"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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Toxic Femininity: 'Badass' US Women Demand Right to Torture, Maim and Kill for Empire...Just Like Men

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Estimated reading Time: 3 minutes 56 seconds

Thanks to a new wave of feminism and its call for equality, it isn’t just toxic men who can kill, torture and surveil in the name of American militarism and empire, women can now do it too!

 This past weekend was the third annual Women’s March, which is a protest originally triggered by Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election that encourages women across America to rise up against misogyny and patriarchy.

 As sincere as these women are in their outrage, in their quest for power they are inadvertently reinforcing the immoral and unethical system that they claim to detest. This is most glaringly apparent when this new feminism boldly embraces the worst traits of the patriarchy in the form of militarism and empire.

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 The rise of the #MeToo, Time’s Up and the anti-Trump Women’s Movement has brought forth a new wave of politically and culturally active neo-feminists. This modern women’s movement and its adherents demand that “boys not be boys”, and in fact claim that the statement “boys will be boys” is in and of itself an act of patriarchal privilege and male aggression. The irony is that these neo-feminists don’t want boys to be boys, but they do want girls to be like boys…at least the morally degenerate boys.

The inherent contradiction of that ideology was on full display recently when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) put out a guide to treating men and boys. In the guide’s summary the APA makes this extraordinary claim, “Traditional masculinity – marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression – is, on the whole, harmful.”

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 These APA guidelines blatantly turn “traditional masculinity” and “toxic masculinity” into synonyms, and never once mention testosterone, revealing a staggering ignorance of male biology. The APA is in essence blaming the bull for his horns. Further diminishing their credibility, how can anyone look at the mess that is the current emotional state of our world and think we need less stoicism and not more?

 The hypocrisy of the APA guidelines are glaringly evident because everywhere you look nowadays girls and young women are constantly being urged to be more competitive, dominant and aggressive. I guess when women do it, it is empowering, but when men do it, it is dangerous.

 Women, and some men, often tell me that if women were in power, the world would be a better and safer place. But that old trope, which obviously animates the feminist movement of today, is foolishness. I mean have none of these people ever heard of that pernicious beast Margaret Thatcher? And does anyone think that Hillary Clinton’s proposed no-fly zone over Syria or her tough talk about Russia would have led to more peace and less war?

 Another example of the vacuity of this ideology is the group of Democratic women with military and intelligence backgrounds who won seats in Congress in 2018. These women, who have dubbed themselves “The Badasses”, how toxically masculine of them, are being touted as the “antidote to Trump”.

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 No doubt these former military and intelligence “badasses” will be so much less toxic than their male counterparts when they demand the U.S. “get tough” by militarily intervening across the globe to further American interests. This sort of star-spangled belligerence is no less toxic in a pantsuit than a three-piece suit, and will only lead to more victims of America’s “competiveness, dominance and aggression” around the world.

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 Other toxically masculine women in government are also being hailed as great signs of women’s empowerment. Gina Haspel is the first female director of the CIA and women now also hold the three top directorates in that agency. Ms. Haspel proved herself more than capable of being just as deplorable as any man when she was an active participant in the Bush era torture program. No doubt the pussy-hat wearing brigade would cheer her “competitiveness, dominance and aggression” when torturing prisoners…most especially the traditionally masculine ones.

 Hypocritical Hollywood has long been a haven for toxic masculinity, be it in the form of depraved predators like Harvey Weinstein or Woody Allen or counterfeit tough guys like John Wayne. Hollywood has also long been the propaganda wing of the American military machine. It is well established that for decades Hollywood and the Department of Defense have worked hand in hand in creating films that tout muscular American militarism and empire.

 Now Hollywood and the Department of Defense are using the social justice calling card of “diversity and inclusion” to take the next step in indoctrinating young people with the noxious ideology of American exceptionalism and aggression…but this time they are targeting girls and young woman.

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 The latest product of the Hollywood and D.O.D. propaganda machine is the Disney/Marvel movie, Captain Marvel, which comes out this March. The film, which has a budget north of $150 million and stars one of the leading feminist voices in Hollywood, Academy Award winner Brie Larson, tells the story of Carol Danvers, a former Air Force pilot who “turns into one of the galaxy’s mightiest heroes.”

 With Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans set to potentially leave their roles as Iron Man and Captain America respectively, Disney is positioning itself to replace them as the face of the multi-billion dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe with Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, who is described as a “badass superheroine”…one more flag-waving, baddass lady for the girls to look up to!

 The movie has been described as “the recruiting tool of the Air Force’s dreams”, and will no doubt be a huge boost to female recruitment, much like Tom Cruise and Top Gun boosted male military recruitment in the 1980’s.

 The Department of Defense has been partnered with Marvel since 2008’s Iron Man. The D.O.D. and Air Force demand that any film project with which they assist “portrays the Air Force and military in an accurate way and that it is in the service’s interest to partner on the project.”

 It is good to know that ultra-feminist Brie Larson is cashing in by partnering with the Air Force to make a movie that indoctrinates millions of American kids, specifically girls, with the dream of being able to bomb innocent brown people across the globe from miles up in the sky and look really “badass” while doing it.

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 I’m sure Ms. Larson, a public and outspoken advocate for abuse victims here in America, has meticulously weighed the pros and cons of being a recruitment tool for the U.S. military, who in recent years have aided and abetted, or been directly responsible for, the murder of women and children in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

 The cacophony of feminist voices in the public square has effectively challenged some minds about some things, but not the right minds about the right things. The mendacious U.S. establishment and its virulent military industrial complex have co-opted this current feminist moment and are using it to further solidify their deadly stranglehold on the American consciousness and Brie Larson is now an accomplice to that crime.

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 Is this what the new wave of feminism is all about, putting lipstick on the pig of American empire and militarism and calling it a victory for equality? If so, I’ll pass on that toxic femininity. I’ll stick with traditional masculinity, you know, the stoic kind, whose adherents, principled men like Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Daniel Ellsberg, Pat Tillman and Edward Snowden, among many others, all did the right thing in the face of enormous opposition, and who didn’t tout themselves as “badass”, didn’t start fights but finished them, didn’t torture, didn’t spy and didn’t bomb innocent women and children into oblivion.

 I strongly believe that men and women should be equal in their rights and opportunity, but I also believe that regardless of gender, no one has the right to kill, maim and torture for American empire.

This article was originally published on January 25, 2019 at RT.com.

©2019

Cold War: A Review

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

My Rating: 4.5 our of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. A fantastic foreign film that is both personal, political and philosophical that boasts tremendous performances from both of its leads.

Cold War, written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, is a Polish drama set during the Cold War that tells the story of the love between a young singer Zula, and the musical director who discovers her, Wiktor. The film stars Joanna Kulig as Zula and Tomasz Kot as Wiktor.

Just when I thought 2018 was to be officially designated as cinematically irredeemable, a bunch of foreign films have appeared late in the year that have been a lifeline to artistic redemption. Four of the best movies this year are foreign films I’ve seen in the last month, Shoplifters (Japan), Roma (Mexico), Happy as Lazzaro (Italy) and now Cold War (Poland).

Of course, context is everything and a less gracious interpretation of my adoration of these four foreign films could be that their artistic success is a result of their being in such stark and glaring contrast to the cinematically vapid garbage vomited upon the movie-going public by Hollywood this year. Regardless of why foreign films are so good this year and Hollywood films so bad…the fact remains that it is decidedly so and I will simply enjoy quality cinema without compromise where I can find it.

Which brings us to Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War. Cold War is a beautiful and brilliant film that is both personal and political, poignant and prophetic. Shot in a stunning black and white that highlights a bleak but bold aesthetic, Cold War is both visually striking and dramatically potent.

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Pawlikowski, who also directed the Academy Award Best Foreign Picture winner Ida (2014), deftly crafts a lean film that is able to thoroughly tell the story of Zula and Wiktor amidst the wider Cold War that comes in under 90 minutes. Pawlikowski trims all the fat from the narrative and we are left with a strikingly effective and deeply insightful film that flows seamlessly through decades of personal and political history without skipping a beat.

Cinematographer Lukasz Zal masterfully uses the stark black and white to enhance the sub-text and narrative by deftly painting with shadow and light. Zal’s framing is impeccable, as evidenced by his very subtle but extremely effective and polished use of mirrors throughout the film to highlight the difficulty in discerning what is real and what is illusion. There is a shot of an after-concert party with a mirror for a wall that is so ingenious, precise and finely detailed I nearly fell out of my seat.

Pawlikowski and Zal never hit you over the head with their artistic virtuosity, as it is so understated as to be sublime, and creates an exquisite cinematic experience that is not only gorgeous to behold but extremely useful in propelling the narrative.

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Joanna Kulig gives a transcendent and mesmerizing performance as the singer Zula. Kulig is a luminous talent and she is blessed with a vivacious, vibrant and voluminous magnetism that is unrelentingly irresistable. Ms. Kulig’s Zula is a wild animal from the hinterlands of Poland and she is as palpably dangerous, untamable and uncontainable as she is volcanically compelling, charismatic and complicated. Zula is a singer of traditional Polish folk songs and jazz, but she has a rock and roll soul as evidenced by her ecstatic and deliriously contagious reaction upon hearing Bill Haley and the Comets in one electric scene.

Ms. Kulig is like a Polish Jennifer Lawrence, stunningly beautiful with a relatable groundedness and charming fearlessness. Simply said, viewers, much like the character Wiktor, are unable to take their eyes off of Zula whenever she is on screen.

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Tomasz Kot is equally effective as Wiktor but in much less dynamic ways than Ms. Kulig. Mr. Kot’s Wiktor is much more intellectual than the visceral Zula, but once she awakens the primal nature within him there is no putting it back to sleep. Wiktor is at first a rational man who is securely contained in a distant coolness, but as the film progresses and he gets ever closer to the inferno that is Zula, the ice melts and with it goes Wiktor’s rationalism.

What is fascinating in Cold War, is that the love story of Zula and Wiktor is such fertile ground for very profound political, social and philosophical symbolism. Zula is not just a firebrand from the back woods of Poland, she IS the Polish anima. While she may be swayed from one camp to another, be it the lure of western decadence or the security of Soviet protection, she is ultimately true only to the “folk” of Poland. In this way, Cold War is a meditation on the nationalism that is currently spreading across the globe in general and Europe in particular. Throughout history, Poland may fall under the rule of the Soviets or the West or some other power, but it will never fall under their spell. As Zula and Wiktor show us, Poland is for the Poles, and only Poles can truly understand it…which is true no matter what nation you plug into that statement.

Both Wiktor and Zula find “freedom”, at least as freedom is defined by western capitalism, but they don’t experience it as freedom at all but rather as decadence that is corrosive to their hearts and souls. The “easy living” of the west is a fool’s gold and Zula and Wiktor would rather be prisoners to political oppression in the east than slaves to their own desires in the “free” west. Zula and Wiktor learn that the “lie” of Soviet communism is dreadful, but the even bigger lie of the capitalist west is even more destructive to them.

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Zula struggles to survive no matter where they go in Europe because at heart, she is the Polish countryside, and it is only there where she can find transformation and transcedence, and only with Wiktor. Early in the film Wiktor stumbles upon the ruins of a church and discovers giant female eyes painted on the wall that look right through him and watch him wherever he goes. Wiktor then looks up and sees a large round opening where the church roof used to be that reveals the sky. This circle, a symbol of wholeness, is the key to the film, as it reveals that both Wiktor and Zula, must go on their grueling journey of heart and soul in order to complete that circle and be transformed. The circle is atop a Catholic Church because the Catholic Church is the container for the spirit of the Polish people and the Polish anima - Zula. The Catholic archetypes are the ones that resonate in Poland, and Wiktor and Zula need to transcend the limitations of not only the Cold War powers that govern them, but also the religion trying to contain them. Their love is a love of wholeness that is as boundless as the heavens that dance above that whole in the church’s circular roof, but they can only attain it by going through the archetypes of the church.

In conclusion, Cold War is a stunning film about love, loss, identity and artistry that is dramatically powerful and politically poignant. Visually stunning and propelled by glorious performances from its two leads Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot, Cold War is a must see for any cinephile. More conventionally inclined viewers may struggle with the film as, like most foreign films, it is rather existential in nature and is less rudimentary in its storytelling. That said, if you love movies or have a cinematically adventurous heart and open mind, then you should definitely see Cold War.

©2019

22 July: A Review

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

My Rating: 3.25 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. Not the best film of the year but maybe the most important film of the year.

22 July, written and directed by Paul Greengrass, is based on the book One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway and Its Aftermath and tells the true story of the infamous 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway committed by right wing extremist Anders Breivik which killed 77 people. The film stars Anders Danielsen Lie as Brevik and Jon Oigarden as his lawyer Gier Lippestad.

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I have been a fan of director Paul Greengrass since I first saw his film Bloody Sunday in 2002. Greengrass’ direction on Bloody Sunday was extraordinary and his frenetic cinematic style made that film a viscerally unnerving movie to experience. As a first generation Irish-American, my attachment to the Irish people protesting against the British in Bloody Sunday was already entrenched, but Greengrass’ innovative visual approach made the film and the horrific slaughter it depicts so emotionally jarring that I had difficulty containing myself as I watched.

Greengrass has tackled other emotionally raw material besides Bloody Sunday, as he also made the 9-11 film United 93, which told the story of the passenger rebellion against the 9-11 hijackers on that ill-fated flight that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. On United 93 Greengrass’ signature mixture of documentary-style realism combined with a hectic stylized hyper-realism through manic camera movement made that already emotionally combustible story all the more charged.

Grenngrass has used his style on other films such as Captain Philips and three of the Bourne franchise movies to good effect even though those stories were not so emotionally imperative and volatile as Bloody Sunday or United 93.

Which brings us to 22 July. 22 July is a very emotionally potent story even without Greengrass’ cinematic maneuvers, as it deals with children and young adults being in mortal peril. Any story dealing with the violent targeting of children is bound to arouse an emotional response from viewers, especially parents. I don’t know this for sure, but I would assume that the response of being revolted and unsettled at the sight of children being harmed is hardwired into the human brain. (and this biological auto-response is a useful tool for propagandists, as I have written before).

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As I watched 22 July for the first time, as a father I found my reaction to be similar to my reaction to Bloody Sunday, I was shaking with emotion, projecting my son onto the children in peril in the film. But I also noticed something peculiar about the film, namely that as much as I was shaken by it, Greengrass actually seemed to be pulling his visual punches in telling the story. The scenes of Breivik’s attack on youth campers was jarring, but the way Greengrass shot it actually felt a bit watered down. The violence was palpable and garnered a visceral reaction from me but it was not even remotely explicit. Even Greengrass’ shaky camera seemed tamed down a bit.

I don’t blame Greengrass for being more strategically sensitive in his depiction of such an atrocity, but that decision to soften the blow of the tragedy a bit seemed to permeate the rest of the story. The more I watched the more I felt as though the drama Greengrass was trying to build was being undermined by the earlier decision to spare the audience of the grueling physical aspects of Breivik’s carnage.

After the attack sequences, which as I stated, were emotionally effective if visually subdued, the film struggles to maintain a compelling pace and narrative, as it focuses on the struggle of the survivors to come to grips with Breivik’s destruction.

The action skips between the Rocky-esque physical, mental and emotional recovery story of a young man and the story of Breivik’s attorney, who accepts the thankless job of defending this monster.

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The survival story is uncomfortably trite and feels as though it is from another movie altogether as it is paced differently and thematically is out of rhythm. Jonas Strand Gravli plays the wounded young man, Viljar, and he gives a good effort to a very difficult role, but he never quite moves beyond indicating and graduates to experiencing. Viljar is not as multi-dimensional a character as he needs to be, whether that is Gravli’s fault or the fault of Greengrass’ script is open to debate, but regardless, the film suffers because of it.

The lawyer story though, is fantastically compelling, and is in many ways the best part of the movie. The lawyer, Gier Lippestad, is precisely and exquisitely portrayed by Jon Oigarden, who is a fantastic actor. Oigarden plays Lippestad as an understated hero, an archetypal Knight in Invisible Armor who does his duty because it is the right thing to do even if he doesn’t want to do it.

For those not familiar with the Norway Massacre upon which the film is based, which is probably true of most Americans, 22 July will be a startling and unnerving revelation. Breivik accurately foretold of the coming populist and nationalist wave that is currently engulfing the entire planet. In some of the darker corners of the web, Anders Breivik, who massacred 77 people, 69 of them children, is referred to as St. Breivik because he is part prophet/part martyr for the cause of European ethno-nationalism. Breivik told Europe, the U.K. and the world what was coming, and no one listened to him. Breivik may be evil, he may be mentally ill, but he certainly wasn’t wrong.

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The Lippestad character is the one that viewers should focus on if they are looking for a way to quell the call of St. Breivik upon their countrymen and the equally thoughtless reaction of liberals to Breivikism. Lippestad does not embrace emotion, he does not embrace revenge, he does not embrace reactionary measures to silence dissent. What Lippestad does is pledge his loyalty and his life to the law. Lippestad understands his place in Norwegian civilization, and his critical role in keeping it afloat. Lippestad’s courageous decision to defend the heinous Breivik, despite what it costs him personally and professionally, make him a hero not just for Norway, but for all of Western Civilization.

The U.S. is well beyond repair now because it has long lacked people like Lippestad, most strikingly in the wake of 9-11. The Patriot Act, the expansive surveillance, the torture, the illegal wars…all of it…were a result of America and Americans embracing myopic and emotionalist vengeance. As is always the case, when emotion is your guide and an eye for an eye is your philosophy, everyone ends up blind.

Besides embracing the Lippestad ethic, viewers would be wise to not label Breivik as an irrational loon or outlier and should focus more on answering the legitimate questions he asks and the problems he raises. Breivik was not created in a vacuum, and while it would be comforting to simply try and eliminate or ignore him and his far right acolytes, the idea that propels them is uncontainable and on the loose, you ignore it or try to banish it at your peril. Liberal’s tactic of reducing their opponents to nothing more than irrational “racists” not only doesn’t solve the problem, it greatly exacerbates it. Stifling debate, delegitimizing serious concerns and ignoring observable reality is a sure fire way to radicalize opponents even to the point of violence. If liberals shut down the immigration debate with cries of “racism”, that doesn’t mean they’ve won it, or changed people’s minds, it just means they’ve abandoned the debate and shoved the resentment of their opponents into the closet, thus turning it into a shadow element that grows in power and intensity in the dark. Breivik is a fungus that grew in that shadow darkness…and he won’t be the last.

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Breivik is a monster, but he was also right. Immigration is a major problem in Europe. European cultures are under siege and attack and Breivik’s logic was pristine when seen through that lens. Ignoring these realities doesn’t make you an enlightened liberal, it makes you a damn fool. When a people or culture are under attack one of two things can happen, these people can either capitulate or they can fight. Throughout human history the usual response has been for people to fight. You can see this in recent history, from the Middle East to Britain. Not surprisingly America was not welcomed as liberators in Iraq…or Afghanistan…or Syria…or Yemen…or Libya…or anywhere else. Just like the waves of African, Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants have resulted in Brexit, Viktor Orban, the Five Star Movement, Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen and Trump and every other anti-immigrant, pro-nationalist movement on the rise in Europe.

As I have written before, when an invasion occurs, war breaks out. Whether that invasion is of military troops or migrants makes no difference. And when war breaks out, always bet on the home team…that is why the U.S. has lost in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. And that is also why the nationalist surges in Europe and even in the U.S. are the favorites to prevail.

An example of why this is can be seen in the behavior of my liberal friends out here in Hollywood, where everyone likes the idea of diversity, but once it costs them a job, or their children an opportunity or puts their children at risk, diversity goes out the window. People either fight or they capitulate. Here in Los Angeles, a very diverse city, many of my liberal friends who literally say that “diversity is the most important thing” to them, don’t send their kids to the very “diverse” public schools, but rather move to a tony neighborhood where the diversity isn’t “so diverse”. Either that or they send their kids to extremely expensive private schools in order to embrace “diversity” but just not too tightly. Like most things, diversity is great in theory, but more difficult in practice. In most cases when it comes to Hollywood liberals, “diversity” is deemed mandatory but only for those “racist” other guys, which is just like the Hollywood liberal approach to immigration, which they wholeheartedly support just as long as it doesn’t negatively effect them.

In conclusion, while 22 July is not the best film of the year, it is among the most important ones. I urge people to steel themselves and watch it, especially because you can see it on Netflix for free. 22 July asks viewers very uncomfortable questions that we all need to find the courage to deeply and honestly ponder, as we might not like the truth that presents itself when we look deep enough to find the answer. For me, the greatest takeway from 22 July is that Breivik was a prophet of doom and Lippestad is the needed antidote to Breivikism. The unsettling reality is that the Breivik infection has spread while the Lippestad antidote is in very short supply.

©2018

If Beale Street Could Talk: 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

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. A Beautiful mess of a movie that is gorgeous to look at but story wise is derivative and dull, making it difficult to sit through.

If Beale Street Could Talk, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, is an adaptation of the James Baldwin story of the same name that follows the travails of two African-Americans, Tish and Fonny, as they navigate the perils of young love in a racist New York City of the 1970’s. The film stars Kiki Layne as Tish and Stephon James as Fonny with supporting turns from Regina King and Brian Tyree Henry .

If Beale Street Could Talk, director Barry Jenkin’s much anticipated follow up to his 2016 Best Picture winning Moonlight, is another in a long line of disappointments on the very bumpy ride of cinema in 2018.

Based on the James Baldwin story of the same name (which I have not read), If Beale Street Could Talk is a beautiful mess of a movie. It is at once visually stunning yet also narratively pedestrian and culturally juvenile.

Let’s start with the good news. Cinematographer James Laxton delivers an impeccably lush and cinematically vibrant aesthetic to the film. Laxton’s camera engages in an exquisite dance with his subjects while painting the world of the film with a delicate and ethereal palate that is not only gorgeous to behold but narratively profound. Laxton’s work on Moonlight was equally sublime and dramatically insightful, and with If Beale Street Could Talk, Laxton has shown himself to be not only a master craftsman but a powerful artist.

Sadly, Barry Jenkins script never lives up to Laxton’s stirring cinematography. Jenkins inability to write efficient and effective dialogue and build a coherent and compelling narrative make If Beale Street Could Talk a frustratingly uneven and ultimately unsatisfying film to watch.

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When Jenkins (and Laxton) flashes back and focuses on the blossoming first love of Tish and Fonny, the film crackles with life. The chemistry between actors Kiki Layne (Tish) and Stephon James (Fonny) in these flashback scenes is palpable, and Laxton superbly bathes them in gorgeous light, shadow and color as he lets the viewer see the characters as they see each other, through the prism of unabashed love.

It is when the film shifts to the present moment and its drama of “legal peril”, which is decidedly stale and stultifying with cringe worthy dialogue to match, when the wheels come of the cinematic wagon. An example of which is that there is a scene between Tish and Fonny’s families that is so poorly written, poorly directed and poorly acted that it was like watching kids put on a play…a very bad play…in their basement.

The “legal peril” storyline is so trite, hackneyed and derivative it seems like it was lifted from an episode of Law and Order or some equally awful television show. Anytime the focus of the film shifts to the legal story and its adjacent narratives, it serves as little more than an irritating distraction.

The film is equally abysmal when it tries to convey a political or socially conscious message. When Jenkins tries to use the movie as a statement on race in America, it reveals itself to be, at best, painfully adolescent in its cosmology.

Ironically, in its social themes, If Beale Street Could Talk is as much an unnuanced distorted Black view of America as Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry is a unnuanced distorted view of America through the White perspective. Both film’s are little more than wish fulfillment and fantasies driven by archetypes deeply embedded in the American psyche. In the case of Dirty Harry, it is the archetypal Righteous Gun Slinging Vigilante, who is part of the system but operates outside of it to protect Whites from those lawless “others”, most notably Blacks (think of the “you feel lucky” scene, where Dirty Harry points his .44 Magnum in the face of a “Black criminal”).


In If Beale Street Could Talk, the thematic archetype is one of the Righteous Victim (think of Fonny as the young Black criminal with Dirty Harry’s .44 in his face), who is oppressed by the system and must operate outside of it in order to survive it. In this way, If Beale Street Could Talk is social justice/victimhood porn and propaganda, which on its surface claims to be about speaking the truth of the Black perspective in America, but in reality is about reinforcing and strengthening the victim archetype and narrative.

What is striking to me about this aspect of the film, is that it also reinforces the racist tropes that fueled the Dirty Harry era to begin with and which eventually led to Clinton’s infamous crime bill in the 90’s which further criminalized Black men. For instance, the lead character Fonny which, along with Tish, is whom the viewer is supposed to identify with, and yet when we first learn about Fonny, he commits a crime, theft. Fonny’s lawlessness is not even given a second thought, but in the narrative structure of the film it subconsciously undermines the audiences connection to him to a devastating degree. This is not some personal revelation from me, this is just Cinema 101: Basic Storytelling and Character Development.

The same is true of the other Black men in the movie, all of whom are equally lawless and all of whom commit crimes. Fonny’s father steals from the docks, and his pseudo father in law not only steals but beats the hell out of his wife…and yet these men are supposed to represent “regular Black men”.

Add to that Fonny’s friend Daniel who is fresh out of prison, and just like Fonny claims he is entirely innocent of the charges against him. Apparently Fonny and Daniel are the two guys who really didn’t do it…even though we’ve already seen Fonny commit a crime and Daniel’s sketchy reputation precedes him.

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While all of the Black men in the film are criminals, none of them take responsibility for their criminality. The crimes they commit are all the fault of the system that is screwing them, thus demeaning these men even further as they are deprived of any and all agency. This is the Victim archetype in full bloom, where no matter what the character does it is never their fault. This is an extremely unsatisfying quality in a cinematic Hero, as it simply castrates the Hero and asks the audience to pity them rather than relate or project on to them. It also does not allow for any catharsis on the part of the character, and that in turn doesn’t allow for any catharsis on the part of the viewer, which results in a psychologically frustrating movie-going experience.

Consider other Hero stories where the Hero is brought down by a corrupt system…movies like Braveheart, where William Wallace ultimately loses, but he goes down swinging, screaming “Freedom” at the top of his lungs as he is torn to shreds. Or think of a parallel for the Fonny character to maybe the best known Hero story of them all…Jesus Christ. Jesus is persecuted, just like Fonny, but the key to the Jesus story is that he has agency and chooses to be crucified….thus becoming Christ. Jesus is the empowered form of the Victim archetype…which is the martyr, who is victim by choice. The choice here is the important thing as it means the Hero may suffer a terrible defeat but he still maintains his agency. In contrast, the perpetually disempowered Fonny is just laundry being tossed and turned in a washing machine, who never chooses but always loses.

In terms of the criminality of the characters in the film, there are other contrasting examples, think of The Godfather or Goodfellas. The mobsters in those movies do awful things to people and yet audiences relate to them and embrace them as “Heroes” of the story, why is that? The reason for that is because those characters, from Michael Corleone to Henry Hill, embrace their criminality. They maintain their agency and don’t claim to be victims of the system, instead they are gaming the system.

These details in the DNA of If Beale Street Could Talk may seem minute to the less sophisticated viewer, but it is these specific elements that can make or break a film and its narrative in the unconscious of the audience. In the case of If Beale Street Could Talk, these subtle archetypal issues deter viewers from fully accepting and embracing the characters, story and film.

