Two Evils

Neither party represents me. Neither deserves my vote. Am I really supposed to vote for a guy who has no respect for the First Amendment because his opponent doesn’t respect the Second?

Do I make a list of which one will erode which of my rights, and decide which ones I can live without more easily? Meanwhile, both candidates pick my pockets, and the pockets of my progeny, to the point where my rights exist only on paper anyway.

I don’t see how it’s “adult” to be complicit in your own enslavement.

(Posted in the Althouse thread on why McCain has a better chance of winning than Romney, which segued into a debate on why–and whether–“adults” should vote for the lesser of two evils.)


Saw Sweeney Todd at the Regal today.

The “medium” soda had to be close to 44 oz. while the large was 54oz. (And they didn’t go heavy on the ice.) I’ve managed to keep pace with serving sizes till now, but Ye Gods.

Of course, the reason they do this is to justify hiking the concession prices, being that the studios gouge them so heavily on ticket returns that they end up making something like half their profit on popcorn and the like.

So what we have is a situation where movie exhibitors don’t make money by exhibiting movies but by selling junk food. To put it another way, you’re actually buying a $10 ticket for the privilege of paying $7 for popcorn burnt in trans-fats and topped with some sort of the bean-of-soy tortured into a pale imitation of butter. (Shout out to the Laemmle again here, for making decent popcorn and using real butter.)

Movie studios used to own their own theater chains until the government stepped in and stopped it. That might’ve been a good idea at the time, even, I don’t know. Now, though, I can’t imagine Hollywood wanting to bother with that mess while they can bleed out the poor saps who show their films.

Hard imagine this ending well, however.

TCM Underground

When I was in high school, a theater opened a couple of blocks from my house, across the street from the school. A revival theater.

Movies are better in a theater, particularly in a theater full of movie lovers. All the things that make movies more convenient at home are also what detract from their total experience. Like a live performance, a showing in a movie theater happens in the now. You’re there or you’re not. No phone calls, traveling salesmen, unruly children, lighting or sound issues–at least not in the ideal, which is pretty close to met in revival showings.

I’ve always felt this way, so that when classics would be showing on TV, I wouldn’t watch them. I wanted to see them in a theater. (I had little concept of a revival theater so I’m not sure how I could be so confident that I would ever have the opportunity.)

It was in this revival theater that I saw for the first time Gone With The Wind. What was sort of funny to me was that the theater was packed. Sold out. Just as when they showed and The General and Modern Times. Casablanca and Citizen Kane. Rebel without a Cause and East of Eden. (I don’t get the James Dean thing, though, and as a Steinbeck fan, I walked out of East of Eden, seeing that it looked like a remake of Rebel.)

It wasn’t uncommon for me in these years to go see a contemporary Hollywood movie on a weekend morning, a trashy (contemporary) horror flick at the theater my sister was working at sometime during the week, and then one (or even two) double-features at the Baronet.

They switched from showing a classic double-feature weekly to going to a more cult-movie format on a daily basis. That was okay, too, and I’d see things like Quadrophenia alongside The Kids Are Alright. Or Last Tango In Paris alongside The Story of O. Actually, I didn’t go see that last pair. (I wasn’t old enough.)

‘course, it finally went out of business, although we suspected shenanigans, since the place was consistently packed. Occasionally the Laemmle will show a film series, which is also good, but they’re sadly infrequent.

If I had enough money to live on with a little to burn, I’d open a revival theater

Anyway, a little over a year ago, TCM started a midnight (west coast, 3AM east coast) called “Underground”, hosted by Rob Zombie and showing cult classics. Rob dropped out, probably to direct the Halloween remake, and it’s still just TV (no matter how big).

But I did get a smile when I saw last night’s showing of Quadrophenia and The Last Waltz.

I didn’t watch it, though.

Indications That I’m This Blog’s #1 Reader

Judging by various stats (browser, screen-resolution, location), I figure most of the hits this blog gets are me. Actually, I’ve just set it up to ignore me and anyone in my IP block, so I’ll probably take a big hit in traffic tomorrow.

