Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Movie Reviews: "National Treasure II" And "Sweeney Todd"

Today was another "two movie" day; I saw the midnight showing of "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" and the noon showing of "Sweeney Todd". I was going to make it a triple-header with "Walk Hard" but ended up taking a nap instead.

Both movies I saw were OK. "National Treasure" started out with a real treat -- a no-crap "short" in the old "Goofy Over Sports" genre; this one had Goofy hooking up a home theater. (Being a jaded 21st century kind of guy, I kept expecting it to be full of product placement, or actually turn out to be a commercial. It ended up just being a funny cartoon.) The main feature suffered from a lot of the same problems you see in other sequels -- the need to do things just like the original movie, only more spectacular. I loved the original movie, and liked the characters, but this movie ended up taking away somehow from the original -- the characters (mostly) became less likeable. The movie also fell into the most common archeological film blunder -- the heroes exited the heretofore "undiscovered" treasurehouse through an obvious entry that surely would have attracted someone's attention throughout the centuries. (The most heinous example of this, of course, is in "Raiders of the Lost Ark", where a solitary building in the middle of the excavation area is one wall away from the Well of Souls, and no one has apparently bothered to check it out.) Overall, the movie would be a good standalone film, suffering only in comparison to the original, and gets a solid three Unsubtle Sequel Setups out of five. (Expect "National Treasure III: What's On Page 47?" in 2010.)

I was really looking forward to "Sweeney Todd" -- I'm a big fan of musicals, and had seen a production of this one in college back in the '80s. Being a Tim Burton film, it had really impressive camera work and mood-defining colors; unfortunately, it also had Burton's girlfriend in a leading role -- she's a fine actress, it just turns out that she can't really sing. Johnny Depp, on the other hand, can sing fine -- expect an Oscar nomination. "Sweeney Todd" is an interesting musical in that none of the songs has really entered the mainstream; it doesn't have a real "sing-along" quality to it anyway. The movie sticks very close to the story of the play, except it's a lot more graphic in the violence area -- well deserving of the "R" rating. The supporting cast was pretty good, featuring Borat, Snape, and Wormtail. With the exception of getting better singers, Burton probably did as well as anyone could with the story, but let's face it -- it's no "Mary Poppins". I give it a more squishy three Unexplained White Hair Streaks out of five.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A CIA Contractor Christmas

Day One. Partridge in a pear tree: During the night-shift at the NSA, Booz Allen contractors suddenly have their online Christmas shopping interrupted when Booz Allen proprietary counterterrorist data-mining algorithms note an unusual spike in internet chatter of “persons of interest” using the term “partridge in a pear tree.” Their NSA Contracting Officer’s Technical Rep is alerted.

Day Two. Two turtle doves. At the NSA, SAIC contractors discover a correlation between “partridge in a pear tree” and “two turtle doves.” The NSA notifies the CIA. CIA analysts who are new to the job due to high Agency turnover do not recognize the turtle-dove/partridge-in-a-pear-tree pattern, but speculate that the combination of phrases indicates that a terrorist plan may have gone operational. The White House is briefed.

Day Three. Three French Hens. Sources on the ground in Paris are unable to corroborate indications of French involvement. Officers in the National Clandestine Service suspect the French hens are a false-flag and secretly hope that the Russians are back in the game. Due to strong political pressure from the White House, CIA analysts concede that the Iranian involvement cannot be ruled out.

CIA interrogators at a black site in Burkina Faso send a cable to Headquarters requesting permission to gut slap an al Qaeda detainee who may hold valuable information.

Day Four. Four Calling Birds. At the behest of the Administration, AT&T, MCI, Sprint and Verizon all hand over their calling data to third-party data warehousing companies that do not face the same legal restrictions as the telcos, creating a rendition program of sorts for data. The data warehousers frantically sift through calls.

CIA interrogators at the African black site are frustrated when Headquarters requests more details about potential information that could be acquired from the detainee if he is slapped. They curse the lawyers and compose a response. A senior contractor overseeing facilities management at the site quips that they should suggest the detainee may volunteer information about five golden rings, but he never thinks the kids running the interrogation would not get the joke. The 26 year-old case officer in charge of the interrogation cables Headquarters that the detainee likely holds information about five golden rings.

Day Five. Five Golden Rings. New NSA intercepts discover “persons of interest” discussing “Five Golden Rings.” With this new development, CIA analysts suspect terrorists are plotting to use five dirty bombs to radiate large areas of US metropolitan areas.

The Deputy Director of National Clandestine Service is excited that one of the black site detainee may know about the golden rings. Over the objections of his Assistant General Counsel, the Deputy Director approves the slap.

Day Six. Six Geese-A-Laying. A blogger who monitors al Qaeda internet sites and chat rooms contacts the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to alert them to a suspicious discussion among al Qaeda sympathizers about "six geese-a-laying." The ODNI passes the intel along to the CIA and NSA and as word of the sites spread among Intelligence Community members, the sites are slammed with new visitors from overt beltway bandit IPs in northern Virginia and Anne Arundel county in Maryland. Suspicious al Qaeda webmasters shut them down.

