November 28, 2003

who am i? (1998)

director: jackie chan/benny chan
starring: jackie chan, michelle ferre, mirai yamamoto, ron smerczak

jackie chan's last hong kong film before hitting it big in the states with rush hour is a huge mess, plagued by a dopey amnesia plot and some of the worst acting ever in a chan film. still, when the action kicks in, chan delivers in droves, and the final half hour almost makes up for everything else. and that's all we really care about in a jackie chan film, right?

jackie is, naturally, jackie chan, a member of an elite special ops force who are sent to south africa to retrieve scientists working on harnassing fragments of a crashed meteorite that possess huge amounts of unstable energy. after the mission is complete, the squad is doublecrossed while returning on their helicopter, and in the ensuing struggle, jackie falls out of the chopper and wakes up without his memory.

luckily, he's dicovered by a local tribe, and they nurse him back to health. there are some language differences, so when he responds 'who am i?' to what his name is, they dub him that. a few days later, after he's finally on his feet, some trucks are spotted outside the camp. jackie raises his hands and yells, 'i'm saved.' and that's when things get a bit weird. because in the very next scene, we see jackie in full tribal gear and face paint running around with a spear.

apparently the folks over at columbia-tristar decided to cut out about nine minutes of the film. now, all of jackie's films in the mid-90s that made it over here were cut by 20-30 minutes, so that doesn't seem so bad. well, they apparently decided to cut out some major plot points, such as why he doesn't get saved and ends up a full-fledged family member of the tribe. for all of the crowing about miramax and their cuts to hong kong films, this has to rank as one of the most jarring cuts ever made. there are numerous 'wtf?' moments throughout the movie that are explained by the deleted scenes, and it totally disrupts the flow of the movie at times.

not that this really matters, because as a movie, this is pretty laughable stuff. jackie hightails it back to civilization after a chance encounter with a stranded offroads racer (mirai yamamoto) and helps her win the race, thus getting his picture in the local paper. from there, everybody from reporters, the cia, and the bad guys who doublecrossed him are after him. chases and globetrotting from south africa to rotterdam ensue.

the two female leads are simply awful. mirai yamamoto doesn't even really seem like she's trying, and christine ferre, playing a reporter, is cute and perky to the point of being extremely irritating. ron smerczak (operation delta force 5: random fire) is morgan, your standard sneering villian who is accompanied by some of the worst acting henchmen ever filmed. i imagine that most of the supporting cast were from south africa and holland, and their stilted delivery of lines is jaw-droppingly bad. it makes the cast of mr. nice guy look like classically trained actors.

but if you can make it through the first hour of the film, the last forty minutes deliver some of that jackie chan goodness that we've all come to know and love. there's a wacky car chase (complete with a car spinning around on its side), numerous prop fights, and an honest-to-god final duel against not one but two baddies (david leung and ron smoorenburg, who happens to hold holland's record for highest kick). the big brawl at the end runs for a good ten minutes and is classic chan, topped off with one of his trademarked insane stunts.

also notable is the absence of jackie driving a giant vehicle to crush the bad guys, a welcome change from some of his other flicks from this era. a very forgettable film, who am i delivers in the action arena in its final act, but everything else is best forgotten.

rating: 5/10


dvd (region 1)
columbia tri-star
english/french language tracks and subtitles

this is a pretty barebones dvd, with the only special feature being a trailer for the film. the picture quality is fine, and the english track is in 5.1. the uncut movie is available in an all-region version from universe laser out of hong kong, but it only contains cantonese and mandarin tracks, so, since the film was shot in english, i don't know of a complete version of the film with the original language track.

Posted by kilgore at 05:42 AM | Comments (184) | TrackBack

November 27, 2003

happy thanksgiving (except for the reservists)

it's the holidays, a time where families can get together. and for some, it appears that a christmas present is coming early:

Troops and their families and employers will soon find out if they will be affected by the Pentagon's latest mobilization of 17,000 reservists for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition those mobilized Wednesday, nearly 8,000 reservists have been alerted for deployment to Iraq and around 700 for deployment to Afghanistan.

and why are these reservists being mobilized? turns out that the 'coalition of the willing' isn't so willing after all. i seem to recall some argument before this whole fiasco started about what a good idea it would be to get a real international coalition together before embarking on this trek, but i guess bush thought that uzbekistan would be a better ally to have than france.

maybe they just need some fresh new eyes to find those weapons of mass destruction. or were we supposed to have forgotten about those by now?

Posted by kilgore at 06:27 AM | Comments (106) | TrackBack

happy thanksgiving (except for the queers)

nothing like ending a session of congress by trying to amend the constitution to restrict the rights of a certain group.

Several senators introduced a constitutional amendment yesterday to prohibit the federal government from recognizing homosexual "marriages" and to allow states to ignore such unions conducted in other states.

Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican, introduced the legislation on what was expected to be the final day of voting in the Senate this year.

yes, the moonie times added the quotes around marriage. the bill was co-sponsored by sam brownback of kansas and jeff sessions of alabama. the proposed amendment reads:

'Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the Constitution of any State, nor State or Federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.'

this doesn't exactly make the log cabin republicans very happy:

"Across America families are gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving, while on Capital Hill some members of the United States Senate conspire to marginalize part of the American family," said Log Cabin Republican executive director Patrick Guerriero.

b-b-but they're protecting the family! in a country where over half of marriages end in divorce, i've always found it funny that people want to restrict others from having a go at it. for all the talk of the sanctity of marriage, it's not like heterosexuals have a great track record of staying on target, and letting gays marry and enjoy the same benefits (insurance, visitation rights, medical decision making, etc) that married couples have isn't going to do anything to the concept of marriage.

oh, that's right. i forgot. because if we allow gays to marry, then pretty soon that will lead to legal paedophilia and marriages with animals. slippery slope and all that.

i really can't imagine that this thing has any chance of going through, but at least the republican base knows that their elected officials' hearts are in the right place.