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It isn’t just the Black men who fair poorly in If Beale Street Could Talk, as White men are portrayed as truly devils in this movie. White men are sexual predators (again, the inverse of the Dirty Harry movie where Black men are predators) and are inherently evil, from a lecherous perfume shopper to a cop who is so consumed with racial hatred he comes across as more than a little insane. For the White characters in this movie, just like Black characters in Dirty Harry, they are entirely devoid of nuance and are absurd caricatures. Even White characters we never see are predators, as there is one who impregnates a poor Latina women and then leaves her with nothing, and then maybe even returns to rape her.

It is for these reasons that If Beale Street Could Talk is just as insidious and insipid as the blatantly racist Dirty Harry movies.

As for the acting, Stephon James and Kiki Layne are glorious in their falling in love sequences. Laxton’s camera holds on their loving gazes for extended periods and their love for one another is tangible in these shots. But when they are asked to do more than just look longingly and lovingly at one another, the two stars lose much of their power.

James is a charismatic screen presence, but he seems rather limited when it comes to the more static shots. James is unable to compress his magnetism and dynamism when he is contained in such a confining space and he loses his power because of it.

Kiki Layne is quite engaging during the dreamy love sequences as well, but she too falls well short when things get much more complicated. Layne’s strong suit is her ability to seem to be overcome by her wonder for the world, but when the world stops being wondrous, she stops being interesting and starts being wooden.

Regina King does solid work as Tish’s mom, but she is hamstrung by being stuck in the intolerably mundane legal drama portion of the story, and while she is a compelling actress, none of her scenes are particularly noteworthy.

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If Beale Street Could Talk, which may be the second most mis-leading title in the history of cinema right behind The Never Ending Story because Beale Street is never seen in the movie and all the action takes place in New York (I am kidding, the title is explained in the opening, but still…I found it funny), is another in a long line of films that underwhelmed in 2018. Barry Jenkins (and his cinematographer James Laxton) has a distinct and luscious visual flair to his work, but his storytelling and character development need serious work. Therefore I can only recommend this film to the most committed of cinephiles who would want to see the cinematography on the big screen. For everyone else, there is no reason to see this in the theatre, but if you stumble upon it on cable one night or on Netflix, feel free to check it out if you like, and tell me if I am wrong or not.

In conclusion, if Beale Street could talk, I’d tell it to shut up because while it talks a lot and does so in a beautifully melodious and mellifluous visual voice, it actually doesn’t say a whole hell of a lot, and what little it does have to say is so vapid and vacuous that it has no value whatsoever.

©2018

Bush, Bertolucci and a Requiem for Truth

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 66 seconds


There is a common belief among the hoi polloi that famous deaths happen in threes. While I can’t prove that to be true, it certainly seems to be true. For instance, just this last week, former President George HW Bush died along with famed Oscar winning director Bernardo Bertolucci. Who was the third death you may ask? My answer to that is, the third death this week was Truth.

Bernardo Bertolucci died on November 26th, 2018, but the truth regarding Bertolucci died two years ago when the media ran with a story about the man and his work that was so ludicrous and odious as to be absurd. The gist of that story was that while filming one of his great works, Last Tango in Paris (1972), Bertolucci directed his star, Marlon Brando, to use butter as lubricant and rape his lead actress Maria Schnieder, on camera.

The story, on its face, is absolutely ludicrous and only an imbecile would believe it, and yet, the media ran headlines misinterpreting a Bertolucci quote and Hollywood celebrities went into overdrive virtue signalling to condemn Bertolucci and Brando. Some, like the genius Chris Evans of Captain America fame, actually called for the two men to be in prison. No one had the heart to break to the dim-witted Mr. Evans that digging up the long dead Brando to stuff his body into a jail cell was not really worth the time and effort.

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I wrote a piece about this Last Tango/butter rape story back when it happened, and that piece got quite a lot of attention. Even though I was prescient enough to write in that 2016 story about actual, real sexual abuse taking place in Hollywood a full year before the Weinstein scandal broke, many people attacked me for my article claiming that I was somehow condoning rape. Of course, my counter argument was pretty simple…no rape had occurred so I couldn’t be condoning rape. In fact, not only did no rape occur, but no sexual contact of any kind occurred, but that didn’t appease the future #MeToo-ers from getting hysterically hysterical.

With Bertolucci’s death last week came a whole new wave of stories highlighting the fallacious butter/rape nonsense, with a great number of columnists, in as serious a tone as possible, condemning the man and saying that the butter/rape story overshadowed his artistic genius and must be in the first paragraph of his obituary. I nearly gave myself seizures from rolling my eyes so much and sighing so heavily at the moronic group think and political correctness consistently on display by these intellectually impotent, flaccidly unoriginal, know-nothing writers, but somehow I survived.

The one bright spot was that nearly every piece I read, especially the hard news pieces as opposed to the editorials and columnists, made clear this time around what they failed to make clear two years ago, namely that all of the sex in Last Tango in general, and in the “butter scene” in particular, was simulated. It is a sign of the idiotic times that the bar is set so low in regards to Truth that I took that bit of raging obviousness to be a small concession and a partial victory. My thinking was that, at least my article from two years had some impact…and that has to count for something (much like my Chris Kyle piece made a minor ripple in the culture four years ago). While I am certainly not a hero in the war for Truth, I can at least claim to have fired a shot….whether it hit or not is another thing entirely.

Which brings us to former President George HW Bush, who died over the weekend. Bush was preceded in his death not only by his wife of 73 years, Barbara, but also by the Truth. For proof of that one need look no further than the glowing media coverage of the elder Bush that spontaneously erupted even before rigor mortis had even set in after he shuffled off his mortal coil.

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In America we have no official state religion, and that is because our de facto state religion is the religion of state. The deaths of former presidents and first ladies trigger an instantaneous high holy days in America where critical thinking is replaced with maudlin displays of faux patriotism that is more akin to a cult than a country. This flag-waving nostalgia spreads like a pandemic in post-presidential death America, and it infects both establishment political parties equally.

The establishment and its duplicitous corporate media wing kick into high gear when a venal American aristocrat like HW Bush dies. Michael Beschloss, Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin are, like wax figures at Madame Tussaud’s, dug up out of the basement, dolled up and rolled out for the mindless to gawk at as they, ironically, wax eloquently about what a kind man Bush was and how he put country before self. It is all so soft and nice and is nothing but a pandering, manipulative fairy tale. Added to the mix now is how Bush the Elder was so different from the usurper currently sitting on the throne…the scandalous Donald Trumpenstien. Of course, the reality is that the media is only interested in style over substance and form over function, and thus their distaste for Trump and lavish adoration of HW Bush.

Bush’s death has notched the establishment’s hatred of Trump well past 11 and into the stratosphere…even more so than when St. John McCain died earlier this year, leaving behind his grieving common-law wife Lindsay Graham, who no doubt still suffers from the vapors. Mainstream media talking heads poetically pontificating about Bush’s and McCain’s “civility” and their “unquestionable patriotism” is like a never ending and gratuitous funeral dirge meant to signal the end of one noble life (and reprehensible lie) and the continuation of the greater tradition (and bigger lie) of the great American city brightly shining on the hill in all its moral superiority. This is all just smoke and mirrors to tap into emotion over reason and distract from the Truth.

What really comes across to me in watching the vacuous and vapid coverage of HW Bush’s demise, is that it is really just one more echo of a scream from the vicious and brutal killing of Truth in American life.

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For example, whenever MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace rhapsodizes on Bush’s compassion but fails to mention his belligerent refusal to apologize to the Iranian people when in 1988 the U.S. military shot down Iranian Air Flight 655, a passenger jet that was flying in Iranian airspace, killing 274 innocent civilians, including 66 children, Truth dies. Truth dies further when the fact that Bush awarded the commander of the ship (U.S.S. Vincennes) that shot down that civilian aircraft a medal for his actions, is ignored.

Whenever Rachel Maddow declares that Bush is so dramatically different from Trump, but fails to mention that both men were born with silver spoons in their mouth that were so big they still shit bullion, Truth dies.

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Whenever CNN’s Anderson Cooper talks of Bush’s beautiful 73 year marriage to Barbara and holds it up as a symbol of true love and devotion but fails to mention Bush’s long-term affair with his aide Jennifer Fitzgerald, Truth dies.

Whenever some pundit calls Bush a “self-made man” but fails to mention that he was born into one of the most powerful families in the country and his father was one of the most powerful bankers in the country who later became a U.S. Senator, Truth dies.

When the fact that HW Bush came from one of the most powerful blue blooded families in the country and then married into another wealthy and politically connected family, the Pierces, is not mentioned in regards to his life, Truth dies.

Whenever some historian speaks of Bush being unlike Trump because he put “country before self” and fails to mention his deplorable treason of the October Surprise, where Bush conspired to keep Americans hostage in Iran until after the 1980 election, Truth dies.

Whenever Bush is held up as a paragon of civic virtue as opposed to Trump, but his pardoning of his compatriots in the Iran-Contra scandal, many of whom could have ratted him out for his own criminal involvement in the scandal is omitted, Truth dies.

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Whenever media members decry Trump’s treatment of illegal immigrants but fail to mention Bush’s Operation Condor, which was a covert operation in effect while Bush was head of the CIA, where the U.S. funded, trained and directed assassination and death squads in Central and South America who hunted, tortured and killed thousands of political dissenters and dissidents in order to keep right-wing dictatorships in power, Truth dies.

Whenever Bush is revered as a dignified statesman, but his illegal invasion of Panama, where he arrested Manuel Noriega, who was one of Bush’s partners in the Central American portion of Iran-Contra, and who under CIA supervision and protection, facilitated drug and gun smuggling throughout Central America and major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles and Miami that ravaged minority communities here in America and entire countries in Central America, which now fuels our immigration crisis, Truth dies.

Whenever talking heads speak of Bush’s impeccability in contrast to the corruption of the Trump administration but fail to mention the Bush family’s connection to the S&L scandal, in particular HW’s son Neil Bush, who was neck deep in that mess, Truth dies. Or when HW Bush’s father and his connections to the Nazi’s is conveniently lost down the memory hole, or the Bush family connections to the Bin Laden’s, or the House of Saud, or even…wait for it…the Hinckley family, whose son John Jr. shot President Reagan just months after he became president, and if Reagan had died, then Vice President George HW Bush would have been eligible to be president for the next 11 years…when all of those connections are ignored…Truth dies. (And Truth dies before I even mention the memory-holed information like HW Bush’s compelling connections to the Kennedy assassination, including his being a CIA operative at the time, the use of off-shore companies he is connected with as a money laundering vehicle for the Kennedy operation, and his allegedly being in Dealey Plaza on that day. )

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Whenever historians, with misty eyes, eulogize Bush and bemoan Trump, but fail to directly connect the failures of Bush and his ilk to the collapse of trust in institutions which led to Trump, Truth dies. For instance, Bush’s CIA led Operation Condor and Iran-Contra, both de-stablized Central America and have directly led to the immigration crisis of today, which led to Trump. The same is true of Bush’s handling of the S&L scandal, which directly led to the Wall Street crisis of 2008, the anger over which led to Trump. The same is true of Bush’s (and Reagan’s) meddling in the Middle East, from putting Marines in Lebanon, which empowered Hezbollah, to dealing with Iran in both the October Surprise and the Iran-Contra scandal, as well as the head fake to get us into Iraq War I, and the devastating effect that had on regular Iraqis who were killed in the war and starved in the sanctions in the war’s aftermath, not to mention the debacle that was Iraq War II, all of which led to Trump.

Bush was not only a failure as a president, but as a father and a human being. He is responsible for the deaths of millions of people and for the misery of millions more. He has the blood of thousands killed in Central America on his hands and is morally responsible for the countless others he condemned to life in misery here in America with the easy flow of drugs and guns into inner cities under the Iran-Contra flag.

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Bush’s son, the execrable George W. Bush, the 43 president, was an even worse president and presided over the killing of millions across the globe, most specifically in Iraq. Besides lying us into a war, Dubya also shredded the constitution with his expansive surveillance programs and his rendition and torture programs, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of his awfulness since I haven’t mentioned his failure (or complicity) on 9-11, and his use of that tragedy for personal political gain. Dubya’s moral and political corruption and failure led to Trump.

Bush’s other sons are no walk in the park either, as his previously mentioned son Neil was deeply involved in the S&L scandal, and who also had a dinner scheduled with John Hinckley Jr.’s older brother the night after the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan…how uncomfortable that phone call to cancel must have been. And I’m not even going to get into “Low Energy” Jeb Bush because, ironically, I just don’t have the energy, but trust me when i tell you that Neil Bush and Jeb Bush make Don Jr. and Eric Trump look like pikers at the entitlement and corruption table.

The bottom line is this, the establishment rants and raves about Trump and his destruction of American institutions and his attacks on Truth, but the reality is that the establishment destroyed their own institutions through flagrant corruption and fragrant mismanagement (“Heckuva job Brownie!”), and George HW Bush is the epitome of the depravity, nepotism, fraud, malfeasance, unscrupulousness and above all the entitlement that has turned many Americans against the establishment and which led directly to Trump.

The media has failed right along with the rest of the establishment, and their glaring and self-serving hypocrisy and mendacity only furthers to erode any remaining credibility they hope to hold on to. HW Bush’s failures shouldn’t be papered over by the press in the wake of his death, they should be shouted from the mountain tops in an attempt to regain the credibility that they so frivolously squandered with their cheerleading for war in Iraq (both I and II), their boot-licking of Dubya Bush on torture and surveillance (like the New York Times not using the word torture and holding a story on illegal surveillance until after the 2004 election) and for being lackeys to power in both Washington and Wall Street (such as media asshats like Jim Cramer yelling “BUY, BUY, BUY!” for Bear Stearns as it collapsed).

The media continues to degrade itself and its credibility when it bends over backwards to condemn Trump but simultaneously rehabilitates George W. Bush and his ilk. The same neo-con crew that lied us into the Iraq catastrophe and slept walked through 9-11, are still held in the highest regard by the overlords of American mass media. The allegedly liberal MSNBC is a festering cesspool of Bush apologia that actively rehabilitates Bush along with his nefarious intelligence agency henchmen like General Michael Hayden, John Brennan, James Clapper, James Comey and Robert Muller. An example of MSNBC’s Bush sycophancy is that the network lets Bush administration alum Nicole Wallace have her own daily show and regularly allows such worm-tongued troglodytes as Bill Kristol and Max Boot on their programs with never a mention of their Iraq War villainy or any of their other egregious sins.

The problem with the lack of Truth in regards to HW Bush or Bertolucci is that the lies we tell ourselves only end up fooling ourselves. The lies the media tells itself and attempts to spread far and wide now ring hollow across large swaths of the the culture, and thus we have President Trump.

Telling ourselves lies, or believing in lies in order to make ourselves feel morally superior, like Chris Evans and the rest of the anti-Bertolucci, butter rape believing crowd, only ends up creating more shadows dancing on our cave walls meant to distract us from the harsher reality we prefer to ignore. So Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Jessica Chastain et al, used the Bertolucci butter rape story to make themselves feel better, like they were strong and taking a stand, but it also conveniently distracted them from their silent complicity with Woody Allen, Harvey Weinstein and other sexual predators hunting young women and men in Hollywood. The reason they raged against Bertolucci and not against Woody Allen or Weinstein, is because it was easy…it was a form of cheap grace. Calling out Woody Allen or Weinstein (at the time before the story broke) would have cost them something…but attacking Bertolucci was free…free from repercussions and also free from fact.

The same is true of the media in regards to their hagiography of George HW Bush and family. Instead of speaking Truth, they pass on polite platitudes about service and nobility rather than highlight the family’s and man’s utter moral depravity, because it is easier to lie than seek or speak the Truth. To be fair to the media though, they are just doing their job…which is to propagandize the population with lies and inoculate them against Truth.

In conclusion, George HW Bush is dead. He inflicted great harm and evil upon the world, that is not a partisan assessment (I think the same of Clinton and Obama), but one founded on a very clear rational, moral and ethical basis. By ignoring the truth about George HW Bush, or distorting the truth about Bernardo Bertolucci for that matter, the media, and we the people, are condemning ourselves to our own execution. For as some have only come to discover under Trump’s mendacious and malevolent presidency, if the Truth has no meaning, than life has no purpose, and we are left in a Nietzschean will to power death spiral where, like a narcissistic ourboros, we cannibalistically gorge ourselves on our own lies and bullshit, and therefore end up being annihilated by eating ourselves into oblivion.

©2018

2018 Mid-Terms: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 35 seconds

Well, the mid-term elections are in the rear-view mirror and fading fast in the public consciousness as the never ending and frantic news cycle moves on to other topics like Jeff Sessions’ firing and the horrific shooting in Thousand Oaks. Before the election results are permanently lost down the memory hole though, I thought it would be wise to revisit them and see where we are and where we are headed.

GOOD? BAD? UGLY?

I predicted there would be no “blue wave” and depending on with whom you talk I might have been right. That said, the Democrats in the House outperformed my prediction, I thought they would either lose or win the House by a nose, and they exceeded that.

Some in the media are calling this a “blue ripple” as opposed to a blue wave, that may be more accurate but it also strikes me that it might be a desperate attempt to find the bright side. This election was billed as a referendum on Trump, and the cold hard reality is that Trump was not repudiated. Yes, Trump lost the House, but historically speaking, he substantially outperformed his predecessors. For example, Obama lost 66 House seats in 2010 and Clinton lost 54 seats in 1994 in their first mid-terms compared to Trump losing 30 (or so, the final tally isn’t in yet) this year…and they both went on to win reelection. Add to that the fact that Trump expanded his majority in the Senate and it appears that while Trump is certainly more vulnerable with a Democratic House, Trumpism is, to quote The Simple Minds, “Alive and Kicking” here in the good old U.S. of A., which means that while my House prediction may have been too pessimistic, my prediction of very bad things to come in our future is going to be right on the nose.

BAD

The Democrats, with their chests puffed out after winning the House, have seemingly decided to take a gigantic shit all over themselves and keep Nancy Pelosi on as Speaker of the House. What a brilliant strategic move, making an elderly, rich, corporate whore, machine politician as the face of your party when populism pulsates throughout not just the critical rust belt states you so desperately need to flip in order to win back the White House, but the majority of the country as well. Power is there for the taking if only the Democrats would abandon Wall Street in favor of Main Street and tack far to the left economically. But we all know they won’t do that because, just like the Republicans, they are pigs at the trough, and regular folks are left with nothing but the foul stench of their excrement after the establishment hogs have gorged themselves.

GOOD AND BAD

I had a reader email me earlier in the year regarding Beto O’Rourke, this reader is a very smart and engaging guy and always has terrific insights to share. In one email he told me he was excited for Beto in Texas, and thought he could be a game changer. I replied to the reader and told him that I liked Beto a lot as well, but that Texas politics is like the movie Chinatown, and while Democrats keep insisting that it is going to flip blue, at the end of the day Democrats will only be left agog in the middle of the street as their partner tries to console them by saying, “forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

I do admit though, that on election night as I saw the numbers come in I totally got sucked into the Beto magic and started thinking he might pull it off and be the next JFK and become president in 2020 and save the universe. But then the Beto love (played by Faye Dunaway) got shot and killed and the creepy Ted Cruz drove off with the election with incestuous lust in his eyes for his daughter/granddaughter and I was left muttering to myself, “forget it Mick, it’s Chinatown.”

GOOD

With all that said, Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum in Florida are both cases that prove that genuinely economically progressive politicians will outperform the usual centrist drivel put forward by the Democrats. I keep hearing how O’Rourke was fool’s gold, same with Gillum, and that the lesson to be learned from their loss is that the Dems need to move to the center. This is beyond moronic. Both Beto and Gillum were supposed to lose because both Texas and Florida are Republican states, but they did extremely well and exceeded expectations because, one - they are top-notch political talents and two - they were selling a genuine progressive economic agenda that has proven to be extremely popular among the masses regardless of party. Hell…in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, voters passed initiatives to expand Medicaid and in Arkansas and Missouri they voted to increase the minimum wage.

I believe that the lesson to be learned from Beto and Gillum is the same lesson to be learned from Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise showing in the last British election, which was met with the equally inane analysis of “but he didn’t win!”. In our myopic culture, one must look to the big picture and the long game in order to have a strategic advantage, for Corbyn, his “loss” was a “win” because he gained momentum and was positioned to win at the next election and would not be held accountable for the shit show that is the current Brexit negotiations. For Beto and Gillum, they “lost” but won because they can now spend their time positioning themselves and gearing up for future races which might be more advantageous than this latest one. Beto and Gillum are serious talents, they just have to find a way to maintain the magic and not sell out before the next election.

GOOD

On the bright-side, one of my least favorite politicians of all-time, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, was defeated. Walker is a Koch brothers sycophant and an anti-Union hound, and I hope his next job is testing the strength of two by fours with his face.

BAD

Steve King of Iowa and Peter King of N.Y. are two more of my least favorite politicians. Being a native New Yorker, I find Peter to be the more deplorable of the two kings but it is close. Sadly, they both won re-election, and seem to be the type of politicians who will probably become Weekend at Bernie’s Congressman who continue in their jobs long after their death.

BAD

Speaking of awful people winning elections…in my home state of California, the repugnant Gavin Newsom won the Governorship and the repulsive and decrepit Dianne Feinstein won her fifth Senate race. Both Newsom and Feinstein are the poster children of Democratic fecklessness and corporate sluttery.

Newsom is one of the more phony and manufactured politicians you will ever come across, he makes Bill Clinton and Mitt Romney look like Robin Williams and Jonathon Winters. Newsom no doubt has his sights set on the White House, but the reality is that he doesn’t stand a chance. Trump would chew up and spit out a canned clown like Newsom and his corporate friendly economics with ease.

Dianne Feinstein, or DiFi as I like to call her, is a prostitute for the military and intelligence industrial complex. She loves the intelligence community and shamelessly kisses and licks their ass on her own volition and upon their request. Why liberal Californians love DiFi is a complete mystery since she is actually a closeted Republican, which makes sense since she is old enough to be Calvin Coolidge’s big sister.

THE WAY FORWARD

As for the next two years…as I stated in my prediction post, things are about to get really interesting. The Democrats seem to want to try and impeach Trump, which strikes me as a bad move strategically.

I am all for hearings and holding his feet to the fire, but I think it should be done in moderation and with surgical precision. Like Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York the Democrats must stick the knife in where it will be fatal. Random investigations of petty offenses may actually be fruitful in the short term, but long term would only strengthen Trump across the country. Remember, a lot of people hate Trump, but a lot of people also hate grandstanding Democrats (see Cory Booker and his “I am Spartacus” buffoonery) and the media (see Jim Accosta). So the wise move is to do fewer hearings but to have them cut deeper and in fatal areas. My advice for the Democrats…and I have been saying this from the get go…DROP THE RUSSIA BULLSHIT. The Russia investigation is going nowhere…even if Russia is guilty of what everyone says they are (which I still do not believe since I have yet to see one iota of proof), no one but liberal partisans gives a flying fuck.

Want to get under Trump’s skin, forget Russia, forget Stormy, forget emoluments…go after his business. Trump will go nuts, he will flail and freak out because going after his business means going after his family. And going after his family may turn some people off, but unlike the Russia story, Trump’s business is ultimately a political winner for Democrats. Trump can be shown to be just another silver-spooned, Daddy’s little rich girl, corrupt business man who is cheating the little guy and breaking the law. Exposing Trump’s business does two things, it will show him to be criminal and most importantly it will show him to be a failure and that will resonate with regular people who do not care one bit about the Russia nonsense.

The other thing Democrats should do, is use their newfound leverage to actually make deals with Trump. Trump will want the wins, and Dems may not like letting him have them, but big picture, getting Trump, a Republican president, to sign off on Medicare for all, would be a huge win for Democrats and would shatter any Republican coalition. It would also show that Democrats are more than just Anti-Trump, and that they actually have a governing philosophy and want to get things done and that will play in the heartland.

The Democrats would also be wise to move closer to Trump on immigration and make a deal with him on it. Immigration is an issue that the Democrats are going to lose on, and so they must find a reasonably moderate solution to it before 2020. Trust me, open borders and shutting down ICE are not going to work as a position on immigration. The Democrats (as I have been saying for years), should make the immigration debate about economics, which would again, split the Republicans. The Chamber of Commerce Republicans want illegal immigration because it gives them cheap, non-union labor but “Springsteen voters” (working class who voted for Obama twice but switched to Trump) don’t want illegal immigration because it lowers their wages and dilutes the culture. Dems would be wise to placate the Springsteen voters because they are the ones who can give them Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio…and thus the White House.

As I said in my prediction post, we are in a phase of destruction right now, which is a part of a natural historical cycle. Some readers have asked me what they should do with that information, many wondering if it won’t lead to apathy or depression. My response is simple, use that information to your strategic advantage. The system we have is collapsing, and understand that means you can stop trying to prop the old system up, but instead position yourself to prosper when the systemic collapse becomes glaring.

Trump understood, either consciously or more likely unconsciously, that the system was failing. He ran as someone outside the system who would replace the system. Clinton ran as part of the failing system who would fix that system. The collective unconscious knows the system is dying, and anyone trying to fix it by breathing life back into it will seem absurdly crazy to the collective. It is like performing CPR on a corpse, it is a fruitless and exhausting endeavor and will only end in fatigue and failure.

With this in mind, Jeremy Corbyn’s loss in the UK, or Beto’s loss in Texas or Gillum’s in Florida, seem less devastating, in fact, they seem downright invigorating. Centrist, globalist, neo-liberal economics and neo-conservative foreign policy are of the dying system, and Clinton’s loss in 2016 and the Democrats under-performing in 2018 are a death rattle for that ideology.

What liberals and leftists need to do is to keep their heads down and their nose to the grindstone. They need to be ready for when the system collapses entirely and that void sits at the center of our culture and state. Reaganism, Republicanism, Centrist Liberalism, Neo-Liberalism and Neo-Conservatism have all failed and will be rejected as akin to CPR on a corpse when the system dies. Liberals and leftists need a coherent and cogent substitute in order to step up when the time is right and make the case for what the New America will look like.

Bernie Sanders already planted the seed with his electric run in 2016. He has been followed in 2018 by numerous top-notch candidates as well as the Democratic Socialists of America who have a genuine alternative to the dying system, which gives them an edge going forward. No doubt we will see even more Democratic Socialists and Bernie backed candidates in 2020 and beyond.

Corbyn has done the same in the UK, and is poised to lead New Britain after Brexit…just as American liberals and leftists must themselves prepare to lead the New America after its inevitable collapse. Any liberals and leftists clinging to dreams that a Clinton-esque neo-liberal shift to the center will be the ticket to success in 2020 better disabuse themselves of that delusion because that will guarantee another four years of Trump and God knows what that will bring.



©2018

2018 Mid-Term Elections

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Ever since Trump was elected president in 2016, the media have declared that he would face a comeuppance in the form of vast Democrat victories, or as they call it, a “blue wave”, come the 2018 mid-term elections. While I would like to think that would happen…I don’t think that will happen.

As long time readers know, I was one of “those people” who, in the face of a cavalcade of opposite opinion in the media and in my social circles, accurately predicted Trump’s victory in 2016. As I said in my writing from that time, I didn’t want Trump to win (nor was I a Hillary supporter), I just thought he would. I ended up being right and we have all had to suffer through the never ending reality show that is Trump TV ever since.

