Friday, February 28, 2014


Photo: Universal Studios

One of the things about it being just a small group of guys with flying lessons and box-cutters hijacking two jumbo jets into the World Trade Center, is that it's opened up who exactly Hollywood might contrive as a possible jacker in its movies. There is a sense that it was going to need it, because when they do movies concerned with attracting the widest possible audience, you know there are always certain categories of people that can't be involved -- especially in politically sensitive times. So, for example, in this film, you know it couldn't possibly be the muslim / hindu doctor, no matter how many times tempted to you, because the aggregate of our nation is still "Obama" not Fox News. Still, one of the gratifying moments in the film involves Liam Neeson's character Bill Marks panning the plane, with us knowing most of the people with their hands up might just be stretched into being a possible candidate. Not just the number of cellphone-using men initially targeted out, that is, but also the prying lady -- Julianne Moore's Jen Summers -- who innocently? took the seat beside him, and the stewardesses, and maybe even the two harmless old ladies playing that part to a suspicious? T. The bomb on the plane turns out hidden in something that'd already been exposed to one dastardly reveal -- a clever-enough contrivance, because the movie had been bating us that's all any one person or thing would get -- but I thought, wouldn't it be great if it had been in something else we'd already neutered by having categorized one way into our proprioceptic assembling of what the film was hashing at us … in the teddy bear, with maybe the cellphone not the bomb hidden inside it, with the ostensibly terrified child having been the one who was punching away at the keyboard, sending ominous messages, unafraid of being caught for being too small for either the tall marshall's or the elevated plane cameras' "eyes." "But you didn't count on it being a 'midget,' now did you? 'Little girls need their soothing dolls!' -- Sheesh! Grown men and their dumb, needy stereotypes!" 

I know it's not like this wouldn't have put this film way too much in the realm of farce for its purposes, but really, when it had Jen's explanation for why she was so intent on a steadying seat by a window being that she had been told by a doctor that at some point any kind of innocent shock was going to kill her, when we already know about the fate of the plane she's bordered … well, the land of pure farce had near schlepped its way in there. It was precariously close to an "Airplane" moment, so you allow yourself to simulacrum the film right there and imagine that trailed along side it ... a version that went all child-possession "Poltergeist."

When it comes to motive, it turns out it does seem a little Fox Newsy: thank God a marshall was there and up to the job! … and now surely a cop warranted in every school?! But the movie's contrivances here really aren't toward anyone with much influence. The marshall's been fired from the NYPD, and his current job is assessed in the film as about similar to a security guard's -- about anyone with any past and the most suspect of credentials could be recruited into it. He's also an alcoholic … who shows that if you can just stay yourself from drink during the workshift it won't affect your performance diddly. I'm not saying it looks like he'll go back to drinking afterwards, but its attitude toward hard alcohol looks near a bartender's -- "look here Jen, you seem stressed; let me pour you a real drink!" Seriously, that heavy douse he poured her looked intended to titillate audiences more than the pictures of … well, the tits it had humorously contrived in. Not a trumping you usually see in what is -- Julianne Moore, my apologies -- clearly a guy's movie, and maybe what we should look more for in future. Bottle of brown-gold whiskey ... and the guy can't part eyes with it, even as sexually-frustrated young women heave at him in climbing-over-top-of-one-another hordes. 

It might be the new allure of hard drink that's making movies seem more agreeable to age-appropriateness, like this movie was. Or something. Because this is two men-movies in a row -- with the previous being "3 Days to Kill" -- where it's a breeze for the older guy to decline the young temptress. I actually thought with that film at play was just his urgent need to be owned by his family, with no further lapse at-all tenable, but maybe it has something to do with how young, sexually virile women are resonating right now in general. Like they can't tempt, because somehow they're your oblivion. Better to stick immediately to someone middling; past-prime, but with a sufficiently toned ass, or a plausible hourglass figure, like this film's Julianne Moore and "3 Day's'" Connie Nielsen and "True Detective's" Michelle Monaghan. I'll ponder. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014



You wouldn't always readily assume a movie about the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii, would necessarily be a "Noah's Arc" story -- about "God" finally having it up to here with the decays of spoiled mankind, and abruptly calling "Cut!" I know it's advancing toward second century AD, and therefore somewhere near the vicinity of where most of us would start looking for advanced moral decay in the once-great empire, but it'd of had to have been fourth or fifth for us to think of it as so far out on the precipice we might even feel sorry for its inevitable coming savage plucking apart. However, Paul W.S. Anderson just advances along as if the Roman Empire was Caligula -- barely even a shell of virtue over grandiose evil -- and it feels about right for our times. 

