Monday, July 30, 2012

History Has its Heroes

By Dan Hagen
Super heroics are traded for historic heroics in the graphic novel “Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender” by Onrie Kompan, Giovanni Timpano, Adriana De Los Santos, Joel Saavedra and my old friend David Anthony Kraft.
Before this handsome hardcover first volume arrived from Amazon, I was unfamiliar with Korean Admiral Yi Soon Shin, a figure like Daniel Boone or Alexander whose daring, unlikely adventures propel him necessarily toward larger-than-life myth. Yi Soon Shin saved his countrymen by repelling a vastly superior Japanese invasion force in the 16th century.
Timpano and De Los Santos’ art has a numinous, back-lit gorgeousness. Its aesthetic and moral clarity combine to force our gaze past all the banal clichés that have drained the term the “horror of war” of its force. The devil is always in the details, and here we are shown his features — a young woman ordered to undress for the convenience of all the soldiers who intend to rape her, helpless prisoners used for target practice, a mother shot straight through the head while she is holding her small son to shield him from harm. This is what pitiless invaders are like in the real world, then and now. And this is why we really require heroes, rare though they are.
But Yi Soon Shin, as presented here, was one — clear-eyed about power, rational, brave and empathetic, poet, philosopher and warrior. He’s Horatio Hornblower in the East. Plagued by the menacing might of Japan without and treacherous, psychotic military rivals within, this protagonist must muster everything he has within himself to survive.
DAK is a publisher and former writer for Marvel and DC comics, and the book begins with a laudatory introduction by his old friend Stan Lee. The plaudits are well earned. Although a kind of docudrama, not a fantasy, this story — with its dream-colored exotic uniforms and its romantic melodrama — is ideal for the comic book form. Blackmail, betrayal, romance, suicide missions, sexual intrigue, ninja, straight-talking vernacular, gay samurai, cliffhangers, dragon ships and archenemies who were supposed to be dead — they make a rich brew worthy of being sipped and savored.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

CSI Meets X-Men

By Dan Hagen
I missed the first season of the science fiction series “Alphas,” but I’m making up for lost time. It’s “CSI Meets X-Men,” intelligently produced.
David Strathairn as Dr. Lee Rosen in "Alphas"
The great David Strathairn (a dead-on Murrow in “Good Luck and Good Luck”) plays an all-too-human psychiatrist who tries to shield his superhuman patients from both the Guantanamo-giddy U.S. government and a mutant terrorist organization.
I particularly like the autistic Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright), an initially annoying character whose charm sneaks up on you.
As in the X-Men films, the various “Alpha” abilities — super strength, hyper senses, unerring accuracy, electromagnetic perception, etc. — set up plots that effectively function as an elaborate chess game of what player counters what other player. Especially suspenseful was the episode in which the Alphas play cat and mouse with a sonar-powered physician (Brent Spiner) and the invisible assassin who is pursuing him.
But all the players are pawns in the hands of government forces, and the unsettling atmosphere brings suspense to the proceedings. The show’s dramatic plot twists are both logical and surprising. The series also makes a considerable effort to use contemporary neuroscience to explain the characters' enhanced abilities. And the show is pervaded by an unease over the ever-increasing paranoid transgressions by the American national security state. That's a feeling we share with these fictional characters.
Muted melodrama, diffident, uncostumed super heroics, talented actors — they provide the veneer of realism necessary to sell a fantasy TV series. It’s better than “Heroes.”

