07
Nov 16

Off the cuff review of the DOCTOR STRANGE movie

We saw DOCTOR STRANGE With great enjoyment today. I think we would have once called this movie “trippy”…On Marc Laidlaw’s advice we saw it in 3D and IMAX–normally I don’t “do” 3D, I find it to be usually lame and a pain in the ass, but this time 3D was quite appropriate and worked great. You could dig the film without it but if you can, see it in 3D. One of the primary special effects programs used is something we’ve seen variations of online, right here on facebook, but blown up huge and carried to wild extrapolation. I did not feel it was “too white” or something–Dr Strange was always a white guy, Tilda Swinton (who plays a Celtic “ancient one”, living in Nepal), was very good indeed; Cumberbatch is perfect for the part as an actor and looks just right; Mordo, played by a black actor whose name I cannot hope to spell, is excellent. There are Asian characters, there are Asian settings, but most of all this is …very much like the comic, to me. Not excessively so. Dormammu was quite well done.

I hesitate to say too much…The story works better than comic superhero movies usually do. That’s because they didn’t over amp it, in the first half, it’s fast paced but not too much; there is nuance…The car crash in the film, by the way, is maybe the best dramatization of a big ugly car crash I’ve ever seen…

Some may find the movie’s potent explosions of visuals to be to much too process–indeed, I’ll have to see it again to process it all–but basically, if you wanted Doctor Strange in a big budget movie, THIS IS IT. One of the top comic adaptations ever.

There are two extra scenes in the credits, one toward the beginning of them, one at the end. When Stan Lee does his cameo, note the book he’s reading.


04
Nov 16

Third Party Choices–Smothered Voices

I say this as someone who voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary: People who feel that voting for Hillary Clinton next month is “voting for the lesser of evils” (it’s not the lesser of evils, she isn’t evil)…people who think that it’s important to make a statement by voting for a third party candidate who (in this case) cannot possibly win, thus taking a vote away from the only person who in this situation can stop a neo-fascist demagogue, are people who care about their emotions than they care about the poor–the poor, the working class, will be hurt if *any* Republican gets into office, including Trump who’s against an increase in minimum wage, against food stamps.

They’re people who care about their hurt feelings more than they care about the environment, the biosphere–which will be irretrievably damaged if another Republican gets into the White House, especially if that Republican is Donald “climate change isn’t real” Trump.

They don’t care about women and children who will die in the planned carpet bombing of the Middle East Trump trumpets about.

They don’t care about Democracy, which will be definitively undermined if Trump gets control of the Supreme Court.

They care about taking a stand that will make them feel distinctive more than they care about women who will be hurt by the inevitable erosion in women’s rights when Trump is elected.

They only care that their particular, personal schemata, their philosophy of “if it’s not everything I want it’s nothing” doesn’t take precedence. They fantasize, perhaps, that “Trump’s election will bring about a leftist revolution”–something they actually know isn’t true.

Their decision is completely emotional. It’s anger. It’s not reason. And they don’t care who gets hurt.


22
Oct 16

The Inexorable Approach of Halloween

It’ll soon be Halloween. There’s not much Halloween left in the world, in a certain sense–the traditional, All Hallows Eve feeling of it, the true Sleepy Hollow atmosphere, the harvest moon, the conciliation of coming winter, mellow fruition and gathering mists, awareness of lengthening nights and cowed, bowed-down days …usually lacking in what people do now, because we so rarely gather for Halloween parties, and it’s down to buying a surprisingly elaborate mechanically wriggly special effect of a Halloween decoration, that stalks up and down the lawn declaring in the recorded voice of some underpaid non-SAG actor that it’s going to “drag you into the grave”…and you bought it at Target…But some people clearly love the whole idea of modern Halloween and the chance to put up elaborate displays on their lawn and roof; and there’s charm in that, seeing some guy who never misses church, who totally disapproves of goths when he sees them in July, chuckling with saturnine gleefulness as he sets up big plastic inflatable ghosts toting signs that say “See you at Midnight!” and “Boo!”

If you google ‘why do people like horror’, you’ll see a long list of people puzzling over the question, finally offering the same old explanations: enjoying adrenaline rushes, exorcising one’s inner psychological ghosts and demons–fears, fury, fantasies–an unconscious shield against death, a ritual expiation to quiet troubled spirits but carried out unconsciously in horror stories and Halloween…And it’s pointed out that there are horrific scenes in Homer and Shakespeare, that Goya and Munch were great artists who found dark feelings, fear and madness, creatively significant…

And then there’s the true shudder, like the news from Syria. Horror is a safe way to explore the dark places of life, and to acknowledge death from a careful distance. Zombies, the living dead, the Walking Dead…all about walking dead people which really means, Death Itself Walking. Death stalking inexorably toward you; for though you’re young you’ve been told you’re mortal. And the Walking Dead embody your fear of mortality coming slowly, unstoppably, to…drag you into the grave.

Happy Halloween.


