Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Why the Press Won't Report National Collapse

What Paul Loop said: 

"I think, generally, the Beltway scribblers, our national political press,  frame all their coverage to keep conservatives off their backs. Their bosses don’t want to piss off advertisers and the ruling class they lunch with. 

"The Beltway political press reflexively treats any news coming out of the Capitol as political grist. They mill it and then put it into the Good for Dems or Good for Repubs sacks and that’s that. We see it over and over again, political reporters on air and in print who lack the imagination or incentive to view what’s happening not as the business-as-usual electoral fight they’re comfortable reporting, but as the profound institutional collapse we're actually going through. 

"Stories like the January 6th coup attempt shouldn’t even be covered by the political desks, in my opinion. They should be treated as crime stories. 

"All the best reporting about Trump et al has come from the straight-news desks, the investigative reporters, the financial investigative reporters, the legal and court reporters. At best, the Beltway scribblers’ work has been hit or miss."

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Hercule Poirot Grapples with Ghosts

Hercule Poirot gets spooked! 

Bart, Paul and I just returned from A Haunting in Venice, a mystery based on the novel Hallowe'en Party. 

Sumptuous production values in a travelogue city, sufficiently satisfying surprises and a solution to the mystery that’s the best of the three Poirot whodunits Branagh has made so far. 

Tina Fey is fun as Poirot’s pal, the Agatha Christie stand-in Ariadne Oliver. And Poirot himself is more than usually tested by this one, a development that injects some atmospheric suspense into the familiar classic mystery mechanics.

Remember: “If you wake the bear, you cannot complain when he tangos.”

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Epicureanism: Anathema to Christianity

“Widespread but mildly disapproved of in antiquity because of its self-sufficient privacy, its acceptance of slaves and women into its communities and its professed concern with happiness and the good life, Epicureanism was anathema to Christianity. It denied a provident God, affirmed the value of life and the values of this world, denied immortality and advocated an account of the universe wholly at variance with the Christian. The account was revived in the 17th century to become the basis of modern science; but the world shaped by science has never seemed able to accept in full the world view and ethic that gave Epicurus’ system a reasonable claim to be complete, consistent and livable.”

— Prof. J.C.A Gaskin, The Oxford Guide Philosophy

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Saturday, September 2, 2023

The TV That Would Play Anything

When I was a small boy, I had a vivid dream about a TV set that would play whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. You just pushed large buttons bearing the faces of various TV characters. 

And so it came to pass…

Now, settle down at home any evening and you can summon up any television program that aired any given night since network broadcasts began in 1947 — hell, any movie that people once stood in line to buy tickets to see since the silent era, for that matter. 

It’s the next best thing to time travel.

The sheer volume of choice we have now mocks our ability to take it all in. 

I, a child of the 20th century, will never fail to be astounded at what children of the 21st century must certainly regard as commonplace and really rather dull. 

But then, biplanes, refrigerators, air conditioning, radio broadcasting, moving pictures and horseless carriages amazed my grandparents and great-grandparents. Not me.

We strangers simply accept whatever strange land we’re born into, however strange it may be.

As Johnny Williams recalled, “When Neil Armstrong took his famous first step, my maternal grandmother said to me, ‘When I was a little girl, there were people still using horse-drawn wagons. Now I’ve seen a man walking on the moon. I’ve seen a lot.’ She had such a look in her eyes and such a sound in her voice.”

“This came up the other day, but really we are getting everything we saw on The Jetsons, even more,” remarked Pat McDonald “Yeah, no flying cars ... yet. Another interesting observation that someone else made about The Jetsons, all of their buildings are on sticks and platforms, presupposing that the ground level had become inhabitable (due to climate change?).”

TV producer and author Patrick Hasburgh observed that “…the connectivity and synergy of film and television … is suddenly — and at once — both magical (and) commonplace in our culture. Everyone is famous, everyone knows everyone, our stories are everywhere; not only can I watch my favorite film or television show whenever I want, I can, if I’m pressed for time, just watch favorite scenes of hear bits of my favorite dialogue. 

