"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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Celebriphilia Epidemic Sweeps US: We Look Now To The Stars For Guidance

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 37 seconds

CELEBRITY-OBSESSED AMERICANS LOOK TO THE STARS FOR GUIDANCE

Americans are blessed to have a plethora of benevolent celebrities who are willing to share their infinite knowledge and wisdom with them.

After a thorough examination by a team of top-notch doctors, I was recently given some very disturbing news…I was diagnosed with an acute case of stage 4 platonic celebriphilia. In case you don’t know, celebriphilia is a disease where the afflicted have an abnormal and overwhelming adoration of celebrity.

My medical team, which includes Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew and Dr. Oz, tells me that the symptoms of celebriphilia include feeling a false sense of familiarity and intimacy with celebrities which leads to the afflicted projecting an inordinate amount of inappropriate intelligence, wisdom and expertise upon celebrities.

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My celebriphilia first manifested itself a few years ago when Academy Award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow created her “lifestyle brand” Goop. Through Goop, Gwyneth sold new age, alternative therapies and devices at exorbitant prices, including “vaginal eggs” that were meant to be inserted into the vagina in order to aid “hormonal balance, and feminine energy”.

After re-mortgaging my home in order to finance the purchase, I bought a dozen vaginal eggs from Gwyneth. Now if you are wondering why I would buy vaginal eggs whose miracle powers were debunked in a lawsuit, especially since I don’t have a vagina, then you obviously do not have celebriphilia.

The way I see it is this, if I had a vagina, I would trust my friend Gwyneth to tell me (and sell me) the right wonder egg to stick into it in order to cure whatever ails me. If I’m going to trust anyone regarding my non-existent vagina, you can bet your bottom dollar it would be the woman who played Pepper Potts in the Iron Man movies…that alone makes her an authority in vaginacology.

The same is true of anti-vaccination proponent Jenny McCarthy. Jenny is a TV host and former Playboy model, which is the celebrity equivalent of being a Phd in immunology, which is why I faithfully obey her when she orders me not to vaccinate my kids because they could get autism.

Suzanne Somers starred on Three’s Company forty years ago, which is equal to getting a Master’s Degree in Bio-Genetic Engineering, and so when, contrary to mainstream medical opinion, she claims that “bio-identical hormone therapy” is the fountain of youth…I trust in Suzanne’s knowledge and wisdom.

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You may think my Celebriphilia is so severe I need to take some medication to temper it…well…you’d be wrong. Kirstie Alley and her Scientology Lord and Savior, Tom Cruise, have informed me that psychiatry is a “quack” science and psychiatric drugs are dangerous. Kirstie was on Cheers, where everybody knows your name…and Tom Cruise is…well…TOM CRUISE!! So they definitely know what they’re talking about and I trust their expertise implicitly and will remain untreated, thank you very much.

My celebriphilia isn’t limited to just medical questions, the infection has spread to my thoughts on foreign policy and politics too. Thanks to celebriphilia I now blindly trust in Hollywood to tell me what to think. When Hollywood churns out star-studded, pro-war, pro-empire propaganda films and tv shows that have their scripts controlled by the Pentagon in exchange for military equipment, personnel, access and budgetary relief, I absorb the indoctrination unquestioningly.

We celebriphiliacs only get our news from rebellious comedians like John Oliver, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert, and believe in every establishment talking point they sell us. I whole-heartedly put my faith in these second rate hack comedians desperate to stay in the good graces of their corporate overlords to tell me the unvarnished truth.

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As a celebriphiliac I get all my insights regarding Russia from Rob Reiner, who is an expert because he played Meathead on the 1970’s sitcom All in the Family. When Meathead tells me that we are at war with Russia because they stole our election in 2016, I treat his anti-Russian proclamations with all the respect it deserves.

To get my political opinions I go to all the top experts…Robert DeNiro, Matt Damon, Bruce Willis, Brie Larson, Alec Baldwin, Tim Allen, Angelina Jolie, James Woods, Chris Evans and George Clooney. Sometimes these experts have conflicting opinions on political matters, like maybe Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin disagree on tax policy, or Tim Allen and Chris Evans have opposing thoughts on immigration. In order to resolve these deeply troubling quagmires, I do the logical thing and choose what I believe by siding with the celebrity who has the most Twitter followers.

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Luckily for me, I am not alone in being afflicted with celebriphilia, as it is a raging epidemic in America. Here in the U.S.A. we adore our celebrities so much we actually vote them into high office. In the last forty years alone we have elected a senile, bad B-movie actor, Ronald Reagan, and a silver-spooned, D-list reality tv con-man, Donald Trump, to the presidency.

In my state of California, the epicenter of the celebriphilia epidemic, we have elected a sex-abusing, steroid-injecting, son-of-a-Nazi, movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to two terms in the Governor’s mansion, and the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea elected Dirty Harry himself, Clint Eastwood, to be mayor twenty-five years before he berated an empty chair at the RNC convention in 2012.

We American celebriphiliacs not only forgave these men for their shortcomings, we also imbued them with a wisdom, competency and expertise they did not possess, all because of their status as celebrity.

You may think that because I suffer from celebriphilia and treat celebrities like experts on things well outside their skill set, that I am insane. If the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”, then considering the level of corruption, incompetence and malevolence on display by “real” establishment experts in government, Wall Street, Big Pharma and the media over the years, be it in regards to 9-11, WMD’s and the Iraq war, the housing bubble and ensuing 2008 economic collapse, the 2016 election, Russiagate and the opioid epidemic, then listening to, believing in, or trusting in these “official” experts is equally as insane as buying vaginal wonder eggs from Iron Man’s wife, Pepper Potts.

The bottom line is this, I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv, but I have seen other people play them on tv, and I am a certified celebriphiliac, which I think qualifies me to make a formal diagnosis of what ails celebrity obsessed, and expert-addled America. After careful study and deep thought I have come to this conclusion…contrary to popular opinion, America is not losing its mind…just like me, it has already lost it.

This article was originally published at RT.com.

 

©2019

Angry Americans, Shark Attacks and Synchronicity II

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 29 seconds

I took a little vacation last week and headed out for some sun and fun on Cape Cod. The beach was great, and except for my one close call where I barely escaped/survived a harrowing shark attack*, my time on the Cape was thoroughly enjoyable.

What was not so enjoyable was getting to the Cape. Air travel has devolved from being a modern marvel of man’s ingenuity to being a crucible bordering on a crucifixion. The Passion of My Flight began at 4 am when I had to get up to get to LAX to run the gauntlet of both airport traffic and TSA security. My flight to Boston was delayed leaving LAX for 45 minutes because of traffic on the runway, but at least we were right on time to run into a “microburst” at Logan airport which forced us to divert to Bangor, Maine, of all God forsaken places. For three interminable hours my flight was held, Dog Day Afternoon/hijack-style, on the tarmac at Bangor while we waited to refuel and for Logan to recover from its “microbursting”.

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To be fair, my stay in Bangor was not nearly as bad as it could have been. Part of what made it tolerable was that the passengers in my section all bonded over the misbehavior of two passengers who were kicked off in Bangor. I didn’t see what happened, but was informed by a gaggle of gossipy flight attendants, or as I condescendingly call them “stewardesses”, that once we landed in Bangor a guy in his 30’s or so, declared he was going to exit the plane to have a smoke. The stewardesses informed him that, no, he was not allowed to leave the plane and was not allowed to smoke. Joe Camel was having none of it and since the stewardesses had opened the cabin door in order to ventilate our plane, he forced his way off the craft and onto the tarmac to light up. The funniest part of this story, and a strong indicator of this guy’s extraordinary genius, is that he was trying to smoke right next to the fuel truck that was refueling our jet….what could possibly go wrong? To the flight crew’s credit, they put up with none of the Marlboro Man’s nonsense and called the police who quickly escorted this gentlemen to his barred Bangor accommodations for the evening (I can attest that I did actually see the Maine State troopers drive up to our plane).

To the further delight of our section of passengers, the stewardesses also informed us that Smoking Man was traveling with his mom, who was also kicked off the plane for her bad behavior, as she had berated the flight crew as they had her son arrested. The crew shared with us that this woman, who sounds lovely, had also cursed at them throughout the flight because they failed to point out the Grand Canyon to her when we flew over it. While I did not enjoy my brief time in Bangor, I can only imagine that this mother and son combo REALLY disliked their extended stay in Bangor.

My return flight was no walk in the park either, as it was delayed at Logan for 3 excruciating hours before we ever boarded, and this was after I got to the airport two hours early in order to once again, run the gauntlet of traffic and security. Frustrations were running high at the gate as passengers tried to gather information on when exactly we would be leaving. Not surprisingly, airline staff on the ground were not fountains of abundant knowledge.

As far as I know, there were no arrests on this flight but there was a very tense confrontation between a middle aged father and a younger mother sitting behind him. What started it all I have no idea, as I had earplugs in…but by the time I removed them the confrontation was close to becoming a conflagration.

The younger woman, who was maybe in her thirties, had a smaller child with her, around 5 or so, and she was cursing up a storm at the guy in front of her who was with his teenage son. The guy told her to watch her mouth and not curse out his son, and she continued to “motherfuck” the both of them. The middle aged guy raised his voice threateningly in response, and then the woman played shocked and appalled that a man would raise his voice to her, and then the stewardesses arrived and did nothing but watch the argument escalate. Like the “microburst” at Logan on my earlier flight, this storm revealed flashes of shocking intensity but then dissipated into an uneasy quiet.

From my very brief observations of these two people before, during and after their confrontation, I can say with some level of certitude that both of them seemed like pretty shitty, self-absorbed human beings. The guy struck me as a total douchebag, as I had a brief interaction with him before we boarded and sensed he rated high on the asshole scale. The woman was no ray of sunshine either, as she struck me as just as entitled and obnoxious as her male opponent. If a fist fight had broken out between the two I am certain that I would have intervened, but only to punch them both in the face and lock them in the aft lavatory.

So why do I share these stories with you? Am I morphing into a travelogue writer or something? No…I share them because I think these anecdotes reveal a great deal about the current state of America and the American psyche.

One of the first things that stood out on my travels was that our infrastructure is a disaster area. Traffic both to and from LAX and Logan was an utter catastrophe. There are too many cars and too many people and not enough space. And it isn’t just the roads that are too congested…the skies are as well as my plane hit traffic trying to take off from LAX which was just as bad as the traffic on the drive to the airport.

The fragility of our infrastructure was highlighted by my flight being diverted from Boston to Bangor due to a 15 minute storm. Yes, the storm was a very intense one, but it did only last 15 minutes, and yet I had to sit in Bangor for three hours. No doubt other Logan bound flights suffered the same fate in Portland, Hartford, Providence and other mid-major cities across the eastern seaboard. The diverted flights then put strains on their new airports in the form of parking spaces/fuel etc., and then air travel along the east coast would be delayed and backed up because Logan had to land and take off the flights that were diverted/delayed before they let other flights already scheduled leave/arrive.

When you think about our civilization and how tenuous it is…it is pretty chilling. I mean, if there was some sort of solar flare or some other catastrophe that hit the U.S. and knocked out power, we would devolve into Mad Max/Escape From New York/Planet of the Apes territory in a matter of days, if not hours. It would be nice to think that a disastrous event would bring people together and illuminate the angels of our better nature, but as some of the passengers on my flight proved, that is unlikely. Considering that my toddler son behaved markedly better than full blown adults on my flights who could not control themselves or their impulses, is a pretty strong indicator that chaos is just a heartbeat away at any given moment.

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In regards to the passenger misbehavior on my flights, the thing that stood out to me is that there is a palpable anger coursing through the blood of Americans. People are just really, really pissed off right now. I cannot recall a time in my life where tensions have been this high in America. People are stressed and scared and completely on edge, and the underlying tension and anxiety creating American’s anger and fury is only gaining in intensity as it expands across the country.

The Smoking Man who refused to listen to the stewardesses and tried to smoke on the tarmac while the plane refueled is a wonderful symbol of the epidemic of narcissistic entitlement spreading across the country. This guy wanted what he wanted, when he wanted it, and was willing to risk potentially blowing up an airliner with 200 people on board just to satiate his desire/addiction.

The funny thing is that everyone stuck on that plane in Bangor was so irritated and aggravated by our situation (our delay/diversion), that I am sure that if Smoking Man had caused a big headache that encompassed all of the passengers in my section, we would have torn him limb from limb like a ravenous mob. I take no pride in saying I know I would have gleefully participated in, if not instigated, that riotous behavior towards any scapegoat stupid enough to present him/her/itself.

It seems to me that America is rapidly losing its mind. We have devolved into a combustible people looking for offense, slights, or excuses to vent the rage that boils just beneath the surface of our seemingly mundane and terrifyingly meaningless lives. This perpetual state of stress, tension and anger blinds us to reality and causes us to see only those things that reinforce our worst instincts and impulses about other people and feeds our sense of dissatisfaction and disenfranchisement.

As to why we are so angry and stressed…well…the causes are legion. As previously stated, our dilapidated infrastructure is a cause of stress as it creates irritants like traffic both on our streets and in the skies. Economic and financial pressure creates stress among millions who have to work longer and harder to make less and pay for more. Politics no doubt is a force multiplier of these stresses and anxieties as absolutely everything in our culture is politicized beyond recognition. Trump, love him or loathe him, is also a major contributor to American anxiety and tension as he is virtually everywhere. It is impossible to escape Trump, or talk of Trump, or opinions of Trump, no matter where you go or what you do. Social media is a toxic vehicle in and of itself, but in the age of Trump it has become a dealer of all things Trump 24/7, that keeps the addicted high on their own supply of Trump love/hate. The media, cable news in particular, are non-stop Trump and have devolved into reality television where Trump is the character they love to hate.

I also think Americans are suffering an existential crisis, where our lives have been stripped of purpose and we are left adrift in a vacuous sea of vapid consumerism devoid of any philosophical, religious or spiritual meaning. This emptiness used to manifest itself as a sort of listless malaise and ennui, but has now morphed into a volcanic rage and fury ready to erupt in order to release the pressure building deep inside its dissatisfied core.

It seems to me that we are on a very dangerous trajectory that is fraught with peril. As the events of the last week have shown, people of all persuasions (political and otherwise) are filled with anger and hatred and are a hair’s breath from snapping and hurting or killing lots of people. As much as I hate to say it, I fear that there is no turning back from the madness that is infecting us all…and when Trump is re-elected, and from my discussions with people on my travels I think he is going to be, this country is going to detonate and we will all be caught up in the conflagration.

America is a tinderbox and tense, anxious and stressed people are going to ignore the warning signs, throw caution to the wind, and try to satiate their selfish desires and addictions by lighting up next to a fuel truck which will cause this whole shithouse to go up in flames. Sadly we are no longer equipped with the personal or national infrastructure to be able to extinguish that inferno.

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My observations of Americans during my recent journey made me think of the 1983 song "Synchronicity II” by The Police. The song is off of the band’s fifth, final and best studio album, Synchronicity. Sting’s insightful and prophetic lyrics speak to the meaninglessness of our modern lives and the primal darkness that lurks just beneath the surface of our civilized/middle-class veneer, and are accompanied by an edgy and grating guitar that haunts and pesters like an infectious bug crawling just beneath our skin. This song could be America’s new national anthem.

SYNCHRONICITY II

Another suburban family morning/ Grandmother screaming at the wall/We have to shout above the tin of our rice krispies/We can’t hear anything at all

Mother chants her litany of boredom and frustration/But we know all her suicides are fake/ Daddy only stares in to the distance/ There’s only so much more that he can take

Many miles away/ Something crawls from the slime/ At the bottom of a dark Scottish lake

Another industrial ugly morning/ The factory belches filth into the sky/ He walks unhindered through the picket lines today/ He doesn’t think to wonder why

Secretaries put and preen like cheap tarts at a red light street/ But all he ever thinks to do is watch/ And every single meeting with his so-called superiors/ Is a humiliating kick in the crotch

Many miles away/ Something crawls to the surface/ Of dark Scottish loch

Another working day has ended/ Only the rush hour hell to face/ Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes/ Contestants in a suicidal race

Daddy grips the wheel and stares alone into the distance/ He knows that something somewhere has to break/ He sees the family home now, looming in his headlights/ The pain upstairs that makes his eyeballs ache

There’s a shadow on the door/ Of a cottage on the shore/ Of a dark Scottish lake/ Many miles away/ Many miles away

Sting is right…and that primordial beast crawling out of an ancient Scottish loch is no longer slouching towards America…it is here, it is angry and there is no stopping or controlling it.

*Shark Attack - My shark attack story is this…there have been a plethora of shark sightings on the Cape this summer, so much so that the Boston Globe even had a front page story with the headline “Sharks on Cape Cod: Just how scared should we be?”. The Globe answers its own question with a resounding…”VERY SCARED!”. For this reason and because the absolute only thing in the entire world that I am afraid of is sharks, I was not going to go into the Atlantic during my vacation. I was assured by everyone I spoke with that the location of my Cape beach was on the Martha’s Vineyard sound, which would have no seals at all, and since it has no seals there would be no sharks. People were adamant that our beach was safe and that no seals had ever been spotted there and certainly no sharks. I admit I found this story to be at best dubious, but due to peer pressure I relented and trepidatiously ventured into the dark unknown of three feet of Atlantic ocean.

Except for the fact that there were dozens of shark sightings at other Cape locations, the vast majority of my Cape vacation went well…UNTIL…on my second to last day, I narrowly escaped death at the hands of a massive and ravenous Great White shark.

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What happened is this…as I exited the water with my toddler son, I glanced east along the beach and saw…something. I stopped and focused my gaze to the spot where there was an anomaly in the water. There was a group of about ten kids playing on flotation devices in that exact spot and my mind raced back to the movie Jaws, where a little kid, Alex Kintner, gets eaten by the shark while riding on a flotation deviced, blood splattering everywhere. I could feel the camera zoom in on my face just like it had on Chief Brody when he saw the shark attack Alex Kintner on the flotation device…my mouth went agape as I saw…something!

Then the lifeguard blew their whistle and frantically yelled for everyone to get out of the water. I threw my son to my wife and ran down the beach towards the commotion. People were standing in my way so I courageously knocked them over and pushed them into the water in order to keep a barrier between me and the hungry shark. Then…the beast poked its massive head above the water, baring its razor sharp teeth…it was as clear as day…it was horrifying…it was a ferocious….SEAL!!!

To be clear…I’ve seen seals before…but this seal was absolutely massive. He deceptively rolled over onto his stomach in a playful manner and dove under and surfaced again, much to the delight of the crowds gathered at the beach but I wasn’t fooled. I knew that I had just come within inches of being mauled by a shark…because as everyone knows…where there are seals…there are sharks!

I was assured by the same liars and deniers who told me that a seal had never been spotted on this beach before that the seal I just saw was just “lost”. “Lost” my ass..that seal knew EXACTLY what it was doing. And regardless of whether this seal is “lost” or not...what is to stop a “lost” Great White from following this seal, coming to this beach and taking a giant bite out of my obviously delectable ass?

In conclusion…when I say I survived a shark attack what I mean is that I saw a seal playing about twenty feet from the shore at a part of the beach where I wasn’t swimming. This was a close call indeed.

©2019

Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood: A Review and Commentary WITH SPOILERS!

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****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!****

My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

My Recommendation: SEE IT.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, is the fictional story of fading television star Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth, as they navigate Hollywood during the turbulence of 1969. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dalton and Brad Pitt as Booth, with supporting turns from Margot Robbie, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell and a cavalcade of other actors.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Tarantino’s 9th feature film and like all of his other movies it is a cultural event. With two of the biggest movie stars in the world on the marquee, and one of the most recognizable directing talents in the business at the helm, this movie was bound to stir up interest. Add in the fact that it is an unabashed homage to Hollywood history that also mixes in the toxically intriguing Manson family and you have a recipe for drawing a lot of attention. While I have loved some Tarantino films and loathed some others, I recognize his genius, and part of that genius is making movies that stir controversy and attract enormous amounts of both good and bad attention.

I went to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on the Friday morning of its official opening. The 10 AM screening was pretty full…full enough that I had to endure not one but two elderly couples sitting on either side of me talking throughout the movie like they were sitting in their own living rooms. Even after very politely and delicately asking them to please not talk, they continued anyway. As my buddy Steamroller Johnny astutely observed, “at some point old people think the rules of the world no longer apply to them”. Despite the incessant and idiotic yammering of these old fools, the likes of which included such gems as “remember Mannix? Oh yeah…I remember Mannix!” and “Where did Leo go? Why don’t they tell us where Leo went?”, I soldiered on to the end of the movie and much to my broke lawyer’s chagrin, never once smashed anyone’s head in.

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I must admit that my first impressions of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood were not overly positive. Besides the distracting moronity of the decrepit couples around me, I thought the film looked and sounded sub-par. The visuals were terribly imprecise and muddled, and the sound was atrociously bad, with Tarantino’s constant use of music suffocating the dialogue. The visual darkness and audio messiness made me feel I was watching the movie underwater. Even though I saw the movie in a high end art house theatre, I blamed the projector for the technical mess as the screening I attended used a digital projector which is how most movies are displayed nowadays. After leaving the theatre I shook my head at the sad state of film projection in America and what a crime it is to demean the art of cinema in such an egregious way.

Another first impression I had was that this movie was two hours and forty minutes long but ultimately did not do much considering it is historical fiction and could have done absolutely anything it wanted. I sort of felt like…is that all there is? Is that all you can come up with? it felt really…limited…at least in terms of the story.

Needless to say, while I didn’t hate the movie, I didn’t love it either, and felt it landed somewhere in the bottom half of the Tarantino canon, ahead of The Hateful Eight and behind Inglorious Basterds. Then, out of both frustration and curiosity, I decided to see the film again, except this time to see it in 35mm…as it was intended to be seen. 35mm screenings are pretty rare nowadays but Tarantino usually sets up special screenings where you can see his movies either in 35 or 70mm. It took some effort as I had to track down the theatres and special screening times for the 35mm print, but I did it and then went and saw it once again on Monday at noon.

Let me tell you…the difference between digital and 35mm is like night and day in every single way. In 35 the film is gorgeous to look at, the colors and contrast are distinct, and the visuals precise and specific. As much as the look of the film improved, the sound made an even more gargantuan leap. In 35mm the sound is astounding, as the music really pops and the mix is as clear as a bell…no more dialogue pulled under the tide of music.

The second viewing, much to my delight, also gave me a much clearer perception and understanding of the narrative and the sub-text. It certainly helped that I didn’t have to listen to elderly conversations about Mannix and could focus on the action on screen, but I was also aided by just being able to let the film wash over me as opposed to figure out what will happen next.

My second viewing changed my entire opinion of the film…and it quickly skyrocketed out of the bottom tier of Tarantino movies and into the upper echelon if not the Mount Rushmore of his canon.

Tarantino has always gotten great performances from his cast and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is no exception. The entire cast is stellar, with Margaret Qualley (a 2017 Breakout Performance of the Year Mickey Award Winner!), Bruce Dern, Mike Moh, Al Pacino and Julia Butters doing terrific supporting work.

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As for the leads…Leonardo DiCaprio is at his very best in this movie. DiCaprio perfectly embodies the self-destructive, self-absorbed desperation that is epidemic in Tinseltown. His Rick Dalton is a star who is fading fast who represents an era and archetype that is under siege. DiCaprio’s Dalton is barely able to keep his mind and body in tact as he tries to navigate the minefield of semi-stardom in an entertainment business going through as much upheaval as the rest of the country in 1969….which is eerily similar to 2019.

DiCaprio gives Dalton a subtle but very effective stutter and stammer that reveals a mind deteriorating after years of alcohol abuse. Dalton’s stutter and stammer indicate he is no longer able to speak his mind and do it clearly. His stutter/stammer show a man second guessing himself and his entire life.

Dalton is also in a perpetual state of cough and spits up gallons of phlegm as he is metaphorically dying on the inside. Dalton smokes and drinks like a condemned man…which is what he really is. Dalton is the archetypal American Male…the Cowboy…and in 1969 that version of American Male was losing its standing and its balance, and in 2019 it is an outright villain. It isn’t until Dalton describes a novel he is reading about a cowboy who has outlived his usefulness and grows more and more useless as everyday passes, that his plight goes from being unconscious to conscious, and it devastates him.

DiCaprio has had moments of greatness in his acting career, most notably as a mentally challenged teen in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and as a depraved slave owner in Django Unchained, but Rick Dalton is by far his most complex and frankly, greatest acting accomplishment, and he is deserving of not only a Best Actor nomination but a win.

Brad Pitt plays the stuntman Cliff Booth with all the movie star aplomb he can muster. Pitt’s work is much more straight forward than DiCaprio’s, but no less effective. Booth is an enigmatic character…at once cool but also combustible. Pitt’s charisma oozes off the screen and he and DiCaprio have an interestingly uneven chemistry that is compelling to watch. Booth seems like a combination of the cult 1970’s Native American action hero Billy Jack (one of my favorites) and Burt Reynolds character Lewis Medlock from Deliverance. He is, unlike DiCaprio’s Dalton, unambitious, but also unlike Dalton, he is the genuine article in terms of rugged, old school masculinity. Booth is no faux tough guy, he is an actual tough guy…the epitome of a real man in that he will kick the shit out of you if you deserve it, even if you’re Bruce Lee. And while Booth is a red-blooded man who is attracted to an alluring and eager teenage girl…his moral code won’t allow him to consummate such an ethically dubious act. And it is of note that the teen in question, named Pussycat, is at one point standing in front of a rainbow colored building, no doubt a strip club, named Pandora’s Box.

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Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate and there has been much made about the paucity of her dialogue. The usual suspects are crying misogyny due to her role being “less than" her male co-stars. I find this sort of thinking to be so tiresome and vapid as to be absurd. As for Robbie’s actual performance…it is utterly spectacular. Robbie’s Tate is bursting with life for every second she appears on film. Robbie has filled her Tate with such a powerful and specific intentionality she is like a supernova of magnetism.