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Tale of Two Gothams

By Dan Hagen
“The Dark Knight Rises” is the operatic Gotterdammerung of Batman stories, thunderously melodramatic and, unlike many superhero tales, genuinely suspenseful. 
Anne Hathway as Selina Kyle, the Catwoman
The stakes are, for once, breathtakingly and convincingly high, in part because this “Tale of Two Gothams” includes echoes of real-life events — terrorist attacks, greedy plutocrats, lying political leaders and Occupy/Tea Party-style rage. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is determined and effective, and Anne Hathaway, surprisingly, is a powerful and unpredictable delight as Catwoman, a character similar in all the best ways to the Black Widow in “The Avengers.”
The hero, played for the final time by Christian Bale, endures what are essentially the agonies of the damned, and emerges all that much more heroic for it.
Despite some unconvincing emotional turns and a general lack of humor (which is a tough fit in this melodrama anyway), the film is a satisfying experience that makes comic book stories seem more real than they have any right to be.
Connect the dots between this and the brief, crude “Detective Comics” story that introduced Batman to a Depression-weary, war-haunted America in 1939, and you’ll see the process by which a society seizes upon, feeds upon and continually regenerates its own animating myths. It's a process my friend Jim Jenkins has dubbed "augustification."

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Night of America

Bane and Batman battle in "The Dark Knight Rises"
By Dan Hagen

Rush Limbaugh thinks the Batman movie is a conspiracy against Romney. A masked terrorist attacks a midnight film premiere with gas bombs and gunfire. Reality and fantasy keep intermingling and confusing each other in the fog of 21st century America. 
If super heroes are going to stay in the comic books, I wish the super villains would show us the same courtesy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

You Say Bain, I Say Bane, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

By Dan Hagen
It’s a coincidental curiosity that Hollywood has turned to a gruesome 20-year-old Batman comic book villain named Bane at the same time that the villainous Republican Party has turned to a presidential candidate named Mitt Romney, whose job-eating vampire squid company is Bain Capital.
It’s just one of those charming and apt synchronicities that the cosmic jester we call life hands us from time to time. But radio gasbag Rush Limbaugh regards it as enemy action.
Limbaugh is in a seething panic over this. Why? Because mythological, half-understood, bombastic, confused popular culture metaphors that cloud the already dim minds of Americans are Limbaugh’s stock in trade, and he knows how powerful they are, given the fact that they’ve supplied this college dropout with many millions and funded his expensive drug habit.
Limbaugh’s blowhard bravado is shaken, friends. His greatest fear is revealed: that someone will wield his own weapons against him, even by coincidence.

The Trickster and the Spinster

Ashton Byrum brings a genial charm to the role of  Prof. Harold Hill. Photos by Keith Stewart
"Goodnight, My Someone:" Blaine Lehman with Leah Berry

Oh, there’s nothing halfway
About the Iowa way to treat you,
When we treat you
Which we may not do at all.
There’s an Iowa kind of special
Chip-on-the-shoulder attitude.
We’ve never been without.
    “Iowa Stubborn” from “The Music Man.”

