Ideas

Run It By Patti Davis First

Here's a little something else about that movie about Ronald Reagan that is not going to get made:

 McKay found himself in the middle of a truly bizarre nontroversy recently when the Gary Sanchez-produced Reagan, a film project rumored to star Will Ferrell as the late Republican commander-in-chief as he struggles with the effects of Alzheimer’s during his second term, came under heavy fire from conservatives—including members of Reagan’s own family—for allegedly mocking the oft-heralded politician. 

The problem? Nobody really knew if the film was going to mock Reagan for his illness. Outlets simply saw Ferrell as a rumored candidate for the role and their imaginations ran amok. 

“I’ve never been that close to a story like that where so little information became such a tidal wave. It was really crazy to behold,” says McKay. “People hadn’t even read the script, it was just three words: ‘Reagan, Ferrell, Alzheimer’s,’ and it became this huge thing. Finally, The Hollywood Reporter wrote a piece where they actually read the script and thought it was a really thoughtful script and tender towards Reagan, but yeah, it’s this culture we live in. It’s all about clicks, clicks, clicks, and hits, hits, hits.” 

“I kept saying when that story snowballed, ‘Is there anyone who really thinks Will Ferrell would make a comedy about a horrible disease like Alzheimer’s?’ In a million years no one would do that!” he continues. “You’d have people on the left and right coming after you. I think it’s more about the deification of Ronald Reagan, where you can’t go near the subject of Ronald Reagan. Remember all the brouhaha over that Reagan miniseries? That miniseries was so soft, but nobody wants to hear anything near the reality of Reagan’s eight years as president.” 

Now, no one should try to advise Adam McKay or Will Ferrell about which movies they should make when, clearly, this should have been a Russell Brand and Sacha Baron Cohen buddy flick all along. Whoever owns the rights to this story  should have submitted the idea and the script to Patti Davis first. That way, she could have taken some points on the back end and given you the green light. 

Patti Davis made a very astute and public relations-savvy condemnation appear to be wholly sympathetic when she denounced the project, which, as others have pointed out, is sympathetic and sensitive to the topic of Alzheimer's while telling a very compelling story. The fact that it involved Reagan and a period of time when he was carrying a gun around in a briefcase and had access to the nation's nuclear codes is something no one polite should ever bring up, okay?

From now on, anyone who references the fact that Reagan spent several years as president while suffering from Alzheimer's needs to go see Patti beforehand. Historians, you have been warned.

There Are No New Ideas


Basically, this is what the new Star Wars movie poster looks like. And when you make the fatal mistake of judging a film based on the movie poster, you come away with one of two possibilities--good film or meh film. It looks to me like this is going to be a rehash of all of the ideas found in the original trilogy. There are new faces and all that, but, essentially, the whole thing will boil down to a new Darth Vader and a new planet-killing "death star" weapon that everyone has to stop. At some point, it'll looks like it will be about daddy issues and a countdown to destruction.
Talk about risk averse. Nope, we're not getting anything more than a Star Wars version of the second Star Trek film--the Wrath of Cumberbatch.
Yay! They ressurected a billion dollar franchise and then just recycled old ideas in order to hoover money out of the pockets of gullible people. If someone thought that they were going to be daring and go off on wild tangents and come up with a new way to tell this story, they would be wrong. This is exactly what they did with the first and second Star Trek films--they retold a story everyone already knew.
I hope I'm wrong, of course, because ruining things is no fun. 

John Boyega and That Stormtrooper Outfit


Here's my first reaction to seeing John Boyega in a stormtrooper uniform on the surface of a desert planet.

Cinematically, this is a single reaction shot, designed to orient the audience/viewer to a new scene or the beginning of a scene. Boyega rises up, gives a solid reaction, and then moves in the frame to a new perspective that does not appear in the clip.

This suggests that the actor has been knocked out, incapacitated, or is recovering from being struck or disabled in some way. His shocked demeanor supports that.

The idea that he is, in fact a stormtrooper is a stretch for me because he is considered one of the "good guys." That would suggest the Boyega is wearing the uniform as a ruse and nothing more. He put on the armor in order to escape from a situation or to pass himself off as someone he is not. Where's the helmet? Removed because this is not who he is and this is not his actual uniform? Probably.

The Internet exploded with outrage; however, in keeping with the cinematic history, using a stormtrooper uniform to escape detection or deceive the real bad guys goes back to Episode Four, which, of course, begins with a crash-landing on the desert planet that has seen so much action.

