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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Wednesday, 18 October 2006
When Movies Get Too Real
Topic: Couldn't be so...
When Movies Get Too Real
In Metaphors Regarding Power you had two different people explaining current events by referring to movies. There was that Kuo fellow who wrote his book about how the quest for political influence had corrupted the evangelical movement, and how the key people in the administration were laughing at them all behind their backs for being such rubes. He said it was like getting the Ring of Power - you may want to do good with it, but the power corrupts you. Then Senator Santorum decided the best way to explain why we had to keep on keeping on in Iraq was that it was like in the movie - we had to keep the Eye of Mordor focused on that place so it wouldn't see us here, or something like that. It wasn't terribly clear. But both were referring, of course, to The Lord of the Rings - probably the three movies and not the Tolkien books. As we know out here in Hollywood, people do turn to popular culture, something most everyone knows in some way, to explain things. It may be rather stupid, but people often use popular commercial films to explain real life. It's no big deal. What else do we all have in common?

But sometimes it gets creepy. Consider the following.

Movies Explain Life, Part One

If you're a late baby boomer, or addicted to junk movies on the less visited cable television channels late at night, you might know The Time Machine (1960), George Pal's version of the 1895 H. G. Wells tale, starring Rod Taylor and the fetching Yvette Mimieux, as Weena. The deal here is a Victorian scientist and tinkerer builds a time machine and uses it to explore the distant future where there are two races, a mild gentle race, and a cannibalistic one living underground. His machine is stolen by the underground race and he must risk capture himself (and being eaten) to return to his own time. That's the hook. But there's something else going on.

You see, the year he ends up in is 802,701 - and he finds this apparently peaceful, pastoral, sort of Taoist future, and it's filled with happy, simple humans who call themselves the Eloi. But they're all dumb as a post and not curious about anything. As Wells would have it, this lack of intelligence and vitality is the logical result of mankind's struggle to transform and subdue nature through technology, politics, art and creativity in general. They got there, to that utopia, and found nothing. They devolved. With no work to do, they became physically weak and slight, in all senses of the word. And with no work to do and no hardships to overcome, their society eventually became non-hierarchical and non-cooperative, with no defined leaders or social classes. But then, on the bright side, there was no war and crime, but also no art or much of anything interesting (save for the lovely Yvette Mimieux). It was a crappy trade-off, depending on your point of view.

And there were the other folks - because the human race had by then diverged into two branches. The wealthy, leisure classes evolved into the ineffectual, not very bright Eloi, but the downtrodden working classes had evolved into the brutish Morlocks. These are cannibals who sort of look like albino apes and who labor underground maintaining the machinery that keep the Eloi - who are really their flocks - docile and plentiful. They eat them. It's a scary synergy - two distinctly flawed mutually dependent races with sub-human intelligence.

That's the future. Wells was not exactly an optimist.

Well neither is Oliver Curry, the evolutionary theorist at the London School of Economics. The BBC notes here, on 17 October (2006 of course), that Curry has worked out that after the year 3000 mankind will have "peaked" and at that point will be divided into two subspecies - brilliant, attractive people and weak-chinned, degenerate goblins. There's even an illustration at the BBC site.

You see it's our technology and more discriminating mating patterns that will inevitably lead to this division -
The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the "underclass" humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures.

But in the nearer future, humans will evolve in 1,000 years into giants between 6ft and 7ft tall, he predicts, while life-spans will have extended to 120 years, Dr Curry claims.

Physical appearance, driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility, will improve, he says, while men will exhibit symmetrical facial features, look athletic, and have squarer jaws, deeper voices and bigger penises. Women, on the other hand, will develop lighter, smooth, hairless skin, large clear eyes, pert breasts, glossy hair, and even features, he adds.
Ah, Yvette Mimieux and those pert breasts. But he also says racial differences will be ironed out by interbreeding. We'll all be coffee-colored. Actually, that would be cool.

And it seems Wells was right about the technology stuff ruining things - "Social skills, such as communicating and interacting with others, could be lost, along with emotions such as love, sympathy, trust and respect. People would become less able to care for others, or perform in teams." It's those I-Pod things, of course, and everyone commuting to work alone, and all the rest.

And the new humans would have been ruined by McDonalds and KFC - "Physically, they would start to appear more juvenile. Chins would recede, as a result of having to chew less on processed food."

Bummer. And there's that Eloi-Morlock thing, as sexual selection - being choosy about one's partner - will create more and more genetic inequality -
The logical outcome would be two sub-species, "gracile" and "robust" humans similar to the Eloi and Morlocks foretold by HG Wells in his 1895 novel The Time Machine.

"While science and technology have the potential to create an ideal habitat for humanity over the next millennium, there is a possibility of a monumental genetic hangover over the subsequent millennia due to an over-reliance on technology reducing our natural capacity to resist disease, or our evolved ability to get along with each other."
We get along with each other now? Well, maybe we do, relatively speaking.

This is startling stuff. Science fiction becomes reality, once again, although some of us are still waiting for our flying cars and robot housecleaners.

