of command, there is a weak link, and we need to find it, nudge it, exploit it and find him at any and all cost. FDR understood the importance of hitting the Japanese back hard and fast in the Doolittle raid. We've hit back, but nothing as symbolically large as the 9/11 attack yet. The only thing we can do as symbolically large is to get Bin Laden. We get Bin Laden and we deal a huge blow to Queda and terrorist everyone. (Look at what killing the Blind Sheik did for Israel and Hamas. Have they attacked recently?)

2) The second reason is the attitude of far left. Anyone who would rather see Bush be out of office than Osama Bin Laden caught or killed worries me.
I can't articulate this position any better than James Lileks, so I'm just pasting his words:

I mean, I’m reading “The Connnection” by Stephen Hayes, the book that spells out all the information and intel about Saddam and Al-Qaeda. I’m old enough to remember when this was conventional wisdom. Why, I even remember back to the end of 2001, when the general mood seemed to favor bold action to forestall future catastrophe. If we hadn’t deposed Saddam, and Bush had won a second term, and there had been a terrorist attack in 05, this book would be the Democrat’s brief for impeachment. BUSH KNEW and did nothing.

And it’s not going to get better. I don’t think the next attack will bring us together like 9/11. Last time a small portion of the nation went straight to blaming us for enflaming poor Mo Atta and his motley crew; the last three years have seen that poison spread and flourish, and blaming America for the ravings of medieval theocrats is now a legitimate argument in polite society. I’d almost venture to say that a third of the country would conclude that a radiological device exploded in Manhattan would be Bush’s fault, because he made the “evil doers” (roll eyes) super-extra-fancy-grade-AA mad.

For the last few weeks I’ve had this gnawing belief that bin Laden got lucky by attacking during Bush’s term. Conventional wisdom says the opposite, because Bush fought back. But he’s the enemy now. I ask my Democrat friends what they’d rather see happen – Bush reelected and bin Laden caught, or Bush defeated and bin Laden still in the wind. They’re all honest: they’d rather see Bush defeated. (They’re quick to insist that they’d want Kerry to get bin Laden ASAP. Although the details are sketchy.) Of course this doesn't mean they're unpatriotic, etc., obligatory disclaimers, et cetera. But let's be honest. People are coming up with websites that demonstrate ingenious technology for spraying anti-Bush slogans on the sidewalks; it would be nice if they sprayed "DEFEAT TERRORISM" or "STOP AL QAEDA" now and then. Wouldn't it?

Is that too much to ask?

Perhaps this is why I haven’t written much about the subject lately with the usual chest-thumping brio: I think it’s going to have to get much worse before we get clarity. Most days I just don’t know what to say anymore. There are fiends out there chopping off the heads of Americans for their god, and we have cartoonists who think it’s the height of insight to show the Neocon cabal as port-swilling fat men bothered by baggy pants on insolent teens.

I understand the desire to whistle when passing the graveyard; it’s human nature. I don’t understand climbing down into the hole, crossing your arms on your chest, feeling the first few warm clumps of dirt on your face, and puckering your lips for the first few bars of “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

Or "Le Marseillaise."
He writes good.

Oh and Also: The news media concerns me. We were hoping some Iraqi leaders would step forward out of the morass left by the Baath party. The most headlines to Iraqi leaders, however, have been for Zarqawi and for Sadr, not exactly what we were hoping for. Chalabi, the neocon's guy, got caught spying for Iran, so that was a bust.

But then there's this, maybe Allawi will step up and fight Zar and Sadr, leading Iraqi's towards the type of self-government they deserve. As you can see, my mood changes drastically on this sitution, even within a post.

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Companies and industries that think technology will ONLY help make their jobs easier and costs lower are looking through the telescope the wrong way. AT&T and BofA use phone automated phone technology to save themselves employee costs. I think they do save employee costs and end up getting less human customer service calls, not because the automated technology helps but because people grow frustrated with waiting for so long. They are saving themselves costs, and making higher profit, but not providing better services to the customer.

The same goes for the recording industry. The price to create CDs is cheaper than producing cassette tapes, but instead of passing on the savings to consumers, they upped the price, trying to usurp the monetary rewards of the technology.

But this view towards technology is short-signed and I think will ultimately hurt those who view it as a simply a way to cut costs and profiteer, as it already has with the music industry.

Instead technology can be viewed as a tool to provide a better product to their customers. Instead of suing Napster, the recording industry should have bought it, enhanced it, and made it profitable. Now Apple is making it happen.

The supply company I am now working for part time takes customer service calls all day. They also have a website and get many online orders, but retained strong customer service on the phones. To this day, we take 3 times as many phone orders because customers like placing orders over the phone. The web orders are cheaper and convenient for some customers, but we do not treat those orders any different than our phone customers.

In fact, from what I've seen thus far, the phone calls are much more profitable than the web or email orders because people call on the phone more often to actually place an order versus emailing problems and/or questions.

Many companies from airlines to auto insurance encourage the use of the website OVER the use of the phone. To them, it's a cost issue. But I've seen with this company, we use the phone and web in conjunction with one another - not one as superior, with price breaks, etc, but as equal tools to meet the needs of the customer. I think this is ultimately a wiser way to use technology. Over time, customers will migrate to the web, if it suits their needs. Companies do not do themselves a favor, I think, by pushing customers there.

Part II: How this Applies to Movies

The studios are rewarding rats at the movie theaters for turning in pirates. They're getting paid the same amount as informants for turning in low-level Al Queda members. Great world, huh.

They are behind private raids in German apartments punishing those nefarious college students with pirated DVDs.

Perhaps these pirates are wrong - they are stealing from the artists, right? But from a business standpoint, can't Hollywood "look outside the box?" These guys went to b-school, right? They must teach that type of crap at the top b-schools. What's happening is consumers want access to movies quicker and cheaper - big surprise, right? What's new is that there is technology available to make it happen.

So what does Hollywood do? Make dumbass commercials in previews and threaten and harangue kids.

Whom am I to think I know more than Hollywood? Hollywood has survived every threat to its dominance and thrives today as much as ever. And it's smarter than the music industry, they've held out longer over the pirating issue. But I can't imagine techology sitting dormant while the gentle arms of justice try to figure out the right and the just....the techology exists and you either adapt to it, change, or run the risk of becoming irrelevant. Imagine being a badass Templar Knight going into battle with a dork with an Uzi. That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Blogging for the Sake of Blogging

Just to get a new post up, I'll report that I worked for 8 hours at the pay-for-the-rent supply company job followed by 5 hours of unpaid internship. Rough day. Soon, both will be part time (why do fireworks keep going off in my neighborhood all week?) and it'll be more manageable.

