Monday, May 24, 2004


Quote of the Day

"I was a big supporter of the war (in Iraq), but now
I'm starting to feel foolish."
--CNN's conservative commentator, Tucker Carlson on

The Long-Delayed, Now Completely Irrelevant Review of KILL BILL,Vol. 2

Well, I finally saw the second part of Quentin Tarantino's grindhouse opus, KILL BILL this weekend. Ask any of my friends and they would tell you that I was fanboycrazy to see this movie, more excited to see Volume 2 than I was any part of the the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Lost In Translation or the Paris Hilton sex video (which gave new meaning to the term "sucked", but I digress).

Anyway, perhaps I expected too much, based on the kickass, hyperstylistic Part One, but while Volume Two is undeniably a good movie, it's not good enough to stand on it's own. It is also a strangely lifeless piece of work at times, surprising coming from a filmmaker who usually invests every frame of the celluloid with vitality, wit and invention (OK, that's a bit much maybe, but Tarantino is probably the most interesting film writer-director to emerge since the great Indie/foreign "Second New Wave" of the mid-80's, which included Jane Campion, Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, Mike Leigh and Steven Soderbergh, just to name a few).

STOP READING HERE IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE! As the movie begins, The Bride (Uma Thurman) has already dispatched two of her fellow former Deadly Viper Assassins and has two to go plus the eponymous head of the secret squad, all of them responsible for violently attacking her, her unborn child and slaughtering her whole wedding party in Volume One. From the start, I knew Tarantino had changed things up in Volume Two, and not necessarily in a good way--it opens with a (too) long flashback shot in gritty, black-and-white and paced like something out of a second rate Wim Wenders film. Eventually, The Bride catches up to Budd (Michael Madsen), who invests his villanous redneck with a surprising amount of sympathy and after another long, but much more entertaining flashback, she cheats death and meets her blonde archrival played by Daryl Hannah. The fight scenes in Volume Two are just as brutal and well-choreographed as in Volume One, but they are much shorter and less elaborate, something else that was disappointing. I liked the final showdown with Bill (David Carradine), although even here it is a bit too talky. There are also a couple of surprise revelations, which I won't go into here, even though one of them is stated pretty strongly at the end of Volume One.

A couple of things I do like better in Volume II--Uma Thurman's character is fleshed out and the greater range and depth suits her. This is her finest performance on film so far. I would actually support an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her (although it's too early to talk about that). Also, the soundtrack and score are even more impressive than in the first movie.

Still, bottom line is if you haven't seen either movie, wait until Miramax puts together the definitive DVD version. That will probably unite the two movies and trim the fat. If you're going to see it in the theaters, it might be a better value if you HAVEN'T seen Volume One, because you won't compare it to the energy and pacing of the first one.

Tomorrow, back to politics and current events...good night!

Monday, May 17, 2004


Welcome to the fortieth posting from Dissent Channel in 2004. This blog may be middle-aged, but the truths and opinions contained within are guaranteed to be fresh forever!

Arts & Entertainment - Review of Troy in 200 words Or Less

Troy (starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom) is what you get when you cross the Iliad with Romeo & Juliet and take out most of the emotion. It's a Greek melodrama but somebody forgot to invite the Gods. It's like Gladiator without the gravitas, with Brad Pitt instead of Russell Crowe and Peter O'Toole instead of the late Richard Harris.

Which is not to say that it's not enjoyable. It is. Brad Pitt bares his darker side (and almost all of his perfect physique) to play Achilles, the perfect killing machine of his time. Model Diane Kruger plays Helen, "the face that launched a thousand ships", and she acts like she models, but that's fine since it turns out Troy is not really about her anyway. This war, like all of them, is about land and ambition and Helen running off with the fey Paris (Bloom) merely provides the excuse. None of it is deep (or faithful to the source material), it's about 30 minutes too long, but the acting won't disappoint, the action sequences are well-staged (some brilliantly) and of course, there's naked Brad. You can--and will--do much worse this summer, just don't expect to get too emotionally involved. For women, gay men and undemanding moviegoers, it's probably worth the $9.

It's All Bad

For the twenty millionth time, it doesn't matter which side is committing atrocities in Iraq and how horrible the atrocities are. They're all bad. This is not a moral equivalency test or a quest for martyrdom, no matter what anybody says. Nick Berg should never have been decapitated and the world shouldn't have been able to watch. Iraqi detainees, most of whom have committed no crimes, should not have been forced into simulated sex acts, beaten or killed at the hands of U.S. forces and their proxy in Abu Ghraib or elsewhere. The fact that "we're at war with the terrorists" does not justify terrorism. This is the same argument the terrorists use for flying planes into the World Trade Center. So who are the terrorists? I'm really not going to harp on this point, but seriously all discussion about this issue should be focused on how we can best end it and save face in the region instead of the peculiarities and loopholes that may or may not exist as regards international law and the Geneva Convention. Life is full of gray areas. Frow where I sit, this isn't one of them.

The Worst Job In The World?

Today, Iraqi insurgents assassinated Izzadine Saleem, the current serving head of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. There are 25 members of the Council and each member is slated to serve as head of the Council for a month. Two members have now been assassinated in the past 11 months, meaning that you have approximately a 1 in 6 chance of being killed on the job by some of the very people you are supposed to be transitioning to democracy. This is believed to be slightly more dangerous than doing public relations work for Enron. (Remember Enron?)

But in all seriousness, if there was ever a sign that the U.S. policy toward Iraq and the timetable for the handover to full Iraqi civillian rule is completely wrongheaded and ill-conceived, today's attack supports the notion. Our leaders (Democrats included obviously) should quit dragging their feet and become more proactive in getting the U.N. on the ground in Iraq, so that our troops can start coming home and the U.S. can stop bearing all the brunt of being an occupying force.

