Friday, September 07, 2007

Throw 9/7

As happens sometimes, there wasn't enough interesting news for me to do an entire Throwdown. So here's half of one: 7 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. And Fred Thompson joins the nightmarish presidential campaign. You know he’s going to be our next president, right? Seriously. He just is, be prepared. He’s just phony enough for people to dig his lies. I guess this whole item reveals how little faith I have in America as a country, but, well… President Fred Thompson, ladies and gents. Yeah, but people were so sure that Kerry was going to win in 2004.

2. Okay, so, finally there’s actual news on the future of Doctor Who coming out of the BBC. David Tennant was indeed cast in the RSC production of Hamlet that will be running from July to November 2008. After the fourth series is finished airing in 2008, Tennat will play the Doctor for the 2008 Christmas special. 2009 will see three TV specials, all produced by Russell T. Davies, and BBC Wales hopes to produce a fifth series for 2010. They don’t know if Davies or Tennant will be returning then, but they do plan to do a fifth series. Awesome. As long as there will be another series, I can wait. I’m not greedy.

3. Columbia Records has admitted that the current business model for the record industry is dead. The solution? Take 50 percent of internet revenues. Is it any wonder we steal and share music files?

4. 3:10 to Yuma is getting some good reviews. But you know what I’m really sick of? The commentary about what killed the Western and how the Western is a dead genre. It just gets old when you hear it every single time a Western comes out. Get over it, the genre’s not dead, it’s just not as profitable as it was when Hollywood was releasing 305 of them a year.

5. Remember Kid Nation? Well, some genius at FOX listened to all of the complaining about how release-and-waiver-signing parents got upset about it being unsupervised and dangerous and decided to create Kid Army. Alright, kids with weapons. Excellent. We can ship them to Iraq, I guess. Call me when they come up with Kid Thunderdome.

6. And here’s where I’m just going to get offensive. Whoopi Goldberg defending Michael Vick… Okay, now I know there are some black people out there—especially those who are accused of idiotic things like not being “black enough” because they date white guys—who will stupidly defend anything any black person does. There are women who do it for women, and white men who do it for white men, Jewish people, etc. I am sick of this race card bullshit when it comes to things like animal abuse and doing drugs and killing people. Don’t defend Vick just because he’s black. It’s not like he was a guy who set a couple of dogs on each other because he was bored and, as Jamie Foxx and Whoopi Goldberg seem to think, black people just don’t know any better. He built a side business out of this thing. And that is unconscionable. Get a life, Whoopi. Ignorance of the law is not a defense and it never has been. Michael Vick is an asshole, and you’re an asshole for saying that what he did wasn’t that bad. People have taken cultural objectivity too far in this country. There’s right and there’s wrong; what Vick did was wrong. And he also happens to be black, which does not in and of itself excuse assholery. Live with it. It’s sick to say that even if someone is doing something disgusting and abhorrent, you can’t point it out if you’re of a different race. That kind of thinking needs to die. Wrong is wrong.

7. Huh. So there really is a nude picture of Vanessa Hudgens out there. Cool. Hey, I’m not one to turn down a naked 18 year-old. So, is this a stunt or is it legitimately an "unfortunate youthful indiscretion"? Lots of people are speculating that this is all a ploy to make Vanessa look more mature and Zac Efron less gay. As less gay as it’s possible to make Zac Efron look, which ain’t much. And, you know, it’ll probably get her out of Disney. Who knows? To me, it’s just a picture of a hot, naked 18 year-old. And since I’m feeling sick today, that cheers me up. Now, could we please, please, please have that predicted downfall of the High School Musical franchise now? Before it takes over the world like the Plague of Justinian?

