Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thoughts of the day

I watched The Hurt Locker. I thought it was a good character-centered drama based on EOD in OIF. I had no complaints about the portrayal of soldiers and that's uncommon praise. One can't get more front-line than EOD in Iraq; if soldiers go to the enemy in general and combat troops go to the "sound of the guns", then EOD in Iraq (and Afghanistan, for that matter) go to the head of the pack as the troops who put hands on IEDs. A few places in the movie felt authentic enough that I hoped the scenes of EOD at work are different enough from actual SOP so the enemy can't use the movie to train. The movie highlighted how frightening, pressure-filled, complicated, and morally and emotionally wrenching service is on the front-lines in Iraq. There were two scenes that didn't make sense: the absence of air support in the sniper scene and the 3-man EOD team running into a neighborhood and splitting up.

TV favorite: Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Remember Me. Shout-outs to more favorite TV: NG's Seconds From Disaster (a show about the fascinating topic of event cascade) and Air Emergency, and AP's Monsters Inside Me.

AAARI is showing the 2009 edition of its Sunset Cinema series. This year, the first movie was 2003 film Better Luck Tomorrow. I've looked forward to watching it for a while as a famous slickly made film about the Gen-X Asian-American experience - the West coast version of our experience, anyway. The movie certainly featured an impressive cast of Gen-X Asian-American actors and a middle-class Asian-American setting, but it didn't strike me as a profound expression of our point of view. Rather, I thought the Gen-X Asian-American part served interchangeably as a setting for a cynical, amoral story in the category of 1998 film, Very Bad Things. In other words, the identity group of the characters wasn't integral; another identity easily could have been subsituted for the characters and setting without a substantive loss to the story. Still, it's good to see my generation of Asian-Americans represented on screen and prominent in pop culture.

On activism. Yesterday's AAARI showing, Ikiru by Japanese master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, told the story of a bureaucrat with terminal cancer who redeems his busily unproductive life by fighting against the status quo to engineer an act of real creation before he dies. The movie touched my activist side and what I hope to gain from law school. The heart of activism is a worthy cause and the will to fight against an entrenched status quo and the people, including those on one's own side, who perpetuate the status quo. But in the movie, the town's women who were given the run-around by the city government supplied the cause and came with the will; the cause and the will weren't enough by themselves to make a difference. The park was built because Watanable adopted the cause, gained the will, and supplied the necessary position and know-how to break through the status quo and impose his will. In short, I can have a cause and the will, but I must gain the necessary skill-set and position in order to impose my will and make a difference.

Aside from activism, Iriku's depiction of Watanabe with his ex-subordinate Toyo Odagiri captured the men's wish for vibrant, unaffected, young, healthy female companionship - she who brings light to the darkness. It restirred the years-old recurring thoughts: Emily ... Judy ... Kulski ... Hernandez ... Traci ... Barrera. Sure, I wasted almost all the time of that precious period of my life, but it's not as though I didn't try at all within my window of opportunity. The thing is, all I got back was negative feedback when I did try, and the harder I tried, the worse the feedback. Given (superficially) who she married, though, would it have been different if I hadn't given her a copy of the log - which is to say, how far off target was I, really?

An educational TV show about effective hard-core activists is AP's Whale Wars, which follows the Sea Sheperds in the Antarctic Ocean as they confront the Japanese whaling fleet. I don't appreciate the show because I have any strong opinion about whaling or environmentalists. Instead, the show offers insight into organizing principles, sustainable operations, the different types of people needed at different levels of the organization, the skills needed, the leadership needed, the learning nature, the organization, tools, core competencies, and the publicity apparatus needed, etc., to elevate an activist cause to a difference-making level against a dedicated opposition while not crossing important lines.

The 1st episode of Fox's new show Glee was really, really good. Since I can't watch the show this fall, I'll need to record the episodes or, hopefully, they'll be on-line. Lea Michele (playing Rachel Berry) is a terrific musical theater talent. Her voice and expression rival Lea Salonga, and her acting ability surpasses Lea Salonga. Cory Monteith (playing Finn Hudson) actually seems to be the least talented singer of the glee club, even though he's portrayed as a prodigious natural talent. Also interesting is the glee club improving dramatically in the short time the students ran the club while their coach Will Shuester (played by Matthew Morrison) nearly resigned his teaching post; the club was mediocre while he was coaching it. I like the theme that state of being is fluid and dynamic; loss of leadership and mismanagement caused McKinley High School's glee club to fall from national champ to being disbanded and, now, the high school's new glee club is being built from less than nothing into a force.

Mariah Carey at her best, singing Hero in 1993. Beautiful.

RIP Michael Jackson. In my opinion, I'll Be There and Ben are Michael Jackson at his singing best, though his brilliant dancing and showmanship came later in his solo career.

RIP Walter Cronkite. He retired in 1981, before I paid attention to the TV news. I grew up watching his successor on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather. I'm sure Cronkite in most respects was as great an anchorman as he's portrayed. But, I doubt he will ever be held accountable for his terrible misreading of the Tet Offensive and subsequent critical contribution to American and South Vietnamese defeat in the Vietnam War, which has served as the model for our enemies since then.

I've been obsessing a bit over the question: Is Cole, a side character in Bravo's NYC Prep, a Stuyvesant student? I'm surprised that I haven't been able to find the answer on-line. He's always described as "public school" without mention of which high school he attends. 10/2/11 update: Cole is Cole Garson and he attended Hunter HS.


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