Posted by kilgore at 06:08 AM | Comments (283) | TrackBack

November 26, 2003

geneva vacation.

far be it from me to plan a military strategy, but might i recommend not violating international law while trying to secure iraq? arresting families is not the way to go.

Troops of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division in Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad, arrested the wife and daughter of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a top Saddam associate, division spokesman Lt. Col. William MacDonald said Wednesday.

Under Saddam, al-Douri was vice chairman of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council, and shortly before the war began March 20, Saddam placed him in charge of defenses in northern Iraq.

MacDonald gave no details on why the wife and daughter were seized. American forces have frequently arrested relatives of fugitives to interrogate them on their family member's whereabouts and as a way of putting pressure on the wanted men to surrender.

but this is really old hat now. we've been doing this since at least july, and when i saw today's story, it reminded me of this little ditty:

Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: "If you want your family released, turn yourself in." Such tactics are justified, he said, because, "It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info." They would have been released in due course, he added later.

winning the hearts and minds in iraq every day by arresting their wives and daughters. liberators, indeed.

Posted by kilgore at 02:41 PM | Comments (130) | TrackBack

a new tone in dc, sachiko m style

back in june of 2000, then-governor bush called for 'a new tone of respect and bipartisanship in washington.' it was the dawn of a new era, of compassionate conservatism, and bush wanted to restore honor and respect to the legislature. you could see it in his eyes that the dark days of the clinton era were almost over:

"We need a clean break from the recent past. It is time for leadership that sets a new tone," said Bush, who described the legislative atmosphere in Washington during the Clinton Administration as "wracked by strife."

and so bush hopped, skipped and jumped into the white house, and a new dawn came over the land. birds sang, flowers bloomed, and deer ran freely through the forests while bear cubs and alligators played go to pass the time in the new eden. this harmony also came into washington, dc, where the bugman tom delay happened upon it and promptly exterminated it.

In the session now limping to its conclusion, Democrats have been excluded from conference committees, where the majority seems to view them as a pesky irrelevance. On the energy bill, they were shut out entirely. On prescription drugs, a favored few Democratic senators inclined to support the bill were allowed into the room. But Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.), who had voted for the Senate measure and been appointed to the conference by his party, was barred; so were all House Democrats. And while conferences are supposed to resolve differences between the two houses, these days legislation often emerges with provisions previously unseen -- and undebated -- in either house. Other provisions approved by both chambers disappear in conference. Lawmakers are then confronted with an unappetizing up-or-down vote on the entire package.

yes, i believe that's the bipartisan tone bush was talking about, because shutting the opposition party out from having even a semblance of input is what democracy is all about. republicans scream about a handful of right-wing judicial appointees that have been blocked as being harmful to the democratic process, but what about this? these are the actions of a party with a mandate, and not even the 2002 elections gives them the right to act like this.

who cares if your actions keep most of the members of congress from actually reading the full bill right up until they have to vote on it? perhaps republicans are afraid that if real and nuanced debate occurred, they might lose.

or, even worse, they might have to compromise.

In the House, where the majority has the parliamentary power, the ability to offer amendments is constricted, and often curtailed entirely, with Democrats stopped from even offering their alternative for a vote. Debate is abridged to the point of parody. On prescription drugs, each side had an hour to present its views on one of the biggest changes in Medicare since its enactment. But when the time came to vote and Republicans lacked a majority, the haste evaporated. The customary 15-minute limit for voting was stretched to close to three hours, as GOP leaders confronting a loss bludgeoned members to switch their votes. While this was the longest such stretch, it wasn't an aberration: The majority has kept the vote open about a dozen times in recent years. Adding time to a vote may not seem like a big deal, but when it's done in contravention of the usual practice and solely for the purpose of achieving the desired outcome, it leaves lasting bitterness.

pathetic, pathetic, pathetic. as the wapo editorial notes, they're playing by the rules, even if they are stretching them. except this is like playing in overtime even though you lost the game and illegally substituting the star halfback to repeatedly run the same play until he finally scores a touchdown that puts the team ahead.

and why are republicans playing like this? because they want it all. they are in power, and they want to stay there, and it appears that they'll do anything they have to in order to achieve that goal. this is not how a political party operates when they expect that they might get knocked out in the next round and find themselves the minority again. for all the wailing of clinton teaching our children about blowjobs and defaming the institution of the presidency, the gop leadership has, in essence, given the middle finger to the democrats and said, 'this is how it's going to be. don't even try, because we're not gonna let it happen.'

medicare. the energy bill. the 'healthy forests' initiative. the 'clean air' act. the texas redistricting fiasco (not only does the bugman run the house of representatives -- we all know he does -- but he also controls the texas legislature, too). leave no child behind. the tax cuts. the federal deficit. it goes on and on and on. they are slowly strangling and dismantling the government from the inside.

who is going to pay for all of this, anyway? the medicare overhaul runs at 400 billion dollars. at some point down the road, something's going to have to be cut, and it sure ain't gonna be the defense budget (400 billion dollars for the next fiscal year alone) cuz we're at war forever!

the reason, unfortunately, is simple. as the junior senator from new york said, republicans 'are on an ideological march. They have no intention of playing fair. They want what they want when they want it.' and, as hillary clinton knows all too well, when the republican machine is gunned up to full strength, they will stop at nothing to obtain their desired outcome.

now, i'm a reasonable person, so i'll let someone else say it instead.

'I don't mean to be alarmist, but this is the end of parliamentary democracy as we have known it,' said Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. The new system amounted to "plebiscitary democracy" in which leaders of the House have imposed such a strong sense of party discipline that they will ultimately pass whatever legislation they bring to the floor.

it still amazes me that democrats are still willing to cross party lines on a regular basis at this point. you just have to look back to the 2002 elections where bush waltzed through states and campaigned against senators and representatives who had compromised on legislation so it would actually pass and not die. don't they ever get tired of the knives in the back?

at this stage, republicans are playing to win for good, and i don't just mean 2004. they are stacking the deck to keep themselves in play as the majority for a long time, and if the democrats don't wise up to it soon, it won't matter if they're in office or not.

thanks, george, for the new tone that's cleaving my skull in two.

