Saturday, August 28, 2010

Political Song of the Day: War Pigs by Black Sabbath (covered by Faith No More)

Obviously I know this was written and first performed by Black Sabbath ... and theirs is a great version. But, my first exposure to War Pigs was by Faith No More in college. And theirs is the best cover of the song I've ever heard.

Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction
Sorcerers of death's construction
In the fields the bodies burning
As the war machine keeps turning
Death and hatred to mankind
Poisoning their brainwashed minds
Oh lord yeah!

Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor

Time will tell on their power minds
Making war just for fun
Treating people just like pawns in chess
Wait 'til their judgement day comes

Now in darkness world stops turning
Ashes where the bodies burning
No more war pigs have the power
Hand of God has struck the hour
Day of judgement, God is calling
On their knees the war pig's crawling
Begging mercy for their sins
Satan laughing spreads his wings
Oh lord yeah!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stupidity Sells

I was at Costco today and was perusing the books and came upon the political section. These were the books I saw ... the only political books I saw:
No books by liberal or even moderate authors to be found. Is this a switch to the dark side by the traditionally progressive company? Probably not. More likely an admission that the Right is more likely to shell out $ for blatantly biased writing. It's why conservative talk radio and FOX News make money. For all the talk about "freedom" and "independence", Republicans don't want to form their own opinion. They want to be told what to think. They don't want an exchange of ideas. They want a chorus of sycophants.

So-called "liberal" authors have never sold a lot of books because most liberals don't want an echo-chamber. The few that have done moderately well did so because they were also humorists (Al Franken and Molly Ivins). But we've lost both of them in one way or another ... Franken, thankfully, to the Senate, and Ivins, unfortunately, passed away a few years ago.

Most liberals are far more likely to read scholarly works analyzing society in general (Jared Diamond, Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Friedman, etc.) than anything partisan. This makes for better rounded people, but it doesn't necessarily help Costco sell more books. So, I guess it doesn't bother me that they sell the books. They are certainly not changing anyone's mind with them. In Arizona, if agreeing philosophically with one's customers was a prerequisite for a transaction, then I would be out of business.

"SYCOPHANT, n. One who approaches Greatness on his belly so that he may not be commanded to turn and be kicked. He is sometimes an editor." -- Ambrose Bierce (American Writer, Journalist)

Sunday, August 22, 2010


"I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another" -- Thomas Jefferson

Hmm. They say we are fighting for freedom, but I'm suspicious that they don't actually know what that is. The mosque issue in NYC is certainly bringing this to the forefront.

I don't think a lot of them realize that they might be shooting themselves in the foot. By limiting Muslims' freedom of religion, it could hurt their own. vjack at Atheist Revolution put it well:

I cannot help but wonder how this might impact public attitudes toward separation of church and state. Will America's Christian majority finally gain some perspective as they realize what it is like to have another religion asking for the same freedoms they enjoy? Might the threat of Islam lead even Christian extremists to rethink their opposition to church-state separation? Will more Christians begin to understand that church-state separation actually protects their religion?

... Yes, Islam is a problem ... and so is Christianity. Maybe there should be fewer mosques, and maybe there should be fewer Christian churches.

Are we fighting for "freedom of religion" or just freedom to be exactly what we want you to be ... a Christian. Even those who are supposedly fighting for our "freedom" are not given that freedom: Troops: Skipping Christian Concert Got Us Punished:

RICHMOND, Va. — The Army said Friday it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band's concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up ...

Also, are we fighting for "freedom of speech" or freedom from criticism when we say something stupid and racist? ('Dr. Laura' Is No Free Speech Victim):

I watched on Tuesday as "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger told Larry King she'd be leaving her radio program after 30 years on the air and more than a decade and a half of national syndication. Schlessinger told King -- in her own words -- "I want to regain my First Amendment rights." I watched again on Wednesday as she told John Roberts that her freedom of speech had been taken away ...

