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Just too awesome:

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I don’t mean to excuse the actions of the recent cluster of student protests, and some of their demands are dubious at best. But the liberal-ish commentators who want me to flip out over this have not yet convinced me to do so. Presumably the danger here is that this is just the beginning of a wave of PC-ness that will destroy liberal freedoms more broadly, but the link between illiberal college protest movements leading to future illiberalism in general society needs to be proven, and considering that in the 1960s we had a level of student activism both broader in scale and more radical–in both ideology and tactics–and this did not lead to a generation of liberal fascism unless you take Jonah Goldberg seriously, but come on, nobody does. A lot of people seem to see college as some kind of place of adult discourse but I tend to see it as a sort of limbo before adulthood for the people who attend it. This is, I should say, by no means a bad thing. Taking a few more years to form the personality and thinking habits you carry through the rest of your life is a great thing. But kids often tend toward the extremes–they haven’t grown up yet to see the consequences. Not putting anybody above criticism–certainly it is deserved in some of the details–but let’s temper the stakes here a little bit.



This is in Downtown Dublin, California, by the way.


Obamacare is no longer a Republican wedge issue. Support and opposition are equal for the first time since before “Angry August” 2009.

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I have known Mormon progressives in my day–not many, but perhaps three or four–and have actually heard very convoluted arguments that the homophobia and hatred toward LGBT folk by their church is exaggerated or overblown somehow. They seem to involve some combination of “Well, I’ve never seen it in my church!” and “The LDS church didn’t put up as much of the money to oppose Prop 8 to deserve the blame it got.” Both of these are, of course, easily dismissable: see no evil and we weren’t as bad as people said are relativistic defenses at best, if that. Unsurprisingly, the church that insisted that all black people were going to hell until the Carter Administration and deployed enormous resources to stop the dastardly crime of the state issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples (and not, of course, forcing churches to do anything in particular) is still making the Catholic Church look like a beacon of tolerance, which is a pretty amazing feat. Gotta love a spiritual body that institutionalizes corruption of blood as official policy.

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All we need to do is to Tuvix Trump and Carson, and suddenly, we’d have a Republican frontrunner!

Also, in case you’re not familiar with Voyager, Captain Janeway commits cold-blooded murder at the end of this episode. It wouldn’t be the last time.

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  • Jimi: All Is By My Side – Ah, the musical biopic, arguably the worst subgenre of film there is. It’s the actor equivalent of a Christmas album–a celebrity impersonates another celebrity hoping to nab some easy cash from the fans of the subject of the film, and we all pretend that lip-syncing is some great feat of acting and maybe give him an Oscar along the way. Meanwhile we have a film that skims through decades of an artist’s life reverently, trying to find some sort of easy three-act structure and leave the audience with a sense of uplift, no matter how false or unearned. So I was pleasantly surprised by this Hendrix biopic that basically does none of these things. The whole thing takes place over a few months, no generation-spanning bullshit. It goes over the more obscure episodes of his life just prior to his stardom, not the obvious famous stuff we already know–it’s an origin story, to use the parlance of our time. And it’s more respectful than reverent: respectful of Hendrix’s skills, his philosophy and his perseverance, but fully aware of his propensities toward violence and using people. I was pleasantly surprised by the focus on the women in Jimi’s life, and also by Andre Benjamin’s performance: restrained, subtle, but quietly powerful and surprising. A perfect fit for the music.

