Lily Allen

lily allen.jpg

I wish someone would prove me wrong, but Lily Allen never really made it in the United States. But, here she is, perfectly explaining why it is impossible to believe anything online anymore because Russia is engaged in a massive attack on Western democracy and Western culture:

Do you think what’s written about you in certain newspapers fuels the Twitter trolls?
“Yeah, I do. Although to what extent, I’m not quite sure. Out of the trolls, I’m not sure what’s automated and Russian, and what’s real. They’re not called Russian bots. They’re called, you know, PaulJames1979 with a Middlesbrough FC emblem.  But I do know that if I get into a tête-à-tête – or tweet-à-tweet – with Piers Morgan, then suddenly I’ll get loads of automated stuff. So there are definitely right-wing triggers that if you converse and interact with, you get a sort of army coming at you. And you know that they’re automated because they have the same key words and they’re talking about exactly the same thing. In all the tweets, there will be four of five key words surrounded by other aggressive words.”

So, if a British pop singer who definitely deserves a global audience can figure this shit out, why can't anyone in America?



Lego Batman is Not Pro-Gay Adoption Propaganda

Just when you thought that liberals were going to be able to get one over on conservatives and sneak some pro-gay adoption propaganda into the burgeoning animated kids movie market, it all falls apart because conservatives are too smart:

The new Lego Batman Movie has come under fire from Catholic evangelists who have slammed the film as “pro-gay propaganda”.

John Henry Westen, Canadian Editor-in-chief of the socially conservative website, posted a review of the film titled “BEWARE: LEGO Batman movie promotes gay adoption”. He criticised the creators for being “so anxious to subtly indoctrinate the little ones into the gender ideology that making it humorous came as a distant second thought.”

I thought conservative Catholics were out trying to locate and remove all of the priests who diddle little kids. Apparently, they have some time on their hands. Or they're dumbasses. I vote for having no brains, no talent, and no understanding of the culture.

Everyone knows propaganda works when the film is fall-down funny. Maybe that's the angle all of us in on this conspiracy should have taken. Instead of making a sober, depressing movie about what happens when a gay Batman adopts a gay Robin so they can have that gay lifestyle thing happening, they should have written a lot of great jokes, used a lot of expensive animation, and gotten some funny actors to read all of the dialogue. 

Oh, wait a minute. Rotten Tomatoes says they did that. My mistake.

Robert DeNiro is Tired of Your Nonsense

Piers Morgan is a name you probably haven't thought about in years, if at all. He's one of the many fools that Robert De Niro has avoided dealing with:
Piers Morgan has called on journalists to impose a "ban" on Robert De Niro after he walked out of a recent interview with a British journalist.

The legendary actor was promoting his latest film The Intern, a generation gap comedy in which he stars opposite Anne Hathaway, when he apparently became aggravated by Emma Brockes' questions about how he avoids slipping into autopilot during shooting and the growing number of bankers living in his New York neighbourhood.

Brockes reports in this week's issue of the Radio Times that De Niro asked her to pause her tape recorder and informed her that was halting the interview because of what he called a "negative inference" in her questions. An awkward exchange between Brockes and De Niro followed, in which the actor told the journalist on several occasions: "I'm not doing this, darling."

Sharing his views on the incident in the Daily Mail, Morgan writes that De Niro was a "bloody nightmare" when he interviewed him on CNN several years ago and criticises the actor's conduct towards journalists generally, saying: "It's as if he prides himself on being a total douchebag."

Later in the article, Morgan proposes that "it's time the world's media fought back" against De Niro's reportedly bad-tempered behaviour in interviews, suggesting: "Let's ban him. Every journalist in the world should agree, with immediate effect, never to interview him again."
If you're going to get back at someone, at least have a platform from which to do so. Morgan is circling the drain, hoping you'll pay attention to him and his grievances against celebrities. Maybe he should have hacked into De Niro's phone in order to get something on him, I don't know. 
The interview in question featured De Niro not putting up with a line of questioning that implied that he was phoning it in with his performance in a very specific kind of movie called The Intern. This is not a Scorsese film; this is a fish out of water story about transferring intergenerational wisdom and learning how to accept a massage at work. De Niro was right to walk out on the interview--it generated a lot of publicity and that's all that matters. You would think Morgan would be smart enough to know that.

