Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
February 26, 2013 - February 19, 2013

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What I've learned from
bad SyFy disaster movies

Actually, there was a Russian character in this
one who knew more than a little about patience.

. Loved all the recent comments on my pop culture posts. But here's my favorite:

Done with cultural discussions. Too late for that, we are at the end. Time to rally Americans for the battle now.

Forget what you want people to think of you, adjust your strategy, it's no longer a marathon but a sprint. Time is running out. Unload, full auto. Every day. Until nothing is left.

It reminded me of the silliest scene you always see in the apocalyptic disaster flicks referenced in the title: people running along city streets trying to get away from meteors, splintering shards of asteroids, earthquakes, and freak storms of various descriptions. Sprinting, if you will, to get away from something that's everywhere around you and not to be outrun.

Granted, if the destruction is being caused by Godzilla a few blocks away, there's good reason to run and a direction to run in -- AWAY. But that's not our situation. Obama is not Godzilla. He's not going to show up at your doorstep and bite your head off. He's playing golf at some resort with Tiger.

What we're confronted with now is much more like an earthquake, an after effect of the election that hasn't stopped rocking the foundations yet. Republicans are still clinging to the facades of collapsing edificices praying not to die, and even loyal Democrats are crouched under dump trucks hoping not to get accidentally crushed by the ongoing devastation. Nobody mounts a counter-offensive under such conditions.

Except at the SyFy Channel. Where the U.S. military, invariably consisting of one lunkhead general and an ass-kissing major (or lieutenant colonel) are already hatching schemes to end the crisis by aiming a nuclear missile at it. And they're always wrong. The right answer invariably involves getting the estranged husband and wife scientists back together again so their combined brilliance can analyze the relevant terabytes of data on their laptops and realize, eventually -- after the many distractions caused by their bratty, hormone-crazed if not actually retarded kids, who insist on stranding themselves under the worst debris the SFx guys can imagine -- that the  world-saving answer is the exact opposite of what the general is absolutely determined to do.

Don't tell me you haven't seen this movie at least a couple of times.

Well, that's exactly where we are now. Not a marathon but a sprint? Really? Form militias and sally forth into combat against the federal government? Over what? Gun control legislation that's doomed, unpopular, and unconstitutional anyway? Tax increases that will return an economy which never had a real recovery to recession if not worse? Immigration reform that will make life immeasurably worse for the poor and unemployed who were born here and have been waiting for just one decent break? The implementation of a health care bill that will soon indenture already under-employed young people to pay the medical bills of everyone older for no discernible personal benefit? The ongoing craven deterioration of American influence abroad, resulting in a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear Iran?

Hello.  It's never a sprint, always a marathon. How it works in a really big country with a really big government with a really slow process for identifying problems and undertaking reforms. Besides which, there's nothing about any of the above crises you can stop or even delay with a scarily scoped, pistol gripped, semi-automatic "assault rifle." Anyone who thinks otherwise is just jacking off. You can't nuke an earthquake, and you can't shoot a recession in the head.

I know how much fun it is to run down the street screaming your head off. But it doesn't actually accomplish anything. The sensible thing to do is stand still and be ready to duck if anything looks to be falling on your own personal head. When the earth has quaked itself into the more quietly settled mess it's headed for, then the squabbling scientists can get to work. The general won't know that his plan's no good until it fails. Which it will.

Until then, the smart ones will wait. Remember George Bush? He got reelected. About a year later his popularity plunged and never recovered. Obama is headed for the same fate. Times ten. Think about it. Why are you so scared? Because you think Obama's policies are disastrous. If you're right, the results will keep getting worse. Maybe it takes some people more ball peen shots to the noggin to get it than it did for you, but eventually they will get a headache, taste the blood dripping from their scalps, and start getting pissed off. That's when the celebrity presidency will become its own poison and the clueless press will miss the sea change in public perception until it's too late to save the lefty oligarchy.

On the other hand, if you're wrong about how disastrous Obama's policies are, things will get better, which means it's still not a good idea to bring your assault rifles to bear.

Nations get tired of rotten results. Concentrate your efforts on the next real electoral opportunity. Quit spazzing over every cornice that drops on the street this Tuesday.

Which leaves only two more SyFy lessons to process. The dysfunctional marriage between the world-saving scientists is a stand-in for us, the ones who care the most about this nation of ours and the integrity of its founding principles. Libertarians, conservatives, establishment Republicans, and even RINOs have to have a cup of coffee and look at the data together, all umpty-gazillion terabytes of it. And they also have to stop abandoning their duties every time someone whispers that their kids are in danger.

