Monday, July 31, 2006

Quick Explanation

Can anyone remind me why Israel is getting international condemnation for accidentally killing civilians? The Geneva Convention states that when an enemy hides behind a civilian population they bear the full responsibility for the deaths of those civilians. Beyond that, Hezbollah, per the United Nations does not have the right to be an armed group. They are, in this case, double-ly wrong, both acting as an illegitimate army AND purposefully hiding amoung civilians, thereby ensuring civilian casualties.

And yet, the international community criticizes Israel?!? The world, right now, quite simply, sucks.

Update: And Hezbollah knows it, which makes it even worse. It also promises to continue....but hey, why don't we face facts: there are lots of people an organizations who benefit from terrorism and the misery it causes, ie rogue governments, news media, disgruntled members of society.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Oh, America

Why is it when comes down to Iraq, it is frowned upon by the rest of the world for America to act unilaterally, but when it comes to the Israeli-Hezbollah fight, we are supposed to be the unilateral peace-brokers?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Can Israel Win?

One of the biggest problem with our struggle against Islamic Fascism is a struggle of definitions.

How is it that both sides can claim victory? I read today in MSNBC that Hezbollah is saying they defeated Israel in a battle. Israel says they achieved their objective by going in and wearing down Hezbollah fighters and retreating. Hunh? So both sides achieved their objective? Now, there's something wrong with that...

Israel made a big, bold claim, that they would compel Hezbollah to disarm. If they achieve less than they, it seems to me, Hezbollah wins.

What we need more than a "victory" against Islamic Fascism is an admission from Islamic Fascists that they've been defeated. We need one of their stated goals to be destroyed. We need their side humiliated.

More on how to do that later.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Thoughts on Men and Women

In working on a couple film shoots in the past month and coming home, there's something I noticed about working in groups between men and women. Women tend to be concerned with whether everyone is helping out and participating and doing their share. Men, however, tend to be more concerned with whether they are being useful.

The example that made me think of this happened tonight when my sisters and mom were all working on putting dinner together. We were eating hardly required any work, and yet, they wanted me to help out by doing something - anything - even though my help was so nominal it would have probably been easier just to do it themselves. But they wanted to know that I was helping out in some capacity.

It is also why on film shoots, if a man thinks he isn't need or being used, he won't show up or work very hard.

Both have their upsides and downsides. For one, women are supportive, even if things go wrong, so long as people tried hard and worked hard and participated. Men, on the other hand, aren't so supportive and understanding of others hard work, and hard workers might not feel adequately appreciated.

On the flip side, when things are going well, women will sometimes get sour because they don't feel like everyone is helping out or doing enough, when in fact, the greater whole is already being served.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What's Going On

A good, long article on what's going on in Lebannon, why and so forth.

The more information, the more it becomes clear, it does pretty much come down to good guys and bad guys.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Civil War or No Civil War

Is a wider war the worst thing that could happen in the Middle East? Was the Civil War worse than the practice of slavery? Were the religious wars of the 17th Century Europe, the reformation, etc, worse than keeping the status quo?

Maybe. I don't really know. It's all very confusing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Roger Simon lays into the "Starbucks" revolutionaries of Lebannon.
Double Feature

Pirates and the Devil Wears Prada. Yes, it was a day of rest for me. Pirates I found rather confusing...the plot, particularly. Devil Wears Prada was quite good, although I think they really pulled their punches at the end. Too bad.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Key to the Middle East

In the nightmare that is the Middle East, the Greg theory on how to shape the future of the region rests upon the principal of putting time on our side. Cite: Mick Jagger.

But seriously. Under Saddam, time was working against us. He had two psychopath sons waiting in the wings, meanwhile, the region was festering with anger and resentment towards America for the Iraq sanctions, support for Israel, or any fill-in-the-blank reason of the week.

A big part of going into Iraq was to shift the momentum back our way. Like going to the full court press in bball. Yeah, it's more energy in the short term, but perhaps it takes the game in a different direction. And plus, when you're losing, what's there to lose?

