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>Eyeroll< Not This Again

5/02/2016

young girl eye roll

Somebody sent me this link and invited comments on it.

I’m going to try to reign in the snark on this one:
Alcoholism is a serious problem.

People who are struggling with alcoholism (and no alcoholic is ever truly “cured” insofar as the desire to drink truly vanishes; if they’re lucky they’re in recovery) deserve help, support, and compassion (short of enabling, but that’s a different matter).

So I’m not going to rag
Jamie Morgan for
striving for sobriety.
More power to her.

But I am going to rag on her presentation, because frankly it’s hypocritical shaming at best and openly blasphemous at worst.

She’s listed 50 points but I’m not going to enumerate them here (that’s what the jump is for).

That’s a fond tactic of many in the demagogue persuasion:
Throw out a ton of spaghetti — who cares if it’s redundant and / or nonsensical — and try to bog your opponents down answering your trivial pursuit questions instead of addressing the real issue at hand.

Screw that noise,
I’m going to the source
of the contagion.

First off, let’s tackle this from a Christian perspective: She says Jesus is evil.

If the consumption of wine is in and of itself wrong, then Jesus sinned as he is cited as drinking wine in several verses in the Bible, not to mention John 2 where he turns water into wine for others to drink.

Which means, according to Ms Morgan, he wasn’t merely committing a sin himself but making it possible for, and encouraging others to sin as well!

And don’t give me that bull about Biblical wine just being “fruit juice”, there are too many Old Testament and New Testament verses to the intoxicating effects of wine to swallow that canard.

So, it’s pretty clear from various points in the Bible that it’s not the consumption of alcohol that’s wrong, but the abuse of alcohol consumption.

So her central thesis is bogus,
nullifying all objections derived
from it.

Now, had she limited herself to “I shouldn’t drink alcohol and I wouldn’t recommend alcohol to anyone else” then I wouldn’t be posting this.

That’s a perfectly legitimate position to take.

But it’s the shaming aspect that is what’s wrong with her message.

Shaming is what passive aggressive Christians do to try to force their standards of behavior on others. Drunk shaming, drug shaming, slut shaming, divorce shaming, political shaming, everything except shaming shaming.

It’s one of the key reasons why people are turning their backs on organized Christianity in this country.

Shaming has nothing to do with love and concern and compassion for others.

It has everything to do with power and control and feeling superior to others by judging them.

So that’s why I’m calling shenanigans on Jamie Morgan’s message, not on her efforts to remain clean and sober.

God bless you, Ms Morgan, more power to you as you strive to avoid destructive harmful behavior…

…in you.

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Take This Test!

3/02/2016

Imagine you are taking an elderly relative who uses a cane — a parent, a grandparent, whatever – shopping at the mall.

You decide to get something to eat at the food court.  You park your relative at a table and go to pick up your order.

When you return, there’s a commotion going on at the table.

Your elderly relative, while putting their cane away, accidentally knocked over the drink of a kid sitting at the next table.

Do you:

  1. Ignore the kid’s complaint?
  2. Shrug it off and say “Stuff happens”?
  3. Tell the kid they doubtlessly spill lots of drinks themselves?
  4. Say it’s not your fault your relative knocked the drink over?
  5. Apologize to the kid but do nothing else?
  6. Compensate the kid by giving them the drink you just picked up?

Any answer other than (6) means you’re nothing but a sac of excrement.

There is not a single problem facing the United States of America today that was not (A) caused by white people, individually or in concert, acting to benefit themselves at the expense of others or (B) willfully ignoring the input of non-whites regarding the problem.

I’ve had people sneer at me, accusing me of feeling “white guilt” or “self-loathing”.

There’s a vast difference between guilt and responsibility.

Responsible people want the right thing to be done, regardless of how it affects them, and if circumstances prevent full justice, to at least acknowledge the wrong that was done and make efforts to prevent it from ever recurring.

Guilty people deny their guilt, coming up with excuses and blame shifting and constantly moving goal posts in order to avoid facing their responsibility.

And I feel loathing, all right,
but it’s not self-directed.

Rather it’s targeted at people I am unfortunately grouped with who proudly, ignorantly cling to pure unadulterated evil and call it virtue.

We’ve discussed Prohibition before, but it’s as perfect an example of what we’re talking about as could be hoped for so let’s revisit it.

