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Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Offensive Halloween Costumes

It's not even October and Halloween shit is being dragged from the storerooms and put on the sales floor.

Time to get offended, America.

If you see someone dressed up like this...
Splash them with your tears.  Maybe it will ruin their costume.  Fake buckskin and tears don't mix.

Also, don't dress up as a Geisha girl.
You think you're sending the message of "I want to look pretty at the Halloween party" but you're really just reinforcing patriarchal stereotypes.

Also, the hobo costume may seem to be a good decision if you're running late, haven't thought things through, and really need to get to the party.  Put on some old, ratty clothes, sprinkle coffee grounds on your face, and bam...you're a hobo.
But if you wanted to avoid indulging in offensive stereotypes about the homeless, you should actually dress like this:
Actual homeless person
Also, don't go "fat" and don't go "skinny."  It's bad enough that there are people with eating disorders, but do we need to also give them "hurt feelings" disorders, too?


And lastly, whatever you do...do not dress up as a stripper nurse.
Actual Bad Person
There's no better way to say you're a bad person than successfully pulling off this look.  Don't be this person.

In fact, don't even dress up.  It's the only way to be sure you're not offending anyone.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Don't Conceal Handguns in Your Vagina

Or the news will make it sound funny:
While Castaneda was being transported to jail, she told an officer she had concealed a handgun in her vagina. Officers immediately stopped and a female officer searched the suspect, finding a loaded Smith and Wesson .22-caliber pistol with a round chambered in her vagina.
Cracked me up because it's such a weird way of putting it.  I'm pretty sure this woman didn't tell the officer she "had concealed a handgun in her vagina."

She probably said something like, "Hey, man, I should tell you something.  I got a gun on me."

The officer probably scoffed at her in the rearview mirror.  "No, you don't.  We searched you."

"No, seriously.  I got a gun on me.  You know, down there."

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Problem with Movie Reviews

I read movie reviews not to find out if a movie is good or bad (I'll be the judge of that, thank you) but to see if a movie generates enough interest for me to actually watch it. Also included in movie reviews these days is an assessment of how the film delivers on racial and gender issues. Too many white people? It will be noted. Problematic treatment of women? Whether they're being sexualized as "the whore" or marginalized as "the girlfriend," this too will be noted.

These things are, apparently, crucial a certain audience's ability to enjoy the film. Which brings me to this review of Z for Zachariah, which almost avoids that stuff before dropping it like a deuce at the end.


Z for Zachariah could have benefitted from a deeper plunge into the ways race and gender relate to faith.


I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know...maybe a deeper plunge into those issues would have improved it.

Maybe a deeper plunge would have proved to be a distraction. Watch the trailer below. Would a deeper exploration of race and gender make this movie more interesting to you?


Meh. Seriously. Just because Chiwetel Ejiofor is in it doesn't mean it's 7 Years a Slave. Ejiofor is a fine actor and a bonafide leading man. For him, talent not ethnicity should win out. Surely not every performance needs to become an opportunity to talk about race.

Still, this kind of thing in the commentary world may be waning. Not completely, I fear, but there was a time I think when a piece like this wouldn't have waited until the last paragraph to discuss the "deeper plunge" into racial and gender issues. It would have been front and center, in the first sentence under a piece titled "Z for Zachariah's Race Problem."

Books

It's never been difficult to incorporate reading into my daily life. I've always thirsted for knowledge and appreciated the novel and short story as art forms. But if you're careful, you'll do a lot of reading and not much finishing.

I have on one side of my bed a stack of half-read books that I finally admitted I would have to revisit at a later date.

Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle, much more different than I expected, but printed with a weird, blocky typeface meant to thicken up the pagecount of the book. (I suppose publishers can justify this kind of thing with aesthetic concerns, the larger print and extra white space make it "easier to read," but I always come away with the impression they do it to justify the list price, make you think you're getting more book than you are.)

Vanilla Ride by Joe R. Lansdale, one of my favorite authors, a Hap and Leonard book. I got about seventy pages in, before I started reading...

