Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
June 20, 2011 - June 13, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Game of Adaptations

If your middle initials are 'R.R.', are you destined to write epic fantasy stories?

PNOTES 37. I don't know about you, but I usually like to read the book before watching the film or TV adaptation of a story or series. This is often basic cause and effect: I read and enjoy a book, then the movie comes out, and I can watch it with a discerning eye. At their heart, books are purer as the voice of one author. Films and shows must necessarily be tortured by the screenwriters' treatments, then the directors, actors, producers, and editors, all of whom get their say and can lose the author's vision at every turn.

Few adaptations truly nail it. I'd aruge that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was done as perfectly as humanly possible, but legions of fellow nerds can find ample room to criticize it. ("What, no Tom Bombadil?!") C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, which I loved as a kid, are now getting their day in the sun, and each film has been progressively worse and unfaithful to the book. Think they'll make it to The Last Battle?

There have been many versions of one of my favorite books, The Count of Monte Christo: A 1975 TV version with Richard Chamberlain; the most recent with Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce; and a mini-series starring Gerard Depardieu and his son, Guillaume. All have something to offer, and all by necessity take liberties with the story, often leaving out minor and sometimes major characters.

Of course, the worst adaptations are laughable and get high school students in trouble when they do their reports on the movie, not the book. The Scarlet Letter, starring Demi Moore… Asimov's Bicentennial Man, starring a Robin Williams android (Ed.60.10)… The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which held some promise but died in the development… I'm sure your best of the worst in the comments.

All this to say that I did it backwards this time with a new series on HBO called Game of Thrones. After three episodes, I was hooked, so I decided to look up the book series. I'm now enjoying both concurrently, patiently waiting to see when I catch up on the weekly series as I read a few dozen pages of the book each night.

The show is very strong on several levels. Lord of the Rings alum Sean Bean plays a spot-on Eddard 'Ned' Stark, a man whose greatest weakness is his unflagging sense of honor to a kingdom that is falling apart. The young actors who make up his family are as good as any child actor I've ever seen, and the legion of underhanded traitors that surround him are equal parts beautiful and convincingly deplorable. The internet meme scene has quickly recognized the talent of the dwarf actor who plays The Imp, Tyrion Lannister, the freewheeling son of the rich usurper who is both amusing and oddly noble.

So with solid acting more or less across the board, fantastic sets, and a plot that's kept me guessing, I was hooked. Of course HBO does their standard front-loading of nudity and action to get viewers coming back, but if anything, the most recent episodes have been getting better and better. Last Sunday's episode, the penultimate one in the miniseries, positively turned the whole premise (or so I thought) on its head.

Since I picked up the book, I've had fun comparing the two mediums. There's obviously more detail in the written pages and it makes following the names and places a bit easier. I'm a big fan of the map in front of the book, cross-checking it as I read the story.

There are a fair number of changes that they had to make when adapting it for TV, many of them for time constraints and budget. I've found it amusing that they cut a major corner by not doing any 'two mobs clashing' battle scenes, doubtlessly saving bundles on extras, shooting time, and shaky-cams. It's a bit jarring when they switch to another storyline, joining the characters just after a big confrontation or just before they tromp off to fight. In a recent episode, the main character (conveniently) gets thrown to the ground and passes out immediately after he calls the charge, waking just as the victors are mopping up the battleground. We'll see if it's like that in the book… I haven't caught up yet.

The most curious changes are ones that seem unnecessary and are the polar opposite of what happened in the book. It's no real spoiler to tell you that Ned Stark is asked to be the King's Hand, requiring him to leave his realm in the North to live in the capital city. As we watched the show, we were impressed by his wife's impassioned speech: "That's what men always say when honor calls… you do have a choice, and you've made it." We were surprised to see that it was just the opposite in the book, as she pleads with him to go because she knows he is a man of honor who needs to figure out who killed the last Hand. Both versions make sense, and I do see that the pleas of a woman to stay are stronger on the screen, but it changes her character, and her actions later are inconsistent with those deep sentiments.

As I read the book, I am often surprised that the text is more candid and open than the show, with characters revealing major 'secrets' that are only hinted at on the show. I'd expect it to be the other way around since the show has a limited time to get through the material, but since I'm lagging behind in the book, I prefer it. It gives the show's subtle events and facial expressions some backstory and substance. For instance, the plot centers around a murder mystery and a string of apparent grievous accidents. The screen allows you to watch the events but keeps the characters in the dark; the book, on the other hand, has the antagonist lay the cards fully on the table.

