arianna huffington vs bill maher

arianna huffington is an author and nationally syndicated columnist in the united states. She has her own online commentary blog, huffingtonpost.com, which tends to be a mecca for many things liberal.

she married millionaire michael huffington in 1986, and then subsequently divorced him in 1997. michael huffington soon after admitted his bisexuality, and there were suggestions that she knew full well his sexual interests when she entered into the marriage.

she appeared on bill maher’s show to promote her new book, on becoming fearless… in love, work, and life. here she talks about what makes a great leader in times of fear and I’ve got to admit, she’s dead on right. arianna huffington proves once again that the most gorgeous part of a woman is her mind (that and having great legs doesn’t hurt either). she's smart, funny, attractive and liberal; i think i’m in love.

and of course, bill maher’s new rules. here, he lambastes americans who gloat about living in the best country in the world. his point: it’s not enough to say you’re number one; you sort of have to prove it. say what you want about maher: at least he’s entertaining. he’s one of the few people on television that actually deserves his talk show.

saw 3

saw 3 is an exercise in tedious regurgitation of vomit, blood, and fucked up traps. oh, there’s a story in there too, but really, who cares? it’s all about the killing.

the basic premise is that a serial killer, jigsaw, takes people who he believes that are wasting their lives and he puts them into torture traps. he gives them a short period of time, usually one minute, to escape. usually the escape requires the victim to put themselves into even more physical pain in order to get out. the goal is to teach the victim a lesson should they survive, which is that your life is precious and that you should live it to the fullest. think of it as one of those public service announcements if satan was the producer. and why does jigsaw have such a hardon for seeing people see the bright side of life? because he’s got an inoperable brain tumor and he’s going to die. he never got to live his life to the fullest.

he was going to die in the first saw movie, and it seems that he’s been consistently almost dying since then. it sounds longwinded and tedious and it is, especially saw 3. the movie’s original cut was apparently three hours long, so many scenes had to be cut or shortened. the story itself is just another rehashing of the original saw plot. at least with saw 2 they tried to make it a little more interesting by having several victims relying on each other to get out of the traps. this time, it’s just more of the same. a blend of the first two, if you will.

in the first saw, there was a twist at the end (a pretty good one at that). in the second one, there were a couple twists at the end. in this third and final edition which encloses the story of jigsaw, there are more twists and revelations than any of the other saw films combined. more blood, more traps, more twists; it’s all about outdoing the other films.

the writers also try to give a lot of back-story, to fill the holes. and if you have read some of my previous entries to this blog, you’ll know that i hate back-stories. i think they’re overdone and hackneyed, and just redundent information. some of the back-story in this was fine, but most of it was useless. there’s a heck of a lot of it, and the writers seem it necessary to explain everything from the first two movies. but really, i thought to myself, who cares? part of the fun behind these movie killers is the impossibly silly and outlandish ways they kill, and explaining all of that, sort of deflates the mystery around them. it’s like explaining a magic trick.

another problem with this horror movie is that there are no scares. this movie is not scary. it's definitely gory, but not scary. it seems that with a lot of horror movies these days, it's all about the blood and guts and less about scaring the audience to death.

maybe this movie wasn’t all that bad and i’m not giving it a fare shake. maybe the movie is great, and i was just so distracted by the girl sitting next to me who talked on her cell phone the whole time. the more she spoke, the angrier i became until i wanted to take vengeance out on her and possibly put her into one of jigsaw’s traps. and maybe therein lies the brilliance of the movie: it makes you thirst for blood. or maybe i just despise people who talk on their cell phones during movies.

all in all, it was an okay sequel, and the saw franchise has probably run its course in terms of ideas, which is probably why the original creators have said this would be their last take on the jigsaw villain. of course, this won't stop the studio from releasing another saw. there's no way they're letting this baby go, because of how huge the financial returns are. they make a movie for around twenty million, and get back four times that much. simple economics states that we'll probably see another saw movie next halloween. it's already taken top spot this weekend with a $34 million haul. i will say this though: the film goes all out, balls to the wall. there is so much blood and gore, i think it might even outdo this year's other bloody stinker, the texas chainsaw massacre prequel.




the departed

oliver queenan: we deal in deception... do you know what i mean when i say that?

billy costigan: as a matter of fact, i do. i...
dignam: no, you don't know. because if someone like you knew what we did, that would make us cunts. are you calling us cunts?