Kaus gets it.
A Chronicle of what Happens When Greg Drives Back with the Actor on Andy's Movie

1. The actor gushes over the movie production and the creative process.
2. We discuss the Middle East and the Iraq War.
3. We play Kill-Fuck-Marry about the girls on the movie shoot.
4. We talk about the role of therapy in American society and it's influence on movies/tv, particularly the Sopranos.
4. We listen to music. "Off the Wall" Michael Jackson.
5. We listen to friends of the actor's music, to see if it fits in with the themes of Andy's movie.
6. We talk about how Greg would edit Andy's movie.
7. We stop for gas and eat disgusting Burger King with Tim, the AC, who we caravan with.
8. We hit the road.
9. We quickly stop when Tim sees water splashing from below Greg's car. It's just a valve dripping because the temperature has cooled.
10. We listen to the actors own musical performances from college. For a really long time. This is the most uncomfortable element of the trip.
11. We transition back to other music. Greg plays songs he thinks the actor would like.
12. We make phone calls.
13. We listen to the Best of Eddie Murphy comedy sketches.
14. We stop to pee.
15. We talk more about the Middle East.
16. We drop the actor off at home.
17. Greg drives home.
But Let Me Ask You This...

If Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy, why isn't Iran completely "at fault" with respect to the rocket attacks and kidnappings?

While I agree it hardly seems worthy to engage in WWIII over a few soldiers and rockets that haven't killed that many people, the international community has once again failed to deal with Iran/Syrian proxy wars with Israel. What response should Israel pursue? How can they possibly "exercise restraint," which they do nearly every time they are attacked. At some point they must respond, but every time they do, the international community asks them to be measured. Hunh? Aren't they "measured" 95% of the time? Isn't the status quo a "measured" Israeli response? What happens when they are being "measured" and the attacks escalate? Are they supposed to respond the exact same way?

All of this is absurd.

The middle east is a nightmare of different groups pursuing oddball agendas in goofy, violent ways. It's like a poker game in which none of the players agree what hands beats what. Imagine a player at a table claiming two pair beats four of a kind. And the player with four of a kind won't stand for it. Meanwhile, another player at the table insists the two pair wins. The rest of the table tells the player with a four of a kind to be "measured" and to "exercise restraint."

What a joke.
I Leave For A Week

And Israel is at war, the world cup is over, and my room is still a mess.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I Had to Read That Guy

Focault, an early supporter of the Iranian revolution. Way to go, man!

All I remember was reading something about how I was enslaved and didn't know it. That seems to be the theme of many "intellectual" conversations and discussions...I wonder what that's about?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Greg's All World Cup Team

If I had to put together a squad to play, this would be it:

Goalie - Buffon - ITL
Left Back - Zambrotta - ITL
Right Back - Thuram? - FRA
Center Back 1 - Canavarro - ITL
Center Back 2 - Terry - ENG
Left Wing - Ribery - FRA
Right Wing - Christiano Ronaldo - PORT
Center Mid 1 - Appia - GHA
Center Mid 2 - Rosicky - CZE
Forward 1 - Henry - FRA
Forward 2 - Adriano - BRZ

My favorite player is off: Zidane. I love to root for him, but it's hard to argue that he'd beat himself 8 years ago. Plus, this is a team I think would play well together. I'm shakey on the right back, I don't know who is best...and with the wings, there are a bunch of guys who would be good, but those two were the most impressive to me this tournament. Guys I hate leaving off: Odonkor, Essie, Ballack,
Sounds Jealous To Me

J-Lo's ex husband is talking trash. Not that I don't believe him.
But That Don't Make It a Good Idea...(Chris Rock accent please)

"Sure, you can raise your kid without a daddy. You can drive a car with your feet, but that don't make it a good idea."

It feels appropriate when trying to rationalize North Korea's behavior, as this guy does...yeah, he can launch a missile into the sea, but that don't make it a good idea.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Soprano or Stalker

The most common theory on North Korea and their bizarro behaviour is that they are basically a gangster state, using the threat of force to extort as much as they can from the citizenry and their neighbors. What also lends itself to this theory is the hilarity of some of their antics.