Imajica by Clive Barker. I've attempted this one a few times, couldn't manage the physical effort required to read the book. It's 896 pages, a real brick. Open it on your lap and within minutes your legs will go numb. Luckily they published a split version, cutting the novel in two, so that you can actually hold it in hand. Unfortunately, I got through half of the first volume and lost interest.

So I moved on to Barker's latest, The Scarlet Gospels. Also rather disappointing.

What about Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert? My God, what a slog. Dune is rightfully held as a masterpiece. (It was way better than any book should be, a real stunner.) But the sequels have a bad reputation. I now know why. I have 60 some pages of this one left, so it's going on my "finish" pile. Once I finish it, though, I think I'm done with the Dune books.

Or Hannibal by Thomas Harris. I've been reading this one off and on for a year, and it just dawned on me that one of the reasons is that I don't want to actually finish it. The writing is so good. Is it a good book? Not really. The plot is rather absurd, the characters even more so. But the words... This book I picked up, saw my spot marked, and unlike my reaction to Dune Messiah, thought, "Oh, good, there's still at least a hundred pages left."

So while I'm slogging through Dune Messiah and savoring Hannibal, I've committed to reading Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, hopefully a better book than movie, and Child 44 by Tom Robb Smith, also hopefully a better book than movie. So far, I'm enjoying both of them. Shutter Island has Lehane's page-turning readability and Child 44 is showing off some pretty decent literary-type writing. (Seriously, though, Tom, who said you could put your dialogue in italics?)

If these don't work out, there are a thousand others on the shelf waiting for their turn.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Musicians Shouldn't Teach History

A few weeks ago I went to a reggae concert at Red Rocks, featuring Tribal Seeds and Rebelution.  I'd never heard of either band, but like any white boy stoner, I have a fondness for the music.  There was a joy and positivity in both bands that really hit the spot.

On the way out, someone handed me a CD sampler that had a couple songs from Tribal Seeds latest record, Representing.


Looking them up later, I was struck by the album cover.  It features an Olmec head, huge stone monuments fashioned into faces from the Mesoamerican heartland. 
The Olmec are one of the oldest civilizations in Mesoamerica and are often considered the "mother culture" of all the later Mesoamerican civilizations, from Teotihuacan to the Maya and later Aztec.  They're known for the stone heads, which probably depict kings dressed in ballgame attire. 

In the modern age, looking back with our stupidity, we see these heads and see nothing but questions.  We give them numbers "Colossal Head 3" and mark their location, but the history is basically lost.  We look at the heads and it could be anybody.

But transport an actual Olmec person to the 21st Century, and they could tell us exactly who the heads represent. "Yeah, that's King George.  He was a power-mad drunk.  And this is King William, quite the ladies man.  He built this whole place."  (I use Anglicized names to demystify them.  Their real names and histories are lost.)


In our ignorance, we look at the heads and note details.  7 tons.  Made out of basalt.  Look, this one has almost African features...

Now I'll stop right there.  In my mind, the error is somewhat obvious, but other people look at these stones and this thought --"They have African features"-- actually occurs to them.  And when you say to them, "What the fuck are 'African features?'" they actually have an answer.

Look at the broad nose, the thick lips.  It's obviously a black person.  Never mind that we're talking about a stone head carved in Mesoamerica before anyone from Africa stepped foot on the continent.  The broad nose, the thick lips!  Must be Africans!

One's racist notions do not actually provide scientific proof.

At any rate, I mention this all because the flutter of excitement I felt when I saw the cover to the Tribal Seeds record --"Ah, cool, an Olmec head!"-- was quickly dashed when I realized they were intent on making that Olmec-Africa connection.

From the song:
History they’re teaching is wrong
Theres nothing new underneath the sun
Everything in life got it’s purpose
High above and beneath the surface
Each day we pray giving thanks
In remembrance of where we came from
The Olmec civilization is in alliance with the Africans
Well, no, the wrong history to teach is the one that says the Olmecs were buddies with the Africans.

