Friday, March 31, 2006

Salon Article - Left and Right (Meaningless)

I hate to link to Salon because, well, you can't read it for free. But today, at least, it merely requires watching the Basic Instinct 2 preview, with I don't view as a burden, but a treat.

But once in awhile, the articles are of interest to me, and today there's one about bloggers writing books - specifically Instapundit and Daily Kos.

The article is typically Salon, pretending to be smarter than it is, but it makes a basic point - which doesn't get followed through - that the Left and Right distinctions are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Me believe this.

Funke, the other day, forwarded my blog address to a group of people, notating that "he tends to be pretty right-wing, so it may damage our collective liberal-arts left-wing-ish sensibilities."

I still find it absurd to be considered "right wing," maybe it's never having voted for a Republican, maybe it's growing up in a Democrat household, not really going to church, I dunno, those hints just seem to me to be representative of not quite qualifying as "right wing," as Tom Delay or George Bush would define it.

I will admit, however, to being a Hawk, in that I think we should kick our enemies ass. Hard and without mercy. I'm not sure why that qualifies as right wing, but if it does, so be it. I also hate bureaucracy, but again, I'm not sure why that qualifies as right wing, either.

I think the far left, over the past five years or so, decided to compete with the far right with who could be the biggest policital fools in this country. Again, if that makes me right-wing, so be it.

Identifying oneself with a party or a political leaning, is like identifying oneself with a gang or fraternity (Chris Rocks says so, too). I think it's bullshit. I'm not in a gang or frat. People, are, as Chris Rock said, neither right or left, they have beliefs that overlap and sometimes come into conflict with political parties or movements.

I don't trust anyone who places too much loyalty into a political position or political party or a politician in general. I mean, does any one of us actually think a single politician offers the answer to things - George Bush or Paul Wellstone or Jesse the Body Ventura, or Bill Clinton?

I believe the system works better than alternatives. I believe in the Constitution works better than alternatives. I sometimes am a realist and sometimes an idealist. Sometimes right, sometimes left, sometimes wrong. I don't like fools, but am often one myself. I like blogs and humor.

I think we all try to simplify things to understand them. I think we have opinions, but be willing to modify them upon discovering new information. I think we often act surprised when events and people don't conform to our "opinions" or impressions, but such suprises are generally reflective of our own ignorance as much as the surprises themselves....and all this so fucking vague I'm sick of writing it.

So now that Hamas is in control of the Palestinian terroritories, I can't help but wonder how they would handle suicide bombers attacking their headquarters and targets.
Is It Just Me...

Or are the 9/11 families growing just a tad bit annoying. Why does it seem like they are in constant litigation? There are ways to be digified about grief.

I'm growing tired of this resurgent blame game about 9/11, how the 911 operators didn't handle the situation well. I mean, maybe the 911 operators are idiots, I'm willing to believe nearly all phone-call customer service type jobs are not stacked with our best and brightest (don't get me started about my 40 min phone call with SBC Yahoo yesterday) but PLEASE, how would the best of all service operators have handled airplanes being flown into buildings? I don't imagine they were trained for terrorist attacks on huge buildings. And could they have reasonably expected to save additional lives? If so, should we punish people for failing to do so?

I've said it 100 times. While 9/11 COULD have been prevented on many levels - US policy tougher and more brutal with Al Queda, tighter FBI practices, our country was simply not AWARE during the 1990s of the Islamicist threat. The people most worried about it were considered "chicken littles," constantly worried about the sky falling. We didn't imagine some dudes in caves being a threat to the US. We were used to being worried about the Soviet Empire and that had collapsed. Why would we worry about these incompetent nutjobs. I mean, there's been anti-American Islamic terrorists around since the 1980s and they had yet to attack the mainland. The Politically Correct thing to say when the topic of Islamic Terrorists came up was something about Oklahoma City.

It's important for us to accept that tragedy happens and not everything is preventable. That being said, after 9/11, there's no reason to keep up the illusion that Al Queda and Islamicism is not THE major threat to the United States, and will be for the forseeable future.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

I've invaded Chuck's "Cheers," becoming Frazier to his Norm. Masa is a nice little restuarant in Echo Park down the street for his house. The last time I went, I was intrigued by the Chicago Style Pizza, but it takes an hour preparation. Last night, Phil and I preordered from home.

As we went in, we identified ourselves as the "guys who ordered the pizza." At the table, we were recognized by the wait staff as the "guys who ordered the pizza." We were asked a few moments before the pizza arrived, "are you guys ready for the pizza?" The pizza chef came out and served us the pizza, noticing Phil's Cubs hat, he asked, "From Chicago?" Phil nodded. He was impressed.

We ate the pizza. I thought it was pretty good. Spinach, mushroom, and sausage. They make their own crust - but then again, I guess everyone does...but it had a bakery, buttery feel/taste. I'm a fan of thin crust pizza, but this thick crust was good. The pizza chef comes out again after Phil and I each enjoyed a piece.

"How is it?"

"Good," I say.

"It's fine," says Phil.


"Yeah, I'm full."

"You're full? Is that what you would say to a musician who just did a song..." he stopped. There was little point in trying to argue your way to a customer appreciating your pizza. "Idiot," he probably thought.

Anyhow, Masa has huge portions. I just ate the leftover pizza for breakfast. I like the place, but always end up spending about $15 for dinner - not bad for going out, but a little more expensive than I want to spend on an average evening. They are open late and coffee is good, on the mild side.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ahhh, France

Protests to stay unemployed. I wonder what the employment statistics are on protesters in general. I always surmised the big protests in SF prior to the Iraq war were rooted in the Silicon Valley layoffs.

It would be a neat statistic: Protests on Iraq war: 30% unemployed. Protests on Civil Rights: 70% unemployed. And so forth.
Next Game Idea

For my final project I am to develop another game. I am interested in developing a game that deals with asymmetry - maybe the title will be Asymetric. I think it would be interesting different players had strategic advantage to pursuing a different set of goals. I'd like to keep it simple - I'm much more interested in simple games of strategy than complicated embedded narratives. I like Poker and Risk and not the Legend of Zelda. (Ouch, I must have just dated myself a lot).

I'm not sure exactly how to approach this. I was thinking about having two sets of resources that need to be captured: territory and agents. In Risk, you are simply going after territory and use your armies to pursue you goal. I'm think of something similar, but adding on agents. So there will need to be another element that a player can "use" to pursue their objectives - maybe something like "technology" which has a multiplier effect on resources.

I think the end-game goal will be something like - capture the entire board. But I think there needs to be a "turn the tables" element to the game, whereby it becomes the players strategic advantage to "not lose" versus winning. Or it becomes the players strategic advantage to "help" the other play "win" with the expectation that if they don't "win on time" the tables can be abrupty turned. I like the idea of adding some type of element that factors in timing - an element missing from Risk or Monopoly or Chess. There's no urgent need to make specific plays at specific times in those games, because it becomes a long, steady, drag. Imagine in chess if you've got the other player cornered and you HAVE to check-mate them in a matter of 4 turns or else the tables get turned and he will have 10 turns to check-mate you. All of a sudden, the end game becomes really interesting and more vital that the earlier play.

