February 26, 2013 - February 19, 2013
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
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?
. 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:
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.