Thursday, July 31, 2008

Revisiting The Hunting Party

At the end of The Hunting Party, an excellent 2007 movie starring Richard Gere and Terrence Howard, some statistics and facts scroll across the screen. Some for comedic value, some for contemporary impact. The movie is about three reporters who track down "the fox", the most wanted war criminal in the world, in Bosnia. The facts that we learn at the end of the film are as follows: First of all, the man that Gere and Howard are tracking is clearly a war criminal who, for all intents and purposes, is Radovan Karadzic. We also learn that the international community was so interested in catching Karadzic that they took out Wanted posters in Bosnian newspapers. If someone spotted the man, they could call a toll-free number at the bottom of the poster - a number that worked...only in the United States. And we also learn that while he was in hiding, Karadzic was able to publish a play and two books of poetry. (In fact, that should now be three books of poetry.) The whole point of the film was that for five years, this man had been in hiding, and yet no one had come close to him. And yet these three reporters were able to find him in two days. The whole movie had a tone of satire about it - so one could only assume this "two days" business was done for satirical effect.

Or was it? As it turns out, The Hunting Party appears to have been largely, even perfectly, accurate when it comes to the world's attitude toward war criminals. Not just the United States and the CIA, which are the main targets of the film, but also Canada, Great Britain, 50 other countries, and Serbia itself. Serbia desperately wants to become a part of the European Union. The EU, which began negotiations for inclusion with Serbia after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, told Serbia that unless these war criminals, the World's Most Wanted, were caught, they could not become members. And then - lo and behold! They catch him! Right away! Almost like they knew exactly where he was the whole time! Working as a "doctor of alternative medicine" and publishing books of poetry. Only with more facial hair.

And the rest of the world moves on and says "good for you, Serbia". From NATO: "[We] commend the Serbian authorities for this important act of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia." From the United Nations: "a historic moment for the victims who have waited 13 years, a decisive step toward ending impunity for those indicted for war crimes." So they're basically acknowledging the fact that Serbia has finally done something, you know - when there's something in it for them. Our own foreign affairs minister, David Emerson, says “The Government of Serbia is to be congratulated for this arrest." No! The government of Serbia is to be condemned for not doing it for thirteen years! Not "good for you". "Shame on you". This man was the Most Wanted Criminal In The World for thirteen years. And he was right there. He was sleeping in the bed next to us, cooking us breakfast. We were discussing the weather with him and picking up Cheerios for him at the store while we were out. He was right there.

When I first watched The Hunting Party, I gave it to Randall to borrow, because I knew he'd like it. And he did. In fact, it inspired his commentary of the following day. As he thought about all the war criminals from around the world who end up receiving no penalties for committing genocide, and who no one really wants to try and prosecute, it occured to him that we still haven't found Osama Bin Laden. And it now occurs to me too. Bin Laden surpassed Karadzic as World Enemy Number One when he attacked the World Trade Centre and Pentagon. Bin Laden had killed 3,000 people in America. And Karadzic was only responsible for the deaths of 7,500 Muslims. And that was SO thirteen years ago. Now he was Number Two. So...in one month it will be seven years since Osama Bin Laden became the Most Hunted Man In The World. The $50 million reward the U.S. is offering for his capture or death is proving to be as useful as the $5 million they offered for the capture or death of Karadzic. Where IS that pesky Bin Laden, anyway?

The lighter side of global warming.

By that I mean the fact that Ellesmere Island is several thousand tons lighter today. A chunk of ice 20 square kilometres across broke off. On the show today, I included that with the weather. After all, it really is a weather issue, isn't it? It'd be nice if, during the everyday, "weird weather we're having" conversations that take place at boring workplaces the world over, people might include the "giant ice chunk missing from our arctic" weather news as well as the "geez this rain has really made my lawn grow fast" weather talk. But this isn't the point here. The point is that in every story I read about this event, there was one thing that was consistent:

"Scientists involved are being coy about using the GW words"

"Derek Mueller, a researcher at Trent University in Ontario, was careful not to blame global warming."

"did not blame the Ward Hunt breakup specifically on climate change, but said it was consistent with the theory"

This is one of the few quotes I could find that actually suggested, factually, that global warming clearly was the cause of the ice break-off. It's from a scientist named Will Steger, who has spent 45 years traveling the Arctic and advising on solutions to the climate crisis:

"With more frequent reports about the break-up of the multiyear ice, it is evident that long-term thaw of Arctic ice has begun. That process is further accelerated by the melting ice and snow, revealing sea water and darker ground that absorbs the sun's rays instead of reflecting them.
"As an eyewitness to the changing topography of the Arctic, I was stunned to see the rapid repercussions of global warming for the region, its wildlife habitat and indigenous cultures. Swift loss of sea ice will considerably alter the landscape of the Polar regions as we know it."

