Thursday, April 24, 2014

12 Political Notes (Seavey/Perry video on ScarJo!)

1. Is the West so much better than Russia? Mark Steyn thinks free speech is dwindling here, too.

2. I’ve had the author of a book about Ukraine complain to me that Ron and Rand Paul don’t seem to be onboard with Western military intervention over there, but -- much as I dislike Putin -- I honestly have a hard time seeing how Eastern-Ukrainian governance founded on a Russia-influenced referendum is so much worse than Western-Ukrainian governance founded on a Western-backed, EU-encouraged coup that it warrants us ending up in World War III.

3. Regardless, I admire this Ukrainian parkour dog (h/t Franc Pohole).

4. The dog’s skills are not so unlike those of Batroc the Leaper, one of the villains in the new Captain America movie.  And I just learned that someone I knew in college writes for the show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. -- maybe she should reuse Batroc in that series.  And was Hydra haphazardly controlling the weather for the past few weeks, by the way?

5. That question is not addressed in this (short) new YouTube video of Gerard Perry and me discussing three new things with Scarlett Johansson in them: the aforementioned Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the eerie indie sci-fi film Under the Skin (in which ScarJo is at long last completely naked), and...

6. ...the trailer for her upcoming superhero-ish action film Lucy.  Is there anything ScarJo can't do?  And she was already the voice of an A.I. program last year in Her (a much better film than Transcendence, with Johnny Depp as a less friendly A.I. program).

8. Maybe the closest thing in the real world lately to a villainous organization as destructive as Hydra is those anti-technology, anti-prosperity, anti-Google protesters out in San Francisco lately, one of whom has even vowed “gun down six of us” and more will rise to take their place (h/t Virginia Postrel).  Hail Hydra!  Chop off one head, two shall take its place!  #OccupySHIELD!

9. Muppet liberation is at hand, at least: Kermit is Morpheus to Fozzie’s Neo in this disturbing, ad libbed outtake from the production of one of my favorite films, The Muppet Movie (h/t Alicina Memar and Perry Metzger).

10. That actual communist they keep putting on The Independents was of course, like many of his leftist brethren, recently praising Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, but this piece does a nice job of taking it down a notch (h/t David Friedman -- but not that David Friedman).

11. Would that more leftists spent time worrying, as Scott Kaufman does in this Raw Story piece, about things like the FDA hiking beer prices.

12. Econ isn’t all about stats, but stats can be a helpful reality check: Despite me constantly feeling I’ve neglected my blog, the numbers say I’ve apparently posted roughly 2 days out of 3 since late 2006(!). 

But as I keep promising, it probably is time to mostly-exit the Web (including about four anarcho-capitalist Facebook pages I love dearly but have lost too much time to) and attend to other things (for now).  This video critique may even give us a new reason to be wary of Facebook. 

And what fresh hell is this wherein many popular publications’ links don’t work if you click on them on someone’s personal Facebook page but do if you click on them in your newsfeed?  You know what, for once, instead of worrying about it, I’m gonna do the efficient thing and give up so I can attend to more important projects.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Culture Dumb Enough to Believe in Heaven Is for Real

A little boy is raised by a preacher and by hardcore Christians, nearly goes brain dead, wakes up and says he saw Heaven.
His lying family claim with straight faces that they have no idea where he could have gotten such notions -- surely not from them -- so it must all be real, and the resulting book is on the bestseller list forever, and the film drama version is poised on the box office charts now just behind a movie about talking animals and just above a bombing film about Johnny Depp being the Singularity.
It's a perfect weekend for religious believers to be deeply ashamed of themselves and the culture they've helped create.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

3 Traditional-Yet-New Music Links

Is it jazz?  Rock?  Old-school Catholicism? It’s a description of the old yet oddly familiar-sounding film It’s Trad, Dad!

And more of the smooth sound of Puddles.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Seavey ONSTAGE! More Seavey/Perry! Malice! Ubu! Jews!

You have a busy couple of weeks of culture ahead of you, here presented in chronological order.

TONIGHT: Michael Malice talks about his book Dear Reader at Housing Works.

FRIDAY: Yours truly, Todd Seavey, will appear onstage as part of a big comedy/politics panel featuring the likes of the chairman of the Free Silver Party and an actual Marvel Comics editor (not that Marvel can be blamed for Tom Brennan’s actions). I will strive not merely to be as funny as the other panelists but as funny as that guy who’s replacing my childhood hero David Letterman. You can RSVP to the so-called Electoral Dysfunction panel on Facebook -- or just risk showing up at 9:30pm on April 18 at Peoples Improv, 123 East 24th St..

•It’s hard to be funnier than the stuff the politics-media establishment expects us to take seriously, though, like that badly-photoshopped profile of White House propagandist Jay Carney, dissected here.

•Meanwhile, the commoners seem to do a good job of keeping their senses of humor and maintaining perspective even amidst conflict.

•But hey, this article has already identified all the funniest people on Twitter, so there’s no need to think about it any further:

ALL THIS WEEK: For Passover, here are a few non-funny items on people who make life difficult for the Jews (besides this weekend's horrible Kansas shooter, who reportedly shouted “Heil Hitler” during his killing spree):

•HITLER himself proudly declared himself a socialist and an inheritor of Marx (all genocide advocates had been socialists).

•BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY might not like to hear it, but nowadays Ayaan Hirsi Ali sees a censorious left enabling the most oppressive form of Islam.

•THE U.S. GOVERNMENT is actually more pro-Palestinian than the Palestinians sometimes.

