Friday, May 17, 2002

ZoNotes: Who do you need, who do you love, when you come undone?

12 Days Until Ernesto's Graduation
15 Days Until Livy&Sharlene's Wedding
1 Day until Dj Twist's CD Release Party

Dancin' Machine, Watch me Get Down
Who: DJ Twist
Where: Bridges, 10560 Main St., Fairfax, VA
When: Saturday, 18 May 2002, 9-2 AM
$7 cover, 1/2 off Red Bull drink specials.
Be there!

This Here Intelligence Fiasco
Aaron Ammerman (F'00) once told me that "experts built the Maginot Line." This recapitulation of the French debacle in the summer of 1940 is a good starting point to explore the signs that the entire U.S. government had jagged pieces warning of a potential threat to the country before 9.11. Having information is a separate process from integrating it into a coherent picture. That is, in my opinion, a crucial point -- one that cannot be avoided. Both Congress and the White House had information that seemingly anticipated danger, but what form would it take? Sometimes, obvious historical events -- the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Nazi counterstroke in the Ardennes in 1944, the 1968 Communist Tet offensive -- sometimes blossom in front of our collective eyes as a nasty surprise. So we ask, how could this happen? How could such intelligent men -- years of experience allying them -- look at the same variables in real time that we do in history books and then come to a seemingly opposite conclusion and course of action?
And then we explore memos buried within memos and briefings rendered moot, and we realize that if someone, anyone, had put 2 and 2 together, we could have avoided the calamity that beseiged the Republic on that endless September afternoon. But even then, would we know which flights would become piloted missiles? What if, after having every conceivable warning and acknowledging every threat, that the attacks still took place? Does having the fort alerted to an attack from the front necessarily protect it to an attack from the rear? Alll of these are valid questions, in my opinion.
Unfortunately, we are reduced to "what ifs" and "should haves" -- which is of course not enough for the fallen or their families. Yet we the living should expect more from those tasked to protect the realm. We should explore what happened along the intelligence chain, in order to rectify existing deficiencies for the future. The Next Surprise could be all the more worse.

No, There Is Another
Livy Keithley (C'98) pens his thoughts on Episode II Those not wanting to read the review lest they pick up the almighty spolier then simply skip:
"Plain and simple: If you're a Star Wars fan, you get it. If you aren't, you don't. Don't get me wrong, this is definitely a "Saturday matinee," but is not all that thrilling as a movie in a vacuum. It is only when injected into the lore that is STAR WARS that the entire context and depth of the movie is revealed. Naturally, because of the prequel and original series, Lucas did not need to really engage in too much character development in terms of introductions; we kind of picked up midstream and kept going, much like two old friends who talk for the first time in a long while. This movie is quite deep in spots; it is actually hard to follow if you don't pick up on the clues and breadcrumbs left along the movie's path.

And if you are a Paduwan or Jedi like most of us, YOU'LL LOVE IT! The movie does not develop the tradition much, save for the emphasis on not having "attachments." This was alluded to in the original series, and mentioned in Phantom Menace, but it is a central focus of this film. Without giving too much away, we see that it is attachments which eventually prove the downfall of our current young hero Anakin...but the downfall itself is not till the next movie. If you remember back to Empire, this was also the vice that afflicted Luke (like Father, like Son I guess)...

Another great thing is the exploration of Padme' Amadala's character. Just like we wait to truly learn about Princess Lea until Empire, so here we had to survive the staticness of Amadala's character in Phantom Menace, only to see her character blossom here in Clones. And yes, for the Jedis whose focus is, um, "south of the border," we do see Amadala in some intriguing outfits - not quite the Lea leashes in Jedi, but we're gettin' there ;-)

Like Wes, I saw the movie in analog with THX sound - sound was amazing, picture left a bit to be desired. I'm going to search for a digital screen in Denver (if there is one), and then try to procure tickets. With the effects and abilities of the movie, they should only be shown on the biggest, baddest, loudest screens in the country.

