Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Gold

The Oscars are tonight and it’s time to tell you what I thought of four of the most recent nominated movies I’ve seen:

The Kings Speech

The quintessentially British Colin Firth portrayed HRH King George VI in Tom Hooper's adaptation of the true story of an incredible issue which the king suffered from; that of speaking. Hooper explored the lengths at which Queen Elizabeth [Helena Bonham Carter] went to go correct “Bertie”’s affliction until finally discovering one Lionel Logue [Geoffrey Rush] who aided the king in overcoming his condition well enough to address the entire nation in it’s time of need.

It’s fair to say that most people will enjoy this seemingly uneventful royal borefest simply for its artistic quality, script and acting performances. The standard of performances themselves is beyond anything I’d normally choose to sample myself in the cinema and it made for an interesting change of pace from my usual class of entertainment. While I certainly won’t be making a habit of it, I’d not be as vehemently opposed to a historical non-war related drama should one emerge this time next year.

Oscars should be dispensed here to both Bonham Carter and especially Firth who possess a remarkable ability to adopt the persona of their characters, icons of British history.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***

Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky is a “weird” director who makes “weird” movies. If you’ve seen Requiem For A Dream for example and either understood or worse – enjoyed it; then not only are you weird too, you’re also a little creepy to me now as well. I don’t think I knew who he was back when I first spoke on 2IGTV about his RoboCop reboot, but when I discovered how weird he was and that he had his sights on RoboCop; I prayed the project would fail. My prayers were answered with the economic collapse of MGM which sadly took Bond and Hobbits with it until recently but if I had the time to live over I’d gladly delay both Bond and The Hobbit until now just so Aronofsky couldn’t make RoboCop.

To address his latest movie however; Black Swan was shockingly shit! It served absolutely no practical entertainment purpose whatsoever. Even it's one hook, the promise of a graphic lesbian sex scene between Hollywood sirens Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis failed to ignite even the most excitable of cinema patrons. "We didn't even see tits, let alone pussy!" said a disgruntled teenaged Tweeter.

Now while I’m sure that Ms. Portman’s performance was simply wonderful, I was so distracted by the disturbing and bizarre nature of the subject matter and possibly the stupidity and predictability of where the plot was going, that her work was sadly lost on me. One single grace here was an interesting performance from Winona Ryder as the former prima ballerina now past her prime which seems to echo Ryder's own career with delicious irony.

Oscar may go to Portman for her hard work but it would be a shame to bestow such a talented actress with an honour for this blight on celluloid.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *

The Fighter

The only other movie I know David O' Russell made was 3 Kings which despite its Gulf War setting, failed to meet the mark in my book. So naturally I was apprehensive about seeing The Fighter, basically a biographical sports movie about a boxer I never heard of. The cast intrigued me however, Mark Wahlberg, who rarely fails to impress, Christian Bale, one of the finest actors of his generation and Amy Adams, a nice bit of redhead totty.

I'll have to say it was the sheer quality of the performances and the story which made this movie as good as it was. Wahlberg was quite adequate as the protagonist, 'Irish' Micky Ward. At first reluctant to leave his overbearing family for the promise of sporting glory but soon embraced it only to find that he truly needed the support of everyone to succeed. Melissa Leo an underrated character actress who came to peoples attention first for her years on Homicide: Life on the Street put in an exceptional and sometimes humorous turn as the Ward family matriarch. Adams proved to everyone that she's not just a hot babe and can actually act - I've seen her in a far few things now and I honestly had no idea - well done Amy. But then we come to Christian Bale, the man absorbed himself in the role so much that you honestly believed he was a jittering, deluded has-been drug-addict and not a multi-million dollar actor. And certainly not the man who sang The Powerpuff Girls theme song. It's not until the credits roll and you see the real "Dicky" Eklund that you realise how much Bale became him.

With performances like these, the actual movie could've bee complete crap and no one would have noticed. It wasn't however, it's a classic underdog story of two men who took the reigns of their own destiny and accomplished something against the odds.

If the Oscar doesn't go to Bale for Supporting Actor, I'll shoot someone.

Colonel CreedonRating: ****

True Grit

I've not seen a Western since 3:10 To Yuma in '07 when Russel Crowe and Ben Foster put in a good turn in a remake of the 1957 original. True Grit pretty much follows the same line, a stellar cast to update and make a superior movie to the original. The Coen Brothers are usually a bit too off-the-wall for my tastes but I had heard that their eccentricity was very toned down for this in comparison to previous efforts which intrigued me.

