Archive for the 'Culture' Category

Why there’s really not much point in gun control.

Aug 06, 2012 in Culture, Curiosities

An American gunsmith has become the first person to construct and shoot a pistol partly made out of plastic, 3D-printed parts. The creator, user HaveBlue from the AR-15 forum, has reportedly fired 200 rounds with his part-plastic pistol without any sign of wear and tear.

As you read on you’ll see that he did have to buy the metal portion of the gun, but that was the easy and very legal part. That’s a pointless point, however. We’re already here. What is it but a few years for the rest?

First billion goes to the person who figures out what will sell in an economy where people can buy a 3D printer and some chemicals to get guns, drugs, organs, furniture, etc.

-hw

Fundamentals.

Mar 05, 2012 in Clueless Conservatives, Culture, Women

This post by John Cole is about as good a breakdown of the multiple levels of wrong at play in the Sandra Fluke scandal as I could hope to come up with, so read it first. The factual errors in Rush’s attack are as egregious as the moral ones.

If nothing else, Limbaugh will learn not to call a Georgetown law student a slut. Poor minority women, don’t be looking for any reprieves soon.

-hw

Bin Laden dead, wars ending, economy ticking upwards…

Feb 08, 2012 in Crazy Tea Party People, Culture

…so is it time for Republicans to turn to culture war issues because they are quickly running out of things to talk about?

Because no, I do not think that will win the election either.

But after the war on women that the Tea Party waged once in office, I’d say it’s a topic well worth addressing. Is the Republican vision for the future one in which only nice well-to-do families get access to birth control? And then we stop support programs for poor children and everybody pulls themselves up by their bootstraps, resulting in a country where 90% are objectively wealthy? And everybody starts doing this once we permanently ban gay marriage?

Just tell me what that vision for the future is, Republicans. Rick Santorum swept three states literally running on a platform of solving all of our economic ills though family values.

Bring on the sunshine, Santorum! Save the Republicans from Mitt with cultural conservatism, please. As I’ve noted many times, I just can’t lose with this GOP primary.

-hw

Breitbart’s rhetorical game.

Sep 27, 2011 in Crazy Tea Party People, Culture, Politics, Racism

The whole problem with online writers pulling the ‘The Tea Party isn’t racist, Democrats are racists for calling us racist!” routine is that Tea Partiers love to get out there and represent themselves in the blog comments.

And then there’s the real world:

MIAMI — Islam and tea party activism clashed at a raucous meeting Monday night when a group of Broward County Republicans blocked a Muslim activist as a member of the party’s executive committee.

Republicans, who changed their rules to publicly vet Nezar Hamze and then vote on his application by secret ballot, said they didn’t oppose him because he was a Muslim – but because he is associated with the Center for American-Islamic Relations, whose Washington-area affiliate was an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal terrorism indictment.

Hamze, CAIR’s South Florida director, said his local group had nothing to do with the suspect activities in Washington. He said CAIR advocates for civil rights for Muslims, who have been unfairly targeted ever since 9/11.

“I’m aligned with Republican values. And I want to serve the party,” Hamze said, who earlier told a reporter that any effort to block him was the result of anti-Islamic “bigotry.”

At times, when he addressed the packed room at the Sheraton Suites in Fort Lauderdale, a few members shouted out among the crowd of about 300.

“Terrorist!” said one man.

This being Republicans, efforts to make things up were quickly instituted:

Aside from questioning his motives, there was also a dispute about how long he had been a Republican. Party Vice Chair Collen Stolberg said Hamze became a registered Republican only since August and that before then he was registered with no party affiliation.

Hamze said that wasn’t true. He said he changed his address in August, but has been a registered Republican for about a decade.

Of the 11 applicants for the party, only Hamze was rejected – the first time anyone in the room could recall that happening in a county where Republicans complain about how outnumbered they are by Democrats.

Prior to deciding the new-member applications, a Republican successfully moved to change party rules and require that applicants say how long they’ve been a Republican and to take five minutes worth of questions for the crowd.

Hamze called it “The Hamze rule.”

How’d he do? “In the end, the Broward Republican Executive Committee voted 11-158 to block him from committee membership.”

Now one could make the point that this is religious discrimination that just happens to be directed at non-whites (which requires ignoring the implications of the Bush torture regime), but it underscores a larger point easily seen when one adds in immigration or gays: discrimination, exclusion, and vilification of the “other” is at the very core of who the modern Republican party is.

As for those Republicans who would like to avoid getting entangled with racist Republicans, maybe they should spend some time confronting and condemning racist Republicans instead of whining and fueling the white resentment further?

-hw

I’ll tell anybody who will listen-

Jun 30, 2011 in Culture, Curiosities

HOAs are the devil.

In a less horrible story, a local HOA made an elderly lady stop playing cards and watching TV with her friends in her garage, because the rules said garages could not be living spaces. I’d like to find the persons responsible for moments like these and unleash a verbal tirade that would completely, totally ruin their day.

-hw

A blessing for new parents.

Apr 26, 2011 in Culture, We'll post whatever we goddamned want to

Afraid of all that kid TV dominating your life the next five years? Yo Gabba Gabba will save your soul!

That’s just damn good music, period (though they couldn’t mention the band’s name, The Killers, on a kid’s show) The show itself is joyously inspired, and it’s so great to see people my general age who share my tastes making original kids programming. Most fans will, however, insist this is the undisputed classic of the show, so let me toss it in:

-hw

Good times are back again.

Apr 19, 2011 in Culture, Music, We'll post whatever we goddamned want to

Fleet Foxes are back for another round:

Fleet Foxes – Grown Ocean from Fleet Foxes on Vimeo.

Lovely, lovely, lovely…

-hw

R.I.P. Trish Keenan

Jan 14, 2011 in Culture

A particularly vicious case of pneumonia means the band Broadcast is no more…

-hw

Forgive us our pugilistic ways…

Jan 13, 2011 in Barack Obama, Culture

Obama takes the high road for all us sinners:

I wish he was standing where the country needed him to be more often, but today, without a doubt, he had it all under control.

-hw

I don’t care who you are…

Jan 12, 2011 in Culture, Politics

…or what you believe. You must believe there is significance in this video:

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords warns Sarah Palin about her incendiary language and a year later gets shot in the head, now lying in a hospital with half of her skull removed so that her brain won’t swell up against it. It would seem that the first group of people to see import there would be the faithful, those who don’t necessarily rely on pure scientific reason to draw their conclusions about reality and the intervention of the supernatural. How do you believe in the Christian god that Sarah Palin believes in and not see importance in this sequence of events?

But if ye be not one of those inclined to credit unearthly forces, then perhaps you believe in karma. While Rep. Giffords certainly did nothing herself to reap her shooting, if you draw back to look at karma within society, the waving of pitchforks is unlikely to be unconnected to death by pitchfork.

And if even that is too mystical for you, then you believe in science, and fractal interactions between human beings that produce a general effect of “reaping what you sow.” A world in which politicians freely talk of “Second Amendment remedies” for lost elections and voters approve is by several orders of magnitude more likely to feature politicians getting shot. In a world where a butterfly’s wings in China knock over a tree in Iowa, loose talk of “Second Amendment remedies” gets public servants killed.

Ultimately, if you’re just a remotely decent person, you recognize Sarah Palin and other prominent GOP figures using violent language about the Democrats being Socialist Fascists seeking to kill Grandma and destroy American culture, fulfilling sinister Marxist plans to turn American Communist from the inside out…and then you see somebody actually take a bullet to one of those Democrats. It’s that moment when you realize just how far off the reservation Palin and her Tea Party were. It wasn’t just heated political banter. People actually get killed in politics, and historically it’s practically the norm. Sometimes reality intervenes, and we realize how nonchalantly we bantered over serious things.

All I’ve been looking for from the right is some sense of, “We’ve been stupid, and we will do better in the future.” In a turn of events that has me in a stupor, Roger Ailes has actually sent a memo to the FOX crowd to tone it down. Risking the admission of guilt, Ailes realizes that the extreme rhetoric may potentially backfire on FOX further. It’s difficult to believe he had it in him, but then again, it seems the barest minimum of decency.

-hw

I say put everything we’ve got into Afghanistan.

Aug 31, 2010 in Culture, War on Terra

We’ve got trillions of dollars just sitting around for changing faraway cultures like this:

For centuries, Afghan men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern towns are bacha baz, the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means “boy player.” The men like to boast about it.

