Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Word of the Day: INNOCENCE

I must say that I resisted writing anything about the topic I will cover today...not out of fear, but out of a sense of not wanting to shed any additional light on the topic.  However, I could resist no longer, and the light I will be shedding on this comes from a place where both sadness and disgust reside within me.

By now, you have probably heard of something that is trying to be passed off as a film, titled Innocence of Muslims.  If you've heard of the film, you have also likely heard about the protests that have arisen throughout the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, as well as Australia and Canada in response to the film.  Although it is being said that some of the protesting is in direct response to the film, and some is the result of the film being a last straw in many people's minds.

To begin, let me address the least important aspect of this: Innocence of Muslims as a film.  If I had seen the entire film, I would be able to address this more fully, but all I have seen is a fourteen-minute long video on YouTube that is supposed to be a trailer for the full-length film.  The full-length version is supposed to have been screened only one time, at the Vine Theater in Hollywood, California in mid-June of this year.  It has been reported, however, that an actual full-length film may not even exist. 

What I saw when I watched the fourteen-minute video was absolute garbage.  It doesn't even suffice as a trailer.  What "clips" were shown displayed a film that visually looks like it was done by rank amateurs.  To say that it looks like high school film students made the film isn't incorrect, but it would give high school filmmakers a bad rap.  The acting is so bad that it makes Robert Pattinson look Oscar-worthy.  ("Muhammad" asking someone questioning his sexuality, "Do you remember the night at the gym?"  Come on!)  Actors in the film who have said they didn't know anything about what the finished product would be are, in my mind, telling the truth because many lines of dialogue were clearly (and poorly) dubbed in during post-production. 

Speaking of high school filmmakers, I'm sure they could do a far better job at making a movie than this piece of crap.

Okay, enough about the as-a-film aspect.  More importantly, the film is an anti-Muslim propaganda piece.  It has been called by its makers and promoters as anything but an attack on Muslims.  Make no mistake about it, dear readers, whether you've seen the video or not, whether you want to see the video or not, this film is an attack on Islam.  Period.

Much has been made about the producer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (aka Sam Bacile).  Some articles have him as being a porn film producer.  He once was a government informant on a bank fraud case to try and benefit himself, since he was implicated.  He served jail time for the bank fraud and has had other run-ins with the law, including time served for the manufacturing of methamphetamine.  He has also reportedly used more than a dozen aliases.  Mr. Nakoula is no stranger to lying or breaking the law.

He is also no stranger to antagonism, since he claimed, during an interview for the film, that he was an Israeli Jew and had received five million dollars to fund the making of the film from Jewish friends.  So, let me see if I have this right: You're Jewish and Jewish friends fund the film which is anti-Islam.  Is it such a huge stretch to make the observation that this film could be oddly considered as an early birthday present for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, who has repeatedly stated he wants to wipe Israel off the map?  (No, I have absolutely no proof that such is true; it is merely an observation, which wouldn't seem so far-fetched if it was ever proven true.)

There is one more player in this exercise of ignorance and intolerance: Pastor Terry Jones.  Does the name ring a bell?  This bile-spewing individual -- that's bile, not bible -- who gives both ministry and Christianity a dark stain of discredit, is the man who wanted to burn copies of the Qur'an, the Muslim sacred text, in 2010.  (He and several others went ahead with the burning in April of this year.)  Just two weeks ago, on September 11th, what Jones called "International Judge Mohammad Day", he screened a copy of the film for his parishioners at Dove World Outreach Center, located in Gainesville, Florida.

Clearly the use of the word "innocence" in Innocence of Muslims is derisive.  The idea is to say, "Hey, you know that [wink, wink...nudge, nudge] all Muslims know this is all true, right?"  (I guess "Insert Laugh Track Here" is supposed to be appropriate.)  Mr. Nakoula and Pastor Jones obviously feel very passionate about this subject and this film.  Their positions are that any finger-pointing at them is unjustified, and that anyone who does that is ignorant. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and Pastor Terry Jones, it is the two of you who are ignorant, and any finger-pointing is, indeed, justified.  You are nothing more than hate-mongers!  You're not as innocent as you'd like to think!

As I mentioned at the opening of this entry, this film saddens and disgusts me.  It breaks my heart to see people using religion, as it has been so many times throughout history, the wrong way for the wrong reasons.  Additionally, I am just so sick and tired of religion bashing.  I couldn't care less who is doing the bashing and who is getting bashed.  People such as Nakoula and Jones, and many others like them, who use misconstruing and misinformation with heavy doses of ignorance and arrogance to create a world ruled by hatred and fear are not, cannot, have never been, and never will be oh-so-innocent.  

