Thursday, June 29, 2006

James Spader and sexual deviancy

I'm rewatching Crash (the 1996 Crash, not the most recent one). I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago, and left it on my DVR. I was intrigued. I didn't know whether I liked it or not. It was very intense, very strange, and almost hard to watch. On second viewing, I've gotta give it my thumbs up, and put it beside my other much cherished James Spader movies (Secretary, and Sex, Lies and Videotape) in the pantheon of sexually deviant movies. (I also love Stargate, but it's strange to see James Spader not playing a somewhat creepy character.)

The thing about his characters in those movies is that they are so deviant that they epitomize that particular deviancy - in effect, they are stereotypes of fetishes beyond the scope of "normal" fetishes. And yet somehow, he manages to be erotic through all of his roles, even if the viewer can't fully comprehend where he gets his pleasure from.

I have to wonder what James Spader is like in person...because either he's a great actor, or he's a creepy, creepy man.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Groundbreaking legalese, courtesy of the WTO

In the very recent WTO Panel decision on EC-Customs Matters, the Panel made a pronouncement of enormous legal weight:

"[T]he results of administrative processes are, by definition, the product of administrative processes which, as we have already said, would seem to fall within the scope of the ordinary meaning of the term "administer"."

Yes, that's right. The results of administrative processes are the product of administrative processes...

The earth shook a little bit when this was written.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bush in Hungary - addendum

I try to be fair and balanced in my commentary, so I feel obliged to commend Bush (well, really, his speechwriters) for something he said during his visit to Hungary. From AP's coverage:

"In 1989 a new generation of Hungarians returned to the streets to demand their liberty and boldly helped others secure their freedom as well," the president said. "By giving shelter to those fleeing tyranny and opening your border to the West, you helped bring down the Iron Curtain and gave the hope of freedom to millions in Central and Eastern Europe."

I appreciate the credit Bush gives Hungary for the extremely important part it played in the collapse of the Iron Curtain 1989 by opening its borders. For many years, the US perspective has been almost blindly focused on the actions of Ronald Reagan, ignoring the important parts played by various Eastern bloc countries. Especially for someone like Bush, whose Americacentric perspective often precludes recognition of the role of other countries, this statement, even if orchestrated by speechwriters, carries with it positive weight.

Of course, he still should have apologized about 1956...

Bush in Hungary - a mockery of a true fight for freedom

In 1956 when the Hungarians rose up against their Soviet oppressors and fought for freedom they were promised aid from the US. Voice of America held out hope that indeed, one day, US troops would come help them. No one ever came. The revolution was crushed, the leaders executed.

Bush's visit to Hungary is meant in part to commemorate 1956, 50 years later. It's also obviously meant as an attempt to analogize between 1956's freedom fighters and the war in Iraq - an incredibly strained analogy. And it rubs me the wrong way.

I don't normally criticize what US presidents say or don't say on their state visits. I understand that it's all empty rhetoric - irrespective of who the president is. But in this case, Bush owes the Hungarian nation an apology. He owes an apology on behalf of the United States that is 50 years overdue: an apology for the false hope the US gave the Hungarians. He doesn't owe an apology for the fact that the US troops never came. They were constrained by the Cold War - Hungarians understand that. But the fact that for week after week the promise of help was extended, and the fact that this promise never materialized - that is what he should apologize for.

And don't even get me started on how asinine a comparison between Iraq today and Hungary either in 1956 or 1989 is. It's like comparing carrots and milk duds. The only apt comparison is that the US also owes the Iraqis an apology for promising to get rid of Saddam during the first Gulf War, getting the people to start rising up, and then never delivering on that promise. The current war was a dollar too short and a day too late and unlike during the first Gulf War, wasn't desired by the Iraqi people who had already been burnt once by the empty promises of the US.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Taiping Rebellion

So I went to Wikipedia this morning to look up General Tso - my curiosity had to be appeased since for years I've wondered who this mysterious general was after whom the crunchy, deep-fried faux Chinese dish is named. This search not only answered my question (he was a military leader during the Taiping Rebellion), but also led me to learn a bit about the Taiping Rebellion (I really know very little about Chinese history).

The Taiping Rebellion was a civil war from 1851-1864 in which 20-30 million people were killed.

This is quite shocking. The thought that a civil war in the 19th century could kill that many people blows my mind.

The civil war also involves Hong Xiuquan, a very theologically confused heretical Christian mystic convert who thought he was the new Messiah and younger brother of Jesus. This makes for one hell of a story. Also, apparently the Taiping Rebellion fostered the creation of Mahjong. Go figure.

I'm suddenly motivated to learn more about Chinese history. The Western world just can't compete with stories like this.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A long weekend

This has been quite the weekend.