Let's face it. Kids aren't angels. They do stupid, selfish, irrationally self-destructive things. In every species they die in huge numbers. For those who insist that human beings are evil or inferior to the birds of the natural sky, the most unpleasant fact must be that as parents, human beings keep more of their offspring alive to adulthood than any wild species you can name. Crows are the smartest of all birds, with the most protective extended families, but only 50 percent of crow chicks survive for a full year. Nature is meaner than the Gaians think. The young'uns are in peril, always. They cannot all be kept safe, free from all possible dangers. In our species, they will kill themselves in cars, via text messages, headphones, or recreational drugs, they will beat and stab and shoot one another, and some of them will even kill you. How it works.

What the SyFy cliche gets right. They're a distraction that takes parents' and other important eyes off the ball. All the time you spend reacting to Sandy Hook, and to the hysterical reactions to Sandy Hook, is time spent with your eye off the ball.

The grim cold truth. The survival of your children to the age of real brain maturity at 25 is in large measure dumb luck. If you want to fret meaningfully about your kids, fret about what you can do to improve their adult lives if they make it that far. Which means not shrieking for government help that can't possibly bulletproof childhood and, instead, working to make sure your own hysteria doesn't enslave them 20 years down the road. Which also means not joining that fiery new militia in the next county or entombing them in Doomsday Prepper isolation and paranoia. Give the little bastards a chance.

Marathon. I know my next statement is going to get me damned and pilloried, but the claim is that I haven't done enough, haven't emptied my clip at all appropriate targets. So here goes.

I'm sick to death of hearing that the worst loss a person can experience is the death of a child. That's a modern luxury and a damned hypocritical one at that. My paternal grandfather lost a brother to appendicitis in childhood. The operation occurred on the kitchen table and failed. His family wasn't poor. That's the way it happened then. How can I be sure? His wife, my grandmother, lost a brother to appendicitis the exact same way. Her family wasn't poor either. In neither case did the whole family lapse into PTSD, dissolve into divorce and endless psychiatric traumas. They grieved, they got over it, and they went on with their lives. Like crows and eagles do. Both families had eight children. They counted themselves fortunate to have lost only one. Were they less sensitive, less human, than you? I'm sure you'll tell me, probably shriek at me.

We have become a nation of shriekers. Instant gratification, instant self-immolation. Flip sides of the same coin. Did I mention hypocrisy? It applies on two counts. First, the sanctification of kids is not as much about kids as about the sanctification of the emotions of their parents. In an increasingly atheistic world, it's the closest we can get to secular canonization. Witness Cindy Sheehan. She can do no wrong, express no incorrect thought, because she lost, gasp, a son.

Second point. As I said, it's not about kids really. If it were, abortion wouldn't be a ho-hum issue to more than half the population that shrieks in pain when a child dies. Who do we focus on when the kid dies? Yup. The poor agonized mother and maybe sometimes the father if he weeps enough on camera. The kid is reduced to a photo at the shrine where the event that ruined its mother's life transpired.

Hell, if we really cared about the kids, we wouldn't ever stop talking about the culture or trying to expose it and influence it, would we? Would we care that maybe 10 or 15 percent of loving mothers have already made the kind of life-ending decision that under any other circumstance would brand them as murderers, people who have traversed the one-way bridge that separates human beings from killers? Can't mention that, though. It's part of the culture. Culture. What is that anyway? It's the yolk of the egg chicks are consuming to grow enough to burst out of. When we write that off, what we're really saying is that it's only about us. But that shouldn't be news to anyone. We all want our 15 minutes of fame, don't we? Especially as we grow older, more certain, more bitter, more vengeful. "Screw the kids. I'm hurting here."

It's more about drama than anything else. We like the intensity which is missing anymore from so much of our lives. Same with the 21st century minutemen who urge a rush to battle when our standard of living drops 5 percent from the highest ever attained by any human community in recorded history. Instant gratification. Behold the narcissist in the mirror. And you dare to compare yourselves to the founders, who had every reason to believe that signing the Declaration of Independence was a near guaranteed death warrant?

But, hey, you can't wait to man the barricades. Because you're, what? -- Sergeant Fury? Spider-Man? Or the green-eyed monster Hulk?

Credits roll.

Pardon the lousy special effects. It's a SyFy thing.

