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Friday, July 29, 2005
 
Tenth Planet In Solar System Discovered (And No, I'm Not Making This Up)
A decade ago this would have been a huge story, but today it's almost an afterthought. The New York Times brings news that a tenth planet has been discovered beyond the orbit of Pluto:

The new object - as yet unnamed - is currently 9 billion miles away from the Sun, or about three times Pluto's current distance from the Sun. But its 560-year orbit also brings it as close as 3.3 billion miles. Pluto's elliptical orbit ranges between 2.7 billion and 4.6 billion miles....

"It is guaranteed bigger than Pluto," said Michael E. Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech, who led the team that made the discovery. "Even if it were 100 percent reflective, it would be larger than Pluto. It can't be more than 100 percent reflective."

The discovery was made Jan. 8 using a 48-inch telescope at Palomar Observatory. The astronomers, however, were not able to see it using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which looks at infrared light. That means the planet is less than 1,800 miles in diameter.

When I was a kid, discovering a 10th planet in our solar system -- or "Planet X" as it was breathlessly described in Sunday supplements -- was the holy grail of planetary astronomy.

But nowadays, perhaps because more than a hundred extrasolar planets have been discovered, a frigid planet out in the Kuiper Belt doesn't seem to be quite as big a deal.

Still, wish I'd discovered it -- after all, when you discover a new planet you get to name it. I'd be forced, obviously, to break precedent and name the planet after my lovely wife.

So schoolkids would forever have to learn the names of ten planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Mrs. Uncle Mike.

Pure poetry.


 
Hinderaker Loses His Marbles
It seems that the usual fawning and genuflecting are no longer enough. If Hinderaker at Powerline is any indication, Bush loyalists must now prostrate themselves before Fearless Leader and grovel, grovel, and grovel some more...

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
I agree with him on one thing: it would be very strange to be George W. Bush. Inhabiting the mind of a madman would be a very unsettling experience.

Actually, Dubya is like a painter -- the kind who talks big, inexpertly splatters paint on a canvas, and hopes like hell that someone will buy it.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005
 
Cheryl Who?
Michael Moore was so close to getting away with it. He was going to hold a film festival in Traverse City, Michigan this summer, showing a raft of subversive films like "Jaws" and "Citizen Kane". The liberal prankster was going to have the whole Traverse City film festival scene to himself.

But actress Cheryl Rhoads wasn't going to stand for it. She writes all about her experience in the National Review:

What Moore didn’t count on was that a local Traverse Bay resident, my friend Genie, would take him on — and that she would happen to have a conservative actress friend (me) who would help round up the troops for her. The stage was quickly set: After a few conference calls, the "Traverse Bay Freedom Film Fest . . . Celebrating Faith, Family, and Freedom" was born.

Well, with a Traverse Bay resident organizing things and conservative actress Cheryl Rhoads rallying the troops, Michael Moore had better watch out!

Except...who the hell is Cheryl Rhoads? The National Review web site describes her this way: "Cheryl Rhoads is an actress and writer in Hollywood". But what does that mean?

I looked up her bio on the Internet Movie Database, and here's the complete record of her film appearances:

Loverboy (1989) .... Mom at Pool

The Mother Goose Video Treasury (1987) (V) .... Mother Goose

"The Motown Revue Starring Smokey Robinson" (1985) TV Series .... Regular

So, the only theatrically-released movie she appeared in was "Loverboy". In which she played the pivotal role of "Mom at Pool".

Sixteen years ago.

Okay, I'm being a bit unfair. She's also done TV. For example, she played the role of "Waitress" in an episode of "Sisters" in 1994, and the role of "Nurse" on an episode of "Saved By the Bell: The New Class" in 1996. Perhaps the highlight of her acting career when she played a character with an actual name ("Rachel") in an episode of the warm-and-fuzzy, family-friendly "Married With Children".

Yiminy, Martha Quinn has a beefier resume than that.