Posted by kilgore at 07:41 AM | Comments (132) | TrackBack

November 25, 2003

british judges love terrorists.

it's not really a surprise that britain isn't too keen about some of its own citizens being detained down at gitmo. blair and bush discussed it during bush's trip, and bush didn't back down. well, it sounds like some of britain's judges are fed up with the issue remaining a pleasant disagreement between leaders:

A senior law lord last night delivered a scathing attack on the US government's and the American courts' treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, branding it "a monstrous failure of justice".

Lord Steyn, one of the most senior judges in Britain's highest court, described the military tribunal for trying the detainees as a "kangaroo court".

The term, he said, implied "a pre-ordained arbitrary rush to judgment by an irregular tribunal which makes a mockery of justice". He asked whether the British government should not "make plain, publicly and unambiguously, our condemnation of the utter lawlessness" at Guantanamo Bay.

b-b-but they're evildoers. this is a new kind of war with new kinds of warriors, and the old rules don't apply. screw habeas corpus! would they have given us that if they captured us? hell, no. they hate us because we're free, so we're gonna give them exactly the opposite of that. and that doesn't lower us one bit, oh no.

The concession extracted by the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, that the British detainees would not face the death penalty, gave a new dimension to the concept of "most favoured nation" treatment, he said. "How could it be morally defensible to discriminate in this way between individual prisoners? It lifts the curtain a little on the arbitrariness of what is happening at Guantanamo Bay and in the corridors of power on both sides of the Atlantic."

see? if you do what we say, we won't kill your citizens.

and hey, lord steyn, you better watch your mouth, or george w. bush will come back and fuck up your queen's gardens some more.

Posted by kilgore at 10:05 PM | Comments (158) | TrackBack

i don't like the drugs, but the drug companies like me.

well, the good news is that the energy bill is dead in the water... for now. i'm sure they'll try again next year, because god knows i can't sleep at night until a company that turns decomposed turkey carcasses gets their deserved one million dollars from the federal government.

the bad news is that the medicare bill is going through. true, if i had to choose only one to die, i'd probably pick the energy bill, but it's not like this slobbering festule of a bill is much better. nothing like getting it into law that medicare can't negotiate for bulk rate prices on drugs. way to go, aarp! of course, if they hadn't turned themselves over into the gop's whore, when a lot of their members didn't support it, this wouldn't be happening.

and it was a bit slimy the way it went through the house:

The Senate adopted the plan on a 54 to 44 vote after a debate as acrid and partisan as deliberations in the House four days earlier. The House passed the measure, 220-215, just before dawn on Saturday after the longest roll call in its history, while GOP leaders leaned on rebellious colleagues for three hours to secure the razor-thin victory. The Senate's vote was less theatrical, coming after Democrats failed on Monday at two parliamentary maneuvers intended to block the legislation.

'longest roll call in history?' try extending the vote for three hours while somebody woke bush up so he could make some calls and put pressure on lawmakers. if the democrats had done this, we'd be hearing all about the 'rule of law,' etc. but instead, it's just a statistic for the congressional record book.

and as for the senate, the democrats who voted 'yes' were:

Baucus, Mont.; Breaux, La.; Carper, Del.; Conrad, N.D.; Dorgan, N.D.; Feinstein, Calif.; Landrieu, La.; Lincoln, Ark.; Miller, Ga.; Nelson, Neb.; Wyden, Ore.

a few of those names aren't really that big of a surprise, and everybody else cried the usual protestation of 'it's not a perfect bill, but we'll fix it later, and seniors need a drug benefit.' this was also the anthem of those godawful aarp commercials that ran on monday. well, golly gee, but the benefits don't kick in until 2006. surely that's time enough to craft a bill to your liking.

and john kerry and joe lieberman were no-shows. yes, i know you're running for president, but do your damn jobs. especially you, john kerry, for staying in washington the night of the debate because of the medicare bill and being beamed in via satellite. you were opposed, and you didn't vote.

what is fairly clear is that daschle is losing control. by not keeping things together, he's handed the republicans a great issue for 2004. 'hey, old people, see, we're doing things for you!' and when those benefits kick in two years later and folks find out that they're not all they're cracked up to be, it's too late. daschle also supported the energy bill (there was some stuff for south dakota in there, by god). nancy pelosi is holding up well in the house; now it's time for someone to come in and do the same in the senate.

Posted by kilgore at 09:27 PM | Comments (224) | TrackBack

November 24, 2003

master and commander: the far side of the world (2003)

director: peter weir
starring: russell crowe, paul bettany, billy boyd, james d’arcy, edward woodall

it's aussies on the high sea! returning behind the camera for the first time since 1998's oh-so-subtle the truman show, peter weir delivers a slothful and overwrought behometh of a film with russell crowe at the helm. the film, running at just under two and a half hours, commits the worst crime possible in cinema: it is boring.

crowe plays the confident yet rash captain jack aubrey, and he has been tasked by the british navy to seek out the french warship acheron, which is trolling around in the south atlantic near brazil. the acheron, a much larger and more powerful ship than aubrey's, ambushes them early on and aubrey barely makes a getaway. from there on, it's a game of cat and mouse, the hunter becoming the hunted, and along the way we get to explore the relationships aboard a naval war vessel in the 1700s.

the ship's surgeon (paul bettany) provides the rational and logical counterpoint to aubrey's brash ways. he's not only a doctor, but he's also a naturalist, so he's got science on his side. when things go wrong (and they mostly do for the first half of the film), we get touching scenes in the captain's quarters where they have nice little heart to hearts. these mainly consist of aubrey ranting about duty and dr. maturin saying, 'well, maybe you shouldn't have done that.' by the time the captain actually takes his advice, we're supposed to think that this is some sort of character building moment, but it just comes off as trite.

the crew themselves are pretty much defined by what types of bad things befall them. this film suffers from 'the little girl in the patriot' syndrome, where the main character is so broadly drawn that the filmmakers decide to turn him into job to make us sympathize with his character. that hardly ever works, and the individual crewmember stories are never fleshed out and take time away from what could have been an in depth captain-doctor focal point. instead, we just get a big mess of stories that never really go anywhere and bog the film down.

