Something Must be Done

Debate is like a living system, without input, without constant energy it stagnates and withers.

This is the case with the argument over Iraq.The bickering has gone too far. The motivations have gotten too muddy. The purpose has been lost, reinvented, spun, lost and reinvented again. The legal hairs can't be split much thinner. What should be the defining set of events for the times has become a money pit and a field for an ongoing partisan pissing match. The debate is rusting on the vine, devoid of new ideas, of intellectual nutrient.

In my ongoing tradition of offering Batshit Crazy Solutions to intractable political problems, if only to get the conversation moving, here's an idea for the future of the war.

Declare Iraq an official territory/colony of the United States. Let's make Iraq a fully functioning part of the U-S of A. We're going to be mired there for the next half century anyway so we should be honest about the stakes. If we're going to put ourselves in the business of nation building won't we be so much more dedicated if the nation is our own?

This would clear up the legal haze that surrounds much of the US's activity in Iraq. Can US contractors in Iraq be held accountable for misdeeds? Yes, because they are operating on American soil and subject to American law. Is torture an acceptable method of interrogation? No, because we would be interrogating American citizens. Do habeas corpus and other principles of American constitutional law apply? Yes, because Iraq is sovereign American territory.

This would have profound implications for our diplomatic relations in the region. Would Iran continue its supposed support of the insurgency if doing so were tantamount to fueling an armed rebellion in North America? Would Turkey bomb the Kurdish norther territories if doing so were equivalent to bombing Colorado or South Carolina? Would other nations in the region deign to posture against American interests if they knew we were willing to defend Iraq as sovereign territory? Would they even need to posture if they witnessed that level of commitment?

How quickly would the insurgency's will be broken if they knew that we had no intention of ever vacating the country? How long would opposition last if the disenfranchised of Iraq knew that they could play a part not only in the government of their own corner of the world but of the whole United States. How much more effective would the Iraqi regulars we train be if they came out of Paris Island and wore old glory on their shoulders? How long would the Sunni/Shiite pissing match go if Iraqi public schools taught English and instilled American ideals of diversity, tolerance and freedom of belief?

Most of you are cringing, muttering under your breath about how insane such a proposition is. I freely grant that it's not a very palatable idea but it is one firmly grounded in the reality of our foreign policy. Let's not be coy about our intentions in civilization's cradle. Military, business and intelligence interests in the United States have been pushing for a permanent presence in the middle east since before the second world war. We've threatened, purchased, bombed and propagandized our way into perpetual involvement in the region so let's go whole hog and quit dancing around the obfuscations of out petty and perfidious diplomacy.

So here's to an American Iraq. It wouldn't be easy. It wouldn't be fast. It would, however, be honest and decisive, two things that we have never before been in that part of the world.


What is Christmas to You?

She asked it with a snide tone, an accusatory tone. It wasn't a polite question. It wasn't some feel good, love the season, tinsel, candy cane, bows on baby's brows, family dinner and wassail kind of question. It was a sharp tongued, you're not Christian, what do you know, how dare you cross my path whilst shopping, heathens ruin Jesus' America, thank you for corrupting our second-most-holiest of days, kind of question. Like I said, with a snide tone.

No, I'm not Christian, but Christmas is, nonetheless, a holy day.

Christmas, to me, has nothing to do with miracle births, overbooked inns or trekking wise men. It's not about shopping, eating, giving or receiving. Sure, these things happen but they're not what it's about. It's not about snowmen. It's not about company parties. It's not about knicknacks on trees or mistletoe. It's not about any of those things but still, the day is holy, holy indeed.

Why? Why is Christmas holy to a Pagan like me? Because Christmas isn't just Christmas. Christmas is simply the modern, Christian, western dominated incarnation of a global phenomenon. Whether the customs are the same, whether the theological justification is the same, whether the cultural significance is the same, or not, this event is recognized by virtually all people on Earth. The solstice, the apex of the planet's orbit, the shortest day of the year, is observed, in one form or another by all peoples.

