Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Party Time

The last presidential election cycle I advocated identifying three issues of personal importance and then seeing how the candidates align.  This presidential cycle is in some ways so much easier and in other ways tougher. 

It’s easy cuz the only viable candidate is Hillary Clinton.  Or, if it’s any different, all the other candidates are turrible.  Fucking turrible.  Trump is essentially an exercise in how badly the dumb and poor in America can be exploited.  Trump is entitled to be as dumb and evil as he wishes.  The sadness comes from so many Americans - those that aren’t evil at least - being so confused or fearful that they would gravitate to something as blatantly repugnant as Trump.

The main third party candidates (J. Stein and G. Johnson) are almost equally unacceptable.  They may arguably be better people than Trump, but their flaws are - with any cursory review of positions or qualification - are just plain bad.

Having in the past cast my ballot for or seriously considered third party, even a hopeless third party candidate remains extremely vital if but to give evidence to dissatisfaction or show an alternative to the status quo.  If the USA is stuck in a two party system, strong third parties have the power to shake and sway the parties. There just needs to be a strong 3rd option. 

It would be fun to pretend an independent B. Sanders or Liz Warren run. There are obvious reasons why – even if any Democrat were principled, ambitious and egotistical enough to break from his or her party – why he or she would not do so, chief being to not hand the victory to Trump.  And one might even defend by suggesting a vigorous primary challenge by Sanders shook and swayed Clinton’s social positions.

I have no idea who among the Republicans could inspire with an independent bid, since pretty much all the folks in the Republican primary were god awful. Moreover, the Republicans have become such a psychotic and reactionary hot mess, in some sense, the third parties have taken over, from the Koch bros and Tea Party in the legislature, and Trump as the nominee.  Panic and obstruction at all cost and at all times, yo. At this point, the alternative for the party would be to have a normal candidate, someone who actually followed longstanding Republican views.

Anyway, there should be no way a majority of deliberating citizenry would cast a vote for any of the other candidates. That’s the easy part.

The tough part is that for whatever reason – Clinton cannot muster enthusiasm. Unfair or not, I would guess this is due to the unstated fact that many Americans are misogynists. Folks delude themselves to favor a male sexual predator unqualified candidate in Trump rather than a woman.

Yet, since I count myself as the unenthused I have to find another rationale. (!) In the past, I championed Clinton - especially during her last presidential run, when I was crazy in love with her. Yet 2008, Democratic American rathered a black illegal alien Muslim dude than a woman. 

This cycle, I am reminded of former Prez J. Carter’s slight overstatement in describing his term: “We never dropped a bomb. We never fired a bullet. We never went to war.” I have dear issues that Clinton will definitely lead on, some important issues her non-support will likely not threaten, and a certain few issues that I know her non-support will be crushing. 

I just imagine America abetted nonstop wars abroad, and the privacy/liberty implications at home, and I cannot help but feel defeated.  Whether Iraq or wherever else, I think of the many fathers, mothers, sons and daughters living in bedlam and fear, surrounded by present or imminent devastation. Maybe the world’s problems have become so tangled that attempts to unwind only tightens, or American foreign policies are failed by political convenience, but America not being a beacon of comfort or aid but an agent of suffering seems likely to remain, or possibly worsen. This election cycle, I am not sure how peace ranks as an issue for me, but Clinton will almost surely not be a peace president. 

And that – following over a decade long martial aggression – feels like progress will not happen under Clinton.  I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not holding my breath. And for whatever reason, at this moment, continued American international belligerence overwhelms all the many other issues that I know a Clinton presidency will benefit. Whatever other progress that can be achieved, I feel, America – with a Clinton victory – will not correct a wayward course that is long fucking overdue for a correction.

In other words, what I want, what I feel would energize my vote, is a clear anti-war movement.  Eight or so years ago, I felt Clinton was that or take steps towards that. Today, I no longer feel that. So that’s the tough part.

There are only limited options on what a citizen can do on Election Day and any measured act or abstention is valid, in my opinion. I feel I’m all but certain to vote for Clinton, but I’m all but certain to debate this till I make it to the ballot box. Whee.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Tenderness

I’m going to start of with this to get it out of the way, which is this: seriously, fuck Obama. As in hardcore fuck him until he bleeds rectally, screams till his voice is lost, drools and slobbers in delirious fits, blackouts, repeat as often as necessary until ‘Bama achieves - grown so accustomed to the constant, forcefully rear-end reaming - ass-fucked bliss.(1)(2)

(1) This shouldn’t be read as having anything against ass fuckers or ass fuckees. I’m only assuming Obama doesn’t partake in that intimate thrill. And if he does, say Michelle includes that strap-on marital ritual or the secret service folks provide that service secretly already, I just want the aforementioned Obama fuck to have excessive purposeful intent in order that he gets the appropriate message.

