Society

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  LifeSiteNews.com, 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.

Cursive




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.

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?

Stuff White People Like


Did you know that "Stuff White People Like" is still in existence? It hasn't been updated in over four years, but if they were going to go with #137, they could submit "the 2015 Oscars nominations."

Yes, this is the whitest year in twenty years in terms of prestigious film award nominations:
Today's Oscar nominations contained a host of snubs that have critics and commentators up in arms (as they do every year). But the optics of this year's slate are particularly egregious when you combine the surprising coolness towards Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma—nominated for Best Picture but missing in the Director, Actor, and Screenplay categories—with the fact that all 20 acting nominees this year are white, the first time such a thing has happened since the Oscars honoring the films of 1995.
The Oscar slate that year featured a lot of British period dramas (Braveheart, Sense and Sensibility, Rob Roy), specific American historical pieces (Nixon, Dead Man Walking, Apollo 13), small-scale romantic dramas (Leaving Las Vegas, The Bridges of Madison County), and the talking-pig movie Babe. If the lack of diversity among the nominees was noted, it was probably less remarked-upon because there was no obvious "Oscar film” featuring people of color getting snubbed. We expect the Academy Awards to ignore all kinds of great genre material; the 2015 list feels all the more galling because David Oyelowo's performance and Ava DuVernay's direction were not just extraordinarily good, but also very Oscar-friendly.
Isn't a great thing for America to have no outstanding issues with regards to race or racism anymore? Isn't it just the greatest thing ever for an institution that has traditionally failed to follow up on efforts to diversify who gets awards to end up shitting the bed during an entire calendar year of race-related news events? Can you say out of touch with modern American society?

Congratulations go out to all the white people who are excited to see mediocrity win more awards. Yay!

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?

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?

Let Someone With a Real Life Write About Being on Drugs


The failure here is not that Maureen Dowd cannot write; the failure is that, when Maureen Dowd writes, her ridiculously privileged life as a working member of the punditry gets in the way of common sense.

If you go to Colorado and do drugs, you will not come up with anything worth writing about it you've already made up your mind to warn kids of the dangers. Real people with a real life can tell you what drugs do and they don't need an old media bag of nuts to tell them otherwise. Ask a grandma on meth in rural West Virginia if she thinks being on a little weed in a hotel room is a bad thing and you might not like the answer. Kids don't care, kids don't follow, kids just wanna get high.

Idiot.

Ridiculous


Nigella Lawson's admission of using cocaine has resulted in her being barred from entry into this country. I think that this is absurd and opens up the policy behind it for ridicule.

The list of people who have admitted doing cocaine and/or worse is too long to even begin to contemplate. There is no reason whatsoever for this country to admit the likes of Eric Clapton or Keith Richards and yet, it would be unthinkable for U.S. authorities in this day and age to deny them entry to the United States.

Policies like this hit people in the arts and entertainment field pretty hard. But they are rarely applied in a fair and uniform manner. Lawson may exist in that realm between reality television and non-fiction television where a specific set of professional skills are displayed, but she does not deserve to be barred from entry just because of an admitted use of drugs.

Now, if she shows up at the border looking like she smashed a powdered doughnut into her nose and carrying an Archer amount of cocaine, yeah, you could bar her.

The Demise of the E-book Market


Now that all of the book stores are gone, you mean to tell me no one wants e-books anymore?
Tim Waterstone, the founder of the Waterstone's book shop chain, has predicted that the "e-book revolution" will soon go into decline in the UK.
He told the Oxford Literary Festival printed books would remain popular for decades, the Daily Telegraph reported.
"E-books have developed a share of the market, of course they have," he said.
"But every indication - certainly from America - shows the share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK."
For the first eight months of 2013, e-book sale were worth $800m in the US, down 5% on the same period the previous year, according to the Association of American Publishers.
The experience of reading a book on a device, no matter how expensive it is, still doesn't rival the actual experience of reading a printed book. The e-reader might be a permanent tool used by people who have to maintain and regularly use a lot of printed material, but the occasional reader still prefers a book. It's too bad we couldn't have saved more bookstores, however.