Good music, though.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Falling Bear

Dear internet,

I hope you have fun posting Falling Bear 2 to your Facebook walls.  Like it, leave a funny comment.  Make that little musical "Aww" sound. 

But also keep in mind that this bear's life is in a very precarious position now.  She will no doubt be humanely handled and escorted off the premises.

But this is what happened to Falling Bear 1.  She was tranqed, trucked off hundreds of miles to an unfamiliar forest, released, and as soon as the Dept of Wildlife rangers drove off, she started running back home.

A few months later she was hit by a car trying to cross the interstate, killed, never making it back home.  A tragic end to a comic moment.

The fate of this bear will hopefully be different.  But she will be in for some terrifying few months as she navigates unfamiliar lands and unknown perils.  She's coming back. 

Be assured of that.

Too Many White People In the Room

The dumbest thing on the internet right now:


A guy is putting together a series of videos intended to highlight "Hollywood's race problem." But it really encapsulates everything I've come to dislike about the Social Justice Warrior left.

It's so egregious, I'm willing to even take it as parody.

But I'm afraid it's not.  I'm afraid it's a sincere attempt to highlight the fact that there's just too many white people in movies.  I mean, I hope I'm not missing the point.

Moonrise Kingdom isn't a racist film and Wes Anderson isn't a racist director, but he can be fairly (according to this dude) lumped in with "Hollywood's race problem."  Guilty of too many white people.

Forget artistry, aesthetics, color, music, sound, set design, camera movement.  These are not what's important for film.

What's important is that the ideal of multi-culturalism and ethnic diversity be reflected on screen, and if that's not achieved:  FAIL.

That idea must be crushed to powder and art must be left free. 

On Legal Gay Marriage

My Mom noticed I let the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US pass without comment.  In my defense, I've let most things in the news pass without comment.  It's a new thing I'm trying, called NotBlogging.  It's like blogging...but it's not.

At any rate, same-sex marriage is finally legal in every state in the Union.  I suppose I should be magnanimous, but nah.  If gay people getting married makes you cry, I hope the tears burn.  Get over yourself and your tiny little prejudices.

Semi-related:  A bakery in Oregon was fine six figures for refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple.  Discriminating against gays is illegal in Oregon, you see, and for some reason, this bakery thought it would be smart to make a political statement out of it.

And while my first instinct is "A six-figure fine for refusing to bake a cake?  That's absurd," my more dominant instinct is "Suck it up, dummies." The problem with pressing the hot button is that sometimes you get burned.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Smart Cars and Smart Criminals

A dumb criminal sees an armored truck and dreams about robbing it.  A smart criminal see an armored truck and dreams about filling it with his ill-gotten gains.

These guys...are smart criminals.  


Car2Go, not just for hipsters and their walkable neighborhoods.  Also can be used in drive-by shootings.  Reserve yours now.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Mean Girls Moment

Stop trying to make the "tiny house" thing happen.

I don't care how eco-friendly it is, how cleverly you utilized the space, or all the cool design elements.  None of this changes the fact that you live in a shed.  (If your shed has wheels, it's a trailer.)

 My objection, of course, is not that people want to live this way.  More power to them.  It's that they want us to call their sheds/trailers "tiny houses."  Just...

No.

Double Star

Driving home last night, I saw some lights in the Western sky.  From a distance, it looked like a jet, too bright and "close" to be stars, but then I noticed the lights weren't moving.

It occurred to me that I was looking at celestial bodies of some sort, probably Venus.  Turns out it was Venus and Jupiter, lined up just perfectly for a myopic earth-dweller to see across millions of miles of space.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

True Detective Is Not a Comic Book

True Detective returns tonight, and I'm looking forward to it.  Last season, and the reaction to it, blew my mind.

I think this season I'm just going to watch it and ignore as much of the commentary as I can.  Because they just don't seem to get it.