THROUGH APRIL 26th: I cannot strongly enough urge fans of absurdism and alternative rock to see the two fuse beautifully in the form of the play Ubu Sings Ubu at Abrons Art Center, where Verse Theater Manhattan has taken the founding absurdist play, Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi from 1896, and inserted songs by the band Pere Ubu, performed by an impressive backing band and actors bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Pixies and X lead singers, adding additional layers of visceral decadence to the evening.

And it’s anti-state as all get out -- you can sense in the prescient play (about a deranged and clown-like European conqueror) that death was in the air for taking monarchy and war seriously -- though not soon enough to prevent millions of people dying as well.

AND ONLINE FOREVER: The latest Seavey/Perry video, in which Gerard and I discuss UFOs and the supernatural on the occasion of the release of the documentary Mirage Men about how a man claiming to be an agent of the government fed a UFO believer just enough hints of an alien cover-up to drive the man insane.

Whether it’s odd readings on the radar or that trail-cam footage a few days ago of something appearing to hover and shine bright light upon a couple deer, these sorts of phenomena always seem to happen on the fringes of consciousness and detection -- probably a sign there’s nothing there, though we can still learn some interesting things from such cases about perception itself (perhaps chiefly that our brains are prone to look for other brains as the explanation behind everything, which may explain beliefs ranging from animism to God to Bigfoot).

Then again, there are some very detailed UFO reports from credible people like former astronaut Gordon Cooper, who can also (really) be heard at the end of this classic Letterman routine telling Larry “Bud” Melman to keep up the good work. I hope Dave himself has received plenty of such calls upon news of his own retirement. And if there is anything to the reports made by people like Cooper, here’s hoping they stop surrendering their footage to higher-ups from the Air Force, jostling the camera at a key moment, or larding their stories with New Age mystical insights gleaned from their subsequent hypnosis sessions. Until then, I suppose we have things to do down here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

14 Film Links (Seavey on Stag Blog, more Seavey/Perry on YouTube)

Many X-Men links -- such as a major prediction from me over at Stag Blog -- and unrelated video of things like dozens of black teens attacking a family’s car.

1. Although the star of the politics-parodying film Who’s Nailin’ Paylin? is reportedly the most popular porn actress in America now -- suggesting some sort of attraction, however perverse, to conservative cultural figures -- the hipsters continue to prefer the likes of the late folk singer Pete Seeger. 

Watch Gerard Perry and me discuss him, Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, and the amazing-and-hilarious documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune in the latest video on our humble YouTube channel.

2., 3. And do click here on our test video about RoboCop and our recent look at 300: Rise of an Empire if you haven’t already. (We’ll soon try more frequent, shorter ones.)

4. We haven’t watched or reviewed this documentary about Bryan Talbot, my favorite combo comics writer-artist, but I’m pleased this trailer makes him look like a visionary.

5. On a more mainstream comics note, this second full trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past is a big improvement, and now I’m optimistic (and the shorter TV-ad version is cool too).

6. But if you want to know why X-Men: Days of Future Past will probably erase almost everything you know about the cinematic X-Men, you have to read my guest blog entry about it over at Stag Blog’s traditional “Apocalypse Tueday” spot.

Some additional thoughts about X-Men continuity:

•Azazel was the one truly bloodthirsty character in X-Men: First Class (the red, demon-like teleporter) -- and in the comics he went on to father Nightcrawler via Mystique. That may still prove to be the case in the movies, but apparently he’s supposed to have been bumped off at some point between the early 60s and the upcoming film’s early-70s setting, at least according to the amusing JFK-assassination-themed official site for the film.

One possible lesson to take from Azazel’s sudden demise: even if you’re a demon-mutant, be careful about messing with the CIA.

•Despite some people thinking it was an inconsistency, the mild-seeming Stryker in First Class is simply meant to be the father of the more evil Stryker seen in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men 2: X-Men United, so that’s not a contradiction (he even refers in First Class to his “son William”).

•Xavier’s girlfriend Moira MacTaggert, though, absent evidence to the contrary, must be a very well-preserved seventy-something in X-Men 3.

•I’m excited that the reported 1980s setting of the 2016 film X-Men: Apocalypse opens the possibility of them using Disco Dazzler and that using the Egyptian villain Apocalypse increases the odds of them depicting a teenage Storm (she was a thief in Cairo -- though born of an American and a Kenyan, if you can imagine such a thing) as well as the mutant-filled African island nation of Genosha.  Maybe this should be the film where this franchise finally goes all-out with the colorful, fully comic-book-like costumes for a change.

•Then the question becomes when the subsequent third Wolverine movie (scheduled for 2017) takes place -- and whether it will retain any mention of the prior two Wolverine solo films if the whole timeline’s been rebooted, as I predict on Stag Blog. After Wolverine 3, they say, comes X-Force, which could thus easily be set anytime from the 90s to the near future. We shall see.

•And speaking of evolution, those truly in the know will understand why I think this bit of real-life genetic news is positively, uh, sublime.

7. While you’re waiting for the next four X-Men movies, here’s Hugh Jackman (h/t Mediaite) performing the two-minute Wolverine: The Musical.

8. Even better (and funnier): a faux-Jewel singing “A Song for Wolverine” from the late, lamented

9. I’m less entertained by this Carls Jr. ad with Quicksilver in it. It looks like there is no worry at all on Fox’s part about clashing with the Avengers films’

Musically Humbled by Hamburgers

As if the Go Burger restaurant near me weren't freakin' delicious enough, the embarrassing, super-unhip truth is that I know of no other venue, radio station, TV channel, website, or Pandora option that does a better job than the haunting, mocking, amazing alternative rock music selection in that place of conjuring up things both new and old that I love and have never heard before.  

