I think this is largely a fair critique of Coates, but let’s be honest, the “white working class can’t be that bad” meme boils down to “white people can’t be that horrible.” It is interesting that elite white pundits and journalists have fallen victim to this a lot, probably for many reasons. Overcompensation, for one. But ultimately this sort of thinking ends with putting two traitors who killed many thousands of U.S. soldiers on a goddamn U.S. coin. We’ve done this before is all I’m saying.

It’s also always struck me as odd that “middle America” is always given the connotation of being hardworking, decent, morally upright (and, invariably, white). I mean, we can blame everything on the South if you like (and in some cases it’s merited–my wife recently told me all about the many horrors of modern-day Alabama from her education studies), but it wasn’t Brown v. The School Board of Arkansas, and if you’re looking for that pure, untouched America that never failed to live up to its stated ideals, it’s just as bad a place as any to try to find it.

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Just a thought:  I wonder how many anti-vaxxers let their kids play tackle football?

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Dem Northam struggling in the Virginia gubernatorial race. No doubt Bernie gets blamed if he gags it away, but they don’t have the power at this point.

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I don’t really care that much that John Judis is going back on his emerging Democratic majority thesis (again), but what is weird is the odd, bad faith argumentation he’s using to rebut it. I mean, he’s going with the 2014 midterm exit polls of Asian voters instead of the 2016 ones? Acting as though Marco Rubio’s win among Hispanics is poignant even though it’s Florida that is the outlier there, particularly with its older Cuban population? And the anecdata about assimilation is perhaps worth something but who can say how much? You go to Western Pennsylvania and there’s no shortage of indicators of white “hyphenates” around–lots of people who still connect with their Croatian or Czech or Polish heritage in a direct way, perhaps indicating that whiteness isn’t the universally undifferentiated mass it’s said to be by some (including Judis!). Sure, that’s an anecdote, but really with anecdata one is as good as another.

I’m perfectly willing to read an updated critique of the theory but the fact that Hillary Clinton won Millennials by 20 points kind of speaks for itself. And Clinton wasn’t a particularly good fit for Millennials at all–she promised them little and her vision of politics didn’t inspire the way Obama’s did. But she still won by a huge margin. And Trump didn’t really improve upon Romney’s vote percentage either. Judis doesn’t even address these facts. Perhaps he wants to be the new Dick Morris? I honestly don’t know.

 

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You should get this, by the way

I finally, recently got around to watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and I was actually kind of stunned by how bad it was. My basic reaction to The Force Awakens was, “Well, the movie didn’t get me to feel anything, let alone think anything*, but it was skillfully enough done and fun enough, I get why people like it.” My reaction to Rogue One was, “What is this shit?” Or perhaps, what isn’t it:

  • It’s not a heist film. Heist films tend to be very tightly plotted and feature certain character types (the charismatic leader, the oddball, the wild card, etc.). Such films have well thought-out plans that are explained carefully to the audience so that they’ll be able to understand when the plan fails. And the theme of virtually any heist film is greed: what it makes people do, what it leads to, which is (spoiler alert) nothing good. See: Rififi, or Kubrick’s The Killing. Hell, even the remake of Ocean’s Eleven is a good reference point. Needless to say, Rogue One lacks any of these elements. Just because it’s about people trying to acquire something at great peril doesn’t mean it’s a heist film. The Maltese Falcon has the same basic idea and it’s no heist film.
  • It’s not a war film. There are lots of different kinds of war film and Rogue One is none of them. It’s not a meditation on what war does to people like Breaker Morant, or of the essential madness of war like Apocalypse Now. It’s not a docudrama-level look at it like The Battle Of Algiers. It’s not even really an action-adventure film set in a wartime setting like Three Kings. There’s no real examination of the murkiness of battlefield morality, no look at what war does to people, which is just sort of entry level stuff to be a war film. There is a war going on in it of course–one can hardly ignore the setpieces! But there may as well not be.

What it is, ultimately, is a western. A space western. If you compare it to, say, For A Few Dollars More, it matches up nicely if you diagrammed it out. It’s episodic, with characters who roam around looking for a treasure of some sort or other, trying to evade the people who want to keep it for themselves. The protagonist is stoic and taciturn. The movie’s admittedly lovely cinematography is a giveaway: beautiful nature and landscape shots are a staple of westerns but typically do not figure into war or heist films, unless it’s intended to comment ironically in some way (like the ending of The Asphalt Jungle, when a dying character trying to make it back to the country gets his wish at the end of the movie). In heist films particularly, the gritty urban environment–preferably with as much brutalism as you can capture–is more how it’s done. Anyway, as a western, Rogue One is just awful. For A Few Dollars More features varied characters, but virtually all the characters in Rogue One are the same: gruff, taciturn, and jaded. It would be as though everyone were Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, which predictably gets tiresome quickly. Killing them all off at the end, therefore, has little impact. Honestly, this really just shows how superficial peoples’ problems with the prequels really were: this is, The Phantom Menace, essentially a bunch of setpieces with obligatory connective tissue featuring shallow, unengaging characters, but minus even the ambition of trying to do something slightly different with Star Wars than had been done before. Which makes the result much more dispiriting. “How the Death Star plans were stolen” is definitely a hook for a movie, but this is a tremendously poor embodiment of that idea. I wonder how long until these standalone movies are phased out and it goes to a once-every-two-years film franchise. If the Han Solo movie is anywhere near as bad as this, maybe not so long.

* Well, sort of. With derivative junk like this, my brain spends too much energy trying to track down all the lifts from earlier stuff, so watching a brainless sequel is actually the most tiring thing there is.

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To a large degree, rich, elite white liberals really are the problem. Not all of them, of course. I mean, you have your Patton Oswalts and the like. But in general, “solidarity” is not really a concept you see them putting into practice. This Harvard professor just reminds me of Larry Sanders, obviously one of the best examples of the type:

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This is a pretty good response to the moronic Mark Lilla book and the not idiotic Ta-Naheisi Coates piece on Trump.

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I remember there was a time where a lot of people who had fought wars hated war. Dwight Eisenhower said as much often, but then again, he actually seemed to mean it. He could have escalated with the USSR over the Hungary crackdown and over China over Quemoy and Matsu, but he didn’t. He didn’t try to implement the “rollback” doctrine that he promised, thankfully betraying the wingnuts. And he even cut defense spending to lower the deficit. Which is not to say more of him than he deserves–the farewell speech he gave that precedes every antiwar documentary strikes me as a monument to hypocrisy more than anything–but the basic fact is that if he had wanted war, he could have had it. He didn’t want it. And while it’s very far from the truth that anybody who lived through WWII was turned into a dove by the experience–this is a group that includes Curtis LeMay as well as the architects of Vietnam, of course, and mostly the same people decided to fight another war five years after WWII ended–but quite a lot of people who had fought it came to the conclusion that war was not at all a good thing. Many of them served in office in both parties afterward, and are probably why we’re all alive.

I think about this when Jim Mattis rattles Kim Jong Un’s cage. I don’t know if Mattis really wants to go to war with North Korea. But he doesn’t act like somebody who doesn’t want war. Perhaps he does, most likely he thinks what he’s doing will make it less likely, though I’m not really sure if that makes it better. As someone who’s read a dozen books on WWI I’m not at all confident in that approach (also not for nothing his nickname is “Mad Dog”). But aside from him, I’m hard pressed to think of a top well-known military officer who seems to hate the whole idea of war, even if admitting that it times it may be necessary. All the ones I read basically think we need to stay in Afghanistan forever and many hate that we got out of Iraq in the first place. Probably a lot of reasons for that. But I think it is something to bear in mind.

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