The sisters visited yesterday briefly on their way home from a road trip. Webb, the youngest, graduated from college two weekends ago. Damn we're old.

I really have nothing to say, my mind has run out of thoughts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Libertarian Update

Link to my old post with an update.

Oh yeah, the big benefit to libertarians is legalizing victimless crimes - prostitution, drug use. These guys are hard core libertarians. I guess you'd have to be to pick up and move for it...I'm telling ya, a great doc is in there...
Blog Discussion on the Radio

All star line-up of Instapundit, Mickey Kaus, and some others on kcrw today.

They talked about the ups and down of the internet.

Ups: the reshaping of information control. Prior to the internet, information was generally a top-down ballgame where those in corporate board rooms, big media chains, and politicians wielded information as power, tossing out crums that they saw fit in order to improve their own positions. With the internet, information has become more of a bottom-up model, the most obvious example being napster. It went from being a service with a few crappy songs, not to bother the music industry at all, to this giant service that has single-handedly brought the music industry down and cutting the cost of music across the board. Also, the dean campaign, a model of democratic organizing, the creation of a candidate unsanctioned by the political party apparatus.

Downs: The balkinization of the internet. Like minded groups tend to talk only to one another, uninterested in hearing differing views. And of course, the use by small groups as a means to power - terrorism and Al Queda being the obvious examples.

We live in interesting times.
More Funny Things on the Radio

-A NY writer who writes short stories (100-300 words) has been making a living publishing those stories in Tokyo on a website. Apparently, Tokyoites are using their cell phones which have bigger screens than ours, to read stories, newspapers, play games, etc, on the trains to work. For a subscription fee, readers can read stories from a book publishers website. One of his stories got over a 1000 hits.

How long will it be before people watch TV and movies like this? With all the studios going crazy over the pirating issue (500,000 rewards to theatre employees who rat on pirates) the dawn of digital distribution is just around the corner.

Someone better set up an itunes site for short movies, and figure out an economic model and the type of content that will sell...

DVD revenue already surpasses that of theater attendence.

The piracy issue is not all bad for hollywood. It demonstrates, there is still a demand for their product. So much of the incentive of the pirates is to get the movies faster, not necessarily that much cheaper. If someone could get theater chains up and showing the movie in China or wherever, as it opens here, knock down the price a little bit, they'd have a big market on their hands.

-last night there was a discussion on 97.1 about the different types of women by LA area code. 714-hot younger chicks who end up moving to the 909. 310-stuck up girls, not good marrying material. 213-would help you fix a tire. and so on...

the didn't mention the 323, which is my hood...and I realized I don't really know that many people outside 323 or 310. i'm a little isolated in LA in that respect, but I'm not really too worried about it. although if there are hot girls...
A Legal Link

Interesting link on whether courts should use the decisions of foreign courts.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Control Room part II

The director, Jehanen Noujain and the fat Al Jazeera guy were on Charlie Rose tonight. She's hot. And got great teeth. Is she the hottest female movie director? Quite possibly - it sure ain't Sophia the horse face or Jane Campion.

But onto more worldly things, I started to realize what annoyed me a bit during the film about the fat guy and other Arab intellectuals....they never, ever, stand up for any American policy in the Middle East. I've hardly ever heard any powerful media, intellectual, or political Arab stand up and say they support American policies and values in the Middle East. (One exception may be Ghaddafi's son, which is this bizarre generational thing). No one even does it for sake of argument. At least, I never hear it...I suppose there are some bloggers out there, but I suspect they are more read by Westerners than by Arabs.

The only position I hear from Arab intellectuals is a waving away of the whole terrorism issue in order to focus on American or Israeli injustices. It's always, terrorism is a problem, BUT...onto to something else. It doesn't make sense to me.

Their position is basically this: our countries suck ass because of inept leadership. The inept leadership is the fault of American support. Furthermore, American support of Israel undermines Arab dignity.

This position, while somewhat correct, misses the opportunity to change things. Inept leadership is not primarily America's fault - it's primarily the fault of the citizens of those countries who fail to take control. If America supports a regime, like Saudia Arabia, the reaction is to hate America - see Al Queda. If America does not support a regime, it's America's fault Iraqi childen starve. If America establishes normal relations with a semi-corrupt regime you have Egypt, another hotspot for anti-Americanism. It's a no win for us.

No progess will ever be made in the middle east until Arab countries start to take responsibility for themselves. To actually stand up and say, "No, actually this is not because of Israel or the US, or any outside influence. The reason the water doesn't work is because we didn't invest in education or infrastructure. But now we're changing that. We're opeing a trade school to train people to become engineers and plumbers and sanitation experts and we're investing in a new system. And if someone tries to blow it up, we will stop them on our own."

Why is that hard to say?

I guess it's easy to point out hypocracy than to actually make things better.
Sort of Cool Thing About Film School

is that it always keeps you busy. I'm constanting thinking: I need to see more movies, I need to read more scripts, I need to write more scripts, I need to make more shorts, I need to play with the camera, I need to read more books on film - murch, eisenstein, bazin, etc. It's endless.
Temp Title: Those Moments

We had a production meeting tonight at the 101 Coffee shop and discussed getting Alyssa Milano to star in our student short. Hubba Hubba.
Good Analysis of the 9/11 Commission

By the NYTimes. This is one of those stupid issues in which we talk past each other.

Conservatives say: There is an Iraq-Al Queda connection and evidence to support it.

Liberals hear: Iraq was behind 9/11.

Liberals say: There is no reason to believe Iraq was behind 9/11.

Conservatives hear: Iraq is not a threat.

Conservatives say: Iraq is an immediate threat.

Liberals hear: Iraq is an imminent threat and we should declare war.

And so it goes...

It so simple - we can agree on facts:

1. There is NO conclusive evidence Saddam was involved with 9/11. This is indisputable.

2. There was a relationship and still is a relationship between Saddam's Iraq, Post-war Iraq, and Al Queda. There is proof to substantiate this.

If we can just agree on those two points, it's a start for discussion. We might be better starting off with facts versus conclusions when we disagree with each other.

Rite-Aid has a bunch of rebates for buying film and batteries and such things this month. Ususally those things are such a pain in the ass, but they have this website set up and it worked real simple and easy. We'll see when I get the check, but this could bode well for the whole process of rebates. Of course, if it does, we'll just see less of them.
Interesting Documentary Ideas

1. 200 libertarians are planning to move to a town in Conneticut, take over the town and refuse to pay any taxes and refuse to have any government run entities. People will pay to drive, pay for education, everything. Could be an interesting experiment.

2. A town in South Dakota is trying to become a haven for deaf people. A couple have invested a $100,000 to make the town literate in sign language.