“Having a boy has become a custom for us,” Enayatullah, a 42-year-old in Baghlan province, told a Reuters reporter. “Whoever wants to show off should have a boy.”

Baghlan province is in the northeast, but Afghans say pedophilia is most prevalent among Pashtun men in the south. The Pashtun are Afghanistan’s most important tribe. For centuries, the nation’s leaders have been Pashtun.

Some American soldiers should do the trick. I’m fiscally responsible, but this is just so nasty and it’s our job to stop it and we can.

Daddy I want this pony!

-hw

One who lived.

May 30, 2010 in Culture

I’m grateful I had the impulse to watch Easy Rider for the first time ever just two weeks ago. Dennis Hopper’s cancer hadn’t even occurred to me, it just stood out as a classic film I’d missed, so I watched it and marveled at what a genuinely great film it was. Hopper was one of those talents who never had to try to be great.

-hw

Holy smokes.

Feb 19, 2010 in Culture

g-speak overview 1828121108 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

I am glued to the brilliance of human invention.

-jb

March of the neo-Confederates.

Feb 03, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Constitution, Culture, Politics

It’s difficult to reason with someone who doesn’t want to be a part of the United States, thinks homosexuals should be barred from teaching in public schools, and that contraceptives should be outlawed. Marcos makes the observation that 42 percent of the Republicans polled aren’t really patriotic and that they pretend to love America only when they approve of the president. It’s hard to dispute that assessment when you have evidence like the 39 percent that think that Obama deserves impeachment regardless of whether or not he has committed any crimes or the majorities who not surprisingly think he was born outside of the United States. And why not? If you believe that Obama is a Kenyan who won the election because of ACORN chicanery then it’s not too much of a stretch. How many elected officials actually believe such nonsense I don’t know. What is certain though is that if they don’t at least pay a little lip-service to the electoral fringe they’ll be excoriated for their lack of ideological purity by at least one of the Tea Party factions that are currently competing for the most appealing balance of paranoia, belligerence and self righteousness. But as long as they’re beholden to Tea Partiers and their symbolic interests the GOP will be hopelessly tethered to the same epithets and slogans that lost them that last few elections and they wont understand why because they honestly believe that thinking Obama is a socialist, stealth Muslim is a mainstream position.

-mg

My resume.

Jan 21, 2010 in Culture, Politics

Mike has pictures of fish to post, so that kind of neutralizes those try pulling the “real ‘merican!” shtick on him (to endorse policies that benefit the top 1%). Allow me to list my “populist” credentials, since advocating for policies that actually help blue collar workers isn’t enough.

1. My daddy is a farmer. I had a pet goat when I was little. I spent half my afternoons running around on the farm (when Mother was working evenings) making toys out of sticks and old gasoline nozzles, chasing geese and exploring.
2. I grew up around guns, and enjoy shooting them. My father and grandfather were champion trap-shooters, but I was more of a rifle-and-scope kind of guy. My father still trades guns and anybody who has ever been to a gun show in Iowa has probably met him. Hint: He’s the only vocal Democrat in the building.
3. My mother is an RN, and the first in her family to graduate from college, albeit a two year nursing program.
4. I went to a school with a K-12 population of about 240 kids. I took welding and small engines.
5. I graduated from a state college, University of Northern Iowa. Ivy League schools intimidate me a bit, and the people who graduate from them seem like they have robotic super-powered brains to me.
6. I have drunk many pitchers of cheap beer and various forms of swill. When I drink wine, it’s under $5. One of my favorite things to drink is a 40 oz. bottle of malt liquor. Pretty much, if a vagrant would drink it, I’ll give it a shot (shout out to Mad Dog 20/20!). PBR tastes like cow piss, though.
7. I eat terribly. Fast food in any form, burritos, five dollar piles of Chinese food…yesterday my lunch was half a bag of hot fries. Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger! Seriously, I could eat chicken nuggets and pizza every day (though I had to start jogging, like an elitist)
8. Cool smarty-pants kids don’t really like me or find me particularly interesting, cultured, or rebellious (though I am, I swear).
9. It was up to my wife to see that I wore halfway decent clothes. Before her I was wearing tapered jeans and t-shirts, and lots of dark monochromatic shirts.
10. I’ve worked in nursing homes, small town restaurants, single screen movie theaters, dormitory dining service, polling, window selling, video stores, etc.
11. I make around $20K a year and haven’t had health insurance since 2000. Just got on my wife’s plan, no visit to the doctor yet. I’m just about done paying for the $4000 operation I had two years ago (two operations, it ended up being), and for years I had to travel to Mexico to get dental work.
12. By sheer luck and nothing more have I avoided a small posse of illegitimate children with terrible women.
13. Oh, I grew up in a town of 100 people, and spent the other half of my childhood tooling around the countryside on bike, building forts where possible (within a train trestle, mind you), and swimming in whatever body of water we could find.
14. I went to Sunday school most of my life, where we never talked about Hell, just read the more exciting parts of the Old Testament and talked about what a nice man Jesus was.
15. I was spanked, not only by my parents but by my high school principal on more than one occasion.
16. Finally, I swear like a sailor. Or, rather, like a farmer. Or a farmer’s son from small-town America. Because that’s what the fuck I am.

Now, I’ve excluded a lot of things that make me a bit “fancy” and also “un-American” by the barometers of a lot of Ivy League wealthy rightwingers who hate the poor and working class and gleefully manipulate and pillage them for all they’re worth. If a working poor person does have some education and uses a few too many big words going after the elites in our society, they can be neutralized via the cultural war tropes that piss us off because they’re distracting and stupid…so we can be ostracized for being pissed off and calling “stupid” where we see it.

The elites in our society don’t tell people “pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” because they want to help them become wealthy too. Liberals and conservatives alike own small businesses and become managers. The elites say it to keep us down, to keep the rabble away from the fruits of their labor, away from the profits that their hard work generates. They don’t get people frothing mad about taxes because taxes keep anybody poor or working class down, but because it’s the wealth of the elites that gets tapped to provide for schools, Social Security, Medicaid, and other things. Roger Ailes needs every penny of his $23 million a year so he can keep living behind thick walls with security details, so Fox hosts the Tea Party rallies and get people fired up about health care for them that would lean on his taxes for support. It’s that simple. And if a rich person does dare to advocate for the working class, they have the whole “Limousine Liberals!” shtick to play. You get screwed either way.

So they sell that snake oil, and these rich bastards assuage the working poor by telling them the liberals who are trying to directly help them secretly hate them.

My father was a blue collar working class Democrat who supported the party because he always saw them fighting for him, and he always saw the Republicans doing everything they could to screw the working class. He never regarded their blather as anything other than the prattling of used car salesmen, smooth-talking shysters. Nobody could ever fool him into thinking that denying him health care was doing him a favor, and nobody could ever fool him into thinking that a billionaire’s taxes were too high. He’s culturally still somewhat conservative, and my ways don’t always please him, but that’s always been a separate subject. He’s still not sure Barack isn’t going to take away his guns, but he knows that’s the only issue he likes Republicans for. It’s the only thing they have to say that has anything to do with his actual life and how it’s lived, and it’s not enough.

And that’s the foundation from where I start.

-jb

p.s. And I’ve seen every single UFC!

The real advantage of campaigning on family values.

Jan 16, 2010 in Culture, Politics

Cheating on your wife is okay if you’re a Republican.

You see, they’re working hard to degrade the institution of marriage so that we can’t risk gay marriage. It’s above you, don’t try to understand it.

-jb

You made a swear!

Jan 10, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Culture

I thought we were the only ones that this happens to.

Saying the word fuck in the presence of a right wing blog(ger) opens you up to endless reams of condemnation for your lack of shame and civility. Oh, and you can forget your argument because none of that matters now. Swearing means that they get to scrupulously ignore your reasoning ad infinitum.

-mg

You can do it, Johnny!

Jan 10, 2010 in Culture

Add me to the list of those thoroughly disenchanted with the cult of self-esteem-above-all maniacs, especially those running our schools (credit goes to Andrew):

Racists, street thugs and school bullies all polled high on the self-esteem charts. And you can see why. If you think you’re God’s gift, you’re particularly offended if other people don’t treat you that way. So you lash out or commit crimes or cut ethical corners to reassert your pre-eminence. After all, who are your moral inferiors to suggest that you could be doing something, er, wrong? What do they know?