(2) Woah, sounds like I’m advocating rape. I mean, the same thing said but directed to a woman instead, that would be quite ugly. I hope it is clear that I am talking purely figuratively and politically. But, I have to also say that fucking, even anally, does not equal rape. And, despite describing Obama’s hypothetical responses through a prism of pain, consensual sex can (purposely) include violent undertones and test the extremes of physical sensations. Consensual sex is not always gentle/tender/boring. So I’m not advocating rape. I think rape is a horrible crime, whether it happens to a man or woman. I am saying, uh, if this fuck Obama thing was taken literally by anyone, Obama would have consented to it.

I can imagine someone might submit: why fuck Obama? I could tell you. So can Nasser al-Awlaki, Zafar Khan, and the 5th (and 8th) Amendment.(3) Okay, let’s flip the question around and ask instead: why have American citizens permit Obama to indefinitely detain themselves, and torture themselves, and no fly list themselves, and finally, assassinate themselves? Why fuck Obama? - assuming folks ain’t ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid,(4) um, I don’t have to tell you, no one has to tell you, you can tell yourself.

(3) Mr. Kurnaz and Mr. Boumediene can too. I know however this post goes it will meander, and whatever I’m trying to express here will get buried or glossed over by that meandering.

(4) I was going to say that it is quite sad that any evidence of a conscience from the government would elicit celebration. But I’ll not deny “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid” sounds exactly like someone actually, finally, publicly and miraculously uttered “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid.” I guess where one has to grasp at straws, make hay with what little is offered. I don’t know nothing about PJ Crowley or his career , but cannot oversell what kind of bona fide hero the statement by itself makes PJ Crowley. And then of course, for fuck sakes, Crowley doesn’t just become a hero, Obama makes him a martyr, as Crowley has, I assume, been pressed to resign.

Despite the demands of word count, I often am left speechless or, in this case, type-less. Let me backtrack a little. This will come across completely narcissistic sounding, even despite my acknowledgment that I have no persuasive sway on anyone, but bringing any notice to these many repugnant Obama directed atrocities (I do not want to mince words nor overdramatize, but that’s what they to me, and, more importantly, that’s what they are) is a driving impetus for why you are reading this now, ie, why I am writing now (or had written this).

I do not want to understate how much Obama sucks, but if we were to get into this, it will take forever, and there’d be no time left for the fun parts. You get the point, or if you were interested at all, you could easily or quickly get the point, so let’s get to the fun part.

Way back, about a year or so ago, I was really psyched about the then forthcoming new Terrence Malick joint, The Tree of Life. His first three movies, with The Thin Red Line high among my all time favorites, left such an strong impression with me that even a suggestion or mere hint of a possible new Malick movie makes me salivate with anticipation.(5) The heightened anticipation survived even with The New World (his last movie) being a letdown to me. And it survives Tree of Life too.

(5) The Criterion edition. I want it.

Here is the thing, Tree of Life gots lots of problems. One big gaping one is that there’s no getting around that the ending or anything to do with Sean Penn’s character is just a mess.

But with the shortcomings, a lot in Tree of Life shows the best of what Malick does or wants to do. There are plenty of great, thoughtful, and eloquent passages/scenes in Tree of Life. And that’s enough to keep Malick in that elevated perch for me. So whatever he does next, I’m eagerly looking out for it.

I was less psyched to go see A Separation. I did not really hear much about it. But around year’s end, a variety of media or internet sources banged the praise drum for this Iranian flick hard and often. So I went to see it. And, it was also problematic for me.

I had issue from the get go with Separation, something about the opening credit bugged me. And while exiting the movie house, doubts lingered and nagged. Which, by now, deepened to a clarity for what ain’t right to me with Separation. But as a thrill ride, Separation is taut with tension, twists, drama, and fascination during the viewing.

I was more keen about catching My Neighbor Tororo. One of the local movie theater had a sort of Miyazaki retrospective, offering a terrific bounty of his masterpieces. Tororo is a sort of keystone and by extension touchstone movie for director Hiyao Miyazaki. I assume; since to that point, the bulk of my exposure to Miyazaki’s movies and his artistically expressed worldview was from Princess Mononoke on. But as much loved as Mononoke or Spirited Away garners, Tororo seem to have a special place for Miyzaki’s fans. Therefore, the aforementioned keenness.

And Tororo lived up to the hype and my anticipation. Miyazaki’s worldview emphasizes elements of paganism/Shinto-ism, environmental, and pacifism (among other things) that weds well to my own interest/sympathies/inclination. Tororo is also executed with great humanity, integrity, intelligence, and humor. One thing, which isn’t a criticism per se, is that Tororo not exactly lacked but certainly did not particularly reach for a certain cinematic-ness. Tororo is a tweener, not yet to the full blown epic quality of Mononoke, and felt to me closer to traditional children fare anime. Other than that, what Miyazaki excels at, with Tororo as an exemplar, is that he shows, rather than preaches or tells. Which, as movie making goes, is what you want.