How about a film called Innocence of Nakoula and Jones?


Saturday, September 15, 2012


[Something a little different today, and something that will take you longer than my lengthier posts, a Movie of the Day.]

(c) 2011, The Thrive Movement
Directed by Foster Gamble and Kimberly Carter Gamble
I own no rights.

(You'll probably want to enlarge the video box above, as I haven't found a way to enlarge it here, by clicking on the button to the right of the YouTube logo that looks like four corners of a square.)

I watched this film a couple of weeks ago and
really enjoyed it.  If you've seen any of the documentaries Inside Job, Capitalism: A Love Story, or Food, Inc., there are elements in those films in the first half of this film.  (If you've seen none of them, this will be quite the eye-opener.) 

The film will have elements that seem rather new-agey, so you are likely to be turned off early in the film if that does not appeal to you.  I would, however, encourage you to take the time and watch the film in its entirety.  It does not stay in the new-agey realm throughout the entire film.

The film discusses who is in control of things and how, why, and when they work...and for whose benefit.  It then goes on to offer ideas on what can be done to combat what has been happening for years, with the intent, as the film's creators put it, of our "reclaiming our lives and our future".  The "our" means both individually and communally.

At its core, the film is a multidisciplinary look at, and statement on ways to address, the crossroads at which society -- and, by extension, humanity in general -- is today.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Eleven years ago today, the United States of America suffered a terrible blow.  Within the span of seventeen minutes, two airliners (American Airlines flight 11 and United Airlines flight 175) crashed into the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center.  Thirty-four minutes later, another airliner (American Airlines flight 77) crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.   A half-hour after that, a fourth airliner (United Airlines flight 93) crashed in Shanksville, PA., possibly having The White House as its intended target.  In the midst of all this, the South Tower of the Twin Towers collapses, while the North Tower collapses twenty-one minutes after the crash of Flight 93.  A little over seven hours after the collapse of the North Tower, Seven World Trade Center building collapses.  Almost 3,000 persons, including first responders, died on that day.

A national tragedy, to be sure.

While there are those who disagree with the official story of what happened that day, and I admit I count myself among them, today is a day to focus on the victims, both those who died that day and this nation as a whole.

That it was the worst attack on America on American soil is sufficient to qualify the events eleven years ago as a national tragedy.  The loss of so many lives is part and parcel of such a denotation.  The element of surprise adds to the horror of that day.  No citizen in America woke up that Tuesday morning in September of 2001 expecting anything like what happened to take place.  I think back to an event that occurred sixty years earlier, the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and how the element of surprise added to the horror.  The Oklahoma City bombing nearly 7 1/2 years ago would also be a similar example of the same.

There can be an argument made that our political and military involvement in affairs around the world, both known and unknown to the general public, but mostly unknown, has been an example of instigation to foreign entities.  Seldom accepted as reality, or even in the realm of possibility, it has been vilified as nationalistic heresy, or unpatriotic behavior.  This is not say that those who already have a hatred toward this country are really nice people or they never would have tried something, anything, against the U.S. if we hadn't meddled in their affairs.  (That meddling can also be seen by them as the occupying of their country, absent of any attack on them directly.)

How anyone can say, without question, that they would absolutely hate it if any other foreign force occupied our country and that we should respond accordingly (forcefully), but that any country we occupy should just welcome us with open arms because we're the ones doing the occupying isn't nationalistic heresy.  It's nationalist arrogance.

The surprising nature to the average U.S. citizen of the attacks and the loss of life in the thousands are part of the national tragedy of the events eleven years ago today.  There are other elements of this tragedy as well, which became apparent after the day itself.  It was announced just yesterday that Federal health officials included several forms of cancer, in relation to the various toxins released onsite and the first responders who were exposed to them.  That it took eleven years for that to happen is a national tragedy.  Efforts in Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda being undermined for a stronger effort in Iran against Saddam Hussein to take place is a national tragedy.  

The people of this country being led into a war based on lies is another national tragedy.  (You might also want to research the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August of 1964 and check out the film The Fog of War.)  It is also a national tragedy that the flag-draped coffins of U.S. military dead were not allowed to be photographed and published.  They are our deceased citizens, our deceased military, and our deceased sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers, for crying out loud!

We have experienced a kind of rubber band effect in this country, and the same has happened in other countries around the world as well.  Whereas we were fired up when this tragedy happened, we later found ourselves harshly divided over it.  Do we stay to win in Iraq or leave...and what does "win" mean?  Patriotism was labeled as flat-out, unwavering, unquestioning agreement with the government.