Cue Alyssa Rosenberg:
Last season, “True Detective” was marinated in a shared horror mythology about a fictional city named Carcosa, which shows up, among other places, in the Robert Chambers short story collection “The King In Yellow.”
Whut?  Where did this come from?  Carcosa was mentioned, yes, and there was a "Yellow King," but c'mon.....This notion that there was some kind of "shared horror mythology" appeared on the internet, not the show.

But then again, Rosenberg tips us off to the fact that she wasn't really watching True Detective, the show that's on TV, but rather True Detective, the show she wishes it to be.
Moustache-twirling isn’t the same as insight, just as making your serial killer an incestuous hillbilly is not some visionary, searing indictment of sexual culture below the Mason-Dixon line.
It's true, as a searing indictment of Southern sexual culture, True Detective fails.   But that's like saying that Lebron James failed to win the Stanley Cup.  No attempt = no fail.

The way I see it, and I may be alone on this, but the fact that the serial killer is just an incestuous hillbilly and not some diabolical comic book villain is a pretty good "Fuck you" to everyone who wants to focus on the symbolic. 

The problem with reading everything like a comic book, when a two-second glimpse of the Infinity Gauntlet is imbued with meaning, is that it can train you.

Rosenberg is trained for comic book style viewing, not pulp fiction style:

I suppose it’s some sort of accomplishment that that first season of “True Detective” trained me to pick up on all these crumbs, but I have little confidence that they’ll make a satisfying meal.
Thinking back on my John D. MacDonald and Raymond Chandler binge-reading, I've come to ignore the crumbs.  They don't mean anything.

And that's doubly true for comic book movies.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

On Analytical Modes

Paragraph found in a post on why the new Entourage movie is bound to fail critically:
But there’s more to the changing tide of Entourage’s cultural reception than that. It’s not just that Entourage didn’t evolve—it’s that the whole conversation around TV did. Needless to say, pop-culture criticism as a whole now pays far more aggressive, fine-grained attention to the political implications of art within the context of criticism. We increasingly consider aesthetic judgments to at least overlap with ethical ones, in part if not entirely. This change has allowed for some of the best TV criticism of the past few years, coming from some of the best critics. It’s led one of the most popular shows on the air to be flayed to the bone every time it airs a rape scene. It’s spearheaded the critical reevaluation of Friends. (OK, Chandler is the worst.) Yes, it has also produced plenty of ham-fisted and wrongheaded analysis—but, no matter your opinion on it, this analytical mode is now built into the way we talk about culture.
A couple things:

A)  My opinion on it is that it's shit.
B)  I hope it's more of a phase than "this analytical mode is now built into the way we talk about culture."  Because...
C)  It's not that this analytical mode has "also produced plenty of ham-fisted and wrongheaded analysis," it's that it's likely to.

That's why Ronda Roussey is in the movie.  You can't make a movie about four white dudes in this day and age without addressing "the political implications" in some way.  Throw in a cage-fighting girl, a boneable one of course, and it's a sop to all the wet blankets who would decry the testosterone overload.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Woah

A feminist calls out other feminists about their abjectly ridiculous complaints about Game of Thrones.

She says:
The issue here is bad arguments and why feminists need to avoid them. Feminism is supposed to be a movement against reactionary politics, so this kind of reactive, rationalizing behavior—the kind we see so often from conservatives—is a bad look. I spend a lot of my time trying to debunk conservatives whose entire worldview is built around coughing up bullshit rationales to justify their thoughtless reactions, from “abortion is icky” to “sexual women are gross” to “hip-hop doesn’t sound like the music of my youth so it must be wrong”. Being challenged or upset by stuff is not a reason to be against it. It often means you need to slow your roll and think about things harder. Plus, bad arguments makes it easier for anti-feminists to paint feminists as a bunch of overly emotional, thoughtless and censorious creatures. Don’t give them that.
I think Amanda Marcotte gets a lot wrong about George RR Martin's intentions about the series -I think Martin just wants to shock and horrify his audience, no cheap trick for an author who also writes horror- but she gets this right.