Perversion for Links

Just a little something to think about. Anyway, here are the week's links:

* I did that whole Blog Interviewer thingy.
* Ken Levine says the sitcom is not dead.
* New Music Box on something I miss: silence.
* If you don't smile at Cap'n Dyke and Muffin the Cross-Dressing Bear, I can't help you.
* Splotchy has the fourth Green Monkey Music Project, as well as an observation and ten things he'd like to hear Sean Connery say.
* Lazy Eye Theatre takes another look at Superbad.
* No Smoking in the Skull Cave talks about a movie I love: Ride the High Country.
* A conversation between Dan Carlson and his boss.
* I Against Comics is right: the monthly comic needs to die.
* The West Virginia Surf Report reviews the Wendy's Baconator.
* Here Comes Johnny Yen Again with some thoughts on the passing of Paul MacCready.

The dumbo octopus is so cute. Click here to see him and 24 more of the world's weirdest creatures (thanks to MC for linking it). That should be some interesting, neat stuff before getting into all the political shit that's pissing me off right now:

* Distributorcap with pictures of the evil Bush family.
* Chris with this week's creepiest Bush photo.
* According to this guy, the liberals are terrified because the surge is finally going well! Seriously, make sure to read the comments section, too. Thanks indeed to the mighty Blue Gal for exposing this one.
* Richard Belzer on the death of actual conservatism.
* Bill Maher says we should shelter Junior even more from reality.
* Arianna Huffington wonders why the Democrats seem so weak when they hold all the cards.
* Little Bang Theory shows us two Americas.
* Infidel753's creepy story about conversion.
* The Rude Pundit with advice to the Democrats, commentary on Bush at APEC, and the president's tears.
* Jess Wundrun talks about outrage and our grammatically-challenged president.
* And finally, Dr. Zaius talks our crying president and the way not gayness of Tucker Carlson. He's also got a new unsolicited message from Scarlett Johansson and a powerful look at censored images of the war.

Thanks to Phillip for pointing this hilarious video my way.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Happy 65th to One of My Favorite Directors

"You should look straight at a film; that's the only way to see one. Film is not the art of scholars but of illiterates." -- Werner Herzog

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Clive Owen stars as a writer who becomes a casino croupier and gets drawn to the edges of a robbery by the gorgeous Alex Kingston. It's a nice little character piece that doubles as a crime movie and has some good twists. Not great, but not bad. *** stars.

Lewis Milestone directed this William Boyd vehicle about two American soldiers who escape from a German POW camp in World War I. Then they rescue an Arabian princess played by the sexy, beautiful Mary Astor. Loved Astor; the rest... ouch. *1/2 stars.

Bob Hope plays a milquetoast in the Old West who sells an insurance policy to Jesse James, and then is forced to make sure he doesn't get himself killed. Along the way, Hope falls for Jesse's girl, Rhonda Fleming (who makes a couple of nice appearances in her undies). This is the only Hope vehicle I've seen that comes close to being as funny as the Road movies and my favorite, The Paleface (although I liked The Princess and the Pirate right up until the lame ending). There are cameos in here by Ward Bond, Roy Rogers and Trigger, James Arness (as Marshal Dillon), Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, James Garner (as Bret Maverick), Gail Davis (as Annie Oakley), Fess Parker (as Davy Crockett), Jay Silverheels (as Tonto), and Hugh O'Brian (as Wyatt Earp), among others. Hilarious and fun. ***1/2 stars.

John Ford's romantic disaster epic is the kind of old Hollywood production that Hollywood just doesn't do well anymore. It's so nice to see one of these movies actually be good and not have a ton of product placement or a shitty pop song at the end. This tells the story of two Polynesian lovers (Jon Hall and Dorothy Lamour) who are separated for years by a corrupt French Colonial government and the righteous anger of a governor (Raymond Massey) who won't let justice prevail. Mary Astor, Thomas Mitchell, and C. Aubrey Smith are excellent in supporting roles. I think what I most liked is the way the story is about what's right and what's wrong, and the struggle between the letter of the law and morality, as well as being an exciting adventure and a dramatic romance. The hurricane effects are some of the best I've ever seen. One of John Ford's masterpieces. **** stars.