By Dan Hagen
“The Music Man,” opening today at the Little Theatre, is one of the best Broadway musicals of the 20th century, but a shadow always falls across it.
I think some of the most enduring American musicals have mythological roots, tapping into the universal human stories that seem to be hard-wired into our collective unconsciousness. For example, phony band instrument salesman Prof. Harold Hill is clearly the Trickster, the rule-breaking protagonist who — like the Greek Titan Prometheus, the Australian Aboriginal culture hero Crow and the Native American god Coyote — brings fire to a struggling humanity.
When Hill arrives, turn-of-the-century River City, Iowa, is moribund, so narrowly and stubbornly self-satisfied that it is effectively dead. And even though he’s a con man, Hill brings the community an inadvertent gift — spontaneity, light and life, a new kind of independence on Independence Day 1912. Even his name, itself a fake, suggests height and aspiration.
So Meredith Willson’s comedy is psychologically satisfying, and marches a collection of toe-tapping hits past the audience, with “Marian the Librarian” and “76 Trombones” boasting especially exuberant, legs-aloft dance numbers here thanks to director and choreographer Amy Marie McCleary.
With a dozen great numbers in “The Music Man,” I always wonder what Marian’s song “My White Knight” is doing there. It’s the one song from the show no one ever remembers, and with good reason.
Still, why quibble? The 1957 production won five Tonys and a Grammy, running for 1,375 performances. But sometimes a show’s very success can work against subsequent productions.
The shadow of Streisand falls across all productions of “Funny Girl,” and all productions of “The Music Man” labor under the shadow of Robert Preston as Harold Hill.
Chicago performer Ashton Byrum gamely tackles the role here. Although he lacks Preston’s commanding briskness of movement, Byrum sells his con man with a genial charm and a stage presence that includes shining eyes. He is paired with Leah Berry as Marian, and she has just the ringing voice to deliver those two old-fashioned but still-thrilling love songs, “Goodnight My Someone” and “Till There Was You.”
I always forget how touching that last song is, perhaps because it’s about redemption for both the characters — the trickster snared by love, and the spinster saved by it.
I don’t remember caring much about the barbershop singers Hill cons so adroitly throughout the show, but I did in this one. C.J. Pawlikowski, Jared Titus, Lincoln Ward and Loren J. Connell are real crowd pleasers here.
John McAvaney is a lively comic foil as Hill’s old pal Marcellus, and Cary Mitchell brings forceful conviction and dead-on timing to the minor role of Hill’s anvil salesman antagonist. Mitchell also enunciates loudly and clearly, an absolute necessity in a show full of arcane, funny terms like “a bare-faced, double-shuffle, two-bit thimble rigger.”
John Reeger (the Major General in “Pirates”) is another master of language and comic timing as River City Mayor Shinn, and his malapropisms are delicious. “I couldn't make myself any plainer if I'se a Quaker on his day off!” he explains. Shinn recognizes that Hill is “slipperier than a Mississippi sturgeon,” for all the good it does him.
My long-time friend Therese Kincade has the role of Marian’s mother, and reminds me what a rich little part that can be. Mrs. Paroo’s plain-spoken, small-town Irishness is a perfect contrast to her worldly understanding. “It’s a well-known principle that if you keep the flint in one drawer and the steel in the other, you'll never strike much of a fire,” she explains to Marian, and she’s not talking about steel and flint.
Finally there’s Winthrop, the role that famed film director Ron Howard had when he was an adorable little boy. Here it’s Oliver Adamson from Moweaqua, and he is equally adorable. The audience’s enthusiasm for him washes through the theatre in tidal waves of applause.
Incidental Intelligence: The cast also features Scott Brooks, Darrin French, Jacob Lacopo, Justin Ronald Mock, John Tilford, Sam Hay, Blaine Lehman, Jennifer Seifter, Anna Zaccari, Rachel LaPorte, Ashley Klinger, Heather Dore’ Johnson, Kelsey Andres, Mandy Modic, Tiffany Sparks and Lauren Patton.
The children of Rivercity are played by Caroline Adamson, Emily Althaus, Kyler Gueber, Maddie Keller, Orrin Keow, Evin Lehman, Kate Shanks, Zach Smith, David Thompson, Liberty Watson, Rachel Watson, Abigail Zaccari and A.J. Zaccari.
The show has scenic design by Jen Price-Fick, lighting design by Kimberly Klearman, costume design by Ryan Hanson and stage management by Jane Davis. The music director is Robert Jarosh.
Performances will run through July 29. Tickets may be purchased by calling The Little Theatre on the Square Box Office at (217)-728-7375 or online at www .thelittletheatre.org.
FYI, the real “River City, Iowa” is Mason City, Iowa, the town where Willson lived as a boy (population 28,079, and declining).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Here Are the Rules — Rule No. 7


Why they SAY the corporate buzzwords “public-private partnership,” what they MEAN is “The taxpayer is getting royally screwed.” Every damn time.

On Standing Alone

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.
— Marcus Aurelius

The Clown Car That Wasn't Funny at All

By Dan Hagen
As the best they could offer for commander in chief in 2012, the GOP supplied a slimy Newt, a pizza putz, a Texas two-digit IQ, a sanctimonious sweater vest, Crazy Face Bachmann and the Romneybot 3000 v 2.0, a device that dispenses lies with the well-oiled ease that a vending machine spits out gumballs.
Yes, the Republicans certainly crammed their clown car full on this trip.
How can Republicans possibly offer such uniformly low-grade, corrupt and often ignorant candidates for the highest office in the nation? Because they have developed a corporate media propaganda echo chamber/fog machine so high-grade that it’s capable of conning any number of citizens into believing that black is white, government is evil, invasion is liberation, poverty is freedom, health care is luxury, stupid is smart and contemptible is heroic.
If you have sufficient propaganda power over the news media, you can launch and sustain just about any horror. The Penn State boy brothel is enough proof of that.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Baby and Me

Our Dalmatian Baby. It's nice to remember her this way.

