Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Many Colors of the Hypocrisy Rainbow

US Sen Rubio Sees New Hope for Venezuela Sanctions

[T]he lawmaker said more action is needed to punish President Nicolas Maduro's government.

"I hope we can achieve something much stronger than what the White House has done so far," Rubio, speaking in Spanish, told journalists.

Republican (and Democratic pundits) have been in love with Florida Senator Marco Rubio for a long time. He can bring new voters to the party. He can show the nation that the Republican party can be a party of inclusion! His last name ends in a vowel!

You'll notice no one blazoning Rubio bothers highlighting his policy platform. That's because his platform is a carbon copy of the pinker Republicans he is supposed to be the antidote to.

Rubio tows the party line on abortion.

Tows the party line on minimum wage

Tows the party line on domestic surveillance.

Tows the party line on gay marriage.

Same foreign policy as rich old Anglo Romney. As you've seen with his views on sanctioning Venezuela, or with staying tough on Cuba, his, uh, roots haven't softened his tone on engagement with Latin America.

So what makes him so different and refreshing? He's olive-ish. It is as cynical as that. Take a candidate who regurgitates everything Romney says, give him a tan and suddenly The Content of His Character takes a backseat (several rows behind Rosa Parks) to The Color of His Skin.

If the difference isn't race, what is the difference?

I thought the Obama victories were supposed to make America post-race? Couldn't be more the opposite. After 2012, major media outlets proudly declared the white male dead. The lesson we were evidently supposed to learned from the two-time triumph of the post-race president is that the race of the candidates has never mattered more.

As much as the Left accuses the Right of using racial "whistle words," when it comes to unambiguous, bare-knuckled racialism, the Left talks more racial tribalism than a Jerry Springer Klan guest. The only reason Rubio, a clone of the "too white" Romney is a darling is because of his ethnicity. So what's all this talk of leaving color behind in the face of a "healing" President?

The Left regularly asserts (with sometimes hilarious accuracy) that fierce "family values" advocates are secretly gay. You don't need x-ray vision to see that the fiercest "anti-racism" police are undoubtedly the most race obsessed people of all.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Girl Who Probably Despised Dragon Tattoos

Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is easily the most famous libertarian novel of all time, and if you take anti-welfare state/laissez-faire regulation to be conservative viewpoints, you could also call it the most successful "conservative" novel of all time. This despite the fact that it is over 1,000 pages long, is full of l-o-o-o-o-ng philosophical passages, and isn't a staple of school curriculums.

I'm thinking of this because I just turned the last page of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which reads like it was written by Tori Amos in the throes of an Adderall binge (though it certainly isn't a bad read). It has passages that are essentially pure heavy-handed didacticism; all from a left-wing point of view.  I'm a pretty big fiction reader, and I cannot think of many right-wing/libertarian equivalents. Rarely do you encounter any contemporary fiction (or much past fiction, for that matter), particularly anything from a major publisher, that offers any alternative to the Progressive Consensus innate to nearly all editors, book reviewers, and literary professors (though they fancy this consensus to be obscure and rebellious). Maybe Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities; not a manifesto by any stretch, but it does at least lampoon some progressive hobby-horses. Maybe some of Robert Heinlein's novels*?

So if you're shopping for a gift for a nephew or granddaughter, and you're a conservative or libertarian leaning person, what exactly do you have to choose from? You have to stretch your brain to make even a short list, and if you're not a major fiction consumer, you could easily be unaware of the existence of writers like Heinlein.

Probably the only libertarian/conservative novel that is consistently on people's tongues is Atlas Shrugged (or Rand's The Fountainhead). Maybe that is part of the explanation for its truly astounding success; it has no competitors.

*Orwell doesn't count; everyone thinks Animal Farm and 1984 are about the people they disagree with.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Three Guarantees in Life: Death, Taxes, and Ostracism of Anyone who Points this Out.

Remarks commonly made when something goes wrong:

That's life.

Such is life.

No one ever says THAT'S LIFE when great things happen. They're much more likely to utter something like "For once in this life something went my way!"

This should make us examine how we look at pessimists. If we all subconsciously accept that life is more tragedy than triumph, to the point where the word life is common shorthand for negativity,
we're being rather inconsistent when we reflexively accuse folks of being "glass half empty" people simply because they highlight life's non-stop struggles.