Fear the Walking Dead Season One Episode 4

You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want. And, don't worry--your loved ones are safe.
Yeah, right.
This weeks episode of Fear the Walking Dead features the monotony of everyday life, closely held secrets, and young Nick's superior abilities as a cat burglar. Madison Clark is the reason why people are going to love this show, hands down. The elevation of Melissa McBride's Carol in the original series should have been all the warning needed. What gender bias? Kim Dickens is the reason why this show will resonate with viewers. Yeah, we're laughing at dumb Travis right now, but he shows signs of getting it, albeit too late. His son Chris and his ex-wife Liza are in on something as far as a realization of what's going on, while Alicia and Nick Clark are just treading water and dealing with their pain.
It's too soon to expect the level of competence that we've seen after watching five full seasons of the original series. It's way too soon for Madison to be as clued in as she is, but this is more of a testament to her years of dealing with Nick's drug addiction than anything else. A lot of the reviews of this episode are going to draw attention to the fact that people aren't smarter about what's going on. Well, who would be? The world turned upside down two weeks ago, and everyone is acting like this is a really bad earthquake scenario. I find their "incompetence" to be realistic, just like I see Daniel's skepticism to be a tremendous asset.
The military comes off as being the bad guy this week, and so you have to keep referring back to the scenes that appeared throughout The Walking Dead. How many times did they find a "FEMA" camp or a military encampment and find everyone dead and overrun, despite their weapons and their fences? The Governor knew the truth, and the Governor killed anyone in the military any chance he got. Well, you can see why.
In this episode, you see the unit begin to break down at the edges. One lunk is all too eager to pretend to go on patrol in order to get a little sophisticated time with Ofelia, who is probably in it just to get some medicine and not because she's repressed or anything. These troops are probably all waiting for a chance to frag Lt. Moyers but we just don't see that yet. Everyone's boredom and humanity is dumped into the mix--the residents try to stretch their supplies and the soldiers tee off and play golf, patrol endlessly like they are looking for someone to shoot, and then ration everything. They don their protective masks and go on armed patrols, looking to put rounds in anything out there, but you can tell there is a stressed logistics chain because, after less than ten days, nobody has much of anything anymore. It's all coming apart, just not at once.
I don't think this is how real soldiers would operate. First, among American citizens, the National Guard is more citizen oriented and willing to to do more help than harm. Active duty troops live in a bubble, only coming into contact with the communities where they are stationed. The Guard and reserve have more experience with public affairs and disaster relief. These troops look like California National Guard to me. They're not going to be in on some conspiracy because what would happen in that scenario is that someone would start blabbing about it. Second, they have their own families--a lot of them would desert, en masse, to go home to their own if they were in danger, just like cops and firemen would. Third, someone has to realize that as the supplies run out, so does the legitimacy of any military unit. I suppose they could keep things together through fear, but what would likely happen is that, as soon as there is a chance to slip away in tightly organized groups, a lot of them would do so in order to save themselves. This doesn't mean anything bad about the military--this means they're human, after all, and they would be unlikely to follow a jackass like Lt. Moyers.
Resources are collapsing quickly. Fuel and food are going to run out unless someone start's harvesting all of the gardens that still exist. And I think this is where Nick's benefit to the group will be his ability to scrounge. He's seen doing that in this episode with shocking results. I don't know what Alicia can do, other than tattoo herself and scatter among the wind chimes. At least Chris is recording videos of the aftermath that will be of critical help to historians (which is useless, of course, but how will anyone know anything in the future if someone isn't doing what Chris is doing?)
This is why I think it was absolutely the thing for Chris to be doing on the roof. He is able to find evidence of something in the hills around their neighborhood, outside the fences and the razor wire. He tries to show his dad Travis what's going on and Travis is too worried being the mayor of the block. He blows him off. He shows Madison and, like the badass she is, she's outside of the wire, trying to see what's going on. There's a good reason why no one is allowed outside--the military is trying to get control of the "infected" population through patrols, controlling the uninfected, and through intelligence gathering.
What you're seeing here is more of the temporary Army story line with the Human Terrain System in action--everyone is controlled, kept in a single place, and monitored for signs of being infected. They're also looking at undesirables, like Nick, and at people who are taking up more medicine than is necessary. Medical supplies aren't for people who are going to die and turn into zombies. They're running out of everything, of course, or the military is just stockpiling things for their own use.
The writers have blown one aspect of the storyline, and it's a nitpicky thing for me to bring up, but, where are the NCOs? In the Army, a Lt. Moyers is going to have at least one Sergeant First Class out there, supervising and leading the troops. In a unit like this, we're seeing a lot of lower enlisted soldiers. In reality, you'd see more NCOs holding everyone to a higher standard.
We're introduced to a few new characters. The two that stand out to me are the aforementioned Lt. Moyers, a First Lieutenant in the Army who acts like he's a light Colonel, and Dr. Bethany Exner, who is triaging everyone and "removing" the people who can't be saved or helped. She gets rid of anyone who isn't going to make it without more health care than they can afford to provide. Lt. Moyers is just an asshole, so there you go. Dr. Exner represents bureaucratic necessity to me, and she is more than willing to scoop up someone like Liza because she probably things Liza is going to be a realist. Both Moyers and Exner are menacing enough without me spilling all of the beans, but the focus of this episode is control. Imperfect people with questionable motives are now making calls that will affect the group dynamic.
So, we're at a dividing point here. Three characters are removed from the group (and it makes sense to think of them as a group now because we're ten days into the outbreak and they've begun to cohere together as a working unit, even though Travis is still clueless and Daniel is ready to tell stories of El Salvador's death squads.
Madison has a piece of information and so does Chris. This unlikely combination creates the drama of Madison's sojourn out into what's left of East Los Angeles. She sees evidence that people are getting blown away and that there has been grisly activity all around. Everything outside the wire is abandoned, or is it?
And what's with those flashing lights? Well, you have to tune in. Suffice it to say, this was probably the most tense and scary episode so far, ranking up there with the original series in terms of set decoration and design. We've seen a lot of Madison's house, the neighborhood, and now the world as it will look nine days after the world ends. We know that the soldiers are leery of blood and breathing the air and they're no letting anyone, no matter how ill, reside amongst healthy people.
We also know Madison is too savvy to believe anyone's bullshit. The next two episodes are going to be where Travis will eventually catch up to her. Aligned with Daniel, these three will form the nucleus of their group and they will know that you're a fool if you think men do evil just because of fear.