- the departed.

the departed is set in south boston where the massachusetts state police department is waging a war to take down mob boss frank costello (jack nicholson). they decide to plant a mole in costello's organization, a rookie named billy costigan (leonard dicaprio). meanwhile, costello has his own mole imbedded in the police department, named colin sullivan (matt damon). what develops is a traditional cops and robbers one upmanship, except in this case, it's done incredibly well.

the movie is acted incredibly well, it's directed well, but that's all besides the point. it's a fantasic movie, definitely the best i've seen all year. what i want to focus on is the writing, which is air tight. usually with stories like this, i'll try to poke holes in it, and usually the story will end up looking like swiss cheeze. not in this case, and i was very pleased with that.

the film, despite its length, is incredibly fast moving, especially the first half of the movie. the contrast between how costigan and sullivan move up the ranks of their organizations is incredibly interesting and arresting. while sullivan enjoys some of the perks of being part of the special team on the police department (e.g.: recognition, dating the gorgeous police psychologist), costigan has to really dig down deep and get dirt and blood on his hands, which gets to the point where he eventually starts to lose his own identity after having lived the life of this criminal for so long.

the characters are written with some great care, knowing that too many cardboard cutout stereotypes will sink the movie. but at the same time, the screenwriters know that too much colour to the characters can make it look silly. the journey that each character goes through is detailed at great length, with great interest. you have on the one hand costigan, who only wants to get out, while on the other hand, you have sullivan, who likes his life and wants to keep it that way.

there are lots of twists and turns, but none of them so outlandish that it takes you out of the movie. as the movie gets progressively more detailed, i never got lost, and i never felt like i was being tricked or duped for the sake of being tricked or duped. this isn't a david lynch film, and that's a good thing. the story progresses naturally and the suprises are revealed logically, with most of them coming near the end, of course.

what i particularly liked about the movie was that it didn't spend too much time detailing backstory. it sort of gives you enough to know each character's motives, then it just dives right in and that's what good thrillers do; they make you jump in with both feet.

flags of our fathers

flags of our fathers details the life stories of six men who raised the flag at the battle of iwo jima, a turning point in the pacific theatre during the second world war. the movie essentially follows several timelines; one details the time from training camp, through the battle, and up to the flag raising. the second timeline details the life of the three soldiers after they have been plucked from the war to go on a propaganda blitz to get people to buy war bonds. and the third timeline involves the present day, where the son of one of the soldiers is interviewing veterans in order to tell his father's story.

it seems like a lot is going on in the movie, and there is, and therein lies the problem. paul haggis (crash, million dollar baby) wrote one of the drafts for this film, and it definitely has his heavy-handed influence all over it. the lines of dialogue are clunky save for a few moments of levity and the characters are all one-note, and i'm sorry, but really boring.

the problem with the timelines is particularly hurtful, because it appears that the structure of the film was never properly concieved or nailed down. the movie is all over the place, with flashbacks within flashbacks within, sometimes, more flashbacks. i think it would have worked much better if it were a very linear story. if it progressed the way saving private ryan did, where it starts out with the battle and works forward from that, i think it would have been a much better film.

like most american war films, this is a flag waving movie (literally), but i don't have a problem with that. the way i see it, the americans have a right to tell their stories the way they want; where i have a problem with those films is when they start changing history or distorting the facts. luckily, this movie stays fairly true to the story.

still, when you compare it to other war films like the thin red line or apocalypse now or platoon, it doesn't hold up at all. even compared to some not-so-good war films, it doesn't do that well. quite a disappointment, this one. the more i think about it, the more i want my money back.


last castle

there is something rotten in denmark. there is something missing. what’s missing you ask? it’s that shield, that armor that protects you, the citizen, from the government, from oppression from the state. that shield is habeas corpus. latin for “you [should] have a body.” the writ of habeas corpus is an important instrument for safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action, such as illegal or unlawful imprisonment.

and how is it gone? in the united states, it no longer exists. the military commissions act was put into law with the hancock of one george w. bush. amongst a backdrop of waspy suits, with a smirk on his face and a flick of his wrist, he took away one of the most important defenses an individual has. with that single signature, bush has said that the geneva conventions are not relevant unless he says so and that he can imprison anyone indefinitely.

consider the case of maher arar, a syrian born canadian citizen who was sent away to a secret prison by the united states government, only to be tortured by his syrian captors. then he was finally released and found to be innocent of all charges. consider his case: under current u.s. law, someone like him could be locked away, kept in prison indefinitely. forever. for the rest of his natural life. all without the opportunity to prove himself innocent.

no fair trial, no chance to prove one’s innocence, no future. sound un-american? well, you’d better get used to it, because it’s about to be as american as apple pie and baseball.

the united states as the bastion for freedom and human rights? yeah right. don’t piss in my face and tell me it’s raining.

the united states is losing on all fronts. it is losing in afghanistan. it is losing in iraq. And now the u.s. is losing its morality. they say that the human soul weighs 21 grams. but let me ask you this: how much does habeas corpus weigh? how much does morality weigh? how much does dignity weigh? if you’re an american, go weigh yourself right now. see how much you weigh after having lost all that extra stuff. really, the best advice for losing weight is to stay the course with the republicans. i guarantee by the time george w. bush is through, you’ll feel like you’ve just endured the most violent of crash-course diets. the bush regiment is harder on the body than a binge and purge diet, but it will get you results. and i guess you can’t argue with that.

farewell, america. nice knowing you. it was fun while it lasted. maybe we’ll see each other again sometime. chances are, if we do, you’ll be changed. ain’t that a shame.

the following is a clip from last friday's real time with bill maher. his guests, actor jason alexander, rep. barney frank (d-ma), and economist steve moore debate the military commissions act and what it means. (steve moore, by the way, comes across as a buffoon. he should just stick to economics.)

and finally, what would a political blog be without a blurb from keith olbermann? here, he goes on a very passionate rant about the beginning of the decline for the united states.

