Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Skeptics, atheist men protest way too much

I've read the attacks on atheist/skeptic Rebecca Watson on various blogs. I had no idea that "skeptics" and atheists were such assholes.

Watson is under attack after writing about sexual harassment, rape threats and obscene email she's gotten from her fellow atheists/skeptics.

I just read one blog by an English guy who has his knickers in a twist. Rebecca blocked him from posting a comment on her blog. He wrote to her and demanded an explanation. She said he called her a "cunt". He's outraged. He's been libeled! He didn't call her a "cunt". He called her a Nazi. The dumb Brit can't fathom why she would block him.

Rebecca Watson appeared in a You Tube video. She discussed her trip to an atheists convention in Dublin. She appeared in a panel and sat next to Richard Dawkins, and discussed, among other things, sexism in the movement including obscene emails she got from fellow skeptics. That evening, she hung around in the hotel bar till four a.m. talking atheism and feminism with her fellow convention-goers, then she told them she was going to go to bed and rest up for the next day. A guy followed her into the elevator. When the doors closed, he asked her to come to his room for coffee.

"Guys. Don't do that," she told You Tube viewers.

That's what all this outrage is over. This bit of sensible advice. Don't hit on chicks in elevators. I would add, don't follow women into parking garages or freeway rest stops to hit on them, either. Unless you just want to creep them out, it will never go the way you want it to.

The men who've flown into a rage over this are protesting way too much. Makes me wonder if maybe they really are a bunch a of rapos. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, The New Atheism, and Rebecca Watson

I am a non-believer myself. But the New Atheism got old really fast. There's just not that much to say on the subject.

There was a fairly recent Russian movie called Cargo 200 set in the Soviet Union. It had a scene of a Communist who taught a course in atheism at a university. He gets into a debate with a Christian and doesn't do terribly well. One review of the movie described his arguments as sounding like a teenager's attacks on religion. But I turned on You Tube and saw Christopher Hitchens using the exact same arguments in public debates.

Don't underestimate teenagers. And don't overestimate the grown-ups.

Christopher Hitchens became a George Bush supporter in spite of Bush's religiosity and seemed to focus his "atheism" against Muslims. Hitchens was pro-Palestinian---at least he started out that way---but he hated Hamas and Hezbollah simply because they were religious. 

And now...

Rebecca Watson has an article in Slate magazine subtitled "I spoke out about sexual harassment among atheists and scientists. Then came the rape threats."

Read it here: 

I was rather shocked.

Watson wrote that when she discovered the skeptic community, she thought she had found her people.
Then women started telling me stories about sexism at skeptic events, experiences that made them uncomfortable enough to never return. At first, I wasn’t able to fully understand their feelings as I had never had a problem existing in male-dominated spaces. But after a few years of blogging, podcasting, and speaking at skeptics’ conferences, I began to get emails from strangers who detailed their sexual fantasies about me. I was occasionally grabbed and groped without consent at events. And then I made the grave mistake of responding to a fellow skeptic’s YouTube video in which he stated that male circumcision was just as harmful as female genital mutilation (FGM). I replied to say that while I personally am opposed to any non-medical genital mutilation, FGM is often much, much more damaging than male circumcision.
The response from male atheists was overwhelming. This is one example:
“honestly, and i mean HONESTLY.. you deserve to be raped and tortured and killed. swear id laugh if i could”
In 2011, Watson was on a panel for an atheist conference in Dublin. She sat next to  Richard Dawkins himself.  The topic was "Communicating atheism."
Dawkins used his time to criticize Phil Plait, an astronomer who the year prior had given a talk in which he argued for skeptics to be kinder. I used my time to talk about what it’s like for me to communicate atheism online, and how being a woman might affect the response I receive, as in rape threats and other sexual comments.

The audience was receptive, and afterward I spent many hours in the hotel bar discussing issues of gender, objectification, and misogyny with other thoughtful atheists. At around 4 a.m., I excused myself, announcing that I was exhausted and heading to bed in preparation for another day of talks.
As I got to the elevator, a man who I had not yet spoken with directly broke away from the group and joined me. As the doors closed, he said to me, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting. Would you like to come back to my hotel room for coffee?” I politely declined and got off the elevator when it hit my floor.

A few days later, I was making a video about the trip and I decided to use that as an example of how not to behave at conferences if you want to make women feel safe and comfortable. After all, it seemed rather obvious to me that if your goal is to get sex or even just companionship, the very worst way to go about attaining that goal is to attend a conference, listen to a woman speak for 12 hours about how uncomfortable she is being sexualized at conferences, wait for her to express a desire to go to sleep, follow her into an isolated space, and then suggest she go back to your hotel room for “coffee,” which, by the way, is available at the hotel bar you just left.