Or you become a Republican who gets angrier the more people point out to you Sarah Palin isn’t remotely qualified to be President. Generally, the self-esteem cult has made our age of misinformation all the more possible. Republicans continue spouting insane ideas and easily disprovable statements because they keep patting each other on the backs, telling each other they’re the “real” Americans. While the internet has given us a trove of information that can be used to dispel their constant factual errors, it’s sprouted an even bigger monster of loving embraces among fools. Those who have witnessed the epic battles we occasionally have on here with stubborn righties are treated to the sight of us placing our boot on the face of a winger who’s invested all his/her self-worth in a losing proposition. The boot hurts, but the boot is tough love.

Mike and I went to a small-town Iowa school where a fool was likely to be skewered by a teacher with a razor-sharp tongue (bless Richard Burton Rydstrom’s soul, even though he made me hate him at the time). There were a few teachers who might have been assigned suicide-prevention and dispensed with a bit more kindly praise, but generally our tiny, simple school had little to offer but hard-as-nails intellectual honesty.

Oh, and it had a full-featured shop (I took woodshop, small engines, and welding), a home-ec classroom (I failed at cooking and sewing), an art building and a bigger music program than most 2000+ student schools. The school understood that not everybody was going to go to college, so it didn’t waste time sticking future working joes in Chemistry class, but even college track kids like me were able to sample all classes. Nearly everybody in the school was in sports, music, drama, or all three. Guys who would spend their careers doing electrical wiring got their start in high school. The K-12 population of the school was little over 200 students.

In California we have mega-schools that go over budget but are filled with alpha males who can’t make the football team and spend their days ruining academic classes because they are busy humiliating each other and wooing the females. Meanwhile teachers and administrators burn through millions of taxpayer dollars in professional development where they fellate each other marveling over their new techniques for making noisy kids look like they’re being productive (tip: have them draw pictures about the lesson, stick the pictures on the wall…principals will go orgasmic). Teachers who hand out too many Fs are hauled into the principal’s office to get the finger pointed at them. Every kid knows one absolute fact: It’s wrong for teachers to tell them to shut up, or say much of anything that will make them feel sad inside.

I think this results in a lot of mushy-headed liberals as well as wrong-headed rightwingers, but the difference is that with rightwingers it permeates upwards, to the point where the entire GOP apparatus is geared against intellectual honesty and feeling any shame, coupled with a coddling media afraid to practice some stern journalism and thwack some knuckles with rulers.

Okey-dokey, got that rant off my chest!

-jb

Nanny state alert.

Jan 03, 2010 in Culture

Seems you, as a parent, can’t decide whether or not your child can have a tattoo. But this isn’t about persecuting Christians so it doesn’t matter.

-jb

Bring the war home.

Jan 02, 2010 in Anti-War, Culture

Terrific documentary on The Weather Underground:

-mg

Or a movie buff.

Dec 30, 2009 in Culture, Very rare movie reviews

The past ten years was also an amazing decade for cinema. Many of the trends in the cinema of the 90s were continued, expanded on, and refined. Especially in the world of fantasy and action, many of us watched The Matrix in 1999 and said, “How the hell are they supposed to top that?” Well, I didn’t just ask that, I took my stab at writing it, but…um, I’m waiting for the special effects to evolve just a tad further, or something. Anyway, I’m going to take a stab at a top ten list for the decade. I’m going to do it just from memory, as the greatest films should reside there, no?

1. Lord of the Rings: This is going to be the only one that gets a number. It is simply one of the greatest achievements in cinematic history. Peter Jackson had almost no right to expect he could pull it off. It was no mere adaptation. Any number of directors could have given us a serviceable adaptation that hit all the plot points and delivered some nice performances. But no, Jackson suffused it with vision, and executed it with a work ethic that one would assume to be maniacal, except the making-of featurettes revealed Jackson to be disciplined and focused as few filmmakers have ever been. He was gifted, of course, with the finest of material to work from. Tolkien was the Lennon to his McCartney. The end result is like the id of every fantasy writer exploded upon the screen. We got the mythology of this world, a fully rendered tip of an immense iceberg, the foundation underneath every scene, every moment of import. That was the easy part. Mythology was Tolkien’s forte. What Jackson added was the humanity. Whether man, hobbit, wizard, dwarf, or elf, Jackson and his cohorts crafted a screenplay that gave Tolkien’s noble archetypes life. Yet for all the tics and foibles of these characters, their deeds properly depicted them as legends. Gimli could talk himself into a fit of embarrassment, but he could dive into a horde of orcs, swinging his blade fearlessly. Those of us who grew up on Star Wars and other attempts at fantasy found themselves suddenly treated with a feast that seemed to never end, until 2003. Return of the King finished the story, and we knew it was over. The Hobbit may offer another visit in a year or two, but despite the efforts of Jackson and Del Toro to pump up the story and turn it into two parts, it will never be the epic that this trilogy delivered. Watch all three films, extended editions only, and you will see one whole movie, in which nearly all the pleasures of cinema are contained.

The rest:

So Intelligent We Laugh At You Puny Humans Double Feature: Christopher Nolan’s Memento and The Prestige. Even if you can somehow find a fault in the logic of these movies, Nolan still makes you feel like a dumbass for thinking you could ever do better. While people who need every film to be full of “heart” and “likable characters” will scoff at these films, the rest of us will continue reveling in the orgasmic cinematic science that gets dropped over the course of these two luxuriously tight movies. Their secret? The intelligence is matched by passion. Nolan would go on to apply his methods to The Dark Knight for appropriately commendable results, but these two films are his master’s thesis and doctoral work that define who he is as a filmmaker and what his future efforts will expand upon.

The Award For A Writer/Director Gassing Himself on Greatness: The Royal Tenenbaums. Wes Anderson is gaining some praise for rediscovering his inspiration on Fantastic Mr. Fox, and that’s because he put everything into this movie. Some great artists master the medium and deliver one great story after another, perhaps with an inflection of personality. Some great artists are great because of their personality, and end up finding only a few stories that possess the necessary synergy required to touch the sky. Tenenbaums succeeds at creating a novel on screen, all nuance and depth intact.

The Pixar One-Two: The Incredibles/Finding Nemo was and shall remain the peak of Pixar in my book, no matter how many damn people call Up teh greatest evah. It simply isn’t. Go back to these two films to see genius distilled into its purest form. Pixar had finally honed its tech to the point where we got to see stories told with the complete tool set. And what stories. The simple quest for a missing son becomes the ultimate “road trip” movie, while the story of a superhero family shortchanges neither, giving us a full throated comic book hero epic and the story of a family that may be unlike any other, yet like every other. Pixar’s willingness to go against the grain and deliver the message that merit matters may stand as one of the most bold statements of the 00s.

The Apatow Triumvirate: Anchorman/Walk Hard/Knocked Up: Judd Apatow, no matter how far he falls in future decades, did us all a massive favor the past ten years, and made people laugh harder more consistently than at any time since the peak of Mel Brooks in the 70s (although I will dish out a little love for Kevin Smith, who Apatow arguably copied and improved upon by widening the appeal). I’ll never forget my devastation at seeing Walk Hard bomb at the theaters, which is why it deserves special mention here. How could a film so funny fail so spectacularly? I don’t know, but I hope it’s made its rounds on DVD sufficiently. That and Anchorman are simply pure comedy gold, almost line for line. Knocked Up, on the other hand, was the film that revealed The 40 Year-Old Virgin was not a simple fluke, but a recipe for greatness. Take the comedy, but add a real story, and people will sit in their seats for two hours and get more bang for their buck. Funny People added more length and a bit less funny, and I liked it, but it also revealed the limitations of the formula. Tighten it up, Apatow, and we’ll be set. In the meantime, we’ve already been rewarded with a slew of comedies that trump most of the crap we laughed at in the 80s and 90s.

The Oops I Crapped My Pants Award: Avatar, in 3D. A solid film and the most rousing work of fantasy since LOTR, but it’s in 3D that this film truly breaks new ground and sets the stage for what is possible in the future. Although the performance capture work is almost as good. Take this one with a grain of salt, as I may not be able to stand by it in five or ten years. But for this decade, this movie is a big goddamn deal. Even if District 9 was in most ways the superior film.

The Oh You Thought It Would Be A Gimmick Movie But It Was A Masterpiece Award: Brokeback Mountain. Anybody who tells you this was just a movie about some gay cowboys didn’t watch the bastard. From script to acting to score to cinematography, this movie wasn’t merely “important” socially. To hell with the social importance. This was a real story, as authentic was ever told, about a love that could not speak its name but was as profound as any other. There was not a single ounce of concern in the telling of this massive yarn for audience expectations. Just the tale of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, through all the decades required to finish the story.