The other proposed theory I heard on NPR today, was the stalker theory, that North Korea has essentially been stalking the United States for attention for the past 15 years or so, begging for one-on-one talks and acting all crazy, when the US ignores her (I mean, them). I rather like this theory because it explains the self destructiveness. I mean, the North Koreans seem to me, completely irrational.

But then again, on NPR, they argued the difference between North Korea and Iran, is that while North Korea is irrational, they are not fundamentalists and they tend to have a realist approach to foreign relations. They are willing to take X in exchange for Y and so forth. I'm not sure how this squares with most of their general kookiness, but that's what they were saying on the radio.

Anyhow, I think it's worth pointing out that North Korea is indeed a slave state, in that Kim Jong Il technically is god or something and everyone in the country is officially owned by him.

If I cared about human rights as much as I should, I'd be outraged. We all would be. And maybe we'd talk about it a little more and Guantanomo Bay a little less.

But the truth is that North Korea really isn't that much of a threat. They can't hit us with the long range missiles. I worry slightly that they'll give away a nuke to terrorists, but my gut is that the terrorists and north koreans would have trouble dealing with one another. I dunno, that's just my instinct. So technically, we shouldn't really have to deal with them. Why stir up trouble? Why do we even care about 6 party talks? Just let Japan and China deal with them. Shit, let Japan build a nuke, they could do it in about three weeks. These countries are the ones that should be worried about North Korea, not us.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What Do You Know?

My predictions held up - France upset Brazil and Italy beat Germany.

At this point, I think the Italians must be the favorites. They haven't given up a goal. And now their offense has come on strong. Two cross bars, several other opportunities, and finally, the two goals.

For a "defensive" team, they sure look creative on the offensive end. I particularly like how their defenders make runs into the attack, particularly Zambrotta, my favorite player on the team.

France v. Portugal is a tough one to predict. I will be rooting heavily for France, but I also think two things: it's tough to come back and play the next week after a completing a huge upset and that France thinks it can win the whole thing again and might look past Portugal.

That being said, I don't think Portugal is that strong. They couldn't put away an uninspired England down a man. I'd say talent-wise, they are about even, both teams have several super stars, some young, some old, and then a bunch of strong supporting role players.

I'd say Portugal is a little suspect defensively, but have a great keeper and France is strong defensively, with a weak keeper.

So, it is again, a really tough call. It'll honestly probably come down to Zidane. If he plays well, France wins. If not, Portugal, maybe in PKs.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sounds Refreshing

After seeing Superman, I need to purge with some Larry Clark.
Superman Re-write

This is the story I would have pitched in lieu of what became a boring 2 hr 40 min monstrosity:

Act 1: Lex Luther is up to something really bad, like destroying an entire city with some type of super weapon with a crew of serious gangsters/criminals (not Kumar). Superman saves the day, but there is some issue with territory as the FBI or cops or someone felt they could have prevented Luther from hatching his scheme. Luther goes to jail and there is a little bit of backlash against Superman. Perhaps a bureaucrat or politician or FBI leader develops an anti-Superman movement. Then, Superman misunderstands or tries to save someone who didn't really need to be saved and he gets accused of being an egotist and a relic from the old days. A big anti-Superman movement begins and everyone turns against him. Clark Kent is the only one who continues to stand up for him, and the straw that breaks the camel's back is when even Lois Lane thinks Superman is no longer necessary, especially after Luther has been all locked up. Kent is given the task of telling Superman, and he is heartbroken.

Act 2: Kent is sad because everyone is excited that they can fend for themselves and no one needs Superman. People start to mock and satirize Superman. Kent is sad monkey, and even grows to dislike Lois Lane for her disloyalty to Superman. At his lowest point, Clark meets a woman - Delilah who seems to be the answer to all his problems. She falls in love with Clark and he finally seems to have found a woman who notices him.