“This overload might kill the art form, we’re gorging ourselves. Movies used to be so special — are they still as special? I wonder.

“Anyone with a few thousand dollars and script can make a decent movie with a bunch of their buddies — I think that’s the future of film and TV. My kid makes amazing surf films, edited with music and action — I’ve never told him how to do it and he’s never asked. It’s just what he can do, with his iPhone or a video camera. In 10 seconds he knows how to use it and where to point it.”

“I think what I am trying to say is that the artist, the amateur, the auteur with only passion and an idea will save the form — those little indie movies you stumble across, often brilliant and just minutes long, might be where all of this is going. I’m often knocked out by the brilliance, accessibility and simplicity of some of the work. That's not to suggest it isn’t complex; it very often is.”

“I think within 10 years or less we will be able to write movies on our computers, pounding out scenes at AI will instantly produce with likeness and tone, music, etc... we will be able to conjure up anything.”

“We’ll always have Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, etc. as sign posts to the possible re: film making,” Williams said. “Even with modern tech, while many may be able to make decent movies, ‘classics that stand the test of time’ is another matter.

“While AI is a threat, I’m pulling for ‘art’ to somehow win out. We still marvel at prehistoric cave paintings.”

Saturday, August 19, 2023

We, the Vampires and Werewolves

On a Washington Post analysis headlined “American Democracy Is Cracking,” I asked the following question:

What happened to make serial killers, vampires, werewolves, witches and zombies such sympathetic figures in American popular culture?

The American corporate right wingers made ruthless evil fashionable. That’s what happened.

And I don't mean Wiccans, but witches as a monster symbol. Popular culture is a funhouse mirror that distorts — but actually reflects — the society which spawns it. 

Ruthless predatory behavior is admired and rewarded in American society, so what's wrong with monsters? Nothing. They just want to rend and tear. Is that so wrong?

And Superman is only acceptable now if he breaks some necks.

SilkkyFire replied, “I'm 61 and probably a little bit of a weirdo, even among my own generational cohort. But I can tell you, the explicit violence and constant references to torture and suffering in streamed drama is both shocking and unbearable. It makes a lot of programming (some of which is otherwise excellent) almost impossible to watch.

“Many years ago now, I was watching an episode of CSI and there was a scene where the techs were pulling pieces of a man out of a tiger's gut while making catty comments. Network television! I shut the thing off, and I was done. Never watched that show again.

“We have become very blasé about explicit depictions of pain and suffering, taking it all in with crude cynicism. Does it make us more compassionate to be entertained by those things? I don't think so. I think it becomes more like porn, with the ante constantly rising, and the mind engaging with it, corrupted. It doesn’t bode well for what we are becoming.”

Habbbb replied, “Agree with you both, and would note that the insistence on ‘getting back to normal’ while covid continues killing and disabling large numbers of people, as well as tourists in Hawaii swimming and snorkeling where more than a thousand still are missing and where bodies were seen floating soon after the devastating fire, are real-life examples of this dissociative/sociopathic horror.”

SilkkyFire said, “Thank you. Our politics is a horror show, but the increasingly indecent nature of our culture (which our politics reflects) makes me deeply sad. When I say ‘indecent’ — well, I don’t care if you wear a tank top to the grocery store or say ‘damn!’ when you stub your toe. That is not what I am talking about. To me ‘decency’ really is comprised of two things: Honesty, and a caring attitude in regard to others. Is that who we are? Is that what we value?”

Disgruntled in CT replied, “It started long ago. Exploitation is not new. It was the bedrock on which this country was built. The culture reflects it. Long ago it was the brave gunfighter fighting the bloodthirsty Indian. All societies seem to develop in similar fashion. But in developed nations, we should want to progress toward a more equal society. Unfortunately, this can’t happen if our standard for success is wealth.”

The Door to Changing Your Mind

To change your thinking, cross thresholds. This is true both metaphorically and literally. Studies have shown that when we move from one room to another, our short-term memory of our environment "resets" and dumps data on the previous room, which is no longer required. But with that goes some other stuff. This is the explanation for why we go into another room for something, and then forget what it was when we get there.