So, for those of you who aren’t me, thanks for reading.

And for those of you who are me, get a freakin’ life.

Blogging is hard!

Lotta work this weekend. I guess with Fred out of the race I can pretty much speed past any political news. So there’s that.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to see Sweeney Todd before it leaves theaters, get the Ed Emberley interview up and prep the next articles I’m working on. I’ve also started work on a chat system. Don’t ask me why, it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do.

Anyway I don’t wonder that a lot of bloggers end up in their own self-made echo chambers. I could see doing nothing but scouring the ‘net for interesting items and commenting on them. But ultimately, where do you get the sort of perspective you need from, you know, having a “real life”.

As a programmer, I know all about abstractions. It’s easy enough to spec a program that reads someone’s mind and does exactly what they want, regardless of what they actually say. Implementation remains elusive, however.

Art vs. Pseudo-Science

Speaking of Ace, guest-blogger Gabriel Malor has reprinted part of an L.A. Times article which lists, in table format, the number of violent acts in the latest Rambo movie.

The last time I saw one of these tables drawn up was over 20 years ago, by a group that was against violence on TV. Their “ah-ha!” moment came from counting the number of violent acts in a certain cop show, which averaged something like one a minute.

Well, that does sound like a lot, doesn’t it? It had more violence– lots more violence–than any other show. In fact, in its half-hour time slot (22 minutes of actual show), thirty to fifty people could die!


Did you get the tip-off there? A half-hour cop show? Half-hour shows are sitcoms! (At least that was the rule back in the early ‘80s.)

Indeed, the “cop show” in question was “Police Squad!” The comedy show from the makers of “Airplane!” In one show–the one I know these “anti-violence” dinks were using as their metric–the CSI guy is trying to figure out the angle of attack for a gunshot wound. So, he lines people up and shoots them at different angles. Seven or eight people killed in just a few seconds!

But of course it was a joke! The scene was violent like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Not even that violent, because cartoons can exaggerate things without having to increase their budget much.

Now, we could assume that these anti-violent people–who never mentioned that the show was a comedy (and it was low-rated in the short time it was on, sadly)–were simply cynically incorporating a show that they knew would boost their message.

But far worse, I suspect that, to their minds, violence is violence is violence. Not only are we putty in the hands of convincing, real world violence, but we can’t even take a joke without being hideously transformed by a literal meaning that we inherently reject (as pat of the humor). Nobody watched “Police Squad!” (or “Airplane!”) and thought anybody really died. It’s like thinking rabbi, priests and ministers travel in packs, golfing, visiting bars and flying in airplanes.

It’s been pointed out that radical environmentalists have one solution for every problem: State control of human population. Too many people? The state should regulate how many children people can have. Too hot? The state should regulate what people can do in their lives that produces carbon (everything, including how many children people can have). Too cold? The state should regulate, etc. (Before the greenhouse-gas theory, which suggests particulate matter created by humans traps heat in, the coming ice age was going to be caused by the same particulate matter blocking the sun’s rays out!) And global cooling is coming again, as is over-population.

The science always fits the theory and the solution is always the same.

Not surprisingly, the anti-violence (and anti-sex) crowd work on the same premise. They know what they want: State control of what people may do, say and observe.

Of course, the state is all too happy to control everything, so you have this triangle of activist-government-science, and poor little science doesn’t stand a chance. It usually sends in its retarded younger brother, “science”, who will say anything to be popular.

I think–I hope–that we’re a little bit smarter now as a group. The censors haven’t been all that effective with video games (unlike their earlier attempts, which pulled the vicious Death Race from arcades in the ’70s), and in the ’80s, they only managed to stigmatize role-playing. (Er, beyond the nerd stigma it already carried.)

But there’s always a “Well, that was different” attitude in older people. Carmageddon is different from Death Race, therefore it’s a good thing to censor it. I mean, we could tell those stick figures weren’t really human, but that collection of polygons and pixels might actually fool some impressionable youngster into thinking running over people with cars is fun!

