July 22, 2008 - July 15, 2008
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Reader Photo Challenge:
right. The politicians don't get it. Mostly, the affluent urban and
suburban dwellers don't get it, either. You know. The people who aren't
from a place but a station in life. Professors, pundits, plutocrats,
priests, and, of course, politicians. The protected ones who never
encounter Hispanics without advanced degrees. They see the immigration
issue as an academic exercise, a philosophical issue, a potential bump
in the road in relations with their gardener and/or governess.
This is your chance to show them what's really happening. Send us your
digital photos of the Mexicanization of your
home town. From all
the towns nobody understands to
be in peril. From Illinois, Massachusetts, South Carolina, New Jersey,
Nebraska, Maryland, Indiana...
There will be no prizes. But we will beg, borrow, or steal enough
bandwidth to post pictures from as many places as we hear from. Then we
will forward the pictures to everybody involved in the attempt to pass
the current immigration bill. Is that simple and clear enough as a
strategy? We think it is.
Here's the email address for your photos: punks (at) instapunk.com.
Monday, June 18, 2007
all means, watch it. Admire the cinematography. I did.
. There's very little reason to go to the movie theater these
days. Most of the movies suck, so much so that the trailers used to
advertise them generally serve as superior substitutes for the movies
themselves, and theaters have become a contemptuously blatant con job.
The screens are small, the ticket prices big, the popcorn and soda
prices bigger, the restrooms dirty, the audiences loud and uncouth, and
after you creep across the sticky floors to your seat, you are
subjected to the one thing you are supposed to be free from in a
pay-per-view arena -- commercials.
The whole experience seems designed to persuade you that you're a fool
for showing up in the first place, but here you are, so what else can
we do to bore and annoy you for cold cash?
You don't agree? Well, that's my excuse for what is obviously a late
review of a movie masterpiece called "The
Children of Men,"
which I saw
over the weekend via cable
On-Demand. I have some observations to make, but don't read them until
you've clicked on the YouTube file and watched it all the way through.
I'll wait right here while you do that.
Done? Good. Ready to run right out and see it? Not so fast. Here's are
some excerpts from the only review -- by Kyle
of the NY Post
that reflected my own experience of the movie:
The report from 2027 delivered by
"Children of Men" is mixed. On the plus side: Flat-screen TVs for every
one! Also, alcohol is plentiful, and the dog track is still operating.
On the minus side: The world has turned to smoldering ruins, and it's
been 18 years since any woman has given birth...
Playing Theo, the shell of an alcoholic whose son has died, Clive Owen
is just the man to pick his way through the wreckage of what used to be
After a surprise visit from his ex (Julianne Moore), who now leads a
group fighting to protect immigrants from being caged and deported, he
stumbles onto a woman (she jokes that she's a virgin) who is pregnant
with the only baby on the planet. They spend the movie dashing from
safe house to safe house, one of which is the home of a chuckling old
stoner played by Michael Caine, who appears to be wearing Emmylou
Harris' hair. The goal is to save the child. And humanity.
Everyone around them is a terrorist, and most are wearing government
insignia. Between the marching Muslim extremists, snarling
immigrant-haters, gun-toting immigrant-protectors and a police force
determined to crack skulls first and ask questions never, London has
turned into a bombed-out ashtray.
Director Alfonso Cuarón has a vision so mesmerizingly terrible
that it alone - at least, for those who enjoy a gorgeous nightmare - is
reason enough to see the film. His color palette runs from soot gray to
corpse gray as he hurls his camera over the festering landscape.
Nothing is presented with the slightest degree of "Road Warrior" fun,
either: This is humanity's garbage time, in both senses.
The story, based on P.D. James' novel
grabs you at first, but its grip slackens as the unanswered questions and
murky plot developments add up
addition to saving the girl, you want Theo to solve several mysteries:
Is this really the only pregnancy? If so, what is different about this
woman? Why did all women become sterile back in 2009?
exactly can he trust? [emphasis added]
Instead, Theo seems content to dodge bullets, get increasingly grimy
and try to get mother and fetus to a mysterious organization called
"The Human Project"...
