No, not the Sub-Mariner. Here's the best article I've seen on Moon's weird March 23 coronation ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office. This makes my skin crawl.
Okay, back to packing...
Sunday, June 27, 2004
Can’t talk. Packing.
The big day is Monday, and the move is Tuesday. There’s a lot of work to be done here, before we can move everything over to Edison. One of those things is disconnecting this computer. And since Cablevision says that they need notice from the sellers that they’ll be disconnecting their cable before they give us any service (arrgh!), how soon we get the computer back online is anybody’s guess.
On the other hand, until it’s all cleared up, they’re paying for cable to come into our house. I hope they get HBO – I always wanted to see Deadwood.
Update: Cable's taken care of. I have mixed feelings about that, vis a vis Deadwood.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Hey, guess who’s back in the United States! After a month and change abroad working for a big company, wandering though Amsterdam, dining with sheiks in Dubai, getting his car’s sideview mirrors stolen by poverty-stricken Angolans – it’s my brother Jim! Give him a big hand and a warm welcome.
I haven’t spoken to him yet, but Mom says he wasn’t entirely comfortable with his work, and felt he should resign. But I know the real truth. He was rushing to get back home before Fahrenheit 9/11 opened. The boy loves his Michael Moore. (This is a bald-faced lie, by the way. He’s just a sucker for any film that wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Another lie. I can be trusted not at all tonight.)
Anyhow, we’re all glad to have him home – especially Kathy and me. Because there’s a good chance next Tuesday is clear for him, and we’ve got sofas to lift.
Welcome back, Jim.
Monday, June 21, 2004
Kathy and I saw Saved! the other night. You know, the high-school comedy set in the Born-Again Christian high school? And (not coincidentally), the movie playing in air-conditioned theaters around the country? Yeah, cooling off was our main goal (never did install the A/C, and with the move a week away, it seems like a waste of effort), but it turned out to be a darn fine movie.
Basically, the story begins when our heroine (Jena Malone) discovers that her boyfriend thinks he’s gay. A convenient bump on the head gets her to think that Jesus wants her to sleep with him to set him… er, straight. Soon afterward, comedy ensues. What’s interesting about the film is how it starts off with almost everyone seeming like the same character – high-school fundamentalists, every one – but as you get to know them, they all add more facets to their personality. It’s well cast, including MacCaulay Culkin as one of the supporting characters, and while he looks almost eerily pale (which might have been intentional for his role), he did a mighty good job. Patrick Fugit and the damn cute Eva Amurri also do great work. And Mandy More eats up the role of the bitchy queen of the clique.
Religion is very real to these people, and the moral and ethical problems they confront must be viewed through that lens, sometimes making hard choices even more difficult. It’s a source of conflict as well as comfort. What’s refreshing about the movie is that it doesn’t present the Born-Again characters as a counterpoint to other viewpoints – almost everyone in the movie shares the same faith (although some are more devout than others). This gives the characters the space to have personalities – in many other movies, being religious is the only personality trait a character gets.
One thing that struck me about Saved! was its underlying theme of forgiveness. Even Moore’s character – who does something pretty reprehensible – gets forgiven at the end. It’s a good message, and one that might elude a lot of critics who only react to the surface of the movie – what they think it will be, rather than what it is.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
I had just rubbed the sleep out of my eyes when I discovered that, after 124 years, we finally have a new emperor! Apparently, the Reverend Sun Myung Loon was crowned emperor and messiah in a senate office building last March, and we all missed it. Several congressmen were in attendance, though. More details are here.
I liked our last emperor better.
Saturday, June 19, 2004
So I had a dream the other night that the Queer Eye guys came to the Folk Festival and gave me hair. Only it was awful, two-toned hair that only Carson would like. And by the end of it I was a little pissed at Ted because he never taught me to cook anything.
For a couple of moments, I thought I had forgotten Green Lantern’s oath. This might not seem like much to you. It might seem like trivia. But for me, forgetting that oath was like staring senility right in the face…if only I could recognize it.