Rap is different from punk is different from rock is different from rock-and-roll is different from big band is different from flapper music. Music is the best for this, because you can trace scolds back to the first monk who said, “Hey, let’s sing two notes at the same time!”. (“Now, now, Brother Josef, you know that’s Satan talking!”)

Fiction in its various written forms is also a good one, though nobody reads much any more and a good many modern comic books really are geared toward adults, but let’s not forget the old EC comics (Tales from the Crypt), the Congressional hearings about superhero comic books like Superman and Batman, and pulp fiction from the likes of Burroughs and Lovecraft, which was said to be rotting the moral fiber of our youth.

And movies today are different from movies when I was a kid. Well, yeah, when I was a kid, every freaking movie had a sex scene. I’m pretty sure I saw Ken Berry and Karen Valentine bumping uglies in one of Disney’s Herbie-The-Love-Bug movies. And we never got popcorn when I was a kid so I had to just sit there, bored and embarrassed, until it was over.

And, I guess, given the current generation of parents, “Sex and drugs were different when I was having them as a kid.” No doubt. You trusted yourself, probably too much, and probably don’t trust your kids enough.

Now, none of this should be construed as an endorsement of modern culture. Modern culture is going to have to pay me a hefty sum before it gets my stamp of approval. (I can be bought, but not cheaply.) I like opera and Victorian novels alongside regular viewings of “Ow! My Balls!

But let’s be honest as to what this is all about.

At the minimum, it’s about taste. Too bad. The world doesn’t share yours. Get over it. (You can apply this to a lot of environmentalism as well. Hummers are just in bad taste, right?)

At the maximum, and worst, it’s about control. Once again, too bad. The world doesn’t want to be controlled, much. Censorship has largely been used as a bludgeon against the unfortunate few who weren’t big league enough to be on the right side of the club. So the best you can do is make a few people miserable (and for a lot of moral scolds, that’s a satisfying goal).

In fact, the greater the (coerced) centralized control, the greater the misery.

If you want to change things–really change things, and not just be parent to the world, convince the world that you’re right. There are plenty of groups that eschew popular culture, that promote better values, and so on. The beauty of this approach is, not only are you changing things, you’re a rebel! You’re bucking the system, going against the herd, swimming upstream!

And that’s always fun, right?

Brokeback Mountain vs. Wuthering Heights

Deep in the comment section about Heath Ledger’s death over at Althouse, the discussion has turned into a debate comparing Brokeback Mountain to Wuthering Heights. The “Brokeback” fans are claiming that it’s exceptional in the way that it shows Ledger’s character’s complete confusion about his attraction to Gyllenhall’s character. Althouse parried with the point that Cathy’s attraction to Heathcliff (Merle Oberon and Lawrence Olivier) is as completely alien, that Heathcliff is like a different species to her.

Now, you could argue that her idea of Heathcliff is just fanciful, and that Wuthering Heights is just another cheating spouse story. But then, the same logic can apply to Brokeback Mountain.

When we relate to stories strongly, we want to feel like they’re exceptional, and we rarely want to step back and realize that we relate to triteness. (That’s how things become trite in the first place.)

I haven’t been in the mood for Ang Lee–well, since The Hulk–and Brokeback struck me as pretty trite. As Ace pointed out, if the same dialog came from a traditional cheating-on-spouse movie, it would be roundly mocked. And the concept really didn’t seem that shocking (or interesting) when Kate Jackson and Harry Hamlin did it in 1982.

I should point out that I didn’t (and don’t) get Wuthering Heights, either. I haven’t read it since I was a kid but my fallback for a lot of the romantic angst stuff is that scene in Moonstruck when Nic Cage tells Cher he loves her, so she slaps him and yells “Snap out of it!”

The Bit Maelstrom on the Cinematic Titanic Newsletter

The Cinematic Titanic quoted (the most effusive) part of my review in their newsletter underneath BoingBoing and Quick Stop: There’s something to be said for being effusive about a product, I guess.

But I regret nothing! “Oozing” is a blast. So if you’ve come here to read the review, feel free to browse around and partake of my other odd assortment of thoughts. Or click on the MST3K link to check out some other reviews and stuff I’ve linked to.