Reaction to all this was immediate. Shakespeare's Sister here - "I feel so torn. As an intelligent person, I'm rooting for the upper class. As a squat, goblin-like creature, I'm rooting for the underclass. What's a girl to do?"

The logical Lindsay Beyerstein, saying there not much real evidence here, and a whole lot of gloom and doom, offers this -
The stories leave a number of questions unresolved. For example haven't seen dramatic genetic changes in the human species over the last thousand years. People have gotten taller and sturdier over the years, thanks to better nutrition. Still, there's no evidence that humans today are dramatically genetically and morphologically different from people 1000 years ago. Furthermore, even if Curry could show that there have been substantial genetic changes, he would still have to establish that these differences were the result of differential reproductive success. So, why does Curry think that the next thousand years will produce a willowy super-race and a permanent goblin underclass?
Because he saw the movie, Lindsay!

The even more logical William Weston offers this -
Many observers of the rich have noticed that they use their money to select attractive mates. I have noticed that the smart tend to use their smarts to select smart mates. (Yes, there are ugly rich people and pretty smart ones; we are talking big trends here.) So, if Curry is even a little right, perhaps the Eloi of the future will be themselves divided into the smart and the handsome. And that might be a fair fight.
So you get the smart but homely Eloi, the pretty but dumb Eloi, and the damned Morlocks, who are neither. The future looks dim.

Movies Explain Life, Part Two

All war criminals, and in particular the Nazi dudes who didn't make it to the Nuremburg trials, end up in the middle of South America - Uruguay, Paraguay, interior Brazil and such places. We learned that in The Boys from Brazil (1978) - a young inexperienced Nazi hunter stumbles onto a secret SS meeting in 1970's South America. Led by the infamous Doctor Josef Mengele, the plot of the Nazis is first dismissed as unimportant by veteran Nazi hunter Lieberman. When the young Nazi hunter turns up murdered, however, Lieberman investigates the mysterious meeting and discovers an insane plot to resurrect the Führer, Adolf Hitler, and establish the Fourth Reich. Gregory Peck is Josef Mengele, Laurence Olivier is Ezra Lieberman (Simon Wiesenthal, of course), and there's James Mason, Lilli Palmer and Uta Hagen on hand. It's an amusing film.

But then there's this.

At the site "Bring It On" they've put together quite a story. It won't get much press, but it's really fascinating.

It has four parts -
  • There's this - The Cuban News Service reports that George W. Bush has purchased 98,840 acres in Paraguay, near the Bolivian/Brazilian border.
  • There's this - the heavy drinking wastrel Jenna Bush paid a secret diplomatic visit to Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte and U.S. Ambassador James Cason. There were no press conferences, no public sightings and no official confirmation of her 10-day trip which apparently ended this week.
  • The Paraguayan Senate voted last summer to "grant U.S. troops immunity from national and International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction."
  • Immediately afterwards, 500 heavily armed U.S. troops arrived with various planes, choppers and land vehicles at Mariscal Estigarribia air base, which happens to be at the northern tip of Paraguay near the Bolivian/Brazilian border. More have reportedly arrived since then.
Something is up. Maybe George has been watching old movies, and actually thinking about what might happen when next month, as seems more and more likely, the Democrats gain control of both houses of congress and the investigations begin. Or maybe he's worried about what might start up in the International Criminal Court when he leaves office. Paraguay has agreed to be a safe haven.

No, it couldn't be. The Cuban News Service, Prensa Latina, is a Cuban-government operation and they could be just messing with our minds. This is not happening, except the land purchase has also been reported in the Brazilian press here (in Portuguese of course), in the Argentinean press here, and in the Paraguayan press here. Those last two are in Spanish, but the gist of it is that all the paperwork and deeds are secret, but someone leaked the information - a new "land trust" created for President Bush has purchased almost a hundred thousand acres of land near the town of Chaco.

And there's more regarding Jenna Bush dropping in for secret meetings with the local president and America's ambassador to Paraguay, James Cason. President Bush had posted Cason in Havana in 2002, as our diplomatic envoy (they don't get an ambassador or anything) but last year moved him to Paraguay. Cason is the former political adviser to the U.S. Atlantic Command and Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, and he'd previously been stationed in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Panama over the last thirty years. So this may be military, and not based on the silly movie.

But why is the land in his name? And why is it protected by a semi-secret U.S. military base manned by American troops who have been exempted from war-crimes prosecution by the Paraguayan government?

This is very curious.

And there's more information on the base, which Rumsfeld secretly visited late last year, here -
U.S. Special Forces began arriving this past summer at Paraguay's Mariscal Estigarribia air base, a sprawling complex built in 1982 during the reign of dictator Alfredo Stroessner. Argentinean journalists who got a peek at the place say the airfield can handle B-52 bombers and Galaxy C-5 cargo planes. It also has a huge radar system, vast hangers, and can house up to 16,000 troops. The air base is larger than the international airport at the capital city, Asuncion.

