Lisa’s Week in Review: 7/29/19 — 8/04/19

I spent most of this week reading old paperbacks and rewatching Breaking Bad on Netflix.  It was time well-spent.

Films I Watched:

  1. Blow Out (1981)
  2. Close Encounters of Third King (1977)
  3. Cold Pursuit (2019)
  4. Crossroads (2002)
  5. From Justin to Kelly (2003)
  6. Highway Dragnet (1954)
  7. Palm Springs Weekend (1963)
  8. Soul Surfer (2011)
  9. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  10. Star Wars Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)
  11. Unmasking Jihadi John (2019)
  12. The Upside (2019)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. 60 Days In Narcoland
  2. The Bachelorette
  3. Breaking Bad
  4. Big Brother 21
  5. CNN 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate — Night 1
  6. CNN 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate — Night 2
  7. Dance Moms
  8. Euphoria
  9. iZombie
  10. Legion
  11. Love Island
  12. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD
  13. Orange is the New Black
  14. So You Think You Can Dance
  15. Sweetbitter

Books I Read:

(Look at what I discovered at the Internet Archive)

  1. Bait (1962) by George Cassidy
  2. Naked Lens (1961) by Paul Gregory
  3. Reckless (1961) by Tom Stone
  4. Wanton (1960) by Ben Smith

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Adi Ulmansky
  2. Amyl and the Sniffers
  3. Crud
  4. Bikini Kill
  5. Black Marble
  6. Blanck Mass
  7. Carys
  8. The Chainsmokers
  9. Coldplay
  10. HAIM
  11. K. Flay
  12. Lara Snow
  13. Lolo Zouaï
  14. Miike Snow
  15. Muse
  16. NAM
  17. Phantogram
  18. twenty-one pilots
  19. UPSAHL

Links From Last Week:

  1. Be sure to check out Ryan’s patreon site!
  2. On her photography site, Erin shared Watching The Rain, With The Sun In The Sky, Ribbon, August, Church, Dallas, and The Possum Returns!
  3. On Pop Politics, Jeff shared: Andrew Golden is Dead, The Brilliance of TCM (Example #3456), I Skipped The Debate and I Regret Nothing, Gracie Mansion: Where Dreams Go To Die, It Looks Like President Mike Gravel is Not Going To Happen, and Will Brexit Ever Happen?
  4. I reviewed Big Brother for the Big Brother Blog!
  5. For Horror Critic, I reviewed Terrifier!
  6. On my online dream journal, I shared Last Night’s Canadian Dream and Last Night’s Weird Dream About The New Neighbor On An Elephant!
  7. Over at SyFy Designs, I shared: A Positive Note, Where Does Summer Go?, I Woke Up To The Sound of Rain, Sad News From El Paso, and a poem from Emily Dickinson!
  8. On my music site, I shared music from The Chainsmokers, Black Marble, Lara Snow, Phantogram, Amyl and the Sniffers, Carys, and K. Flay!
  9. Matthew Modine, Rosanna Arquette Allege Gabrielle Carteris Mishandled SAG-AFTRA’s Sexual Harassment Protections
  10. ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX sue Locast, the AT&T-backed service that streams TV for free
  11. Marianne Williamson connects in a way that regular pols can’t, like Trump

Links From The Site:

  1. Case reviewed Episodes 7 and 8 of Titans and Capsized: Blood In The Water!
  2. Erin shared Endless Shadow, The Spell of Seven, Blondes Don’t Give A Damn, An Earth Man On Venus, Passionate Trio, Man Chase, and All In The Game!
  3. Gary reviewed The Bride and the Beast, shared a song from Creed, and wrote about Candy Johnson!
  4. Jeff shared a great moment from comic book history!
  5. Ryan reviewed Bicycle Day, Within The Woods of Undead County, Something Crashed In The Woods, The Ghost Pirate, and Desolation Bay, along with sharing his weekly reading round-up!
  6. I shared music videos from Crud, NAM, Miike Snow, Amyl and the Sniffers, Blanck Mass, HAIM, and Lolo Zouaï.  I shared the trailers for Spider In The Web, The Irishman, Queen & Slim, The Lighthouse, and 1917.  I shared my June Oscar predictions.  I reviewed Palm Springs Weekend, The Upside, Cold Pursuit, and Unmasking Jihadi John.

Want to see what I did last week?  Click here!

Documentary Review: Unmasking Jihadi John: Anatomy of a Terrorist (dir by Anthony Wonke)

Who was Jihadi John?