(source 1)

(source 2)


hard candy

hayley stark: you really just don't look like kind of guy who needs to meet girls over the internet.
jeff kohlver: well, i think it's better to meet people online first, sometimes. you get to know what they're like inside. when you work as a photographer you find out real quick peoples faces lie.
hayley stark: does my face lie?

- hard candy

hard candy is probably one of the most disturbing movies to come around in a long time. the basic premise is that a 14 year old girl, hayley, meets a man named jeff whom she met online in an internet chatroom. they meet at a coffee shop and they go over to his place, where she actually ends up drugging him and tying him down. she then methodically threatens to castrate him. it turns out that she is there to teach him a lesson for his predatory ways.

while watching the film, i couldn't help but feel how effective the movie was. you get genuine creeps right from the start. but at the same time, i don't know if it is the writing itself that makes the movie so effective, if it's the controversial subject matter, or the really great acting. it's probably a bit of everything.

still, this blog is about writing, so i'll stick to the writing, which is solid, but i highly doubt a 14 year old girl would be able to do some of the things she does in the film. i'm not disputing some of the sick things this girl does, because i don't put it past people to do such things, and every few months or so you hear of something in the news involving terrible things people do to other people. what i'm disputing is some of the physical things she does. let's just say i find it hard to believe a 14 year old girl who is barely 90 pounds soaking wet can suspend a grown man.

the story remains tight, sticking to jeff's home, but about two-thirds the way through, it loses all suspense and creepiness by getting into some absurd elements, physically, such as the part i just mentioned. the writing is still effective in that pretty quickly into the film you realize that you are watching two sick people on screen, and you actually start to feel bad for jeff. you don't know if he's a murderer or a pedaphile, but you get the feeling he is at the very least, a sick creep. but the fact that you actually start to feel bad for the guy is probably more of a testament to how horrible this 14 year old girl is. let me make this clear: jeff is not a good guy, but neither is hayley a good girl. there really is no one to root for in this film.

the film is definitely against pedophilia. but what it says about sadistic torture is another thing. it's about vengeance for sure, and i suppose there have been plenty of films about men doing unspeakable things to women, so the fact that the tables are turned shouldn't come as a surprise. in the end the film makes a point about pedophilia, and it makes a point about what type of punishment these monsters should have to endure.

hard candy is well written. it just gets a little absurd and loses a bit of its own credibility near the end.

here is the trailer:


the chumscrubber

dr. bill stiffle: how do you feel about the suicide of your best friend in the world?
dean stiffle: [pause] real shitty.

- the chumscrubber

now here's an interesting little movie. the chumscrubber is about underappreciated teens, some of whom are pumped full of pharmesuticals in order to bring "balance" to their lives. both the teens and their parents are stuck in this suburban lifestyle that seems to suck the life out of them, leaving everyone in this constant state of zombification. the result is kids with nothing better to do than get high and get into trouble, and parents who parade around in their own self importance, as if their lives are the only ones that matter.

the movie starts out with dean, who walks in on his friend's dead body hanging by a rope from the ceiling. his parents, of course, are concerned for his state of mind, but not necessarily for the right reasons. dean's father is a psychiatrist who basically tries to manipulate his son into a therapy session so he can have material for his next book. dean is perpetually medicated it seems, with more and more drugs all to bring balance to his life. the basic core of the movie revolves around a group of kids who kidnap another child and force dean to bring them his dead friend's stash of drugs or else they will hurt the boy.

the writing is interesting, because it sort of starts out with this very edward scissorhands-type approach, painting a real, yet surreal suburban landscape. however, the movie could have benefited from a tighter script and less subplots, with more focus on the teens. still, it's not all fluff, and the last few scenes of the movie are quite intense as the violence escalates the more the kidnappers start to realize that what they've done is real, and that they may go to jail for it. donnie darko already sort of covered a lot of this ground better, but the movie is still quite funny and entertaining.

chumscrubber, by the way, refers to a video game the teens play which involves a headless hero wandering the dark streets of suburbia hurling his decapitated head at zombies. his job, is to scrub the chum from the town which is depicted as a virtual hell on earth. a perfect metaphor for suburbia, don't you think?

here is the trailer:

real time with bill maher

"everything that used to be a sin, is now a disease." - bill maher.

