Friday, December 29, 2017

The Insufferable Studying of Trump Supporters

At this point, I'm insufferably bored with liberal authors, celebrities, journalists, and college professors journeying into the "heartland of America" to try and understand conservative ideology and study Trump supporters like they're some exotic species replete with mystery and awe. They aren't. There are a number of predictable demographic factors (age, ethnicity, education level, economic mobility, contact with other cultures) which reliably create and reinforce conservative political beliefs. This can be demonstrated over and over and is hardly controversial or elusive data.

What we need more of is precisely the opposite; we should be finding ways for people 1) who have always lived within 50 miles of their rural or suburban hometown, 2) have less than a college degree, and 3) tune into Fox News and other right-wing media regularly to have more opportunities to see other parts of the world, meet people who aren't like them, and experience perspectives other than their own.

Can anyone think of a documentary, book, or other published work about a white male conservative from middle America traveling to "the liberal coasts" and talking to people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ, and immigrants about what they believe and why they didn't vote for Trump? Asking for myself.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Least Funny Games

The film "Funny Games" (the 2007 English remake of Michael Haneke's own 1997 Austrian crime thriller) is a no fun, very bad punishment - one we endure without doing anything to deserve it.
I enjoy difficult and challenging art films and picked this one up as a recommendation. I was ready to be impressed, or at least to be engaged in novelty.

But this movie was like watching the snot of a better one drip off the screen and being forced to lick it up. The meritorious craft of the production is ultimately lost in just how cruel, empty, and arbitrary it amounts to be. It is degrading to everyone involved, pretentiously nihilistic, and offers no narrative semblance for what it is doing, why it is doing it, or why we should care. Rather, it cheerfully takes us hostage without any demands and annihilates everyone involved without any negotiations.

And if the rejoinder is that audiences don't have to understand or don't have to care about the film they're watching, I would merely suggest this: don't even bother to watch "Funny Games" in the conventional way, as the director intended. Instead, re-edit the film yourself with the ending you know is already there.

Or better yet, just put it on, walk out, and do something better with your life for 111 minutes. That's the best way to watch this movie.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Has American Politics Officially Bottomed Out?

Imagine if I told you a few years ago that in 2017, we would have a president with at least 16 accusers of sexual harassment or assault against him... endorsing a candidate for the Alabama senate with 9 accusers of sexual harassment or assault against him - including several underage girls.

And then I told you that their best rationale for not resigning immediately was based on their ongoing denial of these accusations even with dozens of corroborating witnesses to contemporaneous accounts of these heinous actions, going as far as threatening to sue the women making the accusations and the journalists who report their accounts alongside research that supports material evidence of the predatory behavior of these same men.

And then I told you that this special election in Alabama looks like it will be incredibly close because the Democratic candidate, who prosecuted two KKK members who had killed four African-American children in a 1963 Birmingham church bombing, was accused of being "soft on crime" by the president who bragged about grabbing women by their genitals, walking into the dressing rooms of underage girls, and repeatedly joked about dating his own daughter.

And then I told you that the rationale for supporting the accused child molester was because the Republican party really, really wants to pass a "tax reform" package that vastly favors the wealthiest individuals and corporations while making cuts to healthcare programs and eliminating a variety of deductions that working class people rely on while penalizing taxpayers in Democratic-leaning states - all of which will add around $1.5 trillion to the deficit and relying on the myth of "trickle down economics" to boost wages and job growth without any historical or contemporary evidence that such wealth transfer to financial elites will accomplish that.

... If I told you all that, would you believe me?  And would you care?

Friday, November 3, 2017


Dear Snowpiercer, I haven't gone in with higher expectations or left with more disappointment in a very long time.

What were they thinking?

This film has some laudable ambition, a solid cast, fantastic production design, and a premise that is interesting and original enough to hold great promise. Apparently, many reviewers really liked it given the film's 84/100 on Metacritic. I can recognize those worthwhile elements.

But they absolutely do not add up. The film earns its gory R rating but has some incredibly childish dialogue that belongs in a young adult novel. Yes, Tilda Swinton does very well with her role and there are some other notable successes in the cast (the classroom scene was by far the most well-directed). And Chris Evans carries the film well enough except for a macabre monologue about eating babies (can a good guy ever eat babies?).

But not since "The Matrix Reloaded" have I seen such a clumsy, unsatisfying deus ex machina. Ed Harris channels his role from "The Truman Show" here with a fumbling finale that underwhelms and feels almost insulting to sit through. After a two hour train ride, this really isn't where we should be getting off.

What's worse, the film is all too eager to kill off basically every character we meet and grow to care about, leaving us with very little worth rooting for when the small band of surviving characters finally escape from their Flakes on a Train experience.

And what do we have left? A totally unsurvivable wilderness that cannot possibly sustain these untrained and ill-equipped passengers. Nobody seems to have thought this through - not the characters, not the filmmakers. By nightfall, temperatures will drop and they will desperately flee back into the train they just blew up in order to salvage whatever they can to build a habitable environment in their former prison. Where is Matt Damon from "The Martian" when we need him?

So we're left with a trite and superficial meditation on classism and population control, a banal plot twist involving child labor, and a vague cautionary tail against geoengineering. I was truly hoping that the antagonist's big reveal was the frozen landscape being an intentional act by the train's designer to purge humanity and rule the remaining world from within his train car. But what we get is much simpler - and the realization that the film has greatly over-promised and under-delivered.

