If you do than this British Aircraft Carrier can be yours. How cool would that be? Show up at the yacht club in that thing. Awesome.
:: C.M. Burns 5/30/2003 11:00:00 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 29, 2003 ::
Why Won't Bill Clinton Go Away?
Well, anyone who reads this story and is surprised raise your hand and I'll come over there and hit you. From the Post: "Clinton Wants Change in Presidential Term Limits". Yes, it reads like a piece in the Onion, especially when Clinton says it wouldn't really be for him, but also says:
"There may come a time when we elect a president at age 45 or 50, and then 20 years later the country comes up against the same kind of problems the president faced before," he said. "People would like to bring that man or woman back but they would have no way to do so."
Ha! Bill, I'm glad you're still in the news, actually. You're such a welcome relief from what's going on in the world. I think the man has a future as a talk show host, I really do.
:: C.M. Burns 5/29/2003 10:08:00 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, May 21, 2003 ::
The Collapse of Political Discourse in America
It's raining in DC today, so instead of reading my Teddy Roosevelt biography in the park, I decided to browse at Borders during lunch. As I always do, I wandered down to the History/Current Affairs section. Usually I'm looking at history or for books on politicial ideologies I don't quite understand, such as the anarchist movement(all I've been able to discern about anarchists is that if their revolution does come, they're probably gonna be the first against the wall, as they don't seem to like guns). Today, however, I was taken aback by the sheer volume of books dedicated to bashing Liberals and similar books dedicated to bashing Conservatives.
The titles say it all: "Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right", "Why the Left Hates America", and "Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalisim". For the left, titles such as "Stupid White Men", "Dreaming War: Blood & Oil for the Bush-Cheney Junta", and "What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias & The News". I'd have included Chomsky, be he just hates America, the only ideology he follows is his own. Anyway, just a quick glance through these books reveals my worst fears(I admit to owning "Why the Left Hates America", but in my defense, I was misled about it, as the person who suggested it claimed it only went after Chomsky types, who I belive really do hate America. The book was just as bad as "Slander", if not worse.) The worst part is all of the books above are best sellers at Amazon.com. This, of course, got me thinking.
I have in the past on this page raged about the level of incivility that permeates political debates in Washington. But the knowledge that these books are selling big across the country strikes fear into my heart. These books demonize their targets in a way that only True Believers can. The Right ridicules the Left as morons, idiots, and unamerican, while the Left portrays the Right as just slightly below Hitler: rich, hateful & uncaring, wishing to line their pockets and take away all your rights. Fair warning: if you REALLY think any of these things, I'm going to piss you off now. Ok, everyone ready for a rant? Good.
The labeling of political opponents in the most extreme terms possible-"unamerican", "naziesque", represents the lowest point I can imagine for Political discourse in this country, and may indeed signal the end of what has been a great tradition in this country: honest debate about what is best for the Republic. The people who have written these books know nothing other than their own blind ideology, disagreement is now grounds for heavy accusations that have no basis in fact. To pick the worst offenders I choose fo the Right "Let Freedom Ring", and for the Left I choose "Stupid White Men". I have not read either of these books in detail, but I've skimmed enough to know that both writers are full of crap. That Americans are reading this drivel and responding positively to it is disturbing.
Michael Moore wrote "Stupid White Men". I admit I dislike Moore and his views intently, but that is because he is a dishonest man who has ridden to riches on the backs of those he purports to help. His views should not be taken seriously by those who wish to make a difference in American politics. "Let Freedom Ring" was written by Conservative talk show host Sean Hannity(I will not call him a pundit). He's like Rush Limbaugh but more vile, as Limbaugh, for all his bombast, has a sense of humor. It seems that Hannity has none. He actually has a radio and TV show, and I don't think he should be thrown off the air, but he should be taken to task by REAL conservatives who know that throwing around grenades like "unamerican" doesn't get you anywhere. There's an old rule from the early days of internet newsgroups and chat rooms, who's name I've forgotten. The rule was that once the term "nazi" was thrown out, the debate ended because it was a sign that the two sides would never agree and that only negative things could come of it. It was like tossing an H-Bomb, it wiped out the discussion. The same could be said of the word "unamerican". Both these words have been stripped of their real meaning and are used carelessly in political debate. Now, the real arguments stop before they begin, as these are the first two words thrown out. It's a literal verbal nuclear war, and as we all know, nobody wins one of those. We just end up in holes with our own side. It pains me when Republicans toss the "unamerican" label out at candidates or politicians who are against them, and it angers me when Democrats call Republicans "Nazi's". It is the end of political discourse when this occurs, and it happens more and more frequentley.