Meanwhile, Clark is given the task of following the new task force that deals with all criminals. Their abilities are remarkable and they are doing a great job of keeping the streets safe. Even Clark begins to buy into the idea that Superman is no longer necessary. He grows happier and happier. He incidentally grows cockier and cockier and begins to take on some of Superman-like traits without the super powers.

Lois notices the change in Clark and doesn't like it. Finally she starts to notice Clark, but for all the wrong reasons. He still has feelings for her, but decides to stick with Delilah because Delilah is honest and good to him.

Midpoint: Lex Luther gets out of jail on a technicality and goes free. The task force is confident they can keep him under wraps. Lois Lane goes on the story.

Luther assembles a great big gang to hatch another scheme. They all are wary of Luther, don't trust him, and figure Superman is going to screw them over again. Luther indicates that he thinks he's solved the Superman problem.

It turns out the Delilah character did some study to discover who Superman was and figured out it was Clark Kent. She went to work for Luther while he was in jail and they've hatched a scheme for world domination.

While Clark is happy, going along with the Task Force, Lois Lane discovers what Lex Luther and Delilah are up to.

She tries to confront Clark and Clark needs to figure out who to believe, Delilah or Lois Lane. He chooses Delilah. Meanwhile, chaos has started to break out. Luther's thugs are running wild and the task force is having trouble controlling them. They keep trying new tactics that don't quite work.

Since they can't beat Luther, they broker a truce with him, giving him exactly what he needs (set up before) for world domination.

Act 3: Clark somehow discovers that Delilah has been lying to him and is working for the bad guys and is heartbroken. Even so, he can't summon the courage or energy to be Superman again, despite the fact that Luther is running wild. Lois Lane finds Clark and begs him to contact Superman again, that he is needed. Superman goes back into action and does some kick-ass shit, semi-breaking up Luther's plan.

But Luther and Delilah fight back by exposing Clark Kent as Superman. Superman again needs to save the day, and somehow also prove that Clark Kent and Superman are different people, which he pulls off while saving the whole world.

Suck that, Bryan Singer!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Value of Sport: When it Transcends Winning and Losing

So much of sport is result oriented, as it should be. One of the beautiful things about sport and any game for that matter is the clear cut ending - a winner and loser. It is one of those things that defines a game versus an activity and brings a clarity to life that is so often eluded during the real thing. It is a safe space to compete and show pride, determination, courage, and skill.

But there are times when sport transcends the won-loss column, when a team or athelete performs in such a way that reflects other heights, when they transcend the result and reflect something through their play, that make us think about larger things, about discovering a better and stronger and more courageous side of ourselves.

And in the midst of the World Cup, the greatest sporting event on earth, I a little third round match of Wimbledon caught my eye, pitting the 25th ranked player in the world versus the number 2.

Let's be fair. It wasn't just any third round match. It was Andre Agassi versus Rafael Nadal. What made this match interesting is that the 25th ranked Agassi had announced that this would be his final Wimbledon. And so the odds were stacked against Agassi moving any further along against the younger player, coming off his big French Open victory.

There is something incredible about Agassi. It feels as though the guy has been around my entire life, not just slogging along, but playing near the top level of tennis the entire time. When I first paid any attention to tennis, Agassi was a flashy upstart, with long hair, bright clothes, and the tennis spokesman for the the Nike movement. He was to be the Michael Jordan of tennis, a charismatic American, flashy, selling tons of shoes for the Phil Knight company.

And while Jordan went from the lovable underdog scoring 63 points in the playoffs against the powerful Larry Bird Celtics to the greatest NBA player of all time, winning 6 championships, retiring, playing baseball, coming back, winning again, retiring, coming back again, and eventually owning....Agassi never quite reached that level of achievement. He was, at one time, ranked number 1 for an astonishingly long time. But everyone knew, in the great match-ups between him and Pete Sampras, Sampras was the better player.

