Thursday, March 31, 2005
The BBC has a report up about the US Army's latest initiative to win over the malleable-minded youths in the Mid-East: Comic Books.
In what can only be termed Pop-Propaganda-By-Committee, the US Army is looking for collaborators in the
I suppose that when you think about it, it's really not that far a cry from this:
Of course, it's not much of a stretch from this either:
Here's another interesting tidbit:
...being produced by US Special Operations Command at
Fort Braggin . North Carolina
is home to the army's 4th Psychological Operations Group, known as "psy-op warriors", whose weaponry includes radio transmitters, loudspeakers and leaflets. Fort Bragg
The unit, whose slogans include Win the Mind - Win the Day and Verbum Vincet (The Word Conquers), is schooled in marketing and advertising techniques.
In the past few years, its soldiers have been deployed during conflicts in
Iraqand dropping leaflets and cartoons urging surrender and broadcasting pro-American messages via radio and television. Afghanistan
So, if anyone else is doing it, it's propaganda, but when the US Army's Psy-Ops division does it, it's winning over hearts and minds. Check.
Now, just as an excercise, I'd like you to ask yourself which of these three stories you think is likely to receive the most coverage? Better yet, click here and see the hierarchy for yourself.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Once the site loads and you've made it past the intro, hit the "F4" button on your keyboard, and you'll access the "Von Doom Archives," and you can view the trailer there.
I've been consistently impressed by the fact that each of these trailers has improved on the one preceding it (beginning with the unmemorable first trailer which appropriately screened with the equally-unmemorable ELEKTRA). It's pretty hard for my inner fanboy not to cheer when I hear Chris Evans' Human Torch cry out "Flame on!" as he dives off a skyscraper, and of course there's Michael Chiklis' Thing uttering the immortal "It's Clobberin' Time!"
I really hope this one pans out.
'West Wing' Episode Generates Turkish Anger; NBC Apologizes
NBC has sent an apology to the Turkish ambassador to the United States, expressing its regrets for inaccurately portraying Turkey as a country in which women who commit adultery are beheaded. The letter, signed by Jeff Zucker, president of the network, and John Wells, executive producer of THE WEST WING said that the writers of the episode had been misinformed. The telecast had been denounced by Turkish government leaders, including the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "In the future, we will not only visit Turkey, a country that we admire, but also present a better and correct portrayal of your country," the letter stated.
In what has to be one of the more clever methods of brand-extension in recent memory, the brains behind Warner Bros.' much-maligned MATRIX Trilogy have concocted THE MATRIX ONLINE, a multiplayer interactive online world that will serve as far more than merely a video game version of the visionary-to-some, misbegotten-to-others, movie series. Rather, it's an actual continuation of the trilogy's storylines, quite a feat considering how the final film wrapped things up in a pretty little bow. Not to say that I'm going to spend $15 a month on this thing, but regardless, it's still quite clever, and given the textual and subtextual meanings that soak every frame of the films, it's entirely appropriate. Read all about it here.
One thing that struck me, not about the game but the films themselves, was this bit from Paul Chadwick:
Chadwick isn't worried that the critical backlash over the last two films, "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions," would affect the game version.
"I have to speak up for the sequels. `Reloaded' is my favorite. I think they are going to go through a Stanley Kubrick cycle," he said. "I think the critical consensus will warm up to the trilogy as a whole in the next few years."
Thursday, March 24, 2005
The convenient timing of the "All Terry Schiavo, All the Time" news barrage had me wondering what precisely our attention was meant to be diverted from this time, until Steven Grant hit the nail on the wonderfully-cynical head:
...the Schiavo coverage also knocked (and continues to knock) mention of the 2nd anniversary of our presence in
to the side. This may be something the government doesn't want promoted. On the one hand, it's our big "victory," but, on the other, any focus on the war - and it's still a war - brings up the possibility of other coverage they don't want. People might start to notice the thousands of wounded, those the military allows are bad off enough to come home (instead of being held in Iraq against their will and beyond their terms of service on basically slave wages, like many other American servicemen) and smuggled in under cover of night to dodge reporters and photographers. People might start to wonder how "tiny bands" of "insurgents" in Iraq can basically grind our mighty military machine to a halt, regularly endangering our soldiers, or why desertions are becoming epidemic. (A minimum of 5500 last year, and, taking the Pentagon's tendency to fudge numbers to their advantage into account, probably significantly enough more that 5500 sounds to their advantage.) They might even start to wonder how we can "bring democracy" to the entire Middle East when we can't even secure a single country that has for the most part, according to the official story, rushed to us with open arms. Iraq
Until now I've kept my nose out of the ongoing brouhaha surrounding the unfortunate circumstances of Terry Schiavo in Florida, but the one thing that I've emerged with after this whole sad situation is a newly hardened disgust for the opportunistic politicos who've swarmed on this case like piranhas after a weeklong fast. Nothing I love more than self-righteous phonies letting the entire world see exactly how self-righteous and how phoney they are.