I dunno, those are just some ideas.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Our game addition to GTA, Empire Mode, is an attempt to get GTA out of the embedded narrative realm and into the realm of an emergent narrative. The strategic acquisition of property a la Monopoly or terroritory a la Risk, will allow for an emergent narrative. Mayham becomes strategic, as opposed to merely tactical.

While Grand Theft Auto gives the illusion of being "free" in a world, the actual narrative structure is limited, closed, or also known as embedded. Mayham happens within a sphere, because ultimately you are performing a linear narrative through missions.

The Web, for all it's good, is also creepy.
Saddam's Slow War

A simple reminder that the war didn't begin in 2003.

And a theory about where Saddam's WMDs went. Hey, if Charlie Sheen can say 9/11 was controlled demolition, this is hardly a stretch.
Not Proud of It, But

I'll be seeing it anyway.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Seinfeld Pilot Episode

Jerry's apartment is different. I'm looking at the walls and mouldings and I'm like - those look familiar. Then it hits me. These look like the mouldings from 27,000 Days Later. We got flats from a crew who works on TV episodes. I wonder...

UPDATE: I apologize to my readers who read Chuck's odd, gramatically challenged (if he wants to go there) comment. If I wasn't clear - I produced a USC Thesis film in which we used flats from old TV productions. I was watching Seinfeld last night, the pilot episode in which Jerry's apartment is a different set from later episodes, and recognized similar walls and mouldings. I surmised that perhaps we used the same flats from the Seinfeld pilot episode on 27,000 Days Later. This little tidbit of information made me very happy.
Student Protests on TV

I'm struck by a couple things:

1. Why do "illegal" immigrants feel as though they have a right to be in this country? I don't think any rational person thinks we should have wide open immigration to anyone who wants to be here, much less the obligation to grant rights freely if you happen to be able to escape the border patrol.

2. At the same time contributing members of society should not be treated as second class citizens or live in fear of being deported. I realize this can be an inherent conflict with #1. But are the protests focused on this element? I tend to think it's more focused on issue #1, which doesn't seem right to me.

3. There were a lot of Mexican flags. What is this all about? I don't think it has to do with primarily identifying themselves as Mexican. I'd be willing to bet, if actually given the choice, they'd prefer to live in America and be an American any day. The Mexican flag waving is some type of idealic pride - a recognition of cultural affinity with Mexico, but not, for instance, a vote of approval for the Mexican government over the government of the US. I'm not sure. It also probably has something to do with feeling outside of the mainstream US, of not feeling assimilated, and then harkening back to some other "in-group" association that doesn't, I would say, truly exist, but acts as a sort of national surrogate for an alienated individual. I mean, isn't that what nationalism is all about anyway?

So I'm writing a spy movie. I'm having major problems. I'm 80 pages in. I like parts, but I can tell, by the feedback from my class that things aren't gelling. I guess, in a way, it's to be expected from a 1st draft. But still. It's frustrating.

And now I'm watching 24 on TV and there's this really annoying scenario...a local gas company worker is given the option of lowering the gas pressure to allow nerve gas to get distributed to 90,000 people, or have him and his friends killed. The terrorist is quite harsh and shoots anyone who objects to him...but I'm thinking - is this official really going to go along with the plan, possibly killing 90,000 people, because he's afraid the terrorist is going to shoot some more of his coworkers? I doubt it.
Writing Tip From Gary Ross

I wasn't at the Zaki Gordon series to hear Ross speak, but word from Phil is that he talked about the nuts and bolts of writing. Nice. He asked the audience, "How many of you have written a screenplay where the protagonist is you and he/she is too passive?" Almost everyone raised their hands. Funny.

A tip: When stuck write scenes that will NOT be in the movie. This will liberate you from the idea that a story or movie is a puzzle to be solved. It isn't. It is something to be created.

I like this idea a lot. Tomorrow, I will be doing this, writing scenes for my feature between characters that aren't designed to be in the film.

Look who got quoted on Instapundit!
Order of Importance

For filmmaking, for me, right now:

1. Writing
2. Acting
3. Production Design
4. Editing
5. Framing
6. Lighting
7. Sound Design *Note: Sound is a sort of unique side category because really BAD sound trumps almost everything in that, if you cannot hear, it ruins the entire experience. That being said, really good sound cannot compensate for any missing elements.


The white people are posing as black. Their faces are really shiny.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


As much pleasure as I get from making fun (lame acting on Sopranos, his needy dorky love of blonde chicks, overrated as a director, etc) of Bogdanovich, I respect his love and dedication to movies. It is sad - the fact that films are becoming less and less community experiences. I don't have any ideas how to reclaim the glory of seeing pictures in the company of a large audience, when people like watching DVDs. Forcing people to the movies certainly ain't gonna happen. But it is a different experience, laughing and crying with each other. That feel of experiencing tales as a part of a community. The giddyness of when the lights go down - the closest thing I can think of to reverting back to childhood - and getting swept away in a story. That feeling you get coming out a movie that made you feel like someone else understands the human experience the way you might....

Maybe they should charge less money to see films. Maybe movies need a Walmartification - demand dominated, versus supply dominated, where mega-millions cannot be made by "event" films, therefore ceasing to produce them. It would take a bold businessman to open theaters and charge $5 a pop, $1 for popcorn, and choose movies based upon their affordability. This is the only way I can see movies reclaiming the throne of entertainment, by priviliging story over spectacle (as fun as spectacle can be). I see an initial problem in that films being made in the cheap indy sphere are probably no good - self important as cliche as Hollywood in their own quirky way. Anyhow. Something.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

V for Vendetta

Uhhh. So the action scenes are pretty badass. The second action sequence, in which V goes into the television station is awesome. And Tarantino says action directors are the best

I'll stop there. I feel relieved that the great American action movie has yet to be made, so that I can one day be involved with the making of it...the New Yorker review gets the movie pretty much right.

As a note, it's become almost the easiest cliche in hollywood to make a big, bad totalitarian government into the bad guy. At one time, I suppose, it was revolutionary - like in 1950 - with the original Manchurian Candidate. But all the paranoia and supposed parallels to our current world demonstrate the basic sophistication with which teenagers might analyze US or British or Western government policies.