I'm going to admit, I'm still not sure how to feel about Wal-Mart. I know there are a lot of people who I'm friends with online who are adamantly against Wal-Mart, and I understand why. I know the things that Wal-Mart does that it shouldn't be doing or should be doing better. But I admit, I still shop there. And it's not because I want cheap stuff, it's because I spent a year unemployed. My girlfriend makes $33,000 a year. If we didn't buy the cheapest stuff available, we would've already starved to death. We have to buy cheap. This movie wasn't a documentary so much as an anti-Wal-Mart propaganda piece, and it actually pissed me off. I was hoping it would present both sides of its argument--what about the people who work at Wal-Mart and are happy they have a job? Those people can't be hard to find--hell, Penn and Teller found some for their Wal-Mart episode of Bullshit! Instead, the movie spends too much time emotionally appealing to things like "smalltown quality of life," which is manipulative. I got real sick real fast of watching older men whine about how "this is America" and they shouldn't have to close their stores because of competition, which is in fact what the capitalist system is all about. I got sick of hearing people complaing about how Wal-Mart is rich, so they should be able to pay for better insurance--that should be the government's problem, not Wal-Mart's; they don't have to guarantee you anything but a job. And I still don't think unions are the answer; the unions are equally as corrupt, plus they bring down the number of raises people get. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for job security, but I don't believe people are guaranteed promotions and raises just for showing up to work. If there's a good argument out there, I'd like to hear it, but this movie just obnoxiously screams about how bad Wal-Mart is without really offering reasons why. Don't tell me Wal-Mart sucks; give me something to think about. No stars. Fun trivia: this pro-union movie was edited by non-union labor.

THE WIND (1928)
Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson, and director Victor Sjostrom made this moody, dark film after they finished the equally excellent The Scarlet Letter. In this film, Gish moves out West to a town where the wind never stops and the dust is always flying. The movie becomes moodier and moodier and more intense as she is forced to defend herself from the forces of nature and the emotional forces they represent. **** stars.

Beautiful epic of personal revenge during the French Revolution. Ramon Novarro stars as the title hero, looking for vengeance for his dead father. Not much to say about it, but it's a damn good movie. ***1/2 stars.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Health Report: Week 38

So, I just got back from my first day of work in six years.

Yes, I can happily report that as of last Friday, I am officially an employee of the State of Illinois. Today was my first day. It's a flunky civil service job, and it's a temporary/part-time one, but it pays actual money and could lead to full-time job with real benefits. It's close, and it's not mentally taxing. It's exactly what I was hoping for. Exactly. I am so relieved.

Now it's a matter of doing my best. And keeping some promises I made to myself about what I would do if I got the job. There are some things I'm going to have to give up, I think, because I have an actual life now. I'm also going to have to blog less, probably, since I have work now. Which is fine, because it seems like it's getting to be kind of a bore in general. A number of people have suggested to me that I should podcast, but I don't know that I have anything interesting to say that anyone would want to hear. It's interesting what people tell you.

So: finally, work. And even better, money. I remember money.

As for the exercise, it continues on. Not a lot of significant loss yet, but the stamina is going up. I was really bad this weekend. Becca's grandmother is going to have to be moved out of her house, and this weekend I was asked to help with the move. I'm not going to say much about it, but it's a bad, unfocused, disorganized system they've got going, and it was hard work. Up and down stairs, sweating like Rasputin (he just looks sweaty to me), carrying heavy furniture and boxes... it sucked. I sweated so much that all I could think of eating was a big, salty, digusting McDonald's meal to replenish my lost salt. And I did. And it had soda, too. I'm sorry, but for the first time in months, I've had a Coke with HFCS. It tasted weird and hard; not as sweet and good as it used to. That's fine; I drank it fast and don't want to have another one. That day was a total lapse, anyway. I'm already back on track.