bill maher tells the truth. or at least what he believes to be the truth. you may not agree with him, but at least he'll always tell you what he thinks. case in point, he used to have a show called politically incorrect on abc. the show discussed entertainment and political topics with a panel of various guests. the show's run came to an abrupt end in 2002 after comments maher made responding to george bush and others calling the september 11 terrorist attacks "cowardly." maher stated, "we have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. that's cowardly. staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly." several sponsors pulled their advertising due to the comments and abc cancelled the show. it is quite ironic that a show called politically incorrect gets cancelled because the host says something politically incorrect.

now, at the time, in context 9/11, the comments seemed too offensive too soon, even though he was actually just repeating what another guest on the show said just moments before. some pundits later supported maher, noting the difference between moral and physical cowardice. a week after the show was cancelled, maher was awarded the l.a. press club's president's award, its highest honor, for championing free speech.

now maher's got a new gig, hbo's real time with bill maher, a show very similar, but much more sophisticated show than politically incorrect. it seems he has managed to figure out how to blend the political debates easier. i don't always agree with bill maher, and i think that if you're someone who agrees with him 100 percent of the time, there might be something wrong with you. but i will say that he is always entertaining, even when he's competely out in left field.

here is a clip of bill maher and his "new rules," a segment at the end of every show where he runs the gambit of some newsworthy and some not-so-newsworthy tidbits. his commentary is often times biting and entertaining at the same time. here, he really gets dirty and perhaps shocks some of his own audience by asking the question, who's more at fault at fucking up the kids? the predators that hunt them, or the parents? again, you may not always agree with him, but damn, that hurts. this is bill maher at his best.



writing in the movies

the following are some brief reviews of some films that i have come to admire over the years for their amazing writing.

the thin red line

"I remember my mother when she was dying... looked all shrunk up and gray... I asked her if she was afraid. she shook her head. i was afraid to touch the death I see in her. I couldn't find nothing beautiful or uplifting about her going back to god. I heard people talk about immortality, but I ain't seen it."

- the thin red line.

terrence malick is a genius. his work from badlands and days of heaven is just phenomenal. and this film, the thin red line, is a masterpiece. i believe it is the best war film ever made. it was totally overshadowed by steven spielberg's overblown saving private ryan the year it came out, and it's a shame, because saving private ryan was, to me, just another run of the mill flag waving movie. the thin red line, on the other hand, was not your typical war movie, which is probably why it didn't resonate as much with the general public.

the film is an adaptation of james jones' autobiographical 1962 novel, focusing on the conflict at guadalcanal during the second world war. the movie starts out with private witt having gone awol. he's living amongst the natives because he is a man who is unable to follow orders, and unable to give his life for a conflict that seems to be nothing but endless violence. the problem for most audiences with regard to this movie, is that it takes forty minutes before the first shot is taken, and the film relies on dialogue that is much like poetry. another issue is that the characters aren't very distinguished, they look alike, and there are various different voiceovers, some of which don't seem to belong to any of the actual actors on screen.

but this is where the genius of the movie lies. the movie has a philosophy about it, and it suggests that maybe man is all connected, that all of man has just one soul. and in this philosophy is where the movie lives; as one soldier. "war," as one character puts it, "don't ignoble men. turns 'em into dogs. poisons the soul." and in that vein, all men are poisoned by it.

the writing is what sets this movie apart, because when you hear lines like that, they could have only come from one person, and that's terrence malick, who manages to achieve something that most writers can't do, which is recognition. after you've seen one of his movies, and heard the dialogue, you will be able to recognize his style forever. in that regard, he has achieved his own immortality.


"i was thinking about dad. how he spoke to us. like he was afraid. when he looked me in the eye... sometimes i believe he had no idea who i was. or didn't care. who was this kid? how did he spring from me?"

- undertow

written and directed by david gordon green, undertow is a classic morality tale. it's a basic, simple story about how greed is evil, and how destructive greed can be. the movie centers on a family that includes a single father, john, and his two boys, chris and tim. john has taken his children out into isolation, away from most civilization, where they live a pretty secluded life. one day, his brother, deel, comes to visit, fresh from getting out of prison. deel believes that john has some gold coins hidden away that their father had stolen back in his days as a thief, and deel's come to collect his share. when violence finally erupts, the two boys must run for their lives.

the movie takes its time to develop, and there are plenty of moments of long, drawn-out silences. the writing is very passionate and moody, with the tone of the movie being set early on when chris' girlfriend asks to see his knife and says, "can i carve my name into your face?"

david gordon green has a very simple style of writing, and he's definitely influenced by terrence malick, who actually produced this movie. but his style is still his own. the characters also reflect this very simple style, and they seem very hollow sometimes, but they are also very thoughtful as well, with their own philosophies. the boys in this film have nowhere to go, and they are completely lost in terms of who they are and where they need to be. but one thing is for certain: greed has corrupted the family and they must get as far away from it as possible.