In light of how blatantly the Republicans are pandering to their extreme-right, Christian fundamentalist supporters, Sasha Chavkin has come up with a new term for this contingent of self-delusional do-gooders -- "Theocons." In a piece for Common Dreams, Chavkin dissects the worrisome way in which the Christian Right's hypocritical "culture of life" has so infected the Republican party.
Offended Customer's Huffy Walkout Goes Unnoticed
DULUTH, MN—Angry about the convenience store's poor service, Dina Jorgenson abruptly stormed out of Marvin's QuikStop unseen Monday. "Oh, I've had enough of this," Jorgenson said, pointedly slamming her passion-fruit Snapple on the counter and marching out the front door, after having waited in line for nearly 10 minutes. Two hours later, QuikStop cashier Tasha Quiggle asked a fellow clerk why there was a warm Snapple sitting on the counter.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
"I can't be responsible for the whole picture. Me and Poison Ivy, we had a good time. We got down, I liked my costume. And, though it didn't work for a lot of people, I loved the high camp that [director] Joel Schumacher tried to blow the Batman franchise out on. It was really bold of him."I don't know that "bold" is necessarily the word I'd use, but there you go. And yes, Big Gay Joel did indeed blow the Batman franchise, not to mention other acts involving other orifices.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
For those of you in need of a refresher on the concept, here's an example from the first chapter of my Logic 101 textbook: "All oaks are trees. All elms are trees. Therefore, all oaks are elms." See how easily you can go from point A to point Z, jumping over all the important steps in between?
So: We invaded Iraq. Change is afoot in the Middle East. Therefore, the Middle East is changing because we invaded Iraq. Q.E.D. G.W.B.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Reaction continues to come in on Bush's nomination of Paul "Spit Comb" Wolfowitz to head the World Bank -- most of it ranging from baffled to baffled & angry. Here's Paul Krugman for the New York Times:
...the Wolfowitz nomination turns the World Bank into the American Bank. Make that ugly American bank: rightly or not, developing countries will see Mr. Wolfowitz's selection as a sign that we're still trying to impose policies they believe have failed.
Elizabeth Sullivan from the Cleveland Plains Dealer:
Wolfowitz, the avowed numbers wonk and son of a talented Cornell math professor, couldn't get his figures right when they conflicted with his vision.
"On a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years," Wolfowitz famously enthused to Congress soon after the
war started in March 2003. "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." Iraq
Soon won't be this decade.
is footing the rebuilding bill, pushing total war-fighting costs over $200 billion. America
How long will it take Wolfowitz to 'fess up to - or recognize - his lies?
For the international perspective, Noreena Hertz from the
There could hardly be a less suitable administration to choose a candidate to lead an organisation whose mission is to alleviate poverty. At home Bush has implemented a series of tax cuts for the rich, and his latest proposal to reduce the
deficit has been to suggest the slashing of food aid to his country's poorest. US
Of course, the
hijacking the World Bank to serve its foreign policy interests is not a new phenomenon. But the Bush administration is unabashedly forthright in its pursuit of self-interest, and in its willingness to use aid as a tool to promote its geo-political goals. US
Friday, March 18, 2005
Is it just me or does Katie Holmes' name seem really out of place in that list of heavy-hitters? Not to say she'll do a bad job, and indeed, she'll probably be just fine, but it still seems...strange.
Overall I think it's a very nice, very iconic image that hearkens back to the equally-iconic symbol from the 1989 Tim Burton vehicle. That series' posters, as you'll see below, got increasingly garish as the series itself progressed, culminating in the loud, ugly image for the fourth and mercifully last installment in that particular iteration of the cinematic Dark Knight.
While we're on the topic of posters, here's the teaser for the just-announced Joel Silver produced, Joss Whedon helmed WONDER WOMAN feature, with some gorgeous art from comic book artist Adam Hughes.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
So just to recap here, this is the third time in as many weeks that Bush has handed a key policy position to a leading neo-con (Negraponte, Bolton, and now Wolfowitz).
A kinder, gentler White House. Yeah, that's it.
Read all about it here.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
At least 20 federal agencies have produced and distributed hundreds of promotional news clips during the past four years, many of which have aired on the news programs of local TV stations with no disclosure of the government's role in their production, the New York Times disclosed Sunday. They include a State Department-produced clip filmed in Kansas City purportedly showing reaction of Iraqi-Americans to the fall of Baghdad, with one man appearing on camera saying, "Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A." Another report showed a public relations worker for the Transportation Security Administration appearing on camera as a "reporter" describing the administration's launch of a security program as "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history." The "reporter," the newspaper revealed, also "used a false name." Although recent articles have suggested that a handful of columnists and commentators had been paid by the Bush administration to air positive reports about its programs and policies, the Times said, "the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known." The article also accused television stations of "widespread complicity or negligence" and violating ethics standards by airing the clips without attribution.