Wow, man. A job. I can't believe how freaking happy I am. Finally, something to do during the day. Now I can get my head in order and go about living my life. I can finally stop worrying about the things I worried about before.

Damn, I'm in a good mood.

To the Anonymous Fuckwit

Hey, you. Yeah, the guy who posted on my blog this afternoon; the one who found me by Googling "putting women back in their place." The guy from Brunswick, Maine reading me on Suscom, with the IP address 66.63.82... we'll leave it at that. Yeah, you. Shit-for-brains.

The one who wrote "Women who pursue careers end up alone, empty and sad." The one who wrote, in response to my question "Will women finally stop voting Republican?" answered "Actually what all MEN are wondering is why we GAVE WOMEN THE RIGHT TO VOTE AT ALL??" and followed it up with "That amendment was probably the worst one added to the Constitution and the country has gone downhill ever since. Women's brains are fragile, emotional and inferior at making complex decisions that effect matters of State and Government. Women SHOULD STOP VOTING Republican and Democrat. Go back to cooking. See if that helps out the situation this country is in. You're good at making brownies." Yeah, the idiot who actually wrote that.

First of all, thanks for reading my blog. Just so you know, the post you found, the one where I said The Devil Wears Prada was a great movie because it told the truth about putting women in their place? Yeah, that was sarcastic. I know you're not too enlightened, so you probably can't read sarcasm at all, but do you know how you could tell it was sarcasm? Because of the big tag at the end of it identifying the post as part of the Bizarro Days Blog-a-thon. And in Bizarro World, everything is opposite. You remember the tag? It was pretty big and hard to miss. And it had Bizarro on it, saying "Bizarro feel sorry for the person who take this post seriously." So, moron, not only do I think you're sad and pathetic for thinking I meant any of that, but so does a fictional character from a comic book. Well done there.

Second of all, shitwit, I'm sure you got a greasy, sick little chuckle making your comments and putting me in my place and all, but I am, in fact, A MAN. You know, like you aren't. You're a child. One day, with some enlightenment and some education (that means book-lurnin'), you might be a man, too. So, still no points for being smart. You can't read sarcasm and, apparently, you can't fathom the idea of a man believing women should live the way she wants to, so you just blindly assumed I was a woman. Gee, you're dumb.

Thirdly, thanks for this comment on a really old post about how I thought Li'l Kim and Martha Stewart got railroaded for being rich, single women:

"Living proof...that the Internet allows IDIOTS to post blogs and be their own voice of reason. Only they don't realize they're voice is heard in a vacuum of pure silence. Thankfully. What kind of idiot writes this kind of bunk? Women in America are successful when they marry a successful man, shut their mouths and cook brownies."

It lets me know I'm doing a good job of pissing off idiots like you whose opinion I don't respect. And if I can piss off just one of you goddamn morons a day, I'm really doing something right. I mean, I know your comment was supposed to hurt me, but it actually gave me the biggest laugh I've had all day long. Thanks for relieving that tension.

I mean, let's look at your logic (which is gracious of me, given the key misspelling that renders your comment illogical). If my voice were only heard in a vacuum of pure silence, why did you comment on it, dumbass? If it's completely meaningless to you, why stop and mention it? I mean, you're the one who doesn't consider blogs important, and yet is reading mine. And then stopped to comment about how stupid it is. Who looks like a bigger asshole right now? The one with something to say, or the one with so little to say about something he doesn't even understand? The one surfing blog posts about putting women in their place and then having a little fit when he reads about how idiotic his view are? Yeah, I think so.

That means you, you dumb, prehistoric, mealy-mouthed, pathetic, cocksucking motherfucker. Kindly don't come back. Or kill yourself; we don't really need any more of you around.

Watch Knightriders Tonight

Or Babylon 5 or the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, because someone's turning 50 today.

Happy Birthday, Patricia Tallman!