of course, since this is a movie with warships, there's got to be some battles. well, there are, and they're really underwhelming, especially the end confrontation after suffering through the middle of the film like a beached whale. cannons fire, wood splinters, people yell, ships are boarded, swords are drawn, etc. this could have upped the ante a bit had it been done well, but weir's camera manages to turn muddy the action and totally break the pacing of the sequences. i imagine that he was going for a more realistic portrayal of naval combat and wanted to show the anarchy and confusion in battle, but he only caused confusion instead of conveying it.

the film's sets and costumes look good, though. everything has a grimy veneer, and it seems the fillmmakers did their research in bringing to the big screen the life of a seafaring warship. seeing aerial shots of the ships out to sea with folks standing on the masts make for some excellent shots as well. these alone, however, a good movie do not make, and forty minutes into the picture, i was cheering for the french to win.

rating: 4/10

Posted by kilgore at 10:54 PM | Comments (240) | TrackBack

ah, yes. an example of the new freedom in iraq.

i thought the new government / acting government of iraq was all about the big D? i remember president bush telling me over and over that the people of iraq have an unprecendented amount of freedom. i remember president bush equating the freedom of protesters in britain to the freedom that is now possible in iraq.

granted, i gagged and flailed around like a wounded boy when he said these things. and my flailing was apparently not misguided, for it seems as though the current governing council in iraq has decided to shut down a television station for broadcasting an audio tape that is supposedly from saddam hussein:

The Iraqi Governing Council ordered the Arabic-language television network Al-Arabiya to shut down its operation in Baghdad on Monday, sending officials from the Interior Ministry to the network's headquarters to "seize their uplink and transmission equipment until further notice."
"This is in response to their broadcasting the full Saddam Hussein audiotape" released November 16, according to a spokesman for Jalal Talabani, the council's president.

apparently, reporting such news is considered, well, threatening.

mmm. the unmistakable smell of freedom.

(2003-11-25) note: cnn seems to have altered the original story that was in the link above. the information about shutting down al-arabiya is now buried in the middle of the article, after a big piece about setting up an elected government. why they modified the original article that appeared yesterday instead of posting a new article, i don't know.

Posted by clock at 05:52 PM | Comments (241) | TrackBack

November 21, 2003

vote for me cuz i blowed stuff up.

yay! the rnc is finally gonna respond to all of those nasty democrats with ads to set the record straight. and, naturally, they're going to focus on bush as commander-in-chief, the fearless leader who is doing everything he can to protect us all from the evildoers.

The new commercial gives the first hint of the themes Mr. Bush's campaign is likely to press in its early days. It shows Mr. Bush, during the last State of the Union address, warning of continued threats to the nation: "Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverance is power," he says after the screen flashes the words, "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists."

see, those democrats are actually sympathizing with the terrorists for disagreeing with the president's policies. they'd rather let terrorists run free and smash some more planes into some other tall buildings because, after all, those rat bastard liberals hate america. but if you stick with bush, no matter what, as long as we fight, we're winners!

With somber strings playing in the background, the commercial flashes the words "Strong and Principled Leadership" before cutting to Mr. Bush standing before members of Congress. Intended to call out the Democrats for their opposition to Mr. Bush's military strategy of pre-emptively striking those who pose threats to the nation, the screen flashes "Some call for us to retreat, putting our national security in the hands of others," then urges viewers to tell Congress "to support the president's policy of pre-emptive self defense."

pre-emptive self defense. words fail me. since we haven't found any wmds, it doesn't seem like the pre-emption was warranted. al-qaeda ties in iraq? nope. have people in the administration been wanting to invade iraq for over a decade? why, yes, they have.

i don't think any democratic candidate disagrees with attacking afghanistan. in fact, one of the biggest arguments against invading iraq was the amount of resources it would draw away from afghanistan and the war on terror. it's not like afghanistan is all rosy these days, unless you're in the heart of kabul. and none of the candidates is saying to just leave iraq in a hurry and let the place dissolve into anarchy.

for this type of ad to work, results are going to have to be shown, and talking about schools opening in basra ain't gonna cut it. if the 'body tubes' continue to come home at the rate they are now for the next few months, this swaggering tough talk will backfire. when bush takes a trip to britain and al qaeda nails british interests in istanbul, that's al qaeda's way of saying, 'hey, we're still here.' when rockets slam into hotels in the green zone again and attacks against the oil ministry occur, all of that 'bring em on' talk turns into a bad poker game where somebody bluffs and is abou to have to show a crappy hand.

oh, that's right. attacks are down 70 percent in iraq. i almost didn't notice.

if i forget where i am, i can just turn around.

i'm sure there's an ad coming down the pipeline where they use images from wednesday's speech defending the iraq war while standing in front of the patented bush blue background with text about whatever topic he's pontificating on. nothing says 'i know exactly what i'm doing' like having your location plastered repeatedly behind you.

maybe he thought the news channels' ability to put way too much text on the screen might be taken out by terrorists and wanted to make sure that people knew exactly where he was. i imagine, though, that this will pop up in an ad somewhere so we can all go, 'oooh, bush gave a speech in britain. he is a world leader.'

here's a tip, george: lose the backdrop. or, at the very least, buy a giant lcd television and play funky, hypnotising screensavers behind you. i still wouldn't agree with most of what you say, but at least i'd be distracted enough by your 'i'm cool in a 1993 way with 2003 technology' vibe to not really care.

Posted by kilgore at 05:40 AM | Comments (300) | TrackBack

November 20, 2003

the ghost of yorba linda.

i thought this quote from the 1968 republican national convention was appropriate in light of bush's trip to england:

When the strongest nation in the world can be tied down for four years in a war in Vietnam with no end in sight;

When the richest nation in the world can't manage its own economy;

When the nation with the greatest tradition of the rule of law is plagued by unprecedented lawlessness;

When a nation that has been known for a century for equality of opportunity is torn by unprecedented racial violence;

And when the President of the United States cannot travel abroad or to any major city at home without fear of a hostile demonstration -- then it's time for new leadership for the United States of America.

