All entries for January 2006
January 09, 2006
It seems that Norman Finkelstein has really found his niche since writing The Holocaust Industry. He has become the formost rebutter of Pro-Israeli works, carving his way as one of the leaders of the generation following the Two Greats (who supported the fundamental right of the Palestinians to determination and who have fought tirelessly against extreme Zionist propaganda for years): Noam Chomsky and Edward Said.
This work follows in a series which rebut specific works or the works in general of certain authors. For example, Image and Reality , The Goldhagen Effect
In Beyond Chutzpah he goes on to effectively combat Alan Dershowitz, a fairly famous American lawyer, who came out last year with his mundane piece - seemingly lifted wholesale from various Pro-Israel websites, such as US-Israel.org, the ADL, masada2000 and, as Finkelstein goes into in great detail, Joan Peters' From Time Immemorial - The Case For Israel.
He doesn't just cover The Case For Israel but also uses Dershovitz's previous works such as Letters to a young lawyer and Chutzpah (which is where Beyond seems to borrow its title), often to damning effect.
Anyone familiar with Finkelstein's post-Industry works, will feel immediately comfortable with his continued style. Once again, he thoroughly examines the scholarship behind Dershowitz's claims, such as:
1) The Palestinians were "Recent" immigrants from other Arabic countries.
2) The European settlers had made "the desert bloom".
3) Nearly every Palestinian killed in second Intifada was either a terrorist or killed by Palestinians, while nearly all Jewish Israelis killed were women and children.
4) Israel doesn't use torture and in fact has banned torture! (etc.)
In every case, he examines D's sources, shows why they were lacking, often humiliating D in the process, for example, showing how one of his sources was a link to a high-school chronology, and another was a link to a Sony website for a movie when referencing a historical fact. He also makes – and then proceeds to back-up – a very serious claim; Dershowitz is a Plagiarist. His appendices at the book of the book, replete with tables and even highlighted scanned images, prove to be damning evidence.
In addition to his book, he has consistently updated his website with debates with Dershowitz: www.normanfinkelstein.com .
Indeed one of the most humourous moments in the book is in the transcript of an exchange between F and D which essentially follows:
Finkelstein: On p.xxx you use the phrase "Orwellian turnspeak".
Dershowitz: Yes I do.
F: And on p.xxx you use the phrase "Orwell's turnspeak".
D: Yes I do.
F: Mr. Dershowitz… Turnspeak was a phrase invented by Peters... Orwell used the term Newspeak
F: Mr. Dershowitz… do you even know who George Orwell is?
D: Ah… Um… Hmmm..
Gotta love it.
Go out, read the book, read his website. Nothing beats a scholar trouncing spurious scholarship.
As a final note, it would have been the cherry if Finkelstein had addressed his claim about Israel returning territory gained in a defensive war in 1967. There is a persistent claim that Egypt had attacked Israel first in 1967, a claim which has filtered into the American consciousness and has cropped up in, for example, The West Wing Season 6 where one of the characters says something to the effect of "Israel doesn't have any faith in UN Peacekeepers since they allowed Egypt to invade in 1967". Whether or not you argue that '67 was a JUST war, is a whole different thing. But it cannot be argued that it was a defensive war, no matter how much some would like to believe.
Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view
A lot of people seem to have a strong hatred for George Galloway. Some hate him because he beat Oona, others because he's a lefty and they're the last remnents of the Toryboys of old. And still others because… well he speaks so damned well.
Now I'm not going to spend much time at all on Galloway, if you don't like the guy you're not going to. Especially not since his entry into the Big Brother house pukes (Tony Blair next?). But one thing I do want to comment on is this idea that because he enjoys smoking a cigar, he must be:
a) A bastard.
b) A hypocrite.
c) A very, very, nasty man.
A cigar is more expensive than a cigarette, by far, but will generally take 30mins-1 hour to smoke (depending on which size you buy) and are not smoked 20 a day… So in the end it is a somewhat more expensive habit than, say, a 30 a day cigarette habit… but that is presuming he smokes one of the top Cuban brands (so Rome y Julieta, Monte Cristo, Cohiba etc.) but he's paying huge tax… possibly making up for his poor voting record :P.