And what was with the bizarro anti-gay fears? This of course comes at a time when homosexuals are have more voice and rights than ever, so I'm not sure if this is supposed to be some sort of warning and to who? And sorry to be a prude, but when the hero is blowing up buildings for symbolic reasons comes pretty motherfucking close to an Al Queda endorsement, which I'm not really willing to buy into, ahora. But thank god for the closeted gay tv guy who reads the koran for poetic reasons. What would we do without him!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the thing that bugged me the most in the movie were the long dialog scenes. I mean - this was an action movie, right? I'm sitting there thinking - let's fuck some people up - and I'm watching V talking about Shakespeare and all this other shit to a bald Natalie Portman. Gimme a break. Make your references if you want, but do through character or situations, not cheap references that proves you read McBeth in 11th grade. Quoting Shakespeare doesn't make the film into a smart movie.

Anyhow, the films got some style and they stole the idea for the ending of our visual expression project - and they have this cool domino thing that makes no sense for the plot, but was still cool. I enjoyed watching the movie, but I wouldn't say it really has any personality, good ideas, or adds anything interesting or insightful to the world - it's just sensory fun, part time.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Sheen Airs 9/11 Conspiracy Theory

Actor Charlie Sheen refuses to accept the official explanation behind the terrorist atrocities of September 11, 2001, and believes the US government covered up what really happened. Conspiracy theorist Sheen claims New York City's Twin Towers fell as the result of a "controlled demolition." Talking on US radio program The Alex Jones Show on the GGN network, he said, "It seems to me like 19 amateurs with box-cutters taking over four commercial airliners and hitting 75 per cent of their targets, that feels like a conspiracy theory. It raises a lot of questions. A couple of years ago, it was severely unpopular to talk about any of this. It feels like from the people I talk to, and the research I've done and around my circles, it feels like the worm is turning." Sheen also cast doubt over the plane that smashed into the side of the Pentagon in Washington DC. He added, "Just show us how this particular plane pulled off these maneuvers... It is up to us to reveal the truth. It is up to us because we owe it to the families, we owe it to the victims, we owe it to everyone's life who was drastically altered, horrifically, that day and forever. We owe it to them to uncover what happened."

And this guy gets to bang Denise Richards. I tell ya, life just ain't fair.
According To Neil Young...

When the red sun sets on the railroad town and the bars begin to laugh with a happy sound. I'll still be here, right by your side, they'll not be anyone in my heart but you. And the dreams that you're having they won't let you down, if you just follow along because you know they where you're bound. The well will be flowing and the words will come fast when the one who is coming arrives here at last.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Looks like I've got something fun to do this weekend!
I See a Reality TV Show

It'll be called: Liberals Gone Wild.
Freedom of the Press

Does freedom of the press include advertising for genocidal regimes? I guess so.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More Thoughts, A Remix Of Instapundit

"Iraq may indeed go sour, although with effort, help and much time, it probably won't. But however Iraq turns out, we at least know it is no longer a threat. And whatever troubles it faces, they will not be greater than the horrors it has endured.

Iraq's future we cannot tell, but one thing we do know is that most of those now preaching doom were spectacularly wrong about the war itself. Why would they be so right now?"
"Judging from his private statements, the single most important element in Saddam's strategic calculus was his faith that France and Russia would prevent an invasion by the United States. According to Aziz, Saddam's confidence was firmly rooted in his belief in the nexus between the economic interests of France and Russia and his own strategic goals: "France and Russia each secured millions of dollars worth of trade and service contracts in Iraq, with the implied understanding that their political posture with regard to sanctions on Iraq would be pro-Iraqi. In addition, the French wanted sanctions lifted to safeguard their trade and service contracts in Iraq. Moreover, they wanted to prove their importance in the world as members of the Security Council -- that they could use their veto to show they still had power."

commentary: "Yep. Today's antiwar movement: tools of the international oil companies and arms traders. They used to say that kind of thing about war supporters, of course, but that's just another example of the way things have gone all topsy-turvy of late."

With such "friends" who needs enemies?
This is So Fucked Up

ABC news was trying to find a "good" story about Iraq, so they find this television producer who is trying to make a comedy show. They go to the set to film the show and then find out the producer of the show, the guy who greenlit the project, got assassinated.

Now, I'm not sure how the typical American reacts to this. Do we throw up our hands and say, this is impossible, this is a quagmire, nothing good can come out of Iraq?

Because I have the exact opposite reaction - this type of shit makes it all the more clear to me, that we should be involved with Iraq, that indeed, we have a situation where people want to live peaceably and make comedy shows and live their lives and it's being disrupted by a bunch of huge fucking assholes that deserve to be tracked down and killed or arrested. To the extent we can help with this, we should, although ultimately, the Iraqis themselves will have to be the ones with the will to stop the insurgents. I dunno.

What are the alternatives? A failed terrorist state under Saddam? A split into three countries of Sunnis, Kurds, and Shi'ia? Endless insurgency? Some argue that allowing an all out Civil War might be the best thing for the country - shit we had it in this country and survived - and that was 100 years after the issues arose in the Constitutional convention.
Opportunity Costs

In your first microeconomic class, you'll learn the idea of opportunity cost, that there is a cost to ANY choice - even the ostensible choice to do "nothing," because of the lost "opportunity."

Here is an interesting tidbit of information about the number of soldiers who died in various administrations.

Even during "peace-time," soldiers die, from training and so forth, so the numbers of military casualties ought to be put into this context.
The Justice System

Finally works!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Game Design

The heart and soul and co-founder of EA, Bing Gordon, came to our Game Design workshop. This guy is the creative force behind Madden Football, one of the biggest video game franchises ever. It's sort of the movie/tv equivalent of a David Kelly, Michael Mann, maybe even Spielberg...essentially a creative force at the top of a HUGE business. He comes in and gives groups feedback on their game designs. Pretty awesome, I'd say. Too bad it wasn't my lab section.

Anyhow, to me, it reflects the coolness and excitement of the game industry, which seems incredibly open to new blood, new ideas, and is so completely unpretentious about themselves compared to the rest of entertainment. These guys are smart as nails and understand games, which are arguably more complicated systems than films -- actually this is a weird are more mathematical and systematic, whereas films are more empathetic (ie based upon feeling for another in a given situation). I'd like to say emotional...but games can be emotional too, albeit in a different way. I dunno know exactly how to articulate the difference, I guess interactive vs. passive.

Whatever. The point is, the industry seems cooler to me than TV/Film. Too bad I don't play video games.
Back on Irak (as it spelled on the bus in LA for the hispanic readership)

I read Chris Hitchens because he's a good writer and he makes me feel good about my position on the Iraq invasion. Many criticise (James Carville, for one) the internet for being a place where one goes to be supported and not enlightened. I wonder how those people make such distinctions between what one reads on the internet and say an op-ed in the New York times. But regardless, in this case, they may be right, maybe I only read Chris Hitchens to be supported. I think I read him because the points he makes are accurate, as opposed to reading someone who is inaccurate...but anyhow.

Here is an article not about what Bush/America SHOULD have done, but rather, what the international community SHOULD have done. Fancy that, normally, it's all about Monday morning quarterbacking on US/Bush/etc, so it's nice to read an alterna-version of the self same rhetorizing (is that a word?).