I was feeling sorry for Pompeii, for owing to our current predilections the poor dear was going to be ripped apart by an angry overseeing Vulcan god as well as by a representative of all the peoples the Roman Empire had waylaid to amass its claims. The volcano's just a reminder that even a great civilization can instantly collapse if Nature just shifts its resting position some -- "I'll just shift here rather than there, even as my -- to me -- innocuous resulting bed-folds rearrange some of your cities so they are no longer there." And the hero Celt, that a civilized person can't even be seen if he's caught out making his case within a barbaric culture's worldview -- the senator might as well have acted in the savagely evil and manipulative and hand-rubbing opportunistic manner that he does, for that's the only way he was going to get to be "taken." Nature, impatient at the "bug" clung at its hems, matched by a return of the repressed in the advancing Celt demon … poor dear, about-to-be-succumbed, Pompeii!

The senator at one point is shown digging through his intelligence to contrive some surprise to foil a bad position he'd been told he'd been pinned to -- his using the sudden manifestation of the volcano's tremors to mean his sparing the Celt was not quite his personal decision, nor his being outsmarted and being at the heed of his "wife," but just reading off Vulcan's decision: the mob, that is, might have to abide a thumbs-down decision in a subsequent match if, for example, with a quietened mountain, the Senator made the choice more his own or, say, power-jealous Jupiter's. And the city of Pompeii had one too, one possible miraculous surprise it might hoist to its defence upon the advancing sure-footed spoils of lava and heat destruction -- one that historically has been good to quieten or balk back some, Roman Empire-haters. It's still a realm of Law, and if for example a gladiator can make it through the slog of fifty or so fights, the most powerful senator would be besmirched if he, just on whimsy, decided to deny him his freedom. Law, polished columns, paved roads, order, and all stout Roman philosophical thought, would hence all dissolve into meaningless confluent, without a batch of lava or an advancing barbarian horde needed to assist. The founding principle would just have been removed and cast aside as casually as a bone from a well-cooked sleeve of meat. 

Stout defender -- Law -- arises into the movie fray early, and with some of the confidence he'd earned -- the veteran gladiator is absolutely sure that if he wins his last fight, he's a free man, for it's all-abiding Roman decree. It's not said in quite a way that would have us doubt the Celt's retort that, essentially, this long-time Roman denizen knows nothing of Roman ways, but it doesn't quite exactly seem delusional, either. For a moment we have to estimate if the movie really has in mind to surface one of Rome's normally unquestioned virtues and with nonchalance expose it as a simple con. Maybe, for example, the veteran gladiator will be slain before his last fight -- some contrivance like that, that shows that a powerful man might scurry around the law but not flaunt right in its face. 

But Law is in fact dispensed in the movie as ephemeral, and the only thing the Roman Empire has going for it is that some few of its constituents, here and there, do abide themselves some true care between family members. There are spots of love dispersed about the place, but it would seem to have nothing to do with the nature of the makings of the civilization that contains them, which in fact is better exposed when they still take delight in the prospect of more outrageous growth -- more money for even greater spectacle-machines than they already possess!

So Pompeii has to be bruised up by two powerful arms, and I think it feels almost as if Vesuvius recognizes the Celt as its adjacent, for the tension that seems owed in the film that does not in fact arise, feels as if owed to Vesuvius having to accord the particular claims of its ally before he's allowed to devour his full share. Specifically, no aspect of a drama involving the bullied weak gaining complete victory over the oppressor, of lovers meeting and falling in love, of a man refusing all friends finally acceding to proclaim the one man who's earned it his full brotherhood, is really interrupted, even with a heaving behemoth volcano being the one required to somehow temporarily stifle or discipline its pressurized, bulbously amassed flow. The evil senator isn't dissolved into magma before he's had full chance to be magnanimously evil, and not, as well, before several matching of arms are staged -- so interest in it is totally satiated and satisfaction of conquest is all that belies on the horizon. The lovers don't find their preparations to be bonded together persuasively for all time, stifled by the kind of stray rock that stayed the gladiator owner's attempt to successfully leave the city by sea (and doesn't it seem, since he guesses before anyone that Pompeii is in for it and immediately prepares for departure, to unjustly take him forever to get out?) Heck, not even the fight between number twos is allowed to go off course, since it would mean an ally gladiator not cementing his position as maybe about equal in skill but -- character-revealingly decisively -- far greater in resolve and moral grounding to the greatest professional Roman soldier in the land. 