The formula I used to predict Trump’s 2016 victory is my McCaffrey Wave Theory, which again, I am sure long-time readers are sick of hearing about…but what can you do? My wave theory uses, among other things, popular culture, most specifically, at least currently, film and television, as indicators of the mood in the collective unconscious. The formula of the McCaffrey Wave Theory is actually very complex and complicated, and takes into account numerous cultural and historical “waves” or “cycles” that are all simultaneously in motion.

Interpreting the data from these waves/cycles and measuring their relationship to one another is how the McCaffrey Wave Theory is able to “predict” certain turn of events. And to be clear, this is not about being Nostradamus and saying planes will fly into buildings on 9-11, but rather about understanding the ebbs and flows of the collective unconscious and knowing when both big and small shifts will occur when portions of the collective unconscious become conscious.

The key elements of the McCaffrey Wave Theory are the archetypes, narratives and sub-texts prominent in films/tv along with their color scheme and visual/cinematic tendencies. These data points are how my wave/cycle theory is able to discern which films and/or television shows are leading indicators and which are lagging indicators of the collective unconscious. Leading indicator films are the ones that express the unconscious desires/fears of the collective, while lagging indicator films are the ones that express conscious fears or desires of the collective.

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Some examples of leading indicator film and tv were pretty obvious in 2017 when HULU’s A Handmaid’s Tale (its narrative and vibrant red and green color scheme) and the DC film Wonder Woman (its narrative and red and blue color scheme) jumped to the fore of our culture in the early summer. These two successful projects accurately foretold of the coming feminist outcry and the rise of the #MeToo movement in the wake of the Weinstein revelations that came out in October of 2017.

A good example of a lagging indicator film was in 2017 as well, when Steven Spielberg rushed into production his thinly veiled anti-Trump/pro-Hillary film, The Post, that underwhelmed both at the box office and come awards time. The Post failed both artistically and financially because it was little more than wish fulfillment that attempted to give the audience what it wanted, not what the collective sub-conscious needed.

In the years leading up to the rise of Trump in 2016, there were numerous films and television shows that were ominous signs of a very dark impulse coming to the fore in American life and across the globe.

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Two glaring examples were HBO’s Game of Thrones with its marketing campaign which for years was warning us all with their ice-blue billboards proclaiming that “Winter is Coming”. The other was Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, a show about what America would be like if the Nazi’s and Japanese won World War II, which hit the airwaves in 2015 accompanied by a prodigious marketing campaign which had the Nazi Eagle on the American flag and the Imperial Japanese flag plastered all over the New York subway and elsewhere. Both of those shows resonated within the culture because they accurately gave voice to what was lurking in our collective unconscious. On some level we knew what was coming…a horrible “winter” and the Nazi’s/Not Sees…and these shows knew it before we were even conscious of it. (and don’t kid yourself, the Nazi/Not See impulse is not solely of the right, the left has a strong Not See impulse too).

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In 2015 there were many films that were also giving us warning signs of big trouble ahead. The Martian, The Hateful Eight, The Revenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens were all through their narratives, color schemes (Martian - Red, Hateful 8 - Blue, Revenant - Blue, Star Wars - Red and Blue) and cinematic visuals (shots of foreboding vast expanses) the equivalent of a flashing red sign that a gigantic storm was coming.

In 2016 things got even clearer, as the blockbusters Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Deadpool, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and even La La Land all revealed through their narratives (internecine warfare), sub-text and color schemes (all of them with vibrant clashes of red and blue) that our cultural train was headed off the track if not the cliff.

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As I have previously written, last year cinema gave us some signs of what to expect going forward. The big archetype of the year in 2017 was Winston Churchill…with the films Dunkirk, Darkest Hour and the Netflix show The Crown. The Churchill archetype can be interpreted in numerous ways, but when seen in conjunction with other wave/cycles, it strikes me that the Churchill archetype is manifesting in the Trump’s of the world…in other words…it is actually the Churchill shadow archetype that is taking center stage.

Which brings us to this year and the mid-terms. As I said, there has been incessant talk of a blue wave and in its jubilant wake the possibility of a Democratic House and maybe even Senate where, like a scene out of The Godfather where Michael settles all family business, liberals exact revenge by impeaching not only of Trump but Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh. As entertaining as that liberal porn may be…I don’t think it is going to happen.

According to my wave theory, there will be no blue wave. Not only will the Democrats not win the Senate, I don’t think they will win the House either, and if they do it will be by the skin of their teeth. Now…before you stick your head in the oven…to be very, very clear…I could certainly be wrong about this, God knows it wouldn’t be the first time. For starters, I have never used my wave theory to predict a mid-term before, and it could be I am interpreting the data entirely incorrectly, this is a distinct possibility. But with that said, ever since last June, when I wrote a piece for CounterPunch on the topic, along with a follow up posting on this blog in July, I have thought that this blue wave was a mirage.

As I stated in my CounterPunch piece, the big warning signs for me were the prominence and success of both Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War, both of which had narratives, sub-text and color scheme that spoke clearly of the failure of the opposition to Trump to succeed in toppling him.

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Other films, such as A Quiet Place, Hereditary and even A Star is Born, that have all resonated deeply within the culture this year, are also leading indicators of a Democratic failure come the mid-terms because of their narratives and sub-text. Believe it or not, A Star is Born is remarkably insightful sub-textually and that sub-text very clearly (once you crack the code of it) states that if not Trump, then at least Trumpism, is here to stay as a replacement for the old paradigm, as indicated by the song in the film “Maybe it’s time we let the old ways die”. (I hope to have a full analysis of A Star is Born done soon).

Just as importantly, there are lagging indicator films that are, just like Spielberg’s The Post in 2017, falling flat, which highlight what isn’t resonating in the collective unconscious. Films with similar narratives, like the “aggrieved and under-appreciated genius wife/power behind the throne” stories of The Wife and Colette, or the “police shooting/racism” films The Hate U Give, Monsters and Men and Blindspotting, have all fallen flat in the broader culture. Even the colossal failure of the cinematic celebration of multi-culturalism and female empowerment, A Wrinkle in Time, is telling us what is going on in our collective unconscious, and it isn’t good news.

Now…maybe I am dead wrong about all this…maybe I am misreading and misinterpreting the data, that is a distinct possibility. Maybe the Democrats win a huge majority in the House and even get one in the Senate…but neither of those things will lead to a return to “normal”…only an escalation of the clash for civilization that is currently taking place.

Even if Democrats win, the intensity of the political turmoil here in America will not recede but proceed at an even quicker pace. Two more years of impeachment talk and congressional hearings will only heighten the tensions that are already near a boil. If you thought Trump was awful these last two years, wait until he faces an existential threat to his presidency from a Democratically controlled House and possibly Senate.

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On the other hand, if, as I have been predicting since June, there is not blue wave, don’t expect tensions to lessen. If Democrats fail to gain the House, Trump will turn his obnoxiousness up to 11 and liberals and the media will ratchet up the crazy to unseen heights. And on top of that, if Mueller ends his investigation with no bombshells or smoking gun of “Russian collusion”, the liberal and Democratic meltdown will make Chernobyl look like a cookout.

In other words…no matter the outcome on November 6th, the conflagration that is American politics will only grow bigger, hotter and much more dangerous.

The reality is that there is no stopping the collapse of the institutions of western civilizations. Trust me, we have a very, very bumpy road ahead. That means more authoritarianism across the globe (Bolsonaro will win in Brazil) and more shocks to the system, like economic earthquakes, natural disasters and war.

The good news is that this current wave/cycle of collapse and destruction will not last forever. Eventually, after maybe a decade or so (or God help us a decade or two), this collapse and destruction wave/cycle will transform into a more optimistic wave/cycle of growth, stability, relative peace and prosperity. Remember, destruction is the first act of creation, and we will create, hopefully, a more just, localized, thoughtful and sustainable civilization in the crater where this one once stood.

As for the bad news…we are still in the destruction phase…and come November 7th there are going to be a lot of really pissed off Democrats, liberals and anti-Trumpers, who will still have no power in Washington with which to vent their rage. And if you thought things have been bad the last two years, what ‘til you get a load of what comes next because you ain’t seen nothing yet.


©2018

The Sisters Brothers: A Review

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

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. An at times funny and also surprisingly moving French, art house “western” that boasts a career best performance from John C. Reilly and a very stellar cast.

The Sisters Brothers, written and directed by Jacque Audiard, based upon the book of the same name by Thomas Bidegain, is the story of the Sisters brothers Eli and Charlie, assassins in 1850’s Oregon. The film stars John C. Reilly as Eli and Joaquin Phoenix as Charlie, with supporting turns from Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed.

The Sisters Brothers is a strange film that American audiences, conditioned by Hollywood to expect certain things from certain genres, will probably find frustratingly obtuse. On the surface, The Sisters Brothers is a standard western, with all the revenge fueled shootouts and horse-ridden treks through wilderness you’d expect from that genre, but buried just beneath that veneer of conventionality is the gold of a rich and complex foreign art house film and biblical parable.

I had no idea what to expect from The Sisters Brothers, as far as I knew it could be a slapstick western in the vein of Jack Nicholson’s Goin’ South or something, so I just went along for the ride on which the film took me, and I am ever so glad that I did.

Director Jacques Audiard is a terrific filmmaker, having made three distinctive and at times fantastic French films, A Prophet, Rust and Bone and Dheepan. Audiard’s directing touch on The Sisters Brothers, his first English language film, is exquisitely deft, and his artistic vision and cinematic aesthetic are a perfect match to turn the western genre on its head.

The film is a comedy, of sorts, with the Sisters brothers Eli and Charlie acting like an old married couple, bitching and bickering with one another to much hilarity. But the film is also gripped with an existential and hereditary darkness that gives it a resonant dramatic power.

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The film is elevated by four outstanding acting performances. The best of them all is John C. Reilly, a remarkably versatile actor, who gives a nuanced and complex performance as Eli which is the very best of his stellar career. Eli is the more thoughtful of the Sisters brothers, who has a gentle heart and caring soul. Reilly imbues Eli with a palpable sensitivity that, like the character, evolves and reveals itself over the duration of the story. Reilly’s ability to make Eli a genuine human being, rather than a buffoonish caricature, gives The Sisters Brothers a dramatic grounding that is the heart and soul of the film.

Reilly’s Eli is the archetypal feminine in the movie, which is symbolized by his relationship to the spider. In Jungian psychology and in Shamanic traditions the spider is representative of the feminine and of the weaving of fate. Eli has a fateful and intimate encounter with a spider in the film and literally gives birth to a brood of spiders.

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Eli’s kindness extends not only to his troubled younger brother Charlie, but to his second rate horse, with whom he grows a deep bond that is quite moving. It is Eli’s feminine nature that is both his greatest strength and also his crippling weakness as it has led to his being usurped and passed by his more archetypally masculine brother for the position of leading brother in the family.

Joaquin Phoenix is one of the best actors on the planet, and he is in the midst of a terrific year in cinema. Thus far in 2018, Phoenix has given stellar performances in both You Were Never Really Here and Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, and he keeps that streak alive as the combustible Charlie in The Sisters Brothers.

Phoenix is an actor that vibrates with a viscerally chaotic and unnerving unpredictability, and his Charlie is the perfect avatar to highlight that talent. Phoenix’s performance is one of understated brilliance as it is filled with some startling moments of primal anguish and pain.

Phoenix’s Charlie is a deeply wounded soul carrying a grievous original sin, but who has been elevated to the “right hand” of the Father not in spite of that sin, but because of it. Charlie’s great weakness is that he is so wounded he can never mature and evolve enough to survive in such an exalted position. In other words, crazy will only get you so far, but to be fair to Charlie, he comes by his crazy honestly.

What makes both Phoenix and Reilly shine is that they are blessed to have each other off of which to play. Eli ingests spider energy and is transformed, whereas Charlie slays a bear, a symbol of the power of the unconscious and the dawning of a personal spring. Eli’s encounter with the spider leads to transformation, whereas Charlie’s encounter with the bear is symbolic of his breaking of the connection with the unconscious and with that connection goes his chance at self-realization and transformation.

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Jake Gyllenhaal gives a solid performance as John Morris, a tracker and wannabe Thoreau who, like the Sister brothers, is trying to understand and deal with the affliction that his father passed on to him. John, Eli and Charlie are all victims of the archetypal father wound, and the malady they carry unconsciously guides them through their lives and propels the film forward. Gyllenhaal’s Morris is more aware of his ailments than the Sisters brothers, or at least becomes more aware of them, which leads him to question the entire purpose of his life.

Gyllenhaal is always at his best when he is understated, and his John Morris is a perfectly subdued and technically proficient performance. Gyllenhaal never pushes or prods with Morris, he simply let’s him be, and that decision makes for a solid contribution to the film.

Riz Ahmed plays Hermann Kermit Warm, a chemist who is hunted by the Sister brothers. Ahmed is absolutely fantastic in the role. Ahmed has a, pardon the pun, warmth about him as an actor that is captivating on screen and that trait serves him well in The Sisters Brothers. Ahmed’s Warm is a Christ-like figure, who radiates a near-defiantly fervent gentleness that is remarkably compelling.

Besides being a biblical and Jungian parable, the film is also a political, religious and economic parable. Mr. Warm is a pied piper for a socialist (and Christ-like, but not necessarily Christian) utopia which is alluring to the idealist and dreamer in all of us. In contrast, the uber-capitalist corporate town of Mayfield is held up as a bastion of deception and debauchery.

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The film also touches upon the need for a dismantling of a patriarchy that produces such twisted and tormented forms of masculinity as the Sisters brothers and much of the other violent men in the film. The patriarchy in its old form, namely the character the Commodore, needs to die for these men to ever have a chance to be free from their afflictions and to find the utopia that deep down they have yearned for their entire lives.

The religious aspects of the film are glaring for those with eyes to see them, for instance there is the brothers grooming of each other like apostles or the men anointing themselves with oil in a pseudo-baptismal ritual before they wade into the river. There is also the connection between Mr. Warm and Eli’s horse…who are both, in their own way, beasts of burden, and the viewer should keep a keen eye out for the similarity in the eyes of Warm and the horse at pivotal moments in the film.

The Sisters Brothers is a film with a multitude of layers, each one more interesting, revealing and insightful than the last. If you are planning to see the film, put aside your cultural conditioning and your expectations for a western, and instead watch the film as if it were a dream. Keep a vigilant eye out for spiders, bears, raccoons and the plethora of other signs and symbols that show the way to the film’s profound message.

The Sisters Brothers opens with a shout in the silent darkness of the Oregon night, but then there are flashes of light that splinter that darkness ever so quickly. That opening scene is the story of The Sisters Brothers, for it is a film about alchemy, where finding the gold in the darkness is an act of transformation which leads down the road to redemption. I never expected to be, but I was deeply, deeply moved by The Sisters Brothers, and found it be a profoundly satisfying cinematic experience. I wholly recommend you suspend your expectations and go see this film in the theatre, it is well worth the time, money and effort.

©2018

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot: A Review

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

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT/SEE IT: Skip it in the theatre (unless you have MoviePass) but due to terrific acting you should see it on cable or Netflix.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, written and directed by Gus Van Sant, is a dramedy bio-pic based upon the memoir of the same name by quadriplegic cartoonist and recovering alcoholic John Callahan. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Callahan, with supporting turns from Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara and Jack Black.

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I have been to rehab more times than I can even remember...maybe it's because I was in a booze-fueled blackout during those years...who knows? The thing that I do remember from my various rehab stints was that at every single one of them they were so bereft of ideas on how to help us degenerate drunken sons of bitches that they would always, at some point, resort to having us watch a movie. The movie they ALWAYS showed at every single rehab was the 1988 film Clean and Sober starring Michael Keaton.

The showing of Clean and Sober was preceded by comments from counselors as to what a "great movie" it was...which only further undermined my trust in them. Clean and Sober is a decent enough teaching tool for a rehab...but it sure as hell is not a "great" movie.

I thought of my seemingly endless rehab days often as I watched Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, and couldn't help but wonder if this film could morph into the new cinematic entertainment/teaching tool for rehabs across the country. 

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You never know what you're going to get with director Gus Van Sant. Sometimes he rolls out a total impressionistic arthouse piece of cinema (Elephant) and other times he'll give you a rather solid but conventional movie tinged with some arthouse flair (Milk, Good Will Hunting). With Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, he falls decidedly into the former category, as the film is a surprisingly standard and conventional "sobriety" bio-pic.

Van Sant does mess around with some less than linear storytelling, but that only confuses matters, as it is at times hard to tell where Callahan is in his recovery or non-recovery as the case may be.

As a recovery story the film works but for all the wrong reasons, namely the incoherent timeline mimics the confusion inherent in addiction, but also makes for a discombobulating cinematic experience. It is frustrating to the point of infuriating watching Callahan consistently get in his own way and stumble and stagger his way from bar to bar and AA meeting to AA meeting and back again and not knowing if we are in "real time" or a flashback or flash forward.

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The cycle of alcoholism and addiction is highlighted in a cartoon by John Callahan which shows the evolutionary scale from an amoeba in a swamp all the way up to a man accepting an award at a podium. Watching someone on screen so convincingly go through that heart breaking, gut wrenching and shame-filled struggle from the drunken swamp creature to the victorious award winner is uncomfortable for anyone like me who has made a similarly arduous journey.

In this context, Van Sant's less than coherent narrative is effective in relaying the psychological and spiritual vertigo that accompanies addiction, which is like a hall of funhouse mirrors where up is down, left is right and right is wrong. It is a horrifying and soul crushing experience to endure (and for loved one's of the afflicted to endure as well) the climb up and then falling back down of Callahan's evolutionary scale. The climb to sobriety is much like Christ's gauntlet to his own crucifixion, but at least Christ had the benefit of a clear path to Golgotha where he wasn't constantly taking one step forward and two steps back.

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John Callahan's struggle for sobriety is doubly difficult because of how painful and hopeless his unique situation is in regards to his spinal injury. Being unable to literally run away from his demons is an added burden that makes his climb all the steeper and also gives him a built in self-pitying excuse. Addicts love to self-pity and embrace the victim archetype...whining "poor me, poor me, poor me...pour me another drink". Callahan's victimhood is valid, but that doesn't make it useful in trying to ease and transform his feelings of emotional myopia, abandonment, betrayal, self-loathing and rage that can strangle recovery in its cradle.

I don't know if Don't Worry He Won't Get Far on Foot will be embraced by rehabs in the coming years as it is a little too realistic in showing how sobriety is a series of very small victories floating in an ocean of abysmal failures. That cold, hard reality might be too much for the newly sober to grapple with in such a fragile and delicate stage of their very long journey up and out of the muddy pit of addiction and onto the terra firma of an "ordinary" life.

As far as the particulars go, the film is definitely elevated above the likes of Clean and Sober because it boasts two top notch performances, one from lead Joaquin Phoenix, who I believe is the best actor in film today, and Jonah Hill, who plays sobriety guru Donnie Green.

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Phoenix's Callahan has a festering wound eating away at his soul that is only heightened when he (literally) cannot run away from it any longer. Phoenix is a combustible talent, but his skill and mastery of craft is equal to his prodigious talents, and watching him imprisoned in a motionless body for two hours is a masterclass. At once charming and infuriating, self-destructive, self-absorbed, self-pitying and yet always magnetically compelling, Phoenix does Callahan justice by pulling no punches in his complex portrayal of him. . 

Phoenix uses his breath to great effect to simulate Callahan's sensation of suffocating as his body struggles simply to inhale and exhale as he is born again in a useless body. He speaks so softly at times you lean forward in your seat to hear him, and at times explodes in such a visceral rage that you recoil from his inner ugliness being vomited upon the scene.

Phoenix is the best acting going right now, and his work in Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, is just another monument to that fact.

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Jonah Hill is tremendous as Donnie, a sort of new age aristocrat and golden haired Dr. Phil. Donnie is definitely a character, but Hill never pushes or gets showy with him, he keeps it grounded and contained and so fully inhabits Donnie that he disappears into him. Hill is an actor you never would have guessed would end up being so good. As a comedian and a comic actor he is pretty predictable and rather mundane, but as a serious actor he has developed a solid base of skill and craft along with the courage to abandon his ego and persona and lose himself completely in roles...and it is a joy to behold.

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Rooney Mara is such a luminous screen presence in the film that I kept expecting her to be revealed to be an angel or a figment of John Callahan's imagination at some point...but she isn't, she is a real person...well...sort of...her character Annu is so thinly written she is little more than a sparkle of sunshine dancing ever so briefly on a butterfly's wing.

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In terms of the hidden sub-text of the film...there was one little gem that I discovered and was surprised by...namely that John Callahan is symbolic of Donald Trump. Yes, I know, maybe I, like the rest of America, am seeing Trump in every Rorschach test, but bear with me, I think this is valid as the similarities are striking. For instance, Callahan is an orange-haired cripple and Trump is an orange-haired emotional cripple. Both men are victims of an absent mother who abandoned them to either a cruel world or a cruel father. And both men vented their shadow by flouting political correctness and finding validation by offending other people. They also both claimed to be merely "saying what everyone is thinking" when they disregarded political correctness. Trump, like Callahan, is a shameless liar who is able to deceive nearly everyone, including himself. And finally both men have a thing for beautiful European women.

In regards to Callahan's evolutionary scale cartoon in relation to Trump, both men think they are on top of the scale, when in reality they are just at the top of this cycle of the scale, and will frequently devolve back into the swamp of their own tormented psychology, only to rise again over time.

Trump's presidency is a sign that America is in a stage of devolution right now (and frankly a much needed devolution). We are returning to the swamp in order to purge ourselves of everything but our most basic survival needs. As the cycle dictates, we will return to the mountaintop eventually and will stand at the podium to accept our award...only to be followed by our neck breaking dive head first into the swamp once again...and so goes the circle of life.

In conclusion, overall as much as I loved the performances, Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot was slightly underwhelming and dare I say it disappointing due to structural flaws in the narrative that prove dramatically fatal. Van Sant was definitely off his game with this film because the second half loses momentum and also Callahan's drawing ability seemingly comes out of nowhere and is never satisfyingly explained.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot is worth seeing on cable of Netflix for free (or in the theatre's with MoviePass if you like), but even with the great cast it doesn't rise to the level of paying full price to see it at the theatre. So there is no need to run, walk or crawl to the cineplex to catch Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot...but if you they show it at your rehab be thankful, it is much better...and more honest...than Clean and Sober.

©2018

Disturbing Dispatches From "Real America"

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 11 seconds

I just returned from two weeks spent outside of my Hollywood enclave in what some would describe as "real America" where I went on a road trip from Central Pennsylvania (aka Pennsyl-tucky) to Cape Cod with various stops in between. On my journey I spoke with some regular people about their thoughts on Trump and American politics and came away struck by the disconnect between those ordinary folks and the liberal bubble in which I exist.

Since all of the information that I gathered is entirely anecdotal it should be subject to skepticism as it may very well be a result of my own confirmation bias, but with that said, the conclusion I came to after this jaunt through "real America" is that I am positive that in the battle for hearts and minds here in America, Trump is winning and winning bigly.

As I spoke with these "regular people", none of whom are particularly political, it became clear that Trump is going to win in November of 2018 (Republicans will hold onto the House and Senate) and will win re-election in 2020.

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One of the most glaring things that stood out to me in my travels were the remarkable number of American flags on display. It reminded me of my childhood in Reagan's America as I have not seen that sort of unadulterated display of patriotism since the 80's. But what was fascinating to me was that the definition of patriotism and even of America has changed dramatically. "America" is not what the media thinks it is..."America" is not its institutions - the FBI, CIA or the rest of the establishment and government. "America" is now regarded as only the "regular people" throughout the country and not the leadership class. This new "America" is stridently nationalist and populist and marginally traditionalist.

This new form of nationalist populism is striking because it doesn't bring with it a muscular and belligerent militarism like Reaganism, quite the opposite. The folks I spoke with had no interest in spreading American exceptionalism overseas at the end of a gun but what they were interested in was a nativist isolationism at home where immigration is either slowed or stopped, illegal immigration is dealt with swiftly and effectively and free trade is drastically reduced.

The people with whom I spoke are not members of any political party, are not active in politics and have voted for both Republicans and Democrats at one time or another.  Nearly all of these people, even the ones who usually vote Democrat, commented on how much they loathe the waves of immigration from Central America that they believe negatively effects the "American" culture.

On the bright side, no one I spoke with said they liked Trump, in fact, even among his most ardent supporters, he was routinely called a "jackass" or a "clown", but they still supported him because he "gets things done". To a person, the Trump "voters/supporters" were not enthralled with him personally but they were most definitely much more disgusted with business as usual in Washington than with Trump's antics. Each and every one of them expressed contempt for Washington and most especially the media.

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The venom spewed towards the media by these folks was pretty intense. I was thinking about these "regular Americans" when I sat in an airport waiting for my flight home and saw the news of Trump's summit with Putin and his allegedly disastrous press conference afterwards. CNN had a headline on the screen that read "Trump throws intelligence agencies under the bus". I laughed when I read it because I knew how "real Americans" were going to see that headline and the media coverage of the Russia summit, and it was the exact opposite of what CNN and their establishment media cohorts intended.

According to "regular Americans", the intelligence agencies are symbolic of the corruption of Washington and they, along with the mendacious media, are not to be believed in the slightest. The disconnect between how "regular Americans" view the Trump-Putin summit and how the media and establishment view it, would absolutely shock those making a fuss over Trump's performance at the summit. In addition, the Russian election hacking story and Mueller probe did not even register on the radar of these "regular Americans", as the story held zero interest to them.  

The subjects that did resonate with them were immigration and the economy. They liked Trump's approach on immigration, including the Muslim ban, and were very pleased with the economy, even though many of them felt no tangible results from any of Trump's policies, and in a remarkable bit of disconnect, some even had felt negative consequences from his policies (tariffs).

These "regular Americans" consistently gave Trump the benefit of the doubt whenever he had made an error and blamed the media for being too tough on him. Trump, even though he is President and controls both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, is seen as an underdog and an outsider fighting against a thoroughly corrupt system. 

My discussions with these "regular Americans" put my Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory research into very clear focus. In an almost horrifying realization...I discovered that the Churchillian archetype that was so prominent last year in the films Dunkirk, Darkest Hour and the television show The Crown, has manifested itself in the form of Trump (and to an extent in other authoritarians like Putin, Erdogan, Xi and Duterte) and not in resistance to him.

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This Churchillian archetype has coalesced around Trump not in a war against an external enemy but rather in the internal civil war against the establishment (globalists). The Trump brand of nationalism, a concoction made up of a pinch of Reaganism, a dash of traditionalism and a glob of reality television populism, that my fellow Hollywoodites see as unadulterated fascism, is what the Churchillian archetype is fighting for, and that is a chilling realization when you understand how compelling that archetype currently is in our collective unconscious. This is why Trump is perceived by "real Americans" as the underdog and outsider and given the benefit of the doubt in his battle against the globalist establishment.

As Jung teaches, archetypes are neither good nor bad, they are amoral and can manifest and express themselves through a multitudes of ways. America being in the throes of the Churchillian archetype and Trump being the one through which it manifests, is a stunning turn of events, but it rather makes sense when you look at it through the prism of the other, overarching archetype also revealing itself in our world (and through Trump) at the moment...Mercury...the trickster god.