The Raunchiest Photo Simply Won't Do

Hating Zooey Deschanel

With Gawker seeming to dominate the news this week, I thought I would dig up this rusty, worn-out old post about how they have relentlessly targeted Zooey Deschanel and serve it up like something I just found.
Even today, whenever Gawker posts about Deschanel, I usually just ignore it. However, in the comments, people are basically calling out the site and pointing out that bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have similar bans on the use of phones. So, you know, blog fail or whatever.
This is the 'mean girls' aspect of Gawker that doesn't get enough attention. Why do they go after people like Deschanel and why is it newsworthy? She's a celebrity, she can probably handle a fair amount of attention, but Gawker usually goes above and beyond normal decency. We saw that last week and I think we'll see it again unless someone dismantles Gawker and fires everyone.
The gist of my original post centered around trying to get people to watch the show instead of taping it on their phones. Artists have begun trying to separate fans from their phones and from the practice of holding this rectangular plastic thing in front of them so that they can claim to have watched the show in person. How that translates into an experience is beyond my grasp. Why not enjoy what you are seeing without worrying about your phone?
If you have to record something just to remember it, your mind is already gone.

John Cleese Has Tweeted

The lamentable foof, Piers Morgan

John Cleese was handed one of those rare opportunities to slay an opponent on Twitter. His victim, a Mr. Piers Morgan. In the not too distant past, Morgan was a newspaper editor who went after scads of prominent members of the public and private citizens by using the technique of phone hacking.

Anyway, this doesn't happen very often:

Perpetually confused former CNN host Piers Morgan wrote a blistering open letter to John Cleese in The Daily Mail earlier this week because the actor allegedly “ignored” him while he was two feet away in the same restaurant.

