Sunday, December 18, 2005

George W. Orwell 2 (C)

From CNN:

Bush: 'I have no greater responsibility than to protect our people'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A text of President Bush's radio address on Saturday, as released by the White House:

As president, I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and I have no greater responsibility than to protect our people, our freedom, and our way of life.
On September the 11th, 2001, our freedom and way of life came under attack by brutal enemies who killed nearly 3,000 innocent Americans. We're fighting these enemies across the world. Yet in this first war of the 21st century, one of the most critical battlefronts is the home front. And since September the 11th, we've been on the offensive against the terrorists plotting within our borders.
One of the first actions we took to protect America after our nation was attacked was to ask Congress to pass the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act tore down the legal and bureaucratic wall that kept law enforcement and intelligence authorities from sharing vital information about terrorist threats. And the Patriot Act allowed federal investigators to pursue terrorists with tools they already used against other criminals.
Congress passed this law with a large, bipartisan majority, including a vote of 98-1 in the United States Senate.
Since then, America's law enforcement personnel have used this critical law to prosecute terrorist operatives and supporters, and to break up terrorist cells in New York, Oregon, Virginia, California, Texas and Ohio. The Patriot Act has accomplished exactly what it was designed to do: It has protected American liberty and saved American lives.
Yet key provisions of this law are set to expire in two weeks. The terrorist threat to our country will not expire in two weeks. The terrorists want to attack America again, and inflict even greater damage than they did on September the 11th.
Congress has a responsibility to ensure that law enforcement and intelligence officials have the tools they need to protect the American people.
The House of Representatives passed reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Yet a minority of senators filibustered to block the renewal of the Patriot Act when it came up for a vote yesterday. That decision is irresponsible, and it endangers the lives of our citizens. The senators who are filibustering must stop their delaying tactics, and the Senate must vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act. In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment.
To fight the war on terror, I am using authority vested in me by Congress, including the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force, which passed overwhelmingly in the first week after September the 11th. I'm also using constitutional authority vested in me as commander in chief.
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.
Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks. This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies.
Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.
As the 9/11 commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad.
Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon -- Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khalid al-Mihdar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late.
The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities. The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time. And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.
The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland.
During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the attorney general and the counsel to the president. I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.
The NSA's activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and NSA's top legal officials, including NSA's general counsel and inspector general. Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it. Intelligence officials involved in this activity also receive extensive training to ensure they perform their duties consistent with the letter and intent of the authorization.
This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the president of the United States.
Thank you.

History refresher for you: we FOUGHT the Cold War to AVOID living under these kind of practices. Y'all signed on for Soviet tactics? And I guess I have to mention that this is another case of Bush lying directly to us, about something so much more important that the President's peccadillos...we were told that these unusually aggressive, intrusive techniques were reserved for foreign terrorists...

I have said it before in a blog entry; an expression credited to Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac: those who trade freedom for security deserve neither. I'll take my chances with the terrorists; stay the FUCK out of my private life. That's way more precious than my security; which is largely my responsibilty anyway!

I guess I should just close all of my blog entries these days with "This is not America..."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Joanie's 40

I swear what follows is the truth, the best as I remember it. I admit that there's no way I can inform you as to what the hell I am like in a relationship. I admit that it's a natural tendency to try to make yourself look better than you actually looked in the circumstance. I'll try to keep that to a minimum...I also readily acknowledge that what follows is, in its entirety, my opinion. You can sort the shit from the shinola yourself.

Today is Joanie's 40th birthday.

I probably won't talk to her, but I am sending along a card. We haven't really spoken since she kicked me out of her life, once again, too predictably. There isn't much for me to say to her. The things that I love about her disappear when she stops loving me, and begging for mercy is like begging summer to stick around permanently.

You ask yourself, why do I do this? Why do I put my neck on the chopping block? Why do I always try to kick the god-damned football she proffers?

The answer is simple. I am motivated by love. Twue wuv.

Why do I seemingly become a fool?

