Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Damon, your ass is Greengrass

Babble on.

There's a certain amount of pleasure to be derived from a discussion of which fictional character is better than another. Superman vs. Captain Marvel. X-Men vs. Avengers. Heck, they even made a movie out of one hypothetical: Alien vs. Predator.

So I'm not offended by the question posed to actor Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, asking them to compare and contrast James Bond and their own big-screen effort, Jason Bourne. I am, however, offended by their answer:

Bond is "an imperialist and he's a misogynist. He kills people and laughs and sips martinis and wisecracks about it," Damon, 36, told The Associated Press in an interview.

Damon's new film, "The Bourne Ultimatum," opens Aug. 3.

"Bourne is this paranoid guy. He's on the run. He's not the government. The government is after him. He's a serial monogamist who's in love with his dead girlfriend and can't stop thinking about her," Damon said. "He's the opposite of James Bond."


Paul Greengrass, Damon's director on Universal's "Bourne Ultimatum" and its 2004 predecessor, "The Bourne Supremacy," agreed that Bond is a relic from a different era.

"He's an insider. He likes being a secret agent. He worships at the altar of technology. He loves his gadgets. And he embodies this whole set of misogynistic values," Greengrass said. "He likes violence. That's part of the appeal of the character. He has no guilt. He's essentially an imperial adventurer of a particularly English sort.

"Personally, I spit on those values. I think we've moved on a little bit from all that, the martini shaken, not stirred."

This is where the discussion of the comparative merits of one fictional character over another step outside the realm of the fan-boy, and take on some significance: where the characters stand for a set of real-world beliefs. So let's take a look at those values that Greengrass and Damon "spit on."

James Bond is derided for his misogyny, his violence, and his supposed lack of guilt. Boiled down to its essence, the criticism of Bond is that he's not sensitive enough - towards women, towards his opponents, and towards himself. Apparently even worse, Bond "likes being a secret agent" and an "imperialist."

Bourne, on the other hand, is lauded as a "paranoid guy" who is "not the government."

Let's get past the fact that Ludlum's Bourne was just as much a tool of his government as Bond is until Bourne lost his memory. Let's put aside the fascinating backstory that the producers created for their updated Bond (hit the "Enter Site" button, and look in his "Dossier"), one that explains a great deal of his own weaknesses and strengths.

No, let's simply look at the morality of the two characters: one uses his unique talents to benefit his country, and the other uses them to help himself. The distinction is important: Bond is to Bourne what the taxman is to the thief, what the policeman is to the vigilante, what the soldier is to the insurgent. Of course, if you don't subscribe to the idea that governments should have a monopoly on violence, that point won't sway you. But I'd guess that Greengrass and Damon aren't the Second-Amendment-libertarian types, which makes their case somewhat problematic.

Of course, it's only a problem if you're interested in intellectual consistency, rather than lurching about with each indoctrinated emotional wave that sloshes over your decks. I suspect, though, that the sixties-child Greengrass and the Hollywood-poisoned Damon are simply so enthralled with their romantic notions of Bourne's supposed fight against The Man that reason doesn't enter into their position at all.

Until recently, James Bond films have been nothing more than a visual roller-coaster, junk food for the soul. Other than for Casino Royale, I'm not much interested in defending them as anything other than a distracting romp.

But what Greengrass and Damon fail to realize is that much the same can be said for Bourne. At least Bond, viewed in his best light, is ridding the world of threats to Britain and the west. All of Bourne's violence, all the knife fights and the shootings and the car chases and the bombs are just to benefit him. If you worship at the altar of me, myself, and I, if you regard patriotism and duty as dangerous anachronisms, if your personal considerations outweigh the needs of a society far greater than you, then I guess Bourne should be your action hero of choice. But give me Bond any day of the week.

Oh, and speaking of fantasy match-ups, Daniel Craig could wipe his ass with Matt Damon and not even break a sweat doing it. What's more, I'd take Barbara Broccoli in a cage match against Paul Greengrass any day of the week. And my dad can beat up your dad too. Afterwards, he'd laugh and wisecrack as he drank his martini: shaken, not stirred.

Babble off.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

"You give good clip"

Babble on.

The post's title is the best line I've seen about Jack! in a very long time. It's taken from the comments section at The Torch, where frequent commenter Cam Campbell shows once again that Canada still has a few leftists that I'd be happy to share a pint with. He reproduces a letter he wrote to Layton:

Mr. Jack Layton,

On your biography page it says that you believe in practical solutions for problems. And yet you keep saying things like "The strategy being followed by NATO right now is producing the precise opposite effect to the one that the promoters of this mission are suggesting should be the goal," Layton said. "In other words, growth of support for the Taliban because of these air strikes."