The film wants to be political... But it completely misses the point
about what is happening today to the same farcical degree that "V for
Vendetta" did: Who seriously has an equal fear of London's bobbies and
radical Islam? In the past five years, the movie industry has virtually
blacklisted any mention of Muslim terror - even documentarians are more
worried about Wal-Mart's health insurance - but "Children of Men" makes
sure its buses, which are filled with political prisoners, are labeled
"Homeland Security." Ha ha.
Actually, the movie's cinematographic artistry serves to undermine its
affect because the impossibly long tracking shots inevitably remind the
movie buff of Orson Welles's Touch
, which was an incomparably superior movie. There, the
villain was not a stylized visual backdrop standing in for a vague,
deliberately undefined ideological dilemma but something quite
specific, human, and recognizable. The Welles tracking shots
represented a ruthless hunter endowed with the frightening ability to
track and understand his quarry. Cuaron's represent only a kind of
helpless, incoherent paranoia that makes even pursuit seem like a
nightmare flight from every conceivable conviction and cause but the
saccharine ideal of infancy.
Which is all fine, of course. It's acceptable to roll back the entire
history of philosophy and declare that the only certainty is the
innocence of the unsocialized newborn, but it scarcely merits
designation as an idea. It's a default, a kind of automatic reboot that
simply ignores reality and postulates the suckling child as superior to
all the mentality a suckling child does not possess. Is this what
impresses the liberal cognoscenti as thought-provoking, politically astute, and
intelligent? Give me a break. There is absolutely nothing in the script
which attempts to translate
the provocative images of fascism, Islamists, and immigrants into
argumentation of any kind. It's all simply a gray, undifferentiated
threat to the survival of a baby whose existence has no apparent
to the movie's premise but anomaly and, oddly enough, celebrity.
Did you get that? It's a chase movie, a poisoned remake of The Terminator
. The protagonist is
prepared to die to save the life of the most important being in his
universe, except that the nature of that importance is never explained
or even hinted at. If all women are sterile, what difference does one
baby make? It's not going to save mankind. There's no indication that
the mother possesses any unique properties, physically, mentally, or
spiritually -- except that she's an illegal immigrant. Which makes her
a political straw man and, well, that's all.
Apparently, what's supposed to save us -- what's supposed to inspire
us, at least -- is the good intentions of those who fight to keep the
baby alive. Well, isn't THAT the liberal paradigm writ large?
In the end, we never learn what the Human Project is. We never learn
anything about what the real nature of the conflict between the government,
immigrants, and native "resistance" fighters is. I guess we're supposed
to assume an allegory that isn't actually delineated, although the
chief property of allegory is usually that it is
delineated, usually in too much
detail. (Perhaps an allegory that refuses to explain itself is the highest of post-modern art.) I infer this means we intelligent liberals are supposed to
graft various Bush-isms and Blair-isms onto the script and privately
pronounce our own political "Aha!"
Maybe Cuaron could have gotten away with that. Maybe. If he hadn't
given himself away with some truly bush league moves. Like casting
Michael Caine as a 70-year-old pot-smoking hippie ("Tell Sid he's a
'fascist pig'") who represents the only fully individuated character in
the movie. And twice referencing the beloved counterculture sixties with the Stones
ballad "Ruby Tuesday,"only not in the original Stones version but in a
castrati cover, because in a movie like this Mick's voice somehow sounds
too ballsy and vital... And when the credits finally (finally) begin to roll,
playing a typically dumbass-Marxist John Lennon song, "Free the People."
We don't care what flag you're waving,
We don't even want to know your name,
We don't care where you're from or where you're going,
All we know is that you came,
You're making all our decisions,
We have just one request of you,
That while you're thinking things over,
Here's something you just better do.
Free the people now...
Well we were caught with our hands in the air,
Don't despair paranoia is everywhere,
We can shake it with love when we're scared,
So let's shout it aloud like a prayer.
Free the people now,
Do it do it do it do it do it now.