What I said in my video, exactly, was, “Guys, don’t do that,” with a bit of a laugh and a shrug. What legions of angry atheists apparently heard was, “Guys, I won’t stop hating men until I get 2 million YouTube comments calling me a ‘cunt.’ ” The skeptics boldly rose to the imagined challenge.
Even Dawkins weighed in. He hadn’t said anything while sitting next to me in Dublin as I described the treatment I got, but a month later he left this sarcastic comment on a friend’s blog:

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and … yawn … don't tell me yet again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and you can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so …

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Dawkins’ seal of approval only encouraged the haters. My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape “jokes,” threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page.
You should read the whole article. She's faced the same crap at the regular skeptics conferences---I mean conferences that focused on debunking psychic powers and the paranormal rather than religion. There are rape threats, blogs and twitter accounts all aimed against her.
Meanwhile, other skeptical women are being bullied out of the spotlight and even out of their homes. My fellow writer on Skepchick, Amy Davis Roth, moved after her home address was posted on a forum dedicated to hating feminist skeptics. In September, blogger Greta Christina wrote that “when I open my mouth to talk about anything more controversial than Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster recipes or Six More Atheists Who Are Totally Awesome, I can expect a barrage of hatred, abuse, humiliation, death threats, rape threats, and more.” And Jen McCreight stopped blogging and accepting speaking engagements altogether. “I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few),” she wrote. “I just can’t take it anymore.”
What's wrong with these people?

I should note here that Watson wrote that some atheist and skeptic groups were more sympathetic than others.

Jeff Sparrow on Counterpunch

I read about Watson's article here, on An article by Jeff Sparrow. It noted that you could google the name Rebecca Watson and see the attacks on her.

Sparrow notes that emergence of "the new atheism" coincided with the War on Terror. The new atheists explain religion "purely and simply as a result of the dangerous ignorance of the faithful" and ignore culture and history. This leads, he says, to "certain political conclusions" about the countries the US and its allies are occupying.
...Figures like Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens shot to prominence after 9/11 precisely because they offered simplistic explanations for the ‘why do they hate us?’ queries dominating the media (short answer: cos they’re religious fanatics!), and then consolidated their careers with an anti-God shtick in which an essentialised Islamophobia jostled with bloodthirsty warmongering.

Not all the New Atheists are so explicitly enthusiastic about imperialism (indeed, many think of themselves as liberal) but a racialised attitude to Islam has steeped through the movement as a whole, with the attitudes in the comments threads on many atheist blogs often comparable with what you’d find on so-called counter-jihadi sites.

Even so, the vitriol directed at Watson might still seem perplexing, given that the New Atheists often pitch their hostility Islam as a defence of gender equality.
Humanitarian imperialism is not, it should be remembered, an entirely new phenomenon: in the glory days of the British Empire there were no shortage of jingoes lauding the civilizing impact of the Raj, precisely because it rescued Indian maidens from the depredations of their savage culture. If you picture a sloshed London clubman simultaneously harrumphing about suffragettes and decrying how the darkies treated their wives, you’ve got a pretty good sense of the mentality that allowed Christopher Hitchens to laud the Iraq invasion as a victory for women – and then call the Dixie Chicks ‘fucking fat slags’ for opposing it.

It’s no coincidence that Dawkins belittles Watson by contrasting her with the mythical Muslima, someone he seems to like precisely because she doesn’t exist. A hypothetical Islamic victim begging for white men to save her appeals to the self-perception of the imperial atheist; a flesh-and-blood American standing up for her own rights, not so much.

...Right-wing atheists have long argued that Islam needs a reformation. Well, the same thing might be said about their movement. It’s high time that the atheist Left asserted itself against the atheist Right – an Occupy Skepticism, if you will.

Libertarian types

I've seen this kind of crap before from "free thinkers".

I've encountered members of the Libertarian Party---Ayn Rand cultists, who called themselves "Objectivists"---who thought they were really sticking it to The Man by smoking cigarettes and being openly racist.

"That's Objectivism, is it?" I asked one of them.

They view "political correctness" as stifling, so they think racism must be liberating.

I've seen this in low budget documentary style movies with racist characters----I assume it's because the filmmaker sees "political correctness" as phony, so they imagine that racism must be a sign of sincerity.

In this case it's rape threats and obscene epithets instead of cigarettes and racial slurs, but the principle is the same.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ray Carney cut off from civilization?

We still don't know what's going on with Ray Carney. Is he just not checking his email? Does it make sense that he would cut himself off from the world?

I heard a comment on the radio. Someone was talking about what percentage of US homes had no internet or computer. I realized that it sounded kind of nice, like you'd be able to live a normal life again without one these things. I sort of admired some guy who said that he had never sent an email in his life.

I've never owned a cell phone. Texting seems stupid. Sexting even stupider. I remember many years ago, the actor Rob Lowe got into trouble. His camcorder was stolen and it contained a videotape of him molesting a high school girl in his hotel room. Why was he walking around with this on his camcorder? Why on earth wouldn't he put in a new tape?

But now we have millions of people walking around with nude self-portraits and home pornography recorded on their cell phones which they know get lost and stolen all the time.

Several years ago, there were fliers posted around town. A camcorder was stolen. The owner didn't want the camcorder back, but he offered a reward for the tape. It contained video of the first two years of his daughter's life. So, in two year's time, it never crossed his mind to put in a new tape? Videotape is dirt cheap. My guess is that he was recording LP or SLP since he still had time to record on the same cassette after two years.

When I first saw the flier, I felt sorry for the guy, but the more I thought about it, the more disgusted I became. How cheap can you get? Did he never consider the possibility that he might lose something? I would have worried about the camcorder eating the tape.

There was a guy who had gone on a trip around the world. I can't remember---did he jog or bicycle or walk around the world? His journey ended in New York where his camcorder with tape of the entire trip was stolen.

But I'm getting off the subject.