Psychologically and emotionally, Trump is terribly ill-equipped to carry the weight of the Churchillian archetype, nevermind the extremely powerful Mercury archetype, which is why we get such erratic and incoherent performances from him, but to be fair, Churchill was ill-equipped to carry the Churchillian archetype as well (which would explain his numerous battles with the Black Dog of depression)...and upon closer inspection the mythos surrounding Churchill is riddled with canyon sized cracks.

Trump supporters are not blind to his faults, they just don't care about them. Trump the man, just like Churchill the man, is almost irrelevant, it is the myth of Trumpism that matters just as it was the myth of Churchill that carried Great Britain through its Darkest Hour.

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In the 80's, America fell for the flag waving, free market nonsense of Reaganism, and we still haven't even come close to recovering nearly 40 years later. Trumpism will have an even longer lasting effect on America, and it may very well be the end of the "American experiment" either because Trumpism wins, or because of the means the #resistance, including the intelligence community, use to rid themselves of this troublesome priest (Trump) will, like Brutus and friends when they conspired to eliminate the threat of Caesar to the Republic of Rome, lead to a path of self-destruction.

Regardless, those who think things will go back to normal when Trump is gone are in for a rude awakening...there is no going back. There is a new normal, and it is Trumpism. The fever of Trumpism is spreading and before it's done America and Americans across the political spectrum will be transformed into something they would not have been able to recognize a mere two years ago.

In conclusion, from my admittedly limited investigation into "real America", I came away stunned by the instinctual support not so much for Trump but for Trumpism out there. This is very bad news for anyone who opposes Trump (I know a lot of people who do), and I know the polls say otherwise, but my impressions are that his support is very strong and growing. Make no mistake about it...Trump is winning and the resistance is losing.

Deserving or not, Trump is the vessel in which the Churchillian archetype has manifested and is a vassal to the powerful Mercury archetype. One result of which is that the old knee-jerk patriotism of Reaganism has morphed into the new "nationalism" of Trumpism, and there is no breaking that spell in the short-term.

We can think that the buffoonish Trump is a joke...but the reality is that the joke is on us, and Mercury, as always, will get the last laugh...on all of us...including Donald Trump.

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©2018

 

Suffering Children as Propaganda

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THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MAY 11, 2017. DUE TO THE CURRENT SCANDAL OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT CHILDREN BEING DETAINED AND SEPARATED FROM THEIR FAMILIES, AND THE ENSUING MEDIA COVERAGE WHICH HAS USED THE PHRASE "BABIES IN CAGES" SO INCESSANTLY AS TO BE A MANTRA, I THOUGHT I WOULD RE-PUBLISH THIS PIECE AS IT SEEMS SALIENT TO THE CURRENT SITUATION.

WARNING : THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SOME VERY DISTURBING PICTURES AND VIDEO OF WOUNDED AND DEAD CHILDREN. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

Estimated Reading Time : 8 minutes 22 seconds

Lately, the media has been loaded with images of suffering children in different settings around the world. In some unfortunate cases, especially in the case of war, the imagery seems to be used as a form of propaganda. 

Last August Omran Daqneesh, a 5 year-old boy Syrian boy living in Aleppo, was wounded in a bombing alleged to be carried out by Russian or Syrian aircraft. Omran was photographed sitting in the back of an ambulance, covered in dust and blood. This gut-wrenching photo was soon on the front page of nearly every western newspaper and news channel.

The New York Times description of the photo is illuminating, “Omran, as he is carried from a damaged building in the dark, could be Everychild.“

This is what we do with the children in peril we see in photographs, we project ourselves, or our children into the same scenario, and this heightens our emotional connection and reaction. This is a normal, even healthy human response, the trouble is that it can leave us open to being manipulated by those who would exploit the suffering of children for their own means.

Similarly, in September of 2015 when Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian boy, was photographed dead on a Turkish beach after drowning trying to escape the Syrian civil war. Viewers were left horrified at the sight of Alan’s limp and lifeless body lying still in the sand, and they emotionally projected their own children onto the scenario.

The most recent example of the “children in peril” narrative was on April 4th, when video of an alleged chemical attack in Idlib province in Syria came to light. The horrifying video showed young children gasping for air and others lying motionless, presumably dead. The video was impossible to escape in western media, just as it was impossible not to have an emotional connection to those children and a reaction to their torment.

The Times was right, Omran could be Everychild, so could Alan Kurdi and the children in the Idlib video, because that is how they are presented to us in the media, they are our children, and we react accordingly, directing our righteous anger at those we are told are responsible for their suffering, in this case, Assad and Russia. Of course, since we are reacting emotionally and not responding thoughtfully, we are more easily manipulated into directing our aggression at persons who may not be fully to blame.

In the Omran photo, our rage could have easily been directed at rebel fighters and ISIS who created that situation in Aleppo instead of the Russians and Assad. The same for Alan Kurdi, who was trying to escape civil war, which is the fault of many, including Assad, Turkey, Europe and the U.S. The photos of Omran and Alan were props used by the establishment press to sell a very specific narrative, one that we, in our vulnerable emotional state, would not even think to question.

The greatest example of this was the video of the attack in Idlib. Trump himself was manipulated into acting emotionally, rather than rationally. Trump told reporters, “I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me – big impact. I’ve been watching it and seeing it, it doesn’t get any worse than that…even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.”

Since beautiful children had been killed, Trump impulsively reacted by launching “beautiful weapons”, as NBC’s Brian Williams described them, to attack an airbase killing 15 people, who one can safely assume, were once beautiful children themselves.

Blaming a villain helps us to transform the uncomfortable emotions evoked by these images into action. Action gives us catharsis and we are purged of the negative feelings that these images bring about. Trump did not like the way the video of the Idlib attack made him feel, so instead of deliberating and gathering all of the facts and evidence, he impetuously attacked Syria to quell his discomfort.

This is what happens when we react emotionally to things instead of thoughtfully respond, we are susceptible to being suckered by those who may try to manipulate us.  If Trump had thought rationally about the Idlib video, he would have realized that the rebels had already used a false flag chemical weapons attack in 2013, in order to try and draw the U.S. deeper into the conflict against Assad. The west blamed Assad back then too, but after emotions waned and reason waxed, the truth finally came out. Even though we are only a month past the Idlib attack, the same is happening regarding the facts of that case.

The dead giveaway that reveals the media’s deceitfulness regarding the use of children’s suffering as a political prop, is not just in the images they do show, but the ones they don’t.

The establishment press relentlessly pushed the picture of Omran on the public in order to demonize Assad and Russia, but deliberately ignored Hawraa, the 5 year old Iraqi girl who was the only member of her family to survive a U.S. led air strike on her home in Mosul. The video of Hawraa is just as emotionally wrenching as Omran’s picture, but it tells a story that contradicts the MSM’s narrative and undermines America’s sense of moral superiority over Russia and the Syrians.

And what about 8 year-old Nora Al-Alwaki, the American girl shot in the neck and killed by Navy SEALs when they raided her Yemeni village on January 29, 2017? Nora was a “beautiful” little girl, and an American one. Why wasn’t her picture continuously streamed to the American public by the MSM? Instead of Nora, we were fed the widow of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens who was killed in the same raid. Trump’s bold-faced exploitation of Mrs. Owens was hailed as Trump’s first act of “being presidential”. I suppose he was acting like a U.S. president when he callously ignored Nora and the other Yemeni children killed.

Whenever a child in peril is used to sell a political agenda, particularly a violent one, this must give us tremendous pause. In many cases, however, there exists an altruistic reason for showing the suffering of children, and that is a way of preventing such things from happening again. 

Iconic images, like that of the “Napalm Girl” from the Vietnam war, for example, can at times wake America up to reality by breaking through the endless propaganda from the usual suspects, at other times though, similar images or stories can be manipulated by governments and the media for less noble causes.

 

At the same time, Hollywood utilizes our weakness for children in peril well. A perfect example is Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. In the black and white film, there is a harrowing sequence where Nazi’s forcibly remove Jews out of the Krakow ghetto. The scenario is horrifying enough, but Spielberg uses a little girl wandering through the mayhem to elicit more tension in the viewer. The girl stands out from the surrounding chaos because she wears a red coat, which is distinct since it’s the only splash of color in the entire film.

The girl in the red symbolizes the hopes, dreams and innocence snuffed out by the Nazi’s. The same is true when we see suffering children in the media, those images evoke in us deep feelings of empathy, sadness, and anger because those children symbolize our own hopes, dreams and innocence. Seeing graphic pictures of brutalized children leaves us thinking emotionally, not rationally, which is a good place to be when watching a film, but a bad place to be when operating in the real world.

Last week, Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, delivered a heartfelt monologue tearfully recounting his newborn son’s struggle with a serious heart defect. Kimmel’s story was made all the more powerful because the usually sarcastic comedian struggled to maintain his composure throughout.

Kimmel, normally an apolitical comedian, ended his monologue by pleading to Americans from both sides of the political aisle to make sure children receive medical care regardless of their ability to pay for it. Kimmel poignantly ended his speech by saying, “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life.”

Kimmel’s monologue soon went viral. When I saw it, it moved me very deeply. The accompanying pictures of his child with tubes and tape all over him affected me greatly. Had Kimmel played upon my emotions to manipulate me? I don’t think so. I believe Kimmel was sincere in his plea and wasn’t exploiting his son because Kimmel had nothing to gain by doing so. Not money, of which he has enough, or power, of which he has no need.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my reaction to Kimmel, being emotionally triggered by images of children suffering is human nature. The story changed the healthcare debate, and some republicans are now demanding any new health care bill must pass the “Kimmel Test”.

That said, there were some very harsh critics of Kimmel as well. Some right wingers assailed Kimmel for “exploiting” his young son to make a cheap political point. For example, former republican congressman Joe Walsh tweeted “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.”

The Washington Times ran an opinion piece by the aptly named Charles Hurt, which was titled “Shut up, Jimmy Kimmel, you elitist creep”. It was a vicious attack on Kimmel that ended with “if you were a decent person, you would shut your fat trap about partisan politics and go care for your kid, who just nearly died, you elitist creep.”

On the other side of the political spectrum, this past Friday I watched HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher,  and Maher nearly gave me whiplash with his jumping back and forth on the issue of using children in peril to make a political point. Maher started his show by praising his good friend Jimmy Kimmel for sharing his story and chastising republicans for telling Kimmel’s baby to basically “go fuck himself.”

Less than five minutes later, interview guest John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, told Maher he was uneasy about legalizing marijuana (one of Maher’s pet issues) because of the dangers to kids. Maher quickly jumped on Kasich’s statement and indignantly retorted “Why do we have to bring kids into it?”

Mere moments after that, during a discussion on healthcare, Maher told his panel of guests, “One side (democrats) wants to tax rich people so babies don’t have to die and one side is more or less against that, let’s not let republicans off the hook on that!” He then finished by saying “People will die and republicans know it and it is a price they are willing to pay!” Not surprisingly, no one on the panel asked Maher why he had to bring kids into it.

Maher’s use of suffering children to make a political point, contrasted with his aversion to others using the same tactic, is standard operating procedure not just for late night comedians but for the Establishment media as well, and illuminates the power of the suffering child narrative and why those on the opposite end of that argument lash out so viciously against those that use it…it's because they know how effective it is.

In this case though, Jimmy Kimmel doesn't benefit by persuading people with his son's story, however, the same is not true of the U.S. government. 

So the next time a horrific photo of a child becomes a big story, stop, think rationally, not emotionally, and ask the question: who benefits? Maybe then we can halt the endless cycle of carnage that these images capture.

A version of this article was previously published on Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at RT.

©2017

Hereditary: Political Sub-Text

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****WARNING - THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FILM HEREDITARY!!! THIS IS YOUR LAST SPOILER WARNING!!****

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 19 seconds

Hereditary isn't a great movie, but it does speak volumes about the state of America's collective unconscious and most definitely about our political future. Here are some random thoughts on the film, its subtext and its deeper meaning…to be clear, I am not saying these are my politics, but rather the film's politics.

There are multiple ways to interpret Hereditary. One of which is that Toni Colette's character Annie is Donald Trump. Annie's character even utters the Trumpian line of "I am the only one who can do it…only me". 

The film opens with a funeral for Annie's mother…think of it as a funeral for the old guard GOP. Annie gives a speech at the funeral where she says, "It’s heartening to see so many strange new faces here today. I know my mom would be very touched and probably a little suspicious. My mother was a very secretive and private woman. She was a very difficult woman, which maybe explains me."

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Seen in the 'Annie as Trump' context, that speech makes sense for the current Republican party. It is not the old blue blood Republicans, but a new group of "strange new faces" (populism) which would make the old guard "a little suspicious". The old guard was "very difficult…which maybe explains me", "me" being Trump. Annie/Trump is explaining that without the old guard of Republicans being the way they were, he never would've found the fertile ground upon which he could blossom into power.

Annie's mother is Reagan and/or Reagan Republicans, this is clear when she says of her mother, "She wasn't all there at the end", echoing the fate of not only Reagan and his Alzheimer's but the tone deafness of Reaganomics in the last decade. 

The grandmother as Reagan is made even more clear when seeing the rather strange daughter Charlie as symbolic of not just the white working class, but the white underclass and poor. Charlie looks like a descendant of one of the banjo playing kid from Deliverance, and it seems like she is either autistic or mildly retarded, 

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Charlie as the "stunted" white working class in relation to grandmother Reagan, is made clear when Annie says to Charlie, "That’s grandma, you know you were her favorite, right? Even when you were a little baby she wouldn’t let me feed you because she needed to feed you." Meaning that Reagan wouldn't let the populists actually empower the white lower classes, he only wanted to "feed" them his meal of Reaganomics…keeping them under his control…which they lapped up with a flag waving fervor. 

Annie's teenage son, Peter, is a fascinating character when seen through the context of Annie as Trump. Annie loathes Peter, and even tried to kill him when he was a child by lighting him on fire. Annie blurts out during an argument that she "never wanted to be his mother!" What is interesting about Peter (actor Alex Wolff) is that he actually looks very different from the other family members. Peter is darker skinned and has darker features than his mother Annie and sister Charlie who are blond and light skinned. Peter looks either Latino or Middle Eastern. The actor who plays Peter, Alex Wolff, looks "other-ish" enough to have convincingly played Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev in the film Patriots Day

Annie/Trump hates Peter/Latinos/Middle Easterners regardless of the fact that he/they are members of Annie's/Trump's family/residents of his country. The fact that Peter "accidentally" kills his sister Charlie/white working class in a bizarre car accident, only fuels Annie/Trump's rage even more. Annie/Trump cannot forgive or forget what Peter has done, not just to Charlie/white working class but specially to her/Trump. She takes Peter's accidentally killing Charlie as a personal affront because Annie is the one who found the grotesquely mutilated body. 

Speaking of that body, Charlie, again symbolic of the white working class, is decapitated when Peter swerves to save a deer and drives too close to a telephone pole while Charlie is gasping for air with her head out of the car window. Charlie/white working class being decapitated is symbolic of the white working class "losing their heads" meaning abandoning intellect and reason. To put it even more clearly…intellect/reason, in the form of Charlie's head, literally flies out the window in regard to the white working class and Peter/Latinos/Middle Easterners. 

To dive even deeper into the Charlie character, she is "allergic to nuts", literally and figuratively. When Charlie is forced to go with Peter to a party, he abandons her to use drugs and chase girls, and Charlie eats some chocolate nut cake, causing her throat to swell shut. The "chocolate nut cake" poison is Obama, and the white working class were unable to speak (their throats closing shut) or breath as a result of ingesting what he served them because they are allergic to it. Peter then carries Charlie to the car and drives quickly towards a hospital, but before he can get there he has his accident and Charlie is left without her head. 

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Charlie/white working class being "allergic to nuts" is obviously a matter of perspective in regards to their political favor over the years, but because Charlie ingests some Obama "poisoned" chocolate cake after she follows Peter/Latino/Middle Easterner to a party, it is symbolic of the white working class being poisoned, choked and eventually dying by ingesting the "multiculturalism/diversity" brought to her by "others" in the form of chocolate cake (Obama). 

Annie/Trump spirals into madness after Charlie/white working class death and fumes against Peter/Latino/Middle Easterners. She is then seduced into an odd relationship with an older woman Joan, who convinces her to do a ceremony to bring Charlie's spirit back and communicate with it. 

Joan is the conduit for Annie/Trump to let in the real power behind the throne…think of Joan as a Steve Bannon/John Bolton type of character. Annie/Trump is so desperate to connect with her deceased daughter/white working class that she falls into a trap set by a conniving, Machiavellian sorceress. 

As Annie/Trump follows Joan's advice, she falls deeper and deeper into a tangled web of madness and manipulation, resulting in her lighting her husband on fire and trying to kill her son. Ultimately, after finding an altar to evil in her attic (houses are symbolic of the psyche, with the attic being high minded intellect and the basement being sub-conscious thought) she herself is sacrificed on the altar of an even greater power that has been using her to manifest in the world and take the throne of global domination. 

The entity that uses Annie, and Charlie and eventually Peter is King Paimon, a powerful spirit that is one of the eight kings of hell. Paimon leaves Annie/Trump headless after she cuts her own head off (literally severing her intellect so she can only function by feel/emotion) and bowing at his feet as he implants himself into the body of Peter and is crowned as king of this world. 

Joan and a cavalcade of old white naked people (a perfect description of modern day Republicans - they are overwhelmingly old, white and their ambitions and sensibilities are naked for all with eyes to see) bow to Paimon in his elevated tree house palace. These people are Republicans bowing to power like they have bowed to Trump. Annie and Charlie, both headless (without reason), bow to Paimon in fealty. The treehouse is elevated because it is not grounded except through trees, to the earth. trees are symbolic of antenna, they wave in the air receiving the silent, unconscious messages floating through the ether. 

King Paimon is what comes after Trump, and he is what we should all truly fear. Trump/Annie has opened the gates of hell and let out a powerful force, King Paimon, that will usurp the crown and rise to power with minimal effort and maximum impact. 

Another interpretation of the King Paimon character is that he IS Trump. King Paimon, who is a real spirit mentioned in various religious type of texts, is a trickster demon who is in service of Lucifer. Trump is the ultimate trickster, and whether he is in service of Lucifer or not I will let you decide. 

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According to Wikipedia, King Paimon's powers include, "knowledge of past and future events, clearing up doubts, making spirits appear, creating visions, acquiring and dismissing servant spirits, reanimating the dead for several years, flight, remaining underwater indefinitely, and general abilities to "make all kinds of things" (and) "all sorts of people and armor appear" at the behest of the magician". 

Trump has certainly acquired and dismissed many servant spirits in his administration, but as for the rest of it, you can make the case that symbolically he has done a good number of them. From making spirits appear/creating visions (manipulating the media) to reanimating the dead for several years (non-stop talk about Hillary and lock her up), Trump has a King Paimon-esque quality about him.  

Another interpretation of the film has the Charlie character as a sort of Sarah Palin, a near nitwit bumpkin who is chosen by power elites to temporarily carry the torch, who then passes it to Annie, the Trumpian figure, who is then replaced by Peter, a Latino/Middle Easterner other, who is possessed by the most duplicitous and vicious of demons King Paimon, who uses Peter to take the crown and power, and one would assume, use it in the most diabolical of ways. 

Annie being a miniature artist is a pretty terrific part about Hereditary. Annie as Trump, being adept at manipulating the little world she controls, while in turn King Paimon manipulates Annie's/Trump's little world from a higher vantage point. To Trump, we are all pawns in his personal power game, and to King Paimon, Trump is his pawn in a much grander power game. This reminds me of the line from Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone's The Doors, when during an acid trip on Sunset Boulevard Morrison climbs atop a car and pontificates to the astonished crowd that "we are all plastic soldiers in a miniature dirt war!" 

Charlei is a budding miniaturist as well. She creates crude dolls from various scraps she finds…including a dead birds head. Charlie, like Annie and like King Paimon, manipulates and controls the world at her finger tips. 

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I'm sure most rational people will scoff at the idea of Trump as King Paimon, but CG Jung wrote extensively on how Hitler was a manifestation of the Norse God Wotan (otherwise known as Odin). Wotan is no joke of a god, he is the father of Thor after all. Jung had been in Hitler's presence on occasion and noticed that he was an empty man, devoid of any charisma or personal power, there was no there there. But like an empty vessel, Hitler would be filled by the powerful spirit of Wotan when he spoke to crowds. Jung claimed that Hitler was speaking for the unconscious of millions of Germans and for Wotan, which is why he resonated with them in such a frighteningly electrifying way. 

Trump is no Hitler because King Paimon is no Wotan. Trump does speak for the unconscious of many Americans though, and by brining their voice from the shadow into the world, he has earned their undying love. Trump as a conduit for King Paimon to manifest int he world as Hitler was a conduit for Wotan to manifest in the world, may sound like nonsense to some, but rings of truth to me. 

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The idea of Trump being the conduit by which King Paimon manifests in the world through another person seems even more likely to me. As I ahem been saying during the course of Trump's rule, he has caused not just his followers, but his opponents to go mad. The madness that is sweeping America knows no ideology, it crosses all sorts of boundaries. Trump has opened the doors to the unspeakable, and even those opposing him have fallen under his spell, which does not bode well for our future. 

When Trump leaves…King Paimon enters…and then the real darkness descends. As Hereditary reveals, Trump could be a conduit for a much higher (or lower as the case may be) and even more nefarious entity to come to power in the guise of saving us from Trump.

Hereditary does not paint a pretty picture for our future, but if I am being honest, I think it certainly paints a dramatic, symbolic, but not unrealistic, vision for what lies ahead for America and the world. 

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with my analysis of Hereditary and its political sub-text, if you get a chance to watch Hereditary multiple times, looking at the film through this unique perspective may add to your enjoyment of it, or at the very least it will prepare you for King Paimon's 2020 presidential campaign.

©2018

 

 

 

American Animals, Anthony Bourdain and Late Stage American Empire

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Estimated Reading Time: 7 minutes 59 seconds

THE FOUR HORSEMAN COMETH

A couple weeks ago on a Thursday night, I realized that I was free the following Friday morning, so I decided to schedule a movie. After scanning what was available, I settled on American Animals. I didn't know much about the film but thought I would roll the dice. It ended up being a synchronistically wise choice.  

After a fitful sleep, on Friday morning I awoke to the news that Anthony Bourdain had killed himself. As it is with news of any suicide, I was deeply unsettled upon hearing it. I was not a fan of Bourdain's, I had never seen his show and do not consider myself a "foodie" in the slightest, but still his death by his own hand was jarring. 

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What added to my shock at Bourdain's death was that the night before, I had watched a 2012 documentary directed by Ross Ashcroft, titled The Four Horseman. That documentary referenced Sir John Glubb, a British historian who in 1976 wrote an essay titled "The Fate of Empires". In that work, Grubb lists the seven stages of Empire which are...1. Pioneers, 2. Conquest, 3. Commerce, 4. Affluence, 5. Intellect, 6. Decadence and 7. Decline and Collapse. 

The Four Horseman film argued that the U.S. was in stage 6 - Decadence, in 2012, the year of its release. Accoring to Sir Glubb's thesis, signs of an empire In the age of decadence include an undisciplined - overextended military, conspicuous displays of wealth, massive disparity between rich and poor, obsession with sex, exorbitantly wealthy sports stars, and synchronistically enough...celebrity chefs…like Anthony Bourdain. In fact, one of the chefs the film shows to make its point is Bourdain. If Bourdain was a symbol of American Empire's decadence in 2012, in 2018 he is now the canary in the coal mine, and his suicide is a foreboding omen. 

AMERICAN ANIMALS

Which brings us to American Animals. American Animals is a remarkable film, not because it is exquisitely made, it isn't, or masterfully acted, it isn't, but because it so accurately and unflinchingly diagnoses the disease that is killing America. While I watched American Animals I couldn't help but think of Bourdain, and to a lesser extent designer Kate Spade (only because I had never heard of her until her death - to the shock of no one, I am not much of  an accessories aficionado) because what ailed Bourdain and Spade, and what ails all of America, men in particular, is what propels the story of American Animals….namely a total lack of meaning and purpose in our lives and the suffocating depression that accompanies that void.

Of course, most people would look at Bourdain and Spade's glamorous lives and think they lived with tremendous meaning and purpose, they had it all…but something was missing. Their lives were as empty, vacant and devoid of meaning as the rest of ours despite their wealth and fame. Bourdain and Spade are symbols of the recurring theme of a fading empire where "you can never get enough of what you don't need". Their lives were representative of America's (and the West's) decadence, as they became famous for feeding our insatiable appetite for the frivolous, and in death they are symbolic of the existential angst and ennui that grows like a terminal cancer upon our collective soul. 

WARNING SIGNS FROM PROPHETS OF DOOM

According to Sir John Glubb's theory on the stages of empire, America is certainly either in the very tail end of the decadence phase or across the Rubicon into the decline/collapse phase. Glubb's theory coincides with other philosopher/historians view on the subject and they all point towards America being in the late stage of empire.

For instance, Camille Paglia has spoken of the rise of transgender mania as a sign of the decline/collapse of civilizations, citing Greece, Rome, the Mauve decade and Weimar Germany as examples. 

Paglia states that transgenderism has become a fashion used to treat the alienation from which some people suffer. Paglia warns of the two headed beast that is the current attachment to the transgender issue…namely that as the cosmopolitan acceptance of such things grow, its shadow grows as well in the form of a brutal, uber-masculine authoritarianism. Paglia cites ISIS as a current example, but one doesn't have to go far in history to see other horrifying examples, like Hitler's Germany filling the void created by the collapse of Weimar Germany. A quick glance around the world today also shows the shadow of hyper masculine authoritarianism rising from Trump's America to Russia (Putin), the Philippines (Duterte), China Xi) and Turkey (Erdogan) to name but a few.

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Glubb and Paglia's theories of America being in a state of decadence or on the cusp of decline/collapse, are reinforced by other historian philosophers. WIlliam Strauss and Neil Howe wrote of their generational theory in their book "The Fourth Turning of America". Howe and Strauss believe that history is cyclical and is defined by generations falling into different 20 year archetypes that repeat over an 80 to 100 year cycle. According to Howe and Strauss in The Fourth Turning, a generational cycle is made up of four "turnings" which they define as 1. High (growth), 2. Awakening (maturation), 3. Unraveling (entropy) and 4. Crisis (destruction). In The Fourth Turning, which was published in 1997, Howe and Strauss predict America would be entering into its next "fourth turning" around the time of 2008 (which oddly enough coincided with the financial collapse of that period) which would last about twenty years. For an indication of what a Fourth Turning holds, the previous Fourth Turnings in American history brought us the American Revolution, the Civil War and the Great Depression and World War II.

Howe and Strauss's theory of generational cycles is played out on a macro scale by German historian/philosopher Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) in his magnum opus "The Decline of the West" where he wrote of the four seasons of civilizations. Spengler wrote of civilizations going through the same cycle as the seasons of a year, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, except over a thousand year period. According to Spengler, Western civilization is on the downside of its run, and is into its extended "winter". 

"NO ONE WANTS TO BE ORDINARY"

As Neizstche tells us, God is dead…and he's right. The God that was the foundation, for good or ill, of 2,000 years of Spengler's western civilization, is no more, and unlike our current stock market, the God bubble is one you cannot re-inflate. No Gods have stepped forward to adequately fill the void left by the Judeo-Christian God, and so we are left in a state of disorientation…as we stumble around seeking something with which to orient ourselves. 