UPDATE: Here's the link to the NPR segment. I got it wrong, the town is in New Hampshire.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


I was driving around LA doing things between 10pm and 11:30pm and there was traffic on the 101, 110, 10 going both ways on Sunday night. How is that possible?

I'd be in favor of a constitutional amendment banning that.
An Essay

Weird things happen when you go through your computer harddrive. I found an unfinished essay from four years ago I wrote after my sister's high school graduation. My sister graduated from college last weekend.

Graduation Day

The mid-June air reeked of suntan lotion and sweat. Different faces appeared at the podium determined to give the perfect farewell, funny yet serious, light yet profound. Later I read the only memorial advice in a mass email forward.

The crowd of people I faced dressed the same. Was this the result of an advanced consumer culture that practices rigid conformity while preaching rugged individualism? Did this happen all across America or only in those upper middle class enclaves in which the important signifier is “upper?” Not quite snooty, not quite middle class, not quite intellectual (unless intellectual was good), not uneducated (except in grammar). They collectively avoid certain pretensions, but whole-heartedly embrace others. A conversation about books has merit, but an understanding of books suggests intellectual snobbery. Classics and bestsellers find themselves the objects of much adoration. We vocally adore that which is safe to adore.

How can I not have these strange reactions as I face the crowd? These contradictions and ironies and criticisms and conflicts, aren’t these accepted constants of post-modern (yes, I did just use that term) life? Truisms even. My disapproval of those paradoxical elements of the community, of which I am at least a part, might merely reflect my own self-doubts and insecurities. Isn’t that a more likely scenario? When someone hates home, they also mean that they hate themselves, right? But that might be all wrong as well. And hate is such a strong word.

In the Day Trippers, a delightful comedy with Parker Posey, Stanley Tucci, and Liev Schreiber to be found in the Independent Movie section in your nearest non-Blockbuster movie store, Campbell Scott suggests to Pat McNamara that to be a writer is to struggle against the bullshit, the contradictions, the inconsistencies, the unfairness, the community/self-hatred. But one does not need to stop there. Perhaps (and I’m sure this is in graduation speeches across the country, maybe the world (but then likely in different languages, bringing up issues of translation)) to live is to struggle against all that does not seem fair, or right, or good. Bells of my training in ethics are ringing, demanding that I define fairness, right, and good. Bracketing those issues will allow me to return to my point of this paragraph—struggling. Struggling with life, struggling with writing, struggling with value…ultimately it is a struggle within your self. A struggle to be your own narrator, your own story teller. And then you struggle against that.

But today is so damn hot. And as much as you want to tell your own story and create your own narrative about your own life—the temperature surpasses 100 degrees. One might choose to leave this element out of their story, because one cannot control the weather, but this kind of heat seeps into skin, your pores, your mind, your heart, and thus, your story. So on the day my sister graduated from high school, it was over 100 degrees. Four years ago, when I was in her place, it was not nearly as hot. And four years ago I cannot remember what I felt about graduating from high school. I cannot remember if I was happy to move on to something better, ready to carve out more of my own path, or if I was scared shitless of not having the backbone of my community and family supporting me through my endeavors. I did not have an older brother that I could observe. I did not see that he went through a few changes, not too many significant ones, mostly just grew older and better. But I have a suspicion that four years ago my feelings were eerily similar to my feelings a month ago today—on the day I graduated from college. On that day I felt hungry and I felt thirsty. I felt envious of the Magna-cum-laudes, who received standing ovations from the professors. I did not feel regret about the parties in my room that kept some of those Magna-cum-laudes awake on various week nights throughout the semester. I was concerned with whether I would see all the people that I wanted to see at the after-ceremony in the courtyard. I felt tired of the blah-blah-blah speeches. (Even though I was told that they were good in comparison to other years).

But on that day the crowd I faced dressed similar, but not the same. Was this the result of conflicting signals from an advanced consumer culture that practices rigid conformity while preaching rugged individualism? These were the friends and family (no more than five a piece) of the graduates. One might expect a diverse (as reflected by different graduation outfits—please note that this superficial judgment of diversity is a product of my upbringing and obsession with material things) parental crowd if the extent of their knowledge was admission brochure statements of diversity at this college. On the contrary, these families were dressed alarmingly similar. They too dressed as if they came from upper middle class enclaves where children attend decent private schools or land tax supported public schools. These are the communities that mold a child’s brain to the style of intelligence liberal arts schools deem necessary for admission (and associate with success as well). Further, who else can afford $30,000 a year for four years, per child? Sure, we have the token black folks and we certainly have a large Asian segment, but these racial quotas disguise a more relevant measurement of divergent backgrounds—that of economic segregation. I’m sure the schools know all this and would perhaps take offensive at the pompous immaturity of one of its recent spoiled graduates to remark about their “lack of diversity.” Especially when Pomona prides itself upon its progressiveness in this regard. However, I want to address this issue. My observations are critical of Pomona in as much as they are criticisms of successful institutions in general. Money walks and bullshit talks. College costs money. Especially small liberal arts colleges, and thus you need parents who will pay for their children’s education rather than parents that cannot afford to pay for their children’s education.

That's all there was....
Fantastic Article...

on blogging. A must read for those interested.

My favorite parts:

-We may be in the golden age of blogging, a quirky Camelot moment in Internet history when some guy in his underwear with too much free time can take down a Washington politician.

-What makes blogs so effective? They're free. They catch people at work, at their desks, when they're alert and thinking and making decisions. Blogs are fresh and often seem to be miles ahead of the mainstream news...Blogs have voice and personality. They're human. They come to us not from some mediagenic anchorbot on an air-conditioned sound stage, but from an individual. They represent — no, they are — the voice of the little guy.

Control Room

Just saw Control Room, a documentary about Al Jazeera showing at the Nuart in LA. Overall, I thought it was quite good. There are two compelling characters it follows, one a US Marine media specialist and a fat Al Jazeera reporter, strongly opposed to the US war in Iraq. Both intelligent men, there were a couple of scenes with them debating the issues around the war. I could have watched more...

At times the movie was boring - it was a documentary after all, but interspersed were some great moments:

-A sleezy Al Jazeera producer talking about the American dream he has for his children, his words, "I want to turn the Arab nightmare into the American dream."

-A few ironic political moments when Bush urges that caught American prisoners be treated humanely

-An Al Jazeera worker talking about how the war was playing out like an American movie

-Footage of American caught American soldiers...freaky stuff, they looked scared out of their minds. The subsequent debate about whether that footage should have been shown was also interesting.

But there were some notable omissions and flaws

-Zero discussion on terrorism. Al Jeezera was cited as the "mouth piece of Osama Bid Laden." There was no discussion on the topic. The only world affairs subject of the documentary was the Iraq war, as if it happened as an isolated incident unrelated to changes in the American attitude towards the middle east.