The Jesus Christ, I Shouldn’t Be Crying This Much Award: Where the Wild Things Are. And my parents are still happily married. How did this film sucker punch me so hard? I guess the tale of a boy learning how destructive his rage can be, well…yeah. That one will just have to remain personal. I realize now that I’ve been talking about too many 2009 movies instead of the whole decade, so let’s go back again:

The Number Two Always Rules Award: Spiderman 2/X2. Remember Superman II? Empire Strikes Back? The previously mentioned Dark Knight? Yeah, it’s not rocket science. The first film allows you to establish the characters, the world, and the rules. The second film allows you to get down to bidness. While both series had commendable and entertaining first installments, they served as launching pads for the true masterpieces that followed. While the trouble of making part three continues to confound and fascinate, two shall be immortalized as the magic number of the best film franchises. Too bad we’re still waiting for the new James Bond movies to capitalize on the brilliance of Casino Royale.

Holy Crap, You Had No Idea This Was Possible: Like I said, Casino Royale came out of nowhere, recycling the redheaded stepchild of Ian Fleming’s books to become the best Bond film ever, hands down.

The In The End The French Can Still Kick Our Ass At Making Movies Award: Tell No One just won’t leave my head. This is the kind of movie with a plot that Hollywood churns out in its sleep. A mild-mannered doctor discovers his missing wife isn’t dead, and the chase is on. Yet for all his apparent heroics and leaps of faith, he is never superhuman. He is just a man, compelled by fate and love, only able to make the single correct choice he is presented with.

The The Abyss Stares Back Into You Award: Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects. The man terrifies you with the most fully-fleshed out portrayal of utter amorality of the decade. Rob Zombie sees into the deepest, darkest regions of man’s heart, which beats a hundred thousand cheap jump cuts. He earns the wrath of many critics for finding the spring of discontent, but they all need to go to Hell. Because they’ll find Zombie there, waiting for them. The first half of his adaptation of Halloween is even more brilliant.

Inspired Absurdity: Hamlet 2 rewards multiple viewings, as any great comedy does. Give it that attention, and you’ll see one of the most original comedies ever crafted, borrowing gags from almost nobody, culminating in a school play that is simultaneously the worst play ever written, and yet shockingly poignant. Sheer acts of innovation like this are hard to come by. Waiting for Guffman can kiss my ass.

Lightning Strikes Twice, But One Is God And The Other Jesus: Mulholland Drive/Mysterious Skin. David Lynch may well have exhausted himself on the impossibly made Mulholland Drive, based on my attempt at watching Inland Empire. Everything in his career was on full display in this film. Dream logic, sexual obsession, sonic nightmare-scapes, dialogue delivered like a new form of poetry…and yet a story never truer. Gregg Araki overcame a career filled with precocious shallowness and cinematic clunkery to deliver another mesmerizing dream about nightmarish events. I fear the film gained its power by being so personal. Yet there it is.

The Obligatory Social Significance Award: Michael Moore’s Sicko isn’t a perfect film. The adventure in Cuba is, well, not exactly well balanced in its portrayal, although the obvious poverty of the country should serve as a bit of a warning. No, we don’t want to be Cuba. But we don’t want to be America either, because a rot is in place. Moore’s genius stroke is in focusing not on those without insurance, but those with insurance. Sicko can rightfully take credit for propelling the cause of health care reform to the forefront of the Democratic Party’s mission, and is likely to culminate shortly in the passage of a health care reform bill that, while falling short of where we need to go, is still a revolutionary achievement in the history of this nation. And yet one can still turn back to Sicko to see where we have to go afterwards. How many films can claim such an honor? Michael Moore is not a particularly intellectual sort of filmmaker, and he makes lots of gaffes when allowed to keep running his mouth. But when he finds the right issue and lets his subjects do the talking, nobody can match him. Of all the movies made in the past ten years, none may matter more than this.

The Forgotten Masterpiece Award: All The Real Girls damn near slipped past me this time, and for that I should be gashed in the thigh. How dare I nearly forget the film that I hated critics for forgetting in 2003? Out of nowhere, or, rather, North Carolina, emerged David Gordon Green with a film more raw, poetic, and profound than any two masters of cinema could hope to assemble in all their lives. This is just one of those little mega-gems that you sift through river mud hoping to find. It has to come from the young and hungry. It has to come from somebody putting their heart and soul onto celluloid. It simply can’t be made by somebody who’s been successful for years, comforted by wealth and possessing the upper hand in personal relationships. It came from somebody stumbling through life, occasionally hoping to dream, typically finding their face smashed into a brick wall of hate and misunderstanding. Yet it has to be told in the hands of somebody so adept at the tools of cinema that they are able to make startling poetic compositions of sound and light look effortless. David Gordon Green may be making his name directing drug-fueled comedies like Pineapple Express and the HBO series Eastbound and Down, but he can do that because he already established himself as a rightful master, able to return to authentic drama any time he likes (see Snow Angels if you doubt his talent). Unfortunately, in all this babbling I have neglected to mention how this film truly owns my heart more than any other in the past ten years. I gave LOTR the #1, but All The Real Girls is the one film that truly tells a story from my life (before marrying Lil’ Miss Samari, anyhow…). I cannot tell you you will share the same feelings. All I can tell you is this: However much or little you relate to this story, this story is real. It might as well be a goddamn documentary. And yet, the poetry…

My meager, stupid words cannot give you what watching these movies can give you. It is hard to expect a subjective field like fiction to be all things to all people. I can only say that these movies were expertly told, and they were true to certain people. Perhaps you can relate to none of them. Perhaps your heart finds no purchase, especially in some of my more outlandish choices. But make no mistake, however you may classify yourself in relation to me, whether kindred soul or chilly opposite, these stories do reveal something of human nature.

And there were so many more. It was truly a great decade in film, and I look forward to hearing from anybody else on the subject. I’m already lashing myself for the movies I left behind (at this moment, United 93), but let’s hope for a healthy comment thread to address my omissions.

-jb

p.s. Just in case you wanted a number, that’s twenty-four films, unless you interpret my comment about District 9 to make twenty-five. Sorry, ten years don’t mean only ten movies deserved the love.

p.s.s. Already, I realized I meant to mention There Will Be Blood, in the Just Go Home Because You Can’t Expect To Compete category. How would you have liked to be going up against Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor that year? Shiiiiiiiiiiiit! Eh, the Coens won Best Pic for No Country For Old Men and that flick belongs on most anybody’s short list, but I put all my chips on TWBB for sheer insane ambitiousness that rivals its protagonist, Daniel Plainview. While NCFOM ends with Tommy Lee Jones babbling incoherently, TWBB goes over the edge with Day-Lewis, and in a way at odds yet in accord with the marvelously rigorous craftsmanship of the film’s bulk.

Treasure yer days.

Dec 24, 2009 in Culture

Andrew Sullivan has been holding a “Most Depressing Christmas Song” contest over at his site. This video I found set to John Lennon’s Christmas song beats all.

May your eyes hover over life’s rewards and revel in the tiniest among them.

-jb

This is your brain on the internet.

Oct 23, 2009 in Culture, Curiosities

Long (but fascinating) article for a guy who says he ain’t got no more attention span.

The human brain is almost infinitely malleable. People used to think that our mental meshwork, the dense connections formed among the 100 billion or so neurons inside our skulls, was largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. But brain researchers have discovered that that’s not the case. James Olds, a professor of neuroscience who directs the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, says that even the adult mind “is very plastic.” Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. “The brain,” according to Olds, “has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions.”

As we use what the sociologist Daniel Bell has called our “intellectual technologies”—the tools that extend our mental rather than our physical capacities—we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies. The mechanical clock, which came into common use in the 14th century, provides a compelling example. In Technics and Civilization, the historian and cultural critic Lewis Mumford described how the clock “disassociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences.” The “abstract framework of divided time” became “the point of reference for both action and thought.”

The clock’s methodical ticking helped bring into being the scientific mind and the scientific man. But it also took something away. As the late MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum observed in his 1976 book, Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, the conception of the world that emerged from the widespread use of timekeeping instruments “remains an impoverished version of the older one, for it rests on a rejection of those direct experiences that formed the basis for, and indeed constituted, the old reality.” In deciding when to eat, to work, to sleep, to rise, we stopped listening to our senses and started obeying the clock.

The question open is where our internet-addled brains are leading us. We’ve seen amazing advances in politics, the arts, and research.