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As the tagline of American Animals says, "No one wants to be ordinary", which could be the tagline for the American Church of Self. In trying to replace the God of the last two centuries, Americans have hit the apex of individualism by trying to turn ourselves into gods. 

One form of our Self worship is the Religion of Celebrity. In America in the reality tv age, everyone can be a star, or dream of themselves as a potential star. We have fisherman (Deadliest Catch), truck drivers (Ice Road Truckers), chefs (a whole channel of them!), rednecks (Honey Boo Boo), hoarders (Hoarders), criminals (Lock Up) and even junkies (Intervention) having shows made about them. Anyone doing anything anywhere can have delusions of grandeur about a television show being made about their lives. The mundane is now insane as we try to evolve into gods at the center of our own universe. 

Our culture routinely trivializes the sacred and it has forced us into pernicious indivualism and away from collectivism, in order to look for meaning within ourselves. Our cultural and personal narcissism keeps us glued to the black mirror tabernacle of our various screens in a never-ending search for validation and love. This self absorption leads to a toxic myopia that has spread like a contagion throughout our entire culture, from politics, where no one sees beyond the next election, to finance where no one sees beyond the next earnings period, to our personal lives, where no one sees beyond the next hit of endorphins brought on by consuming something…anything…in order to fill the void in our souls. 

NARCISSUS AND MORPHEUS

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The opioid epidemic is another sign of America's decline/collapse. Narcissus was unable to look away from his Self and so he died, just as Americans cannot turn away from their virulent individualism and its accompanying arrogant self-absorption, and so they fall into the arms of Morpheus and into an extended narcosis, which comes from the same root word "Narco"- meaning numbness, as Narcissus, and means a state of stupor or unconsciousness. We are numbed and put into a stupor by our iPhone obsessed self-absorption and opioids are just an extension of that yearning to detach and numb. Notice it is an "I" phone that we are gazing into all day long…mesmerized by our own reflection staring back.

The ritual of buying and fixing with narcotics has replaced the sacred rituals of the Judeo-Christian God. The new God is Self and with opioids, one dissolves into themselves entirely, and the pain of the outer world disappears, at least momentarily, and is replaced with the bliss of Godhood. 

"THE CAPITALIST WILL SELL YOU THE ROPE WITH WHICH YOU INTEND TO HANG YOURSELF" - ME TERRIBLY MISQUOTING VLADIMIR LENNIN

Besides the epidemic of opioid abuse, further proof of America being in decline/collapse is that it is also in the throes of a suicide epidemic, as suicide has increased 30% since 1999. Sadly, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade were caught in this growing wave of suicide, and yet they were rich and famous but money and fame are a poor spiritual salve…as they only lead their adherents to feeling even more empty and despondent. 

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American Consumerism/Capitalism is equally vacuous and noxious, as we try to purchase meaning and purpose and only end up with an even greater vacancy within ourselves. As the Adam Curtis documentary Century of the Self so insightfully reveals, Americans have been taught to want, and to instinctively try to satiate that want through consumerism. In a never ending cycle, we are conditioned to feel alienated and then to want to assuage our alienation by buying something that will take our anxiety and alienation away. In many ways, Paglia makes this same argument regarding transgenderism, which is now sold to young people as a way to cure their sense of alienation. 

What is even more remarkable, is that according to Rene Girard's Mimetic theory, it takes little effort to condition people to want something, as Girard explains that one person sees what another person wants and then decides they want the same thing BECAUSE the other wants it. This is a contagion that spreads quickly, and can be another explanation for transgenderisms rise in the West and also America's cascading decline (opioids, suicide, gun violence etc.). It also explains American Capitalisms numerous financial bubbles, where people so easily get seduced into the irrational exuberance accompanying the inflation of a bubble, and are so remarkably blind to the fundamentally unsound economics underlying a bubble, which cause it to inevitably collapse. Look no further than the housing/financial collapse of 2008 for an example of that, or take a gander at our current stock market which is overvalued by at least 50% beyond any reason, to understand how to see what the uncomfortable realities in front of one's nose is a constant struggle. 

"OUR GREAT WAR IS A SPIRITUAL WAROUR GREAT DEPRESSION IS OUR LIVES" - FIGHT CLUB

As I watched the young men of American Animals, victims of their own unconsciously conditioned desires, frantically flail around trying to extinguish the malaise in their souls by attempting to find meaning and purpose in their empty lives through an idiotic heist, I thought of this quote from Fight Club, 

"We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no great war. No Great Depression. Our Great War is a spiritual war…our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."

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Chuck Palahntuk wrote that in 1997 and it is as accurate a diagnosis of a time (then and now) and a place (America) as any document in the history of mankind. The sickness of which Palahntuk wrote, and which American Animals shows, is spreading and gaining in strength. The  opioid crisis, suicide epidemic, pornification of our culture, egregious financial and political  corruption and worship of celebrity and sport are all signs of our decadence morphing into our decline and collapse. 

9-11 was the beginning of the end of America's run atop the world order and the financial crisis of 2008 was the end of the beginning of the end….and Trump is the first snowfall in what will be a long, cold and dark winter. Winter isn't coming. Winter is here. And Puxtapawny Phil won't come out to see his shadow any time soon because he has hanged himself in his den. 

A palpable despair has fallen like a pall over America. The fear of the end of the decadence we have known and its replacement by an ominous unknown is deeply unnerving to many. Foundational collapse shakes things and people to their core and America is quaking with an unconscious consternation of what is around the corner.

What comes next could be as banal as America falling from atop the world order and simply being replaced by a group of super power nations or another hyper-power (China?). Or it could be the U.S. dollar losing its status as the reserve currency of the world…or a Soviet style collapse…or a major and catastrophic war…or a devastating financial meltdown…or American democracy being usurped into a dictatorship or splintered by a civil war…or any other calamity or series of calamities. I do not know exactly what will happen, all I know is that the way things have been for the last 20 years, never mind the last 70 years, won't last much longer and that even more tumult and turmoil is on the way.  

CYCLES OF HISTORY

A big part of the reason why Americans are feeling such despair is that we in the west are conditioned to see history as linear, not cyclical. This linear thinking is detrimental to our mental health because it brings with it a built in myopia that can fan the flames of despair. When people feel that history moves in a straight line, they come to believe that things will always be moving in the direction they are now, forever, which leads to irrational optimism during good times and a devastating feeling of futility and lack of resilience in bad times. 

But a cyclical view of history is an antidote to this unease, as Strauss and Howe write, the crisis brought upon by the apex of individualism in the Fourth Turning does eventually pass…and will always be replaced with something much more upbeat, optimistic and collective. The only question to ponder now is how long will our era of collapse last? Will we live long enough to see the brighter days of the First Turning of the next era? 

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As America and the West spiral downward, pain, anguish, angst and despair will steadily rise. We are seeing it already en masse in our culture with opioid addiction, suicides and mass shootings. The perils of living in such a time are numerous. The advice I would give is do not fall prey to the sirens call of the flag-waving optimist who is a dictator in disguise or the fool's gold of an over-inflated stock market. It would also be wise to not fall victim to your emotions, which are constantly being nefariously manipulated and exploited, but instead rely upon your reason. As those around you lose their heads…struggle mightily to keep yours…and above all else…keep breathing.

GOING THROUGH HELL

As I have been tracking my own historical wave theory (Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory®), I have mentioned many times on this website that this year (and in the previous few years) there have been numerous signs in cinema of the impending collapse of American empire, including Deadpool, Infinity War, A Quiet Place, American Animals and Hereditary.

Last year cinema was overflowing with the Churchillian archetype (and its shadow - The Authoritarian) in movies such as Dunkirk and Darkest Hour and the tv show The Crown. I wish I could've relayed a bit of Winston Churchill's advice to Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade as they suffered the torment of their dark night of the soul, from which they would not survive…but since they are not hear to read my words, I will share Churchill's sage advice with you in case in the coming turmoil you find yourself lost in the same Sea of Despair as Bourdain and Spade. 

"If you find yourself going through hell…KEEP GOING!"

In closing, sit back and enjoy some easy listening mid-90's alt-rock/pop that astutely describes the lack of meaning and purpose that is decaying America from the inside out. Mr. Jones and me...we are desperately trying to distract ourselves by any means necessary from the devastation that is hurtling towards us at an ever quickening pace…sha la, la, la yeah.

Mr. Jones

Counting Crows

Sha la, la, la, la, la, la
Oh
Uh, huh

I was down at the New Amsterdam
Starin' at this yellow-haired girl
Mr. Jones strikes up a conversation
With a black-haired flamenco dancer
You know, she dances while his father plays guitar
She's suddenly beautiful, we all want something beautiful
Man, I wish I was beautiful
So come dance this silence down through the mornin'

Sha la, la, la, la, la, la, la
Yeah
Uh, huh
Yeah

Cut up, Maria
Show me some of them Spanish dances
Pass me a bottle, Mr. Jones
Believe in me
Help me believe in anything
'Cause I, I wanna be someone who believes
Yeah

Mr. Jones and me tell each other fairy tales
And we stare at the beautiful women
She's looking at you
Ah, no, no, she is looking at me
Smilin' in the bright lights
Comin' through in stereo
When everybody loves you
You can never be lonely

Well I'm a paint my picture
Paint myself in blue, red, black and gray
All of the beautiful colors are very, very meaningful
Yeah, well you know, gray is my favorite color
I felt so symbolic yesterday
If I knew Picasso
I would buy myself a gray guitar and play

Mr. Jones and me look into the future
Yeah, we stare at the beautiful women
She's looking at you I don't think so, she's looking at me
Standin' in the spotlight
I bought myself a gray guitar
When everybody loves me
I will never be lonely
I will never be lonely
Said I'm never gonna be lonely

I wanna be a lion
Ah, everybody wanna pass as cats
We all wanna be big, big stars
Yeah, but we got different reasons for that
Believe in me 'cause I don't believe in anything
And I, I wanna be someone to believe
To believe, to believe
Yeah

Mr. Jones and me stumbling through the Barrio
Yeah, we stare at the beautiful women
She's perfect for you
Man, there's got to be somebody for me
I wanna be Bob Dylan
Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky
When everybody love you
Ah son, that's just about as funky as you can be

Mr. Jones and me starin' at the video
When I look at the television
I wanna see me starin' right back at me
We all wanna be big stars
But we don't know why and we don't know how
But when everybody loves me
I wanna be just about as happy as I can be
Mr. Jones and me, we're gonna be big stars

 

©2018

 

Songs of Experience in A Quiet Place

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Estimated Reading Time: 17 minutes 52 seconds 

"GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY" - Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

"IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT GIVE YOU AWAY/ THE WORDS YOU CANNOT SAY/ YOUR BIG MOUTH IN THE WAY" - The Little Things That Give You Away off of Songs of Experience by U2

THE SYNCHRONICITY STORM

For the last few weeks a recurring theme has kept rearing its head in my reading and movie watching. As this thematic synchronicity storm gathered strength I realized I could ignore the topic no longer.The recurring theme in question is the stultifying tribalism and accompanying intolerance for opinions different from our own that is rampant in our culture.

The subject first came up when I went to see A Quiet Place and discovered the underlying metaphor at the heart of the film, that in our current cultural climate anyone with a traditionalist opinion that may differ from liberal establishment orthodoxy needs to keep quiet and keep their head down or they will be "devoured" by the PC mobs and elitist watchdogs online and in the media. 

The day after seeing A Quiet Place I read two pieces touching upon the same subject, the first by Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times and the second by Andrew Sullivan of New York magazine.

Goldberg's piece from May 11th, titled "How the Online Left Fuels the Right" and Sullivan's from the same day titled "Kanye West and the Question of Freedom", both discuss the problem of tribalism across the political spectrum but also the issue of liberal intolerance of differing viewpoints, which echoed the foundational metaphor I found so intriguing about A Quiet Place.

Then a day later on May 12th, I read an op-ed in the New York Times by Gerard Alexander titled, "Liberals, You're Not as Smart as You Think". In the piece Alexander, like Goldberg and Sullivan before him, mentions the Kanye West-Trump conversion story where Kanye's divergence from racial political dogma has caused a furor resulting in his sanity being questioned by liberals and African-Americans, to highlight liberal intolerance of diverse opinions.  

"BLESSED ARE THE ARROGANT, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF THEIR OWN COMPANY" Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

These three articles, written by a Democrat (Goldberg), a liberal conservative (Sullivan) and a Republican (Alexander) all touch upon an issue that I have recognized for quite some time and tried to warn against, namely that establishment liberalism is quick becoming a suffocatingly vacuous and emotionalist echo chamber of political correctness and victim idolatry where serious thinking goes to die. (This is not to say that Republican conservatism is chock full of vibrant philosophy, it isn't, it is at best a mausoleum, at worst a rancid carnival of Reagan-era capitalism).

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The argument that Goldberg, Alexander and Sullivan make is that liberal intolerance of diverse opinion and use of shame instead of debate is a direct cause of Trump's electoral victory, and may lead to his re-election. I made this same argument right after the 2016 election (link, link) (and right before the election- link), where I said that liberal arguments had grown flaccid because Democrats had replaced debate with moral condemnation, shaming and exiling of anyone who disagreed with them. As I have written many times, liberals no longer engage in debate, they simply cry racism, misogyny or some other emotionally fueled charge rather than actually thinking through a topic, forming an argument, engaging in debate/discussion and thus attempting to convince others of the rightness of their viewpoint. This sort of lazy, entitled, and emotionally driven form of anti-intellectual politics is currently at epidemic levels across America. 

The emotionalism at the heart of this tribalism and demand for intellectual conformity is a potent force and I have seen its devastating effects up close and personal in the liberal circles of my own life.

Andrew Sullivan eloquently wrote of the powerful emotion driving tribal politics and its consequences, "That’s an intense emotion, and it’s that intensity, it seems to me, that is corroding the norms of liberal democracy. It has been made far, far worse by this president, a figure whose election was both a symptom and a cause of this collective emotional unraveling, where the frontal cortex is so flooded by tribal signals that compromise feels like treason, opponents feel like enemies, and demagogues feel like saviors. Instead of a willingness to disagree and tolerate, there is an impulse to loathe and expel. And this is especially true with people we associate with our own side. Friendly dissidents are no longer interesting or quirky; as the stakes appear to rise, they come to seem dangerous, even contagious. And before we even know it, we live in an atmosphere closer and closer to that of The Crucible, where politics merges into a new kind of religious warfare, dissent becomes heresy, and the response to a blasphemer among us is a righteous, metaphorical burning at the stake."

"LOVE HURTS, NOW YOU'RE THE GIRL WHOSE LEFT WITH NO WORDS/ YOUR HEARTS A BALLOON BUT THEN IT BURSTS/ IT DOESN'T TAKE A CANNON JUST A PIN/ YOUR SKIN'S NO COVERING…" - Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

MARY FROM DELAWARE

I was, synchronistically enough, reminded of this "impulse to loathe and expel" when a friend jokingly sent me a recent article written by a woman who used to be friends with my wife. This woman, let's call her Delaware Mary, is a vociferous Clinton supporter and a self-described feminist, and when my wife posted a link to an article I had written right after the 2016 election titled, "2016 Election Post-Mortem", Mary, who had been friends with my wife for over twenty years, responded just as Sullivan describes as from that point on she refused to talk or communicate with my wife in any way, instead choosing to unfriend and expel my wife entirely from her life. 

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Mary's reaction to my wife simply linking to my article (which I encourage you to read to judge for yourself the level of my crime) seemed bizarre to me, but it was a sign of the times as in the midst of the collective nervous breakdown among liberals in the wake of Trump's victory and Hillary's defeat, Mary had company in her shunning ways. Two other female friends of my wife and I, let's call them Lola and Lana, both of whom are also self-described feminists and Clinton supporters, took the same action and expelled me and my wife entirely from their lives as well after I wrote my post-election analysis. It seems Mary, Lola and Lana were like the creatures in A Quiet Place, and when they heard me speak up they not only eliminated me, but also anyone close to me…namely my wife. 

"YOU MUST BE AN ACROBAT/ TO TALK LIKE THIS AND ACT LIKE THAT" - Acrobat off of the album Achtung Baby by U2

There are a few noteworthy things about this episode worth pointing out…the first is that it was confirmed by multiple third parties that the reason these women banished my wife and I was solely because of my writing and my post-election piece in particular. 

Second is that my wife is the least political (and least confrontational) person I know and rarely if ever talks politics with her friends or on Facebook. It is also important to emphasize that my wife didn't post the text of my article, just a link to it. In addition, my wife doesn't necessarily believe the same things that I do, she just made the egregious error of posting a link to my article saying "my husband wrote this". 

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And to put this further into context, these three feminist Clinton supporters have exiled my wife not because I am a MAGA hat wearing Trump guy, I certainly am not, but because I challenged their Clinton neo-liberalism from a position further to their left. I am one of the "friendly dissidents" Andrew Sullivan wrote about in the quote above who was deemed a heretic and banished…along with my entirely innocent wife.  

One final bit of context is that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana were adamant during the election that Hillary Clinton should not be held to account for the things her husband did while in office. These women claimed it was "sexist" and "misogynistic" to tar Hillary for the misdeeds of Bill. And yet…they were very comfortable holding my wife accountable for my apparent sin…how progressively feminist of them. 

The fact that these three women couldn't just passively ignore my writing, which would have been very easy to do since I rarely if ever had direct contact with them (and also because to avoid my writing they could simply NOT CLICK ON A LINK), but had to actively punish my wife for it, speaks volumes about where we are as a culture and does not bode well for where we are headed as a nation.

The hypocritical behavior on the part of Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana also speaks volumes and does not bode well for the future of feminism and is also a testament to their lack of personal character and integrity.

"BLESSED ARE THE BULLIES, FOR ONE DAY THEY'LL HAVE TO STAND UP TO THEMSELVES" - American Soul off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

"HAVING A SCAPEGOAT MEANS NOT KNOWING THAT WE HAVE ONE" - RENE GIRARD

"UNINTELLIGENT PEOPLE ALWAYS LOOK FOR A SCAPEGOAT" - ERNEST BEVIN

When Mary, Lola and Lana made the conscious decision to exorcise my wife and I from their lives they were exercising the ancient psychological tool of scapegoating. As author/philosopher Rene Girard tells us, scapegoating is when negative feelings and emotions, such as anger, failure, frustration or guilt are projected onto an innocent person/object, and then that person is punished, which provides psychological release and catharsis for the scapegoater.

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In this particular case, my wife was entirely innocent and did nothing wrong to Mary, Lola and Lana, but they projected onto her all of their negative feelings that arose as a result of Hillary's ignominious defeat, feelings such as impotence, helplessness, embarrassment, humiliation, frustration, anger and rage, and then punished my wife by exiling her. In a desperate search for catharsis in order to alleviate themselves of these painful and negative emotions, they needed to punish my wife and not just me, because exiling me would not make me suffer, but it would definitely hurt my wife, which in turn would punish me.

The suffering my wife experienced at the hands of their punishment is what was needed for Mary, Lola and Lana to cathartically release their own toxically negative feelings. Making my wife (and me) the villain upon which they could project their negative emotions, also allowed Mary, Lola and Lana to be the "hero" and gain powerful positive feelings like moral superiority, piousness and self-righteousness. 

Of course, as these women no doubt found out, the catharsis felt after exiling my wife and releasing their negative feelings over Hillary's election loss and the gaining of positive feelings, was only temporary, as the root cause of the negative feelings still existed, so they would, like addicts, have to find other scapegoats in order to sustain the temporary euphoria of releasing negative emotions and gaining positive ones. 

Delaware Mary in particular has become quite the expert at finding scapegoats and at proving both Sullivan's and my own point about the personal toxicity of tribalism repeatedly throughout the election and post-election period, as she has banished from her life not just my wife, but a cornucopia of other women, including her own mother, best friend and other friends.  

"BLESSED ARE THE LIARS FOR THE TRUTH CAN BE AWKWARD" - American Soul off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

"A COW'S HEAVEN IS A FLOWER'S IDEA OF HELL" - OLIVER GASPIRTZ

 Delaware Mary's scapegoats were probably singled out due to their failure to rigorously comply with her self-serving belief system, which more resembles a faith-based religion (with her as deity at the center) than a fact-based political philosophy, which is ironic since Delaware Mary is a nouveau-athiest who claims to despise religion. 

An example of Mary's vapid, vacuous and insipid thinking can be found in the article she wrote. In the piece, Mary wrote of women...

"When we speak our truths—the truth—we are rarely believed. We are gaslit by progressive men who tell us they care about women and people of color and the LGTBQ community but then dismiss fighting for our rights and our lives as identity politics."

This quote from Mary's piece is a perfect encapsulation of all that is wrong with establishment liberal orthodoxy and the neo-feminism of our day. Mary is entirely incapable of grasping that her subjective truth is not the Truth. She is also incapable of understanding that since her "truth" is subjective, it must therefore be measured against other people's subjective truths in order to come to a better understanding of the actual Truth. 

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Her use of the term "gaslight", which means "to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity", is pretty insightful as well (and also a desperate way for a middle-aged woman to try and seem "hip" to the "young people"). According to Mary's assertion, to even question her (or any other woman's or minority's) subjective experience can only be interpreted as a form of psychological assault meant to mentally harm her rather than an attempt to discover the Truth or the objective reality of a situation. In Delaware Mary's eyes, the only experience/truth that matters is hers…or barring that, then the subjective experience of any other member of a victim group she exalts such as women, LGBTQ people, or other minorities, and their subjective experience must be left unquestioned and accepted as fact too. 

Does Mary realize that conflating her subjective truth with fact is exactly what Donald Trump does on a daily basis that drives her batshit crazy? Does Mary ever even remotely consider that her subjective truth is not indeed a fact, that it is, just like everyone else's, distorted with all sorts of psychological, personal and historical filters? And that maybe her desperate yearning for victimhood and her rage toward other individuals (like the countless people she has banished) is a function of scapegoating through psychological projection and substitution? And could Mary ever grasp that some people she considers heretics to the Delaware Mary dogma may desire the same ultimate outcome that she does, but they believe different strategies and tactics will make attaining that goal much more likely? I doubt it, since in our culture the self, and therefore subjective experience, always trumps objective reality…hence we get a plethora of people, like Delaware Mary and her cohorts, who encourage people to speak their truth and not to seek THE Truth

INTERMISSION

Since this is a long article, here is a short video intermission which perfectly sums up Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana's approach to life. Enjoy.

 

"WHEN ALL YOU'VE LEFT IS LEAVING/ AND ALL YOU'VE GOT IS GRIEVING/ AND ALL YOU KNOW IS NEEDING" - 13 (There is a Light) off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

THE VICTIM PYRAMID OF TRUTH

The problem with Mary's thinking is pretty obvious, namely that even among women and minority groups in the inverted 'victim pyramid' of truth through which Mary sees the world, subjective experience differs greatly. So is Mary "gaslighting" people of color when she disagrees with Black women like Nina Turner, a Bernie Sanders supporter, or Candace Owens, a Trump supporter? Why are Ms. Turner's and Ms. Owen's subjective experience any less valid than Delaware Mary's? 

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And when Delaware Mary divides people based on their race, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity, in other words by their identity, or more accurately - by how SHE identifies them, and then ranks them according to how victimized she perceives them to be, she creates a situation that can only devolve into a circular firing squad. Evidence of this is seen in an article in The Guardian by Ruby Hamad titled "How White Women Use Strategic Tears to Silence Women of Colour", where Ms. Hamad bemoans how progressive White women use tears to avoid being held accountable. Does Ms. Hamad's subjective truth of White women being instinctively manipulative overrule Mary's subjective truth that she is "woke" (as an aside... is there anything more cringe-worthy than a middle aged white woman describing themselves as "woke")?

What about men of color…where on Delaware Mary's holy scale of minority subjective experience impeccability is their truth? Is Bill Cosby an awful rapist as per his female victims experience or does his African-American subjective truth that he is the victim of a lynching trump their claims? What about some less Manichean and more complex cases? Where does Mary's loyalty lie…is it with women? People of color? LGBTQ people? Because Mary has made it clear it certainly isn't with the Truth only with her subjective truth.

BECCA AND REBA'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE

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Michael Harriot accurately described White women like Mary and Lola in his 2017 article in The Root titled, "The 5 Types of 'Becky'". Harriot writes of White women he calls varying forms of the derogatory name Becky. Mary and Lola fall into two of the Becky categories, the first is the Becca category, which Harriot describes thus…"Becca wants to help…as long as it is convenient and comfortable. Even though Becca isn't racist, her idea of Black people is of a downtrodden underclass that just needs a little help from benevolent white people. Becca is pure of heart and holds no animosity towards anyone. She is willing to "do the work…" but not really."

Delaware Mary and Lola are a Becca combined with a Reba, which Harriot describes thus…"Reba is "woke"…Reba believes in a women's right to choose and wore a pink pussy hat to the Women's March….Reba cares about winning. She believes that white women deserve the gold medal in the oppression Olympics, and if there is a chance she isn't on the podium, Reba thinks you're not being fair. Reba talks about white privilege, but Reba doesn't understand that she is white privilege." 

"FREEDOM, THE SLAVES ARE LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO LEAD THEM/ THE MASTER'S LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO NEED HIM/ THE PROMISED LAND IS THERE FOR THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST/ AND LINCOLN'S GHOST SAID/ GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY" -Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

Delaware Mary's fanaticism for identity politics is part of why she was so desperate to scapegoat and exile my wife and I. For women like Mary, Lola and Lana, identity politics isn't just about race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, it is actually about THEIR identity, meaning their ego/Self. 

According to iconic psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, C.G. Jung, there are countless types of archetypes that are available to us, from the Warrior to the Trickster to the Lover to the Actor and on and on. Jung's archetypes are all gender neutral so, for example, both men and women can be the Mother archetype or the Father archetype. The problem with Mary, Lola and Lana is that they are stuck in the archetypal cycle of Victim (Child) and Mother, with the Victim/Child archetype being the one who needs caring and the Mother archetype being the one who does the caring.

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Delaware Mary is so bloated with self-loathing she must justify it by embracing the Victim archetype, pawning her failures off on an "other" or "group of others" because it eases her psychological anguish to feel she has no agency and is a defenseless Victim. And then she projects Victimhood onto others she deems acceptable, like other women, people of color and other minorities, so that she can try to balance her psyche and alleviate her feelings of weakness, by infantilizing those she appoints as "Victims" (minorities)…thus ensuring that they stay disempowered Victims/Children in need of care and she takes on the archetype of Mother to care for them. This Mother role in this scenario is actually driven by an unconscious White supremacy and a desire to keep minorities in perpetual Victim/Child mode, thus stunting their growth so that Mother can remain empowered. 

Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana hated my post-election article and the ideas in it so much because it challenged their worldview, and to them, because their identity politics is their sole identity (Victim/Child-Mother archetypal cycle), a challenge to their worldview is a direct threat to their ego/Self, their psyche and thus to their entire existence. This is why Mary considers anyone questioning her subjective truth as "gaslight" assaulting her, it is because the entirety of her being is her ego, which is defined by her Victim/Mother identity. Without her identity politics belief system, Mary ceases to exist, as do Lola and Lana. If the world is not as they think it is, then their identities disintegrate and take the rest of their psyche with it. 