Monday, September 03, 2007


A great character piece for an actor as talented as Chloe Sevigny or just another bad remake of a great horror film?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Song of the Week: "Strip"

I'll tell you why I think Adam Ant's career just went up in smoke: the pirate clothes. This is a late period hit for him, around 1983, only five years or so into his career. And still he's wearing the pirate clothes. Dude, it was past time to reinvent your image; Bowie was only Ziggy Stardust for two and a half years at the very most. I mean, the music was still good; this was a great song, he still knew how to pop. Too bad.

Book Geek

I found a couple of literary memes at Byzantium's Shores and decided to put them together and make one.

Recommend 3 books you believe everyone needs to read and say why people should read them.

One answer I'm going to steal from Jaquandor: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I think this truly is the Great American Novel; it's a testament (and I do use that word in the Biblical sense) about the American spirit and how that spirit tries to triumph over adversity that, in many cases, is created for us by organizations that are supposed to be doing the opposite. It's a powerful, well-written, highly readable novel.

Moby-Dick, by Herman Mellville. Cliched answer, perhaps, but everything important about life is in this book. It's all here. People are daunted by its reputation and by what they perceive as its incredible length, but give me a break, it's not that long. And many of the chapters are short. I tell people this: read a chapter a day; it'll be quick and you'll have something to think about, and you'll be done in a couple of months.

The History of the Pelopennesian War by Thucydides. It's horrifying. If more people read this, there'd be less war. World leaders should be required to read this book.

Name three books you’ve never been able to finish and explain why.

I can never remember them; who wants to? The only book I can remember starting and not finishing is Michael Crichton's The Lost World. I liked his books in high school--I think Rising Sun, Congo, Disclosure, and Jurassic Park are some of the most fun pulp bestsellers I've read, and I still do count Travels and Eaters of the Dead among my favorite books--but The Lost World was just so nakedly written with the express purpose of being a bestseller that it annoyed me. It was a cheap cash-in on the fact that Spielberg was going to make another movie. And it starts off on the wrong foot by resurrecting Ian Malcolm from the dead (he dies in the first book) and making him the main character, and then explaining it away with a cheap, "funny" reference to The Princess Bride (he was only mostly dead). And why? Because only Jeff Goldblum would return for a second movie. How cheap can you get? Bad enough that all Crichton really does is rip off an old movie or book with a new twist; this was the literary equivalent of a dress pattern, tailored to order. I got halfway through and decided it was total bullshit.

Another book I just remembered I never finished was Stephen King's The Tommyknockers. About the time he started his 15th speech on the dangers of nuclear war, I just rolled my eyes and stopped reading it. King is about 85% garbage, anyway. Oh, and I loved the Dark Tower series and only made it about 25 pages into the fourth novel, Wizard and Glass, before stopping. The world of The Stand AGAIN, Steve? Get a new schtick already.

Name three books you want to read, but haven’t yet.

Jeez, where do I start? I love to read so much I will read just anything, from chick lit to bestsellers to dense classics to light mysteries. I don't think I could even name three books I want to read off the top of my head.

Are there any books that you’ve loved, but been disappointed by the film/TV adaptation?

Jeez, where do I start? How about almost every science fiction novel and short story I've ever seen made into a movie? A much shorter list would be the list of books I've loved and wasn't disappointed by the adaptation.

Which books do you re-read the most?

I've read Richard Adams's Watership Down, Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, and Isaac Asimov's I. Asimov multiple times.

Which books do you remember most from your childhood?

Well, certainly Watership Down and The Last Unicorn made a big impression on me. Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain series did, too--that was what really drew me in to epic fantasy. L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its 13 sequels certainly live in my heart to this day. And Charlotte's Web, the first book I ever read with no help from my parents.

Are there any books that you are proud to say you have read?

Should there be? I'm glad to read books, but proud?

Are there any books that you are ashamed to admit reading?