What's Wrong With Fox News, Vol. 3, Part 6,814

The Fox News audience thinks it's funny that a DC motorcycle cop threatened to assassinate the first lady.

The Only God In Which They Truly Trust

By Dan Hagen
Members of the 21st century Republican Party worship only money and actively loathe people who don’t possess it — including, ironically, themselves.
Republicans fear a society in which money might not trump and crush all legal rights and social privileges.
How they love a gated community. Hell does have gates, doesn’t it?

Language as a Lure for Prey


By Dan Hagen
I have always thought that to people like Mitt Romney and Dick Cheney, the truth or falsity of a statement is as purely irrelevant as the atomic weight of strontium.
Words are simply NOISES you make to get people to do what you want.
They're like predatory reptiles, making whatever sounds are necessary to lure the prey within reach. The MEANING of the sounds is entirely beside the point.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What's Wrong With Fox News, Vol. 3, Part 6,813

Fox News now actually states that young Americans should expect nothing, and be happy to get it. And let’s not overlook just how character-building it is for people to be without decent wages, jobs, retirement and health care. Up, up, up by those bootstraps. The people whose union jobs have been killed by Republicans really ought to thank the billionaires and their handmaidens in the GOP for diverting America's wealth overseas and giving them this great opportunity at self-improvement from the ground up.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What's Wrong With Fox News, Vol. 3, Part 6,812

Fox News claims that $250,000 a year is a simple "middle class salary."
Actually, a household that's taking in $250,000 today is making five times the median income. In fact, only the top 2.1 percent of households had income greater than $250,000 in 2008.