My fellow Americans, tonight I accept the challenge and the commitment to provide that new leadership for America.

thank you, richard m. nixon.

Posted by kilgore at 06:31 PM | Comments (550) | TrackBack

November 19, 2003

blame the french! oh, and we broke the law.

no comment, really:

International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.

In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."

President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defence permitted by international law.

But Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable.

French intransigence, he added, meant there had been "no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein".

i wonder how long it will take for one of the chickenhawks to tell perle to, ya know, shut the hell up.

will this get play on this side of the pond?

Posted by kilgore at 11:03 PM | Comments (308) | TrackBack

with us or against us?

so maybe it looks like tony blair doesn't like bush and his policies all that much after all:

TONY Blair has attacked President Bush's Republicans for faking "compassionate" politics like Michael Howard's hardline Tories.

The Prime Minister branded George Bush's portrayal of Republicans as caring conservatives as a hollow "illusion".


A secret record of the last NEC meeting showed Mr Blair saying: "Michael Howard's soft centrist language was an illusion, like the US Republicans' compassionate conservatism."

the comments were made at a labour meeting, and they were leaked, naturally. this is great press for bush to be getting on the first official state visit of a united states president to england since woodrow wilson. i'm sure rove will salvage what pr he can from the trip, but we'll see how it goes tomorrow with the giant protests and topping of a bush statue in trafalgar square.

i'm sure blair wants to be on the usa's good side no matter what, but at what point is he going to go, 'hey, maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all?'

Posted by kilgore at 10:15 PM | Comments (402) | TrackBack

November 18, 2003

operation rancid is more like it.

it looks like all of those earlier 'hey, ariel, maybe you shouldn't be destroying the houses of palestinians' protests made by our government earlier this year are probably going to stop. why? well, now we're doing the same thing in iraq:

At least 15 homes have been destroyed in Tikrit as part of what has been dubbed Operation Ivy Cyclone Two. Among them were four houses allegedly belonging to suspects in the Nov. 7 downing of a Black Hawk helicopter that killed six Americans. Those houses were leveled Sunday by tanks and Apache helicopters.

Family members at one of the houses, in the village of al Haweda, said they were given five minutes to evacuate before soldiers opened fire.

"This is something Sharon would do," said farmer Jamel Shahab, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. "What's happening in Iraq is just like Palestine."

once again, a fine strategery decision. 'ya know, the media keeps making this vi-et-nam connection to the war, and we've got to stop it. i know! let's turn iraq into palestine! that'll win everybody over.' yes, because obviously creating homeless people by destroying their houses is going to make them love the occupiers and give up their relatives. and doing things that draw parallels to the activities of the idf certainly won't win any support in the arab world. ('b-b-but we named one of our actions iron hammer! doesn't that get us anything?)

does this violate the geneva convention?

it seems to me (and yes, i'm just one little guy behind a keyboard) that if you want to win the population over and get them to support your war against the insurgents, this is not the way to do it. i wouldn't be inclined to trust somebody who accused my brother of being a part of the resistance and then blew up my house.

even if these guys were doing these activities, this is still the wrong way to get them. but, as joseph wilson learned, this administration has no qualms about going after family members to get at their targets.

Posted by kilgore at 10:59 PM | Comments (87) | TrackBack

sniper == terrorist?

of course, john muhammad has been convicted in regards to his sniping rampage along the east coast -- murder, conspiracy, terrorism, and a firearms charge. how he expected not to be, i do not know.

what does bother me, however, is the terrorism count. what's up with that? i would personally classify him more as a serial killer than a terrorist. a more technologically advanced serial killer, sure, but not quite a terrorist. at least, that's how i intuitively feel.

but it looks like this falls under new anti-terrorism provisions, and was ruled to be constitutional.

intent to intimidate the public. this is now 1/2 of the current legal definition of terrorism. the other half being the whole threatening of the government and whatnot. of course, the argument against this is that the intimidate the public clause can be used with pretty much anything. taking hostages, public gun waving, any public disruption. it's just not good verbage.

is that right? is that how terrorism should be defined? i don't have knowledge of any formal, academic, political definition of terrorism. tho, the word does have the root 'terror.' that is likely to mean something.

somebody break out the massive History of Terrorism encyclopedia set, plot some kind of graph concerning motivations and goals of terrorists around the globe, and lemme know.

Posted by clock at 09:12 AM | Comments (63) | TrackBack

ahnuld loves flavored drinks.

hrm. so ahnuld repealed the car tax in california shortly after his inauguration. while he's going around slashing and removing things, perhaps he can do a total recall on my memory to make me forget these japanese ads (clips 4 and 5) for a genki drink that contains your friend and mine, nicotine.

and while we're at it, why don't we do a memory wipe of that flight from new york to cairo and back where i had to sit through jingle all the way three times.

Posted by kilgore at 04:21 AM | Comments (171) | TrackBack

November 17, 2003

saturday night main event

the iowa dem. party jefferson jackson dinner (emceed by the junior senator from new york) that took place on saturday night is now up at c-span. i didn't get to watch much since the enticement of sushi was too great, but i did get to see all of the candidates make their entrances.

frankly, the whole thing looked like a bad wrestling match about to happen. there was blaring rock music, candidates making their entrances to the center stage, dean running around in the balcony with his arms raised (like go ahead and give the ending away already, whydontchya?), etc. i mean, really. rub it in everybody else's nose, howard.

the stump speeches were pretty much the standard ones from what i saw. later, in the wee hours of the night (during a channel-flipping session after i decided that even though i could watch i spy for free didn't mean i should), i caught a repeat of dean's speech. i've heard his talking points before time and time again (get some new material, man), but what impressed me was his little sidebar about how this election wasn't just about getting him in office but in getting lots of other dems in as well. and i like that type of forward thinking, where he knows that with his continuously growing organization that his ability to get out the vote means that there can be some actual change in washington in 2004.

will that happen? i dunno, but if he continues along with his $100 revolution (2 million people giving him 100 dollars) and actually pulls that off, i think he'll be viewed in a totally different light than bush. even if he doesn't get the nomination, he's going to be remembered for changing the way campaigns are run.

disclosure: i've given money to howard dean.