The existential threat of loss of identity and psychic annihilation is real and powerful, and can motivate people to do much worse things than just banish a friend of twenty years with whom you have suffered the slings and arrows of life including weddings, births, deaths and all the rest. Holding onto our identity/ego/Self is perceived by the psyche to be a matter of life and death, and it often forces us to react from our lizard brain rather than from the more rational parts of our mind.

"FIGHT BACK, DON'T TAKE IT LYING DOWN YOU'VE GOT TO BITE BACK/ THE FACE OF LIBERTY'S STARTING TO CRACK/ SHE HAD A PLAN UP UNTIL SHE GOT A SMACK IN THE MOUTH/ THEN IT ALL WENT SOUTH" - Get Out of Your Own Way off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

Another thing that I found striking regarding Delaware Mary and Co. banishing my wife and I was that none of these proud, self-described feminist, highly-edcuated women had the courage to challenge the things I wrote. None of these women have ever reached out to me at all regarding the entire situation, finding it easier to just "ghost" (as the kids say) my wife and I instead of engaging in a debate or discussion or even registering their dislike of my opinion. I can understand not wanting to engage with me in person, I have been told I am an intimidating presence, but to not at least reach out from the safety of email or the comment section seems to me an act of cowardice, and shunning my wife shows a stunning lack of intellectual integrity.  

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I am someone who does not have all the answers, hell, I don't even know most of the questions, so I consider myself open to persuasion. Maybe I am delusional, that could certainly be the case, but I try to be open to criticisms of my thinking and writing. For instance, I have received very insightful and thoughtful emails from readers who have vehemently disagreed with me and I have even gone so far as to post some of these emails in their entirety on my blog. For example, when I wrote a piece on "Whitewashing", a reader, Tiny Dancer, emailed me with her counter argument, and I posted an article containing that entire email. To me, this is how serious people and adults behave, and I wish these women had had the courage to reach out to me and at least tell me what pissed them off so much in that article so I could reexamine my opinion. 

Maybe these women thought I was not worth their time, and that my wife was for some reason tainted by her association with me, a case of the "contagion" Andrew Sullivan insightfully wrote about. But as Michelle Goldberg wrote in her New York Times piece, "Some might argue that respectfully debating ideas seen as racist or sexist legitimates them. There’s something to this, but refusing to debate carries a price as well — it conveys a message of weakness, a lack of faith in one’s own ideas. Ultimately, the side that’s frantically trying to shore up taboos is the side that’s losing. If there’s an Intellectual Dark Web, we should let the sun shine in."

Goldberg is correct in her strategic and tactical assessment. Delaware Mary and company feel entitled to not have their beliefs challenged, and so they frantically scapegoat all heretics and banish contrarians so that they never have to actually form an argument and strengthen it, but get to bask in the illusion of the unimpeachability of their subjective truth. This is an arrogant, fool-hardy and strategically inept approach to life and to politics as gorging yourself on a steady diet of mainstream neo-liberal identity theology will only lead to an intellectual constipation. It will also eventually leave you at the mercy of your opponents, who have hardened and honed their arguments in the fire of debate, and to the brutal and cruel force of objective reality. 

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By sealing their echo chamber ever tighter through the banishing of alternative and diverse opinions and anyone associated with them, Delaware Mary and Co. are creating a distorted version of reality where they encourage themselves and others to lose touch with objective reality in favor of a fever dream of subjective truth and moral superiority.

As Gerard Alexander writes in his Times piece, "Within just a few years, many liberals went from starting to talk about microaggressions to suggesting that it is racist even to question whether microaggressions are that important. “Gender identity disorder” was considered a form of mental illness until recently, but today anyone hesitant about transgender women using the ladies’ room is labeled a bigot. Liberals denounce “cultural appropriation” without, in many cases, doing the work of persuading people that there is anything wrong with, say, a teenager not of Chinese descent wearing a Chinese-style dress to prom or eating at a burrito cart run by two non-Latino women."

In Delaware Mary and Co.'s confirmation bias feedback loop where objective truth is scorned and subjective truth celebrated, the only way to maintain the illusion is to vigorously police the speech and actions of others. This is why it was imperative that I be exiled along with my Facebook linking accomplice wife, as we represented a potential shattering of the illusion within which these women exist. This controlling impulse is authoritarian in nature, and ironically enough, is exactly what Trump and other tyrants do to dissidents and heretics as well. 

As Alexander wrote in his Times essay, "Pressing a political view from the Oscar stage, declaring a conservative campus speaker unacceptable, flatly categorizing huge segments of the country as misguided — these reveal a tremendous intellectual and moral self-confidence that smacks of superiority. It’s one thing to police your own language and a very different one to police other people’s. The former can set an example. The latter is domineering." 

THE JOY OF COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

I wrote an article a few years back titled, "Truth, Justice and the Curious Case of Chris Kyle". In that widely read piece, I wrote of the psychological term cognitive dissonance, which means "psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously", in relation to the behavior of conservatives when the lies of Chris Kyle were brought to their attention. A brief glimpse at the comment section of that piece, which I wholly encourage you to go read in its entirety, proved my point more than anything I actually wrote in the article.

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Liberals suffer from cognitive dissonance too (as do all humans to varying degrees) and it has been epidemic in the last few years, Delaware Mary and Co. are living proof of that. When Mary, Lola and Lana were confronted with arguments and facts (like my being correct in predicting the election and the reasons why Trump would win) that were in opposition to their strongly held beliefs (their trust in conventional wisdom and institutions like the media, their perceived intellectual superiority and that Hillary would win) and suffered the ensuing psychological conflict, they did what most people suffering from cognitive dissonance do, they ignored the new information (and its carrier- me) and they removed it from their consciousness in order to maintain the sanctity of their previous held (faith-based) belief. 

A great example of liberals like Delaware Mary and company suffering from cognitive dissonance and behaving exactly the same as the conservatives they so loathe (and vice versa), came in recent months when MSNBC host Joy Reid was caught lying about some blog posts she had written a decade ago that some felt were homophobic. Instead of just owning up to the posts and apologizing as she had done in a similar situation a year ago, this time Reid doubled down and claimed to have been "hacked", and that the writing was not hers. Computer forensic experts investigated and found that she was full of it and that there was no hacking…but this did not stop Reid or her supporters one little bit. In a remarkable display of cognitive dissonance, Reid claimed she "didn't recognize herself as having written those things", and many liberals supported her and even wrote and tweeted things like "I don't care if she is lying…I SUPPORT JOY". The same exact type of thing was written by conservatives in the wake of my Chris Kyle piece, as many declared, "I don't care if he lied!" This is our political culture…whether it be liberal or conservative...Truth need not apply. 

"STATUES FALL/ DEMOCRACY IS FLAT ON ITS BACK, JACK/ WE HAD IT ALL, BUT WHAT WE HAD IS NOT COMING BACK, ZAC/ A BIG MOUTH, SAYS THE PEOPLE THEY DON'T WANT TO BE FREE FOR FREE/ THE BLACKOUT, IS THIS AN EXTINCTION EVENT WE SEE?" -The Blackout off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

A COMPLEX SIMPLICITY

Why is that? Why in the world do people just blindly support and put their faith in people like Chris Kyle or Joy Reid or Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? And also why do people spend so much time and energy banishing dissenting opinions instead of using that time and energy to see what is in front of one's nose, which as Orwell teaches us, requires a constant struggle? The answer is a deep-seeded existential fear.

Delaware Mary and company are representative of our political culture in that they are consumed with fear. Fear is the driving and motivating force for their lives…and yet they are not even aware of it. What these people fear is not what they think they fear…some "other" (like me) out to destroy them and all that they hold dear. No, Delaware Mary and company's existential fear is not the "other", it is complexity, and the antidote to their fear of complexity is the simplicity for which they so desperately yearn. 

Simplicity is required because it maintains and enforces the status quo in people's psyche and also in the outer world. For individuals like Delaware Mary and friends, if they replace their simple black and white worldview where they have a scapegoated "other" upon which to project all negative attributes, and a sanctified Victim group (of which they are members), and replace that cosmology with a more nuanced and complex understanding of their world where their feelings are a useless guide to navigating the maze of modern life, then once again their Self/ego is threatened with obliteration. This is the existential threat to their identity/ego/Self that must be avoided by any means necessary.

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As Adam Curtis revealed in his brilliant documentary Hyper-Normalization, the same is true of our macro political culture, as our society is so complex that it is an unwieldy, uncontrollable beast, and thus the appearance of simplicity must always be maintained by the ruling class to keep the masses placid and compliant. Thus we get slogans and marketing campaigns to boil everything down to the most simplistic nugget…Make America Great Again, all Trump voters are racist, they hate us for our freedoms, freedom isn't free, Hillary lost because of racism!/misogyny! Saddam/Ghadaffi/Putin/Bin Laden/Kim Jong-Il is a pure evil madman etc. 

The establishment believes the facade of a simplistic Manichean status quo with its accompanying political order (where they are on top) must be maintained at all costs because the complexity that lies just underneath the surface of our civilization is a chaotic, barbaric and psychologically apocalyptic force that if unleashed could destroy their power structures.  

On a micro scale, Delaware Mary must not let the complexity of the world seep into her mind, she must not permit contrarian views to fester, because if she stops to actually think, instead of feel, about her subjective truth versus objective reality, and about the massive complexity hidden just beneath the surface or her own life, psyche and motivations, her ego/Self, which she has wrapped in the cloak of her identity in general and her Victim identity in particular, will be obliterated and she will cease to exist. That is terribly frightening for her, as it would be for anyone, and that is the fuel that propels the rocket of her spate of scapegoating and blindly vindictive behavior. 

"WALK THROUGH THE ROOM LIKE A BIRTHDAY CAKE/ WHEN I AM ALL LIT UP, CAN'T MAKE A MISTAKE/ AND THERE'S A LEVEL OF SHALLOW THAT YOU JUST CAN'T FAKE/ BUT YOU KNOW THAT I KNOW" - The Showman (Little More Better) off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

What needs to happen to Delaware Mary and company is what needs to happen to the wider culture as well, namely that they must, in a controlled and stable setting, ask themselves the question, "what if everything I know is wrong?" This question scares the hell out of people like Mary, and scares the establishment class even more, but it is vital if we want to survive as a functioning, relatively healthy human beings and as a civilization. 

Americans have been given lots of opportunities to ask this question of ourselves in recent years as they and the ruling establishment have been spectacularly wrong on so many things, such as the Iraq war, the financial collapse and Trump's election. Sadly, the ruling elite have repeatedly and effectively placated the masses in the face of these massive failures by conjuring a tantalizingly simple illusion which they use to distract from an ever more unruly and complex world. 

The same is true for Delaware Mary, who if she had the courage to actually do some introspection and self-reflection, might stop to notice that she perpetually kisses up and kicks down, and that she repeatedly only casts aside "friends" she cannot use to advance her career, which might lead her to realize that the life she leads which depresses her so, is a result of her own doing, and not because of the failings of others, or structural barriers restraining her. 

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What is so disheartening about this entire situation is that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana think they are fighting for change and against the status quo, but they aren't, they are desperately and unconsciously struggling to maintain the status quo. Their feminism is a feminism which is built upon the Victim archetype and the foundational belief of female weakness and unworthiness. Ironically, the Victim archetype feminism these women adhere to not only requires but forces a Mother archetype to step forward to "care for" the Victim, and what steps into the Mother archetype are patriarchal males who want to protect the "weaker sex". In other words, Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana and their neo-feminist cohorts are unconsciously propping up the patriarchy they claim to so abhor. This along with their hypocritical behavior and vicious envy of other women speaks to Delaware Mary and friends as being fraudulent feminists. 

Their identity and racial politics too are built upon the Mother/Victim archetypal relationship, and carries with it their own unconscious belief in the inferiority of those groups of people for whom they claim to be fighting. This shows that Mary, Lola and Lana are symbolic of many mainstream liberals in that they claim to be #woke but are completely sound asleep #unconscious.

"IT IS WHAT IT IS BUT IT'S NOT WHAT IT SEEMS/ THIS SCREWED UP STUFF IS THE STUFF OF DREAMS/ I GOT JUST ENOUGH LOW SELF ESTEEM/ TO GET ME WHERE I WANT TO GO" - The Showman (Little More Better) off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

This begs the question...Why does any of this matter? Well the reason I was compelled to write on this subject in the first place is because it seems to represent the ever growing divide in American politics, where subjective truth rules the day and all politics is personal, that further exacerbates the issues that many people care about.

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I also think it matters as a warning about the infection gaining power and spreading throughout politics in general and liberal politics in particular. Delaware Mary is symbolic of this disease of identity and is a case study for the perils of embracing her type. For example, Delaware Mary has tried to resurrect her moribund writing career by rebranding and marketing herself as an activist writer for neo-feminist causes. As has been my experience, and the experience of the many women she has callously mistreated, Delaware Mary is a proven charlatan and fraud as a feminist, and by trying to make herself the voice or face of that movement, will guarantee that it ends in epic failure. Delaware Mary's noxiously malignant narcissism and intellectual vacuity is toxic to everyone and everything she touches.

If you care about any issue, it would wise to be on the look out for people like Delaware Mary. The signs of a Delaware Mary are that they are pied pipers without an original thought in their head, who only speak to their own side and only tell their audience what they want to hear, never what they need to hear.

Delaware Mary's are only interested in basking in the glory of their own voice. Their infatuation with the sound of their own voice is also why they never have a remotely original thought or idea, all they do is simply regurgitate mainstream neo-liberal pablum and think because they are the ones saying it, that it's now clever.

The Delaware Marys of the world are a danger to the people who are serious about finding actual solutions to difficult problems because they will exploit any and all issues to further their career, inflate their own ego and sense of self-worth, and then shit out their shadow emotions on all those they deem disposable because they no longer feed the narcissistic beast residing where their conscience used to be. 

"I'VE BEEN CRYING OUT/ HOW BAD CAN A GOOD TIME BE?/ SHOOTING OFF MY MOUTH/ THAT'S ANOTHER GREAT THING ABOUT ME" - You're the Best Thing About Me off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

Maybe I am wrong about all of this, it wouldn't be the first time. Just like Lola and Lana, I am certainly not perfect either, as I sure as hell have my own blind spots, confirmation and unconscious biases and suffer from my own cognitive dissonance. And the objective reality may be that I am just an incorrigible asshole and my wife is a vicious bitch and we have been rightfully punished by Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana. Maybe their anger towards me is righteous and their vengeance upon my wife deserved. Or maybe not. It is impossible to tell since for a year and a half none of these women have had the testicular fortitude to actually engage in a discussion about it. Maybe if they had summoned the gumption to do so they could have pointed out the errors in my thinking, and converted me to their faith/cosmology.

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Which brings us back to A Quiet Place and why the film resonated with me so much. The film dramatizes the struggle of our current age, which includes the battle over whether to allow people to speak freely even when they say something ugly or which offends you, and the authoritarian impulse to stifle that freedom of speech. While I and others have not been devoured by monsters or thrown in a gulag or concentration camp for reeducation…yet, we have been singled out, punished and ostracized for daring voice opinions that challenge conventional thinking and establishment orthodoxy. This belief that you have the right NOT to be offended combined with the compulsive need to surround yourself with only people that agree with you is ultimately a dangerous impulse that will only lead to further polarization that will fuel an ever hotter political conflagration between groups of extremists on both sides who refuse to see the humanity in the other.

I personally struggle to understand that sort of thinking, as I intentionally seek out writers who think differently than I do. My daily reading is an eclectic list that spans the political and philosophical spectrum. I actually enjoy reading writers with whom I disagree because it challenges me to think harder about what I actually do believe, and come up with a cogent defense of my opinions and a coherent counter-argument to those things with which I disagree. This seems to me to be a logical approach to life and learning and expanding one's knowledge base. 

For instance, just in this article alone I quote from Andrew Sullivan, Michelle Goldberg and Alexander, three people I vehemently disagree with from time to time. If I judged these writers only by what I perceive to be their errors, then I would stop reading them entirely and be disadvantaged because that would mean I'd stop learning from them as well. The same is true of Rene Girard and documentarian Adam Curtis whom I also reference, both are undeniably brilliant but not perfect. Should I cast all of their work away because I found some of it lacking or were offended by parts of it? That is foolishness and totally self-defeating. 

"I LIKE THE SOUND OF MY OWN VOICE/ I DIDN'T GIVE ANYONE ELSE A CHOICE" - All Because of You off of the album How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb by U2

"I THOUGHT I HEARD THE CAPTAIN'S VOICE/ IT'S HARD TO LISTEN WHILE YOU PREACH" -Every Breaking Wave off of the Album Songs of Innocence by U2

The tactic of shaming those who dare to challenge our opinions, rather than debating them, or exorcising diversity of opinion instead of embracing it, will end in tragedy for those who fall under the spell of the echo chamber. Those that choose to be seduced by the warm song of the echo chamber will become like some perverse, masturbatorial version of Homer's Sirens, for they will be grounded upon the rocks by the hypnotically mesmerizing sound of their own voice. 

I think America is in the midst of a psychotic break and that liberals as a group have suffered a severe nervous breakdown after Trump won the election, and that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana were swept up in that collective insanity. Obviously they won't ever read this because my writing/thinking is heresy to their neo-liberal dogma and for them to read it would result in eternal damnation, but I do hope that one day the collective insanity that has descended upon the American body politic subsides, and that people can actually engage in discussion once again. That said…I am not optimistic.

"DINOSAUR, WONDERS WHY IT STILL WALKS THE EARTH/ YEAH/ A METEOR, PROMISES IT'S NOT GONNA HURT, YEAH" - The Blackout off of the Album Songs of Experience by U2

"SOMETIMES/ THE END IS NOT COMING/ IT'S NOT COMING/ THE END IS HERE/ SOMETIMES" The Little Things That Give You Away off of Songs of Experience by U2

I think that Delaware Mary, Lola and Lana are symptoms of the disease of American culture. These women are poster children for the decadent, selfish, narcissistic, emotionalist, impulsive, vindictive and vacuous nation we have become. Unbeknownst to them, we are in the midst of a dramatic transition/transformation period in American and world history. Massive upheavals and changes are fast approaching…financial collapse, wars, civil wars, the fall of empires and a toppling of the world order. These women are symbolic of the collective in that, just like their willful blindness regarding Trump in the 2016 election, they prefer to keep their heads up their asses where they can enjoy the warm and dark embrace of the familiar no matter how much it stinks, rather than the cold hard reality of the world outside. Like smug dinosaurs before the meteor, they continue to bask in the arrogance of their ignorance, not knowing, and not wanting to know, the perilous fate that is hurtling towards them (and the rest of us) at breakneck speed.

"YOU'RE THE BEST THING ABOUT ME/ THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED A BOY/ YOU'RE THE BEST THING ABOUT ME/ I'M THE KIND OF TROUBLE THAT YOU ENJOY/ YOU'RE THE BEST THING ABOUT ME/ THE BEST THINGS ARE EASY TO DESTROY" - You're the Best Thing About Me off of the album Songs of Experience by U2

As for me, at the end of the day, all I can do and want to do is keep on trying to seek the Truth. I won't always succeed, and if history is any guide, I will fail considerably more than I succeed. But the attempt is an important one, especially in the kingdom of madness that is America. The best I can do now is to heed the advice of my good friend Bono, who told me the other night to go forth into this mad world with "Open eyes…open arms…open heart…and OPEN MIND". I wish Mary, Lola and Lana would take this sage advice as well, because then we might be able to mitigate the disaster that awaits us all by being the change we all desperately want to see in this insane world.

 

©2018

A Quiet Place: A Review

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

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE. IT. NOW.

A Quiet Place, written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck and directed by John Krasinski, is a horror/thriller about a family that must live in silence in order to avoid being killed by creatures that hunt exclusively by sound. The film stars Emily Blunt and John Krasinski with supporting turns from Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. 

As a general rule, I am not a fan of horror/thriller films, they just aren't my thing and since I have to be judicious with my limited movie going time, I rarely if ever go see them in the theatre, instead I'll wait to see them on cable or Netflix. But since I just got MoviePass, and since MoviePass is probably going out of business very soon, I decided I better use it before I lose it, so I made my virgin MoviePass journey to go see a film I otherwise never would have seen in the theatre...A Quiet Place. Boy am I ever glad that I did.

A Quiet Place is an absolutely phenomenal motion picture. It is a perfect combination of independent movie aesthetics with conventional Hollywood horror structure. The film is a riveting and engrossing piece of work by first time director John Krasinski (aka Jim from The Office), and is highlighted by a staggering performance from Emily Blunt. 

Krasinski's direction borders on Hitchcockian in its sheer brilliance and deft use of craft. The film is, at times, reminiscent of (and pays tribute to) such great films as Ridley Scott's Alien, Spielberg's Jaws and Shyamalan's Signs, but yet remains a very unique and original vision. 

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Krasinski skillfully trims all the fat from A Quiet Place and what is left is a tense, taut and harrowing thriller of sinewy cinematic muscle and dramatic bone that is at times unnerving to experience. Krasinski so expertly raises the tension throughout the 90 minute movie that when it ended I surprised myself when I audibly exhaled a breath of air I wasn't even consciously aware that I was holding.

Krasinski masterfully uses good old fashioned fundamental filmmaking - camera movement, framing, lighting, sound and music (things often overlooked in special effects laden films) to build and heighten tension and drama throughout the movie, and yet he also expertly deploys top-notch Hollywood CGI creatures to further enhance the story. 

John Krasisnki also stars in the film as the father of the family and does very solid, subtle and sturdy work. Krasinski's character in A Quiet Place is a long way from his lovable incarnation as Jim on The Office, and this character's gravitas and complexity is a testament to Krasinski's versatility as an actor.

Emily Blunt is absolutely stunning as the wife/mother of the vulnerable brood that are desperate to stay silent and therefore stay alive. There is a sequence, which I won't give away, where Blunt is so remarkable in expressing yet containing her pain, fear and anguish that it is sublime and artistically transcendent. Blunt's performance is further buttressed by Krasinski's exquisite direction which makes the most of her truly dynamic talents. 

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Millicent Simmonds plays the pre-teen daughter of the family and does excellent work in the film. Simmonds brings a palpable and visceral isolation to her character that is a cornerstone of the film. Simmonds character is extremely well-written, and she brings all of its complexity to life with a compelling awkwardness and discomfort.

Cinematographer Charlotte Brus Christensen does exquisite work on A Quiet Place and her use of red light, bare lightbulbs and distant fires creates a sparse but effective visual aesthetic that is cinematically and dramatically effective in propelling the narrative and fleshing out the sub-text of the film.

The sound design and sound editors do remarkable work on the movie as well, and without their magnificent contributions this film would not succeed. The same with the special effects team that created the creatures, which are as unique as you could ever hope and put the movie over the top.

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A Quiet Place is a film that excels on multiple levels, it is an entertaining and compelling horror/thriller that will have you squirming on the edge of your seat, but it is also a film of much deeper meaning with a political/cultural sub-text pulsating just beneath its surface. In order to avoid spoilers, I will avoid speaking of the metaphor at the heart of A Quiet Place, but will do so below. Needless to say, I found the sub-text to be absolutely fascinating and have been thinking about it and the film non-stop since I left the theatre.

One word of caution though, if you are a person who is uncomfortable with "children in peril" types of narratives in a film, I recommend you skip A Quiet Place, as it is basically 90 minutes of children in peril. I usually dislike the use of children in peril as a narrative device myself, but I thought A Quiet Place did it very effectively and not in a cheap way, but that being said, as a father it was very, very difficult to watch.

In conclusion, as someone who was reticent to see the film due to its genre, I must say A Quiet Place handily won me over and impressed the hell out of me. I highly recommend A Quiet Place to anyone who wants to see a well-crafted and original film that happens to be a horror/thriller, it is well worth your time and effort to go see it in the theatre. Just remember...don't buy popcorn, as your loud munching will break the hypnotic silence of the film...and also draw the attention of the creatures…like me! So…BE QUIET! The life you save could be your own!!

 

FILM COMMENTARY - WITH SPOILERS

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****WARNING- THIS SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS!!****

****THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD!!****

There is a lot to get to in terms of the deeper meaning, metaphor and sub-text of A Quiet Place. As the film ended I was overwhelmed with thoughts and was frantically jotting down as many notes as I could in order to remember. Here are some of those thoughts...

1. A Quiet Place is a metaphor for our current politics and culture. In the film, a White "traditional" family, who live on a farm in rural upstate New York, must stay silent in order to stay alive. If they speak up, if they raise their voices, the creatures will come and devour them.

Obviously, this speaks to the current climate of suffocating tribalism, political correctness and lack of diversity of thought in our culture. The rural "traditional" White family in the film represent not only the White majority in America who feel "under siege" by "cultural elites" who despise, belittle and chastise them at every turn, but also anyone who dare speak up and out against their own tribe's rigid dogma.

As America changes, the traditionalist Whites (even liberal ones) feel they cannot speak up for themselves, their country, their religion or their ethnicity or they will be brandished as racist, xenophobic or worse by the ever vigilant PC police in the media and online that attack anyone who dare challenge liberal establishment orthodoxy. A Quiet Place gives voice to this anxiety about the pitfalls of speaking freely. 

An emphasis on racial, ethnic and sexual diversity is bringing change (some believe much needed change) to America, and A Quiet Place speaks to the discomfort of White traditionalists with that change.

Even the casting of A Quiet Place speaks to the changing face of American culture, as it is startling that there are only White actors in the film, "diversity" and "inclusivity riders" need not apply here, and it actually felt refreshing and oddly subversive that no one felt the need to do any token casting of minorities in order to elevate liberal establishment sensibilities above storytelling.

It is even more oddly subversive that the family in A Quiet Place actually prays. It is only one brief scene, and there are no other overt displays of religiosity, but it is striking that this brief scene is in the film because prayer and religion is so rare in cinema nowadays (except of course in those God-awful - pun intended - super Christian movies that are so sugary they cause an intellectual cavity). 

The film's metaphor seen through the eyes of Christians in America (or the west) gives voice to their anxiety over the decline of Christianity in the west, hostility in the public square towards Christianity and the perceived threat of expansionist Islam. Christianity's fears and feelings of persecution may seem unreasonable to nonbelievers, but it is a genuine sentiment among many in the pews, and A Quiet Place is an effective metaphorical tool for expressing it. 

2. Rockets symbolically play a key role in the film. To open the film a young boy draws a rocket on the floor and says "this is how we will escape". Another little boy reaches precariously for a toy space shuttle on a shelf and nearly falls over making a loud noise (which would lead to death at the hands of the creatures)...but is saved by his sister. The older son is told to go do "rockets" which is code for shooting fireworks in order to distract the creatures when they are attacking the family farm. 

What does this rocket symbology mean? Well...rocketry and space exploration are from an earlier time in our history, a time when the the traditional White majority ruled unabashedly…post WWII 1950's and early 1960's. Kennedy's call to go to the moon, and America's successful journey there, were the height of human achievement, and the height of traditional "White" American accomplishment.

Pride in that accomplishment, and pride in White American heritage, gets the youngest son killed when he smuggles the toy space shuttle out of the store and turns it on during his walk home. The toy makes a noise...and draws the attention of the creature...who quickly runs and kills the boy. In other words, any display of pride in what America used to be, or pride in White achievement or heritage, will get you devoured by the creature/PC mob.