Jeff Bridges is fantastic as always as a drunken US Marshal that's a little too trigger happy for his superiors, but he always gets his man. He's hired by a plucky young girl [Hailee Steinfeld] who wants justice for her fathers murder and together with Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger they go to track down the murderer [John Brolin] who rides with Barry Pepper's gang.

The movie contains much of the humour you'd find with the Coen Brothers but fused with a raw brutal violence which I'll admit can catch you off guard even when you think you may suspect what's going to happen. The movie is mainly through the eyes of it's heroine but is far from innocent in presentation. It's exceptionally well written and the character dialogue is perhaps a bit more realistic for it's setting, which serves to draw you in more then one normally would be with a Western.

I've not seen the John Wayne original but from all accounts, it wasn't a great movie. It's widely known Wayne won the Oscar as a "career" award rather than for his performance in True Grit. Sadly due to continued Oscar snobbery, the new True Grit won't get any significant Oscars as it's a remake and deemed "unworthy".

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****1/2

I saw Toy Story 3 and Inception last year as well. Toy Story will get an award. Inception deserves an award it can't get because Chris Nolan doesn't play the Oscar committee's game. But hopefully it will pick up a technical one for visual effects or something or perhaps Hans Zimmer will pick up one for the score.

Well Done Billy!

Cork will never turn it's back on Fianna Fáil.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Election 2011

In a few hours from now the the people of Ireland will democratically elect the leaders of the country for the next few years. Opinion polls point to a change to the status quo as the party that traditionally leads the polls, Fianna Fáil, is expected to suffer from heavy losses as many people unjustly blame them for the financial crisis which has the nation in a stranglehold.

As a great proportion of voters are in fact moaning idiots who spend most of their time complaining and blaming the government for everything from the weather to the morning traffic, it's only natural that blaming the government is the answer to the private banking crisis. Anger and retribution is the natural answer to this problem but as the Irish are not like the Greeks, the best they can do is "make Fianna Fáil pay" by not voting for them.

Sadly by not voting Fianna Fáil [Centrist], there are only two realistic alternatives*, Fine Gael [Centre Right] and The Labour Party [Centre Left], neither of which has been in power in the 21st century nor have either had a great success in government as Fianna Fáil have had. An even worse danger is the truly terrifying prospect that Fine Gael will gain enough votes to form a majority government all by itself; something they have never done, [no party has done since Fianna Fáil 1982]. The impact of a single party government - especially one from such an inexperienced and obviously unprepared party - could have on the country in its current state may be disastrous.

Enda Kenny, a man whom broadcaster Vincent Browne said "should go into a dark room with a gun and bottle of whiskey."

Enda Kenny, the preening self-absorbed leader of Fine Gael will most likely head the next government, the 31st Dáil. Kenny is a noted liar with racist tendencies who unlikely has the full support of his own party after a failed leadership challenge last summer. Eamon Gilmore, Ireland's "patron saint of anger" made a plea to voters to vote for his Labour Party so that Fine Gael will not hold the overall majority and have to enter into an assumed coalition situation with them as they have always done in the past.

Fianna Fáil will now take their place on the opposition benches which have been kept warm by the arses of the lesser parties for the past 15 years. Their new leader, Corkman Micheál Martin is a younger, more intelligent and more charismatic man than Biffo and as he has proved in the recent televised election debates that he is far more versed in the wold of politics than his opposing counterparts. On Tuesday evening last, Martin, amid effortlessly deflecting the petty and childish antics of a desperate Eamon Gilmore; utterly destroyed the much vaunted "Five Point Plan" - the 2011 election gimmick of Fine Gael and showed Enda Kenny up as a man completely unprepared for the job ahead of him. Sadly Micheál's ascension to the position of "The Man who should be Taoiseach" has come too late in the game for people to realise before they make their terrible mistake tomorrow.

I ask now only that you go to vote tomorrow for whomever you have chosen to do so for.

*Unrealistic alternatives include The Green Party [backstabbing hippie bastards], The Socialist Party [Commie bastards], Sinn Fein [the Provisional IRA], The Workers Party [the "Real" or Official IRA], Non-party-affiliated Independents [the guys that wouldn't be allowed into a party].