Like Empire, this movie was clearly a connector between the movie preceeding and the movie to follow in a few years. Like Empire, it ends on a question mark. Like Empire, the tension between the Jedi and the Dark Side drives the movie, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. When the end comes, you are left screaming, "no!!" and relegated in teh thought of having to wait 2 years for the story to continue. It's that good.

So, my Paduwans, sit back, take a coke and some popcorn, tame your sabers, clear your thoughts and enjoy. The Force will be with us....always."

"History and Memory are not one in the same." -- Major Bob Bateman, U.S. Army

Thursday, May 16, 2002

ZoNotes: Do or Do Not, There Is No Try...

13 Days Until Ernesto's Graduation
16 Days Until Livy&Sharlene's Wedding
2 Days Until DJ Twist's CD Release Party -- more details outlined tomorrow

ZoNotes Exclusive: The Jedi Always Rings Twice
Who He is: Wes Gillette, (F'00), consultant, Accenture. He was a fellow apartment dweller at the "decktop" row in Village A at Georgetown during my junior year. Michael Gallagher (C'00) and Sean Mullaney (B'00) also lived there. Served as the SG for NAIMUN XXXIV as a sophomore at Georgetown. Once finished a 26-page paper on the CV(X) aircraft carrier project in a single sitting.
Why He's Here: Wes, as you know, caught the 12:01 AM showing of Episode II.
Why Him? Wes is a big Star Wars fan. He didn't write a theological essay on the trilogy like one ZoNoter did, but that's a whole other story.

Ok, let's get down to business, shall we?
"Author’s note: I am a Star Wars fan and have been trained in the ways of the Jedi. Strong with me the Force is. However, if this review is a bit rambling, it’s because the Dark Side clouds my thoughts – and its 4:00 in the morning.

This is not going to be a spoiler review. In fact, I’ll probably spend more time countering the horrible reviews I have read and heard recently. I have to admit I was a little nervous going to the theater tonight. I had yet to really read or hear of a good review of the movie. Everyone including the Washington Post had more or less dogged the movie for poor acting and lack of plot. However, after being thoroughly engrossed in the 2hr 20min cinematographic masterpiece called Episode II: Attack of the Clones, all I can say is bring on Episode III, after I watch Episode II a couple of more times this weekend.

AOTC was absolutely amazing - but first, the setting. I watched the movie in the United Artist Fairfax Towne Center Theater. It is not the closest theater to me, but was listed on the THX website as having a THX certified sound system. (For those of you that are acoustically challenged, THX is the audio format which George Lucas developed to enforce some sort of quality control on the acoustic systems of movie theaters. His goal was to ensure that his films, would be accurately reproduced for moviegoers for whom sound was an important part of their overall film enjoyment. More info and a list of theaters can be found here). The THX sound system definitely contributed to the overall experience. There were several times during the movie where background conversations sounded so real, I though someone in the theater was talking – which if had actually happened would have resulted in an immediate beat down. I was hoping to see the film projected digitally, as Lucas had intended, but by the time the list of digital projection screens was published, I had already procured my tickets. Don’t worry, before the weekend is out, I will definitely see the movie in digital form. I had heard complaints about the effect the digital to analog conversion had on the picture quality (Lucas filmed the movie completely in digital form – none of that passé tape stuff was used until it was shipped to theaters). I can remember a few scenes where some conversion blurring took place, but it by no means affects the movie going experience.

Okay, okay, about the movie. I found it captivating. I was concerned, based on reviews, the dialogue of the political plot line would be tedious and drag the movie, but I didn’t find that to be true. The romantic plot line is cheesy, but in which sci-fi film is it not? The overall story I found to be awesome. It fills in so many holes opened by Episodes IV-VI and answers questions raised by Episode I. There is still much more of the story to be competed in Episode III, but it seems more manageable now. The action scenes are indescribable, save awesome. Lucas really outdid himself setting up, filming, and creating the action scenes. Some are really fast paced and you wish they could be slowed down so you could really take it all in, but at the same time understand the speed of the action is key to the success of the sequence. Overall, the flow of the film is quite fast. I stole a glance at my watch and based on time we were halfway through. I was hoping we were still in the first 30 min because that is what it felt like.