Maybe I’m just a worrywart. Just as there’s a tendency to glorify technological progress, there’s a countertendency to expect the worst of every new tool or machine. In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And because they would be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” they would “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.” They would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.” Socrates wasn’t wrong—the new technology did often have the effects he feared—but he was shortsighted. He couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom).

The arrival of Gutenberg’s printing press, in the 15th century, set off another round of teeth gnashing. The Italian humanist Hieronimo Squarciafico worried that the easy availability of books would lead to intellectual laziness, making men “less studious” and weakening their minds. Others argued that cheaply printed books and broadsheets would undermine religious authority, demean the work of scholars and scribes, and spread sedition and debauchery. As New York University professor Clay Shirky notes, “Most of the arguments made against the printing press were correct, even prescient.” But, again, the doomsayers were unable to imagine the myriad blessings that the printed word would deliver.

I can still dive into a book when I want to (though I almost never want to anymore), and while I share this guy’s guarded optimism that new mediums will lead to new innovations and a net plus for human advancement, there’s no denying that losing the ability to read full-length books is a mighty sacrifice. Ebook readers are becoming very cool, but once again you’re not holding just one book in your hand, but hundreds or thousands at your fingertips, and once again attention spans are challenged.

An article by Jamais Cascio points to where we may be going, as technology is integrated into our very perception:

The emerging technology, called “Augmented Reality,” enables users to see location-specific data superimposed over their surroundings. Long a staple of science fiction, it’s trickling into the real world through the iPhone and similar ultrasmart mobile phones. With AR applications such as Layar, the smart phone displays what its camera sees, with information about nearby buildings and shops, travel directions, even notes and “tags” left by other users in that location. Although AR now relies on handheld devices, electronics makers like Sony are working on systems that you wear like sunglasses, making augmented vision more immersive.

Eventually, contact lenses, corneal implants or artificially engineered eyes, I wager.

Conceivably, users could set AR spam filters to block any kind of unpalatable visual information, from political campaign signs to book covers. Parents might want to block sexual or violent images from their kids’ AR systems, and political activists and religious leaders might provide ideologically correct filters for their communities. The bad images get replaced by a red STOP, or perhaps by signs and pictures that reinforce the desired worldview.

Did I mention that the “wrong” people can get replaced too?

After California’s Prop 8 ban on gay marriage passed, opponents of the measure dug up public records of donors supporting the ban, and linked that data to an online map. Suddenly, you could find out which of your neighbors (or the businesses you frequent) were so opposed to gay marriage that they donated to the cause. Now imagine that instead of a map, those records were combined with an AR system able to identify faces.

You don’t want to see anybody who has donated to the Palin 2012 campaign? Gone, their faces covered up by black circles. You want to know who exactly gave money to the 2014 ban on SUVs? Easy—they now have green arrows pointing at their heads.

You want to block out any indication of viewpoints other than your own? Done.

Obviously people have figured out how to do that nowadays, and will continue to do so, but could it lead to greater heights? I’ll be sure to give my feedback after I get my iShades…

-jb

UPDATE: More on augmented reality here.

Wherein I confess I am a Marxist.

Oct 13, 2009 in Culture

[youtube Dsw9jYU_rJI]

Genius.

-jb

What she said.

Sep 30, 2009 in Culture

Not much room to defend Roman Polanski. Whatever plea bargain he didn’t think was going to be honored, going on the lam isn’t a solution. Because they’re right to catch you, and then you have to be punished for running. Had he stayed, there’s this amazing process called an appeal. It likely would have been over and done with 30 years ago. He also had a recent chance to appear in court to settle the issue, and turned it down.

It’s unfortunate that many directors have signed a petition in Polanski’s defense, which allows wingers to trot out their usual anti-Hollywood blather, but I understand that most of these people like Scorsese are Polanski’s friends. Subjectivity is a bitch, and knowing that Polanski has walked a pretty straight line and lived a good life since fleeing is certainly somewhat reassuring. But he’s got unfinished business. I look forward to him being able to walk on American soil again after he’s resolved it.

Now if only those wingers were calling for Bush and Cheney’s arrest…

-jb

A little bit off the wall

Jun 25, 2009 in Culture, In Memorium, Music, We'll post whatever we goddamned want to

I was going to write about the current situation in Iran, when I was stunned by the shocking news of Michael Jackson’s death.

Anyone born between the years 1970-1990, knew him as the king of pop, and can name and/or sing 5-10 of his songs.  I would be bold to say that of these people, before the age of 10 would have told you that he was their favorite singer.

There was no other artist, that is as well known in as many countries as Michael Jackson.  Religion, culture, and political beliefs aside, many people all over the world were touched by his music.

Music is one of those things that transcends all these things and can be a universal unifier.  Which is why in the mountains of Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in the remotest village in Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, anywhere you go someone has heard of Michael Jackson and can tell you what their favorite Michael Jackson song is.  Yes, even Osama Bin Laden probably has a favorite Michael Jackson tune, and tried to moonwalk when he was a young fanatic.  Hell, white Christian fanatics like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh probably have a favorite Michael Jackson song.

He was the first real megastar in music.  He was a whole lotta crazy well before Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse.  Before boy bands, there was the Jackson 5.  You may say Beatles, but the Jackson 5 were younger, the first true boy band.  Justin Timberlake wouldn’t have any dance moves or falsetto without Michael.  Before U2, Michael Jackson pushed the boundaries of the largest overblown, multimedia, multi-million dollar rock shows.  Yes I say rock, because he employed the best backing rock session musicians in his albums and tours.

Before Michael Jackson, Bollywood movies actually had plots, and the only music was the backing soundtrack, and the only dancing was two lovers running through forests and around trees in the beautiful mountains of Kashmir.  From the 80’s onwards, choreographed dance sequences are now the central part of the movie, and all copy the moves from Thriller, Beat It, Smooth Criminal, and such.

The list goes on, but he was truly extraordinary, and his departure will be mourned all over the world and in also the least likeliest of places.

–Ali

P.S. I know mg and jb will crucify me for posting this 😛

More rightwing hysteria.

Jun 17, 2009 in Clueless Conservatives, Culture

The hilarious sickness on the right persists:

How do grown adults behave like this? “He’s a verbal pedophile!” Really? Are you sure, lady, that you aren’t just a Palin fanatic who’s springing on Letterman mistaking Willow for Bristol (the one who did get knocked up) in order to play victim? Really, consider the disservice being done to real concern about pedophilia.

Bonus racist points to the guy doing the neck thing at the black woman.

In all honesty, this protest was a bust, with only 15 people able to muster this degree of insanity, but there’s been plenty of bustle over this stupidity, egged on by Sarah Palin herself. It said nothing about David Letterman, and everything about her and the cult of personality that has sprung up around this know-nothing fool from Alaska who seeks infamy with slightly less vigor that Janice Dickinson.

-jb

In honour of tonight, which shall shortly feature me sipping on Absolut.

Jun 12, 2009 in Booze & or Drugs, Culture

[youtube 5p0QtJMKt1s]

Believe it or not, commissioned by Absolut and featured on their website, along with two more installments (here and here).

Zach Galifianakis is starting to get some love for The Hangover, and I’m feeling it, but mad props go out to Tim and Eric.

-jb

Narcissus Falls Into Pool, Drowns

May 19, 2009 in Culture

If Republicans were serious about either their message or about getting into position to implement it, this information would be of interest to them. Fortunately for those of us who don’t want to see them returned to power any time soon (the deficit being already quite big enough as it is, thanks) they will not be able to hear what the numbers are telling them. It wouldn’t matter who said it, or how; they’re so accustomed to & in love with the sound of their own hollering that they can’t see, and won’t believe, that they’re turning everybody off. Perhaps some of them will see this and plead righteousness – “I’d rather be right than popular,” goes the sour-grapes retort from people who’re losing the support of the public. But that’s exactly the point: if these people actually cared about whether they were right or wrong, they’d try to sell their message. When you believe in a product, you package it for the market. What Republicans in 2009 are most interested in is their own reflection and whether it pleases them. They can’t even hear the clenched-teeth groans of the people who, seeing the same image, are leaving the party in droves.
-TT

Web-induced A.D.D.

May 13, 2009 in Culture

Lordy knows I got it. Haven’t even been able to focus on blogging lately!

Reading on the web is almost certainly affecting the way we process information, but it’s not making us stupid. Instead, it’s changing the way we’re smart. Rather than storehouses of in-depth information, the web is turning our brains into indexes. These days, it’s not what you know — it’s what you know you can access, and cross reference.