I guess you could say that this kind of extreme speech goes back to the Reagan years. Both sides started using harsher words then. G.H.W. Bush made "Liberal" a dirty word, and now Gulf War II has turned the GOP into "nazi's". This is so damn dangerous. I remember a little news story about the "Seinfeld" Soup Nazi episode. A small group of Jews was upset that the term was used so flippantly, that it represented the worst humanity could be, and that planting it on a controlling chef in a sitcom was a disgrace. At the time I felt this was a bit of PC silliness. Now, I see their point. Just by claiming to be a Republican there are Democrats who would call me a nazi, or a war-monger, or an imperialist. And I myself am guilty of calling anti-war protestors pro-Saddam, which the vast majority clearly are not, and I feel bad about it. We are reaching a point where I fear we can not turn back. The judicial wars in the Senate, tax cut battles, and heavy duty rhetoric are now the norm.
It is true that American political parties are traditonally good at negatively labeling the other side. It's politics, but no one ever really got hurt. Now, in the post Watergate, Iran-Conta, and Monica days, however, the labeling is out of control. Instead of being weak on defense, a legitimate point, the person in guilty of not supporting the President. While the administration wrestles with ways to combat terrorisim, the term "totalitarian" is thrown at dedicated public servents who are meerly trying to do a difficult job. What we have forgotten is that no one is perfect, that we make mistakes. We seem to have forgotten that an honest disagreement is simply that, a disagreement, not a desire to wage verbal war against your opponent.
It's ugly out there. It bothers me. I don't want to become like the funeral director in "The Godfather", the man who came to the country because he "believed in America", but had to go to Don Corleone because his ideals were not met. I believe in America as well, but the tone that I see every day sickens and saddens me, and I might one day feel the same way as the funeral director, my ideals betrayed, my choices reduced to only one. I'm not sure who reads this blog anymore, but to those who do read these words I say that the first step is recognizing that our rhetoric is out of hand, and we must do what we can to renew civilized debate in America. Or I may retreat to an ivory tower and never return. I pray that civility is returned, and I take responsibilty for my own part in using harsh rehtoric where is was not needed. May God, the Founders, or whoever, forgive us all for our transgressions against the American Spirit, and let us move as Lincoln suggested, "With Firmness in the Right as God (or whatever) gives us to see the right...to bing up the Nation's wounds". Food for thought.
I've been noticing something that's been written on several Washington Post newspaper boxes throughout the downtown DC area. It's a simple, four letter word, but it's only a curse if you work for the Post. The word is "Lies". Written with a simple black magic marker, the word is usually just etched in the corner of the box. I think I first noticed them around the time that the major antiwar protests were occuring in DC, which would be back in late Febraury and early March. I haven't seen them on either the New York Times boxes or the Washington Times boxes, presumably because the NYT was against the war and also because no one really takes the Washington Times seriously. What makes the lack of the word "lies" in the NYT boxes so deliciously ironic is two words: Jayson Blair.
A loud cry has gone up amongst activist groups and from the media watch group FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, who, just like their conservative brethern at the Media Research Center, don't want fairness so much as a bias in their favor) that the Media swallowed everything the government fed them on Iraq hook, line, & sinker. FAIR was recently upset that the media hardly ever had anti-war pundits on once the fighting began, never mind that once the fighting begins, and the coverage is all based on the progress of the war, why would the media book someone who's opinion lost? And activists distrust any news source that has any ties to big business for the simple reason that in their eyes big business is evil and must be destroyed. So, as a small, harmless form of protest, some in the city have written "lies" on the newspaper boxes. This got me thinking, as small, reletively pointless things tend to do, and I thought "what if they're right?" What if the Post is simply full of lies? What if the media is a puppet for government, and dissent in the ranks is being crushed? What if the conspiracy theorists are correct? My first instinct was to say "good", because I am, at least in theory, an evil Republican who want dissent crushed and the media to bend to my will. But I'm an American first, an American who believes in a free and open media and the right for even the most conspiracy-addled person to speak their peace without fear of reprisal. So I did some research. Well, I mean, I read some op-eds and asked some friends their opinions while half-drunk, but I think it's more than the people who wrote "lies" did, and I think it's more honest than what FAIR came up with.
My conclusion: In the war, since information was controlled by the Pentagon, the media did a pretty good job covering the thing. Yes, a couple reporters got a little too excited about being a part of the "team"(I'm thinking everyone at FOX News, and that Doctor correspondent on CNN), but compared to what I read on the BBC websites, which were almost cheering for the Iraqi's at every turn, I felt that the embed program didn't lie or mislead Americans in any great way. Nothing is perfect, but they did all right. FAIR's biggest complaint about the coverage was that not many dissenting voices were heard once the fighting began, or even before fighting began. They point to the overwhelming number of former US Military officials used as "analyists" by news outlets(in all fairness to FAIR, it did become rather obvious that there was a REASON some of the analyists were now sitting in news rooms instead of APC's on the battlefield). To them I say "what's your point?"
