27 February 2009

Live Free or Die Hard

So somehow I found myself watching Live Free or Die Hard, which is I guess the fourth movie in the Die Hard series, the first three of which I'm pretty sure I really liked when I was in maybe fifth or sixth grade. Well, according to Wikipedia, Die Hard 3, Die Hard with a Vengeance, came out in 1995 (1 was '88, 2 was '90), so it's more likely that I saw that movie, and then rented the other two. Or probably, I rented 3 sometime in late '95 or '96. And I remember there was a computer video game that my friend Scott had, and we were both pretty into it. I had never intended to see number 4, but it was on, and then I watched it.

I was immediately drawn in by the "hacker" theme, which isn't to say that it was well done or interesting, but that I'm a sucker for movies about hackers. While there wasn't exactly a conspiracy to bring down the government, the movie definitely borrowed from similar visual tropes that movies like Zeitgeist and Loose Change use, as well as portraying the attitude that there are some greater forces at work in the world that ordinary people are unaware of.


After realizing that the government won't be able to help them and going off to beat that bad guys on their own, Bruce Willis (John McClane) and the hacker kid, I think his name was Farrell, (Justin Long (who is the only person in the movie trying to act at all)), have this awesome conversation about how Bruce Willis likes shitty music, and then Willis turns on the news, which is even worse. "It's all manipulated," the hacker says. Nothing they say is true. Oh and he also tells the head of the CIA or FBI or something, that his head would explode if he told him half the things he knows. I really like the idea that this grody hacker living by himself with a bunch of computers in a shitty apartment in New York, believes that he knows the real truth behind everything, because, he can use computers or something.


In the climactic scene (or maybe before) the bad guy tells Bruce Willis, "You're a Timex in a digital world." There's a lot of bad jokes in the movie. My favorite one is when the hacker kid sneaks into the bad guys hideout, and then gets caught, and the bad guy points a gun at him and says, "Is there a problem here?" (or something) and he says, "No, I just got off on the wrong floor."


So, I guess the film actually did pretty well. The action sequences are actually pretty impressive, if totally implausible. Bruce Willis hits a helicopter with a police car by driving it up a tollbooth, which acts as a ramp, and rolling out of the door just before. The most ridiculous part is when an F-35 (which is like a fighter plane) floats around between elevated highway roads shooting at Bruce Willis in an 18-wheeler. I don't know much about fighter planes, but I'm pretty sure they can't just hover above the ground, or go, like straight up. I mean, don't planes have to be going really fast just to stay in the air? I also noticed more in this movie than any other big action movie that I've seen how fake and 3d everything looked.

Apparently the movie was delayed because of September 11. It references 9/11 only once, but the central theme of terrorism obviously borrows a lot from post-9/11 aesthetics, like Iron Man or something. But there are no Arabs or Muslims in the movie, (the FBI director dude looks like he could be Arabic, but is actually of New Zealand Maori descent, at least, in real life) and the terrorist is an American, one who actually was involved in developing the government's information security system, but who was fired when he wouldn't settle for leaving things the way they were. In the moment when he's supposed to explain why he hates America now, he says he wanted to be the one to destory American, before someone from outside did it. That really doesn't make any sense, so the movie suggests he was just doing it for money.

His plan, which the Hacker kid refers to as a "fire sale" as in "everything must go" is to hack into every computer system ever, which are apparently all connected, so he can control all the communication, records of finance, and resources in America. The Hacker has a few clever hacker ways to get around his control of everything ever. The concept of "fire sale" exists, but only in financial terms. While the Hacker acts like the "fire sale" is this legendary Hacker secret that no one has ever done, it's actually just made up for the film, which was dissapointing.

But this is funny:

So, if you're still reading this, I'm thinking of changing the name of this blog again, cause I found out a lot of people already have blogs called "Occam's Razor." Any suggestions? Danny suggested "I want to believe." Which I really like, but I feel like a bit of a poser using an X-Files reference, cause I don't really watch that show.