I would rather admire Carney for removing himself from "the grid" as people keep calling it. But if you have email it's rude not to check it now and then, and if you have someone's films and they've already taken you to court to get them back, you should consider checking in once in a while to see if anything else was happening.

Look at the long letter Carney coaxed Jon Jost into posting on his website. He talks about all the stuff he does. Speaking at events, publishing, interviews, advising students. Seems like he would need to keep in touch.

A quote from Denise Odie Joseph II

And a quote from Dinesh D'Souza's mistress's blog:
“RINO Republicans are analogous to fathers who proudly proclaim their conservativeness at dinner parties or perhaps during early afternoon phone calls to El Rusbo’s show, but let their ‘independently-minded’ wives (translation–women who get their marching orders from St. Oprah or more recently, The View ) pump their teenagers full of birth control and encourage their daughters to live the lives for which their bra-burning foremothers fought so valiantly.”

D'nesh D'Souza's D'sgrace

Married New York millionaire D'Souza and his "fiancee".

An interesting article detailing a lawsuit filed by Sain Communications against Dinesh D'Souza. Sain founded the company that produced D'Souza's anti-Obama documentary:

The lawsuit offers more details about D'Souza's illicit affair with much-younger right-wing blogger/groupie Denise Odie Joseph. The lawsuit states that D'Souza used the company's resources on "crisis management dealing with his personal extramarital affair." And apparently D'Souza and his wife weren't "separated" for as long as he claims:
     "Sain alleges that D'Souza's current wife was involved in various aspects of the production of the movie at the same time as he was involved with Joseph and introduced her as his 'assistant.' On information and belief, D'Souza continued the ruse that Joseph was his 'assistant' in order to justify spending OAF [Obama's America Foundation] funds on Joseph that were intended for the movie production and exploitation," the complaint states.
     Besides using Obama's America Foundation money to pay for Joseph's travel, D'Souza used company resources "to defend his reputation publicly," and "clear his name," according to the complaint.
     "Many of these resources are being wasted at a critical time when they are needed, instead, for the movie's exploitation," Sain claims.
D'Souza tried to get the production company to pay for his mistress to attend the Republican and the Democratic national conventions.
     D'Souza also sought unnecessary debt financing of $1 million, on top of the $2 million Obama's America Foundation needed for expenses, so he could claim a $50,000 finders fee, Sain says in the complaint.
     D'Souza then blocked payment of $1.5 million in theatrical revenue to the production company, from the movie's distributor Rocky Mountain Pictures, to trigger "the need to use $1 million of borrowed funds to pay vendors," and earn D'Souza his fee, the complaint states.
     Sain claims that D'Souza had $90,000 paid into an account in India "in order to hide the funds from the IRS, his current wife, or others."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dinesh D'Souza's D'vorce

 Good-looking swinger Dinesh D'Souza.

Dinesh D'Souza doesn't understand why Christians think he should be divorced from his first wife before getting engaged to his new fiancee and sharing a motel room with her. He's quoted in Wikipedia saying:
"I had no idea that it is considered wrong in Christian circles to be engaged prior to being divorced, even though in a state of separation and in divorce proceedings. Obviously I would not have introduced Denise as my fiancée at a Christian apologetics conference if I had thought or known I was doing something wrong."
It turns out that he didn't file for divorce from his wife until days after he was caught in a Comfort Inn love nest with his "fiancee", Denise Odie Joseph, right-wing blogger/groupie.

Does he just have a difference of opinion with other Christians? Is he gearing up for a Mormon presidency? Or does he hate Christianity as he accuses Obama of doing. Could it be that the devout Christian D'Souza was projecting his own secret but deep-seated hatred of Christianity onto Obama?

D'Souza was forced out of his job as president of The King's College, a Christian school in New York City.

Dinesh got his langoti in a bunch over the article in World, a Christian magazine, which broke the story. It reported that he had admitted that he had shared a motel room with his "fiancee" but that "nothing happened".

He later denied that he said it. But when a reporter from Christianity Today asked D'Souza if he was having an affair with her, he replied, “It's absolutely not the case, um, that, um, that, um, um, you know, it's.... Look, the issue here is that World is attributing to me an admission that I never made—is attributing to me a quotation that I never said.”

D'Souza claimed that he'd known Joseph less than three months.

From The Daily Beast:
It remained unclear late Wednesday whether D’Souza was telling the truth about the timing of his acquaintance with Joseph, whom former students and staff members told The Daily Beast has been seen around the King’s campus for months. Screen shots of Joseph’s now-deactivated website obtained by The Daily Beast show she was writing glowing posts about D’Souza as far back as April, referring to him as a “famed conservative blogger” and one of “our favorites.” A section of the site offering “recommended reading” featured D’Souza first on the list, along with a gushing paean. “When this man passes, the world and the West will have lost an intellectual giant,” Joseph wrote.

Apparently The King's College, Christian as it is, is not the right-wing institution D'Souza imagines. Again from The Daily Beast:
D’Souza’s conflict within the college recently surfaced in a small flap over his comments in an interview with The New York Times’ Stanley Fish. Defending the school’s reputation against charges that it teaches Creationism, D’Souza said, “We don’t teach Christian doctrine.” He also emphasized his view of the school as a right-wing training ground: “Our students are not being prepared to enter seminaries, but to go to Goldman Sachs and Capitol Hill and Shanghai, where, from a liberal point of view, they will be even more dangerous.” The comments caused controversy at King’s when they were reported by the student newspaper.