I could be entirely wrong, of course, and I'll eat my words a year from now...

Ed Emberley Taught Me How to Draw


The kicker is, I can't draw!

But I do have a good memory, and this is a page I haven't seen in nearly 35 years. It is the assembly line method of drawing vehicles, done by Ed Emberley.

Emberley was an innovated artist who illustrated kids books. That may sound simple enough, but the complexity of his work and the sophistication of his methods put him among the best of 20th Century's graphic artists.

Amazing stuff, and his work has been saved and restored.

The Economist Reviews The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.


How slaves built American capitalism


Patsey was certainly a valuable property
The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.
By Edward Baptist.
“FOR sale: a coloured girl, of very superior qualifications…a bright mulatto, fine figure, straight, black hair, and very black eyes; very neat and cleanly in her dress and person.” Such accounts of people being marketed like livestock punctuate Edward Baptist’s grim history of the business of slavery.
Although the import of African slaves into the United States was stopped in 1807, the country’s internal slave trade continued to prosper and expand for a long time afterwards. Right up until the outbreak of the civil war in 1861, the American-born children and grandchildren of enslaved Africans were bought cheap in Virginia and Maryland to be sold dear in private deals and public auctions to cotton planters in the deep South.
Tall men commanded higher prices than short ones. Women went for less than men. The best bids were for men aged 18 to 25 and for women aged 15 to 22. One slave recalled buyers passing up and down the lines at a Virginia slave auction, asking, “What can you do? Are you a good cook? Seamstress? Dairy maid?” and to the men, “Can you plough? Are you a blacksmith?” Slaves who gave surly answers risked a whipping from their masters.
Raw cotton was America’s most valuable export. It was grown and picked by black slaves. So Mr Baptist, an historian at Cornell University, is not being especially contentious when he says that America owed much of its early growth to the foreign exchange, cheaper raw materials and expanding markets provided by a slave-produced commodity. But he overstates his case when he dismisses “the traditional explanations” for America’s success: its individualistic culture, Puritanism, the lure of open land and high wages, Yankee ingenuity and government policies.
Take, for example, the astonishing increases he cites in both cotton productivity and cotton production. In 1860 a typical slave picked at least three times as much cotton a day as in 1800. In the 1850s cotton production in the southern states doubled to 4m bales and satisfied two-thirds of world consumption. By 1860 the four wealthiest states in the United States, ranked in terms of wealth per white person, were all southern: South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia.
Mr Baptist cites the testimony of a few slaves to support his view that these rises in productivity were achieved by pickers being driven to work ever harder by a system of “calibrated pain”. The complication here was noted by Hugh Thomas in 1997 in his definitive history, “The Slave Trade”; an historian cannot know whether these few spokesmen adequately speak for all.
Another unexamined factor may also have contributed to rises in productivity. Slaves were valuable property, and much harder and, thanks to the decline in supply from Africa, costlier to replace than, say, the Irish peasants that the iron-masters imported into south Wales in the 19th century. Slave owners surely had a vested interest in keeping their “hands” ever fitter and stronger to pick more cotton. Some of the rise in productivity could have come from better treatment. Unlike Mr Thomas, Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.

Casey Kasem Was Not a Beloved Figure


There have been a lot of tributes to Casey Kasem in the wake of his death, but, really, they ignore the fact that he was not a beloved figure within his own radio community.

This outtake was leaked specifically because it was hilarious and showed the real man. He goes ballistic in the studio, yelling at his staffers, and they leaked it because he was a dick, plain and simple.

What will endure for Kasem is the voice work he did for animated shows. He will forever be the voice of Shaggy from the Scooby Doo cartoons, but no one will remember the various Top 40 programs in any substantive way. He was responsible for killing the franchise he created by leaving the program over money and then creating a rival show with the same format.

It was formula broadcasting--the host would record intros and bumpers and filler and then engineers would use the full three hour block to inject songs into the program wherever there weren't commercials. Radio stations were issued this program on vinyl records for decades, and I remember spinning them. The manner in which it airs now is irrelevant largely because it is in the hands of Ryan Seacrest and, because of that, it's all but dead in terms of cultural significance.

It was filler, and nothing more. Radio hosts like Kasem have gone the way of Arthur Godfrey.

I know. Who?

My Whole Life is a Trigger Alert


Whoa, my friends, whoa!