There's a great gladiator fight. The Celt and career gladiator take on everyone. But they climb a monument in the centre of the ring and from it topple down a column of rock as well as numerous missiles onto those at the base, wiping out surprised hordes. In this, they're simply a presage of Vesuvius's preferred battle tactics. They anticipate even Vesuvius's sea assault, with their strung chain, stretched between the centre monument and the horsed Celt, wrenching lines of men off their feat, a match for a tsunami wall doing the same to Pompeii's array of fleeing ships. These two forces really administer their umbrage in quick succession -- the massacre in the ring is followed immediately with the Volcano no longer restraining itself upon the city -- and so goodbye to the coliseum that enclosed it! -- even as they seem to admit in their quick sequential kiss together that ultimately, while jointly interested in taking down "Rome," their ultimate interests may not not require one to cede ground to the other. 

I doubt that strewn Pompeii cares, for even with the Celt ceding the importance of Vesuvius's narrative -- total, inescapable destruction -- over his own -- which, being "the dangerous barbarian invader," after all really should follow a few centuries' hence -- means he shouldn't be allowed to gallop safely away, his being ash-encased in a tender lover's embrace means there's now no way all those previously compelling Pompeii encased won't be all but mislaid and forgotten. Imagine, if you will, if archaeologists … if we, had stumbled upon them! It'd be iconic beauty -- them -- and the beast -- Vesuvius, with all the rest but a crumple of imperfection rather than what astonishes for its astounding unexpected claim on perpetuity. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

3 Days to Kill

3 Days to Kill

Kevin Costner's character, Ethan Renner, is in a dangerous situation. One, he's dying -- months to live. Second, he's in one of those occupations we're "reforming" to think of more in proletariat, working-stiff, terms. He's a superb CIA operative who does the dirty work better than anyone else can. This must have floated him twenty years plus of being a bit shot -- James Bond-like, big shot. But just like how even the current James Bond could be casually insulted by being dandyied the most sparse of supplies -- and by a new young Q who can hardly be daunted by the legend of James Bond owing, evidently, to how much credit geniuses like him are now being routinely given over even top agents -- Ethan's precariously close to having all sense of him as a star being drifted out of him, leaving him an aging, dispensable, workhorse agent, who on his own is going to have to take care of the feeble-pensioned rest of his life. 

But he's not there yet. His wife and his daughter, who are meshed in in an affluent, thriving world in Paris, absent, in their feeling occasioned to the times, much doubt, any sense of themselves as about to become society's prole junk, are "things" still open to be touched into wrapping themselves around him into their world, their story. 

Some sense of the drastic importance of this course of survival explains why he really does have no interest in the hot, vixen, new top super-agent, Vivi Delay. Also, she fails in being a tease, because being her seems to require a lot of work. All the attention required to keeping each facet perfect, feels straining, like it'll wear her out in a few years, leaving her looking spent at 30 -- no one that young is going to be able to beat what the world will be non-stop inflicting them over the next while.  She's got to make a perfect shell out of herself because her life is going to about the non-stop, necessarily every time persuasively perfect -- so to dissuade all the innumerable other onlooking predators -- dextrous dealing with outside assaulting shocks. He might once upon a time have had to do the same, but in a 70s "Dirty Harry" era, where there was still so much more time for the languid and slow-paced --  he'd have been able to press through the intermittently present tense to ease comfortably out to the exterior extensions of his body, so he'd know what it is to fully breathe. An acquisition that would never leave him, and give him assurance to drive into his family's story in this later part of his life. 

So I felt sorry for her, for feeling her precarious millenialness. But truth be told, a lot of what I was doing while watching this film was enjoying Ethan beginning to assess the world around him in a more open way. People, things, he'd quarantined a certain way -- a death-focused, agent's way --  he allows to open up to show him more of what they also are -- a dandy Italian accountant working for the villainous "Wolf" can readily be opened into just an Italian possessed of a well-developed life course -- a store of human resources, not just incriminating data; a person. He's seeing the domestic possibilities, the human possibilities, in each situation, which would make killing a very hard thing to do because everyone has something else they contribute to the world other than whatever unfortunate aspects that lend to caricatures. There's a few just-villains kept in place -- some disposable bald guy with a limp, plus some Nazi "Wolf" -- but before Ethan slips from his previous occupation, it looks like he'd made most everyone between the most bad and the most pure-grunt sort of like sweet innards of human contact and sustenance -- ingredients of a collective, evolving, human story. 

Crocodile Dundee-like, I suppose, but something only granted to him once he was willing, after a few loud last applauds of Pittsburgh / working class culture -- Go Steelers! -- to forgo the cowboy to slip into refined dress his family would recognize as fitting in -- and how! --  with their more truly activated life. Just barely, he made the first-class train he yet held a ticket to. Now over time he can relax into his new preened, absolutely perfect, silver-bullet life shell, with, it turns out, a good bulk of his life yet left to heft into it (an experimental drug -- normally only available to the 1% -- proves a cure-all).  