It's all too perfect. Instant nihilism. Add tears and stir. A lot of liberal condescension derives from their
supposed artistic superiority over the rest of us. There's no question
this "film" has an artistic feel, but it has no content. It's
interesting and instructive that the libs don't recognize it. For them
intellect has become merely a pot-smelling esthetic, which is ipso facto
brilliant even when
devoid of ideas, rationality, and sense.
It's good information. If you know what to do with it.
I'll leave it to all of you to divine the relevance of this news
. Al Gore gave an interview in London in which he said:
“The G8 have been meeting in Germany
and the United States is throwing a monkey wrench in the efforts to get
The planet is in distress and all of the attention is on Paris Hilton.
We have to ask ourselves what is going on here?”
My sense is that at the moment, Paris Hilton is
more important than Global
Warming. As parents and their kids discuss Paris Hilton, they may
arrive at some personal decisions about how life should be lived that
will have great impact on their lives in the next four or five years.
If they obsessed about Global Warming instead, they'd be seeding
important lessons about paranoia, but the lessons might not bloom for
another ten or twenty years. Think of all the things that might kill
large numbers of people before
Global Warming ruins Venice as a tourist attraction: another worldwide
flu pandemic (overdue), nuclear wars precipitated by Islamists or China
(likely), an economic depression caused by destruction of the mideast
oilfields or overly aggressive economic controls in the name of slowing
Global Warming (likely), an asteroid strike (more likely if we suppress
technology in the name of Gaia), a killer quake in California
(overdue), et al. Come to think of it, it is
a lot easier to forget all the
crises for which we might bear some actual responsibility and focus on
a phantom future problem instead...
For the time being, though, it's at least possible that American
families are seizing the opportunity to prevent tragedies that are very
specific, human, and recognizable by discussing what it means to be an
irresponsible spoiled brat. I don't think anything Al Gore has to say
is more important than that discussion, if it's occurring, and I can't
think it's worth truncating such conversations to go see "The Children
But that's just me.
Friday, June 15, 2007
IT ALL UP
The Friday Follies:
. What a week. All the best of western civilization was on
display this week, with special highlights provided by various liberal
leaders in the United States, the mass media, Hollywood, and, oh yes,
the peace-loving muslims of the middle east.
The tone was set early on by Dan
, who was kind enough to offer some constructive criticism to
his old employer, CBS Evening News. Dan suggested that Katie Couric's
newscast was failing because it had been too "tarted up" with Paris
Hilton stories by her producers. CBS executive Les
told Dan the news hadn't been tarted up and the only reason
viewers were ignoring Katie like that was because they were a bunch of
sexist old white men, probably a lot like Dan. That's when Dan said it
wasn't about gender, and Moonves fired right back at him:
"It is so."
"Is not," Dan replied.
"Your mother wears army boots."
And then they both ran home crying. Which brings us to the tragic and
mesmerizing saga of Paris
(who actually got only an hour or two of coverage by CBS
News). Some nasty judge thought that if you lost your license for a DUI
and then got caught driving again, twice, and were late for your court
date on top of that -- not to mention getting photographed by the
paparazzi, driving again, after said court date -- maybe you should go
to jail for a while. Thirty or so of Paris's best attorneys tried to
get the judge to see how completely unfair it was to put rich people in
jail in California for crap like this because they don't even put rich people in jail in
California for murder, which she didn't do yet. The judge listened to their arguments and sentenced Paris to
jail for 45, uh, no, make that 23 days. The attorneys filed an instant
"Oh, come o-o-o-o-on. That is SO not fair."
"I say it is fair," the judge told them.
"It is not."
"It is too."
Then the attorneys ran home crying, and shortly afterwards Paris ran
home crying from jail, which made the judge mad all over again, so he
told Paris, "Stop that snivelling this instant, young lady, and march
your little legs straight back to jail. And
," he added, "This time, you
stay there till I tell you can come out."
Since then the whole mass media, and the blogosphere, and millions of
ordinary Americans have been debating the finer points of the case as
if they were attorneys themselves:
"That is SO not fair."
All of which eventually caused Paris to release a statement to the
press suggesting that everyone should stop thinking about her and give
some thought to the problems in Iraq and the middle east and everything.