Why does it matter? Well, I don't want to give anything away, but let's just say that this is one of those series where no one is safe from the threat of death. So it means that some characters shuffle that mortal coil with the same shocked look as the viewers'. It makes for great TV, and the book serves as an in-depth companion piece. I actually recommend seeing the show first, then catching up in the book, as I did. Both the book and series are the heirs apparent to Tolkein's legacy.

By the time you read this, the first season's finale will have aired -- the tenth episode of the miniseries. I believe it's had a successful run, though I'm staying far away from spoiler-laden websites and articles. If the show's not too expensive to make (like Rome was), I'm hoping they'll adapt the entire series. Winter is coming...

Oh, and the music is properly epic...

What say you, gentle reader? Any good summer recs? How about adaptations that are worth a look or deserving of mockery?

Immigration: A
Thought Experiment

STILL NOT AS BIG A STORY AS IT SHOULD BE. Here's a little hypothetical for you to chew on.

Let's say there's a massive job shortage in America. So my big, goony, white ass moves to Japan, where there are plenty of jobs and the yen is orders of magnitude stronger than the dollar (remember, this is hypothetical). Undocumented migration like mine is illegal in Japan, but since I work for peanuts, and my illegality neatly skirts otherwise unskirtable minimum wage laws, the Japanese pretty much look the other way.

The only Japanese I speak is words that have filtered through American popular culture and entertainment: Sushi, sayonara, ramen, Godzilla, etc. I cannot understand a single full sentence spoken to me by a Japanese speaker, and can communicate nothing to them without lots of hand gestures and "you know?" grunts. But there are whole communities of goony white Americans like me here, mostly undocumented, all working for peanuts. They speak English, so I just hang around them.

Slight problem. Since I'm living here full-time, I have to pay to live here. Kind of an unavoidable rub. I can't really afford all the things I need-- or want-- on peanuts. But well-meaning idiots at the levers of power have got my back. Even though my presense violates Japanese law, the government contrives all sorts of programs that give me free money anyway. Free food, free housing, free all kinds of neat stuff. All at Japanese taxpayer expense. Since I, as an undocumented worker, pay no taxes, this is doubly awesome.

I stick around for 23 years. I figure I've got a way better deal here than back in the motherland, so I do learn enough Japanese to pass the citizenship test and get naturalized. Most of my undocumented American peers have picked a little Japanese by osmosis, but have never bothered to sit down and learn the language. I think this is entirely fine and great.

I prefer to speak English in my home. My child, born here and therefore by right a Japanese citizen, hears some of the native language from me and my wife. The children of my peers will have to learn Japanese from public school (which their entitled to but their parents aren't taxed for, WIN!) and terrifying Japanese children's television.

Their, and my, free money continues unabated. Well, I actually get a little less now that I'm legal.

­ The laws that bar my illegal fellow white Americans from living here are still scarcely enforced. Some Japanese want them to stay and keep getting free money, others want them to get maybe slightly less free money, others want them to get no free money at all, and others want them gone altogether. I and others who support my peers in their continued undocumentation call the others racist, which is fairly effective in shutting critics up.

But not as effective as I'd like. One day, I read that my home prefecture wants to start forcing its cities, including the one I live in, to enforce the immigration laws they were supposed to enforce all along.

I find this intolerable. An immigrant rights group arranges for me to testify in front of the Diet (that's what Japan calls their Congress... and they wonder why white migrants aren't interested in their nutty moon man talk).

I testify-- IN ENGLISH-- that a law enforcing the enforcement of these particular laws would be totally awful.

Keep in mind I can speak Japanese pretty well. Lived here for more than two decades, after all. But the spectacle of an oppressed minority piteously speaking his native language in front of the Powers That Be is too exquisite a bit of political grandstanding to pass up.

If I did all that, hypothetically? That would make me an asshole.


Friday, June 17, 2011

YouTube Friday: Worst
Icon of My Generation

MORE MUSIC, MORE MUSIC, MORE MUSIC, MORE MUSIC. Faux-amusing, crap acting, ridiculous music making, walking exemplar of an era's obnoxious fads-- Zooey Deschanel is the Pauly Shore of the early 21st century.