When President Obama declared in December that gross inequality is the “defining challenge of our time,” he was right, and resoundingly so. As is his habit, however, he quickly backed away from the idea at the urging of pollsters and various Democratic grandees. 
I can understand the Democrats’ fears about venturing into this territory. It feels like a throwback to an incomprehensible time — to a form of liberalism that few of them understand anymore. Unfortunately, they really have no choice. Watching first the way the bankers steered us into disaster in 2008 and then the way they harvested the fruits of our labored recovery — these spectacles have forced the nation to rediscover social class, and as we dig deeper into the subject we are appalled to learn what has been going on for the last three decades. 
I was born in a comfortable middle-class America of the postwar years, the “affluent society” you hear about sometimes, and the shattering of that social order has been the story of my entire adult life. “Inequality” is an inadequate word for the Big Smashup, but we need some term to describe all the things that have gone to make the lives of the rich so superlative and the lives of people who work so shitty and so precarious. It is visible in the ever-rising cost of healthcare and college, in the deindustrialization of the Midwest and the ballooning of Wall Street, in the power of lobbying, in the dot-com bubble, in the housing bubble, in the commodities bubble. It was made possible by the signal political events of our time: the collapse of the New Deal coalition; the decline of labor; the infernal populism of the New Right; the fall of antitrust and the triumph of deregulation; the rise of Ronald Reagan, and after him Newt Gingrich, and after him George W. Bush, and after him the Tea Party, all of them bringing their pet tax cuts with them to Washington.
The word is a polite one, but “inequality” is what we say when we mean to describe the ruined downtown of your city, or your constant fear that the next round of layoffs will include you, or the impeccable air conditioning of your boss’s McMansion, or the way you had to declare bankruptcy when your child got sick. It is a pleasant-sounding euphemism for the Appalachification of our world. “The defining challenge of our time”?: Oh, yes.
Actually, let me offer a correction to Obama’s formula. What really defines our time is the simultaneous soaring of inequality and the maddening inability of most progressives (there are exceptions, of course) to talk about it in a way that might actually inspire anyone to get off their ass. Start with the word itself: Like “neoliberalism,” another favorite lefty term for many of these same developments, “inequality” is confusing. It is euphemistic and aloof. It gets easily muddled with other, similar-sounding issues like marriage equality, gender equality and equal housing opportunity. Its tone is also needlessly clinical, giving the whole debate a technical and bloodless air. 
Still, to read around on the subject is to get the feeling that certain liberals like it that way. “Needlessly clinical” is exactly their style. The subject, for them, must be positively cloaked in wonkery. They don’t talk much about “class,” like some troublemaker from the ’30s; they talk about “inequality,” which is a delicate and intricate signifier. Oh, it is extremely complex. It requires so many charts.  
My suspicion is that it makes an enormous difference. “Inequality” is not some minor technical glitch for the experts to solve; this is the Big One. This is the very substance of American populism; this is what has brought together movements of average people throughout our history. Offering instruction on the subject in a classroom at Berkeley may be enlightening for the kids in attendance but it is fundamentally the wrong way to take on the problem, almost as misguided as it would be if we turned the matter over to the 1 percent themselves and got a bunch of billionaires together at Davos to offer pointers on how to stop them from beating us over and over again in the game of life. (Oops — that actually happened.) (Thomas Frank, "Paul Krugman won't save us,"
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Patrick McEvoy-Halston
History is full of inequality. I know some small-people historians think they find egalitarianism in pockets here and there -- in the pre-modern witchcraft people, before masculine Science took over, for example -- but basically it's left to the anthropologists to point at whatever perpetually stuck people they've devoted their lives to studying, to show that at least we started from the right place … which in fact we didn't, for the reason these tribes have no "big men" is that they haven't even evolved to the point where they trust anyone with power. 
It's difficult to imagine anyone spelling such a great connivance that man has never figured its way out of the taught lies that keep a few of them grossly entitled and the rest weary strugglers. Common sense would say that for most of history most men have for some reason obviously wanted "big men" out there.  
Mostly I think they/we need these inflated people out there to keep Chaos at bay. Chaos being the wrath of maternal destruction, which these men -- inflated to titans -- ostensibly can handle for awhile before they too crash into her bloody menstrual Ragnarok, and we need to quickly patch together some others. As childrearing improves, as mothers aren't so lonely and abandoned that their children become emotional sops and even their sex toys,  as they fear the jealousy of their own mothers less -- postpartum depression -- and so don't neglect their children as if to show they're still primarily devoted to her, fears of Chaos abate, mostly, and it finally seems just obvious that we wouldn't allow some few to overlord the rest of us. 
But I don't think this is what is happening now. The reason we've got this split is primarily so that the small people don't feel possessed of anything so spelling of their selfishness, that they'd feel worthy of being apocalyptically abandoned for it. What they are accruing for themselves in abundance -- scars, evidences of suffering, from being beat on and beat on in the game of life -- gives them the "sunshine" they need: like warriors spit out of a ravaging war, they feel earned of care and even (maternal) gratitude. 
And if there's any sadism still in Her, well, they haven't left much for Her to chew on, now have they … which is a feeling of invulnerability so flawless and sublime it's worth a small gloat. We're hearing so much of atheists these days but we're seeing far more speared Christs. 
What populism should end up meaning is just us becoming small and re-bonding to the national mother, the mother nation. I think this will make us feel elated for awhile, safe; we might build a lot of things like the 30s folk and German Volk did. But very soon after most of our attention will be to punish those we've split the worst aspects of our mothers into, as well as the "guilty" parts of ourselves we long to be rid of so to become only good.  Hopefully Thomas Frank will point out the bad parts of what we'll be up to as well. 
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The argument cannot be about 'inequality.' Americans have always entertained the perverse hope to become filthy rich; that's why there cannot be a classic revolution. No one wants to be the proletariat here.
Fairness for the poor, humanitarian compassion --- these also cannot arouse a nervous public. 
The best political argument must be pragmatic. Jobs are produced when sales go up. Redistribution of buying power will makeour economy robust. Infrastructure  (from bridges to college) is essential for business success in a global market as well as preserving a basic sound quality of life.
Health insurance benefits cripple our small businesses- they cannot compete with companies around the world who do not have that fixed overhead.Therefore -Medicare should be expanded gradually to age 60, 55, 50 then become a national insurance option in the exchanges. Stop using 'single payer' as a term-- it never won hearts nor minds.Liberate business from the shackles of 1950 policy.
Tax carried interest, reset withholding cap, and add a penny a trade
to day traders' follies.
Democracy will fail if accumulated capital growing exponentially makes working hard, expertise and experience seem foolish
Safety, jobs,cost-saving insurance, infrastructure....pragmatics.
@mz sookie  The argument cannot be about 'inequality.' Americans have always entertained the perverse hope to become filthy rich; that's why there cannot be a classic revolution. No one wants to be the proletariat here.
That was the situation in Weimar Germany, when everyone wanted to be upwardly mobile bourgeoisie.  In 30s Germany, however, what became more important was your being "true" German. For real, the judge who's grandfather was Italian was at something of an astonishing loss to the plumber who's grandfather kept German. 
We could do the same thing here. If populism takes hold in America, and the only thing the nation cares about are the elite and the poor -- not the middle class -- couldn't you imagine the average American taking some pomp, in this ostensibly frozen class structure, in his / her not rising beyond his / her grandfather's station? He welded, and so too you. And it's nice the nation finally discovered you again, valued you again, but you've been doing the same the whole while. 
It'd be a lie -- before they were exactly as you described. But this has been edited out of them, by themselves, as this new self-conception has taken hold. They're the sons and daughters of hardworking, unassuming 19th-century lower class arrivals. The prosperous baby boomers, were an aberration, bubbled out of aberrant circumstances -- America post-war suddenly being larger than life … a million bucks suddenly in the hands of those who weren't going to know how to demurely spent it but rather of course buy the whole car lot plus a palace or two … they're virgins to this grandiose, overwhelming thing, so it's understandable, however much never to be repeated.  