Being challenged or upset by stuff is, indeed, not a reason to be against it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stuff

I've been off all week and it's been nice to have time to get some stuff done. 

I saw Mad Max...twice.  It's apparently "the most feminist movie in theaters," so I did my liberal duty and took my 8 year old niece the second time.  You can find feminism in the movie if you're looking for it, but what I found interesting, aside from the eye-popping stunts and action sequences, was the narrative structure and world-building.

Yes, the narrative structure.  If Mad Max is a feminist manifesto, then it's also an exercise in pure visual storytelling.  Rather offering explanations, the movie just asks the audience to "Witness!"

In other news, there was a huge biker brawl-slash-shootout in Texas that left, what, 9 people dead, dozens either hospitalized or arrested.  On Sons of Anarchy there's a shoot-out every other episode and it's no big deal.  In real life, when this stuff happens, it's a big deal.

But this is what "smart" people have to say about it:
In fact, in much of the coverage of the Waco shootings, the race of the gang members isn't even mentioned, although pictures of the aftermath show groups of white bikers being held by police. By comparison, the day after Freddie Gray died in the custody of police officers in Baltimore, not only did most coverage mention that Gray was black, but also included a quote from the deputy police commissioner noting Gray was arrested in "a high-crime area known to have high narcotic incidents," implicitly smearing Gray and the entire community.
 This is what I've come to dislike about politics.  It always comes back to the hobby horse issue.  We can't have a biker brawl without bringing it back around to Freddie Gray.  Why not gun control?  Why not helmet laws?  I know, mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders.

Whatever the impulse is, it's not, "Hmm, this is interesting.  Let me see if I can understand it."  The impulse is always, "How can I use this incident to further my goals?"

I find the biker brawl interesting because it was apparently about turf and, ultimately, what patches can be worn on their cuts.  The Bandidos claim Texas, all of Texas, a claim that is now being challenged by other biker gangs. 

This has nothing to do with what happened in Baltimore.  It's own little beast, and this call for the media to treat it in the same manner as the Freddie Gray stuff, I cannot abide.  No.  No, and more no.



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Freedom!

My truck's in the shop, so I had to take the bus home today.  Walking in my neighborhood to the house I passed a sign that I found curious.

It said
No stopping or standing.
I stopped.  I stood there.  I looked around.

This sign was a relic.   It sits in front of a row of cheap apartments set off the street only by a five foot wide strip of lawn.  Before the fence, before the sign, before the legalization of marijuana, one can imagine these apartments were a hub of drug activity.

If you stopped you were buying and if you stood you were selling.

No stopping or standing.

It took me a couple of blocks to come to this realization.  My first instinct upon seeing this sign was to grab it into both fists and shake it until it fell.

No stopping?  No standing?  No sign! 

But alas, it still stands, a reminder of all the little ways our lives and freedoms have been abridged by the misguided war on drugs.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

On Faith

My brother forwarded me an inspirational e-mail about self-publishing, and while it's something I've considered and will probably eventually do, the writing well these days is a bit dry.

Oh, I've got ideas.  And the chops to put them down.  I still have dreams, and I also have the practical need to be creative, but what I don't have is faith.

Faith in an audience which has been trained to expect certain shoutouts and concessions that I'm not really interesting in giving. I don't want to fix anything.  I don't want to declare my morality as superior.  I want to wallow in the broken areas of life and do it with a dispassionate artfullness that leaves the reader to do the fixing and the moralizing.


My goal is catharsis, not social change.  As it should be.

Let us not mention the inescapable fact that I'm a straight white male, and that chances are, my "hero" will also be a straight white male.  This is a demographic and genealogical reality that, if it must be mentioned, should matter not at all.

But matter it does, perhaps even more than the work.  Either I'm part of the dominant patriarchy that lords over everything --these straight white male heroes and their straight white male authors-- or I'm something to be actively avoided.