And another quote from The Daily Beast about D'Souza's book, based on his movie, attacking Obama's mother:
D’Souza argues that part of the reason Ann Dunham [Obama's mother] sent Obama to live with her parents in Hawaii was so she could pursue affairs with Indonesian men. “Ann’s sexual adventuring may seem a little surprising in view of the fact that she was a large woman who kept getting larger,” he writes. On the next page, he continues, “Learning about Ann’s sexual adventures in Indonesia, I realized how wrong I had been to consider Barack Obama Sr. the playboy … Ann … was the real playgirl, and despite all her reservations about power, she was using her American background and economic and social power to purchase the romantic attention of third-world men.”
There is no evidence for any of this—D’Souza mentions the name of exactly one man who Dunham had a relationship with after her divorce. Even if it was true, however, it’s hard to see how it’s relevant to Obama’s supposed taste for subversion, since as D’Souza himself points out, Obama wasn’t living in Indonesia at the time. The chapter is simply an expression of glandular-level contempt. It shows that a writer once considered a legitimate conservative intellectual has been reduced to sputtering “yo mama” at our president.

Is D'Souza projecting again? The movie resorts to Freudian psychology to accuse Obama of modelling himself after his father with whom he had no contact. He claims that the fact that he had no contact with his father made him even more likely to model himself after him. Is this because D'Souza recognized his own deep-seated psychological problems? Was his baseless attack on Obama's mother an attack on his own mother, or was he revealing suspicions about his wife of twenty years from whom he claimed to have been separated? When he says he realized he was wrong to "consider Barack Obama Sr. the playboy", was he arguing his own innocence, trying to justify his own outrages against Christian morality?

Monday, October 22, 2012

I want dubbing!

I don't know about everyone else, but I'm tired of reading subtitles. I want to be able to actually look at the picture when I watch a movie. And, if the movie's not worth watching that closely, I'd like to be able to thumb through a magazine or look something up on the internet and still listen to it.

I do understand the appeal of subtitles. You get to hear the actors' real voices, but it doesn't do that much good when you can't understand the language. Dubbing only bothers me when they have men with deep voices doing the dialog for tweenage boys, or adults speaking in falsetto to dub the voices of children. I saw an Italian movie where they dubbed an old man's dialog with a cartoon-like old man voice, although the actor may have sounded that way in Italian, too.

So much stuff is post-synched now anyway. I hear they dub most scenes in American movies that aren't filmed in a studio. I walked into the living room. My family was watching Mel Gibson's Man Without a Face. There was a scene with some kids on the beach talking. They didn't get the lip sych exact. And no one noticed but me.

I don't know if Americans would come to accept it. I hear that the Japanese insist on subtitles while Europeans are baffled by subtitling. MTV took a survey and found that people in Latin America preferred Beavis & Butt-head with subtitles.

A French actress appeared on the David Letterman show. She couldn't understand why her movie was subtitled. She pointed out that one of the actors in didn't speak French. His dialog was dubbed into French---why not just dub it into English. And you have Italian movies which, for years, were all shot without sound and dubbed. What's the point of watching it dubbed into Italian and subtitled in English?

There was Jacques Tati's movie Mon Oncle. He filmed two versions, French and English. He filmed without sound and dubbed, but, in the English language version, the actors spoke phonetically correct English and the signs were in English. They used the same actors and two versions were filmed simultaneously. But only the French version seems to be available in the US. None of the arguments for subtitles apply in this case. But the petit-bourgeois rubes would rather read than watch the movie.

Which is a little like that William Shatner movie that was filmed in Esperanto. Shatner did pretty well, sounded very natural speaking it. Or like that Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ. They had English-speaking actors and they were made primarily for an English-speaking audience, but they wanted subtitles for no good reason.

And here's something else. I think they stopped movie dubbing about the time they stopped foreign accents. I wrote about this before. I watched part of The Odessa File with Jon Voight playing a German reporter. He spoke with sort of a German accent. Roger Corman argued against this when he made Von Richthofen and Brown. "Germans don't speak English with a German accent." No, but they don't speak English with an American or a British accent, either. They do speak German with a German accent. At least get that much right.

They used to dub foreign films that way----French movies were dubbed with actors speaking with a French accent. They don't anymore. Could that be what turned people against dubbing?

And I just watched Melancholia, a Danish movie filmed in Sweden. But the actors were all American and British. Foreign filmmakers are forced to use US actors to get their movies viewed in the US in part because of this aversion to dubbing. It's part of cruelty of US cultural hegemony.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lars von Trier's Melancholia

I've seen a few movies by Lars von Trier. Like Dogville  and Manderlay which did nothing for me.  Other people seemed to love them. Then there was Antichrist which starts out with a child's death intercut with an apparently unsimulated sex scene.

I didn't hold von Trier's long, rambling comments at the Cannes Film Festival against him. Being unfunny isn't a mortal sin. He had gone through life thinking that his Jewish step-father was his father. His mother told him on her deathbed that his father was actually a German fellow. Von Trier talked about this and kept using the term "Nazi" instead of "German". Maybe it would have been funny in Danish.