Her writing career doesn't seem to be going any better. She was credited as a "Doc Insider segment writer" on the PAX TV series "Doc".

Sorry hon, never heard of it. And I don't know what a "Doc Insider Segment" is either.

It could be that Cheryl is trying to launch a new career as a "conservative actress". Because her career as a regular actress doesn't seem to be getting much traction.

As for the Wingnut Film Fest line-up, it includes "On the Waterfront" (because it's directed by red-blooded patriot Elia Kazan) a documentary called "Confronting Iraq" and ("to lighten the mood") "Michael Moore Hates America".

Sounds fun -- like the cinematic equivalent of the Bataan Death March.


 
Drunken Monkeys Don't Get The Blues
Hillary Clinton hasn't made a secret of the fact that she'd like to be president. She's been making Important Speeches to all the Appropriate Groups, and has been carefully positioning herself within the party for a 2008 run. Most recently, she has cast herself as a bridge between liberals and moderates in the party:

The Democratic Leadership Council, an organization of influential party moderates, named Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton today to direct a new initiative to define a party agenda for the 2006 and 2008 elections.

....In her new role, the New York Democrat immediately called for a truce between the DLC and liberal elements of the party, which have engaged in a ferocious war of words over the Democrats' direction since President Bush won reelection in November.

"Now, I know the DLC has taken some shots from some within our party and that it has returned fire too," she told a gathering of the group here. "Well, I think it's high time for a cease-fire, time for all Democrats to work together based on the fundamental values we all share."

That doesn't seem too radical, does it? We can all agree that fratricidal conflict only plays into the hands of the Republicans, right?

Well, apparently not. The DLC-lovin' Bull Moose Blog saw no reason to keep the powder dry for the flying monkeys:

Leave it to others to talk about internal divisions within the party or nasty polarizing polemics. While someone from the daily kosy (misspelling intended) confines of Beserkely might utter ominous McCarthyite warnings about the "enemy within", here in Columbus constructive committed crusaders for progressivism are discussing ways to win back the hearts of the heartland. This is a time for Democrats to be ecumenical rather than suggesting a pious inquisition.


The big players in the liberal blogosphere immediately went apeshit. First, Kos jumped all over it:

The poor, poor DLC forced to "return fire"? Please. The DLC has always been at the forefront of intra-party mud-slinging. They're just finally being called on it, and suddenly it's time for peace? If she wanted to give a speech to a centrist organization truly interested in bringing the various factions of the party together, she could've worked with NDN.

Instead, she plans on working with the DLC to come up with some common party message yadda yadda yadda. Well, that effort is dead on arrival. The DLC is not a credible vehicle for such an effort. Period.

Then, Dave Sirota:

Democrats have consistently backed the military where the Republicans have not. That is a hard fact. But that doesn't fit the DLC's goals, which are to undermine the Democratic Party. Instead of working to debunk these right-wing stereotypes, these insulated Beltway snobs seem to only feel relevant if they reinforce the right-wing stereotypes parroted by Fox News and the Republican Party. It just shows that for Democrats who want to win - and not just preserve their status on the Washington cocktail party circuit - the DLC is really part of the problem, not the solution.

Let's be clear - the DLC has done masterfully in selling its snake oil by always claiming that Democrats need a coherent "positive" agenda. No one argues with that. The problem is that the DLC offers neither a coherent agenda, or anything positive.

Then Steve Gilliard:

The DLC is a collection of losers and most of what they say should be ignored.

A drunk monkey could make a mockery of the GOP's claims to any sort of stewardship on National Security, if the argument is framed right. From failure in Iraq to underfunding security at home, to Tora Bora, the GOP has failed this country and those who serve her. But the Vichyite [Will] Marshall doesn't get it. He thinks we have to continue the GOP's failed policies. Iraq is a tactical nightmare and a strategic sinkhole. We have no reason to further the GOP's misguided policies there or come up with a solution.

