Thursday, September 30, 2004
The Tragic and Early Death of George Lucas's BrillianceToday's post comes from our "Holy Non-Sequitur, Batman!" Department, and is inspired by news that seemed weird as hell. Rumor has it that Kevin Smith will be heading up a new Star Wars T.V. series that will air 2006. I could not possess a more complex set of emotions if G.W. himself personally handed me a $100,000 tax refund. "Huh? Can someone try to explain this to me?" To quote Yoda, "There is no try, only do." I was 15 years old when Star Wars was released, and like so many other people, that film unalterably changed my life. It captured my imagination like no other movie before or since. I've realized since that it is the film's mythos that strikes a very very deep--practically reptilian--part of my brain. There is no other word for it but magic. At risk of sounding cliche', I am less than pleased with what George has done with the Star Wars universe since then. He is the classic example of how a creative mind becomes corrupted by success. But first let me digress by saying that George Lucas is a *really really* nice guy. How do I know this? Because I met him. Not only did I meet him; I got to work with him for several hours. About two lives ago, I was a professional writer for a large, unnamed entertainment conglomerate that is famous for it's mouse. In a stroke of luck, I was sent to spend a day with George Lucas at the Skywalker Ranch to actually co-write the story that would appear on stage. Lucas was involved the story because the main character was one of his creative properties. Don't try to figure it out--this particular stage event was never produced. Anyway, I was very young at the time, and naive as hell. I had fooled the mouse-ear-wearer types that I was credible enough to put in front of Lucas without embarassing The Mouse. Anyway, the goal of the day was for The Mouse and The Lucas to agree on a storyline for this production because up to that point we had been bouncing scripts back and forth with no agreement. Skywalker Ranch was amazing. It is a series of Victorian Style homes nestled around a lake. There was a little "museum" of sorts that had various icons from all of Lucas's movies. C-3PO's hand, the wand from "Willow," something from "American Grafitti" (I think a sweater), and something from Raider's of the Lost Ark. The walls all had original paintings from some of my favorite painters. I recognized Thomas Hart Benton (who is truly under-appreciated among American Artists), Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, and other famous illustrators. One cool thing about the doors is that they had laser detection system and would slide open and closed as you drew near. Myself and a few co-workers were sitting in a conference room in eager anticipation when the door slid open. We waited, and looked. Just before it slid closed, George Lucas literally bounded into the room just before the door would have slid closed on him. We all laughed. George had already won. The story session began. George was very affable, but now and then would bestow "Lucasisms" on us. I was the "official writer" so George and I tossed around a few ideas. Please excuse the analogy, but my ego had a major erection. Still, I was mostly in awe of the great man before me, and showed intense respect. Then George "pitched" his idea, and frankly, it totally sucked. "But Mr. Lucas," I said. "We don't even meet our main characters until Act Two of a three act play!" He looked at me, smiling. "I knew someone would say that! Don't worry ... it will work." What can you say to George Lucas when he says that? Should I have said, "No it won't you idiot!"? Negative. I said nothing. I gently tried to solve the problem, but George had employed another tactic that was nothing short of brilliant. He had called the meeting to begin at 8:00 AM. He knew that we would be flying in that morning, so it would have been a very early start for us. There were NO snacks in the meeting room. Not even water. George dragged the story session out so that his pitch actually started at about 10:00. By the time I should have been really fighting back against his bad idea, I was so hungry that the only thought in my head was ... "OK, that should work. Let's eat!" And so that is what I said. And we went to the Skywalker Cafeteria and I ate lunch sitting next to George Lucas. I was petrified that I would spill my root beer on him. And so, George won. And my point is this: he is not a masterful story teller. He is a masterful story seller. What happened is a perfect example of how someone who was brilliant enough to create "American Grafitti" and "Star Wars" stopped scrutinizing himself and started assuming that since he was so successful, his ideas must all be great. Well George, even the goose that lays the golden egg doesn't actually shit golden shit. Jar-Jar Binks alone is proof of this, no? I will be forced to watch Star Wars on T.V. because I still deeply love the mythos of that universe. And now ... enter stage left ... Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith has always been a huge Star Wars fan. And frankly "Clerks" and "Dogma" were both pretty damn good. But let's also remember "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back". Its title is an homage to Lucas, but I would rather hit my big left toe with a hammer than watch THAT again. (Thanks to Gayle for that analogy.) Who knows ... maybe Smith will breathe life into the mythos without creating another Jar Jar or an Ewok. By the way, did any of you realize that E-Wok is Wookie in reverse order, sorta? That's how creative Lucas really is!