-Several weird narrative things, like trying to depict a Jazeera reporter being killed as a martyr and victim. This was weird because he was obviously in a very dangerous place wearing protective armour and then depicting the death as a purposeful attack by the US on Al Jazeera. That whole element was bizarre.

Overall, a pretty good documentary.

Real stories about Arabs tend always be tragic. What they need is an alternative narrative. Some current Arab narratives are:

a) The victims of worldwide persecution. This is a popular one, the most telling sign - the overuse of the word "occupation." In the film, they tried to make a Jezeera cameraman into this story.

b) Become a martyr. This is unfortunately a big time narrative, one they know is horrible, but generally romantic in their society. Terrorist playing cards - that's all I have to say.

c) Be a playa. There is another option, hustle and hustle, be generally selfish, play the sides against one another and get ahead for yourself and your family...The Jazeera sleezy producer guy who would take a job with FoxNews in an instant.

Arabs need a George Washington or a Thomas Jefferson story of their own - but one set in the modern day. For awhile, Arafat seemed to be that story...a terrorist turned peace-maker, but it wasn't true. He wasn't the man he needed to be.

They don't need "American liberators," where Americans are the heroes. They need someone will balls and with courage to stand up and take responsibility for himself and his people. This person needs to find friends around the world willing to support. They need a hero. They are so desparate for a hero, they lionize Osama Bin Laden, a murderous fascist, albeit a charming one.

Who will step forward?

I'd do any of these in a heartbeat.
Saddam and 9/11

Here's an interesting post that stands in strict opposition to the claims of the 9/11 commission.

The most interesting tidbit is that Saddam threatened to send indivdiual terrorists to the US before the 1st Gulf War. For some reason, the author uses that bit of new info to conclude Saddam was behind 9/11. I don't find that argument very convincing.

I think it is pretty well established Saddam didn't have much to do with 9/11. At the MOST, he may have known an attack was being planned, so it seems to me. He might have provided safe haven for Al Queda members fleeing the US, although I doubt he would've done so, because it would have given us even more legitimacy for deposing his regime.

I do think the 1993 bombing goes under-reported. I for instance, didn't know until recently that there was cyanide in the truck bomb. The 1993 attack, was in fact, a biological attack on the US. Fortunately, the incompetents behind that attack didn't know the bomb itself would burn up all the cyanide.

There were certainly ties to Iraq in that attack, the Iraqi specialists that came to help, as he points out in the article. Yousef's Iraqi passport, etc. Plus, the proximity of the Gulf War I and the attempted Pres Bush assasination.

Look at this article on the 1993 bombing. In hindsight, this looks like clear evidence we should have been way more deeply worried about Islamic Terrorism.

I may have posted this before, but another interesting article linking Yousef to being an Iraqi intelligence agent....which again, doesn't mean Saddam knew about 9/11, but makes it a little more obvious why he would be a prime suspect.

More on Yousef. In this article, it says he did not use cyanide because he ran out of money.

The BBC story. Yousef's uncle is KSM? Interesting. Again, I can't get a firm answer on whether cyanide was actually used or not. But interesting analysis...Yousef's "success" helped spawn the audaciousness of the current Al Queda. They've been emboldened by our vulnerability. This is why taking the fight to them is so important and what many liberals fail to recognize when criticizing the war.

War criticism is certainly legit, so long as it recognizes that there is an enemy that needs to be fought with the gloves off....and that point I think, all too often, gets neglected.
Big Surprise

It's a little sad, but I believe Al Queda over the Saudi's, in this case.
Oh No!

Syria is passing sanctions on us. What are we going to do?
I Don't Understand...

the obession with the image of the Abu G prisoner. Look what's happening in San Francisco.

I've never understood why the anti-Bush, anti-war crowd thinks that people who are pro-war or pro-Bush are people who don't think. They think they are raising questions by sticking this imagine in our face...but I think most aware people know about the Abu G atrocities already.

What I don't understand is the obsession by the left with pointing out American hypocracy. Everyone knows America has a cloudy past of slavery, genocide of Native Americans, the Japanese internment camps, neglect of the Holocaust, Vietnam, blah, blah, fucking blah.

But what does pointing to America's contradictions say? What does it mean for our policies? Does it mean we don't have legitimacy? Does it mean we cannot act in our own self interest? And why is the left obsessed with American and/or Israeli hypocracy, but not French hypocracy, Russia hypocracy, or Arab hypocracy?

It can't be as simple as self-loathing. Can it?

So in a bizarre twist for a Saturday evening, my buddy calls me and informs me that he has a) joined a reggae band and b) has a concert tonight in Crensaw. I thought it was going to be some type of party with predominantly African American partiers kicking it to dance-hall style music.

I was wrong. We show up to a banquet room with a roomful of black folks, young and old, listening to a spoken word artist. Surely the only hapa film student in the crowd, I stood out like a sore thumb, feeling like....well, maybe a black kid from Crensaw at a small liberal arts college.

I talked to the strict boss man who let us sit down and watch the festivities when we explained our friend was in the band. A stand up comedian performed - he was pretty good. His best bit was about the rising cost of gas was going to lead to "gas-dealers" replacing drug dealers.

Next there was a BBQ dinner, followed by a fairly intense dancer, and then followed by story-time by the preacher leader of the event.

Finally Anuj's band played a couple of tunes - they were quite good, but a bunch of folks had left. They were old, what can I say? It was the church crowd. Anuj's younger sister led the remaining people in a dance and chu-chu train while the band played "hot, hot, hot."

It was totally dorky, but awesome at the same time.

This sounds really stupid and PC and lame, but I was a bit scared going down to Crenshaw to hang out, fairly sure the ghetto would feel unsafe. But it felt much safer than I expected. The only issue was a drunk homeless guy yelling at our group, but that's nothing really new. I actually felt safer than in parts of Hollywood. But then again, I was hanging around a church crowd with no alcohol...
Hard to Believe

Can this article be true? Quote:

"Meanwhile, Crown Prince Abdullah blamed Israel for the execution. Speaking to Saudi television, he said, "Zionism is behind it. It has become clear now. It has become clear to us. I don't say, I mean... It is not 100 percent, but 95 percent that the Zionist hands are behind what happened."

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said, "Al-Qaida is backed by Israel and Zionism, " and a Saudi official in the US argued that Zionists and others who argue for regime change in Saudi Arabia "share the same objective as Osama bin Laden."

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The A's

If the A's had a bullpen, they'd been the best team in the league the last couple of years...and now this year, they're scraping by, but would probably have the best record in the league if they had a stinking bullpen.
Conspiracy Theories

This pretty much sums up how I feel about conspiracy theories way better than I ever have...