Rhetorical flourishes aside, Steve -- how often do drunk monkeys successfully frame arguments? Even sober monkeys find it challenging.

Progressive elements of the party seem appalled that Clinton is tying herself to the DLC. But the truth is, it's the right thing to do -- not just for Clinton's presidential ambitions but for the future of the party. Is the DLC a haven for hand-wringers and me-too Democrats? Absolutely. But the party needs them. The Republicans have become so radicalized and so out of touch that the Democrats have an opportunity to become a new center-left party, a new home for independents and moderates.

The left can't do it alone. The last two times they were given the brass ring -- in 1972 and 1984 -- the Dems got trounced. The Dems can't rely on the old coalitions anymore. But a new coalition is not only possible, it's necessary.


Monday, July 25, 2005
 
America Needs A Guy Like You, Chandu
Note to the Bush administration propagandists: when fabricating quotes by fictitious "unidentified Iraqis" expressing outrage at bombings by insurgents, don't recycle the quotes. It just undermines your fictitious credibility:

The Third Infantry Division, charged with controlling Baghdad, said in a statement that at least 40 Iraqis had been killed in today's bombing. But the statement appeared unreliable because of a quotation condemning the terrorists from an unidentified Iraqi at the scene. That quotation had the exact same language as another anonymous quotation - "They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics" - that also appeared in a statement released earlier by the military about a July 13 bombing.

Oops.

As we know, the architects of this war are masters of reality and can change the flow of causality itself, through the power of their superior will alone. Like Chandu the Magician, they can make people around them only see what they're supposed to see. But Chandu needed more than the ability to cloud men's minds. He needed brains -- which the clods and hooligans running this war clearly lack.


Monday, July 18, 2005
 
Please Disregard My Previous Ethical Pronouncements
During a photo op with the Indian prime minister today, President Bush said this when asked again about what it would take to fire a staff member who leaked the name of a covert CIA agent:

I don't know all the facts. I want to know all the facts. The best place for the facts to be done is by
somebody who is spending time investigating it. I would like this
to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts.

And if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my
administration.

Previously, of course, Bush had stated that if anyone on his staff was involved with leaking classified information, they would be fired.

But now it looks like nothing less than a criminal conviction will do it.


UPDATE: Here are a few early headlines from online news services.

New York Times: IN SHIFT, BUSH SAYS HE'LL FIRE AIDES WHO 'COMMITTED A CRIME'

CNN: BUSH VOWS FIRING IN ANY CRIME OVER CIA LEAK

Washington Post: BUSH VOWS TO FIRE ANYONE CONVICTED OF CRIME IN LEAK CASE

Fox News: BUSH: LEAKER WILL GO (right beneath a promo for a Brit Hume "special report" called "WAS KARL ROVE SET UP?")


 
Karl Rove And Special Order 191
Lately a number of liberal pundits have been crowing about the Plame affair and how it might be the beginning of the end of Karl Rove and his merry band of pranksters in the White House. But these same pundits often glance over their shoulders nervously, suspicious that Rove -- evil mastermind that he is -- is simply luring them into a trap. Maybe, they whisper, it'll all turn out to benefit the White House in the end. Maybe the special prosecutor will end up exonerating Rove and indicting someone else -- Dick Durban, maybe, or Dan Rather, or Michael Moore.

Don't believe it. Rove isn't as that smart as all that. His success stems partly from the fact that he simply has no principles and there are no limits to what he'll do to win a campaign, and partly from the fact that the Democrats are dumber than he is.

The Dems' belief that Rove is an invincible mastermind works against them too; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Every time the news turns against the White House, the Democrats start wondering if Rove is setting them up, and they become overly cautious.

You've probably already guessed the obvious historical parallel.

On September 13, 1862, soldiers from Gen. Alpheus Williams' XII Corps, which was camped in a field occupied by Confederate forces the previous day, found an envelope which contained three cigars wrapped in paper. The paper was addressed to the Confederate general D.H. Hill, and turned out to be Special Order 191, Lee's battle plan for the coming offensive in Maryland, which would become known to history as the Battle of Antietam.