Posted by kilgore at 10:42 PM | Comments (162) | TrackBack

the boy in the bubble

i know that my mother always told me that if i ever needed something, no matter how silly it sounded, i should always go ahead and ask. apparently babs gave the same advice to her son:

Home Secretary David Blunkett has refused to grant diplomatic immunity to armed American special agents and snipers travelling to Britain as part of President Bush's entourage this week.

In the case of the accidental shooting of a protester, the Americans in Bush's protection squad will face justice in a British court as would any other visitor, the Home Office has confirmed.

this is just pathetic that they would even try to ask this, but then i forget that these are the folks who won't sign on to the icc. really. if there was a protest in new york and someone was accidentally shot, it's not like the police or ss or fbi would have immunity from prosecution. so why request it over there?

the article goes on to list a number of other demands that the bushies wanted but were denied, such as shutting down the london subway system in case there was a bombing. they also wanted to have american fighters flying over london and black hawk helicopters patroling the skies. yes, that's the image we want to project to the rest of the world.

and they can't even bring their toys:

The Americans had also wanted to travel with a piece of military hardware called a 'mini-gun', which usually forms part of the mobile armoury in the presidential cavalcade. It is fired from a tank and can kill dozens of people. One manufacturer's description reads: 'Due to the small calibre of the round, the mini-gun can be used practically anywhere. This is especially helpful during peacekeeping deployments.'

maybe that's why they wanted that diplomatic immunity. because when i think of miniguns, i think of pinpoint precision, especially when there's giant crowds around.

originally, 'sterile zones' were agreed to be setup so that the president wouldn't have to be confronted by people disagreeing with him (what a novel idea!). however, it turns out that now protesters are going to be allowed to march past parliament and 10 downing street.

oops! seems bush chickened out and is no longer going to give a speech to parliament for fear of being heckled or having a walk-out. guess that lone aussie mp who heckles everybody who comes through spooked him too much.

and parliament is not happy that he pulled out.

i didn't realize that before you travel to a country which happens to be your top ally that you do everything you can possibly think of to piss all over them.

Posted by kilgore at 09:53 PM | Comments (187) | TrackBack

November 14, 2003

two words.

insurgency my ass.

Posted by clock at 03:07 PM | Comments (522) | TrackBack

November 12, 2003

various artists, amplify 2002: balance

label: erstwhile records
year: 2003

for those of us unable to make it out to japan last year to attend erstwhile records' amplify 2002 festival in tokyo, jon abbey has graciously produced a wonderful box set that documents the week of performances and also provides a definitive snapshot of the current onkyo/electro-acoustic scene. more stylistically narrow than the at times unwieldy improvised music from japan set that came out early last year, balance provides an intense listening experience for adventurous music.

there are seven cds in all, with four discs from the festival itself, two discs of performances from outside festival shows, and a studio recording by toshimaru nakamura and gunter muller. also included is a 52 page booklet of comments by various festival participants.

this type of improv has, to me, always been about creating textures and exploring the physical space of sound (and the blank spaces inbetween.) from taku sugimoto's minimalist guitar playing to thomas lehn's twitchy outbursts from his analogue synthesizer, a variety of methods and attitudes are utilized in a way that almost stops time and focuses on the immediate sound rather than the piece as a whole.

highlights include cosmos (sachiko m on sine wave sampler and ami yoshida on voice), who give a subtle and restrained performance, while gunter muller and otomo yoshihide display an exhilirating playfulness in their piece, using everything from contact mics and percussion to an ipod. as an added treat, the seventh disc contains seven guitarists interpreting a few pages from cornelius cardew's treatise and a free improv.

and, of course, there's keith rowe. what can the man not do?

the real gem of the box set, though, is the accompanying dvd, balance beams. clocking in at just under two hours, it contains a multitude of performances and interviews. for those who haven't been lucky enough to witness the performers in a live setting, this is the next best thing. sometimes keith rowe clicks even better when you can actually see him manipulating his guitar with springcoils, handfans, knives and other assorted implements. the dvd captures the visual aspect of improvisation that can only accentuate the performance. extras on the disc include a couple of extra short performances, keith rowe discussing performing cardew's treatise, and 5.1 surround sound mixes of two of the cd tracks.

the only possible complaint i might have are the digipaks, where the cardboard is a bit thinner than i would have liked. but that's a packaging quibble, and a minor one at that.

the music on here is superb, and if you're at all interested in onkyo/electro-acoustic improv/whateverthehelltheycallitthese days, you owe it to yourself to track down a copy. only 800 of these were produced, but once you get your hands on one, you won't want to let go. we are truly in debt to jon abbey for organizing and documenting, as sachiko m calls it in the liner notes, this 'reckless festival.'

may we have many more reckless festivals like this in the future.

rating: 9/10

Posted by kilgore at 07:51 PM | Comments (86) | TrackBack

November 11, 2003

somebody should build al gore a time machine

video of al gore's sunday speech to members of is now up at c-span. he discusses civil liberties and national security and how bush and ashcroft are screwing the pooch on both.

well, he stretches it out to a little over an hour and is a bit more eloquent than that. he even calls for a repeal of the patriot act, and it makes you wonder what all of the operation vampire killer 2000 types must be thinking right now. i'm sure they still view gore as satan's right-hand man and probably think this is just another piece of the larger conspiracy puzzle (oh, look, the commie democrats are going to save our liberties, don't believe it, etc) while the republicans end up going for broke. naturally, billary waits in the wings to continue her husband's evil plans for a one world government.

it also makes you wonder where this al gore (now a 'recovering politician') was back in 2000. sure, he's got nothing to lose (like a presidency), but this type of no-holds barred talking might have helped a bit in, oh, carrying his home state. yes, there was the whole florida thang, and while that little travesty let bush run amok for the last three years, taking tennessee would have rendered that moot.