'Pirates:' Silly Smiles and Sea Froth

Mabel: Oh Frederic, can you not in the calm excellence of your wisdom reconcile it with your conscience to say something that will ease my father's sorrow?
Frederic: What?
Mabel: Can’t you cheer him up?
 By Dan Hagen
I had never seen a production of “The Pirates of Penzance” I really enjoyed until I grinned my way through the Little Theatre’s current show on the 4th of July.
Previous productions of this 133-year-old bit of sea froth had always seemed trivial and strained to me, the performers sweating to paper over the cracks in material they didn’t fully understand or inhabit. After all, this Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera, first staged in 1879, makes “Oklahoma” look like a recent Broadway hit, and it’s hard to perform to boot.
The element that was missing in those productions is supplied in this one, and I think it’s the sagacious direction and choreography of Kelly Shook applied to the powerful professional talents in the Little Theatre summer cast. The show is invested with bits of business — canny gestures, wry looks, funny dance moves — that keep the crowd laughing and engaged pretty much throughout.
The Little Theatre stage during dress rehearsal
For example, the simple act of watching his doting daughters wind a scarf around his throat during a song becomes hilarious when it’s performed by the dryly delightful John Reeger as the Major General. This Equity actor gives a perfectly assured performance, confident of the audience’s good cheer.
And who knew operetta singing could be so expressive and, well, bossy? Heroine Lindsay O’Neill uses her splashy, show-offy trills to ward off sisters and lure a lover in a flurry of flitting, flirting and posturing. Her performance is delicious.
It also helps that the actors clearly enunciate the lyrics, which are so rapid-fire and/or high-pitched that they can otherwise be tricky to understand.
Kudos to scenic designer Matthew J. Fick for his two-tiered, bamboo-brown set full of piratical ladders, palms, kegs of grog and boxes of booty marked with coats of arms.
As New York Times critic Anita Gates observed of a “Pirates” revival, “These people seem deliriously happy with their lot in life.”  She notes that the Pirate King sings the lines “It is a glorious thing/To be a pirate king” while the Major General (Ed Dixon) expresses his profound self-satisfaction with “I am the very model of a modern major general.”
“Even the general’s vacant blonde daughters are thrilled, in their case just to be taking a walk to the seashore. In no way is it ever indicated that the women have anything significant to do other than being pretty,” Gates wrote.
Stagy Victorian-era morality gets a send-up here. This is a world in which even pirates are so relentlessly and tediously high-minded that they can barely turn a buck. A mere mention of the word “duty” prompts the performers to clamp their fists to their chests and lower their heads reverently (and hilariously).
Tony Edgerton is the young hero Frederic, who serves the pirates out of duty because he was accidentally apprenticed to them (his nursemaid — the ever-excellent Sophie Grimm — having confused the words “pilot” and “pirate”). But the moment his apprenticeship ends, Frederic’s sense of duty will of course prompt him to wipe his former friends out of existence, while offering polite apologies (the show’s alternate title is “The Slave of Duty”).
Edgerton tackles all this nonsense head-on, with just the right note of chin-up self-reverential fatuousness to carry it off. “Individually I love you all with affection unspeakable,” Frederic tells his fellow pirates. “But collectively I look upon you with a disgust that amounts to absolute detestation.”
The love songs aren’t as funny as the others, probably because it’s tricky to invest “true love” with a camp sensibility. The audience isn’t quite sure what to think. Is the hero and heroine’s mutual devotion as archly artificial as everything else in this world?
Among the actors who are especially adept at juggling this soufflé of silliness without letting it fall are Cary Mitchell as the first mate Samuel (“I can explain in two words,” he says. “We propose to marry your daughters”) and the heroically voiced Sean Zimmerman as the Pirate King, sinuous and sly.
The sentimental pirates have made it a rule never to prey upon orphans, and are subsequently disappointed to find that everybody they run into turns out to be an orphan, including the Major General. “Do you mean that in order to save his contemptible life, he dared to impress upon our credulous simplicity?” asks Zimmerman, astounded at the very idea of such effrontery.
In a play filled with good lines, Zimmerman gets the best ones. “I don’t think much of our profession, but contrasted with respectability, it is comparatively honest,” he observes, dryly.
The Little Theatre does for operatic pirates pretty much what Johnny Depp did for the cinematic ones.
Incidental Intelligence: The cast also features Jared Titus, Tiffany Sparks, Lauren Patton, Jennifer Seifter, Kelsey Andres, Loren J. Connell, Darrin French, Zachary L. Gray, Sam Hay, Ashley Klinger, Jacob Lacopo, Rachel LaPorte, Justin Ronald Mock, Mandy Modic, CJ Pawlikowski, Keegan Rice and Lincoln Ward. “Pirates” has lighting design by Kimberly Klearman, costume design by Beth Ashby and stage management by Jane Davis. The music director is Joshua Zecher-Ross and the dance captain is Sam Hay.
Performances will run through July 15. Tickets may be purchased by calling The Little Theatre on the Square Box Office at (217)-728-7375 or online at www .thelittletheatre.org.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From Long Ago and Not Far Away, a Star Piece