We're all legal experts when it comes to Murphy's Law. As a consequence most of us seek affirmation, which is why there are legions of calendars, greeting cards, and self-help books, to reassure us that somehow it's all gonna be okay. Seems to me the person who buys such a calendar is already admitting the pessimist's point. The pessimist doesn't need a calendar to remind him life is a downer. All he has to do is wake up in the morning.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Death has a funny way of improving musicians

Any time an artist "dies too soon" - Amy Winehouse, Tupac Shakur, Jimi Hendrix - everyone assumes the artist would have gotten better. There is always the assumption of something great on the horizon: "He died at his peak." "He died just as he was truly finding his voice."

How come no one ever assumes they would have gotten worse? Why doesn't anyone proclaim that artistic burnout was just around the bend? Think about it, when people discuss musicians, they almost always say:

"I liked his early stuff better."

"They had that one good album..."

The common term for a disappointing album is a "sophomore slump," not a "seventh album slump."

With all the examples of artists who had one or two good records and then a lifetime of failing to replicate them, does it really make sense to always give dead young artists the benefit of the doubt?

Plus the posthumous stuff is nearly always a mixed bag (at best). Granted, the work may be unfinished or edited in ways the artist wouldn't have chosen. But still...if we're so assured that genius was just around the bend, why isn't the proof ever in the pudding?

What's funny is that we're just as forceful in our ridicule of artists who do keep going! How many times have the Rolling Stones had to answer for wanting to do another tour? Apparently they never learned the marketing lesson of dying early to keep folks pining for what could have been (not that Keith Richards didn't try).

If Axl Rose had died in '92, we would have been saved the cornrows. If Dylan had died at the release party for Blood on the Tracks, we wouldn't have had to suffer through his "Christian period."

Almost no one artist gets better with age, so it seems like a hell of a coincidence that every single artist whose "fire burned out too soon" was just about to give us a triple album of gold. In his farewell letter, Kurt Cobain apparently quoted Neil Young: "It's better to burn out than to fade away." By burning out, Cobain probably saved us the agony of watching him muddle through a twenty-year "experimental phase."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Too many films are now up to snuff

In our enlightened age, "damsels in distress" are supposed to be a thing of the past. Well, they are: because now we have damsels in pieces. Concurrent with the wails for better cinematic portrayals of women is a trend towards quasi-vivisections on screen. Each director seems determined to keep upping the ante for dismemberment. It's an arms race involving the removal of arms.

I recently saw A Walk Among the Tombstones, Liam Neeson's latest movie. It makes Taken look like an obtuse art film. I won't give away any plot points (first there would have to be a plot), but a woman ends up duct-taped in the back of a van as two sadists with blades contemplate how they're going to slice her. Any time two knife-wielding psychos are hovering above a kidnapped woman wearing nothing but duct tape we can pretty much assume she won't be writing a Yelp review of her evening.

But that wasn't enough for this director: he also has the two knife wielding psychos call her a cunt! Being a serial killer is pretty bad, but a serial killer who sneers out the c word? Now you're really a monster! 50 years ago if you wanted to convey that a film character was sinister, you had him not shave. Today he has to be a Holocaust-denying pedophile who eats puppies for breakfast and doesn't recycle.

The two knife-wielding psychos also gratuitously explain to the victim (and the audience) the anatomical reorganization they're planning to perform on her. Evidently the director thought the audience needed to be told that knife-wielding psychos who kidnap women have been known to use the knives to cut their kidnapped women.*

Later in the film, even after we have learned this woman's fate, the film unnecessarily flashes back to the repulsive images in the van, once again putting the victim's imperiled countenance squarely on camera. This is putatively done to build suspense; the jeopardized woman shown earlier in the film is shown again to remind us that other characters are in if we'd forgotten that these killers, you know, kill and stuff. Of course this doesn't build suspense. At all; it just makes the film a gross-out endurance test** (exactly like those much condemned '80s slasher films that an esteemed thespian like Neeson wouldn't have been caught dead appearing in). I wish they had told me ahead of time I was paying $16 to watch a Ginsu infomercial.

