Thursday, May 19, 2005

Movie Review: Ep. III, Revenge of the Sith

It should be retitled to "Piece of Shit". All George's are evil. Period. George Steinbrenner. George Bush - senior and junior. And above them all is the master sellout himself, George Lucas.

Okay sellout is harsh. He didn't sell out in this movie; he did that already in Ep. IV/Return of the Jedi, with those moronic Ewoks.

First I'll just say this: the movie didn't totally suck. Not compared to I and II, it didn't...but it was just flat. Dull. There was so much unsaid (and a lot of dialogue that I wish was unsaid), it really felt like he just threw everything possible into it. It felt rushed; I can easily see that sellout fuck (okay he's a sellout!) pushing the Extended Cut 6-DVD Ep. III set, which can be yours for the bargain price of $69.99.

Had this been 2 movies, I honestly think it would have been much better.

But...I mean...what the fuck, man?! Holy crap. I didn't expect much after Ep. I & II, so it was pretty damned hard to disappoint me, George! I remember cracking a gut as we walked out of the theater, some random woman in the crowd was complaining (as we all were) and said "Who wrote that dialogue, George's 10yr old son?!"

It's a sad statement to the quality of the film when, in what is supposed to be a touching scene, Senator Bail Organa says to Yoda: "I'll take the girl (referring to the baby Leia); my wife and I...we were considering adopting a baby girl..."

And the entire audience breaks out in guffaws at how wooden the delivery is.

Episode III is a visually pleasing movie; the backdrops of Coruscant are breathtakingingly detailed. All the panoramic shots are a wonder to behold. The digital effects are smooth as silk, you'd swear Yoda was a real little alien the way he walked, the level of detail they gave him.

But I'm assuming he broke the budget on special effects, because he obviously couldn't afford more than a room full of intoxicated monkeys to bang away on a keyboard and write a script. I don't think I've ever been so bored at a Star Wars movie. Ever. I actually fell asleep at one point in the middle of Anakin and Obi Wan's lightsaber battle, because nothing was happening! It bored the hell out of me!

Natalie Portman got, I'm sure, a nice fat paycheck for her cameo role in this movie. But Nat, here's an acting tip: if you're supposed to play a pregnant woman, could you at least TRY to act like you're carrying around about 20 extra pounds? I'm surprised she didn't grab a pistol and start doing barrel rolls on the ground.

Thank you for not giving Jar Jar any lines. At least you heard us loud and clear on that one.

I want to make fun of Hayden Christensen as an actor, but...there's kinda no point, is there? In fact, I'll give George credit; it took a monumental effort to find someone who, in the true Star Wars tradition, could put on a worse acting performance than Mark Hamill. Bravo, George.

Anakin. Baby. You're telling me it was okay when Palpatine appoints you to the Jedi Council and asked you to spy on the Jedi Council for him...but then when the Jedi turn around and ask you to report on Palpy's reactions, you get all indignant cuz it's immoral?!

And you don't think twice about cutting off Dooku's head when Palpatine tells you to...but when Windu is about to off the guy who's throwing lightning bolts from his hand and telling you "I'm the Sith Lord, I'm gonna kill you all, I'm ruling the galaxy" - then you get a conscience?!

Yoda is da man. But that fight between him and the Emperor was crap. Digital crap. I kept waiting for the Emperor to start coughing out "gollum! gollum! my precioussssss....."

Hayden's got the whole glare thing going, 'tho. I can picture him practicing that stare in the mirror for hours, saying "yeah I can do intense!"

George. Why the fuck did you introduce the Wookies, then do jack shit with them?!!? Wait, again - not true. There was one scene where a Wookie swings down on the droid army on vine and...I shit you not...does a tarzan yell.


For those of you who had the pleasure of watching the Cartoon Network's Clone Wars, you'll be happy to know that General Grievous has a strong role here. At least, he does until he comes up against the Mighty Obi-Wan.

Then he goes out like a punk bitch. Tragic.

The only good thing to come out of this movie was the extermination of the Jedi. While I do think that there could have been some interaction and dialogue while this happens (DIAGLOGUE, George! Look it up and try USING it sometime, you fucker!), you do get a feel for the betrayal. That was some fucked up shit.