Fag Marriage
(The Short Version)

NAKED THEOCRATS. Much longer version coming soon. I was trawling for comment threads on the subject when I found the following in a Dan Foster column supporting GOProud. I felt a concise articulation deserved a concise rebuttal. From commenter "BarbarianAtTheGate":

Dan's arguments boil down to this:

1) GoProud is being politely subversive in redefining gender and biology within marriage as irrelevant to societal stability, so let em in.

2) A gay-friendly conservative movement will gain sufficient votes among homosexuals to make an electoral difference.

3) Young folks have already bought into this, so once you dinosaurs die off, we'll be there anyway. May as well accelerate it.


1) slow motion surrender is still surrender, and redefining an institution embedded in biology, that predates much of recorded history, because the elites have their knickers in a twist is anything *but* conservative.

2) the stated end game of the gay movement is *not* compatible with the free exercise of religion, as its been practiced for the last 200 years in America. That end state is only achievable if Roman Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism, and Conservative Judaism either knuckle under and change doctrine, or are marginalized into hermetically sealed ghettos divorced from public life. As will be their professed followers, who will be bigots by government policy.

3) The same sort of opinion polls taken in the late 1960s would've predicted a socialist United States of America, with no drug laws, and President Jerry Brown by 1980. Instead we got Reagan.

Kids grow up. They learn stuff. Dan should keep that in mind.

1) Correcting your errant tenets is not surrender. It's a necessary part of having worthwhile beliefs. Gender and biology within marriage are irrelevant to social stability. Gay marriage will not wipe straight marriage off the face of the earth. Men and women will still want to marry each other, or not, at the same rates they have for at least the last few decades. To the contrary, gay marriage is the strongest PR push for any kind of marriage since the 50s. You can't see that evident truth because you believe in God instead of honesty. Get mad all you want, religionists. The rest of us are done babying you.

And enough of this "traditional marriage" tack. Everyone with a cursory knowledge of history sees through it. The Bible endorses wild variants of marriage ranging from merely wacky to unquestionably hideous (Christians using the "the Old Testament doesn't count" line: Show me where the New Testament redefines— sorry, clarifies— what marriage really is). By the way, modern society's dangerous notion of marrying for romantic love is what did away with the "biological necessity" angle. Only in the context of arranged marriage is genital parity an absurdity. And only a medieval mindset could accept the institution of arranged marriage. Should we turn back the clock that far? You living reactionary stereotype?

2) Roman Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, and Conservative Jews can and ought to participate in public life. Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism as such must be kept out of the public square. Freedom of religion means no religion as such has a say over public policy. "Free exercise of religion" does not entitle a church to impose its doctrine whithersoever it will. Conservatism should be gay-friendly because there's no good reason not to be. As to the charge of bigotry... if the shoe fits...

3) Cheerleading for continued drug prohibition. Way to champion liberty. Great job as always, conservative. Morality begins and ends with your side. Pat yourself on the back.

Some kids grow up. Others never grow out of the God phase.

Fed up with this nonsense. America is facing down real crises, and conservatives want to turn inward and indulge their theocratic urge? Disgusting. If even the supposed good guys won't use their brains, that's the end of the republic. Fact.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscar Night!

Everything you hate. Including a regular segment called Guess Me From Behind.

CONSISTENCY. No, not last night's Oscar telecast. Didn't watch a minute of it. Don't care who won the awards for another passel of mediocre movies. I'm referring to the Joan Rivers Oscar special edition of her unbelievable E! Channel show Fashion Police.

So many subheads available for this post. Things you learn by being married. Why the Media Research Center can't be trusted to program our TV watching in accordance with Leviticus. Why South Park Republicans still have something to contribute. And, my favorite, Consistency is the Bane of Small Minds.

Yes, I've spent a couple of posts slamming the vulgarity and culture destroying trends of contemporary Hollywood. Yes, I normally find gutter humor far more offensive than funny, a symptom of deep rot in our nation. But to every rule there is an exception, no matter how partial. And what starts tonight at 8:30 pm is an exception I'd recommend to everyone who still has a sense of humor, however compromised by time and tide. If it's becoming petrified with disuse or indignation, you probably need the exercise. Because Joan Rivers really is a kind of comic genius.