Best case scenario: the polar bear brings in his family to feast on the sorry lot of human corpses strewn about for half a mile. THE END

Or a happier ending would be if the polar bear attacked the survivors until Leonardo DiCaprio shows up to suplex the bear, tame it, and then teach everyone how to build igloos and go ice fishing.  THE END

The 2016 Election, One Year Later...

--- SUMMER OF 2016 ---

Berners: We want Bernie! He is going to mobilize more first time and independent voters.

DNC: Clinton is the best candidate! She's a longtime party favorite and she's been covertly stuffing our coffers with cash for a year now. (source)

Berners: No, her numbers are bad, Sanders are much better! She is going to lose against Trump.  (source)

DNC: It's our party, we know what's best.


DNC: OMG!  Clinton lost against Trump! How could this happen?!?


Berners: We told you, her numbers were bad, Sanders were much better. And a year later, her numbers are worse, his are even better. (source) (source)

DNC: Yes... but... He wasn't really a Democrat, anyway! There's nothing we could have done differently.

Berners: You really don't want to win these things, do you?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Some initial thoughts on "mother!"

Darren Aronofsky's "mother!" is one of the most challenging films I've seen in years, and rightfully so. It is an elegantly simple yet ambitious film layered in metaphor. It reads like a work of plainly-crafted but dense, disturbing literature. And intentionally - judging by its audience and critical receptions.

The film explores deep anxieties about the dualism of beauty and horror in the human condition - asking for our empathy and sacrifice but also our sense of guarded, protective inner boundaries. The plot is perfectly clear yet altogether incoherent - delving into the logic of dreams and nightmares. It plays like something between "Eraserhead" and "Children of Men" if staged by Eugène Ionesco or Bertolt Brecht. It has themes that are both timeless and yet somehow immediate... evocative of perennial creation myths yet also conjuring imagery of eyewitnesses in a war zone.

If what I've written has scared you away from ever seeing this film, I've probably succeeded. But it is an undeniably driven, completely arresting, and inspired experience which may yield fruits from further study. It could also enjoy renewed appreciation in years to come; this is more than can be said about most box office drivel coming out of Hollywood these days. It is the accomplishment of a director, actors, and their creative ensemble willing to take bold creative risks and produce unconventional art. And for that, I'm thankful to have made time for this harrowing journey of a film.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sewer Characters United!

A new Hollywood blockbuster idea - all of the movie characters who live in the sewer form an elite fighting force to overtake the people above ground...

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Redbox Flood Epidemic

So what happens to all the Redbox discs during a hurricane? Why is the lamestream media silent on the missing discs? When will crooked politicians address this disc epidemic? Wake up, America! This is what happens when you turn your back on Redbox. #RedBoxFlood #DiscLivesMatter #Antiflood #MakeRedboxDryAgain #DiscFloodgate

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Portrait in Political Ineptitude

For years, Congressman Jason Chaffetz was obsessed with wasting taxpayer dollars investigating Benghazi over and over with no finding of wrongdoing. He also moved to sell off public lands for private mineral extraction.

A few months ago, Chaffetz suggested that people could afford healthcare if they simply didn't buy a new iPhone. After that backlash, he announced he wasn't running for office again so he could "spend time with his family" (in Washington, nobody actually means that).

Now, Chaffetz wants an annual $30,000 housing stipend for members of Congress. "It's cost prohibitive to work in Washington" Chaffetz explained. Congressional reps already receive $174,000, plus healthcare, 401k, pension and $1.2M in their annual staffing budget.

And despite all this, or more likely because of it, Fox News thought it was a great idea to sign Chaffetz as a political contributor to their network.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Flight Club

After a particularly tense altercation before an American Airlines flight,  it's time for Tyler Durden to return to the friendly skies and start a few fights that he intends to lose...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Donald J. Trump and the Cure for Cancer

This is a short story I wrote after reading online comments defending Trump by saying, "if Trump cured cancer, you'd still find something to complain about."  So imagine, if you will, if Trump cured cancer...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Hadouken Theory

What if the universe is one giant "Hadouken" from an all-powerful celestial Street Fighter?

Monday, March 20, 2017

GoldenEye 007 - Don't Ever Stop

One strange glitch from an N64 classic: a soldier who has infinite ammo and just... refuses... to stop... shooting!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sam Harris: Chasms of Conversation

In an "Ask Me Anything" episode of his podcast, author and neuroscientist Sam Harris discussed the chasms of conversation - widened by the sustained, willful lying by Donald Trump.  In a fact-free world, how do we even talk to one another?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Trigger Warnings for McConnell?

Should we start offering "trigger warnings" for Republican Senator Mitch McConnell so he won't be triggered by the words of Coretta Scott King, as quoted by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren? (source)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Convert to PDF

Do you have a few minutes to learn about your lord and savior, Adobe Acrobat?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The "Copy+Pasta" Debate Technique

Has anyone else tried the "copy+pasta" debate technique with the Flying Spaghetti Monster? How does it usually go over?

I'm not trying to be uncivil; I am trying to demonstrate that these parallel paragraphs have an identical amount of evidence to support their claims: zero. Although at least we know what a bowl of spaghetti looks like when tossed into the air.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Trump's Cabinet is a Fox Guarding the Henhouse

As Donald Trump's cabinet goes through confirmation hearings, a theme emerges that reminds me of a classic idiom...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Another Brick in Trump's Wall

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump pledged to build a US border wall and make Mexico pay for it. So will the American public's gullibility become just another brick in Trump's Wall?