Saturday, November 29, 2003


I was down in Williamsburg visiting the family for Thanksgiving. At the hotel Friday morning, after an awful night with a bunch of hyperactive kids and a particularly masocistic sofabed, my bleary eyes scanned over the courtesy copy of Useless Today. The headline was something like "Bush Shocks Troops in Iraq." My first impression was that he had done something bad, like said they were a bunch of whiney, overpaid slackers who needed to be benched. But then I started to read the article about The Visit. That was the Wow moment.

What is there to say, other than wow? And forget all the political calculations for a moment. Just think about what it meant to the troops - to have POTUS himself, totally without warning, show up in what is still essentially a combat zone, just to thank them for the job they were doing. I think those guys would have appointed him Emperor if he'd asked. From what I've seen of emails coming out of Iraq, this was an absolutely perfect Thanksgiving present for them. God bless 'em, and God bless W as well.

Speaking of political calculations, Glenn Reynolds has a link to a blogger at the CPA in Bagdad who ran into Hillary when she visited yesterday. Suffice to say, her reception was, well, not quite as warm as Bush's.


Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Well, Happy Thanksgiving to all y'all, as we used to say in Texas. Yip later.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Hello? - ello? -ello? - ello?

Echo! - echo! - echo!- echo!

Now batting, -batting, -batting

Mannie Moto! -Moto! -Moto! - Moto!

Not Cranky Movie Guy

I was watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan the other night. It is far and away the single best anything ever to come out of the whole Star Trek collective (ha). But what I really wanted to mention was one particular thing that has struck me time and again:

I always get slightly misty-eyed during the scene in which the Enterprise leaves space-dock because I think that sequence beautifully captures what it means to be American (and no, I'm not being snide). First, you have that great scene on the bridge where everyone is working together on the pre-flight ops. All the lights coming on, all the energizers powering up. Yankee ingenuity about to be set in motion. Then you have Spock's simple, but elegant, "Take her out, Mr. Savik." Then the wide sweeping long view of the Enterprise moving slowly and magestically out of the dock, with Earth in the background and the stars ahead. The combination of stirring music and great visuals says a few things: We are pioneers. We love moving out into the Great Unknown, to explore and to chart, to reach for the stars (literally). We love taking on challenges. We love our freedom to do these things and recognize that it is part of the greater freedom that defines the American ideal - the freedom to Be As We Wish. And (implied in the strength and power of the ship) we will fight anyone or anything that attempts to take away that freedom or to squash our spirit.

The ship, the Enterprise, is at once a vehicle of this movement and a symbol of it as well. (I'm sure someone has done a college thesis on this.) And the love for the ship is evident in everyone associated with her. (Aside - you never get that same feeling of love between captain and ship with Picard, Sisco, Janeway or even Archer. Sign of the times? Probably. Khan was made during the first flower of Reaganism and the original series caught the national enthusiasm for the Apollo program.)

Of course, the theme runs all the way through the movie. But for me, it chrystalizes very nicely at that point.

Which, I guess, brings me to another observation: Despite the fact that we are in the early days of World War IV, despite the fact that (working in D.C.) I might very well go up in a flash and a bang if some crackpot drives down the mall with a nuke in his trunk, thank God there are those who do not feel compelled to apologize for being Americans, but instead rightly celebrate her for the things for which she stands.

Mindless jingoism? No, my friends, just belief in an Idea. Just wanted to mention that.

Cranky Movie Guy - II

Don't know why I'm on this kick, but let's roll with it.

While I have not seen Master & Commander, I have read a number of reviews of it. For some reason, several reviewers latch on to Russell Crowe's pre-battle exhortation of "Do you want a guillotine set up in Picadilly? Do you want your children singing the Marseilles?" as one of the big examples of What Makes This Movie So Great.

Trouble is this: O'Brian never put such words in Captain Aubrey's mouth. And there's a reason - the first O'Brian story starts in 1803 or so. Napoleon is already in power in France and has become the chief bogeyman in the collective British conscience. That line of Crowe's sounds like something more appropriate ten years earlier, when the revolutionary Committee for Public Safety ruled France with terror (btw, don't you just see the Hillary approving of something like that? I often refer to her as Madame Robespierre, but no one seems to get the joke. Sigh. But I digress.)