Everything’s okay. I remember it now. But for a moment… shudder.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
I’ve been giving a bit of thought to the “torture memo,” and how it relates to John Ashcroft’s Justice Department as a whole.
First off, let me get this out of the way – torture is morally reprehensible, and those who engage in it or condone it should be penalized to the harshest extent allowed by law (which, incidentally, falls somewhat short of torture). It’s repugnant how so many administration officials try to sidestep the issue, giving non-denial denials about whether torture was ordered in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo. Rumsfeld characterizes the behavior at Abu Ghraib as “abuse,” which is designed to make it seem not so heinous an act. But the difference between torture and abuse isn’t one of severity – its one of intent. A prison guard at a domestic maximum-security prison could beat a prisoner to within an inch of his life – fracture his skull, take out an eye from the beating. This would be wrong, of course, and it would be abuse, assault, or any number of other crimes.
But it wouldn’t be torture. Not unless the beating was done in order to elicit information from the convict. Torture is abuse in the name of getting to information that might not be given up otherwise. Beat the crap out of someone, that’s assault. Beat the crap out of someone while an interrogator asks questions, it’s torture.
But as reprehensible – as flat-out morally wrong – as torture is, the problem goes deeper than that. Not only does it ignore the Geneva conventions, putting all of our own captured soldiers at risk of the same treatment or worse, but it just simply gets bad information. It’s common sense (although backed up by the intelligence community): if you’ve got electrodes attached to my privates, I’m very likely to tell you what I think you want to hear – whether or not it’s true. Your interests may be in getting to the truth. Mine are making sure I don’t get shocked, and to hell with the truth. You want a Saddam/Al Qaida link? Yeah, I hearda that. Are there weapons of mass destruction? Yeah, whatever. Could you unfasten these clips…?
So while torture may get someone who knows something to tell the truth – stranger things have happened – its also likely to get plenty of people who know nothing to tell lies. And who’s to sort the bad information from the good? Reasonable, normal interrogation can help with that, but when torture is on the table, let alone in use, there’s no way to get a credible corroboration. All the info gained from torture, the shreds of good along with the mountain of bad – is ultimately useless.
Which brings me back to Ashcroft. Mountains of useless information is his M.O. That’s what the Patriot Act is all about. It makes it easier to authorize wiretaps, it allows far greater surveillance on ordinary U.S. citizens, it even allows access to a list of books we’ve taken out of the library – all in the name of more, not better, information. There were signs of the 9/11 attacks available to both the FBI and the CIA, but they were never followed up on to the extent they should have been. Part of that was because of breakdowns in communication. None of the problems associated with 9/11 were because they couldn’t get access to Mohammed Atta’s library books.
I read that an intelligence officer said of the Patriot Act: “We’re trying to find needles in a haystack; this just gives us more hay.” Even if it weren’t abhorrent; even if it weren’t setting our own servicemen up for retaliation – all torture does is add another bale to the pile.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
Sunday, June 06, 2004
So, Kathy & I saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban this afternoon. And I have to say, it’s probably my favorite of the movies so far. There’s less fretting over inconsequential stuff like which group has the most points, or Quidditch (say what you will about Quidditch, but when someone’s trying to kill you, sports should take a backseat). Even Harry’s tormentor, Draco Malfoy, gets put on the back-burner this time – there are a few confrontations, but in each, he’s revealed to be a spineless coward. It’s a wonder even his Slytherin chums hang out with him anymore – their self-images must be in the toilet.
I liked that the students were in more naturalistic clothes rather than their school uniforms for most of the action – it made them seem more like real kids. It also helps that as the three friends get older, they’re becoming better actors. I hope they give Ron more to do next time than look terrified or freaked out, but I have to admit he does a pretty convincing job at it.