"I mean, have you ever tried to organise a surprise party? If you can't get 30 people to keep a little champagne-and-carvel-cake on the QT, how on earthy do you think the CEO of Diebold is going to get a couple hundred staff members to stay mum about their secret plot to steal the election?"


Maybe this is the biggest problem in America society today.


He shouldn't complain about the Moore stealing of his title - I bet his book sales soar as a result.

Now if he had a principled objection....that would be different.

He's a rapist drama queen and a cancer to the team. Too bad he's one of the most talented bball players ever.

Anyone who knows bball, knows that without Shaq, the Lakers in the past and present are little more than the Orlando Magic. McGrady and Kobe roughly could cancel each other out. The fact that Kobe could never admit this is why no one likes him.
Selective Coverage

It so typical, that I almost don't want to post this. Video is avaiblable of the Saddam-era torture of Iraqi's in Abu Ghraib. Of course, this isn't news. Only American to Iraqi torture is something newsworthy to the media.

How does this affect our consciousness? In a couple of ways...primarily, the repeated showing of American Abu G photos shows a story in selective context. How can these abuses occur? People demand to know...and rightfully so. However, what happens is that we think the alternative to Abu G is some type of benign Iraqi prison system, some type of fair, "other" system that we don't even need to consider when considering the atrocities of American troops.

But this is simply not the truth. The truth is horrible torture occurred at Abu G long before American troops were there. I venture to guess the torture was as bad, if not worse. That is the context in which the Abu G images should be viewed.

So, you say, we're even. Iraqi and American's are no better than one another - and that's true, but doesn't get to the real point, which is:

We punish and condemn those individuals responsible for Abu G. Saddam would promote those involved with his Abu G. That's the difference, that's why we're in Iraq, and that's why what we're doing is legitimate. It is not because American's are better than Iraqi's or know anything better, it's simply the installation of a fairer, more just, and hence, more secure system.

And on another note, wouldn't uber liberals consider showing images of Saddam-era torturers a racist depiction of Arabs? News coverage tends to show Arabs as torturers and terrorists and this reinforces racial stereotypes we have....

I think they have a point...but in the end, what they end up saying is that we should only show American torturers and not Arab torturers. The argument being there are enough images of "good" Americans to counterbalance the torturer narrative, whereas there aren't enough "good" images of Arabs to counterbalance. The solution, me thinks, is to show images of "good" Arabs....see this post. A missed opportunity, I'd say, and by an uber liberal radio station.

But at the same time, when we end up advocating showing American torture and not Saddam-torture because of an attempt to be PC and just, it fails the "Common Sense" test. Why is American torture newsworthy and Saddam torture not? It is to say, an Iraqi death and torture is only tragic when it occurs at the hand of an American. It is not tragic or newsworthy or horrific if it happens at the hand of another Iraqi. It is simply common sense to be aware of the the alternative to American involvement in Iraq...which all too often gets lost in the fist pounding anger of all the bad things we are doing over there.
Good Things and Bad Things

Well, the Saudi's killed their number one terrorist. This, to me, symbolizes two things, one good and one bad.

Good: I feel like if the Saudi's put their mind to it, they are capable of tracking down and killing Al Queda terrorists. I think the same goes for Pakistani's.

Bad: They have not committed themselves to doing so, unless under intense pressure. It seems like in selected cases, Prince Abdullah wins the day and convinces the security forces to win at all costs. But without intense pressure, Prince Nayef passively allows terrorism to ferment so long as it doesn't involve killing within the kingdom.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


I heard some of the 9/11 hijackers speaking clips on the radio this morning. Scary stuff. They were so calm and collected and rational and matter of fact - exactly the impression I got from Atta. "Just remain calm." While secretly meaning we're going to fuck your entire country - just wait you see...oh, and murder all of you in the process. Complete insanity.

I can't believe the whole operation cost about $500,000. That had a higher profit margin than Passion of the Christ.

Does anyone want to talk about how terror thrives on news-as-entertainment? "If it bleeds, it leads..." This has not ALWAYS been the case. News used to be run at a loss for the networks, a public service, and source of pride. Networks thought that a good news program (not necessarily profitable) would lead to viewer loyalty to other network shows...

But then came 60 minutes, it was profitable, and boom, we've got celebrity journalists, and dumbed down coverage to capture the mass audience.

We look down on Al Jazeera, but how far off is Fox News? And plus, Al Jazeera just copied CNN anyway, with a different slant. It's the flip side of the same beast. Terrorism feeds off the coverage and the coverage (ie Al Jazeera) feeds off the terrorism. It's the perfect symbiotic relationship, properly compartamentalized.

AL Queda's the producers and directors and actors and the news channels are the distributors. They collaborated to make the biggest, baddest, reality - TV spectacle in the history of the news. The 3000 people were production costs.
The Blogging May Suffer...

This week and next I'm scheduled to work full-time, while still trying to work in some hour interning. If I expect to eat and sleep, blogging might be light...however, after that period, I'll be on an irregular work schedule 5am-10:30am, basically. Crazy!

I've never done anything like this before, so we'll see how it goes. I anticipate sleeping 4 hours a night, working, then napping for 1-2 hours in the afternoon. I call it the Churchill plan, who famously used to do did Clinton.

Film Production

At my job I am training with a USC film grad and she's given me some good pointers on how to produce short films on the cheap.

1. Hook up with a Non-profit. There are non-profits out there designed to help filmmakers get cheap movies made...there's all sorts of companies that give matching donations. If you can donate through a non-profit, they can filter you back your money doubled with a corporate donation that can get written off.

Added bonus: USC can act as a donating institution for a final project. The caveat is that some businesses won't donate to small film foundations

2. Women or Minority Owned Businesses, especially small businesses are eligible for cheap loans...if they've been around for 3 years. So start a production company on paper.

3. Documentary films are eligible for grant money, but it takes about a year for the grant to get circulated. Do it early.

4. Tax Accountants for rich individuals often have access to money that needs to be given away around tax time. Befriend one...

I learned more today at lunch about movie financing than in all of film school thus far....
The Effects of Gmail

My roommates yahoo email account was just expanded to 2GB of storage (the gmail limit). Good things come to those who wait...

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

NBA on Foreign Policy

Will the team-oriented, blue-collar ethic of the champion Pistons have an effect on US Foreign Policy, which has largely been dominated by the Laker-esque go at it alone approach for the past couple years?

Kobe's ball hogging ways has recently been viewed as the way to win a championship. Going at it alone with respect to national security has won the day. But does this Piston's victory make both attitudes worth reexamining?


I didn't get to see THE game, but I saw a bunch during the series and am super happy to see the Laker's lose to a Piston's team that played, well, like a team. It's refreshing to see a good pro hoops team again, we haven't seen one in awhile...