And if such a premise seems fruitless or stupid - how is it any more stupid than playing the other what-if games? Because what I like about this POV is that it assumes we all are responsible for making this a freer, better world - not that the US gets to make policy decisions and everyone else stands around and yell - YEAH or NAY, based upon their cultural specificity (ie bullshit) or own self interest.

The good stuff:

So, now I come at last to my ideal war. Let us start with President Bush's speech to the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002, which I recommend that you read. Contrary to innumerable sneers, he did not speak only about WMD and terrorism, important though those considerations were. He presented an argument for regime change and democracy in Iraq and said, in effect, that the international community had tolerated Saddam's deadly system for far too long. Who could disagree with that? Here's what should have happened. The other member states of the United Nations should have said: Mr. President, in principle you are correct. The list of flouted U.N. resolutions is disgracefully long. Law has been broken, genocide has been committed, other member-states have been invaded, and our own weapons inspectors insulted and coerced and cheated. Let us all collectively decide how to move long-suffering Iraq into the post-Saddam era. We shall need to consider how much to set aside to rebuild the Iraqi economy, how to sponsor free elections, how to recuperate the devastated areas of the marshes and Kurdistan, how to try the war criminals, and how many multinational forces to ready for this task. In the meantime—this is of special importance—all governments will make it unmistakably plain to Saddam Hussein that he can count on nobody to save him. All Iraqi diplomats outside the country, and all officers and officials within it, will receive the single message that it is time for them to switch sides or face the consequences. Then, when we are ready, we shall issue a unanimous ultimatum backed by the threat of overwhelming force. We call on all democratic forces in all countries to prepare to lend a hand to the Iraqi people and assist them in recovering from more than three decades of fascism and war.

Not a huge amount to ask, when you think about it. But what did the president get instead? The threat of unilateral veto from Paris, Moscow, and Beijing. Private assurances to Saddam Hussein from members of the U.N. Security Council.

Now why does the US take all the heat? I'll tell you why - it's always been politically safer to do nothing and "feign ignorance" than actually face-up to difficult questions of dealing with rogue regimes and islamic terrorism - it's much easier to blame the US and GW Bush for these issues, thereby absolving oneself of any responsibility or duty, and protesting rather than trying to make anything better.

His last quote:

Well, if everyone else is allowed to rewind the tape and replay it, so can I. We could have been living in a different world, and so could the people of Iraq, and I shall go on keeping score about this until the last phony pacifist has been strangled with the entrails of the last suicide-murderer.

Politics and Movies

I generally have contempt for movies that attempt to make a political message - often they are silly, stupid, and reveal a startling lack of sophistication on the part of the movie-makers. But it is without a doubt that certain films develop a political impact and that movies, in general, underscore certain political ideals.

Brokeback is a rather obvious case of a movie with a political impact, humanizing homosexuals in a love story. Not such a big deal in the US, particularly in Collyfornia, where I reside. I doubt Brokeback changed anyone's mind about gay marriage or any immediate, short term political realities. It does, however, reflect the large changes in social attitudes towards homosexuals that have come about in the last 30-50 years in the states.

Where such a movie might have a greater impact is the subject of this article.

As of yet, no one is screening the film in the socially regressive Middle East, but with the Oscar buzz and general publicity of Brokeback, clearly the cat is out of the bag - a big gay cowboy movie is on the loose. For nutjobs, it's just more evidence of America being the big satan. But for normal people in the Middle East, although it might reveal a world they don't recognize or want to recognize, they also note the subtle chipping away of what we call tolerance to their conservative social values. The curious, progressive folks probably want to see the movie, if nothing else, to see what all the fuss is about. They will debate the merits, and maybe not even like the film, but ultimately, the idea and curiosity inherent to human beings of listening and watching stories will undoubtedly overcome. And this is the political impact of movies, writ large. That they collectively become part of the social fabric of this nation, but increasingly, the entire world.

From our perspective, it is stupid for these countries not to release the film - we see it as a sign of social backwardsness and intolerance - which is probably is. The curious thing about movies, however, is that US distributors make the same choices ALL THE TIME regarding both national and particularly international films within the US. While we do not actively sensor movies, there is a "market" sensor that determines the value of films and what we are able to see in this country. Not to mention the types of films that are taken under the marketing wing of large studios and mass-marketed - are precisely those films which can be mass marketed. Has this stunted the growth of movie narratives? Many complain of the crap state of movies? Is this the fault of our own system? Or are those merely curmudgeons, who would force Tarkovsky down our throats all day if they had their way?

Anyhow, movies and politics. From a large, global perspective, they matter....but from the standpoint of making them - shit, it's hard enough to get a good story and actors together, thinking about the global impact of a film is a waste of time.

Some articles from the Yale Daily News via Instapundit on the Taliban. Money quote:

During my time at Yale, I was a coordinator of the Yale Women's Center. As a feminist, I am surprised there have been no vocal protests on campus or calls for Yale to answer questions about this decision. This is not and should not be portrayed as a partisan issue. It is not a referendum on Bush, the war, the presence of American troops in Afghanistan or the recent Supreme Court decision on military recruiting. It is about Yale's decision to recruit the former spokesman of a brutal regime.

Has Yale really slipped into such complacency that the Taliban's crimes against women and the Afghani people barely merit a shrug? If Rahmatullah has truly disavowed all connection with the Taliban and regrets his involvement, he should step forward publicly to take responsibility for his actions and to apologize to the victims of the Taliban.

Also to note:

In the most recent issue of Vanity Fair, Sebastian Junger reports on current Taliban atrocities, including skinning a man alive and forcing another to watch his wife while she was gang-raped.

A shrug of the shoulders does not seem like the appropriate response.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Thesis

Why the delay? Why the low energy? Why the no script? I feel this perception, this odd pressure, that I MUST do a thesis to be a worthy filmmaker. And hence my reaction - this disgust - or laziness or feelings of helplessness, pointlessness, of why do a short film at all - to what purpose - to what end? What do I expect to get out of it. And then the money. How much does one spend? Take into account tuition...and do I want to go through what USC makes you go through?

And I see the world of filmmaking and know that even if the film is good, which is hard enough to accomplish, the chances of notice or benefit are still unlikely. If it's brilliant, yes, I suppose it will lead somewhere...but honestly, do people know brilliance when they see it anyway?

And in the end, I guess it comes down the scripts and stories...but it's not only that, it's the structure as well. I come up with funny little ideas and then think - oh, that's not big enough for a thesis. And then other ideas - 25 pages, thank you. Waaay too long. The cringeworthy LA Film Fest movies are all the 25min narratives.

It's like the thesis is this vortex that sucks you into the middle of the storm of all other thesis' made before it and dooms you to replicate the same mistakes you've seen been made a hundred/thousand times before. But maybe that is all movies and maybe, just maybe, this is what they mean by the artistic process. Puke. I just said art. Hate that word.
Things I Want

1. I realize that I want an enormous flat-screen TV to take up the wall opposite my bed so that when it's raining and I'm tired (like right now), I can put on a big, lazy movie and fall asleep like I'm in a movie theater.