But Melancholia was great. With Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland. A large cast. It begins as an extremely expensive wedding held in a castle in Sweden. Things go rather badly as big weddings often do in movies. The bride has a strained relationship with her sister. They keep looking at the stars. A planet will soon go hurtling past, threatening to collide with the Earth. Kiefer Sutherland has his telescope set up and they get the kid out of bed to watch this amazing event.

I had seen this one on a "top ten" list by  J. Hoberman, and there it was in my Queue on Netflix. It's available now for instant viewing.

What about Kirk Cameron?

Kirk Cameron, the Richard Gere of Christianity.

 Poor Richard Gere. He's a devout Buddhist devoted to the Dalai Lama. He said in an interview:

"The Dalai Lama is Dalai Lama. But outside of that one title he is a totally fluid human being who engages the heart and mind. He is able to do it with such grace and humility—I think that is the mark of a real teacher, a real friend... We see him as a spiritual teacher, we see him as a deity."

But when a reporter asked the Dalai Lama who his favorite actor was, he said John Wayne.

On top of that, moronic "actor" Steven Seagal was declared to be a "reincarnation (tulku) of the treasure revealer Chungdrag Dorje".

"If someone's a tulku, that's great," Gere said, "but no one knows if that's true." Which is an argument against the religion in general, not just Steven Seagal's place in it.

Gere should think about converting. His religion keeps slapping him in the face. You think Tom Cruise would put up with that?

The humiliation of Kirk Cameron

And now Kirk Cameron finds himself in the same position. The erstwhile teen idol is a big fish in Christian entertainment, and good for him. But now UPI reports that they're shoving him aside and considering Nicolas Cage for the starring role in a remake of the 2006 boxoffice failure Left Behind which had starred Cameron.

At least they're not replacing him with Steven Seagal.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

J Hoberman, Film after Film

A review by Louis Proyect on of a new book by J Hoberman, Film after Film, or What Became of 21st Century Cinema.

The book is a collection of articles by Hoberman, mostly from the Village Voice.

From Hoberman's review of Team America: World Police quoted in the review:
Often funny but seldom uproarious, Team America purveys a post–9-11 irony that’s founded on a combination of schoolyard insult, belligerent patriotism, and the absence of irony. The villains are Kim Jong Il, an irate little puppet who furnishes Arab terrorists with WMDs; Michael Moore, who appears outside Mt. Rushmore with a hot dog in each hand and a bomb strapped to his belly; and a gaggle of prominent Hollywood stars led by Alec Baldwin, head of the Film Actors Guild.
In the service of human interest, Team America recruits a replacement commando from the Broadway hit Lease. (He’s first seen singing “Everybody Has AIDS.”) His job is acting, something that intrinsically amuses animators Parker and Stone. Their marionettes vomit, bleed, and explode into organ parts. Indeed, these puppets show more guts than the filmmakers, who direct their fire at very soft targets: French and Egyptian civilians, a Communist dictator, and a bunch of Hollywood showboats. Despite some pre-release Drudge-stoked hysteria regarding an “unconscionable” attack on the administration, no American politicians appear in the movie. (The movie has since garnered Fox News’s seal of approval.) Nor do any media moguls. The filmmakers never satirize anyone who could hurt their career—not even Michael Moore enabler Harvey Weinstein.
According to the review:
The book is divided into three parts. The first deals with the film versus digital debate that provided the substance of this year’s superb documentary “Side by Side”, produced by and starring a remarkably informed and articulate Keanu Reeves. The second is a look at Hollywood blockbusters and a handful of documentaries and indie films that Hoberman investigates as commentary, often unintentional, on the war on terror following 9/11. The final section is a look at some fairly obscure films that would probably be of the most interest to Hoberman’s students at Cooper Union and NYU but the general reader might find it useful as a guide to the Netflix inventory on those occasions when you simply do not have the stomach for another Bruce Willis car chase/smash mouth extravaganza. 
J. Hoberman


Against a Crooked Sky

I'm sitting here. Watching Against a Crooked Sky, an old Mormon-produced family western. They hired an extremely prolific TV director, Earl Bellamy, to direct this thing and it showed. American TV looked like crap in those days.

In this movie, a teenage boy goes off to find his sister who was kidnapped by Indians. Richard Boone plays an incredibly obnoxious drunk. A lot of dull, repetitive dialog.

The kid who played the kid was Stewart Petersen who starred in several of these movies---Where the Red Fern Grows, Seven Alone,  Pony Express Rider----all crappy G-rated made-in-Utah movies distributed by Doty-Dayton Releasing.

Doty-Dayton specialized in four-walling. They would rent the entire theater, saturate the after-school viewing hours with advertising, keep all money from ticket sales for themselves and move on before bad word-of-mouth took their toll.

Petersen was Klaus Kinski to their Werner Herzog. He was Peter Sellers to their Blake Edwards. Fernando Rey to their Luis Bunuel. Toshiro Mifune to their Akira Kurosawa. John Wayne to their John Ford. Jean-Pierre Leaud to their Francois Truffaut.

The poor kid----I don't know if he just wasn't any good or if he was dealing with writers and directors who weren't any good. He went on to play Joseph Smith in a short film.

Here's how it could have been improved:
No Richard Boone. But if they were going to have Richard Boone, he should have been a drug addict instead of a drunk. And couldn't they think of something other than his being an old prospector?
If the Indians weren't going to be played by actual Indians, they should have been played by Italians and they should have spoken Italian as if it were an Indian language.
They should have been nearly thwarted by a band of female body builders.