Meanwhile at the black site, a CIA interrogator trained in enhanced techniques, slaps the al Qaeda detainee. A CACI green badger interpreter with no formal training in interpretation misinterprets the terrorist’s mumblings as "seven swamis."

The interrogators cable Headquarters with the raw intel and request permission not only to attention shake the detainee, but to apply sleep deprivation techniques, justifying the request with their suspicious they might receive additional information about possible Indian involvement, which may actually turn out to be Iranian since both words start with “I”, end with “n”, and have between six and seven letters.

Day Seven. Seven Swans-A-Swimming. NSA contractors Raytheon, Booz Allen and SAIC have all picked up chatter about seven swans a-swimming. SAIC analysts at the National Counterterrorism Center rack up billable hours trying to reconcile this with CIA intel concerning the seven swamis. Raytheon analysts at Defense Intelligence insist that the seven swans-a-swimming indicates that seaplanes are bringing the dirty bombs into the country. With strong pressure from corporate and the DoD which has been pushing for funding for a satellite-based seaplane early warning system proposed by Raytheon, Raytheon green badgers at the ODNI push hard for the seaplane analysis and win out. It is included in the President’s Daily Brief.

At the Pentagon, with the support of DIA’s General Clapper, the Air Force claims it should be the lead. The Navy argues that since the swans are swimming and not flying, clearly this requirement falls under their command’s area of responsibility. The Marines stand at the ready, prepared to toast and roast, then eat the swans, whether in the air, land or sea.

All the while, CIA case officers at the black site stare at the detainee, waiting on a response to their cable. Junior officers are afraid if they don’t put the detainee to bed soon, they may be accused of torture and face possible legal actions. Just to be on the safe side, they offer a can of Red Bull to the detainee. The Office of Medical Services on-site physician takes the detainee's blood pressure.

Day Eight. Eight Maids-A-Milking. The Department of Homeland Security alerts TSA agents to be on the watch for breastfeeding mothers who may have terrorist involvement. It issues alerts to local authorities.

With an attack on the Homeland seemingly imminent, a Fusion Center in Sacramento is used to circumvent various federal privacy laws. In a piecemeal version of Total Information Awareness, federal, local and state databases are fused with private marketing databases. Contractors search through billions of records from phone and credit card and internet search companies to find breastfeeding behavioral patterns suggestive of terrorist involvement. They come up with an additional 226,351 persons of interest in the Golden State. The FBI and local authorities work overtime to investigate all leads. None turn up anything actionable, but the 226,351 persons of interest are added to the TSA’s No-Fly list anyway just as a precaution. As a result to the extra additions to the 600,000 strong list, holiday air travel is snarled.

At the black site, a cable is received approving administration of sleep deprivation. The 26 year-old case officer in charge of the interrogation is relived that his decision to push the envelope with the Red Bull has not endangered his career. He’s secretly proud he’s carrying on the tradition of the Agency’s bad boys and starts calling himself “Captain Bull,” after the legendary, bat-wielding Beirut interrogator “Captain Crunch.”

Day Nine. Nine Ladies Dancing. Fearing more sexual harassment training seminars, analysts throughout the Intelligence Community dismiss intercepts concerning nine ladies dancing and omit all references to them from their reports.

Day Ten. Ten Lords-a-Leaping. The same day that the phrase “ten lords-a-leaping” is correlated with the previous NSA intercepts, ten members of the British House of Lords are killed in Baghdad by a suicide bomber. They were on their way to observe the British pullout in Basra under the protection of a Blackwater PSD team. Blackwater claims that it was not allowed to fire upon a rapidly approaching white Toyota containing the explosives because the vehicle did not fit the suicide bomber profile as outlined by the State Department’s acting head of Diplomatic Security. At a well-attended press conference the Iraqi Minister of Interior charges that Blackwater was negligent and should have known to fire upon the occupants of the suicide vehicle. He holds up a twisted, charred bumper that he claims was from the VBIED. Plastered to it is the damning yellow bumper sticker: How’s My Driving? Call 1-800-Al-QAEDA. International headlines claim Blackwater is responsible for the British Lord’s deaths because its operators should’ve correctly identified the VBIED. Congressman Waxman vows to hold Blackwater accountable for its unforgivable lack of aggression.

Meanwhile at the black site, sleep deprivation is proving to be ineffective and a cable is sent to Headquarters requesting permission to waterboard the detainee.

Day Eleven. Eleven Pipers Piping. Outsourced analysts at the CIA and Department of Energy are convinced that the latest NSA intercept, “eleven pipers piping” is a thinly veiled reference to aluminum tubes. Aluminum tubes could really only be used in a centrifuge enrichment program to develop atomic weapons, they explain. Under pressure from the Vice President’s office, it’s determined that the earlier information from the CIA’s detainee program about seven swamis was misinterpreted. It’s now thought the seven swamis were an indirect reference to seven Pakistani nuclear scientists working with Iranians on nuclear weapons.