The Tate character is the embodiment of life, potential and the archetypal feminine. Tate is bursting with life, literally and figuratively, and her effervescence cannot be contained. When she walks down the street she seems to float or bounce, the earth barely able to grasp her ebullient spirit.

Tarantino’s decision to use actual footage of Tate in the film is a masterstroke, as he successfully pays homage to her and humanizes her at the same time. Tarantino takes Tate out of the clutches of not only the Manson gang but of the culture that has turned her into nothing but a headline and symbol. Sharon Tate was a person, a real person with hopes and dreams and aspirations and the Mansonites snuffed that out…and Tarantino reminds us of the depth of that loss without ever being heavy-handed or maudlin.

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The sub-text of the film is one of a battle between traditional masculinity and femininity and the assault upon them by “woke” culture. Tate and Dalton’s wife Francesca and Booth’s dog Brandy represent the traditional feminine archetype and Dalton and Booth are two halves of the traditional male archetype in the film…and the Manson family? They are representative of our new cultural wave…they are liberalism gone awry…they are “The Woke”. In a brilliant twist Tarantino makes this connection abundantly clear as he casts one of the most grating and loathed woke apostles, Lena Dunham, as one of the leaders of the Manson gang at Spahn ranch.

The gaggle of Manson women at Spahn Ranch are the neo-feminists of our age as they are little more than harpies who incessantly yap like neutered lap dogs in the presence of genuine masculinity (Booth). To quote Reservoir Dogs, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood asks modern day neo-feminists represented in the film as Manson women, “you gonna bark all day little doggie, or are you gonna bite?” Of course, these women do not bite when they first meet Booth…they sit and stay when told…and later when they do try to bite, the hounds of hell are released and these women serve as nothing but chum to the big dogs that do bite.

When the female Manson acolytes scream at Booth as he pulverizes a hippie dude at the Spahn ranch, they symbolize the nagging neo-feminists/woke brigade who say a lot but do nothing. They express their love for the weakling and cowardly Mansonite man getting the Booth treatment, but they don’t help him, they just touch their hearts empathetically and mouth their support. It is also worth noting that these woke women may softly proclaim their love for their hippy brethren, but they want to have actual sex with the real man…Cliff Booth. Ultimately when “the woke” women do trifle with Cliff Booth, he obliterates them. Booth and his faithful canine companion unleash a fury upon the woke and smash their heads into dust, no doubt because their heads are empty, as they are incapable of any thought…only regurgitation.

Speaking of dogs…maybe my favorite character in this entire film is Brandy the pit bull, who is Cliff Booth’s beloved pet. Brandy is occasionally a lap dog, but only because she wants affection, not protection. Brandy is a female…but unlike her Manson family/neo-feminist/woke counterparts, she is no bark and all bite. Brandy is the embodiment of loyalty and when unchained she opens the gates of hell upon anyone who would try to disrupt the order of her universe. Brandy may be subservient to Cliff, as he is the one who feeds her and directs her fury when necessary, but she also ferociously defends the traditional feminine in the form of Dalton’s young bride, Francesca.

At both of the screenings I attended, the audience cheered when the Mansonites get their comeuppance…and that is because it is so deliciously satisfying. In our culture The Woke are intolerant of intolerance but are totally intolerable. Tarantino is basically giving voice to people who are sick to death of the incessant woke posing in our culture by saying, “Hey assholes, you want equality…here it is…a can of dog food smashed in your fucking face”. The Woke are, in their own way, Nazis, and Tarantino treats them as such as he has Dalton torch them just like he does the Nazis in his hit World War II movie The Fourteen Fists of McCloskey, and just like Tarantino did in Inglorious Basterds.

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In a piece at The Ringer about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Alison Herman wrote “the Manson family aren’t Nazis, or slave owners, or even Bill (from Kill Bill); they were young, manipulated, drugged-out kids” and thus “…watching Rick take a flamethrower to one feels a lot less cathartic and a lot more uncomfortable”. One need look no further to find the vacuity of woke ideology than Ms. Herman’s quote. The young women and man (Tex Watson) getting their faces kicked in, bitten off and torched in the fantasy of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, in reality brutally murdered Sharon Tate as she begged for the life of the child in her belly, as well as Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring and Wojciech Frykowski with the utmost cruelty, savagery and viciousness. They are not drugged up and confused girls anymore than the SS were noble patriots fighting for the German homeland. Ms. Herman’s woke inspired, insipid thinking is prevalent throughout our culture and is a leading cause of the epidemic of mental myopia verging on retardation in our nation. It is Ms. Herman’s thinking that Tarantino smashes in the face with a can of dog food, gets devoured by a pit bull and then gets lit up by a flamethrower…and deservedly so.

Tarantino also deftly plays with audience perception in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. The film is obviously a fairy tale and another bit of historical fiction/wish fulfillment from Tarantino, and it plays with this fact throughout. Tarantino subtly but continuously keeps asking the audience what is real? Is it a blind man who watches tv? Is it a man who claims he’s never been to prison yet says he was on a Houston chain gang for breaking a cop’s jaw? Or is it a man who allegedly killed his lusciously-bottomed, nagging wife or is that just rumor/lie/legend too? What about Dalton, who hates hippies but looks a lot like Manson in his Lancer costume when he gives his great performance…or Booth, who is adversarial with the hippies too but partakes of an acid laced cigarette he buys from a hippie girl?

At times the movie is a daydream within a fairy tale within a nightmare….and that makes it a hypnotically compelling film. Tarantino expertly captures the dream state that is Los Angeles…and Hollywood…a dream state that is so bright during the day as to be blinding, and so dark at night as to be deadly. Hollywood during the day is, like Sharon Tate, beautiful and full of potentialities. When night descends on Los Angeles it becomes a city of menace…the city of Charles Manson, mass murderers, serial killers, street gangs, violent lawless cops…a shadow city of predators and prey.

The ending of the movie is a combination of the dream/nightmare that leads up to it. After the “real men” Booth and Dalton save the day, greatly assisted by the traditional females in the house, Brandy and Dalton’s wife Francesca, the movie shifts to what should be a happy ending, but which feels extremely unsettling.

As Dalton stands at the end of his driveway, he is greeted by Jay Sebring, who seems like a ghostly apparition at the gates of heaven, asking what happened. Sebring is reminiscent of a ghost stuck in the place of his death, in this case Cielo Drive, who is unaware of what happened to them. Sebring and Dalton are then joined by the haunting and ghostly disembodied voice of Sharon Tate over the intercom. Tate invites Dalton up to the house for a drink…and the gates slowly open for him to enter. This is Rick Dalton walking into the gates of heaven (Tarantino’s version of heaven anyway). Dalton…the symbol of the 1950’s all-American cowboy archetype…is dead and he is going to mix and mingle with Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring and the others who did not survive the cataclysm of the 60’s.

Cliff Booth is technically alive at film’s end but physically injured (in the thigh…which in biblical stories/Jungian terms is symbolic of the genitals - which leaves Booth emasculated…just like Tex Watson who gets his balls chewed off by Brandy…and the hippie dude who Booth beats at the camp…who had no balls to begin with) and mentally altered from a hippie delivered acid laced cigarette. Although he avoided the moral trap of Pussycat, he ingested the poison cigarette willfully…like Adam eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge…for this sin he is banished from Eden. After Dalton declares his true friendship with Booth, Cliff is rushed away to a hospital…but in reality he too is gone…disappeared into the L.A. night never to be seen again.

The only ones left alive at the conclusion of the film are Francesca and Brandy…but they are sleeping in the bedroom, no doubt dreaming up the scenario played out over the preceding two and a half hours of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, where real men/traditional masculinity saved the day and real women/traditional feminine got to appreciate them for it.

In conclusion, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a staggeringly rich, layered and thoughtful film that is entertaining both as art and as popular cinema. I highly recommend you see it and even if it takes more effort…see it in 35 mm. Tarantino is a polarizing filmmaker, and this movie will no doubt receive a great deal of enmity from politically correct critics and their woke minions in our culture. The bottom line is this, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is a gigantic and well-deserved fuck you to The Woke, and that is what makes it so deliciously entertaining, but what makes the movie so poignant, insightful and exceedingly relevant is that it is aware that it is pure fantasy, and that in reality The Woke have won the culture war and cinema, and the rest of us, are all the worse for it.

©2019

Quentin Tarantino Films Ranked Worst to First

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 01 seconds

Quentin Tarantino is the most important filmmaker of his generation. That isn’t to say he is the best…just the most important. Tarantino’s distinctive aesthetic, a dialogue and violence driven stew of pop culture, spaghetti westerns, kung fu movies, film noir, pulp fiction, and satirical comedy, revolutionized movies.

Tarantino’s first film, Reservoir Dogs, hit theatres in 1992 at the height of the grunge rock revolution. Popular music was being turned upside down by the gritty, yet stylized, realism of grunge which was eviscerating the manufactured, corporate rock preening of the previous decade. Tarantino’s uber-confident brand of filmmaking was to Hollywood what Nirvana’s music was to the music industry, an artistic nuclear bomb obliterating business as usual.

Reservoir Dogs, like grunge, created a stylized, gritty realism that was fictional but seemed more true, and honest, than the fairy tale bullshit Hollywood and the music industry had been selling Generation X for the entirety of their lives.

If Reservoir Dogs was akin to Nirvana’s cult hit album Bleach, then Tarantino’s second feature, Pulp Fiction, was Nevermind. Pulp Fiction was the ultimate game changer as it was both populist entertainment, yet also an unorthodox arthouse movie, and it became an instant classic, a box office smash and a critical darling. With Pulp Fiction, Tarantino managed to resurrect not only John Travolta’s moribund career, but also give artistic credibility to Bruce Willis of all people, and catapulted both Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman onto the A list.

Like Nirvana, Tarantino spawned a myriad of copycats who watered down his stylistic brand over the years that followed his breakthrough success. Like grunge, Tarantino went into a deep lull after his initial glorious burst of creativity as his follow up to Pulp Fiction, 1997’s Jackie Brown, fizzled both critically and commercially.

A new wave of independent minded auteurs hit the theatres in the mid to late 90’s, directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson, and they were quickly putting Tarantino in the critical rear view mirror as the millennium closed. It would be six long years after Jackie Brown before another Tarantino film would hit the theatres, and during this time it certainly had felt like the Tarantino moment had passed.

During post-production there was a steady stream of bad press leaking out about Kill Bill, Tarantino’s Kung Fu movie. When word came out that Tarantino was going to split the film into two features to be released in back to back years (2003-2004), I thought that was a very, very bad sign. If the rumors were to be believed it seemed as though Tarantino’s ego was quickly becoming inversely proportionate to his directing ability. Then Kill Bill Vol. 1 came out…and not only was Tarantino not becoming irrelevant and obsolete…he was proving himself as the master of edgy populist arthouse American cinema. Kill Bill solidified his status of king of cool cinema who ruled over Hollywood, indie-land and the arthouse.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 saved Tarantino and Tarantino-ism, which long outlived its musical counterpart, grunge. For the next 15 years Tarantino has churned out big movies…they weren’t always great…but they were always cinematic events. No one makes movies like Quentin Tarantino, and as the years have passed people have even stopped making the type of movies Tarantino can make…big populist Hollywood movies that aren’t part of a franchise or comic book universe.

Tarantino’s career has not only survived but thrived despite his multitude of naysayers, and nowadays the naysayers include the cultural revolutionaries and revisionist historians of the woke brigade. If you read or listen to pc establishment film critics nowadays you hear them describe Tarantino the man, and his films, as “problematic”. He is accused of all sorts of things…like using too much violence and racially charged language in his films…and of filling his films with violence against women and “sex”. Even though I disagree with these criticisms, I will admit that some of these charges, such as the violence and racial language, can at least be made in good faith, but claims of violence against women and too much sex are absolutely absurd and reveal either a staggering ignorance of Tarantino’s work or a dubious and dishonest assessment of his intentions.

The point of all this is to say that, like him or not, Tarantino has cemented his place in our popular culture and in the history of cinema. To ignore this fact would be to ignore reality. With this in mind, and since Tarantino’s new film Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, opens this weekend, I thought it would be wise to try and put together my rankings of Tarantino films.

Ranking Tarantino films is no easy task as my list is almost always in a state of flux. My top four Tarantino films are always the same, but their order can flip by the second. So this list is just capturing my thinking…and feeling…at this very moment. With that in mind…sit back…be like Fonzie and stay motherfuckin cool…and enjoy the list.

8. DEATH PROOF (2007) - Death Proof is a 2007 “exploitation horror film” starring Kurt Russell that pays homage to 1970’s slasher and muscle car movies. Death Proof is undeniable proof that paying homage to a shitty genre will result in a shitty movie. I have seen this exactly once and have zero interest in seeing it ever again. Death Proof is a bad idea made manifest which not surprisingly is a badly made, bad movie. Death Proof is what happens when you become a super successful director and no one has the balls to tell you no.

7. JACKIE BROWN (1997) - Something funny has happened in recent years where aging hipster douchebags (there is an important distinction to be made at this point…while I am aging, am a hipster, and am widely regarded as a douchebag, I am most definitely not the specific breed of monster known as an “aging hipster douchebag”) have decided that Jackie Brown, Tarantino’s homage to blaxploitation movies, is a great movie. In fact, some have gone so far as to claim that Jackie Brown is Tarantino’s greatest film. Let me be as clear as I can about this…Jackie Brown is an actively awful movie. The script is dreadful, the directing abysmal, the pacing lethargic and the acting comatose.

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Jackie Brown was a Tarantino flex where he thought he could pull his Lazarus routine on some more actors just like he did with Travolta on Pulp Fiction. But this was where Tarantino’s ego got kicked in the nuts by cold hard reality. There is a reason Pam Grier and Robert Forster were, at the height of their careers, D-level movie actors…it is because they are not good actors. Building a film around such minimal talents ended with…not surprisingly…a really shitty and entirely forgettable movie. This movie was so highly anticipated and so fucking terrible it almost ended Tarantino’s career.

And if you are an aging, hipster douchebag who thinks this is Tarantino’s greatest film, I’m going to Tony Rocky Horror you’re ass and throw you out a four story window and then I’m gonna get medieval on your ass. Got it?

6. THE HATEFUL EIGHT (2015) - The Hateful Eight is a pseudo-western thriller that attempts to make grand statements on race in America all while trying to suss out a second rate Agatha Christie type of whodunnit. There are some good things in The Hateful Eight…like Robert Richardson’s stellar cinematography, particularly his glorious opening sequence. But overall…this is a terribly flawed film that suffocates under the weight of its unwieldy and impotent script.

Tarantino succumbs to his lesser instincts and ego in The Hateful Eight when he fatally undermines the archetypal, mythic and narrative structure of the film by making his “hero”, played by Sam Jackson, a male rapist. The film lacks cohesion and tension and devolves into a rather vacuous bloodbath that bores more than it repulses or titillates.

This film is a frustrating cinematic venture, sort of like being marched at gunpoint naked through a blizzard.

5. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (2009) - This is where things start to get interesting on the list as Inglorious Basterds is at once a brilliant and yet also a troublesome film. This movie boasts the single greatest scene of any of Tarantino’s films and among the greatest in film history…the opening sequence where SS Officer Hans Landa question a French farmer, Monsieur LaPadite, in his farmhouse. The film also boasts the masterfully tense and taut “basement bar” scene which is a thing of cinematic beauty. In contrast it also has some awful scenes, like the Mike Myers scene and the climactic orgy of ridiculous Hitler slaughtering violence in the movie theatre.

On the bright side the movie boasts tremendous performances from Christoph Waltz (as the aforementioned Landa), Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt but on the dark side it is saddled with the single worst performance ever in a Tarantino film…the utterly abysmal Eli Roth as The Bear Jew is excruciatingly awful and set the art and craft of acting back centuries.

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The thing I disliked the most about Inglorious Basterds though was that it came out during a time when the torture of “enemy combatants” in the war on terror was being debated and it very surreptitiously acted as a piece of vociferous pro-torture propaganda. Anyone who couldn’t see the Manichean philosophical underpinnings of beating captured German soldiers to death with a baseball bat being equivalent to torturing Muslims in Guantanamo Bay or Bagram or Abu Ghraib is being willfully obtuse. And it should be noted here that the German soldiers in the Wermacht getting their skulls bashed in and being scalped by "The Basterds’ were not Nazis party members. Some may see this as a distinction without a difference, and Wermacht complicity and guilt is a contentious historical debate, but considering the context of the torture discussion when the film was released, I find this distinction of note.

Another thing that bothered me about the film was that it was, at its core, nothing but a Jewish revenge fantasy. of course, there is nothing wrong with a Jewish revenge fantasy, in particular a Jewish revenge fantasy against Hitler, who certainly deserves whatever horrors we can imagine for him, but what felt uncomfortable to me was that in Tarantino’s case his revenge fantasy felt manipulative and pandering. Context is important here, as Tarantino is not Jewish, but even though you are not allowed to say it, the majority of Academy members and studio heads are and it felt like Tarantino was trying to make a movie to shamelessly pander to them in order to win an elusive Best Picture and/or best Director Oscar.

Bottomline is this…as great as Inglorious Basterds can be, its failures make it an uneven cinematic experience. Of all my conflicting feelings over this movie, the most overwhelming one is my impulse to bash Eli Roth’s head in with a baseball bat after taunting him with a dreadful Boston accent.

4. DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) - Some would argue that Django is, like Inglorious Basterds, just a revenge fantasy, except this time for African Americans against slavery. I think this point is terribly off the mark. Yes, there is a certain level of revenge fueling Django Unchained, but the archetype driving the film is not revenge but love, as Django Unchained is a mythic love story. Django is not fighting for any grandiose principles or objectives like freeing the slaves or to punish slave owners, he is just trying to get back to his wife and save her. In contrast, Inglorious Basterds is NOTHING BUT a revenge fantasy where love is nowhere to be found.

Django Unchained is, like the other films in the top four, a masterpiece in its own right. This movie is a thrilling and exhilarating ride that only suffers from one minor (although it felt major at the time) lull, and that is when Tarantino himself is on-screen as an Australian slave trader. As great a movie as this is, and it is great, Tarantino’s sloppy and narcissistic cameo nearly scuttles the entire enterprise.

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That said, the film highlights exquisite and sterling performances from Jamie Foxx (easily the best work of his career), Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. The film was pilloried for its use of violence and exploiting slavery for entertainment, but these criticism hold no water. The violence in the film is cartoonish…except when it involves slaves…then it is handled with brutal realism and gravity. Tarantino’s dance between the polar opposites of his entertaining, over-the-top violence and acknowledgement of the horrors of slavery is actually very well-done and shows a deft directing touch.

if you ask me on another day I may say that Django Unchained is Tarantino’s best film…but today I put it at #4. Even though I have it at #4, make no mistake, it is a first ballot hall of fame movie.

3. RESERVOIR DOGS (1992) - There are times where I have Reservoir Dogs as the top film in this list…and even more times when I have it ranked ahead of Pulp Fiction….but today isn’t one of those days. Like Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs is a first ballot hall of famer.

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This movie hit theatres like a hand grenade and launched Tarantino as a serious auteur. This staggeringly confident film is like a neo-noir stage play set in this well-defined but not overly explained universe where thugs, hitmen, cons and shady people all live and work. This world is not real but is so thoroughly put together it feels hyper-real.

The low budget for the film adds to its mystique and highlights Tarantino’s real talent as a writer and director. The rawness of the movie is part of its great appeal.

Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi and Michael Madsen all give stellar performances and Tarantino’s script is explosively good. His use of music, camera movement, pop culture dialogue and violence make for a combustible and compelling feature film debut for Tarantino.

A truly great movie and an instant classic that launched Tarantino’s journey to the top of Hollywood’s Mount Olympus.

2. PULP FICTION (1994) - Pulp Fiction garnered Tarantino a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and rightfully so. This script crackles with life and is a master class in world and character building. The terrific script is elevated even more by sublime performances from Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Harvery Keitel, John Travolta, Christopher Walken and even that dullard Bruce Willis.

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Tarantino’s ability to mess with narrative structure, to masterfully use music and pop culture as reference points and his exquisite ability to place multi-dimensional characters into a palpably real but entirely manufactured world, is what makes Pulp Fiction the iconic film that it is.

Pulp Fiction reinvented the Hollywood film, and for good or for ill, forever changed the movie industry. It is the type of film that if you stumble across it on cable, you will sit and watch it from any point in the story through to the end.

1. KILL BILL VOL. 1 & 2 (2003-2004) - I realize I am in the minority on this but I think Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 combined is the greatest Tarantino film….it is certainly my favorite.

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Some have accused these films of exploiting and encouraging violence against women, this strikes me as a short cut to thinking. Uma Thurman is the lead in the movie, she is an action hero, she is beaten, shot, stabbed, you name it. Just because violence happens to a women doesn’t make it misogynist…and in this case the exact opposite is true. The weak kneed, mealy mouthed woke clowns who claim this film is misogynist should ask themselves…are the Lethal Weapon movies anti-male because Mel Gibson gets the crap kicked out him in every movie? No, of course not. Tarantino empowers his female lead, an astounding Uma Thurman as The Bride/Black Mamba, to be an action hero not despite of her gender…but because of it…and that is not misogyny.

Like Django, Kill Bill is on its surface a revenge story but in its soul is a love story. The love is that of a mother for her daughter. Thurman’s Black Mamba character is unconsciously tracking down her daughter while consciously slaying all who are impediments to her maternal bond.

The brilliance of Kill Bill is in the world and character building. Tarantino’s kung fu world is populated by ninja and samurai assassins with distinct and specific histories and motivations. A rich, textured, vivid and vibrant creation that is Tarantino at his very best.

In conclusion, while there are some misfires, like Death Proof , Jackie Brown and The Hateful Eight, Tarantino has over the span of his career been a must-see filmmaker who has heightened the craft of moviemaking while celebrating the art of cinema.

The bottom line in regards to Tarantino’s best movies is this…you simply can’t go wrong with Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Django Unchained in any order, as they are among the very best films of the last thirty years and are monuments to Tarantino’s unique vision and singular genius.

The question now becomes…where does Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood rank in Tarantino’s canon? My verdict will be in shortly, but in the mean time why not go re-watch Django unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill or even Inglorious Basterds, as a primer before you see Tarantino’s newest offering. It will get you into the Tarantino spirit and you will not be disappointed.

©2019

Propaganda and the Delusion of Wokeness

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Estimated Reading Time: 6-2, 6-2

On the weekend of July 13th, as Serena Williams was being trounced in the Wimbledon Ladies Final by Simona Halep, a story about a YouGov poll that asked participants “Do you think if you were playing your best tennis, you could win a point off Serena Williams?”, was making the rounds. The poll was of 1742 adults in the U.K., and besides the poorly worded Serena question, asked some equally deep and thoughtful questions like, “do you think you look better naked or with clothes on?”. The inane poll was obviously meant to stir up trouble and publicity, which it promptly did because 7% of respondents had the temerity to say that they could score on Serena.

The big news from the poll, or at least the part that was most widely reported, was that 12% of men answered “yes" to the question. The internet and media went ballistic over the misogyny and delusion of 1 in 8 men thinking they could score on Serena, “the greatest female tennis player of all-time”. There was no mention of the delusional status of the 3% of women who responded “yes”…maybe they got a GrrlPower exemption from harsh judgement.

In the aftermath of the poll people went on twitter to claim that these guys were deluded and that they would shit themselves if they played Serena. Some men on twitter went the extra virtue signaling mile and declared that Serena would literally kill them with a tennis ball if they played her or they might be able to score on Serena only because she was laughing so hard them. As Dan Rather would say…”courage!"

When I googled “Serena YouGov poll” the top story that came up was from Stylist Magazine and the headline read, “Serena Williams: A message for the ‘deluded’ men who believe they could beat her at tennis”. Other headlines from outlets like Metro UK and The Cut declared “Men ridiculed after one in eight say they can beat Serena Williams” and “Poll Shows One in 8 Men Think They Can Beat Serena Williams”. What struck me about those headlines was that…not surprisingly…they were a total fabrication. The poll question never asked if people thought they could beat Serena, only “score a point against her while playing their best tennis", and those are two vastly different things.

In the Stylist piece, which was obviously written by someone who knows absolutely nothing about sports in general, or tennis in particular, states that Serena Williams is “one of the greatest athletes of all-time”. of course, what that statement should say is that Serena is “one of the greatest FEMALE athletes of all-time”, which is not a distinction without a difference.

Let’s be clear, not one of the people polled, unless they are one of the top 10,000 male tennis players in the world, or one of the top 100 women’s tennis players in the world, are going to beat Serena Williams at tennis. No way, no how. Serena is, unquestionably, one of the very best female tennis players to ever play the game and she is not going to lose one set, nevermind two, to someone who isn’t a professional level, quality player.

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But once again the question in question, is not about beating Serena, it is about scoring a point on her when you play your best. If the match were played under the rules of women’s tennis, that would mean the winner would have to win two out of three sets. In reality that would mean just two sets of six games, because it is highly improbable that anyone off the street is stealing a game from Serena. Twelve games would encompass 48 points in total if Serena won all the points, which is what the geniuses at Style Magazine and on twitter were claiming. Twenty-four of those points would be on Serena’s serve…which would be very, very difficult for an amateur to handle.

That said, it is also possible, not likely, but possible, that Serena double-faults, which would be a point won by the amateur and thus a “yes” answer to the poll question. This is a vital point to make, that tennis is not just about you hitting a better shot than the other person, it is about the other person not making an error. So what the Style Magazine and twitter fools think is that Serena would be completely flawless in playing these polled amateurs…which is unlikely regardless of her opposition’s unworthiness.

If Serena just hit one ball too hard or didn’t bend her knees enough or slightly miss-hit a ball, then the amateur gets a point and the poll answer is “yes”. Watch tennis players warm up and you see even when their opponent is trying to give them balls to hit they will occasionally hit one into the net or long or wide. This is the nature of sport, humans are not robots, and even the greatest at certain sports are not perfect all the time.