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
All you Dirty Liberals: Take Heart!To those of you who have been discouraged by all the news that Bush has a roaring lead in the polls. I will confess that I let this news darken my spirits. I was already planning that if Bush wins the election, I was going to make my blog 100% black. Ho hum. But then I read this: The "How can Gallup ..." Game. Look. I used to publish a nationwide annual survey. The information was garnered from thousands of submitted surveys. Even though I did this with integrity, there were plenty of issues along the way that gave me, the pollster, the power to influence the interpretation of statistics. If there is one thing I learned during that process it was that no matter how "scientific" a survey may seem, they never truly scientific. Trying to predict the future in this manner finds you dealing, in a way, with something similar to the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle. The mere observation of the future will alter the outcome of your findings. This is true of surveys in many, many ways. Gallup was once revered as a vangard of credibility. If the linked blogger is correct, it appears possible, however, that the stalwart organization has "accidentally" forgotten to adjust its sample. Can gallup actually be wrong by 13 points? Hell yes! Or, they might only be wrong by 11 points, which makes it neck and neck. If they're wrong by 15 points, then Kerry is ahead. So for all you Kerry supporters, (or just anti-Bush people who are pissed off enough to vote for Kerry) take heart! Stop listening to the polls. They are the dangling chads of this year's election. And look out everyone, I have verified an important fact: insert the choir of heavenly hosts I AM REGISTERED TO VOTE! All the polls be damned. This guy is voting on November 2nd.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
News from People Who KnowThis blog has seen its share of lively debate. One element of that debate has been to call into question the accuracy of my opinion since I'm not "over there" or actively involved in the Iraq Conflict. Well this tidbit of news, which I got via The Daily Kos, will be reposted here without comment: ________________________________ Fewer than two-thirds of the former soldiers being reactivated for duty in Iraq and elsewhere have reported on time, prompting the Army to threaten some with punishment for desertion. The former soldiers, part of what is known as the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), are being recalled to fill shortages in skills needed for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the 1,662 ready reservists ordered to report to Fort Jackson, S.C., by Sept. 22, only 1,038 had done so, the Army said Monday. About 500 of those who failed to report have requested exemptions on health or personal grounds. "The numbers did not look good," said Lt. Col. Burton Masters, a spokesman for the Army's Human Resources Command. "We are tightening the system, reaching the people and bringing them in." Masters said most of the requests for exemptions are likely to be denied: "To get an exemption, it has to be a very compelling case, such as a severe medical condition." The figures are the first on the IRR call-up. They reflect the challenges the Pentagon faces in trying to find enough troops for ongoing operations and show resistance among some servicemembers who returned to civilian life. ______________________________________________________ This, to me, does not show a vast upswelling of support for the War in Iraq by those who are intimately aware of what is going on there. The floor is now open for comments.
Monday, September 27, 2004
My Weekend in VegasNo self-respecting Blogger can go to Las Vegas for the weekend and not return with something to say. So here are a few brief notes about my weekend:
1. PokerFirst and foremost: I kicked ass at Texas Hold' em. Well, I kicked enough ass to come back $100 richer after two full days of playing. That's pretty good, isn't it? This is the fourth straight time I've played and come out a winner. This time I felt so at-ease with the game that I was much more interested in sizing up the other players than even thinking about the cards. At one point I just kept winning. I filled out a full house on the river at one point, and beat another guy's set. He was not a friendly fellow, and looked at me in such a way that made me think he would have punched me if he could. At that point I knew I was a winner.
2. The Latest CologneAt one point in the weekend, I found myself in a make-up store called "Sephora". I was standing around with a dazed expression when I noticed two rather "spiffy" looking gents amble in. They asked about getting some cologne, and the girl behind the counter pointed them toward "the latest scent for men". What was this cologne called? Why "Hummer" of course. So now all the splendor that a man can represent by actually driving a Hummer can also be captured in his very scent--as if his vast output of pheremones weren't enough as it is. This is a scent that says, "Hey baby, I'm a winner." And even if a man can't afford to drive a Hummer, this is the scent that says, "I want a hummer."