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Still, to read around on the subject is to get the feeling that certain liberals like it that way. “Needlessly clinical” is exactly their style. The subject, for them, must be positively cloaked in wonkery. They don’t talk much about “class,” like some troublemaker from the ’30s; they talk about “inequality,” which is a delicate and intricate signifier. Oh, it is extremely complex. It requires so many charts. 
It's certainly worth exploring why they feel this need, why they have to greet poverty, the rest of America, as if doctors trying to temper the distress of their very first AIDS patient circa the early '80s -- trying to keep form before something that might possibly burst into deadly pustules before them, oh my! But we might be glad nevertheless of their manner. 
Obama's presidency has been 7 years of abating distress; everyone, everything, is "handled." Anyone hoping for satisfaction from him is going to come away instead as if quit -- the guy wasn't going to let us run our moods into him ... so impossibly cool! And we've got -- reforms. Healthcare, gay marriage, marijuana, possibly minimum wage increases. It's as if the left hand has been occupied quaying the growling dog while the right has done what it can to track some progress. To me this isn't a bad way for things to continue to go. 
It'll mean the further tracking of progress which will improve the lives of even the mad-dog people around us, who are discombobulated and useless owing to the progress we've already tracked, and who will only regain leverage, feel solid, when politics devolves to meet their sadistic and sacrificial needs; and it'll mean populism -- people dissolving their everyday sane grip so that they're perpetually Sunday group purgers and moaners --  never gets a hold. 
If we track some progress through a frustrating period of sacrifice and blockage we actually want, feel safe with, we might make it through until a romantic momentum -- a 1920s or 60s -- can take it over. To me that's our best bet. It is complicated -- or at least inevitably for awhile, frustrating. 
And oh, this is the second article in a row with the prominent Salon "newcomer" taking shots at Krugman. A long time ago I mentioned this was something I was waiting for -- Salon building momentum to go after him. Krugman's full of himself, in what we should recognize as in a good way -- he's well loved, and so he beams -- there's nothing masochistic or self-denying about him! If liberals can't any longer stand him either, it's because they've regressed to seeing self-love as something spoiled and worthy of punishment … progress, even in such a joy-suppressing / denying, very unhippie, "clinically" administered form as we've been able to tolerate these days, might be becoming too much even for them.