She's pushing 80, which means she's not living in the flattened sleeve of now. But she chooses to use the sleeve as a slashing weapon of deadly humor. Her show appears on the shallowest, most content free cable network in existence, and on an impossible weekly schedule she uses unwitting accomplices on her panel to ridicule and satirize everything that's worst in our celebrity culture while seeming to be not only a willing part of it but a leading exponent of all its worst aspects. It's an astonishing performance. It has only one subject, fashion, and yet each hour-long show is the equivalent of a half hour comedy monologue by one of the best stand-ups (now sitting down) who ever lived. Compare with the late night hosts, who do five 5-minute monologues a week with the whole world of current events to draw upon. Yet where they flounder in hit-and-miss fashion, drawing as many groans as chuckles, ancient Joan succeeds in being continuously shocking and laugh-out-loud funny every time.

Everyone else on her panel (girly girl, rock child, and fashion gay), and her guests (Kardashians on down), are there to talk about clothes, designers, and looks. Joan is using clothes to ridicule narcissism, promiscuity, over-the-top homosexual preening, drug abuse, "baby bumps" as accessories, fake boobs and asses, and talentless seekers after fame. No question whatever that she has the dirtiest mouth on television. Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman try sooooo hard to be the filthiest in everything they do, but Joan has forgotten more about blue material than they will ever learn. She's the original, the godfather inspiration they can't possibly surpass because she's still here demonstrating that the secret ingredient is the merest touch of class, which resets the perspective before the first punch line is uttered.

She's the well dressed and  unexpectedly spry old lady who drops bombs as if she doesn't quite know what she is saying, even though everyone knows she knows exactly what she is saying, and it's still shocking. Because she didn't begin her long and successful career on a casting couch but as a middle class Jewish girl from New York who graduated from Columbia, married once, late in life, had one child, got hammered by her husband's suicide, worked like a Trojan to pay off his debts with an old-style sense of honor, and YET had this secret public life of blasting open the doors of ribald standup comedy to women.

This persona is the bedrock of the show, from the smallest joke to the biggest. When she responds to the news that some starlet chose home birth by telling us she'd considered it too but rejected it because "I have a lot of nice stuff," she is being brilliant in miniature. Her own self-deprecating air of pretentiousness is mocking the pretensions of the fads that rule the emptily famous. When she stops the show for a trumpet flourish and banner announcing the "One Millionth Vagina Joke on Fashion Police," she's also reminding us that this is the number of such jokes that deserve to be made about the oh-so-admired women of Hollywood. Big or small, her punch lines are always a function of their distance from the spinning gyroscope at the center of the circus, a woman who knows who she is and why, and if you don't get that, she's mocking you too.

She's a vital conscience of a world she has come to know very well, but she isn't a parasite. Her earthy perceptions do not blind her to the beauty of beauty or talent. She's an old-time liberal, tolerant to a fault but only to a point. A distinction, nay, a virtue, increasingly lost on every side of the political aisle. She also knows, like some old scion of etiquette, that small matters matter. Fashion statements among the famous are to her at least partly a matter of simple courtesy to fans, and she's of an age where she can admit to being offended when a dress strikes her as an unapologetic fart. Note that she is personally, unfailingly courteous to her halfwit panel and guests. (Only exception? A hilarious ad-lib cut and thrust with one comedienne she knew was up to it). In short, a class act. At dinner in your house, her vocabulary and manners would be impeccable. Feel free to invite her in. All performance art aside, at heart she is a lady. That's the dirty secret of Joan Rivers.

Which brings us to the Oscar telecast. Tonight she will play her usual role as ringmaster to sidekicks who are pygmies compared to her, but for whom her real affection is evident. She will agree and disagree with them on fashion, stun them -- even the youngest and hippest -- with a mouth that's a thesaurus of every four-letter word you've ever heard, and one or two you maybe haven't (or at least can't lip read through the bleeps). She'll make fun of her own plastic surgeries, her old breasts, her urinary incontinence, her vain old lady horniness, and use these as cover for some truly assaultive putdowns of people no E! Reporter, or for that matter 60 Minutes correspondent, would dare to utter. They used to allow Joan on the red carpet at the Oscars, Emmies, Grammies, etc. They no longer do. The stars knew she was talking about more than schmata. But she keeps on truckin' anyway. So watch the real Oscar Night tonight. Behold her malicious glow.

Along the way, you'll also see some beautiful women beautifully dressed, some not so beautiful women not so beautifully dressed, and everything in between. At the end of an hour and a half show written in well under 24 hours (!) Joan will make us feel simultaneously that the Oscars are a ridiculous exercise in excess and a gloriously entertaining -- and worthwhile? -- part of the ongoing American spectacle.