    I can see why audiences didn’t flock to the film–in short, it’s really not a feel-good movie. Hendrix abandons his faithful girlfriend after badly hurting her, with a promise to come back that we know will not be kept. Success is already changing him in ways that leave the audience uneasy, and given that it ends just about at the point in his story that everyone is familiar with, it colors your perception of the man in complex ways. But such is the brilliance of John Ridley, who takes a much more interesting look at the life and talent of the icon from a different perspective than what we’ve seen a million times. A lot of people like familiar, especially in a biopic. They want to see the “greatest hits” of a person’s life, with an ultimately positive takeaway even if it’s utterly preposterous. (I guess Johnny Cash just got over his brother’s death at the Folsom Prison show?) This film denies you that at every turn. It doesn’t climax with him at Woodstock, but rather with his legendary-in-its-own-right performance in London’s Saville Theater, with an awesomely recreated performance of the Sgt. Pepper’s title track. It’s not surprising that the only song recreated in the film that Hendrix is known for is not a Hendrix composition–the family that has sought to drain every dollar from Jimi Hendrix’s legacy would never give its blessing to something so, well, unworshipful as this film. And if you’re John Q. Public and just want to see Hendrix play The Star-Spangled Banner and do drugs with famous musicians of the time, you’ll be disappointed with this. I will say that Ridley goes a bit overboard with the style in some places–some mixing and editing decisions are a bit much. But if you’re deathly bored by formulaic musical biopics, this is for you. If not, just watch Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and get over it.

  • Fifi Howls From Happiness – Bahman Mohassess is someone I didn’t know at all–one of Iran’s greatest artists, for the record. You see a great deal of his work in the movie and I have no trouble believing it. Basically, he ran afoul of Iranian authorities and was forced to live in exile in a Roman hotel for decades, during which time many of his great works were destroyed by Iran’s reactionary regimes. What we see of the work doesn’t seem insanely provocative, so chalk it up to Iranian homophobia, I suppose. In any event, it’s pretty interesting to hear an artist talk about his history and legacy since so much of his work has been destroyed (I’d say he’s perversely proud of it, mostly). While there’s still some of his work extant in Iran, he mostly seems to subsist on selling smaller pieces he has with him. Mohassess is a great talker, alternately funny and painful in the best way, whether giving his (not terribly positive) characterizations of the Iranian people, talking of being gay in Iran, or talking quite a bit about Lucchino Visconti’s excellent film The Leopard, along with much other stuff besides. Partway through the documentary, the director of the documentary manages to get Mohassess a commission, and it seems as though this is going to be about an old creative titan finally returning to the grind. But instead, he dies while preparing for the work, which is quite sad. Still, there’s nothing quite like this film, just because of the unusualness of the subject and the perspective.
  • Adaptation. – It seems quite odd that this and Being John Malkovich wound up being on the happier side of the Charlie Kauffman canon, though everything’s relative: neurotically depressed is a few steps up from the despairingly, suicidally depressed Synecdoche, New York, which apparently burned the man out so much that he didn’t make another movie for seven years. Adaptation. is just fantastic, though. The film features “Kauffman” as played by future The Wicker Man star Nic Cage, perhaps in the last period of his career where people thought he was a good actor. He tries to adapt to film a ridiculously non-adaptable book, Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, a plotless piece of local color and “sprawling New Yorker shit” as he puts it. His inability to make any headway on the project leads to a full-blown existential crisis of desperation, leading the protagonist ultimately to accept the limitations of film and of art itself, a sad but necessary compromise that winds up being liberating. Additionally, it’s also a brilliant study in introversion: Kauffman writes himself a fictitious twin brother, Donald (also played by Cage), who is simply relaxed and social in ways that Charlie isn’t, and resentful. The party scene where Donald’s crudeness is laughed off by all except a furious Charlie makes this point beautifully. The anger that socially insecure introverts like Charlie have for the relaxed, friendly people like Donald is just redirected self-loathing, and the film recognizes this and pays it off brilliantly. Plus, the big climax is a self-conscious farce of a dumb movie action finale, which is utterly hilarious because it comes at the end of a story about people looking about flowers, and yet is utterly plausible as a Hollywood ending to the film. This is all certainly less accessible to the average audience than Malkovich was: lots of meta-humor, self-referencing, and inside jokes, and a very off-beat structure. It probably takes this movie to realize just how well pitched Malkovich for the masses–at the time, people couldn’t get over how weird it was, but it had a pretty simple concept and a classic, three-act structure. But Adaptation. is an even more creative and personal film that plays with the form while still telling a compelling story. Shockingly, it actually made money, which just shows how much the industry has changed–if it were released today, it would have bombed badly just like anything else that isn’t a four-quadrant CGI shitfest. If you haven’t seen it, do so. If you haven’t recently, see it again. There’s even more in it than you remember.
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