roger dodger

"sex is everywhere, okay?. it is all around us. it's not some distant destination. it's not everest. it is right here. you have to atune yourself to it. you have to bring yourself into alignment. you have to find the zone, nick, okay? do that, and i promise you, a whole world will open up. look at me... i walk around in a state of total receptivity. i'm like a fucking lightning rod."
- roger dodger.

roger dodger is a film about a man named roger who gets a visit from his teenaged nephew, nick, who is looking for help with women. the film is about the night they spend together out on the town, in search of sex.

the film is written extremely well, with some witty banter from the likes of roger, who is a smooth talking ad exectutive who says that in order to sell someone something, you must make them feel bad about themselves, which will then allow you to plug your product as basically a quick fix for their misery. roger talks. a lot. he comes across as shallow and arrogant and misogynistic. his nephew, nick, is a wholesome, good spirited kid who thinks way too much and acts way too little.

the film is a talking movie, in that there is little in the way of action, but the real goods lie in the interaction between roger and nick. the film is incredibly dialogue heavy, but in this case, it's a good thing. they cover topics in the range of alcohol to blow jobs to a man's worth in the world. in the end, roger isn't as crass as he comes across as, and nick isn't as ready for sex as he thinks he is. the writing is very smart and quick, and the movie never feels like it's dragging.

overall, the movie is very real, for guys anyway. i don't know how much women will enjoy the film, but men will find the tips roger gives very familiar. such as using a store window to admire a woman via her reflection, or the differences in lighting and how that can sometimes effect a woman's clothes. not that i personally have ever used such strategies to admire a woman, of course. no, definitely not. because, you know, that would be wrong.


the hour: it's back

the hour kicked off its third season monday night with brand new graphics, a brand new set, and a host looking to make things better than ever. yes, george stroumboulopoulos is back, his wit and good humour intact. he was so good humoured, that he wasn't afraid to bring up the fact that the summer wasn't too hot for him. of course, i am referring to abc's failed american idol rip off, the one. (perhaps rip off is too harsh a phrase. let's call it a re-invention of a music show, that just couldn't find its legs. like... at all).

all harsh criticisms aside, it's good to have the hour back. the united states has the likes of jon stewart, stephen colbert and bill maher - all entertaining to watch, all with a great perspective of politics and the world. but there's nothing like seeing the world through the lens of some genuine canadiana. and george brings that, with everything he does. from interviewing musicians to politicians and everyone in between, george and the hour give a much needed jolt of entertainment to national news coverage. i mean, i love the cbc national news because i know i can trust it; i can trust the hour as well... but i also watch it because it is quite entertaining.

at any rate, here's a brief clip of monday's show for those who don't get to see the show. here, george briefly runs through some of the major stories of the past few days with his trademark zip. by the way, you can watch a streaming feed of the previous night's shows by going to the website. do it. go watch the hour. it's like milk: it does a body good. (just, you know, minus the photos of celebrities with milk mustaches that look nothing like milk mustaches and horribly like something else...)


north korea: napoleon complex

just what does north korea want?

the following time article discusses the problem the united states is facing when dealing with north korea. the basic premise is that north korea wants a non-aggression pact and normalcy of relations with the united states. however, the united states wants regime change and will not involve itself in direct talks with north korea, because if they did, it would be recognizing the north korean government, thus giving a sort of legitimacy to a tyrannical, brutral regime.

the article is very intersting, because it basically states that north korea's brinkmanship diplomacy, with the latest round being the recent nuclear weapon test, has, or will eventually work to achieve what pyongyang eventually wants, which is recognition.

one thing: doesn't Kim Jong II look a little like a troll doll?
anyway, here's the article:

What North Korea Wants From the Nuke Standoff

Analysis: The test has galvanized the world against Pyongyang. But don't bet against it eventually getting the diplomatic deal it sought all along
By Tony Karon

Posted Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006

To be sure, the world is now speaking with one voice in condemning Pyongyang's nuclear test. But that's no surprise: nobody likes North Korea, and universal condemnation is the standard response when any nation joins the nuclear club, as India and Pakistan discovered in 1998. There's little surprise, either, in a gathering U.N. consensus on rebuking North Korea, with China likely to sign off on some symbolic sanctions to punish it.

Yet the international consensus does not disguise the fact that six years of tough talk and grudging diplomacy by the Bush Administration failed to stop North Korea from reaching the point that it is now being treated as a nuclear weapons state. Indeed, President Bush appeared to acknowledge the reality of Pyongyang's new status in his remarks following the test announcement, warning that any attempt by North Korea to share its new toys with others would bring harsh consequences. That, of course, is a prudent position in dealing with a nuclear-armed state. The international community would like every nuclear-armed state to disarm, but barring that, it must try to lock such states into arrangements that prevent nuclear weapons from actually being used, or from being exported.