FAIR claims only one person was identified with an actual anti-war orginization on Network news. I'll accept that, as FAIR doesn not lie about stats, it merely skews them. Still, who were the major anti-war orginizations? The loudest and most vocal was, of course, InternationalANSWER, the group that, quite early on, was identified as being a puppet of the Workers World Party, a Stalinist/socialist organization that, besides being pro-Saddam(not anti-war, which admittedly the people who went to the events they held were) were also pro-North Korea, called Tiennamen Square a "battle" and supported the Chinese Government's actions, and who are also staunch defenders of Slobidan Milosovic(sp?), ousted genocidal maniac. Does FAIR think that the Networks would really book THESE people as the grassroots orginzations to show American heartland opposition? FAIR says that half of the non-official US opponents to war were "Man on the Street" interviews. Why this is a problem, I don't know, as man on the street interviews, i.e. people with whom the home audiences can identify, are usually quite effective. The problem here is that FAIR wants there to be more official dissent against Iraq where their was none. You can argue the reasons about why, and you can accuse the Democrats of being weak on their stance, but don't hold them accountable for not denouncing the war if they don't want to, which is what FAIR does when it takes Sen. Kennedy to task for being less than clear in his opposition. Well, that's the problem. The whole party was less than clear in it's opposition, and while I agree that many mainstream American's opposed the war or had reservations, the biggest problem the anti-war crowd had was finding effective spokespoeple. The movement was hijacked by extremists, to the detrement of many. The reason so many actors showed up on TV to denounce the war was because all of the reasonable critics were tied up in the internal politics of the anti-war movement.
InternationalANSWER, which is strongly anti-Semetic(I picked this up by simply watching the speeches from the podium during the marches they sponsered) is the group that should take the blame for any lack of dissent on the news, as they controlled the movement from the get-go and who got to speak. Major media wants credible official spokepeople for issues, not someone who would call the war a "neo-con zionist plot". Sorry FAIR, I know that the majority of anti-war types didn't feel this way, but they were not allowed top places in the organized movement.
The other problem with FAIR's reporting is that it is only based on stats. I looked through their website, www.fair.org, and found almost nothing about what the slant on the war in the actual stories WAS before the war began, or even after.(Yes, the embeds were a bit one-sided, but it WAS a one-sided war) You can point to the odd story about fired journalists, which I agree was foolish, but the media is also driven by readership and viewership, and during a time of war, as history has shown, and indeed the recent war showed, people like to hear good news. FAIR's biggest cite is an internal memo about Donahue getting booted because he was anti-war, and MSNBC, already getting killed by FOX and CNN, didn't want his unpopular views on their network. Well, Donahue pretty much got cancelled for a whole range of reasons-low ratings, arguments with management, and maybe his anti-war view(which seems odd because they had to know what they were getting when they hired him). But it's not that big a deal, in the end, considering that he was already pretty much on his way out before the war even got close to starting. Either way, watching the major Nets before the war it's hard to see a strong bias for military action. In fact, if you want to read the conservative side, the media research center has lots of examples of stories being very strongly anti-war. What I'm saying is that neither of these orginizations is really interested in the truth. FAIR tends to skew stats, and the MRC tends to beat up on the anchors. Nothing of real substance is discussed. The TRUTH, as always, lies somewhere in between all of this.
So back to the conspiracy of "lies". Is the Washington Post lying to us? I don't think so. It's not owned by a major conglomerate, nor is the New York Times, which kills the "big business" argument. The Washington Times in owned by a cult, so they could be a little less trustworthy, but when I read the NYT and the Post, and their stories or op/ed pages are different, I don't see bias, I see a different approach, one that doesn't make the activists happy, because they feel their views aren't being expressed. A final note on that. I watched the largest International ANSWER demonstration on C-SPAN, which only provided the names of the speakers and had no agenda or commentary, back in february, and I heard nothing but hate and bile coming form the podium. When I read about the march the next day in both the post and the NYT, I read nothing about the speakers or ANSWER, just about how these were regular people protesting the war in a peaceful way. None of the hateful things said on the podium were mentioned. Is that bias? I thought it was at first, but then I realized that no one pays much attention to ANSWER besides ANSWER(and maybe FAIR and the MRC), and decided the stories were fine by me.
One final swipe at FAIR for searching for trouble where none might exist. They complained that hackers had shut down the English language version of the Al-Jazeera web page. Seeing as hackers do this to sites all the time, I wonder if it warrents a complaint. It's not too neihborly of the hackers to do it, but I wonder if FAIR would complain if, say, National Review Online got hacked(which they did, and no, FAIR didn't issue a Media Alert about it). Hmmmm.
What does it mean? It means we aren't being lied to by the media, for one thing. Whether you trust the government or not is for you to decide. If the media was to just reprint verbatim what the government says, then maybe it's lies. But they don't. There are op/eds and all sorts of things out there that make me think the state of the media isn't all that bad. After all, if Paul Krugman can get a prime spot in the NY Times Op/ed page and call the Presdient of the United States a liar on a bi-weekly basis, dissent isn't being crushed. Plus, the world of blogging has opened up all sorts of new avenues for news to get out. Free speech is still out there. As long as we remain vigilant, it will always be out there. Keep a look out, to be sure, but don't hurt the cause of free speech by crying wolf when there is no wolf to be found. We all know what happens next.