In conclusion, I guess my point is that cigars are cheaper in Europe and never try to sell your cigars as collectables on Ebay because, whilst the logic is sound, unless you can prove that your cigars came from Cuba before the US sanctions, then you are subject to the ridiculous, draconian laws impeding the buying and selling of anything to do with Cuba.
January 08, 2006
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Let me start this by saying that I enjoyed the previous three Harry Potter movies which were thoroughly cogent and self-contained pieces of celluloid. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is not a standalone movie and the Director fudges up the editing job so badly, half the audience (the people who never read the books) will be sitting in their seats wondering what in the hell is happening.
It certainly doesn't help that the best of the young actors in the film are the Weasley Twins and Cedric… it doesn't help that the former don't get enough screen time whilst the latter sort of dies, probably precluding him from subsequent roles… goddamnit.
So what does the director get wrong?
1) His editing process: My problem with this is probably best summed up in this pic from Maddox's The Best Page in the Universe :
I'm not going to bother going through a scene-by-scene summary but you'll often find yourself lost amid the insane scene-jumping that goes on in the film. Go watch it and you'll see what I mean.
2) Dumbledore: Richard Harris was absolutely perfect for the role of Dumbledore in the first two films. It's a shame that death sort of robbed him of his ability to act, but his replacement, Michael Gambon – one of Britain's best actors – is clearly not well-cast. He has not been able to achieve the same perfect combination of stern headmaster, old mentor, good-humoured, intelligent friend and a sort of mischievous father figure for Harry who has the classic wink wink nudge nudge part of British culture down to a T.
Gambon isn't even able to create the same commanding presence that Harris was able to create. When aiming for Gravitas, he seems to be filled with a murderous rage. When aiming for anger, he randomly descends into an Irish accent. Please, as much as I admire Gambon, find someone to replace him!
3) Harry, Ron and Hermione: ARGH. It seems that their combined acting ability has deteriorated over the course of the four films.
Harry Potter: The actor's idea of adding fear, anger, love, hate, suffering etc. to any scene is just to breathe heavily. For about half the film he appeared to be imitating an asthamatic in desperate need of a ventilator.
Ron Weasley: Faux Cockney Whinger. "Oh 'Arry. I'm not going to turn out gay. But I'm pissed off coz you did something without telling me… and when we get married in the future and I'm in the house doing the washing-up all weekend and you're out drinking with your mates, I'll be the same whiny bitch I am now."
Hermione: Really, really overdoes the Posh Public schoolgirl bit. To the point where I just want to beat her with Harry's broomstick.
And what does the director get right?
1) Cedric and the Weasley twins: as previously mentioned these three are among the only young actors with lines who could actually act. And I'm not just saying that because I used to go to the same school as Rob.
2) Some great adult actors: I don't have to trott out the names but Snape, Draco Malfoy etc. – Keep bringing in those excellent British actors!
3) Some of the special effects are in the right place – I thought the underwater scene was pretty good, as was the dragon chase scene (where continuity allowed).
4) It's set a low bar for The Order of the Phoenix to fly over. (Ouch!)
So in the end, a seriously flawed film, but one which is enjoyable when vaguely contiguous. It was disappointing that I had to go to read the book in order to understand the movie. Probably a lot more enjoyable for fans.
January 06, 2006
Look… there were three cartoons which essentially made up my early childhood:
(coughs No mention of She-ra and My Little Pony Hamid?)
Now what characterised these three cartoons?
1) Great (yet not quite smoothe) animation.
2) Brilliant theme songs.
3) (Mostly) fantastic stories with those great little "and today's lesson kids, is" moral that seemed to die out with Captain Planet.
A winning combination and there were other notables like Teenage Mutant Ninja (Not in the UK they weren't ;)) Turtles, Centurions and Visionaries.
So I loved Cartoons as a kid and I could still sit down all day watching Thundercats Schnarf, Schnarf
So now I hear John Woo's picking up the reigns for the Second He-Man movie.
I have no doubt he's going to do better than the previous effort (2xWTF + (Tom Paris x Courtney Cox)) but I can't help that feel there's going to be:
2) Zhou YunFa (Chow Yun-Fat)
3) Some crazy face-off scene (He-Man and Skeletor holding swords at each other?)