Then I was sort of mixed in regards to Margaret. Once again, Kenneth Lonergan’s second movie’s strong showing on some end-of-year critics’ lists motivated my interest. I also wanted to catch up with Lonergan’s progress since You Can Count on Me, his debut movie, which I liked.

However, in the end, Margaret fell short. Maybe for a movie about a sprawling mess of a character, the movie’s plot, structure, and texture was intended to mirror that same sprawled mess. But Margaret seems like a screenplay in search of a final draft. Margaret is ostensibly about a misguided youth trying to find meaning or attention, so you know there’s going to be drama. But the movie is so overloaded with drama, and the necessity to continually escalate that drama. Exhausting.

Some of the hype with Margaret was for that rough/uneven quality, the critics’ desire to shine some light for the sort of potential masterpiece snatched away from Lonergan by the studio or money interest, the typical myth building of “but for the studio’s interference.” Which might be true in that the editing seemed awful, and thrown together.

But Margaret is too playwright-y overwrought. I should perhaps preface my assessment a little by stating that as much as Anna Paquin’s performance was a magnificent tour de force, Margaret also dragged for me because it was too star focus/driven for my taste. To me, and I should likewise preface this by stating I don’t think I’ve ever seen any Cassavates movies, so gigantic salt pile here, Margaret is like a Cassavates movie where - I imagine - the whole point is displaying the slow downward spiral of a particular character. How much pain and humiliation can be laid on, or, for the particular actor, acted out.

I was pretty much always going to be wildly excited about any new Alexander Payne movie, and so it was for The Descendants. Payne’s first movie, Citizen Ruth, was just about the craziest and funniest joyride. None of Payne’s subsequent movies matched that unhinged quality, even though - of the ones I’ve seen - they were all pretty damn good, Descendants included.

In other words, I liked Descendants, as did most of the critical establishment. So let’s look at those who were harder to please instead.

The Austin Chronicles had this to say:

The Descendants is beautifully shot (by Phedon Papamichael) and compellingly performed, especially by its young stars, and it has moments of startling tenderness. If only it didn’t feel phony to its bones.
 San Francisco Gate added this:
These are almost reasons to dislike "The Descendants." It suggests a world in which everyone is ultimately nice, in which no emotion goes so deep that it can't be derailed by a moment of good old-fashioned zaniness, where the tears are balanced by laughter, and in which every kid is foulmouthed, every foulmouthed kid is dear, and every dear, darling foulmouthed kid has a deep, native wisdom that adults lack.

Okay, this is what I think. On some level Descendants is totally manufactured, since its ultimately is and strives to be a Hollywood concoction, with all the negative baggage associated with that: slight, placating, contrived, crowd pleasing, whatever. At the same time, Descendants is slight, placating, contrived, crowd pleasing, and so forth. None of that automatically equates to good or not good. The thing I look for is that it is well made and fun.

I’ll put it differently this way, echoing Paul’s response to Madeleine asking why he wanted to date her: parce que je vous trouve jolie, à cause de la tendresse.(6) I like Descendants - in part - because I find it pretty, because of the tenderness. Payne’s straightforward modesty and artsy artlessness are set in sharp contrast to the “realness” of Margaret, where Longeran beset the lead character, Lisa, with endless trauma before she earns whatever relief, denouement, catharsis, resolution. I don’t know what or how life really is, or which of Descendants or Margaret shows a more exacting portrait of life, but to me, sometimes, simple is real, banal is real, light is real.(7) There is no demerits charged for being well made and enjoyable. For about 2 hours of escapism, that sounds like a wonderful idea.  Or, as some do say, less can be more.

(6) From JL Godard’s Masculin Feminin. I thought it was a popular line from the movie, but was not nearly as easy as I thought to www track down. I guess those piracy hunters are doing their job. Anyway, this video bit is un-subtitled and this is only the subtitles. Independently or in conjunction, limited utility.

(7) In fairness, SF Gate had this to say about Margaret, our sentiments sorta echoing, sorta not as they ended with a thumbs up: Filmed six years ago - and tied up in litigation ever since - this Kenneth Lonergan film focuses on a teenage girl, her circle of friends and family and the aftermath of a bus accident which she witnesses and largely causes. It's a very strange case - clearly an original, with brilliant aspects, and yet, in the end, frustrating. Yet it's original enough that one has to call it some flawed, messy version of a good movie.

An ancillary bonus with Descendants is its setting in Hawaii. Never been, but looks gorgeous.