Kerry: Please Don't Go Soft

A brief message to John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee--now is not the time to be quiet and polite. Just because Bush and the GOP are momentarily in disarray doesn't mean they will always be that way. Don't let conservative TV pundits and pseudo-patriots talk you into being "respectful of our troops" and tempering your criticism. Now is the perfect time to define your vision for Iraq, the country and the whole world as clearly and forcefully as you can. Now is the time to make the case for why you should be president and not Bush. Don't wait until the convention. And don't be wimpy. John Kerry, we're waiting...

A Quote

"There are no eternal facts as there are no absolute truths."
Friedrich Nietzche

Monday, May 10, 2004


Bush Vs. Hussein, You Make The Call

About the only compelling argument left for the War in Iraq is that the U.S. liberated the country from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. But a quick check of some salient facts shows why even this may not be a valid reason, especially in light of the current torture scandal coming to light. This will make you toss in your sleep at night (it certainly does the trick for me):

Quiz - Who did what, Saddam or Dubya?

--Waged a war as part of a plan to secure oil resources in the Middle East...answer BOTH.
--Oversaw the killing of more than 10,000 Iraqi civillians in a calendar year...BOTH
--Oversaw the torture and humiliation of Iraqi captives at Abu Gharib and other facilities...BOTH
--Came to power as the result of an illegitimate election...BOTH
--Served as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces that encouraged some Iraqi troops to rape Iraqi women...BOTH
--Possesses weapons of mass destruction...BUSH
--Runs government that funds terrorist activities or organizations around the globe and has assassinated, or tried to assassinate, heads of state...BOTH (although Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 and, as far as we know, only attempted to assassinate George Bush the Elder after losing Gulf War I)
--Has facial hair...SADDAM

Who's the despot?

SOURCES: CBS News,, The Guardian (UK)

Of Course All the Troops Aren't Bad. But Rumsfeld and His Apologists Are

It would be comic the way Resident Bush and SuperVeep Dick Cheney stand behind their boy Donald "I Spy" Rumsfeld, if only the stakes weren't so high and the images coming out of Iraq weren't so painful. Bush reprimands Rumsfeld for keeping the pictures away from him for so long, even though everyone knows the President doesn't like to be bothered with little things like facts, details and news articles anyway. Then, perhaps being told by Cheney that the only thing more terrifying than having Rumsfeld in charge of our nation's defense would be having a more moderate Realpolitk in charge because, hell, maybe we would start to pull out of Iraq sooner and we wouldn't be able to secure all that oil. So Bush backs up Rumsfeld while trashing the low level troops who carried out the atrocities, even though the buck should stop at the very top and the culture and control problems that have led to the scandal have been endemic in the American military since before Vietnam. (My Lai anyone?)

All politics aside, and mine aren't exactly a secret, Donald Rumsfeld should resign and General Abizade (spelling?) should be reassigned out of Iraq. Abu Gharib should be closed and then blown up, the UN should be brought in now and all pictures, videos and accounts of the abuses should be released immediately so that we finally have full disclosure and face up to our responsibilities in Iraq. Then, quietly but quickly, an escape plan should be made to have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by no later than January 2006. None of this will happen, especially if, God forbid, Bush is elected (for the first time) in 2004, but this is the only way the United States can save some face around the world and begin to do the right thing by the Iraqis and by extension all of the Middle East.

One more thing: there is a sentiment that runs among many Americans, including a majority of those in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, that after 9/11, some of these abuses are not only understandable, but commendable. Perhaps, to some people, they are not abuses at all, but rather a "tool" to humiliate those who opposed our efforts in Iraq or harmed American troops. I have one word for those who feel that way: bullshit. We do not live in the time of Hammurabi. As Martin Luther King said, an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. And the Iraqis had nothing to do with 9/11--the Bush family may have had more to do with that tragedy than anyone in Iraq. And even if Saddam Hussein himself had paid for the highjackers and did a little dance when the World Trade Center came down, it still would not be a valid reason for our troops and hired mercenaries to treat anyone that way or train anyone to behave in such a fashion. Humanity is a complicated, heavy notion. It encompasses the best and the worst of us, often simultaneously. But how can we ever have peace in the world if we torture, humiliate, maim, rape and kill those who oppose us especially when they are IN NO POSITION TO FIGHT BACK? Can you imagine what horrors will now be visited upon us from those who have a mind to do bad things to us in the Arab world? What if it was American GI's who posed in sexual positions, burned, having dogs sicked on them and whatnot? Where does it end? How does it begin? Sometimes, wrong is just wrong and the gray area does not exist. This is rare, but this is one of those times. The only question is, can anything be done at this point to salvage America's image around the world, or are we doomed to be forever more reviled than the Soviet Union or the British Empire at their peak? Talk about a Pyhrric victory: to win the battle in one country but lose the hearts, minds and respect of everyone in the world.

Closing Thought

This blog will not always be so heavy. It started as political commentary about the 2004 election and the issues that face us. That seems like a long time ago. Every now in then I work in a little (weak) satire or a joke or a movie/TV review to change things up. But it seems hard to imagine that we could be living in more perilous times and it seems unpatriotic and disingenous to write a dissertation on, say, the last episode of FRIENDS when right-wing, born again, ubergreedy megalomaniacs have hijacked our government and are trying to take over the world. But keep checking this page out and I promise, every now and then I'll surprise you with the unexpected, although I can't promise you when me or my cohorts will be in the mood to do something different. I mean, seriously, what can we do--we don't get paid for this shit! :-)

Until I blog again, arrivederci...