2. A parking space all the time.
Writing Habits/Suggestions

In class today we talked a little about habits. The fact is, we all need to invent our own systems that work. Some folks try to write something/anything everyday. Others work by deadlines. Other block out huge chucks of time (all day) to work.

1. Writers Block. Try alternative writing spaces. From the desk to the kitchen to a coffee shop to a library. Also, change the part of story or stage of writing you are at. Write the last scene. Re-write the step outline. Writing a shitty scene is better than no scene.

2. Prime the Pump for tomorrow. Starting to write is usually the when you're at the end of the day and rolling, don't allow yourself to stop a good "stopping point," like the end of a sequence or worse, an Act. Muscle out a little more into another scene and it'll get you started for the following day.

3. Write to rewrite. Know you'll be re-writing, so just get it done.
New Years Resolutions (3.5 months late)

1. Wake up earlier. I get a lot more done and hence feel better about myself.

2. Use more public transportation. It will not always be possible in LA, but I've figured a pretty easy way to get to school from my house via the bus that I'll continue to do (sometimes) even after I start driving again. There's actually an efficiency created in being able to read and do a little work on the way to and from school.

3. Continue to play on sporting teams. It's good for the body and mind.

A "documentary" posing the question - what if the South won the Civil War. Saw it at the Film Forum, a cool indy movie house near NYU.

The structure of the film was interesting - it was a fake BBC documentary interrupted by commercials that were the type that "would have" been broadcast had we been the Confederate States of America.

This was a good premise for a movie, but I found it almost unwatchable. It was an attempt at satire, but ultimately it wasn't funny. It tried hard and was offensive, but didn't have enough truth backing it up - like Chris Rock or South Park, to pull off the offensiveness. The laughs weren't even guilty, just rather shocking or "oh my" type of moments, a few chuckles, maybe.

It also could have been a good movie if it were smarter, and a more perceptive "alternative" history, a realistic look at what if? Instead, it went for cheap laughs and was totally implausible and played upon common knowledge and reverse (ironic) things, like the South pillaging New York (instead of the North pillaging Atlanta, and so forth).

It would have been interesting to look at - what if the South captured Washington DC in those early days after Bull Run and Antietam, where they won decisive victories and were very close to an unguarded DC. What if they were able to secure help from the French and/or British at Ghettysberg? Or if Lincoln lost the 1864 election and the new president declared a peace, allowing the Confederate states to go on their own. Because it was never the Confederates goal to occupy and turn the North into slave states - it was their goal to maintain states rights and have slavery, if they wanted, and not because the northerns said they couldn't.

Then the movie could have played out a completely plausible alternative history in which slavery would ultimately have been abolished, but in a more gradual way, probably having to do with the industrial revolution spreading south, and the practice becoming not only morally repugnant, but financially impossible.

Anyhow, either way, it would have been more interesting, they just weren't smart enough to pull either off.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Ah, New York

One of the obligatory, yet fun, aspects of going to New York is to see the stage play...either a broadway show, perhaps off broadway, and if you feel real crazy, off-off broadway. I wanted to see The Lieutenant of Inishmore, a supposedly gruesome play about an Irish terrorist. But there were no student discounts, so we opted for Red Light Winter, written by young angry hipster Adam Rapp, who recently directed his first feature, Winter Passing.

The show was satisfying, felt like a Neil LaBute rip off, two guys, one prostitute type of story. What I liked about seeing a stage show was the reminder about how simple we can make our set ups if the dialog and situations are compelling. Yes, film is not merely filmed theater, but it's all entertainment via storytelling.

The other fun aspect of New York is seeing famous people - at our play was Willem Dafoe, that's right, Mr. Boondock Saints himself. He was short. We looked at each other. I also thought I saw Natalie Portman, but she was handing out Playbills, which seemed like an unlikely thing for Natalie Portman to be doing. I have thusly concluded it was not Natalie Portman. But I will still see V for Vendetta.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

On The Road

Well, I'm on the road. Was in NYC. Currently in Providence, RI...third biggest city in New England. It's alright. I'm not such a fan of the Northeast...but for a couple days...anyhow. I should be blogging about that, right? How I hung at my friend's theater school last night and watched Shakespeare scenes, or the breakfast food I ate yesterday, or the Brown University campus greenhouse, or something from the past weekend - drunken games and the Met and the Sopranos (decent episode, certainly not great, or even good, but what can I say - it's Harry Potter for adults, I'm addicted).

But alas, it's this Samantha Burns post I'd like to quickly respond to....maybe she just likes hooking up?

Any profound thoughts from my travels? Not really. Traveling is good. Is that profound?

Friday, March 10, 2006

What About Hollywood?

I wonder where Hollywood would rank in, how much Americans trust institutions. Anyhow, the highest rank is 47% (the military), which still seems awfully low. But that's what I love about America - and what our enemies don't understand - we don't trust institutions, we trust ourselves and individuals, and to a decent degree, each other. I hope.
Guilty Pleasure

Watching FUN shorts...10 of them. I'm tired. I come across one called BLANK (CENSORED) which is honing it's reputation as basically a right-wing USC. Big, cheesy movies, but with a righty slant. Opening credits open on a huge score, glossy 35mm, on kid drawings. I get interrupted by a call, have to do an errand, I get back, and I feel myself a little bit excited to watch this movie. I turn it on. It's awful, like big USC crap...but I understand the story, about a kid who acts like a pirate because he's ashamed his father became a janitor. Well, kids at school pick on him and he decides to get revenge. The movie is still rather lame, but I must admit enjoying the big happy ending quite a bit.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Generation Y

This guy is secretly out there hanging with Gen Y. I guess I'm at the cross-roads between Gen Y and X...and I'm not moonlighting yet with that generation, but I have noticed things, like fewer jerk-offs...

With respect to technology and how they use it, I feel slightly intimidated in my game class (mostly undergrads-as young as freshman) when the teacher says, oh, just whip up a power point - yeah, fix the images in photoshop, just use viseo. i "get" these programs and when I sit down to use them, can manage pretty well. But it's a little role-reversal for me, when I worked with the old ladies at the travel office - and I would say, just search for the document, forward the email, etc, the response would often be panicked expressions, like "holy shit," I'm not sure what that means.

Anyhow, that's me sometimes in class...

Last night I was impressed while working with my group, how quick this one guy was with photoshop, quickly adapting images to our presentation. I will say, however, that my filmmaking background and general logistical, organization of images and story abilities were tremendously helpful towards getting our presentation to make sense. At times, I felt like a little bit of a bully - put this here, this there, no we have to use this, not that, but in the end, most of the group came to understand how to visually represent our concepts with what we had, and they were doing it themselves by the end, arguing details, and I could just sit back and admire my handiwork like the fat puke-o-rama kid in Stand By Me.