If he does something crazy like set it in the future, or cast Tom Cruise as He-Man I am going to go spare. It'll be difficult to cast but he HAS to get Tom Selleck to be Man At Arms.
And come on – the intro scene's gotta replicate the original cartoon right down to the plinking of the Filmation logo:
cue great music
I am Adam Prince of Eternia, Defender of the Secrets of Castle Greyskull,
This is Cringer, my faithful friend,
Fabulous Secret Powers were revealed to me, the day I held aloft my magic sword and said
I HAVE THE POWER
PS I wonder if it'll be called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe…. the title always seemed a bit blasphemous to me ;).
It's clear he's going to die in the next few days (barring an Act of God(tm)) so what happens when he's finally put in the ground?
I'm not thinking of the ramifications of his death upon Israeli politics as such – Israeli politics has essentially remained unchanged since 1967 – but what happens during and after his funeral.
He's currently the Israeli PM and he'll probably die as the Israeil PM which will probably lead to fanfare a State Funeral.
Now, a lot of people will be unfamiliar with this guy's history. Many people in the UK and elsewhere see him today as "The guy who desired peace so much that he made the decision to remove a few thousand illegal settlers from the Ghaza strip" rather than the man responsible for Sabra and Shatilla, the invasion of Lebanon (and the subsequent bombing – including the use of phosporous shells – and shelling of Beirut, resulting in the deaths of at least 20,000 Lebanese/Palestinian civilians). The man who was the driving force behind the settler movement in nearly all his ministerial posts (resulting in the 300,000 Israeli settlers currently defiling international law and expanding in the West Bank and let's not forget those extra in Jerusalem). The man who was responsible for "Operation Defensive Shield", or the "Operation to Destroy all Palestinian Infrastructure".
This man, an ethnocidal/genocidal criminal (and, according to the UN definition of Genocide, he, and all other Israeli political leaders since 1948 have been Genocidal) will be given full state honours and buried with much applause within Israel, rubbing into the collective face of the Palestinians 60 years of repression, executions, torture, expulsion, imprisonment and destruction.
The Second Intifada was launched as a result of him visiting an Islamic and Jewish holy site (surrounding by thousands of soldiers and police). Imagine this criminal being treated as a hero.
Alternatively, there may simply be much furious celebration not seen in the area since the trial of Eichmann.
January 03, 2006
I read Memoirs of a Geisha back when I was around 17 or 18 I think and yeah I enjoyed the book a lot. I'm looking forward to the movie (come the 14th of January) and like any other hot-blooded non-Chinese Male*, I enjoy the visual presence of Zhang ZiYi.
Anyhow, the film's director seems to have felt that it would be a great idea to make the majority of the cast English-speaking Chinese. Now, I don't have a problem with this, because I'm a great fan of Chinese cinema – the more the better – but what I do have a problem with is shoring up everyone's English and then getting them to do the English dialogue in a Japanese accent… WTF?
If you're going to set the movie in English (and not Japanese), fine. The book was written in English. But you're not creating anymore of an illusion by getting everyone to speak English in a Japanese accent.
*A lot of Chinese men don't consider Zhang Ziyi attractive. And a lot of Chinese women hate her because she and Zhang Yimo "You Yi Tui". Ie because it's rumoured she's a slut.
January 02, 2006
Writing about web page http://www.twow.com/thumper/hal.htm
Crikey… I just stumbled onto a very, very old website I used to visit back when I first started using the internet.
I'm talking about the days when you had two choices for the net:
I ended up with AOL despite trying Compuserve first. Why? Because when I signed up for compuserve it had, for some reason, failed to accurately record my username and password… D'OH!
We're talking about early '90s here and I was using AOL for years (pretty much until BT started offering broadband) as a result. This is an eon before things like plusnet and an age before even some of the early alternate providers like freeserve. In fact, the first alternate provider I remember was Prodigy.
We're talking about the days when the use of the net would cost you £2.95 an hour + telephone bills (I nearly cried for joy when AOL introduced a monthly service option. I think it was initially around £25 then they reduced it… the phone calls still dug a hole in the pocket though).
What would I use the net for? Chat rooms and Ultima Online… Yes… I was a young geek. What were my AOL usernames?