And unless you're Oliver Cromwell or headed in that direction, you'll laugh.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Apotheosis. The single most foul-mouthed mother in
movie history coupled with the sweetest, shyest girl.

YESTERDAY. I've just been bashing the Europeans. Lord knows I don't like the Brits either. But they're not European, as the EU is finding out, and like the Greeks who fell under the yoke of the Roman Empire, the Brits and their vassals are still good for one thing: classical art, er, that is, in our terms, filmed entertainments that don't make you want to throw up.

It can't have escaped you that American romantic comedies are trash. A concatenation of drunk jokes, drug jokes, boob jokes, cock jokes, vagina jokes, fuck jokes, fart jokes, piss jokes, menstrual jokes, shit jokes, gay and Lesbian jokes, and other hilarities culled from our degraded commonality.

Which would be okay (maybe) if said jokes were funny. They're just not. Network sitcoms are even worse. You can't show a boob or a twat. You just have to talk and talk and talk and talk and talk about it and everything you or some smart-mouthed creep might do with it until everyone is nauseous. You know. 21st century humor.

Every sitcom in the country could be successfully concluded with a close up of a nipple and a corresponding vulva being leered at by an obese geek. All the sexual "chemistry" would be finally, completely, mercifully resolved. All the jokes would finally be submerged in their own punch lines, which are not about humor at all but female protuberances and holes. Plus a few gay jokes.

Oops. Did I overspeak? See, I'm not a prude. I love female protuberances and holes. I just get bored when writers think referencing them constantly is tantamount to channeling Oscar Wilde. Uh, it isn't. Wilde didn't even make gay jokes. He was too witty for that.

The Brits are a dead culture. But this is their one thing, the thing they and their subject states like Ireland and Scotland do well. They pretend that life can be as funny as it is tragic, and they can sell that nonsense as convincingly as Parliament sells the U.K. masses on the virtues of the NHS.

All bullshit, of course. But does that matter? No. It's better by far than being teased by nipples that will never appear while the characters on stage allude to fellatio, cunnilingus, and indiscriminate fucking as if these were something like love. Or sport. Or just expected because, oh well, we have these working parts and we're here in Los Angeles.

The Brits still make movies that aren't exclusively about how vaginas smell and how many sluts a priapic teenager can screw. Oddly, the Irish are the best at this odd pursuit, but they're not the only ones.

Herewith, a list of movies you can watch with your wife without having to apologize afterwards. Most do involve what used to be known as romance.

Blow Dry
Kinky Boots
The Full Monte
The Boys and Girl of County Clare
Waking Ned Devine
The Race
Owd Bob
Little Voice (yeah, the one up top, worst language of the lot and far & away the most mesmerizing)

Something interesting. The single crudest script on this list was excerpted in the clip above. It made me want to see an old-time Hollywood musical afterwards. I never watch those. Guess what. Not even Netflix has such bizarreries in inventory. I watched the only one they had, Funny Face. Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. 1957. She couldn't dance and he couldn't sing anymore. How sad is that? What are the kids to think?

If they do.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


From the Ridiculous
To the Sublime

Promising start. But the hardest part of ridiculing Sarah is finding a beauty to
play her right. Dirty secret of all Palin haters. They want to have sex with her.

SOMETIMES IT'S TIME TO FLAP BLACKLY. I get criticized for paying too much attention to popular culture and entertainment media. I can live with that. The most self-righteous among us have two options. They can turn it all off, buy acreage in the hinterlands, and become some variation of Doomsday Preppers. Or they can acknowledge that the assault on traditional values has become so pervasive that finding rays of light and inspiration has become difficult if not infuriating, however much we might want to keep tabs on reality. In these terms, we have to remember that art is dead, fiction is dead, music is dying, and we're left with retreating to the past (sorry, but reruns are reruns in every medium) or pining for a cultural counteroffensive most of us would find dull in the extreme. I've seen the movies they show on the Gospel Music Channel. I'd actually prefer a Matt Damon marathon (Matt Damon!) Truthfully, I'm not keen on conservative music icons like "God Bless the USA" either. So I hunt and peck through the ever more expansive mainstream propaganda looking for laughs, thought, learning experiences, and surprising insight.

Because I'm so thorough, I have one of each of these to share with you today.