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Think of it this way, if I were in a shooting contest with Michael Jordan, best out of 48, Jordan would win that competition, but odds are he might miss at least one shot…which in terms of the poll means I would answer “yes” when relating it to Serena Williams. The same is true if I played one on one against LeBron James. He would destroy me, but if he took a pull-up jumper, or went up for a lay-up…it is not inconceivable he could miss…it would have nothing to do with me and my stellar defense (which really is stellar!), it would have to do with the imperfection of humans and the nature of sport. I would never beat Michael Jordan or LeBron James in a shooting contest or in one-on-one, but that doesn’t mean they would never miss, in fact, the odds that they would miss 1 shot out of 48 is pretty good.

It needs to be said that playing tennis against Serena would be infinitely easier than playing one-on-one against LeBron because his size, strength and speed advantage would be highlighted due to the fact that he would be physically imposing his will on me due to proximity, in basketball you are right next to each other, as opposed to tennis where your opponent is across the net and that distance can reduce the direct physical advantage.

Another thing about the twitter and media reaction to the poll is that everyone assumes that every person answering is a fat-slob, couch potato. While there are plenty of fat-slobs and couch potatoes in the U.K., I think it is safe to say that there are, at a bare minimum, 12% of men in the U.K. who have a life committed to fitness and health. I would say that 12% of U.K. men work out with a modicum of intensity on a regular basis. In fact, a Kantar UK study from 2018 claims that 17% of Britons are members of health clubs and 13% say they exercise regularly.

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The numbers of the Serena poll aren’t clear, but let’s assume that half of the 1742 respondents are male, which gives us 871 men. Of those 871, a total of 104 answered yes to the question. Is it insane to think that 104 men out of 871 are fit and highly active and athletic and maybe even compete in sports on a regular basis? I saw a survey that said that there are nearly 840,000 people in the UK that play tennis at least twice a month. Another study says that 500,000 Brits play tennis twice a week. That seems like a lot of tennis players. Is it so absurd to think that these athletic and fit people, playing their very best tennis, could score a single point on Serena when scoring a point also includes her making an error of some sort? The answer is…OF COURSE NOT!

This poll and this story are absolutely idiotic…so why am I writing about it? I am writing about it because it is emblematic not of the “delusion” of the men responding yes to the question, but rather of woke propaganda meant to reinforce the delusional ideology and insipid woke cosmology that fuels the media and twitter mobs. Those doing their two minute hate routine over “delusional men”, make Serena Williams out to be some demi-god or superhero simply because she is a women and black, and they reflexively believe that anything or anyone that dare question her superiority is acting out of misogyny and racism.

The Stylist Magazine piece is a perfect example of propaganda as it distorts the reality of the poll by conflating scoring a point against Serena with beating her, and then says the men who think they can beat her are delusional but ignore the women who say could beat her.

Further proof of Stylist’s propaganda is when they state that “The fact that a significant number of men believe they could win a point against a female tennis legend speaks volumes about the patriarchy”. Is 12% a significant number? If 12% of the population supported Donald Trump would Stylist think that was a “significant” number of supporters?

Stylist continues by declaring “these guys have a delusional confidence that’s ignorant to a women’s talent, achievements and lifelong passion.” Or maybe, like I stated above, these men simply did the math and figured out it is not impossible to score a point on Serena if they are playing their best tennis. My favorite part of that Stylist sentence is “lifelong passions”…if I have a lifelong passion for classical music does that make me Yo-Yo Ma? What does “lifelong passions” have to do with anything?

In making the case of why Serena is so unbeatable, Stylist highlights not only her career accomplishments, which are extraordinarily impressive, but also that she is “an advocate of women’s rights, an influencer of fashion and an important voice in challenging stereotypes around women at work and sport”. What difference does that make? Does that mean that these “delusional men” couldn’t score a point in tennis against Gloria Steinem and Donatella Versace?

In our current cultural and political climate this type of propaganda, that distorts reality and conflates facts, is par for the course. This story is an example of what people do when they want to make a political point and then twist the facts to fit their ideology. The establishment media’s coverage of all things Russia is another glaring example of this tainted “journalistic” approach. Remember the “Russian Microwave Weapon Attack” story? Or the Russians hacking power grids story? Or the whole Russigate hoax fiasco?

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The media distort facts just enough to appease the insatiable anger and outrage of those who already agree with them in order to feed the base the red meat they crave. In this case the media conflate scoring a point against Serena with beating her in order to reinforce the notion that men are “deluded” and irrationally confident which angers yet delights pussy hat wearing women and woke posing men who want to signal their virtue. The media does this same thing in regards to Russia, Iran and Syria all in an attempt to give the people what they want as opposed to tell them the truth. This level of deception and distortion is Trumpian in its insidiousness, and it exposes the complete lack of a rational and intellectual foundation to the majority of opinion and thought in this country. The foundation of most opinion in this country is emotion…not logic or reason…and the media stoke this empty headed emotionalism for their own means.

The woke and their acolytes in the mainstream media are, like the Trump cult, immune to logic and reason, and they live in a perpetual delusion and dark fantasy. These people have such a contorted and distorted perception of reality they are incapable of seeing that they are a vital part of the intractable evil they claim they want to destroy. They think men, white men in particular, are malevolent misogynists and destructively delusional…yet many, if not most, claiming this are mothers, daughters, sisters or wives to white men. The funniest part is that a great deal of the woke are white or male or both. The same men who self-flagellated themselves on twitter claiming they’d poop their pants if they played Serena, are no doubt the same mealy-mouthed twats who loudly proclaim that white people are the root of all evil even though they are white. Most of these allegedly woke self-loathing white people will vociferously proclaim their devout belief in diversity but then make sure their kids don’t go to the more “diverse” and more dangerous schools in their city, but rather send them to pricey private school or move to more upscale and whiter neighborhoods in order to avoid the diversity they supposedly so adore.

I have more bad news for hypocritical woke white people…when you condemn white men, you condemn your father, brother, sons and husbands. Since the woke, just like Trump, paint with the broad brush of stereotypes, the “good” white men don’t get a “good white guy” pass. When the shit hits the fan and people are judged by the paradigm the woke have embraced, namely judging people by the color of their skin and not the content of their character, they are going to find out that being an “ally" is a one-way street….and it leads right to the gallows. The reality is that these woke phonies already know this…which is why they send their kids to predominantly white schools in order to avoid the racial animus of minorities.

In conclusion, this poll and the stories about this poll are so ridiculous as to be absurd, and yet, here I am writing about it. The poll, the stories about the poll and my article about the stories about the poll are all prime evidence of how totally insane our world has become and how fucked we are as a society…and make no mistake…we are totally insane and totally fucked.

©2019

Women's Soccer, Pay Equality and Pandering

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 06 seconds

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team have been making headlines in recent weeks not only for their soccer dominance and winning the World Cup, but also for their call for “equal pay”. You see, the U.S. Women’s team is allegedly paid less than the much less successful U.S. Men’s team and are currently in a legal battle with the U.S. Soccer Federation over wage equality.

The U.S. Women’s on-field success has been translated into righteousness by the media in the wage equality discussion. The media, ESPN in particular, have uncritically accepted the premise that the Women’s team deserves to be paid the same as the men’s team. On every single ESPN “debate” show, such as Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn, all of the media talking heads supported the women’s demand for equal pay, which did not make for much debate but did allow for a great deal of virtue signaling.

An example of the establishment media’s perspective on this issue was on full display in two Boston Globe op-eds printed this week. In one, written by Shirley Leung with a headline imploring US Soccer to “Get on the right side of history!”, she states, “Of course the women should be paid as much as the men. If anything they should get MORE.”

In another Boston Globe article, this one by Tara Sullivan titled After Winning the World Cup, How Can the US Women Be Denied Their Well-Deserved Due?, Sullivan writes, “That they emerged as victorious on the pitch while simultaneously carrying a torch for pay equity IN THE BOARDROOM only underscores what tough competitors they are…” (emphasis mine).

Both Leung and Sullivan and the cavalcade of sportswriters on ESPN’s debate shows, were not partaking in a serious journalistic examination of the issue of pay equality for women’s soccer players, rather they were simply doing what most public people do in our woke culture…pandering.

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In our current age of political correctness no one on TV or writing in a major newspaper is going to declare that the US Women’s soccer team does not deserve equal pay. Nor will they argue that the Women’s team is actually getting paid equally because members of the women’s team get a guaranteed salary whereas the men’s team has a play to pay agreement. ESPN has become an HR department propaganda channel and pander parade with all of their painfully obvious woke posing and preening. Every single one of the guests on that network know that if they even hint at being against some woke initiative, they will lose their place at the network.

Now it is certainly possible to argue for equal pay without pandering, but what the ESPN people and the vast majority of mainstream writers did was not make a logical case for equal pay, but rather an emotional one. In Sullivan’s Globe piece she quotes Amory McAndrew, a lawyer who specializes in employment law at a “women-owned law firm” that specializes in employment law, who states “How could anyone now argue the US women’s soccer team is not performing equal work?” I know McAndrew seems like a stellar impartial voice (eye roll), but is it really inconceivable to think that the US women’s team is not doing equal work with the men’s team?

Let us first acknowledge that there are jobs where there is rightful pay inequality based on gender. Modeling is a perfect example of this as on average rank and file female models make 148% more money per year than male models. At the top end of the modeling business the contrast is even more striking as the highest paid female model, Gisele Bundchen made $47 million in 2014 while the top male model, Sean O’Pry made around $1.5 million. The reason that female models make so much more than men is because the majority of fashion advertising is geared towards women, thus female models have more value. That doesn’t mean male models have no value, just less value than female models.

In terms of the women’s soccer team issue what is really at stake is the value of female soccer players versus male soccer players. Supporters of the women’s team claim that the female players are of equal value to the male players.

In Leung’s article she claims the women deserve equal pay (in other words have equal value) because they “win more championships, sell more jerseys, and generate more revenue than the men’s squad.” This is a very deceptive argument as yes, they have won more championships, but winning in a World Cup in women’s soccer is considerably easier since the competition only began in 1991 and other nations do not have the female sport infrastructure that the U.S. does. In terms of jersey sales and revenue, it is true that the women’s team has brought in one million more dollars in revenue over the last three years…but only over the last three years, and that was when they were playing in a World Cup and the men were not.

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I would argue that comparing the pay for women’s and men’s soccer teams is like comparing male and female models, as they are very different and appeal to very different sized audiences. For example, the prize money in the Women’s World Cup of 2019 was $30 million with $4 million going to the winning team, whereas in the Men’s World Cup of 2018 the prize money was $400 million total with $38 million going to the winning team. This may seem like an obvious case of gender bias until you look at the bigger picture, which is that the revenue from the 2019 Women’s World Cup was $130 million and the revenue from the Men’s 2018 World Cup was $6 BILLION. Men’s soccer is without question the big money maker across the globe and to deny this is to deny reality. Another example to hit this point home is that over the course of the entire 2019 Women’s World Cup tournament, 1 billion viewers tuned in…whereas in the 2018 Men’s World Cup, 1 billion viewers tuned in JUST FOR THE FINAL GAME.

Sports is, in general, something marketed toward men, while fashion is something marketed toward women, and this is why female athletes make less than men and females models make more than male models. To be clear, this is not to say that women’s sports in general, or women’s soccer, in particular, have no value, only that they have less value than men’s sports.

Besides the insipid pandering, what really bothers me about the US Women’s soccer team and their cry for equal pay is that it undermines the argument for equal pay for women with “regular” jobs. To be clear, I believe that people doing the same jobs should be paid equally regardless of gender. Anyone who thinks that women should be paid less for doing the exact same work as men is obviously a hopeless neanderthal and troglodyte. That said, while the U.S. Women’s soccer team is certainly generating a great amount of attention for the wage equality cause, I think they are ultimately the worst case to represent the issue. The problem I have with the women’s soccer team and equal pay is that unlike the women working “regular” jobs in offices, like an accountant, lawyer, writer etc., who are being paid less even though they are just as intellectually able as their male counterparts doing the same work, women’s soccer players are not the equals of their male counterparts. Yes, I know that is a shocking thing to say, especially in our current media environment and woke culture, but it is true and it is a sign of our cultural and intellectual decay that speaking this truth is considered an irredeemable sin.

As Shirley Leung writes in the Boston Globe, “When women are paid less than men for doing what appear to be similar jobs, why do employers insist on changing the playing field instead of leveling it", the statement “appear to be similar jobs” is doing a lot of work in that sentence. Leung is, just like Sullivan and the rest of the media, conflating playing soccer with pursuits based on intellect…such as accounting, or legal work or any other office jobs. This is a fatal error by equal pay advocates, because when you conflate equality in the boardroom with equality on a soccer field, you are taking on two undefeated and undefeatable opponents…biology and reality. In a boardroom setting there is no scientific or biological reason for men to be superior to women…none. On a soccer field, there are dozens of reasons that women are inferior to men.

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Leung states in her piece that the US women’s struggle for equal pay reminds her of the case of Elizabeth Rowe, a principal flutist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra who sued the company in order to get paid as much as the principal oboist who was a man. The problem with this comparison is that, unlike the women and men’s soccer teams, the flutist and oboist play at the same time on the same stage…in other words they are equals. Another problem is that unlike in athletics, in music there is no scientific basis for male superiority compared to females. Leung even states that orchestras do blind auditions in order to halt any unconscious bias on the part of the auditors who are left only to judge on the music created not on the gender of the creator. This is a wonderful idea…but how does Ms. Leung think it would go if soccer could be judged the same way? I’ll tell her how it would go…not well for the women.

On the most basic level the painful reality is that men are vastly superior to women in sport. This is an obvious truth but apparently it needs repeating because no one seems to want to admit this uncomfortable fact in regards to the US women’s soccer team. How much more superior are men than women is sport? Well…according to a study, in terms of speed and endurance, the best male athletes are in general 10% better than female athletes. The study is pretty interesting as it shows over history how in track and field running events men’s records consistently go towards the mean for being 10% faster than women’s records.

To show the stark contrast between men and women in regards to speed, this past year a high school runner from Texas set the high school record in the 100m at 9.98 seconds. This 18 year old boy ran the 100 meters a full half second faster than the women’s world record of 10.49 which was set in 1988 by Florence Griffith-Joyner.

Speed is not the only place where men dominate women, as studies have shown that on average men have 40% more upper body strength and 33% more lower body strength. Men are also, on average, much bigger in terms of weight and height than women, but studies show that height and weight difference only account for half of the strength difference. Male strength can be attributed to a larger cross section in individual muscle-fibers. Men’s grip strength is so overwhelmingly superior to women’s that in one study 90% of the women scored lower than 95% of the men.

I recently saw a story that claimed that the US women’s soccer team lost to an FC Dallas Under 15 boys academy team 5-2 in 2017. Many have discounted this story and claim that the women weren’t trying in the game which was a scrimmage. While the story of a “loss” may be a bit dubious, that doesn’t change the fact that it is certainly possible for that to have happened when you consider the biological differences between men and women…see the Texas high school kid who crushed the women’s world record 100m time by half a second.

If the World Cup winning US women’s soccer team played any of the top 50 ranked boys high school or club teams in America they would lose handily. The same is true of the US Women’s Olympic basketball team which is an absolute juggernaut filled with the very best female players in the world. If they played any of the top 100 high school boys basketball teams in America they would lose (especially if they had to play with a boy’s basketball and not the girl’s ball which is smaller).

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A few years ago Rhonda Rousey was all the rage as she dominated women’s mixed martial arts. Rousey was submitting her opponents in record time in match after match and the media quickly grabbed hold of the story and made claims that she could beat men. Even male fighters got into the pandering game and claimed they wouldn’t want to fight Rousey…she even appeared on an episode of Entoruage to beat up one of the douchebags on that awful show. But I knew this was all nonsense, I guarantee that if Rousey fought any of the top 1,000 male MMA fighters of her same weight she would not survive a single round. The reason is that even at the same weight, men would generate considerably more power with their punches due to bone density and muscle mass. Women who try and physically match up with men are in for a rude awakening…real life is not a Hollywood movie where Brie Larson kicks ass…real life hurts when someone 40% stronger than you, with astronomically greater grip strength, grabs you and punches you in the face. Of course, Rousey proved herself to be a paper tiger when she got her head kicked in by Holly Holm and was never the same, only fighting once more a year later and getting ko’d 48 seconds into the first round by Amanda Nunes.

A few years ago John McEnroe made the mistake of stating the obvious when he said that if Serena Williams played on the men’s tour she would be ranked around 700 or so. People freaked out and got really mad at McEnroe for his claim, but that is usually what happens when bubbles are burst by reality. In 1998 both Venus and Serena Williams took on the 203rd ranked player in the world, German Karsten Braasch, in an exhibition after they challenged him. Braasch drank beer and smoked cigarettes during the change overs and was described as “no longer looking the part of an athlete”, but that didn’t stop him from beating first Serena 6-1 and then Venus 6-2. Serena went on to win the U.S. Open the next year and Venus won Wimbledon and the US Open the year after that. If you take men’s speed, endurance and strength advantages into account, it would seem likely that Serena Williams, maybe the greatest female tennis player of all-time, would not win a single set from any of the top 300 players on tour and would not win a single match against the top 1000 men in the world.

What does male physical dominance, Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey have to do with pay equality? The same thing Women’s soccer has to do with pay equality…absolutely nothing. Men have no intellectual advantages over women, and so women deserve to be paid equally for equal work based on intellect. The US women’s soccer team are not equals to their male counterparts though…they are vastly inferior and that is why they make for terrible avatars in this pay equality debate.

If women athletes want to paid the same as male athletes, let them compete against the men. Of course, they won’t do that because they are smart enough to know they would get obliterated in every sport where speed, power and strength are vital for success. This fact is made clear in the cases of male to female transgender athletes competing in women’s or girl’s sports, where they dominate, much to the chagrin of the female athletes and their families.

The bottom line is this, that the women’s soccer team isn’t nearly as good as the men’s soccer team, nor is women’s soccer anywhere near as popular as men’s soccer, even in the U.S. where MLS ratings and attendance are gargantuan compared to the ratings/attendance for NWSL (the women’s pro league). To deny these things is to deny observable and biological reality, and denying reality never lasts long or ends well.

in conclusion, women undoubtedly deserve equal pay for equal work, but the women’s soccer team is not equal to the men’s soccer team, not even close. To say other wise is to either live in delusion and fantasy or to participate in the most insidious of woke pandering, neither of which is a healthy or productive choice. If women want pay equality they should highlight the jobs where their gender differences do not put them at a decided disadvantage against men. Women should be paid equally in the board room where they are equals, but not on the athletic field, where they are not now, and never will be, equals.

©2019

Movie Subscription Services and Box Office Booms and Busts

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 02 seconds


There has been a lot of consternation out here in La La Land about the state of the movie industry in 2019. I thought I would take this opportunity to address the situation in an attempt to either allay concerns or ring the alarm bell.

The biggest reason that the money-hungry corporate overlords of Hollywood are so concerned is that the box office is down 10% from last year. There have been a lot of think pieces that speculate as to why the industry is supposedly in a gully. The most common refrain in these articles from the entertainment media is that the box office dip is due to plague of low quality, unoriginal movies and “franchise fatigue”.

These theories, on their surface, appear to be somewhat accurate, as the vast majority of movies are pretty awful and you seemingly can’t walk ten feet in Hollywood without tripping over yet another franchise film or reboot. While those two things are true, they don’t necessarily explain why the box office is down 10% this year in particular as last year Hollywood churned out a plethora of terrible movies and a cornucopia of franchise films.

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Last year and this year at the movie theatre are strikingly similar in a myriad of ways…2018 had some massive blockbusters in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, while 2019 boasts box office smashes Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. In addition, 2018 had an animated hit with Incredibles 2 and 2019 has Toy Story 4, 2018 had big box office results from secondary superhero movies, like Aquaman and Deadpool 2, while 2019 has Shazam and the soon to be released Spider Man: Far From Home. Even the sort of middle brow dramas are similar, with both years showcasing bio-pics of 1970’s rock icons, Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) and Elton John in Rocketman (2019), as are the horror/thriller films, where 2018 had A Quiet Place and 2019 has Us.

The sad reality is that, just from a quality perspective, movies from last year are just as bad as last year. The year before last, 2017, had a cavalcade of great movies, like Dunkirk, Phantom Thread and even quality big budget films like War for the Planet of the Apes. But last year and this year have both been pretty terrible for cinema. The lack of quality is certainly a big reason why the movie industry is in a creative “gully” so to speak, but it doesn’t explain why there is such a precipitous drop off in box office from last year to this.

“Franchise fatigue” is certainly something that exists…hell, I suffer from it…but that doesn’t mean it adequately explains the drop off in box office. If you look at the box office numbers, it would seem to indicate that the opposite is true. Both Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame did record breaking business this year and they are franchise films…and Black Panther and Infinity War did great last year as well. In my opinion there are most definitely storm clouds on the horizon for Marvel/Disney, but it ain’t raining yet and the sun shone upon Mickey Mouse and his Marvel compatriots brightly the last two years.

So if the studio executives and the entertainment media are wrong with their theories about the box office decline in 2019…then what is really going on with the movie industry and why? The problem with these Hollywood elites is that they don’t spend time on the ground in the battle for box office dollars. As someone who spends his time either on the ground or under it, I have some insights as to what is causing the trouble with 2019’s box office deflation.

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To start, I contend that while the box office is down this year, it is a result of a few factors, one of the most glaring is that the box office from last year was artificially inflated, thus skewing the intensity of this year’s decline. Yes, there is a decline this year compared to last, but last year was not as financially robust as it appeared to be, in fact it was a bit of a bubble.

I also contend that there is a direct correlation between last year’s box office spike and this year’s box office deflation and the rise (2018) and fall (2019) of movie subscription services like MoviePass and Sinemia. In January of 2018 there were approximately 3 million subscribers to either MoviePass, Sinemia or both. Those subscription services charged a flat fee to customers, in MoviePass’s case $9.99 for unlimited films a month, and in Sinemia’s case $14.99 for 3 films a month, and then would pay full price to theaters/studios when their customers bought tickets. The business model was obviously flawed, but the psychology of it is similar to a gym membership, as these companies were hoping people would sign up but not actually use the service. That approach failed as both services went under in various forms this year because they went deeply into debt paying the movie studios full price for the tickets their members bought.

I had both a MoviePass and Sinemia membership in 2018 and used them constantly. For me, paying $25 total per month for both services meant that if I went to just two films a month I was actually saving money, as tickets in Los Angeles can run as high $16 per movie. Considering I suffer from a medical condition called Cousin Michael-itis where I have abnormally short arms and extraordinarily deep pockets, it should be no surprise that I took advantage of these services.

In 2018 I averaged between four and five movies a month, which was a significant spike in my movie going from the previous year when I had no subscription service memberships. Through these subscription services the price of a movie ticket for me essentially dropped to around $5 per film, which made going to the movies a much more palatable option.

For me, MoviePass and Sinemia allowed me to go see movies I would never have gone to see if I had to pay full price. For example, one of my favorite films from last year was A Quiet Place, which is a horror/thriller movie, a genre I usually entirely ignore. I took a chance on A Quiet Place because I wasn’t paying $16 to see it…so why not? I ended up loving the movie and saw it TWICE using MoviePass and Sinemia, and I got other people to go see it too through passionate word of mouth and my glowing review. Hereditary was another horror film I would normally never see but took a chance on in 2018 because of MoviePass.

It wasn’t just horror movies either, by my count there are in total 26 movies in 2018, from big budget blockbusters to indy art house films, that I went to see in theatres which I never would have seen if it weren’t for MoviePass and Sinemia. Movies such as American Animals, Jurassic World, Ready Player One, Red Sparrow, First Reformed, Hearts Beat Loud, Leave No Trace, Mission Impossible, Eighth Grade, The Wife, We the Animals, A Star is Born and on and on and on.

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Now if all 3 million of these movie service’s former subscribers were like me then that means that 2018’s box office was inflated by at least 3 million full priced tickets sold on 25 films over the course of the year. (Considering the plethora of movies made last year and the subscription service's main customers being similar to me, big movie fans, it seems plausible that those extra tickets purchased could be spread over a large swath of different types of movies.) With the elimination of those extra 3 million tickets paid for by the subscription services, that would mean about a $1.125 billion difference in domestic box office gross from 2018 to 2019, and that doesn’t include peripheral gains from word of mouth marketing by subscription members (nor does it include the concessions bought by these customers at the theater which greatly enhanced theater owner profits).

The domestic box office from last year was $11.6 billion and is projected to drop 10% this year. 10% of 11.6 billion is….1.16 billion. If MoviePass and Sinemia subscribers used the service like I did in 2018, seeing an additional 25 movies that they otherwise would not have seen, that would account for an additional $1.125 billion in gross at the box office (3 million extra tickets bought for 25 films at $15 per ticket). Granted, this theory is based upon my anecdotal use of subscription services and projecting that use onto other members, but since MoviePass and Sinemia have not released the data on their users usage rates, all I can do is speculate. That said, my thesis does seem to line up pretty well with the known box office data.

The elimination of these subscription services and the billion dollars they injected into the movie industry which resulted in them basically subsidizing movie studios, seems to me to be an obvious reason for the drop in box office, yet the studios and the entertainment press, like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter (or the New York Times for that matter), never mention it as a factor, nevermind the main factor...why is that? The reason for Hollywood’s and the media’s ignorance on this issue is that while both studio executives and entertainment media consume a great deal of movies, hence their explanation being “franchise fatigue or low quality…they don’t have to pay to consume them, so ticket prices are overlooked.

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Studio execs and entertainment media either get screeners (free dvd’s from studios) or they go to free screenings. Paying to see a movie is something they rarely if ever do, and considering how much money they make, they do not ever have to consider the cost of tickets into the equation of whether they’ll see a film. If, God forbid, these people ever had to pay for a movie ticket, the difference between $5 and $15 is negligible to them in the big picture, whereas for me, and most “regular” working people, that $10 is a big deal, especially over the course of a month/year if you see multiple films. The Hollywood and media elite are immune to issues like ticket prices, but here on the ground in the battle for customers, it is a major issue. This is why studios and entertainment media are totally ignorant to the impact of MoviePass and SInemia crumbling…they suffer from what I call “Cinema Privilege”. I define Cinema Privilege as being immune to cost when it comes to consuming movies.