Washington DC has a fair number of homeless people. Chicago, my home town, undoubtably has more, but DC's are more visable. A friend from Chicago who had not been to DC in years didn't believe me when I said there was a big problem in the city. After walking from just Old Ebbitt Grill to Dupont Circle she said "I see what you mean".
The Homeless in this country constitute a bit of a national embarrassment. We're not sure what to do about them, and what we do try doesn't seem to work. The perfect example is not, in fact, DC, but San Fransisco, undoubtably the Homeless capitol of America and the city that has tried the most to make things better for them, failing massively at the cost of millions of dollars. Compared to San Fransisco, DC looks like a city that has little troubles with the homeless at all. I know this because I've been to San Fransisco and been accosted by homeless people there. My sister lives out in San Jose and often visits San Fransico and tells me about it. Any conversation I have with anyone who's been out there talks about two things: the beauty of the place, and the homeless problem. Now, I don't claim to know what to do, although it seems to me that private shelters and programs go a lot farther in helping than government handouts do. The article that prompted these thoughts from me is by John Derbyshire on National Review Online. I'm admittedley not a big fan of his work. He is very conservative and dislikes liberals very much, which is not my cup of tea. However, his story of his experience in S.F. recentley and his account of their truly widespread problem is quiet disquieting, and leads me to think that a reaccounting of how we deal with the homeless may be in order. Although I have some issues with his proposed solutions (one involves sort of locking them up until they behave themselves, which on it's face seems horrible, by on the other, once the article is read, might seem like an acceptable solution) his argument of what's wrong with our current approach seems solid.
Derbyshire comments that the homeless in San Fransisco are give almost $400 a month, simply for being homeless, and argues that it should be no surprise that this generosity for essentially giving nothing back to society has attracted more homeless to the region, and not solved the problem at all. To great effect he quotes Rudyard Kipling, saying this is the "end point of liberalism" where "all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins." Derbyshire places far too much of the blame on liberalism to take everything he says seriously, and he has a history at looking down his nose at the less fortunate. Still, the article talks about the dual nature of traditonal American culture, that rewards the achievements of individuals, and that it was the private charities that would help a man on his way in the old days. Conservative pineing for the old days is nothing new, but the larger point that modern idealism is less practical that traditional pragmatisim when dealing with those that seemingly have lost their place in a society based on a social contract is worth a closer look. Read the whole thing, and don't dimiss the ideas out of hand simply because Derb dislikes liberals. I usually dislike Derb, but this column will make you think, if you let it.
:: C.M. Burns 5/19/2003 01:39:00 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, May 16, 2003 ::
The Matrix Has Me...Again
Ok, so I saw Reloaded last night, and all I can say is IT FUCKED MY MIND BIG TIME! I don't want to dissect the action elements. All that needs to be said is that anyone who says anything negative about the freeway chase is a fool, the fight between Neo & the Smith Clones was fun the whole way through, and Lawrence Fishburn is still a better action star than Keanu Reeves could ever be. I want to talk about the expectations & story.
Remember when the first Matrix came out in 1999? In was rather quietley released by Warner Bros. in early April, which is tradionally saved for mid-budgeted, low-expectation Action films. The reviews weren't all that glowing either, praising the action but asking for more out of the story. I myself only wanted to see it because the final trailer for Star Wars Episode I was attached, and we hadn't seen it yet in Bloomington(Remember, this was BEFORE we knew it sucked).. So I dragged my roommates there with low expectaions. Well, we walked out of the theater in awe, and dragged about everyone we knew back the next night. The Matrix exceeded everything we could imagine, because it did things no other movie had done. And, despite the dullard critics(who found the story to be all sorts of wild AFTER the movie took off), the movie got phenomonal word of mouth and made a ton of cash, bested only by Star Wars, Austin Powers 2, and The Sixth Sense (another word of mouth triumph). So, a film with no expectations blew everyone out of the water and became part of our culture. And it was good. Then, two years or so ago, word of the sequels began, and talk of outrageous effects and all sorts of coolness flooded the net. Last year, the first teaser trailer was attached to Star Wars Episode II, and in the end it got more applause the the movie did. Expectations from fans were at an all time high. With Super Bowl trailers, video games, and total market saturation, Warner Bros. was also expecting alot. And this movie will satisfy the WB and meet expectations. It's gonna double the first movie's take in about two weeks. But many of the fans came out of the film dissapointed. Something was wrong. Or so they said.