@Patrick McEvoy-Halston This article wasn't an attack on Krugman.  It was attacking the way the populist argumenthas been left to economists.  That's not Krugman's fault and Frank doesn't place the fault there.

@krabapple @PatrickMcEvoyhalston  Last article from Frank: 
In fact, there is no need to lift a finger to do much of anything, since vast, impersonal demographic forces are what rescued them from the trap I identified. They now have the luxury of saying, as Paul Krugman did on the day after the 2012 election, “Who cares what’s the matter with Kansas?”
had Krugman "not lifting a finger to do much of anything," as him luxuriating in his indifference, in his not needing to give a damn about Kansas.
And here he's the very picture of the "elite" we've left the talking to, and so who too is very much afraid of talking class. 
Populist argument hasn't so much been left to them / him, but hogged to themselves / himself, out of trepidation at the thought of what would happen if the populace -- if imbeciles -- claimed the argument. He's distrust /  dislike, of the ordinary Joe. To me, a case (against him, by Frank, maybe by some at Salon) is certainly building.


It is a strange thing to say in the year 2014, as the political battle-lines grow harder and our bitter-enders ever more bitter, but there was a time when I didn’t think of my home state of Kansas as a particularly right-wing place. 
It is true that the Kansas City suburb where I grew up teemed with standard-issue business-class Republicans back in the ’70s and ’80s; I had been one myself once upon a time. But I also knew that Kansas was the kind of place that valued education, that built big boring suburbs, that never did anything risky or exciting. Its politics in those days were utterly forgettable, dominated by a succession of bland Republican moderates and unambitious Democrats. We were the epitome of unremarkableness. When the notorious “Summer of Mercy” took place in 1991 — the event that marked the beginning of the state’s long march to the right — I remember reading about it from graduate school in Chicago and thinking how strange it was that Operation Rescue had chosen Wichita as the place to make its stand. After all, Kansas wasn’t in the South. 
It wasn’t until several years later that I began to understand what a fascinating, upside-down extravaganza it was to see the right eat its way through the good sense of the nation. Of course, many others had written about the movement by then, largely in the key of horror and tearful deploring. But relatively few seemed to get the sheer literary potential of the nation’s big right turn, and as I surveyed the political headlines day after day, I grew more and more amazed at what was going on. (Thomas Frank, "The matter with Kansas now,"
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Childrearing. The better loved in society are comfortable with progress because their own growth as children wasn't complicated by harsh abandonment or intense anger by their caretakers (most importantly, by their mothers -- the primary caretaker in almost all families). The worst loved feel threatened every time, because theirs was, and they're possessed of the most god-awful of punitive superegos to prove it. If society just keeps advancing, the worst-loved will never reform out of being human discombobulates because they're not empowered to make society into a psychic extension that catches and disowns them of their own insanity -- institutionalized racism, for example, rather than all-consuming private hate -- and will remain that way unless the rest of society reaches its peak tolerance as well, and begins to transform our national narrative, the overall feel of our nation, into one that resolves everyone's growth panic.
This can happen by resolving America once again into a folk community, like America imagined itself in the 30s, with each member small but bound to a provisioning mystical community. Here out of Washington what we'll sense is family ties, traditions -- not urban sophisticates denying / laughing off the past but rather visibly showing their allowing it to imbibe / possess them. Thomas Frank has some of this in him, this longing to have the edges off and belong in his small fashion into a community; let's hope enough of us don't switch from reading Monocle to reading Baffler, because it's about slipping into a fugue. 
First the human community -- togetherness -- then the attack on scapegoats possessed of all we just can't any longer count as part of ourselves. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Shifting support columns

On the subject of media "balance" concerning Woody Allen and Bill Cosby, Katie McDonough recently said this: 