But then Sampras retired and Agassi got older and a newer generation of tennis players came along, Hewitt, Roddick, Blake, Nadal, and of course, the king of them all, Federer. Agassi played, never really becoming a dominant number 1 player, but always out, there, never a push over, always a worthy adversary. You watch his matches and notice his wife, Steffi Graf (imagine how good their kids are going to be), and think about her career - and jesus, it was half my life ago when she played, and there she is, still watching Andre play. It's quite astonishing, really. It's as if Agassi has played tennis across time. It is as if he could answer the inevitable question of sport - who would win - the Magic Johnson Lakers or the Chauncy Billup Pistons? The Bird Celtics or the Duncan Spurs?

Who would win: Sampras or Federer? Nadal or McEnroe? Andre knows.

The SF Chronicle article writes about Agassi's loss to Nadal in straight sets. I watched the replay of the first set. It was great tennis. And I knew the result, I knew Nadal would win. But while watching, you can't help but root for Agassi. What is that? Why do some athletes have that feature? You see it sometimes in games when fan start to applaud the other team. In Brazil-Ghana, the Brazilian fans applauded Ghana at times. In watching Agassi play Nadal, I almost got the sense (perhaps imagined), that even Nadal was rooting for Andre. One more victory for the legend.

No one commands that kind of love. Jordan became fun to root against. I rooted for the John Stockton-Karl Malone Jazz against Jordan. It was no fun to see him win it again. Agassi never achieved that level of success, never got on the perch to be knocked down. He was an underdog, but an underdog that always had a chance to win.

How has he been around so long? At the end of the match, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. What other American athlete can go around the world to receive an ovation? Our World Cup team moves around in an unmarked bus, the only team to do so. Our basketball Olympic team sleeps on a war ship partrolled by Navy Seals in scuba gear. Our baseball team at the World Baseball championship was the whipping boy and favorite team to hate.

Agassi need not do that. He is beloved. A beloved mixed race American (half Persian - guess that is the same race, technically). Cocky and obnoixous when young, graceful and noble as he's grown old.

He only won one Wimbledon.
The Burden of Power

This is a great article about how tiring it must be to be Superman, or America, for that matter.

He sets up the article well, Superman has the power to save anyone, but not everyone. And so with any one person he saves, there are three others who can legitimately complain, "Why didn't you save me?"

It is the same question of why Iraq and not North Korea, or Iran, or Sudan?

I have one major disagreement with the article, however, "A small but growing number of ideologues on both sides of the political aisle believe that America is simply too powerful. Some of these ideologues will say so directly; they distrust America, or even detest its culture for being fascistic and/or decadent, and they believe that the world will be a better place if America's prominence diminishes."

I think he gets this wrong. I think America would be better off if our power diminished, but the world would be worse off.

The majority of the Arab Middle East hates us. (Maybe it's secret love, but it sure takes the form of hate and anger and resentment) The hate has been brewing for years and continues no matter what we do. They hate us for doing nothing in Iraq (allowing UN sanctions), or doing nothing about Saddam, and they hate us for "occupying" Iraq. They hate us when we intervene, they hate us when we don't intervene. They hate us when we pay attention, they hate us when we ignore.

If we were less powerful, and say the Islamicists came to power across the Middle East or say, the Communists, or whomever, the people of the Middle East would love us. They would love our religious tolerance or our religious moderation. They would love freedom and democracy, because they would know how terrible a Taliban-like state would be.

We wouldn't get attacked because the Islamicists would be so busy killing and oppressing their own people and they would have something to lose. They would leave us alone, sell us oil at inflated prices, and we would be happy...and the entire region would not.

It is ironic, methink.
And Now to Zidane

If he is able to lead France (and he does lead, moreso than any other player in the world), will he be considered the best ever? What a third act it would be? Zidane cemented himself as the best player in the world in his two goal performance, World Cup finals victory over Brazil in 1998. He went on a five year spree of leading France to a Euro 2000 victory, Real Madrid to a European Cup victory and just being generally, the biggest badass on the block until about 2003 with a couple of European player of the year awards, despite the 2002 French exit from the World Cup. But prior to World Cup 2006, the buzz on Zidane was that he's old. Whispers came, from around the world, that France relies too heavily on their national hero. "They need to move on," they say. "They must let Henry take over. Their team is too loyal to their older players." It is the same criticism that is true for Brazil (Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo are fat jokes, right) and perhaps for the US as well. (Reyna)

