Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Moving on up

In case anyone still checks this, I've moved... www.peterkrupa.com ... see you all (?) there.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Say "Chinese"...

Often I hear/read people carrying on about how the United States of America is the Evil Empire that wants to Destroy Us All and take all the oil for itself, etc. And I just shake my head and think, "Enjoy it while you can kids, because pretty soon you'll be dealing with the Chinese hegemony."

It's really just math. Billions of people building and buying and selling in unison, and well, we better all start learning Chinese. As a friend of mine once pointed out, Chairman Mao was the best ally western capitalism ever had because he gave us a 50-year head start.

Anyway, people will miss American hegemony, because as much as they want to shriek about Bushitler and Gitmo, we've got one of the best human rights record in the history of the world, and it affects our foreign policy decisions.

But China? Don't make me laugh.

China's reach now extends deep into the [African] continent. When the CAR's Francois Bozize took power after a violent coup in 2003 and declared himself president, the African Union booted the country from its membership rolls. A few weeks later, Beijing extended a $2.5 million interest-free loan and welcomed Bozize with open arms for an official visit a year later. New buildings, more interest-free loans and grants, millions of dollars of office and telecommunications equipment and other gifts have followed, as well as a promise to explore the CAR's potential oil reserves and harvest its vast timber resources.

Seriously kids, say goodnight. Baring some miracle/war/meteoriteiorite, we are looking at the end of American/European moral standards in international relations (including, you stupid hippies, all your precious human rights initiatives, except maybe the Cuban varieties). Whether this will turn out for the good or bad remains to be seen.

But here's a startling statistic: "According to Merrill Lynch, China could become the world’s leading source of luxury shoppers by 2009."

Whoa.

Blessed are the chickens, for they shall be eaten first

Here's an interesting topic: The suffering of chickens. The philosopher in question, Pete Singer, is identified as a "practical ethicist," someone who, when confronted with the dilemma of saving his daughter or saving two other people, would theoretically always opt for the other people (two lives being better than one). In this interview, he casts his brilliance on the suffering of chickens and cattle and whatnot, and the main drum he beats seems to be that humans should try their best to alleviate suffering wherever it is found - That ultimately, we should expand our empathy to include not only humans of different tribes, religions, and races, but even animals of all species.

This brings up a fascinating distinction. In this corner, we have Mr. Singer, who asserts that since man is no different than animals, he should expand his empathy to all moving things (well, all mammals and some birds). And in the other corner, we have The Gringo, who asserts that since man is no different than animals, why should we consider life has a special value at all?

One side says that we should care for all living creatures because we are no different than them, the other asserts that if we are no different from them, then from whence comes the obligation to give special care to any living creature? Absent any divine inspiration, our only model for how we "should" act comes from nature, and I'm sure we've all watched the Discovery Channel enough to know that Mother Nature is more like Drunken Abusive Step-Mother Nature.

Really, the preciousness of life cannot be measured in numerical units (and it's actually kind of funny when you try: How does one human life weigh against the life of three chickens? Ten chickens? What about one human life versus ten dogs set on fire with gasoline? A hundred dogs? A thousand dogs?) - life has the arbitrary value that we give it, which is why I would save the life of my daughter and let those other two ambiguous personages expire (as well as the flaming dogs, and whatever number of chickens you're threatening to off).

All this is off the top of my head, but I would be really interested in any other ethical arguments for why we should treat chickens with respect. Personally, I prefer free-range chickens because they taste better, but that's not really an ethical decision, now is it?

Mission Improbable

The latest "Tom-Cruise-looking-serious-and-troubled-and-then-angry" movie is now in theaters, a movie of which I and my lovely lady friend partook last night. It was fine for an action flick, although I had to laugh at a few parts (like, why is it that the sexiest spy squad on the face of the earth can blow up a million dollar car as a diversion and use hand-held CT scanners, yet flies around in Vietnam-era helicopters?) .

But I have to admit, it was my lovely girlfriend who made the most pointed observation, which was that in the old Mission Impossible series, the global purpose of the Impossible Mission Force was basically irrelevant: They just took on impossible missions to bring down evil people with nifty gadgets, and isn't that cool?

But in M:I3 the IMF is somehow a stand-in for the CIA, which sort of makes sense, but then takes the fun out of it because we're forced to think about arms dealers and what shadowy purposes the White House does and doesn't have, and all of a sudden we're in a sort of socially conscious Hollywood conspiracy world where the US government is out to start a war but then they offer a promotion to Ethan at the end because he ... stopped them ... from starting ... a war.

Huh?

Anyway, I was rooting for Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Hablas espanol? Uh... sort of.

Something our high school Spanish teachers never warned us about is that learning to use a language functionally has almost nothing to do with grammar. You can know how to conjugate the verb quitar upwards, downwards and crosswards, in all its subjunctive and perfect moods, and in any of its half a dozen passive forms.

And that's fine. But!

Can you drink four beers and then use the verb quitar in an amusing anecdote lasting no more than eight seconds while six people watch you in dead silence? Now that's a fucking proficiency test!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Now there's a thought

Teen pregnancy is down some 24 percent over the last 10 years. Safe sex success? Abstinential victory? Or is it just low sperm counts?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Help

Can you guys help me with a list I'm trying to make? I need you to name for me famous writers/artists/poets/characters who went and fought in foreign civil wars, rebel movements, etc. You know, soldiers of fortune, fighting for a principle. So far, I've got George Orwell, Lord Byron, and Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Can we add to this list? Thanks guys.
I saw Capote last night. My favorite thing about Phillip Seymore Hoffman is that he never plays Phillip Seymore Hoffman. Very good movie.