For the first time, I was able to forgive her for what went before. Somehow this also taught me how to not cling to her as obsessively as I once did. Since all the bad stuff about me was suddenly in a place that wasn't beyond my control, how could we go wrong this time?

Because my development wasn't matched in kind. Sure, she developed, but it was professionally, not personally. If anything, she's worse today than I have ever known her to be. Obviously, I have a skewed view, as I get to see a months long performance; then that character disappears from view.

Which isn't to say that I am the picture of mental health...I'm not. But I am very aware of exactly where I have "developmental opportunities," to use the obfuscating quality of the retail patois...and because I am aware of my flaws, I can easily forgive her flaws...

Unfortunately, one of those flaws that she is unable to feel least when it comes to me. I am sure if you ask her sister, she'd say that Joanie was very compassionate. It's just that I never got to see it, or benefit from it...she sets the bar very high for me, higher than she herself is able to attain...and is unforgivng when I can't meet her expectations.

I promised I would detail this one day...I can't see a better opportunity ever opening up...

I first saw Joanie at the hot dog stand, that was open opposite the Sound Place, a tiny retail esablishment that lived off of the larger Federated Group electronics store in the Old Town Mall, Torrance, California. It was the summer of 1986. She was wearing this incredibly dramatic outfit, highlighted by a gold sash wrapped around her ass...I was transfixed...but I was taken...

I worked at the Sound Place, as an assistant manager. I left the Federated Group to go to work there. I would eventually return, and in the interim, Joanie was hired into the video rentals section...when I came back, I was no longer with Andrea, but I was a new father. I took every opportunity to chat Joanie up...and she seemed as taken with me as I was with her.


I'll never forget the mad kisses we exchanged behind the dumpster in Old Town's rear parking lot, our very first kisses (kisses as passionate exchanged as recently as the day she ended it)...our first dates...the smell of her breath...first demanding every moment of my time, then vanishing for days...insisting on demonstrations of affection that grew increasingly difficult to pull off (demands made as recently as--)...all night spent in my Dodge Colt in a restaurant parking lot, spending most of it discussing eloping...tears of laughter and insanity from both of us...insisting that I couldn't love her because she didn't love herself. This statement was renewed the night I returned from B.C. Her statement was untrue. It would have been true for her to state: "Because I don't love myself, I can't love you." A very harsh lesson, one which thankfully stings less with time and repeated exposure.

I could not live without her. I have felt that way more than once, but it's been over over a dozen years now. Routines became such a damned distraction from her company. No one had ever owned my heart the way she did then, the fall and winter of 1986/'87. She would own it in similar fashion again; but sadly, not ever permanently...

I moved into her house in January of 1987. I lived there until I elected to move out, upon another break-up, in July of 1988...there was a smattering of love, a lot of yelling and feigning hate, some passionate and occasionally furtive sex...but mainly a lot of yelling...I used to think her longing for me fueled her hatred. Based on what she's shown me, it's actually based on REAL hatred.

We would get together and separate more times than I care to admit, and on some occasions I truly regret. The last real one was in 1998, just as her ex Phil was getting ready to leave So. Cal. for more familiar environs for him on the East Coast. I had a sense that she was grabbing on to me because he was leaving. When she ended that go-round, I had closure for the first time. The only way I could possibly make her happy would be to fundamentally alter my personality. I could not do it.

We traded emails and even went out a couple of times last year; we seemed to be circling each other for another go 'round, but when she informed me that her ex was going to be staying with her more frequently than she previously had said, I just assumed she was back with him. I turned out to be wrong, even if leaving then probably spared me some pain.

I was fine on my own. Sure, I have had my share of romantic misadventures this year, but that's all in a day's work. It goes with the territory. I told her she doesn't do well in captivity. She paints a picture describing her love for me, as we fall into an open relationship. I let her convince me that she wants the same things I do; my fondness becomes the love I once knew for her, tempered of course by our history; and by my embracing the idea of impermanence in the last few years. Then, she sets the painting on fire, proving the Buddhists correct yet again. Of course, after the picture's turned to ash, the love brings pain. The pain is tempered by the fact that I was in love with something that either didn't really exist, or didn't belong in my possession anyway. I will always go after love if it means I won't be hurting someone's the best way to live, madly in love...