Well something IS wrong, something with the fans. The film I saw last night made me smile, and 24 hours later it is still making me think. It's true that the dialouge seems a bit off, but a don't think it is. In fact, I think just about everything said in the film may well be considered brilliant by the time everyone sees Revolutions in November. If I'm right, everything that is confusing now will make sense, and if we look back at what was said in the film, the threads that are still hanging, will be pulled together, as well. I will not spoil the movie, but I will say it is full of BIG ideas, ideas that turn what we all thought about the world of the Matrix and the "real world" upside down. By the end of this movie, you won't know which way is up in the world the W. Bros. created, and it's exciting. There's religious overtones by the dozen, ancient myths are alluded to, and the very question that drives us, are we driven by choice or causality, cause and effect or free will, is asked and the answer will hold the key to the mystery of these film. I cherish this film, maybe not as much as the first one, as nothing will compare to that "virgin" experience of seeing that film for the first time, but this movie is smarter, faster, and more beautiful than anything we're likely to see this year.
I understand why people are dissapointed, or don't like it, though, and I don't think it's because they "don't get it", which was the problem with the detractors of the first film. No, the blame for their disapointment lays in the exceedingly high expectations that this movie raised in them, expectations that weren't helped by Warner Bros. marketing campaign. Think back to the ads for the original Matrix. In fact, go to www.movie-list.com and download and watch them. While the SFX are showcased, it's the idea that made the movie so intriguing, and why it did so well when it opened. I watched them again myself today, and the thing that hooks you is the question "What is the Matrix?". That was the name of the website. What it was is never really told to you in the trailers. You see short clips of explosions, gunfire, but mostly you're left wondering what the hell the Matrix is, and why Keanu says "whoa". The trailers for The Matrix were brilliant in what they held back. Not so for Matrix Reloaded, as Warner Bros. chose to deemphasize the story in favor of the effects. I blame Joel Silver, the producers, and the suits at Warner's, as the trailers are just clips from the action scenes, so all the audience will expect is action. Very little is given in way of story or ideas. So the reason for the originals success, the mysterious nature of the matrix, which is even more mysterious in the second film, is eliminated.
You can also blame the internet. With the exception of this film and the Lord of the Rings films, I blame the internet for ruining all sorts of movies. To many spoilers, too many "spies", too much information. Expectations for films are now driven by buzz from internet sites. Too much information is given away. People always go in knowing what to expect, so reactions are always muted to major films. On this movie, secrecy was such an issue that since no one knew what to expect besides cool action, they felt dissapointed when it failed to be what they thought it to be, what Warner Bros. was selling it as over the internet was all they looked for, instead of opening their minds to the possibilities this film raises in the world of the Matrix. So the internet, like TV is killing our imaginations. Personally, I'm going to try and avoid spoilers for the next film, and go in completely open minded. All I can say is that I'm seeing this movie again ASAP and will be there opening night for Revolutions.
So get out there. See this film. Ignore what you've been shown on TV and let the experience wash over you. As the tagline says "Free Your Mind"(I think it's a subliminal hint from the W. Bros to forget what you've seen advertised) It is marvelous, really. What I'm saying is I liked it, and no one can tell me different. So there. The Matrix has me again, four years later, and I don't want it to let go.
:: C.M. Burns 5/16/2003 03:43:00 PM [+] ::
Voluntary Human Extinction, or PETA's Final Solution
I cam across the most fascinating web site I've seen in a while today. It's the homepage for the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, or VHEMT. Their goal, quite simply, is for human beings to decide to stop breeding and let our species die out because the Earth would be better off. I think it's kinda cute, though entirely too morbid. I think they're serious too, which is even stranger. I wouldn't be surprised if this was PETA-related. They are pretty pragmatic though, thinking long-term. And while we certainly are bad for the planet, I think this should be a last-ditch solution. They are creepy, though, and call themselves "vehmenent" about their cause. Normally I'm against any government monitoring of nominally non-violent private groups(yes, I oppose PATRIOT, but agreed with FBI survelliance of the KKK in the 50's & 60's), but with their rhetoric, they might just need to be kept under a close watch.
:: C.M. Burns 5/16/2003 11:56:00 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 15, 2003 ::
Will "The Matrix Reloaded" Crush My Dreams?
Well, the reviews have started to come in, and well most reviews, with a few exceptions, like the films well enough, they seem to be damning the film with faint praise. The only rave review I've read comes from Roger Ebert, who gives the film 3 and a Half stars, where he only gave the original film 3 stars, and even that with reservations. He seems, like many who originally gave the first film tepid reviews(the best example is Entertainment Weekly, who gave the film a very week C+ originally, and then went Gaga over it after it hit big), to have gained appreciation for the film after repeated viewings. However, this time, the fans seem divided as well. The fanboys at Aint It Cool News, who have a tendency to overpraise simply good films(like Spide-Man, which I liked but was not the second coming as they seemed to think), and to worship anything with a Marvel Comics logo(See their incredibly, jaw-droppingly sick gushing about "Daredevil", which was the saddest comic book film since "Batman& Robin"), have dumped all over the film, nitpicking it to the point where it is unrecongnizable. I skipped the spoiler reviews and read their analysis, and for the first time in ages I think Roger Ebert gets a genre movie better than the geeks do.
