Haggai's Place

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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Friday, October 10, 2003 ::

This moviegoer is happy
I just saw the new Tarantino movie, Kill Bill Vol. 1 (Vol. 2 to follow in a few months). It's excellent, this guy always finds new ways to make great movies. As is well-known, it's incredibly violent, with all sorts of stabbings, limb-severings, and beheadings throughout, but that's not really what it's about. It's just an unusually engrossing revenge-plot thriller. As is par for the course with Tarantino, the music is a tremendous mix of different sources, like some old movie themes, a pop-latin-disco sort of song from the late '70s that I hadn't heard before ("Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"), plus a nice old ballad sung by Nancy Sinatra (!) and written by Sonny Bono (!!), called "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)," which opens the movie. I'm guessing that Tarantino had that song in mind when he was writing the script, as the lyrics seem like they were written for the plot. That also might be true of an old Japanese ballad called "The Flower of Carnage" that shows up near the end. You won't quite know what's it's about if you just watch the movie, but the English-translated lyrics in the liner notes for the CD soundtrack made things clear. Those two songs are perfect lyrical interpretations of the story of Uma Thurman's character.

The best thing on the soundtrack is the fantastic instrumental that's featured in most of the trailers for the movie. It shows up in the movie as a sort of theme for Lucy Liu's character and her band of assassins (although it's only used once). It's called "Battle Without Honor or Humanity," by Tomoyasu Hotei. A Google search turned up this webpage about him, in surprisingly decent English. He's a prominent rock star in Japan, and he was on the soundtrack for Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, so this isn't the first Hollywood use of his stuff. The site I linked to says, "At 190cm, Hotei Tomayasu is one of the most intimidating people in the Japanese music world." I should say so--that's almost 6'3", which must make him seem like a 6'9" person would be in the US!

Update: Lynn B pointed out to me that "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" was originally done in the mid-'60s by The Animals. I definitely should have recognized that, as the guitar riff is very famous. The remake was done in the late '70s by a band called Santa Esmeralda. It adds an extra Latin sort of style to the original, and it works very nicely in the spot where it shows up in the movie, largely because of that.
10:23 PM
:: Wednesday, October 08, 2003 ::
Another "comeback"?
Never mind the conspiracy theories popular with some Republicans about Hillary Clinton entering the '04 race at the last moment, pinch-running for Clark or whatever the tin-foil-hat scenario du jour is. How about Michael Jordan replacing Kobe Bryant with the Lakers for the season? Now that would be quite a story--and apparently it was suggested by Phil Jackson, not some PR-hungry talk radio host. You never know with Jordan, but for now he's saying 100% no.
2:04 PM
:: Monday, October 06, 2003 ::
I never bought that argument either
I certainly agree with this passage from page 18 of Wesley Clark's new book:
There was continuing speculation [before the Iraq war] about difficulties of combat during the approaching hot season, which many read as an attempt by the Pentagon to lock in a date for invasion. This would have imposed a deadline on the operation of mid to late March 2003. It was a wishful and absurd proposition, as though the soldiers and their equipment would cease functioning once the Iraqi climate reached a specific temperature. Moreover, it ignored both recent experience and common sense. In 1990, the first defensive deployments had occurred in extremely hot weather in Saudi Arabia, with temperatures consistently in the 130-degree range in some locations. At that time the troops remained effective, even though uncomfortable. This time around, what did the Pentagon think would happen afterward, even if the conflict began on schedule? Were the troops suddenly going to depart for the United States before the summer arrived in Iraq?
I never heard a convincing case for the "we have to invade before it gets too hot" argument, not for that reason alone. I expect that most Army commanders would prefer to fight in more temperate conditions than not, but was it really credible to believe that hotter temperatures would be anywhere near as big a factor in US casualty rates as the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the enemy forces? Is the same military that can hit small targets from miles away with satellite and laser-guided weapons utterly incapable of achieving almost precisely the same low casualty rates in the summer than it is in the spring, and without losing any noticeable effectiveness?
4:36 PM

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