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Control Room is a documentary on the Arab television network Al-Jazeera, chronicling their coverage of the Iraqi war.

A friend recommended this to me, and I watched it mainly because I was curious about how the network worked, and not at all about the war, assuming that I already knew what had happened. And it did focus very tightly on the network - it introduced us to the people who produced the news, such as Samir Khader, the senior producer, an ex-Iraqi who wanted to send his children to the US to study, and Deema Khatib, a woman staff member, highly educated and eloquent, just to name two, and I found myself wishing that the discussions we see on the news today were anything near as thought-provoking as the ones they had with each other, with the American military reps. (Which isn't to say that I don't think they were biased - of course they were biased, being who they were, and of course we are biased, being who we are, and as Mrs. Khatib stated in the movie, it seems a bit pointless to harp on that. What mattered to me is that it was clear that they tried to understand the other viewpoint, and that their viewpoint was that of other educated Arabs, and one I almost never hear, living in the U.S.)

A one minute exerpt from the movie:

Read more... )

What I found the most compelling, however, was when the film focused on the war, the consequences of it - because I thought I knew what had happened, but I really hadn't. And, goddd. One of the most moving parts was of the day when America bombed Al-Jazeera headquarters in Iraq (along with the headquarters of two other Arab journalism outfits), stating that they had thought there were terrorists in those buildings. That the American military told such a simplistic lie and got away with it, the consequences that others had to face because of what they did. This is an exerpt from that sequence, of Samir Khader describing what happened on that day.

Read more... )

And just - there were so many parts like this, and perhaps what happened, what's still happening, can best be described by what Deema Khatib said: "The whole war actually is like an American movie. You know the end, you know who's the hero, you know the bad guys, they're going to die. But you still watch because you want to know how it's going to happen and what weapons they're going to use to do it."

Ping! Pong!

May. 9th, 2005 07:51 am
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Watched Ping Pong this weekend, because I vaguely remembered [livejournal.com profile] two_if_by_sea (and possibly others?) reccing it (Cathy, you wanted someone to write China/Smile wtf?). It's a Japanese film based on a manga about swimming.

(Or not.)

It's about two boys - Smile, who's quiet and introspective and almost never smiles, hence the nickname, and his best friend Peco, who's absent-minded and brash and whose stated goal in life is to be the best ping-pong player in the world (but whose supah-sekrit actual goal in life is to make Smile smile again), though this has never stopped him from missing more club practices than he attends. Smile doesn't really care about winning, sometimes intentionally losing to Peco because he doesn't want Peco to feel bad, while Peco tries to crush any opponent that crosses his path. However, when they go to a tournament and play against China (a boy, not a country), it soon becomes apparent that Smile is a much better player.

The reason you should watch this, if you haven't yet - Smile and Peco are so cute, and the film is quirky in the way that Amelie & Tokyo Grandfathers were quirky - surreal and amusing and with original, unforgettable characters, and there is a coach who used to be called Butterfly Joe who regularly asks Smile out on a date, and there are Kung-Fu-like ping-pong moves, and anologies about playing ping-pong being like flying, and dialogue like this (paraphrased, because my memory's horrid):

Peco: he [Smile] treats the game like a salaryman
Peco's, err, aunt?: it must get tiresome living like that
Peco [with the CUTEST EXPRESSION ON HIS FACE]: he's very cute when he smiles, though
Smile [off screen presumably not-smiling]

I'd kill for Smile/Peco fic right about now.

There's a torrent (as well as a wonderful summary) for the movie here.

book rec

Aug. 17th, 2004 02:16 pm
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A book I've been re-reading recently - Young Men & Fire by Norman Maclean. It's nominally about the Mann Gulch fire of 1949, where thirteen smokejumpers died. It talks about the history of the smokejumpers, the geography and geology of the gulch, the science of fire and firefighting, the author's own personal experiences with firefighting, approaching the tragedy from all different angles. There are some rough parts, but the language is almost mystically beautiful, and it's taught me as much about the art of writing, of searching out a story and its meaning, as any book I can think of.

a paragraph excerpt from the book )
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Flanders, by Patricia Anthony

The novel is set in the trenches of WWI. The main character is Travis Lee Stanhope, a Texan sharpshooter who serves in an English unit and sees ghosts. He writes to his brother at home, and we see the war through his letters, life that's at turns desperate and funny and innocent and brutal and haunting and loved.

One of the reviewers said that he would've read the book the whole way through, if his tears had let him. And that says it all, really. I stayed up to finish this book and now I can't sleep because I can't let go of the story.

It's so achingly beautiful and I didn't want it to end, not like it did.


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