Sunday Night

It's going to be awesome!

Watching the Sopranos makes me feel like I'm reading a long, good novel.
Riding the Bus?

That's right. I rode the bus to school today. It took a little longer than driving. Door to door, it took an hour - because I had to walk to the bus stop. I like not needing to park. I like reading on the bus. I don't like transfering and waiting.

I like the idea of saving gas.
A Debate

A debate on a past public musings post.

I. The problem: A series of attacks on us, the richest, strongest nation-state on earth, by a group of small individuals brought together by a narrow uncomprosing ideology.

Each attack grew bolder and bolder. On 9/11 they destroyed symbols of America's military and economic might. The human and financial loss alone were enormous. But the biggest fear was not what just happened, but the nightmare of what could happen next?

We have not had a war of this kind before - and so finding a descriptive name for it is difficult. It would be easier if it were a nation vs. nation war. Easier to describe, easier to fight, and so forth. But that's not what we are facing. First, it was named war on terror. Not the right choice. War on Islamic Fascism is better, I think, because it describes the movement which has given birth to Al Queda. This war involves fighting, but more fundamentally, it is about ideology - and more specifically, what will become the dominant ideology of the Islamic world - will it be what we call "moderate Islam," or "radical Islam, or "secular," or "autocratic," or "democratic," or "a unified caliphate," or "tribal," or some huge mix-mash of all?

I'm welcome to hearing another descriptive name to identify what we are fighting. (or should I say, who is fighting us) Some argue is it merely criminal - mass murder. I think this is incorrect. Some think it Al Queda is merely a violent wing of the anti-globalization movement. I don't particularly agree with that characterization, either. I find Islamic Fascism to be the most descriptive. AN IMPORTANT NOTE: most Islamic Fascist will not be beaten by guns and bombs - most will need to be defeated ideologically, their influence stunted and proven unpopular.

So, yes, America's institutions were not set up to fight this war, prior to it beginning. Call it bad planning. But the fact is, you can't plan for everything, and I am willing to give Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II a pass for not forseeing the Al Queda threat. There's certainly an argument to made that they or their administrations failed us, by not listening to the terrorist experts beforehand. But I hardly think it was obvious (at the time) that all this would happen. After all, PLO groups and Libyan groups, and Hezbollah have been around for a long time and never openly declared war on America.

II. Solution

There are two basic modes for developing solutions to complicated problems: 1) Plan, plan, plan. Take all the knowledge from experts and compile it into a creative morass for leaders to shift through and take the wisest course of action on how to deal the aformentioned problem. This includes all the experts listed...NGOS, Army, Cultural Linguists, all that shit...Bush obviously didn't go for this option. The other option is essentially 2) Trial and Error. You test a solution, if it doesn't work, you make an adjustment, if it does work, you move on. And on and on and on...clearly, this is the approach the Bush admin has taken.

Neither approach is inherently better than one another. Some people plan every last detail...take Michael Mann. The dude plans shots on specific days at specific locations at specific times because of the light quality. Versus says, Robert Altman, who gets a group of friends together and sees what happens. Whose to say which approach is better? Each has an upside and each a downside. I like the trial and error approach, which is why I supported the Iraq war. I don't mean to be flip about war and lives, but from a theoretically perspective, this is how one approaches such problems. In my opinion, we tried NGO and UN and being sensitive and limited military response to the Islamic Fascist issue. It didn't work. We tried, it failed. Some things worked, but overall, the issue got larger, not smaller. So we try something else - getting rid of a dictator to see whether democracy or some other form of government will draw generations of Muslims away from the radicals. It's a gamble, a test. It might well fail. But I don't think it's failed yet.

With respect to Nate's goes back to this issue. He thinks we need to plan it out...change our institutions, shore up support, etc. Fair enough, these are tactical and strategic choices. I think we take what institutions we have, apply those to the problem and make adjustments along the way seeing what does and doesn't work.

III. Last Point

I don't find it fair or accurate to paint the American soldier as a kid pulled off a tractor to go fight against his will. Our army, right now, is a volunteer army. People choose to become soldiers. I can't stand this argument that poor people are forced into the army from a lack of other options. Poor people around the world and across time always have had fewer options and without an army, have fewer still. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for the soldiers, like I'm thankful for policemen, firemen, farmers, and garbage men. Most of them do a good job - and maybe all of them are better people than me....

...and I can see that going to Iraq and putting your labor where your opinions lie would be a bold, brave thing to do. I'm not sure it would make you wiser in terms of understanding the entire conflict. I don't think grips on film sets make better story tellers than a lawyer simply because they've worked on movie sets.

But anyway, if GW Bush or the Army came up to me and said, Greg, we really need you skills (running fast, blogging a lot, making jook) to win this war against the Islamicists, well shit, I'd probably do what they asked. In the absense of that, I'll still have opinions, still blog them, and try to make a good movie about it.

Anyhow, don't think i'd make a great soldier anyway...maybe a good spy.
The Best Natalie Portman Performance...

...since beautiful girls. No joke.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Quote

"Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil." - Thomas Mann

Not bad.
Is It Just Me?

Or are most career advice articles the stupidist things written in the paper. Here are msn's questions to ask yourself in order to find the perfect career:

1. What are you good at? Blogging a lot, running fast, making fun of people, making jook.

2. What interests you? Girls, sports, movies, poker, Islamic Terrorism. (not in that order)

3. What motivates you and is most important to you? Fear.

4. How much money would you realistically like to earn? Lots.

5. What level of responsibility do you want? Enough to be respectable. Not too much stress.

6. Where do you want your ideal job to be located? Collyfornia.

7. What special knowledge would you like to include in your career? Some type of martial art.

8. What kind of work environment do you prefer? Hot chicks.

9. What types of people do you like to work for and with? Cool.
Fair's Got Nothing To Do With It

Why it is okay for Israel and India to have the bomb and bad for Iran and Pakistan.

Money quote:

"The Israeli bomb threatens nobody. An Iranian bomb does. India has transferred its nuclear technology to no one. Pakistan has. No one worries about India or Israel making the technology available to terrorists. Everyone worries about Iran doing that. These are distinctions with great differences. They are, as critics charge, double standards, but to apply a single standard to both friend and enemy, while it might be fair, would be singularly stupid," - Richard Cohen, making abundant sense, in the WaPo today.

I just ripped it from Andrew Sullivan.

When Iranian Mullah's claim "it's not fair," it reminds me of Flea in the Big Lebowski saying the same which John Goodman replies, "Fair? You're a fricking nihilist. You don't even believe in fair." (i butchered it).

PS: Bombings in India at a Hindu temple. Guess who? Now if we only had changed our public policy against Israel. Riiiight.

I look up CNN to read about the bombings in India - don't find it, but instead find that Teri Hatcher is talking about being sexually abused by her uncle when she was a young child.