Although George did have a Disney moment when it came time to do the "younglings". I hate chickenshit directors. If you're gonna go for genocide, COMMIT TO IT! Don't cop out with a fadeout, that was bullshit. At least let me see the little toddlers cringing in fear, I wanna shout out "Oh no!" not "What the fuck?"

If Anakin and Padme said "I love you" to each other one more time, I was going to shove a lightsaber into the projector and call it a night.

Speaking of lightsabers. Why the FUCK do you nerds bring a lightsaber to watch the movie?!?! Why!??! Are you gonna light it up and make zrrrrm zrrrm noises at every battle?!

We left the theater at Union Sq, it's 3am, and there are a gaggle of nerds in the park having a Mock Lightsaber Battle. They're hacking at each other with their plastic swords as a group of us - strangers for the most part, just walking to the subway entrance - when I just couldn't take it anymore. I must have been louder than I thought, when I told my friend "I swear I just want to walk over, snatch a lightsaber from one of them and beat the living shit out of all of them!"

The whole group started cracking up. Next thing you know we're heckling as we walk past: "Grow the fuck up!" "The movie's over you geeks, go home!"

Fun times.

While I reserve my right to continually make fun of these costumed morons - it's a movie, not a lifestyle - I will say this: if you're GONNA show up to a movie wearing "period garb" yourself a favor. Save up for the year, you knew when the movie was coming out! Don't show up wearing the tattered remains of your kid brother's halloween costume, and think you're cool for doing it!

I mean, sure I'll crack jokes on the guy with the padawan braid, the custom made jedi robes, and a remote controlled R2D2 following along behind. He's earned the right to be joked about.

But don't waste my time if you're wearing a cheap-ass plastic Darth Vader costume that cost you all of $10, the fake lightsaber that isn't even a lightsaber cuz you bought it at the 99 cent store and the box said "lazer sword", and wearing your beat up white Keds and blue jeans.

Cuz that's just sad. I swear I saw a homeless man give the kid a dollar, pat him on the shoulder and walk away crying. "For just 10 cents a day, you can help this poor Jedi find his way back to reality."

Go see the movie, so you can say you did. Then we can bitch about it together :)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Great Lie, & The Downing Street Memo

Saw a bumper sticker recently. "Sure Clinton lied, but nobody died for it. He got indicted, why not Bush?"

Out of respect for friends in the so-called Red States who happily voted for Herr Bush, I've kept quiet on the subject of Iraq, the non-existant WMDs, and the NeverEnding War. Talking about it was putting a strain on our relationship, so I made a promise to keep quiet about it and "stop griping". Toe the company line, and "support our troops".

Well fuck that.

Let's be clear right off the bat. I'm not against our troops. I'm not unpatriotic. I love my country, I love the ideals and principles that goddamned flag stands for. If I could personally bring every single soldier home from this idiotic war we're involved in I would, if it meant no more deaths to our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, cousins, friends, loved ones.

But I hate my government. I LOATHE my president. If I end up on a CIA watch list for this, I could care less. Fuck Bush. I was angry when he popped out of that fighter plane, that redneck grin spread across his face liked he'd just fucked his cousin in the hayloft, declaring the War is Over. I was angry at his shifting reasons why we were spending millions, and now billions, on a war to defeat terrorism[SHIFT]remove WMDs[SHIFT]remove a dictator. If a SCUD had blow up that fighter plane as it landed on the deck of the carrier, I'd have held a party in celebration. The world would be a much safer place if he were removed - and George, I'm talking about YOU, not Saddam. Saddam was a toothless old tiger with barely a growl left in his scarred old throat.

G.W. is the new dictator, wielding his power over the world like countless other despots - only, because he does it waiving our flag, 51% of the country nips at his heels like the obedient lapdogs they are. "Freedom!" they cry, even as the body count rises in Iraq.

Why this renewed fervor on my part? Because the war just became a lot more personal to me.

In November of 2003, my sister got married. She was 21, and married her first love. I fully admit, I wasn't too thrilled; she was too young, I barely knew the guy...but I trust her judgement. He was signing up for the Army, going to be sent off to Basic that January - so they eloped. He got based in Washington state, then got his orders.

He's been in Iraq since the spring of 2004.