21
Oct 16

Apparently You’re Supposed to Vote for Trump Because He was Given a Lunch

Our Voter’s Pamphlet here includes a section for the Presidential candidates. Clinton’s statement is almost entirely a list of the issues and plans for the country. DONALD J TRUMP’s “statement” tells us he is a success story, that he’s the author of “15 bestsellers” and “Mr. Trump has over 20 million followers on social media…” He claims to have raised millions of dollars for veterans but the only example he gives is “working as Grand Marshal of the 1996 annual New York City Veteran’s Day parade…in front of an audience of 1.4 million viewers…”and he was “honored by the Pentagon” for this by being “given a lunch with the Secretary of Defense”.

Meanwhile, “in New York City, the Trump signature is synonymous with the most prestigious of addresses, among them the world renowned Fifth Avenue skyscraper, Trump Tower, and his ever-expanding collection of award-winning golf course (18 thus far).” The statement includes six lines of generality about his policies, eg ” promote a free market” and “rebuild our military” (which apparently shrank when I wasn’t looking, is no longer Pac Man munching wildly on the US budget)…

Almost all of the statement’s 5 paragraphs concerns things Trump owns, or his popularity. So vote for Trump’s golf courses, and his real estate, and his social media presence. And his having sat in a car and waved at people as Grand Marshal in a veteran’s parade even though he actually wriggled out of military service.

All of Clinton’s statement is on the issues–except she includes a line or two of political platitudes about national unity.


18
Oct 16

It’s not just the PRESIDENTIAL race. . .

Headlines: Republicans plan to block any Supreme Court nominee Hillary Clinton would put in play.

Hate that?

Just remember, it’s not only about the Presidential campaign.

If you don’t like Republicans blocking a Democrat’s Supreme Court nominees–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like our enslavement to Big Oil–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the nightmarish availability of guns–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the crushing of the middle class and the poor–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the suppression of science and climate change truth

– then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT. Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.

If you don’t like the erosion of women’s rights–

then show up to vote at *congressional races* and vote Republicans OUT Encourage your friends to register to vote; encourage your friends to put on their coats, encourage your friends to simply note: they must vote the Republicans out.


29
Sep 16

Could Russia Take Over the USA Through Cyberhacking?

Is it possible that Russia could take over the USA without firing a shot? I feel a bit sheeplish, as if I might come off like some guy in the John Birch Society, writing that. But we’re not talking about Communists (though we’re talking about a Russian regime that seems to admire Stalin’s methods) or “commie infiltration”. Top American bigshots, Harry Reid, Clinton, Obama, and even the CIA have expressed concern about the evident Russian hacking of the DNC–and indications that Russian cyber agents hacked into the primaries in Arizona. There seems to be some sort of backroom agreement between Trump and Putin; there are enough indications that one can infer it, at least.
And if Russia were to tinker with our voting, even take it over, without anyone being able to quite prove it…would the US Gov actually declare the voting process to be without validity? If the Russians gave elections to right-wingers with whom they may’ve made deals, and the US govt discovered this, wouldn’t the govt risk an uprising if they said, “Election invalidated”?
If the Russians can insert candidates favorable to them–could they actually make backroom deals with those candidates, more candidates than Trump, that give them control over the USA? “You will be ‘elected’, but you must do as we ask…” Perhaps in a few years “congress” would “vote” to merge the USA and Russia.
Paranoia? Maybe. But it’s time to take international hacking of voting far, far more seriously.

24
Sep 16

SCUMMY WEBSITE OF THE WEEK

There are sites that have quizzes like “Can you name the capitals of these 25 countries?” Seeing it on a friend’s page and feeling guilty lately about my geography, I took one such at a site called Matador dot com or something of the sort, and it said I got all of them right. So I should share with my social networks. Here’s a link to… etc. How likely I would get them all right? I knew I didn’t. So I checked with wikipedia and yep I got at least four wrong. (Four of the Five I thought I probably got wrong.) So it lies and says everyone is right so they’ll share, to harvest clicks, to get clicks to their bloodsucking site which I idiotically went to when I was avoiding getting some real stuff done I need to do…

This matador site and others like them need to be busted over and over if needed. Just such contempt for people–and for knowledge.

Speaking of wasting time to avoid getting stuff done, I better get offline and face the music. (I have to write lyrics for something and starting any writing, even that, is hard.)


24
Sep 16

Review of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016 remake)

We saw the 2016 version of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN today, not quite a remake. We enjoyed the film, well, *sufficiently*; it was well paced, competently directed, had good to excellent acting in it, and more or less held together. It was however not the cinematic classic the original western was, with Yul Brynner and Eli Wallach–that was a *real movie*, with nothing wasted in it. The original didn’t have anything forced in, it didn’t feel choppily edited. As some have noted, the new one is rather pushily politically correct, in the progressive sense– I’m a liberal Democrat, but that aspect seemed forced, and uneven…In the opening scene there’s a clumsy speech by the villain connecting religion with capitalism, vilifying capitalism per se… Also that first, fairly vicious scene was in several other respects over the top.

