Friday, November 25, 2005

what is wrong with the world part 2: moral philosphy comes from watching movies and tv

Short Intermission ...
God hates me. I know this because he conspired to take away my hot water the morning I'm flying to Wellington for a meeting with [Government Department who would prefer to remain nameless]. Cue 5:30am "shower" that involved a lot of wincing and muttered curses. Contrary to what you might think, cold showers don't really wake you up, they just mutate sleepiness into grumpiness. And they make you feel as if you aren't quite clean, which is not what you want when are going into a meeting full of impressive monkey-suited bureaucrats (I should point out I was in a monkey-suit too, but I only countenance to wear it to weddings, funerals, and meetings with bureaucrats-in-monkey-suits - I'm too low down the feeding chain to wear monkey suits on a regular basis). Praise be to landlords who fix these things by the time I get home.
Intermission Ends

So, to recap: Good guys in movies don't kill bad people in cold blood. Case in point - Seven. If you haven't seen Seven then I'm going to spoil the ending for you, but I'm not apologising because if you haven't seen Seven yet you deserve what's coming. At the end Detective Mills (played by Brad Pitt) is tricked into shooting serial killer John Doe (played by Kevin Spacey) while John Doe is tied up and kneeling in a field in the middle of nowhere. They are out in the middle of nowhere because John Doe is going to reveal the location of the remains of his seventh victim. The seventh victim turns out to be Mills' wife, that fact being revealed when a FedEx van arrives with her head in a sealed courier box. Mills, not surprisingly, kills John Doe. But before he kills him he actually agonises over it (and the agony is palpable - not a bad effort from Pitt; though the movie is really a tour de force for Morgan Freeman).

Now one of the reasons he agonises is because he knows that John Doe wants to be killed ... but more than that he agonises because he knows it is the wrong thing to do. It is the classic dichotomy that you see in a million cop dramas - the tension between duty and personal feelings - and while we sympathize with the personal feelings, we also understand that duty should win out, that the good cop holds to the law and follows duty, and the weak or bad cop does not.

Sorry if this is all beginning to sound a little Yoda-ish.

Now I should be careful to say that I am not equating good and bad with attractiveness. Let's face it - really good people, people who never bend the rules, never have a harsh word to say about anyone, and live pure and full of grace, those people make our teeth hurt, especially on film or TV. Hell, we hate the bastards for showing us up. And we often like bad people because they are able to do whatever the hell they like and damn the consequences (when you are raised a catholic you know for damn sure we are all very, very bad people, barely held in check by our baser instincts to rape, pillage, murder and seduce priests). But whilst we may be rooting for the bad guy (Robert De Niro's character in Heat comes to mind), we know that he is bad.

So good guys follow the rules or have a code. Where the code come from is a little hard to work out ... so I'm going to ignore that problem for a little while. I should point out that if you read Terry Pratchett (esp Night Watch), you probably already have an outline of the code in your head already.

Other bits of the code:

Thou shalt not torture, though you can threaten people with torture, and pretend to torture ... just never go through with the actual deed.
Thou shalt save women, children and small furry animals, at the risk of your own life, the lifes of others, and the entirety of western civilisation.

I'm sure you can all think of others, and that is what the comments box is for.

Golly. Looks like this is going to be a 3-part post. Lucky you. But before I go, I'd like to quote a conversation from one of my favorite comics - Cerebus (just in case you haven't come across Cerebus, it's a sword 'n sourcery piss-take, who's hero is a barbarian aardvark). Because it's going to have bearing on some stuff later:

Magician: The balance of good and evil is difficult to maintain ... with your co-operation I can create a mighty magical weapon that will tip the balance in favour of good ...
Cerebus: And how does Cerebus know that you aren't evil ... trying to trick him?
Magician: Because I am in tune with the universe! Because I seek growth and light! Because I endure all in my pursuit of a long and fruitful life!
Cerebus: So does the average tree.
Magician: (hmm! think! think!) Aha! I'm good because the magician I'm guarding against is EVIL!
Cerebus: But that's another question you can't answer ... what makes him evil?
Magician: What makes him evil?! He weras black all the time! He talks with his mouth full! He never brushes his teeth! He stays out all night! He never finishes his vegetables!
Cerebus: You don't need a magical weapon. What you need is a babysitter.
Magician: A magician's life-span is five or six thousand years ... either you help me or I'll keep you here debating until your fur turns white ...