I will not settle for less than that. I am already happy in this existence. There's someone out there that can appreciate what I have to offer. Until then, I party on...with the very best of friends, and some amazing lovers...

Friends that yell at me for giving her more chances, but then back off and give me room to make my own mistakes...

I am buoyed up and out of any depression that may rear its head by the knowledge of the love and support I enjoy in this world. By this standard, I am one of the wealthiest men alive. I am thankful for all of the blessings I receive.

I think its what keeps drawing her back to a moth to a flame. Or Charlie Brown to his next field goal attempt. All he needs is a more reliable holder.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The late late FANTASTIC FOUR review

Well what do you know? In time for the DVD release! Ha ha!

I have been waiting for a FANTASTIC FOUR movie since I was probably 5 years old; or maybe not, but I know the FF has been an important part of my life for almost as long as my memory goes back. The fact that my son Ben is named Ben is not a coincidence. I have been casting an FF movie in my head since at least 1978...

There are some wacky coincidences too: Tim Story grew up next door to my good friend Jahn Evans, so I have actually had the pleasure of meeting Tim twice, and on one occasion (talk about thrills) we got to chat about the movie, and the comic, and the coming sequel! It definitely feels like some kind of fate, having such a close personal connection to the man that would direct the first real FF movie.

My make-up/effects industry younger brother spent about 3 months helping with the Thing's costume/suit/make-up. I saw the Thing's outfit and Doom's outfit way back in January, at Spectral Motion in the valley.

I have a handful of pop culture heroes...the Thing...John Belushi...Jerome "Curley" Howard...

Michael Chiklis has now played all of these men...

Okay, so me and the FF go way back. One thing this movie demonstrated was that there are a LOT of people like me! Thousands! Below us, and more numerous, are people that read other comics growing up, X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, etc. and are tangentially aware of the FF, because of appearances in the comics they read, or maybe they picked up a bunch of comic titles, and FF was among them. And below them (and more numerous still) are the people who when asked if they know who the Fantastic Four are, reply: "Is that the rock man and the fire guy?" I began reading FF after seeing the cartoon in 1969: the first FF I read was #95. I read FF off and on until I was about ten; I began picking up other titles when I was one point, I was buying on a regular basis the following:

Marvel 2-In-1 (starring da ever-lovin' blue-eyed T'ing)
Captain America
Incredible Hulk
Justice League of America
New Teen Titans
(DC titles didn't do much for me until Frank Miller created DARK KNIGHT RETURNS)

Okay, I digress...I know the FF. The point is made! (I just threw my hands up in the "Touchdown" gesture) Suffice it to say, I am very sympathetic to the material.

The movie itself can easily be described as Comic Book Movie 101; the origin of the Fantastic Four is the first thing we see. Reed Richards and Ben Grimm need to go into high earth orbit to conduct an experiment, and they convince industrialist (and school "chum") Victor Von Doom to let Reed use Doom's space station and space shuttle in exchange for 75% of the profits any such research might generate, as well as Doom himself overseeing the mission, along with his assistant Susan Storm and her brother, pilot Johnny Storm. The research is related to a "cosmic storm," (Stan Lee's wild, impossible, unexplained physics of the universe come to mind), that Richards hopes to meet out in space. When it arrives unexpectedly, all five are bathed in the cosmic rays. Under quarantine back on earth, it's obvious the storm has affected them physically. (spoiler!) They've acquired super powers! They were ordinary people, but now they are MR. FANTASTIC! THE THING! THE HUMAN TORCH! THE INVISIBLE WOMAN! The world will never again be the same!

I have got to stop reading so much god-damned Stan Lee!!!!!

Uh, oh yeah, almost forgot...Doom is now burdened with a small metallic scar, and is beginning to develop Electro's powers...the idea of Doom joining their challenge of the unknown comes by way of Marvel's Ultimate Fantastic Four series...where Doom is a rich industrialist ala Lex Luthor, and is named Von Damne.