Last night, she got The Call. He'd been hit by sniper fire in the back of the head while on a mission. All they knew was that he was in critical condition. "Was he wearing his helmet?"

Yes, he was. But they're not bulletproof.

I don't need to go into detail what my day was like yesterday, trying to calm down my sister long distance. She's 23 years old, and in the 18 months of her marriage she's seen her husband for a total of maybe 5 months. There was a strong possibility that this war was going to make her a widow.

At 23.

So, the kid gloves are off. I'm done being quiet about this. We're not defending America's shores, we're the fucking invading force! Guess what, Bush - America is now the Bad Guy! We're the ones the world hates, and you know what? I don't blame them!

We had no business over there, George. You fucking lied, you goddamned prick. Those aren't your kids over there, those are ours! You cry freedom, and democracy...but this is about your fucking ego, you son of a bitch. You're spending all of our money on a war you refuse to admit you fucked up on, our families are dying over there because you didn't bother to send them over with the right equipment. Familes are buying better equipment on the internet to send to our troops, because our own goddamned government can't find the funds!

Why don't you send Jenna and Barbara over there? I bet you'd suddenly find the best possible equipment for them, wouldn't you you self righteous bastard?

Yes I'm angry. I have every right to be angry. If my baby sister had to end up a widow at 23 because Bush had an itch he wanted to scratch, I swear to fucking god....!

Then I see an obscure article, footnoting a memo released by the London Times just a week ago. Funny how these things don't make it in the news here.

Matthew Rycroft, a foreign policy to the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, wrote a revealing memo to David Manning, the UK's Ambassador to the US. It was dated July 23, 2002.

To put this memo in perspective, in February of 2003 Colin Powell made his infamous speech to the UN, denouncing Iraq for hiding weapon production facilities and essentially paving the way to the US invasion of Iraq. 9 months AFTER the Downing Street Memo.

The memo notes the sensitivity of the issues within, indicating that the text was for UK personnel only. Portions of it reads:

"C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August. "

The intelligence and facts were being FIXED AROUND THE POLICY.

I dealt with Carter's stupidity. Reagan's disdain for the underclass. Bush Sr.'s deniability. Clinton's indiscretions. They all had their faults, and while I can say I liked some more than others I can also say I didn't hate any of them.

I hate George W. I despise him in a way I've never imagined I could hate a President. I'm ashamed to be an American - and more importantly, I find I've been AFRAID to be an American.

My brother in law's status is updated from critical to stable. The bullet hit lower than intially thought, and it looks like he'll pull through, barring any complications. He'll live, and my sister will have her husband home again. I'm happy for her, and for him.

But every day, hundreds upon hundreds of friends and family members read the news reports with fear in their hearts, wondering if their loved ones will make it home.

I don't support this war. I will NOT support this President. If I'm unamerican for saying it, then revoke my citizenship and ship me out. If being unamerican means turning a blind eye when you see something so blantantly wrong it screams out at you...then I don't want to be an american anymore.

I support our troops, wholeheartedly. They don't belong there, but while they're there - keep them safe. Bring them home, George. Do something right, for once in this godforsaken presidency.

I need a drink. Or a smoke. Or something.



To date, that's the number of U.S. Soldiers killed in Iraq.

One Thousand. Six Hundred. Fifteen.

Not injured. Not wounded. Not total "coalition forces". United States military forces. "Freedom" at any price, right George?

Need a more glaring reminder of this war of ours? We've lost 178 soldiers since the Iraqi elections. That's an average of 1.83 soldiers a day, killed in operations.

The following list of macabre headlines is just from today's news - and doesn't include all the workers, journalists, iraqi soldiers and coalition soldiers killed:

05/12/05 Reuters: Three U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq attacks
Three U.S. soldiers were killed in separate bomb attacks in Iraq on Thursday, the U.S. military said in statements.

A Task Force Baghdad Soldier died from wounds suffered when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb in east Baghdad at approximately 1:00 p.m., May 12.

One Task Force Liberty Soldier was killed and another wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated next to their combat patrol near Samarra at about 2:45 p.m., May 12.

A Soldier assigned to the 155th Brigade Combat Team, II MEF (Forward), died May 12 when an IED detonated near the soldier's vehicle. The incident took place during combat operations about nine miles east of Musayib.