Trigger warning--this post is not about dead parrots. Stop reading right now if you are terrified of being confronted with things that are readable:
Trigger warnings have become a common staple of internet conversations for years now, a means of alerting readers – especially those who’ve experienced trauma and especially women — to subject matter that could kick up intense reactions. And they are, depending on the things you tend to read and your perspective on healthy discourse, a useful tool for greater sensitivity or a chilling means of putting a fence around certain kinds of dialogue. Either way, they’re unavoidable. It’s already been two years since the Awl declared the phrase had “lost all its meaning” and noted “this useful thing has spread a litttttle far afield.” Yet unlike other phrases that have come and gone since, “trigger warning” has only grown more ubiquitous, more recently moving from online debates to cropping up on college syllabi. Salon observed the phenomenon earlier this year, calling them “an imperfect but sometimes necessary band-aid on the open and gaping wounds plaguing college campuses — rampant sexual violence, for starters.” And then the New York Times took on the issue this week, with a feature on how “The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm.” In it, writer Jennifer Medina reports that students at “Oberlin College, Rutgers University, the University of Michigan, George Washington University and other schools” have this year all requested trigger warnings accompany certain classroom materials. And at the University of California, Santa Barbara – where this spring associate professor Dr. Mireille Miller-Young had an altercation with anti-abortion protesters because she said she’d been “triggered” by their signs —  the Associated Students Senate and Office of the Student Advocate General has formally requested “professors alert students of class content that can potentially ‘trigger’ symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in those who have experienced traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse or fighting in war.” Santa Barbara sophomore Bailey Loverin, a sexual abuse survivor, explained to the Times, “We’re not talking about someone turning away from something they don’t want to see. People suddenly feel a very real threat to their safety — even if it is perceived. They are stuck in a classroom where they can’t get out, or if they do try to leave, it is suddenly going to be very public.”
That whole paragraph should come with a trigger alert. But the problem with all of this is that we are trying to use sensitivity when we should be using the rule of law.

The fact that America's college campuses are teeming with rapists is entirely due to the fact that the police aren't arresting serial date rapists and that judges are not putting these men in jail. The law is failing people and, by extension, the foolishness of having campus police forces who do nothing about rapists means that failure will be common until someone successfully sues a university and takes millions from them.

Exposure to the culture should not require trigger alerts. It should include accountability and honesty. When those things fail to be applied to the very real trauma of rape or the indifference of society towards victims, the exposed wounds are incapable of healing. And, really, that should be the provision of mental health professionals, not amateur sensitivity cops. Mental health professionals should have, as one of their first tasks, a plan for helping people get past traumatic trigger events and help create a working method for mitigating exposure to elements of the culture that can trigger a negative response.

I am all for being sensitive, but let's assign blame to the incompetence of the people who should be righting wrongs by using the law.

The BBC Makes a Commitment to the Arts


This is admirable, but if you were to ask an American what has been the BBC's most successful export in terms of the arts, many might say Downton Abbey.

And, they would be wrong. Downton is a product of ITV, not the BBC.

Nevertheless, the appeal of the arts has never been greater. If you look at the quality of the television that has been produced in the United States over the last decade--True Detective, Breaking Bad, Louie, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, The Wire--the Brits have nothing to compare them with, save Sherlock and Downton (and how long will that last, given how much everyone hated Season Four?). Television programs produced for commercial gain really do much better as artistic achievements.

That's not a knock against what the BBC is trying to do--it's just a realization that if you have a great idea and if you want to do something of extremely high quality that will have a lasting cultural and artistic impact, your ass ought to be in front of an executive working for AMC, FX, HBO or Showtime--someone like that. They're going to have some deeper pockets than the BBC. It's just that simple.

Time to Write Poetry


If Obamacare has arrived in your life and if it has given you more leisure time, I guess you need to make the Republican Party happy and start writing poetry:
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Sunday said Democrats are pushing poetry as an alternative to holding a job.
During an appearance on Fox News, he referred to the results of a report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that finds millions of American workers might move away from full-time employment because of benefits offered through ObamaCare.
Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), say that the law allows workers to alleviate themselves from “job-lock” — staying in a job that’s otherwise unwanted or disliked, simply to collect healthcare benefits.
Media reports say Pelosi fired back at the Republican interpretation of the CBO report — that ObamaCare kills jobs — by saying the workers are now able to leave jobs to “[follow] their aspirations to be a writer; to be self-employed; to start a business.”
Gowdy honed in on the remarks, saying they are part of a larger effort to smooth over flaws with the healthcare reform law and its rollout during an election year.
“What the liberals and the Democrats want you to believe is, ‘Well, but you’ll have time to write poetry,’ ” Gowdy said. “Well, that’s great until you try and buy your grandkid a birthday present or you try and pay the heating bill.”
Robert Frost never had a problem buying farms or giving presents or teaching people how to write. Why do Republicans hate the Humanities? Why do Republicans hate Americans like Robert Frost?