Why? I read all kinds of books, and I find that if someone is going to make fun of me for reading the Harry Potter novels or The Devil Wears Prada or The Nanny Diaries, they're usually the kind of illiterate douche bags who don't read, anyway, so what do I care?

Are there any books that have had a big emotional impact on you?

I'm a soft touch, just like I am with movies and music. Again, it's too broad a question. Too many to even pin one down. Maybe it's all the fault of Charlotte's Web.

What are you reading right now?

The first Newbery winner, The Story of Mankind. Also some graphic novels, and still slowly working my way through Jean Auel's The Plains of Passage. I also just finally read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery. Now I see why everyone is so fond of it. That certainly moved me to tears.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

Nothing planned; I usually don't plan them. I'm doing Newbery winners now, but I'm sure there will be other things in there.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom right now?

My bathroom is too small to keep magazines in. The only magazines I read right now are Mad, Playboy, Skeptic, and Discover. And occasionally Prevention.

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read?

I'm sure I hated a lot of the books I had to read in school. I remember Lord of the Flies pissing me off, as well as my teacher's intepretation of it. In college, there were some books I hated; how many damn classes need to make me read The Merchant of Venice?

Oh, man, and A Separate Peace. Oh, how I fucking hate that book.

Admit it, the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?

I know Miss Busty lights up at the sight of me. Princess Nazi used to, but I never see her anymore. I don't know if they know me on a first name basis or not; no one else seems interested.

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all?

I honestly don't care. People don't often take my recommends on music, movies, etc., so I don't even try to get them to read anything.

Do you read books while you eat? While you bathe? While you watch movies or TV? While you listen to music? While you’re on the computer? While you’re having sex? While you’re driving?

Calm down, calm down. Okay, in order: yes, if I'm alone or we're both reading; yes, I sometimes like to draw a bath and read for a while; no, not usually; yes, if I'm downloading something and it's taking a while; no, because I'm concentrating on other things (duh); and no, because I don't want to crash.

When you were little, did other children tease you about your reading habits?

Probably. I don't really remember, but children tease each other about everything no matter what, and other kids teased me about tons of shit, so probably. I remember someone gave me a Judy Blume boxed set when I was in fourth grade, and this girl Heather something or other made fun of me because I read Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, which was apparently only for girls. It gave me some insights, though, especially about religion and women. Again, if the illiterate want to tease me for getting pleasure out of reading, I'm not the one who's missing out.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?

Steven Denton's Trouble De Ville; I loved it so much I rushed through the thing in two days. Great, great read. I need to write a post about that one.

The History of the Middle East

Part 23 in a series.

The Six-Day War

The Palestinian Liberation Organization was created in 1964 by the Arab League, who had decided it was necessary to create a body to represent the Palestinian people. The PLO was firmly supported by President Nasser, and in turn it supported his pan-Arabic ideology that all Arabs should live in one state. In spite of the 1949 Armistice Agreements, the Arab states would not accept the creation of Israel. Although Egypt and Jordan favored the creation of a Palestinian state on land given to Israel, they did not grant sovereignty to Palestinians over the West Bank, Jordan, the Gaza Strip, or the Himmah Area. Tensions mounted higher than they had since the Suez Canal Crisis.

The Crisis itself had ended in 1956 with military defeat but political success for Nasser. The United Nations Emergency Force had occupied the Sinai Peninsula to maintain a demilitarized buffer zone between Israel and Egypt; both nations agreed, and Israel withdrew under pressure from the US and the USSR. Still, no Arab nation had recognized Israel; Syria sponsored guerrilla raids on Israel with Soviet support.

In 1964, a dispute arose over the Jordan River. Israel began withdrawing water from it, so the Arab states began the Headwater Diversion Plan, which would divert the water so that it would enter a dam for Jordan and Syria instead of the Sea of Galilee. Further water was to be diverted to Lebanon. This plan would have reduced Israel’s water supply by 11%. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) attacked the diversion works three times in 1965, leading to prolonged border violence.