When I had MoviePass and Sinemia I had Cinema Privilege too…but now that I don’t have them and I have to pay full price to see a movie it greatly alters my viewing habits and the frequency of my trips to the theatre. I do not make studio executive or even Hollywood Reporter money, I run my own business and margins are thin so I do not have the cash to spend to pay full price to roll the dice on a movie that may or may not be any good (especially if odds are it isn’t very good). I think I am not alone…and thus the current cratering of box office income, and conversely, the inflating of box office last year when there were 3 million extra consumers with Cinema Privilege.

There are three movies that are often brought up when referring to the box office drought of 2019 and they are Long Shot starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogan, Late Night starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson and Booksmart, a coming of age story directed by actress Olivia Wilde. These films are held up as examples of film’s that dramatically under-performed at the box office regardless of their glowing reviews. I have not seen any of these movies as they don’t greatly interest me, but I guarantee you that I would have seen them all if I had MoviePass and Sinemia. My interest in these films is best described as mild, which is not powerful enough to get me to pay $16 to see them, but it is strong enough to get me to pay $4 or $5 to see them.

There are other reasons for the overall decline in movie going, which include but are not limited to, a dramatic diminishing of the theatre-going experience due to the epidemic of narcissism and rudeness in our culture (in 2019 alone I have had to ask people to put away their cell phones during movies four times…they have all complied…but I shouldn’t have to ask them!), as well as the increase of the home viewing experience through studios like Netflix and Amazon as well as the improvement of tv technology. But both of these reasons are more compelling in explaining the bigger picture trend of movie theatre going decline rather than just the box office drop from last year to this.

In conclusion, I think that the collapse of movie subscription services is the main reason why the box office is down 10% in 2019. I also believe that this story is under-reported because the Hollywood studios and the entertainment media are so detached from “regular” people’s movie going experience and how the exorbitant price of tickets is turning away business. If Hollywood doesn’t wake up, this disconnect between Tinseltown and their regular customers is going to lead to a very nasty reckoning that will leave the movie industry a shadow of its former self, sort of like what happened to the music industry. Hollywood is going to learn that sooner or later, when you take your customers for granted, the bill always comes due…and MoviePass and Sinemia are no longer around to subsidize their shitty product.

©2019

Meathead Beats the Dead Horse of Collusion

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 27 seconds

Hollywood is churning out all-star videos in order to try and convince Americans that Trump is guilty of “collusion”.

For the last three months there has been a bombshell story hiding in plain sight about an obscure government document that has been criminally under-reported by the establishment press. Thankfully Hollywood is here to save the day and shed some much needed light on this ever-elusive information.

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The document I am referring to, of course, is The Mueller Report, which according to Academy Award nominated filmmaker and Hillary Clinton fanatic Rob Reiner, is an absolute mystery to ordinary (non-famous) Americans. In a patriotic act the equivalent of storming the beach on D-Day, Reiner has done a truly courageous and heroic thing to bring attention to this long ignored story…he made a five-minute video with his Hollywood friends.

On Thursday, June 20th, a group named Now This put out the video directed by Reiner, that features celebrities such as Robert DeNiro, Laurence Fishburne and even former president-on-tv Martin Sheen, highlighting what they believe to be the criminality of Trump exposed in the report.

Reiner has been in the vanguard of Hollywood’s pro-Hillary contingent and is a vociferous proponent of Trump and Russia’s collusion in the 2016 election. In 2017, he teamed with Bush administration war criminal David Frum to start a group called Committee to Investigate Russia. This group also put out a video, one that starred former president-in-the-movies, Morgan Freeman, and it boldly declared that “We Are At War” with Russia.

With that statement in mind it should come as no surprise that Rob Reiner came to fame in the 1970’s playing a character named Meathead on All in the Family. It is nice to know he is still living up to the moniker. Reiner is Hollywood royalty, being the son of comedy legend Carl Reiner, then a tv star in the aforementioned Meathead years, and then becoming one of Hollywood’s most successful filmmakers, having directed hits like This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men.

In his most recent work, the Now This - Mueller Report video, Reiner tries to use his moviemaking prowess to make the argument that Trump is guilty of “collusion” but that no one realizes this because they haven’t actually read the Mueller Report. The video starts off on very shaky logical ground when just 44 seconds in Rosie Perez emphatically declares, “virtually no one has read” the report. It pains me to point out to Meathead and Ms. Perez, which could be the title of a future buddy cop movie, that the Mueller Report has been published by three different publishing companies, and all three of those versions currently sit on the New York Times best seller list at #1,#5 and #12. 

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Reiner’s claim also ignores the fact that the press has reported on “virtually” nothing but Mueller’s investigation for the last two and a half years. Considering the plethora of Mueller stories to the point of saturation in the media, the putting out of this video by Reiner is an act of animal cruelty worse than anything seen at Santa Anita racetrack because at least at the track they properly dispose of their dead horses instead of continuing to beat them.

In an amusing bit of irony, Reiner and his Hollywood cohorts who claim no one has read the report, prove themselves to either have not read it or not understood it when they repeatedly claim that Trump is proven guilt of “collusion” within its pages. The numerous references to “collusion” made me think of Reiner’s classic comedy The Princess Bride and the character Inigo Montoya who says in the film, “you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

“Collusion” is a nebulous word in the context of the Trump/Russia story and people who use it only do so to disinform and distract. As the Mueller Report states it did not use “collusion” in their assessment of potential criminality because “collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States code”.

Reiner and company intentionally say “collusion” instead of the more specific colloquial term ‘coordinated’, or the detailed legal term ‘conspiracy’, in order to mislead viewers about the contents of the Mueller Report. This obfuscation is proven by the report when it clearly states, “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian Government in its election interference activities”.

In Reiner’s video Cliff Notes version of the report he also holds up Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates meeting up with a “Russian agent” in a cigar bar in New York City in order to give him polling information as a sort of smoking gun. The video fails to mention the “Russian agent’s” name, which is Konstantin Kilimnik, maybe because he is also Ukrainian and clearly isn’t a “Russian Agent” because he was actually a “sensitive” intelligence asset for the U.S. State Department who would report to them on Ukrainian and Russian matters.

This insinuation of criminality is as equally obtuse as, and reminiscent of, the dim-witted band members from Reiner’s iconic rock and roll mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap, recalling the numerous deaths of their drummers through the years, such as the one who “died in a bizarre gardening accident” that authorities felt was “best left unsolved”, or the drummer who died when he “choked on vomit” but they didn’t know whose vomit it was because “you can’t really dust for vomit”.

The video also declares that Trump officials met with 200 Russian “operatives” and that this again is proof of “collusion”. In Reiner’s Cold War addled mind, every Russian is an “operative” or agent or asset, such as lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who is described in the video as a “Putin-connected Russian lawyer”, no doubt her “Putin-connection” comes from simply being Russian. 

The sort of Russophobic prejudice displayed by Reiner was best articulated by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, when in 2017 he said, “…Russians, who typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.”

It is obvious that the gullible Reiner has fallen prey to the insidiously deceptive media narrative of Russiagate which is the equivalent of his film The Princess Bride, where liberals are Princess Buttercup and Robert Mueller is the hero Westley, who will save them from the evil Prince Humperdinck, who is Trump.

This current insipid Reiner video is a symptom of the delusional orgy of ecstatic Trump and Russia hating in which Democrats have indulged in recent years. Like in When Harry Met Sally when an older woman (played by Rob Reiner’s actual mother, Estelle) in a diner, who witnesses Sally demonstrate to Harry how she fakes an orgasm, masterfully deadpans the line “I’ll have what she’s having”, liberals watch Rachel Maddow’s orgasmic Russiagate coverage and declare, “I’ll have what she’s having”. The Democrat hysteria over Trump and Russia results in a dangerously distorted perception of reality, a perfect example is the perilous Reiner statement “We are at War” with Russia.

The reality is that because of the intensity of Reiner’s slavish, sycophantic worship of Hillary Clinton, no matter how many political videos he makes, he will convince no one of anything except the fact that he is a rabid political dog chasing his own tail who is close to collapsing onto the floor in a dizzied state of exhaustion and madness. That is the truth, and to quote Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men, Rob Reiner simply “can’t handle the truth!”

 A version of this article was originally published on June 27, 2019 at RT.com.

©2019

False Flags and Memory Holes

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 27 seconds

On Thursday June 13th, 2019, there was an “attack” on two commercial tankers in the Gulf of Oman. This “attack” is the second on ships in the last two months, as four commercial ships were similarly targeted off of the Gulf of Oman on May 12th of this year. The U.S. claims that the “attacks” were perpetrated by Iranian forces, and say they have the evidence to “prove” it, resulting in tensions in the region ratcheting up considerably with rumors swirling of a U.S. strike against Iran in retaliation.

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Of course, just because the U.S. claims it was Iran who committed these acts, doesn’t mean it actually was Iran. The evidence put forward, including a grainy video, thus far has been laughable at best and contradicted by eye witnesses such as the crew of one of the tankers. Pictures released by the U.S. alleging to show damage from Limpit mines have holes visible on the ships well above the water line, which indicates something besides a mine created them. Another oddity about the entire episode is that none of the ships that were attacked were American, but that hasn’t stopped the U.S. from blustering on about holding Iran accountable.

A false flag is defined as “a covert operation designed to deceive; the deception creates the appearance of a particular party, group, or nation being responsible for some activity, disguising the actual source of responsibility.” If one is even remotely historically literate and has a functioning mind complete with a critical thinking reflex, these recent attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman seem to clearly be false flag attacks.

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False flags have played a pivotal role in instigating many U.S. military actions over the years. Remember the Maine! That was the rallying cry of the media to drum up the Spanish-American War back in 1898 when the U.S.S. Maine sank in Havana harbor. The truth was that the Maine sank due to an accidental explosion, but the Hearst media empire turned it into a terrorist attack and thus pushed America into war.

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As the Pentagon papers showed, The Gulf of Tonkin incident was a charade, a notorious false flag operation used to justify the U.S. fully committing to war in Vietnam. The Gulf of Tonkin was the inciting incident which directly led to the deaths of millions of people in the region, including over 58,000 U.S. servicemembers.

In Syria in 2012, rebel forces used a false flag kidnapping of NBC News reporter Richard Engel to drum up American media anger against Assad and support for the rebels. Later in the conflict these same forces used false flag chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians, aided in part by the duplicitous White Helmets, in order to goad the U.S. to commit more military forces to the war and later to launch missiles into the country.

Prefabricated lies have always been an essential tool to deceive the American populace into supporting a war. Consider the case of Iraq, where the U.S. not only concocted lies about babies dragged from incubators to start the 1991 Gulf War, but also the WMD lie just over a decade later to start the calamitous Iraq war in 2003.

All of these past false flags and manufactured lies have been disappeared, lost down our cultural memory hole, because they are evidence of a very inconvenient truth, but a truth none the less…and that truth is that not only are we often not the good guys, but most of the time we are actually the bad guys.

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In the case of the attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman, you might ask who would do such a thing? Well the answer is…the usual suspects. First on the suspect list is Israel and their American neo-con contingent that acts as a duplicitous fifth column in the U.S.. Israel, once again, wants the U.S. to fight its wars for it and so yearns for America to start military action with their regional nemesis Iran. A good indicator of this being the case is that the Israel-firsters in the media have jumped on these stories to pontificate in support of attacks on Iran. Bret Stephens of the New York Times is a perfect example of one of these types who is incapable of any complex thought or even contemplating other culprits besides Iran.

Stephens gives the deception game away in his op-ed titled, “The Pirates of Tehran”. Stephens opens the piece describing how in 1988 the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts hit an Iranian mine while sailing in the Persian Gulf. Stephens then proudly proclaims that ten days later the “U.S. Navy destroyed half of the Iranian fleet in a matter of hours. Iran did not molest the Navy or international shipping for many years thereafter.”

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The revealing thing about Stephens jaunt down memory lane regarding America’s glorious smack down of Iran is that he completely ignores the most important part of the story. That part is that just a few months after the sinking of half of the Iranian fleet, the U.S.S. Vincennes shot down Iranian Air flight 655 in Iranian air space with a surface-to-air missile, killing 290 civilians, including 66 children. The U.S. never apologized for the incident and in fact gave medals to the crew of the Vincennes for their work. The senseless slaughter of innocent men, women and children is sort of a consequential detail to skip over when imploring the U.S. military to once again aggressively act against Iran.

Stephens second deceptive tell is a doozy, as he makes the case for Iranian guilt in regards to the most recent Gulf of Oman attacks. Stephens writes, “it would require a large dose of self-deception (or conspiracy theorizing) to pretend that Iran isn’t the likely culprit”.

Stephens reveals himself to be well-acquainted with self-deception when he writes about the authenticity of claims that Iran is responsible for the attacks, “Trump might be a liar, but the U.S. military isn’t.” Someone should buy Bret Stephens a pair of testicles and a history book, hopefully one with a robust section on the Gulf of Tonkin and the Pentagon Papers.

The thing that really stood out to me in Stephens’ piece though was the charge of “conspiracy theorizing”. See, according to Bret Stephens if you don’t accept the tenuous “official story” that Iran did it, then you are the most ludicrous thing a person can be…a conspiracy theorist! Of course Bret Stephens believes in conspiracy theories too, he is a Russian collusion Truther and accepts the official 9-11 story as fact, both of which are, in fact, theories of conspiracy, but for establishmentarians like Stephens, only other people are capable of being “conspiracy theorists”.

Is it an outlandish conspiracy theory notion that Israel would be behind false flag attacks? Not exactly. A conspiracy fact is that from 1979 to 1983 Israeli intelligence agencies carried out a massive false flag car bombing campaign in Lebanon that killed hundreds in order to sow chaos and to “push the PLO to use terrorism to provide Israel with the justification for an invasion of Lebanon”? Of course this may be an inconvenient truth for the anti-conspiracy theory crowd, but it is the truth.

The one good thing about the recent spate of accusations in the media against Iran regarding these ship attacks is that most people aren’t buying it. Yes, Bret Stephens and the Israel shills in the media are pushing Iranian guilt on the public, but the public is reticent to buy into it. Go read the comments accompanying Stephens New York Times piece to see the overwhelming skepticism on display.

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Who knows how long the dam of skepticism will hold though as the anti-Iranian media pressure is relentless. A perfect example of which is how the media frames Iran’s decision to increase its uranium stockpile. The mainstream media declares that Iran by doing this Iran is breaking the Nuclear Deal…which is absurd as the U.S. BROKE THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL ALREADY BY WITHDRAWING FROM IT! There is no nuclear deal with Iran…it is null and void once the U.S. broke the agreement. But that didn’t stop the New York Times from stating in its headline, “Trump Adds Troops After Iran Says It Will Breach Nuclear Deal”. CNN’s deceptive headline reads, “Iran says it will break uranium stockpile under nuclear deal in 10 days”. To listen to the U.S. press, Iran is supposed to abide by an agreement from which the benevolent Americans “withdrew”. (notice how American’s “withdraw” from an agreement but nefarious Iranians “breach” a non-agreement…ridiculous.)

Reading the establishment press coverage on Iran is like seeing Chomsky’s thesis from Manufacturing Consent come to life before your eyes. I wholly encourage every single person on the planet to go read that book in order to see through the tsunami of horseshit that the establishment media constantly throws at us.

Israel is not the only suspect on the list….there is also Saudi Arabia. The Saudi’s are a loathsome lot and they would do anything to get the U.S. to take out their arch-rival the Iranians. The neo-cons, always a beacon of morality and ethics, are not only shills for Israel but for the tyrannical despots in the House of Saud too. Trump is enamored with both the Israelis and the Saudis, flattery and money will apparently get you everywhere when it comes to the Orange King of Queens.

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The third suspect is the military industrial complex and its intelligence agency wing in the CIA, DIA and NSA. As Smedley Butler warned us, War is a Racket, and the U.S. profits mightily from that racket. By engaging in covert false flag attacks the U.S., or elements of the U.S. government and business community, can get a war with Iran that will make them trillions.

And the final suspect is an “all of the above” combination of the first three. It is very possible that the Israeli, Saudi and U.S. intelligence agencies are working together on these false flags and in stirring up trouble in the region. Considering the strangle hold the Israelis and Saudis have on our government and politics, and the vile miscreants populating our intel agencies, this scenario may be the most likely.

The bottom line in regards to Iran is this…we have no business going to war with Iran. War is a beast that once awakened, is uncontrollable. While the U.S. may think this will be a cakewalk comprised sinking of Iranian ships or missile strikes, things rarely, if ever, go as planned. In 1988, it was 290 Iranian civilians who paid the ultimate price for American aggression, maybe this time it will be American service members who needlessly die.

Iran is no Iraq, and the Iranian government won’t fall by U.S. military action…especially without invasion. And if invasion is on the table, that is absolutely insane because both Russia and China will gladly rush to covertly supply Iran’s military and irregular forces to turn the country into a quicksand which will become the American Empire’s, and maybe even America’s grave.

Hopefully tensions with diminish in the region and this fever breaks. I certainly hope that blowhards like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton and the Israel puppets in the media are overruled by the American people who are weary or war and leery of lies.

But with that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are on the precipice of the war with Iran of which the neo-cons, Israel and Saudi Arabia have long dreamt. If that dream becomes reality, it will be a nightmare for us all.

©2019

The Emotionalist Buffoonery of Charles Blow

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 22 seconds

This past Friday night, New York Times columnist Charles Blow was a guest on Bill Maher’s insipid HBO show Real Time, where Blow made a strong case for his emotionalist buffoonery. Blow then followed that up on Monday morning when he solidified those findings with an op-ed in The New York Times.

The most glaring example of Mr. Blow’s aforementioned emotionalist buffonery occurred on Real Time during a discussion on abortion and the Hyde amendment, a 1976 law which prohibits government funds from being used on abortion. It was at this point that Mr. Blow indignantly got up on his high horse, which is no doubt named Mr. Tibbs, and proclaimed that the Hyde amendment was meant to specifically target black women.

Blow said, “they knew this was about poor women…particularly on Medicaid, and that most of those women are not white women. That this is black women who are poor. And that they were cutting off access for those women because those were the ones that they could cut it off for.”

Blow’s thesis can basically be boiled down to this…that an evil “they”, which he would no doubt label white supremacists or racists, including members of the Democratic party by the way, came together in 1976 to specifically target black women and collectively punish them by not funding their abortions through the Hyde amendment.

Even a cursory examination of Mr. Blow’s premise exposes the absurd illogic of it all, and anyone with half a brain in their head can easily discern that Blow has less than half of one in his. Blow reveals himself with this thesis to be either a liar, a moron, or both.

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Let’s dissect Mr. Blow’s premise on the most basic level. If someone is a racist or a white supremacist, why would they want to limit abortions for black women which would result in more black children being born and not less? Wouldn’t the white supremacist be afraid that the more black children there are…the more whites will have to give their hard-earned money to “welfare queens” to feed and cloth these black children? Doesn’t the racist also believe that these black children will grow to become criminally inclined black adults who will either masterfully leach off of the welfare system or rape white women and rob and steal from white men? So wouldn’t a white supremacist or racist want there to be MORE abortions of black children in order to, in their mind, “cull the savage herd”, so to speak? Obviously Mr. Blow’s thinking is at odds with itself as it believes that Hyde amendment supporters hate black people so much that they want more of them.

Another major problem with Blow’s thesis is that it distorts facts in order to make its point. Blow’s claim that “this was about poor women, particularly on Medicaid, and that most of those women are not white women” is a painful contortion of statistical reality, if not an outright lie. According to a Kaiser Family study, of all non-elderly Medicaid recipients - these are the ones who would potentially be getting abortions, whites make up 43% and blacks 18%.

It is true that a greater percentage of the black population is on non-elderly Medicaid than the white population, as blacks make up 12% of the general population and 18 % of the non-elderly Medicaid recipients, while whites make up 70% of the general population and are 43% of non-elderly Medicaid users, but in terms of raw numbers, whites are by far the highest group of recipients as nearly 24 million whites receive non-elderly Medicaid, which is double the amount of blacks that do, which is 11.5 million. If the Hyde amendment is a racist weapon to hurt black women, it might be a boomerang because it hurts considerably more white women than its alleged intended target.

Another striking thing is that the foundation of Blow’s argument about the Hyde amendment is based on the idea that blacks receive far more Medicaid benefits than whites do. This assumption by Blow is contrary to the facts and is pretty blatantly “racist”, or at least Blow would think it was if a white person espoused it.

Of course, Maher’s audience, filled with sycophants and fools, cheered Blow from his opening statement solely because he used the magic word “equality”. Any lies or distortions of statistical reality that he made after that are irrelevant to these dullards and dopes who immediately shut off their critical thinking ability and mindlessly cheer every time they hear the words “equality”, “diversity” or “inclusion”.

As for Blow’s piece in the NY Times, “‘Help Us!’ The Panic at D.C. Pride”, it is a powerful display of charlatantry and psychosis in action. In the article, Blow describes how as he was getting dressed in his hotel room in Washington D.C. this past weekend, he heard a commotion in the hallway and then four young white women were banging on his door for help. The women were running away from the Gay Pride parade where a panic had ensued when there were thought to be gunshots.

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In one of the unintentionally funnier moments in the article, Blow describes the situation thus, “they were panicked, so I figured that the best thing I could do for them was to be a calming presence.” The idea of Charles Blow, a professional hysteric, being a “calming presence” at any point in time shows you how self-deluded he really is. On top of that, can you imagine being the poor soul, running for your life and looking for someone to defend you and frantically knocking on random doors and then one opens and for a split second you think you are saved and then you realize it is Charles Blow looking back at you? How deflating must that be to think Charles Blow, the man whose panties are in a perpetual bunch, is supposed to protect and defend you from some impending danger?

The sit-com level ridiculousness of Blow helping four frightened lesbians aside, what is really striking about the article is that it is at once about a panic, yet is also an an exercise in creating and sustaining a panic.

What is most unintentionally illuminating about Blow’s article is the panic it describes is based upon a non-event, as there were no threats or guns pulled or shots fired at the Pride parade in Washington, D.C. that day. This panic was ignited by our cultural mania over “mass shootings”. Blow is blind to that irony as he writes, “Those women in my room had every right to fear for their lives. It was perfectly understandable that they could believe that a mass shooter could be anywhere…”. Blow is endorsing the notion here that the boogie man of a mass shooter could literally “be anywhere”. Under these Orwellian and broad parameters that means that there is literally nowhere where you are safe from an evil mass shooter. In theory that is true, I suppose, but it is also true of other media “boogie men” through the years, like Muslim terrorists or black gang members or Latino illegal immigrants.

The reality is that the media plants lots of fears in America’s cultural consciousness, but that doesn’t mean that they are rational. Throughout American history there have been similar panics to the current “mass shooting” panic that Charles Blow endorses. In the 1950’s there were panics over switchblades. In the 1970’s panics over crimes and drugs began and continue to this day. In the 1980’s there were panics over videogames, dungeons and dragons and AIDS, and the list goes on and on and on. Hell, the summer before 9-11 the media was in a full blown panic over shark attacks.

The panic at the Pride parade came about as a result of media conditioning people to be constantly afraid, and Mr. Blow does the same thing with his article on the subject. As Blow writes in his column, “Mass shooters have become our domestic terrorists, and the possibility of their presence and threat of their carnage is now an ambient dread in the American psyche.”

This type of conditioning is standard procedure for tyrants of every stripe, an example of which was the Bush administration’s heightening of the “ambient dread in the American psyche” over Muslims terrorists in the years after 9-11. The government and the media preyed upon people’s fear and used that fear-based compliance to eviscerate civil liberties and catastrophically invade Iraq.

Of course Muslim terrorists do exist, but fear of them is inversely proportional to the threat they represent, as over their lifetime Americans are more likely to die from from their tv falling on them than in at the hands of a foreign terrorist.

The “ambient dread” of being killed in a mass shooting is equally irrational as the lifetime odds of being killed in a mass shooting are about equal to the chance of dying by legal execution in America.

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The truth is that the media and government stoke fears in order to frighten people and trigger them to act out of emotion and not reason. A perfect example of this are the four young women in Blow’s story who, even after knowing that there was no threat, still demanded that Blow escort them out of his hotel (This begs the question, what type of weak-kneed feminists are these lesbians that they need a man to defend them, and then even need him to hold their hand once the threat is gone?). When people are scared and emotional, they are easily controlled and manipulated because they are looking for someone to protect them. In the wake of 9-11 the American people acted no different than those four women in Blow’s hotel room when they embraced the Patriot Act and then the Iraq war.

The lesson that Charles Blow learns from the hysterical panic at the Pride parade is the exact opposite of what it should be. Even after time passed and the heat of the moment cooled, instead of acknowledging the over-reaction and trying to get his readers to stay calm and think logically, Blow doubled down on the mania with his article by insisting that the irrational hysteria on display at the Pride parade is deserving of dissemination and amplification.

For Charles Blow and his ilk, subjective feelings trump objective reality and emotion is more important than reason. Blow feels like the Hyde amendment is written by racists to punish black women, and won’t let facts or logic dissuade him from that subjective feeling which is very distorted from objective reality. These four women from the Pride parade were panicked and in an emotional state but Mr. Blow doesn’t try and “be a calming presence” by recognizing objective reality of the fact that there was no shooter, and there is a very slim statistical possibility of dying at the hands of a mass shooter, but instead embraces emotionalism, irrational fear and hysteria by cultivating the hysteria and stoking the flames of fear.