He did not start it:

Morgan wrote in The Daily Mail post:

“If he’s not trashing his ex-wives, he’s moaning incessantly about tabloid journalists – most of whom long since stopped caring what he does.

I’ve made my feelings about his unfortunate personality transplant known on Twitter.

So you can imagine how I felt when I sat down in my favourite New York restaurant, Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar, ordered a fine bottle of vintage claret, sighed with almost indecent pleasure at the gastronomic delights heading my way… then turned to my left and spied Cleese at the very next table. Literally two feet away.

For one tiny nanosecond, our eyes locked in mutual shock, then equally mutual withering contempt.”

Cleese responded thusly:

After this, nothing more needed to be said.


New American Cursive, an example

Everything in this article should scare you into writing more legibly! Seriously, though, it makes a lot of good points. From a Humanities perspective, maintaining a link to careful, practiced learning techniques can't hurt anyone.

I learned cursive but I use it very sparingly--if at all. I adopted basic printing as part of my demented effort to learn how to letter for comic strips and I haven't gone back to anything resembling cursive.

It's a skill that I still have, but it remains a situational thing. If I'm writing a check, I slip into it without effort. If I'm attempting a more formal note, I'll use it.

Should kids learn it? Absolutely. I think it would improve their overall handwriting, and, no matter what people tell you, handwriting will never go away.

Art and Social Conscience

This is a bit of a pipe dream:
When the world is convulsed by a financial disaster, it seems only right that the arts should engage with it. Just to continue with its own concerns, shut away in its little world of galleries and concert halls would seem indecent, while millions are being thrown out of work or onto the street.

History offers an inspiring example of how art can help heal the social wounds brought on by a financial crisis. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed, the arts in America took on a new tone, epitomised in the career of Aaron Copland. He foreswore the nose-thumbing modernism of his youth and set about creating a ruggedly populist language, epitomised in such works as the Fanfare for the Common Man (later incorporated into the 3rd Symphony) and those wonderful ballets such as Billy the Kid.

Like the Depression-era artists such as Ben Shahn and playwrights such as Clifford Odets, Copland knew that to be politically effective, art has to speak in terms its audience will understand. In the Thirties, artists themselves often suffered from the same poverty as the Okie farmers and unemployed factory workers depicted in their art. That's why it has such a stirring sense of conviction; it was born out of social solidarity.

You would think that because our ability to exchange information has improved dramatically since the 1930s that the art of today would be more relevant in terms of commentary. It isn't, precisely because the technology and the context is too easy to ignore and misunderstand.

I think thinks were more straightforward in previous eras. There is always subtext, and sly humor, and satire has been ever-present, but the impact of Depression-era art is greater because you could hit people over the head with scenes of pathos and desperation and not be readily accused of manipulation and dishonesty.

What you see above is a distressed piece of euro currency. So, the artist doesn't like money or the design of the money? This is supposed to be a unique and biting piece of social commentary? Really? He colored on and chopped up a large denomination bill. Hey, that's original.

Snark, in other words, has undermined everything in the art world. These images of pathos you're displaying--are you for real or are you being ironic or are you juxtaposing things in order to make people laugh? That's why the impact is greatly reduced.

Hollywood and Middle America

The movie business is designed to sniff out dollars. It chases money better than any other industry in America. When something works, Hollywood runs it down and shakes coins out of it and then abandons the carcass as soon as there's no more cash. The next 18 months are going to be strange because the films that just made some money are going to dictate what you will see from here on in until another shift or change happens in the culture.

Hollywood just made a ton of money by putting out a film that appeals to conservative, pro-military Middle Americans. This is an audience for which the coastal enclaves (with their Fifth Columnists, of course) have a special kind of contempt. No one makes a movie that will play in rural Mississippi unless it has Transformers or Super Heroes in it, and, even then, the audience they're chasing is young, Asian and male.

Someone is going to make another version of American Sniper, and then there will be a half dozen knockoffs or films of a similar nature. They will chase the rapidly evaporating movie patron until there's nothing left of the industry. They'll do that because someone will wisely figure out that they can put on a television show that appeals to this audience and make bank.