In other words, books taught us to think like they do — as tools for storing extensive knowledge. Now the web teaches us to think like it does — as a tool for recall and connection. We won’t be so good at memorizing everything there is to know about a particular small-bore topic, but we’ll be a lot better at knowing what there is to be known about the broader category the topic fits into, and what other information might provide insight and context.

That this is happening to many people is indisputable. What is fun to argue is whether this is a “good thing” or not. One of the commenters impressed me with this:

Consider that the vast majority of human history has been an preliterate or illiterate experience. Knowledge was empirical and acquired in the field, through different social associations and culture. Our forbears may not have been bookish, but neither were they imagining less. They kept a different model of the world in their heads, as complex as any we imagine today. The abstract world allows for testing connections — trying out possibilities before actually attempting them. It allows for comparative analysis — discussing ideas with peers. It could be about the optimal method of tracking gazelle, killing barbarians, or forging metal. In all cases, the amount of mental abstraction involved is roughly the same.

If we are moving to a mental model where survival is dependent on information access through digital nodes rather than recording the actual information in our wetware, we are still keeping a rich, complex abstraction of the world in our heads, as we always have done. Our world model is simply morphing yet again to accommodate survival node changes in the world.

Much is lost by abandoning the old mental models; but much is gained by creating new ones. It makes little difference if we celebrate it or lament the change by clinging to our paper books, any more than we should cling to our spears and arrows. If the data points of our mental model have become less clustered around the bush, the farm, the village, or the city library, but have dispersed across the planet, then so be it. We will survive by the same timeless means as always before: by imagining the rich, complex world that we live in, in its current form.

This is the belief that we’re just as awesome as we’ve always been, just in different ways.

Still, that feeling of my brain being pureed confetti nags. I would like to read more books, and I would like to write more full-length works…but I have become somewhat paralyzed by the million pieces my brain has shattered into. So I think the argument mostly rests on control, and how much you voluntarily surrender. I don’t want to give up everything I’ve lost. Yet I am, apparently, even more afraid of losing the constant feed of new information and ideas I encounter every day on the internet.

-jb

All the Real Girls must be recognized as one of the all-time great films.

Apr 13, 2009 in Culture

[youtube OqPnijAAptw]

Mike G. just told me he watched All the Real Girls for the first time. I’ve been telling anybody who will listen that it’s a genuine classic of cinema. Hopefully Danny McBride‘s newfound popularity (watch Eastbound and Down on HBO) will start landing it in a few more DVD queues. Director David Gordon Green is, strangely, making a bigger mark in comedy at the moment, but 2007’s Snow Angels shows that he’s still a serious force as a dramatic director.

Warning to all men: You have never seen a film that portrays real male heartbreak more devastatingly. Also, showing this movie to a girl you are currently dating may mark the point where she starts telling herself it may be time to move on. This is a movie gets inside the DNA of the human heart, and it may change you profoundly without your knowledge or permission.

-jb

Fleet Foxes versus The Mountain Goats

Feb 16, 2009 in Culture, Music, We'll post whatever we goddamned want to

Kinda;)
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Anyway, Fleet Foxes are one of my favorite new bands. I call them “The Belle & Sebastian of the Appalachians” which isn’t very clever since they’re from Seattle. They devote themselves a little bit to their lo-fi look, but mostly to the music, and the results are frequently transcendent.

-jb

Yes, but a nude Kate Winslet always deserves an Oscar.

Feb 10, 2009 in Culture

Damn…I have a screener of The Reader ready to fire up, but Ron Rosenbaum deconstructs the movie’s apparent stupidity so devastatingly I might just have to watch it on mute, fast forwarding to Kate Winslet’s next display of glorious nekkidness.

Indeed, so much is made of the deep, deep exculpatory shame of illiteracy—despite the fact that burning 300 people to death doesn’t require reading skills—that some worshipful accounts of the novel (by those who buy into its ludicrous premise, perhaps because it’s been declared “classic” and “profound”) actually seem to affirm that illiteracy is something more to be ashamed of than participating in mass murder. From the Barnes & Noble Web site summary of the novel: “Michael recognizes his former lover on the stand, accused of a hideous crime. And as he watches Hanna refuse to defend herself against the charges, Michael gradually realizes that she may be guarding a secret more shameful than murder.” Yes, more shameful than murder! Lack of reading skills is more disgraceful than listening in bovine silence to the screams of 300 people as they are burned to death behind the locked doors of a church you’re guarding to prevent them from escaping the flames. Which is what Hanna did, although, of course, it’s not shown in the film. As I learned from the director at a screening of The Reader, the scene was omitted because it might have “unbalanced” our view of Hanna, given too much weight to the mass murder she committed, as opposed to her lack of reading skills. Made it more difficult to develop empathy for her, although it’s never explained why it’s important that we should.

Or, rather, the only justification is removed:

Daldry said he’d had a big fight with the author of The Reader, Bernhard Schlink. In the novel, when Kate’s mass murderer learns to read, one of the things she reads about is—guess what?—the Holocaust. We’re led to believe that she’s learning about it, or at least the extent of it, for the first time, from reading Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and Hannah Arendt, and is suitably horrified. You get the idea: Reading can develop a moral sense, a path toward redemption….

But Daldry said he and Hare eliminated the Holocaust education aspect of the novel (over the strong objections of Schlink) because he didn’t want the film to seem to be about redemption; too many Holocaust films offer a kind of false redemptiveness, he said.

While many a director has wisely altered book content for the screen (did you REALLY want spend a third of The Godfather following the plight of a girl with an oversized vagina?), as a rule the author of a book should be trusted, especially on thematic concerns.

I imagine I’ll have to watch the film to see if Kate Winslet’s character escapes trite redemption, and while I’d like to keep joking about her nudity redeeming the film, Rosenbaum says it’s no joke:

The nudity, which I’ve had cause to reference before in a column on the irresistible (to culture-makers) attraction between Nazis and sex, gives new meaning to the word gratuitous. To my friend, it was a manipulative tool used to create intimacy with and thus empathy for an unrepentant mass murderer. And what’s more—to shocked gasps, he said exactly that to the director in the Q&A session. And didn’t stop there, calling The Reader a “dishonest and mediocre” film that used nudity to disguise its thematic nakedness.

So the director eliminated the Elie Wiesel and inserted Kate’s cinematic treasures in lieu? Good grief.

Worst of all, Rosenbaum says, The Reader is part of a new “Them Germans weren’t such bad people after all!” genre in film, along with the popcorn-fest Valkryie and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

I will watch The Reader because I don’t really believe in condemning movies I haven’t seen, but if Rosenbaum is right, then it is a horrendously misguided film. Then again, he hated Life is Beautiful, which I can’t imagine doing without being tediously self-righteous.

-jb

What she said-

Jan 30, 2009 in Culture

The whoreImeannicegirl who is auctioning off her untainted twat for millions of dollars:

…it became apparent to me that idealized virginity is just a tool to keep women in their place.

So employ the principles of rationality and forget who said it.

She’s right, isn’t she? Men have a virgin female monkey on our backs. Lakes of blood have been spilled, as it is little other than territorial conquest between men. Man has always wanted to believe he is the only conqueror of his woman. Evidence that other penises have been in his property tends to irk him.

This varies in intensity across cultures and time. In the US, most men are generally at peace marrying a woman whose virginity is in somebody else’s treasure box of memories. This keeps pace with our generally equalized and empowered female citizenry.

Many of us have spent years stumbling through the dating world, and have had at least a handful of attempts at serious relationships. Both parties can veto the relationship, and men who don’t strive get rejected. Yes, we’ve insured that women don’t need us, and we ultimately believe that’s the American way. You want freedom, so you give it.

All the same, no man relishes explicit evidence of his girlfriend/wife’s past, and thus there are general hopes and expectations that would be dashed by seeing her popping up on Youporn.com with an old boyfriend. Unsurprisingly, this is reciprocated by the average woman. So things come full circle, and standards arise based on free choice.

So even in a liberated world, that dainty precious flower giving up her honeypot for money is still a bit of a harlot.

I love Europe! *ducks*

Jan 13, 2009 in Culture

One must wonder how strange it would be for many Americans to imagine an Italian afraid to say, “I love America!” for fear of seeming not pro-Italian enough. Verboten on the right is anybody who can say, “Actually, Europe is a wonderful place to live, I’ve spent quite a bit of time there, amazing people…”

Well, I lived in Austria for nearly a year during college, and I can say Europe is a wonderful place to live, I’ve spent quite a bit of time there, and the people are amazing.

-jb

Abortion irrelevancy.