To Pagans like me Yule is a literal holiday; we celebrate the end of the sun's waning and the brightening of the new year. In much of the Muslim middle east the day of Shabe Yaldā is celebrated with feasting and family. In China, Tāngyuán dumplings are shared to symbolize family unity during the festival of Dōngzhì. Jews, of course, have Hanukkah commemorating the miraculous dedication of the Second Temple. Though, in the Talmudic tradition, the the solstice day is properly called Teḳufat Ṭebet, commemorating the day when Judge Jephtha of Gilead sacrificed his daughter to the tetragrammaton god. And, to the followers of the Nazarene, it is the day that the King of Kings was humbly born. Two billion people, a third the world's population call this day Christmas but the other four billion still have names for this day, or a day shortly adjacent. This holiday may be one of the only cultural universals, one of the only things that everyone, everywhere can understand and agree upon.

That's what Christmas it to me. It's the one day when everyone is of the same mind. It's an annual reminder that, despite the strife and pain in the world, beneath the tragedy of the human-invented condition, beyond the distrust and the misdeeds each group of people seem so intent on heaping upon all others, there will always be some stripe of similarity. For all of our hard work dwelling on colors, nationalities, ethnicities and, yes, faiths, this day has significance to all people, regardless. If that does not spark reverence, awe; if that does not lead one to say, "today is holy," then I don't know what will.

Christmas is the single best reminder that we are all so much more alike than we will ever be different. That's Christmas to me.

Brightest blessings.
Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.


I Blame Lou Dobbs, Just Because

On the news this afternoon I saw four, that's four, commercials in a row that advocated giving one's spouse a car for Xmas.

Seriously, a fucking car?

Who can afford that? Fuel prices are up. Real wages are down. Car prices are up, largely on account of automakers buying a quarter of all TV airtime in order to proffer this kind of schlock. The entire country is in the middle of a massive credit squeeze and advertising executives think the operative selling point for a twenty thousand dollar plus bit of merchandise is that jingling keys make a good stocking stuffer?

Who are these people selling to?

Actually, we know who they're selling to. Of the four commercials, one was for Mercedes, two were for Lexus and the one with the Saturns seemed to indicate that the cars were a prize one could win by overspending on the rest of one's holiday shopping, totally ignoring the tax liability one would incur in such a sweepstakes. Obviously not intended for anyone that might need to balance a checkbook from month to month.

As usual, it's about income bracket and the ecstasy of consumption, not about sense.


Lightweight Lightningseed

During a nap this afternoon I had a dream, not a full, REM deep stage dream. I'd only been asleep for fifteen minutes or so but a sort of half waking dream. It was vivid, intense, even tactile. I was floating, or rather flying with great speed but little control as if I was hanging by a cord from an invisible helicopter that kept changing direction without warning, swooping me close to the ground and then drawing me swiftly up into the clouds as we crossed over alternately picturesque and post-apocalyptic landscapes.

All this was narrated in a young woman's voice, by verbatim excerpts from Neil Stephenson's The Diamond Age, specifically from The Young Lady's Illustrated Primer.

It's a good thing I'm not into dream analysis or this might creep me out.


On Film Making: The Best Boy

When I tell someone that I work in movies and after all the, "Oh, did you make _________?" "Do you know anyone famous?" "How do they do (insert special effect)?" questions have passed, one of the most common questions I get is:

What does a Best Boy do?

In movie parlance, Best Boy is actually a rank, or more specifically, a pay scale. The top rank in any of the craft departments is typically called the "Key," hence the designations Key Grip, Key Makeup and Key Set PA, etc. The Best Boy is the second in command of a given department. Often though, the number two in a given department has another title because they have a particular task like Boom Operators and 1st AC's* or because custom dictates that they are called something else, like Assistant Makeup Techs. This is why only a handful of the craftspeople on set are called by this name.

Some crew members that do not carry the attendant authority are also paid on this level because they have a specific skill or position that calls for it such as Dolly Grips and FX Techs.