The order divided Lee's force of 40,000 into five groups. Three of the groups would be deployed to capture Harper's Ferry. The other two groups would be deployed to Boonsboro and Hagerstown. When MacClellan saw the document, he exclaimed, "Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home." He knew that if the information in his hands was correct, and if he moved quickly, he could easily isolate and destroy the fragments of Lee's army. The war would be over.

But for eighteen crucial hours, MacClellen hesitated. He began to doubt his luck. What if Lee was setting him up? Would such a brilliant general make such a foolish mistake?

It wasn't the first time MacClellen had considered this possibility. In fact, every time MacClellen had ever detected a weakness or mistake in Lee's deployments in the battlefield, he immediately assumed it was a feint. And once again MacClellan, doubting himself, allowed his advantage to slip through his fingers.

After the war, Lee remarked that MacClellen was the most skilled general he ever faced. But winning battles was not one of MacClellen's skills. He was a brilliant organizer and strategist but was timid in battle; he always believed his opponents had the upper hand, regardless of any numerical or tactical advantage he possessed.

Ulysses S. Grant, the general who finally destroyed Lee's army, had no such illusions. "Let's stop thinking about what General Lee will do to us," he once told his officers, "and start thinking about what we will do to him". What the Democrats need now is a Grant, not a MacClellen.


Friday, July 15, 2005
 
It's Friday! Let's Go Smash Something


It's a guy thing.

Say it's Friday afternoon, and you don't have plans for the weekend. Maybe you'll meet up with some friends later and head down to the bar. Maybe you'll go see a movie. Or maybe you'll start building a giant robot in the backyard.

Well, technically not a robot. A "mecha" -- a giant anthropormorphic suit of exo-skeleton armor. Long a staple of anime, mechas were featured prominently in the last two Matrix movies. Those mechas were enormously strong, were equipped with machine guns and flamethrowers and could run 30 miles an hour. A lot of guys saw that movie and said, "Cool! I'd love to have one of those. I'd never get caught in rush-hour traffic again. I'd laugh maniacally as I send my enemies fleeing for their lives."

But they don't mean it, not really, because there are real-world consequences to owning something like that. Gigantic, destructive killing machines are almost impossible to insure. Zoning ordinances usually prohibit them. And if the courts can find that a trampoline is an attractive nuisance, you don't stand a chance when the neighbor kid climbs into your giant machine-gun wielding, property-destroying automaton and leads police on a bloody six-hour interstate rampage.

Maybe that's why it's taken so long for someone to actually build one. But Carlos Owens has done it. He's built a real honest-to-god mecha in his back yard. It's eighteen feet tall. It weighs three thousand pounds. I'm guessing Carlos isn't married.

When Carlos asked what a giant mecha is good for, he starts out with the less crazy stuff. "It might be useful for battling forest fires," he says. He also cites military applications. But in spite of the language about practical civilian applications for mechas on his web site, it seems clear what his agenda really is: he wants a be able to climb into a giant robot and smash stuff.

Don't believe me? Watch the unintentionally hilarious concept video and tell me I'm wrong.


Thursday, July 14, 2005
 
Does A Lie Become The Truth If Everyone Believes It?
Recently we looked at the not-so-secret backstory that undergirds the Scientology "religion" -- an overwrought and extremely improbable tale involving an alien overlord named Xenu, volcanoes, H-bombs, DC-8 jetliners, movie theaters and a lot of fast talk. Like most stories cooked up by L. Ron Hubbard, it's not a particularly interesting one.

But Hubbard's own life story was actually quite fascinating and strangely poignant. Hubbard believed that he was destined for greatness, but greatness always seemed to elude him; he simply wasn't as smart, as courageous, as innovative as he was in his own imagination; and like many people of vaulting ambition and minimal talent, he began to believe that his faults and failures could always be blamed on the sinister interference of others.