Linking to The Kill's cover of I Put a Spell On You in Wednesday's post, the YouTube sidebar helpfully recommended the She & Him version. For those of you lucky enough to not know, She & Him is the "musical" side project of "actress" Zooey Deschanel. Did you pick up on those sarcastic quotation marks? She can't sing. She can't act. But she puts out the hipster vibe harder than that infuriating Hyundai commercial from last Christmas. She's into old record stores and other things skinny guys with beards like, and she looks like Katy Perry, but with little tits so she's attainable. What's not to love?

Let's run down the list.

Faux-amusing. Pauly Shore saying "Weeeasel" and "Buuuuudy" and all that shit. (no clip. I can't stand it) Zooey Deschanel acting quirky and charming and I want to puke ON her.

(they won't let me embed this clip. Our loss, I'm sure.

Crap acting. No one accused Pauly Shore of being any great thespian. But Zooey Deschanel clearly thinks she's doing well, and gets a pass. I first saw her in the diastrous Hitchhikers' Guide movie in '05. ­I remember being genuinely stunned that such a non-actress was cast. Guess I'm tone deaf to the whole Manic Pixie Dream Girl routine.

Hell, even her sister with the jaw doing that Data impression on that cop show is more convincing.

Ridiculous music making. Pauly Shore's 1991 magnum opus "Lisa Lisa." No, you don't have to watch the whole thing:

The afformentioned She & Him cover of a once great song:

You can find the quote that inspired this post at 0:26: "I always thought I would be a singer before I would be an actor. I sort of became an actor by accident... and then it became an all-consuming thing."

She thought singing was her real calling? REALLY? Zooey, my dear, have you heard you? You're as delusional as the unstoppable Frank from the late, lamented American Idol spoof Superstar.

Walking exemplar of an era's obnoxious fads. I don't have the stomach for a YouTube or Google Image Search of all the stupid Grunge cliches Pauly Shore embodied. Netflix BioDome or Encino Man if you need a refresher.

However, I found a clip for Zooey that encompasses EVERY cliche of 2000s-10s city-dwelling youth in a tidy 30-second montage.

All that's missing is the retardo political views. But they're sort of implied by everything else.

Sigh. This is my generation, folks. My peers. I love 'em, but... man, there are times...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Okay Commencement Speech

HUNCHES AREN'T ALL BAD. Not bad. Not even half bad. The funny part (most) is funnier than the serious part (last 10 minutes) is serious, but unless you went to Cornell, Columbia, or Penn, chances are you'll enjoy watching the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


ADAM 45-50. Watch the video first.

Watched it? OK.

Let's talk about Ayn Rand.

Specifically, let's talk about her one-time second-in-command, Nathaniel Branden. Ayn Rand was right about 95% of what she taught, but in that 5% margin of doom lay her catastrophically oversimplified theory of sex. Long (heh) story short, Rand's affair with her protégé ended badly and cocked-up (if you'll pardon another pun) the remainder of her life in a big way. As a result, Branden remains persona non grata to the mainline Objectivist movement, ran by those who stayed devoted to Rand after she retreated to her echo chamber of sycophancy.

Which is a shame, because Branden wrote one of the most eloquent and effective defenses of capitalism I've ever read. You can still find it in the Rand non-fiction collection Captialism: The Unknown Ideal.

It's called "Alienation." It opens with this familiar quote:

And how am I to face the odds
of man’s bedevilment and God’s?
I, a stranger and afraid
in a world I never made.

Wah, wah, wah, right? Branden describes the psychiatric concept of alienation, natch, and goes on to obliterate the romanticized view of medieval and tribal times, using the writings of Erich Fromm as exemplar.

What characterizes medieval in contrast to modern society is its lack of individual freedom. . . . But although a person was not free in the modern sense, neither was he alone and isolated. In having a distinct, unchangeable, and unquestionable place in the social world from the moment of birth, man was rooted in a structuralized whole, and thus life had a meaning which left no place, and no need, for doubt. A person was identical with his role in society; he was a peasant, an artisan, a knight, and not an individual who happened to have this or that occupation. The social order was conceived as a natural order, and being a definite part of it gave man a feeling of security and of belonging. There was comparatively little competition. One was born into a certain economic position which guaranteed a livelihood determined by tradition, just as it carried economic obligations to those higher in the social hierarchy. But within the limits of his social sphere the individual actually had much freedom to express his self in his work and in his emotional life. Although there was no individualism in the modern sense of the unrestricted choice between many possible ways of life (a freedom of choice which is largely abstract), there was a great deal of concrete individualism in real life.

