in the news today: a teapot and faultlines

Two items in the news today. The first is a bit of a teapot tempest. Liberal bloggers are upset that Obama went on Fox News and, worse, didn’t wave around the dueling glove in the hopes of hitting a few faces. It’s a bit silly. On the one hand – the one with the glove – Fox is a one-sided network that deserves the contempt it receives. On the softer, moisturized hand, for people to refuse to appear on the network only ads fuel to the right-wing fire that sees the left as elitist and so on. My view is that talking can’t be a bad thing, especially when done at a respectful conversational volume. For liberal bloggers to dump on Obama – when the media is already gunning for him as it is – for such a trivial thing strikes me as counterproductive given alternatives Clinton and McCain, who are both in need of a serious drubbing.

In the second, far more serious bit of news, the New York Times had this piece on an Arabic school in New York and the troubles faced by its former principal. Just as we thought we were making some progress on the issue of race, along comes the issue of religion – Islam, to be specific – to divide yet again. As an interesting follow up, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman did an interview with the principal in question, Debbie Almontaser.

This whole sorry affair reminds me a bit of the controversy surrounding the King Fahad mosque here in Culver City a couple of years ago, when the mosque was subjected to a protest involving a mock-hanging of Osama Bin Laden. I covered the protest and wrote one of several op-eds. Click here for the rant, which dates back to September 18, 2006:

The Incredible Spectacle

Of course, the protest is strictly little league in comparison to what’s going on in New York; it’s a veritable cauldron of politics and prejudice. But the suspicions harboured towards Muslims look increasingly like fault lines in the cultural fabric. More than a faultline, perhaps, given the fake controversy of Osama and Islam…


new column: bad thinking in the media

The mainstream media has been steadily losing its grip on sanity, let alon journalistic integrity - no news there. From perpetuating severely flawed analyses of major political events such as the primaries to the (non-liberal) bias demonstrated by what they choose to make the object of their focus, the whole notion of an informed citizenry seems like a quaint relic from the past. A few particularly annoying habits in the MSM are the topic of this week's column, but as usual, there is more - much more - to the story below the waterline.

Indigestion '08: Bad Thinking in the Media


when dialogue screams

There they are, the billboards, advertising a movie due to be released in January 2009. "My City Screams" writ large in comic book letters, with the silhouette of a fedora-wearing man in a red tie obscuring the "A." It's quite a dose of confidence, isn't it? Creating a buzz so early...especially when the trailer screams, if you will, Sin City.

But that's not all it screams. Frank Miller, not my cup of tea, has questionable dialogue in Sin City that works on paper but sucks the air of the room on film. If the teaser for The Spirit is any indication of what we can expect, I despair. Consider the gritty voice-over layered over a vignette of the Spirit running the city rooftops to the sound of screams and ringing phones.

"My city. I cannot deny her. My city screams. She is my mother. She is my lover. And I am her spirit."

Let's parse that, shall we?

"My City."
So far, so good.
"I cannot deny her."
A bit strange. What does this even mean? Deny her what? But I'll let it slide.
"My city screams."
I like it. Melodramatic, perhaps, but not without poetry. It also lets the previous sentence take on a semblance of sense...can't deny the city help, attention...
"She is my mother."
Whoa. That's a bit much, isn't it?
"She is my lover."
Ewww. I mean, really: ewww. What is it with embodying inanimate things as women and relating to them as mothers ANDlovers? Hasn't that vampire Freud been staked through his Oedipal heart yet?
"And I am her spirit."
Now that's pretty good. The Spirit as a ghost of the city. It's kind of like the Ghost Who Walks - the Phantom.

Not only is the voice-over icky, it doesn't really say very much. If I were to take a stab at it, it would go something like:

"My city. Crime, corruption, despair. My city screams. But also hope. And justice. My city is my home, and I am it's spirit."

Not perfect, but better than what they have now.


capsule review: possession

I just watched Possession on DVD. How did I miss it when it came out in 2002?

Based on the book by A.S. Byatt, the film was directed and co-written by Neil LaBute. Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow star as literary academics Roland Mitchell and Maud Bailey who come together over a link between the respective object of their studies; poets Randolph Ash and Christabel Lamotte.

The story's structure contrasts two romances, past and present The gradually unfolding mystery of Ash and Lamotte's previously unknown romance is presented as a historical mystery with a touch of treasure hunting that, even with the addition of professional rivals, doesn't get carried away. Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle, no strangers to period pieces, embody the poets whose turbulent relationship captures, in some respect, the marvels and terrors of love. By comparison, Mitchell and Bailey seem like an unlikely couple. But while their romance builds up, catalyzed and influenced in part by the revelation of the poets' hidden lives, the film never resorts to the romantic comedy's tactic of using contrived but comical obstacles to keep the lovebirds apart. That's what I really enjoyed about the film; Mitchell and Bailey fall in love, but it is messy and imperfect. They approach each other with all the fear, caution, wariness, hope, and elation that comes with trying to connect with another human being.