By Dan Hagen
Starting the day with a surprising message from a stranger can be one of life’s little pleasures.
It was this: “ABOUT YOUR 1977 REVIEW OF ‘STAR WARS’ IN THE TIMES-COURIER. I'll bet that's the strangest subject line you'll see today, at least from someone in Pittsburgh.”
Luke Skywalker painting by Tom Carlton
The message was from Dave Malehorn, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While working up a column on the 35th anniversary of the film, he asked his brother Steve to look up some local background and ran across my review.
Actually, I had forgotten that I ever wrote a review of “Star Wars” at the age of 23, when I was working as a reporter for Betty Boyer and Bob Themer at the Charleston Times-Courier. It was, after all, 35 years ago. But I’ll never forget my first experience of that movie.
Paul Beals, Marta Ladd and I walked into one of the two now-vanished Mattoon movie theaters and emerged into the evening two hours later dodging laser fire, swinging swords made of light and virtually vibrating like tuning forks. I think we knew we’d seen a film that would define a decade.
Dave said, “Steve went to microfilm archives at Booth Library to learn just when the film ran at the Will Rogers in summer, 1977 (July 15-August 11th, thus ‘held over’ three times, for a total of four weeks; I would have bet good money it was more).”
“I think your concluding comments about romantic ideals are right on the money, and shed light on this phenomenon,” Dave said. “From your column July 15th, 1977:
“The fact that the public has been captivated by the picture… makes it clear that Lucas’ thoroughness and dedication (‘Star Wars’ took four years to make) has produced something that can reach the child within the adult and bring him out to play.
"The movie shares two of the magnetic appeals of romantic fiction. It awakens, for a brief period, our sense of personal efficacy. Our ideals are noble and we need not even question them. We have only to get on with the action. And despite the terrible odds, we know we are capable enough to have a fighting chance at realizing our ideals.
"The other romantic element the film evokes is that staple of science fiction, the sense of wonder. As some point in our childhood, most of us believe the world to be vast and full of great potentials, of marvelous sights and heroic challenges. For the majority of us, who are not fortunate enough to retain this eager appetite for life through to adulthood, a movie like ‘Star Wars’ serves to remind us just how good it felt.”
My opinion at the time was influenced by Ayn Rand’s book “The Romantic Manifesto,” and, although my ardor for Rand has cooled since the experience of the Bush-Cheney presidency revealed her political ideas to be heartless, disastrous bunk, I haven’t changed my opinion of the movie.
In retrospect, it’s clear that the American audience — having been battered by the necessary but dispiriting revelations of the Vietnam War and Watergate — was thirsting to drink deep at the well of romanticism, and so “Star Wars” came along at the perfect moment. They continued to swim happily in that well with “Superman,” Indiana Jones and so forth.
And I'll bet King Features still smarts over the fact that they didn't let Lucas do “Flash Gordon,” which would have been “Star Wars.”



The End of the Bionic Woman

By Dan Hagen
In the 1970s, even the lunch boxes were bionic.
I just watched the last episode of “The Bionic Woman,” and, unlike most American TV shows, the series did not simply break off, or run out of gas and splutter to a stop. It effectively concluded, and concluded well.
The dispirited Jamie Sommers, tired and somewhat sickened after three years of being a superspy “robot lady,” quits the secret agency OSI, only to find that she can’t quit — she’s government property. They intend to jail her. “The Bionic Woman” meets “The Prisoner.”
This cynical, realistic take on what the U.S. government would do is surprising in a 1970s adventure show. She has an ally in her dash for freedom from American law enforcement — her ex-boss Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson, who takes a break from exposition to enjoy a strong acting turn).
Jamie tells him, “I thought I was more than a pawn to you, or one of your little tools…”
“You’re hurting my arm,” Goldman says.
Ever the compassionate heroine, Jamie takes time to help the alienated son of a blind man, and finds the solution to her own personal dilemma. Lindsay Wagner had specifically asked for a concluding episode, and the writer, Steven E. De Souza, worked all her frustrations with doing a network series into Jamie Sommers’ emotions about her spy job. The script, and Wagner’s Emmy-winning charm and acting ability, let the series finish with class.

The Ugly Truth about Mitt Romney's Racist Past

By Dan Hagen
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's church didn't admit that black people were human enough to be included in priesthood ordination and participation in temple ceremonies UNTIL 1978!
Then they had a “divine revelation” to jettison the policy — thanks to their tax-exempt status being threatened by their blatant and disgusting racism. Let’s hear Mittens explain that.
Prior to 1978, Mormon leaders forbid blacks from holding the Mormon priesthood. In 1978, thanks to mounting pressure from pending lawsuits concerning racism, Spencer W. Kimball suddenly received a revelation that blacks could now enter the temple and hold the Mormon priesthood.
If the Mormon Church had not changed its views on black people, it would have lost its Tax-Exempt 503(c) status — as pending litigation in several states in America was proceeding.
God came through in the nick of time. Lucky the dire situation caught His attention there in his headquarters on the distant planet Kolob.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Love Rotten Money? Then Vote R-Money!

