Tuesday, September 24, 2002

ZoNotes: Keeping My Day Job...

Buffy Season Opener Recap
The seventh season of the highly successful Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series had the right tone for a season kickoff -- it offers something from the past (the residual consequences of Willow's dance on the dark side of magic, the return of the recently re-souled Spike), something new for the present (the reopening of Sunnydale High School, a sleek new facility for Dawn to attend), and the foreshadowing of a perilous future (the shape-shifting villain). I liked the pacing and the feel for this new installment in the Buffy mythos, and I think that all sorts of interesting plot schemes will spring from this most satisfying season premiere. The crack-whip sense of humor has returned, a welcome improvement from the deliberately dark 6th season.

What helps a show like Buffy is both its enduring lifetime on television and its consistent character development and specific adherence to continuity. Unlike, say, The Simpsons, which relies on a certain sense of timelessness for its characters, Buffy's ensemble cast needs to mature. The characters do so at different rates, adding a realistic touch to an admittedly escapist adventure fantasy.

The Trials and Tribulations of Mr. Blair
While eating snake meat one day, Prince Charles uttered, "Boy, the things I do for England." In a similar vein, the current resident at No. 10 Downing Street has had the unenviable task of being America's only consistently reliable ally in Europe. British Prime Minister Tony Blair's "Dossier Speech"-- highlighting British intelligence on the state of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, was a brave masterstroke by someone approaching the problems of SW Asia with an unsteady amount of political capital. In the topsy-turvy world of parlimentary politics, the Labour Party's rancorous appeasement-minded left wing, particularly Blair's own cabinet, could threaten Blair's tenure in office. In response, Blair can enforce some pretty draconian rules pertaining to loyalty. Such a fight between the parliamentary Know-Nothings and the New Labour Prime Minister could render useless Labour's sizeable majority in the House of Commons, opening the door for the Tories to enter the political vacuum. However, Blair has displayed a deft capacity of subduing the unruly Parliament members arrayed before him. Basically put, Blair is smarter than the Old Labour constituency. He plays the game exceptionally well, relying on both his own speechmaking prowess and the awesome powers bestowed upon No. 10 Downing Street to get his way.

A particularly intelligent move by Blair was to match numbers to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. According to Blair, it would only take 45 minutes for Iraq to arm, deploy, and launch chemical-tipped warheads not only at Israel, but at NATO partner Turkey as well. An attack on Turkish positions is an automatic Article 5 contingency in the North Atlantic Charter -- an attack on one is an attack on all. That is a mere 15 minutes more warning that NATO used to have in the event of a Soviet ballistic missile strike.

The problem here isn't that Blair and his American allies aren't "making the case" for an Iraq strike. Essentially, the appeasers on both sides of the Atlantic wouldn't accept even the most compelling documentation of Iraq's threat to SW Asia. Still, Blair bravely decided to walk the tightrope, showing courage that Germany's Gerard Schroder could have used during his disgraceful campaign for reelection. Even France has shown more durability as an ally.

"One day there will be only five kings left, hearts, spades, diamonds, clubs, and England."
-- King Farouk of Egypt, shortly after his overthrow by Gamal Abdel-Nasser.

Monday, September 23, 2002

ZoNotes: All I Want Is Sharks...

What an abysmal showing by the Cowboys yesterday. After building a 10-3 lead, the 'Boys then surrendered 31 consectuive points to the Philadelphia Eagles. Sadness, sadness throughout the land.

NBC's liberal pipe dream The West Wing wrapped up best drama last night at the Emmys, edging HBO's risk-taking and novel Six Feet Under. What Wing has going for it isn't just the leftist hyperdramatic eccentricity, but also the subject matter. High political drama is a very hit-or-miss proposition. That NBC has retained a reasonably strong ensemble cast that includes Martin Sheen as President Bartlett shows that the network is committed to maintaining the show's "creative" vitality. Unfortunately, some of the show's characters recite the hard left line by rote. The, shall we say, political lens is sickeningly narrow and more centrist and rightist viewpoints are left by the wayside. Thank God for Fox News.

"I was so naive as a kid I used to sneak behind the barn and do nothing." --
Johnny Carson.