What I do look forward to more than a new Alexander Payne movie is a new Lynne Ramsay movie. As much as I like narrative and continuity based movies, I get a hardon when it comes to movies that are art or abstract leaning, which I believe is Lynne’s approach to things. Her newest We Need to Talk About Kevin is currently in release. Hopefully I find time to catch it before it leaves the movie theaters.

Since I have been using Descendants as a reference, I will stick with that flick (or certain aspects of that flick) with regards to Separation (or certain aspects of Separation). One could reasonably say, the center of both movies is some sort of family drama, or human drama if that’s how you want to define it. But at the same time, the action for both movie is driven by a mystery: in Descendants, who was the person the wife had an affair with, and, in Separation, how the miscarriage occurred. The main difference for me is that it is organic in Descendants, and quite contrived in Separation.

As best that I can remember from Descendants, we learn and discover along with the characters about the infidelity and through the hunt for the “other” man. There is no situations where the director or camera or omniscient third person point of view is privileged to more information. On the other hand, Separation fades out or otherwise withholds several and key information at various times, for no reason other than to deny viewer information symmetry. Or for no reason other than to feign suspense. The end result, for me at least, is that it undermines or undercuts the true-ness or honesty of what’s being presented. If I’m being manipulated with regards to the narrative, then I cannot help but feel that I am being manipulated elsewhere and in other ways. 

All this is a fairly common complaint I have with certain types of movies. I don’t like fake suspense. I just feel that the movie maker or director just does not have enough faith in 1) the material and 2) the audience to remain involved with the movie without the machination.(8) With Separation, yes, it would be a different movie if the key mystery points were revealed. Yet, it would not necessarily be a lesser movie, or if anything, by clarifying the focus to the human drama and characters, it c/would be a stronger movie.

(8) Then, despite my criticism of Separation, I love, from what I have seen, Michael Haneke’s movies, where there are manipulation or artificiality galore. If you watch Haneke’s movies, say Cache, and Asghar Farhadi’s Separation, the difference is obvious, so I will not belabor the point. Unless y’all want me to. A-and, if I had not mention, Farhadi is Separation’s director.

Or, don’t ruin it by filming up to the point of the plot point only to fade away from the action.

This is our decision
To live fast and die young
We've got the vision
Now let’s have some fun

Yeah, it's overwhelming
But what else can we do?
Get jobs in offices
And wake up for the morning commute?

Forget about our mothers and our friends
We're fated to pretend

(9) From MGMT’s Time to Pretend.

I had meant to write a little something something about Kate Bush and Nico, but - at least directly - I’m not. Instead, I purchase-downloaded the new album, titled Conatus, by Midwest goth cutie Zola Jesus. Zola - and her album - is, like, pretty good.(10) On one level, I wish I could make out the lyrics better, or have the lyrics handy. On other side, and more generally, as much as songs could be about the lyrics, they usually aren’t about the lyrics. Or, lyrics are usually not the thing that gives a song its initial or sustained appeal. Which is not saying lyrics cannot be great, profound, poetic, and so forth. Folks might know a line or verse or even blindfold karaoke an entire song, but usually something else (or everything else) above the lyrics makes and keeps the song attractive, interesting and or compelling. In any case, in Conatus, Zola’s vocals strive for expressiveness over traditional enunciation.

(10) For example, Vessel.

Besides, for the most part, lyrics - especially in pop tunes - are unimportant. Or innocuous. Or redundant, where the force and texture of what is meant to be conveyed in the lyrics are already or better expressed through the music or vocal styling, or something/everything else in the song. Again, it’s not to say lyrics aren’t important, er, unless I did say that. Er, I meant it is unimportant in certain respects, and important in certain other respects.

I said ooh girl
Shock me like an electric eel
Baby girl
Turn me on with your electric feel

(11) From MGMT’s Electric Feel.

Surfing the interweb yielded this: 
The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

Which can be fairly said, sounds fucking fantastic. Then, I’m not the type to be okay with just that. So the Google presented, among other links, this version. Which is pretty good whether one was listening in or reading on. Nice smart delivery by John Kennedy, even if I was expecting perhaps more fire or at least a heavier Boston accent. Being the skeptical type, I was expecting Kennedy to let the other shoe drop, and there was the required “but” following the above quoted section. But from my untrained eye and ear, it was still net positive.

I have not read or listen to much (or likely before, any) of Kennedy’s speeches. From this, where he presents and discusses (and reinforces) government accountability, civil liberties, and civil responsibilities, one of my main takeaway is being a citizen is something. Government and its officials (and the news media) serve the citizen. And the citizen needs insure that he or she remains free and independent.

So … for Obama that kinda means as against citizens, like, no to indefinite detention, torture, no fly lists, and, uh, murder. Or no getting away with it without public scrutiny.