Once upon a time, Susan Hinton of Tulsa wanted to publish a book but they said, people don't read women.  So the author of The Outsiders was listed as S. E. Hinton.  The book has been in print since.  Surprisingly, people do read women!

I've thought a lot about that lately, the ever-present narrow-mindedness of the masses, the coy attempt to fool them, and in the end, the triumph of the work itself.  I'd like to think that can still happen.  I'm just not sure.

Which is why I think when I publish, I will do so under a pseudonym, and my author biography will read "[Insert Chosen Pseudonym] is the pseudonym of a guy you really don't want to know."

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Happy Daylight Savings Day

Andrew Sullivan, who practically invented blogging, announced in February that he would quit blogging...and then he did.

I didn't really quit, but I'm not sure I'd announce it either.

I will announce, however, my love for Youtube:


Lately I've been mining for live musical performances, some of dubious quality.  This one I would normally dismiss because it's clearly it's a recorder in the room, but I've listened to this track many times now and I wish...WISH...that Clutch had recorded a proper version of it.

Some of the lyrics are quite clever:
Romans came, made me wear a cross
In the end, my gain, their loss
Ah, Fall of the Roman Empire humor.

Also...Baroness playing "Green Theme." It's a great song, and it's also amazing how much the lead guitarist looks like an old friend named George.



These guys are a great band, so here's a twofer:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pendulum


This song is so strange, so complex, so interesting, that I've listened to it fifteen times since I heard it last night.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dead Cats

On Saturday, my cat Marley was killed by some asshole driving down my street.  I buried her in my backyard.  I sat on my knees over the hole I had dug and told her I was sorry, sorry I let her out, sorry I wasn't there to protect, sorry there was nothing I could do but her in this hole.

I cried a little and held my remaining kitties closer that night.  (They were like...what the fuck, man?)

It's been a few days now and I've had bouts of sadness, but today I started to feel angry, angry at myself for not letting her in twenty minutes earlier.  Twenty minutes, and she'd still be up on the cat tree, purring when I walked by. 

But I also felt angry at the car that killed her.  Life is so fragile and the world so uncaring, but that doesn't mean you have to go barreling around killing cats.

Some people love those cats.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Distrust the Artist


Nice to see Down is back to making people bang their heads instead of scratch them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Jesus Doesn't Like Jerks

Wait till this story blows up:
Azucar Bakery on South Broadway is under investigation for religious discrimination by the Civil Rights division of the Department of Regulatory Agencies stemming from a March 2014 incident.
A customer came into the store and requested a couple of cakes in the shape of Bibles, according to the owner Marjorie Silva.
Silva says the man pulled out a piece of paper with hateful phrases like "God hates gays" and requested her to write them on his cakes.
The baker, of course, refused.

And I have to admit, it's a very clever stunt.  A gay couple sues a bakery for refusing to bake them a cake for their wedding, so this guy is trying to make hay for a bakery refusing to bake them a cake for their own private little ceremony of hate.

It is, I admit, pretty funny that this is all unfolding in the bakeries of America.  I mean, what is it about flour and eggs that brings out the inner asshole of homophobic Evangelicals?

The way I see it, if these Evangelicals weren't uptight, impolite, and unprofessional, we wouldn't even have this problem of people refusing to bake cakes.

That should be the principle we draw from this.  It's not "public accommodations cannot discriminate."  It's "Don't be an asshole."

Monday, January 19, 2015

More Stuff

We apologize for poor judgment shown in a tweet sent earlier. We did not intend to compare football to the civil rights legacy of Dr. King.
A Tweet sent out by the Seattle Seahawks after they tweeted an inspirational MLK quote and then deleted.

Yesterday, like any Bronco fan I hope, I was really pulling for the Packers.  I was at work, so only peripherally involved in the game, but every time I looked up, Russell Wilson was getting picked off or pounded into the turf. 