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crisis in North Africa continues

The situation in the North African country of Libya is deteriorating rapidly. Last evening the madman Colonel Gaddafi made a very brief and bizarre appearance on state television in which he praised the rain that kept him from addressing the youth in Green Square [who wants to give a speech while getting wet?]. He also stated that he was in Tripoli and not in Venezuela and continued to ramble with a request not to "believe the channels belonging to stray dogs," before saying "Bye!"

Gunfire was reported throughout Tripoli last night. Loyalist soldiers were reported to have continued some bombarding to keep defecting soldiers away from the protests. Fighter jets are reported to have targeted army ammunition depots in order to prevent troops from joining the protesters. The Libyan Navy reportedly began firing on onshore targets, and Gaddafi allegedly issued execution orders to soldiers refusing to fire on protesters.

The former ambassador to India, Ali al-Essawi, stated that he feared returning to Libya. He also said that foreign mercenaries, who seemed to have come from other African countries, were "massacring" people. The former ambassador to Bangladesh, A. H. Elimam, was also reported to have "disappeared" after 9:00 Bangladesh time. Al Jazeera said the last conversation with him noted "a sense of panic" in his voice and that his phone had been switched off. He indicated a feeling of being threatened by an intelligence officer at the embassy, who was from the same village as Gaddafi. No one knows where he is now.

Eyewitnesses report that thousands of African mercenaries were flown into Tripoli to put down the uprising. One insider source reports Gaddafi knows he can't retake Libya but plans to force a Pyrrhic victory on his opponents; to whittle down their numbers and sabotage the oil reserves.

"I am a fighter, a revolutionary from tents ... I will die as a martyr at the end"

In a second overlong rambling speech today, Colonel Gaddafi vowed to fight his opponents "until the last drop of his blood had been spilt" rather step down, describing anti-regime protesters as "rats" and "mercenaries" working for foreign nations and corporation's agendas. He said the rioting urban youths that were oppose his rule were manipulated by Zionists and others who gave them drugs and who were trying to turn the country into an Islamic state.

General Abdulfatah Younis who holds the position of top general and interior minister and thusly the second most powerful man in the troubled country, escaped from house arrest, resigned, and called for the security forces to fight Gaddafi and his regime.

Th Arab League’s secretary general, Amr Moussa, had said in an emergency Arab League summit in Cairo, that the Arab League suspended the Libyan delegation. Mr Moussa says Libyan delegations are banned "until the Libyan authorities respond to the demands that have been set".

Not unlike the response to protests in Egypt and Tunisia, the U.S. has been tempered in its support for protesters in Libya. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that the U.S. is watching the situation in Libya "with alarm" and condemned the violence. Speaking aboard Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the United States is participating in meetings at the United Nations to develop a unified voice to condemn the violence in Libya.

The United Nations Security Council met today to debate the Libyan situation. New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez called on the U.N. Security Council to condemn Gaddafi's acts and for the General Assembly to expel Libya from the U.N. Human Rights Council. It's also confirmed that the UNSC have received more specific military information from one of their most trusted officers who reports to the UNSC directly as Special Operations Commander to UNETIDA, Colonel "Whopper" Creedon. As a captain, Creedon served on the USS America during Operation El Dorado Canyon, the Bombing of Libya, in 1986 and is believed to have led a clandestine intelligence gathering mission to the country in 1998.

Colonel "Whopper" Creedon briefs the UNSC in New York via video link from UNETIDA Strike Station "Olympus", Cyprus.

"In the short term, the tools the West can employ to deal with the situation in Libya are limited," says Robert Danin from the Council on Foreign Relations. "What would be dramatic would be to employ a no fly zone over Tripoli to protect the protesters from Colonel Gaddafi's aircraft," he tells the BBC.

Source: BBC, Fox News

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Today in The Middle East: Unrest, revolt and revolution

The popular uprising in Egypt gave Washington a bit of a headache; Mubarak had been an ally for three decades. A moderate leader at peace with the Israelis despite being somewhat repressive in his own land. But how could the most free nation on the planet continue supporting him with one hand while professing to support the universal rights being demanded by the protesters in Cairo? The answer was - it couldn't - and Mubarak was "let go" seeing as the Egyptian army could probably maintain the country on it's moderate path, keeping peace with Israel and begin to address some basic reforms.

Bahrain which also began to feel the waves of revolution, posed a more difficult situation for the US. Unlike Egypt a brutal crackdown was taken against protesters there. Security forces opened fire Friday on Bahrain's protesters wounding at least 50 people as thousands defied the government and marched toward Pearl Square in an uprising that sought to break the political grip of the Gulf nation's leaders.