And the film looks gorgeous too. LaBute paints a simultaneously elegiac and paean-like portrait of two, and two, characters, with rich but not overbearing cinematography, elegant camera work, and great sets. Granted, Possession may have a few nits here and there to pick at, but on the whole the film has a magnetic and understated grace.

new review - Pool Party

My review of Pool Party, an indie film distributed by Echelon Films and due to be released on DVD on April 29th, has been posted:

The Front Page Online




vote for a great pic!

My wife Melisa has a great pic up at JPG Mag in need of support. Pictures that get lots of "yeah!" votes have a chance of getting published in the magazine. So, how about checking it out and showing' a little love. Please?



horton hears a racist?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar believes that Horton Hears A Who is sexist, which, to his bizarre line of reasoning, also makes it racist. He's also convinced it's a greater evil than the war in Iraq and the sinking economy. You gotta be kidding, right? Nope; and that's the subject of this week's column over at The Front Page Online.

In other news, I've given in and staked a place for myself over at MySpace. All the cool kids are doing it and, who knows, maybe the darn thing will actually succeed in bringing more eyeballs to my work and those in my "network." Check out my profile here: http://www.myspace.com/the_recreational_nihilist


what's on tap - a status report

In an effort to use my blog more effectively - thanks to Lydia Marcus of fotonomous for the pointers - I'm going to start posting regular updates as to what's going on with my work. Seems logical, yes? Silly of me not to have done so earlier. In any case, this is what's on tap:
  • My review of Wait Up Harriet posted today at both The Front Page and my personal site ink [and] ashes. It's the second film sent to me by Echelon Studios that I've been less than enthusiastic about. For the first film to receive an unhappy review from me, I was afraid of delivering news to the PR rep tantamount to announcing that the family pet's been run over; I just sent a link without comment. This time, I was a bit more forthcoming about what to expect, and I got a very reasonable response, confirming just how great an opportunity it is to review films from a distributor of independent films.
  • I submitted three poems to the Ontario Poetry Society's Spring Poetry Contest. Strange as may seem, I feel both very confident about the poems I sent in - the only "happy" ones in the collection I'm working on - and bereft of any kind of expectations. I'd love to win, but perhaps more importantly this my first step towards really getting my poetry out there. I'm just glad I could get over my psychological reticence and just submit.
  • I'm doing a third round of edits on my novel, Rebel in Waiting. The most significant change was adding a 10,000 word short story, my allegorical western Unarmed Men, to the beginning of the book. Not only does this offer a stylistic and structural counterbalance in the sense that the second half of the book contains two plays while the previous drafts had nothing comparable in the first half, making the novel seems bottom-heavy, but I think this helps blunt the impact my protagonist seems to have on my beta-readers. It's a tricky balancing act between staying true to a character many readers will initially find unsympathetic and making that character just sympathetic enough to be interesting. I think I've finally hit it, though. Other edits include changing character names, particularly since, for some strange reason, female characters tended to have names beginning with "A." Next up: sharpening the dialogue, because it's never sharp enough.
And that, I think, is all there is for now. Good night!


free the bear: last interview part

The final third of my interview with Kyle Ellis posted on Monday. You can read it here:

Part 3


goth and politics - a survey

Goth has never been an especially political culture (or subculture, as some quarters put it), given its focus on music, fashion, and art. But I've always wondered; what kind of politics do goths have, if any? Is there a link between a certain political outlooks and being goth?

To answer the question in anticipation of a feature I'll write for Morbid Outlook, I've begun a survey that will hopefully offer a meaningful snapshot of how goths and politics intersect. If you or any you know a) self-identified with goth/industrial/related communities b) are above 13 years of age and c) are a US resident, please take a moment to fill out the survey here.


free the bear: the california secessionist movement

I recently had the opportunity to have a discussion with Kyle Ellis, a co-founder of the California secessionist group Californians for Independence. Beyond the fact that I'm enjoying my eMail interview format - it saves me the trouble of transcribing recordings and creates a more co-operative discussion instead of an interrogation - the interview succeeded in uncovering some of the hints and allegations that have been percolating in my column. You can read parts 1 and 2 here:

Part 1
Part 2

The third and last part will post next Monday.

ASs it happens, I was mentioning the interview to my good buddy Bill Jaeger who mentioned a rather interesting event going on - but is it an event when nobody pays attention to it? Apparently, the Lakotah People who live in an area spanning Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, have unilaterally withdrawn from all treaties and agreements with the United States of America. Bill posted about it, reference links included, at the UTMC's forum.

It would seem that independence is on a lot of people's minds, something that reinforces my view that countries like the US are simply too big for their own good and unable to create a stable trans-identity without being oppressive. Maybe it's time the dust off Lysander Spooner's No Treason. It could make for a rather peppery column.