The black site interrogators receive permission to waterboard the detainee. Before the procedure begins, the lead interrogator collapses from the stress that he will end up in front of Congressional committees and in court for his actions. The detainee is horrified at the sight of his interrogator crying in a fetal position. He's is convinced something so horrific is about to happen to him, he breaks before they can position the Saran wrap over his mouth to protect him from drowning. The detainee explains that al Qaeda is now working with Iran to help them with their nuclear weapons development program. He confirms every suspicion of his interrogators. The black site cables Langley with confirmation that the seven swamis swimming was actually seven Pakistani nuclear scientists assisting Iranian WMD development.

Day Twelve. Twelve Drummers Drumming. On the twelfth day of Christmas, the world wakes up to New York Times headlines, "U.S. Says Ahmadinejad Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts.” On the same day, twelve top administration officials appear on Sunday morning talk shows.

On Meet the Press Cheney claims that Iran is "trying, through its illicit procurement network, to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium -- specifically, aluminum tubes." Condi Rice appears on CNN's Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer and warns "we don't want the smoking yule log to be a mushroom cloud." Then she recites the evidence in the reverse order in which it was gathered: "Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.”

Blitzer pauses for a commercial break.

Meanwhile at the black site, the CIA contractors and interrogators are watching CNN via satellite and realize what they’ve just done. The contractors fire off a cable to their corporate headquarters, explaining what’s happened and their indirect role in the folly.

But corporate is ecstatic.

The employees at the black site and everyone even remotely associated with their chain of command in the firm all receive special Christmas bonuses (a reimbursable expense on their contract). Their company stock in their 401(k)s quadruple due to increased business thanks to the war with Iran.


Happy Holidays, everyone! RJH

Note: I've surprised to see how quickly this is spreading across the internet. I'm happy for people to post it elsewhere, but please give a link back and/or credit it something like: "by R J Hillhouse who writes the national security blog, The Spy Who Billed Me. Her most recent book is Outsourced." Thanks!

12/22/2007 4:44 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


TO: All Employees
DATE: 4th November
RE: Christmas Party

I’m happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will
take place December 23rd, starting at noon in the private function room
at the Grill House. There will be a cash bar and plenty of drinks!
We’ll have a small band playing traditional carols…please feel free to
sing along.
And don’t be surprised if the Managing Director shows up
dressed as Santa Claus! A Christmas tree will be lit at 1.00 p.m.
Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time;
however, no gift should be over $10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy
for everyone’s pockets.
This gathering is only for employees! The Managing Director
will make a special announcement at the Party.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.


FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 5th November

RE: Holiday Party

In no way was yesterday’s memo intended to exclude our Jewish
employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday, which
often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year.
However, from now on
we’re calling it our ‘Holiday Party.’ The same policy applies
to any other employees who are not Christians. There will be no
Christmas tree or Christmas carols sung. We will have other types of
music for your enjoyment.

Happy now?

Happy Holidays to you and your family,


FROM; Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 6th November

RE: Holiday Party

Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics
Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table…you didn’t sign your name.
I’m happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table
that reads, “AA Only,” you wouldn’t be anonymous anymore!!!! How am I
supposed to handle this? Somebody?
Forget about the gift exchange, no gift exchange allowed now
since the Union Officials feel that $10.00 is too much money and
Management believe $10.00 is a little cheap.



FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 7th November

RE: Holiday Party

What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20th
begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and
drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can
appreciate how a luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our
Muslim employees’ beliefs, perhaps the Grill House can hold off on
serving your meal until the end of the party - or else package
everything up for you to take home in a little foil doggy bag. Will that
Meanwhile, I’ve arranged for members of Weight Watchers to sit
farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table
closest to the toilets, Gays are allowed to sit with each other,
Lesbians do not have to sit with gay men, each will have their own
Yes, there will be flower arrangements for the gay men’s
table, too.
To the person asking permission to cross dress - no cross
dressing allowed.
And no, no blow-up sheep.
We will have booster seats for short people. Low fat food will
be available for those on a diet. We cannot control the salt used in the
food. We suggest those people with high blood pressure taste the food
first. There will be fresh fruits as dessert for diabetics, the
restaurant cannot supply “No Sugar” desserts. Sorry!

Did I miss anything?!?!?!?!?!


FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All F****** Employees
DATE: 8 November

RE: The ******** Holiday Party.

Vegetarian pricks I’ve had it with you people!!! We’re going
to keep this party at the Grill House whether you like it or not, so you
can sit quietly at the table furthest from the “grill of death”, as you
so quaintly put it.
You’ll get your f****** salad bar, including organic tomatoes,
but you know tomatoes have feeling, too. They scream when you slice
them. I’ve heard them scream. I’m hearing them scream right NOW!!

Hope you all have a rotten holiday * drink, drive, and die!

The Bitch from HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


FROM: John Bishop - Acting Human Resources Director
DATE: 9th November
RE: Pauline Lewis and Holiday Party

I’m sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pauline Lewis a
speedy recovery, and I’ll continue to forward your cards to her.

In the meantime, Management has decided to cancel our Holiday
Party and instead, give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd December off
with full pay.

12/22/2007 7:44 AM


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