And which characters did I have in UO?
Taishakutin – GM warrior turned GM mage.
Smeagol – My GM thief.
Al Mahdi – My Mule
Yasha – The Warrior to replace Taish
Can't remember the other characters.
Wow. I can't believe I still recall this stuff. I played on the Europa server, posted on Stratics (but was banned some time in 2002 for constantly arguing with insane right-wing Americans). In fact I think you can still find my posts there from just after 9–11 (oh U Hall OT - the fun we had!). I even wrote fanfic – two pieces weighing in at around 60,000 words in total.
You can tell I was the popular kid at school. I wonder if Imanewbie's still around?
checks the internet
Crikey it's still around… Imanewbie does Britannia ----> Imagine loading those comics up on a 56k modem.
Well, anyway, those were the days. And which site brought back this floodgate of nostalgia?
Check out the site and downloads "RadAol", "Gilligan", "Zits", "Staitbys" and "HiHo".
All instant classics I think you'll agree. Now let me put two of them in their context (gotta love topical net humour… man oh man I miss those days).
One of my all-time favourite classic internet tracks… Came in response to AOL going down for half a day, many years ago. To the tune of Ace of Base's I Saw the Sign
I put in my password
Unzipped my pants, Stood Left, I fucking freaked,
With nothing connected, no cyber sex for me
America Online, I'm a geek with no life
Have to sleep with my wife
They went offline
It was eighteen hours of pure agony
No kinky websites, to spend my weeknights
They went offline
And my packard-bell computer lost its mind
I'm not gonna pay my fee
Yes I'll probably switch to Prodigy
Switch to Prodigy
Like many a classic, this one is still relevent… It suits perfectly any MMORPGer who's ever experienced some downtime and gone to surf the official forums.
This one parodies the old netlife in general, to the tune of the Gilligan's Island theme song (an ancient American TV Show):
Now sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
About my virtual trip
It started from my IBM
With a simple little click
I tried to surf the internet
But things did not go well
I wound up in a chatroom
With some geeks from cyberhell
(He's trapped in cyberhell)
They won't shut up
I can't escape this AOL Nightmare.
If I signed onto Prodigy
I bet they'd find me there
Those geeks are everywhere
I'm stuck inside the World Wide Web
With Weirdos I don't know
I hit F1
Unplug the Phone
I can't click out
I can't click in
It sits in chat
Oh my God
I'm trapped on the internet!
Pure… legendary… genius.
- King Kong
I had high hopes for this film which is most likely why I'm so disappointed with it. The film probably deserves three stars but the CG in the film clearly wasn't finished in some areas (the Brachiosaurus stampede, some of the early shots of Kong) which, for a very visual film, is a let down. These visual failures clearly indicate strict time constraints which also leads me to believe that the editing process, even the filming process, was probably rushed through to completion. So damn the executives, because I think that if Jackson had time to work on cleaning up some of the dialogue, reshooting some of the scenes etc. then Jackson would have achieved his dream of reimagining the iconic masterpiece.
Now, before I get onto the meat of the review I want to elaborate on what I meant by the title's comment.
Jackson has been advertising this film since before he even knew he'd be able to do it. He mentioned it in practically every magazine spread/interview or TV Spot he's been in since the finish of The Return of the King Shoot. So the name's been floating about in the minds of millions who've since come to idolise the director for his treatment of the trilogy since 2002/2003.
Come 2004 we have the first real reports of the shoot for King Kong. Again repeating the old "Peter Jackson's been wanting to do it since he picked up a camera" stuff. Well, if he can do for something he has loved since childhood what he did for The Lord of the Rings, then it's got to be his Magnum Opus, right?
Yeah well, we think it will be. Especially when 2005 comes in. Magazines such as Empire and Total Film are fed "scoops". For each interview, each article, each feature they publish about King Kong, they get huge cooperation from the King Kong Krew (groan – Sorry I'm from the Mortal Kombat generation ;). So Empire gets staff on set, exclusive magazine cover designs, etc, etc. There have been countless examples of this. Jackson and Co. were greasing up the writers with exclusives and cooperation and it really pays off.