The conclusion I draw from Charles Blow’s work is that he is impossibly enthralled with his identity as a victim and that distorts his grasp and perception of reality. Blow is the proverbial black hammer who sees the whole world as a racist white nail. Blow’s addiction to his victim identity blinds him to the obvious gaping holes in his logic regarding racists and the Hyde amendment and the statistical reality of the impact of that amendment on white people. It also forces him to impulsively embrace an invigorating but deceptive emotionalism which leads him to be a compulsive hysteric forever on the search for his next high of indignation and outrage. This is evidenced in his writing, as his formula for his columns is one part righteous rage, one part victim hood mantra, combined with a total lack of nuance, introspection or commitment to Truth. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The bottom line is this, Charles Blow is a raging mediocrity as a writer and an insipidly and insidiously vapid and grotesque thinker, yet because he wears the mask of the noble and defiant victim he is a “useful idiot” to those in power and is thus given a prime spot in the esteemed New York Times. And from this lofty cultural perch he does what he was hired to do…dissemble, distort, distract and disinform his readers all in service to his own narcissistic psychological desires and the status quo, which keeps him thoroughly enslaved in a perpetual cycle of victim hood.

To be fair to Charles Blow though, he and his lack of testicular fortitude and intellectual integrity are just symptoms of the disease that is currently ravaging our culture and eating away at it from the inside out. This disease of narcissism, emotionalism and the exultation of victim hood, is like syphilis, if left untreated, it leads to insanity and then death. As evidenced by Charles Blow’s recent ramblings, we are obviously well into the insanity stage.

©2019

X-Men: Dark Phoenix - A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Popcorn Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. Absolutely no reason to ever see this derivative and dull snooze of a movie.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix, written and directed by Simon Kinberg, is the the story of Jean Grey as she comes to grips with her mutant powers and murky past. The film stars Sophie Turner as Grey, with the usual X-Men suspects James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult along for the ride, as well as a supporting turn from Jessica Chastain. Dark Phoenix is the sequel to 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse and is the seventh and final installment of the current main X-Men saga.

After I see a film I usually either sit in the theatre or go out to the lobby and write down my brief thoughts. After X-Men: Dark Phoenix I sat trying to think of something to write and was stumped. It wasn’t that I had no opinion about the movie, it is that I only had the most distant, passing and fading memory of what had just transpired on screen. Dark Phoenix is such a derivative, dull and middling movie that it proves to be instantly, and almost entirely, forgettable.

X-Men movies over the last 19 years have, in general, been aggressively mediocre, visually banal and dramatically mundane (the notable exception being 2017’s Logan). While some of the X-Men movies have been mildly entertaining and thematically intriguing, for the most part they have failed to live up to their extremely rich source material.

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20th Century Fox came into the superhero market with a great deal of fanfare by handing the creative keys of the franchise to at-the-time esteemed filmmaker Bryan Singer, who directed the first film, X-Men in 2000, and four of the seven main X-Men films in total. But nearly twenty years after the X-Men’s cinematic debut, Fox leaves the superhero arena with barely an audible whimper. Dark Phoenix is a continuation of the downward trajectory of X-Men movies that was undeniable with 2016’s abysmal Apocalypse. It seems as though Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix were in a race to the bottom of the X-Men filmography…Dark Phoenix wins that race by a surprisingly strong margin, and is only notable for the fact that it is indeed the very dregs of X-Men movies.

For Fox to end their X-Men run with Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix is a humiliation almost equal to everyone’s least favorite pederast Bryan Singer’s fall from grace. One can only hope that Disney, which purchased Fox and with it the X-Men, can reboot this wayward franchise with some fresh creative blood that can resurrect this moribund series.

As for the particulars of Dark Phoenix…where to begin? The movie is stultifyingly dull, thematically trite, lazily acted, dismally written, impotently directed and is as visually stale and flat as possible. Besides that how was the play Mrs. Lincoln? No doubt better than Dark Phoenix.

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What is striking is that Dark Phoenix boasts a cavalcade of really top notch actors but is riddled with insipid performances. Jennifer Lawrence is a great actress and one of my favorites, but in her turn as Raven she so lifelessly mouths her lines it feels as if she is working the graveyard shift at the 24-hour Arby’s in Podunk, Kentucky. She seems genuinely embarrassed to be in the movie and entirely disinterested in being there.

Jessica Chastain is another quality actress who sleepwalks through Dark Phoenix. You can almost see the money signs in Chastain’s eyes as she vacantly goes through the motions.

Michael Fassbender reprises his role as Magneto and try as he might he simply cannot muster any mettle/metal in his performance…pun intended.

James McAvoy suffers even worse humiliations than the rest of the cast as in one scene, that is so ridiculous it made me laugh out loud, his Professor X is forced to “walk” on his crippled legs, to hysterical affect. This scene was like a bad Saturday Night Live skit, although that is something out of the Department of Redundancy Department.

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Sophie Turner, last seen as Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones, is the film’s lead and she does not prove herself up to the task of carrying a feature film. Turner is a beautiful women but, sadly, as my life proves, beauty can only get you so far. Turner simply does not have the skill, charisma and magnetism to command audience’s attention for a feature length film. That doesn’t mean she will never be able to do that, it just means she cannot do it now.

The overwhelming feeling I had about the cast while watching this movie was that they were simply playing out the string and cashing in while they could. This is the last X-Men movie of this cycle, and these actors will most likely never play these roles again…so they need to get while the getting is good…and these performances felt more like a heist and a getaway than commitment to acting artistry. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that, the mortgage isn’t going to pay for itself after all, but it definitely leaves a sour taste in the mouth of fans as the movie’s stars grab the money and hustle to get out of Dodge as fast as they can.

Simon Kinberg wrote and directed Dark Phoenix, proving that he is not even remotely good at writing or directing. Kinberg’s script is abominable and his miserable direction is a major reason why such a stellar cast turned in such horrendous performances.

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Kinberg’s script is so shallow and empty that the biggest feeling I had at the end of the movie is…what is the point of it? Obviously the point is to make money, which it might, but on a more philosophical level the question truly is…what is the purpose and meaning behind this movie? What is the animating philosophical/psychological/spiritual principle of this movie? Yes, the film does have some of the usual Girl Power posing and preening, which has become de rigueur lately, sprinkled throughout. Lines like “since women are always saving the men around here you should change the name to X-Women"!” and “your mind has been poisoned by men with small minds” and “you’re not a little girl anymore” and my favorite exchange where the villain (a female) says to Jean Grey, “you’re emotions make you weak” and Jean replies, “no, my emotions make me strong!” give the impression of a philosophical foundation but are nothing more than vapid and vacuous bullshit meant to appease and patronize the neo-feminists in Hollywood and no one else. In reality the film has no philosophical, logical, dramatic or narrative foundation upon which to build itself, instead it is a soulless, paint by numbers exercise in vacant big budget franchise movie making and nothing else.

In conclusion, Dark Phoenix is a flaccid, unimaginative cinematic venture that is truly unsatisfying in every single way. Even if you are a super hero fanatic, there is absolutely no reason to see this movie in the theatres or anywhere else for that matter. Sadly, this Phoenix was engulfed in the flames of its awfulness and avarice but was never able to rise from the ashes of its own failings and should be condemned to remain forever alone in the Dark…where it truly belongs.

©2019

Brief Thoughts Before the End of Game of Thrones

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 14 seconds

When Game of Thrones first appeared on HBO I admit I was skeptical. In general I don’t watch much television except for whatever sporting event that isn’t golf I happen to stumble upon, but I do usually make an exception for HBO.

I prefer to watch HBO because their shows are not suffocated within what I call the “Network Box”. The Network Box is why most network tv shows suck…they are stuck in a box of creative limitations in terms of what they can say and show, and monetary limitations in terms of how much money they must generate in order for the network to stick with them.

On network shows the language is censored, the violence muted and the nudity non-existent. Because of this it all feels so…manufactured and phony. And because the network’s demand so much ad revenue for each show, niche programs stand little chance of surviving their early years when they are building an audience and creative momentum. So why watch network TV when it is all garbage and anything worthwhile will be cancelled before there is any resolution to the story. And so…I generally give HBO shows a chance because they have more likelihood of being good and of not being cancelled if they aren’t blockbusters right away.

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That said, I watched Game of Thrones originally more out of an obligation than out of interest for that first season. Then something completely miraculous happened…at the end of season one Ned Stark got his head chopped off. Stark, who was played by Sean Bean, the biggest star on the show, was the central character for season one, and when he found himself kneeling with the executioners axe poised over his neck, I watched with a bemused detachment.

As that scene unfolded I kept trying to figure out how Ned would be saved…who would swing in, or ride by, and in typical Hollywood fashion, somehow save the star. But then they actually cut Ned’s head off and I literally jumped up from my seat. I was startled, unnerved, exhilarated, agitated, excited and shocked. I was pacing my empty living room yelling aloud, “HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!!”It was at that moment that Game of Thrones made its bones! Ned’s head was gone and it was on!

I never became a Game of Thrones superfan. I never read the books or delved into the maze of online fan sites and theories and such. I did watch every episode though, but if I am being honest, I rarely knew what the hell was happening or who half the people were, but that didn’t matter. The show as beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, well-written and was never miserly with violence or nudity. As I was fond of saying to friends about Game of Thrones, “come for the blood and guts, stay for the boobs and bush”…and that is exactly what I did.

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One of the great not-so-secrets of Game of Thrones’ success was that it would take the most mundane scenes, filled with nothing but expository writing on the political machinations or history of Westeros, and turn it into interesting eye candy by setting the non-action in a brothel or bedroom with beautiful women, and occasionally men, cavorting in the background in all of their Medieval naked glory. Game of Thrones seemed to understand the most basic laws of human nature…which are, in no particular order…people like to look at beautiful people, people like to look at beautiful people naked, and people like to look at two or more beautiful people naked and simulating sex.

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Besides the naked bodies and the consequence filled violence, the highlight of the show for me were the dragons. When Dany’s three fire-breathing, winged progeny grew up and took to the world, they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen on television. When the dragons were unleashed in battle, whether it be to save Dany from an assassination attempt, or to nearly kill Jaime, or to save Jon from the wights…they were glorious. When the undead ice dragon obliterated The Wall, it was simply stunning to behold. And when Dany went full Dresden and unchained Drogon to shock and awe in the battle of Kings Landing last week, it was absolutely spectacular. Remarkably well shot, with seamless special effects, the aerial destruction of Kings Landing was one of the greatest visual sequence ever seen on television.

In addition, when Drogon’s head came out of the darkness on the beach in last week’s episode to incinerate Varys…that was a truly delicious shot. It was also an example of creation through limitation…as the darkness wasn’t just visually striking…it saved money, as they only had to do a limited amount of CGI for the dragon head and not the whole body.

Which brings us to the budget issue. Game of Thrones has an enormous budget, the equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster, but it isn’t unlimited. As I wrote earlier in regards to the Battle of Winterfell, that episode’s dark and muddy visuals which so many, myself included, found annoying, could very well be a result of penny-pinching and cutting corners in order to save money for the Battle of Kings Landing. Sure enough, last week’s Battle of Kings Landing was everything that this season’s earlier Battle of Winterfell was not. It was crystal clear, visually coherent and cinematically gorgeous.

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Another complaint many have had, myself included, regarding the final two half seasons is that the narrative has seemed decidedly rushed, and thus less cohesive and coherent, especially in contrast with the pace of the earlier seasons. In my opinion, the story would have been better served had they done two full seasons instead of two half seasons, but again, the budget is probably the reason that didn’t happen.

If the producers had done two full seasons then the cast may have been up for significant pay raises and would have had a tremendous amount of leverage with which to get those pay raises. By doing two half seasons, the showrunners are only paying the cast for one full season, thus keeping them on their original “rookie” contracts and avoiding shelling out a big pay day.

The budget issue is a complex one and there are no doubt mitigating and complicating factors all the way around, including but not limited to people not wanting to be stuck working on this project any longer. Yes, Game of Thrones is undoubtedly the greatest thing most of these folks, be they actors, crew or producers, will ever be associated with, but working in TV is a grind, and working on a show in far off locales even more so. As successful as the Game of Thrones has been, I’m sure nearly everyone working on it is relieved it is over.

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This is just my opinion…and I am not the one writing the checks…but I would have preferred not only two full seasons but also a flipping of the Battle of Winterfell and the Battle of Kings Landing. To me, I think it makes more narrative and creative sense, at least in hindsight, to have the beautiful Battle of Kings Landing first, and then the Battle of Winterfell in the penultimate episode. Of course, I would also want to spend more money and have the Battle of Winterfell shot entirely differently and even have a different ending, as the one they went with was way to Hollywood for my tastes and out of character for the show.

Also, I would still have Jaime and Cersei die at the Battle of Kings Landing in each other’s arms, which was very poetic, but just not by being buried under rumble, which was not visually satisfying. I would have had them try to escape, then see Dany on Drogon, and Dany see them, and she and Cersei make eye contact, then Cersei and Jaime have their final goodbye conversation and hug and then…DRACARYS…and the Lannister twin’s charred remains would be frozen in an eternal embrace. But again…this is just my opinion and I am sure others have differing ones that are just as valid.

As for what will happen in the finale…I have absolutely no idea mostly because I am still not even sure what the hell has already happened. As I wrote before, the bottom line is this, we should enjoy Game of Thrones and the Game of Thrones phenomenon while is lasts because we will see nothing like it ever again. Sure, people will try to copy its success, but cultural forces will limit what other series can do in Game of Thrones‘ wake, and will no doubt make little more than cheap, watered-down, politically correct and tokenly diverse imitations on the original rather than improvements.

You only get one shot at ending something as epic as Game of Thrones. As of right now, the show’s creators, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, have definitely faltered coming down the abbreviated stretch. That said, it is not impossible, but certainly not likely, that Weiss and Benioff could right the ship in the show’s final eighty minutes. Whether they stick the Game of Thrones landing or not, Weiss and Benioff should be lauded for having gone as far as they have with this show and having been as successful as they have been with it. Game of Thrones is a monumental television achievement and regardless of whether it ends as well as it began, we should be grateful of that fact and shouldn’t lose sight of it.

©2019

Undead Army of the Woke Will Make Sure Game of Thrones is the Last Show of Its Kind

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 04 seconds

****WARNING: This article contains some information about Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame that might be considered minor spoilers if you haven’t watched the series or seen the movie yet. You’ve been warned.****

The surge of political correctness in recent years all but assures that in the future, edgy shows like Game of Thrones will be strangled in their creative cradle.

In 2011, Game of Thrones premiered on HBO as an exceedingly well-acted and beautifully photographed fantasy-drama of swords and sex, chock full of palace intrigue, familial rivalry and violent conquest. The show flouted Hollywood storytelling conventions and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Sadly, we will never be able to enjoy anything like Game of Thrones ever again.

The reason that we’ll never see anything like Game of Thrones again is because in the eight years since the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novels first hit the small screen, much has changed, and not just in the mythical land of Westeros. In the real world, and the unreal one of social media, political correctness has taken the throne and vanquished all contenders, leaving the bloody head of rational thought on the end of a spike as a warning to anyone who dare speak up against the zeitgeist of neo-feminism, inclusivity and a coddling sensitivity.

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In the past few years, movements like #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo have dramatically changed the landscape of Hollywood by weaponizing diversity and victimhood and using them to bludgeon opponents and silence dissent. The “woke”, whom Merriam-Websters defines as those being “aware of and actively attentive to…issues of racial and social justice”, have taken over the entertainment industry. Just like the Night King’s Army of the Dead broke through The Northern Wall to attempt to destroy all of humanity in Westeros, the Army of the Woke now march on our popular culture intent on obliterating all worthwhile entertainment.

A wonderful example of the vacuity of wokeness came in the form of a Game of Thrones outrage tweet from actress and high-priestess of political correctness, Jessica Chastain, where she slammed the show for the character Sansa’s claim that having survived a plethora of traumas, including rape, transformed her into a strong woman.

Chastain tweeted,

“Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger. A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The #littlebird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone.”

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Chastain’s tweet is not only an advertisement for her intellectual dwarfism, not to be confused with the intellect of a dwarf, which Tyrion proves can be formidable, but also an actual advertisement. “Phoenix” is a reference to Chastain’s new X-Men movie, Dark Phoenix, which also happens to star Sophie Turner who plays Sansa on Game of Thrones. It appears Jessica Chastain’s superpowers include self-promotion and shamelessness.

Like Chastain, the pc brigade turns everything, including popular entertainment, into a referendum on social justice issues and their own self-worth. The woke spend their time not enjoying arts and entertainment but rather policing them in search of offense or wrong-think in the hopes that they will get the joyous opportunity to vent their self-righteous rage.

Evidence of this is found in articles from major publications with headlines such as, “Game of Thrones Treatment of Women Will Tarnish Its Legacy”, “On Game of Thrones Daenerys Targaryen faces a sexist double bind – like so many women leaders”, “Game of Thrones Keeps Killing Off Entire Immigrant Populations, And It’s a Problem”, “’There are no black people on Game of Thrones’: why is fantasy TV so white?”, “Racist or just bad writing? What Game of Thrones latest shocking death says about the show”, “Game of Thrones: too much racism and sexism – so I stopped watching”, and finally “My Feminist Opinions Ruined Game of Thrones for My Boyfriend”. These stories are emblematic of the fact that the woke are social media Savanarolas perpetually in search of works of art or entertainment to throw onto their bonfire of the vanities. These people don’t just want their politically correct opinions to “ruin Game of Thrones for their boyfriend”, but to ruin all of popular culture for everybody.

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The feminist criticisms of Game of Thrones are particularly vapid because they are so demonstrably wrong, as women are the most pivotal and powerful characters on the show. The most formidable and effective rulers on Game of Thrones have been Queen Cersei and her nemesis Daenerys, Mother of Dragons. Arya Stark has gone from a little girl to the deadliest warrior in all of Westeros, who became a legend when she killed the Night King. Ser Brienne of Tarth, the first women to ever become a knight, is the most noble and honorable knight in all the Seven Kingdoms. And last but not least is Sansa Stark, who has suffered brutally but whose resilience has allowed her to become the ruler of the North and, who knows, maybe even sit on the Iron Throne when all is said and done.

All of these women have faced great difficulties and horrendous challenges, but they have prevailed not only in spite of them but because of them. In Game of Thrones as in life, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, but the woke warriors either lack the interest or ability to interpret the show in any other way than to see women and minorities as victims.

If you want to see the future of popular entertainment in the wake of Game of Thrones, look no further than the corporate behemoth Disney and their Marvel and Star Wars franchises. The first phase of the twenty-two film Marvel Cinematic Universe just concluded with Avengers: Endgame, and the woke contingent’s victory is obvious with Captain America now a black man and Iron Man replaced as the center of the story by an all-powerful female character, Captain Marvel.

The Star Wars films too have devolved into a politically correct mess where diversity and inclusivity trump narrative cohesion and dramatic coherence. And if you publicly voice displeasure about the direction of Marvel or Star Wars…you are labeled a misogynist and racist troll.

Game of Thrones warned us for years that “Winter is Coming”…well, winter is now here, and hordes of woke zombies have descended upon us to suffocate all but the most sterile of entertainment. Just like Varys and The Unsullied were castrated on Game of Thrones, so our popular entertainment is being neutered, except this time with the dull blade of politically correct utopianism.

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A version of this article was originally published on May 17, 2019 at RT.com.

©2019

Avengers: Endgame - A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Popcorn Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. If you like Marvel movies you’ll love this one. A satisfactory conclusion to the epic twenty-two film run of this phase of the Marvel Cinematic Unvierse.

Avengers: Endgame, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, is the story of the Marvel Avengers as they do battle with super villain Thanos. The film stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Chris Hemsworth, Josh Brolin and a plethora of other movie stars.

Avengers: Endgame is the fourth Avengers film and is the direct sequel to last years smash hit Avengers: Infinity War. Endgame is also the twenty-second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and marks the conclusion of this cycle of Marvel movies.

Just as super villain Thanos became a de facto god by acquiring the infinity stones, Disney, under the leadership of my dear friend Bob Iger, has turned into an all powerful entertainment industry god by acquiring over the years Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Now, with the additional purchase of Fox, Disney will hold an astonishing 40% market share of the box office.

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The crown jewel, at least right now, in Disney’s empire is the aforementioned Marvel behemoth, which Disney bought in 2009 for $4 billion and which has brought in around $20 billion in box office gross alone over the last ten years. I have not always liked the Marvel movies, in fact, I’ve downright loathed a good number of them, but I readily admit that what Disney has pulled off with their Marvel Cinematic Universe is a stunning achievement in popular entertainment that will never be duplicated. To be able to roll out twenty-two different movies over a decade and weave all of the characters and story lines together into a coherent and cohesive whole that culminates in two gigantic movie events, Infinity War and Endgame, is a Hollywood miracle. One need look no further than the shitshow over at Warner Brothers and their inept handling of the DC Cinematic Universe (Batman, Superman etc.) post Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy to recognize how remarkable Disney’s efficiency and acumen regarding the Marvel properties has been. No doubt Disney will be further rewarded for their corporate diligence by Endgame’s box office which will break all sorts of records as it rockets past the two billion dollar mark in two weeks with ease.

As previously stated, I have disliked some of the Marvel movies, the first two Avenger movies in particular were quite dreadful. The Marvel movie formula has always been geared more toward adolescent boys…even the middle-aged ones, with lots of light-hearted action, noise and destruction all with some witty one-liners and comedic self-consciousness thrown in. The Marvel universe is decidedly fictional, a piece of escapist fantasy…whereas something like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy for example, is more grounded in a recognizable, but very dark, “reality”. Marvel’s lack of grit has always irked me because their line up of characters is chock full of archetypal riches which are begging to explored in a psychologically and culturally serious way.

But with that said, I have also loved a few of Marvel’s formulaic films, with Infinity War and Thor: Ragnarok being prime examples. Infinity War is easily the best film in the MCU and that is because its narrative is the darkest and most consequential of all the movies. While Endgame has a certain darkness to it, is not as nearly as good as Infinity War, but it isn’t awful either.

Endgame is really more an event than a movie, a culmination of the franchise that is the perfect embodiment of everything good and bad in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the plus side it has fascinating archetypal characters and great moments of poignancy and levity, but on the downside it also has some narrative incoherence, sense-assaulting battle scenes that are relentlessly vapid, and a heavy dose of cringe worthy “wokeness” and political correctness that is shameless in its corporate human resources level pandering.

All of that said, Endgame succeeds because it ultimately satisfies on an emotional, psychological and narrative level as a conclusion to the twenty-two film Marvel epic that has dominated popular culture for the last decade. The story leaves no loose ends or arcs unfulfilled, and that is really all you can ask from a movie like this.

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The sun at the center of this cinematic universe is Robert Downey Jr, whose skill, charisma and charm have propelled the MCU forward from day one. Without Downey Jr as Iron Man, none of this stuff works…none of it. Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Mark Ruffalo and all the rest do solid work as their respective super heroes, but none of them could carry this franchise like Downey Jr. has. When Downey Jr. stops being Iron Man, and that day will eventually come, Marvel/Disney is going to take a big hit…I promise you that.

The ensemble of Endgame all do decent if unspectacular work with a few notable exceptions. On the plus side, Paul Rudd and Chris Hemsworth are fantastic, as both of them fully commit and have impeccable comedy chops (who would’ve thought that Thor would be the comedy gold in the Marvel universe?). As for the negative side…good lord…Brie Larson is just dreadful. Now to be fair, I have not seen Captain Marvel…so maybe she is great in that, but in Endgame you could’ve replaced her with a cigar store wooden Indian and it wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference. Larson is so dead-eyed it seems like she died on the table while undergoing a charisma bypass and we are left to watch her corpse be animatronically maneuvered throughout the movie.

There are also some issues with narrative incoherence in the film, mostly dealing with the topic of time travel. The lack of “time travel rules” clarity makes the whole enterprise pretty confusing and logically unstable if you try and follow it too closely. The best approach is to leave logic at home, where it is hopefully safe and sound, and just go with where the movie takes you. The logic/time travel issue though is a big reason that the film doesn’t soared like Infinity War did, which had a very clear and concise plot from which all of the action seamlessly flowed. In Endgame the plot feels more like a manufactured way for Disney to escape any commitment to what took place in Infinity War that could dare harm the corporate bottom line by taking away some cash cows.

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While Endgame is the end of this phase of the MCU, Disney has a plethora of Marvel movies lined up for the next few years as they keep the assembly line going. As stated, the next phase is going to have a bumpy time of it as Disney is trying to transition to younger and more diverse stars to refill some roles. Disney is betting big that Brie Larson and Captain Marvel will be the female equivalent of Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man, the new sun at the center of the Marvel universe. That is a bad bet, as Larson has big shoes to fill and very little feet with which to fill them.

Disney’s desire for more diverse Marvel movie characters, like a Black Captain America or a Latina Hulk, may (or may not) be a noble idea, but just as it did in comic book sales, it will negatively affect the bottom line at the box office. In my opinion it will also affect the artistic and cultural value of the films, for as I keep saying, “wokeness kills art”….but that is a painful discussion for another day.

In conclusion, Avengers: Endgame is a worthy finish to this phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. The film has its ups and downs but ultimately is a satisfactory ending for the long journey we’ve all been on with these characters over the last decade. If your a fan of super hero movies, you should plunk down your Disney tax and help pad Bob Iger’s bank account by seeing the movie in the theatre. If you have just a passing interest in super hero movies, then wait for it to come out on cable or on Disney’s soon to be active streaming service, which will no doubt bring in even more gobs of money for Mickey Mouse. But Mickey should enjoy this ride while it lasts, because it won’t last forever. Just over the horizon there could be some some stormy weather waiting for Disney.

©2019

United Sheep of America: Assange, Fascism and Liberal Hypocrisy

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Estimated reading Time: 3 minutes 48 seconds

LIBERALS BETRAYING ASSANGE EMPOWER FASCISM

 Establishment liberal’s loathing of Julian Assange has emboldened fascists across the globe.

Fascism, which the Oxford dictionary defines as “extreme authoritarian, oppressive, or intolerant views or practices”, is a relentless force that, whether it be out in the world or in our own hearts, is always on the march. The world is, as they say, full of little men (and women) in search of a balcony, and we are all iron-fisted, tiny tyrants-in-waiting.