White Christian Protestant Americans, to keep those God damned sub-human Irish and Italians in place, pushed laws to ban the sale of alcohol in the form of wine and whiskey; to punish sub-human poor white trash, pushed laws to ban beer; to punish sub-human blacks and Mexicans, pushed laws to ban marijuana; to punish sub-human Asians, pushed laws to ban opium.[1]

Prohibition had nothing to do with ending a very real problem, but rather had everything to do with White Anglo-Saxon Protestants maintaining control over ”them”.

And in the process of keeping “those (sub-human) filth people” in line, we elevated small potatoes local gangs into international crime cartels; destroyed public confidence in law, police, and courts; allowed corruption on a heretofore unprecedented scale to infect our government; and did nothing to actually address a real problem but instead created a legion of new ones.[2]

A while back I reviewed a disgusting movie:  Santa Fe Trail.

The only thing that can be said in its favor is that it is refreshingly candid in its brutal racial prejudice — they come flat out and say that African-Americans should suffer pain, death, and degradation if it means white bigots don’t have to feel uncomfortable about themselves.

Screw that noise.

Just as we are responsible for what our elderly relative does at the food court for no other reason than they are related to us, then we are responsible for what white people in the past did to African-Americans and other minorities.

We can either see justice is done…

…or we can remain sacs of excrement.

quote-comfort-the-afflicted-and-afflict-the-comfortable-finley-peter-dunne-54022

[1]  Despite the fact that the Asians had a handle on the opium trade until British merchants, denied the financial rewards of slavery by abolition, instigated the Opium Wars and forced the Far East to get involved in the sale and trafficking of that drug.

[2]  One the other hand, Prohibition did make comic books and pulp magazines possible, so there’s that…

 

 

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For Black History Month We’re Going To Talk About White People

3/02/2016

There would be no need for a Black History Month if white folks walked the walk instead of just talking the talk.

And I congratulate and praise everyone who is doing stuff this month that shows the hidden history of African-Americans in this country and the rest of the world.  Go for it, dudes & dudettes!

But here we are going to be examining why Black History Month is a vital necessity.

And a lot of people aren’t going to like it.

And I couldn’t care less.

frankly I dont CAP

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Two Conflicting Currents

29/01/2016

The challenge facing the body politic of the US of A today is one of two conflicting currents.

We have already slid into a plutocratic oligarchy. There are few citizen / officials among us, and most of those only at minor local levels in non-influential communities and regions.[1]

Most politicians are professionals; they either settle into a career as an elected official, or they seek appointments to high office, or they serve in advisory / lobbying positions to those who are elected, or they serve in organizations that facilitate the elections of others.

By nature — by very real, very human nature — these people are disinclined to dismantle the system that gives them value (read “$”) and worth (i.e., pride).

So be it:
At least try to be competent at your job and realize that killing the golden goose by starving it to death so you will have more grain is a foolish strategy.

Nearly a century before the French Revolution erupted, the more observant members of the aristocracy (which includes high ranking clergy) could see the storm clouds coming. Thirty years before that storm actually broke, French kings were assigning their best and brightest scholars with the task of figuring out how to head it off before it reached them.

The scholars’ answer was invariably “Curb the power of the aristocracy and tax them fairly.”

The aristocrats did not want to hear this and while many gave lip service to the idea of reform, in actuality they worked to prevent such reforms from happening.

And then one day everyone lost their heads…

Fortunino Matania - just a little off the top CAP

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Thinkage

15/01/2016

“If you fear using certain words because you might be labeled a ‘racist, a homophobe, of a bigot’ – think about it. If the words you desire to use, insult another, harm another, or cause anyone to laugh at (not with) another why would you want to use those word anyway?” — John Casimir O’Keefe

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The Continuing Collapse Of The Comic Strip

3/01/2016

a.k.a. “Another One Bites The Dust”, in this case being Terry & Patty Laban’s Edge City strip, which just finished a 15 year run in far too typical a manner:  A good strip, well drawn, well written, a core base of fans & readers, but never enough to break mainstream consciousness and, in the end, not nearly enough to justify the syndicator keeping them on.

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 1

Last November, as some of you may recall, Dinette Set went under without so much as an official nod from either artist or syndicator.

And Maria’s Day, a once delightful daily strip also found at GoComics.com has been reduced to Sunday-only single panel gags.

