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Showing posts from 2015

In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea
This film begins by baiting you that the whalers upon the Essex did something so egregious by eating fellow dead crew members, that they maybe deserved to be eternally shamed by it. But the experience of the film is that cannibalism was almost an exploration of the amount of leeway, the permission—what one might theoretically in fact thereafter get away with—granted one when one pulls back from doing the one thing truly punishment-worthy. Truly punishment-worthy, is the unwillingness to backdown from the pretension that there may actually be no limits to how much humanity might claim for themselves out of nature. You can come close, real close, to this pretension, but if you're actually willing to go all the way then Nature will ultimately wake up, reveal just how sized She actually is, and squash your ass.
The setting is New England, the 1820s. The whaling industry is full-bloom confidence, and is indispensable to the obvious prosperity of New England coas…

War is not inevitable

Henri Parens, War Is Not Inevitable. London: Lexington Books, 2014
Reviewed by Patrick McEvoy-Halston
The reason Henry Parens believes that war is not inevitable is that over several years of watching babies with their mothers, he noticed that the intense psychic pain they experience owed to maltreatment, traumas, that lead to enormous rage that would eventually need to be discharged. Abuse leads children, not to develop normal, healthy, primary narcissism—a desire for self-empowerment—but rather hyper-narcissism, where the wound all very young children incur when they realize they aren’t actually vastly empowered but rather small and weak, leads instead to greed, envy and a stark need for power and revenge. Children, who need their parents’love too much to blame them, and who learn psychic “tools”like displacement and projection within the first two years of their lives, end up as adults finding other victims. If a whole populace has incurred psychic distress as children, and if as …

Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies
Bridge of Spies is a film which salutes competence, canniness and experience, and as such it leave the two young Americans caught out in Russia and East Germany, out in the cold. Tom Hanks’ James Donovan is a newbie spy, but it turns out his genius in negotiating insurance—where he reframes an incident where a multiple number of victims might potentially each file a claim against his client so that it's justifiably only one claim against him—is perfect training for negotiating an exchange of spies, where he also brazenly and successfully insists that there aren’t two deals on the table but rather only one: two young Americans for their one caught senior Russian spy. The film begins with showing off Donovan's competence, and we are meant to remember it later when gets over the brief initial hump of feeling a bit unprepared for his new undertaking. It also begins by showing off the senior Russian spy’s: when the CIA have barged into his apartment and surrounded hi…

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs
The film begins with 50s footage of the futurist Arthur C. Clarke predicting that at one point what were then only gigantic, takes-a-warehouse-to-fit-one computers would become so small that every home would have one. It’s clear he’s envisioning big things from out of the this titanic diminution in scale, but from our vantage point, with him speaking as one coifed in 50s “grey flannel suit” style, speaking within 50s big corporation society, we might not be so sure he is. If everyone has a personal computer at home, but only in home offices, where their routine seems about the same as it would if they’d commuted to work at General Electric, or Proctor and Gamble, or IBM, or whatever — what change, really? If it enables everyone to be a work drone in corporate culture, subsumed as a distinct person to the greatness of one’s company, regardless of where one lives in New York or in some remote rural hell, how empowering, really? Giving everyone easy access to the kind of compu…

The Martian

The Martian
In Ridey Scott’s Alien, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley was put in a situation where she had to refuse a teammate from coming aboard, and it wasn’t easy for her. She wasn’t someone who just obeys protocol no matter what. And she certainly wasn’t malicious … like Charlize Theron’s character kind of was in Scott’s Alien follow-up, Prometheus, who seemed eager to show she’d be willing to melt a teammate before letting any one of them push her around. Rather, she cared deeply for the person who was afflicted by some kind of unknown parasite; was aware how cold it is to be spurned just at the point where treatment might finally be before one; but refused to alleviate her teammate’s distress by letting the besotted teammate into the ship, for it genuinely being an unwise thing to do. For this, for even not be dissuaded by the captain — who too like everyone else other than Ripley, wanted protocol passed by this time for decency sake, and who was hardly otherwise insensible and foolhar…

We don't want people who will see

It was a bloop in IM from a colleague. “Oh god, I’m so sorry,” it read. “And screw Gawker.” It was an email a moment later, from my boss. “Just ignore it,” it read. “It’s not a big deal; they do this to everyone.” That’s when my heart lunged into my stomach. That was four years ago. That was the first time Gawker wrote about me.
The piece itself was relatively mild, on the Gawker spectrum. There were no intimate texts involved, there was no damning sex tape. I had simply been pronounced irksome because “She’s against domestic violence. She’s against harassing children. She’s against elder abuse” — and I apparently expressed this in ways insufficiently nuanced for the writer. I was, in summation, declared “a first class hack.”
I’ve been at this a very long time and been called worse by better, so it wasn’t the piece itself that really got to me. It was the picture. It was an image of me, pale and freckled, that had run in Salon seven months before, when I shared that I had just been diag…

The Overnight

There’s been quite a lot of attention lately to the seemingly plausible occurrence that you could lose everything you’ve accrued for yourself in life over one casually made remark — you always have to be watchful. When we hear this complaint being made it’s usually people pointing fingers at a politically correct culture, and we’d be correct to assume that what the people complaining want foremost is actually a chance to flip things around so that the politically correct — i.e., progressives — are the ones under pressure. We’d also be correct to note that easily as fair a way of assessing our times is actually more of it as eliminating our ability to shame groups of people, and that it is really this, our successful activism against prejudice and stigmatization, that is a key source of many people’s anxiety: “you” feel bound up, it’s because we’ve taken away the arenas you were used to being able to piss into, so deal! But we must still note that there’s a sense that we’ve also made …

Inside Out

I wonder if the creators at Pixar are unconsciously drawn to subvert the prescribed messages they are surely required to put out. I ask this out of logic: Pixar employees show too much intelligence, too much subversive intelligence, that always can be relied upon to titillate the adult in us even as we accept their mostly requiting us to remember our inner child, to rest without severe qualms if they are requited to a company which overall nullifies itself as any strong nudge for change. I also ask this out of evidence: why else construct this movie, with inside prompters who delight when their subject, eleven-year-old Riley, resounds the same old familiar behavioural notes — yay, once again it’s happy Riley! hockey Riley! goof-ball Riley! — so that it recalls the struggle out of The Truman Show, where as we know exasperation at unfamiliar initiative was not warranted, but rather something that shows up the controllers' overall intention to keep their subject mirroring their own …