Whatever sanctions are agreed on, their purpose will not be to punish and isolate North Korea as an end in itself, but instead to modify North Korea's behavior — to persuade it to disarm and refrain from proliferating. As incensed as they are by North Korea's behavior, China and South Korea have long resisted imposing sanctions that would bring down the regime by cutting off food and energy supplies, and that's unlikely to change. They fear that a collapse of the regime would send millions of refugees across their borders, and probably cause a heavily armed and unpredictable regime to lash out militarily. Fear of provoking military escalation from the North Korean side may even make Beijing and Seoul think twice about U.S. calls for the interdiction of ships sailing into and out of North Korean ports. And nuclear weapons only increases those perils.

Common sense, and classic diplomacy, dictates against leaving a reckless nuclear-armed regime to stew in its own juices. So, after the flurry of condemnation, the Security Council will look to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table, with a view to seeking its disarmament. And the negotiating table is exactly where North Korea wants to be — on its own terms.

Pyongyang has continually demanded direct talks with the United States, leading to some form of non-aggression treaty — it wants full recognition from Washington and a normalization of relations. But the idea of recognizing a tyrannical regime that starves its own people and violently suppresses any dissent obviously sticks in the craw of President Bush. That may be why Administration hawks who favor "regime change" appear to have had effective veto power over North Korea policy, pushing back against concessions to Pyongyang or any suggestion of direct talks. The White House on Tuesday reiterated its rejection of direct talks.

The problem with the hard line, however, is that the U.S. has always lacked the backing of South Korea and China for a regime-change strategy, and without their cooperation it was a non-starter. Instead, Washington was eventually forced to accept the six-party process aimed at persuading North Korea to renounce nukes in exchange for concessions — although the U.S. stopped short of the direct talks and security guarantees demanded by Pyongyang, and continued to push for actions such as financial sanctions to punish North Korean counterfeiting. The Bush Administration's unresolved internal debate, however, left its own position suspended between engagement and confrontation, while the six-party process remained stalled for the past year as North Korea refused to rejoin the talks in protest against the financial sanctions.

Now, North Korea may have broken the stalemate. Even as the hawks claim that the nuclear test has somehow vindicated their position, the reality is that there will be little appetite among the players that count — mainly China and South Korea — for trying to blockade Pyongyang into submission. But they will want to press North Korea into getting rid of its nukes. If Pyongyang eventually offers verifiable disarmament in exchange for recognition and security guarantees — and it continues to stress its desire to negotiate "denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" directly with the U.S. — there would be overwhelming international pressure to accept such a deal. In other words, once the dust settles, it will become clear that North Korea's nuclear defiance may have made the prospects for a U.S. policy of regime-change even more remote. And if security guarantees from the U.S. eventually become the price for North Korea giving up its nukes, Pyongyang's brinkmanship would have arguably achieved its diplomatic goal.


world go boom

north korea has tested a nuclear weapon. although no one really seems to be able to confirm whether the underground test happened or not. various geological surveys around the world recorded a seismic event, but they couldn't confirm if it was a nuclear explosion. the russians, however, have said that their monitoring services had detected a nuclear explosion. the test apparently took place 10:36 a.m. local time (9:36 p.m. et sunday) near the city of kilju, according to south korean defense sources cited by south korea's yonhap news agency.

now what does this mean for the region? well, it means immediate condemnation by the rest of the world, even by china, north korea's closest ally, and calls for harsh sanctions, thereby further isolating an already cut-off country. a country which, apparently, has enough plutonium for as little as four and as many as a dozen nuclear bombs.

if what north korea has done is real, this will mean an escalation of tension and arms in the region. technically, south korea is still at war with the north, and japan has always been wary of the north. what you may see is another arms race, with south korea and japan trying to build up their conventional arms, not to mention china getting all concerned now that their nuclear superiority in the region will be compromised. and when china gets agitated, taiwan gets even more so, considering the amount of tensions they've had over the last few decades. and implicated in all of this, is the united states, who not only is tied to protect taiwan from china, but is the one who had isolated the north korean government in the first place. this is how wars start.

if you'll recall, while the international community was trying to negotiate with north korea, the united states government, more specifically the bush administration, called north korea one of its axis of evil in bush's january 29 2002 state of the union address. the other two parts of the axis according to bush were iraq and iran. you may recall the 2002-2005 period when the bush administration shunned all things international, opting for a more lone cowboy-style diplomacy which has now apparently backfired on them.

case in point, you have iraq. we're beyond quagmire there. it is a scandal now. you have iran, with president
mahmoud ahmadinejad choosing to go nuclear, and now you have north korea, which now has nuclear weapons. that's three for three for the bush administration. yeah, sure, the north korean president is sort of nuts and demanding, but isolating him and the country, and not talking to them in those early years was a huge mistake.

the bush administration has increased the threat of islamic fundamentalism and jihad around the world through its phony iraq war, and now, with its hard-lined policies, has allowed north korea to get to the point where they are nuclear, and iran will be so soon. would this all have happened eventually? would north korea eventually have gone nuclear? maybe. maybe not. but the bush administrations' one note foreign policy has now destabilized the world even further. each of the axis of evil is growing out of control, like a bad tumor. the problems seem to also feed each other: the conflict between iran and the u.s. feeds north korea, north korea's brinkmanship feeds iran, because if they can get away with it, why can't iran? And iraq, with the u.s. policy of pre-emptive strikes, feeds everything.