Interesting Discussions:
US author lauds suicide bombers

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Was there really a fascist plot to overthrow the United States government?

Book currently giving me nightmares:
The Right Nation: Why America is different, by John Micklewait and Adrian Wooldridge. I'm not far enough into it to verify whether these guys are as non-partisan as they claim, but even if they are biased it's a bloody good history lesson so far.
Best quote:
The man who did most to transform neoconservatism from an impulse into a movement was Irving Kristol ... Kristol combined a sharp intellect with a wry sense of humour (he once defined a liberal as someone who thinks that it's alright for an eighteen-year-old girl to perfom in a pornographic film so long as she is paid the minimum wage) ...
golly. It's true too (if you don't believe me, swap "pornographic film" with prositution) ... should I feel bad? I should probably add that they should also get OSH inspections, redundency provisions and proper training (I am currently seeking sponsors to create The New Zealand Institute of Negotiable Affection; featuring classes in small business ownership, marketing, drama and, um, physical therapy. Apathy Jack will be the Vice Chancellor)

Blog set to the following tune(s):
The Best of Miami Vice - Jan Hammer
Unfortunately it is the remastered version, so I'm probably going to have to shell out for this as well, dagnabbit.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

what is wrong with the world - part 1: filtered through the lense of James Bond

Since I had the most amusing stomach bug last night (oh, how I laughed) I decided to take the day off and spent some time sleeping, reading and watching movies. And before you ask, no, the stomach bug wasn't related to my chicken dish - I last prepared that a week ago, so it's not guilty.

The movie I watched was Goldeneye - directed by Martin Campbell, who is coincidentally a New Zealander (Martin's film list is pretty light, but among the possible gems is one called "The Sex Thief" and another whose aka is "Sex Games of the Very Rich". Who knew a boy from NZ had it in him? Ahem). Goldeneye is, in my humble opinion, the best Pierce Brosnan bond-flick (unfortunately, they pretty much seem to have gotten worse as they went along, although you can't really fault Pierce for that), and definitely one of the better ones in the bond canon. It is very nicely shot, the action scenes are decently exciting (especially the beginning jump from the dam), and has a nice turn from Sean Bean as the villan, Alec Trevelyan - and as a bonus has one of the more delectable bond love interests, Izabella Scorupco. The main complaint I have is that the villan's plot ends up being pretty small cheese - hacking into bank computers and then setting off an EMP aimed at london to cover your tracks seems pretty small cheese compared with, say, trying to spark a nuclear war by space-jacking US and Russian spacecraft from your base in a Japanese mountain.

Anyway, Goldeneye, whilst a good film, has an interesting moment in it. Right at the end we have the obligatory bond-vs-villan-hand-to-hand-fight, where Bond gets his ass kicked until the very last second when he manages to get the upper hand. He kicks
Trevelyan, who then proceeds to fall off the very-high-off-the-ground antenna-array. Only Bond catches him. They exchange a few words (Trevelyan: "for England, James?"; Bond: "No. For me.") - and then Bond drops him.

I mention this because I think it violates one of the rules of being A Good Guy In A Movie. The first rule of being a good guy is: when you have your mortal enemy at your mercy, your mortal enemy who has very recently plotted the end of the world, killed your mother, eaten the hearts of several children, and, without sufficient cause, kicked your cat - when you have him/her at your mercy you do not summarily execute him. Nope, you take him/her back for a fair trial by a jury of their peers. Of course, all going well, your mortal enemy will reach for his hidden knife/gun/blunt instrument and try to kill you while your back is turned, at which point you can spin round and cap his ass with a clean conscience.

This has a point.

I am going somewhere with this. Tomorrow.

Interesting Discussions:
UK Independent: US forces 'used chemical weapons' during assault on city of Fallujah
cf No Right Turn's White Phosphorus in Fallujah and White Phosphorus is a chemical weapon
The snopes discussion brings up an interesting point about is it morally worse to die one way or another which is something I'd like to come back to at a later date, so this is just to remind me ...

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Operation Able Archer: Were the United States and the Soviet Union on the brink of nuclear war?