It’s been two weeks since Dylan Farrow published her open letter detailing the alleged sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of Woody Allen. Since then, she has addressed the abuse in interviews with People magazine and the Hollywood Reporter. It’s been 20 years since Allen held a press conference on the steps of Yale University to announce the findings of the Yale-New Haven Sexual Abuse Clinic’s (incredibly fraught) investigation into Farrow’s allegations. Since then, he hasn’t much addressed the issue, but really, he doesn’t need to. He is a critically celebrated writer and director in a culture convinced of its own righteousness, confident that it would never grant such distinctions to a sexual predator. 
Despite enjoying two decades of the presumption of innocence (and a massive accumulation of wealth), Allen was given column inches on the New York Times editorial page to assert his innocence (and impugn Farrow’s mental health and character) — in the name of “balance.” 
Bill Cosby signed a deal earlier this month to return to NBC with a family sitcom; the network is hoping to bank on Cosby’s status as a beloved cultural figure to revive its nighttime lineup. The former Cliff Huxtable has been celebrated as a wholesome comedy icon, but he has also been accused — repeatedly, and in explicit detail — of drugging and sexually assaulting multiple women who trusted him as a mentor. The women who have come forward with these allegations, like Farrow and millions of other survivors, don’t have much of a platform from which to be heard. They are just names in a court case against another good man and his good name. ("A nation ruled by creeps,"
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Patrick McEvoy-Halston
If some of these legends fall -- people we thought were past the point where their reputations could be radically tempered with -- it'd be a fascinating thing in some respects. It'd be as if someone dug deeper once again into the lives of our Founding Fathers, and what they uncovered, brought to light at a time when a sufficient quantity of us no longer needed god-men anchoring our past, actually meant, say, the removal of one of them from our dollar bills in preference for maybe a female women's right leader, based on an honest overall assessment of them.  At first you couldn't believe it … we'd sidestepped yet more of the ostensibly necessary primitive in us -- the demeaning sociological assessment of humans "as requiring religion, shared meaning-making institutions" -- that depends on cherished icons, rights and rituals. Wow. What else might be capable of shucking off -- do we dare try even materialism, Capitalism?!

That is, I think with many -- not all -- of the people who are upset that Cosby and Allen are looking as if they're not past having their reputations radically tarnished, they are not just upset at more male-bashing, this ostensible current desire to make every male of the species suspect by sex like women had been through millenniums, but that we're showing a capacity for further progress. A lot of us need "institutions" to stay the same because something in how we imagine them helps keep our psyche in a state of equilibrium that lets us go about our lives "sanely" -- "the poor" trap our own neglected selves, "the army" carries our sadism, and so on. If somehow Cosby, the just-past great father and Allen the still-current legendary film maker, could be removed of all that we'd projected onto to them to keep them immobile as fixtures of our American cosmology, then this society steaming ahead to further gay rights and drug leniency and female empowerment and overall derogating once half-acceptable scarily regressive political notions to mere Tea Party crazydom, is just going to keep on rolling. At the thought of this, already destabilized psyches are going to fragment even more. Stop! Someone has got to put a stop to all this growth! We're coming to pieces already! 
What they'll do to maybe successfully indeed stop it, swerve America more along Russia's current path, is something I'll think about and maybe post if it gels. 
Woody Allen may be innocent. Same too, Cosby. We're learning to be more comfortable with victims, with victimhood, rather than reject them, it, for reminding us of having been victims ourselves and its heard accusations against those who's reputation we still need to protect else feel abandoned -- our parents; our primary caretaker particularly -- our mothers. So it's necessary to reassess, and I'm glad for it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

If it was Nelson Mandela, would our bravery falter?

Concerning allegations against Bill Cosby, Prachi Gupta said this: 
Two weeks after Dylan Farrow resurrected 21-year-old allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, filmmaker Woody Allen, Gawker’s Tom Scocca reminded the world that in 2004, 13 women came forward with allegations that comedian Bill Cosby drugged and sexually abused them. At the time, the lawsuit made a minor ripple in the media, but, like Farrow’s, their accounts were eventually dismissed as barely a blemish on the spotless image of a beloved celebrity. 
Now, their stories are reemerging. Last week, Newsweek interviewed Tamara Green, one of the women who served as a witness in the case brought forth by Andrea Constand. On Wednesday, 46-year-old Barbara Bowman spoke out in Newsweek
Both Bowman and Green joined Constand’s lawsuit as witnesses in 2004 after hearing about her case on TV. Newsweek reporter Katie Baker explains that “neither had anything to gain financially, as the statute of limitations had expired for both of them.” 
Cosby settled the lawsuit with Constand for an undisclosed sum of money in 2006.
Bowman’s account strongly resembles the other stories of Cosby’s alleged victims, many of whom have provided detailed accounts of how Cosby mentored them, became a father figure, then drugged and raped them. ("Another woman speaks out over Bill Cosby,"
Patrick McEvoy-Halston

Yeah, he was the nation's father -- there was no way we were going to dislodge him. We're only open to the full reveals when we no longer need figures to be magical. We should learn from this and attend a little more carefully to every figure we currently need to imagine as provisioning and good -- whether or not that's the full story. 