It is not uncommon to encounter this sort of perspective on the Middle Ages, among writers on alienation. But what makes the above passage especially shocking and offensive, in the case of Fromm, is that he repeatedly professes to be a lover of freedom and a valuer of human life.

The complete lack of control over any aspect of one’s existence, the ruthless suppression of intellectual freedom, the paralyzing restrictions on any form of individual initiative and independence—these are cardinal characteristics of the Middle Ages. But all of this is swept aside by Fromm—along with the famines, the plagues, the exhausting labor from sunrise to sunset, the suffocating routine, the superstitious terror, the attacks of mass hysteria afflicting entire towns, the nightmare brutality of men’s dealings with one another, the use of legalized torture as a normal way of life—all of this is swept aside, so entranced is Fromm by the vision of a world in which men did not have to invent and compete, they had only to submit and obey.

Nowhere does he tell us what specifically the medieval man’s “concrete individualism” consisted of. One is morbidly curious to know what he would say.

Here's how Branden completes the autopsy:

In the writings of both medievalists and socialists, one can observe the unmistakable longing for a society in which man’s existence will be automatically guaranteed to him—that is, in which man will not have to bear responsibility for his own survival. Both camps project their ideal society as one characterized by that which they call “harmony,” by freedom from rapid change or challenge or the exacting demands of competition; a society in which each must do his prescribed part to contribute to the well-being of the whole, but in which no one will face the necessity of making choices and decisions that will crucially affect his life and future; in which the question of what one has or has not earned, and does or does not deserve, will not come up; in which rewards will not be tied to achievement and in which someone’s benevolence will guarantee that one need never bear the consequences of one’s errors. The failure of capitalism to conform to what may be termed this pastoral view of existence, is essential to the medievalists’ and socialists’ indictment of a free society. It is not a Garden of Eden that capitalism offers men.

One of my favorite passages in the English language. It would be the highlight of the piece, if not for his H-Bomb parting shot.

If a man defaults on the responsibility of seeking knowledge, choosing values and setting goals—if this is the sphere he surrenders to the authority of others—how is he to escape the feeling that the universe is closed to him? It is. By his own choice.

The proper answer to the question
—And how am I to face the odds
of man’s bedevilment and God’s?
I, a stranger and afraid
in a world I never made

—is: Why didn’t you?

Not "why didn't you face those odds like a man instead of a pussy." But "Why didn't you make the world." The world, your world, has been just sitting there this whole time! Waiting for you!

Did DaVinci wail and lament the empty canvas, curling up into the fetal position next to it after staring into its Nietzschean abyss for a spell? Did Michelangelo blubber in existential anguish at the sight of an uncarved block of marble? Did Henry Ford grumble and curse God at the lack of cars on the road in Nineteen Double Zero? Did John Coltrane throw up his hands in resignation because the music in his head was nowhere to be found at his local record store? Did Ron Popeil sit on his crossed fingers and hope someone invented a little-ass fishing pole you could fit in your breast pocket? Did Muhammad Ali kick the dirt in languid spite because his punches wouldn't throw themselves?

Nuh-uh. But every man's been given more that just an empty canvas, or just a head full of songs, or just a fast pair of fists. Every man has a whole life.

The tragedy of our ostensibly free society is that no one understands this. No one. Any exceptions you can think of aren't enough to disprove the rule. The minds behind More sure don't.

I saw More back in 2000, when I was 17. I was too young for the themes of desperate nostalgia and the wearying effects of a day job to resonate with me, but I was still struck by the short's pervasive sadness and gorgeous claymation (I love when animators leave their fingerprints in the figures every now and then). Though I didn't know it at the time, I was also being taught to hate the idea of work. A lesson I'm still unlearning.

Watching it as an (chronologically) adult, More means more to me. Opening up one's guts to go back to the shimmery rainbow well of childhood bliss? Yeah, I know a thing or two or three about that. Staying up nights with a welding torch and a box of spare parts? In my case it's a keyboard and a WinAmp playlist full of angry longing, but the principle's the same.

And that lesson I'm trying to unlearn? The film's moral? (yes, it's a moral. As ham-fisted as Aesop) That life is suffocating toil and drudgery if not outright exploitation, and that any effort to escape that drudgery means you only join the tyranny you once hated? Mostly out of my system. As I learn More and More about the beauty (yes) and glory (yes) of capitalism. About man's ability to literally create value. About man's capacity to make his world.