In beating up on "Reloaded", critics have been complaining about the "burley brawl" sequence, where Neo fights 100 Agent Smiths. The seen, aparently, has no point, as neither character can lose, and after it goes on for a good while, Neo just flies away. Ebert has the perfect analysis on that: The Wachowski Bros. are, besides being big fans of philosophy and theology of all types, are also big Hong Kong Kung Fu film fans. Ebert, who has probably seen every film ever made, points out that in Kung Fu movies, fights mostly exist just to show off the cool moves, and even the harshest critic admires the "brawl" on a technical level. Will I feel this way? I don't know. I see the film in two hours. I'll post some thoughts on it tomorrow, but I won't render a verdict until I see the final film. After all "Reloaded" and the third film "Revolutions" are really one 5 hour film split right down the middle. I'm ready. Down the rabbit hole I go, 4 years later.
:: C.M. Burns 5/15/2003 03:48:00 PM [+] ::
:: Monday, May 12, 2003 ::
What's In A Name?
I don't mean that in the Shakesperean "A Rose by any other name..." sense. I mean, what's the deal with names people give their kids lately? It's like all the yuppies got together and decided that the old standards like Patrick, Jane, Jeff, Emily etc. just aren't good enough for their delightful spawn, and now we get stuff like Tara, Hamilton, Kip(WTF is up with Kip?), Jordan(sort of gender-nuetral, that one), and Hunter. These aren't names, they're like brands for the kids, proving how yuppified their parents are. When you name your kid in the old days, it seems, it was sort of a defference to the previous generation or something halfway noble or something like that. Now when preschool teachers see a kid named Rupert you have to wonder what the parent's were taking naming their kid after either a multi-billionaire medial mogul or an overrated British actor. What's with that? I know some names go out of style (When's the last time you heard the name Ethel on anyone other then an octogenarian?), but don't we owe children something better than, say, Reuben? That's a sandwich, not a name for a kid.
While I'm ranting about names, am I the only one who finds it a bit odd when you're complimented for your name? When you meet old ladies when you're a kid and they say "Oh what a wonderful name you have!" you're expected to say thank you. When really, thank my parents, as I had nothing to do with naming myself. It's the one thing we don't get control over until, if we hate our name, we can get it changed legally. When I guy in a cheap romantic flick compliments the girl on her beautiful name, that's not a real compliment. It's something they say because they can't come up with a better line. And I agree with bart Simpson when he said that people would be a little heistant to praise roses if they were called stinkweeds. Take that, Bard.
:: C.M. Burns 5/12/2003 02:32:00 PM [+] ::
I Am A Jaunty Sea Captain
In my endevours to find a new career, I think I've found a calling: jaunty sea captain. The key word being jaunty, as I won't be any old sea captain. No, I'll have a cane that I'll use as more of an extension of myself than as a walking device, and I'll have a tri-cornered hat and will wear pantaloons. When I walk down the street, my gait will be JAUNTY. I considered an eyepatch, but decided that was too much a pirate thing, and I'm just a jaunty sea captain. Why did I decide this? Because it's fun to say Jaunty. Try it, you'll see. Plus them three sided hats sure is swell.
John Leo, who is the longtime columnist on the culture for US News & World Whatnot, was one of the first conservative thinkers I encountered growing up. He is a classic conservative, a Republican in the Eisenhower sense of the word, in short, one of the last of his kind (I actually don't know Mr. Leo's party affiliation, but he seems to me like an I Like Ike GOPer). As a traditional conservative, he has been an advocate of free speech for a long time. In this fine essay on gov't crackdowns on protests, Mr. Leo rightly asserts that freedom of speech should not be curtailed by the Secret Service, that police tactics to hem in peaceful protestors are becoming dangerous, and that the college campus is in danger of becoming severely censored. It's an excellent article for anyone, right or left, who believes speech should be free for everyone and he also takes to task the media focus on alleged "celebrity crack-downs" that amount to nothing but angry critisicim while they should be covering the case of one Brett Bursey, who seems to be facing jail time just because the Secret Service thinks his message, "no war", was somehow a danger to the President. Not a proud moment, but with good folks like John Leo keeping watch, we can point out these REAL curtailments and work as friends of liberty, if not the same political programs, to keep speech free.