And several other strips are missing the occasional daily post; in a world where fewer and fewer newspapers carry fewer and fewer strips, these features are often found only online, and the blessing / curse of online media is that one doesn’t have to consume it on the creator/s schedule.

I mean, c’mon, folks, that’s what
binge watching on Hulu or Netflix
is all about, am I right?

The classic one-to-four panel daily comic strip is an artifact of the past, and even while new ones are being tried out, the sad truth is there is no real place for them.

Their offspring, the webcomic, may survive, but to do so it will probably have to evolve, both in terms of content and presentation.

While cartoons have been around since before Gutenberg, and had certainly been appearing in print as long as there were people making prints of anything, they certainly flowered during the heyday of printed media in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Comic strips were published (along with other regular features) with the intent of enticing casual readers back again and again to a daily newspaper.

While they certainly included younger kids in their audience, truth be told they had adult readers from the gitgo.

At their high water mark (roughly late 1920s to mid-1960s) they were essential cultural touchstones:  Regardless of who you were or where you lived, everybody was familiar with the comic strips that defined their culture (i.e., specific time and place in world history).

Foreign readers may have had an entirely different batch of strips[1] but nonetheless they had strips that defined their lives for them.

And regardless of whether the strips were gag-a-day, soap operas, adventures, or fantasy, something about them linked you to other people in your community / culture.

Even to this day, long after they have ceased to appear in print on a regular basis, certain comics strips still inform the national discourse:  “That crazy Buck Rogers stuff”, “Well, blow me down!”, “It was a dark and stormy night…”, etc., etc., and of course, etc.

They were an odd form of niche marketing:  There was seemingly a comic strip for every specific taste and interest and audience[2] and if one was willing to look, ample places for them to appear.

But nothing remains static and the days when the bulk of America gleaned its cultural clues through daily newspapers has long since passed.

And while many are fond of the format of the old comic strips, there’s really no compelling reason to stick with that format in today’s media world.[3]

Today’s webcomics don’t set the terms of the cultural debates, they only reinforce our pre-existing prejudices and biases, “prejudices and biases” here not necessarily referring to anything negative but rather the presumptions we live with in our daily lives.

We follow webcomics because they agree with our points of view, we do not turn to them to see what other people are thinking.

There’s no real innovation on the
remaining comics page anymore.

There are a large number of very well done strips, but there’s no real breakthrough the way Calvin And Hobbes broke through, or even the original run of Bloom County.[4]

I read Peanuts Begins and get more out of it than any contemporary strip (and I do enjoy a number of contemporary strips).

As the writer Jack Enyart once observed, the best work in any medium is done at the very start and the very end of that medium’s dominance; the former breaking boundaries with new ideas, the latter distilling those ideas down to their perfect core.

We are enjoying the long wake of the comic strip; we will not see its like again.

But nobody really wants to
close the bar and go home…

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 2

[1]  Tho not necessarily; a lot of American strips found loyal audiences in some truly oddball places, such as the Nordic countries really glomming onto The Phantom.

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 3

[2]  As a young boy, I followed Dondi religiously; the stories of a young Italian-American refugee trying to find his place in America resonated with me as my own mother was an Italian who met my American father during WWII.  Dondi is not held in very high esteem by most comic strip fans / historians, but it made a difference to me, dammit!

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 4

[3]  Indeed, a strong argument can and has been made for more experimentation, but we’ll leave that topic for another day.

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 5

[4]  Bloom County is back with new material online, and I read it, but it’s more for nostalgia than any real enjoyment. 

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 6

Edge City © Terry and Patty Laban

 

 

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A Traditional Heart Warming Holiday Classic…

24/12/2015

Six Million Dollar Man Christas

listen to it here

thanx to Leif S. Peng and Jeff Andrews for the illo & link

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Spoilericious THE FORCE AWAKENS Review / Speculation

21/12/2015

The Force Awakens is the first
cringe-free Star Wars movie
since The Empire Strikes Back.

tfa_poster_wide_header-1536x864-959818851016

SEMI-SPOILER
“The Force awakens” can mean
“the Force itself wakes up” or
“the Force wakes up others.”

SPOILERICIOUS AFTER THE JUMP

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I Luvz Me Some TANGERINE

10/12/2015

tangerine poster

Tangerine is this year’s I-can’t-believe-that’s-a-Christmas-movie.