They shouldn't have been so casual about killing Indians. They killed several in one scene. The movie  was produced by a company called "Feature Films For Family" which claims their movies have no violence, but the two I've seen each show Indians being killed, either knifed to death or gunned down. The fact that they don't regard this as real violence makes it even more offensive.
The Indians should have tied them up and tried to kill them in some creative way, like the criminals used to do to Batman and Robin on the '60s TV show.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Bad New Bears in Breaking Training

I did a search on Netflix for "Breaking Bad". I ended up watching The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training. I'd seen The Bad News Bears back in the '70s. The sequels lacked Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal and they replaced several of the boys, I assume because the child actors hit their growth spurts. Tanner became the central figure, or at least he supplied some narration.

In the original movie, they were on the same team but weren't friends otherwise. In this one, they were. Tanner had denounced Lupus as a "booger-eatin' spaz" who "makes me want to puke" in the first one, but now they were best friends.

Tanner uses a number of racial slurs. I heard at the time that the actor's mother had objected and got them to cut out quite a bit of that.

The team takes a stolen van to Houston where they play a game in the Astrodome. I thought the team was supposed to be really bad with an alcoholic coach. Why were they playing in the Astrodome?

It turns out that there's nothing funny in and of itself about a racist kid or kids reading Playboy, or kids stealing a van, or a fat kid having to use the bathroom.

With Scott Baio's cousin, Jimmy, and Gummo Marx's grandson, Brett.

Oh, well. It was about what I expected when I clicked on it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Romney's worse than I thought

Good God.

Romney has Jerome Corsi traveling with him now on his campaign plane.

Corsi is a birther. Claims Obama was born in Kenya.

And now Corsi says he has a picture of Obama which he claims was taken in 1971. And he's wearing a ring!  The only possible explanation, Corsi says, is that it was a wedding ring and that Obama was  in a same-sex marriage to another man and that he killed him.

Obama was ten years old in 1971. Corsi may have meant 1981 but I wouldn't bet on it.

Odd that the Secret Service would allow someone like this near any presidential candidate, even one he supports.

My memory of this whole birther thing is this:

Someone pointed out that John McCain was born in Panama. It wasn't clear if the constitution would allow him to be president. The Republicans retorted that Obama was born outside the United States, too----he was born in Hawaii. It was only after it was explained to them that Hawaii is part of the United States that they started in with the Kenya thing. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Slate reports on the Ray Carney - Mark Rappaport thing

And now Slate magazine has reported on the Ray Carney thing:

I wish to heck Carney would just return the stuff.

Jon Jost now has an online petition you can get to through his blog:

And there is a long comment on Jost's blog from Paul Couture pleading on behalf of Carney. This thing will likely destroy Carney's career. I agree with some of what he says. The talk about other conflicts Carney has been in, with Gena Rowlands for example, is irrelevant. Carney may have been right in those cases even if he's wrong now.

I tend to side with Carney on the Gena Rowlands thing. Even if I'm wrong, Carney can make a pretty good case. It does no good to bring it up in regards to this case.

Couture wrote:
I wonder what incentive Professor Carney now has to return the materials. He has already been shamed by hundreds of people, many of whom he considers the greatest artists alive. His department is aware of the transgression and his alleged role in it. If he returns the goods will he be forgiven? Of course not. He’s already lost everything thanks to your efforts, except, likely, the Rappaport archives. Did you consider this consequence before you started along this path from which there is no return?

I’d also like to say that I believe, despite some confounding evidence, that Professor Carney may truly have taken himself off the grid. Just because he has access to email, telephone or mail doesn’t mean he uses them. Once when I was preparing a class I decided to use some compilations of essays of Professor Carney’s. This was in the Spring and I was preparing for a Fall term course. I wrote him indicating that I would like to order a good number of compilations of essays. Weeks went by and I wrote again, then again, then again. No response. Then, several weeks into the semester he finally returned my emails. He said he was genuinely sorry and that he was in Europe, if I recall correctly. That was fine. He lost out on maybe close to $1000 in sales and I used other course materials. Did he have access to email any of that time? Probably he did. But it doesn’t mean he had any negative intent either. On the contrary, he only hurt his own sales and the dissemination of some of his lesser known works.
To read Couture's entire comment, click the link to Jon Jost's blog above.

For the most part, Jon Jost has simply publicized the case. I don't know if Carney deserves the damage to his career and reputation and I'm sure we'll all be worse off because of it. But you can't sacrifice Mark Rappaport on the altar of Ray Carney. Rappaport needs his stuff back. It's not much to ask.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A murder case

I was looking through microfilm of the local newspaper. I read about a murder case which happened in 1952 or '53. A fifteen-year-old farm boy, then the youngest person ever to be charged with murder in Oregon, was convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend.

I read the verdict first. I wondered if he was really guilty. With the primitive state of forensic science and the way they treated juvenile delinquents on those days, who could tell? So I went back and read reports on the trial.

The girl was shot in the back of the head as she was picking flowers. Footprints made by the boy's boots were found at the scene. The boots themselves were found stuffed into a hollow tree trunk. She was shot with a .22 caliber Colt Woodsman pistol which belonged to the boy's father.
The boy pleaded not guilty. He testified in his own defense and he was the only defense witness.