Laugh At Me, Will You?

I can respect the fact that people want to control their schools at the local level. If it is the will of the community to celebrate ignorance and eliminate critical thinking from education, be my guest. I don't have to live in your town, so it really does not affect me one way or the other. A fear of history and of what America has been can turn even the staunchest patriot's stomach. I mean, good God, man. We once took a massive population of Native Americans and force marched them to a hellhole called Oklahoma and...and...

Oh, this is in Oklahoma? Someone should have said something.

Anti-intellectualism starts down a long and interesting path. Soon, it becomes all too apparent that the works of the old masters are full of perversions and the kinds of filth not suitable for public display. All of those passionate paintings? They need to go. Replace them with landscapes and pictures of rotting fruit.

The "false wall" separating the church from the state isn't false at all. It's very real. It was put there for the purpose of keeping yahoos like Oklahoma Representative Dan Fisher from doing stupid things to the local schools (that was the original intent of the Founding Fathers--stop the yahoos!) and ruining them for future generations.

Imagine what will happen when a kid from Oklahoma shows up at a university where they actually teach things to young people and that kid sits down in History 101 and answers "Jeebus" when the question posed was, "who ordered the Trail of Tears March?" That kid is going to be laughed out of college and will have to return to Oklahoma, flat busted broke and incapable of functioning in a polite society.

Damn, what a waste. And that kid won't be able to get a job so they'll have to look around, maybe start a bug killing' business or a massage parlor or maybe--just maybe--have to run for office by claiming that Jeebus is the Answer. In Oklahoma, that kid will be governor by sundown on a ticket like that. Laugh at that, you Godless libs.

Sure enough, Governor kid shows up in Washington D. C. and won't have any idea who did what and why is that building over there and how come this is how you get a bill passed and where's my money and then they'll laugh, just like they laughed in college.

Next thing you know, Oklahoma is seceding from America and we've got another Civil War on our hands. Oh, won't someone think of those poor kids being made stupid?

Jessica Roy Enriches the Language

The new term is manslamming:
there’s a helpful new word in the man-as-prefix lexicon. Meet “manslamming,” which New York magazine’s Jessica Roy uses to describe the behavior that is, on a sidewalk, refusing to yield to a fellow pedestrian such that a collision inevitably ensues. More broadly, Roy says, it’s “the sidewalk M.O. of men who remain apparently oblivious to the personal space of those around them.” It is (usually) done by men, (usually) at the expense of women. It is (usually) done unconsciously.
Awful behavior. I instinctively give way and get out of the way when I'm in public. I abhor the possibility of causing injury to someone else. That's more Minnesota Nice than it is anything else. Maybe I picked it up in the Army, which is where you have to get along with people or find yourself in peril. Who knows?

How Could This Show Have Failed?

The only thing Americans want to see on television involves New York City, young people, and quirky relationships. You can take that to the bank. Except when shows like this tank and get cancelled, of course.

I don't care about super heroes and I don't care about people from New York. Is that the most awful thing ever? Absolutely.

Every Film You Will See From Now On

I don't know if this is true or not, but there's a conversation out there about the future of film. There are some voices who are speaking out about the business side of feature films and the thinking is, most of the big budget films, if not all of them, are going to be produced and marketed to 19 year-old Chinese males.

That means more Michael Bay and a whole lot less David Fincher.

The business side of that makes sense--China is hungry for the soft power of Hollywood's entertainment complex and there isn't any sense in chasing an American middle class dollar that isn't there anymore. Emerging markets have a demand and, if you don't fill it, something else will.

Anthony Cumia Wanted to Get Fired

This really doesn't change anything because Anthony Cumia (and Opie & Anthony as a whole) thrives on the notoriety and shock of being fired from their gigs.  Someone somewhere is dying to hire him and pay him more money than he was making because people want to hear what he does. Apparently, the Sirius XM gig wasn't working out. Something else will.

On satellite radio, they're allowed to say whatever they want and that's okay. The culture has accepted what they do and they have been given a platform to do it. There's money in it, so someone is always going to give Cumia a job.

When the audience for this kind of thing dries up, then we'll have a news story.