So even before the film is released, it's getting rave previews. "The set was amazing… the actors are great… oscars galore… Jackson's lost weight". My grim poetry aside, I was expecting something great. Jack Black – a great actor (except when he's the leading man – I don't know why he doesn't get great scripts – Shallow Hal and School of Rock? /puke). Adrian Brody has something special (I don't think I've been often moved as much as I was with his line in the Pianist – "I'm Cold."). Naomi Watts is one of my favourite contemporary actresses. She's beautiful and convincing. Combine this with THE Director of The Lord of the Rings, WETA (who are now rivalling Lucasfilm and Pixar in terms of special Effects) and you'll surely have a great film, right?
So the film comes out and we're hit with the usual advertising bonanza, but with the sleeker Jackson stamp (so an impressive website, some more magazine cover designs, courtesy Weta) along with another Jackson initiative in the pre-release form of his production diaries. Damn this man is good.
And what do the press do? They lap it up.
You've got the usual newspaper fluff:
The Sun: This is the best film ever released (since we last said that). 10/10
The News of the World: King Kong – BEST FILM EVER! – 10/10
The Daily Mail: Not quite sure what film I've reviewing but it was amazing. – 10/10
The Sunday Sport: You can see Naomi Watts's boobies in 21 Grams and Mulholland Drive – 5/5
The Guardian: Peter Jackson somehow manages to juxtapose the subtle Beauty and the Harsh Beast. Inspiring. 5/5
The Independent: Peter Jackson heralds a return to Directors who can make thoughtful movies. Those who focus on character development and not boobies and guns. Pure genius.
And then we have the Movie Magazines in the UK. These people are paid to review movies for a living yet they generally sit in awe and climb over each other to lavish praise on Jackson and his film. I can generally paraphrase what most of them come up with like this:
*"Jackson focuses on character development, which endlessly enriches the film."
*"The original film was only 2 hours long, but Jackson manages to hike it up to 12 hours with his great character development. Still, his fast pace makes it seem like it's only 20 minutes long! Please give us more!"
*"Jackson is a dude!"
*"Peter Jackson, please have my babies!"
ARGH! GET YOUR NOSES OUT OF HIS CHOCOLATE-FACTORY AND REVIEW THE DAMNED FILM YOU ASSMONKEYS!
So I think now's the time for my brief (:P) review:
What did Jackson get right?
*The natives of the island: The natives were genuinely scary and the scene was filled with tension. They were introduced appropriately, though they somehow disappeared after they went to rescue Naomi from Kong.
*Kong's "Fight Scenes": The Triple-Rex Takedown was a fantastic affair and wonderfully detailed. It was exciting and didn't stay its welcome.
*Kong: The Ape himself was often amazingly detailed. From the lighting on the hair to his behaviour to his scars to his emotions. Jackson managed to make his CG Beast outshine the other actors. Weta also did a fantastic job in keeping Kong to scale in nearly every occasion I could see. (Anyone remember King Kong being about a quarter of the size of he Empire State building in the original? ;))
*The "Ice-Skating": This, combined with the Empire State Building finale really made the movie. Kong somehow managed to elicit more sympathy from the audience than any of the other actors (excepting, of course, the ever-great Naomi Watts).
What did Jackson get wrong?
*He lost some of his artistic integrity. He should have fought for a delayed release in order to get things finished. By the looks of it, he didn't. And that reflects badly on him as a director (especially one who should have been able to wield some kind of power).
*Kong: The intial surprise of seeing Kong was not at the beauty of the character but wondering if it was stolen from the Rise of the Robots Snes Game. It has absolutely no texture and I could have probably done better with 3d Studio Max on my PC. No excuse for failing to make the initial impact of Kong as great as possible. To make the moment we see him a disappointment really ruins the 2 year build-up. Once again – no excuse.
*Character Development: I generally love character development. Recent examples, at least within TV series, are Prison Break. Every character is multi-dimensional. Unfortunately this is not so with King Kong. Most of the actors with lines seem to have 0 acting talent. And those who I know have talent, seem to have been robbed of it by the script.There's not point having character development if the actors are so bad that you want to shoot them. Isn't that right Billy Elliot?