I like Russell Wilson, but that felt so good.  I thought Green Bay had it.  They should have.  To have that kind of lead and that kind of game, and just blow it in the final minutes....  Man.  Against those bastard Seahawks no less?

On the AFC side, the Patriots beat the Colts, probably cheated too.  Yawn.  This year's Super Bowl is going to be like next year's Bush versus Clinton presidential race:  a snoozer.

Thank God for basketball.  (Kansas is playing tonight.  DVR'd it.)

American Sniper

It's interesting to me, from a business perspective, how this film has become a hit.  Bradley Cooper is "big."  Clint Eastwood is "big," although obviously aging out of his craft.  The subject matter, well, not always a box office draw.  Oscar heat alone can't account for a $100 weekend.  The holiday weekend, probably not either. 

It's January.  On the big release schedule of life, this is where films go to die.

But here we are, and the movie is a blockbuster.  The studio probably didn't count on this.  I know that the theaters didn't.  There are summer movies that won't make this much money in a weekend.

This is what I think did it:  The ads.

Most of the American Sniper trailers focused on tense, dramatic scenes rather than playing like a highlight reel of the movie.  You're not able to dismiss the movie, thinking you've seen the best parts already, and instead are left intrigued.  You want to know how the situation resolves itself. 

Does he shoot the kid with the RPG???

At some point in the near future, I'm going to have to see this movie.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dignity in Death

Item:
LAKEWOOD - A "Dignity in Death" rally was held Tuesday afternoon for a lesbian woman whose funeral last week was moved after a Lakewood church rejected photos that were used in a memorial video.
That last bit is very generous.  The corpse was in the chapel, the mourners were congregating, and the church said, "If you don't take out the photo of the gay marriage proposal, you have to leave." 

This is a familiar story:  Politicized Christians who think they have a religious obligation to discriminate against gay people.  It's a kinder, gentler version of the impulse that leads politicized Muslims to think they have a religious obligation to murder infidels.

And at this point, I'm over it.  I'm not going to waste one breath defending these assholes right to discriminate, religious freedom or no. 

But what really gets me is this kind of thing:
(Chaplain Gary) Rolando says it's a shame that Collier's friends are using her death to push an agenda.
And what "agenda" would that be?  Gay marriage isn't an agenda anymore.  It's how it is.   Seems to me that the only agenda this woman was pushing was "This was my life.  Remember it."

The real shame is that there are still people who think their religious beliefs trumps people's lives.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

More Stuff

Charlie Hebdo

I've been racked with doubt over my mini-crusade against the Social Justice Warriors who watch True Detective and think "How does this show represent my gender to little girls?"  It's not that I want a white male patriarchy to control everything, so why am I busting the balls of the people trying to chip away at it? 

This is why:  Freedom of expression is more important than everyone's fickle sensitivities.

I'm not an unthinking person.  I understand that artistic representations of Islam's most notable prophets are offensive.  I understand that women are often sexualized in movies and that's offensive.  But in almost all cases, it hurts no one to just look away.

Books

I finished Lost Souls yesterday and am sad to report that it was not just about gay vampires.  It was about gay, incestuous vampires.  Subject matter aside, I enjoyed the book.  It left a few threads under-developed, but the characters were vivid and the plot had that tricky momentum that steered the story into regions both inevitable and unpredictable.

I'm not going after Sunglasses after Dark anymore, but I am thinking that next up might be The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood or Dawn by Octavia Butler.  Or maybe just The Hobbit.


Whatever it is, it will be a combination reading/listening experience, as was Lost Souls, as was The Tides.  Switching back and forth on my Kindle (or my phone) is a luxury of reading that I'm happy to enjoy.

Except when it plays something I've already listened to when I'm driving.  Now there's a first world problem.  The audiobook on my smartphone is repeating itself and I can't do anything about it because I'm driving.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Stuff

I've had a lot of stuff to blog about, but just haven't.  It becomes too easy, I've found, to be reactionary.  You see something on the news or someone voices some dumb opinion, and boom...the cannons come out. 