The US condemned the use of violence against protesters in Manama but chose its words very carefully. Secretary Clinton said: "Bahrain is a friend and an ally and has been for many years and while all governments have a responsibility to provide citizens with security and stability, we call [for] restraint." President Obama spoke of universal rights, but US interests hang in the balance, perhaps even more so than with Egypt.

Sunni kingdoms like Bahrain and larger neighbour Saudi Arabia are allied with the US and are crucial counterweights to Iran's growing influence in the region. Bahrain itself is home to the US Navy's 5th fleet and is a key pillar for US regional military infrastructure.

Thankfully, today troops have been withdrawn from confronting the mainly peaceful protesters, an jubilant demonstrators feel empowered. A dialogue has apparently begun with the ruling royal family. Critical here is not just Bahrain's image of itself as a modern, relatively liberal Middle Eastern country, but the extent of outside influence. President Obama and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, all phoned the monarchy urging a peaceful solution and it appears for now their words were heard. Or should that be threats, what with CJCS Admiral Mike Mullen being sent to the region today.

Interestingly, Iran was quite quick to voice it's congratulations to the people of Egypt in achieving their goal in a peaceful manner but hypocritically violent in retaliation against Iranians protesting against them this week. The Iranian Parliament's conservative MPs even called for the execution of protest leaders.

Protesters in Sanaa, Yemen marched to the Ministry of Justice, demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh leave office immediately. Riot police shot dead a protester and injured five others when they opened fire on the thousands of demonstrators. Four others were killed by police in Aden and another lost his life in Taiz when a grenade was thrown from a car at protesters.

Protesters clashed with government supporters in Jordan on Friday, where crowds had gathered to demand political reform. Police moved in to separate the groups and activists say eight protesters were hurt in the scuffles. It was the seventh week in a row that crowds have gathered after Friday prayers to urge economic and political reforms. Admiral Mullen recently visited Jordan which like Egypt, has a peace treaty with Israel. Mullen assured King Abdullah II of America's commitment to the security of his kingdom.

Despite the tense situations in the Middle East, nothing is comparing to the bloodbath that's currently happening in the the North African country of Libya where Colonel Gaddafi's forces have killed over 200 protesters against his 40-year regime in only a few days. Soldiers have been using heavy weapons to quell protests and even a funeral procession came under mortar fire at the weekend.

Gaddafi is unlikely to respond to either political rhetoric or even military threats. To to save both his skin and his power, he's unlikely to shrink from more violence. It's doubtless he will see anything other than the harsh measures we see coming from there now as his only option.

I think it's high time that the man Ronald Reagan dubbed the "mad dog of the Middle East" got put down!

Source: BBC News / Sky News / Fox News

Friday, February 18, 2011

If Philly has a Rocky statue; why not a RoboCop one in Detroit ?

That was gist of an argument tweeted recently to Dave Bing, Mayor of Detroit, Michigan. Sadly Mr. Bing did not appear to think a statue of a fictional police cyborg created from the remains of a murdered cop by a fascist monopoly who then went on to brutally dispense justice in a future-Detroit by violently killing or maiming lawbreakers before finally breaking his programming and continuing to violently kill or maim lawbreakers by his own accord, was appropriate to have immortalised in stone [or any other material for that matter]. It's probably unsurprising for you to learn Bing is a Democrat.

Right: The bronze statue of Rocky outside a Philadelphia museum

Detroit itself however had other ideas and the people of probably the worst hit city in the United States by the economic downturn became galvanised. One local non-profit group "Imagination Station" was quick to organise a Facebook campaign to fund and construct a $50,000 two-metre high-plus sculpture of RoboCop on privately owned land near the Michigan Central Depot in downtown Detroit, unless the Mayor relents under pressure to have the statue erected in a public location. "It would draw tourists, just as the Fonzie statue known as "Bronze Fonz" does in Milwaukee. Plus, it's just a cool idea," Brandon Walley one of the organisers said.

Amazingly in less than 10 days of the appeal starting, the group had raised more than $25,000 from donations through the Internet. The effort was then considerably helped out by a single $25,000 donation from San Francisco businessman Pete Hottelet, owner of Omni Consumer Products, who produce products based on TV and movie products like the True Blood drink from the show True Blood and Stay-Puft marshmallows from Ghostbusters. The real-life company is named after the fictional oppressive megacorporation that created RoboCop in Paul Verhoven's 1987 movie, well known as my favourite movie of all time.