Another thing this film is missing –painfully missing–is the original’s romance element, the two young peasants in love, the young man that chooses to stay and be what he thought he didn’t respect–a farmer. The idea that it’s harder to be a farmer than a gunfighter. That was the main sub-text, the main point of the original movie…Also, come to think of it–we never get a sense of the people of the town, as we did in the original. And the heroic young woman in this sort-of remake doesn’t really *go* anywhere as a character.

But it has its good qualities. Denzel Washington was very strong in this, but it bothered me that they didn’t show some of the racial bias toward his character that at least *some* of the townspeople would have had. (I mean, if you want to be politically progressive, show what it was like then, at least a bit.) Hell, you could have had a few of them object to him on that basis and the others say, “Shut up, he’s saving our asses and he’s a good man, I don’t care what color he is.” You know: they’d be realizing that color doesn’t matter–it’s character that matters. But they didn’t mention the issue. There’s one slight hint of racial attitude in Denzel’s first appearance. You see, it wasn’t needed in a movie like, say, THE EQUALIZER because despite some present day racism it’s not anywhere near as pervasive as it was in the old west…I really liked THE EQUALIZER–and racial issues don’t apply in that story. But in a movie set in the old west the issue should have at least come up.

Now I know, in a sense a western like this is a kind of fantasy: In real life, in this situation, the heroes would have killed a few of the bad guys, but that outnumbered, great shots or not, the Magnificent Seven would have been shot to pieces, in their first gunfight in that town…Still, no one wants that in a western like this. If you want to see a naturalistic western, you’re better off with Open Range or Unforgiven or Lonesome Dove…

As a guy who can buy into the fantasy of a high-action western, I went along for the ride. Yes there are so many bullets fired–far more than in the original western, seems to me–the action scenes become a blur. But there are some fun scenes in it–like the one where Chris Pratt’s character is dealing with the two deadbeat guys who jumped him–and some great characters, like Vincent D’onofrio’s character, and especially Ethan Hawke’s PTSD stricken ex-Rebel.

The heroes, also, are somewhat vulgar–and that’s a good thing, as it grounds us, makes us believe maybe they can be authentic western gunfighters who were, in fact, likely to be vulgar a fair amount, especially when getting drunk in a saloon.

Maybe the most entertaining part of the film is the humor that crops up. Pretty effective.

I could tell when something had been cut from the film–you could feel it, a bit too much. Gets choppy in parts. The Mexican character seems a bit under explored in the final cut.

Oh and there’s TOO MUCH GUN TWIRLING in this movie.

One may occasionally think of certain things in Blazing Saddles, watching this…but I won’t go there.

(Yes, I know, it was inspired by The Seven Samurai, but we’re talking about the American Western.)


24
Sep 16

Something You Probably Don’t Want to Know About Writing

Sometimes I think writers of fiction, of scripts and stories of all sorts, are simply bartenders making pleasing cocktails. But they’re cocktails made of hormones; “love hormones”,  fight-and-flight hormones;  they’re made of adrenaline, oxytocin, and their variations; of hormones we haven’t even identified yet. There is no doubt that a popular or at least effective story spurs small and large jets of adrenaline; of endorphins, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. The reader looks for that effect. If it’s not there they say it “doesn’t do anything for me”. I really do think writers are purveyors of precise cerebral and glandular stimulation. Some writers may specialize in a particular mix of hormones–a romantic suspense writer mixes some form of oxytocin with adrenocorticotropic hormone. I know: this kind of reductionism–a horrifying thought.

But then I remember that the best stories also mean something; that they’re parables of morality, or self-knowledge, or empathy or righteous anger or existential dilemma. They’re poetic. And the hormonal waves are the propellants for those parables.

Some stories don’t have much poetry–the sparest horror movies perhaps–but the better ones are so well crafted, even artfully crafted, we appreciate them on that level. So I take a deep breath, and mix another cocktail, and hope for a tip.


20
Sep 16

IKEA: ENDLESS RAT-MAZE OF MULTINATIONAL GREED

We were lost, today, in the Greed-Maze of Corporate Retail–an Ikea store. The size and proportions of a Babylonian temple…Display after brightly colored display, dispirited, zombie-eyed underpaid employees occasionally glimpsed. A powerful chemistry-set smell about the place. Phthalates, polyurethane, and their toxic compadres, as we’re shunted through room after room, no escape except if the place is on fire and the emergency exit is hard to find too. A lady who sounds like she is thinking, “I”m in Hell” speaks over the loudspeaker about a special Ikea bargain, what a great Family Opportunity it is. I see a young couple with two small children smilingly looking over furniture for their home, their children clambering on it, rolling in neurotoxic carcinogenic fire retardants…

The shunting of people, the funneling of people, through the gigantic corporate maze, making sure the consumer rat gets every last possible prodding for the desired response–relentlessly funneled as per the authentic map, below, of one floor of Ikea: A discount store we’re drawn to because they clothe the slightly-lower prices as a bargain even as they pass along some of the labor of construction to us–we construct the furniture ourselves at home, and save them a great deal of money…