05/12/05 DoD Identifies Army Casualty
1st Sgt. Michael J. Bordelon, 37, of Morgan City, La., died May 10 at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, from injuries sustained April 23 in Mosul, Iraq, when a VBIED detonated near his Stryker military vehicle.

05/12/05 CBS: Three Treasure Valley Marines Seriously Wounded In Iraq
Staff Sgt. Chad Brumpton, Lance Cpls. Joseph Lowe and Mitch Ehlke were seriously injured when their M1-A1 Abrams tank, commanded by Staff Sgt. Brumpton, hit a huge land mine Sunday, according to Marine Corps spokesmen.

05/12/05 WPost: Explosion effectively finishes off squad
Every member of the unit -- one of three squads that make up the 1st Platoon of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment -- had been killed or wounded. All told, the 1st Platoon, which Hurley commands, had sustained 60 percent casualties.

05/12/05 WorldNow: Car bombs explode in Kirkuk
Two car bombs also went off today in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing at least two people. And two security officials were assassinated in Baghdad.

05/12/05 AP: Car bomb kills 17 in Baghdad
A car bomb exploded near a busy local market and cinema in eastern Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 17 people and wounding 65, police said.

Two Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), were killed 11 May when their amphibious assault vehicle struck an explosive device in Al Qa’im during Operation Matador.

05/12/05 Reuters: Mine kills two U.S. Marines in Iraq
Two U.S. Marines were killed on Wednesday when their armoured vehicle drove over a mine in northwest Iraq during an offensive against insurgents ... The military said 14 Marines were wounded in the blast.

05/12/05 DOD Identifies Marine Casualty
Lance Cpl. Marcus Mahdee, 20, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., died May 9 as a result of wounds received from an enemy explosion while conducting combat operations in the vicinity of Al Karmah, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Bat., 8th Marines ...

We still winning this war, George?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Samaritan City

There are times, I admit, when I wonder why I'm still in this city. I love New York, I do; but sometimes the constant noise, the energy, the can overwhelm you. You look at the rat race that goes on here and you think...why am I doing this to myself? Is it worth it? Why do I put up with the grime, the chatter, the squeal of a subway car every single morning? Hell, why do I put up with the people? I could easily move to someplace quieter, where the pace is slower, the grass is greener, where the sun actually seems to shine against a blue sky. A place where there are actual stars in the night, and not the ones on the television or silver screen.

Then comes a night like tonight. I'd stepped off the bus on 23rd, ready to catch the 8th avenue subway line when there was this horrendous squeal of brakes from behind me. I turned just in time to hear the thump as a yellow cab slammed into this woman crossing the street.

I ran around the bus even as the cab driver jumped from his car, rushing to the woman he'd hit. She'd gotten tossed several feet away; she lost both her shoes in the impact. The cab driver tried helping her to her feet; she could barely walk. Other than that...intially anyway...she didn't seem too hurt. Nothing broken that we could see, and she claimed she was fine. "I live just a block away" she kept saying. "I don't have insurance, I'm okay, I just want to go home."

The cab driver was estatic. "Well, if you're okay..."

Oh hell no.

There were about 5 or 6 of us there at the time. We alternated between telling the cab driver he had to stick around and convincing the woman to stay where she was. We had 2 people calling ambulances; myself and another man forced the woman to sit down on the edge of the curb. "I'm fine, please, just let me go home" she insisted.

Nothing doing, lady. We absolutely refused to let her leave.

The cab driver, of course, got pissed. "It wasn't my fault, she's fine" Okay maybe she's fine, but no way was he leaving either. Fill out your accident report, but don't even think about leaving.

Then the blood started. She'd hit her head, because it started to trickle down her face and a nugget the size of a golf ball swelled up on her forehead. We got some ice from BBQ's, some napkins, and used my water bottle to dab away the blood and put pressure on her wound. One guy was using his cell phone to call her family.

To give credit to NYC's Bravest, a fire truck pulled up within about 2 minutes. There were about 2 cops who'd shown up but they were incredibly reluctant to touch the woman, letting the rest of us take care of her. Once the EMT's spilled out we all corralled the cops to give our stories. We stuck around until the woman was safely carried off, and made sure the police had enough witness accounts to satisfy them.