In the 1930s he had wanted to study nuclear physics, but his dreams immediately hit a wall -- he flunked the only class he ever took in the subject. He dropped out of college after only four semesters; he was running a D average overall.

But so great was his hunger for approval, for the respect and admiration of others, that he began claiming not only that he held a Ph.D in nuclear physics, but that he was, in fact, one of the world's pre-eminent physicists:

To some degree, it was my responsibility that this world got itself an atom bomb, because there were only a handful of nuclear physicists in the thirties - only a handful. And we were all beating the desk and saying "How wonderful it will be if we discover atomic fission," because we decided that the thing to do with atomic fission was to go out and discover the stars, to make big passenger liners that would go ten times around the world on the same fuel. This was what we endeavoured to do with atomic fission. The government stepped in and gave us three billion dollars. I had nothing to do with that program; I would not have had anything to do with the program. Three billion dollars to destroy all of man.


World War II offered Hubbard another shot at glory, this time as a naval officer; but again, his record was undistinguished. He was briefly given command of a small sub-chaser off the Pacific coast, but lost it after a couple of embarrassing lapses of judgement (he led a protracted depth-charge attack on a non-existent Japanese sub, and later shelled an uninhabited island off the coast of Mexico). Nevertheless, as time passed, Hubbard became increasingly bold about his exploits, often telling tales that contradicted one another. He claimed that while escaping from the Japanese in Java, he'd been machine-gunned in the back and critically wounded. He'd been flown back to the United States on the personal aircraft of the Secretary of the Navy, thus becoming the first casualty returned from fighting in the Pacific rim. He had single-handedly manned the only anti-aircraft emplacement in Australia. He was made Commodore of Corvette Squadrons in the South Pacific. He engaged and sunk two Japanese subs. While serving on the USS Algol, he wrote a revolutionary textbook on navigation. His exploits on the Algol, in fact, were so remarkable that they became the basis for the movie "Mr. Roberts". He was crippled and blinded after picking up an unexploded shell from the deck and attempting to throw it overboard. In all, Hubbard variously claimed to have received no fewer than 21 service decorations during the course of the war.

He had discovered a counter-intuitive truth: that people are often more ready to believe a big lie than a small one.

In the 1950's he began peddling "Dianetics" as a cure for various physical ailments, and ended up getting run out of several states for practicing medicine without a license. Apparently in response to this, the focus of Dianetics changed to an emotional self-help regimen. The organization (which began to call itself the "Dianetic and Scientology Institute") became more insular and cultish, and an increasingly agitated and paranoid Hubbard began writing long missives to the FBI, claiming that his organization had been infiltrated by communists. He provided long lists of names (including that of his own wife). The FBI didn't respond to these letters, simply filed them away (with the notation "Probably mental").

Beset by tax problems and derided by the psychological community as a quack, Hubbard took the next logical step: he declared Scientology a religion, ensuring his organization tax-free status, and at the same time removing it from any professional oversight or regulation.

You may remember that back in the 1980's, Hubbard authored a series of bestselling "Battlefield Earth" books. Not surprisingly, the sales numbers were another scam by Hubbard's organization. Scientology staffers were directed to go to bookstores, buy numerous copies of the books, pack them in boxes -- and ship them back to the bookstores. Just one more way that an ordinary life was transformed through bold mendacity.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005
 
When White House Pennyboys Attack
The White House's designated sock monkey once again gets into the national spotlight through innovative idiocy:

My Democratic friends would be doing the nation a great service if they spent half as much time getting legislation passed that will benefit the country as they do in attacking Karl Rove. When you're out of ideas and lack vision, you are left with nothing but personal attacks and negativity. We have enough to do in the Senate in minding our own business than to be sticking our noses into someone else's business. Everyone needs to cool the rhetoric, focus on the business of the people, and allow the investigation to run its course.
I've often said that the most dangerous place on Earth is between Norm Coleman and a TV camera. Grandstanding is what we expect from him. But the hypocrisy of a Republican member of the U.S. Senate -- especially one tied so closely to Rove's antics -- accusing Democrats of "personal attacks and negativity" is truly mind-boggling. Karl Rove's zeal for "personal attacks and negativity" is what got him into this mess to begin with. And the Republican's sudden zeal for deliberate investigative process is quite amazing, a measure of just how desperate they've become.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
 