Monday, June 14, 2004

Uncle Tom

Tom Friedman's article on Israel and the moral high ground. He uses the same analogies and examples over and over again - microchips vs potato chips, doesn't he? Anyhow, how does this analysis play with Iraq?

Do we go with the UN? Does the UN even have a plan?

I agree with him in principal about taking the moral high ground, it ends up serving you better in the long run'
My First Comment!

Brilliant, Chuck D! Chuck makes the first, hopefully of many, comments on the blog.

I'm happy for a couple of reasons...when I got back from Minnesota, I had very few new hits on the blog. I was worried that no one wanted to read the blog and the recent upsurge in the past couple weeks was a fluke of me bullying friends to check out the blog. But I am super happy to see that after posting last night, a bunch of people checked out the blog today and Chuck made a comment. This is great, because I really do think blogging is all about interaction and opening up the doors to communicating in an interesting, new, fun, and thoughtful way.

Please keep on reading and commenting and hopefully be encouraged to start your own blogs.

Someday I want to try an experiment of writing a collective screenplay online via comments as it is being written....
Hope? Or Maybe Not.

"I took a whopping paycut when I left law practice, and the gap continues to widen. Guys with my seniority are making well over a million bucks a year at big firms.

Best money I ever spent."

From Glenn Reynolds, who is thankfully back to blogging.

I guess we should trust our instincts, try to make smart decisions, and take with what we get. Trust the process. Hard work + doing something you like will lead to a worthwhile career.

And I do think this - there's no more security or hope in doing something you DON'T like.

My uncle, one of the smartest people I know, worked as a financial guy for the Black Angus corporation. As you may notice, Black Angus hasn't been very successful and he was laid off earlier this year. He is 58. He saw it coming, but the worst thing about it, he said, was that as he left, no one came around and talked to him to gather up all his expertise on the financial interworkings of various Black Angus restaurants. It made him feel like all the work he'd done for 25 + years was for naught.

How fucked up is that? And trust me, this is one of those guys who is intimidatingly smart. I don't know that many folks like that. So weird. I truly feel like it's the world's loss way more than it's his.

At 58, what's he to do? He'll figure something out, but it just feels like potential wasted...

And this is in the richest, most prosporous, most coolest country in the world, right?
Film School

I start my summer job and summer internship this week, interestingly both with USC film school graduates as my coworkers and supervisors. My rent-paying job is at a supply company where I will be answering customer emails. The job pays great, the people seem cool, but I'm working at an industrial supply company. Odd. Even odder, my supervisor is a USC MFA screenwriter and the person I started with today is a USC MFA grad.

Man, there are legions of film schoool grads out there not working in film. Not only that, both of them only had about 1 success story in each of their classes. A success: directing a disney movie or writing a couple of crappy comedies for the studios. What the f---? Is this what I and my classmates have to look forward to? It's slightly depressing.

On the other hand is my intership, with another USC grad, older, working in documentary. He has one film to his credit. Here's the imdb link.

At least he's working. But he also doesn't recommend film school - despite the fact that he doesn't regret going. That seems to be the theme.

All of them admit to making mistakes after graduation. My family friend who graduated from the program says the same thing. She graduated with John Singleton - who made a great movie, but who I think is a terrible filmmaker, if you watch his later ones.

Anyhow, it's all very depressing to think 95% of me and my classmates aren't going to do anything very interesting career wise. That's just plain statistics.
Calling For a Bush Ouster

I said this in yesterday's post...people are fed up with Bush and calling for his head. This is a bi-partisan group, something Bush has had trouble putting together himself.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Bill Cosby

When you're right, you're right. What more can one say?
Thoughts and Reflections on the Past Couple of Weeks

Here is an article from 2002 that talks about Reagan and Bush and evil - which I found interesting.

So I spent most of this weekend continuing to mourn Ronald Reagan.

Ok, just kidding. But I did notice that every public TV in sight had his funeral services going on. A tad much, I'd say.

I was in Minnesota at my sister's college graduation going from party, to cocktails, to dinner, to more parties, and leaving parties to wake up the next day for more parties. I have much more sympathy for Paris Hilton and other socialites - it's a tough job.

But these college graduation weekends are interesting - you get to meet all these other families from all around the country. Families are inherently weird entities. The individuals are all too similar. Meeting a new person is always a little odd, they have new idiosyncrasies to learn. But seeing families with like-idiosyncrasies and seeing how similar the siblings are or the parents are, is always funny. Plus, it's not often I meet big groups of people not from a particular place. We met people from Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Portland, and it's kinda fun.

On a political note...the past couple of weeks I've hung out with a lot of different people from around the country and a common theme for whatever reasons has been a deep hatred and distrust of Bush. It starts in LA, where I have a lot friends who don't like him. But LA people aren't terribly political and film people tend not to care all that much about politics...and when they do, it can take a 'let's all cheer for Michael Moore,' limousine liberal attitude that's hard to take seriously. But my cousins in Whittier, friends in Seattle, parents and families in Minnesota, sister who'll soon be in Boston, all have this deep, beyond distrust, hatred of Bush.

I can't really talk rationally with any of these normally intelligent people about policies or the war, without it being reduced to this discussion about how hypocritical and distrustful the administration is and then beyond that, how distrustful and hypocritical america is. These aren't arguments, they are emotional and person feelings, stretched into political positions...but they have legitimacy despite that. People go with what they feel is correct. Bush himself does it. He decides about what's right and wrong and goes with what he thinks is right. He epitomizes the triumph of faith or feeling vs. reason.

And this is why I think Kerry needs to win the presidency. It's a weird logic, but I think Bush has offended and angered so many people (most of whom I think are irrationally angry) to the point to which he has forsaken any ability to pull people together. To be a uniter, as he claimed to be, during the 2000 election.

I'm so sick of hearing about how he stole the election, how the rich are getting richer in Iraq, how it's this big scheme to get oil, how he lied about WMD, blah, blah. All of this avoids the harder and more important questions about what to do about the Middle East and terrorism.

We live in a sharply divided and partisan country. It sucks. It sucks because we now realize, after the glorious and peaceful 1990s, the world is a dangerous place and we have serious enemies who are doing everything they can to eliminate our ability to live as a free society. We can't afford to spend our time fighting with each other over minor differences. I think we mostly agree, save the radicals and crazies on both sides of the spectrum, about what we need to do to engage terrorists and defeat the elements that cause terrorism. We differ on how exactly to do it. But while these are things worth arguing over, the arguments don't seem to be happening. Our partisan political situation right now isn't ripe for debate. People have entrenched positions over Iraq, the UN, all of our policies. We are not using reason, but rather feelings and using our personal feelings about GW Bush to dictate what we should be doing in the world. And that is deeply troubling.