Monday, March 14, 2005
...most Arabs see Bush's "freedom" crusade as a cynical campaign to tighten U.S. control of the Mideast by ditching old-fashioned generals and monarchs for more modern, democratic-looking civilian regimes that still do Washington's bidding.Read the rest at the Toronto Sun.
The Arab world's only truly free election was held in 1991 by Algeria's U.S.- and French-supported military regime. Islamic parties won a landslide. The military annulled the vote and jailed Islamist leaders -- backed by Washington and Paris.
It's likely any honest votes held in feudal Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, or military-run Egypt, Libya, and Syria, would produce similar results.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Bolton himself has said, "I don't do carrots." Meaning he's strictly a stick guy. Intimidation, bullying, threats. The hawk's hawk, the neo-con's darling. This is a single-digit salute to the United Nations.
Bolton's contempt for the United Nations is notorious and could not be clearer. Bolton said: "There is no United Nations. . . . When the United States leads, the United Nations will follow. When it suits our interests to do so, we will do so. When it does not suit our interests, we will not." Let's hear it for international consultation and consideration for everyone.
Conservative economist Jude Wanniski writes, "Does President Bush realize he is practically spitting in the faces of the global diplomatic community with his Bolton pick?"
I don't believe for one second that Bush is unaware of how inappropriate and utterly transparent a choice this is. No one can be that divorced from reality. If I were to guess, I'd say the Bolton pick was meant precisely to send out the message Molly (and others) have eloquently referred to as the "single-digit salute." He. Just. Doesn't. Care.
In a way it's almost comforting to know that George's record for picking lunatic right-wing ideologues for high-level government positions remains unblemished.
So when does Ann Coulter get her cabinet spot? (He asked, only half kidding...)
Friday, March 11, 2005
Faced with an Arab world enraged by its occupation of Iraq and its blind support for Israel, the US solution is not to change these brutal policies; it is, in the pseudo-academic language of corporate branding, to "change the story."
Brand USA's latest story was launched on January 30, the day of the Iraqi elections, complete with a catchy tag line ("purple power"), instantly iconic imagery (purple fingers) and, of course, a new narrative about America's role in the world, helpfully told and retold by the White House's unofficial brand manager, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. "Iraq has been reframed from a story about Iraqi 'insurgents' trying to liberate their country from American occupiers and their Iraqi 'stooges' to a story of the overwhelming Iraqi majority trying to build a democracy, with U.S. help, against the wishes of Iraqi Baathist-fascists and jihadists." This new story is so contagious, we are told, that it has set off a domino effect akin to the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of Communism. (Although in the "Arabian Spring," the only wall in sight--Israel's apartheid wall--pointedly stays up.)
Read the rest by clicking the link.
Legend of stage, screen, and salad dressing Paul Newman recently discussed upcoming projects, eventual retirement, and plans for his twilight years. At the tail end of the interview, the 80-year old COOL HAND LUKE star, ever the staunch liberal, discussed the damaging effects of the current administration's policies:
"I wish I felt a little more comfortable about the direction that we're going," Newman said carefully. "It does not seem to be of the people, by the people and for the people. It seems to be about something else completely different.
"I think part of it is the media's fault for not being more aggressive and persistent and nasty and I think it's the people's fault for not paying attention. That's not a good combination. It allows people in government to do pretty much what they want."
...which is what they're doing.
The focus of most people's rancor seems to be the character designs, many of which I posted here, which are God awful.
Anyway, as a further example of how worked up people are getting over this thing, check out this flash animated short, which I'll admit is intermittently amusing. I have to say, although I'm inclined to agree with the sentiment (if not the exact language), I have a problem just based on principle when people pile on before anyone has seen one solitary frame of animation of this show. Not to say I expect it to be anything but dog crap, but why not wait 'till it premieres in the fall -- and then let's pile on.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Lately our government has been calling for the immediate and total withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, attempting to project the very strong impression that Syria is in Lebanon as an occupying force. In fact, at the height of their involvement, c. 1995, 42,000 Syrian troops were in Lebanon, and they were already beginning withdrawal. Today there are about 13,000 Syrian troops remaining in Lebanon, and, at least according to the Syrian plan, those were in the process of being phased out as well, in coordination with the desires of the Lebanese government as the Lebanese take over more and more of their own security functions. Again, Syria's presence was in no way to maintain Muslim hegemony in the country, since Lebanese Christians have gained the most benefit from their presence, and the Syrian army has generally stayed virtually invisible to the population, except when called upon to act by the Lebanese government.Read more at the link above.