but that's in the past, and while we're still a little bit bitter (some more than others -- i voted for nader in texas, which was kinda like eating doughnuts for a rhinoceres), it is nice to see the former vice president saying, 'hey, civil liberties always come under attack in war. it always happens, and then, after the war, we repair the damage, learn from it, and move on. oops, this war isn't going to end. wtf?' etc, etc.

he also makes a stink about all of those arabs rounded up after 9.11 as a pr ploy by bush to create the perception that he had actually caught a bunch of bad guys, where bad guys = innocent people who had minor visa violations. don't really hear too much about those folks anymore.

and there's a whole nuther hour of stuff like that. go watch, and then be a darling like george soros and give some cash to

Posted by kilgore at 03:04 AM | Comments (171) | TrackBack

November 07, 2003

talk to the hand

it appears that the white house is tired of all those annoying things like oversight:

The Bush White House, irritated by pesky questions from congressional Democrats about how the administration is using taxpayer money, has developed an efficient solution: It will not entertain any more questions from opposition lawmakers.

The decision -- one that Democrats and scholars said is highly unusual -- was announced in an e-mail sent Wednesday to the staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. House committee Democrats had just asked for information about how much the White House spent making and installing the "Mission Accomplished" banner for President Bush's May 1 speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

The director of the White House Office of Administration, Timothy A. Campen, sent an e-mail titled "congressional questions" to majority and minority staff on the House and Senate Appropriations panels. Expressing "the need to add a bit of structure to the Q&A process," he wrote: "Given the increase in the number and types of requests we are beginning to receive from the House and Senate, and in deference to the various committee chairmen and our desire to better coordinate these requests, I am asking that all requests for information and materials be coordinated through the committee chairmen and be put in writing from the committee."

wow. normally milbank doesn't get that snippy in the first graf, but i'm sure that some of his frustration had to come out somewhere since i'm sure he knows what it's like to get the runaround from the white house when you'd like some answers. this is, after all, just another way that bush is changing the political culture of washington. remember that line back from the 2000

oh, and by the way, since republicans control the house and senate, all of those committee chairmen have big fat r's next to their names. imagine that.

and from a little later in the article, this little tidbit:

Norman Ornstein, a congressional specialist at the American Enterprise Institute, agreed. "I have not heard of anything like that happening before," he said. "This is obviously an excuse to avoid providing information about some of the things the Democrats are asking for."

and aei isn't exactly a liberal thinktank. apparently, the email also implies that this policy could be used for other committees, although right now it concerns only how tax dollars are appropriated -- and no one cares about that.

sure, the administration denies that it's trying to suppress questions from the democrats, but that's in effect what the policy does. oversight should never be a partisan issue, and strangling the ability of the opposition party to ask questions (hello, that's why they're the opposition party) is ludicrous.

whatever you may think of the 'mission accomplished' minor fiasco, stunts like this keep pointing to the same story: that bush is unwilling and unable to be accountable for anything he does.

of course, there's a bright side: if they can't ask any questions, then no one has to lie.

Posted by kilgore at 07:36 PM | Comments (220) | TrackBack

November 06, 2003

Tarantino and this "art" thing

Maybe the disaffected youth of America, wholly angered and frustrated with the lackluster state our country, vents its bile in the form of hating film.

Film is a long-standing commodity of our artistic culture, the perfect medium to bridge expression and capitalism. And the fragile psyche of people in this country who want to criticize America wait for when a film becomes "successful" or "commercial," when a director can become big within the culture they despise, and proclaim its lack of merit.

Some films are made to make money. They have no artistic value, and exist, like musicals, to perform an escapist service. And some films do exist entirely in the art world, never letting the audience breathe easy or relax.

For the malcontents, film cannot do both. Whether they admit it or not, they buy into a Marxist reading of film as being a mode of production with value assigned by its commercial success. If film is a cultural commodity for these people, its cultural value diminishes as its means of gaining capital increases. Hollywood big budget films are suspect because of the hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of people associated with them (alienating them from the means and mode of production and producing a unifying hegemonic structure), while the struggling art student, armed with his or her Betaflex 16mm, is a true artist because of the lack of alienation from the means and mode of production and because of the lack of any type of earning power and the film's possible critique of hegemony.

As a Marxist, I support this way of looking at the world. But I cannot tow the party line in all cases, and I feel no remorse in happily declaring Quentin Tarantino to be a commercially successful artist (especially when most of the naysayers don't understand their Marxist roots).

Kill Bill marks the development of Tarantino as a true autuer director, realizing themes in his career since its beginning. And the criticism of Tarantino being "overly stylized" and "kitsch," disservices the film's potential to be a commentary on filmmaking that is not alienating, filmmaking that does not support a hegemonic America, and filmmaking that--gasp!--is entertaining and popular.

"Y'all" "Yins" and "Yous guys" are all stylized versions of Standard Edited American English "you." Each dialect signifies a specific place with a distincitive culture. To criticize someone for saying "y'all" because it deviates from SEAE only works if you're trying to convey a standard form of communicating, like in an essay or newspaper.

You can't criticize film for being stylized because it deviates from a standard form of communication. Since its inception, film has been either realist (documentary) or stylized. The Lumiere brothers employed the first use of special effects, and their rocket on a string crashing into the face of the moon began the journey of stylization.

But can a film be overstylized? Well, what does that even mean? Already film is stylization of reality, just like any art. It does not seek to mirror reality, can never mirror reality, and any attempt to say film represents without distortion is suspect and disingenuous. So film is stylized by its nature, and it seems impossible to set an objective standard to measure acceptable degrees of stylization.

end part 1(aren't i stylized?)