*Andy Sirkis: The guy is a legend. He really makes the film with his realistic interpretation of Kong… But at the same time his chef character is just pure crap. The guy is a great voice actor. He's a great puppet-master (for lack of a better description). But for God's sake, don't give him any kind of a walk-on part, especially with lines. Robert Williams's Popeye Schtick was far superior.
That's about it from the top of my head. Watch the film… but don't get your expectations too high. And if you take your girlfriend, make sure you put her to sleep until about half-way through the movie… otherwise she'll dump you. And if you have a wife… she'll divorce you. And take half your possessions. And demand alimony. And then laugh at you when she's driving around in your car with her new boyfriend who's asking your kids to call him "daddy".
Bear that in mind before watching this film.
And Jackson – do better next time, please, please, please!
Writing about web page http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/664887.html
I heard in passing on Britain's BBC News 24 that Britain's Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Sacks, had commented that the world was currently facing a 'Tsunami of Anti-Semitism'. My first thought was that it was somewhat distasteful to be hyperbolising that particular form of racism with somewhat clear reference to a fairly recent disaster. My second was that there should be enough of this hyperbole.
I'm personally of the opinion that Jews generally as both a religious and racial minority in the West fare better than most other minorities. I would agree with anyone who rightly points to any form of racist attack, desecration of religious sites – such as the Desecration of Synagogues that Sacks justifiably mentions as [b]an[/b] example of an anti-Semitic attack – and mentions that it is revolting, untolerable and unwarrented.
However, to say that there is a global wave of anti-Semitism as though it is epicdemic, as though we're on the verge of a second coming of the Holocaust is simply too much, especially from Britain's Chief Rabbi who should be focusing on community relations and not sensationalising in the international press.
I think the Jews (in this country particularly) are a very well-protected and served minority. Most in the West are white, which tends to elimante them as targets of the most basic forms of racism directed against minorities. In the UK they generally belong to the Middle Class, have good representation within both the Courts and Parliament. The Holocaust is studied in the School curriculum and memorialised.
Sikhs (who are offered similar legislative protection), Muslims, Blacks (Caribbean/African immigrants etc), Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis (and other racial, religious minorities) do not tend to fare so well. Because of the obvious differences in skin colour between White British and many immigrants, they tend to be the targets of verbal and physical abuse because of their skin. In fact, such abuse is rife (and often under-reported). I could not count, for example, the number of times Chinese, Pakistani and Indian friends of mine at Warwick were verbally abused (and in some cases, physically assaulted) on the basis of their race.
The Problem which needs to be approached is Racism in general and racism itself, whilst a problem, is not something which is about to lead to the destruction of racial minorities in this part of the world. Surely classifiers of a "Tsunami of Antisemitism" would be the wholesale slaughter of people (Like the slaughter of the East Timorese), or institutionalised Racism (ie Israel), or the restrications on naturalised citizens being able to open business (ie the Oman First campaign).
The Jews as a racial and religious minority in the West are faring well and should, hopefully, continue to fare well. What we should focus on is highlighting any racist attack or form of abuse, approaching each case on the basis of equality without emphasising the uniqueness of one form of racism over another. I do not believe that Anti-Semitism as defined above is any different from hatred of Sikhs, Hindus, Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims etc. All are unacceptable forms of racism.
PS - I recently heard that one of my old Jewish friends from school had to change his name because of racist abuse he and his family was facing. What was his name? Zoubaida. He was being attacked because his surname also happened to belong to an alleged terrorist. He was therefore attacked for variably being a muslim, an arab and a terrorist or all three at once. His family felt the need to change his name to something more Hebraic. I think it is revealing that a Jew in this country would feel pressured to changing his name to something more Jewish in order to avoid Anti-Arab, Anti-Muslim racism.
It should also be pointed out that Rabbi Sacks said that he did not believe that Britain was an Anti-Semitic country, but that Anti-Semitism was on the rise globally (with France being an emphasis). Of course, the same arguments generally apply on a global scale. For every attack on a Jewish person outside of Israel, you'll have a race-riot leading to hundreds of deaths in, say, Gujerat, or Buddhists forced to drive around in Body Armour in Muslim-majority areas of Thailand.
And finally – I wasn't able to find this story anywhere on news.bbc.co.uk , despite hearing about it initially on BBC News 24. It's odd that I have to go to an Israeli news source to find something a British man said.