See, "Dr. Laura" was upset that she received criticism when she sprinkled the n-word throughout her broadcast. I think most conservatives don't actually understand what freedom of speech is. She has every right to say what she wants and I would go to the mat for her right to say whatever stupid thing she wants. But that freedom is not a freedom from other people exerting their right of freedom of speech. She wasn't even fired. She chose to step down because she couldn't handle people using their freedom of speech. Hypocrisy, thy name is Dr. Laura.

"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use." -- Soren Kierkegaard (Danish Philosopher and Theologian)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Female Movie Leads

One might think that the only type of female-lead movies that you can catch nowadays are the unrealistic, privileged white women types that no one can really identify with. Or as my friend Laura put it on her Twitter page (dittydot_76):

The women coming to The Davis to see 'Whiny, wealthy, white' are everything I expected.

You would have to tie me down Clockwork Orange style to get me to watch #eatpraylove

Her takes on feminist issues are well-informed and, more importantly, wickedly funny. Follow her or read her blog (The Sarchasm).

Thankfully, Eat, Pray, Love is not the only thing out there. I'm recommending 3(one new, one recent, and one old) action movies with strong and interesting female leads that I, oddly and by no specific design, watched in a period of only 3 days this past week or so: Salt, Nikita, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I was originally going to be a lot more ambitious with this and have full reviews of all three. But then I read Wunelle's reviews of Salt and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I went into a depression. He writes disgustingly well and my reviews would come off like Perez Hilton as compared to Shakespeare. So, instead I'll just give some general impressions.

Salt is by no means high art, but the movie moves, is not effects-laden and has enough twists to keep you interested. Jolie, as she did in Wanted, can believably kick some ass but also has enough acting chops to keep you questioning her allegiances. A couple of my favorite actors, Chiwetal Ojeafor and Liev Schreiber also have large roles. It may be oversimplifying, but for a fortune cookie length description, you wouldn't be far off to call it a female led Bourne-type spy movie.

Nikita(or La Femme Nikita) is very good. Nikita is a miscreant and convicted felon, and the government gives her a chance to become a spy . But first, extensive training and deprogramming to break the troubled child. I had watched the movie many years ago when I was on a bit of a Luc Besson kick. I've always liked the Fifth Element, and especially The Professional (with Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman). Nikita is one of his earliest films and is in French with subtitles. Jean Reno is also in this movie, in a role similar to his in The Professional. This movie is much better than the American remake (Point of No Return) with Bridget Fonda. Yeah, Bridget Fonda. Often when I think of a female kicking ass, I think of Bridget Fonda ... or not. There was also a television series, which may be fine, but I've never watched it.

I liked The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo quite a bit. I might be wrong but it sure seems like European directors have a better sense of cinematography, spacing, and character development and don't feel compelled to jam pack movies with unnecessary special effects. That being said, I'm still looking forward to the American remakes of this film (and the others in the series) that are coming, mostly because of the involvement of director David Fincher and actor Daniel Craig.

Lisbeth Salander, in the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, is very similar to Clarice in Silence of the Lambs in how she investigates a series of murders and in how she is viewed by those around her because of her sex and her appearance.

All three films have women that had harsh and abusive childhoods. Salt, in order to make her a more useful spy. Nikita and Lisbeth, for no better reasons than people can be shits and they compound it by taking it out on their children.

I'm not going to go too far into a field where I'm clearly out of my field of expertise, but all three of these female characters are pushing back against a male-dominated world that has oppressed them in some way. Whether it be what society views as gender-appropriate roles (all three movies). Or the sexual element and how women have to cope with abuse that men inflict upon them both physically and mentally (Tattoo and Nikita). All three are smart, and talented. They have a tendency to sabotage their relationships with others through necessity or trust issues brought upon by the previously mentioned abuse.

Now, both Nikita and Tattoo are subtitled. If you don't like movies with subtitles, get over it. There is literally a whole world of quality cinema that most people never get the chance (or take the chance) to see. Choosing to not watch movies with subtitles is like playing a piano and choosing not to use the black keys.

I'm sure there is an audience for movies like Eat, Pray, Love, but for those women that don't necessarily want whine with their cheese, take a look at these three movies.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Conversation between workers at one of my clients today (financial services):

worker1: "They wouldn't have budget problems if they'd just get rid of the wasted $10 billion a year for the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts)."

worker2: "Yeah, I heard they're going to cancel my military insurance because of no money for it."