The Bush hatred has gone too far and sadly, to nip it in the bud, we need to take away the impetus for the hatred - Bush. It's the same logic for solving the Palestinian issue. Take that issue off the table and we give the Arab autocrats nothing to complain about - instead they'll actually need to focus on rehabilitating their own societies. Take Bush off the table and we and the world can heal and work together towards real solutions.

Sadly, we take the Palestinian issue off the table and I still think we'll have issues with terror and despots in the middle east. I also think we'll have issues within our own country and with the world without Bush. But both would put us more in the right and make us feel like we're doing the right thing, which, I now understand, is almost as important as simply doing the right thing.
The Return

Ahh. Back from trips and ready to start working this summer. Well, not really, but work begins this upcoming week - one pay the rent job, and another internship. More details to follow, but found this neat link on msn on places to go before you die. They all sound cool, especially the Vietnamese fish shack. Man, how's that for advertisement.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Another Trip

Will be at sister's college graduation. Time does again, won't be blogging much this weekend.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

A Totally Late Post on Reagan

When I first became aware of "the President of the United States" Reagan was in office. He was the first image of the President I ever saw.

I remember in 1984 being aghast when I learned my father voted for Reagan over Mondale. At the time, I was 6 and had already associated Democrat with good and Republican with bad. That's what happens when you grow up in Northern California. My father was a life long Democrat and for him to vote for a Republican didn't make any sense to me.

My mother exacerbated the situation by being shocked herself. She is a pretty much a yellow dog democrat and I'm sure was equally responsible for my good/bad understanding at that young age.

I went all through college pretty sure Reagan was somehow wrong about something, although everything seemed to point the other way. I mean, he did push us to victory in the Cold War without a nuclear bomb going off, an amazing (in a historical sense) feat. He spent a ton of money during the 80s, but our economy never seemed to crush under it's own weight as doomsdayers predicted.

Even now, I'm pretty sure it wasn't Reagan's doing that we are allright economically. I think it largely has to do with having a lot of smart policy experts that have guided our economy in the right direction the past 20 years. Even so, if Clinton deserves credit for being fiscally smart - which he does....Reagan deserves credit for creating the environment in which Clinton thrived, ie the post-cold war happy go lucky world, which we will forever associate with the 1990s.

And he's still not my type of guy, Reagan. He must be somehow responsible for poor schools, or some of the underfunding of social services, or the arts, or something. But as he passed away, as with Nixon, I always feel this sense of history and solidarity with what it means to have a President of a political system of which I'm really proud of, despite it's problems. We don't have a king, kaiser, furur, or someone we're forced to like. In fact, we usually have someone we put under constant scrutiny and question all their decisions, support some, don't support others, and then we move on to someone else, a little more or a little less qualified. But when you put all those people and the times in which they were elected President together, they make up the history of our country and symbolize something larger than themselves - the system and the people they represented. And something about that is pretty cool.
The Great Silence

A classmate of mine, Andy, started a movie parlour in his frat house last night. We watched the Great Silence, a spaghetti western, followed by drinking beer, whisky, and Texas Hold em. It was pretty awesome.

The movie takes place in Utah and entirely in the snow. Tons of beautiful images of horses and men in the snow. Lots of cool uses of mirrors and windows and night shots. The movie starred Klaus Kinsky, a German actor famous for working with Werner Herzog. I haven't seen many of his films, but he's plays an effeminate tough guy, a Willem Dafoe meets Rutger Hauer type.

The movie is cheesy - dubbed and filled with themes of revenge and bounty hunting and law, but was fairly enjoyable to watch for the costumes and zooms and hot women.

As for the story, by far the most interesting part is the end in which literally all the good guys die - get executed, really, and Klaus walks off into the sunset. Not your typical western ending.
Saudi Arabia

Want to read up on Saudi Arabia? Here is a fantastic Foreign Affairs article that is long, but will put you ahead of 90% of political chatterboxes in terms of understanding the situation over there.

And here is a Belmont Club shorter synopsis, but also good.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Seattle Film Festival

Hero - I was really looking forward to this film shot by Chris Doyle, with Jet Li and Tony Leung and the young girl from Crouching Tiger. The previews looks amazing and the film does look amazing. Visually, it combines Braveheart, Crouching Tiger, and the Last Emperor and adds some interesting coloration throughout the film. It's a huge movie, pretty much equal to anything Hollywood can produce in terms of production value. Fight scenes are great for the most part, but I'm getting a little bored with the rope tricks these days. The big battles are pretty cool, although it is usually one side kicking ass. Any scene with arrows is awesome.

All that being said, the story pretty much sucks ass. It's all narrated to us by two characters recounting versions to us. I kept going, come on, come on, let's move this plot along here. The movie seemed to be made just for the visual orgy it was.

I wonder how this movie was financed? It wouldn't surprise me if it was by the Chinese government to demonstrate China's ability to compete with Hollywood. It's been done before, the Italians and Germans tried to do it in the 20s-40s and bankrupted themselves in the effort. But this movie should make money, although for some reason, it's tough to see over here. It was made in 2002 and hasn't found much of a release over here, I don't think. I had to see it at a festival.

Bottom line, Crouching Tiger blows it out of the water, as does Braveheart, two movies that seem to have influenced it. So there you go...

Playtime - Tati's magnum opus, shot in 70mm was playing at the Cinerama Dome (biggest theatre in Seattle, Hero was there also). I had seen Mr. Hulot's Holiday, and been introduced to the lovable Mr. Hulot bumbling around into adventures. He is in this film as well, bumbling around, but not as well as in Holiday.

The film is tremendously boring thoughout the entire 1st hour. Nothing happens. Hulot tries to get an appointment, we follow some tourists through an airport. There are supposed to be gags, but they aren't funny because Tati shoots in wide shots, with tons of stuff going on in front of the camera, but you don't know what to pay attention to. Unfortunately, the secret is: all the shenanigans going on amount to nothing of interest. It's as if all these little gags are happening, but the gags aren't funny and rarely tie together. Finally, towards the end, we get to the restuarant party scene. The entire scene introduces us to many new characters and feels like one big out of control party, which it is. And it's fun. But it's not nearly worth the wait...

It is only during this scene where some of the gags are good laughs, but then he overuses the same gag over and over. Tati gambled all his money on this film and it failed miserably in france. It couldn't even get an American distributor. He never made a movie again. Yipes. All he needed was a producer to tell him it was ASS, but that's the problem with ego...

More later on my rejection from the Iranian film I went to see.

Monday, June 07, 2004


Okay, so the final episode of the Soprano's this season was a bit of a disappointment...a few good moments, but not even close to the ummph of the last couple that I caught up with the nights before.