When I watched More for only the second time ever, I didn't remember the details of the plot. So I didn't know what that flickering light in the distance at the end was. I was confident it would have been another inventor, with another blow torch, with some new idea to shake himself and his gray little brothers out of their lives' rut. I should, but never would, have guessed it was More kids on yet another faggot-ass merry-go-round.

No way the filmmakers intended what I took from that last moment. No way they realized what it does mean. Look at the last few frames. The kids freeze. They don't move. A perfect moment, preserved in proverbial amber. Oh, to be frozen in time on that merry-go-round, forever.

But we have a word for life that doesn't move.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Pretentious Mess of a Movie

Two more nuggets of smuggled "truth." The jump shot was invented by
 a German girl in 1918 (and ignored of course),
and the whole world has
always known that the Boston Celtics are the best at basketball. Kewl.

. There's nothing quite like trying to force the past into a template that reflects a contemporary political agenda. That's what you get with the 1999 movie The Basket. Nobody saw it, so no harm done, but I'm urging you to look at it as an example of how stupid moviemakers can be when they reinvent the past from the present for the purpose of preaching at us from their lofty secularist pulpit. It's the kind of effort that recalls Oscar Wilde's famous barb at Dickensian bathos: "Anyone who can read the death of Little Nell and not laugh has a heart of stone."

I probably wouldn't have watched it myself except that since I read Deconstructing Obama, I'm interested in Peter Coyote, another ex-college radical who has pursued legitmate stardom while retaining a close relationship with Bill Ayars. When I saw the thumbnail description of The Basket as a slice of Americana about basketball in the context of World War I, I suspected I'd be in for a treat. And I was. Permit me to share.

The Plot

Remember how we used to intern German war orphans whose parents were killed by the intense house to house fighting engaged in by American troops durimg WWI? Well, neither do I, but this movie takes place in 1918, the only year in which American troops actually experienced combat in the war to end all wars. But they were busy in the time they had. (Pardon me if I sound flippant; I'm probably more aware than you are that 3,000 American troops died on the very last day of WWI, 11/18/1918, which has to say a little something about the efficacy of a modern American military that lost 4,400 troops in the nine years of the Iraq War.) Americans managed to kill the parents of German young'uns Helmut and Brigitta, who were promptly shipped (as POWs?) to Spokane, Washington, sometime during the growing season. Which is important. Because right after we learn that Helmut and Brigitta have been farmed out as indentured servants to a local pastor/M.D., we see the arrival home of an American trooper whose loss of a leg devastates his father because now there's no one to fix the broken tractor and do all the chores his other two or three hale-bodied sons aren't equipped to do. Oh. Forgot to tell you: the youngest son also has a seizure disorder. Remember that. It will become important later.

But not to worry. The new teacher, Peter Coyote, has a mysterious past involving basketball (Hoosiers! Hoosiers! It's gonna be great.) His classroom consists of Helmut, Brigitta, the three non-vet sons of the farmer, and a few extras. Because you all remember that in those days America barely had any schools at all, except in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and when the new teacher starts playing a German opera in class, it just consumes the natives, who have never before in their lives encountered opera, a story, music, or anything at all more interesting than a gallon of lard at the only store in town.

Of course they're understandably preoccupied by other things, which probably account for their total ignorance of the history of western civilization. Their tractors are mostly broken, and the new harvester being peddled by the aggressive company salesman costs five thousand dollars, and not even collectively do they have the five hundred dollars for the down payment. Which probably explains why the farmer's sons feel obligated to beat up and humiliate Helmut every day. Which Peter Coyote is helpless to stop by doing anything as simple as kicking some bully ass. Instead he plays more opera, lets the bullies learn some hoops with his vintage basket ball, and promises Helmut that every dog has his day. You know. Exactly the way we'd do it today.

Did I forget to mention that the opera Coyote is playing for his class is called "The Basket"? All about barbarians invading a peaceable town, in Germany, where a mysterious stranger offers to defend them with the contents of a mysterious basket? Hmmm. The only person in the town with anything like a working brain, the farmer with the two able-bodied and two handicapped sons, is uproariously offended at all this German crap. But his oldest healthy son is already falling in love with Brigitta, just like the son of the the "Duke" in the opera. Uh oh. Could it be that the plot of the opera is exactly like the plot of the movie? Yeah. The more so because the opera in the movie was written for the movie. 

