Thursday, January 22, 2004

War, Lies & Videotape

It's nearly a year now since the world bore witness to one of the most remarkable shows of public unity in history. As the UN debated the fate of Iraq, even many governments found themselves bowing to the will of the people.

Of course, despite the calls of Hans Blix and Dr ElBaradi for more time to inspect Iraq, we went to war. The weapons inspectors were convinced that, given another few months they could achieve the aims of the UN. They were never given that chance.

And so, what have we achieved?

George W Bush in his state of the union address claims that the world is now a safer place following the war on Iraq. I'm sure the people in Instanbul feel much safer. What about the people of Iraq?

Do we think the families of 16,000 Iraqi dead are over-joyed? What about the 40% of Iraqis who have no access to water, when they did a year ago? What about the people of Israel and Palestine? Are they safer with a Berlin-esque wall going up?

What about our troops? Over 500 American dead, plus over 100 from other nations. Do our troops feel safe?

Thing is, nobody seems to care anymore. And is it any wonder? On the day of the tragic bomb attack in Instanbul what do you think was dominating the news networks in the US? It was a story which in the grand scheme of things is neither here nor there. Michael Jackson's arrest. Isn't it just a little worrying that so little foreign news filters through to the American psyche?

And that's the thing. Not only are these stories not interesting enough for headline news anymore, but people have stopped talking about it too.

A year on from the global anti-war movement that shook governments to their core, and most people in the western world seem happy to carry on with their lives without a thought for the monumental events of the last 12 months. I get people constantly saying to me, "well what's done is done, let's just move on... I'm so bored about hearing about this war"

Well? Tough.

The people of this world cannot move on. We have been lied to by our governments. I for one will not apologise the next time a friend complains about me harping on about the war or George Bush or Tony Blair. These events effect the very fabric of our lives. The people who ignore it are hiding from reality. Whether it's through watching too much Big Brother or paying too much attention to the shit spewed out by the national press. The anti-war movement has stagnated. It needs to move again. Those who are guilty of war crimes must be punished, be they Iraqi, British or American. Those who have removed our democratic rights must be removed from office. It is not a time to move on. It's a time to fight. To fight for the democracy we hold dear or lose it forever.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Last Samurai

As another year begins it truly can mean only one thing... the oscar big guns are out on show.

As the world prepares itself for the usual blitz of over-produced hollywood thinking-mans movies, I could be excused for taking a break from the cinema. But how could I? I mean it's not like Oscar season doesn't produce a single worthy film (even though Chicago was the most over-rated pile of shit in years). And with that thought in mind I come to a man who has still to win that coveted statuette. Ickle Tom Cruise.

I had prepared myself for hating The Last Samurai. But for the second time in a couple of months I actually left the cinema having enjoyed a hollywood big gun.

The Last Samurai is loosely based on the life of SaigĂ´ Takamori (renamed Katsumoto in the film), the legendary samurai who helped to restore the Emperor to power in Japan only to see his people stripped of their honour and traditionals as his leaders sought to modernise.

As a historical reference the film needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. I myself was mistakenly under the impression that the film was more closely true to the real story. Alas I shouldn't have expected so much from Hollywood. The american hero, Algren (Cruise), sent to Japan to train the Emperors army for an assault on Katsumoto is an entirely fictional and sadly unoriginal character. Algren, bitter and full of remorse for his part in the slaughter of american natives draws little sympathy here, because I've seen it all before.

But perhaps I'm dwelling too much on the negative. After all, the film doesn't claim to be a true story.

The real gem of this movie is Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). Seeing his world of the Samurai (however dramatised for the screen) overtaken by modernisation is both poignant and gripping. The fight scenes are superbly choreographed and the Japanese ruling council (aided by the Americans) are suitably sinister.

Another stand-out character is that of Simon Graham (Timothy Spall), whose reporting of events gives the film some historical street-cred, although he remains another work of fiction.

But of course the question remains, will this movie bring Tom his statuette? In a word... No. It isn't that he's bad. He clearly turned up and did his job, but it just isn't enough. It's no Born on the Fourth of July performance (one that truly merits far more recognition).

Alas, I fear that Tom may be destined for one of those life-time achievement awards (aka spare Oscars) in later life. Which is a shame in one way, but also quite funny when you think about it ;-)

The Last Samurai: 6.5/10

Monday, January 19, 2004

Goddam computers

Spent the last week trying to fix my PC and restore data after a hard-drive crash. Bastard pieces of shit computers.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Humanities great legacy

After months of talk about how George Bush and his friends over at PNAC were going to end the world it was actually quite refreshing to get to chapter 3 of Michael Moore's new book (Dude Where's My Country) and find that this one was all about global warming, the environment and the mad scramble for the last scraps of oil.