When a person has more free time to begin writing poetry and living a life of leisure and art, their quality of life skyrockets (unless they have no talent, of course). No one really believes that we will see a new poet laureate emerge from the ranks of those employed solely because they couldn't otherwise afford health care but we could see a happier society based on things that make Republicans shit their pants. Well worth it, in my opinion.

OOMF Explained


The BBC Trending page wants to know--what does oomf mean and what context does it have in relation to social media?

The hashtag #oomf has a number of definitions, and I'm not going to say that mine is the definitive one. But I will take a crack at what it implies. Translated, the acronym "oomf" means "one of my friends" or "one of my followers." This is an important distinction when it comes to giving others credit for something.

Much of what you see on social networking sites comes from things that are shared; the number of people who do original work or come up with original items is much smaller than the overall network. You have one out of ten people, perhaps, supplying the fodder or the material that others talk about. One way to rise up is to create unique things and have been share what you've done with their followers.

Now, there are two things to remember. One, ometimes, people want to make it clear that they didn't come up with the original idea that is being shared around the social networking site. They want to be honest and say, "this is cool, but one of the people who follows me or a friend of mine came up with it." This properly assigns credit; it can mark the user as being an honest person. This is why putting down #oomf works--it shows credibility and character; being trustworthy and having a semblance of ethics makes people want to connect with you.

The other use for #oomf is when you want to deflect criticism. "Don't blame me--I didn't come up with this!" is one way out of trouble. Say that you have decided to share something foul or outrageous. If you put #oomf in there and claim one of your followers came up with the filthy joke, then you can reassign blame or accountability. This can help preserve fragile relationships.

Alec Baldwin is a Hot Mess


Alec Baldwin's flameout has turned into a train wreck worthy of comparisons to Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes:
Baldwin, whose show “Up Late With Alec Baldwin” was terminated by mutual decision on Tuesday, following a backlash over his use of a homophobic slur, told Gothamist in an interview that “the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy” — in particular, GLAAD vice president of communications Rich Ferraro and gay writer Andrew Sullivan — had “killed” his show. 
While maintaining that he had not used the word “faggot” during his confrontation with a paparazzo earlier this year — Baldwin has said that he uttered “fathead” instead — the actor nonetheless singled out Ferraro and Sullivan for blame.

Baldwin has the maturity level of a child and no control over his anger or his mouth. You know it's bad when his other brothers start sounding like the real voices of reason. He has now invented something that does not exist--the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy should enter the vernacular as a fitting epitaph for what used to be his career.

Here you have someone who is at the top of their profession and is a tireless champion of the arts and charity and he ruins everything by opening his mouth. What a shame.

Really?


I must have missed this, but the character that Evangeline Lilly will play in the next Hobbit film is, well...

Completely. Made. Up.

That's right.

Peter Jackson and whoever is helping him usher this project into existence just decided to add some characters and Tauriel (Lilly) is one of them.

If you had told me that this was what he was going to do, I wouldn't have been too surprised, but still. Just adding a character to such an established work takes guts.

The Celts


This looks like a must-have if not a must-read kind of book.

Having been in a museum of Celtic artifacts, this one, as a matter of fact, I can tell you--the Celts were like everyone else the Romans conquered. They had their own culture, their own achievements, their own masterful ways about them, and the Romans simply absorbed it all and took credit for it.

In particular, Robb notes that the Celts had to have had their own system of roads. If you look at the wagon, pictured in the burial chamber at Hochdorf, you can clearly see that the wheels would not have survived more than a country mile on uneven ground.

Graham Robb is helping to prove that the Romans were history's best example of what plagiarism and stealing and appropriating things can do for an empire.

What Did Your Badger Find?

Is there anywhere in Germany where there aren't buried treasures and interesting pieces of history?

I always wanted to go digging, but discretion got the better part of me. Walking around with a metal detector in Germany is like going for a walk in a minefield--you never know which piece of what war you're going to end up having to run away from. There are laws, of course, and there are people who go looking for artifacts all the time, but still. Someone once said that every forest in Germany was once a battlefield; I would tend to believe it. And everywhere you look, there are graves.