18 February 2009


Paul McCartney face comparison: White Album Poster photo on Sgt. Pepper Paul McCartney face comparison: Spies Like Us on Sgt. Pepper

My first exposure to the Beatles as a kid was the four (five? seventeen?) part documentary, Anthology, that aired on ABC when I was ten. I watched the rerun too. My favorite part was the section about the "Paul is Dead" hoax, or conspiracy, or whatever. It's really a shame that I didn't have access to the internet at that point in my life, because I was always unsatisfied by the section. I think there may have been a thing on VH1 about it too, which I probably watched several times, I have a vague memory of that. I think I got the internet maybe a year or two later, and got a chance to check out some of these crazy websites, but I'm enjoying revisiting them now.

Paul/Faul ear lobe comparison

There's about a million of them. This one refutes the hoax. It's a real jem of a website. I especially like the previous page links which add up at the bottom of the screen as you go through it. This site has some pretty good info, but I realized that it only exists in order to hock some audio CD of the original radio broadcast about Paul's death.

The amount of evidence sited in support of the theory that Paul McCartney died in a car crash in November of 1966 and was replaced by a double, who apparently had to audition for the role. Like many other conspiracies, the strategy of the people who believe in it is to just bombard you with bizarre facts and coincidences, with little or no reference to reality, until you start thinking, hey maybe this is possible. But to their credit, I'm sort of convinced that the Beatles must have done some of it deliberately.

Beatles Paul is dead Life magazine or william campbellAbbey Road Album Cover Beatles Paul is dead

I don't know where that YouTube video came from, but there's also a bunch of legitimate documentaries that have been made about it. All of the sources site the same facts, more or less. The image comparisons are pretty unconvincing, not the least because doctored photos are so easy to make these days. But all the hidden clues in Beatles lyrics and images make the conspiracy really fun to delve into. Oh, and the audio. Click on "Revolution 9" on this little Flash app. Listen before you reveal the backward lyrics.

This is a great demonstration of how the mind can be so easily influenced to believe in mystery. At the risk of making people hate me, I have to confess that this is really the most I've ever thought about the Beatles, or listened to them, in my life time. Growing up there were no Beatles records around the house; instead there was Miles Davis, Dave Van Ronk, Mozart and Johnny Cash. I didn't go through a middle school, high school or college "Beatles phase." Maybe it's still coming.

09 February 2009


I saw Notorious the other night, and since the movie was kind of boring, I found myself wondering if there was a Tupac conspiracy movie out there somewhere. I was right!

The whole movie is available here. It's kind of boring. I don't recommend watching the whole thing. It goes into excruciating detail to set up the incident of Tupac's shooting, using extensive interviews with Tupac's body guards and police officers who were involved. Although there are some neat 3d models of Tupac's, the assassin's and the other cars at the scene, and some trippy water backgrounds, it lacks the graphics of other low budget conspiracy movies like Zeitgeist and Loose Change, but to be fair, it attempts to tackle a much smaller scale conspiracy.

The set up is reminiscent of the JFK assassination, but instead of the government loosening JFK's security and planting shooters, it was Tupac's label, Death Row, and it's owner, Suge Knight.

Basically, the idea is that Suge Knight, the owner of Tupac's label, Death Row, paid their security team to back off Tupac on the night of his murder. Tupac's altercations with Orlando Anderson and the East Coast/West Coast thing, which Notorious depicts, but never in depth, are used to obscure the real motivation behind the murder. Suge Knight obviously had cause for wanting to get rid of Tupac, who wanted to get out of Death Row and start his own label, Makaveli. Apparently Knight had kept the master tapes of Tupac's sessions for Death Row, which were worth a ton of money. I don't think it's much of a stretch that Suge Knight, who is obviously kind of a crazy thug, would arrange for Tupac's assassination. The one assumption that I can't really believe is that Tupac's security team could be bought. I mean, I know everyone has a price, but I just don't think those dudes would want to do that. The main piece of evidence in the film is a radio communication overheard by one of the body guards, Michael Moore who was taken off Tupac because he wasn't going along with the orders of the owner, Reggie Wright, in which the shooter tells Wright that the job is done or something.