Some 500 special forces arrived July 1 for a three-month counterterrorism training exercise, code named Operation Commando Force 6.

Paraguayan denials that Mariscal Estigarribia is now a U.S. base have met with considerable skepticism by Brazil and Argentina. There is a disturbing resemblance between U.S. denials about Mariscal Estigarribia, and similar disclaimers made by the Pentagon about Eloy Alfaro airbase in Manta, Ecuador. The United States claimed the Manta base was a "dirt strip" used for weather surveillance. When local journalists revealed its size, however, the United States admitted the base harbored thousands of mercenaries and hundreds of U.S. troops, and Washington had signed a 10-year basing agreement with Ecuador.
"When the young Nazi hunter turns up murdered, however, Lieberman investigates the mysterious meeting and discovers an insane plot to resurrect the Führer, Adolf Hitler, and establish the Fourth Reich." No, couldn't be.

But wait! There're more! One sees here that the odd and messianic Reverend Moon, the owner of the pro-Bush Washington Times, and who has said he's the savior come to redeem us all, bought 1,482,600 acres in the same place - Chaco, Paraguay.

It only gets odder and more mysterious, doesn't it?

And it also involves the president's father. That item above from Paraguay mentions the first President Bush already owns about a hundred acres there. It must be the new Moon-Bush compound.

And here's some background -
"In the early stages of the Reagan Revolution that embraced the Washington Times and Moon's anti-Communist movement, it was embarrassing to be caught at a Moon event," wrote The Gadflyer last year. "Until George H.W. Bush appeared with Moon in 1996, thanking him for a newspaper that 'brings sanity to Washington.'" That was while on an extended trip to South America in Moon's company. A Reuters' story of Nov 25 of that year describes the former president as "full of praise" for Moon at a banquet in Buenos Aires, toasting him as "the man with the vision." (And Moon helped Bush out with his own vision thing, paying him $100,000 for the pleasure of his company.) Bush and Moon then traveled together to Uruguay, "to help him inaugurate a seminary in the capital, Montevideo, to train 4,200 young Japanese women to spread the word of his Church of Unification across Latin America."
Uruguay, Paraguay, interior Brazil and such places are not much in the news of course. But something is up. You have your old Nazis, young Japanese women training to spread the word of the Church of Unification across Latin America (Moon is Korean), and the Moon and Bush family land is located at what Paraguay's drug czar says is an "enormously strategic point in both the narcotics and arms trades." And it sits atop one of the world's largest fresh-water aquifers. You've got just everything there.

It's amazing what you find reading the gossip rag Wonkette.

It's probably nothing. But there was that movie.

And it all makes some sort of weird sense from out here in Hollywood.

__

Footnote:

Black Sunday (1977), directed by John Frankenheimer - "A demented war veteran (Bruce Dern) plots to kill thousands of Americans at the Superbowl in Miami by using a specially designed dart-gun from the Goodyear blimp which flies above the stadium. However, a tough Middle Eastern anti-terrorist agent (Robert Shaw) has uncovered some of the plot and is out to stop him."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006, this -
By now, Americans have gotten pretty used to over-hyped terror threats out of Washington. But now we have another layer of hype to contend with. There's been a frenzy this afternoon over a report that a threat was posted on the Internet regarding several coordinated "dirty bomb" attacks on NFL stadiums, supposedly set to happen this weekend.

What very few seem to be noting, however, is that the "threat" was posted not to one of many Islamist militant Web sites - but to an American humor site, "The Friend Society." That fact seems rather pertinent - but the AP has buried it at the end of the long version of its report. Moreover, as of this post, a search of Google News revealed only 36 media outlets carrying the long version. Other sites, like the virulently anti-Islamist blog Little Green Footballs, where proprietor Charles Johnson admitted the threat was "probably bogus," were actually reporting that the threat came from an Islamist Web site.

The Friend Society Web site - which sometimes also uses "Thefucksociety.com" as a URL - appears to be down. The post about the terror threat, which was reportedly made on Oct. 12 by a Friend Society user named "javness," seems to have vanished from the Internet altogether -- though Google caches of the site remain available. The thread itself has been cached; called "New Attack on America, Be Afraid," it stretches to three pages…

Other threads under discussion on The Friend Society at the time included "stretchy vagina debate," "PEYOTE" and "MLB Playoffs." javness, the user who allegedly put up the post in question after recently joining the site, was also participating in another thread concerned with matters of warfare - it was called "Optimus Prime's First Line Could Be Your Own!"

The Department of Homeland Security seems to have a handle on this one. In response to a request for comment, DHS spokesman Jarrod Agen emailed Salon a press release (which included the full "New Attack on America" post) from the Open Source Center, a group in the Directorate of National Intelligence. The press release notes that The Friend Society "contains none of the hallmarks of jihadist websites." It also points to comments that accompanied the original post: Responding to other users who had challenged "javness" to provide some sort of proof of the terror plot, "javness" quipped back, "you already know too much."
Sigh.

Posted by Alan at 22:28 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006 07:37 PDT home

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