Proof of that was easily observable this past Thursday, April 11th, 2019, which is a date that will live in infamy, as it is the one where any pretense of liberal resistance to fascism finally crumbled and chose to live on its knees rather than die on its feet.

On that date, the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by British police after the U.S. unsealed an indictment for “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” against him in the Eastern District of Virginia and sent an extradition request to the British government.

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The vindictive actions of the authoritarian U.S., British and Ecuadorian governments are not what will taint this date in history though, as their behavior is entirely predictable in terms of its immoral and despotic nature, instead what will echo throughout history regarding Assange’s arrest will be the gleeful reaction by my fellow liberals to the thuggish behavior from their government.

The liberal cries of delight at the sight of Assange being manhandled by British police are a turning point in the war for America’s soul, just as symbolically significant and crucial as Winston Smith’s spirit being broken when he finally relented and declared that “2 + 2 = 5” in Orwell’s 1984.

The acquiescence of many liberals to the establishment narrative regarding Assange, that he is a rogue, narcissistic hacker, rapist and cyber-terrorist, is the death knell for any serious intellectual or political resistance to the powerful and brutish beast of American fascism, corporatism, oligarchy, plutocracy, aristocracy and the totalitarianism of the military and intelligence industrial complex.

You would think that the mainstream media, usually so adversarial toward Trump, would furiously condemn him for arresting Assange, but that is not the case. The majority of the corporate media are in lockstep agreement with Trump regarding the Assange indictment.

The New York Times stated, “The administration has begun well by charging Mr. Assange with an indisputable crime”.

The Grey Lady aided and abetted the Bush administration’s Iraq War lies as well as their surveillance and torture programs, so their support of Trump’s assault on the First Amendment via Assange is in keeping with their boot-licking character.

The Washington Post claimed, “Julian Assange is not a free-press hero. And he is long overdue for personal accountability.”

The Washington Post’s current position on Assange’s is curious since the underlying evidence in the case has not changed since Bradley Manning was court-martialed for espionage in 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in prison. In 2013, The Post reported the Obama administration considered indicting Assange for the Manning leak, but decided against it because,

“If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who publish classified material, including the Washington Post…”

As former Bush Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith opined in 2011 in The Post, “A conviction would also cause collateral damage to American media freedoms. It is difficult to distinguish Assange or Wikileaks from The Washington Post.”

It seems that time has not healed the corporate media’s old Assange wound but rather has made it fester, so much so that they would prefer to cut off their nose to spite their face.

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The media and liberal reaction to Assange arrest proves that American fascism’s ruthless march to total victory won’t just be televised, it will be greeted with approval by those who claim to be fearless and tenacious opponents of it.

The liberals who responded to Assange’s arrest with the most craven and ignorant cheers are the same ones who decry Trump at every turn, frantically raising the alarm over press freedoms when he attacks the media and labels journalists the “enemy of the people”. These supposedly devout anti-fascists and anti-Trumpists love to compare Trump to Hitler and vociferously decry his assault on the press, yet they shriek with joy when their nemesis arrests Julian Assange, an actual, and extremely effective, journalist.

To further highlight the hypocrisy, the fact that with the Manning leak, Assange and Wikileaks exposed a cavalcade of war crimes committed by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, which included the murder to two Reuter’s journalists, apparently holds no water with these charlatans, as it is never mentioned when they boldly assert that Assange “is not a journalist”.

Assange and Wikileaks have routinely pulled back the veil of respectability and revealed the duplicity and depravity of the American government, and yet, the damning truth is that the criminals they exposed walk free and Assange and Manning sit rotting in jail. Liberals who disgustingly celebrate this fact are entirely devoid of any moral authority whatsoever.

These liberal resistance ne’er-do-wells are so intellectually, politically, philosophically, spiritually, morally and ethically emaciated that their only animating principle is an outrage fueled emotionalism born of tribalism that blinds them to the fact that with their subservience regarding Assange’s (and Manning’s) persecution, they have handed Trump and their other enemies a powerful weapon which will certainly be used against them.

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Anti-Trump resistance poseurs like to talk about “Russia-gate” and Trumpists being Putin’s “useful idiots”, well, there may be no more useful an idiot than the one who doesn’t sell you the rope with which you intend to hang them, but just gives it to you as a gift, like establishment liberals just did by supporting Trump’s prosecution of Assange.

These supposed stalwarts of liberal values in the anti-Trump resistance have repeatedly revealed their true nature by slavishly sanctifying and deifying insidious intelligence community criminals like John Brennan, James Clapper, Michael Hayden and Robert Mueller. Now, with Assange’s arrest, they once again align with the evil establishment against those who would expose the mendacity, criminality and corruption of those in power.

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I would say that Assange’s arrest and the liberal reaction to it is a case of American fascism crossing the Rubicon, but the truth is the Rubicon is so far in the rear view mirror the next river crossed will be the Congo. We are now deep into the heart of darkness and Assange’s incarceration (and the liberal joy over it) is akin to the extinguishing of our last light source as the long, cold night of tyranny descends.

It is clear to see that these Assange-loathing liberals and resistance dilettantes are just as totalitarian and fascist as Trump. The cold, hard reality is that you cannot both cheer Assange’s arrest and also believe in transparency and accountability and you also cannot both advocate for Assange’s prosecution and also for a free press. Silencing Assange is the silencing of any true resistance, but obviously these self-anointed and self-reverential liberal “resistors” are not really interested in actually resisting authoritarianism, only in posing and preening.

Liberals who believe and propagate the establishment’s narrative about Assange are nothing but shills, dupes and dopes complicit in empowering fascism. Those that cheer Assange’s detainment are enemies of freedom and liberty and they will get the fascist, tyrannical, authoritarian government they have earned. And when that totalitarian beast comes for them like it did for Julian Assange, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

©2019

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley - A Review

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****THIS REVIEW REVEALS SOME MINOR INFORMATION FROM THE DOCUMENTARY!! NOTHING MAJOR - BUT YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!****

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT/SKIP IT. This documentary is mildly entertaining but lacks insight and depth. Not awful, but not transcendent either…if the subject matter intrigues you then check it out.

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, directed and produced by Alex Gibney, is an HBO original documentary film that examines the meteoric rise of “inventor” Elizabeth Holmes and her health technology company Theranos.

There is nothing quite as enjoyable to me as a great documentary. I can watch truly great documentaries over and over as they feel like miniature master degrees in whatever subject they dissect. Film’s like Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job, Errol Morris’ The Fog of War or just about anything by Adam Curtis are films I revisit nearly every year and never regret it.

I was excited to see Academy Award and Emmy Award winning director Alex Gibney’s new documentary The Inventor, as he definitely has a knack for choosing fascinating topics. That said, Gibney, who won his Oscar for the profound Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) and multiple Emmys for the stunning Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, can be an uneven filmmaker who often explores intriguing topics in his movies but at times fails to adequately document his subjects to a deep enough degree to satisfy beyond a passing and surface interest.

The Inventor is one of those type of Gibney films that tackles an interesting topic but fails to do so in an in-depth enough and compelling enough way. The Inventor reminded me a little bit of his highly praised (it won 3 Emmy awards) film about Scientology, Going Clear. I liked Going Clear and found it to be engaging to a certain degree, but ultimately it fell well short of being an earth-shattering revelation. Similar to Gibney’s film on Wikileaks and Julian Assange, We Steal Secrets, a pretty shameless and embarrassing hatchet job on Assange, with The Inventor Gibney seems to be seeing his subject through a biased lens. With We Steal Secrets, Gibney’s was decidedly against Assange, but inThe Inventor he is most definitely biased in favor of Elizabeth Holmes….but more on that in a bit.

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With The Inventor, Gibney once again dives into a riveting subject, but only swims in the shallow water of it and fails to give viewers much to sink their teeth into beyond the headlines. Elizabeth Holmes is a character for the ages, but Gibney barely scratch the surface of who she REALLY is in this film. On top of that Gibney never gets deep enough into the weeds of what exactly Holmes was trying to create at Theranos and how she planned to do it, to ever make viewers feel like anything more than just another mark for her con.

The film, while entertaining to a certain degree, is problematic for a variety of other reasons as well. The most glaring of which is the blind spot the filmmaker has in regards to his subject. Yes, Gibney exposes Holmes’ fraud, but he never exposes HER for being a fraud. Instead, what Gibney does is cloak Holmes in a protective blanket which imbues on her with only the best of intentions and the inability to be consciously or maliciously deceptive.

In this way Alex Gibney is recreating the same psychological, mental and emotional gymnastics that Elizabeth Holmes’ targets did when they fell under her spell. Holmes weilded her femininity like a martial art against the patriarchal system within she worked. Holmes’ juijitsu turned the unconscious sexism and paternalism of the men she targeted against them. The paternalism, sexism and soft misogyny of the powerful men she conned, who are a Murderer’s Row of Hall of Fame assholes that include men like Bill Clinton, General Mattis, David Boies, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz (who proves what a ass he is by siding with Holmes over his own grandson) among many others, caused them to fall for Holmes’ lies for two reasons. The first is that they overestimated her intellect and value because, ironically, they wanted to be seen supporting a women in order to quell their fear of being labelled sexist. The secondly, due to their paternalism and sexism, they underestimated Holmes’ ability for villainy, and she exploited the weakness of these men to her benefit.

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The irony of Holmes’ epic story is that these powerful men treated Holmes different and held her to a different standard BECAUSE she was a women. The reporters and writers who aided her rise to the status of media darling and science and business genius did the same thing, failing to adequately doubt and question her simply because they never considered she was capable of straight out lying to them. Even the reporters who spoke with her AFTER her scam became public, men like Sanjay Gupta and Jim Cramer, didn’t hold her feet to the fire like they would have with a man. Holmes was able to keep her scam alive for so long because these men treated her with kid gloves.

Interestingly enough, Holmes’s scam almost never got started because of a women, Professor Phyllis Gardner, her advisor at Stanford, who basically told Holmes her idea was scientifically impossible. Instead of trying to change her advisor’s mind, Holmes changed advisors…which is a perfect encapsulation of Elizabeth Holmes approach to life. In my eyes, at best, Holmes’ suffers from a the most acute case of cognitive dissonance on the planet, at worst she is a conniving and manipulative criminal mastermind. For director Gibney, who refuses to consider that Holmes was driven by greed for money, power and fame, Holmes is earnest in intent but misguided in execution. According to Gibney, Holmes’ greatest sin is being too much of a zealot for her noble cause.

The reality is that if Holmes were a man, the idea that she wasn’t anything but a greedy and evil con artist would never even remotely be considered…and rightfully so. Think of all the Wall Street snakes who scammed Americans out of their savings with the housing bubble, nobody thinks, “oh gee…they just wanted everyone to be able to own a home”…no…people think that those pricks were trying to get rich off the backs of working people…because that is exactly what they were doing.

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In the case of Alex Gibney’s film, he seems to suffer from an unconscious bias that makes him hold Holmes to a very different standard and lets her off the hook for her nefariousness activities. An example of this is that besides lowering Holmes intent and responsibility regarding fraud, he also lowers the standard for her regarding her sexual relationship at work. Holmes started dating Sunny Balwani, a tech entrepreneur twenty years her senior, when she was 19 and he was married to another woman. Balwani was a key advisor to Holmes in the early development of Theranos and after he got divorced from his wife, Holmes moved in with him. Balwani eventually became second in command to Holmes at Theranos but when the sham was exposed and things went bad for the company, she broke up with him and fired him. If a man had behaved the way Holmes did in her personal life, it would have been a much greater focus of the story of The Inventor, and would have been used to establish the lack of moral and ethical fiber of the person running the company. But in The Inventor, the fact of Holmes questionable conduct with Balwani is reduced to nothing more than a throw away line near the end of the film.

At the end of the day, Holmes captivates our imagination because she is so representative of the surreal age in which we live. Holmes is emblematic of our scam culture where style overwhelms substance, the subjective trumps the objective, where shortcuts are the only way to travel and truth is a punchline.

Holmes is similar to Trump in that her con is so obvious that it is stunning that anybody falls for it. Like Trump with his signature (and ridiculous) hair-do and his never buttoned blue suits with long ties, Holmes literally wore a costume, all black with a black turtleneck, a cheap imitation of her hero Steve Jobs.

Her use of story and language was also absurdly obvious as to her dishonesty as she simply regurgitated and repeated the same origin story over and over again and then used pseudo-scientific/tech marketing talk to cover her lack of any substance. Words like “inflection point” and “paradigm shift” or the use of “chemistry” as a verb were dead giveaways to her deceitful intent.

The most glaring giveaway though was her voice. Good Lord that voice. Her voice is so phony and put on it is remarkable no one did a spit-take in her face upon hearing it. But the voice gives away the game that she is an obvious fraud and walking lie…and those that fell for scam did so BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO FALL FOR IT. These people, and they were mostly men, wanted Holmes’ story to be true so they convinced themselves that it was.

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In this way Holmes is also the symbol for today’s neo-feminism, which alleges to want equality but only accepts the diminishing of standards and the lowering of bars for women. Neo-feminism loves to demand equal opportunity but also loves to shirk equal responsibility. That said, it is pretty amusing that Holmes used the patriarchy’s literal and symbolic desire for her and their shameless politically correct yearning to be seen as “allies” to women, to advance her scam and sucker investors and big names to support her fraudulent project.

None of these types of subjects, like Holmes as symbol for modern feminism, or the ingrained sexism of the men who fell for her, or the soft treatment she got because she was a women being integral to her scam flourishing, are ever broached by Gibney in his film. Instead Gibney sticks to a very straightforward and very forgiving narrative that never gets too deep or too insightful and the film suffers because of it.

According to Gibney’s movie, Holmes’ scam is just something that happened that is not indicative of anything else and is not symbolic of the age of fraud in which we live. The reality is very different, as one glance at the news will tell you that Elizabeth Holmes is the poster girl for our times. Our charlatan president, the Russiagate hysteria, the Fyre Festival nonsense, the college admission payola scam, Jussie Smollett’s shenanigans and on and on and on including our fraudulent economy and political system…are all hoaxes, scams and frauds. This is why Elizabeth Holmes is the poster girl for our times and it is a shame that Alex Gibney did not have the insight, self-knowledge and skill to bring that much deeper and more important story to light.

In conclusion, while The Inventor is entertaining on a certain gossipy level, it lacks the insight, depth of subject and profundity to be considered a great documentary. The film is currently airing on HBO, so if you want to spend two hours being mildly amused at the absurdity of it all, then you should check out The Inventor, just don’t expect transendance.

©2019

Russiagate: Puzzlements and Lost Causes

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Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes 11 seconds

On Sunday, March 24, 2019, Attorney General William Barr released a brief summary of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s findings regarding the Russiagate matter. According to Barr’s summary, while Mueller makes no determination regarding obstruction of justice, the special prosecutor does declare that there was no collusion or conspiracy between Trump, his campaign, and the Russian government during the 2016 election.

This finding came as a great shock to the mainstream media and many Democrats who had been touting Russiagate as a weapon to bring down Trump’s presidency. It would seem, at least according to Barr’s summary, that these folks were wrong.

The reality appears to be that Russiagate was a ruse, a hoax perpetuated by the establishment media over the last two and half years and swallowed whole by the vast majority of liberals. This Russiagate fraud came about through the perfect combination of mendacity and greed on the part of the media and Democratic elites and confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, denial and delusion on the part of the #Resistance, liberals and anti-Trumpists.

Not everyone was wrong about Russiagate though, as people like Glenn Greenwald, Aaron Mate, Michael Tracey, Matt Taibbi, Caitlyn Johnstone, Jimmy Dore and others maintained a healthy and accurate skepticism regarding the Russiagate claims being made by the establishment press and Democrats. You know who else didn’t buy into the Russiagate hype? Me.

My first comments on the Russiagate story came in December of 2016 after Donald Trump’s upset win in the presidential election, when I wrote an article about how Democrats, liberals and progressives should proceed in the age of Trump. This article, the contents of which led to me being ex-communicated from the Church of the Woke and expelled from the Society of the Right Thinking, was titled “A Practical Handbook to Survive and Thrive in the Age of Trump”. Here is an excerpt from that piece.

The final point I will make to you is this...I know this story circulating lately about Russia interfering with the election in Trump's favor is tantalizing, but please do not embrace it. I am telling you, the more you want a story to be true the more skeptical you should be of it. This "Russia hacked our election" story…is fools gold. These stories being breathlessly reported by the establishment media are all based on unnamed official sources. Please just wait until there is actual, tangible evidence put forth, and even then be very, very skeptical. This whole Russia hacking episode reeks of the wishful thinking that was going around (especially in establishment media circles) in the build up to the Iraq war. There was no evidence then either, but people wanted those stories to be true so they gave them the benefit of the doubt. This Russia story is even less credible at the moment and even more dangerous…Do not fall for this Russia story trap. Don't do it, one way or another you will live to regret it. I promise you that.

That was published in December of 2016. For nearly two and a half years now I have consistently preached skepticism regarding the Russiagate story, and for nearly two and a half years I and other Russiagate skeptics like Greenwald, Mate, Taibbi et al, have been persistently attacked for that position and have had such slurs as Putin shill, traitor and the worst of all…Trump supporter, thrown at us.

Yul Brenner sums up my feelings toward Russiagate best with a song…and yes…I am aware that Yul Brenner was Russian.

It would seem, at least on the surface, that in regards to Russiagate I was right and my numerous detractors were wrong. Of course the possibility certainly exists that Barr’s summary is directly at odds with Mueller’s findings, and I have no doubt that Mueller’s report contains much more damage to Trump than Barr lets on. But with that said, it seems highly unlikely that Mueller would quietly sit by and let Barr distort his work without speaking up*. Proof of this is that this past January Mueller broke his silence to shoot down a Buzzfeed story claiming that Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, so he is obviously comfortable pushing back against falsehoods being disseminated in the public sphere. (*Please see Addendum at the bottom of this article)

Even though Mueller has found “no collusion or conspiracy” regarding Russiagate, it is also worth noting that from day one I have never trusted Robert Mueller and have repeatedly warned Democrats about embracing him (it should also be noted that I don’t trust Barr either, as both Barr and Mueller are creatures of the deep state who are right at home in the swamp) . I have often reminded liberals of Mueller’s long list of “problematic” behavior, such as his pushing the Iraq/WMD lie, his abuse of civil liberties and rounding up of Muslims after 9-11 and his botching of the post 9-11 Anthrax investigation. But instead of being wary of Mueller, the #Resistance deified and sainted him, putting him on a pedestal like some golden calf they could worship. St. Mueller was, to mix various horror story metaphors, the noble Van Helsing who had the silver bullet that would bring down the Trumpenstein monster. The #Resistance believed in him faithfully and fully…and since he hasn’t given them Trump’s head on a platter as they expected, they are left with egg on their faces.

Obviously, I was not shocked by Mueller’s alleged findings as I have been saying all along that it was clear there has not been any evidence brought forth that would substantiate the “collusion” claim. Sure there have been a lot of news stories and pundits claiming to know for a fact that Trump did “collude” with Russia, but there was never any solid evidence to back up this speculation. I was certainly always open to the possibility of collusion and open to any evidence brought forth, but none ever was.

CONSPIRACY THEORY

One big indicator that the media was more interested in conjuring Russian boogey men in order to knee-cap Trump and less interested in the Truth, was the language they used regarding Russiagate. The term “collusion” is a non-legal word that was continuously bandied about but is so amorphous that it could mean just about anything. The proper term for what was alleged in Russiagate is Conspiracy. Conspiracy is not only an accurate descriptive term but also a clearly defined legal term.

When the media refused to call Russiagate a conspiracy, it was a strong hint that there wasn’t much evidence underlying their conjecture. The reason for this is that you can twist “facts” to fit a nebulous charge like “collusion”, but it is much harder to do the same thing to a specific legal charge like conspiracy.

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The other, and maybe more telling, reason that the word conspiracy was never used is that the media has spent the last sixty years or so denigrating the term and turning it into a cudgel to be used against enemies of the establishment. From the JFK assassination to 9-11 and beyond, anyone who deviates from the establishment narrative is labelled a “conspiracy theorist” in order to destroy their credibility without ever engaging their actual arguments. The problem for the media now though, is that Russiagate was an alleged conspiracy, and media speculation on Russiagate is the definition of a CONSPIRACY THEORY…because it theorizes a conspiracy.

As I wrote in September of 2017 in an article titled “The Media Hates Conspiracy Theories…Except When They Don’t”,

If the Russians did collude with Trump and interfere in the election, than that is most definitely a...conspiracy, but interestingly enough, the news media are very careful to not ever call the Russia story a "conspiracy". The establishment has so systematically and thoroughly degraded the word conspiracy that they cannot even use it when they are alleging an honest to goodness conspiracy in which they themselves actually believe. 

The failure of the corporate media to call Russigate what it is/was…a conspiracy theory…was a giant red flag that the story was at best being manipulated and at worst manufactured. The semantics used by the corporate media around certain stories, like Russiagate, is extremely enlightening as the choice of words they use, and don’t use, reveals a great deal about motive and intent. For instance, since Attorney General William Barr’s letter regarding the Mueller report came out declaring “no collusion”, the establishment press has referred to Barr as Trump’s “hand-picked” Attorney General. This indicates an intent to deceive the viewer/reader as anyone who has a rudimentary understanding of civics knows that ALL ATTORNEY GENERALS ARE HAND-PICKED…that is how you get the job. By adding the qualifier that Barr is “hand-picked” you can quickly deduce that the person saying that phrase is not an honest broker and is twisting facts to fit an agenda.

In terms of the “conspiracy theory” idea, another blurb from my September 2017 article,

As a result of the distinction between official and alternative conspiracies, we get Rachel Maddow whole-heartedly embracing the Russian election conspiracy theory to the point that she makes Glenn Beck look like Walter Cronkite and Sean Hannity look like Edward R. Murrow. Maddow sees Russians behind every single thing that happens and furiously reports it as though she's found the Lindberg baby in the arms of Jimmy Hoffa. This should not be surprising though, as when it comes to the "officially" sanctioned Russian conspiracy theory, anything goes. Even the most stodgy of old school media entities have embraced the most batshit conspiracy peddlers in regards to the Russian story, one need look no further than the New York Times op-ed page where the certifiably insane Louise Mensch was allowed to write a pieceas proof of that.

Maddow may end up being totally right about Russia, and everything she is reporting true, but there has not been any solid, tangible evidence put forward to date to corroborate the claims of Russian interference she embraces. None.

What is ironic is that the same media that refused to describe Russiagate as a conspiracy theory, were quick to equate it with two events that attract quite a bit of conspiracy theories. Many in the establishment pundit class described the alleged Russian election interference as the modern day equivalent of “Pearl Harbor” or “9-11” and as an “act of war”. Of course, thousands of Americans died heinous deaths at Pearl Harbor and on 9-11, so the analogy was always painfully hyperbolic as well as very extremely dangerous since if it were an “act of war” that would mean we would be obligated TO GO TO WAR WITH RUSSIA. Once again, these sorts of semantic flourishes such as relating Russiagate to 9-11 or Pearl Harbor and calling the alleged interference an act of war, reveal a stark dishonesty and lack of credibility.

Regarding Russiagate and 9-11 comparisons, it is interesting that in terms of evidence, there is considerably more evidence in the public domain that 9-11 was an “inside job”, which is another amorphous term like “collusion”, than there is that Trump conspired with Russia or even that Russia ever hacked the DNC or interfered in the election at all.

Even though that is the case, the media would never in a million years allow people to come on cable networks and espouse the belief that 9-11 was an “inside job”, and they sure as hell would never make that the official position of their networks and dedicate years of coverage to it like they did with the conspiracy theory of Russiagate. The New York Times would never grant a “conspiracy theorist” like Alex Jones the prestigious position of space on their op-ed page to speculate on Bush being involved with the 9-11 hijackers through his family’s connection with the House of Saud…but they did basically the same thing when they let certifiable conspiracy loon and fantasist Louise Mensch write an op-ed about Russiagate.

RUSSOPHOBIA, MICROWAVE WEAPONS AND CRICKETS

The truth is that the establishment media loathes all “conspiracy theories” except for the ones they love. And when they love a conspiracy theory they don’t call it a conspiracy theory…they simply call it news. Russiagate is obviously one example of that, but there are a plethora of other Russia related stories that fit the bill as well.

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Remember the story that broke this past September where both the New York Times and NBC News breathlessly reported that the reason that a group of U.S. “diplomats” in Cuba had fallen ill was because the Russians had attacked them with a mysterious microwave weapon? I wrote an article for CounterPunch in September titled “A Curious Case of Mystery Attacks, Microwaves and Media Manipulation”, shredding those “microwave attack” stories as being obvious nonsense and anti-Russian propaganda.

After meticulously dismantling the outrageous claims made in these news reports about a “Russian mystery microwave attack”, I ended my piece with this,

These incidents may very well be proven to be attacks, and Russia may ultimately be responsible for them, but we should wait for actual evidence and not accept whispered innuendo wrapped in a slavish deference to intelligence agency authority as proof…

Similar to the delirious fever for war in the lead up to Iraq, the media are currently suffering from a virulent hysteria, this time of the anti-Russian variety. Now more than ever it is imperative to maintain a healthy and vigilant skepticism whenever Russia is blamed for misdeeds but there is a dearth or absence of concrete evidence. If we succumb to the corporate media’s Siren’s call of compulsive Russia blaming, our new Cold war may just turn very hot, and that will be a catastrophe for all of us.

Months later it was reported that scientists studying the incidents and illnesses that sparked the
”microwave weapon” speculation, now conclude that they are not the result of a “microwave attack”, but rather a reaction to the noise made by a particular type of cricket during mating season.

The “collusion” claims made by the media seemed to me to be very similar to the “microwave weapon attack” story in that they fell flat on their face upon closer inspection. There is a long list of similarly dubious anti-Russian stories in recent years and they all crumble upon even the most rudimentary examination. There was “Russia hacked the Vermont electrical grid”, “Russia hacked C-Span”, “DNC emails were altered”, “Russian spy-harlot used sex to infiltrate America”, “Russia could turn off the heat in the U.S.”, “Michael Cohen went to Prague”, “Manafort visited Assange” and on and on and on. These stories all garnered lots of attention and lots of headlines and then a few days or weeks later had to be retracted or amended because they were at best misleading and at worst outright fabrications.