One thing that has stuck with me about the acting, was Ewan McGregor’s performance. You can really see a young Obi-Wan come to life in this movie. There are several scenes where he acts out the advice he gives in later Episodes and this helps develop the character more. The interaction with Anakin (Hayden Christensen) is great and you can see the tension develop between them.

On the subject of character development, some of the holes I alluded to before are closed because of the character development, especially Anakin. You see how that nice soft spoke little boy from the Menace, develops into Vader later.

There are a lot of other things I would love to talk about… Samuel Jackson as Mace Windu, the incredible genius that is George Lucas and how anyone could think of world like this and then really make it come to life. He is really pushing the limits of technology with this movie. The human/CGI blend is so much better than “Menace” even – I imagine a good deal of that is the all digital production. And oh yeah… Yoda rocks!

Now, about my beef with the critics. They are trying to review AOTC as a stand alone work, when in fact it is part of a much larger serial work and should be viewed in that context. I’ll admit as a stand alone work, the acting performances don’t even begin to compare to Denzel Washington in “Training Day” or Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball” – but it’s not supposed to. Lucas’s original motivation for the series was to create a sci-fi knock-off of the serial western B-movies. The qualities Star Wars is known for – sub par dialogue, and a certain element of cheesiness to the story are also a key to the success of the series. I mean think about it – could anyone really take a series of six films in a row with the dramatic flair and acting talent of “Training Day” or “Monster’s Ball”? No – it would be too much - too overwhelming.

I love this movie. “Attack of the Clones” makes you want for more. I am almost sad there is only one more installment in the series. I say almost, because there is still one more, and I can only imagine what Lucas has in store for us then."

"Boredom spawns from inactivity."

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

ZoNotes: I Want To Know What Love Is...

14 Days Until Ernesto's Graduation
17 Days Until Livy&Sharlene's Wedding
3 Days Until DJ Twist's CD Release Party

Buffy Recap: Where the Bullet Grinds
Last night's episode was an hour-long exercise in unabated vengeance. Willow's use of the darkest magics led her down a path of unimagined power. I really like where the writers went with Season 6's story arc. After tying Willow's character down as the "magic addict," they let her loose to raise hell on Warren for murdering Tara. Alyson Hanigan did a tremendous job portraying Willow as single-mindedly overpowering both friends and foes. For the first time in the 5+ years of the show's existence, Hanigan carries the episode on her own. The rationale of the whole season -- bringing Buffy back to life, breaking up with Tara, and now this -- all rest on Willow's shoulders. Her dark powers were used for good in the first phase of the show, but then she resorted to the ferocious underpinnings that the black magic entailed. Willow successfully extracted her pound of flesh from Warren. Plus, I cracked a smile when Willow uttered "bored now..." before taking action. That sequence recalls an incident from Season 3, as longtime fans of the genre would know. I found it a delicious way to cap off a fine episode. Previews of next week's 2-hour season finale portend of other epic goings on -- especially the prospect of a final showdown between the witch with the mostest and our favorite vampire slayer.

Where Dreams Go to Die: The Spurs Fall
The Game 5 series-clincher between the Spurs and Lakers followed a script, one honed over years of grating defeats by the Spurs. Thank goodness they won the '99 title, lest I still be pining in blind despair over their annual postseason implosion. The Spurs were far more competitive now than they were in last year's Conference Finals, carrying leads in the 4th quarter in 4 of the last 5 games. Unfortunately, the Spurs could not close the deal. NBA MVP Tim Duncan scored 34 points and brought down 25 rebounds in a valiant and inspired effort, but David Robinson scored no points and collected 4 fouls in a hard-fought 93-87 loss. As the Spurs continue PG Tony Parker's development and cap room opens up in 2003, I think the future is bright. Plus, credit Coach Pop with guiding a talent-deficient squad to the Midwest Division title.