Not So Fast, Mr. Sullivan
Andrew Sullivan has been posting items like this since the London bombings:

EPIPHANY WATCH: Just as in the U.S. after 9/11, some who once dismissed terrorism as an over-rated threat have begun to change their minds a little.

There's a loaded sentence: "Some who once dismissed terrorism as an over-rated threat". Who would that be, Andrew -- you? I've been scanning the Andrewsullivan.com archives, and in the summer of 2001 you chattered a lot about Gary Condit and stem-cell research, but I didn't see a word about terrorism.

Andrew's implication seems to be those head-in-the-sand liberals didn't heed the warnings of the Wise Owls at the Bush administration.

He seems to have forgotten that before 9/11, the Bush administration was fixated on "rogue states" like Iraq and North Korea and their fearsome arsenals of WMDs. The administration, in fact, had actually proposed cuts in counter-terrorism funding.

We had to pay for those tax cuts somehow, you know.


 
The Stained-Glass Windows Slam Shut, Part II
In his book The Everlasting Man, the great Catholic essayist G.K. Chesterton assailed the theory of evolution, declaring famously that scientists seemed to prefer a slow miracle to a fast miracle.

That statement always puzzled me, because it seemed just as absurd for Chesterton to prefer a fast miracle over a slow one; but after Vatican II the church took a different tack. The Bible, we were told, while a document of spiritual truth, shouldn't be taken as literally as one takes the Minneapolis phone directory.

Science, the council declared, should not be perceived as the enemy of faith; in fact it bolsters our faith because we see the hand of God at work when we learn more about the universe. To me this always seemed to atone a bit for the shabby treatment Galileo suffered at the hands of Pope Urban VIII and the church's centuries-long hostility toward science.

But times have changed. Vatican II is dead and buried. Pope Benedict XVI clearly intends to push the church back not only to Chesterton's time, but back to Urban VIII's time as well.

The church's opening salvo against science in general, and evolution in particular, began in earnest last Thursday. Cardinal Christof Schonborn of Vienna, acting with the direct encouragement of Benedict XVI, has declared open season on the theory of evolution:

Ever since 1996, when Pope John Paul II said that evolution (a term he did not define) was "more than just a hypothesis," defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma have often invoked the supposed acceptance - or at least acquiescence - of the Roman Catholic Church when they defend their theory as somehow compatible with Christian faith.

But this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things.

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

Cardinal Schonborn provides us with a textbook example of a distinction without a difference. If God is omniscient, and if he created the process of evolution, it can only superficially appear to be an "unguided, unplanned process" to us, since God knew its outcome in advance.

There is only one purpose for this bit of theological hair-splitting, and that is to open the door for the so-called "Intelligent Design Theory" to be taught in Catholic schools and to be incorporated in Catholic theology.

When Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope, there were many scholars and Vatican-watchers who were trying to convince the world that Ratzinger was not the fanatic that had been painted by the media. He is a brilliant scholar, it was said, a supple thinker, a compassionate and intellectual man.

But they were wrong. Ratzinger is a fanatic who believes that evolution is a denial of God, just as Urban VIII believed that the Copernican theory was a denial of God. Urban was a man of his time, and that at least partially excuses his actions. But an intellectual medevialist in the 21st century doesn't have an excuse.


Monday, July 11, 2005
 
You Don't Know Nothing About Cars, Ya Mook
I saw Steven Spielberg's remake of War of the Worlds the other day, with the idea of posting something about how it compares thematically with Byron Haskin's 1953 version. A lot of critics have been saying that the earlier adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel was a metaphor for the fear of communism, while the new one plays on our fears of terrorism.