For example, if it turned out Nelson Mandela had been a philanderer, would we all be pretty much ready to devour whomever stepped up to report the story, if it wasn't something that could somehow be managed within his current image? I suspect we would. He may have been as pristine as we like to imagine him, a truly honourable man, but it really doesn't matter -- we still need him as a pillar. 
And this means all our no-longer-required pillars from a generation or two ago can easily go bye-bye, and we'll feel like we've evolved -- how fantastic it is to know we could let those crutches go! -- created a social sphere finally a bit more hospitable to terrorized victims, become essentially more egalitarian and small-people democratic, have less of a need to sanctify father-figures / all-provisioning mothers, but we may actually have not. 
We do a momentary check. Do we still need them? And if we don't they can be hefted off to the sacrificial block, what-me-worry. And if we do … 
Trouble … Aren't you just being a bit opportunistic, dear?

@Emporium There's a big difference between a 'philanderer' (having sex with many consenting women) and drugging and raping women. IF this is true, then I hope justice will be served.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston

@bobkat @Emporium  You know what I was getting at, though. We don't need Bill Cosby anymore, just like we longer need Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods. Our task is to see if there are any other figures who've replaced them who we need to see a certain way, and if proof was available as to otherwise, as difficult as it might be for us, we'd adulterate our image and see that justice is done. 

@Emporium @bobkatHe he. You said "adulturate"....

FYI, Mandela was a Moslem in a polygamous country. It is known that he had seven wives. He is still the man we knew him as. In his country, it's a responsibility for a respected man of means to feed as many as he can.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston

@AlGreene  Okay, but you might want to reign it in there … we liberals can only hear so much about multiple wives and what goes with it other than the responsible feeding of them, before our cultural allowance starts cracking. 

Please don't tell us the age of his wives, for instance … and nothing as well about how the number of wives might have swelled his ego. 

Mandela wasn't Muslim. There are other polygamous cultures besides some forms of Islam.

@AlGreene Mr. Mandela was not a Muslim. He never had seven wives either.  He had two. And he married his second wife only after he divorced his first wife, Winnie.

Just because there are Muslims in Africa, it doesn't mean that every black African is a Muslim.


For YOUR information, Mandela was a Methodist. It is [well] known that he was married three times - twice divorced and survived by his third wife.

Where DO you morons get your 'information'?? Yes, I know. A certain orifice as full of sh*t as your skulls.

How many rapes and attacks did she plan to go back for before Cosby finally got tired of raping and attacking her?

@SpudSpudly That's irrelevant. I'm curious about that as well, but it doesn't mitigate what he did.

Interesting - well, not really, it's common - that you would call HER out and not comment at all on his actions. Are you saying that since she went back that she deserved it?

@lauri jst @SpudSpudly No, she didn't deserve it, but I wouldn't have gone anywhere with him, if he'd done this to me. Once is enough!

@bobkat @lauri jst@SpudSpudlyAre you an 18 year old girl in the middle of the time when Cosby was America's darling? Have you taken even a Psychology 101 class and learned how easy it is for a rich and powerful person to manipulate a weak and vulnerable mind? You don't even have to be rich. Most cult leaders aren't and manage to convince hundreds, including men, to do their bidding.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston

@Pacyderm @bobkat @lauri jst @SpudSpudly People who've been abused as children can be drawn to seek out abusers in adult life -- the repetition-compulsion is ingrained, and it's actually a way of gaining control over previously-suffered abuse. This may not be available in Psyc 101, but Lenore Terr and some other wonderful psychologists / therapists understand the reasons behind the bizarre things that the victimized will be compelled to do. 

Basically, what I'm saying is that we don't have to stick to a "rich and powerful person manipulating the awed trusting young naive" narrative to take on those who want to say it's her fault. If the allegations are true, Cosby preyed on people he intuitively understood were hindered from past abuse to be able to say no to him. That's what all abusers do -- they're drawn to the weak. 
And if we want to get at why adults would want to do this -- victimize people … well, that would be nice: it'd look to amount to really appreciating all the ramifications of having been abused as children -- it can draw you to want to play the part of the predator as well. We still apparently need to believe in evil. 

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