You are thusly enlightened.

*Camera people are covered by a different division of the Union than most other craftspeople so the ranks and payscales don't automatically match up when comparing camera to any other department. I make a point to say this because some in the industry would not consider a 1st AC and a Boom Op to be the same rank. They are probably not paid the same. However, they are both the second highest ranking technician in their departments.**

**Without getting into how the DP ranks in comparison to the rest of the crew.


Secrets to Success

For an actress to be a success, she must have the face of a Venus, the brains of a Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of a Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros.

- Ethel Barrymore


Remember, Creationism is Only a Theory and They All Have to Go to Heaven One Day.

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

- Max Planck


If you are a citizen of the United States of America

Never, ever forget this singular idea:

The government works for you. It is your servant, your provider, your guardian but never, not for a moment, your commander. It must bow to you but you must never, ever, bow to it.

If this ever ceases to be the case, revolution is in order.

This is the design that underlies America and it is tied to the very definition of patriot.

This is liberty, defined.


Alexandria Burned.

When I walk into someone's home for the first time, I tend to pay very little attention. I'm simply uninterested in the fashion and pretension of decorating. I don't care for furniture, fixtures, framed art or bricabrac so I mostly just ignore it all.

There is one thing that sticks out to me, that troubles me when I walk into a house: books, or rather, their absence. My house is piled high with them, so is my parents', so was my grandparents'. I grew up surrounded by dozens of volumes, by tomes of every description. They seem as vital to a home as trees to a forest. As a result, a home devoid of books is strangely hollow. A domicile lacking books is, more empty than a home lacking tables, couches and chairs. Such a place, no matter how decorated, is cavernous, stark, bare and I find it physically uncomfortable to be there.

I've spent time shooting in three bookless houses this year, all huge, multi-million dollar homes in some of the city's most affluent neighborhoods, all decorated in the most severe, fashionable, expensive styles and all absolutely barren of bound volumes, save perhaps a cookbook or something with the words "for Dummies" in the title. All empty, empty, empty.

I do not like such places.

Here's to a more literate year.


The Golden Compass and a Big WTF?

Rife with anti-Christian propaganda, full over with animated characters and fantastic tableaux while subtly undermining biblical axioms, The Golden Compass threatens the teachings and fellowship of Christ in the minds of those most vulnerable to wickedness' influence. It must be stopped and a message must be sent to Hollywood that Christian America will no longer stand to have our most cherished beliefs mocked and attacked.

Oh, fucking please. Where do people get this crap?

CNN.com quoted Adam Holz of Focus on the Family as calling Pullman's books and the subsequent film a "deliberate attempt to foist his viciously anti-God beliefs upon his audience."

Seriously, what is wrong with you people?

Is your faith is so weak, your religious principles so tenuous and your teachings to your children so easily undermined as to face a serious ideological threat from James Bond Blonde, Tom Cruise's ex-wive and two hours of CGI? If it is perhaps you should rethink how you spend your Sunday mornings.

I love movies and I have dedicated my life to making them. Movies are a supremely important cultural force but these people are really over-estimating the theological influence that a single, mass market, fiction film can have. Considering that The Passion of the Christ converted precisely zero people to Christianity I don't really anticipate The Golden Compass turning many people away from it.

Then again, we can hope, can't we?


I Will Never Understand Maxim...

...or Vogue or any of the rest of the fashion industry with their pages and pages of severe, hard eyed, humorless, perpetually bored-looking models.

It amazes me that people who spend their entire professional lives scrutinizing the female form, that dedicate themselves to selling lust and beauty never seem to realize that, of all the things that can be photographed, the sexiest attribute a woman can have is a radiant smile.


Oh, for the Sake of it, Just Shut Up!

I have recently become annoyed by all the third rate, anti-critical, credulous, foolish, self-important, intellectually deleterious, imperious, arrogant, despotic, absolutist,dogmatic,obdurate bloviation bobbing about the blogosphere.

Then again, I have to ask myself, am I guilty of the same sin that I despise?