ASSESSING THE ASSESSMENT

Just like these other fabulist anti-Russia stories, Russiagate was bound to collapse because it was built on an unstable foundation that was devoid of facts and evidence and rife with innuendo and assumption. The founding document of Russiagate is the aptly titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections”. This assessment, which was published on January 6, 2016, was such a flimsy, tenuous and superficial document that it was utterly startling, and frankly alarming, to witness it being taken so seriously.

The document contains not a single shred of hard evidence of Russian interference in the election, and only uses outdated and specious claims against the Russian news channel RT as proof of Russia’s nefarious actions and intents during the 2016 election. For example, here is a quote from an article I wrote in January of 2017 titled “Through the Looking Glass” where I describe the case made in the assessment for Russia’s guilt regarding election interference. (FULL DISCLOSURE - While I was not a contributing writer for RT at the time I wrote “Through the Looking Glass”, I am now.)

Another section…will come as quite a shock to liberals and Democrats…in the lead up to the 2012, again, to be clear, this is not the 2016 election but the 2012 election, RT aired a documentary on Occupy Wall Street that the report described like this…"RT framed the movement (Occupy Wall Street) as a fight against the ruling class and described the current US political system as corrupt and dominated by corporations". Is there any rational and uncompromised human being on the planet who would describe the US political system any other way?

…other parts…of the report say that RT "alleges widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality and drone use" in America. Another part says that RT is attacking the US by criticizing "alleged Wall street greed." Let that one sink in for a minute. I hope liberals and Democrats are starting to understand how this report, and the intelligence community that prepared it, are not your friends, not by a long shot. Neither are they friends of Truth. 

Every single liberal I spoke with about the assessment agreed with it fully…but not surprisingly none of them had ever laid eyes on it. I encouraged everyone to read it but most never did. I would ask these liberals if they were against fracking and police brutality and supportive of Occupy Wall Street and to a person they all said they were…and when I informed them that the assessment asserted that RT covering those subjects was evidence of a nefarious Russian plot to undermine American democracy, they were left befuddled. To me it was obvious that the intelligence community was using anti-Trump hatred and fervor among the #Resistance as a way to surreptitiously criminalize left wing political beliefs through this assessment. Of course people thought I was crazy and ignored my warnings and instead put their faith in the intel community and eventually in St. Mueller.

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Without fail, the media and Democrat talking point regarding the assessment was that it was “all 17 intelligence agencies” that declared that Russia interfered in the election. This establishment media talking point of “all 17 intelligence agencies” quickly became the chorus of the hit song “Intel Assessment”, the first single off of the album Russiagate, and was meant to stifle dissent, debate or questioning of the assessment and its findings. Everybody sang this tune…from establishment court jesters on Late Night TV to the journalists at tony institutions like the New York Times to the blathering buffoons of cable news and cocktail party goers who wanted to sound informed. Of course, the problem was that the talking point was patently false. It wasn’t “all 17 intel agencies”, it was parts of four intel agencies…the Office of the Director of National Intelligence with specifically selected analysts from the NSA, CIA and FBI. This is just one of many false narratives that were implanted into the public consciousness by the media and that became ingrained in individual’s minds and solidified as “fact”.

CONFIRMATION BIAS

Speaking of people’s minds, this might be a good time to examine why it was that so many people, in the media and out, fell for the Russiagate hoax hook, line and sinker. I believe that the main reason for this is our old nemesis confirmation bias.

The reason the #Resistance embraced the assessment (even when they never read it) is because the assessment told them what they wanted to hear, and since the assessment made them feel better they didn’t want to dig deeper into it out of the fear they may find out it wasn’t the truth. This is how confirmation bias works.

The intel assessment in particular, and Russiagate in general, confirmed all of the biases of the #Resistance and the establishment. It allowed these folks to believe that Trump didn’t legitimately win, Hillary didn’t lose and more importantly, that they weren’t so spectacularly wrong.

Russiagate had a convenient scapegoat for all that ailed the #Resistance and the establishment…namely Russia. Russia had put Trump in office and Russia had denied Hillary her rightful place on the throne, because of this belief any and all stories and speculation about Russia (and Trump) were immediately assumed to be true. All Russia related claims weren’t taken as truth because after a reasoned weighing of the evidence conclusions were drawn, but rather because those claims on their face simply made people feel better.

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Declaring that Russia hacked the election, the DNC, C-Span, Vermont, American diplomat’s brains and all the rest, made people feel good…or at least gave them a brief reprieve from their Trump induced anxiety, fury or depression from which they suffered. That is what confirmation bias does, it excludes negative information that challenges your bias and heightens positive information that confirms it in order to buttress your belief system.

Confirmation bias is radioactive to the critical thinking function. This is why it is so dangerous for the #Resistance. Immediately after Trump’s victory there was a tsunami of “unfriending” in liberal circles where anyone who disagreed with Clinton supporters was exiled, I know this because it happened to me and some of my compatriots. Instead of self-examination in the wake of Hillary’s loss, Clinton supporters doubled down on their confirmation bias and tightened the lock on their echo chamber…which is part of the reason why they lost in the first place. It was in this echo chamber that Russiagate was born and prospered, like a fungus thriving in the darkness of intentional ignorance.

It is in these hermetically sealed echo chambers where “conspiracy theories” and “conspiracy thinking” flourish because ideas are never challenged and sharpened but rather are coddled and grow flaccid. The echo chamber insidiously replaces critical thinking with a proud and defiant emotionalism.

The lesson of all this is quite clear…allegedly ”serious” people love to denigrate conspiracy theories…except when those conspiracy theories confirm their biases. If a conspiracy theory tells people what they want to hear then it will gain traction in whatever community needs for it to be believed regardless of how tenuous the supporting evidence for it may be. In the case of the Russiagate conspiracy theory, it told millions of Democrats and establishmentarians exactly what they wanted to hear….that Trump was the lowest of the low, a traitor who only won by cheating…which made them feel good and allowed them to ignore their responsibility in his victory.

MEDIA MALPRACTICE

Media con artists and grifters, like the vacuous and repugnant frauds Luke Harding, Malcolm Nance, Jonathon Chait and David Corn or the coterie of professional liars from the intelligence community like John Brennan, James Clapper and Jeremy Bash or the journalistic poseurs at CNN or MSNBC, like the ridiculous Rachel Maddow. Nicolle Wallace, Chris Hayes and Chris Matthews, and at The New York Times and the Washington Post, pushed a plethora of Russiagate bullshit stories and narratives for all they were worth and made millions and billions by doing nothing more than making anti-Trumpists feel good by confirming their biases.

Harding, Nance and Corn all wrote books about the Russiagate story that alleged to show the “truth” but were little more than shallow and shameless attempts to pad their bank account at the expense of their #Resistance marks. The Mueller report has decimated the credibility of these men and their books, but that has only forced them to double down on their extravagant claims. And of course, no one in the media is being held accountable for their journalistic malpractice and malfeasance.

Speaking of malfeasance, former head of the CIA John Brennan was lionized by the corporate press as a paragon of truth and honor when he declared Trump a traitor. When Trump revoked Brennan’s security clearance last year, the media reacted as if Trump had sodomized Brennan on national television and excoriated the president for being so petty to a “true American hero”.

As I wrote in regards to the media and the #Resistance (in this case at a taping of Bill Maher’s HBO show) fawning over Brennan in an article last August titled “In a Fit of Anti-Trump Pique, Liberals Shamelessly Embrace Deep State Criminals”,

The nadir for the #Resistance occurred shortly thereafter as Brennan rumbled on stage and was greeted by the eruption of a raucous standing ovation by the liberal audience, with Little Bill calling it a "well-deserved standing ovation". Only in the bizarre universe where a silver-spooned, multi-bankrupted, reality television star is president does a former CIA director who has committed crimes and war crimes such as implementing and covering up Bush's rendition and torture regime, spying on the U.S. Senate and masterminding Obama's deadly drone program, get a delirious ovation from those on the left.

Brennan was deeply involved in Russiagate, as he was Director of the CIA when the alleged election meddling occurred. Brennan then used his “intel insider status” to get a job at MSNBC as a talking head and then spent his time on air making outrageous claims about Trump and the devious Russians. Now that Mueller has cleared Trump of collusion, Brennan says he must’ve gotten “bad information”…or as I have been warning for years now, maybe he is just a bad guy who is prone to lying…his history seems to back my assertion. Of course, liberals ignored my warnings on Brennan (and Mueller) because what Brennan told them confirmed their bias and made them feel better.

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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was the ringmaster of the cable news circus that was Russiagate. Maddow peddled any and all Russophobic conspiracy theory she could get her hands on and her audience ate it up. Maddow’s ratings shot to the penthouse as her integrity went to the bottom of the septic tank. Maddow exploited her audience’s desire for denial by going full Glenn Beck…and you never want to go full Glenn Beck. It is obvious that Maddow made the business decision to tell people what they wanted to hear (confirm their bias) as opposed to the journalistic decision to tell people the Truth.

What is so repugnant to me is that Maddow, Nance, Corn, Harding, Brennan and the rest of the corporate media lap dogs all preyed upon the grief of hurt Democrats in the wake of Trump’s election and sold them a bill of goods regarding Russiagate. MSNBC, CNN, NY Times, Washington Post and the rest of the corporate media exploited vulnerable people who were in pain for their own aggrandizement and monetary gain. These media con-artists did what all con-artists do, they told their marks exactly what they wanted to hear in order to bilk them and enrich themselves.

RUSSIAGATE AUTOPSY - HOW AND WHY

The foundation from which this perfect storm of fraud called Russiagate took root, grew and raged among the elite as well as the rank and file Democrats and liberals was the deep, profound and disorienting grief that staunch supporters of Hillary Clinton fell into after Trump’s 2016 election victory.

Some liberals (women in particular), with a large assist from the media, projected a great deal of cultural, political, psychological and personal meaning onto Hillary Clinton and her 2016 candidacy, understandably so considering she was the first woman to be a presidential candidate from a major party. These supporters projected themselves onto Hillary and she became an avatar and an archetypal symbol for their hopes, dreams, struggles and lives.

These projections fostered a deeply personal and powerful emotional attachment to Hillary among some voters (most particularly, but not exclusively, female Democrats). The problem with this type of projection and archetypal emotional connection is that it often breeds an emotionalism that leads to a crippling of the critical thinking function…and so it was with these particular type of Clinton supporters. The simple idea that Hillary could lose to, in their eyes, such a repugnant, sexist pig as Trump, was entirely inconceivable to these type of Hillary supporters (in the media and the public) because their projections and emotional attachment, and its accompanying emotionalism, caused a myopia and historical amnesia that led them to be blinded to reality on the ground.

TRAUMA

Due to this emotionally induced blindness, when Clinton lost the electoral college to Trump it wasn’t just a defeat or disappointment or shock to these Clinton projectors/supporters…it was a trauma….and I do not use that term lightly. Trauma is derived from the Greek word trauma, which means “ a wound, a hurt; a defeat”, and Clinton projectors/supporters suffered a trauma in every sense of the word as they were “wounded”, “hurt” and “defeated”.

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In psychological terms, Hillary’s defeat to Trump felt like an actual physical or sexual assault upon these Clinton projectors/supporters. I know that sounds crazy, but it is true, and proof of it is that Clinton projectors/supporters have been suffering from post traumatic stress for the past two and a half years.

If you look at the symptoms of PTSD they read like a perfect descriptor of Clinton projectors/supporters behavior since Trump defeated Hillary.

1. IRRITABLE OR AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR - Since Trump’s victory and Hillary’s defeat, Clinton projector/supporters have ranted and raved incessantly, called all Trump voters racist and misogynyst, advocated the punching of alt-right members and cheered when it happened, and also shouted at and banned right wing public figures from restaurants and certain spaces. Russiagate was also a form of this symptom of PTSD as evidenced by the wildly aggressive charges and conspiracies being bandied about by supposedly serious journalists.

2. RECKLESS AND SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR - This is Russiagate in a nutshell. Instead of being rational and logical, Clinton projectors/supporters in the media and the general public threw ever more wild accusations at Trump thinking that Mueller would be the tool by which to remove him from office. The story was a nothing burger from day one…a total farce…but Clinton projectors/supporters were blind to it…and now they have handed Trump a powerful weapon for his reelection. Russiagate is a wonderful example of reckless and self-destructive behavior and cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face.

3. HYPERVIGILANCE - This again took the form of Russiagate, as the media and Clinton true believers saw Russian boogey men and women around every corner. Rachel Maddow and her fans are the poster children for this form of nonsensical and hysterical hypervigilance.

4. EXAGGERATED STARTLE RESPONSE - Again…this is Russiagate in a nutshell as it is an entirely exaggerated startle response. See Rachel Maddow and her co-”conspirators” in the establishment press who are so quick to turn everything Trump does into a Russian conspiracy and the apocalypse. Clinton supporters also pretend like everything was fine before Trump and have an exaggerated startle response when he acts just like every other asshole president we’ve had.

ON DEATH AND DYING

Besides suffering from Trump related PTSD, Clinton projectors/supporters are also suffering from grief. All losses are accompanied by grief of one form or another, and political losses are no different. When reality does not conform to your dreams, then there is a grieving that occurs…but in the case of Hillary projectors/supporters, that grief was much, much more intense than usual. A female candidate didn’t just lose, which would be bad enough as it would signal or reinforce feelings of personal unworthiness among Hillary’s projectors/supporters, but she lost to a man deemed to be not just a misogynist but an abhorrent sexual predator and racist monster. Hillary’s loss seen through this lens, which is the lens that the Hillary projectors/supporters used, was a catastrophic political, moral and ethical defeat, a personal repudiation and a trauma.

In the wake of Hillary’s loss, these projectors/supporters dove into the deep end of the grief pool with the added complication of the burden of PTSD, and the result was that they frothed and flailed and raged about desperately looking for something for which to grasp. The Clinton campaign and the media tossed them a lifebuoy with “Russiagate” written on the side of it and these projector/supporters grabbed on to it with a maniacal fervor.

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According to the Kubler-Ross model, there are five stages of grief that in chronological order are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages of grief never quite go in as linear a fashion as one might expect. Grief is usually a one step forward, two steps back type of process where the stage you are in can change from moment to moment and day to day, sometimes moving forward, sometimes moving back.

In the case of Clinton projectors/supporters, Russiagate short-circuited the grief cycle and created a grief vortex where they repeatedly vacillate between denial and anger. Russiagate allowed these wounded, confused, traumatized and grieving Clinton projectors/supporters to cling to the hope that none of it had happened, that none of it was real and that they had been “right” all along. The problem is that reality and time inevitably transform an open system of hope into the closed system of denial. Some of these Clinton projectors/supporters became such dead-enders that they still defiantly declare that Hillary should be sworn in because she is the rightfully and duly elected president…which is a very clear indication of denial winning the day.

HELLO, COG DIS MY OLD FRIEND

The bottom line was this, that Clinton projectors/supporters were in such pain in the wake of Trump’s victory that they would do anything to alleviate that pain. One way to alleviate that pain was through confirmation bias, another was through outright denial, and yet another was through our old friend cognitive dissonance.

As I wrote in my article “Truth, Justice and the Curious Case of Chris Kyle” back in 2014,

Cognitive Dissonance is "psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously". People will contort in all sorts of ways to avoid seeing the uncomfortable truth that is right in front of their eyes and facing that conflict.

In the case of Chris Kyle, his supporters vociferously attacked me for pointing out the incongruity of his tall tales regarding his shooting of two carjackers, his “discovery” of WMD’s in Iraq and a plethora of other lies. These Kyle supporters were struggling with the discomfort of reading information that was at odds with their previously held belief. In order to alleviate that discomfort, they ignored the new information and attacked the source of it…me.

In the case of the 2016 election, Clinton supporters suffered from a similar malady where they simply could not accept that Hillary lost the election, and maybe even more importantly, that Trump actually won it. They were so emotionally attached to Clinton and their dream of a female President that the new information, Trump’s win, caused tremendous psychological discomfort…and in order to alleviate that discomfort they simply denied the new information with the delusion of Russiagate.

Clinton projectors/supporters simply cannot accept the reality of Trump as president and Hillary as defeated because it is so damaging to their identity and their cosmology. So instead they suspend their disbelief by short circuiting their critical thinking, and embrace the delusion of Russiagate.

When news stories appeared that alleged to show Trump’s guilt regarding collusion, liberals would celebrate like it was Christmas morning and pass the stories around like gifts. Days, or even hours later, when those stories were shot down, liberals simply ignored the new information, preferring to live in the delusion upholding grandeur of the original story.

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The most glaring example of this is the infamous Steele Dossier, which alleged all sorts of suspicious activity on the part of Trump…the most embarrassing being the supposed “pee tape”. The Steele Dossier has been thoroughly debunked, so much so that even establishment shills like Michael Isikoff, who wrote an entire book with David Corn based upon the presumption that the Steele Dossier was accurate, have now declared it to be totally false. But liberals still cling to the Steele Dossier as if it is the gospel truth, and most believe that Trump is “compromised” (and in attempts to sound sophisticated use terms like “Kompromat”) by the Russians who have “pee tape” or something much worse on him.

The Steele Dossier claimed that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen went to Prague to collude with Russians and the media and liberals clung to this story as damning evidence of collusion. But when Cohen flipped on Trump he testified under oath before Congress he swore he had never been to Prague. Instead of accepting and integrating this new information, liberals and the corporate media instead posited that Cohen was telling the truth in his testimony about everything except the Prague stuff…this is what cognitive dissonance looks like in action.

More from my Chris Kyle article,

What usually occurs when people are presented with new information that clashes with their strongly held belief, is that they "seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists."

Russiagate was the magic bullet for Clinton projectors/supporters and the #Resistance because it allowed them to alleviate their cognitive dissonance through confirmation bias, which allowed them to live in a state of denial and delusion.

Russiagate may have felt like a lifesaver at the time for these traumatized and hurting Clinton projectors/supporters, but as I pointed out right after the election, it was not a life jacket but an albatross. Denial is normal and natural when grieving, but if you stay in it too long you never evolve and heal from the wound. In the case of Russiagate, the #Resistance and the Clinton projectors/supporters, denial became an addiction that needed to be fed to be maintained in order to keep the pain of reality at bay. This addiction, like all addictions when they are so acute, was accompanied by hysteria, mania and delusion.

NEO-CONNING

The biggest winners in the Russiagate fiasco are not the Trumps, but the neo-cons, who have long wished for a revived war with Russia, be it cold or hot, and now they have not only their conservative cohorts on board but a plethora of supposed liberals who have been duped by Russiagate.

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In a fevered attempt to take down Trump through Russiagate, the #Resistance made the calamitous mistake when they whole-heartedly embraced and rehabilitated the neo-cons from the Bush administration who lied us into Iraq and who were aided and abetted in that crime by the same corporate media that has been pushing Russiagate. The Decider himself, George W. Bush, has even been rehabilitated and transformed from being a war criminal and worst president ever to being hailed as a man of great principle and deep character all because he gave a candy to Michelle Obama at a funeral.

Other neo-cons, such as the reprehensible Bill Kristol and David Frum, are now held in the highest esteem by those who should know better just because they oppose Trump on stylistic grounds. Besides reviving the neo-cons and exorcising their Iraq ghosts, the #Resistance also warmly embraced the neo-liberals and their economics which gave us the 2008 housing collapse and the big bailouts among other notable disasters. Russiagate makes for strange bedfellows…but the #Resistance is going to find out that when you sleep with war criminals and banking fraud pigs, you wake up with blood on your hands and smelling like shit.

CONSEQUENCES

The long-term consequences of going all in on Russiagate for the #Resistance, Clinton projectors/supporters and the media are dire.

In their fever and fervor to bring down Trump, the media have handed him a gift of epic proportions by stripping themselves of any last vestiges of credibility they had left. Trump’s favorite claim is that of “fake news”, and when something comes out that makes him look bad, he labels it “fake news” and the media and #Resistance goes crazy. Now with Russiagate, the media have propagated the motherload of “fake news” and have legitimized Trump’s future claims of “fake news”, thus neutering themselves as a functioning and vital part of our Republic.

The Russiagate fiasco is a weapon that Trump will now use to bludgeon his enemies and to protect himself from any further charges of wrong doing (of which, I am sure, there are a lot), and it is entirely the fault of the fourth estate and the #Resistance for having gotten out ahead of themselves and the evidence.

Sadly, just as with their utter failure regarding the Iraq War and WMD’s, the media will face no consequences for their miscarriage of journalism in the case of Russiagate. The loudest media voices that got it wrong…AGAIN…will simply fail upwards and maintain their standing as guardians of the establishment just as they did after the Iraq/WMD mess. The corporate media in America is so tainted and so toxic that it is a cancer on our culture and simply cannot be trusted at all anymore…and that is dangerous for our Republic.

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR

While the media is certainly to blame for this Russia-Gate fiasco, at some point people need to take responsibility for their own thinking, or lack thereof. How many times does the media have to reveal itself to be a mendacious propaganda machine before people wake up and push back? The media malpractice in their coverage of the Iraq War/WMD lies, the housing collapse, the Chris Kyle fabrications, the cavalcade of anti-Russian misreporting, the Jussie Smollett nonsense, the Russiagate fraud, how many more times does the media have to prove itself to be untrustworthy before people start holding them accountable?

And this is not some frivolous question, this is crucial for the survival of the Republic. If the press cannot function with some semblance of impartiality, journalistic quality and professionalism then an authoritarian will simply use the public’s distrust and disgust with them to his advantage and will further erode our already tenuous civil liberties….oh wait…that is already happening!

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That is the most frustrating thing about the Russiagate horseshit…it has aided, abetted and emboldened Trump. This shouldn’t be surprising since the corporate media were already complicit in getting Trump elected the first time, but now with their incessant shrieking about the Russiagate “collusion” hoax they have given Trump a great boost for 2020.

At this point in the Russiagate story It isn’t about people having more knowledge in regards to Russia, or Trump or the media, it is about knowledge of oneself. Why do you believe what you believe…and where does your loyalty lie? If it lies anywhere besides the Truth, you are bound to be suckered by something or someone. Remember…if you desperately want something to be true, you should be particularly wary of those who you tell it is.

Regardless of how things go forward from here and whether the report gets released (which I hope it does) or if it gets buried, I ask the #Resistance to listen to me now. I warned you two years ago and you ignored me. Don’t make that same mistake again. My advice to you now is to stop being so God-damn emotional and weak. Get tough. Get rational. Get logical. Get strategic. And most importantly pledge your loyalty not to your party, ideology, country or identity but rather to the Truth. It will serve you and America much better in the long run.

ADDENDUM

As I was writing this piece this week a story titled “Some on Mueller’s Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed” broke in the New York Times that claimed that people from the Mueller team were frustrated over Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of their findings, and claimed that Mueller’s report is much more damaging to Trump that Barr makes it seem.

Well…that isn’t really what the New York Times article says…but that is how it is being “reported” in its headline and by cable news outlets like MSNBC. In fact, in an odd confluence of events, I was watching MSNBC when the story broke and got to see in real time how dubious their journalism really is as Chris Matthews “paraphrased” the Times article by saying that Mueller’s team is finally speaking up after two years of silence.

Here is the first paragraph of the Times article which caused such a stir.

Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney general William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.

That is one hell of a paragraph…so let’s break it down.

Cable news and other media have declared that this story is really bad news for Trump because Mueller’s team is finally speaking out and is saying the report will be damning of the President. Of course, upon closer inspection, virtually none of the cable news pontification is even remotely backed up by the facts stated in the article.

For instance…even though the media is claiming this is Mueller’s team breaking their monk like silence…they aren’t. This isn’t Mueller’s team speaking out…these claims are allegedly being made by “associates” of Mueller’s investigators, not the investigators themselves. Beyond that, in that opening paragraph the Times also makes it clear that the sources for the story are “government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations”.

So let’s be perfectly clear as to what this story claims…that “government officials and others” have heard from “associates” of members of the Mueller team, that said Mueller team members believe that the Attorney General “failed to adequately portray their findings”.

This is like a bad game of telephone where the esteemed New York Times reports on third and fourth hand information that was allegedly told to “associates” of investigators on Mueller’s team, and then those “associates” told associates of theirs who are “government officials and others” who then told the New York Times who are now telling us.

Not surprisingly, MSNBC, CNN and the Washington Post all followed up the Times story with equally explosive claims but with similarly distant and dubious sourcing.

It is absolutely stunning when you break down the story and its sourcing and then consider the shock waves of glee this report sent through cable news and the #Resistance. Bill Maher, who is the id and village idiot of the center left, just last night was touting on his HBO show that treason is back on the table and so is collusion, all based on this extremely vacuous and flimsy report in the Times…which clearly states that the finding of “no collusion” is not in contention.

Maher is the hackneyed comedy version of cognitive dissonance with bad skin as on his show last week, the first since the Mueller Report was submitted and the Barr synopsis came out, he declared that he doesn’t need Mueller’s report because he KNOWS Trump is a traitor! This is textbook Cognitive Dissonance, where people “seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists."

This story and the media and the #Resistance’s rapturous response to it proves once again the seriousness of the maladies from which they suffer. This report and the liberal response to it highlights the conformation bias, cognitive dissonance, denial and delusion which I wrote about above. It is also emblematic of the media’s blatant dishonesty and unprofessionalism. This story is just one more piece of evidence for the thesis I laid out in the above article.

It is also a damning indictment that the #Resistance and its media cohorts like Bill Maher and MSNBC are irredeemable and a hopeless lost cause.