Speaks for itself

Friday, April 28, 2006

Latin American hardball, update

Things continue to heat up, and they are HOT! If Chavez's pet populist coup-staging ex-military candidate in Peru loses in a run-off election (which he likely will), Chavez has threatened to cut off diplomatic relations with Peru.

Let me repeat that: Chavez has threatened to cut off diplomatic relations with Peru.

For those of you who don't pay attention to these boring things, let me offer some examples of countries the US doesn't have diplomatic relations with: Cuba, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan... get the picture? Cutting off diplomatic relations is a serious, serious thing that you do to send a signal that you really, really don't like someone. And now Chavez is threatening this to Peru.

Why is this important? Because, as I've been saying for a long time, and as history has often shown, a tried and true power-grab tactic of tin-pot dictators is to create an exterior dispute to draw people's attention away from interior problems. Hitler did it, Saddam did it, and plenty of African dictators did it.

Now Chavez is doing it, and he will keep doing it, and remember I said this: In the coming months and years, you will see more and more "My way or the highway" rhetoric from Chavez, until he forces all of Latin America to take sides. The next step after that? Use your imagination.

As for problems Chavez would be trying to draw attention away from, one of them is crime (70,000 people have been murdered in Venezuela since he took office, a three-fold increase). Another is cash flow. For some reason, the country with the fifth largest oil reserves in the world has committed to buy 100,000 barrels of oil per day from Russia to avoid defaulting on a refining contract. This points to declining domestic output and the general incompetence of the state oil entity. Basically, the economy is rotting from the inside out.

So things are continuing to heat UP! Yeah! And remember, when US diplomats say Chavez is a destabilizing force in the region, they are exactly right.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Great Slate.com piece today on why moviemakers are obsessed with United 93, the plane that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania (the current movie about to hit theaters is the third about United 93):

Could it be that the three films are a symptom of our addiction to fables of redemptive uplift that shield us from the true dimensions of the tragedy? Redemptive uplift: It's the official religion of the media, anyway. There must be a silver lining; it's always darkest before the dawn; the human spirit will triumph over evil; there must be a pony.

That's always been the subtextual spiritual narrative of media catastrophe coverage: terrible human tragedy, but something good always can be found in it to affirm faith and hope and make us feel better. Plucky, ordinary human beings find a way to rise above the disaster. Man must prevail. The human spirit is resilient, unconquerable. Did I mention there must be a pony?

I love it, and it's totally true. THERE MUST BE A PONY!

To-see list

I just sent an e-mail to a friend with a big long list of movies to see. It would be a shame to waste that on just one friend, so here it is. I hope you guys enjoy these movies as much as I did.

French:
Amelie - It's a movie about little things, and a girl with too much imagination. Charming, hilarious, cute, perfect.

Brazilian:
City of God - One could say it's a "downer," but a better term would be "horrifying". Anyway, brilliantly filmed movie about Brazilian street gangs. The whole thing takes place right on street level, and it is very, very intense. Also great characters, great acting, etc.

Mexican:
Herod's Law - Absolutely hilarious (in a dark sort of way). All about an idealistic bureaucrat working for Mexico's PRI (The Party). He gets farmed out to a no-where province and tries to bring "el desarollo y la justicia social" but, of course, ends up getting corrupted. Good flick, and you can practice your Spanish.

Cohen Bros:
The Man Who Wasn't There - Seems to be winking and nudging towards a lot of philosophical themes that I just sort of get, plus I think it's loosely based on The Stranger. Plus it's in black and white. Plus there are flying saucers and Scarlet Johansen. and Francis Mcdurmond. Anyway, this movie is also hilarious.

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? - If you haven't see this one, go! Right now! Loose adaptation of the Odyssey set in the American south circa 1955. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Woody Allen:
Annie Hall - Funny, charming, inventive, touching, hella-good dialogue, tends - like most Woody Allen movies - to make one glad one is not a neurotic New York Jew.

Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Very creative within the mystery genre. Fun, snappy, makes one glad one is not a neurotic New York Jew.

Manhattan - Makes one glad one is not a neurotic New York Jew

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex But Were Afraid To Ask - Makes one glad one is not a neurotic New York Jew (are we getting the picture here?)

Wes Anderson:
Fuck it, just see them all.

Classics:
Trouble in Paradise (1932) - Said to be the first romantic comedy. Master thief meets master pickpocket, they fall in love, decide to scam a big-time mark, shenanigans, of course, ensue. Excellent flick.

The Maltese Falcon (1941) - If you can figure this one out before the end I'll give you a dollar.

And finally some Random Picks:

Bubba Ho-tep - An aging Elvis and an African-American JFK meet in a nursing home and team up to fight an Egyptian mummy who is sucking people's souls out their assholes and shitting them down the toilet. Yes, it is as bizarre and B-movie as it sounds, but you will be shocked - shocked! - at how well it works. Then you will want to see it again.

The Elephant Man - A Victorian doctor discovers a horribly disfigured man who is surviving as a freak-show attraction. Beauty within is discovered and all that. Suffice to say the movie is very, very good.

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - Seen it? No? Why not? The only Kubric movie that I really, really like.