There may come a day when the only place to buy a book is online--from Amazon. Or in an airport. Maybe, someone will come up with a good hybrid for books and music and start a business model that will work as a retail outlet.

The Art of Runic Cipher

Kiss me.

That's what one Viking said to another, in code, with runes. And, in the process of figuring all of this out, we find a universal truth in communication and in human interaction--nothing changes. Simple emotions and sentimental ideas worked a thousand years ago and they work today.

The Jötunvillur code is actually fairly easy to understand. The complexity comes from not having a complete picture of how to break it out:


It's a substitution code that can be easily broken if you know the sounds of the letters. This is one of the most common ciphers, and it's not uncommon to find these forms of communication in old or ancient texts. I think what made it difficult to break was the fact that we don't converse in the language anymore.

A Show That Predicted Our New Reality


A decade ago, ESPN weathered the controversy over the show Playmakers. It represented ESPN's futile effort to become a real broadcast network. It was fiction--it was a piece of art, to be honest with you--that tried to give ESPN the credibility it had frittered away by showing ridiculous trash sports for years. To go from filler programming like Australian Rules Football to a scripted drama that was on par with the shows on entertainment television brought ESPN a great deal of praise.

The problem was, the praise and the ratings weren't enough to get the show renewed. It was really controversial and it broke new ground. It showed the inside-baseball stuff about football that people regularly consume on Deadspin and on a number of other websites. The NFL begged ESPN to kill it and ESPN is, if nothing else, a whore for the three major professional sports leagues and the NCAA.

People need to understand the three biggest problems that the NFL is facing right now--concussions, racism, and homophobia. These issues could come back and cause the league to collapse under the weight of endless lawsuits. Playmakers was an excellent example of how a show with artistic and commercial qualities was able to reflect this reality back at society and inform while entertaining. How many shows actually ever do that well?

What people don't get is that the younger players have moved beyond sexual orientation because they have lived in the culture as it is, not as it was. We are a long way away from the normalization of sexual identity and orientation--call me when Tom Cruise and John Travolta have their badly-needed moment of clarity and honesty. The older part of the NFL--the players who have been around for a while, the coaches and the front office personnel--still live in a world where institutionalized homophobia is how Jesus would have wanted it.

ESPN failed to see the value in being a patron of the arts instead of a splayed-out whore for a collection of billion dollar franchises. That's why I always laugh when I see comments from ESPN's ombudsman. Really? A critic on the payroll? Give me a break. ESPN will never search for its soul.

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.

Jaime Fuller Shows Us How to Hate Lena Dunham


When this whole Lena Dunham thing exploded, I was living in Germany. I still don't get what it's about, other than that it fills a void in HBO's programming and gives hipsters something to fret about.

Jaime Fuller is the real star of this article--this is how to hate someone without actually giving us proof she hates Dunham. I suspect it is that intellectual envy that sets in when someone is given way more attention and money than they deserve. Elizabeth Wurtzel comes to mind.

In the arts, the worst thing you can do is become wildly successful at a very young age and enjoy your success. To the vast majority of people in this country, Dunham is a New York thing that they don't much care about. The entirety of that slice of the movie Frozen, where Idina Menzel--at the age of 42--sings Let it Go, is a thing. It is something that has resonated through the popular culture and will have a timelessness that will serve as a reference point for this generation of kids.

Your garden variety hipsters will never see a Disney film but what they are missing is the fact that Menzel--the consummate New York theater voice with Broadway chops and her own Tony--has crossed the hell over. There are a lot of other Menzels out there, but Dunham isn't one of them. That's because her thing is of precious value to a handful of people who write about their obsessions. She is the Captain Beefheart of modern popular culture. Everyone hip knows who she is, but the plebes and peasants ain't buying it.

The rejection of Dunham isn't about the fact that she is from New York. Good God, people are enthralled with New York because every single television show is about New York and stars interesting people from New York, right? What the hell were Seinfeld and Friends but an over-hyped pair of love letters to NYC mailed in each week from Southern California?

What will Dunham mean to kids who are now living in the American Midwest and will never see her show? Miss Fuller knows what the score is--Dunham isn't so much as a hit as she is a manufactured bit of old hat.