The Sum of Their Fears
We received in the office an interesting book titled Third Reich Victorious, edited by Peter G. Tsouras -- an analysis of alternative decisions that could have led to either an outright German victory or a favorable peace settlement for the Nazi regime. Utilizing both existing data and speculative estimation, 10 authors explore different scenarios in stand-alone case studies. What if appeaser Lord Halifax had come to power as Prime Minister instead of Churchill? What if Hitler had struck Britain immediately after the fall of France? What if the Soviets had attacked Germany first in 1941? I like the historical arguments, but my only beef is that the different contributors extend the most generous of plain ol' good luck to the Germans. However, that also proves a point -- the Allied victories in the European Theater were very much close-run episodes. "Success" mauled Omaha Beach at Normandy and the invasion of Sicily. Hundreds of bombers flew to Germany into the teeth of Luftwaffe interceptors and flak to deliver their payloads. The Allies themselves were the "victims" of terrible German strategic decisionmaking, and they also adapted gamely to the myriad of German attempts to stymie them. In the Soviets' case, Stalin leaned hard on his country's sheer force of weaponry and manpower, coupling some of the most lethal instruments of war with innovative generalship from Zhukov. But the Soviets essentially lost a generation in World War II. The Germans came so perilously close to victory or forcing a stalemate, yet when they fell short, reeled all the way back to the rubble of Berlin.

Farm From Market: The Abominable Farm Bill
There is a common misconception about the GOP, that it is exclusively a party of capitalist free marketeers. If only it were so, we wouldn't have this abomination known as the Farm Bill that was signed into law earlier this week. There are only a few segments of the Republic that can get away with this brazen type of porkish excess -- the defense industry, organized labor, and the agricultural lobby, along with the domestic steel racket and the damn airlines. But the farm bill is particularly outsized slop. There remains in the GOP a protectionist strain that serves as a fly in the ointment of true free market operations. The farm bill is a statist mechanism designed to prop up the agribusiness while also binding discussions on free trade agreements. Frankly, this makes us look like France. France, where they burn McDonald's. We negotiate free-trade agreements, and then Congress tries to introduce them to the legislative crowbar.

"When all other opportunities fail, tell people that you're getting into plastics."

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

ZoNotes: Dance Into The Light...

15 Days Until Ernesto's Graduation
18 Days Until Livy&Sharlene's Wedding
4 Days Until DJ Twist's CD Release Party

Attack of the Expeditious...
ZoNotes is happy to report that ZoNoter Wes Gillette (F'00) will be writing up the review for Episode II: Attack of the Clones. He has secured tickets for the 12:01 showing on 16 May and is happily going to contribute. Many thanks to Wes.

He's No Rhinestone Cowboy
I simply had to watch yesterday's Crossfire segment with Ted Nugent. An interesting kickoff to the interview was lefty Paul Begala strutting his hunting credentials, showing off pics taken at Dem governor hopeful Tony Sanchez's ranch back home in South Texas. Plus, with samples of venison for the esteemed guest, it was positively an alpha-male moment. All of this is a bit misleading. Hunting and self-defense are similar only in that both utilize firearms. Begala's argument that the Dems aren't after hunters & sportsmen precludes the reality that the lefties are not terribly high on law-abiding citizens arming themselves for self-defense. While it is reassuring to see a lefty open fire on Bambi's mother from time to time, I also would like him to acknowledge that Americans have a right to defend themselves from unsavory intruders.

Lone Spur
Tonight's Game 5 is stuck somewhere between meaningless afterthought and vital lifeline. Should the Spurs win tonight, it would be back to the Alamodome for Game 6. As unlikely as it sounds, do not be surprised if this happens. The real surprising stuff would begin to fall into place if, after getting a Game 6, the Spurs win again, triggering a Game 7 in LA. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Tonight's chances of victory rest on Tim Duncan's willingness to take shots in the 4th quarter and distribute the ball to willing ballhandlers like Tony Parker. David Robinson must play solid, pesky defense on ShaqDiesel if he wants to proceed to SA for Game 6.

Now this is a gun...

