The Eclectic

Time moves in one direction, memory in another. – William Gibson

Archive for August, 2006

Punishment Park: Why it still matters 35 years later

Posted by David Leslie on August 29, 2006

For years when I would read about the work of a director from the UK named Peter Watkins and his film “The War Game“. Thanks to DVD, Watkins work is now available.

See, “The War Game” was a 1962 BBC drama that Watkins shot in a documentary format. Meant to be an hour drama to encourage people to take seriously the idea of emergency preparedness in case of a nuclear war, Watkins instead used the documentary format of a hypothetical limited nuclear war to show how the government’s emergency preparedness was all but worthless.  Needless to say, it was 20 years before the BBC aired “The War Game” but a print made for film festivals earned Watkins the Academy Award for best documentary of 1966. It also inspired two films that made me interested in nuclear warfare and international relations at way too young an age, The Day After and Threads.

Honestly, The War Game was as I had expected. Brutal but outdated. If there is to be a nuclear exchange, it will be with most likely with a dirty bomb (the impact of which was documented in the BBC film, Dirty War)

But it was another Watkins film that hit me in the gut, 1971’s  Punishment Park.

Inspired by a hybrid of the Kent State shootings, the trial of the Chicago Eight and a little known law from 1950 Red scare that gave the President authorization to suspend the Constitution (McCarran Act), Punishment Park (on UK web site for the DVD) sadly holds up well. So well that parts of the movie appear to come out of today’s headlines.

The movie follows two groups of dissidents. The first has been sent to  Bear Mountain National Punishment Park for their trial. They have held without charges, their court appointed attorney has little time to talk to his clients let alone prepare a defense while the tribunal acts as both prosecution, judge and jury. The second group stands ready to participate as volunteers’ in the law enforcement training drill about to take place within Punishment Park.

The rules are simple, avoid capture for 3 days and 2 nights and reach the American flag at the end of the course. Touch the flag and you’re sentence (ranging from 7 year to life in prison) will be pardoned. If you are captured, your sentence starts at one. They are given a two hour head start with the promise of water at the half way mark since the dry lake bed in the park reaches the low 100’s.

Watkins used for many of the rolls non-professional actors who believed in the position of their character. Also the movie was build from outlines without a script and Watkins again used the documentary style. The arguments are real as was the anger. While the ending was a bit predicable (law enforcement 101, if you know where the person is going, get there before they do) it still has an emotional impact.

A question could be asked, is Gitmo our Punishment Park? I don’t know the answer but watching this movie from 35 years ago makes you wonder about it.


Posted in The Arts | Leave a Comment » – Rep. Harris: Church-state separation ‘a lie’ – Aug 28, 2006

Posted by David Leslie on August 28, 2006

It’s unbelievable that someone in elected office could honestly believe that the founders would want to not have a separation between the church and state.

Then again this is Kathleen Harris who’s butchering of the Florida 2000 Presidential election was rewarded with a US House seat.

The statement of clarification on her Senate campaign site was something only The Daily Show could come up with. I loved the Jewish campaign staffer who rallied to Kathleen’s side by listing her support on Jewish which had nothing to do with her bizarre view of the founding of America.

BTW, the news organization that broke this story ran this op-ed so maybe she got missed quoted..

Link to – Rep. Harris: Church-state separation ‘a lie’ – Aug 28, 2006

Posted in The Dump | Leave a Comment »

My crappy cable reception

Posted by David Leslie on August 22, 2006

For some reason my cable service from TimeWarner has decided to flake out on me.

Here’s the score, I have a WinPVR-150 MCE and I’m running XP Media Center as my OS. About 4 months ago, I stated getting strange lines going diagonally across channels 65 to 70 which happens to be where BBC America and the National Geographic Channel live.

With the problem                                         Without the problem

At first it wasn’t a big deal but now it’s unwatchable on the computer, my guest tv is getting worse and even the tv with the TW provided DVR is starting to show it.  

The rub is that I’ve had TW out 5 times and so far nothing has worked:

  • Tech 1 said I needed a dedicated line for my Road Runner
  • Tech 2 installed the line but the problem still occurred 
  • Tech 3 replaced the line running from the post to my house but that didn’t work. He also said that maybe the problem was with the computer. After checking with the folks at Hauppauge and with XI computer, the box was ruled out. 
  • Tech 4 said the problem was ‘ingress’,  replaced all the coxal connectors but aside from telling me to check the ground (which I have no idea where that’s at) said that he would have the dispatcher check to see if the problem is between the post and the TW hub. 
  • Tech 5 replaced the DVR (I went from the piece of junk Scientific Atlanta 8000 to the new hotness that is the 8300)

I called again tonight to get a status but was told to check back at the end of the week.

If it’s not fixed by then, who knows what will be next…

Posted in Technology | Leave a Comment »

Wolf, if the four horsemen start to mount up, let’s go to a live shot…

Posted by David Leslie on August 22, 2006

Click on the link below for a great bit from the Daily Show on how ‘the media’ is asking such probing questions as “Are these the end times?”

 Daily Show on the end of the world

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My brain is gone

Posted by David Leslie on August 19, 2006

The last few weeks has been one point of frustration after another. The kind of frustration that has you just wanting to yell at the top of your lungs, what can’t this just work.

So the new few posts are going to deal with them one by one. Maybe in wrting some of this down, I might see a fix hiding in the churn.

Posted in Technology, The Dump | Leave a Comment »

A day in Orwell

Posted by David Leslie on August 7, 2006

One of my wife’s close friends lives on a nice patch of land about an hour east of Cleveland. It had been awhile since we seen her so I took the day off and headed with the family up for a visit before sliding to Glenn Willow for a train ride on a set of historic passenger cars.

After driving about three hours we got to the place and watch as John got to pet his first horse. We also got to play a bit with some of the dogs that they have been breading before naps and then the hunt for a place to eat at 8 pm on a Friday night. But before heading out, we put the horses in the side yard on walking stakes since they would graze on the grass, saving the need to mow it. For the first time since I was 9, I handled a horse as I stepped up to help walk the horses to the stakes from the barn. I had forgotten how much I love horses. I was never into cowboys but I thought horse racing was it when I was really little.

Did I mention that Orwell is in the boarder of Amish country in northeast Ohio? It’s also the home of Don King’s training complex / farm. It was all lined with these strange statues. I’ll need to get some photos the next time by.

Most of the places were closed but we did happen to find the “Country Cafe” next to of all things, a teen rock club. One of the kids was so glammed up we couldn’t tell the gender. This wouldn’t be a big deal in Columbus but had to been out there among the Amish.

Dinner was good but I regreeted getting the all you can eat shrimp fry since the little guys hadn’t been devained (I know, I know I just like them without the poop shoot thank you).

Jean and John got up early the next morning to take a walk before breakfast and to help with the animals. John feed the horses some carrots from our garden before we headed out to fish at one of the nature areas near the house.

“Near’ is a realative term in a place like Orville. A 15 minute drive at 50 miles per hour counts as ‘near’. While we tried two ponds, we managed only a nibble. John had fun but he did go splat in the mud at one point when he slipped on the bank.

We said our goodbyes and then headed into Glenn Willow for our train ride. John was already planning his trip into the woods and riding one of the horses for the next time we visit.

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