3. Vegas can ruin everythingPassing by a rock singer, I noted to my girlfriend that Vegas can just ruin everything. Vegas is brimming with "fake soul". People singing with so much fake passion it makes your ears want to commit ritual suicide. Right after saying this, we passed by a bar that had some really good jazz music spilling out of it. We were about to go dancing, but decided that we had found something good, and not to argue with it. We went inside and sipped some gin, and listened to a very nice, unpretentious jazz quartet. We were loving it. Then a very tall, sexy woman came in, wearing a stunning brown dress. We were sitting on a couch front-and-center, and the place was full. She came by and asked if there was any room. My girlfriend and I are always very friendly people (especially to the likes of her) and we struck up a conversation. She sat down. We bought her a glass of wine, and she autographed a CD and gave it to us, letting us know that she was going to be doing a guest number with the band. We were thrilled, and I couldn't wait to hear her sing. Her turn came, she was invited up. (We think she was the girlfriend of the sax player.) She then started to sing "Knock Knock Knockin' On Heaven's Door," a song done correctly by it's author, Bob Dylan. I can say with utmost certainty that if The Curmudgeon were with us in Las Vegas (as he had been last time) he would have walked out in disgust. This woman sang the song with--granted, a fantastic voice--but all kinds of fake soul. She was working the audience, flashing her big smile. She almost did the point-the-finger-like-it's-a-gun-and-pull-the-trigger-by-clicking-your-thumb move. We smiled and left after that. I was right: Vegas can ruin everything.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Operation MeatshieldThis blog posting is spawned by what I initially thought was a ridiculous headline on Yahoo! News: Bush: Terrorists May Plan More Attacks . My first thought was, "well, duh!" Then I read the article, and it states that Bush is saying this will happen "if the United States pulled out." True that. By having a strong military presense in their backyard, the U.S. is providing an easier (and more obvious) target for anyone who hates the U.S. I wince as I say this, but our military is a more appropriate target than citizens. By being in Iraq, our military is serving as our meat shield. Why would a terrorist fly to New York with plans to bomb a mall when he can just drive down to Fallujah and earn his 14 virgins there. While this shows how noble the uniformed men and women truly are, I still question this as a "reason" to keep a military presense in Iraq. Here's why: 1. Our presense there further angers hardline fundamentalist Muslims. If I understand the Koran right, infidels are not supposed to be among believers. (I welcome comment from someone who knows this better than I do.) 2. By killing and injuring locals, our military presense stirs people to action as well--notwithstanding any religious obligations. 3. Providing a meat shield simply manages and deflects the problem of terrorism. It does nothing to make it go away, and in fact the problem increases by our presense in Iraq (as noted in points 1 and 2.) 4. We are not allowing our enemy to show their true colors by providing them a "more appropriate" target. This is the hardest one to say, but we are in a war of ideals. I believe that non-terrorists are the good guys, and that terrorists are the bad guys. By having a military presense in Iraq, we actually provide a way to partially legitimize the actions of a group whose actions would otherwise be disgusting and reprehensible. What I'm suggesting is this: if by removing our troops from Iraq we would encourage groups to show their true colors by attacking civilians, that might be a better catalyst for the world to form a more united front against terrorism. Under the current paradigm, the "terrorists" could arguably be called something else because they are targeting military personnel. It's muddying the waters and allowing the rest of the world to call the US's actions into question rather than the actions of these savages. Or maybe not. It's enough to turn an ethicist's brain into a pretzel, no? Let me know what you think ...