So, my point? This was a small incident, but I honestly believe New Yorkers will instantly bond together in a common goal without a second thought. It was like we were all trained in emergency procedures; there was no arguing, no debate - we just pitched in to do our part, and made sure everyone was okay. It was almost routine, the way we all handled it; strangers all, but in a sudden crisis we were of one mind.

In a small way it reminded me of the events surrounding the former World Trade Center, not so very long ago. If I'd never had reason to be proud of my city, the way everyone in these five boroughs - and beyond - pulled together to support one another was nothing short of phenomenal. It renewed my faith in the human equation, and I was damned proud of my neighbors.

Like tonight.

So why do I put up with the daily grind?

Because there's just no place like New York. And I honestly believe there are no people more willing to give of themselves, as a collective, working together to overcome adversity...than New Yorkers.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Rush Hour Funkenstein

May 4, 2005 - Wednesday

Rush Hour Funkenstein

I have nothing against the homeless. Or the mentally disturbed. In fact I've had interesting conversations with combos of the two (much to friends' dismay).

But when you get a homeless crazy with BO from Hell on your morning subway ride...oh my GAWD somebody just shoot me and put me out of my misery!

This...behemoth...and there's no other word to describe on circa 145th street on the A train headed downtown. Crowded rush hour morning. She was easily about 6', 6'-2", maybe 250lbs. I'm absorbed in my PSP (Need for Speed, baby!) so I didn't notice right away.

Then the smell hit me like a fist full of quarters. I mean, it was one of those INVASIVE odors...the kind that'll make you stand up and get the spirit: "Oh Lord, what the hell is THAT!?" Forget coffee to wake you up; one whiff of this and you're wide awake, shaking in the corner pleading for someone to cut your nose off your face.

The doors close...and she starts crying. Yes, crying. We're talking about loud, moaning bawling kind of crying. The kind that, if she were a kid, you'd slump over from exhaustion and frustration and just want to scream "What do you want?!?!" Over and over and over and over. "Waaaah. Waaaaah. Waaaaaah."

Holy mother of god.

Then out comes The Cup. You got it, this was blatant extortion. She doesn't even move around the car (thank god!), she just reached out with that damn cup as far as she could to whomever was close by, and waited for them to put money in it. The woman next to me (if I catch you, you're DEAD! DEAD!) decided to play nice, so I got this big meaty, smelly arm put in my face so she could get to Ms. Generosity.

I'm holding my breath, thinking "oh for the love of every god that ever existed, PLEASE hurry up and get that damned dollar out of your purse!"

We pull into 125th, and I'm praying. I swear I'll go to church, synogogue, temple, I'll even drink the grape kool-aid and wait for the mother ship to pick me up - whatver the fuck, just let this woman get off this train!

Oh no. Too easy. A woman gets up...and she plops her elephantine ass right down in the vacant seat.

It was like turning on the lights in the kitchen at 2am, and watching the cockroaches scatter for cover. I've rarely seen New Yorkers move so quickly in a crowded subway car as everyone around those seats did. It was like a Warner Bros. cartoon; there was a crowd, then suddenly a whole set of smoke trails leading away from Funkenstein's Bride. People are squished up against the doors, the windows; I swear I saw one guy crawling under the seats, trying to find some clean air.

If any of you take the A train downtown, you know what happens next. The A is an express train. From 59th.

By the time we pulled into the station I'd lost vision in one eye, boils were popping up on my skin and there were heat vapors rising from the seat where she'd squatted. People were passed out on the floor, the paint in the car was peeling off the ceiling. The metal walls had buckled from the building vacuum of a hundred people all holding in their breath at the same time. Men in biohazard suits should have been waiting on the platform to take us all into quarantine. The National Alert should have gone to Orange just from the fumes wafting out of that subway car.

When the doors opened, I'd swear a green cloud spilled out onto the platform with us. People coughing, stumbling, trying to find a sense of balance. There was a baby crying in the background. Or maybe it was the mother, I couldn't tell. I saw this scene in a movie, maybe Outbreak. Or Volcano, or Earthquake...some disaster movie.

Okay I've exaggerated. A *little*.

But I'm going to start keeping a gas mask in my backpack. Just in case.