I've actually asked staff there more than once to tell me where on earth the music they play comes from -- what wondrous other world or hip female bartender -- and yet they can only tell me vaguely that it's piped in by a mysterious home office elsewhere in the country over which they have no control.  I am strongly tempted to try e-mailing corporate HQ.  

So today I ate a hamburger and, sure enough, heard this for the first time (“Talk to Me” by the 22-20s -- and its lyrics are just traditional enough that finding this took no small amount of Googling, I must say), but there's at least one song this good I discover every time I go in there -- and this happens nowhere else.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pajamas...on Me...on LiberyIsland

It’s part of their series about contributors to the exciting new libertarian pop culture site LibertyIsland, chock full of fiction and other creativity from an array of talented anti-statists.

Check out the LibertyIsland launch press release here.

Even better, you can create a user profile on the site and contribute to LibertyIsland yourself. It’s a hub aborning.

And it already has its left-wing haters.

But surely no one can hate my initial contribution to LibertyIsland, a time travel story about punks and Reagan called “No Future.”

And be sure to join me tomorrow for still more time travel, when I discuss time travel’s profound effects on the X-Men in a Tuesday guest post over at The Stag Blog

Thursday, March 27, 2014

10 Ancient-Sounding (Yet Current) Cultural Tensions

How far have we really come?

1. Opponents of gay marriage sometimes argue that legalizing it logically leads to legalizing polygamy -- which wouldn’t bother me, since, basically, (A) as a libertarian I think people should be able to make whatever contracts they like and (B) as a quasi-traditionalist I’m aware polygamy’s about as old and time-honored as monogamous marriage anyway -- arguably on firmer traditional ground than gay marriage, even. 

So, I’m often disappointed when people in favor of gay marriage hasten to add that they would never condone legalizing polygamy.  Why not?  This just makes them sound capricious and emboldens their social conservative foes.

Thus, I was pleased with what happened when (intelligent and patient) foe of gay marriage Ryan Anderson appeared twice on Kennedy et al’s show The Independents.  I’ve met and like both of them, so I don’t really want to see either of them destroy the other.  And indeed, what ended up happening was that Ryan ended his first appearance by pointedly noting that Kennedy (as I’d noticed before) was guilty of the gay yes, polygamy never inconsistency, and she sounded a little defensive about it.  Lo and behold, they had Ryan back on a later show, and Kennedy revealed that she’d changed her mind -- and now embraced legalizing both gay marriage and polygamy. 

I’m going to call that a victory all around. 

2. Fascinatingly, the character of old-timey newspaper magnate T. Herman Zweibel has been resurrected as an avatar of The Onion’s feelings of anti-capitalist guilt over now running sponsored “comedy” (h/t Tushar Saxena), for which the fictional Zweibel does the profit-loving disclaimer.  I can’t really blame them, but they’re sort of going the “if it’s ironic, we’re not really sell-outs” route. 

(This is a slightly less-weird mixed message than the Snickers ad that features construction workers offering messages of female empowerment clearly meant to please real female viewers, followed by the message that people just aren’t themselves if they haven’t had their Snickers.)

3. As if that report of hospitals heated by burning fetuses wasn’t disturbing enough, it appears that even in the twenty-first century, you shall eat your gods’ flesh -- and so the ritual cannibalism literally begins, in the form of a new service offering sausages made from samples of celebrities’ flesh.  At least meat’s not just for speciesists anymore.

4. One of the most prominent anti-sexual-violence organizations is calling for an end to the recent feminist hysteria over “rape culture” (h/t Vulgar Libertarians).  I have been reminded by that whole misguided feminist meme -- according to which we are all guilty of enabling rape every time we accept gendered culture -- of the “I blame society” death scene in Repo Man.  As a thug dies, he makes that claim as an excuse for his actions, to which our protagonist says, that’s ridiculous because you’ve led a pleasant and pampered life just like the rest of us. 

If we want to understand a recurring crime, we should focus on what differentiates the guilty from the rest of us, not throw a warm, aimless blanket of universal guilt over everyone (but then, leftists -- and particularly feminists -- are often too cowardly to hold individuals accountable and thus prefer to drag us all down in egalitarian fashion). 

The worst possible route to responsible individual behavior, then, is blaming society.  Yet, tragically, that’s what anti-rape activists recently chose to start doing -- and just as they had been on the verge of getting almost everything they wanted, in the form of a nearly 90% reduction in occurrences of rape over the past three decades. 

At least the organization that Christina Ricci and others represent seems to be taking the high road. 

5. Cathy Reisenwitz has become the default example of a (still rare) libertarian who plays these blame-everybody campus-leftist-style culture analysis games.  Naturally, these sorts of culture critics (or Social Justice Warriors, as some have taken to calling them) are oddly selective about which cultural pressures they take to task and which ones they accept (in accordance with their own predilections, of course). 

So Reisenwitz deplores “privilege” and “rape culture” -- but is deeply offended if anyone thinks that Duke pornstar (and fellow libertarian) Belle Knox’s participation in rough, violence-themed porn might have something to do with the emotional problems that made her a “cutter.”  Of course, I’m also told that cutting became such a common ritual among “emo” youth in recent years that it’s hard to tell the unstable from the fashionable lately.  None of this will ever lead the Reisenwitzes of the world to campaign against porn, emo, or crazy chicks, of course.  The problem will always somehow be old straight white guys. 