I have nothing intelligent to say about the thing, but it strikes me as a rather brave thing to talk about publically.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Oscars

Watching a videotape copy of the Oscars. There's no other way to watch it. My comments are going to a lame rehashing of things I read and things I heard that in watching the show, I happened to agree with...but I'll try to be original, as best I can:

1. Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep - now those are woman - proud, funny, smart. Altman deserved such an introduction.

2. A lot of the actors nominated for best and supporting are real ACTORS, as in, if they were born 150 years ago, pre-cinema, they'd still be actors - Phillip Hoffman, David Stratheim, Paul Giamatti, William Hurt, Terrence Howard, and Heath Ledger (I include him b/c I think his performance in Brokeback is THAT good - he's not like C. Theron, who just uglies herself up and expects to be respectable). I can't say the same about any of the actresses, maybe Frances McDormand.

3. That being said, there actors and there are STARS. The biggest male star - George Cloony. Can't deny it, the guy oozes charisma. The Oscars felt like his house, didn't it? The biggest female star - Ziyi Zhang. She's bigger than the rest.

4. Hip hop sounds better on CD than live.

5. Ethan Hawke & Ed Norton - idiots.

6. My favorite seating arrangement - Jack Nicholson next to Keira Knightley.

7. Next year there are going to five other movies up there, nominated, no matter what. Like clockwork. Like the eerie march of time. Like specially produced goods.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Best Blogs

The only two blogs I go back and read old entries are my own (for personal reasons) and Europundits, because it's written so damn well. I only wish he wrote more...but then when lacking new articles, I go back and read his old articles they hold up. It's really quite impressive. Here is an archive of Sept. 2003. All good stuff, particularly the analysis of the Iraq war.

But what I wanted to talk about was this section of a different article:

My doubt is: can we trust our leaders, this meaning basically the Bush administration? They seem frequently indecisive. They don’t speak as clearly as it would be desirable. They are criticized unfairly and full time by a hostile media and sometimes seem to act in order to appease their critics. They’re vulnerable to all hazards of the political and electoral games.

But, having seen the behaviour of the Democrats, it is only reasonable to conclude that it could be worse. Making a long story short: can this administration win the war? Whether it can or can’t, an alternative leadership would possibly mean defeat and surrender. I’m afraid even to consider the possibility of how things would look like were the Americans to give up the fight.

But then, if we try to look at the situation with a colder eye, another question emerges: whose war is this, after all? It’s not Bush’s war. It’s not any administration’s war. This war has been directly declared on the American people. And the test that is being put to this people is: do they have what it takes to win? Are they resolute and, if so, will they force their resolution on any administration?

This weekend, I got into an argument with an old co-worker who was an idiot. He wanted to pick a fight about the injustice of the Iraq war, he said that other countries were more dangerous (which ones, I asked...he said, others, I'm not sure), that if we changed public policy towards Israel the OBL's of the world would no longer attack us (too stupid a notion to even consider), and that he indeed believes in conspiracy theories (how do we really know it was Al Queda that attacked us).

Anyhow, the question remains - do we Americans have the resolve to deal with the fact that a small number of clever, committed people, want to hurt and kill us in order to thrust themselves into positions of power?

I think the answer is both yes and no. I think most Californians do not have the resolve and will to fight this enemy, militarily, and more importantly, ideologically. The guy I had dinner CANNOT defeat a jihadist ideologically. He cannot explain why they are wrong and why the American and Western systems of government are more legitimate. He is first reduced to flagellatistic notions of American cruelty (as different and WORSE than cruelty that exists in other places and/or times...example - outrage of Abu Gharib and silence during Saddam's torture chambers), then reduced to apologizing and excusing acts of horrific barbarity when not perpetrated by America (well, you can understand why they become suicide bombers), then reduced to moral relativism and equivalence (well, Iran should be able to have nukes if we do), and finally, in the most odious, Orwellian trick, substitutes lies for truth and by repeating them enough times to himself and his peers, believes that indeed 2+2 = 5, Mossad did 9/11, and the US government invented Osama Bin Laden.

There are different levels here, but all of them, belie a lack of resolve in dealing with the Islamic Fascist threat. Many Americans, particularly Californians, don't want to believe we are at war. Sometimes this feel-good, open arms mentality is good, particularly for breaking down prejudices resulting from xenophobia, etc. But it can also be naive and stupid when applied to someone who does not seek to be your friend, and instead, is using you and your inventions and the fruits of you freedom in a parasitic way to undermine the open-society we all value. Terrorists use planes they could not invent as weapons. They use the internet they could not invent for communication.

Fortunately, I have a solution to the lack of resolve. Because most Americans are too lazy to understand the details of the conflict and aren't committed to seeing it resolved, we shouldn't decide our foreign policy on what's popular. **I've always acknowledged that I have fascist tendancies - for operating a film set, decisions on where to go drink and eat, and on good and bad taste (clothes, movies, books, people).** And even in a democracy, we acknowledge that the masses don't always get it right - so we have a representative democracy...and in some cases a vanguard of experts - the supreme court. So with respect to the Islamic Fasicist issue - we don't listen to the idiots. My opinion counts more than the jerk I ate dinner with. It is that plain and simple. If I'm with three idiots and they all have stupid opinions based on lies and falsehoods and lazy psuedo-intellectualism, then their three votes count less than my one - because I know what I'm talking about and they don't. There's the solution.

Now if someone has better taste in food, can make a better movie, or knows a smarter way to deal with Islamic Fascists, by all means, I defer to their wisdom and my vote is worth less....but don't that America ought to not take the fight to the terrorists because a lot of fools think it's the wrong move. If we learned anything from Seinfeld, doing the opposite can sometimes be smarter than going with the instincts...
The Cutting Edge

Once again, Public Musings is on the cutting edge of terrorism analysis. Here was my post on the UNC college student driving his car into people (and turning himself in, mind you) and here is the Counterterrorism blog coverage.

We both make the note that this is NOTHING compared to real terrorists and the media's overcoverage of it obscures the real issue. Namely - Michelle Malkin.

Obviously, the experts over at Counterterrorism are reading my blog for ideas.
Here's To Kirby

Kirby Puckett died today from a stroke. He was 45.

I never liked the Twins. But I always liked Puckett. I have his rookie card - 1985 topps. He was one of those players who was always better than his stats - and his stats were always good.

Somehow the Puckett Twins were always better than they looked on paper. I don't know what it is about some athletes, but they carry something with them, maybe it's attitude, but I think it might be better characterized as an aura, that you sense while watching them play - that their team is going to win or at the very least, put up a damn good fight ALL the time. Puckett was one of those players.

If you've played sports, it's those teams that are difficult to beat. They aren't flashy, they don't wow you, they don't even really intimidate you. You feel like you ought to win, but then time after time, they get the better of you...I've been on those teams and played against those teams. The Twins are like that (even post Puckett). The Tom Brady New England Patriots are like that in football. The Pistons both of Joe Dumars and Ben Wallace are like that in bball.