But now that I've seen both versions, I've been forced to abandon that idea. When you get right down to it, the original film was about attention to detail, and the new version is about inattention to detail

You could make a pretty good case that Byron Haskin was a less talented director than Steven Spielberg, but at the very least Haskin was able to work on one movie at a time. He worked full-time through pre-production, full-time through the shoot and full-time through post-production.

In recent years Spielberg has become famous for not working that way. He is like Tom Cruise's character in the movie: an overgrown kid who simply can't slow down and focus on what he's doing. While shooting a movie, he's working on post-production on his last picture and pre-production on his next one. He refuses to give any movie his undivided attention and it shows in War of the Worlds .

Early in the film, the invaders have disabled all our electronic devices with an electromagnetic pulse. This includes cars, cellphones and even wristwatches. Yet a few scenes later we see a man filming the invaders with a camcorder.

A bit later, Tom Cruise is walking along the street and he sees the local garage mechanic (I don't recall his name, but he was a stock New Joisy character so let's call him Sal) tinkering with a minivan. Sal tells him that the starter motor was fried; he replaced it, but the car still won't start (this, by the way, is consistent with an EMP attack). Tom, doing that smarmy fake-charming act that makes my skin crawl, suggests that Sal try replacing the solenoid.

"Hey," Sal says, slapping his forehead, "the solenoid! Why didn't I think of that? Thanks, Tom!"

That's Hollywood. In reality, of course, the conversation would have gone more like this.

Tom: Have you tried changing the solenoid?

Sal: Have I tried what? Funny, I been crawling under cars for 20 years. Every day I got crud falling into my eyes, you'd think I'd have learned something about cars by now.

Tom: Sorry. I'm just trying to help. Help me help you, Sal.

Sal: You're gonna help me help you right into County General, wiseguy. Just about every car built in the last 25 years has the solenoid built into the starter motor casing; you ain't gonna find 'em bolted on the passenger side firewall anymore.

Tom: Wow. I didn't know that.

Sal: Maybe you should learn something about cars before you open your piehole, ya mook. The solenoid is just a switch, it's not an electromagnetic coil.

Tom: Okay, okay.

Sal: Don't matter anyway, because the EMP ruined all the starter motors in the area -- including the ones sitting in cardboard boxes on the shelf. Ya didn't think of that?

Tom: I guess that never occurred to me. But listen, Sal. I have to get my son and daughter to Boston. We're going to need a working vehicle in about twenty minutes, so we may have to steal this one.

Sal: Oh sure, you can steal this one. Be my guest. But how far are you gonna get without an alternator?

Tom: You mean --

Sal: Yah, you heard me. The alternator's an electromagnetic coil.

Nobody would pay $8.50 a throw to see that.

Friday, July 08, 2005
 
Suspicion Breeds Confidence
Over at DailyKos, they have been taking turns making feverish comparisons between Islamic radicalism abroad, American Christian fundamentalism at home, and good old-fashioned liberalism on a number of issues. Islamic fundamentalism is cast as the flip side of Christian fundamentalism. Liberalism, predictably enough, is the only ideology that doesn't look crazy. Here's an example:

Women's Rights

Al Qaida/Taliban: A woman's place is in the home


American Taliban: A woman's place is in the home

Liberals: A woman's place is wherever she wants it to be



The stated intention of this little parlor game is to put the Christian right on the defensive, to make people believe that religious wackos in the U.S. are closely aligned with religious wackos in the Middle East. Thus (so the posters on Kos state) the religious right will be put on the defensive in just the same way as American liberals were put on the defensive during the Cold War, when they were constantly accused of being "soft on communism".

This seems a bit unfair to me, in a two-wrongs-don't-make-a-right sort of way, but no matter. It's a strategy that is doomed to failure. Only a day after the horrific London bombings, the mainstream media is blaming their favorite bogeyman for the blasts: the hand-wringing, terrorist-loving liberals.