But did you see the game yesterday? Zidane, playing like a 25 year old, dominating the Brazilian midfield. And Ronaldo, losing the ball, and flopping around like a baby. Yes, Ronaldo has scored more World Cup goals than anyone in history, but is there any doubt that Zidane is the best player of their generation? None.
World Cup Thoughts

Germany-Argentina was a weird match. Argentina was a much better team, but it seemed to me, they put themselves into the least-advantageous position to win the game...not purposefully or incompetently, but in a sort of Prisoner's Dilemma rational choice matrix which led them to the least desirable outcome.

The problem with Argentina is that they have 4 good strikers, all with different skills and experience. Each game, they can only start two of them and sub in one or two if need be. Usually they start Saviola and Crespo. Saviola is a creative, tricky, dangerous, player and Crespo is a finishing machine without much creativity, but a lot of toughness. Then on the bench they generally have two youngsters, Messier and Tevez. Messier, a lightinng quick playmaker, a pleasure to watch and Tevez, a street tough, hard nosed, deceptively creative attacker. All four are great players. Crespo usually manages to find a way to score when Argentina plays.

Clearly, Argentina wanted to play Germany aggressively, so they decided to start Tevez, one of their younger stars. Sadly, they benched Saviola, I think because they couldn't logically not start Crespo because of the sheer number of goals he scores (despite being the weakest player of the 4). But it is these types of games which reveal weakness and Crespo was pretty ineffective. If they had to do it over again, maybe Saviola and Tevez. I don't know.

But in any case, with Argentina up 1-0 and about 20 minutes left to play, logic dictates they should lock the game down and play tough defense to take home the victory. (Note, this logic often backfires in soccer). Also note, Argentina needed to use one of their subs for their injured goalie, something they obviously did not plan upon strategically. In their decision to lock down the game, they subbed in a player I did not know up front, Cruz. Obviously a defensive choice.

They also subbed Riquelme. I'm still not sure why. I think Riquelme was the most overrated player in the tournament. He is graceful on the ball, no doubt, but for a center mid he gives the ball away A LOT, and I wasn't impressed with his ability to win the ball in the middle. He is the type of player who looks incredible against bad teams, and weak against good teams. Germany handled him and I venture to guess than any really good midfielders from around the world would do the same. I'd take Gerrard or Lampard, Essie or Appia, Zidane or Viera, Rozicky, Ballack, and frankly any of the Italian center mids over him. I guess it was a defensive substitution because the Argentine coach knows what I suspect. Still, I'm not sure if it was a wise sub, because now, Argentina has made 2 defensive subsititions. Anyhow, it was logical, but not necessarily smart. And despite Riquelme being overrated, I'm sure he's a better player than whoever Argentina subbed for him.

And of course, Germany equalized and now Argentina is in the position of needing a goal - either in overtime and in penalty kicks and they have 4 of their 5 most dangerous offensive players on the bench (Riquelme, Crespo, Saviola, and Messier). They don't even play their arguably two most dangerous players - Saviola and Messier.

And then they still play pretty well and had a few opportunities.

Like I said, weird game.
Liberals and the War on Terror

I should definitely read this book. I listened to an interview with Beinhart and he's got a respectable position and I applaud his effort to tackle the subject from the left. His argument is that only liberals can win the war on terror through respect for international institutions and use of coalitions, proven through the example of the Cold War. But Powerline, which for awhile was one of my favorite blogs and recently has become less-favored (too partisan), pretty much dissects his position, I feel, accurately.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Penalty Kicks

I don't like games ending on them, but what are you going to do? In both the England v. Portugal and Germany v. Argentina, those games could have gone on forever and both teams were so exhausted.

Too bad the teams I rooted for lost...but that's how it goes.

Predictions, probably will all be proved wrong, but France beats Brazil, Italy beats Germany.