Only a comprehensive peace process — not armed conflict — can resolve the crisis in Afghanistan, he argued, noting that "students of history will know that all major conflicts are resolved ultimately through peace-oriented discussions.""

Actually history shows us that peace happens when several conditions exist, not the least of which being that one side feels like they've lost, so your argument, respectfully, is utter crap.

I'm being quite serious, "peace-oriented discussions" (also known as peace negotiations or talks - who writes for you? They should be fired.) require that 1) everyone wants peace 2) there is a central authority to negotiate with 3) that the end of conflict will not immediately be replaced with some new, different kind of conflict (like, say, a series of genocidal massacres based on, say, supporting democracy and western style ideals of same).

So your thesis fails on point one horribly, on point two it's laughable, and on point three you're displaying a callousness towards human life that makes me want to vomit.

The reality is that there is no peace to keep, no peace to negotiate for, no one to negotiate with and no secure area to negotiate within. Pretending that these conditions exist is a fantasy.

Once the left was populated by people like my Uncles who fought in WW2, by people like Orwell and Trumbo, who could tell wrong from right and could figure out that something had to be done about it.

Now it's populated by people like you who believe in a pacifist unilateralism that appears to me to be suicidal. Certainly we don't get to negotiate peace with allies, but suggesting that the way forward in Afghanistan is via a policy of unidimensional " peace-oriented discussions" (still thinking that someone should loose their job over that..) ignores the reality and the complexity of the situation. This knee jerk reaction towards anything involving the US (and increasingly, NATO) is, frankly, childish and simplistic.

I think the current regime in the US are a pack of corrupt, right wing demagogues, most of whom need a good sending to bed without dinner (and/or jail time) but in my read, that has bugger all to do with the fact that the Canadian Forces presence in the reconstruction and (horrors) combat operations in Afghanistan is accomplishing good.

Additionally sir, the tying of Canadian troops, even tangentially, to what you seem to believe is a NATO policy of bombing civilians for sport is disgusting. It does your position utterly no good at all. It's wrong.

I know that journalists seek you out every time a Canadian is killed in Afghanistan and why not? You give good clip. But the constant sight of you scoring cheap political points with the deaths of our military personal? It wears sir. A suggestion, one that would ratchet up many peoples respect for you by something like 100%, would be to tell the journalists a variation on "There will be time to discuss the mission later, today our thoughts are with our brave soldiers and their families." Trite? Maybe. Lacking in the fun oomph of scoring cheap shots? Oh yes. Respectful and classy? Indeed.

I come from a family who's political views range from red Tory all the way to charter members of the CCF (my Great Aunt and Uncle were XXXX and XXXX), with stops along the way in trade unionism, full on communists and just about every other colour of the socially progressive rainbow. I've voted for your party in the past (and in the absence of your party running a viable candidate in my riding, for M. Duceppe), so it pains me to say this: I will never vote for the NDP while you are at it's helm.


I'll vote for a fringe party, the Monarchists, the Communist party, whatever local looney has managed to get together the deposit by borrowing the money from his friend, but never ever again the NDP.

I expect no response to this letter, I expect that you won't even see it or have it read to you (Hello, by the way, to the intern reading this. I hope you're having a great summer, my jobs always sucked and involved lifting boxes or digging holes, good on you for scoring a good one. Enjoy it, and good luck next semester. Stay in school.), I know that democracy no longer works that way but it felt like the least I could do.

With great regret,

Cameron Campbell

If we must have a socialist element in this country, let it be of the calibre of Orwell, of Hitchens, of those who value western ideals of freedom and democracy and are willing to defend them, with force when absolutely necessary.

The self-loathing and delusional sheep who would have us bare our throats to the wolves of the world in the name of peace are a disgrace, and a dangerous one at that.

I salute those like Cam Campbell and Terry Glavin who are willing to stand up to the majority within their own political faction, and decry the moral rot that has infected the Canadian left on this issue.

Babble off.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

"Journalism as a public service, my ass."

Babble on.

Bruce Rolston at Flit thoroughly exposes some sensationalist reporting this week:

The latest CP 'dirty bomb' scare story isn't just bad because the original study it's based on is not linked to by either the newspaper or the DRDC's own website, allowing people to make up their own minds from the source.

It's not just irresponsible because the report seems basically a rehash of the Federation of American Scientists' previous effort in this genre.

The real problem is that in covering a report that will undoubtedly have said that the disruption and injury will be the real cause of damage, it does nothing to alleviate that same panic. Journalism as a public service, my ass. [Babbler's emphasis]

That journalists so often refuse to acknowledge that they not only observe circumstances, but that their observations often change those circumstances, is willful blindness. That many of them refuse to consider the consequences of those changes in determining what they report and how they report it verges on negligence.