Laughs. The clip up top. Iron Sky is a Finnish film that thinks it's satirizing everything all at once. Don't worry. Most of it is in English, and the subtitles are only for the Nazis. At times it's visually handsome, but overall it's an excellent and resoundingly silly object lesson in the presumptions of the folks our own liberals most want us to admire - the supposedly superior European sophisticates who conflate sneering with wit and wisdom. So there are Nazis on the moon, planning the Fourth Reich since 1945. They're laughable. On earth, Sarah Palin is in the White House. She's laughable. When an advance guard of Moon Nazis land on earth, they immediately persuade her to run her reelection campaign. Until she realizes they really are from the moon and planning to conquer earth, when she remembers that a first term war is the best way of all to get reelected.

Not laughing? You should. The American stereotypes -- from Palin to the slutty foul-mouthed hyper-feminist campaign manager/war monger  (Neocon Jewess?) to the black astronaut-cum-hero who's really a dimwit male model (turned white to hilariously (?) comic effect) -- are just about as crude and cartoonish as the Jew-Rat analogies of Josef Goebbels. Which shouldn't be too surprising. Finns are one of the most ethnically homogeneous people on earth and, uh, as Nordic as Hitler ever dreamed of. The cinematic sleight of hand, and corresponding rational black hole, that seeks to equate Americans with Nazis while indulging in the most blatantly, patronizingly reductive stereotypes of race, sex, and political persuasions is absolutely stunning.

It's also completely moronic, making sense at no level of the film, which also has the darkest ending of a comedy since Dr. Strangelove.  Whatever you think or fear, Europeans are not smarter, wiser, cleverer, or funnier than we are. They're just more ridiculously smug and fatalistic. The only thing they really love is death.

By all means watch it on Netflix and enjoy.

Thought. Anyone seen The Following? A new TV series about an imprisoned serial killer who has attracted a cult of like-minded young serial killers? Well, maybe you should.  So far, it's much more interesting than I'd ever have expected. I'm tempted to think that it's actually seditious and possibly even Christian. Without ever letting on that it's anything but a lurid potboiler. Neat trick if true. Though it's still early. I could be wrong, but there are multiple reasons for hoping I'm right.

Seditious? Of post-modernism perhaps? The imprisoned serial killer is a former college professor and novelist who taught that Edgar Allan Poe was a kind of Nietzchean figure who believed everyone could make up his own morality and that life is really death and vice versa, meaning murder is simply a kind of art. Which is a grotesque modern imposition on the works of Poe, whose hallmark was anything but cold-blooded. To the contrary, he embodied a heightening of the senses and an exaggeration of emotional response, so that loss and grief and beauty were all in him magnified to nearly unendurable extremes. The killer even claims that his signature of destroying the eyes of his victims is a function of Poe's own stories, including the Black Cat. Nonsense. But the young killers (who apparently can't read at all) buy the lie whole and form teams of homicidal solipsists who have so little emotional response that only murder briefly energizes them.

Am I seeing something that isn't there? Consider this. If there is a stand-in for Poe in the series it is the FBI protagonist played by Kevin Bacon. He's the one with the Telltale Heart, courtesy of a pacemaker installed after the killer stabbed him in the heart during the events leading up to the arrest. That's not all. Like Poe, he's the one whose life has comprised so much tragedy and loss that he cannot conceive of either being happy or endangering others by being involved with them, which can lead only to their unhappiness. He does not sleep. He is an alcoholic, not a recovered one but a mere nondrinking one. He is a walking tuning fork of emotion, an exposed nerve with an impulse toward self-sacrifice. As a result, no one trusts him.

Life is easier for the young killers. The most they can ever be aware of is a dim confusion. Why do these others complicate my life?

In the most recent episode, the mother of the kidnapped son of the killer says, "I know sociopathy is not inherited. But if you keep exposing them to..." We'll, you finish it. I finished it long long ago.

Which is where I think the series might be headed. The killer keeps winning. The only thing we're allowed to root for is the rough justice awaiting the larval monsters our post-modern, post-Christian, post-moral culture has been raising.

Take a look.

Learning Experience. If there's one show on television that shows capitalism the way it really is, warts and all, it's Bamazon. On the face of it an absurd reality show. An Alabama construction contractor going broke in the recession takes his last million dollars and a handful of his most loyal employees to the Amazon rainforest in search of gold. Who knew? It's a perfect demonstration of how enterprises work and don't.

I can't recommend this show enough. It demonstrates all the good and the bad, exposes all the misconceptions, and explains the human factors that matter most.

