Archive for November 12th, 2007

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

Do your sharks have conventional lasers?

Nov 12, 2007 in Science

Mine will have femtosecond lasers.

Raydiance has purportedly developed a laser that “looks like an ordinary slide projector,” yet can emit “burst of photons so intense that it can vaporize matter without creating heat.” Its uses could span every area from removing tattoos…without burning the skin, killing cancer cells without affecting healthy ones, or handling any undercover task that the military may require.

One step closer to editing reality.

-jb

An open-source wireless network.

Nov 12, 2007 in Apple, Economy, The Internets

As the auctioning of the 700mhz spectrum approaches, there’s been a vigorous debate over whether or not our future wireless world will continue to be owned by a couple giants, or if it will attain the freedom and independence of the Internet.

When I first heard that the iPhone would only be available to subscribers of AT&T, I immediately dismissed it. “That won’t last long,” I said.

But while Google’s much-anticipated plan has encouraged talk of a Google Phone, the company said that for now it had no plans to build phones. Instead, it has signed up powerful partners to develop and market the phones, including handset makers like Motorola and Samsung, carriers like T-Mobile, Sprint and China Mobile and semiconductor companies like Qualcomm and Intel.

The group, the Open Handset Alliance, expects to start selling the Google-powered phones in the second half of next year.

If Apple won’t wake up and make the iPhone available to everybody, Google will. And Google will be rewarded for it. I use Sprint, and I’m staying with it for now. Sprint needs to get on board with its own future-phone to compete, and signing on with the Google phone is essential to keeping the market competitive. It’s not surrendering to an open network, it’s accepting reality. Eventually, Apple will have no choice but to either continue being a niche in the phone market, or go into the battlefield. One would assume they trust their abilities to win based on design.

-jb

I say, good man, that was certainly not too esoteric for the befuddled masses!

Nov 12, 2007 in Journamalism

Peter Beinart hands cartoonish rightwingers a welfare check:

His portrait of the rising conservative movement is a little cartoonish. There’s no question that corporate money and racial division played powerful roles, but to describe the early years of William F. Buckley’s National Review only by mentioning its support for segregation and admiration for Franco, with no mention of fusionism, isn’t worthy of someone of Mr. Krugman’s intellectual sophistication.

Yes, yes, he didn’t mention fusionism. How unsophisticated. Everybody’s got fusionism on their lips at the cocktail parties nowadays.

Looking up “fusionism” on Wikipedia produces this:

Fusionism is an American political term for the combination or “fusion” of libertarians and traditional conservatives in the American conservative movement.

Certainly relevant. But what could possibly lead one to believe Krugman doesn’t remember that there was an alliance between libertarians and anti-libertarian conservatives?

-jb