Then a bunch of stuff sort of happens. Helmut, who is short, gets beaten up several more times. His beautiful sister mortgages her sewing income to buy him a basket ball from the Sears catalogue so he can practice up to become a good American (which he proves, oddly, by saying the Pledge of Allegiance in class with totally unexplained and breathtakingly illogical  fervor), Peter Coyote learns from the harvester salesman that any team which beats the undefeated "Spokane Spartans" will win win five hundred dollars (where have we heard that sum before?), and the farmer's son with the missing leg is suddenly sent to the pastor/M.D.s house, where we learn that it was Americans who killed Brigitta's and Helmut's parents (as Brigitta nevertheless succors the dying boy), the way Americans always do when they're running wild in foreign climes.

Then more stuff happens. The farmer's son dies and is buried in a sort of John Ford wilderness funeral scene, Peter Coyote (mysteriously, as ever) signs up to play a game against the Spokane Spartans, the harvester salesman is planning to make a pile of money (of course!) by betting against the farmboys, the farmer's bully-boy son destroys Helmut's basketball, and we learn that Peter Coyote also has a record of fixing basketball games for money. Oh. And Helmut manages to burn down the farmer's barn by playing basketball with the little seizure boy. Of course, no one shows up to rebuild the barn, because we all know how capitalism works in the farming community. You LOSE, asshole.

Which leads us to the big game. Suddenly and somehow. How do you make a basketball movie with no black people? Easy. By showing that white people playing basketball have no athletic ability whatsoever. So the 14-2 halftime score, while lopsided, is not insuperable. Peter Coyote's plan was to play himself in the second half, but an old Nemesis from back east shows up with enough muscle to make him change his mind about fixing the game and he finally lets Helmut play. Who would have won the game except that the farmer's epileptic son has a seizure and falls out of the stands into the waiting hands of -- Helmut. Time expires.

But it's all okay. Because Peter Coyote skims five hundred dollars off the top of his winnings (because he played the point spread, the way they always did in 1918), and so the farmers got their harvester, and Brigitta gor her boyfriend's hand in marriage because the farmer was so grateful to Helmut for saving his son, and then everybody locked the pastor/M.D. in his outhouse, like they did earlier in the movie. Because you know how hicks are. Even German hicks.

You're left asking, "What did they have in mind?" Let's make Hoosiers, only with a modern political sensibility. Let's do Americana, the way we think of it in Los Angeles, with a huge dose of contempt and historical irony, so that we can have a kid saying the pledge of allegiance without the "under God" abomination. Hey, let's make up an opera, as if imbecilic rural American life were operatic and as if the Germans never wrote any real operas we might have drawn upon. Hey, let's be all sneaky and pretend that we're being pro-capitalist with a salesman who would clearly benefit from the additional prosperity his product would engender, only all he's really interested in is a side bet on a basketball game. That'll show'em what the "free enterprise" system always does. While we're at it we can also show people what the war machine always does (like the only response ever to people like the Kaiser is "not go"), what bigoted creeps ordinary Americans are, toss in a condescending reference to Faulkner's barn-burnings, and ice the whole thing beyond recognition by proving that beautiful cinematography can make them think they've just seen a great slice of American life...

Because the cinematography is beautiful. But Peter Coyote's Boston accent is a disaster. The "meaning" of the opera is absolutely incoherent. And the utter absence of any war reporting in hicksville during October 1918 is all the proof anyone would ever need of what a piece of crap this movie is as an attempt at "Americana."

What's the point of whaling on a really bad movie like this? Somebody wrote the script. Somebody funded the production. Somebody got a lot of people involved in the protracted effort to craft a nonsensical, anachronistic heap of bullshit under the assumption that we just might shed a tear in watching it.

That's some bad mojo, dude.

P.S. Our old friend Doctor Zero weighed in:

I happen to have stumbled across [The Basket] on cable TV over the weekend, and likewise thought it was a weird little load of hooey.  So we invaded Germany to steal their children?

I thought the themes of unity and working together sailed disturbingly far past the point of a laudable celebration of teamwork, and acquired a creepy collectivist vibe.  When the Spartans looked utterly baffled and helpless at the sight of the other team moving in perfect unison, I found myself admiring the producers' restraint in not putting a hammer and sickle on the heroes' uniforms.  

Of course, the larger and stronger Spartans couldn't just be better at basketball - they had to be vicious cheaters, who were only called on blatant fouls after the plucky young heroes won over the referee with their heartfelt performance.  When you take the court against Big Business, little proletarians, know that they will throw many knees and elbows... unless the most compassionate and powerful of referees is installed to stop them!