His lawyer got him started with a question and the boy told his story.

On the day of the murder, he was working on the tractor, trying to get the motor running. He was startled when a "mean-looking old man" walked up behind him. "He looked really mean!"

"You're father got any guns?" the old man said.

"Yes, sir. He does."

"Go get me one!"

"Oh, no, sir. I'm not allowed to touch any of the guns."

But the old man looked "really mean", so the kid went inside and came back with the pistol. He gave it to the old man.

"Now, gimme them boots!" the old man said.

He had a gun, so the boy had little choice. He gave the old man his boots.

The old man put them on, then walked off across a field toward his girlfriend's house. The boy heard a gunshot. Then the old man came walking back.

He gave the boy the gun and told him to put it back where he got it. "And you better get rid of them boots!"

Under cross examination, the boy explained that he never told police this because the old man had already killed his girlfriend---he didn't want to be killed, too! That's why he never told anyone this story even when he was arrested and charged with the crime.

And he said he recognized the old man----it was his girlfriend's grandfather. Who, the prosecutor pointed out, had an alibi.

The kid was convicted. They figured he would serve four or five years. Children get more than that today for nonviolent crimes.

The paper ran an editorial about the case. They wondered what would become of him in prison.

"He will probably become a homosexual," it said.

It's surprising how short the sentence was since, around the same time, a blind couple was sentenced to five years for writing a bad check and a young married woman with children was sentenced to sixty days in jail for drinking a beer. She was under 21. A homeless teenage boy, only 16, was sentenced to six months for vagrancy.

Biden did okay

You don't have to be smart to win one of these things, or at least hold your own. Look at Bush debating Gore. Look at any debate between creationists and scientists. It's a debate being judged by rubes and "low information voters". Sarah Palin did pretty well against Biden when they debated.

Winning a political debate doesn't mean you've actually made coherent arguments for you position. Look at Romney. He didn't defend any of his positions. He abruptly made up new ones and left Obama in the dust.

But Biden did pretty well. He was able to cite enough figures that he seemed to have a far greater depth of knowledge than that wormy guy was arguing with.

But here's one problem.

There was a study that discovered this. A certain percentage of voters are unaware that there are political differences. They don't know that there's any difference of opinion. They think that everyone wants the same thing and that political debates are "bickering". They can't understand why politicians won't stop bickering and just do what everybody wants.

I don't remember what percentage of the voters believe this, but I remember that it was the same percentage that voted for Ross Perot.

It may be, with things getting more polarized, that these idiots are wising up. There may be fewer of them than there used to be.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

One Pussy Rioter set free

One of the ladies from Pussy Riot® (now a registered trademark) had the good sense to hire a real lawyer, one interested in making actual legal arguments to get her released. And she walked free, more or less. She's on probation. She'd likely go back to jail if she does any more public orgy videos or uses shoplifted poultry as a marital aid as they did in another video.

The other two are heading for prison. They're still in the local jail, apparently. They say they'll appeal, but if they're using the same lawyers, more interested in making political statements than representing their clients, they're finished.

If you're ever accused of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, don't keep talking about how much you hate the church you're accused of desecrating.

They are now the "winners" of some sort of Yoko Ono peace prize. What they ever did for peace isn't clear.

They've set the cause of feminism back decades.

Feminism has never been popular in Russia. I have a friend on-line, a Russian woman in western Siberia. She seemed to view feminism as man-hating. I pointed out a couple of the things feminists were fighting for----abortion rights, equal pay----but these are things they already have in Russia and have had since the early days of the Soviet Union. The Communists passed equal pay laws in 1919, something the US has yet to do.

"Why would they pay men and women differently?" she asked. She never heard of anything like it.

Abortion there is safe, legal, available in any hospital, and is pretty much free. Feminism just doesn't offer them much that they don't already have.

And now this is the Russian image of feminism. Pussy Riot®. American and European feminists defending and supporting these idiots isn't helping.

And there's Femen, the Ukrainian feminist group, that has been using chainsaws to cut down crucifixes while topless. They cut down a crucifix that was erected as a memorial to Christians killed in the Soviet repression of religion and to the people who died in the famine there in the '30s.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mumblecore, the New Wave and reverse mumblecore

If I were French and didn't understand English and had to watch old American B movies subtitled in French, I'd probably like them better than I do now.

I don't know why the intellectuals of the French New Wave liked American B movies so much, but I always assumed a large part of it was that they wanted to make movies themselves and they knew that, if they were ever going to do it, they would be working with very little money.

They looked at low budget genre movies and used them as a model for their personal films.

And now we must do the opposite with these "mumblecore" movies.

Watch these plotless, extreme low budget "personal" films and see how you could use the same techniques to make incredibly cheap, well-plotted, carefully scripted genre movies.

And another thing, use digital video. It looks fine, it's cheap and it has image stabilization.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Does analog video have any appeal at all?

There are artists who experiment with the unique optical qualities of the all-plastic Diana camera.

Fisher Price PXL 2000 toy camcorders have long been coveted by artists.

There are people who insist on using Super 8 film instead of digital video.

So what about standard definition analog video? Anybody exploiting its unique visual qualities? Because I love my big giant S-VHS camcorders. I bought them for almost nothing long after they were obsolete. Last time I used one of them, a guy thought I was from the media. I told him I wasn't. I told him several times. But I recorded his message to the governor anyway.