So, what's going on? Is there such a backlash now against using the words "global warming" that even the scientists who know it's fact won't say the words? For fear that a bunch of people will start yelling "propaganda" and "screw Al Gore" and all that other nonsense? Because global warming has been so successfully positioned as a "theory", and not as a "fact" by the naysayers that now you have to print it this way in papers? The way you have to print "alleged murderer", or "suspect" when a guy kills three people in front of forty-four witnesses? I think this may be the case. People are now "careful not to use the GW words". And that can only be because of those people ready to leap on the statement and trash the guy who DID use the "GW words". Well, I'll use them. This breakup of ice in Canada's arctic occurred because of global warming. Now, go discuss it at your water coolers.

The demise of the modern nerd.

There was, at one point, an entire industry devoted to cranking out the nerds of tomorrow. I studiously attempted to avoid the siren's call of Dungeons and Dragons role-playing games, Spiderman comic books, and that game with the cards and dice that those guys used to play in the third-floor corridor at Glebe back in my high school days. Come to think of it, that game may well have been some sort of variation on Dungeons and Dragons as well. I don't know. Because I studiously avoided becoming embroiled in that scene. It appeared to be addictive, and would likely have resulted in some ribbing at my expense courtesy of my football team-mates. And although today I remain friends with some of those third-floor hallway dwellers (and relatively few football team-mates), I still have never come to understand those games and those pop cultural phemonena. Like Battlestar Galactica, or Matrix Revolutions. And I regret this. Immensely.

Now, I will be the first to say that I am a nerd. It was much later in life that I allowed my flag to proudly fly, no longer worried or encumbered by such trivial high school issues as popularity or the desire to get laid. (It turns out that at the age of 19, being smart about stuff is no longer an obstacle to getting laid. Amazing, eh?) There are many, many types of nerds, and I would fall into, I suppose, the Cliff Clavin category. Or maybe the movie nerd category. Or the music nerd. Or...whatever. There are many categories, but the one that still carries the strongest branding is the Comic Book Nerd. If you were into comic books as a kid, you are a NERD. Which may well have led to a certain amount of social awkwardness, ostracizing, or even bullying, if there were little jerks in your high school or at your college. Or at your first office in the cubicle next to you. Or in your family.

The point I'm trying to make here is that from a very early age, most of those I knew were cultivated. Bred, trained, assimilated and subsequently fully immersed in the world of nerd-dom. And although it may have meant a fairly lonely and otherwordly existence for three or four years, it paid off. Where would we be today without the nerds? It's people who were comic book nerds during my formative years that have allowed and advanced the creation of Iron Man, The Dark Knight, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, Watchmen, and every other movie coming out the rest of this summer. In fact, where would we be without comic books this summer? We'd be watching WALL-E, which is spectacular, Indiana Jones and the Exploding Fridge, which is disappointing, and...um...Mamma Mia? I guess? We now NEED comic book nerds. Not just them, but nerds of all kinds! Tech nerds, to put the movies together. Movie nerds, to write and direct. Bloggo-nerds, to discuss and promote these films in cyberworld!

Thank GOD for the guys in the hallway upstairs at Glebe twelve years ago. Thank GOD for Dungeons and Dragons, graphic novels about The Incredible She-Beast, and Rush. Well...most of those things. These are now the people who make the entire world go 'round, and we rely on them for our continuing survival. So it seems only logical that we would want to keep them healthy, happy and multiplying.

Apparently not. On Tuesday, I went to a comic book shop, the deliciously nerdy-named Wizard's Dungeon, for the first time in my life. I took my youngest step-son there, because he wanted a comic book. He is too young to have seen The Dark Knight, but he hears enough people talking about it that he became curious about the character Two-Face. And he wanted a Batman comic so he could see what Two-Face looked like in the comic books. I asked the guy behind the counter (who wasn't quite straight-outta-the-Simpsons) how I could find one. And you know what? I couldn't. There are apparently two series (out of six hundred or so) of Batman comics that are appropriate for nine-year-olds. In fact, there are maybe six series, total, of comic books being made today that are tame enough for children. Out of I don't know, six million. We ended up with a silly, cartoony Batman comic and a Digimon comic.

The comic book guy told me that the average age of his customers is about 30-35! This is insane! How can we create new, productive comic book nerds if they can't even pick up a worthwhile comic book until they're 16? Not only that, but the movies that might inspire them to pick up comic books can't be watched by young kids either. Now, I LOVE The Dark Knight, but there's no way kids can watch that one. So how do we create the nerds of the future? Perhaps I just don't have the kind of foresight required to see how the Wii kids and XBox kids of today will become the creative geniuses that shape our world of tomorrow. This could happen, and perhaps I'm missing it. But I am really scared that twenty years from now, we'll be totally out of comic book movies. And we'll be left with Indiana Jones 16: The Golden Defibrillator, and remakes of Mamma Mia. And I'm not sure I want to live in that world.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Spot the difference.







........................................................................................Which one is the real Amy Winehouse and which one is wax?