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
An Open Letter to CBS.First off, my sincerest thank you ... no really thank you CBS for your valiant effort at reporting the news about Bush's record with the Coast Guard or Civil Air Patrol, or whatever para-military organization he was part of. Thank you for trying to expose our President as a scoundrel. But you fucked it up. Actually, it was more of an anal gang bang than a mere fuck up. Because you were wrong. I'm actually so embarassed for you that I don't want to link to all the articles about how you believed a lying source. And in the end, all your efforts made Bush look like a victim. On behalf of all of Bush's supporters thank you again! I also won't link to the other embarassing news about the FCC's fine against you for Janet Jackson's shenannigans. After all, I'm not here to smear CBS, especially since you're doing a fine job all by yourself. It must so confusing for you to suffer such a terrible blow, but fear not! The Meat of the Matter is here to help you! Since your leadership may be in a state of shock over this, let me offer you a few helpful suggestions: 1. Air a 60-minute special that reveals some hot new (bogus) evidence that makes John Kerry look like a total asshole. Like, find some woman who said she's had an affair with him. Then, a week later make a formal apology to the world stating that the woman lied and was being paid by the Swift Boat guys. Hey, it's only fair, right? Equal and unbiased news reporting is what CBS is all about! The history books will put you in a favorable light if you do this. 2. Create a new "fact checking department". You might call it the FCD for short. From now on, any time you air a story, run it through those guys in the FCD so they can make sure that everything is on the up-and-up. Imagine the hassles you'll save yourself! 3. Convert the entire CBS organization into a blog. Your advertisers might be mad, but if you tell them that people these days just fast-forward through the commercials anyway it might take the sting out. 4. Make Mr. T your new CEO. That way, if anyone ever questions one of your stories again you can just have Mr. T just give them that really mean look like he's going to kick their ass. It might stop a lot of criticism before it starts! 5. Retract your retraction. Once Mr. T is the CEO, have him tell the world that the memos in the CBS special are really correct after all, and that all that retraction stuff was just a bunch of silly jibber-jabber. Once you take these steps, all the people who rely on CBS as their primary source of news should be completely happy with the results. They will stand behind you all the way on this one, trust me.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
The Rules of WarAs I'm getting more experience on the topic of terrorism (we all are), my opinions are evolving somewhat. There was a point in time when I actually felt that America was somewhat culpable for the 9/11 attacks. I criticized our foreign policy and said "Hey, you can't piss people off without expecting to have a bunch of pissed off people." In defense of myself, I was naive. After thinking about it and debating the topic both online and off, I've come to the conclusion that terrorism is 100% evil 100% of the time, and the targetted nations are 100% innocent even though they might not be perfect. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't improve our policies overseas. It's just a completely different topic. Musab al-Zarqawi is a coward and I will never give an ounce of credence to any group who uses tactics such as his. If the world wants to end attacks on the innocent, the only response we should take to guys like al-Zarqawi is utter condemnation, with no inward look. Chew my fat one, Musab.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Gee Mail InvitationsI've got a few invitations to give away. If anyone knows anyone who wants one of these spiffy new e-mail accounts, just ask. And just in case someone wants to send me spam, just think of this. Bye!
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Not the MeatI try to focus my blog postings on important things like politics, geo-political trends, the philosophical underpinnings of our society, and macro-economic trends. However, this weekend found me horizontal. During the night, my soul--undoubtedly in search of truth--went on a spiritual journey to Calcutta, where it drank water from the Ganges. I awoke with no spiritual enlightenment whatsoever, but with a horrible stomach virus. Actually, due to certain complications I couldn't actually lay horizontal I had to lay at an angle. So to be accurate, this weekend found me diagonal. Finally well enough to get to work today, I went to purchase a bite to eat during lunch, and while the receptionist was handing me my change, I had a striking realization: Why is it, when a consumer has their bag of purchased goods in one hand, and their other hand reached out to receive their change, do almost all receptionists politely place the paper money in your palm first, and put the change on top of it? Do they realize what a pain this is? Are they all trained to do it this way? Don't they know that this means we have to drop everything only to handle their confabulation of cash and coin? Here's the correct way to do it: coin first, paper second. Obviously, since I'm feeling this sassy, I must be feeling better. I'll be back tomorrow with some actual meat.