On 12 November 1966, an Israeli border patrol hit a mine. Three soldiers were killed. Israel believed the mine had been planted by terrorists from Es Samu, a West Bank village of 4000 Palestinian refugees. Jordan had already occupied Es Samu. The next day, King Hussein of Jordan received word from his Israeli contacts that Israel had no intention of attacking Jordan; Hussein had secretly been meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban and future Prime Minister Golda Meir for three years to discuss secure borders and peace. It was mere hours later that Israeli forces carried out Operation: Shredder.

At 5:30 that morning, between 3000 and 4000 Israeli soldiers backed by tanks and aircraft appeared on the border. Two raiding parties crossed into the Jordan-occupied West Bank; the larger force headed for Es Samu, the other headed for two smaller villages. Accounts vary and conflict, but it seems that 50 houses were blown up. The Israeli and Jordanian armies engaged each other. The actual number of Jordanian casualties may never have been disclosed; King Hussein’s regime wanted to keep up morale.

Furious, Hussein said the action had been carried out by Israel under the pretext of reprisals against the PLO. Israel had also accused Es Samu of harboring Syrian terrorists. The attack destroyed any chance of peace between Jordan and Israel. The US had been spending money to support Hussein as a stabilizing force along Israel’s longest border; the work had been ruined. Hussein ordered a nationwide mobilization on 20 November. The United Nations censured Israel five days later for violating the UN Charter and the Armistice Agreement. Once again, tensions were mounting and the world was edging towards war.

Jordan next suspended its relations with the PLO, who had been attacking Israel through Jordanian territory. Syria had sponsored the PLO attacks, and had also been shelling Israeli civilian neighborhoods from the Golan Heights. Egypt and Syria signed a military alliance in 1966 that had been overseen by the Soviet Union in a bid to lessen the chances of an Israeli attack on Syria. The alliance also had the advantage of bringing the Syrians under Nasser’s influence, which was preferable to the Soviets.

But Israel was making deliberate gains on demilitarized land, attempting illegally to cultivate it and provoking hostilities with Syria as a pretext for war. One of these minor incidents escalated into a full-scale aerial battle over the Golan Heights on 7 April 1967. The UN attempted to negotiate another ceasefire. Syria would not agree unless Israel ceased trying to cultivate disputed land; Israel responded that it would continue to use air power in response to border terrorism as a form of self-defense. As border incidents multiplied, more Arab leaders began to band together to denounce Israel. President Nasser decided to remilitarize the Sinai. The Soviet Union backed the military needs of the Arab states, and even supplied Egypt’s Vice President Anwar Sadat with a memo falsely stating that Israeli troops were massing along the Syrian border. By May, Syria was announcing its intention to destroy Israel altogether.

On 16 May, the United Arab Republic made it clear to the UN that all of its armed forces were ready for action against Israel and that Arab troops were concentrated in the Sinai. The UN was being asked to leave the Peninsula after ten years of occupation. The Egyptian government would not be negotiated with; they made it clear that they considered the UN mission in Egypt and the Gaza Strip terminated and order the Emergency Forces out. Israel refused to host the UNEF troops. They had no choice but to leave.

On 22 May, Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli ships or ships doing business with Israel, cutting off trade through the Gulf of Aqaba once again. Blockade ships were launched. The world’s oil supply was again threatened. Israel considered this an act of war; Nasser announced to the Egyptian parliament that he intended to exterminate the State of Israel forever. Israel appealed to the US and Britain for help; both governments had promised in 1957 that they would keep the Straits open. President Johnson agreed to an international maritime force, but it received little support on the international stage; only Britain and the Netherlands would agree to contribute ships. The Israeli government tried to placate Jordan, worried about being attacked on multiple fronts. But on 30 May, King Hussein signed a mutual defense treaty with Nasser, who once again asserted that the objective of the Arab people was the destruction of Israel. Lebanon also joined with the Arab states against Israel; Israel continued to threaten Jordan to stay out of the conflict. Pressure on King Hussein was enormous; already the Palestinians were displeased with him for suspending relations with the PLO, which had been recognized by the Arab League as the official governing body for the Palestinians. If Jordan did not fight, a civil war was threatened. Israel worried that an army arriving through the West Bank would cut the fledgling nation in two. Iraq, Sudan, Kuwait, and Algeria began to mobilize their own armies.