So why are we so determined to ouster them, when there appears no particular need for it? Certainly our government's portrayal of the Syrians is intended to influence Americans as much as Damascus, which suggests a coming "mandate" for war. (That we could crush the Syrian army with our eyes closed isn't in doubt, and even something of a tradition now; the USA has at least since the Reagan administration specialized in attacking countries with little capacity to fight back, like Grenada.)
Also, David Rowe of the AP wrote this article which tries to figure out why exactly Rather never endeared himself to the public in 24 years at the big desk the way his predecessor, Walter Cronkite, was able to do.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
See the rest of the posters here to compare.
"I don't think you can just throw anything out there and expect people to swallow it. There is Trek lore and Trek history to be followed and adhered to ... I mean, we started out with 13 million viewers on the pilot, and we somehow managed to drive 11 million of them away."
"I don't know where to begin with that one," she finally stammers. "The final episode is ... appalling."
Cronkite: Rather Should Have Been Replaced Earlier
Walter Cronkite, who was forced to step down as anchor of the CBS Evening News 24 years ago because of the network's mandatory retirement policies at the time, has suggested that Dan Rather, the man who replaced him, should have been removed years ago. Referring to Bob Schieffer, who is due to take over as anchor on Thursday, Cronkite told CNN's Wolf Blitzer Monday, "He is, to my mind, the man who, quite frankly -- although Dan did a fine job -- I would like to have seen him there a long time ago. He would have given the others a real run for their money." When Blitzer asked Cronkite whether he would have been "happier" if Schieffer had taken over earlier, Cronkite responded, "Certainly, if not Bob, someone else." In a left-handed compliment, Cronkite then went on to say that it was "quite a tribute" to Rather that CBS continued to hold on to him despite the news program's third-place position in the ratings. "It surprised quite a few people at CBS and elsewhere that, without being able to pull up the ratings beyond third in a three-man field, that they tolerated his being there for so long," he said. Cronkite, however, downplayed Rather's role in the "memogate" scandal, noting that he relied on the producers of the feature to get the story right. He acknowledged that if he had been asked to front a similar story, "I would not be sure that I wouldn't have followed my producers and accepted what they had to offer."
Monday, March 07, 2005
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Superman is a dick.
Where did this come from? How did the stalwart bastion of all that's good and primary-colored get stuck with such an unflattering appelation? I was wondering the same thing until I took a look at these.
That Superman's a bastard.
Oh, and if that doesn't convince you, try this.
Welllll...as long as Superman says it's okay...
For more shocking Superdickery, click here. Be forewarned, you'll never quite look at our Man of Steel in quite the same way again...
Friday, March 04, 2005
This time he's discussing the recent death of maverick "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson and its greater significance apropos the state of journalism today -- and yes, that means a mention of our old friend Jeff Gannon. Here's a tease:
"The death of Thompson represents the passing from the Age of Gonzo to the Age of Gannon," wrote Russell Cobb in a column in The Daily Texan at the University of Texas. As he argues, today's White House press corps is less likely to be invaded by maverick talents like a drug-addled reporter from a renegade start-up magazine than by a paid propagandist like Jeff Gannon, a fake reporter for a fake news organization (Talon News) run by a bona fide Texas Republican operative who was a delegate to the 2000 Bush convention.
Though a few remain on the case - Eric Boehlert of Salon, mediamatters.org, Joe Strupp of Editor and Publisher - the Gannon story is fast receding. In some major news venues, including ABC and CBS, it never surfaced at all. Yet even as Mr. Gannon has quit his "job" as a reporter and his "news organization" has closed up shop, the plot thickens. His own Web site - which only recently shut down with the self-martyring message "The voice goes silent" - has now restarted as a blog with Gonzo pretensions. The title alone of his first entry, "Fear and Loathing in the Press Room," would send Thompson spinning in his grave had he not asked that his remains be shot out of a cannon.
Click the link to read the entire article.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
I’m still not entirely sure how you can have one of the funniest people on the planet serving as your host and still end up with what may be the most "blah" Oscar show in a long time. Not as bad as when Whoopi Goldberg hosts, but certainly not as sublime as when Steve Martin was MC.
I thought Rock started things off funny with some lines comparing President Bush to an employee at The Gap, and for the most part he was able to keep his momentum going, but the show itself was a bit tedious -- okay, quite a bit tedious.
I'm pretty much in agreement with the winning selections -- Jamie Foxx couldn't not have gotten it -- but there really wasn't much to get excited about this time around.
Mark Evanier did a blow-by-blow of the ceremony on his blog which pretty much sums up my thoughts. Scroll down a little bit to check it out.