The Ruminator

Come on up and grab yourself a beer.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Ah, fresh victims for my ever-growing army of the undead

I have a new flunkey today, a shiny, fresh-faced intern. For the next several months she is mine! She is so young, and enthusiastic, and energetic, and helpful. Oh, how soon she will learn. Actually, I had the frightening revelation that technically she is only four years younger than me. But I've spent those four years in this job, and she's still a student, so she seems really young. Besides I'm sure I wasn't that bouncy and keen four years ago. Anyway, I'm glad I've finally passed the point where the office interns are older than me.

I think I will ease her in to the madness of our office environment before warping her fragile little mind. Little does she know that she is but a small part of my ultimate long term goal. What is that? Same thing we do every night Pinky - try to take over the world! Mwah ha ha ha ha! (That was my evil laugh, just so you know.)

I came across my amusing new item for the day on the ABC website. It seems that the town of Bagdad in Tasmania (population 650) has become the centre of some very confused attention since the war began, with internet searchers confusing it for the Iraqi capital. Some of the more clueless of the 15,000 daily visitors to the town’s Bagdad Online Access Centre have offered words of support and advised the residents to keep their heads down and mind the bombs. Having checked out this site I am at a loss to explain how anyone could think this was an Iraqi website, but then I am often surprised by other people’s stupidity. Presumably the confusion would only have gotten worse if they had discovered Tasmania’s Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

You say 'collateral damage', I say 'dead children'. Let's call the whole thing off.

It has been a depressing morning in the news so far. Unfortunately my job involves scanning a lot of news sources every morning, which gives me the opportunity to read a whole lot of depressing news in a short space of time.

There has been a lot of coverage today of the mounting civilian deaths in Iraq. Of course, no one can be very surprised that there are civilian causalities in this, or any other war. After the hard-sell of this war as one of liberation, politicians are grudgingly being forced to acknowledge the suffering of the civilian population. The spin-doctoring as they try to dodge responsibility has been disappointing and offensive, but again, not particularly surprising.

“The President always regrets any innocent loss of life and he recognises that most innocents have been lost in this war at the hands of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen,” spokesman Ari Fleischer said. “That's who is to blame for the loss of innocent lives.”

Oh, of course, Saddam is to blame for American troops killing Iraqi civilians. I wonder if he is also to blame for American troops killing British troops. But as long as the coalition ends up killing fewer civilians than Saddam, that’s OK. And given that Saddam has been in power for a long time, even with their fancy-pants new weapons (with guidance systems even worse than anything Microsoft could concoct) it will take a while before the coalition-inflicted death toll can seriously compete.

Our own Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, is backing the US position that civilian casualties are the fault of the Iraqi Government. He has also blamed recent civilian casualties at a market in Baghdad, not on US missiles, but on Iraqi anti-aircraft missiles going astray, despite acknowledging he has no evidence of this.

If the civilian population of Iraq could dodge bullets with the same skill these politicians dodge blame, there wouldn’t be any “collateral damage”.

The only reaction I have seen with any degree of dignity is that of Australian Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove. No one could accuse General Cosgrove of being unpatriotic, naïve, or unaware of the situation facing soldiers in the field. Nonetheless he managed to express sorrow without trying to shift the blame. He acknowledged that the nature of war is such that civilians will always suffer, and that even the best of soldiers is human and can make mistakes. "Those scenes are devastating... and they play over and over in the consciousness of people who understand that this war is a series of tragedies."

Cosgrove also acknowledged a degree of moral uncertainty, saying he tried to weigh the deaths against the even worse horror of leaving the Iraqi regime in power. Whether you agree with the weight of his assessment or not, unlike the politicians at least he does not paint a picture of the unsullied and blameless forces of good versus the source of all evil.

In criminal psychology, among the characteristics that define a psychopath are a lack of remorse or a sense of responsibility.

I think we may all be in a lot of trouble.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Hip-Hop Chop

Michelle Yeoh - among the many things I have wanted to be in my life. For the uninitiated, she kicked ass in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon – the older, wiser woman who was in love with Chow Yun Fat, not the young whiny one with an attitude problem. I really love martial arts flicks, which if done well are fast-paced, skillful, and violent without being gory.

This weekend I went to see Cradle to the Grave, the latest Hollywood Jet Li film. In case you had any doubts, this will not go down as one of the greats of martial arts cinema history. It did provide the couple of hours distraction I expected, as well as many examples of classic movie formula.

Plot Summary Taiwanese bad guys kidnap the daughter of a diamond thief with a heart of gold (played by rapper DMX). Jet, DMX and a merry band of sidekicks have to get her back and foil the kidnapper’s evil plan, which threatens the world as we know it. Conveniently enough, the kidnapper was once a friend of Jet’s, who betrayed and tried to kill him.

Buddy movies In the eighties, black guy/white guy buddy movies were very big – the Lethal Weapon series for example. These days black guy/Chinese guy seems to be the formula of choice. Think Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in Rush Hour, or Jet Li and another musician, the late Aaliyah, in Romeo Must Die (OK so in this case black chick/Chinese dude). This is a combination which allows for wacky cross-cultural mishaps, and provides one street-wise bad-ass, and one little dude who causes great surprise when he kicks the shit out of 20 guys twice his size.

Asians are inscrutable Jackie Chan tends to do the wacky Chinese guy shtick, Jet Li is more your silent type. This is probably almost as much to do with his fairly tenuous grasp on English as racial stereotyping. He really didn’t say much that was not basic and functional, which made him problematic as a sympathetic character as you really knew nothing about him personally. He also notes that, being a Taiwanese secret agent, he is hampered in America by not being allowed to beat information out of people.

Diamond Thieves are not really criminals Diamond thieves have always been the gentlemen of the movie criminal world – think David Niven. It is almost a Robin Hood image. Early in a heist DMX’s merry men inquire as to who owns the gems they are stealing. Apparently only drug dealers and crime lords can afford that kind of jewelry, which makes it all OK. DMX also has a no-guns policy and is a doting father, so clearly these facts outweigh his criminal tendencies.

Every movie needs a cat-fight Naturally, the movie also had a couple of hot chicks – one Asian, one black. In accordance with racial stereotypes, the Asian chick was exotic, deadly, and would torture you for fun to fill in a slow weekend. The black girl was sassy, sexy, not averse to giving a blow-job to create a diversion, and had a heart of gold. Naturally, the two girls end up fighting. No, they didn’t end up kissing.

Hollywood has discovered the martial arts flick, but still hasn’t figured out what to do with it. The martial arts skills are not used to best advantage, which means there is not sufficient distraction to compensate for the thin plot and characterisation. You really need to watch the classic Hong Kong kung fu flick to get any real satisfaction. Yes, the plot and characters are often stupider than those in Hollywood, but man those guys really kick ass, so who cares. Also look forward to the big budget Hero, which should see Jet Li in true form.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just need to learn how to use a dozen more weapons, run up walls, and keep a poker face.