Peter Weller, who first played Alex Murphy/RoboCop said that the homage to the fictional crimefighter would be good for Detroit. "I think it's a great thing." Jerry Paffendorf one of the RoboCop campaign leaders said he hopes the RoboCop campaign inspires residents and leads to other projects. "If people can raise money for something like RoboCop, then they can do it for their neighborhoods or their schools," he said. "Sometimes it takes a RoboCop to open up the consciousness of these things."

Sources: Detroit Free Press / / SkyNews

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Revolution in Egypt but Obama must act!

Upon seeing the success of nearby Tunisians ousting their own President, the people of Egypt who had been living under the oppressive rule of President Hosni Mubarak for 30 years decided that it was finally possible to change the country for themselves. For almost 3 weeks the eyes of the world have been on the country that links Africa with Asia.

While it was good that under Mubarak, Egypt kept peace with Israel, established and close ties with the West and opposed Islamic extremism; it was unfortunate he kept his country under emergency law which restricted freedom and gave all but totalitarian control to the police.

On Thursday, after many days of unrest that saw about 300 people dead, Mubarak had again told Egyptians that he would stay in power until elections planned for September. But on Friday 11th February, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced the resignation of the eighty-two-year-old dictator.

U.S. President Barack Obama says the resignation marks only a beginning of Egypt's transition and that Egyptians had made it clear that they will accept "nothing less than genuine democracy."

Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi is now acting as President of Egypt and his Council pledged today to eventually rescind power to an elected civilian government. They also reassured allies that the peace treaty with Israel will be abided by. While they announced that they will retain members of the government appointed by Mubarak in his final weeks, they do so as a stop-gap measure to keep the country operating. The Council also urged the public to "work to push the economy forward."

A random Egyptian who I've decided to quote, Weszam Elmelegi posted on the Facebook: "This is our victory. Our freedom. Our Egypt. Egyptians have taught the world one lesson: when the people speak, their voice is not words. It is thunder. And when thunder strikes the entire forces of nature listen. Because thunder is sent by God. Ours is one of the most honorable revolutions in history. We did not fall into the pit of civil war. We did not get any help from any government."

That's right Mr. Elmelegi, no help at all.

The events in Tunisia and Egypt are as significant as the fall of the Shah of Iran and the fall of the Berlin Wall and it will be up to the United States to confirm the Egyptians success or failure for our way of life. When the wall fell, Reagan and Bush flooded the former Warsaw Pact nations with individuals who knew how to create the institutions of free societies. Now, those same countries are vibrant democracies that love the stars and stripes. In Iran in the late 70's however, ineffectual Jimmy Carter sat on his arse and didn't deploy advisers, leaving Iran to the Iranians. Before long, any democratic reformers "disappeared" and Islamic fundamentalists reigned supreme. Nowadays, Iran is in a race to develop a nuclear weapons and led by a complete nutter who demands the destruction of the "Satanic" United States.

Thankfully today, the US is led by the extraordinarily decisive and popular Nobel Peace Prize winning President who is so not Jimmy Carter. No, Obama is more like Reagan, so much so he's apparently "The Gipper" now!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

This Mechanic doesn't fix cars...

...well actually he does kind of, but its more of a hobby like listening to the exact same Schubert record over and over again like some sort of bizarre obsession... but I digress.

Jason The Expendables Statham takes a well deserved break from driving cars insanely through a movie [The Transporter Trilogy, The Italian Job, Death Race] to present himself as Bishop, a subdued killer for hire. We're treated to an example of his craft and through his interaction with his agents we learn that this man is the best in the business of killing without leaving a trace [and although he doesn't seem to wear gloves, he never leaves prints - yes, he's THAT good!!!]. When he's hired by his agency to kill someone he knows, he starts down a road that teams him up with his mentor Harry[Donald Sutherland]'s son Steve [Ben 3:10 To Yuma Foster] whom he trains to become an assassin too.

If you think you've seen this before - you have; but you may have seen the superior-in-many-ways Charles Bronsan & Jan-Michael Vincent original The Mechanic [1972]. In that movie Bishop [Bronson] was a tragic figure who popped pills because of the stress and paid a prostitute to compose love letters to him because he can't risk human friendship. Statham's Bishop didn't seem stressed out at all and actually screwed the prostitute. The way Bronson's Bishop trained Vincent's Steve was done in such a way that makes perfect sense of it's clever ending. Alas you don't get that in 2011 and the training is nothing more than a Rocky-esque montage that somehow culminates in Steve going from a bum to the equivalent of a special forces soldier in the space of a few months.

