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Do I hate music?
Believe it or don’t, some people are actually checking my site to see if I’ve updated the record reviews. I got my start on the internet reviewing CDs … last year, I made an attempt to come back and review them again. I wrote up opinions on Harry Nilsson, Suede, and Eric Carmen on my parents’ computer, then forgot to bring them back to New York with me. A few months later, their hard drive was damaged and the reviews were lost.

I get serious pleasure out of reviewing albums, and look for some new stuff in the next week. But not until then. It takes a while to gin up the initiative to create prose you’ve already written.

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The Nation on Saddam
David Corn, no fan of George Bush, has some sensible and eloquent thoughts on the capture of Saddam.

The war on terrorism’s number-one distraction has now been taken out. Let the Iraqis celebrate. Let Hussein be punished to the max–though no punishment devised by mortals can fit his crimes.

It’s nice to hear this – it distinguishes smart anti-war folks from professional whiners like Michael Moore.

Thank God Saddam is finally back in American hands! He must have really missed us. Man, he sure looked bad! But, at least he got a free dental exam today. That’s something most Americans can’t get.

And then some background about how the US supported Saddam against Iran. In a way, this kind of commentary reminds me of the LOTR review I fisked below. The Michael Moores assume that people like me are 1.)uninformed or 2.)treacherous. We don’t know that the US once supported Saddam, or we don’t care. Just once I’d like them to actually read the Project for a New American Century reports they bleat about. People like me realized that America had been wrong to support Saddam in the past, and he should have been overthrown in 1991. And sanctions against Iraq ended not because of TV Nation or Voices in the Wilderness, but because of Paul Wolfowitz. Corn has the humility to recognize that, then move ahead and make his argument.

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A chink in the King’s armor
Like many nerds, I’ve been following the reviews for The Return of the King on Rotten Tomatoes, an internet clearinghouse for critics. For a very, very long time ROTK’s rating stayed steady at 100% – all good reviews, no bad ones. Today, the rating dipped to 98%.

As we’ve all been reminded in these last 18 or so months, dissent is vital to our democracy. Dissent is patriotic. The Dixie Chicks do more than make shitty records – they defend our free speech. Right?

Nope.

These two critics don’t really have anything bad to say about ROTK. David Elliot of the San Diego Union-Tribune saves his venom for the fans.

The saga sags, though not for fans like “fuzzfeller,” buzzing on a Web site about the film’s “awesome” video game. (Yep, it arrived before the movie. Synergy, anyone?) Or Andrew, on the site Fetal Film Report, excitedly telling us that actor Billy Boyd, who plays Pippin, “was near tears just reading the screenplay.”

To paraphrase David Wild: What the fuck is this shit? It’s really not hard to consider a film without checking in with its tie-ins and internet fans. Does merchandise diminish a movie? Does hype?

You can’t blame people (like a few Lordites who called to tell me I was too old to really relish the series) for not having seen movies made before they were born, but some perspective beyond the Tolkien or fan-site kind does help you evaluate Jackson’s film achievement.

It was my awareness of what Coppola, Lean, Gance, Kobayashi and other creators of epics have done that helped prompt questions in my head.

You’re imagining him writing this into a composition book in a small Parisian cafe with a pencil in one hand and a cigarette in the other, right? Tell me I’m not the only one. And tell me David Elliot doesn’t really think he knows more about Roger Ebert, who spent years compiling a collection called “The Great Movies” and also loves the Lord of the Rings movies.

Since we know that cute Frodo must save mankind by returning the gold ring to Mount Doom, why the endless padding of “heroic” suspense? Jackson really thinks we needed such touches as the episode with a huge spider worthy of a ’50s monster film (reputedly he’s an arachnophobe).

Arachnophobe or not, he probably got the idea for the spider from the book upon which the movie is based. Why isn’t this genius critic aware of the source material?

Why, in these many realms, are the only viable occupations warfare, sorcery, music and carousing? Who built and sustains these mountain-scaling keeps (perhaps Merlin, the original digitalizer)?

Good point. All those castles in Europe – they were all built by Industrial Light and Magic, right?

How come women are only saucy flirts or radiant emblems of civilian vulnerability? Finally, perhaps pinched by feminism, Jackson lets fair Eowyn (Miranda Otto) flail a sword and hack off a monster’s head.

And she was seen using a sword, and besting the robust male hero, in The Two Towers. Maybe David should spend less time studying Coppola (does that include The Rainmaker and Jack?) and more time watching the movies he’s paid to review.

Jackson has achieved not Tolkien. He has made a cornucopian and corny hash of Tolkien, old John Martin spectacle paintings, head comix, Arthurian tales, Bob Howard macho-lit, New Zealand travelogues, Thomas Kinkade kitsch, ’30s serials and the mountain films of Leni Riefenstahl, whose spirit hovers over the grand shots of relay bonfires on snowy peaks.

