Archive for November, 2010


November 30, 2010

“Do you remember when 9/11 happened when those people were jumping from skyscrapers? I thought that was awesome.”
-Mohamed Osman Mahmoud

Portland, Oregon is a pretty obscure place to most of the world. Even in America some folks aren’t exactly sure where Oregon is and if they’ve heard of Portland it may be only because of the Trailblazers basketball team. Its unlikely that al`Qaeda knows much if anything about the place. It has no strategic significant, it isn’t a major center of commerce, there is no military base.

Yet it is home to over a million people and some of those people are not very nice folks. Every year Portland has a generic non-threatening holiday display in Pioneer Square to celebrate… well I’m not exactly sure what they’re celebrating but it seems to involve trees and winter, somehow. And that was enough for one Somali immigrant to decide it was the perfect place for a bomb.

He was caught trying to set off a fake bomb the FBI helped him set up, and while I’m sure his lawyers will cry entrapment and so on, the guy clearly wanted to be a terrorist and he really tried to really kill people in a crowded downtown area of Portland with a huge bomb.

You’ve read about this a lot lately but what really caught my attention was an opinion piece at the Washington Examiner by Byron York who pointed out something
significant about the whole affair:

What is ironic is that the operation that found and stopped Mohamud is precisely the kind of law enforcement work that Portland’s leaders, working with the American Civil Liberties Union, rejected during the Bush years. In April 2005, the Portland city council voted 4 to 1 to withdraw Portland city police officers from participating in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Mayor Tom Potter said the FBI refused to give him a top-secret security clearance so he could make sure the officers weren’t violating state anti-discrimination laws that bar law enforcement from targeting suspects on the basis of their religious or political beliefs.

Other city leaders agreed. “Here in Portland, we are not willing to give up individual liberties in order to have a perception of safety,” said city commissioner Randy Leonard. “It’s important for cities to know how their police officers are being used.”

See, the Portland government, and likely many of its very left-leaning citizens, were among the most hysterically anti-Bush loonies during the naughties. There were regular protests against a Republican being in office, there were soldiers burned in effigy for fighting terrorism, there were statements made in opposition to liberating millions of Iraqis and Afghanis, and so on.

And it was all done in the cozy blanket of comfort assuming terrorism just wouldn’t ever hit Portland. Its a smaller city, unknown, on the west coast with no symbolic or strategic value. Its safe to declare that the local law enforcement won’t fight terrorism. Its safe to defy the government because like most big cities, Portland declared they would not enforce federal immigration laws long ago with absolutely no negative results.

There is even a lawyer living there who defended radical Muslims whose fingerprint was found on a bomb in the middle east that was looked into and shrugged at.

But it was the policies and efforts of the very people that Portlanders rejected, mocked, and attacked which grabbed a would-be terrorist from their midst. This guy wasn’t some well-meaning person twisted by FBI tales, he wasn’t a normal fellow manipulated into the act of trying to detonate thousands of Oregonians. He was a guy who flew to train with the Taliban in Pakistan and wanted to be a terrorist, he wanted to do an attack like 9/11. The FBI just gave him some help in building the means to carry out a plot, they didn’t push him into anything.

In Portland, Oregon. Maybe, just maybe that crazy Bush wasn’t so crazy after all. Maybe those FBI guys who want local help to fight terrorism aren’t the liberty-trampling secret police that the left seemed to think.


November 30, 2010

And He shall reign for ever and ever

It was an ordinary day at Macy’s, with people shopping and eating and talking and browsing. This particular Macy’s has a pipe organ installed in it, the world’s largest called the Wanamaker Organ that is occasionally played. Someone started playing the organ; the opening notes to Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from “The Messiah.” Then without warning, people began singing the chorus from all over the store, on all three floors.
What happened is that the Opera Company of Philadelphia along with members of local choirs set up fake shoppers throughout the store at strategic locations and they all burst into song together as a “random act of culture,” the first of a thousand planned for the next three years.

The shoppers were stunned by the event, and they all stopped and listened, but everyone seemed amazed and pleased. And at the end, the Christmas Tree was lit up with lights.

This is the kind of thing we need more of in this world, I think.

King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Hallelujah.


November 30, 2010

“Film is a window to the real world but a lie that makes you believe the unbelievable.”
Empire backstage

Most folks (including myself) view The Empire Strikes Back as the best of the Star Wars movies. George Lucas didn’t care for its dark tone and determined that from then on he’d direct all the movies as well as write them. Empire has better character development, better acting, better story flow, and a powerful, memorable tale that puts it far above the other films. Most of the really memorable stuff from the Star Wars movies come from this one film.

And Ervin Kershner directed it. Hollywoodland at Big Hollywood has an excerpt from the Vanity Fair interview with Kershner showing why it was a better movie than Lucas’ other work:

There was really only one disagreement. It was the Carbon Freeze scene when Princess Leia says, “I love you.” Han Solo’s response in the script was, “I love you, too.” I shot the line and it just didn’t seem right for the character of Han Solo. So we worked on the scene on the set. We kept trying different things and couldn’t get the right line. We were into the lunch break and I said to Harrison try it again and just do whatever comes to mind. That is when Harrison said the line, “I know.” After the take, I said to my assistant director, David Tomblin, “It’s a wrap.” David looked at me in disbelief and said something like, “Hold on, we just went to overtime. You’re not happy with that, are you?” And I said, yes, it’s the perfect Han Solo remark, and so we went to lunch. George saw the first cut and said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. That’s not the line in the script.” I said ““I love you, too’ was not Han Solo.” Han Solo was a rebel. George felt that the audience would laugh. And I said, that’s wonderful, he is probably going to his death for all they know. We sat in the room and he thought about it. He then asked me, “Did you shoot the line in the script?” I said yes. So we agreed that we would do two preview screenings once the film was cut and set to music with the line in and then with the line out. At the first preview in San Francisco, the house broke up after Han Solo said I know. When the film was over, people came up and said that is the most wonderful line and it worked. So George decided not to have the second screening.

Lucas is kind of a control freak, he wants everything to fit his vision, and in some ways that’s great: you get a consistent, fascinating world. In some ways its awful: he’s no good with characterization and the actors usually have a better idea about their character than he does.

Empire filmingIrvin Kershner was better than that, like all good directors he was willing to let the actors work within the basic script to create a better final product. And a better product he created. Here are some other Kershner films you might have seen:

The Flim-Flam Man
Never Say Never Again
Robocop 2

What movie lately did Kershner think was brilliant? The animated film Ratatouille, which I really liked too. Come to think of it I usually like Pixar’s stuff.

Irvin Kershner, dead at 87.

Quote of the Day

November 30, 2010
“If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that, if it is comfort or money it values more, it will lose that too.”
-William Somerset Maughan

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