At the beginning you're focused on the boss, his huge capital outlay, the solidarity of the team he puts together. He lands a huge excavator in the jungle to bring high technology to the gold mining challenge. Score one for American enterprise. Then nothing goes right. His right hand man fails in the biggest task of getting the excavator to the site in good time for the extremely brief weather window in which mining is possible. He spends the interim beating up on the employees who are supposed to build shelter and other constructions needed for mining. He walks around sipping coffee and criticizing the ones he doesn't think are working hard enough. Mutiny is a constant possibility. The Alabama rednecks on his team make innumerable mind-numbingly dumb mistakes. Hot, bug-bitten, dysenteric, desperate men throw things, quit, and sulk like children. The whole enterprise seems doomed. Multiple times.

The final two episodes tell the tale. The boss becomes increasingly irrelevant. He stands there in his lordly shorts while the men who cannot afford to fail somehow perform miracles in the mud, fixing the unfixable, making final second decisions of immense risk, and doing more than you'd believe possible to keep the mining operation going.

Happy ending? No. They found some gold but not enough to rescue any of their fortunes. They committed to trying again next year.

More truth than you'll find in most representations of capitalism by conservatives or liberals. There is risk. You can work your heart out and still lose. There is no social justice in nature. There is only the opportunity to have a chance at earning what you aspire to. Capitalism may seem to be a top-down enterprise. It isn't really. Every good athletic coach tells more truth than the average successful entrepreneur: "My job is to put players in the right position to succeed."

Am I advocating an Occupy the Amazon movement? Not at all. The Bamazon venture might have succeeded. If it had, everyone would have benefited. As it was, events proved that everyone was important. Against all odds, a bunch of amateurs launched themselves into the Amazon rainforest and mined thousands of dollars worth of gold. What people can do when they're not showing up for a paycheck but a dream. Success is optional. Desirable but optional and never assured. The real world's definition of hope.

Surprising Insight. Think I don't watch PBS because I hate PBS? Think again. The show Nature. Titled "Murder of Crows." It will blow your mind. Crows are, well, conscious. They raise their young for up to five years. They hold funerals for their dead. They pass abstract learned information on to their chicks. They build more complicated tools than any species but mankind. They can build logic chains to solve problems. They can recognize humans individually by facial features. They have extended families they speak to in a quiet voice. They live in flocks they can communicate with en masse in their loud voice.

If one of them is killed over a farmer's field, they will reroute their migration patterns to avoid that field for years. They mate for life.

Truth? They're smarter than gorillas and chimps.

They've been watching and adapting to us for thousands of years. We've been studying them for just a few.

Is consciousness not an impulse of the universe? Wouldn't that be sublime? Why, then, are we post-moderns so intent on cutting it back down to brute impulses of physical desire and vengeful blame?


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cracks and Shivers

She knows better than her latest. But she's unfortunately only human.

CHOP CHOP. Yes, I keep talking about the media environment. It's all that matters right now. And I can't tell you just how disappointing I find this little shiver of distaste and alarm:
I get ill with Juan Williams over accusation
that I don’t care about victims of gun violence

posted at 12:41 pm on February 15, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

I don’t usually post video of myself, but this got a lot of reaction this morning. I imagine my visceral annoyance speaks for a lot of people being accused of not caring about children who die at the hands of murderers just because we happen to disagree with President Obama’s preferred federal remedies for said murders (most of which have already been implemented and failed spectacularly).

Juan and I are friends, and as I say at the end of the clip, we will make it up later. But please notice that I do not impugn Juan’s motives. [Ed: uh, I do.] I would have appreciated the same consideration. I have no doubt that he cares deeply about those affected by gun violence, but I think he puts far too much emphasis on the emotional catharsis of passing a law to “fix” a problem, which then doesn’t fix the problem. If one supports a remedy, such as the Assault Weapons Ban, which has already demonstrably failed to prevent mass shootings on a national level (Columbine) and a state level (Newtown), and yet wants to implement that failed policy again, isn’t that effectively just as bad as not caring about the problem? If one supports stricter gun laws, which have demonstrably failed in places like Chicago and Washington, D.C., while ignoring the deeper social problems that cause gang-related shootings and Newtown-like single shooters, isn’t that effectively just as bad as not giving a damn? Ignoring these failures and repeating failed policies arguably goes beyond indifference into a form of criminal negligence, no matter how well-meaning.