Posted by thivai at 01:50 PM | Comments (248) | TrackBack

November 05, 2003

not that i should be surprised.

from a speech on monday in alabama:

A free Iraq will be a peaceful Iraq. And a free and peaceful Iraq are important for the national security of America. A free and peaceful Iraq will make it more likely that our children and grandchildren will be able to grow up without the horrors of September the 11th. We'll defeat the terrorists there so we don't have to face them on our own streets.

yeah, i forgot that we went into iraq because of september 11th. i thought it was all about those weapons of mass destruction (which bush kindly calls 'weapons of mass terror' earlier in his speech since apparently everything can have the terror adjective) that nobody can find. silly me.

maybe it's just me, but i don't know how i could stand up in front of a crowd and say that crap with a straight face.

Posted by kilgore at 10:32 PM | Comments (151) | TrackBack


so they've actually started shooting alien vs. predator.

yes, that's right. people are moving in front of cameras, and the cameras are recording them doing stuff. like acting. we can hope.

it's like a fanboy's dream come true.

the only bad part is that a fanboy's dream tends to turn into a pretty crappy product, especially in the realm of crossovers. they rely heavily on contorting and contriving a large amount of backstory to make two universes collide in a pseudoplausible way, and that requires either a) frontloading a bunch of bad exposition or b) coming up with something really, really stupid.

usually, it's a combination of both.

sure, there's been some joke references in the movies to each of the franchies (eg. an alien head in the predator ship in predator 2), but it's not like the two species are interlinked in anyway. sure, there was the dark horse comic series, but i never read that, and i never cared to, either.

because this boils down into one two many 'what if x happened' statements that were made somewhere down the line. we're already dealing with a genre of speculative fiction that begins asks that question once, and i really don't see the need to take two what ifs and ram them together. especially when it looks like the plot involves finding frozen alien eggs in antarctica and then predators show up for some reason.

no, i'm not kidding.

there's a reason most of these story crossovers are relegated to fanfiction: because they aren't very good. while it's a nice time-wasting mental masturbation exercise to imagine whether hal-9000 or WoPR could destroy the human race faster, you don't need to make a movie about it.

it's just going to be another freddy vs. jason, which was contrived as hell and, while fun in a stupid way, did not need to be made at all. these types of movies are like that snl skit that goes on for six minutes too long.

not to belittle the wonderful enjoyment that can be obtained by pointless movies. but this, methinks, is taking it a bit too far.

i'm sure i'll be in the theater next august watching it, though.

Posted by kilgore at 10:23 PM | Comments (284) | TrackBack

November 04, 2003


i half-heartedly listened to tonight's democratic debate in boston on cnn radio (in glorious 16kbps mono, whee!). at this point, until people start to drop out and the candidates can actually flesh out their answers without having to worry about the all-dreaded buzzer after a minute, the rest of these debates seem a bit pointless.

well, for me, anyway. since i've watched or listened to every single one so far, i know all of the talking points. i know what the candidates are going to say. i know who is probably going to take a shot at the frontrunner. i'm happy they're having this many, because that gives people a better chance of catching these things, but for a political junkie like myself, there aren't really any surprises.

like the whole dean confederate flag issue. non-issue, i should say, since he actually used that line earlier this year in a speech where he also defended affirmative action. and so the (predictible) attacks came. his whole point was that the gop's southern strategy (eg. race-baiting) had garnered absolutely nothing for those working families at which it was aimed. his big problem in his rebuttal was to give his 'come together' soundbite without stating that he thought the confederate flag was a deplorable symbol. he did, after like the third go-around, and i think he was a bit taken aback that he was even being asked if he thought that or not.

all's fair in politics, natch.

i remember seeing him give that speech on cspan (i think it was the big ass dnc event) and going, 'uh-oh, confedate flag, wah?' and then everybody clapped. and i was relieved, since it was apparent then that people understood what he was saying and not, 'oh, good lord, he's a racist!'

but, of course tonight, they took the soundbite and ran with it, out of context. and dean really should have been quicker to respond, which is where his bruce banner persona tends to fumble. he wants to keep everything more toned down, not do a lou ferigno, so he meanders a bit, and people are just going to jump right back in. by the time he actually says that he doesn't support the confederate flag, there's already been a couple of 'i know you're not a bigot, howard, but...' lines thrown about.

i was surprised he used the line the first time, and it seems that the people it would turn off most (besides other contenders for the crown and their supporters looking for a cheap shot) would be... white southerners who don't want to be stereotyped with their less than reputable cousins. that, too, misses the point he was trying to get across, but in this day of repeated soundbites in the echo chamber, it wasn't exactly the most politically savvy language to use.

points off to dean, though, for using an old shamen song for his 30-second campaign ad. and don't even think about using 'move any mountain' for anything.

and who knew clark liked outkast?

Posted by kilgore at 10:05 PM | Comments (269) | TrackBack

November 03, 2003

um, no.

on sunday morning, at a press gaggle after his appearance on abc's this week, secretary rumsfeld said this about the iraqi army:

By the time they got to Baghdad there was resistance in Baghdad but no fortress Baghdad and in fact, many of the Iraqi troops just disappeared into their homes and threw down their weapons and left because it was clear they were going to be defeated. So the Iraqi Army effectively disbanded itself what was left after the battles coming up from the south.

disbanded itself? um, no. paul bremer disbanded the iraqi army on may 23rd. that's why they're always complaining about not having work. but this whole 'disbanded itself' line has been used before whenever this move is criticized. 'but they went home and didn't fight, blah blah blah.' yeah, because we told them to do that with our numerous pamphlets, and then we fired them all.

of course, many people warned that doing this was a bad idea. not having work for a bunch of soldiers might lead to, oh, you know, stuff. jay garner was going to have them rebuild infrastructure to put them to work, but apparently that wasn't going to happen since he got canned after being over there for a month.

does anybody have any idea what the fuck they're doing over there? it seems there's a pattern that occurs:

  • people say, 'we should do a because b wouldn't be such a hot idea.'
  • we do b instead.
  • everybody goes, 'what the hell are you thinking? are you insane?'
  • bad things happen. policy changes to a like it was the plan all along.

and now they're all, 'oh, we've always been wanting to use the army.' maybe you should have done that before you managed to disgruntle a bunch of them. who do you think was able to have that day long firefight against american forces?

Posted by kilgore at 03:29 AM | Comments (234) | TrackBack