Welcome Back Carter
Judging from the way former Presdient Carter is apologizing left and right for his gracious host Fidel Castro, I believe that his foreign policy acumen draws from Charles Lindbergh, Lord Halifax, Hanoi Jane, and Tokyo Rose. By carrying Castro's water and denying that Cuba has a bioweapons capacity, Carter shows why he is a useful American for your garden variety despot. Got problems with the White House? Annoyed that the State Department is pointing out that irritating "human rights" deficiency? Call Carter!
He will walk around and say how happy he and Rosalyn are to be visiting the Americas' Siberia.

Of Nukes and Promises
So, a few months after the U.S. leaves the ABM Treaty, we still are able to reach a breakthrough agreement with the Russians on nuclear arms reductions. While going down from 6,000 each to slightly over 2,000 doesn't seem like too much, consider the new strategic reality. Paring down arsenals allows us to field a manageable and realistic ballistic missile defense. What this also does is change the angle at which we view thresholds. Of course, with over 2,000 weapons, we still have an overwhelming deterrence factor. Beneath all this, it is vital to understand that nukes still have priceless deterring capability -- remember, a nonnuclear world looks more like 1944 than it does in 2002.

Today's wordplay comes courtesy of Sean Mullaney (B'00), who saw this quote at the TR memorial in DC: "If I must choose between Righteousness and Peace,
I choose Righteousness."

Monday, May 13, 2002

ZoNotes: I Wear My Sunglasses at Night...

16 Days Until Ernesto's Graduation
19 Days Until Livy&Sharlene's Wedding
5 Days Until DJ Twist's CD Release Party

The Meltdown in San Antonio
The Spurs' Game 3 loss on Friday night was a well-played game up until mid-4th Quarter, when the Spurs went cold from the field. Having seemingly righted the ship in Sunday's Game 4, the Spurs mentally froze, and did not score a field goal for the last 6:59 of the game. Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant precipitated a deluge, scoring 12 points, including the game-winner with 5.1 seconds left, to seal an 87-85 win and put the Lakers on top 3-1 in the best-of-7 series. NBA MVP Tim Duncan's supporting cast is seriously overmatched. Only PG Tony Parker and rough-&-tumble Malik Rose are really helping out this series. David Robinson is too much off his game to contribute, and Danny Ferry is not contributing 3-pointers when he needs to do it.

The Baseball War: An Interlude
Check out the picture of the two men standing at the tarmac in Cuba. How have both men lasted so long, products of an era consigned to our history books and distant memories? Very simple -- one survived crushing the backs of his opponents while the other made it precisely by doing nothing to the men doing the breaking. Every despot needs his appeaser. How ironic then that when the Latin American states begin to show some backbone against the malignant tumor that is the Castro regime, that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter begin his 5-day visit to the communist "utopia." Mr. Carter, who might go down in history as the Republic's meekest president, comes to Cuba in the backdrop of State Department allegations that Cuban despot Fidel Castro maintains of the world's most active bioweapons programs. Castro has indicated that he would let Carter "inspect" facilities. I sincerely doubt that Carter, even if he wanted to, could find the damning evidence. For a recap of Mr. Carter's foreign policy misadventures, read Jay Nordlinger's piece from a couple of weeks ago.

Likud's Fissure
Since securing the office of Prime Minister in 2001, Ariel Sharon has had to combat the venomous thrust of the second intifada, manage a broad coalition with the principal opposition, the Labor Party, navigate the tough waters between the U.S. and Israel, and hold the Likud Party's "Greater Israel" wing at bay long enough to conclude a lasting peace agreement that would produce a benign Palestinian state. It is a thankless job, and eventually one hole would burst through the Sharonian wall. Yesterday's party convention was a tactical step forward for aspiring PM Benjamin Netanyahu, as Likud passed a resolution foreclosing any discussion of a Palestinian state. Leftist observers have painted Sharon as the Great Jew Devil, he who ordered "massacres" in Jenin and the rest of the West Bank after the Seder attack last month. What they fail to realize is that if Sharon loses power, the pendulum will most likely shift further to the right, not the left. That means Netanyahu would return to the PM seat, and most likely would initiate operations to expel Arafat from the area.

"Playing not to lose is another term for surrender.