:: C.M. Burns 5/07/2003 01:42:00 PM [+] ::
MTV's Icon "Tribute" to Metallica
Last night I cought the last half an hour of MTV's Icon Tribute to Metallica. I LOVE Metallica. It would seem odd to those that know me, but when I first heard them as a Freshman in high school back in 1991, I couldn't get enough. I got all of their albums in like a one month period. Seriously, they feature one of the greatest guitarists of his generation in Kirk Hammett and a front man who intimidates and rocks you at the same time, James Hetfield. Also, Lars Ulrich is a decent enough drummer, but easily one of the most annoying music personalities out there. But I was a guitar man(and still am), and Metallica tears it up like nobody's business. They still do, if their 10 minute medly of hits at the end of the show was any indication. I am worried about their new bassist however. He lacks the sort of craziness you saw in Jason Newsted(why did he quit, anyway), and he's really really big, like crazy muscleman big, and he doesn't so much play the bass as he smacks it around. No surpise he used to tour with Ozzy, but he looks like he'd be more at home with, say, Glen Danzig. Anyway, that wasn't what bothered me about the show. What bothered me, as what always bothers me about MTV programs, was the bands they got to do "tributes" to Metallica by covering their greatest hits.
The best performance came from Korn, a band who has yet to write a song I find even mildly interesting, but at least is known for guitar work and can at least CLAIM to be influenced by the band. The covered "One", which is still Metallica's best song, and since Korn was apparently the best band MTV could get, it was fitting. Korn did a pretty good job with it, too, although the drummer was a bit off. But right before they got to the best part of the song, the guitar solo that sums up the rage and anger in the song, they stopped playing. WTF? The solo is difficult, yes, but these guys at least HAVE solos in their own songs, couldn't they at least try? Apparently not, which goes to show that no great guitarists have entered the seen since Slash. But I'll give the frontman of Korn his due, he had good presence, and sang the hell out of the song. So kudos to them.
Before them, however, in the most insulting tribute I've ever seen came from Avril Lavigne(!), the sort of punk pop princess that is allegedly talented but has yet to show the signs. Her band suffered through "Fuel", which isn't that great a song, and becomes ten times worse when a wannabe like Lavigne sort of mumbles the lyrics while her band ruins the better parts of the song. I saw Hetfields face at this point, and his smile looked a little forced.
I missed the Sum 41 performance, as 24 was on, and there's no way I'm missing 24 for Sum 41. I only saw about 60 seconds of Avril(It was a commerical) as well. So that left one more performance before Metallica took the stage. It was a performance that pretty muched summed up everything I hate about what MTV and it's corporate masters have done to music. It was Limp Bizkit, the most ovverrated, undertalented, crap band on the face of the planet. At least Avril Lavigne doesn't call her music rock. Fred Durst and his moronic ensemble of half-wits who would be beaten to death by early Metal-heads(I admit, I'm not one of those, but I've seen old concert footage, and trust me, Metallica's old school fans would pound these punks. Of course, they're all 40 or so now, so who knows). Anyway, Bizkit does "Sanitarium" and, it was so bad that I felt like crying. Messy guitar work, no reall bass presence, and a "singer" who actually just sort of said one word after anothe rinto the microphone without taking a breath. So, so sad.
I mean, I know MTV wants to put the bands it like up there, but what about a tribute from, say, Megadeth, a band that is pure metal and learned from Metallica. Their frontman, Dave Mustane, was the original lead guitarist for the band before his drug problem took over. He would have performed a fitting tribute to the band, and could claim real influence. They could keep Korn, I'll agree they were influenced, but why not Nine Inch Nails, or whatever band Trent Reznor is dealing with lately. Finally, the biggest disapointment was that they let Rob Zombie say some scripted crap, but didn't let him perform. He's been around long enough to have been influenced by Metallica. Instead, we get Avril Fucking Lavigne who has no connection to Metallica at all. She wasn't even 10 years old when the Black album came out, for God's sake! What a craptastic display. The only really funny, even touching tribute came from stand-up Jim Bruer, who did a quick riff on the different stange presences of Hetfield and Ulrich, and then did a pretty funny thing with a cover band about Metallica singing childrens songs now that they have kids of their own. Anyway, I hate MTV. Rant over.
:: C.M. Burns 5/07/2003 11:22:00 AM [+] ::
I Can Listen to The Who Again!
Who guitarist Pete Townshend was cleared of kiddie-porn charges today, which means that I no longer have to feel creeped out by listening to The Who, one of my all-time favorite Rock bands. Yay! Too bad I still can't watch "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" without feeling like vomiting.
:: C.M. Burns 5/07/2003 10:44:00 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, May 06, 2003 ::
Bill Bennett Hubbub
I really don't care about this. If Bennett had been stridently anti-gambling I would have disliked him to begin with, being stridently pro-gambling myself. But the post from Richard Bennett's Omphalos on the thing is great. He doesn't care so much that he gambled just that, A) he made ALL Bennett's look bad, and B)He isn't a REAL gambler, which I agree with. Here's the money quote:
So what kind of a moron pays big money - millions of dollars - for a machine to spin and buzz? A major moron, in this case. If those effects are so pleasing to him, why didn't he just buy himself a slot machine and give the $8M to charity? He doesn't even qualify as a genuine high-roller because he wasn't playing serious games like craps, blackjack, and roulette, where people can see what he's doing, he's over in some corner with a cup full of tokens donating to the mob. It's sad, pathetic, and proof that he's no genius.