The picture Moore paints of a not too distant future is bleak and harsh. A world in which the governments squandered their chances to invest in finding alternatives to oil in favour of lining their pockets. A world in which billions die from starvation. A world with no hope.

Today we found out that he may not be too far from the truth. The Independent and The Guardian both ran front page spreads detailing the collaborative findings of scientists from around the globe. The results were shocking. Over 1 million species of life will become extinct in the next 50 years. 1 in 10 animals and plants will be killed off.

Welcome to mankinds greatest legacy.

We may debate Iraq, WMDs, terrorism and the pysychotic Republicans and Neo-Cons in the White House, but the fact is that it all comes down to the environment. There are 6 billion people on this planet. At our current rate we need 1.2 planets just to guarantee enough resources for the population. Meanwhile our politicians look greedily towards their next terms of office, ignoring the warnings.

Kyoto never went far enough. Something has to be done. It needs leaders. Leaders who aren't swayed by the money of big corporations. Leaders who don't let their own egos get in the way of making the big decisions. Leaders who care about more than their re-election hopes.

Alas, my ramblings have turned into utopian optimism. Truth is, I've never known a major political leader in my lifetime with one, let alone all, of those qualities.

I have to admit... I'm glad Holly and I are not planning to have children. Would I really want them to inherit the shit-hole of a planet this place will be by the time I die?

Monday, January 05, 2004

Top invasion destinations 2004

With the curtain having just been raised on the Presidential Primaries in the US, you'd imagine that the last thing on a Presidents mind would be invading another country. I mean, war may be good for business, but surely not in an election year. However, you should never underestimate the planners of our New American Century (TM), and for this reason I've compiled a list of the likely invasion destinations for King George 'The Unelected' and Footstool Tony:

Many peoples hot favourite for a taste of democracy american-style, this little country has the audacity to be bang in between the tranquil, free, american dreamland of Iraq and the land of milk and honey - Israel. With Bush pushing to make the middle east a safe place for all western businessmen you just can't have a rogue nation sitting on your doorstep threatening the father of all peace-loving doves Ariel Sharon. Plus with Saddam eager to cut any deal he can to avoid a public stoning in the newly renamed George W Bush square, Baghdad, Syria must be getting mighty worried that the former hugging partner of Donald Rumsfeld might finger them for those missing WMDs. But all is not lost yet Syria. Saddam may yet find all those receipts from American military corporations just in time for Bush to sweep the whole affair under the carpet as America goes to the polls. Just hope he doesn't win, otherwise... your collective arses are his come 2005.

Iran had a stroke of luck recently. If you can call an earthquake wiping out 50,000 people and devastating a nation luck, but it seems that soft-touch Bush just doesn't have the heart to invade a country which is in such desperate need of aid. Plus the potential for getting some american contractors in there to help repair the damage is just too much. Nevertheless, Iran is also sandwiched between two newly freed, democratic havens, Iraq and Afghanistan. Add to the list the recent oil finds in southern Iran and the possibility of routing the worlds most profitable oil pipeline all the way across the middle east may prove too tempting.

North Korea
Just cause it has hardly been reported on in 50 years doesn't mean the war is over. We are still technically only in a prolonged cease-fire with the North Koreans. This may have something to do with a quarter of america's armed forces being concentrated in the region. The Cold War may have ended, but there is nothing a patriotic american likes more than a bit of commie-bashin. Plus, with Korea being on the verge of becoming a fully recognised nuclear power it makes sense to try to stamp out any problems. Trouble is, that war in that region would be so bad for business given the amount of US money invested in the far east. Plus there is credible evidence to suggest that Korea may already possess a rocket powerful enough to reach the western united states. If that's true then baby Bush may just choose to cut a deal with North Korea and let them and the population of Los Angeles off the hook.

This member of old Europe may be a rank outsider, but France has been getting mightily big for it's boots in recent years. What with telling America it should try talking to those strange barbarian folk in Aye-Rack rather than just killing them, it would seem that the once long time friends of the US have been cut off the Christmas card list in favour of the nation that they helped the US defeat, Britain. Bush is said to favour an invasion of France as his top advisors have told him that Paris can be occuppied with 3 tanks and longbowman.