I've always said that I believe in the inherent goodness of people. Lately, I'm not so sure. If people are not bad, at the least, they are invariably stupid.

Even if you granted the $10 billion a year figure, it would be dwarfed by the $664 billion for the U.S. military. The very military that pays for insurance for one of these two morons and for the education of the other. But these two Mensa members didn't even get the $10 billion right. The annual budget for the NEA is $155 million. A single F22 Raptor is $150 million. It's remarkable that people actually entrust my clients with their money when they seem to have no true knowledge of it themselves.

I didn't have the heart or patience to correct them. People believe what they want to believe. They will not seek out opposing viewpoints. They will seek out outlets that reinforce their prejudices. I don't even think we need to venture a guess as to where these two got their info.

The lesson here? Don't let the facts get in the way of a good rant. I am honestly so tired of the willful ignorance that I face every day. Perhaps if we reversed the money spent for wars and the military and put it in more funding for education and the arts, maybe we'd be on the right track. Hell, even if we could just eliminate the funding for military, we'd be on the right track.

"The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge." -- Elbert Hubbard

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Dalton Trumbo

We each wage battles we consider worthy, smug in the belief that our sacrifices are significant and tangible. We sacrifice nothing. We're put out if we can't have 3 cars. Modern Americans don't know the meaning of sacrifice. Would you go to jail for your beliefs? Would you give up the 10 most productive years of your career for your beliefs?

Dalton Trumbo did. Trumbo is a great documentary that I just watched that tells his story. Dalton Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of Hollywood directors, writers, and actors who were, real or imagined, communist sympathizers. Because they refused to snitch, they were jailed, blacklisted, or both. Unable to work in the only fields they knew, they suffered greatly both financially and personally.

Dalton Trumbo wrote "the" anti-war novel of our times and one of my favorite books, Johnny Got His Gun. Hard to read, void of any punctuation (Cormac MacCarthy's The Road is similar), and of a subject matter inherently depressing, the book is simply brilliant.

Trumbo was also an extremely talented and recognized film screenwriter: Spartacus, The Brave One, Papillon. Dalton Trumbo directed one film, the adaptation of his book Johnny Got His Gun. If you have ever seen the Metallica video One, that song is about Johnny Got His Gun and includes clips from the movie.

His post-blacklist movie scripts, particularly Papillon and Spartacus, draw from his experiences during the blacklist. When each of the slaves exclaim "I am Spartacus" rather than subjecting the true Spartacus to punishment, you see its parallels in the Hollywood Ten standing on principle and not "naming names". In Papillon, when Steve McQueen's character refuses to relent, you can imagine Dalton Trumbo defiance to the Congressmen at the House Un-American Activities hearings.

Kirk Douglas has led a full life with much success, yet the thing he is most proud of is the fact that he had the guts to break the Hollywood blacklist by openly crediting Dalton Trumbo as the writer of the movie Spartacus.

Is a life of comfort obtained through keeping others down or by persecuting your innocent fellow citizens worth it? It's a half-life really. Those that stand for themselves at the expense of others stand for nothing. They stand alone. We still see it now. Proponents of SB 1070 in Arizona and Prop 8 in California believe they are elevating principle and morality. They are doing neither. In Dalton's time, you could be shunned and even jailed for thoughts or beliefs out of the mainstream. Today, you are less if your skin is brown or if you love the "wrong" person. Freedom and liberty are bumper sticker punchlines, nothing more. We forget the lessons of our past.

Trumbo was based on the play of the same name by Dalton Trumbo's son, Christopher. The words are Dalton's from correspondence to friends and foes alike and from interviews. They are effectively spoken by actors who have been inspired by Trumbo including: Michael Douglas, Donald Sutherland, Liam Neeson, David Straithairn, Joan Allen, etc.

If you want to know the story of the Hollywood Blacklist, watch this documentary. If you want to see who really gets hurt by red-baiting self-righteous demagogues like Joseph McCarthy, watch this movie. You should be able to rent this DVD. I watched it on Netflix Instant. Grade: A-