is this all completely bush's fault? no, of ourse not, because some of this was brewing long before bush was president. but he and his administration have more than their fair share to blame. some people still like to point out how stupid bush is. well, president bush is not stupid. as jon stewart once noted in reference to bush: "i don't believe this president is stupid. stupid is like, 'oh my god, i just ate soap.'" no, george bush is not stupid, because that would be easy. george bush is the ultimate divider; he's ill informed, he's driven by personal vendettas and greed, and he is proving to be reckless, with those in his administration totally incompetent when it comes to dealing with the cultural and political sensitivity of other countries. all of this is much more worse than just a stupid man.

with these upcoming congressional elections in the united states, and the 2008 presidential elections in the near future, the american people are going to have to take a good, hard look at what kind of leaders they want running their country at home and around the world.

in the second debate with president carter, ronald reagan posed this question to the american people in his closing statement: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" well, since the republicans have been constantly ramping up the fear card, i think this question should be repeatedly posed in the upcoming elections with a modification: are you safer now than you were four years ago?


violent porn

the texas chainsaw massacre: the beginning, is the prequel to the texas chainsaw massacre starring jessica biel, which was a remake of the original 1974 texas chainsaw massacre, which spawned three sequals, which starred the likes of denis hopper, matthew mcconaughey and renee zellweger. kind of confusing, but all you really need to know is that movie after movie, a horde of happless teenagers wander like lemmings into the home of a family of deranged killers.

this new one, the prequel, however, probably stands to be the most graphic and violently gory version of the series. the basic premise, as if there needs to be a set up, is that two brothers are about to go to vietnam, one for the first time, the other going for a second tour of duty. Their girlfriends are accompanying them to the military base that they need to be at. at first there is a bit of a debate between the two brothers, because the younger one is thinking of dodging the draft and bailing to mexico with his girlfriend, while the other one is only going again to protect his brother while they are in the war. if this were a david o. russel (three kings) film, you'd get an interesting debate. but it's not; it's a texas chainsaw massacre film, one produced by michael bay. so any such noble debate is tossed away pretty quickly, and the gore begins.

now i'll be the first to admit that i don't mind violence, and done well, it can be kind of fun to watch onscreen. however, there is a line between that and violence for violence sake, which is what you have here. i guess the real difference is that the violence isn't done to further the plot or character development necessarily, or even done in an inventive way, but it is just there and that's about it. it's just cruel.

i'm always surprised at how the motion picture association of america can let a movie like this pass with a hard 'r' rating, while a movie like the center of the world gets an nc-17 rating. nc-17 basically replaced the old 'x' rating, and is the kiss of death for movies, because most theaters will not carry a movie with this rating.

the center of the world was a movie about a computer wiz and a stripper. he offers the stripper $10,000 to spend three nights with him in vegas, and she accepts with conditions: four hours per night of erotic play, and no penetration. yes, it had sex in it, but we're not talking about hardcore porn here. the center of the world was an intelligently written film that tried to answer an interesting question: what is the center of the world? to the computer wiz, in today's modern world, the center of the world was the computer. to the stripper, it was the human heart.

[SPOILER*** now, the following description will probably ruin some plot points of the texas chainsaw massacre, so don't read any further if you don't want the movie ruined for you; and by ruined, i mean having the deaths telegraphed for you.]

in the texas chainsaw massacre: the beginning, you have the following: limbs and whole bodies get chopped to bits with a chainsaw, a man is mercilessly beaten with a malot, a girl's throat is slit open after her teeth had been removed, a guy's arms are skinned and his face is peeled off... so that's okay. but a guy with a stripper isn't. (to be fair, what earned the center of the world an nc-17 rating was a certain lollipop scene, but really, compared to a person's face being peeled off, that's a little tame.)

obviously, we have to call a spade a spade, because the texas chainsaw massacre is a horror movie. people expect death and mayhem, and hey, i appreciate death and mayhem as much as the next guy. before i went to see the movie, i knew exactly what kind of film it was and what i would be seeing. honestly, that's part of why i went. i had a choice tonight, to see this or to see scorsese's the departed, but i didn't want to do any thinking, and i sort of wanted to just sit there and let things just play out onscreen. the funny thing is, i think i ended up thinking a lot more due to this movie. because you really can't compare a movie like this with a movie like the center of the world. but i just do it here because it strikes me as a little odd that sex is more feared than violence to some people, especially the mpaa. and i guess america's fear of sexuality is nothing new, even though it is sold and marketed in vast quantities to boys and girls in the media and on television. it's as if there is this mixed message, that it's okay to be sexy, it's okay to be a tease, but the actual sex part isn't.