Could analog video be the new grainy black and white? If Open City or Battle of Algiers were filmed today, would it be on S-VHS or Hi8 video?

I doubt it. But these camcorders must be good for something.

Obama's rather poor performance

Still nothing from Ray Carney? A Google search shows nothing new. He's using the strategy Obama did in the debate last night-----just stand there. Romney accused him is cutting Medicare by billions of dollars---repeated this several times---and he stood there like a dolt. Romney accused him of corruption----the "green energy" companies that got government money contributed to his campaign, and Obama said nothing.

Someone pointed out that that was pretty much his strategy in the Democratic Party debates when he ran for the nomination.

Before this, there were some doubts as to whether rich Republicans would keep throwing good money after bad into Romney's campaign when he was obviously going to lose.

Now I don't know if Democrats should bother supporting Obama when he won't stand up for anything.

But the strategy's probably working pretty well for Carney.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


When I was about eight, I went to the Museum of the Fantastic in eastern Oregon. One of the things in it was a "death ray" that someone tried to sell to the US government. I pushed the button and it blew warm air on you.

Years later, I was at the library looking through microfilm of the New York Times. I was reading about the Leopold and Loeb case in 1924. The library didn't have Chicago papers. But as I sat there I started reading other news.

"Hey! It's that death ray I saw!" I thought.

It was front page news for several days. A Frenchman was on a ship heading for the US. He had a death ray he wanted to sell. His own government had turned it down. The news fizzled quickly when he got here.

In other news, a man in Japan dressed in a business suit with no shoes scaled the wall of the US embassy and committed ritual suicide with a sword to protest anti-Japanese US immigration laws. Mussolini kidnapped a socialist leader.

Some children took a car on a joy ride and ran over a cop's foot.

A cop was arrested for manslaughter. He said he fired into the air to chase some young children out of an abandoned building. A seven year old boy was struck by a bullet and killed. That kid would have been 95-years-old now.

Some other children, inspired by the Leopold and Loeb case, kidnapped another kid. They beat him, knocked out one of his teeth and broke his arm. They tied him up. They sent one kid to demand a five dollar ransom from his mother, but the kid apparently chickened out and went home. When he didn't return, the other kids went home leaving the victim tied up in the woods. He got free and went home. They're in their late 90s if any are still alive.

Back then, you had to have your parents' permission to enlist in the military if you were under 22. There was talk about changing that policy.

Some workers played a practical joke on a new employee. They told him that a lonely housewife lived in the house over there. Her husband was working far away and if he were to go to her door that night... He did. And his co-workers burst out shouting as if they were the woman's angry husband and fired blanks at him. But one of the guns wasn't loaded with blanks and the young man was killed.

Several girls in a group home were killed in a fire. One of the residents burned it down so the girls wouldn't have to live there and could return home.

Help wanted ads were very specific back then. One company looking for a kid to work in their office wanted a "Negro boy from a good family who wants to learn the plumbing business." They had separate ads for male and female.

There was lots more.

Why am I writing about it here?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pleasure of Being Robbed again.

Long ago, I watched just the very start of a movie called C.C. and Company. Couldn't stand it. Turned it off. I think the plot had something to do with motorcycles but I didn't get that far. The opening scene was Joe Namath walking through a grocery store. He opens a loaf of bread and takes two slices. He goes to another aisle and opens a package of baloney. He makes a sandwich. Eats it.

The scene was supposed to be cute or funny or something. But Joe Namath was such a big lout. I didn't realize how utterly devoid of charisma he was.

And now----I watched The Pleasure of Being Robbed again. A "mumblecore" film about a young woman running around New York City stealing from people. I've seen descriptions on the internet that say she was a "free spirit", snatching purses, stealing suitcases, breaking into cars. We're supposed to think this is cute or funny.

The movie was made by two brothers, apparently born in the U.S. to Israeli parents. Their uncle is Moshe Safdie, an Israeli architect who is now working on the racial cleansing of Jerusalem. He drew up the "master plan" for a Jewish settler group to wipe out another Palestinian neighborhood. Read about it here. Maybe theft seems perfectly normal to these two.

They attended Boston University and judging from the movie, they were influenced by Ray Carney and his thing for John Cassavetes. Except in the John Cassavetes movies I've seen, either Cassavetes or Peter Falk or some other guy eventually slaps Gena Rowlands. Probably common in "personal" films made by alcoholics. Why didn't anyone slug the horrible girl in this movie?

I looked at the user reviews on One person thought the girl was lonely, wanted to learn about other people but didn't know how.

But another person saw it at the LA Film Festival and really, really hated it. The auteurs spoke to the audience and he really, really hated them, too:
I wouldn't have such a problem but knowing they think the world of themselves just because they went to NYU [sic] & live in some trendy area, living off mommy & daddy's allowance but play it down like "I'm a struggling artist just like you" is completely insulting.
But they're all that way. I heard a radio interview with some young writers, directors and actors who had just produced a new comedy in Hollywood. Each one was the son of a big Hollywood star. But they were hurt that anyone would think this gave them any advantage at all.

And, of course, that comment was written by a guy in Los Angeles. Los Angeles isn't trendy enough? There aren't enough opportunities for the aspiring filmmaker there?

If you don't like a movie, make another movie.