A story of two Hollywood street hustlers on Christmas Eve, it has everything you could want in a holiday film: Inventively obscene language, rampant prostitution, startling displays of nudity, and horrifying-yet-hilarious street violence.

And compassion.

And loyalty.

And love.

Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is barely out of jail when friend & fellow street hustler Alexandra (Mya Taylor) informs her that her fiancé / pimp Chester (James Ransone) has been cheating on her with Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan).

tangerine 0 0Alexandra (Mya Taylor, left) dropping her 
bombshell on Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez).  
All hell breaking loose in 5…4…3…2…1…

This sets off the erratically bi-polar Sin-Dee on a one-transgender woman mission of vengeance to track down Mickey and confront Chester with her. Alexandra tags along, first trying to calm Sin-Dee down, but also trying to promote her own one-person show at a local bar later that night.

Add to this basic Frankie & Johnny mix –

  • (a) Razmik (Karren Karagulian), a roving cabbie who pines for Sin-Dee and hopes to keep his wife from finding out,
  • (b) Ashken (Alla Tumanian), his vengeful mother-in-law who has found out about his dalliances with transgender hustlers, and
  • (c) a third complication which we’ll refrain from mentioning as it’s a spoiler

– and Tangerine rockets off on a howling funny erratic roller coaster ride which, like all good roller coasters, convinces us at times it’s about to fly off the tracks but in reality is always skillfully and deliberately operating exactly as intended.

Big kudos to writer / director / photographer Sean S. Baker, co-writer Chris Bergoch, co-photographer Radium Cheung, their production team, and the remarkable cast, especially Rodriguez and Taylor who brought a lot of their own real life experience and insight to the production. The sassy but savvy minority sexual nonconformist is a well established trope in films and drama now, threatening to become a full fledged stereotype. Rodriguez and Taylor occasionally get close enough to that trope to wave and yell hello from the other side of the street, but they never actually embrace it.

The relationship between Sin-Dee and Alexandra shows how diametrically opposite personalities can find solace and companionship in one another. Alexandra, for all her street cred, at heart harbors a bittersweet yet very conventional ambition, and despite her failure to gain traction towards her ultimate goal she never seems foolish in her pursuit.

She wants a very conventional form of success and acceptance, and one senses she would cheerfully leave the street far behind if she could find even a modicum of success as a performer.

Sin-Dee, on the other hand, is the most outrageous street hustler since Pam Grier’s Charlotte, the gold standard of psychotic street hustlers from 1981’s Fort Apache: The Bronx. If Rodriguez was not able to lace Sin-Dee’s anger and hurt with inventive humor, she would have been as terrifying as Grier was.

But despite her intense emotional pain, Sin-Dee will not abandon a friend, and even though she’s kidnapped Dinah and is en route to confront Chester (via public transit!), she nonetheless finds time to drag her hostage into the bar where Alexandra is singing so as to support her friend’s performance to a room full of barflies.

Tangerine“Hi, I’m kidnapping you to force a
possibly violent confrontation with
my boyfriend, but first let’s stop and
watch my girlfriend’s set at this bar.”
Sin-Dee with Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan.)

Indeed, not only has Sin-Dee compassion for her friend, but she even shows compassion to Dinah, helping her clean up a bit and become more presentable for their inevitable confrontation with Chester.

And in the end, when she is feeling at her worse — abandoned, shamed, betrayed, friendless — she finds Alexandra genuinely cares about her, and is literally willing to give her the shirt off her back (or rather, the wig off her own head) to comfort her.

The film intercuts between that and Razmik sitting in his brightly lit apartment, his life and marriage not exactly destroyed but certainly irreparably damaged, and Dinah facing one of the emotionally coldest and bleakest Christmas Eve’s imaginable, and let’s us know what is truly important in our lives. It strips away all the surface distinctions that we get hung up on and let’s us see people relating to others as people, not objects to be used.

Merry Christmas indeed.

Now, some will wonder why I’m celebrating a grim & gritty / down & dirty film about low lifes instead of more upbeat / happy / zesty holiday fare ala White Christmas.

And I love White Christmas.
It’s a family favorite we
watch every year.

But the big difference between White Christmas (specifically) and other films like it is that they very rarely touch on real life.

White Christmas is a good counterpoint to Tangerine: It also deals with betrayal and trust and compassion, and like Tangerine ends up with an affirmative scene.