By Dan Hagen
 "Yes, isn't it JUST AWFUL, all that money these socialists want to waste on old people? They're all worn out, and the corporations can't even use them to sweep up any more, so they're just worth NOTHING, economically. Pass me the canapes, would you, darling? And DO try the Montrachet 1978 from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. One of my dear little lobbyists gets it for me by the case.”
American plutocracy is all about corporate entitlements, laughingly retitled “free market,” and propaganda that fools working class people into slicing open their own throats so the plutocrats can sell the blood.

Madness in the Mirror

By Dan Hagen
I didn’t read or watch “American Psycho” for many years, mostly because I find serial killers neither interesting nor palatable. They are human beings who have permitted themselves to devolve into nothing more than a pestilence.
A solipsistic Christian Bale in "American Psycho"
But when I finally did watch the 2000 film starring Christian Bale, I found it to be a fascinating black comedy satire offering insight into the soullessness of what is celebrated in modern American culture.
The characters seethe with envy over objects that are valueless — a business card design, for example — and place no value whatsoever on other human beings.
In place of thought, they engage in pretentious dissertations about pedestrian pop music. They’re the humanoids Howard Beale predicted, trapped in a vacuum without personal identity and gasping for it, frantically grasping at the material trappings of personal identity without acquiring a clue about the nature of the integrity for which they thirst.
In the process, the American bitch goddess Success meets her ultimate and logical fate: cheerful dismemberment.
In hindsight, “American Psycho” virtually predicted the fraud-fueled collapse of Wall Street and the presidential candidacies of both George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, those two spectacularly empty vessels. Too bad the story found nowhere to go, because its satire of American commercial values was as sharp — and potentially as useful — as a scalpel. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Someone Asks the Right Question

 If we had to turn into a 1950s science fiction film, I would have preferred "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Instead, we ended up in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

What's Wrong With Fox News, Vol. 3, Part 6,811

What might explain the fact that it's been 52 weeks since Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. phone hacking scandal broke big, yet Sean Hannity has never addressed the story on his show, according to a search of Nexis?
This.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

What's Wrong With Fox News, Vol. 3, Part 6,810

How does Fox News wash their brains? Let us count the ways.
Fox News has consistently propagandized for fascism in all 14 of its defining elements.
1 -- Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Flags image fly with vomit-inducing dizziness on Fox News. 


2 -- Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Fox News has consistently defended the Bush-Cheney use of torture.


3 -- Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - Missing white women and black, Hispanic and Muslim villains are a Fox News staple.
4 -- Supremacy of the Military - Fox News slobbers on of the military-industrial complex daily.


5 -- Rampant Sexism - What other “news” channel interviews Hooters girls about economics? What other news channel employs only Aryan blonde women “reporters?”
6 -- Controlled Mass Media - Fox News repeated Bush-GOP talking points verbatim and ad nauseum.


7  -- Obsession with National Security – Fear is Fox News' most important product.


8 -- Religion and Government are intertwined - Fox News is the very soul of vulgar, know-nothing piety, and annually promotes anger at a nonexistent “war on Christmas.”
9 -- Corporate Power is protected - Obvious
.
10 -- Labor Power is suppressed - Obvious
.
11 -- Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fox News targets one professor or entertainer after another for destruction, and constantly attacks the idea of intellectual independence in Hollywood or the university.)

12 -- Obsession with Crime and Punishment - The flip side of Fox News’ fear mongering. 


13 -- Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fox News was strangely unconcerned about Enron, the $12 billion in cash that went missing among Bush's cronies in Iraq, etc. etc. etc.


14 -- Fraudulent Elections - Remember that Fox News called Florida for Bush, deliberately and wrongly creating the impression he had won. Fox News' election night newsroom was run by Bush’s cousin.