Thursday night, I took my dad to see Zappa plays Zappa with Frank Zappa's son Dweezil and various other musicians including Steve Vai, Terry Bozzio and Napoleon Murphy Brock playing Frank Zappa's music. It was the most impressively virtuoso rock shows I've ever heard, and gave me a whole new appreciation for the intricacy and complexity of Frank Zappa's music. Moreover, watching Steve Vai play guitar is unbelievable - the ease with which he plays the most difficult riffs is stunning. Dweezil was also very impressive on guitar, and of course Terry Bozzio was amazing.

Friday I drove to Flint for my best friend from college's wedding. I was maid of honor, and ended up having a complete blast, meeting tons of interesting people, and enjoying myself more than I thought possible. The wedding was beautiful, the ceremony was blissfully short, and the whole weekend was loads of fun (at least for me - I think the bride had a bit more to worry about - from florists and photographers to reverends and relatives).

Now I'm home, enjoying being with my cat in my apartment, relaxing, and getting ready to roll up my sleeves and go to back to work tomorrow. It was just the sort of weekend I needed to clear my head and give me some perspective.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

No Habla Espanol, Desgraciadamente

When I lived in New York, I tried to teach myself Spanish by reading Che Guevara's Motorcycle Diaries in Spanish, comparing it paragraph by paragraph to the English translation with the aid of a Spanish-English dictionary. This was not the most useful exercise ever - but it did help me a tiny bit with reading comprehension.

Now, I am forced to learn Spanish, due to the awful ESPN and ABC coverage of World Cup soccer (it's not just me - this awfulness was also highlighted by my friend Sat). Univision is great - the game's over, and I'm watching the news in Spanish now.

My goal for the summer - for every hour of English TV I watch, I have to watch a half hour of Univision. This will both cut my amount of English TV viewing and expose me to more conversational Spanish.

Call it Spanish lessons for the broke student. It works. I learned German as a child much faster than I would have otherwise thanks to German language TV.

In today's US, Spanish is the second language, and I find it shameful that I don't speak it. After all, I speak both official Canadian languages - I'm linguistically discriminating against our neighbor to the south. Besides, it's somewhat hard to become a South America revolutionary if you don't speak Spanish...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The 313

Thanks Dad for this lovely picture of the billboard mentioned in my previous post:


God I love Detroit.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Detroit Rap City

Detroit is really hyping up its rap side these days. 313, the area code for Detroit has become a buzzword in songs emanating from Detroit, a latter-day Compton.

I can't help but be proud that my parents live in the 313. My dad's tickled pink by all this, and hopefully he will have a picture for me to put up later of the new Faygo 313 billboard he just saw - a manifestation of the cool that Detroit has become.

The Faygo 313 billboard isn't the first one touting Detroit's rap cred. Immediately after Proof, one of the Detroit rap group D12's members, was shot and killed, a big billboard went up commemorating him.

I like this new side of Detroit. It's a brilliant marketing coup - playing up Detroit's crime and violence to tout its credibility as a rap city. Rap brings big money and Detroit certainly isn't sanitized enough yet to diminish its reputation of a murder capital.

I realize that I have to start going around and telling people that I'm from the 313. It is quite the amusing accident of area code zoning that Grosse Pointe is in the 313 - hardly any place could be more remote from the mental image conjured by the phrase "the 313." But nevertheless, it's undeniably in the 313.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Somalia - the effects of US fingers in foreign pies

The recent events in Somalia are of particular interest in the context of the current situation in Afghanistan and Iraq and what the future may hold for them. Somalia, a reflection of the US's ever-extending application of the Monroe Doctrine is in a state of upheaval, years after the US decided to support certain of the warlords. Sick of the effects of US intervention, the people became more extreme, supported more extreme causes and swung towards extremist Islam. Now, Islamic militias have reportedly declared the reign of Islamic law in Mogadishu.

Supposedly these guys are like the Taliban. A reassuring thought - this is what happens when the US meddles in Muslim countries. Either we directly fund the extremists (see Taliban), or we give power to the extremists by supporting their opponents.

The Monroe doctrine is the biggest imperialistic mistake of a fundamentally isolationist country. It fucked up Latin America, an area of the world that we had at least some notion about. It fucked up Vietnam, an area of the world which we barely knew about. And it certainly has fucked up and will continue to fuck up the Islamic countries, about which we know little and understand even less.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

BBQs and Russia's WTO accession process

It's the summer, and summer means BBQ season. Last weekend my parents got me a nice charcoal grill, and tonight I'm inaugurating it with ribs, burgers, chicken, and sausages. To me, that's what summer should be all about - friends, beer, and slightly burnt meat.

Meanwhile, and completely unrelated, I just read an article that makes me hope Russia won't become a WTO member - the marvelously cheap music download site is a "direct obstacles to the country's negotiations to join the World Trade Organization," according to the article. In my opinion, Russia really doesn't need to be a member of the WTO - especially if membership means that I won't get to download hard-to-find albums for less than $1.