MY BEST GUESS

When discussing my skepticism regarding this whole issue, I am often asked what it is that I believe regarding Trump, Russia, collusion and the rest of it. Well, what I think is this…and this is entirely and purely speculation…that Trump is certainly “guilty” of obstruction of justice. I mean, Trump is a walking obstruction of justice…but the problem is that if there is no underlying crime, that makes both the legal and political case for obstruction much more difficult.

In addition, I have yet to see any clear evidence of the underlying claim that Russia hacked the DNC server and the Clinton campaign emails. In fact there has been no evidence released that even shows that the DNC server was hacked at all. Now that doesn’t mean the server wasn’t hacked, it may have been, it just means I haven’t seen any evidence of it. It also doesn’t mean that if it was hacked, that Russia hacked it, it just means I haven’t seen any evidence of those claims. I am not alone in my skepticism regarding the alleged hack, as the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), a group which includes Ray McGovern, Colleen Rowley, Mike Gravel, Philip Giraldi, Larry Johnson, John Kiriakou and Lawrence Wilkerson among many others, have stated their skepticism as well regarding this claim of a hack that is now assumed to be true despite the paucity of evidence for it.

And finally, in regards to the charge that Russia “interfered” in our election, I would say that the evidence put forth thus far is woefully inadequate to the point of absurdity. The Facebook and Twitter meme operation allegedly run by Russia is an absolute joke and is not proof of Russian interference in anything at all.

If people are serious about identifying and punishing nations for interference and meddling in our electoral and political process, then there are two criminal states that should be the entire focus of attention…Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which a nefarious actors in our political process with tentacles into the highest echelons of power in America.

As I stated earlier and as I stated throughout the last two and half years in all of my writing…I am open to evidence of Russian interference in the election and any conspiracy with Trump or anyone else…and will gladly scrutinize that evidence if and when it comes forward, and accept it if it is credible. But until it comes forward I maintain the only logical and rational position there is, and that is of maintaining a pronounced skepticism towards these and all evidence-free claims.

For a glance at my previous writings on Russiagate over the last few years, here are some links.

Joe McCarthy Was Right!! Shocking Revelations From a Manchurian Op-Ed Writer

Deconstructing Criticism of Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews

The Media Hates Conspiracy Theories…Except When They Don’t

Stephen Colbert Goes to Russia Looking For Laughs

Has the Fear of Putin Seized Hollywood?

Echoes of Totalitarianism in #MeToo and Russia-Gate

Hollywood’s Malicious Propaganda Dehumanizes All Russians

Captain America v Trump in Battle of the Useful idiots

In a Fit of Anti-Trump Pique, Liberals Shamelessly Embrace Deep-State Criminals

A Curious Case of Mystery Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation

©2019

Leaving Neverland: A Review

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****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!! THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!****

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. See it to see and hear the truth regarding one of America’s most famous icons.

Leaving Neverland, produced and directed by Dan Reed, is a documentary that tells the story of Michael Jackson’s child sexual abuse of James Safechuk and Wade Robson from the late 80’s to the mid-90’s. The film is four hours long and is broken down into two, two-hour segments, which originally aired on HBO on March 3rd and 4th and are currently still available on that channel.

Leaving Neverland is one of those documentaries that takes a nebulous perception and turns it into an unavoidable reality. Michael Jackson, who settled a child sexual abuse lawsuit for a rumored $25 million in 1993 and was acquitted of child sex abuse involving another boy in a separate case in 2005, has long been assumed to be a pedophile…Leaving Neverland removes all doubt from that assumption.

The film is basically a collection of very long interviews with Safechuk and Robson where they describe in extremely explicit detail their sexual interactions with Jackson when they were minors, in Robson’s case as young as 7 years old. While the explicitness of their stories is uncomfortable to hear, it is very effective in shattering any illusions that might cloud the cold-hard reality of Jackson’s perverse sexual predilections. The explicitness of the language used is very beneficial, as terms like “molested” or “fondled” sound less damning and less evil than hearing the precise descriptions of what Jackson was doing to these little boys.

Director Reed wisely cuts back and forth between the explicit interviews of the grown men and footage of when they were young boys at the age when they were abused. This approach is highly effective in bringing home the point of Jackson’s disturbing depravity and the scope and scale of his evil.

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Safechuk and Robson come across as forthright and believable in the interviews. If they are lying about the nature of their relationship with Jackson then they are two of the greatest actors to have ever walked the earth. Robson is much more camera friendly and articulate than Safechuk, but Safechuk’s pure being, his posture, his energy, the look in his eye, is devastating testimony in and of itself, and is a searing indictment of Michael Jackson.

The film does not have any interviews from members of the Jackson family or any counter arguments to Safechuk and Robson, and some may see that as unfair, I do not agree. For thirty years we have heard the Jackson story while the children he abused have been silenced due to his wealth and power. We’ve heard enough from Jackson and company, and Leaving Neverland gives the side of the story we haven’t heard yet and that is what makes it so valuable.

What is so striking about the documentary is the news footage from the height of Jackson’s fame in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Jackson’s pedophilia was hiding in plain sight for all of us to see…in fact he was even flaunting it. The footage of Jackson gallivanting around the globe hand in hand with little boys is disgusting as he acts like a rock star parading around in public with a super model as arm candy and trophy girlfriend. And just like some rock star would want the status symbol of being seen in public with the latest and hottest Hollywood ingenue, Michael Jackson did the same thing with little boys, going public with his “friendship” with first Emmanuel Lewis (of Webster fame) and then later with Macaulay Culkin.

Jackson is just a despicable and deplorable human being, but his staff, family and enablers are equally repugnant for aiding and abetting his blatantly obvious sexual predation. As the documentary shows, Jackson’s staff members were actively recruiting boys to be Jackson’s companions and were complicit in keeping parents away while the abuse was happening.

Leaving Neverland is not just an indictment of Jackson, but of us all. His fans, the media and the public in general refused to see or believe what was right in front of our eyes because it was easier to ignore it, laugh about it or pretend it wasn’t happening. How Jackson did not get his head caved in by either a raging father of an abused child or by a security staffer with a conscience, is beyond me.

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The documentary is very effective in revealing how Jackson didn’t just seduce little boys but also their entire families. The interviews with Safechuk’s and Robson’s mothers are very enlightening and at times infuriating. These women, whose job was to protect their kids, fell for Jackson’s schtick hook, line and sinker and their boys paid the price for it. The mother’s, especially Ms. Robson, inability to take responsibility for their failure is mind-boggling, and the fact that Ms. Robson STILL doesn’t want to hear what happened to her son is astonishing. But this is what the allure of fame does to people, it distorts and compromises their soul, and they end up selling their son’s youth and innocence for a shot at the brass ring.

After the airing of the second part of the documentary, HBO aired a special interview with Oprah Winfrey and James Safechuk and Wade Robson. Considering Oprah herself has talked publicly about being sexually abused as a girl and the intracicies of that, you would think she’d be a good choice to host program…but you would be wrong.

Oprah is a terrible interviewer as she always makes everything about her and her opinion…but she is an even worse human being because she is so devoid of self-awareness yet is delusional enough to think that she is entirely self-aware. During the post-doc interview Oprah has the temerity to tell Safechuk that he hasn’t evolved as much as Robson, which if Oprah were half as “evolved” as she thinks she is she would understand is a really vicious thing to say to a survivor, especially one in such a vulnerable state as Safechuk.

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What was stunning to me is that Oprah spent the hour pontificating on how wise she is about abuse and how it is really seduction, but she fails to ever mention that she interviewed Michael Jackson in 1993…and it was a patty cake interview if there ever was one. During that interview Oprah never held Jackson to account or held his feet to the fire for his “bizarre” and curious behavior with boys. Oprah…like the rest of America and like Safechuk and Robson and countless other boys and their families…was seduced by Michael Jackson and the allure of his fame and power, which is saying quite a lot considering Oprah’s fame and power…and it would have been interesting for Oprah to talk about HER experience of that seduction and how she was either wittingly or unwittingly blind to Jackson’s depravity…instead of doing what she did and giving her opinion on other people’s experience of that.

The enormity of Michael Jackson’s fame and celebrity, especially back in the 80’s and early 90’s is difficult to fathom in this day and age of such a fractured and fragmented popular culture. Michael Jackson wasn’t just a superstar, he was a supernova. Jackson was the most famous and identifiable person on the planet back then and more people knew his name than any other person’s in the whole world.

When you look at Jackson’s discography and album sales it is unbelievable. Jackson was considered a performing prodigy and was a superstar with his family band The Jackson Five at the age of 11. After an awkward adolescent transition, Jackson returned to glory as a 21 year old with his 1979 hit album Off the Wall, which is a terrific album that sold 20 million copies.

The follow up to Off the Wall was Thriller, which sold an estimated 66 million copies and is the greatest selling album of all-time. Thriller undeniably made Jackson the biggest pop star in the world. No one has ever or will ever surpass Thriller’s sales numbers.

After Thriller Jackson could have sold 20 million copies of any piece of crap he threw out there, and that is kind of what he did with the awful Bad (1987) and the even more abysmal Dangerous (1991), which sold 35 and 32 million copies respectively.

The success of Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad and Dangerous gave Jackson enormous amounts of wealth and power and with that money and power Jackson could do whatever the hell he wanted…and sadly…what he wanted to do most of all was to have sex with young boys.

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After watching Leaving Neverland and the Oprah special I sat contemplating what I had just seen and I had two thoughts. The first thought was how striking it is to me that in the 1980’s, a decade of America’s alleged rebirth and renewal under Ronald Reagan, the biggest and most beloved music star was Michael Jackson and the biggest and most beloved television star was Bill Cosby. These two men were very similar in a lot of ways in that they were two Black men whose success crossed color lines, who cultivated personas that exuded a gentle kindness and moral purity, and who were sexual predators who preyed upon the defenseless, in Jackson’s case young children and in Cosby’s case drugged and unconscious women. I have no idea what that observation means in a broader sense, maybe something about masks and facades and how to succeed in America, I don’t know, I just thought it was very curious that these two men were so successful in their careers at that time period but also so successful at getting away with their sex crimes for so long.

The second thought I had was about Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s personal physician, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s 2009 death from an overdose of propofol. Murray served two years in prison and was pilloried by the media for being responsible for “killing” Michael Jackson. After watching Leaving Neverland, I think Conrad Murray deserves a fucking medal.

In conclusion, Leaving Neverland is a difficult documentary to watch, but I highly recommend you do watch it because we must never look away from the truth, no matter how ugly it is or how uncomfortable it makes us.

©2019

Transit: A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!****

My Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT/SKIP IT - Cinephiles should definitely check out this meditation on fascism, but be forewarned, this is a very “foreign” film so those not accustomed to such unconventional storytelling might want to skip it.

Language: German and French with English subtitles

Transit, written and directed by Christian Petzold and based upon Anna Segher’s 1942 novel of the same name, is set in modern times and follows the journey of Georg, a German trying to escape Fascists as their totalitarian reach stretches out of the Fatherland and across France. The film stars Franz Rogowski as Georg, with supporting turns from Paula Beer, Godehard Giese, Barbara Auer, Maryam Zaree and Ronald Kukulies.

Transit is a fascinating and politically prophetic and potent film that masterfully creates the visceral experience of modern world where fascism reigns supreme. The film is based upon Anna Segher’s novel about the Holocaust, but in its more modern setting it is equally chilling. The suffocating sense of impending and unstoppable doom that permeates this movie makes setting this story in modern times all the more chilling because it seems so effortlessly believable. The archetypal energy currently on the rise across the globe (and whether we want to acknowledge it or not, in our own hearts) is that of the fascist, and in the long shadow of the fascist, fear, isolation and resignation grow like poison mushrooms. Transit tells the story of those under the boot of fascism and the attempt to balance primal instincts to survive against the spiritual need for human connection and love.

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Director Christian Petzold’s strength in this film is in making fascism feel tangible and palpable. The ominous sense of danger that Petzold conveys in this film, be it with a simple siren, screeching tires, a women on a street corner pointing or refugees refusing to look each other in the eye, is electric.

Petzold’s minimalism in respect to creating this menace is magnificent. By not physically transforming the world in which we live, but simply distorting our perception of it, Petzold makes the fascist threat feel immediate, intimate and personalized.

On one level, Transit reminded me of Michelangelo Antonioni’s intriguing film The Passenger (1975), in that it deals with a man stealing the identity of a dead man and having to face the repercussions of that act. In Transit, Georg assumes the identity of a dead writer in order to escape Paris as it comes under the perilous grip of the fascists.

Georg’s escape out of Paris leads him on a odyssey that reveals his external desperation to survive and his internal yearning to maintain humanity at all costs. The fascist menace forces Georg to fight this battle between his instinct and his humanity, where he must choose what kind of man he is and what kind of life he will lead.

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Transit, which is in French and German with English subtitles, is a decidedly foreign film in that it does not conform to Hollywood conventions. This eschewing of storytelling convention can be somewhat frustrating for the uninitiated or for those not prepared for it, so consider yourself warned. Understand that this film is really about the pressures of living, or trying to live, under the toxic cloud of fascism, and how the existential fear of obliteration at the hands of totalitarians turns people upside down to the point where they behave emotionally and in ways that seem irrational to those on the outside. Seeing the film through this lens will hopefully help make any moments in the film that seem unclear or unrealistic much more palatable.

As for the cast, Franz Rogowski does stellar work as the conflicted Georg. Rogowski is Joaquin Phoenix’s German doppleganger, cleft lip scar included. Rogowski even has the same energy as Phoenix and he carries that burdensome darkness and despair with him through this film like an iron cross on the road to his Golgotha. Rogowski’s intensity is heightened by his silence and stillness, which are filled with a vibrant intentionality that acutely convey his internal struggle.

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The ever luminous Paula Beer (last seen in the Oscar nominated Never Look Away) plays Marie, a mysterious beauty who keeps stumbling into Georg on his journey. Beer is a captivating and dynamic screen presence whose Maria is a compelling cauldron of regret, determination and despondency that never falls into caricature or fails to surprise.

The rest of the cast all do solid work, particularly Barbara Auer as a steely architect turned maid, in creating the atmosphere of maddening, dehumanizing and frantic fear that descends upon those under the thumb of a fascist threat.

In conclusion, Transit is not for everyone as its unconventionality can be at times unsatisfying, but for those who make the leap, they have the chance to be rewarded with a film that isn’t perfect but that is rich in psychological drama and political poignancy. My recommendation is for cinephiles who enjoy foreign film to definitely see Transit in the theatres. For those with less sophisticated film tastes, maybe start by watching Antonioni’s The Passenger, it stars Jack Nicholson and can be pretty challenging but is a good place to dip your toe into the water. If you like that then it is worth giving Transit a shot when it becomes available on Netflix/Amazon or Cable because even if you end up thinking the movie fails as entertainment, you may find that it succeeds as prophecy.

©2019

5th Annual Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® Awards : 2018 Edition

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 12 seconds

The Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® awards are a tribute to the absolute worst that film and entertainment has to offer for the year. Again, the qualifying rules are simple, I just had to have seen the film for it to be eligible. This means that at one point I had an interest in the film and put the effort in to see it, which may explain why I am so angry about it being awful. So any vitriol I may spew during this awards presentation shouldn't be taken personally by the people mentioned, it is really anger at myself for getting duped into watching.

The prizes are also pretty simple. The winners/losers receive nothing but my temporary scorn. If you are a winner/loser don't fret, because this years Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® loser/winner could always be next years Mickey™® winner!! Remember…you are only as good as your last film!!

Now…onto the awards!

WORST FILM OF THE YEAR

Aquaman - A garbled and muddied mess of a film that both scales the heights of Mount Ridiculous and dives to the bottom of the Sea of Inane, this movie is the equivalent of watching a toddler play with action figures in a puddle.

Mary Queen of Scots - If a corporate human resources department had the budget to make a period piece training film that espoused the virtues of diversity, inclusion, political correctness and woke culture…that movie would be Mary, Queen of Scots. An abysmal butchering of history and cinema, this movie is proof of my maxim “Wokeness kills art”.

Mission Impossible - Just when you think Tom Cruise and the Mission Impossible franchise can’t get any worse, the Scientology Messiah kicks it into high-flying gear and barfs out yet another stupid, unrelenting and unrelentingly stupid piece of action crap. This movie is a two and a half hour cinematic lobotomy.

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AND THE LOSER IS…MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS - Congratulations to Mary, Queen of Scots for completely fucking up what could have and should have been a very good if not great movie. As a Scotsman (and Irishman), this movie was so irritating and abysmal I would rather dive head first into the Worst Toilet in Scotland than sit through this shitshow again.

WORST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

Alec Baldwin - Mission Impossible: Fallout - Alec Baldwin has a death scene in this movie that made me laugh so hard I had root beer flying out of my nose. Baldwin’s acting in this scene is so horrendously awful it felt like he was just doing it to pull a prank…sadly I think the joke was on us.

Mark Ruffalo - Avengers: Infinity War - Mark Ruffalo is a terrific actor who has done outstanding work in films such as Spotlight and Foxcatcher among many others, but in Infinity War it seems as if Ruffalo has stumbled onto set after a decades long nap. Like some thespian Rumpelstiltsken, Ruffalo awakes in this movie and finds himself entirely out of time and place. Ruffalo’s listless stroll through Infinity War is one of the most bizarre performances in recent memory.

Female Featured Extra - The Death Scene in The Wife - The Wife is a truly awful movie, but the cherry on top of its awfulness is the performance from the actress playing a female hotel employee during the climactic death scene. This young actress’s over-acting and mugging for the camera is so epic as to be amazing. Hopefully this actress goes on to great things in her career and can look back and laugh at how horrendous she was in this scene.

Armie Hammer - On the Basis of Sex: The extent of Armie Hammer’s acting in this movie is to perpetually give a soft and insipid smile and to never let you forget his character only has one testicle. Another in a string of truly deplorable performances, hopefully Hammer has either hit the low point of his career or has finally realized this acting thing is not for him.

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AND THE LOSER IS…ALEC BALDWIN : Alec Baldwin has been a good actor before, and hopefully will be a good actor again, but I think playing the brain addled Donald Trump has addled his own brain. Hopefully Baldwin returns to form sooner rather than later because the Trump shtick is fun but is most definitely wearing thin, and if his work in Mission Impossible is any indication, it is having a very detrimental effect on his commitment level and deteriorating his skill.

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WORST SCENE OF THE YEAR - The Mule Court Room Scene : The Mule is not a good movie…but to its credit it made me laugh out loud…not with it, but at it. The court room scene in question is just atrocious because 1. It is totally unnecessary and shouldn’t have been in the movie in the first place. 2. The acting in it is so over-the-top and ridiculous as to be absurd and it feels like something stolen from a telenovella. 3. The writing in this scene is even worse than the acting…which it quite an accomplishment.

If you want to see film making at its nadir, watch the court room scene of The Mule because it is a master class in superfluous shittyness.


MOST OVERRATED FILM OF THE YEAR

Black Panther - Black Panther is not even a good Marvel movie, nevermind a good actual movie, yet for some strange reason that I can’t quite figure out (hmmmm…what could it be?) it was nominated for Best Picture and some fools (like me) even thought it would win. Regardless of what the politically correct gatekeepers keep telling you, Black Panther is not a good movie, the acting is not good, the directing is not good and the writing is not good. None of this is good…can we please stop pretending that it is? Wakanda For Never!

A Star is Born - I get why Lady Gaga fans went goo goo over this film, but why on earth would anyone else? Lady Gaga can sing her balls off…but acting is not her strongsuit. Another weak point in the film is the trite script and the narcissistic cinematography. There were some who were clamoring for A Star is Born to sweep the Oscars…what the fuck is wrong with people? On this story’s fourth go around, this Star was still-born.

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AND THE LOSER IS…BLACK PANTHER: Good Lord, please enough with reducing art to being little more than the diversity Olympics. If you like Black Panther…fine…but let’s not pretend it is some iconic, Best Picture level piece of cinematic history. It is a middling Marvel movie that is much closer in quality to Doctor Strange than it is to Avengers: Infinity War.


SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATIC MALPRACTICE

Josie Rourke, director, Mary Queen of Scots: Josie Rourke is a theatre director whose first feature film was Mary, Queen of Scots. I genuinely hope Ms. Rourke is better at directing theatre than she is at directing film because she is abysmal at the latter. Ms. Rourke’s painfully bad decisions when it came to casting and her even worse decision to use colorblind casting, were equally awful when compared to her inability to do the most rudimentary blocking of scenes or to use the camera to tell and enhance her story. This film revealed such a pronounced level of directing malpractice as to be shameful. Ms. Rourke’s amateurish direction should cease her filmmaking career in its tracks…but because of her pronounced political correctness, I doubt we will be so lucky as to never have to see her work again.

POS HALL OF FAME

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MICHAEL JACKSON - A once in a generation talent who could sing and dance as well or better than anyone else we have ever seen, Michael Jackson is one of the great musical icons of the 20th century. Jackson was also a raging pedophile who flaunted his pedophilia by strutting around the world with young boys on his arm like a rock star with super model arm candy.

Jackson’s insatiable appetite for young boys seemingly knew no bounds and his depraved crimes were aided and abetted by those who were enthralled with his celebrity and his bank account or those cowed by his entertainment industry power.

My great shame is that Michael Jackson was not inducted into the Piece of Shit Hall of Fame sooner. Oddly enough, the reason it has taken five years for Jackson to achieve this great dishonor is that his crimes were so obvious it seemed passe to point them out. With the Leaving Neverland documentary currently airing on HBO and making headlines, now seems like an appropriate time to pay tribute to Michael Jackson, one of the all-time great pieces of shit.

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BRYAN SINGER - Just like his POS Hall of Fame fellow inductee this year, Bryan Singer has been a piece of shit for a long time. Singer’s sexual depravity and sweet tooth for teenage boys has been an open secret in Hollywood for decades. The fact that Singer basically started a pederast ring with fellow Hollywood scumbags that they used to exploit, abuse and pass around teenage boys like trading cards, officially came to light with a damning article in The Atlantic recently, but those of us with half a brain in our heads knew this was the reality regarding Bryan Singer for a long time.

Singer is not alone in Hollywood in his desire for underage and barely of age young boys...in fact he has some very high profile company. Hollywood has a very pervasive pedophilia and pederasty problem among its upper echelons. Some of the most well-known people in this business are involved in this evil. Some big names that are always on the periphery when it comes to these stories…including both Bryan Singer and Michael Jackson…are so powerful that no one dare ever even hint at their nefarious sexual proclivities. Hint: Think of the most successful and iconic film maker of the last 50 years whose films often star or feature young children.

It is for this reason that I have a funny feeling that Bryan Singer is not long for this world. Something odd will happen, an accidental overdose or a suicide or some other banal calamity that will end his horrid life and silence him forever in order to protect those higher up the totem pole that he could implicate for being partners in his degeneracy. But for now, Bryan Singer should bask in the stench of his induction into the Piece of Shit Hall of Fame…he’s earned it.


POS ALL-STARS -

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Lena Dunham - Lena Dunham is a perennial piece of shit all-star and her appearance this year is entirely predictable. Ms. Dunham made the POS All-Stars three years ago for lying about having been sexually assaulted, and two years ago for wishing she had an abortion. This year Ms. Dunham made the all-stars for lying to discredit an alleged rape victim and then making a self-serving non-apology apology for having been such a shameless hypocrite.

Ms. Dunham has been a strident and vociferous supporter of the #MeToo movement but even though she says she “believes all women”, when a women accused her friend and co-worker of rape she came to the man’s defense. This mere hypocrisy would not have been enough to get on her back on the POS All Stars though, what put her over the top was when she faced a backlash for her defense of the man she issued a rambling, performance art diatribe of an “apology” that was so self-serving as to be masturbatorial.

I pray to the almighty Thanos that he make Lena Dunham…GO. AWAY. FOREVER.

Jussie Smollet - Prior to faking his own hate crime, I had never in my entire life had heard the name Jussie Smollett. Little did I know how wonderful my world was before my Jussie Smollett bubble was so rudely shattered.

First things first…who the fuck names their kid Jussie? It’s not Jessie, it’s not Justin…it’s Jussie. Fuck you Jussie and your stupid fucking name. Secondly, how awesome is it that Jussie Smollett, of all the fucking useless individuals on the planet, is the one who so expertly exposes the identity politics crowd for the hysterical and emotionalist dipshits that they are.

And finally, not only is Jussie Smollett and awful actor, as proven with his Good Morning America performance which is sublimely absurd, but he is also an atrocious writer and director. This entire hoax was so poorly conceived and executed it felt like an Adam Sandler film or a Trump press conference.

Congrats Jussie, you made the POS All Stars, enjoy it while it lasts because I have a funny feeling this is as good as it will get for you for a long time.

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Brie Larson - Brie Larson is a terrible actress…you know how I know that? Because I’ve seen her work. Go watch Kong Skull Island or Trainwreck…she is painfully awful. Brie Larson is also a terrible human being…you know how I know that? Because I’ve had to listen to her talk. Not only is Ms. Larson a moron, she is a racist misandrist too.

Ms. Larson earns her all-star status this year for being a shameless hypocrite who demands inclusion but only judges people by their race and gender. For instance, this year Ms. Larson proclaimed, “I do not need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work for him about A Wrinkle in Time. It wasn’t made for him. I want to know what it meant to women of color, to biracial women, to teen women of color, to teens that are biracial.”

Great…I agree with Ms. Larson because I do not want to hear what a white braud has to say about superhero movies, or Scorsese or PT Anderson or Kubrick or Kurosawa or any other great filmmaker’s work because that work wasn’t made for them. And if Ms. Larson is so interested in diversity and inclusion, why is she playing Captain Marvel, and not a “women of color, or a biracial women”?

How about this Brie Larson…why don’t you judge people on the content of their work instead of the color of their skin or their gender? And if you cannot do that, if you cannot help yourself from labeling everyone by the identity that you deem to give them, then why don’t you just shut the fuck up and go away because you are a shameless hypocrite and an intellectual dwarf.

And thus concludes another Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® awards. If you are one of the people who “won” this year I ask you to please not to take it personally and also to try and do better next year….because remember…this years Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® award winner could be next year’s Mickey™® Award winner!!

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©2019