Libertarianism, unnoticed by most of the mainstream, is being destroyed from within by leftists lately, and the real question is whether its impressive simultaneous rightward growth can outpace is leftward dissolution.  Perhaps every tiny movement is doomed to emulate the clashes and stupidity of larger, more dominant ones. 

6. A terrible AlterNet article (h/t Lucy Steigerwald) listed

Friday, March 21, 2014

Seavey/Perry on 300, Dear Reader, More

Gerard Perry and I (directed by Matt Brandenburgh) once more chat on YouTube about cultural goings-on and this time find some parallels between 300: Rise of an Empire, other Frank Miller projects, Michael Malice’s book on North Korea, and diverse peoples wearing Native American headdresses. 

I liked both 300 movies, cartoony though they admittedly are -- and some would say more than a bit fetishy, a sort of agoge-a-go-go*, if you will. 

But they are not as fetishy as the work of Belle Knox, the porn star/Duke freshman who has recently been in the news -- and been on Kennedy et al’s libertarian talkshow The Independents on Fox Business Network (which teased that segment with the Bowie song “Queen Bitch”).  Knox not only reaffirmed in that interview that she’s a libertarian Republican but noted that Rand Paul also went to Duke (to complete medical school). 

Between this and Paul’s warm reception at Berkeley, we may be able to keep the left confused for a couple more years and thus ensure victory in 2016.  (Think of Kennedy as our version of the bold Persian-allied admiral Artemisia, or at least take note of the fact that Kennedy’s forehead somewhat resembles Eva Green’s.  Big foreheads are where the brains are stored, after all.) 

*Wittiest jest of the season.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

10 Notes for Open Borders Day

Today has been declared a day to celebrate open borders, unrestricted immigration, and free trade.  Ultimately, I’m in favor of not merely opening borders but eliminating the very concept -- as well as the governments that currently enforce that concept. 

In the meantime, faced with various admittedly tricky situations such as, say, Russians flooding into Ukraine or for that matter Chinese into Tibet, I recognize that sometimes the best compromise between opening borders and respecting them as-is is redrawing them. 

1. Regardless of where one stands on Ukraine, it was generally a step forward for freedom when the USSR transformed into fifteen or so republics – and some leftists like Katrina vanden Heuvel never fully accepted the change (or admitted its underlying economic reasons). 

I’m not all that crazy about Jonathan Chait, but his overview of oddly pro-Russia intellectuals is fairly accurate.

2. Of course, if secession was good in the early 90s, even more of it may be for the best now.  It’s not that I want Crimea dominated by Russia, but Ukraine’s further devolution into separate states may be preferable to civil (or even world) war, right?  I recently argued the general merits of secession (not slavery!) in defending some of the Lincoln-skeptics like my ex-boss Judge Napolitano, and I would hardly turn around and urge bloodshed in Europe a few days later. 

And awful as the Russian government is, there is some truth to its sense that it is harried by the U.S. and its allies on all sides (and we don’t want to drive it into a more-communistic alliance with China or even North Korea if it can instead grow increasingly tied to the West). 

Even the Syria situation has been something of a proxy war between a Russian-allied government and embarrassingly jihadist American allies, who are not so unlike the other crazies we’ve shoved at Russia over the past three decades, periodically being shocked when they turn on us as well.

3. Russia may be bad, but encourage neo-fascists or jihadists as an alternative and you might even be increasing the odds of more incidents like the disappearance of that Malaysia airliner (though we don’t yet know for sure whether the politically-active pilot was in on its disappearance). 

Then, like Blondie in this swell clip, we’ll all be performing “Bermuda Triangle Blues” (h/t Shizu Homma via Daniel Radosh -- and I think the tune owes a bit to Brian Eno).

And I hope it’s obvious that I mean no disrespect to the passengers in saying that, though I was booted from an extremely small, snooty, uptight libertarian Facebook page yesterday merely for jokingly defending people who I think had in turn made a joke of their own about the Malaysian plane vanishing.  That level of hyper-sensitivity is not helpful anywhere, not even quiet, polite, conservative places like New Hampshire. 

4. Speaking of tolerating the intolerable: Wayne Knight, who played Newman on Seinfeld, was rumored to be dead but is not, but by contrast, there are now reports that the controversial Fred Phelps is dying -- and has been excommunicated from his own anti-gay church. 

Soon perhaps he will learn that across the border in the undiscovered country that is death, only Thanos rules.

5. And speaking of Marvel Comics villains: the 2016 film X-Men: Apocalypse will be set in the 80s, says director Bryan Singer, and will depict the modern return of the evil, godlike, ancient-Egyptian mutant named Apocalypse. 

TODD PREDICTION: One character amidst the “later than First Class, earlier than Rogue” mixed cast will be: Storm as a child thief in Africa.  Sounds cool already. 

TODD HOPE: Disco Dazzler.  The time is right. 

In the meantime, Halle Berry, who is gorgeous but doesn't quite, uh, electrify as Storm, has reportedly been almost entirely cut from this year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (as has Anna Paquin as Rogue).

6. Future Marvel movies may toy not only with the boundaries between geographic locales and imaginary human subspecies but between different levels of reality, since it sounds like a Doctor Strange movie is inevitable, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige is keen to make it as trippy, he says, as a cross between 2001, Miyazaki anime, and The Matrix.  Sounds good to me.