The second half of the movie is about the ensuing coverup orchestrated by Knight and other to keep the police investigation from getting to them. There's really very little evidence, or even decent conjecture, in the movie, that clears anything up, especially since Tupac was also a pretty crazy guy, as you see in Notorious when he suspects Biggie of trying to set him up. Tupac's wikipedia is worth checking out, if you haven't. Apparently his dad was a Black Panther and his mom was on the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted list for four years.

I did like the rules of a conspiracy that the film tried to use as a structure for the interviews and buildup of their case, because they're kinda dumb, but maybe I'll start applying them to other conspiracies:

1. Take out communication
2. Take away security
3. Set up escape and patsy
4. Give a false sense of security
5. Make it look like a random act

I knew pretty much from the opening monologue that this movie was going to suck, because the narration was so terrible, with lines like: "What's also interesting about Tupac is the way he died" and "One of the most notorious unsolved murders of the past twenty years." Obviously Tupac's murder is interesting. Duh. And what? The past twenty years? Were their a string of high profile murders in the late eighties that I don't know about?

But it did reference Occam's Razor, which I appreciated, though they used the simplistic definition, "All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one." If the film makers had read my blog, they would understand that that is an oversimplification, and maybe they would have made a better movie. I think they make it decently clear that there was some foul play involved in Tupac's murder, and that Suge Knight was possibly involved, but they don't make any of it seem urgent or particularly interesting. There's no sense of fear that good conspiracy films are able to instill in viewers.

06 February 2009

Bishop is Holocaust Denier

I read in the Times the other day that the new Pope, Benedict XVI, formerly Ratzinger, who is German (thought he was something else, like Polish?) un-excommunicated four ultra conservative Catholic Bishops from the Society of St. Pius X, including Richard Williamson, an English Holocaust denier.

I've come across plenty of Holocaust denial videos on youtube, as well as websites, and it always seemed so incredible to me that these people exist, but I guess the more ridiculous something sounds, the more likely it is that it exists somewhere. But it's frightening that someone with actual power and authority would be susceptible to this seemingly pointless strain of thought.

The Pope is trying to force Williamson to recant any statements denying the Holocaust, but this has already turned into a doozy of a political problem for the Vatican II. Apparently the whole raison d'etre for the Society of St. Pius X is that they disagree with the liberalizing reforms of Vatican II, especially a document that absolves contemporary Jews of the responsibility for killing Christ, so well, yeah, I guess there's your problem. The Pope un-excommunicated them with the hope of fixing a break in the Church. Probably should have done some research first.

I guess some Holocaust deniers claim that a Zionist conpsiracy is responsible for inflating the number of Jews killed under Hitler's authority. Williamson, like others, claims that historical evidence doesn't support the idea that Jews were killed in gas chambers. Like many conspiracy theorists, these crack pots attempt to use ridiculous historical sounding rhetoric to make it seem like they know what they're talking about. My reaction to this is basically, "Don't you have better things to do with your time?" which is obviously not the most important question here (another might be, "HOW THE FUCK CAN YOU TALK ABOUT NAZI GAS CHAMBERS USING BULLSHIT SCIENTIFIC LANGUAGE AND STILL CONSIDER YOURSELF A MAN OF GOD, YOU FUCKING MORON?") but, I mean, honestly, what the fuck is wrong with these guys. Get a life.

Here's Williamson expressing his views. This is real.

And a shitty Youtube video about it, which is just representative of a bunch of shit out there. Don't watch this if you don't have a very strong stomach.

I like that "Lesson 3" in the above video is "History isn't an exact science." Neither are Youtube videos, which is probably why only a few hundred people have watched this dude's piece of shit. I also like: "If 3 million Jews didn't die here, what replace non-killed people in the current 6 million figure?"

But I do like this video, which attempts to attract Holocaust deniers with the title of the video, but has this silly thing and then a bunch of *facts* about the Holocaust in the "about" section on the right.

What I want to know is, if Youtube can censor pornography, why can't they get rid of this shit?