The Israeli government decided to launch a preemptive strike, but was convinced by the US to wait for a negotiation of a nonviolent solution. UN Secretary-General U Thant visited Cairo to mediate for a renewed diplomatic effort. Egypt agreed; Israel did not. Foreign Minister Eban tried to gain support for Israel from President Johnson, but because of possible faulty intelligence, Johnson could not commit to help. The Kremlin also backed away from supporting Egypt in a war of aggression. Nasser agreed on 30 May to send his Vice President, Zakkariya Muhieddin to Washington to explore a diplomatic solution.

Israel, however, decided that if the US and the UN would not act, it would have to do so itself. On the morning of 5 June, Israel launched a preemptive strike against the Egyptian Air Force. Israel virtually destroyed the Egyptian Air Force on the ground. Fighting broke out in force; the Egyptian army was badly managed, and Israel won impressive victories. Israel had captured the Sinai by 8 June.

Jordan was reluctant to enter the war, but did so when Nasser convinced them that Egypt was winning. Jordan had a much smaller air force than Egypt, and it too was destroyed. Syria was similarly fooled by false reports of Egyptian victory, but entered the war cautiously, shelling Israel. The Israeli Air Force again proved victorious and destroyed most of the Syrian Air Force. The Israeli government debated an attack on the Golan Heights; it seemed costly, but by 10 June Israel had taken that as well.

On 6 June, both King Hussein and President Nasser accused American and British aircraft of taking part in the Israeli air attacks. Neither the West nor the Soviet Union took these allegations seriously, but it became a media frenzy in the Arab world and generated a swarm of anti-American protests. Israel played on this by releasing an audiotape of what they claimed was a phone call between Nasser and Hussein fabricating these charges. Hussein retracted his claim; Arab textbooks maintain that America participated in the Israeli attacks to this day. In fact, on 8 June, Israel attacked an American intelligence ship, the USS Liberty, claiming it mistook the ship for an enemy vessel. Heavy casualties were taken and the ship was nearly sunk.

A ceasefire was signed on 11 June. Israel held the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and the Golan Heights). A million Arabs were placed under Israel’s direct control. The Israeli government voted unanimously to return the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace agreements, the demilitarization of the Heights, and an arrangement for the Straits of Tiran; Israel also resolved to open negotiations with King Hussein. Israel meant for the US to convey the offer; the US received it, but was unaware it was meant to transmit it; Egypt and Syria may never have gotten the offer. In any case, the Khartoum Arab Summit resolved that there would be “no peace, no recognition, and no negotiation with Israel.” Still, Jordan and Egypt accepted the UN Resolution for peace in the Middle East, which amounted to some tacit recognition of Israel’s borders. This Resolution called for Israel to withdraw from its newly occupied territories; Israel rejected this call, but promised freedom of access to holy places for religious pilgrims in Jerusalem.

After centuries, the remains of the Great Temple of Jerusalem were again under Jewish control. But now a grand mosque, the Dome of the Rock, had been built on top of it.

And meanwhile, Egypt burned for retaliation.

To be continued.

The Spirit

I may be the only Frank Miller fan left in the world. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested.

Yeah, I Went There

"Dark side of a funny man"? Casting aside the obvious fact that Owen Wilson isn't funny (or talented or interesting), can the tabloids stop acting shocked any time someone known for some of the worst comedies ever made isn't the happiest motherfucker in the world? It's like People hires all of their writers from the early seventies; kill the cliches, damn it.