For decades London has been a haven for radical elements. Its liberal attitude towards immigration and political asylum has made for a weak defense against terrorism.

But as CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reports, the city that has prided itself as being a haven for those seeking a better life has become a place of suspicion and fear.

Judging by the interviews that I've seen with Londoners, there is certainly suspicion and fear in the city -- emotions which are quite understandable. But there also seems to be the very British desire to get back to normal, and an intuitive understanding that suspicion and fear are the very emotions that the terrorists are trying to evoke.

Tony Blair got it just about right, I think, when he talked yesterday about the British determination to retain a free society while fighting back against the radical elements that threaten it. The British have a lot of experience in this; they refused to be cowed by the IRA bombings in the 1970s, and they refused to turn their society into a police state. It was a lesson we ought to have learned from them. Instead, we're in the process of turning our own society into a police state and are now lecturing the Brits on how they should embrace a culture of suspicion and fear.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005
 
If You Like Your Women Spindly, Acerbic, And Mentally Unbalanced....
...America's Most Trusted News Source has some dandy pick-up lines "to get Republican women like Ann Coulter into bed".

According to the article, the study's director, Dr. Jedediah Leland (Hmmm, Citizen Kane fans at the WWN, you think?) noted:

"we discovered a number of surprising insights....for instance, three times as many Democrat men as Republicans want to sleep with Republican women.

"When we asked them why, the Democrats responded that they had a strong urge to do to these women what the Republican party is doing to the country."

Ha ha, how true. Use these pick-up lines at your own risk.

Possible side effects of sleeping with Ann Coulter may include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sleeplessness, anal leakage, seizures or death. Don't say I didn't warn you.


 
I'll Just Lie Down On The Floor And Go To Sleep Now, Thanks
The dazzlingly predictable fight over the next Supreme Court vacancy has barely started, yet it already promises a level of idiocy that we have not yet witnessed in this country. It is the 365-day-a-year-campaign gone berserk. Sandra Day O'Connor had barely turned in her letter of resignation before the right-wing lunatics were warning Bush not to pick Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as her replacement. A "strict constructionist" was needed, they've been crying -- although it seems clear that when they say "strict constructionist" they really mean "right-wing activist". Meanwhile, Democrats are apparently threatening to filibuster any nominee Bush sends up.

Am I the only one left in this country who actually wants the Constitution to work the way it was designed to work?

Look, I don't want a right-wing justice on the Supreme Court any more than you do -- but the Constitution is very clear on this point. The President proposes and the Senate disposes. Since the Republicans hold the White House, it's certain that the nominee will be a conservative. And since the Republicans also hold the Senate, it's all but certain that the nominee will be confirmed.

Was there ever any doubt on November 3 that Bush would get at least two Supreme Court picks before the end of his second term? Ever hear of a two-term President who didn't get at least two picks?

There is no sense in girding for a knock-down, drag-out fight for this Supreme Court vacancy before a nominee has even been announced.

Do the Dems really think they can knock off a Supreme Court pick? They torpedoed the Bork nomination in '86, but that was an extremely unusual case. Bork was his own worst enemy, both in his previous writings and statements and in his arrogant demeanor before the Judicial Committee. It was a mistake for Reagan to nominate him. Since that time, Republicans have resolved to send up nominees who can't be "Borked", and Clarence Thomas was the apotheosis of this strategy -- a man with strong opinions but not much of a record to be used against him

I'm not sure if Thomas is the dumbest guy to ever sit on the court, but I'll be he's in the top ten. If I had to pick I'd prefer another Thomas -- who follows the herd but won't make trouble on his own -- over a guy like Scalia, who is quite brilliant but who is a right-wing activist of the first magnitude.

There's been a great deal of tooth-gnashing and garment-rending over this fight, but I'm steering clear of it. Wake me when it's over.



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