And please note, ladies everywhere, that Johnny Depp, who was rumored at one point to be under consideration for the role of Strange, is marrying a young, bisexual, atheist Ayn Rand fan, which makes sense to me (if he does happen to play Strange, she’d make a lovely Clea).  So to get the best men, become bisexual, atheist Ayn Rand fans, ladies. 

7. While we’re pondering how neighbors and even separate species can best co-exist, we should ask: should there be cats and dogs living together?  Sometimes it works and sometimes it leads to a montage of cats slapping dogs.

8. Speaking of boundaries, can this dog be trusted to stay off the bed the way he's supposed to?  Nope (h/t Emily Richards).  (But here's a very cute puppy rolling down a hill for fun, unimpeded by any barriers.)

9. Since immigration enriches our culture, I would also like to award the first ever Devitt Award for Cultural Tone-Deafness to my friend Saul Devitt, who in spite of our occasional picayune disagreements has added a useful second opinion time and again not only in online conversations I’ve participated in but at a Debate at Lolita Bar years ago, in which he ably fended off arguments in favor of 9/11 conspiracy theories (one of my favorite of his very common-sensical, skeptical points: if this were all some plot to invade Iraq, why not put some Iraqis among the hijackers?). 

Like a Canadian musician or a lesbian stand-up comedian, this import from Australia provides the orthogonal perspective needed to keep people’s minds limber. 

10. If California redraws its own borders, I’m pleased one state would reportedly actually be called “Silicon Valley.”  Take that, Google-bashing Frisco-hippies!! 

Of course, I said way back in the 90s that returning Texas and California to Mexico might solve a lot of problems.  That line about how “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us” is actually true, so hardcore traditionalists should be the last ones complaining about Mexican influence in the Southwest.

The serious end goal, though, should always be a world with no borders at all -- and no governments to draw them.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


1. The site Libertarian Republic (which recently ran my own piece on libertarian/neoconservative overlap) also notes that a somewhat libertarian saint may soon be canonized -- namely, G.K. Chesterton (h/t Justin Stoddard and Rick Sincere).

2. In less Catholic news, Neil deGrasse Tyson has been criticized for oversimplifying the tale of Giordano Bruno on this week’s premiere of the new Cosmos, making a kooky mystic persecuted by the Church sound like a historically-significant scientist.  This saddens me a bit, since the original 1980 series with Carl Sagan was a pivotal step in my mental evolution away from watching In Search Of as a child to reading Skeptical Inquirer as a teen, which has made all the difference.

Still, science and fantasy can sometimes mix as in this amusing mash-up of Carl Sagan and Agent Smith from The Matrix (h/t Neil Horning).

3. Claims about the cosmos are not affirmed or falsified by their incidental psychological or aesthetic effects on us, but you might wonder: are religion and self-hatred a natural pair?  Well, there is a site called “Catholicism for Cutters.”

4. Jon Stewart has become something of an anti-heretic enforcer himself and can sink almost as low as simply calling libertarians poopyheads -- and still leftists cheer The Daily Show, as Kevin Williamson laments. 

But at least they had my ex-boss Judge Andrew Napolitano on to explain his simultaneous condemnation of slavery, war, and Lincoln, as if that combo should be confusing (at the linked site, find the videos from March 11 -- including the faux-gameshow segment pitting the Judge against a hot black female Abe Lincoln and three college professors, which is about what it takes to challenge the Judge).

5. If you want a libertarian comedy alternative, of course, you need Trevor Moore, seen here doing his fact-based rap about the Founding Fathers (and, yes, Lincoln) loving the herb.

6. At the annual CPAC gathering, where a plurality of surveyed participants want to legalize pot, Rand Paul emerged as the straw poll favorite and the leader of the rising, more libertarian generation of Republicans. 

He began his speech there by praising the Abolitionists, as well he should, and goes on to use the South’s lynch mobs of a century ago as an example of what happens when civil liberties are abandoned -- and him doing so should not surprise or confuse people wary of the Southern faction of libertarians any more than Judge Napolitano writing a whole book about government’s oppression of blacks should. 

Paul emphasized the importance of liberty for people of all ethnicities and genders -- yet even conservatives such as Roger Simon apparently can’t resist the urge to find some hypersensitive, p.c.-style reason to complain, with Simon tweeting his displeasure at Paul quoting anti-Israel Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, as if Paul did so out of anti-Semitism. 

(Dude, did I not mention the convention was pro-pot?  Were you not alive in the 1970s?)

7. Meanwhile, leftists and academics, who also likely dread that libertarians are closet fascists, are chock full of respect for the philosopher Heidegger, who we now know with even greater certainty really was a full-blown Nazi.

8. I admit I adore the gigantic, singing clown Puddles who is rather Weimar.  He has returned to the Lorde well after doing a very popular cover of her song “Royals,” and frankly he’s so good at doing covers it stops being funny at some point -- but is still totally worth watching.

9. While we’re talking about people’s cultural sensitivities getting all inflamed, it’s worth noting a knot of four leftists Facebook-unfriended me a few days ago over my shocking claim that artists borrowing imagery and symbolism from other cultures -- say, a singer wearing a Native American headdress -- is not necessarily evil or hateful or damaging. 

I suppose you can imagine people being so sensitive that they freak out over such hybridization, but usually the people doing the freaking in these cases would be the first to weep if we also discarded other hybrids they happen to like, such as, say, blues-inflected rock n’ roll, cartoonified Greek warriors like the ones in 300, anime, fusion cuisine, all of Western civilization, etc., etc.