He was the black-clad terrorist who haunted the news in 2014 and 2015.  He was the faceless man with the London accent who was frequently filmed standing in the desert, taunting Barack Obama and David Cameron before then beheading a hostage.  In total, Jihadi John was filmed either beheading or directing others to behead 29 hostages.  Among his victims were American journalist James Foley and British aid worker David Haines.

Up until he was apparently blown up by a drone strike in 2015, Jihadi John was, for many of us in the West, the best-known member of ISIS.  When we heard the word “ISIS,” he was the one we pictured.  Because his face was always covered, his identity was unknown.  All we knew about him was that he spoke perfect English with a British accent.  He was like a creature sprung from a nightmare, a monster who materialized out of nowhere and taunted us for our inability to defeat him.  There was much speculation about who Jihadi John was.  Even after we found out that he was probably a Kuwait-born British citizen named Mohammed Emwazi, we still wondered how this man came to be standing in the desert, being filmed as he committed terrible crimes.

The new HBO documentary, Unmasking Jihadi John, is an investigation into the origins of terrorism.  The film attempts to reconstruct Emwazi’s early life as an outsider in the UK.  His teachers describe him as being quiet and somewhat forgettable.  Video from that period shows a skinny and awkward-looking teenager, one who covered his mouth whenever he spoke because he had once been taunted for having bad breath.  When he was ten, he wrote that he wanted to be a soccer player.  A few years later, he was caught on video, smiling while sitting in a computer lab.  And then, just a few years after that, he was in Syria, committing horrific acts of evil.  And make no mistake about it — the Emwazi who we see waving a knife while condemning the West is evil.  Evil comes in many disguises and will often try to justify itself by hijacking a religion or an ideology.  But in the end, evil is evil.

Because Emwazi was vaporized in 2015, he’s not around to explain just what exactly led him to join ISIS.  The film speculates that Emwazi initially joined because he was looking for both a surrogate family and a place where he actually belonged.  The documentary contains clips from several ISIS propaganda videos and what’s interesting is that the images that ISIS used — children playing in the streets, men working together to rebuild a city, and friends hugging each other — are many of the same images that one would expect to find in western advertising.  They’re seductive images, ones that offer up a promise of a better life as long as you follow orders and don’t question authority.  They were exactly the type of images designed to appeal to someone like Emwazi (and countless others), who had a need to feel as if they belonged to something bigger than themselves.

If the first half of the documentary focuses on Emwazi and the founding of ISIS, the second half deals with the aftermath of Emwazi’s actions.  Interviews, with the hostages who survived and the families of those who did not, drive home the pain that was caused by the actions of ISIS as a whole and Emwazi in specific.  It’s in those interviews that we are reminded that Emwazi’s evil cannot be excused by a turbulent childhood or misplaced idealism.  Towards the end of the documentary, the man who controlled the drone that fired the missile that ended Emwazi’s life is interviewed.  When we watch the grainy and coldly impersonal footage of Emwazi’s car blowing up, we feel no sympathy for the man who was called Jihadi John.   As to whether or not there’s joy to be found there, well, that’s up to the viewer to decide for themselves.

It’s a compelling documentary but it’s also frustrating, if just because it poses a question that may be impossible to answer.  Why does evil exist?  How can one go from being a normal, if awkward, teenager to being a savage murderer?  Like the rest of us, the documentary can only wonder why.

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 07/28/2019 – 08/03/2019

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Sometimes, as a writer, you like to throw little challenges at yourself, just to make things more interesting — especially when it comes to long-running columns such as this. My self-appointed challenge this week : to see if I can crank out one of these Round-Ups in 30 minutes or less. Let’s see how that goes —

Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang ride off into the sunset with Paper Girls #30, the conclusion to their long-running Spielbergian fan-favorite series from Image, and as far as finales go, this one’s a clinic : we start with a dream sequence, we then return to the “real world” much as our memory-wiped protagonists have, and how much they will or might remember is sorta the theme here. Lots of gorgeous double-page spreads give this extra-length issue a little extra “breathing room” to say a proper good-bye to the girls, and all in…

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Music Video of the Day: Summers in Vegas by Lolo Zouaï (2019, dir by Lolo Zouaï and Tommy Nowels)

This is a nicely evocative video, I think.  Las Vegas is the quintessential American city, a celebration of commerce and hospitality that happens to be sitting out in the middle of an inhospitable desert.  Vegas could only have been founded in America and it’s only in America that it could have thrived to become the iconic city that it is today.

Of course, I should also mention that, whenever I see any clips of the Las Vegas strip, I automatically think about the movie Casino and the Ace Rothstein Dancers.  If I ever go to Vegas, I’m going to let Commissioner Pat Webb know that Sam “Ace” Rothstein has nothing to hide.