But the exceptional character development and a well constructed plot is hardly what you expect in a Jason Statham movie and certainly not why I wanted to see it. No, I wanted some hard and fast action and this movie is not light on it. Foster and Statham are very physical and while it does take a while to truly open up the killing is delightfully theatrical as well as utterly implausible at times.

The movie's pace is a welcome change for Statham who sometimes seems like he's constantly on Crank [see what I did there?]. Director Simon Tomb Raider West seems to use Foster, who is a far superior actor, to subdue Statham's pace just enough for you to enjoy each on-screen death at a pace you can relish. West's trademark use of "overkill climactic death scenes" such as Cyrus the Virus' end in Con Air and Colonel Kent's suicide-by-landmine in The General's Daughter come to mind when you see the climax of this particular movie.

Final Verdict: This is a highly predictable and formulaic action movie with a bare hint of Shakespearean tragedy if you're prepared to excavate. So if you hate those or hate Statham then you won't find anything here, but after 3 weeks of Season of the Witch, The Kings Speech and Black Swan I found exactly what I wanted.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Long Live The Gipper!

If someone asked you "Who was the greatest President of the United States of America, and why?" What would you say?

Washington, for setting America on course to be a great democratic republic?
Lincoln, for his leadership during the Civil War, abolishing slavery and strengthening the union?
, for his leadership during WWII, helping to create the UN and introducing Social Security?
Ike, for creating the Interstate system and presiding over the inception of the Cold War?
Harry Truman for having the balls the drop the A-Bomb?

All those answers are good in their own right, but here in the Bunker they'd be incorrect and you'd be wrong! The greatest President of the United States of America was former actor Ronald W. Reagan, 40th President, and a towering, visionary figure in the history of the Republican Party, the United States and the world.

During his terms in office, Reagan's policies reflected his own beliefs in individual freedom. "Reaganomics" enhanced the economy through tax cuts and job creation programs which led to the creation of 16 million jobs, unprecedented GDP growth and an 8% decrease in inflation.

Reagan expanded the military by an astonishing 40% during peacetime [including commissioning a fresh faced USMC Lieutenant with a penchant for Burger King sandwiches] though his policy of "Peace through Strength". He escalated the Cold War by abandoning détente, formally denouncing the USSR and creating the Strategic Defence Initiative. This expansion, coupled with US pressure on Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, lowered the price of oil - one of the USSR's key exports - forcing the Russians to bankrupt themselves to keep up with the US. This effectively brought a peaceful end to the Cold War and Reagan was able to ask the now-impotent Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!"

-Reagan is the oldest man elected to the office of the presidency [at 69].
-He became the first serving POTUS to survive an assassination attempt [in 1981].
-He was the first American president ever to address the British Parliament [in 1982].
-He made GPS free for for civilian use in navigation [in 1983].
-Reagan won a record 525 electoral votes in the 1984 Presidential Campaign - the most of any candidate in United States history - He won EVERY state with the exception of opponent Walter Mondale's home state of Minnesota.
-As Reagan was going under aesthetic for colon surgery in 1985 it caused the first-ever invocation of the Acting President clause of the 25th Amendment.
-He made 376 judicial appointments, the most of any US President.
-In 1991, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was dedicated and opened to the public. Five presidents were in attendance marking the first time that large a number of former presidents were gathered in the same location.
-Upon taking command of U.N.E.T.I.D.A. Special Operations Bunker 14, Colonel "Whopper" Creedon decreed that the only photograph of a historical political figure ever to be displayed there was that of Reagan, a directive that stands 11 years later.

Political historian M.J. Heale summarized the consensus reached by scholars: That Reagan rehabilitated conservatism, turned the US to the right, practiced a pragmatic form of conservatism that balanced ideology and the constraints of politics, revived faith in the presidency, American self respect and contributed to the victory in the Cold War.

I salute "The Gipper" on this, the 100th anniversary of his birth and declare him The Greatest President of the United States, of all time!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

DOD Announces the National Security Space Strategy

Yesterday, the Department of Defense announced the release of the National Security Space Strategy (NSSS), signed jointly by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

It is derived from the National Security Strategy and the National Space Policy and outlines necessary changes to enhance national security through DoD and intelligence community activities in space. It is the culmination of a lengthy and detailed Space Posture Review conducted in close consultation with other agencies and allies.