I’ve already been accused of racism online for sticking up for gun owners and wanting to address deeper issues that might actually curb gun violence, so let me add this. One, it’s racist and ignorant to assume there are no minorities among the legal gun owners I’m defending. Two, I think there are deeper social issues at play in both gang war and single shooters, who are almost exclusively white and suburban/rural, and reference both problems in this clip, so no I’m not blaming gun violence on cities or minorities. And, finally, strict gun laws in Chicago often prevent people like Otis McDonald, a 76-year-old black South Side resident, from protecting themselves. I would like Mr. McDonald and 70-year-old Detroit basketball coach Ernest Robinson, and others like them to have that right— not be held hostage by the bad intentions of armed criminals and the failed good intentions of their liberal lawmakers.

Yet I’m the one accused of not caring for having the audacity to point out that law-abiding people shouldn’t be punished for criminals’ crimes and asking a federal law to actually produce something other than the moral superiority of its supporters. The conversation wasn’t even really about gun control. It was about being able to disagree with liberal policies or point out their inefficacy, without being smeared as a heartless racist. (Juan didn’t go there with the racism, just the heartlessness, and I appreciate at least that, although my Twitter feed is full of it.) Juan himself has faced the exact same bullying when he strays from the liberal line on issues like school choice, on which we agree. It’s unfair and unhelpful, and dare I say it, uncaring. [boldface added]

I like and admire Mary Katharine Ham. She should know better than to think that her liberal colleagues can be friends. They can't. This is war. Juan Williams SEEMS like a good and decent man. He isn't. He's a mole at Fox News, just like Bob Beckel. What bothers me about The Five. Dana Perino has it in her otherwise clever head that Bob is a nice guy with wrong-headed ideas. He isn't. He'd destroy her whole career and personal life in a second to win a tactical battle for Obama and the Democrats. In fact, the only member of The Five who gets the reality is Greg Gutfeld. He hides behind a wall of self-deprecating humor, but he knows who Beckel really is and he is continuously en garde. He sits as far away from Beckel as he can. I would too. Kidding aside, he sees Beckel for what he is. A corrupt and partisan thug.

At some level, MKH knows this too; hence the savvy clip above. But the left is far more monolithic than she realizes. It's not true there are exceptions among them who regard politics as a discussion, a free market of ideas, a debate. It's much less than that to the Borg of the left. We're all merely targets of opportunity, and the imitation of friendship is simply an opportunity to get so close that the dagger can be used with maximum efficiency.

In the 60s radical era, the activists famously said,  "Everything is politics."  They've never changed their minds about that. Is anybody else fascinated that a major television network would mount a series lionizing Soviet agents inside the U.S. during the Cold War and that it would earn positive reviews from WAPO, the NYT, and even the Wall Street Journal? I'm fascinated though hardly surprised, except at the nakedness of the series called The Americans. If it were a miniseries, one might reasonably hope that it would end with the protagonists' dead bodies bleeding on the sidewalk. In a full-blown, open-ended series, we're obviously expected to hope that they continue to get away with their subversion of our country. Huh? Who is this for? All the other moles and fellow travelers who have been working for the destruction of the United States that is now seemingly within reach? Clearly, there are many more of these than the dummies among us would ever have suspected. Not that the series won't fail. Just that it got greenlighted in the first place by a major media company. Keep tabs on the Nielsen ratings if you want to know the score in America at large.

But MKH shivers. (Or is it just a becoming, well-bred frisson?) I have no sympathy for her. Just as I have no sympathy for all the other new media stars who think they're having careers in punditry. They're not. To the extent that they're looking for respect from the opposition, they're just victims-in-waiting. How long have we warned about the liabilities of stupid Republicans? Now we have to watch the pioneering generation of new media savants commit all the same damn dumb mistakes.

So much for the shivers. Cracks? Politico is pretending to be upset with the imperial Obama White House. Sure.

Why? They don't like being made to look bad. I'm reminded of that Julia Roberts movie so many women seem to find so romantic. The hooker doesn't mind the transaction so much as having the transaction made public knowledge and/or privately humiliating. You know. Send her flowers, buy her expensive frocks, and pretend in every possible way the hooker is a lady even if she isn't. At least kiss her before you do the other.

Marriage would be okay too. If you keep saying nice enough things about Castro, maybe his urbane son will give you a grand wedding and your own cigar.

Wake up, Mary Katharine. Juan Williams is not your friend. And until you realize that, you're not ours, either. You're a useful idiot lying down (on your back?) with the devil.

Along with all the rest of the rapidly concretizing New Media who want to preserve their access to, and win approval from, the concerted enemies of our nation.

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