The selectivity of their (recently mounting) outrage is even worse than that, though, since you know darn well these high-strung people also tend to be the ones who are first to turn around and defend “transgressive” art when it suits them, from eclectic burlesque imagery to bourgeois–shocking shellacked piles of dung in art museums.  They pretend to be deeply, deeply concerned but will in fact turn on a dime when it’s tactically convenient in order to attack their targets.  Nasty.  Don’t let them guilt-trip you, people. 

They have the unmitigated totalitarian presumption to think everyone should speak, act, and create precisely according to their formulas -- and to think they actually do speak (in the only way allowed) for the oppressed populations they claim to represent.

As it was at Brown University in the p.c. 90s, so it is all across the nation today: If people are taught that the more upset they get, the more political and moral clout they wield, surprise surprise, they will get increasingly upset -- and it will never end.  Indeed, anyone who made it through four years at Brown without learning that disturbing lesson is an imbecile -- as is anyone who now sees without worry the rising tide of trigger-warned, coddled, “privilege”-checking, race-animosity-encouraging little cultists who pretend to speak for the holy cause of social justice.  Check your narcissism. 

(And of course the sensitive folk loved Heidegger at Brown.  Carl Schmitt, too.  And Paul de Man...) 

10. This is more like it: a Cato forum on states, clans, and individuals.

11. While back at the Ivy League -- Yale this time -- here’s the frightening insanity to which a feminist pro-fat culture and a slavishly BMI-measuring pseudo-health establishment lead.

12. But, hey, we libertarians aren’t perfect either, and I see the Friday night episode of FBN’s Kennedy-et al-hosted show The Independents will be a whole hour asking left and right critics “What’s the Matter with Libertarians?”

It’s bound to be more thoughtful than the seventy-plus anti-libertarianism articles AlterNet and Salon have run in just the past two years, including one this week suggesting libertarians’ heads would explode if they were confronted by, say, the argument that we need to build street lights in order to facilitate the buying of pizza (WHO WILL ILLUMINATE THE PIZZA??). 

What really galls is that Lynn Parramore, who wrote it, was a Dionysium debater once.  I realize all these articles tend to be written as if by people who have never gotten near an actual libertarian brain and never intend to, but, y’know they could send an e-mail or two before shooting their mouths off.  Or just retire and get the hell out of the way.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Annie 2014: The Decline

I trust Quvenzhané Wallis will be just fine as Annie in this December's film, but all around her, the story, like other elements of American society, has degenerated. 

The original comic strip was staunchly (and quite rightly) anti-FDR and pro-free-market/individualism. The famous musical grotesquely inverted the creator's vision by having the characters sing a big musical number lauding the New Deal at the end ("New Deal for Christmas," no less). And in this year's film, Daddy Warbucks is replaced by a lovable rich politician named Stacks.

I'm not so sure there will be a tomorrow at this rate.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Vulgar Libertarians, Homicidal Rulers, Ignorant Rappers

10 notes on troubling political phenomena -- and various terrible places you can get into political trouble:

1. FUTURE AMERICA: You may recall that I recently discussed our possible fascist-robot future in this engaging video chat about RoboCop with Gerard Perry (directed by Matt Brandenburgh)...

2. CANADA: ...and next we’ll likely post one on 300: Rise of an Empire, with asides about (centuries-later) Islam.  Luckily, we will not be discussing the touchy topic of Islam in Canada like my acquaintance Ezra Levant, who Gerard notes is in trouble again.

3. THE INTERNETS: Gerard and I have other trouble-making acquaintances, though, including a partly New York-based cabal of mischievous young anarcho-capitalists, spawned by what we like to call a Facebook “Trollboard” but now out in public as the blog Vulgar Libertarians.

5. VIET NAM/ALBUQUERQUE: The aforementioned libertarians are the ones who sometimes get depicted as politically-naughty characters by mainstream society, but in a sane world, wouldn’t the character who Bryan Cranston begins portraying on Broadway today -- namely, Lyndon Johnson -- be seen as far scarier than we are, indeed, scarier even than Walter White?

6. AIR FORCE ONE: This year marks not only the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act but likely the fiftieth anniversary, per journalist Ronald Kessler, of LBJ bragging to two governors: “I’ll have those niggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.”  Again, who here is the truly vulgar one? 

7. THE GHETTO: And before you make the inane, cultural-context-dropping argument that it should be OK for white people to say it if black people can say it (an argument I have never bought), please note that even rappers have standards of etiquette -- and some have even begun to lament, like Allan Bloom and so many before them, that today’s artists are forgetting the ideals embodied by the classics.

8. THE MARKETING DEPARTMENT PRETENDING TO BE GHETTO: Far worse, if you ask me, than a rapper having a gangsta persona for the duration of a song or two, is a current Converse sneakers video ad that non-ironically asks, over moody black-and-white filmed images, that we imagine how wonderful it would be to turn the world upside down and shake all its lunch money loose, since “they aren’t going to just give it to you.”  It even ends by asking the world, “How much have you got?”

I guess Converse has decided to appeal directly to the pro-violence, pro-theft crowd.  Grotesque -- and as cynical as it gets. 

9. OLD-TIMEY AMERICA: Of course, why should I expect dimwitted ad execs hawking sneakers to understand the underlying moral and legal rules that make their economic existences possible?  Conservatives don’t get it either.  Here’s a former Bush administration official, Robert W. Patterson, denouncing markets and the growing libertarian trend within conservatism, while praising the authoritarian, trust-busting, government-growing -- and, yes, very racist-imperialist -- Teddy Roosevelt.