But it’s also a fantasy, wholly unrealistic, a lifeless product of the studio system that, while absolutely entertaining on the surface, really doesn’t carry a very deeply resonating meaning.

Yeah, it turns out Rosemary Clooney
could trust Bing Crosby after all,
huzzah huzzah,

But there was nothing real about their on-screen personas, nothing real about the characters they played.

They were perfect happy characters with perfect happy lives that had Some Whacky Complications but in the end everything turned out even more perfectly happier than everything that had happened before.

And that’s fine in a film that is just light entertainment; we certainly don’t need to be stretching our intellectual muscles over a movie designed to shoehorn as many Irving Berlin songs as possible into a single production.

But while the characters’ conflicts symbolized similar problems audiences might face, there is precious little in White Christmas itself that people then or now could recognize in their own lives.

It’s like a Saturday Evening Post illustration come to life: It pretends to depict reality but in actuality it’s a highly stylized interpretation of same.

Tangerine, on the other hand, may exaggerate reality by cramming so many wild incidents into a single night, but it never depicts anything, no matter how outre’, that doesn’t seem to be 100% authentic.

Which is what makes the reconciliation and forgiveness and compassion at the end so refreshing and — heaven help us — heartwarming.

It doesn’t ring of triteness,
but of real, genuine feeling.

A further word on Tangerine, this wholly unrelated to the dramatic aspect of the picture.

tangerine behind the scenes shot

O’Hagan and Rodriguez preparing to shoot
a scene with photographer Radium Cheung and
writer / director / photographer Sean S. Baker (right).  
[photo by Shih-Ching Tsou]

Tangerine was shot entirely on iPhone 5s Smartphones* and that should have traditional production companies and major studios defecating cinderblocks. It gets in and among its characters with astounding ease, and people familiar with the Hollywood / Highland / Santa Monica Blvd area where the film was shot will be amazed at the versatility of the production.

Seriously, you’ve got a film that looks as good as any other low budget feature, and accomplished entirely on a device you are probably already carrying in your pocket. Tangerine had a $100,000 budget, but in a big part that’s because they were filming with permits in Hollywood; I can imagine a production with less scruples and / or shot in a less media savvy area costing but a tiny fraction of that.

What in means in terms of film & media production is that there’s now literally no bar to entry except the imagination and ability of the film maker/s & casts.

.

.

.

* Wikipedia notes “They used the FiLMIC Pro app, a video app (to control focus, aperture and color temperature, as well as capture video clips at higher bit-rates) and an anamorphic adapter from Moondog Labs (to capture widescreen). They also used Tiffen’s Steadicam Smoothee to capture smooth moving shots.)”

 

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Thinkage

19/10/2015

“I don’t think Grover’s saying that you should start putting cartoons of black guys or Jews on baseball caps..That would be as bad as what they’re doing to us. Those folks have had plenty of suffering. We understand that. Hell, we understand suffering better than anybody. Indian people aren’t about dragging other people down.

“But here’s what you’ve got to understand. When you look at black people, you see ghosts of all the slavery and the rapes and the hangings and the chains. When you look at Jews, you see ghosts of all those bodies piled up in the death camps. And those ghosts keep you trying to do the right thing.

“But when you look at us you don’t see the ghosts of the little babies with their heads smashed in by rifle butts at the Big Hole, or the old folks dying by the side of the trail on the way to Oklahoma while their families cried and tried to make them comfortable, or the dead mothers at Wounded Knee or the little kids at Sand Creek who were shot for target practice. You don’t see any ghosts at all.

“Instead you see casinos and drunks and junk cars and shacks.

“Well, we see those ghosts. And they make our hearts sad and they hurt our little children. And when we try to say something, you tell us, ‘Get over it. This is America. Look at the American dream.’ But as long as you’re calling us Redskins and doing tomahawk chops, we can’t look at the American dream, because those things remind us that we’re not real human beings to you. And when people aren’t humans, you can turn them into slaves or kill six million of them or shoot them down with Hotchkiss guns and throw them into mass graves at Wounded Knee.

“No, we’re not looking at the American dream, Nerburn. And why should we? We still haven’t woken up from the American nightmare.”

– Kent Nerburn, The Wolf At Twilight

The Wolf At Twilight

Go read this chapter,
then go read his book.
Read all of his books.

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