Nonetheless, I have a persistent feeling that I have read that exhortation somewhere else. And while I haven't looked it up yet, I'm pretty certain that it was a line out of one of C.S. Forrester's Hornblower novels. That makes sense, too. First, because the Hornblower series starts much earlier than Aubrey's chronologically. Second, because Forrester wrote what amounted to pictureless comic books - great action stories but not really inspired writing. O'Brian's text is far, far richer and his stories far more complicated. That's why the Hornblower stories adapt to the screen pretty well (as do stories by Alexander Dumas and that guy who wrote the Sharpe's Rifles series), while O'Brian's novels do not. (Ed. - But you said you haven't even seen it. How do you know? I just do.)

Look, all I'm saying is that if you're going to do it, do it right.

BTW - do NOT see Love, Actually. Jeesh. Even my Bride was embarrased by it, and she is a sucker for Brit chick-flicks.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Cranky Movie Guy - I

I have absolutely no proof that the following conversation took place. However, I am morally certain that it did:

"Yes, Mr. Jackson?"
"Simpkins! Mate, we've got to discuss this character treatment of yours."
"Er, yes, Mr. Jackson - what about it?"
"Right. Look, mate, I told you off to do Gimli, right?"
"Yes, Mr. Jackson."
"Okay, so who is this Gloin guy? You give me five freekin pages of dialogue between him and Frodo at Rivendell. I mean, it reads like My Dinner With Andre, right?"
"Well, Mr. Jackson, Gloin was Gimli's father. He was also one of the thirteen dwarves who went with Bilbo to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug in The Hobbit. You know, where Bilbo finds the Ring? His conversation with Frodo is important because it both ties the stories together and also gives the audience an overall vision of the strategic situation east of the Misty Mountains. You'll see, Sir, that Gloin is also the Dwarves' representative at Elrond's council and reports that Black Riders are looking for Bilbo and the Ring."
"Wake me when it's over...."
"Look, mate. First, I've already got a bunch of dwarves fighting each other and the elves at the council. It's a very significant moment in my vision."
"But Sir, Gloin was the only one there in the book. And nobody fought with anybody else."
"F**k the book. Right. And for the tie-in thing, I've already got that covered in the prologue, right? I mean, I'm not paying Cate Winslet all that money for nothing, am I?"
"No, Sir."
"Right, and this dinner thing at Rivendell. Screw it. Would take ten minutes. How the hell can I find room for that and keep Liv Tyler's "Xena" chase with the Black Riders?"
"Well, about that, Sir....."
"Right. Now look, mate. LOTR is a very wonderful and meaningful vision of mine, right? So I need you to be realy respectful of that. Now, we have a problem with Gimli."
"See, we have these big hunky Men, right? Audience will love 'em. And we got that dude playing Legolas, you know, the one who looks kinda like di Caprio on steroids? They'll be all over him. But Gimli is, well, not really eye-candy. Know what I mean, mate?"
"Well, Sir, it's interesting because Tolkein really went out of his way to explore the dwarves in some detail - their origins and so on, and to show how and why they were so different from Elves and Men. There is a lot of source material in The Silmarillion and...."
"I don't give a pair of fetid dingo's kidneys for the Simil-whatever. Audiences don't care. How can I bring my wonderful and meaningful vision of LOTR to the screen in a meaningful and caring way if I can't connect with the audience?"
"Well. Sir..."
"Shut up. I'll tell you how. The dwarf isn't sexy, right? Can't do anything about that. I mean, dwarves are, well, YOU know..... Anyway. So what we want is something that's going to connect with the audience. Something that makes them think "Oh, that's a dwarf. I know about them. I like them!" So what you need to do is write something into the story that is going to cause that connection. And I've got just the thing for you. (Don't know why I pay these blokes when I have to do all the thinking myself.)"
"Yes, Sir?"
"Two words: Dwarf tossing."
"Dwarf tossing."
"Goddamit, mate, are you deaf? Put in something about dwarf tossing, right? Audiences will love that! Kind of a comic relief thing. Maybe when they're running around in that big cave thing. That'll really get them into it - and let them share my wonderful and meaning vision of what LOTR means in terms they can relate to. So you put it in. Got that? Dwarf tossing!"
(Sadly) "Yes, Sir."

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Yeeeeee-Haaaaaw!!!! (Sound of swishing cleaver) Yip! Yip! Yip!

We are the LLama butchers

We come in peace

to defenestrate the indefensible

to decapitate the corrigible

to spread havoc and fear among the idiotarians

we are llama butchers

hear us yip

Well, Rob? Let er rip

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