Dec 09, 2008 in Christian Right, Culture

At the risk of starting up a storm of emotional claptrap, I’m unimpressed with this report that women who’ve had abortions have no discernible difference in mental health long term than control groups.

I mean, it’s interesting, I’m just saying it’s completely irrelevant to the abortion debate. People don’t want to criminalize it because they think mothers will be depressed by it later, and the ability of things to depress one has no bearing on their legality. We have a right to do things that we may regret or feel depressed about later, including most of the things that lead to an abortion, even though that frustrates the godless priests who seek to control women’s bodies for them and punish frivolous sex with multiple babies, which is akin to shitting on your cornflakes to displace unwanted milk. I don’t need to be overrun by poor fatherless children adorned upon the earth via a misplaced crusade to reduce extraneous boning. I just needed a good woman who is at no risk of turning into such a crusader, thus killing my passion and casting me about in search of more extraneous boning, and so I was blessed. I imagine most women who have had abortions waited until they were with the right person to have a child, and that’s why they’re happy.

-jb

Black Dynamite

Nov 22, 2008 in Culture

If you recognize some of the actors, you’ll know what era this is from. After the fold: (more…)

Suri Cruise is hottest tot, says pedophiles.

Nov 19, 2008 in Culture

Or, actually, Forbes magazine, but still pretty goddamned sick anyway. Suri Cruise is as cute as a button, but she and other small children are not hot.

-jb

Love the Brits…

Nov 10, 2008 in Booze & or Drugs, Culture

But they’re going mad

One of the charms of Europe was the early drinking age accompanied by a dearth of teen drinkers in the pubs and streets. When people drank, they did little more than continue their conversations in a louder voice. Stagger home at the end of the night, call it good. Now the UK is marching towards chaos and the inevitable infantilization of the populace, as the constables can’t keep up with the boozing football hooligans.

My suggestion: attend to the 24-hour drinking first, deal with the age limit later. There’s much pain avoided by cutting off people’s access to booze when they’ve been drinking all night.

-jb

Winning the culture wars!

Oct 23, 2008 in Culture

Completely unnecessary title, but check out 11 Life Lessons in The Big Lebowski, loljokerz, and The Philosophy of Batman: The Schopenhauer edition.
I got something out of Is Watchmen filmable? as well. Don’t know if today’s a special day, or if I’m lucky to have discovered www.overthinkingit.com this morning…but my best advice is to go to imdb.com every day and look at the recommended articles at the bottom of the page.

-jb

Whoops, hey, no, keep your kid, really we didn’t mean that! Fire up the legislature again!

Oct 02, 2008 in Culture

The tragicomedy of unintended results plays out in Nebraska:

OMAHA — The abandonments began on Sept. 1, when a mother left her 14-year-old son in a police station here.

By Sept. 23, two more boys and one girl, ages 11 to 14, had been abandoned in hospitals in Omaha and Lincoln. Then a 15-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl were left.

The biggest shock to public officials came last week, when a single father walked into an Omaha hospital and surrendered nine of his 10 children, ages 1 to 17, saying that his wife had died and he could no longer cope with the burden of raising them.

In total last month, 15 older children in Nebraska were dropped off by a beleaguered parent or custodial aunt or grandmother who said the children were unmanageable.

Officials have called the abandonments a misuse of a new law that was mainly intended to prevent so-called Dumpster babies — the abandonment of newborns by young, terrified mothers — but instead has been used to hand off out-of-control teenagers or, in the case of the father of 10, to escape financial and personal despair.

Whether it be deals with Satan, wishes from a monkey’s paw, or writing legislation, always be very specific about what you want…

-jb

Maureen Dowd, might you have things backwards?

Jul 17, 2008 in Barack Obama, Culture, Media, Stupidity

Collecting a check publishing drivel is the way to go, apparently. One of the dumbest pieces of Beltway mendacious tedium evah:

If Obama offers only eat-your-arugula chiding and chilly earnestness, he becomes an otherworldly type, not the regular guy he needs to be.

He’s already in danger of seeming too prissy about food…

Yes! Hey, maybe the price of your steak, bread, milk, eggs, butter, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. went up, but at least we don’t face the grave danger of a president who shops at Whole Foods!

Because if Obama gets elected and there is nothing funny about him, it won’t be the economy that’s depressed. It will be the rest of us.

Yes, because we were so lucky to have eight years of having Alfred E. Neuman for president. When I go throw $75 in my gas tank today, I can think, “At least my president is an idiot!” Or something.

While the Obama campaign should have had the good sense to realize that the New Yorker cover was actually mocking the idiots who see Barack and Michelle that way, is this really that important? Shouldn’t we, oh, I don’t know, reward comedians that can craft witty jokes instead of presidential candidates who are walking jokes?

Then again, is anything Maureen Dowd says important, except to drag our democracy down into a Homecoming King & Queen contest; to assassinate importance?

-jb

p.s. This is pretty funny though:

5) A Christian, a Jew and Barack Obama are in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. Barack Obama says, “This joke isn’t going to work because there’s no Muslim in this boat.”

ADHD as society’s disease.

Jun 16, 2008 in Culture, Drugs, Health Care, Science

Common sense suggests, for many, that ADHD as a “disease” is a crock of shit. Rather, it’s a set of personality characteristics developed for sensible reasons in our long, long history that becomes suddenly inconvenient and exacerbated when their bearers are planted in our high-speed information-plastered minute-managed era. William Saletan, an occasional wanker, had his curiosity piqued by a Northwestern University study that revealed nomadic tribes benefited from the genes typically associated with ADHD, moreso than settled ones:

Increased impulsivity, ADHD-like traits, novelty-seeking like traits, aggression, violence and/or activity levels may help nomads obtain food resources, or exhibit a degree of behavioral unpredictability that is protective against interpersonal violence or robberies. … It might be that the attention spans conferred by the DRD4/7R+ genotype allow nomadic children to more readily learn effectively in a dynamic environment (without schools), while the same attention span interferes with classroom learning in Songa, the settled community. 7R+ boys might develop into warriors (the life-stage of an Ariaal male that lies between childhood and manhood) and men who can more effectively defend against livestock raiders, perhaps through a reputation of unpredictable behavior that inspires fear. Among 7R+ men in the settled community of Songa, such tendencies might be less well suited to practicing agriculture and selling goods at market. It might also be that higher activity levels in 7R+ nomads are translated into increased food production, while such activity levels in settled men are a less efficient use of calories in food production.

As a friend of mine was told by a psychiatrist recently, paraphrased, “You’d be fine running around with a spear or sword in your hand.”

I don’t know whether the speculated reasons for the gene’s benefits will pan out. But the benefits do seem real. And that finding suggests two things. First, we should be careful about designating diseases and disease genes. Traits that are harmful in one setting can be helpful in another. Advantages or “defects” that we think of as natural may actually be products of our cultural decisions. As Eisenberg puts it, we might “begin to view ADHD as not just a disease but something with adaptive components.”

Second, our society may be the wrong place to assess a gene’s evolutionary harm or benefit. As the authors note, “[N]on-industrialized or subsistence environments … may be more similar to the environments where much of human genetic evolution took place.”

My experience is that our society is capable of inducing ADHD-like characteristics in anybody, and that while its qualities aren’t very helpful in the classroom (in fact, let me say they are a goddamned pain in the ass) kids pick up on the fact that surviving and succeeding in the adult world nearly requires it. As we facilitate the means of communication to “save time,” free time becomes, ironically, less excusable.

Research may provide new revelations in time, but I think it be a safe presumption that kids are better served being put in environments where their predispositions are more useful instead of being subjected to constant chemical infusion.

-jb

UPDATE: A cure exists!

[youtube RkzytidhP1M]

Bill Moyers with Reverend Wright

Apr 29, 2008 in Culture, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Uncategorized

[youtube:http://youtube.com/watch?v=P_w4YqsUqfg]

Parts two and three below the fold.

(more…)

That was easy!

Apr 15, 2008 in Culture

Question:

Are Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men as good as Deadliest Catch?

Answer:

No.

-mg

Oscar night.