SECDEF Gates said "The National Security Space Strategy represents a significant departure from past practice. It is a pragmatic approach to maintain the advantages we derive from space while confronting the new challenges we face."

The NSSS is driven by an evolving strategic environment. Space is crucial for military operations and intelligence collection, but it is increasingly congested with satellites, orbital debris, and radiofrequency interference; contested by countries developing counterspace capabilities; and competitive with an increasing number of spacefaring countries and companies.

The NSSS will be implemented by updating guidance, plans, doctrine, programs, and operations to reflect the new strategic approach. The DoD's fiscal 2012 budget will contain initial steps toward implementing the strategy, and the department will use the coming year to lay the foundation for changes in fiscal 2013 and beyond. The new Defense Space Council, chaired by Secretary of the Air Force and Department of Defense Executive Agent for Space Michael Donley, will help oversee implementation.

"The strategy provides a basis to update defense plans and programs and make the hard choices that will be required to implement the strategy," Gates continued. "We look forward to working closely with Congress, industry, and allies to implement this new strategy for space."

Colonel "Whopper" Creedon of UNETIDA speaking from the Egyptian National Authority for Remote Sensing And Space Sciences where he is currently "securing data" welcomes the DOD's new initiative. "Once the Air Force gets funding for anti-satellite tech we'll be able to knock all sorts of useless shit out of the stratosphere" smiled the Marine. "There's actually a french thingy I want to eliminate because it's making discoveries. Discoveries that the US have more of a right to make."

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

John Barry 1933 - 2011 R.I.P.

The legendary English film score composer John Barry Prendergast, OBE died on Sunday at age 77, from a heart attack.

Barry began playing the piano at age 9 and later trained as a classical pianist. He was however more drawn to jazz and loved playing the trumpet. He began composing as a bandsman in Cyprus and Egypt and began arranging music for his band, The John Barry Seven before debuting as score composer/conductor in 1960 for Beat Girl.

Over his 50 year career John Barry received 5 Oscars [with 2 additional nominations], a BAFTA award [with 2 additional nominations], a Golden Globe [with 10 additional nominations] and a Grammy [with 2 additional nominations] for composing the scores to Born Free, The Lion in Winter, Midnight Cowboy, Out of Africa, Dances with Wolves, Chaplin and Mary, Queen of Scots.

John Barry also composed the scores for Zulu, The Ipcress File, The Deep, Game Of Death, Starcrash, The Black Hole, Jagged Edge, Indecent Proposal, The Specialist, Mercury Rising and Enigma to name but a few of his some 100 movie scores. Among his many TV themes were of course the Born Free TV series and the Roger Moore & Tony Curtis action show, The Persuaders!

Barry was best known however, as the man who composed most of the scores for the James Bond series of movies. The producers of Dr. No in 1962 were so dissatisfied with Monty Norman's James Bond theme that they had Barry re-arrange it. Authorship of the theme would later be called into question following a Sunday Times article crediting Barry with the theme and it even went to court in 2001. The courts subsequently granted sole compositional credit and royalties to Norman, but Barry has publicly defended his authorship of the theme in subsequent years but never challenged the registration of the songwriting credit with the Performing Right Society.

When the Bond producers discovered their choice to score From Russia with Love, Lionel Bart could not read music; they again turned to Barry to help them out and thus began his tenure with 007 scoring 11 of the first 14 James Bond adventures. In From Russia With Love he introduced us to "007" an alternate Bond theme which is as memorable as Norman's own and appears in four other movies in the series. He excelled at bringing "big band" brassy music to Bond highlighting his own jazz roots especially in Goldfinger, but as he matured he became both more melodic for Moonraker and contemporary in A View to a Kill, before embracing a remarkably more modern effort for his final Bond score, The Living Daylights. In 1997 he gave his blessing to his successor whom he so obviously influenced, David Arnold who has since composed the music for the 5 most recent Bond movies using a highly stylised form of many of Barry's themes and motifs.

Barry is survived by his fourth wife Laurie, son Jonpatrick, and three daughters; Susie, Sian and Kate and grandchildren.

Born Free and Diamonds Are Forever lyricist Don Black said: "When he played you a melody it was like an unveiling. You didn't question it because you knew he had been up all night working on it and getting it right."