Ben can't deal with turning into the Thing, and in the worst storytelling of the movie, escapes his quarantine to return to his wife. It was just a little hard to figure out exactly how Ben got back to NYC...

Yeah, that kind of sucked, as did a wife who a) doesn't exist in the comics; b) dresses incredibly inappropriately for the streets of Manhattan; and c) demonstrates all of the loyalty of a Fillipina spinster. The only good Ben's cinematic wife provides is a moment of heartbreak when, after rejecting him because he has turned into the Thing, she throws her wedding ring at him. He reaches for it...and can't pick it up because he can't really manipulate his new hands. I thought that was a very nice touch. Some may have seen it as comic...

The ring toss culminates a scene where we see the FF use their new powers in public for the first time, even though they still don't really know a lot about them. This scene worked pretty well for me, but to me the lack of budget showed here, with Reed's powers given short shrift. I am very happy about the success of this movie; in large part because I can't wait for Reed to be done better...

I won't detail the entire plot. I will talk a little bit about what worked, and what didn't.

What didn't:

When the movie was over, I realized that the best, most exciting moments were telegraphed in previews for months before the movie came out. They used all of the best moments of the movie in the trailer, and as a result, the dramatic impact was reduced some for me. Some of the effects were spectacular, I just wish they saved up a little bit more. Also, I liked the Thing's appearance, but I most definitely miss the brow ridge. It is so iconic. I saw designs of the Thing that included the brow ridge, and I understand why they didn't use any of them. Maybe if they had more time to design?

I didn't care for Jessica Alba as Sue Storm. She looked fine, but after the first viewing I thought it was a bad performance. A second viewing made me feel a little bit differently. Ultimately, she read the lines okay, but she never became Sue Storm. I should add that Alba isn't entirely responsible, as her character development was another casualty of the tight deadline, and an under-developed script...

Doom. No, it wasn't. But it could be! He gets back to Latveria, his mom (a gypsy practitioner of black magic) takes him back in, and as he's recuperating, she's eliminating the men that stand between Doom and the throne of Latveria...

Anyway, I thought that Julian McMahon did very well as Doom, except in the moment or 2 where he looked uncannily like Kevin Spacey. I have no problem with the actor, this was very good casting. It's the writing of his character that needs a lot of help. This wasn't the Dr. Doom that FF fans love to hate, this was Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn and the Marvel characters Electro and Colossus jammed painfully into one character...

It was evident that the movie had to make concessions to budget and schedule. The biggest impact was on Reed's character. It just felt to me like they avoided showing him stretch if they could. When I think of various depictions of his character in the comics, I think of a Reed who uses his super-power almost as if he's always possessed it; a natural part of him. For example, I love seeing him stretch in the employ of his scientific pursuits, it suggests a lot about his intellect. And this is supposed to be the world's smartest guy...we didn't get that so much from this movie. He was a little too ineffectual for my tastes. But, again, a sequel is coming...

What did work:

Okay, how best to put this? It was a fun movie! I enjoyed the experience of watching it. The tone was perfect. Despite my enumerating what was wrong with it, FF didn't suck so badly that it was unenjoyable. It was very enjoyable! I saw it 3 times, and liked it more with each viewing.

Chiklis brought Benjamin Jacob Grimm and The Thing to life, Chris Evan also did a nice job of imagining Johnny Storm. Their chemistry was nicely matched to their comic book role models, and was also hilarious! Their chemistry was perfect, and helped make FF so enjoyable. Chemistry is one of the best things about FANTASTIC FOUR. I was disappointed by the depiction of Reed; mainly due to his character being under developed. Ioan Griffith is a good actor, and man, he looks for all the world like he was torn off of a page of Walter Simonson's FF run.

The Human Torch's story arc: I loved the character's slowly getting better at using his power. It was also good writing, and saved money on the effect...and the effect was dead-on...I really worried when I was heard that the Torch might not "flame on" completely. Oops! Spoiler!

It's successful enough to warrant a sequel!

Bottom line? I probably loved it so much because I love the material...I am probably being too forgiving of the end result...