I saw two Film Festival movies tonight - a chilean called Los Debutantes which ended up being a half soap opera, part porno, and part gangsta coming of age movie. If that sounds bad, it was.

Nina's Tragedies was an Israeli film with not much of a high concept or plot line, but was a really great character and performance driven film. I felt like I missed something with respect to the Iraeli-ness of the film, I'll have to consult my Israeli friends, but overall, a small, nice film.

There are some independent and/or foreign movies I watch and I'm like, "This is why hollywood wouldn't fund this movie because it's boring and shitty." Others I see and I'm amazed how someone does something so good for so little. I feel like I saw both of those tonight - Los Debutantes was pretty poor and Nina's was really good.

To bed...

Sunday, June 06, 2004


My friend’s mom has been sending her Soprano’s episodes and I spent late last night and this morning catching up the season. What an awesome show. So intense, honest, and dramatic…

We’ve got someone in her building taping the final episode of this season for us tonight and we’re going to watch it in between our Seattle Film Festival movies.

What the fuck is wrong with Johnny Sac? What a punk-ass.

Notables in the past couple of episodes - the moment in the car when Adriana and the audience realize she’s been caught and is going to pay the price. Amazing. The women catching herself on fire. Holy shit. Tony’s 15 minute dream sequence….I’m not normally too into the dream sequences in Soprano’s so much, but this one is amazing. Man. Annette Benning's cameo. Genuis. The show never fails to disappoint, they outdo themselves time and time again. Tonight should be fantastic.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Light Blogging

Again Blogging may be light this weekend. Headed to Seattle Film Festival. I will give a full run down of the movies and events I go to up there once I get back.
Last Night

I had dinner with my cousin's last night and they railed on and out about Bush and Iraq and how wrong we are to be there. I must admit to being a complete minority in my own family when it comes to supporting the war. When at home I was accused of (gasp) being a Republican. I pointed out that one can be pro-war and a democrat at the same time, that one can support the overall aim of the Bush team's Iraq strategy and still say it can be improved. So much discourse is pro-Bush anti-Bush, or even worse pro-US or anti-US, rather than being about the policy.

"Everyone hates us." Is the common refrain amongst the leftists I hang with. They may be right, but those who hate us, I think, are wrong. Those who hate us are (in order of hatred):

1. Islamic Extremists
2. European and American radicals. These are the same people who cheered Neville Chamberlin for bringing peace. They denied the horrors of Soviet Russia. They think Israel should not exist and deny the fact that without Israel, Jews would be mercilessly persecuted and perhaps exterminated in the Middle East.
3. 3rd World Thugs. They really don't hate us, except when we get in their way of doing business and they're used to getting their way.
4. Fools. Many folks pretend to be radicals, but are actually just fools, unhappy, not smart, and want to blame someone for all their problems. They are everywhere, in the US, in Europe, and in the Middle East. They hate American because they feel the world hates them.

I don't have a problem with these people hating us, because they're wrong, and it's their problem, not ours. If someone hates me for my religion - what can I do? Give up my religion? Exactly. Who gives a crap if a bunch of assholes hate us. I prefer the assholes hate us, rather than like us, that would strike me as problematic.

I can understand reasonable people not trusting us - especially in the Middle East. I think the fact is, we supported a lot of untrustworthy people in the context of the cold war. But it's hard to argue with the outcome of the cold war, despite the ramifications. We beat Soviet Russia without a true confrontation or nuclear war. It's tough for a reasonable person to argue the outcome was bad or ill-achieved.

Now, as Pres. Bush pointed out, we need to stop supporting those types of dictators we have supported in the past. I think that is a good change of policy and I fail to see why others don't agree. If anything, they should at least agree, and then say "we don't think you can do this because of such and such, your lack of experience in doing this, the difficulty of the region, etc." But people don't say that. They just argue about all the horrible things the US has done in the past and how we have ulterior motives (as if we were the only ones).

Another couple scary facts about Islam, a religion of peace, we are told day in and day out....

1. Lebannon and Egypt historically have had decent sized Christian populations. Over the past 30 years the Christians have been leaving those countries. It's simply not worth it to live there. I've seen this in my life, one of my TA's in Lebanese and Christian, and she grew up in Europe. I don't know a single Lebanese Muslim. I met a girl this past summer in Houston, who was Egpytian and Christian. These are just people with whom I've crossed paths, not a statistical study, but still noticable. Both of these places have seen the growth of radical Islam simultaneously with the export of the Christian population. Coincidence?

2. Israel is enemies with it's Muslim neighbors. In Chechnya the Muslims fight the Russians. In Indonesia there is constant rebel fighting amongst the government and Muslim groups. In the Phillipines, a radical group, Abu Sayaff controls one of the islands of the Phillipine nation. In Algeria, the Muslims resist the government. In Africa, the Sudan, Muslims fight the rest of the population. In Bosnia, the Muslims fight the Serbs. In Afghanistan, the Muslims/Taliban fight the Americans. In Pakistan the Muslims fight the Hindu Indians over Kashmir.

Does anyone notice a trend here? It seems wherever a Muslim population or Muslim state exists, there exists a contentious battle. Why is that? Is that America's fault? Whose fault is it? Is the world systematically screwing all the Muslims over and therefore they need to fight? Or perhaps is there something or someone instigating things within the Muslim world?

I've never had any problems with Muslims. My best friend growing up is Muslim. My boss at my old job, who I really respected and liked, is Muslim. A buddy of mine at school is Muslim.

And knowing these people leads me to think there is something terribly wrong with the Arab and Muslim world whereby there is constant fighting. I know it doesn't need to be like this, but for some reason it is. And this hatred has turned itself on the US quite ferociously. We can do like the rest of the world and try to keep them at bay, fighting a little, and trying to pay them off to go away. Or we try some reforms. And I don't think leaving the middle east or no longer supporting Israel will make the above situations any different.

So why do people always say Islam is a religion of peace? It's bullshit. It's no more a religion of peace than any other religion, Christianity, Judisam, Hinduism, Buddism. They're all religions of peace. That doesn't mean they haven't been ill-used in the past for all sorts of horrendous things. Why do we insist on repeating "Islam is peace." Why not just call a spade a spade. Islam's a religion an organized religion that's done a lot of good for some people and a lot of bad for some people. That's all it is, no more and no less.

It makes no sense to me this inane solidarity Muslims feel for someone who is "Muslim." Any jack ass can call themselves a Muslim and other Muslims get weak in the knees an accept them as a brother. Why? Idi Amin. Yeah, he's a real Muslim. Give me a break. It's like some girls cheats on me a hundred times, curses me behind my back, kills little babies, tries to poison my food, and then says she loves me and I'm like - ahhhh, well, she really means it. Whatever. Solidarity and pride are all good and fine, but sometimes it can make you look like a complete fool.