Recommended DVD:
Le Pacte des loups (The Brotherhood of the Wolf), directed by Christophe Gans (I know, I'd never heard of him before either). Makes the Matrix fight scenes look positively amateurish; fighting in the rain has never looked so damn cool. Add in crazy catholic cults, a weird monster, a Native American martial-arts practitioner? ... and the most beautiful girl in the entire world, Émilie Dequenne. Two words of warning: 1. some of the moster attacks are rather graphic and brutal - not for the faint-hearted; 2. Watch it in French with subtitles. The English dubbing is incredibly shit.

Book I'm Re-reading:
Sleep Walking Through History: America in the Reagan Years, by Haynes Johnson. George W. Bush learned alot from Reagan ...

Monday, November 21, 2005

The electric frypan of love

  • take 4 chicken thighs, skinless (boneless is a bonus, but not strictly necessary)
  • soak liberally in sweet chilli sauce
  • dip generously in a mixture of wholemeal breadcrumbs, lemon pepper, garlic salt, paprika for colour, and a dash of cayenne pepper (proportions: lots of breadcrumbs, a generous amount of lemon pepper, garlic salt to taste, a modicum of paprika, and just a little bit of cayenne because it kicks like a gorrdam mule)
  • cook slowly on well-oiled (covered) electric frypan for approx 45min-1hr, turning occasionally. If so inclined, turn up the heat at the end and crisp it up
  • if you have any leftover sweet chilli sauce and breadcrumb mixture, chuck them together and fry them in the pan with the chicken, for an extra sweet and crispy "gravy".
Addendum: instead of frying the leftover sauce/breadcrumbs, a recent innovation is chopping up half an onion and frying those in with the leftovers. If you really wanted to get crazy you could thinly dice some potato and add that too, but I can't be held responsible for the consequences ...

virgin on the ridiculous

.... because this is my first post - so be gentle. Virgin, of course meaning any of following (from

  1. Of, relating to, or being a virgin; chaste.
  2. Being in a pure or natural state; unsullied: virgin snow.
  3. Unused, uncultivated, or unexplored: virgin territory.
  4. Existing in native or raw form; not processed or refined.
... although possibly I'm stretching a little in describing myself as chaste.

But not, I should say, virgin in the sense of the town of Virgin, Utah. Those crazy Utahrians ... of course, if the pace of Virgin, Utah is a little too sedate for you, I reckon you should move on over to Scaggsville, Maryland. For the singles scene, of course. There's a lesson in this, which I think boils down to: never put your photo on the internet where bloggers can find it.

This, being my first post, is less than serious, and less than on topic. The topic of this blog, assuming I don't get sidetracked and start blogging about how my job drives me nuts and my collegues are fools (it doesn't, and they aren't, but I've got to crack someday) ... as I was saying, the topic of this blog will be my general mediations or meditations on being good and doing the right thing; because it's the thing I read about most, that will probably start with discussing U.S. foreign policy, but hopefully we won't just get bogged down in Iraq. My purpose is to test my own ideas, so comments are definitely most welcome.

My first loves are reading books, watching movies and finding interesting stuff on the internet, and so I'll try to remember to recommend stuff as I go along. For books and DVDs forgive me if I link often to - I'm an afficianardo rather than a reviewer, but Amazon usually has a wealth of good comments so you can make informed decisions. Personally I buy most of my DVDs from DVD Pacific because they are cheap and reliable and quote their prices in New Zealand dollars. But rest assured none of these sites is giving me money - worse luck. Note to any corporations listening - I am open to bribery, preferably in the form of DVDs, but I'll take money and/or women too.

Book I'm re-reading:
The Amber Spyglass, 3rd book in Philip Pullman's series His Dark Materials.

Recommended DVD:
Young Sherlock Holmes, directed by Barry Levinson (to be frank probably his best work) and written by Chris Columbus - who most recently directed and made a decent fist of the first two Harry Potter movies, but who should be more famous for writing two of the best movies of my childhood: The Goonies and Gremlins.

Interesting Discussion:
Five questions non-Muslims would like answered

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
When the zombies take over, how long till the electricity fails?

Blog set to the following tunes:
Chocolate - Snow Patrol
lyric -
Just because I'm sorry doesn't mean
I didn't enjoy it at the time

ps I was joking about accepting bribes in the form of women. Everyone knows the exchange rate is terrible.