10. UKRAINE AND OTHER “BLOODLANDS”: And as eternal reminders that things could always get worse, here (h/t Ronald Radosh) are Hitler and Stalin, compared and contrasted by historian Tim Snyder (who is a good thing to come out of Brown, and now Yale, and who wrote the book Bloodlands about the slaughter on all sides in that region during and around WWII).

Overall, though, I’d say we should do less fretting about the vulgarity of the masses and more about the outright psychoses of their murderous “leaders.”

Sunday, March 2, 2014

10 Oscars-Day Video Notes (plus Todd and Gerard on YouTube!)

1. As a warm-up for the Oscars, check out video of me and Gerard Perry talking a few weeks ago about a then-upcoming film that probably won’t be nominated for Best Picture: the remake of RoboCop (and related sci-fi geekery). 

One of the countless bad people I’ve met working in TV told me not long ago that she’d “never” put me on television if it were up to her because I’m “not funny,” but I dare say I’d be OK. 

2. So, do you think Hollywood’ll ever get around to making a movie about this psychopathic nature tale (h/t Judith Weiss), in which Obama’s Interior Secretary denies impoverished Native Americans a tiny access road to their local airport for emergencies?

3. Despite the comics-inspired cartoonishness of 300: Rise of an Empire, which I’ll see this week, I for one think it’s cool that a movie based on the real Battle of Thermopylae gets followed up with a sequel based on the real (simultaneous) Battle of Salamis -- and who can resist real-life she-admiral Artemisia as a character?

4. But then, my theatre- and comics-influenced tastes make me so indifferent to realism, I could probably enjoy a whole movie full of effects that look like the clay animation moonshot in this 1991 video by Dinosaur Jr. – and I would contend that the song, “Wagon,” is also a reminder that hipness was already greatly advanced back in my college days, no matter what the kids tell you.

5. One of my hip fellow Brown Film Society members from back in those days, Laura Braunstein, is now making her first foray into New Hampshire politics and barring the unexpected will be on her local library board.  Since she’s not part of the Free State Project, the odds of her abolishing and/or defecating in the libraries are small. 

6. With luck, she and our fellow Film Society/Film Bulletin veteran Scott Nybakken and I will see a fittingly geeky and cinephilic documentary this month, Jodorowsky’s Dune, out on the 21st (at least in a couple NYC theatres).  Prior to David Lynch, Jodorowsky very nearly got a mid-70s production of Dune off the ground that would have been even more surreal than Lynch’s (though Lynch’s still bore the stamp of some of Jodorowsky’s elements, such as a Salvador Dali influence).  Per Wikipedia:

In the role of Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV, Jodorowsky planned to cast the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, who requested a fee of $100,000 per hour. He also planned to cast Orson Welles as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen; Welles only agreed when Jodorowsky offered to get his favourite gourmet chef to prepare his meals for him throughout the filming…The music would be composed by Pink Floyd [and others.  Pre-production designers included H.R. Giger and Mobius.] Frank Herbert travelled to Europe in 1976 to find that $2 million of the $9.5 million budget had already been spent in pre-production, and that Jodorowsky's script would result in a 14-hour movie ("It was the size of a phonebook", Herbert later recalled). Jodorowsky took creative liberties with the source material, but Herbert said that he and Jodorowsky had an amicable relationship. The production for the film collapsed, and the rights for filming were sold once more, this time to Dino de Laurentiis, who employed the American filmmaker David Lynch to direct, creating the film Dune in 1984.

7. And Jodorowsky instead made almost stereotypically “foreign”-looking films like the upcoming one for which this is the trailer.

8. A week after the aforementioned documentary, outer-space surrealism hits a bit closer to home with the online release on the 27th of Mirage Men, an acclaimed documentary alleging that the government has deliberately encouraged people to believe in UFOs and space aliens, to distract us from real military projects (such as black triangular spy-blimps, perhaps?).  There’ll also be an expanded DVD release in June.

9. But what goes on in the classroom while we’re busy gorging on entertainment, you ask?  To see, watch a teaching-development professional, of the sort routinely flown in from other states and even from the UK, lead public school teachers (ones meant to lead SAT-level prep classes) through orientation, in this one-minute clip -- in this case, in Chicago (h/t Jerry Mayer).

10. And if you think that's bad, take heart from the fact De Blasio’s sociopathic attack on kids and charter schools (on behalf of teachers unions) is attracting national, not just local, attention, as this one-minute clip of an angry Greta Van Susteren suggests.  There isn’t a level of Hell low enough for the ignorant NYC voters who put that vile buffoon in office.  But film will keep me entertained while we decline. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

10 Pop/Politics Notes -- as Prep for THE OSCARS and for...LIBERTY ISLAND!

Yes, that’s a photo of Rand Paul with a “straightedge” punk symbol on his hand (for punk fans who don’t do drugs or otherwise abuse themselves or others).  My prophecy of “Conservatism for Punks” is coming true after all (have I mentioned that my friend Tibbie X is in the band Reagan Youth now and that unlike some current and former Lower East Side acquaintances of mine, much as I love them all, she likes gentrification?).  OK, actually it’s the symbol for the Feb. 27 day of awareness for the anti-slavery “End It” movement opposing residual pockets of slavery in the world, but, hey, it’s all part of a broader struggle for freedom.