Just so you I'm not alone in my prejudices about movies like this one.

Puck Punk's Stanley Cup Party!

We are all Canucks now, non?

DID YOU WATCH? Hello, my friends! Gran to see you again here at the InstaPunks! I am so happy to be writting you tonight, which is Monday night, on the night that the Stanley Cup will once again return to Canada, for the Vancouver Canucks will make a defeat of the Bruin Bears of Boston tonight in six games. So happy Tuesday to every body! I know what you think to me: "Puck Punk, is not your fandom of the Montreal Canadiens?" Yes. This is the truth. However, my brothers in Canada of the Vancouvers, if they win the Stanley Cup, I will be OK with this. For it is far too long since the Cup has returned to its native land already.

I write this now, a bit of the pre maturing, because you see it is only a bit after 8:00 PM Eastern and the game six have just start. But the Bears of Boston, they have their souls broken in the game five. They play for one hour, can not make the score of a single goal, and they lose it one to zero. A hard thing to lose, many frustrate, and I know they can not make the comebacks. So what I do for you, my friends of Punks, is to make the live bloggings for you so you can all enjoy the thrill of being the Canadian and have the Stanley Cup victory. Any moment now I expect -

I expect...four goals of the Bostons in the first ten minutes? No. I did not expect this. Sacre bleu, Luongo ne peut rien faire de bien?! Forgive me, friends. I-I need to be alone. For a while. I already start the celebration drinking before the start of the game. And now I am many sad. I cannot...continue...

UPDATE. Eduardo here, sports fans. Puck Punk had to take a powder, but I want to take a moment and implore you to watch the final game of the 2010-2011 season which will be on Wednesday night at 8 Eastern on NBC. This NHL post season has been so epic it has even outlasted the NBA post season, which starts a week or so after the NHL playoffs. Yeah, the Caps bowed out in a pathetic second round performance, so I've found myself rooting for Boston. Why? Because they aren't the Penguins. And fuck Canada.

Here's the skinny so far: Vancouver had the best regular season record and high expectations. They've also allegedly got a more talented squad. The first two games were in Vancouver where Boston lost two heartbreaking games by one goal each, the second game in OT. Then they came back to Boston for game three, struggled in the early going and this happened to one of their star players:

What was their response? Did they cry and feel bad? Did they sit around & whine about those dirty-ass Canucks that won't play fair & give them a shot to win? No. Instead they got pissed off and outscored Vancouver 12 goals to 1 in the next two games to even the series.

With the series tied, Boston went back to Vancouver and lost another heart breaker 1-0. But then last night, back in Boston & facing elimination, the Bruins flew out of the gate and scored 4 goals in about 7 minutes, all within the first 10 minutes of the game as Puck Punk so adroitly pointed out. From there they put it on cruise control to tie the series up again and stay alive.

So we've had three blowouts in Boston and three close ones in Vancouver. Next game is in Vancouver. Game 7. I dare you to find something more entertaining on TV right now.

Nope, Diamond

What kind of diamond loses money?

BUSHWA. YOU HEARD ME. Happy Flag Day! To celebrate the little calendar holiday that could, we've got three posts for you, from InstaPunk contributors old and new. But we've saved the best for last, because I've got a doozy of an announcement. You will bifrucate your life into two periods: The time before you read the next sentence, and the time after.

I've decided the Hope Diamond can kiss my ass.

When I say "the Hope Diamond," that's not some clever literary code for Obama or anything like that. I mean the actual Hope Diamond. The big rock that's famous for no reason. Execpt there's a curse, and it'll sometimes kill you if you own it.

This thought will make you angrier the more you think it: How many taxpayer dollars are wasted each year guarding the Hope Diamond? Actual figures aren't published, but we can guess. It's most likely under 24-hour armed guard, with at least two guards a shift, making... hell, is the Smithsonian unionized?... so let's be optimistic and say each guard only ("only") makes 50 grand a year. Let's be even more... Hopeful... and say there's three shifts a day, instead of four. Six guards a day. That's 300,000 a year in manpower alone.

Don't forget the security and alarm system. With lasers and pressure sensors and all the high-tech niftiness we've been seeing in movies since that one where Tom Cruise was lowered on a bunch of ropes. That's gotta run... let's price that at 5 million. And they must get a new system every few years, because GOD FORBID anyone take the stupid-ass Hope Diamond. God forbid anything bad should happen to the shiny, useless rock that kills people!