There’s apparently one big scene (a flashback to the days when the adults were kids) that didn’t make it into this film. I’ve read that it was decided that it would work better in a future installment, and it may. I haven’t read beyond the second book, so I was coming to this movie with fresh eyes, and I have to say I didn’t miss the flashback one bit. Whether it helps a future movie remains to be seen, but its absence didn’t hurt this one.
I don’t know how to write about this without spoilers, so consider yourself warned before reading further.
My one problem with the film is that the last half-hour is pretty predictable. It goes with the territory, I guess, since it deals with time travel into the recent past. It was good to see it all play out, and I don’t know what I would have cut, but the film lost all of its tension for me once the jaunt back in time began.
Also, I have a question: When Harry sees the mysterious figure across the lake defend him against the dementors, the figure is bathed in light. It might have been a trick of the light, but it looked to me like the figure, for a moment, was a large, antlered figure – like a big whitetail buck or a bull elk -- glowing white. Now, I read about these critters just about every day at work, so my mind may be playing tricks on me. But for a second, it looked like an allusion to the spirit of the wood from an animated film I saw a few years ago. I think it was Princess Mononoke, but it may have been the Phoenix sequence of Fantasia 2000. Anyone remember this character, and did anyone see this same thing in HP3?
Oh, and by the way, writer Peter David has an amusing anecdote of his experience watching the film here:
Friday, June 04, 2004
Okay, it's been nearly 20 minutes since I sent out a notice that I'm blogging, and I come back from dinner, and what do I find? No comments.
Clearly, you all hate me.
But I will use that hate as fuel to power one of my awesome engines of destruction!
... Or I could wait a little while longer and see how this shakes out.
(But keep in mind... engines of destruction. The awesome kind.)
Who would Osama vote for?
That question is posed to me whenever I see a little sticker at one of the parking meter machines on my way to work. It always makes me think.
I’m not sure who Osama would vote for. For one thing, I have only the barest idea of who he is and how he thinks. Is he an evil madman, or an evil mastermind? Can he be both? Evil is certainly in the equation, at least by any decent set of values. He probably sees himself as some kind of revolutionary, but he’s a cowardly thug who hits and runs. He’s evil, sure, but I doubt he’d agree. (Or maybe he might. Maybe he knows he’s doing evil, and is intentionally sacrificing his own soul to achieve what he thinks is a greater good. It’s a creepy idea, to be sure, and probably doesn’t describe his mindset – but my point is, we don’t know.)
And also, he doesn’t seem like much of a small-d democrat to me. Charlie don’t surf, and Osama don’t vote.
But who would he want to win?
See, this gets me to wondering what the intention is of the person who posted the sticker? That mindset, I might be able to get into – if I could just figure out what it was. Does he think Osama would vote for Kerry (expecting him to pull out of Iraq), so we should vote for Bush? Or does he think Osama would vote for Bush (expecting him to stay in Iraq), so we should vote for Kerry?
Because wherever Osama is, it probably ain’t Iraq. By keeping our forces there, Bush a) diverting needed resources to find OBL, and b) fostering the feeling of a holy war between Christianity & Judaism and Islam, which will just feed the anger in the Middle East and grow Al Quaeda’s ranks. I think by going to Iraq in the first place – even though yes, it’s a good thing for Iraqis to have Saddam out of power – Bush played right into OBL’s hands. I’ve heard reports that Al Quaeda is back up to full strength since the initial (and deserved) war in Afghanistan, and I fear it will only get stronger, the more we persist with our current Middle East strategy.
I don’t know how to get out. But I know I don’t trust the guy who got us into this mess to do it.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Not much out in comics this week, but I WAS really glad to see a new issue of Phil & Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius (#11), which had been absent from the stands for far too long. It introduces more characters from the Girl Genius card game -- including one with a terrific backstory -- and it ends in a surprising cliffhanger. Good stuff.
Also, Superman: Birthright #11 came out – another decent read from Mark Waid & Leneil Yu, with some really nice moments for Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. No matter what people think of the continuity (I don’t get too wrapped up in those things), this is a solid, exciting story, with some really good character beats.