The Space Shuttle is symbolic of Reagan's vision of America…which is has now become diminished to just a small toy on a dusty shelf in a nearly vacant store. The little boy is attracted to Reagan's appeal to traditional White America…an 80's version of MAGA, a throwback to the glory days of post WWII 1950's and early 60's. The boy is destroyed by the PC watchdogs because he dares to be attracted to and celebrate the Reagan/traditional White American legacy of his forefathers. 

In terms of the older son launching rockets/fireworks to save his mother, the family(traditional White America), the father in particular, thinks strategically and studies all he can about the creatures and their strengths and weaknesses, and thus is smart enough to learn/know how to distract the creature/PC attack dogs in order to buy time for the next generation to be born safely, so that they can have a chance to stem the tide of the anti-traditional, anti-White "outsiders".

The rocket/fireworks...think of the tradition of the Fourth of July, a brazen celebration of America...is like red meat to the PC attack dogs in that it drives them crazy and makes them react instinctively. The fact that this leads to a fall, fight and near death in a silo (missile silo - rocket symbology again), is representative of the same thing...America's former post WWII might and 1950' and 60's missile/rocket development. This silo is filled with corn, symbolic of the farmland/heartland of America and the roots of America's beginning, and this is where a battle is fought and important lessons learned in how to defeat the creatures. The two children almost drown in traditional White America's abundance, symbolized by a tidal wave of corn, but are able to work together to stave off the pc attack dog. 

Anytime you see or hear rockets in the movie, think of it as a giant American flag and being symbolic of the height of traditional White American power back in post WWII 1950's and early 60's.

3. The father in the film is symbolic of the traditional White male in America. He is smart, resilient, reliable and handy. He sacrifices himself so that his children can live and maybe win the war against the barbarian hordes who literally eat their enemies, children included. Unbeknownst to him, he actually develops in his basement lab the technology to defeat these vicious "outsiders"/PC attack dogs. The traditional White American male saves his family, his race and his country through his ingenuity, skill, brains and sacrifice. 

He passes along his knowledge to his son…not his daughter, who is not allowed into his lab. He takes his son, not his daughter, on a fishing trip and teaches him about being able to yell…raise your voice and say what you want behind a wall of water (water being symbolic of the unconscious and transitions). 

It is his daughter, who is deaf, whom he tries to help literally to hear (the Truth), and in so doing she is able, along with her mother's shotgun, to defeat the invading beasts who threaten to devour them all. 

The father, in truly traditionalist form, is tasked with defending and protecting his family by his wife/mother to his children. He does so when he sacrifices himself, in front of his wife's eyes, thus making himself a sort of a martyr for the traditionalist cause. She, witnessing her husbands sacred sacrifice, is then transformed, and she is able to use his male energy and power after he dies, just like his daughter is able to use his hearing aid invention in order to defeat the monsters. In the end it is women who must step up in the absence of men and win the final victory. 

4. Considering all the above, there is an obvious parallel to immigration in America and traditional White America's anxiety over it. Also the stifling of dissent (particularly by establishment Democrats), which is at epic proportions over the last bunch of years, and has resulted in many negative thoughts and ideas being suppressed into the collective unconscious, and from this suppressed shadow place, these thoughts have grown and strengthened until they finally came out in spectacular fashion in the form of the beast Donald Trump. 

Trump is undoubtedly the American Shadow incarnate in all its vainglory.  

I hope to write more in the coming weeks about A Quiet Place as I think it is an extraordinarily important film in revealing the sentiments swirling around in our collective consciousness. 

©2018

Avengers: Infinity War - A Review

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

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars                  

Popcorn Curve* Rating: 3.9 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. If you love or are even lukewarm for super hero movies, then definitely see Infinity War in the theatre. 

Avengers: Infinity War, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen Feely and directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, is the story of the famed superhero cooperative The Avengers, as they try and stop super-villian Thanos from taking control of the universe. The film stars…well...just about everybody, including, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Don Cheadle, Chris Hemsworth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Paul Bettany, Josh Brolin and Zoe Saldana, just to name a few. 

Like all red-blooded Americans, over the years I have paid my fare share of Disney taxes to our Mouse-eared overlords presiding over us from their lair at the Happiest Place on Earth®. Just in the last year alone I have already paid hard earned cash to Mickey Mouse to see The Last JediSpider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther and now Infinity War and will no doubt see Solo: A Star Wars Story when it comes out at the end of the month. I have usually been underwhelmed by Mickey's moviemaking prowess and at the end of the day have felt cheated by the Disney tax man. That trend was reversed with my journey to the theatre to see Infinity War.

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Infinity War is the nineteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third of the Avenger films, and is the first of the bunch to not feel like a complete commercial for itself. Having sat through the majority, but not all, of the previous Marvel movies, I have to say that Infinity War is easily head and shoulders above all the rest, and is worlds better than the previous two Avenger films. 

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What I appreciated about Infinity War was that unlike all the other Marvel movies it had a villain, Thanos, who is a complex character that is not only worthy of The Avengers as an adversary, but of my attention. Thanos embodies an existential struggle that is much more complicated than just wanting the world to bend the knee to him, which is a refreshing change from previous Marvel ventures.

To the film's credit, Thanos may appear at first glance to be the embodiment of all evil, but upon closer inspection through the lens of Josh Brolin's CGI enhanced performance and the character's motivations, he is revealed to be less a villain of epic proportions than a misunderstood hero who has taken an unbearable burden upon his muscular shoulders out of noble if misguided intentions. 

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Unlike Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange and the rest who reside in a Manichean world of black and white, Thanos must make hard decisions from the moral and ethical grey area in which our reality truly exists. Unlike his alleged "good" adversaries, Thanos does not get to cut corners or have happy endings, he is only left with the burden of his calling and the consequences of his choice which make him a multidimensional and pretty fascinating character. 

Infinity War also succeeds because it challenges our conditioning and embraces the notion that there are no easy Hollywood answers to be found, and I found that extremely refreshing after having sat through over a dozen predictable, world destroying, sense assaulting Marvel movies over the years. 

To be clear, I don't think Avengers: Infinity War is a great movie, but I do think it is a very good super hero movie. It, like all other super hero films, pales in comparison to Christopher Nolan's masterful Dark Knight Trilogy, but that is so high a bar I doubt anyone will ever reach it, never mind exceed it. 

The problems with Infinity War are less specific to this film than they are systemic to the genre, and they include too much cringe-worthy dialogue, too much snark, too much mindless destruction and in general…well…just too much.

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And yes, I know I am nitpicking here, but some of the performances in Infinity War are so bad as to be distracting. Mark Ruffalo may very well be the best actor in The Avenger movies but his performance in Infinity War is so abysmally wooden and out of sync as to be startling. I was actually embarrassed for Ruffalo watching him half ass his way through the movie, spewing out his dialogue with such vacuity he seemed more like an extra in a community theater production than an multiple Oscar nominee. 

Another issue I had with the film is an issue I have with all Marvel movies and that is that I find the cinematography to be pretty lackluster. These Marvel films all appear so flat and visually dull to me, and their failure to use color or shadow to further propel the narrative or reinforce the sub-text is a cinema sin. Infinity War, like almost all big budget studio films, relies heavily upon CGI, which I feel is not quite where it needs to be in terms of visual quality and dramatic realism.

But besides Ruffalo, the hackneyed dialogue and my cinematography snobbery, Infinity War kept me captivated for the entire two hours and thirty minutes, which is no small accomplishment. It did so because the fight scenes were, for the most part, interesting, original and well-choreographed and the storyline was dramatically compelling due to a sense of the good guys being in genuine peril. 

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I also must say that even though the preceding Marvel movies were entirely underwhelming, you could not have made Infinity War without them. The rather boring, paint by numbers, eighteen pieces of manufactured Marvel cinematic junk preceding Infinity War did effectively introduce all of the relevant characters to the audience, and so since we know them, we have at least a minimal investment in them heading into Infinity War, which excels at dramatically exploiting our connection to its characters. 

It is no small achievement what Disney has pulled off with their Marvel money making machine. Infinity War has pulled in nearly a billion dollars in just its first week in theaters, which will add to the incredible $15 billion haul (on a $4 billion investment) thus far for the Marvel franchise films. For Disney to keep the franchise coherent, interwoven and so fantastically financially successful is an incredible Hollywood achievement (even if it may be killing the movie industry and cinema in the process…but that is a discussion for another day), especially when you compare it to the more mundane results of the DC Comics/Warner Brothers collaboration.

In conclusion, I was genuinely surprised how much I liked Infinity War, especially considering how much I disliked most of the previous Marvel movies. If you are even a lukewarm fan of super hero films, I recommend you definitely go see Infinity War in the theatre. If you despise super hero movies then it stands to reason that you'll despise Infinity War because it packs more super heroes per capita than any other movie of which I can think. 

One word of warning though for parents, I do not think Infinity War is suitable for kids. I would put the cutoff at maybe 12, but your mileage may vary. The reason being is that there are some pretty heavy themes presented and also there is some surprising cursing. As for adults who like acting like kids, go see Infinity War in the theatre, it is well worth the time and energy of super hero fans. 

*The Popcorn Curve judges a film based on its entertainment merits as a franchise/blockbuster movie, as opposed to my regular rating which judges a film solely on its cinematic merits.

FILM COMMENTARY

****WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!!****

 

****THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING…MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!****

 

In 2016 Captain America: Civil War came out and its themes and color palette made my take notice. The reason I was so intrigued by Civil War, was not because it was a good movie, I didn't really think it was, but because it was a remarkable piece of evidence in support of my Isaiah/McCaffrey Historical Wave Theory. 

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Civil War's poster was a vibrant battle of red versus blue, Iron Man versus Captain America. The theme of the film was that The Avengers were torn apart (due to an overseas misadventure) and divided into separate factions, globalists versus nationalists, and they went to war with one another. The film was obviously conceived, written and shot well before the 2016 election, but it was the perfect film to represent the struggle going on in America's, and the world's, collective consciousness. 

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Added to Civil War, was the fact that another big blockbuster superhero movie had similar themes and color palette…Batman V Superman. The posters for BvS were also a striking blue versus red, Batman (blue) versus Superman (red). While the words civil war were not in the title, civil war was the best way to describe the theme and sub-text of BvS

The third film of 2016 which resonated with the McCaffrey Wave Theory was X-Men: Apocalypse. That film also highlighted a civil war-esque level of infighting between different faction of mutants aka X-Men, although its poster and its box office made it much less relevant. 

When all three of these films came out in the same year as our very contentious presidential election, it was proof positive that the Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory was an accurate way to measure the turmoil bubbling just beneath the conscious surface of the masses. (The Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory accurately predicted in the face of much scorn Trump's and Brexit's victories in 2016). 

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The reason for this quick look back at super hero movies as they relate to my Wave Theory, is that watching Infinity War through the prism of my Wave Theory, was very unsettling. The themes present in the film are pretty obvious to any cinephile with the will to look, namely globalists, in the form of Iron Man and his crew, are able to convince the nationalists, Captain America and his crew, to fight an external enemy that is an existential threat to the status quo and the world order…Thanos. 

To see it another way is to see it as globalist capitalism (Avengers) versus a sort of nationalist post-capitalism (Thanos). Thanos wants to wipe out half the population of the universe because of dwindling resources, so that the other half can live and prosper in peace and harmony. Thanos is not choosing who lives or dies based on their race, creed, class, power or religion, it is totally random who is to be eliminated and who is to live. 

Iron Man and the rest of The Avengers see that as immoral, unethical and evil, and they fight with all they have to make sure that the status quo, where questions of resources, class and social power are never addressed, reign supreme. The sub-text of Infinity War is a sort of Sophie's Choice, with Thanos choosing and The Avengers refusing to choose, which ultimately is a moral and ethical conundrum due to the fact that, like iconic Canadian arena rockers Rush tell us, "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice". 

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Late stage globalist capitalism is equivalent to a cancer upon the planet, devastating and exploiting natural resources and human populations as it spreads across our world. Like cancer, this form of capitalism can only survive if it is expanding, therefore stasis is death, and it must devour everything in its path, which eventually will include the planet we all live on. 

Iron Man is the face of multi-national corporate power (Stark Industries), and he must keep American capitalism alive at all costs, because if it dies, he dies. Captain America's nationalist impulses are very quickly co-opted and overridden in the face of a threat to the globalist capitalist order. Although it is never articulated that Iron Man and the globalists have defeated Captain America and the nationalists, it is very clear this is the case when Captain America and company come out of hiding to fight side by side with the globalists to defeat the establishment destroying power of Thanos. 

The fact that the "good guys" in a Disney film are fighting to save American "free market" capitalism is not the least bit shocking…especially when Disney is on the verge of acquiring 20th Century Fox which will give them an astounding 40% market share of the domestic film market. Disney undoubtedly is the height of globalist corporate power in media, and in Infinity War they have recruited The Avengers to fight their ideological battle to the death. 

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Thanos on the other hand, may have a very bad solution indeed, mass exterminations, to the resource scarcity issue, but at least he is addressing it, which none of the The Avengers dare do. The Avengers only solution is for them to fight tooth and nail for the right to close their eyes and whistle past the graveyard, in other words to make sure that things stay the same, which is untenable and will eventually result in the death and destruction of the entire human race and the planet earth. When comparing those two solutions, Thanos versus The Avengers, as cruel as Thanos' solution is…the chilling reality is that it is the only one that is viable long term. And the even more complicated and unsettling thought is that as unconscionable as Thanos' solution is, it may be the most moral and ethical if the choices are do nothing and do something awful. 

Thanos is symbolic of the uncomfortable questions that America, and the world, desperately ignore, and they do so at their own peril. If Thanos were a presidential candidate, he certainly would not be a centrist Democrat or Republican (or in Euro terms, a Merkel or Macron) like Iron Man and Captain America, no, Thanos would not be part of the centrist establishment at all. Thanos would be a sort of "independent" (meaning he defines himself in opposition to the old establishment) authoritarian (for example- a sort of amalgam of Xi, Mao, Putin and Stalin), who would have harsh, cold-hearted and brutal answers to the questions of immigration, income inequality, global warming and empire that would come at a very high cost to humanity…but he would also bring a solution to the problem of terrorism, environmental degradation, resource scarcity and resource-fueled wars. 

In regards to the Wave Theory, Infinity War is what I consider a level 6 force on the Wave Scale because it is not as dynamic and distinctive visually in terms of color palette (for example, its poster is rather visually mundane without any dominant colors never mind something as obvious as red versus blue) as say Civil War or BvS (both level 9) and also because it not only has no other big budget film buttressing its theme as Civil War did with BvS, but DC's Justice League and Marvel's Black Panther have optimistic narratives that counter it a bit. That said, the reason Infinity War is intriguing is because it portends an ultimate end/destruction to the status quo, and that in and of itself is a staggering statement in a mainstream blockbuster, never mind the fact that so many iconic, archetypal characters vanish before our eyes in the film's final scenes.

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Much like The Empire Strikes Back, the best of the Star Wars films, hit theaters in 1980 and was a sign post for the rising American empire of the coming Reagan years whose laissez-faire, trickle down, Wall Street friendly economics has dominated the globe for the past 38 years, Infinity War is hinting at the end of that system, and the coming of a new one. What that system is, be it a Chinese style-authoritarian controlled capitalism, a neo-Marxism, an authoritarian nationalist socialism, or something else, I have no idea, but if history is any guide, it will be a fierce backlash to the greed fueled corporate globalism of the Reagan era (1981 to now). And if Infinity War, which is quickly eclipsing at the box office and in the cultural consciousness the thematic optimism of Black Panther (not to mention that Black Panther himself, and all he represents, is obliterated in Infinity War), is any guide, the transition to this new system will be tumultuous to say the least. 

Another similarity between Infinity War and The Empire Strikes Back is that main characters symbolizing "good" are "killed". In Infinity War there are a plethora of super heroes turned to dust, and in Empire, Han Solo is frozen. But just like Solo was unfrozen in the Return of the Jedi, I have no doubt that all of the now vaporized superheroes will return in the next Avengers movie (Disney ain't turning off the Marvel money machine just to maintain narrative integrity!). But just because the actions in Infinity War, just like those in Empire Strikes Back, are cinematically reversed, does not mean that they do not hold the secret to what lies ahead for our collective consciousness. The turning point of the collapse of the establishment genie is out of the bottle (collective consciousness), and reviving a coterie of evaporated superheroes will not change that fact in the wider consciousness. 

Think of it this way…if, for example, there is another 2008 level meltdown in our economy, then the political and financial establishment are toast. Apres the unbridled corruption of Reagan (Bush/Trump/Clinton etc.) era American Capitalism, le deluge. The deluge is Thanos. Prepare accordingly while you can. 

©2018

You Were Never Really Here: A Review

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

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT - A terrific film but be forewarned, it is marketed as a more conventional action-thriller but it is art house cinema to the core. If your tastes run to the more mainstream, you will probably hate this movie. 

You Were Never Really Here, written and directed by Lynne Ramsay (based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Ames), is the story of Joe, a former military and law enforcement man who rescues girls who are being trafficked in the sex trade. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Joe, with supporting performances from Ekaterina Samsonov and Judith Roberts.

If Taxi Driver and Blue Velvet went on a date, the movie they'd go see would be Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here. While not being quite the cinematic masterpieces that are those two films, You Were Never Really Here is still the best movie I've seen so far this year due to the originality and skill of its director, Lynne Ramsay, and the otherworldly talent of its lead actor, Joaquin Phoenix. 

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You Were Never Really Here is a wonderfully ambitious, hypnotically tense, taut and dark art house character study. Director Ramsay has created a mesmerizing impressionist PTSD fever dream that is both unsettling and enlightening.

The film is fueled by Joaquin Phoenix's staggering performance as Joe, a tortured soul struggling to navigate the world as he spirals downward through it. Phoenix is the greatest actor working on the planet right now, and his Joe is a testament to his talent, mastery of craft and artistic commitment. Seen in conjunction with his powerful work in The Master, Phoenix's performance in You Were Never Really Here puts him onto the Mount Rushmore of actors. 

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Phoenix seamlessly morphs into the muscular Joe, a husky vigilante who inflicts his righteous violence upon the wicked with a ball-peen hammer. Phoenix's Joe has a plodding and heavy gait accompanied by thunderous footsteps, aided by the sound department, that land with a resounding thud. Joe walks heavy on the earth because of the burdensome cross he has to bear. Like a giant, twisted oak tree swaying in the wind, Joe yearns to break free from this world of pain and fly off to the stars, but his sentence is to be welded firmly to the ground and to suffer the most heinous slings and arrows that life can conjure. 

Joe is undoubtedly a fallen angel, and even has the scars where wings used to be to prove it, but like some cross between Chiron, Sisyphus and a hammer wielding Thor, he has turned his punishment into penance, and tries to redeem himself by saving others. 

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Phoenix's performance is that of an open nerve simultaneously screaming out in agony and trying to kill itself to deaden the pain. Intense, magnetic and menacing, Phoenix uses strategic stillness and silence mixed with a ferociously vivid inner life and intentionality to create a Joe that is ominously compelling.

Lynne Ramsay has directed some intriguing films in the past, the most notable being the stellar Ratcatcher and We Need To Talk About Kevin. Never a slave to convention, Ramsay turns the vigilante genre on its head in You Were Never Really Here by throwing the audience into the twisted psyche of her protagonist, Joe. With the brief, unexplained and impressionist glimpses into Joe's past, Ramsay relies on her audience to put the pieces together. More conventional audiences, weened on Spielberg films, will no doubt recoil at such demands from a director who bravely asks questions as opposed to gives answers, but those who dare accept the challenge receive the gift of exquisite cinema.

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Ramsay and cinematographer Thomas Townend use different camera and film styles to create intimacy and tension within viewers. Townend's use of light and shadow and his subdued color palette give the film a gritty yet surreal visual aesthetic that perfectly matches the subtext of the movie. 

Even though You Were Never Here is certainly a violent film, the decision by Ramsay to, unlike Taxi Driver, not show an orgy of violence is an interesting one. I understand the thinking that could go into making that decision, and while I disagree with that aesthetic choice, I respect Ramsay's stylistic commitment. By not explicitly showing the violence, Ramsay never allows the audience to feel cathartic relief from the torture inflicted upon Joe's soul.

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I also admired Ramsay's deft use of music, which is very reminiscent of Blue Velvet, as is the theme of revealing the insidious rot just beneath the veneer of normalcy in America. Ramsay's use of camera movement and the setting of New York would seem to be tributes to Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and that too is thematically appropriate, as Joe could be Travis Bickle's nephew. 

You Were Never Really Here is in many ways an unconventional film and viewers should be aware of that going in. If you watch the film as just a straight forward exercise in storytelling, and nit-pick inconsistencies and demand more realistic unfolding of events, then you will be both frustrated and disappointed and miss the gem hiding just beneath the movie’s surface. But if you watch the film as if it were a PTSD inspired dream/nightmare of Joe, with all of the improbabilities and inconsistencies that go along with that scenario, then You Were Never Really Here is both an invigorating and satisfying cinematic experience. My recommendation to anyone who goes to see the film is to suspend your disbelief and watch it less as a narrative adventure and more as a character study that dives into the mind of a tortured soul. 

Keeping that advice in mind, I highly recommend any viewers who enjoy art house cinema to go see You Were Never Really Here as fast as you can…because a film like this may actually leave theaters so fast it will feel like it was never really here. For cinephiles it would be a sin to miss this movie and Joaquin Phoenix's truly magnificent performance. For less adventurous movie-goers, You Were Never Really Here might be an art house bridge too far, as it asks a lot of its audience and some people may be reluctant to abandon their familiar approach to watching films, but that will truly be their loss.

©2018

 

A VERY BRIEF COMMENTARY WITH SPOILERS

****WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS BIG SPOILERS****

****SPOILERS AHEAD - YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!****

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There is a storyline in You Were Never Really There where a pedophile ring that services very powerful men is involved. I know that some viewers will roll their eyes at this narrative thinking it is an absurd and improbable "conspiracy". I would caution against that response. 

If any readers are interested in the subject, there are a plethora of materials out there to check out, and they are all very disturbing but informative. 

My advice would be to go read up on Jeffrey Epstein and his "Lolita Express" airplane and his connection to Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and other powerful men including Alan Dershowitz. Epstein got busted for soliciting an underage girl for prostitution but got the deal of the century from the D.A. and barely spent any time in prison. I wonder why?

I recommend readers go check out the documentary Who Took Johnny? on Netflix as well. This is a very disturbing look into the disappearance of Johnny Gosch, the first milk carton kid, and the unseemly world hiding just beneath the surface of America. 

If you can find it, which is no easy task, I also recommend watching the documentary The Franklin Affair and reading up on that topic as well. The Franklin Affair is tied into the Johnny Gosch story as well. Considering we are currently being inundated with stories about how wonderful George HW Bush is, it might be enlightening for readers to come to know more about the darker sides of the man and how the Franklin Affair story got scuttled.  

And one final thing to keep in mind when trying to process the idea of powerful people abusing children with impunity…remember the extent of the Catholic Church scandal, where not only the church, but police and courts protected abusers for decades and allowed them to continue to rape children.

Also remember just this past year when decades of abuse by the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner and on and on came to light. You think Corey Feldman is crazy because he talks about high powered people in Hollywood preying on children? Well…Corey Feldman might be crazy…but he isn't wrong. Some of the most prominent and powerful people in Hollywood are monsters who devour children and they are hiding in plain sight. 

Jeffrey Epstein, Johnny Gosch, The Franklin Affair, The Church Scandal…these are all just the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, the reality is that the pedophile club in You Were Never Really Here is not as far fetched as we'd like to believe and is much more common than we'd like to think. Go read up on the subject and learn the uncomfortable truth. 

©2018

 

 

Hollywood's Malicious Propaganda Dehumanizes All Russians

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 23 seconds

A closer inspection of America’s relentless Russo-phobic propaganda campaign reveals that it isn’t just the news media spreading hatred of Russia and Russians, but Hollywood as well.

America’s unrelenting propaganda assault on Russia began by demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin is routinely blamed for every evil that occurs under the sun, and according to the establishment media, there is nothing too evil that the Bond super-villain Putin cannot accomplish.

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The U.S. likes to personalize their enemy into one caricature so that Americans have an effigy onto which they can project their fear and loathing. A brief glance at recent history shows this to be true as the U.S. used the same playbook with Bin Laden, Saddam Hussien, Muamar Gaddafi and Kim Jong-Il.

Sometimes, when an enemy lacks the requisite charismatically evil leader to fit the propaganda bill, the U.S. will demonize whole peoples, for example the Japanese in World War II. The dehumanizing of the Japanese is what convinced Americans to accept the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the use of nuclear weapons on Japan to end that war, this is in marked contrast to American’s attitudes towards German-Americans.

In the current propaganda war with Russia, the U.S. seems to be taking a unique hybrid approach. Putin is certainly held up as an icon of evil but Russians and people of Russian descent are also being demonized and in some very insidious and disturbing ways.

For instance, James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, recently told NBC in an interview, “…the Russians, who typically, are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain-favor, whatever...”

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Clapper’s statement maligns all Russians, even Russian-Americans, as genetically duplicitous and diabolical. Such repulsive xenophobia isn’t just good old-fashioned American Russia hating, it is fast becoming U.S. policy. 

For instance, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election has deemed all people “of Russian descent or nationality” to be potential targets of their investigation. There are 3 million Russian-Americans in the U.S., and according to the Senate Intel Committee, they are now all suspect.

In the same vein, Senator Dianne Feinstein demanded that Facebook turn over to the Senate any data related to “Russia connected accounts”. Feinstein broadly defines Russia connected accounts as “a person or entity…that may be in some way connected to Russia, including by user language setting, user currency or other payment method.”

Feinstein and Clapper’s Russo-phobia and totalitarian instincts are chilling, and they will find little resistance from the American people who are being surreptitiously indoctrinated by Hollywood to believe that Russians are inherently devious miscreants.

It has been well established that Hollywood is the propaganda wing of the Pentagon and the intelligence community and has effectively indoctrinated Americans to whole-heartedly support America’s belligerent militarism and to see the U.S. as always the well-intentioned hero.

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So it is no surprise that Richard Stengel, former Managing Editor of Time magazine (2006-2013) and Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs under President Obama (2014-2016), saw the success of the Pentagon-Hollywood alliance in shaping public opinion and tried to emulate it. It was revealed in a trove of hacked Sony emails released by Wikileaks, that in 2014, while officially serving in the Obama administration, Stengel approached Hollywood studios asking for help in countering “Russian narratives”.

Stengel was wise to ask for Hollywood’s assistance, as entertainment is a much more insidious form of propaganda than “fake news”. It is designed to manipulate emotions and audiences have been conditioned to allow it to do so. Viewers willingly let their guard down and suspend their disbelief when they watch a film or television show, and therefore their critical thinking function is reduced and they become much more pliable and vulnerable to propaganda. 

It is in this state of vulnerability when their emotions are triggered and their conscious mind is bypassed, that the nefarious ideas of the propagandist are implanted in the viewer’s unconscious. This is why businesses pay so much money for “product placement” in films and why the Pentagon has embedded itself so deeply into the entertainment industry, because audiences are much more susceptible to subtle and unconscious propaganda messages when they watch entertainment. The Pentagon has long understood and benefitted from this and those who wish to foment anti-Russian sentiment understand it too and are currently using Hollywood to spread that vile message.