That's when everybody noticed that the oppressed and misunderstood
muslims of Hamas were having a civil
with the oppressed and misunderstood muslims of Fatah in a
place called Gaza, which obviously isn't in Iraq because no matter how
hard they looked, the journalists couldn't find any American troops
there to blame for all the bombing and shooting and death squads that
were making the streets run red with civilian blood. Which meant that
it must be Israel's fault instead. When Israel pointed out they didn't
have any troops in Gaza, either, the Prime Minister of Fatah explained
what had happened:
"Hamas started it."
"No," said Hamas. "Fatah pinched me. Hard."
"Only after you pushed me."
"That is SO not true."
"Is too true."
"Your father wears a burkah."
Then they went at it again, like they'd never stopped, which was
actually good news for Angelina
, who had just made this really serious important picture
about how some of the misunderstood muslims occasionally cut the heads
off dedicated journalists, but the journalists have to keep fighting
and braving the dangers in their eternal search for the truth, which is
a message that resonates even more when muslims are doing lots of
murdering in the week before your big movie premiere. So Angelina
started scheduling interviews with journalists to tell them about her
great message, only she wanted to be absolutely sure that none of the
slimy journalists could water down the message about freedom of the press by asking a bunch of
questions about her personal life, so she told them they had to sign a
contract promising not to ask any personal questions or else she could seize their tapes and
sue them for a hundred million dollars. Oh, and by the way, Fox News
shouldn't bother to show up at all, because look at their hair and
tacky clothes. That's when Fox News published a story about how
Angelina was always trying to keep journalists from getting at the
truth, like in Namibia, where she and Brad wouldn't talk to any
journalists except the ones who could be executed by the Namibian
dictator if they asked any personal questions.
"I did no such thing," Angelina
replied, with her hands on her hips.
The storm that erupted afterwards from Angelina's publicity machine was
so severe that it reminded the Broward
of a huge problem they were about to have when hurricane season got
into full gear this season. They needed a big strong radio station with
a lot of listeners and satellite stations to be their conduit for
emergency weather bulletins to the people who might get killed or
drowned or something in a hurricane. The problem was that the radio
station with the strongest signal had Rush Limbaugh on it, and Sean
Hannity, who were the ones who screwed up the vote recounts in Florida
back in the 2000 presidential election, which is how George W. Bush got
selected president and started making all the hurricanes so much worse
with his global warming tax cuts. Or something like that. Obviously
there's no point in telling listeners about hurricanes when Rush and
Sean will come right back on the air and tell them there isn't any
hurricane and don't take any precautions because there are too many
Democrats in Broward County anyway. When he heard about this, Rush
Limbaugh responded to the Broward County Commissioners:
"HA HA HA HA," he said. In that way of
his. You know. Mean. "HA HA HA HA HA."
So the commissoners ran home crying and issued a statement through
their mothers that they didn't care anymore and if people wanted to get
hurricane news that was all twisted and lied about by Limbaugh and
Hannity, it would just serve them right.
This was unfortunate because it freed up Limbaugh and Hannity to
immediately start making fun of Senator
, who'd ingested some poisoned bourbon earlier in the
week, right before his online chat with a bunch of liberal bloggers,
which explains why he couldn't remember all that clearly how it was
that he'd decided to call General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, an incompetent. In his usual fashion, Limbaugh
analyzed the prospect of Harry Reid calling Peter Pace incompetent:
"HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA," he
But Harry Reid didn't cry. He's not like that. He's one of those babies
who just scowls and screams like a descending artillery shell and
starts throwing gobs of baby food all over the place.
I could go on. Believe me, I could go on and on. This week was a pip (Dukakis,
. But perhaps you're ready for just a couple of adult
Like the essay on Global Warming written by the President
of the Czech Republic
And Governor Schwarzenegger offering grown-up
to Hispanic immigrants.
Common sense about free speech from Justice
And, finally, this (h/t Brit Hume), a small reminder that there still
exists a strain of human aspiration beyond infantilism.
Have a lovely weekend.