What the fuck is a head comic?

Eh, enough time wasted. This is a pissy little rant that holds up one movie to standards that Eliot would obviously never apply to any other movie. Like that timeless masterpiece Panic Room.

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I am on vacation: I compile lists

For now, here are my favorite singles/songs of 2003. I’ll update as the situation demands.

15. Fleetwood Mac – “What’s the World Coming to”
14. Jane’s Addiction – “Just Because”
13. Richard Thompson – “A Love You Can’t Survive”
12. Outkast – “Ghetto Musick”
11. The Thorns – “Blue”
10. Warren Zevon – “Keep Me In Your Heart”
9. Super Furry Animals – “Golden Retriever”
8. Belle and Sebastian – “Step Inside My Office, Baby”
7. Fountains of Wayne – “Stacy’s Mom”
6. Christina Aguilera – “Fighter”
5. Justin Timberlake – “Rock Your Body”
4. R. Kelly – “Ignition (remix)”
3. Guided by Voices – “My Kind of Soldier”
2. The New Pornographers – “The Laws Have Changed”
1. Outkast – “Hey Ya”

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Yes, yes, but what about Ramsey Clark?
Without knowing whether this is inside blogball or a legitimate international story, I am wondering: If Saddam Hussein goes on trial at the Hague, will former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark – a major anti-war organizer in 2002 and 2003 – join his defense?

Clark was the co-chairman of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, and one of its most visible spokesmen in the English-speaking world. In 2001, Clark came out very strongly against the treatment Milosevic got from international forces.

“I have seen this in many countries,” said Clark. “The authorities try to disorient and weaken a political prisoner, especially in the first stages of an arrest.”

Clark noted that despite these attempts to break Slobodan Milosevic, he remains strong, has an excellent spirit, is very sharp, and wants to argue his case to expose NATO’s aggression aimed at breaking up and Yugoslavia, to defend the sovereignty of Yugoslavia and to defend the people of his country against US and European plans to take over and devastate the economy.

Said Clark: “Milosevic says, ‘OK, I didn’t choose to be here, but I am here. So apparently it is my destiny to use this prison as a platform to help our people.'”

There’s every reason to believe that Clark is fuming at the treatment of Saddam we’ve seen today. For years, he has credited American imperialism with Iraq’s problems, charging “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” even when no bombs were falling. In 1999, he wrote a letter to members of the UN Security Council linking US policy against Yugoslavia to US policy on Iraq.

The targeting by U.S. and NATO outside of Kosovo was clearly directed at terrorizing and crippling civilian society, as was the case with Iraq in 1991 and now … U.S. militarism is out of control. It strikes where and when it chooses. The El-Shifa Pharmaceutical plant destroyed by 21 Tomahawk missiles in August 1998 produced 50 percent of the medicines available to the people of Sudan.

The U.S.-compelled sanctions against Iraq continue to further impoverish a malnourished and sickened population. Several hundred human beings die each day as a direct result of the sanctions. Every U.N. agency dealing with health, food, water quality, or children confirms that these genocidal sanctions against Iraq have taken more than one and a half million lives and permanently injured several times more. The act of genocide as defined in the Article II of the Convention includes “deliberately inflicting on (a national, ethnical, racial or religious) group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

The U.S. bombs Iraq constantly, killing and destroying at will. In the first two weeks of March 1999 it attacked northern Iraq with 195 bombing missions and southern Iraq with 511. Hundreds of casualties resulted. The principal targets were chosen to cripple Iraq’s ability to transport and sell oil under the U.N. food for oil program in order to further deprive the people of Iraq of needed food and medicines.

From everything he’s put into the public record, it looks like Clark views Saddam as he views Milosevic – a misunderstood defender of national sovereignty trampled by US arrogance. He helped set up Dan Rather’s pre-war interview with Saddam, and told reporters that the dictator could be, and wanted to be, dealt with peacefully.

Clark said Saddam sees little incentive to cooperate with the inspectors, however, because he believes Bush is set on war.

“What he thinks is, no matter what Iraq’s performance is, the president will attack,” Clark said.

So what if Saddam goes to the Hague? What if Ramsey Clark helps to defend him?

I’m not sure, but I hope that other reporters remember that when thousands of people across America protested the threat of an Iraq war, they were marching under the banner of Ramsey Clark’s group. There might finally be some investigation into these people US military action under any circumstances, and why. And I’d love to see how Joe and Jane TV watcher react when they see a man who got thundering ovations at an anti-war rally defending the murderer of 300,000 Iraqis.