"All you have to do is tell [the people] they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same in any country."
                                                                                                          Nazi leader Herman Göring

"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government."
                                                                                                    American author Edward Abbey
"Loyalty to country always.  Loyalty to government when it deserves it."

                                                                                   American author and humorist Mark Twain
"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."
        from The Use of Force in International Affairs by the Friends Peace Committee (Philadelphia)

How love of one's own country excludes disagreement is disheartening and, I admit, frustrating.  I love my country so much that I want it to do the right thing as often as possible.  However, I love it so much that I know, as it is run and represented by human beings who inherently make mistakes, it will make mistakes.  I hope those mistakes will be few and far between, and that when they happen, my country will "'fess up" and do what it takes to make things right.  That is not hatred for one's own country, and saying it is not the absence of patriotism.  Just the opposite.

Silence and acquiescence are unpatriotic.

While I can comment a great deal on the events eleven years ago and the years since, on this day, I remember and honor all those who lost their lives on that day of national tragedy.  You were a part of your families' and loved ones' lives and you will always be missed.  You were a part of the fabric of this country you called home and you will always be missed.  May the loss we all suffered, directly or indirectly, compel us and others to never have to go through this again by the use of common sense, decency, and discernment.  Then, and only then, can we turn this national tragedy into a national triumph.  Rest in peace.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Word of the Day: FAMOUS

"The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you."
Gloria Vanderbilt

"In the future everybody will be world-famous for fifteen minutes."
Andy Warhol

To many people, the idea of being famous is appealing.  Look at anyone who is famous and you're likely to see that person getting attention, sometimes lots of attention, and usually lots of perks.  They are well-known, liked by some or many, hated by some or many.  That's one of the aspects of fame: it is not an all-encompassing across-the-board thing.  Fame means there will always be those who understand why you are famous and celebrate you -- thus the word "celebrity" -- and there will always be those who cannot figure out why in the world so many people like you so much.  ("What did he/she ever do that's so wonderful?") 

There are also huge drawbacks to fame: gossip stories, death threats, extortion attempts, paparazzi, over-zealous admirers, lack of privacy, and people wanting to know all your business, to name a few.  I once heard Harrison Ford during an appearance on 'Inside the Actors Studio' say, "You have to be willing to live in front of people."  Easier said than done.  As a fairly private person myself, it was probably a good thing, in hindsight, that my attempt at an acting career twenty years ago never came to fruition. 

My focus today, however, is on what being famous has become in the last dozen or so years.  Growing up, some of those persons who were famous were astronauts, sports figures, entertainers, scientists, and authors.  Many of those same types of persons remain famous today, rightfully so.  There is, however, another kind of fame that has gained a lot of traction.  I chalk it up to the unfortunate phenomenon called Reality TV.

Reality stars, as they're called, get a lot of attention.  They also expose not only the good inside them, but all of the bad, too.  In fact, it is the bad that gets the most attention.  Look at shows like 'Survivor' and 'Big Brother' (which are more game show/reality TV hybrids) to see people scheming to screw over someone else for their own gain.  Other shows like 'Ice Road Truckers', 'Swamp People', and 'Deadliest Catch' (all three of which, in my opinion, do not belong on the highly reputable cable channels The History Channel and Discovery Channel) simply show people doing their jobs.  Granted, they are dangerous jobs, but a TV special on these and other jobs would be sufficient; a series is overkill.  Programs such as the Paris Hilton/Nicole Richie series 'The Simple Life', 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians' (and all of its spinoffs), and 'Jersey Shore' merely show people being famous for ... being famous.

All of the above-mentioned shows feed into this whole concept of being famous for being famous.  In other words, if you can find a director and a producer who's willing to stick you in front of a camera, you can be famous.  No special talent or skills are required.  No major notable life achievements are required.  No solving of any major problems or issues here or around the world is required.  Just a director, a producer, a subject, cameras, etc., and a desire to show trumped-up conflicts that bring out the worst in people and, wham-o, you have a TV series.

And you will have a following.  And people will laud you as though you have done something spectacular.

While fame is a fleeting and fickle thing, being famous for doing something of major importance seems appropriate; the fame those on reality shows have is just plain ridiculous.  It makes being famous cheap and shallow.  This kind of pre-fab fame overshadows earned fame, and that is truly sad.  I think of someone who recently died, Neil Armstrong.  In the summer of 1969, he became the first person to walk on the moon, uttering the famous line: "It's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."  He knew going into space and walking on the moon would make him famous, but he never sought the spotlight for himself afterward.  He was humble and his fame was earned.  The only thing reality TV stars earn is a paycheck.