Friday, April 13, 2007

Happy Friday the 13th!

Happy Friday the 13th! Here are some trailers and assorted clips related to the films found on YouTube. Watching the trailers, it is interesting to observe the progression of the series from a independent slasher film to a multi-million dollar franchise.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th Part 2

Friday the 13th Part 3

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter [Ahem. Part 4]

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives - Music Video

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood - Deleted Scenes

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan - Fan Made Music Video

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

Jason X

Freddy Vs. Jason

Here is one last video that reveals something interesting about Jason as a pop culture icon. Although the video is meant in fun, Jason has become lovable in an odd way, much like how Dracula began as a vicious fifteenth century warlord, grew into a Victorian vampire, and eventually became a breakfast cereal and a foam puppet that teaches America's kids mathematics. For better or worse, the same seems to be happening to Jason Voorhees.

I will play some Friday the 13th music in this weekend's episode of Maverick at the Movies. If you check out the Features section of the Maverick at the Movies site, I have uploaded an mp3 my interview with Peter Bracke, author of Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

All the President's Documents

This article, originally published in the Washington Post, details how fraudulent letters detailing a Niger-Iraq nuclear weapons deal became one of the key elements in the march to war. This is a very interesting article because, reading between the lines and associating this with the Valarie Plame leak, the full extent of the deception and conspiracy (and I do not use the word lightly) that led to this war.

It starts in October 2002, when Elisabetta Burba, an investigative reporter for the Italian newsweekly Panorama, received some documents from a previously reliable source.

One of the documents was purportedly sent by the president of Niger to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, confirming a deal to sell 500 tons of uranium to Iraq annually. This was the smoking gun in the package, claiming to show the formal approval of Niger's president to supply Iraq with a commodity that would in all likelihood only be used for a nuclear weapons program: Iraq had no nuclear power plants.

Though the document was in French it would later come to be known as "The Italian Letter." It was written in all capital letters, in the form of an old telex, and bore the letterhead of the Republic of Niger. The letter was dated July 27, 2000, and included an odd shield on the top, a shining sun surrounded by a horned animal head, a star and a bird. The letter was stamped Confidential and Urgent.

The letter said that "500 tons of pure uranium per year will be delivered in two phases." A seal at the bottom of the page read "The Office of the President of the Republic of Niger." Superimposed over the seal was a barely legible signature bearing the name of the president of Niger, Mamadou Tandja.

Burba took the documents to the American embassy in Italy. These were in turn routed to the CIA, which had done its own report in October 2001 on the possibility of Iraq pursuing nuclear weapons.

The classified document, whose distribution was limited to senior policymakers and the congressional intelligence committees, said there was no corroboration and noted that Iraq had "no known facilities for processing or enriching the material." [Emphasis added.]

Despite this, Bush and Cheney were on the war path, making doomsday claims about Iraq. So when the Italian Letter arrived, it was an apparent godsend. Except for one minor detail:

State Department analysts had determined the documents were phony, and had produced by far the most accurate assessment of Iraq's weapons program of the 16 agencies that make up the intelligence community. But the department's small intelligence unit operated in a bubble. Few administration officials -- not even Secretary of State Colin L. Powell -- paid much attention to its analytical product, much of which clashed with the White House's assumptions.

In the meantime, Burba began to research the letter herself, and found that the claims were without merit. Determining that there was no story, she let things alone.

Despite all of this evidence to the contrary, in January 2003 President Bush read his State of the Union address that included the claim "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Burba and the State Department were not the only ones who had looked into this. In February 2002 Congressman Joe Wilson went to Niger to look into the claim and came to the same conclusions as Burba and the State Department. Wilson's wife, Valarie Plame, was a covert CIA operative whose job was monitoring and controlling black market nuclear proliferation. Plame had spent two years looking into leads for the White House's case for war and come up with nothing.

In July 2003 Wilson became an outspoken critic of the war and published an account of his trip to Niger. That same month Plame was outed as a CIA operative on by conservative columnist Robert Novak. This act violated federal laws, destroyed Plame's career in the CIA, and endangered agents active in the field. Officially, the information came from Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff. Exactly how far up the chain it goes is not officially clear as of yet, although Novak has named White House strategist Karl Rove and State Department official Richard Armitage. With Libby's successful prosecution, we'll see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

The falsification of the evidence, the outing of Plame, and the sacrifice of Libby demonstrate the extent to which this administration has gone to achieve ends that it knew were illegal or at least based on false pretenses and then cover up those actions. The questions that remain to be answered are who originated the Italian Letter and why. There is money to be made from providing news organizations with hot information and it could be as simple as that. But knowing how this administration functions makes everything all the more suspicious. We already have the Downing Street Memo, which proves that the Bush administration was long planning to go to war. Valerie Plame's department had been increased before the 9/11 attack and had been pushed by the White House to find evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program that did not exist. And we know that the Bush administration has bank rolled columnists in the past to distribute their version of the truth.

For many out there who have been paying attention, this is all old news, but I think many citizens to not entirely understand what the Libby trial was all about. This is understandable, since this whole story contains a fair amount of twists and turns, much of the mainstream press coverage has been poor, and the string of events goes on for half a decade. In the end, we may need to make a movie about it before the severity of the Italian Letter is completely understood by the masses.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sweet Jesus

Just in time for Easter, Christians, namely The Catholic League, are raging about an anatomically correct statue of Jesus that was recently (ahem) erected in New York. What's even more interesting about this particular statue is that it is made of chocolate.

That's right, kids. Jesus really is black.

From CNN:

The "My Sweet Lord" display was shut down by the hotel that houses the Lab Gallery in Manhattan, said Matt Semler, the gallery's creative director. Semler said he resigned after officials at the Roger Smith Hotel shut down the show.

The artwork was created from more than 200 pounds of milk chocolate and features Christ with his arms outstretched as if on an invisible cross. Unlike the typical religious portrayal of Christ, the artwork does not include a loincloth.

The 6-foot sculpture was the victim of "a strong-arming from people who haven't seen the show, seen what we're doing," Semler said.

"They jumped to conclusions completely contrary to our intentions."
But word of the confectionary Christ infuriated Catholics, including Egan, who described it as "a sickening display." Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League, said it was "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever."

The hotel and the gallery were overrun Thursday with angry phone calls and e-mails. Semler said the calls included death threats over the work of artist Cosimo Cavallaro, who was described as disappointed by the decision to cancel the display.

I find it a bit ironic that Christians are getting this upset. After all, one of the key rituals of the religion is the symbolic (or literal if you are old school Catholic) consumption of Christ's flesh (which, according to the Catholic League, the artists is planning to do with his statue.) And chocolate candy has certainly become a big part of Easter celebrations, although most of the chocolate comes in the form of a pagan fertility symbol. The statue can be viewed as a logical fusion of the two elements.

What seems to be the really offensive element here is the fact that this statue is naked and anatomically complete. This has typically been the most sensitive issue for Catholics: the asexuality of their icons whether it be Jesus, Mary the Virgin, or Adam and Eve. Casting their savior, a symbol of self-deprivation and masochism as virtues, in a product often associated with decadence, indulgence, and sexuality is an interesting composition.

If people indeed show up to consume the statue, who gets to eat Christ's genitals might be a delicate decision. I nominate Dan Brown.