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Immediate Saddam thoughts
I break from my irregularly scheduled funblogging to offer my Saddam thoughts:
– We should take the necessary steps (I’m fuzzy on what they are) to have Saddam tried by the courts at the Hague, as with Milosevic. Two reasons. 1)It grants an air of legitimacy to the operation that would be lost if Saddam is tried by an Iraqi tribunal or US military tribunal – the worst option. 2)It will keep Saddam in the public eye, which from a Bush supporter’s perspective (which is my perspective, until Gephardt or Kerry do something to blow my mind) is ideal – world press is reminded every week for a year of the boilerplate Bush and Blair used to justify the war.
– It’s no sin to see this footage and say “Damn, where’s Osama?” That’s what I said. It’s my hope that international forces in Afghanistan are emboldened to find Osama and the Mullah Omar.

Meanwhile, in my id:

Owned.

UPDATE: Courtesy of Fark.com

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Heading home
Work kept me tired and haggard for a good two weeks. I spent Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon watching movies and manually mailing some issues of my newspaper to our friends and subscribers. Come 4 p.m. Friday, I will be Delaware-bound. And then I’ll post some more, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Buffy countdown pt. III – favorite villains
Trying to put this list together a while back, I realized a certain design flaw. The real villain of Buffy, as producers have told us, was Life. The bad things our heroes fought were merely a sideshow in the journey to learn the big lessons of the series.

On the other hand, the villains on Buffy were really cool. After Season One’s generic vampire The Master was vanquished, Buffy et al encountered foes who took more out of them, dug into their emotions, and saddled them with loss. Frequently, they were given hilarious dialogue. I have 8 favorites in the rogues gallery.

8. The Master

Oh, come on, respect where it’s due. He did kill the heroine in the first season. And she obviously never quite recovered from it.
“Where are your jibes now?”

7. Quentin Travers and The Watchers Council

This was a good twist, provided by a freelance writer, no less (David Fury, who went on to produce the show). The Council that creates Slayers is corrupt and sadistic. Buffy can only do her job when she breaks from tradition – and in the series’ finale, she can only save the world when she destroys what they created. That was fun.
“Congratulations again.”

6. Spike

Everybody loved Spike as a villain. I liked him as a sad sack love interest, too, and part of that was thanks to his general reprehensibility. He’s essentially a scared, lovesick pansy who can only get through the day by doing terrible things to people. And he is very, very funny.
“Oh, please! If every vampire who said he was at the crucifixion was actually there, it would have been like Woodstock.”

5. Glory

There’s an Antichrist element I like about Glory. Buffy’s interesting because she’s a cute, punny girl who happens to be sworn to protect humankind. And Glory is a cute, silly girl who happens to be a God from Hell intent on destroying the world. That in itself is cool. Glory earns bonus points for irrevocably changing the heroine’s life, by forcing mystics to give her a younger sister (this is always the plot that sounds silliest when you explain it), and then by finding new and exciting ways to exploit her vulnerabilities.
“I’m crazy? Honey, I’m the original one-eyed chicklet in the Kingdom of the Blind. ‘Cuz at least I admit the world makes me nuts.”

4. Willow

I think if fans were more at peace with themselves, they’d admit that Willow’s villainy made perfect sense. Without going into too much detail – Willow was the character most fans could identify with. A fantasy fan is an outcast. He or she spends some time thinking about how unfair his lot is, and how he’d punish the people who make fun of him if only he had some kind of power to do it. Well, Willow got power. Making her go rogue was the only artistic decision that made sense. The fact that it hurt so much? That’s proof that the writers were doing their job.
“Buffy, you hate it here as much as I do. I’m just more honest about it.”

3. The Mayor

He had a chintzy evil scheme, actually – to transmute into a gigantic demonic snake. I didn’t really appreciate him until it was revealed that he founded Sunnydale himself, more than a hundred years before the show began, expressly for the purpose of empowering himself and feeding demons.
“That’s one spunky little girl you’ve raised. I’m gonna eat her.”

2. Warren Mears

I’m kind of alone on this one, but think about it – Warren was more or less created by Buffy. If she hadn’t humiliated him when his first plans went awry, he wouldn’t bothered trying to outwit her. He nearly killed her, and he succeeded in killing Tara (the only villain apart from Angel who killed a cast member). He not only turned Willow into a villain – he wrecked her life, and her friends’ lives, and will haunt her forever as a result. In a sense that only makes sense in a list of villains, that’s kickass.
“Are you done yet? Or can we talk some more about our feelings?”

1. Angel

When my friend CJ and I discussed Buffy a few days ago, we agreed that the show didn’t really reach greatness in the first season. It took more than a year for the themes to build. And it took time for fans to warm to Angel, the studly, mopey vampire who absolutely loved our heroine. They couldn’t have done less to make it really hurt when, in the middle the second season, Angel lost his soul and became devoted to killing Buffy’s friends and destroying the world. That introduced about 10,000 character conflicts, moral questions and great issues into what was a fun, silly show. And you really, really wanted him to die. That’s the mark of grade-A villainy.
“Love you, too. I’ll call you.”