oh, as for whether i enjoyed the movie? i don't know if you can ever really enjoy a movie like this. was i satisfied? as in, did i get my ten dollars worth? i guess i did, because it satisfied the basic requirement that i had going into the movie, that it not be as bad as the jessica biel remake. i know that's pretty low for expectations, but it's a texas chainsaw massacre movie. we're not talking about shakespeare here. even when we are talking about shakespeare, we don't necessarily get shakespeare, if you know what i mean. it was bloody, it was disgusting, but overall, the movie was a bit boring. i guess it just goes to show you just how many of these movies i've seen, and how desensitized i am by now. now that reality is actually kind of scary.



sunshine is the new movie directed by danny boyle (trainspotting, 28 days later). due out march 2007, sunshine takes place in the near future where the sun is dying and as a result, the earth is dying as well. a team of astronauts tried to revive the sun by delivering a mini "big bang," but the mission failed, and seven years later, another team goes out to finish the job.

sunshine is also the second original screenplay by author alex garland (the beach, the tesseract). his first was 28 days later, which i thought was fantastic. yes, it was a zombie movie, but it was also a human refugee story, which i thought was actually quite optimistic for something written by garland. 28 days later, i felt, was brilliant through and through.

now he's back, with danny boyle directing, and sunshine looks like it will be great. sure, the plot seems like it will be a typical garland ending - you have a bunch of people, something bad happens, and it ends violently. not too original, mind you, but garland has always managed to tell very human stories through a complicated and fantastic set of circumstances.

although the movie is not coming out until 2007, you can get a detailed production report through the form of blogs, photos and video from the website. it's actually kind of interesting watching a film develop, from the early stages of script writing to set and character design, to actual filming, special effects, and editing.

and speaking of special effects, there's nothing better than a science fiction movie to bring a visual bang for your buck, especially when you have something as visceral and brilliant as the sun to digitally enhance through computer generated effects.

the following are some production photos, and a video blog regarding the film.

for more, go to the website.


heroes is a new show on nbc that involves ordinary people discovering extraordinary abilities. it's a reality-based superhero show that borrows a little from lost, and a heck of a lot from the x-men. it borrows from lost in that it is a collection or regular people who are somehow drawn to each other and find themselves in an extraordinary situation. and it steals from the x-men in pretty much every other way, such as the idea that there are certain humans who hold within their genetic code the key to leaps and bounds in evolution (it is noted, however, the creator of the show does pay homage to who he's stealing from, by adding in a scene where two japanese men discuss an issue of the x-men).

the pilot episode begins by introducing several characters. you get a genetics professor, who travels from india to new york to uncover a secret theory that superheroes live among us. presumably, he is the professor x of the series. there is a young man who believes he can fly, and is desperate to do so in order to get out from under the shadow of his much more successful brother. there is a highschool student who seems indestructible, a stripper who's mirror image of herself seems to have a personality of its own, a japanese man who believes he can stop time and even teleport, and finally a drug-addicted artist who paints the future.

the show is actually really quite good, and i was a little surprised by it, because normally network television is as plain-jane as you can get, and they tend to ruin genre shows (e.g.: lost, which was already watered down, but diluted even more so in the second season by stretching the storyline longer with more episodes, thus effectively destroying any momentum or suspense in the process. i always felt that lost could truly be spectacular if it had 10 or 15 episodes a season, which would still preserve the suspense but add a sense of immediacy. but more episodes means more people watching, means more lucrative dollars).

i find genre shows tend to do better on specialty channels or cable, like the sci-fi channel which has fostered two of the best sci-fi shows in the past decade (battlestar galactica, farscape). on these cable channels, shows are able to really get great writing and stories on limited schedules. every episode seems to be great when you reduce the number of shows a season, instead of having too much "filler." still, network television has given us some great genre shows like buffy, angel, or quantum leap.

while some of the writing is a bit stilted and not quite smooth enough, the show does a really good job of portraying the wonder in discovering one's powers, with some of the characters reacting with horror rather than joy. it also does a great job of portraying the belief in all of us that we were meant for greater and better things, especially with the male nurse who believes he can fly, that it is his destiny. after all, we've all at one point or another believed we were meant for, or deserved greatness. that we were meant for a greater purpose in life than to just work, sleep and die. even if it was just daydreaming and fantasy, it's still a nice thought.

there is a tendancy to see genre television as just a science fiction show, or just a comic book show, etc. the truth is far from that. buffy was never just a show about vampires: it was about female empowerment and making one's way through life; battlestar galactica is not just a space opera: it's about humanity when faced with extinction, about human rights, about the human soul... and lost? well, the jury is still out on that one. i'm still waiting for that moment when everything just clicks. genre shows, when done correctly, have the ability to take important human issues, and make a commentary on it through the guise of science fiction or fantasy. hopefully heroes will continue that tradition.

at any rate, the show has a lot of potential, and i am eagerly awaiting the second episode. here are a few clips from the show. enjoy.