Punk/libertarian synergy makes perfect sense, since punk and libertarianism alike are freedom-loving and anti-fascist (it’s certainly more badass than this montage of liberals crying).  And let it not be forgotten that fascism was a form of socialism -- though it’s true that connection can be oversimplified.  The impulse to force people into a herd is the root of almost all evil, including government. 

No politician’s perfect, of course -- because they’re politicians, the lowest human form (no gods, no masters!) -- but it’s fair to say I like Paul more than juvenile, sneering, condescending, vicious-sorority-girl-sounding columnist Jennifer Rubin does.  In her recent anti-Paul column, rooted in her utter shock at the idea that anyone would want to avoid a new Crimean War with Russia, she quotes an anonymous Hill staffer saying (equally condescendingly) that the last time the U.S. tried complete isolationism it didn’t work out so well for us.  When the hell was that?  The 1880s??  (And didn’t that period actually work very well?) 

But let’s get back to pop culture, where there are big developments this week as the Oscars approach.  Here are ten of them:

1. The biggest, plainly, is the launch (despite some kinks still being worked out) of the libertarian pop culture site LibertyIslandMag, for which I’m recruiting cartoonists and writing gems like this short story about time-traveling punks, “No Future.”

2. Trivia note: the one big scene cut from the story in the editing process involved Jodie Foster giving an Oscars acceptance speech, but regardless, time travel stories are always timely. 

3. The back-and-forth lately about whether Woody Allen has committed crimes has been both painful and interesting, but even those inclined to distrust him can’t dismiss his productivity.  He’s directed a film per year since the year I was born -- well, he skipped ’76, but he made up for it with the epochal Annie Hall the next year and later had a couple two-film years.  He should do something special when his 50th film arrives soon -- if he’s not distracted by rumored marital woes with Soon-Yi.

4. In a reminder that the world would still be filled with vicious political in-fighting even if only the libertarians remained in it, there was controversy over Students for Liberty having (Hugo Chavez-idolizing) Oliver Stone speak at their recent conference.  My libertarian colleague Andrew Kirell thought the outrage was ridiculous and pointed as an example to Sonny Bunch’s column condemning the Stone appearance -- a column which in turn approvingly cited me, since I recently argued libertarians could productively think a bit more like neocons without losing their souls.  And so enemy and ally are linked like Ouroboros. 

(Another odd tension within libertarianism over foreign policy matters right now is that while libertarians seem pretty clearly to side with anti-government protesters in Venezuela, a few -- with whom Jennifer Rubin would be very, very angry indeed -- have become not just anti-interventionist regarding Ukraine but defenders of the ousted, Russia-allied Yanukovich regime, in part because they hate the NGOs and Soros-backed organizations allied with the pro-EU faction in Ukraine even more than they hate the Russian government and, presumably, ex-KGB heads of state.  Adding to the confusion, I’ve noticed a few leftists mistakenly getting the impression that Putin’s new U.S. fans are neoconservatives -- like Jennifer Rubin! -- rather than some paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians.  Well, perhaps a world war will clarify things, whether it starts in Crimea or Syria.)

5. As is well known, I’d prefer libertarians stay focused on economic issues, but AlterNet’s Lynn Parramore has the economy all figured, apparently: It’s all about boobies.

6. In other gender news (h/t Chris Stamper, not to be confused with Doug Stamper), behold the hipster-goth-freakazoid who is NYC’s most desired straight woman according to the weirdoes using dating site OKCupid.  I am not nearly weird enough for this town and must try harder. 

7. To compensate for sounding like a square gender-wise there, here’s a link to a clip that includes a couple of my favorite Ellen Degeneres jokes, which were right there in the first half of her first network appearance, twenty-eight years ago on The Tonight Show (you can skip the second half of the clip, though her chat with Johnny Carson -- not to be confused with her imaginary chat with God moments earlier -- does contain one marvelously succinct feminist moment).  

8. Speaking of foreign policy threats, this week saw the final issue of the Star Trek: Khan comic book miniseries, revealing that in the J.J. Abrams timeline, as intended by the writers from the original 1960s Star Trek series, Khan (apparently) conquered a third of the Earth back in the 1990s, nuking a couple major cities in the process.  I like them depicting Khan this way again.  The Abrams universe doesn’t exactly match the traditional Star Trek timeline -- why should it match the real world’s? 

9. Actor Roger Hill, who played another charismatic conqueror, namely multi-gang-leader Cyrus from the movie The Warriors, passed away this month (h/t Janet Harvey).  Maybe we should all honor Cyrus’s passing by seeing another Peloponnesian War-inspired film, 300: Rise of an Empire, next week.  Widowed queen turned Xerxes-allied warrior Artemisia really fought -- very well -- in the battle of Salamis, you know, so the film isn’t solely based on comic books. 

I also think they should have Miley Cyrus do a cameo as a member of Cyrus’s family (“Now dance your unique dance for me, Cyrus, and sing of the glory of the Persian Empire!”), but you can’t have everything. 

10. And if we survive the next couple months, there’s Godzilla, Spider-Man, X-Men, and Seth MacFarlane’s comedy Western all awaiting us for a wonderful May -- including the final issue of the comics miniseries The Star Wars and the start of shooting on Episode VII, which will be released next year. 

But when I’m not enjoying those things, assume I’m gradually tinkering with this site’s permanent elements to make them look a bit more presentable (or possibly doing things over at LibertyIsland) -- though I will at least pop back in here for one more (especially surreal) movie note in a couple weeks.