Need I say More?
:: C.M. Burns 5/06/2003 02:33:00 PM [+] ::
Part of me May Yet Die Happy
For DVD freaks like myself, there have been two sets of film series that have been long absent on DVD. Oddly, both are owned by George Lucas. However, a wrong is righted this November when the Indiana Jones trilogy comes to DVD, totally remastered (but without any of the "Special" Edition type footage that Lucas and Spielberg seem so enamored with). Great sound and picture, and a full fourth DVD with nothing but extras. I've been humming the "Raiders March" all morning. Quick note: "Raiders" has perhaps the greatest "gotcha" line of all time, spoken my the evil (French) archeologist Beloc to Dr. Jones after taking away that golden head from the beginning: "Once again you see Dr. Jones that there is nothing that you can possess that I cannot take away". Great line. Next time you steal someone's significant other from them, leave them writhing in pain with THAT one!
:: C.M. Burns 5/06/2003 10:03:00 AM [+] ::
Why I Can't Wait to Go to Australia
Only in the land down under could you find a town called Humpty Doo, that has it's very own boxing croc. Scroll down and envy my journey, plebes!
:: C.M. Burns 5/06/2003 09:51:00 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, May 05, 2003 ::
Lack of Blogging
I haven't been blogging today. Why? I don't know. I seem to be out of opinions. Or at least coherent opinions. I could start talking about the Scientologist's secret plans to clone L.Ron Hubbard and Travolta, but my sources on that are in mortal danger, and I can't break it. I am moving forward on plans to leave DC behind forever, though, Oh, and congrats to my friend Jen and her husband Travis on the birth of their first child, Alexander. Meant to say that sooner. Way to go guys.
Oh, and how about that guy who cut his own arm off? That's something, right? I'm tired and am going to lie down. Wake me when it's time for my jello.
:: C.M. Burns 5/05/2003 03:57:00 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, May 02, 2003 ::
Bye-Bye West Wing
The big news in DC with a Hollywood tint today that ISN'T about the President's theatrical, and, in my opinion, highly effective, arrival on the USS Abraham Lincoln yesterday is the news that the creator and main writer of NBC's The West Wing Is leaving the show after this season, the fourth in the show's run. This is thought to be shocking, but reading the TV Column in the Post today, I see that Sorkin had been talking about leaving since December of 2002, when he said he felt the show had "Jumped the Shark". Now there's alot of anger directed at NBC right now by the show's die-hard fans, and they have a right to be concerned about the future. Several cast members are quite close to Sorkin, and if he was forced out, they might wish to leave as well. Plus, what made the show so good was Sorkin's strong dialouge and care for the characters, as the show was ostensibly about politics, but really about the people. This focus shifted in season 3 and by this current season, the show had definitly lost it's steam. Now, NBC pushes the show as action-oriented, and this is sure to get worse, as the head of ER, John Wells, is going to take over TWW. Now, ER became unwatchable years ago. If TWW is lucky, the actors will flee and the show will quitely fade and not return after next season. Why? Because truly great shows, like great atheletes, need to go at the top of their game. If only The X-Files, The Simpsons, or LA Law had left right when the steam was running out, they wouldn't have made loyal viewers sit through extra awful seasons. (Sorry Simpsons fans, the show is running on fumes). I think this may be Sorkin's way of letting the show go before it gets too out of hand. If he truly thinks the show "jumped the shark", then he's right to leave. I wish him luck in future creative efforts. I don't agree with his politics, but he writes like nobody's business, which is a rarity in TV these days.
:: C.M. Burns 5/02/2003 10:27:00 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, May 01, 2003 ::
Hey! It's The International Day of Labor!
Remember all those Soviet May Day celebrations in Red Square in the 80's? They all took place on The International Day of Labor, May Day, or today, May 1st. Thankfully, we celebrate labor day at the end of the summer. But in rememberence of those ideas that no longer hold water (except in say, North Korea), I wish to present this piece that was written for the London TImes in praise of capitalisim. I like it, as I like capitalisim. Because at it's heart, capitalisim is non-discrimnatory against race, creed, color, gender, sexual preference, or political philosophy. And it's done more good for humanity than anything else is history, including the invention of the wheel. So hurray for capitalisim. I miss those Soviet missles and tanks and their leaders in ill-fitting suits, though.
:: C.M. Burns 5/01/2003 04:03:00 PM [+] ::
Who Says we Can't Fight Terrorisim and Iraq at the Same Time
Not to beat a dead horse, but according to a recent State Dept. report on terrorisim, the number of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2002 was 199, 44% lower than in 2001, and an overall 30-year lull. I would float the theory that this is part of a global effort to crack town on terrorists, one that the US has been leading. And I give the Bush administration full credit for pushing this. I know we REALLY won't know about the Iraq war and the effect on terrorisim until next year, but I have a feeling it will be similar.