For instance, I saw something earlier this morning about people being upset that Target used a white model in ads for their Annie clothing line.  And my first instinct was to say, "Oh, stow it."  I mean, I was fine when they made Annie a black girl.  It makes sense.  Not only is reimagining old tales a time-honored creative tradition, but the music and the themes of Annie, sampled and hinted at in Jay Z's music, make it a natural fit for a "black-oriented" film.

But let it be known:  If we can have a black Annie, and we should, we can also have white girls in the clothing line ads.  Grow up.

And now onto the stuff that actually interests and inspires me, rather than the stuff that pokes at my soul.

Books -

I'm on a minor retro horror novel kick, buzzy women writers from the 90s.  First up, The Tides by Melanie Tem.  First off, I've met Melanie Tem and once had a long phone conversation with her husband, Steve Rasnic Tem, while I watched a Nuggets game and probed him for writing advice.  (I was young.  They live in Denver.  Their number was in the phone book.)

In her heyday, Tem won several Stoker awards (the horror novel's version of the Oscar) and pumped out a couple of minor classics.   She has a more literary style that her contemporaries, relying less on shocks and scares and more on atmosphere and tone.  Her work is very subjective, a stream of consciousness that is sometimes vague, which is not always bad, and often hard to follow, which is.

The Tides is about a woman tasked with caring for her dementia-afflicted father and also running the failing nursing home in which he is staying.  Weakened by age and disease, her father is haunted by a malevolent spirit from his past -a woman named Faye.

Faye is always a whisper, a scent in the wind, a shadow in the corner of your eye.  Tem's vague subjectivity works well here, showing us what it may be like for an Alzheimer's patient to be haunted, the distorted memories and perceptions, the confusion.  When it comes to moving along the plot, however, the reader does most of the work.

Stylistically, I enjoyed it immensely but the conclusion felt a little rushed, a little anticlimatic to be honest.  But then it dawned on me.  This is one of those books you read to see what happens, how it ends.  It's just one of those books you immerse yourself in, like a warm bath, to enjoy the aesthetics.

Now that I've finished The Tides, I've turned to Lost Souls, by Poppy Z. Brite.  I tried to read it in high school, but it was too "goth" for me.  Even now it conjures up images of those dudes in trenchcoats with long stringy dyed-black hair.  Maybe they had eye-shadow, but maybe you couldn't even see their face.  Chances are, though, that they had a big honking skull ring on their knuckle and a chain on their wallet.

Here is where I pause to mention that Poppy Z. Brite is now known as David Martin, which implies no judgements but does imply that pronouns are about to get tricky.

Lost Souls is more vividly written than The Tides, but all the goth stuff still grates.  It seems like an aesthetic that screams "I'm not cool!" but it's a lie.  Of course, you're cool.  You're so cool the rest of us squares don't even get it, man.  Why must you cling to Dylan Thomas and The Cure?

The story concerns vampires, gay vampires, well, omnisexual vampires.  No, they're gay.  This, I admit, was another turn-off when I was in high school.  We weren't so enlightened back then, but to be honest the casual bisexuality of all the characters still doesn't ring true.   

But I am enjoying the book.  I'm not quite finished with it yet, and though its about vampires -perhaps one of the most boring subjects known to man at this point- it still retains a freshness for being over two decades old.

Next up, Sunglasses After Dark by Nancy A. Collins.  Another vampire story.   Then I think I'll have to read something for grown-ups.  Like The Hobbit.

Speaking of "for grown-ups," I recently saw the Brad Pitt movie "Fury."  It's funny though, all the things I liked about it.  I liked the violence.  I liked the make-up, all the grit and grime on the faces, the tear-streaked eyes.  I liked the sound effects, the visual effects:  glowing tracer rounds pinging off tanks and whistling through the air.  I liked the dumb accents.  I liked all the performances, especially -don't hate- Shia Lebouf's!

I didn't really like the ending, though.  It deserved something, I don't know, grimmer.