Friday, September 10, 2004
Where I WasOn that day, I was lucky enough to be a consultant who was getting paid to sit at home and do nothing. Naturally I was asleep when the phone rang at about 7:00 AM. It was my mother, who would never call at that hour unless something was wrong. "Jimmy, you better turn on the TV, it looks like we're under terrorist attack." I turned on the TV. The first tower had already fallen. The second was a conflagration. The news repeated over and over the footage of the second plane hitting the second tower. They also showed the Pentagon damage. Was I dreaming? The scrolling text at the bottom of the screen read, "Authorities believe on of the hijacked planes headed for L.A." This caused me horrible alarm, as I misinterpretted it to mean that another plane would soon crash into one of the LA buildings. I called my girlfriend and woke her up with the terrible news. My sister called me to make sure I wasn't on a plane (as I frequently was in those days.) While she and I were on the phone, the second tower fell. And after that, nothing was ever the same.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
A New Art Form?This was too brilliant not to post. I found it via Doug at GWBWYPGN. It is a reprinting of an article from The Onion that was published just prior to GWB's inauguration. Mind you, The Onion is purely comedy, but more often than not they are poignant and sometimes even prescient. Dan Chak simply added hyperlinks that shows how prescient this "joke" really was.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
And now a Word from Our Sponsor: HegelRemember good ol' Hegel? He's the one who invented the dialectic. Well, maybe it was Plato, but Hegel ended up getting the credit. Hegel's dialectic can get rather cerebral, so I will attempt to recreate it here, using my own vernacular, as filtered through the leaky sieve of my memory. Please don't take this post as pedantic or condescending. I merely bring it up because it's like "Robert's Rules of Order" when it comes to how I see political argumentation. The dialectic approach to argumentation assumes that both parties are valid, intelligent people who have their point of view for a reason. It assumes that both people really do want to know the truth, and are willing to eschew their old beliefs if they are convinced of a better truth. You'll probably remark at this time that most arguments do not begin with those assumptions, and therefore cannot apply the Hegelian Dialectic. That is correct. But let's must move on, shall we? The Hegelian Dialectic begins with an initial assertion, called a "thesis." Thesis Example: Bush's War in Iraq is bad. A thesis needs to be declarative and simple. The more declarative and simple it is, the more likely that the Hegelian approach will succeed. Next, someone comes along who disagrees, and states their "Antithesis." Antithesis Example: Bush's War in Iraq is good. Now we are ready to dialog. It's important to remember our assumptions: Both parties respect the validity of the other's viewpoint, and both parties are eager to arrive at a higher truth than the one they currently hold, if there is one. The arguers for this thesis might say that people are dying for a cause that cannot be related to the goals originally stated. Arguers for the antithesis might say that those goals *will* be reached, and enumerate his rationale as to how or why. The dialog portion should attack only the thesis and/or antithesis and not the person making them, because the end goal is the higher truth: The Synthesis. Synthesis Example: Bush's War is difficult to evaluate at this time. The higher truth is sometimes useful, and sometimes, as in the above, not. It is a very very rare person who can abandon his thesis or antithesis and embrace the synthesis. I always strive for synthesis because, as Hegel did, I believe that the truth is in the synthesis. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
The End of the GenesisUnfortunately, the Genesis probe crashed today, busting up a hefty sample of solar wind particles (whatever that is) that was to be studied for the next 5 years by a team of scientists who were eager to learn about the origins of the solar system. No problem. Let's just do it again. Let it not be said that MOTM isn't a proponent of space exploration.
The Genesis capsule after its harsh re-introduction to the earth.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
A Moment of SilenceThe one thousandth American died in the Iraq conflict today. Will we have "Democratized" the Middle East as hoped? Will we have fewer militarized youths who want to kill Americans? Will we have stabilized the region by ousting an evil dictator? There are a thousand families who will be--for the rest of their lives--asking these questions, and wondering if it was worth losing their loved one over.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
No One Cares ... yetGlobal Oil prices are precariously volatile. Today a Russian oil distributor announced its financial trouble and oil goes up roughly TWELVE PERCENT in ONE DAY. This is a direct result of what happens when you have an increasing demand for a finite, quickly decreasing supply of oil. Further evidence that no one cares: I went back to get the news link and it was already off the headline page. I was happy to see that the news bit about Brittney Spears' used chewing gum is holding fast, however. The public (especially America's) is vastly uninformed about this for three reasons: 1. Oil companies aren't interested in telling us 2. It's not news we want to hear, and 3. It's a boring topic. Well TMOTM is here for you! I'm here to tell you that this issue will become topic #1 in the coming years. It's nothing to panic about, but plan on buying a new car in the next year or two, and make sure it's either extremely gas efficient and better yet a hybrid or electric car. Veer away from investments that will be adversely impacted by the price of oil.