Feb 24, 2008 in Culture, We'll post whatever we goddamned want to

Everybody knows Daniel Day-Lewis will take home the Oscar for Best Actor, and rightfully so. Watching him in There Will Be Blood is like being sucked into a black hole; there’s simply no escaping Day-Lewis’ gravitational field. Yet I also hope the film itself gets the pick. No Country For Old Men really underwhelmed me and contained so little of the flavor that the Coen brothers brought to their greatest movies that I’m not rooting for them like I was the year of Fargo. It seems to me to be a nearly transparent adaptation of the book, perfectly translating it without being better or worse. TWBB on the other hand nearly dispenses with the novel it is based on and hitches onto Paul Thomas Anderson’s vision, mirroring the crazed ambition of Daniel Day-Lewis’ character Daniel Plainview. PTA worked it, dug deeper, and found the black gold where others merely farmed the land they were given.

Best of all, we have a new classic line which has inspired stuff like this website, a guide on proper usage, and a pretty funny skit on last night’s SNL, featuring a preternaturally perfect impersonation of Day-Lewis by Bill Hader (no link, good luck finding it if you didn’t TiVo it…UPDATE: I FOUND IT!!!). Here’s the original scene, although it is somewhat criminal to watch it without seeing the whole movie (it’s kind of a spoiler, although it doesn’t really reveal TOO much):

[youtube ThZI-p8SKe0]

I’m all for the phrase becoming ubiquitous if it means more people see the movie. Yes, every time somebody gets punked, somebody else drank their milkshake. If only there were some way to apply it to politics…

-jb

On Heath Ledger dying.

Jan 23, 2008 in Culture

I’ll say all I really have the right to say: The man earned my respect as a fine actor, and he seemed to be a very decent human being. On both counts, it must be rendered as a great loss. I remember seeing Brokeback Mountain in the theater, and how my eyes widened in amazement as I saw Ledger create in Ennis Del Mar one of the greatest screen roles in cinema history. There was no way to understand how this young Australian could waltz onto the screen and become so painfully American, except via inordinate talent.

With that and his upcoming role as the Joker in The Dark Knight, the fella made his mark, and I’m thankful for it.

-jb

Christians so loving they want to parent your children too.

Jan 12, 2008 in Christian Right, Clueless Conservatives, Culture, teh gay

Would you like to be able to go to the library and show your kid a book that provided a sensible, rational lesson about why gays aren’t worthy of hatred or second-class citizenship? Or do you have no interest in doing so? Either way, do you feel the decision is yours as a parent, or some gang of moralizing hypocrite Christians who want to keep hate and disgust towards homosexuality institutionalized. Why, you say? Because Jesus told them to, of course. He was all about regulating books in libraries, you know.

Go ahead, you want to hand over the reins of what appears in our libraries to a gang of know-nothings, don’t you? You’re obviously not responsible enough to make your own choices (since this phrase doesn’t appear next to an argument for corporations to run wild, poison and enslave us, it will have no effect on Republican readers).

Smintheus at Daily Kos spots this story:

”I just want kids to enjoy their innocence and their time of growing up,” Jeff Issa said, explaining his persistence. ”Let them be kids … and not worry about homosexuality, race, religion. Just let them live freely as kids.”…

Kathee Rhode, the library’s director, said censoring books based on subject matter is the duty of parents, not the library. She said the library strives to provide material representing a spectrum of views and ways of life.

”That’s what a public library does, and you make the choice,” Rhode said. ”We certainly want parents to make that decision for their children — not one parent making that decision for all children.”

I guess we’d better get all those books about MLK and the black civil rights struggle out of libraries too, eh? Of course, this is pablum. Mr. Issa is trying to protect a kid from accidentally picking up a book at the public library and reading that hatred of homosexuals is irrational and bigoted. If some poor parent who teaches their child that Jesus hates fags has to contend with such a book polluting their child’s mind, they may lose control. Satan plants evil thoughts in your head, and your first duty is to make sure they never get in. Because Satan will kick your ass and you might not be able to make it back to Jesus in time before you die. An interesting mindset, certainly.

Personality theory and social psychology research suggest that when we encounter someone whose arguments for censorship are dogmatic and simplistic, we are probably dealing with an authoritarian personality who is reacting to something he/she fears. Authoritarian personalities are characterized by a strong desire to exert power, an equally strong need to submit to power (often the power of a social, political or religious group), resentment of weakness, fear of ambiguous situations, and an unusual fascination with sex.

Today’s modern GOP Christianist could only ask, “What’s so wrong about that?”

Note: I don’t mean this post to be explanatory for most people. The model is already well understood, I simply believe it needs to be forcefully restated on occasions because Christianist censors and anti-gay bigots are relentless in trying to put a happy face on what they do.

That face ain’t happy, folks.

-jb

Rightwingers and Art don’t mix.

Nov 12, 2007 in Clueless Conservatives, Culture

Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog echoes my feelings on art and politics.

Yeah, Lions for Lambs and Rendition and In the Valley of Elah are flopping — but so are Things We Lost in the Fire and Reservation Road and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Hollywood is good at making blockbusters and cartoons, and it thought it was good at making dour films with big stars that win Oscars and (despite the huge salaries of the big stars) make a reasonable amount of money. It isn’t, or at least right now it isn’t.

Hell, I’m a liberal and I don’t even see most of these movies. If the reviews are poor (as they are for most of this year’s crop), I stay away. I don’t care if the political point of view jibes with mine. I get news from newspapers and radio and TV and the Internet. I don’t get it from fictional films. A lousy movie is a lousy movie, even if it has my politics.

I was only tempted to watch In the Valley of Elah, among the three, but I decided to wait for video. Apparently Rendition is a bit of a bore and Lions for Lambs is further proof that Redford has been burned out for some time. The guy had a nice run, let him spiral into irrelevance peacefully.

Art is not meant to be something that tells you what you already believe. Art is supposed to communicate meaning through technique. The more profound the meaning, the more astounding the technique, the higher it ascends within our souls. Art, however, may choose to depict the world through a person’s eyes, and every person is flawed. Art may tell you about terrible people, but it may serve to merely open a window into that horror, not necessarily endorse it. As Roger Ebert notes, (paraphrased) “it’s not so much what a movie is about, but how it is about it.” Or better yet, Oscar Wilde:

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are either well written, or badly written. That is all.”

That’s why I read and love the novels of James Ellroy. The man is a stone cold psychotic racist rightwinger in many respects, except he has the genius to put it in the place it belongs, in ball-bustingly exciting hard-boiled crime fiction that drags you directly into the fevered minds of his obsessive anti-heroes who float above the law. Yes, they spurt the word “nigger” every five words, but Ellroy is really just being brutally honest. His books are so well written that the power of his talent just makes you laugh with dizziness. What does Art do if not evoke?

Of course, I don’t see any right-wingers making star-spangled blockbusters, either. What’s the problem? Why isn’t there a Fox News of Hollywood? (Why isn’t it, er, Fox?)

Hollywood is a town of immense capital calculation. If a movie can make money, they’ll give it a shot. Oh, they don’t like your shitty rightwing propaganda tract? Get in line with the rest of the failed writers. Just because Hollywood passed on Mel Gibson’s plan to shoot a Jesus movie in a foreign language with no stars doesn’t mean they had an agenda. The stories of missed opportunities in Hollywood are longer than the stories of success. Did you know Mel Gibson turned down the title role in The Terminator?

The shelves at Blockbuster are lined with low-budget flicks that get distributed, some of which are rightwing religious crack like the Left Behind movies. Rush Limbaugh could take one year’s salary and fund dozens of such films. If there’s a great rightwing script that nobody’ll film, and you can explain to me how it’s more special than the thousands of other scripts written in today’s market that go nowhere, I’d love to hear about it. What’s the budget? Megachurch pastors live on multi-million dollar estates and you monkeys can’t budget a film, which you think is going to be insanely profitable because “Normal Americans” will flock to it?

Steven Spielberg was hailed for his one-two punch of Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, which did much to define the public consciousness and reignite passions towards WWII. Years later he did Munich, which made the mistake of depicting Israel in a way that deviated from Likud propaganda. Spielberg was tossed into the fire, described as a liberal self-hating Jew who just made a movie to bash Israel.

How can an artist who merely pursues the truth of storytelling ever fit into a rightwing mold? Life is so much bigger than what they see. The rightwinger wishes to push certain things out of sight, certain uncomfortable truths that will make him/her think. The artist wishes to depict ever new facets of Truth. Compatibility between the two is strained and rarely profitable.

-jb

Wink wink, nudge nudge…

Nov 01, 2007 in Culture

I couldn’t resist.

Troubled star Owen Wilson is seeking solace from his recent suicide bid in Jessica Simpson…

Oh, I’m sure he finding all sorts of solace in her. Let’s hope she enjoys having him in her…nothing more tragic than a woman unsatisfied after love because some guy’s bawling into the pillow.

-jb