You know what? I'm done capitalizing it. It doesn't merit even that crumb of respect. hope diamond. There.

What's the point of the hope diamond? Does it have some electronics-revolutionizing property that the government is bogarting until the time is right to unleash it? Does it contain potent Ancient Astronaut technology deep within its core? Does it even have a cool story behind it? NO! It's been in human possession for a couple hundred years, it's changed hands a dozen or so times, and some of those owners died young. The same could be said for roughly HALF THE OBJECTS ON EARTH. At least the damn Pink Panther diamond looked like a panther if you held it up to the light and squinted real hard.

If it's so effing important that the hope diamond pollute our national history museum, just take a picture of the damn thing, tack it up in some out of the way corner, and sell the rock to some Arab billionaire idiot. Pay off some of that national debt we're always hearing about. That Arab idiot will probably own some of that debt. Just do a trade, even stevens. National debt is many trillion dollars now. Every little bit helps. Why not comb through the nationally-owned archives and monetize some of the dead weight? I know 45.52 carats you can liquidate right away.

Or just throw in the trash. Who cares?

No one. That's who. Everyone who remembers the name thinks the hope diamond is the fake diamond on Titanic. No kidding. The first "related search" when you Google Image "hope diamond" is "hope diamond titanic." Stupid diamond in Titanic wasn't even called the hope diamond. It was called The Heart of the Ocean. Shaped like a heart and everything. But so much for attention to detail. Thousands and thousands of tourists a year think they're seeing a pop culture artifact, like the original Kermit puppet, or Archie Bunker's chair. Difference being Archie Bunker's chair is nominally museum-worthy.

Here's what someone should do. Seriously. Some Smithsonian security guard moved by his conscience shoud make this happen in real life. Buy one of those chintzy Heart of the Ocean replicas off QVC. (Is QVC still a thing?) Swap it out with the real hope diamond. A year later, give it back and tell everyone.

He won't get caught before then. Only the most autistic gemstone nerd will ever notice the difference. Proof: Did you realize the picture at the top of this post is the fake stone from Titanic, and NOT the shitty dope diamond? Of course not. HOW IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A FAMOUS DIAMOND THAT NO ONE KNOWS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE? Imagine a famous painting that no one could recall or describe. I don't mean a famously lost masterpiece. I mean something anyone could jog down to the Louvre to gander at. "Oh, so that's the Mona Lisa!" Doesn't make sense, does it?

All the hope diamond does is soak up money we don't have and piss me off. Get rid of it.

We've been worried about Sean...

After he died and all. You can never trust those Irish motherfuckers,
but you do have to admire them. They don't die easy, do they?

OOPS. LOTR AGAIN. Mrs. CP loves him to death, Me? I can take him or leave him alone. One more crazy Irish dude, the way I look at it. So he's handsome. Have you seen pictures of me? Thought not. Or you wouldn't be nearly as impressed with Sean Bean. I'm only a few years older than he is and a few pounds slimmer. Worse, unlike me, he's been starring in awful things on the SyFy Channel. Never a good sign for an actor's career. But... I wish him well. I really do.

Game of Thrones' Sean Bean Stabbed in Bar Brawl

Turns out, Sean Bean 's hero image is the real deal.

The Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings tough guy reportedly came to the aid of his famous glamour model companion after a fellow pub reveler made some untoward comments on her topless posing past. While Bean's white knighthood was obviously admirable, it also proved rather dangerous, as a melee ensued and the actor was ultimately stabbed outside the London pub.

So what, exactly, happened? And just how is Bean doing now?

MORE: It's a  Lord of the Rings reunion

According to the Daily Mail , the incident kicked off when the 52-year-old Bean and 22-year-old Playboy bunny April Summers (real name Nadia Foster) went outside Camden's Hill Bar and Brasserie to smoke. A passerby spotted the duo (or at least one half of the duo) and began making lewd comments, leading Bean to confront the big talker.

All was seemingly well until the stranger returned later on, at which point a scuffle broke out, and Bean was reportedly punched in the face, causing a bruise over his eye, and stabbed in the arm with broken glass. Despite his wounds, Bean refused any medical attention and opted not to go to a hospital.

Instead, the actor accepted a first aid kit from the bar staff, then ordered another drink.

Guess all those tough guy roles haven't been too much of a stretch, after all.

Let me put it this way. I'd bet on his Irish ass to kill Viggo Mortensen six ways from Sunday. Screw Aragorn. I'd put my cash on Boromir. Just saying.

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