Anyhow, here's to Kirby.
A Must See

To the top of the netflix list. A Boy and His Dog.
I'd Live There

Actually, I do live there.
You Know You're In Trouble...

When the logline to your movie is a question with a self-evident answer.

For example: "Is a picture worth your life?"
Goddammit Man

Watching films for the FUN. I'm watching a really good one. I'm like - shit the writing is good in this. How did he get these actors - the white chick from Hustle and Flow, the lead guy I recognized, but couldn't place him. I'm waiting for the credits. There are none. Damn. Some talented mother fucker out there.

I pull the DVD out and on the cover - directed by David Benoiff. For christ-fucking sake.
A Terrorist?

Call him what you want - this guy at UNC plowing his jeep into people in response to the cartoon publishing and protesting how Muslims are treated around the world. I think there is a little bit of danger in automatically assuming this guy is a terrorist in the way OBL or Hamas or Hezbollah are terrorists. I doubt if he is affiliated with any type of organization.

I imagine this guy being an uber weirdo, passive, prone to believing in conspiracy theories, fantasy ideology and getting prodded along by hippy former Marxists and Islamicists on campus. These elements and types are a lot LESS dangerous, still, than organized terror groups. This guy obviously went on a rampage, but obviously wasn't Mohammed Atta committed. I hope it is not a harbinger of things to come, like more radical acts from previously less committed groups or a sign that terrorist groups might start recruiting on campus for talented terrorists.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Jimmy Kimmel

Watching the show b/c Tarantino is supposed to be on...just watched a little skit. They definitely shot it on the Panasonic 24p. It looks good, man, no denying it.

UPDATE: Tarantino is off his rocker. Hollywood did him bad.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


An article lets loose on Hollywood screenwriters.

I fear she is correct. LA is segregated to those who make it segregated. But if you live in Echo Park, Silverlake, or K-town it's pretty hard to argue that you're segregated.

If people want to desegregate, why not go eat Roscoe Chicken and Waffle, watch movies at Magic Johnson Theaters, send your kid to public schools, or simply ride the bus? That's all it really takes, doesn't it?
Still True

A good response to Fukayama.

"Such a policy of dictator promotion is as shortsighted now as it was in 2003, or as it was on September 10, 2001. Dictators are band-aids, loosely placed over a festering wound of Jihadist rage. Band-aids always fall off. Band-aids do not heal wounds. If we support the band-aids, we ally ourselves with the status quo that continues to promote Islamism as the only viable alternative to corrupt authoritarian rule."

We often forget that going through the UN, limited military engagement in the middle east, passive support of non-immenent threats, was all tested for a 20-year period, roughly 1981-2001. I do not think the results were good. That is way I favored and continue to favor a different approach - ie Iraq, because the middle east is a powder keg so long as the only dissent possible under authoritarian regimes is the jihadi one...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Bad Reporter

For those unfamiliar with the Bad Reporter cartoons at SF Gate, I highly recommend.

At a shitty computer, so can't blog well. But titles of some cartoons:

1. At Least Ports Weren't Sold to Gays or Blacks
2. Gay Marriage Ban Blocks At Least 3 Gay Al Queda Marriages.
3. Al Queda's New Orleans Hideout Still Unsafe to Return To

4. Tensions Escalate As Arab Newspaper Prints 12 cartoons mocking US Ports

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Targeted Killings

In the newest Foreign Affairs there is an article examing targeted killings.

Sadly, the link only provides a summary, but I'm in the middle of the full article and it's a good analysis.

The primary examples they cite are Israel's targeted assassintion attempts against Hamas and other Palestinian groups. In one case, Israel dropped a huge bomb on an apartment building, killing a Hamas leader, but also killing his daughter and 16 other children. In another case, Israel hit a "dream team" target of Hamas leaders meeting, but the bomb was too small and no one died.

Obviously, there are up and down sides to a policy of target assassinations. Israel has gotten widespread condemnation from around the world, including the US, for such heavy-handed practices. Arguably, it has helped swell the ranks of terrorist groups, led to revenge attacks against Israeli citizens, and arguably, helped Hamas gain legitimacy as evidenced by the election results.

The upside is that through the policy of targeted assassinations coupled with the construction of the wall, Israel is the first country to demonstrate an ability to cripple terrorist activity militarily. The first time a Hamas leader was assassinated, Hamas responded by sending in 4 suicide bombers to Israel. After killing Shiek Yassin and immediately thereafter, his successor, Hamas was not able to retaliate, and decided to no longer publically announce the new leadership for fear of Israeli attacks.

Last year, Hamas, for the first time, declared a cease-fire against Israel, a policy which has been observed thus far.

Hamas themselves have admitted to the crippling effect of the Israeli policy and it is one of their main security concerns, constantly appealing to the international community to discourage the practice. What seems clear is that while terrorist groups can recruit and refill their ranks, often as a result of aggressive policies by Western nations, it is difficult o make a GOOD terrorist.

So when Israel decides to kill leaders and other good terrorists, it is not so easy for Hamas to train replace them.

It is similar to Al Queda's post 9-11 attempt at sending Richard Reid, a half retarded guy to try to blow up his shoe in the airplane. His case is a marked contrast to Mohammed Atta, an A-student with great leadership skills, a guy who ran the 9-11 mission.

My question, with respect to Israel's policy is two-fold. If the policy was working - why did they stop? The cease-fire is ostensibly a good thing, but could Israel have continued with the assassinations and dealt Hamas death blow? Could they have eliminated the military effectiveness of the organization? Hamas, by every indication, is not compromising. They would only sign on to a cease-fire if they had little to no ammunition left. Are they simply rebuilding and training for more future attacks and did Israel miss a major opportunity?

Also, did the cease-fire pave the way to the Hamas victory in elections? Did it enable them to concentrate their resources towards winning the election versus fighting Israel? Or did the policies in the first place lead towards the election victories?

Interesing questions.
Moderate Muslims

The big silent majority. Or maybe not so silent...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

No Wonder There Are So Many Saudi Terrorists

Not only is there no alcohol in the kingdom, there are no MOVIES.
Wonderful Letter

An amazing letter written by a Muslim Student at UofI talking about the Danish cartoons and the UofI MSA response to them.
New Roommate

This is why picking a new roommate will be a delicate and important process. Yipes!
When Kobe Reads This... the back of his mind, he probably thinks, "not the worst idea."
The Yale Taliban

Fair enough, they want to let him in and he can go to Yale. But the "feminists" on campus ought to find it morally repugnant. This post gets it right.

Don't expect a word of protest from our feminist and gay groups, who now have in their midst a live remnant of one of the most misogynistic and homophobic regimes ever. They're busy hunting bogeymen like frat parties and single-sex bathrooms.

I hope he's wrong.