Here's what is behind a lot of this: If you make cartoonishly violent action films, long on explosions, cardboard villains, and impersonal body counts, you're classed as a crappy action director. If you personalize the violence and make it "realistic," even surgical, and make the people committing it cartoonishly shuddersome, you can still pass yourself off as some kind of artist (see all the people fooled by Drive). But these supposedly more artful vivisection films are just as manipulative and cynical as the basest Schwarzenegger flick. Actually, their pretenses make them worse. At least True Lies knew it was just a big dumb action movie.

Remember those William Castle film gimmicks -  Smell-O-Vision, theater seats connected to electric buzzers? I anticipate a resurgence in cheap film gimmicks: Splatter-Vision! The Anato-Cam! Instead of a skeleton flying over the audience, how about a small intestine? Or we could have a Gallagher-style smashing of full bladders and stomachs onto filmgoers. Or let's do away with 3-D glasses and just issue specs whose lenses are made from pulled human skin! The great schlock artists of the past died too soon; we're braced for a new Golden Age!

The word rapey has entered the lexicon. It's time to add snuffy.

*Part of me also thinks the more unlikable we make the villains, the more we're able to rationalize the broader violence of the film. 

**When feature films are this graphic, how much different are they than violent porn? Not much...the main difference is that people will admit to watching movies like A Walk Among the Tombstones.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A nation of suits

Everyone derides generic execs with hackneyed answers as "suits." Then an exec talks with a little spice and they take to Twitter to demand his firing. Case in point:

Ted Bishop, co-owner of The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, was ousted as president of the PGA of America over a tweet and Facebook post comparing golfer Ian Poulter to a little girl.

The TwitterSphere is now the ultimate "suit;" monitoring, policing, and destroying anyone who dares budge an inch from the ever shrinking lilypad of acceptable speech. You can't both bemoan boring suit talk while zealously enforcing a code of speech that leaves people with no option but to use suit talk.

It is especially funny that the generation of Twitter-Lynching is also the generation that wants their own Internet history made to disappear.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

No Man is an Island...unless he's a quarterback seeking recognition

When it comes to how an athlete's legacy is judged, the degree to which championship wins are factored in varies widely by sport. In baseball, being a no-ring stat god alone, e.g., Ted Williams, is usually more than enough to be considered an all time great. Not so in basketball or football; especially if you're a quarterback. When it comes to quarterbacks, Shannon Sharpe will tell you: "You don't even get to get in this discussion if you don't have a championship."

Dan Marino, who once held nearly ever passing record, "never won a Super Bowl," and this is mentioned frequently as a serious mark against him. Meanwhile Joe Namath, a pretty mediocre quarterback, is a legend only thanks to a Super Bowl victory.

In football, this YOU AREN'T GREAT WITHOUT A RING criterion is especially goofy. No sport, not even baseball, has as much specialization as football. In basketball, the players play both defense and offense. Same with baseball; you field and hit (unless you're a DH/AL pitcher). In football however, you are literally one or the other. Eleven entirely different men get on the field when it is time to play defense. Dan Marino was never responsible for a single defensive play; in other words, he didn't participate in 50% of the game, but somehow he will never live down not winning a Super Bowl while playing on just one side of the ball. The very fact that Marino could break that many records and still not win a Super Bowl shows how impossible it is to do it alone. Given how many moving parts there are in every single football play - defense or offense - effectively pinning it all on one player seems a bit absurd.

Maybe in the days when football players played on both sides of the ball this criticism was more valid. But pretty much no one has done that since 1962. It might be time to move on.

This whole line of thinking can be smashed quite easily: tomorrow you're starting your own football franchise with your own dough on the line. Who you do want at quarterback: Dan Marino, or Jim Plunkett? Don't give yourself a hernia trying to remember who Jim Plunkett even was...

As for why basketball greats like Karl Malone and Charles Barkley get more abuse for not winning the big one than Ted Williams or Ken Griffey Jr., well, I think part of it is simply that basketball is now a much more beloved/discussed sport than baseball, mainly because of a guy named Jordan. And when people think Jordan, they think championships; six, in fact. His Airness remade the game, and others' judgments of the game, in his image.