The extent to which Stengel’s conversations with Hollywood bigwigs convinced the studios to act is not yet fully known, but since he made his plea to the studios, Hollywood has churned out a steady stream of filmsthat has portrayed Russians as a deplorable people.

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Some of the most prominent of them were Child 44 (2015), the story about a Russian child killer starring Tom Hardy, Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies (2015) starring Tim Hanks and Atomic Blonde (2017) starring Charlize Theron, both about nefarious Cold War Russian spies, and Bitter Harvest (2017), the story of famine induced by Josef Stalin upon Ukrainians in the 1930’s. These films, all set during the Cold War (except for Bitter Harvest), uniformly portray Russians as treacherous, vicious, malicious and merciless.

On television, there has been the recurring anti-Russian storyline on the hit Netflix show House of Cards, where a remorseless and repugnant Putin-esque Russian leader cynically destroys people’s lives.

Last month the newest batch of Russian themed films and television shows hit screens both big and small with the same theme of degrading and dehumanizing the Russian people as their propaganda predecessors.

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Red Sparrow is the story of a former ballerina turned Russian super spy trained in the sexual arts and stars the highest paid actress in the world, Jennifer Lawrence. The Death of Stalin is a dark comedy about the power struggle in the Soviet Union to fill the void after Stalin’s death. And the hit FX television show The Americans is about a couple living in Cold War America in the 1980’s who are actually deep undercover Soviet spies.

 

Red Sparrow is a prime example of Hollywood’s attempt to incite Americans to distrust and dislike the Russian people. The film is set in modern day Russia but feels decidedly Cold War in its depiction of the country as a bleak frozen tundra inhabited by the most paranoid and despicable of people.

Every Russian man in the film is a vicious murderer, pedophile, rapist or traitor…and in the case of the lead villain played by Matthias Schoenaerts, not coincidentally a Vladimir Putin look-a-like, all of the above.

Red Sparrow’s Russian women fare no better as they are all cold-blooded, conniving, manipulative whores who are only proficient at sex, ballet or both. Regardless of gender, all of the Russians in Red Sparrow are beasts never to be trusted.

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The Death of Stalin is a considerably better film than Red Sparrow, but that only means it is a more effective propaganda tool.

In the film, under a veneer of humor, all Russians are portrayed as deceitful, corrupt, unscrupulous monsters only interested in selling out their comrades, gaining power and then brutally abusing it.

In The Death of Stalin, as in Red Sparrow, the theme of Russian men as sexual degenerates, sadists, rapists or pedophiles, insidiously courses through the narrative.

The television show The Americans by its premise alone also ingrains in its audience the idea that Russians are not to be trusted because they are instinctively a deceptive and plotting people.

The trudging up of the Cold War is an easy propaganda device that triggers old anti-communist and anti-Soviet fears among Americans. It is striking to note that Hollywood is portraying Russians solely in terms of the Cold War but not in regards to World War II. That is because Russia’s role in defeating Hitler and ending the war in the Pacific is a heroic one and would undermine the foundation of Cold War enmity upon which the current Russo-phobic narrative is built.

As Hollywood and the news media indoctrinate Americans with an anti-Russian animus, U.S. audiences will become even more susceptible to stories, like the Skripal poisoning, that feed the anti-Russian narrative no matter how tenuous or divorced from the facts they may be.

The endgame of the current wave of anti-Russian propaganda is for Americans to be emotionally conditioned to believe that Russians are capable of anything, and thus, must be stopped by any means necessary.

The problem of Hollywood and America’s Russo-phobia will only get worse, and that is troubling for all of us, because in this current climate, a war with Russia seems not only possible, but likely, and that is a movie without a happy ending. 

A version of this article was originally published at RT.

©2018

The Death of Stalin: A Review

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

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT.

The Death of Stalin, written and directed by Armando Iannucci, is a dark comedy about the power struggle in the Soviet Union in the aftermath of Josef Stalin's death. The film boasts a cast that includes Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Michale Palin and Jason Isaacs.

2018 has thus far been a less than stellar year for cinema. Granted, it is only March and prior to my most recent jaunt to the theatre I had only seen three other films, Black Panther, Red Sparrow and Annihilation, all of which were entirely underwhelming. But ever the optimist, I picked myself up by the bootstraps of my disappointment and made the journey to the local art house to try and break out of the rut of banality that had been the hallmark of my recent trips to the cineplex. 

Thankfully, The Death of Stalin was just what the doctor ordered as it was a powerful antidote to my bout of cinema blues. The Death of Stalin is a comedically taut, deliciously funny and masterfully paced film riddled with exquisite performances from an impeccable cast.

I knew nothing about The Death of Stalin prior to seeing it, except that I assumed that it was a comedy about the death of Stalin…and unlike that great cinematic fraud The Never Ending Story, The Death of Stalin is indeed a case of honesty in advertising. After seeing the film I read a little bit about the director, Armando Iannucci, and discovered that he is the creator of the HBO series Veep, which makes sense because The Death of Stalin is sort of like a super-dark version of Veep set in Stalin's Soviet Union. If you like Veep, you will enjoy The Death of Stalin.

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The cast of The Death of Stalin is fantastic across the board, but Simon Russell Beale and Steve Buscemi are particularly good. Beale, who plays Beria, the Head of State Security, is a British actor whom I had the great fortune to see masterfully play Iago at the Royal National Theatre twenty years ago during my London days. Beale is a meticulous chameleon of an actor who, much like his equally gifted Shakespearean peer Mark Rylance, has been a master of the London stage for the majority of his career. I hope Beale gets the same level of recognition from a wider audience that Rylance has in his later career, as he is most deserving. Beale's Beria is a study in paranoid entitlement, bemused viciousness and the banality of evil that even at its most heightened never rings false.

Steve Buscemi plays Nikita Kruschev with his usual humorous flair and delivers an phenomenal performance. Alongside the comedy of Buscemi's Kruschev is a palpably frenetic desperation to save himself, and Russia, from falling out of the frying pan of Stalin and into the fire of some other brutal tyrant. Buscemi wraps Kruschev in a cloak of bitter cynicism that hides a rabidly patriotic soul. 

The supporting cast all give specific and technically precise performances filled with masterful comedic timing that they are an absolute joy to behold. 

Jeffrey Tambor, fresh off the abysmal atrocity that is/was Transparent, which was easily the worst and most repugnant television show I have seen, does a nuanced and hysterical turn as Malenkov, a member of Stalin's inner circle. Tambor is at his most insecure best as Malenkov, who is living proof that Stalin wanted to surround himself with only those considerably weaker than himself.

Andrea Riseborough is terrific as Stalin's daughter Svetlana who must navigate life without her powerful father, as warring factions try to use her as a pawn in their chess match. Svetlana is not as weak and delicate as she pretends to be, but she isn't nearly as strong and resilient as she thinks she is. Riseborough has the least flashy of all of the roles in the film but her comedic subtlety and dramatic chops make her Svetlana a vital part of the film's artistic success. 

Rupert Friend plays Stalin's drunken, hockey-team losing son Vasily with aplomb. Friend nearly steals the entire show with his volcanic drunken tirades that seem to have no end and no discernible beginning.

Jason Isaacs masterfully plays famed Soviet General Zhukov. Isaacs' Zhukov is a pitbull in a parade uniform and he has little time, and less tolerance for the political machinations of the backstabbing politburo. Isaacs brings a force and energy to the film that elevates the comedy and the drama to an even higher level. 

The rest of the cast, including Paddy Considine, Michael Palin, Olga Kurylenko and Adrian McLoughlin all do stupendous and seamless work that keep the film right on track. 

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An interesting note regarding the acting is that the entire cast never uses a "Russian" accent. Nor do they all use a coordinated "British" accent which some films use to signify a foreign language without alienating American audiences. Instead in The Death of Stalin all of the actors speak in their disparate native tongues, accents included. This is a very wise choice since comedy, and this type of specific verbal comedy in particular, is difficult enough in an actor's first language, adding any accent and most especially a Russian one, would make it nearly impossible. What is so interesting about this languid language/accent approach is that it comes across as so coherent, effortless and comedically harmonious as to be unnoticeable. 

Director Iannucci plays to his comedy strengths in The Death Of Stalin even more so than he does in his stellar HBO show Veep. Veep is a heightened comedy that refuses to acknowledge any connection to a real world or actual human behavior. In The Death of Stalin on the other hand, Iannucci has made a very funny comedy that is propelled by genuine human behavior. The Death of Stalin, as absurd as it can be, is still based on a solid realism despite its being so funny.

A very effective tactic by Iannucci is how he deftly handles the rather glaring issue of the brutality of Stalin's Great Terror by only giving the audience the perspective of those in Stalin's inner circle. Viewers are unconsciously connected to the protagonists like Beria and Kruschev in the inner circle and Iannucci never explicitly shows the violence and savagery for which these men are responsible. It isn't until we are fully on board and rooting for the good guys to win that we see what the good guys (and we) are capable of, and it isn't a pretty sight. 

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It is impossible to watch The Death of Stalin and not relate it to the politics of our day. For instance, the backstabbing paranoia and positioning of Stalin's inner circle before and after his death certainly resembles the daily drama emanating from the Trump White House. The Trump purges of cabinet members is less bloody than Stalin's, but the impulse behind them is the same. Trump instinctually surrounds himself with people that are intellectually, and even physically, smaller than he is because, like Stalin he wants to be The Big Man. Beria, Kruschev, Malenkov and the rest of Stalin's ass kissing brigade have counterparts right here at home in Trump's cabinet, and could easily pass as Bannon, McMaster and The Mooch. 

Even Stalin's kids are reminiscent of the Trump children. Svetlana, the doe-eyed beauty trying to manipulate her "royal" standing for all it is worth, is Ivanka plain and simple. And speaking of simple, Stalin's son Vasily is as if Don Jr. and Eric Trump were morphed together into one drunken ball of entitled moronity. 

The Death of Stalin is also relevant in the context of the headlines of today due to the plethora of anti-"Russia" news. Russia is currently the enemy du jour and is blamed for everything that could, did or will go wrong in the world. The Death of Stalin is, like the recent Red Sparrow, a rather shameless piece of anti-Russian reinforcement propaganda meant to buttress people's preconceived negative feelings about those conniving and brutal Russians.

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I cannot speak to the historical accuracy of The Death of Stalin, but the fact that Stalin and Russia were the subject of a film at all is indicative of the wave of anti-Russian resentment and hysteria fomented by a calculated Russo-phobic propaganda campaign. For instance, would this film have been made if it were about the machinations behind the scenes when Ariel Sharon was in a coma? Or about when FDR died? or Mao? or JFK? No…of course not. American audiences have been primed to accept that Russians are a particularly loathsome and untrustworthy bunch, so it is acceptable to laugh at them and highlight the worst of them when they are at their most despicable. 

That is why The Death of Stalin is in theaters now, because it buttresses and reinforces the anti-Russian madness by reminding people that Russia, at its core, is only Stalin's Soviet Union during the Great Terror, and nothing else. Nuance need not apply when it comes to the Russia of today, just tune in to MSNBC or read the Washington Post for proof of that. 

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You may be asking what difference does it make if there is anti-Russian propaganda? Well, the biggest issue is that it makes Americans gullible to any anti-Russian story thrown out there. The poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK? Must be Russia, and no proof or evidence is needed to back up that claim. Same with the claims of Russian "hacking" of our elections, voting machines and even our power grids…all unsubstantiated but accepted as Gospel Truth by the opinion shapers in the establishment media. Unproven claims that Russia started a war by invading Ukraine, shot down MH17 and rigged elections in Crimea are treated the same way.

The propaganda campaign against Russia is not just dangerous because people are primed to believe any outrageous claim against that country, but because of where that belief will inevitably lead…a catastrophic war. The biggest problem with the anti-Russian hysteria and hatred that has become mainstream here in America, is that it is lead by the people who would usually be anti-war, liberals and Democrats. With incessant rhetoric being spouted by liberals about how Russia has "attacked America" or "committed an act of war", there will be no speed bumps on the road from a cold war with Russia to a hot one…and that will not end well for anyone. 

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The real lesson of The Death of Stalin is the corrupting influence of authoritarianism on the soul. With authoritarianism on the rise across the globe and in our collective consciousness, The Death of Stalin is now compulsory viewing. The important thing to remember is that authoritarianism isn't just on the rise in the form of Trump, Erdogan, Putin and Xi…but in the hearts and minds of regular people…even those who may share your ideological beliefs. For instance, there has been a spate of people silenced or exiled for daring to question Democratic or liberal orthodoxy. I know this because I am one of them. I was exiled by numerous friends who did not like what I wrote about the last election, and instead of talking to me about it, or God forbid debating it, they exiled me…and my family…from their circle. This is metaphorically just like Stalin's Great Terror where he eliminated those who dare think for themselves or speak truth to power. 

The great danger of our time is not so much Trump, who is a bumbling buffoon of a man and an even worse president, but rather our authoritarian response to him. #TheResistance has proven itself to be a hypocritical outlet for the authoritarian impulses of establishment Democrats. Watch these alleged liberals discard history down the memory hole and contort themselves in all sorts of illogical ways in order to embrace the intelligence community (CIA, NSA, John Brennan, Michael Hayden and John Clapper) and the FBI (and James Comey, Robert Mueller and Andrew McCabe) all in the hopes of destroying Trump and regaining power. With authoritarians, Truth and actual history have no meaning in the quest for power and revenge, and so it has become with establishment Democrats and certain sections of the left. If you can watch The Death of Stalin through the prism of liberal authoritarianism, it will be a very enlightening experience indeed, especially if you're a liberal who likes to banish people with opinions that challenge your own. 

In conclusion, even though The Death of Stalin is yet another piece of anti-Russian propaganda, it is a finely-crafted, exquisitely made piece of propaganda, and that is to the credit of its remarkable cast and director Armando Iannucci. I recommend you put in the effort to see The Death of Stalin in the theatre as it will most assuredly entertain you as it did me. And if you are able to look past the surface of the film and see it not just as another Russo-phobic hit piece, but as a clarion call against all forms of authoritarianism…especially the authoritarianism that lives inside your own heart…and mine, then it might just make you more than laugh, it might even make you think…and cry in despair.

©2018

A Second Look - The Way of the Gun: Meditations on America and Guns

*** ESTIMATED READING TIME : 12 MINUTES***

In light of the horrific massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida yesterday (February 14, 2018), I thought I would re-post this article The Way of the Gun: Meditations on America and Guns, which I wrote in December of 2015 in response to a previous mass shootings. I believe the thoughts, theories and opinions expressed in this article continue to speak directly to the forces in our culture and collective unconscious that are only increasing in power and will continue to unconsciously motivate more acts of senseless murder.

After the recent terror attack in San Bernadino, a friend of mine, a prominent financial writer who I will call The Dragon, emailed me a graph showing the U.S. gun ownership rate compared to other countries. In the email The Dragon wrote, "We are a gun-crazy country, yet I see this as more correlation than causation. I don’t know about Yemen, but there are lots of guns in Switzerland and Finland (though roughly half the number per capita as the US), and they don’t have anything remotely resembling the mass shooting problem we do in the US. Is there something in the water? There is definitely something wrong with our culture." 

Even though The Dragon and I are on opposite sides of the gun argument, I am a staunch second amendment supporter and he favors much stricter gun controls, I thought his question and comment on culture was a very interesting one and it got me to thinking…why is America so much more prone to gun violence than other countries? What makes the U.S. so unique in this regard?

After deep mediation and contemplation on the issue I have come up with a few theories about America's unique relationship with the gun. These theories range from the mythological to the musical, and everywhere in between. In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts on the topic.

EVERY MAN A KING

America : The First Culture/Nation of the New Post-Monarchist Age

For thousands of years, mankind lived within the culture of Monarchy. Kings or Emperors ruled the day for millennia. The King/Emperor was not just a ruler and head of state, but also a religious and sacred figure. Kings/Emperors were representatives of God on earth, mediators between the people and the divine. The "Divine Right of Kings", which states that the king derives their rule directly from the will of God and is not subject to any earthly authority, has been the overarching belief of cultures across the globe, from ancient Egypt and China to Rome and the British throne and everywhere in between.

While nations, such as the United Kingdom for example, changed their governmental and legal structures to diminish or disavow the ruling power of the monarch, the mythological power of the King, and the deference and reverence that came with it, still dominates the unconscious of the culture. The psyche of monarchist cultures remain imbued with respect for the sacred power and myth of the monarch even when the governing structures of the nation neuter their ruling power. This occurs even in countries/cultures where the monarchy is replaced with a seemingly polar opposite form of rule, take Russia post-monarchy which was ruled by singular heads of the communist party like Stalin, or even post-communist Russia with Vladimir Putin. China is another example, which over time replaced the leadership of an Emperor with that of Chairman Mao. In both the Russian and Chinese examples, the trappings of government and its ideology changed but the psychological dynamics of the culture did not.

Just like in Russia, China, or France, the country of the United States of America was born in rebellion against the King (of England), but unlike those nations, the culture of the United States of America was born in direct opposition to the cultural myth of the King. In American culture the Divine Right of Kings held no place, but every U.S. citizen was "endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights".  This is the birth of the new post-monarchist age, where Kings lose their divine right, and ordinary citizens gain theirs. In American culture, the first of its kind, there is no one king, but rather there is a nation full of kings. Everyman as his own king, with his own God given rights, was a brilliant idea upon which to build a nation, but a difficult one upon which to build a culture because it brings with it a dark side, namely, when everyman is a King there are considerably more opportunities for individual tyrants to raise their ugly head. 

Which brings us to the gun discussion. In this post-monarchist cultural myth, a person with a gun can be a benevolent king or a despotic one. The benevolent, gun carrying citizen-king keeps governmental tyranny from thriving, while the gun-toting, despot citizen-king imposes his tyranny upon those he perceives as weaker or not deferential enough to his divine right to rule what he believes should be his ever expanding kingdom.

Individuals swimming in the collective unconscious of the American culture can go adrift in seas of chaos without the moorings of the monarchist cultural myth and the psychological structures that accompany it. The monarchist cultural myth, while depriving the ordinary person of their rights by placing all of the power in one individual or royal family, brings with it an order and structure and even a connection with the divine that is totally lacking in the post-monarchist new age American culture. For those weak of mind or spirit, the evolution of this new age can go from 'everyman a king' to 'everyman a god', in the blink of a blood shot eye. The American culture brings with it no connection to the divine in the form of a ruler, only a deeper love of the self, and with that self love and belief in one's own 'divine right' comes with it the urge and instinct to get others to revere you as you revere yourself. In this new post monarchist culture and the mythological psychology that goes with it, the gun becomes a mystical tool that bestows to those that wield it the godly power to take lives with just the slightest movement of their finger.

In the United States of America, the first post-monarchist culture, the gun gives individuals the divine right of Kings, the power to make life and death decisions, once reserved for the lone ruler on the throne. This power, like all power, can be corrupting and disorientating. It is all too easy to be intoxicated with the power of the gun and kill when one sees the divine nowhere but in oneself. It is also all too easy under the spell of the power of the gun to forget that the 'other' is not an inferior to be ruled, but a person to be respected because they are divine in their own right.

There is a scene in Clint Eastwoood's western masterpiece, Unforgiven, where the character, English Bob, played by the inimitable Richard Harris, speaks of the point I am making about the difference between the monarchist culture and the post monarchist culture. In the scene, English Bob perfectly states the point about America being adrift without the stability and divinity of a King…or Queen. I'll leave it to the divine Richard Harris...

The best example of monarchist and post-monarchist cultures placed side by side would be to look at the difference between the culture of the United States and that of Canada. The U.S. grew out of rebellion to the King in a post-monarchist culture, and Canada grew in communion with the King in a monarchist culture. Canada is a much more demur, peaceful and less violent country and culture than the United States.

BLOOD BEGETS BLOOD

CULTURAL DNA, THE COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS AND THE SINS OF THE NATION

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Every nation is born of violence. One group defeats and destroys another group and comes to power. This is how nations and cultures across across the planet have come to be. The United States is no different. America was created with the brutal genocide of Native Americans and on the backs of African slaves. The United States of America is soaked in the blood of its formation, and the current American culture reflects the sins of its birth. The violence of today is a direct reflection of the violence that accompanied the founding of this nation.

But if every country is born of violence, why is the United States the only nation where gun violence seems to be so rampant? One main difference between the United States and its sins, and the sins of other nations, is time. Other nations are built upon cultures established thousands of years ago, so just like in regards to the monarchist culture issue, those nations may have changed governing structure, but they didn't change their underlying culture or their cultural psyche. As previously stated, China has been ruled by the communist party for the last sixty five years, but it's overarching culture (a monarchist one in the form of an Emperor) extends back for nearly five thousand years. The same can be said of France, England, Russia and countless other countries and cultures. The same cannot be said of the American nation or culture. Our soil is still soaked with the blood tribute of the unfortunates sacrificed at America's founding, and it seeps into our everyday existence through the collective unconscious of the American culture.

Older cultures have had the benefit of vast amounts of time passing between their present situation and the sins of their founding. Time, the best salve of all, allows for incremental catharsis and the healing of the foundational wounds and horrors that inhabit the collective psyche of cultures across the globe.

Another difference between America and other cultures is that America was the first culture born at the end of a gun. Guns didn't exist at the formation of British, French, Russian, Chinese or Japanese culture, or any other culture for that matter. America was born by the gun, with the gun and of the gun. For good or for ill, the gun is the symbol of how America came to be and what it is now.

The gun was a crucial object in the ritual blood sacrifice of millions, in the form of Indians and slaves, to the Gods of America's founding upon the altar of the United States, and was vital in bringing the country to full term and fruition. Due to the guns integral part in conjuring the country into being, American culture worships the gun as a sacred talisman, instrumental for the nation's and the cultures birth, survival and continued success.  The mythic American Archetype is that of the cowboy with his six shooter...watch Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven for a fantastic mediation on American gunslinger archetype, guns and violence. Other nations have mythic archetypes as well, the Japanese and the Samurai with his sword, or the English with their knights in armor. The archetype of the gun-slinging cowboy lies at the heart of the American cultural psyche because he is the high priest of American individualism who wields the mystical gun in order to conjure up a new nation.

Through this prism of mythological cultural psychology, the scourge of gun violence which horrifies the people of America today can be seen as penance for the violent sins of our forefathers. The United States has flowered into one of the most wealthy and powerful countries to have ever existed in the history of mankind, but until we can fully come to terms with, and become conscious of, the innocent blood we spilled in order to fertilize the ground upon which this country has grown, we will never be able to escape the violence that continually haunts us. 

LOTTO CULTURE AND THE DENIGRATION OF SKILL

THE CURSE OF THE KARDASHIANS AND KANYE

Modern American culture has no respect for skill and craft. Take a look around at popular culture and you see little to no reverence for skill and craft. Arguably the biggest stars on the American scene are the Kardashians, a collection of half-wits with no discernible skill whatsoever besides self promotion. It hasn't always been this way. Prior to the curse of reality television, actors, who had mastered their craft through years of training and work in the theatre, were admired for their artistry in film and on television. Ordinary people could admire the expertise attained by great actors after years of dedication and hard work. Now with reality tv, from Real Housewives and Honey Boo-Boo to Ice Road Truckers and The Deadliest Catch, everyone can envision themselves as being worthy of having their own television show just by being themselves. The thinking goes like this, "Me, Marla and our friends are so zany working down at the nail salon, they should make a tv show about us and call it Tough as Nails!!" No hard work is required, no skill or craft need be obtained. Just turn on the cameras and be outrageous and you can be a cultural phenomenon. 

The same is the case with popular music. In this era, hip-hop rules the day and dominates American culture over every other musical form. What makes hip-hop so quintessentially American is that it is the first musical form to require no musical skill or craft whatsoever. The biggest stars in hip-hop, Jay-Z and Kanye West as prime examples, play no instruments and are unable to sing a single note. What difference does that make? Well, in terms of artistry, it makes a lot of difference. It used to be that musicians would spend years and years arduously honing their skills and mastering their craft, be it an instrument, their voice, or both. With the discipline required to reach a certain level of musical proficiency, comes a certain amount of artistic integrity, and respect for the art and the artist. With hip-hop, one need not spend years and years alone in their room learning how to play an instrument, one only need to master the art of self aggrandizement and marketing. With true musicianship, the artist masters their craft first, then uses that skill to create and then goes about selling their creation, with hip-hop, one creates the image first and foremost and then sells from there.  Hip Hop is less a musical art form, and more a symptom of the broader cultural disease of malignant narcissism, delusion and psychosis.

It is important to note here that I am not saying that hip-hop is culturally irrelevant. Hip-hop is extremely culturally relevant and has been for decades. What I am saying is that hip-hop is musically and artistically lazy and inferior. That is part of why it is has become so culturally relevant, because the broader American culture glorifies the cheap and easy path (the path of hip-hop and reality tv), and denigrates the hard path, namely that of acquired musicianship, artistry and skill. Think of it this way, if you take a Van Gogh painting and a Matisse painting and make a collage of them, it doesn't make you Van Gogh or Matisse, or even a painter, it only makes you a maker of collage. You may be great at making collage, but that doesn't mean you are an artist, it only means you excel at a fringe craft requiring little or no skill. You may call yourself an artist and may think of yourself as an artist and you may demand others call you an artist, but you are no artist. You don't have the skills of the artist, you don't have the discipline of the artist, you don't have the vision of the artist and you don't have the soul of the artist. You have the soul of the snake oil salesman and the carnival barker. 

It is also important to note here that hip-hop culture should not be conflated with black culture. While hip-hop was certainly born out of black culture, it is nowhere near the entirety of black culture. So by pointing out that hip-hop culture is artistically lazy and antithetical and disrespectful to skill and craft I am not calling black culture lazy and antithetical and disrespectful to skill and craft, but I am calling the overarching American culture lazy and antithetical and disrespectful to skill and craft. Quite to the contrary, black culture has created some of the most seminal music and musical forms (Jazz and the Blues to name just two of many) humanity has ever known. It has also given us some of the greatest and most influential musicians to have ever walked the earth. Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Billie Holiday, B.B. King, Miles Davis, Sam Cooke, Art Tatum, Albert King, Freddie King, Prince, Michael Jackson and even Jay-Z's wife Beyonce, are just a small sample of the impeccable musicians who have worked their asses off to master their craft and hone their skills. These artists have won a hard-earned and well deserved respect with their dedication to craft and commitment to artistic mastery.

Whether it be reality tv or hip-hop culture, what is really being sold is not the old way of masterful artistry and the artist, but rather the new way, which I call the "Lotto Culture", which is that the watcher and listener can project themselves onto the tv or hip-hop star and envision themselves becoming rich and famous with minimal effort. The dream being sold is that one need not have talent or discipline or hard work or years of training, because it only takes the creation of an image and sheer force of will to succeed in hip-hop or reality tv. In terms of the "Lotto Culture", one must only sit back, buy a ticket and be lucky, and unimaginable wealth will be all yours. There is also a conflation in our culture between success in reality tv and hip-hop and the success of real actors and musicians. For instance, you can turn on your television and see Meryl Streep, and you can turn on your tv and see Kim Kardashian, but that does not mean that Kim Kardashian is the equal of Meryl Streep, even though our culture pushes that idea. In the same vein, Kanye West is on the radio but is not the equal of Same Cooke, or Jimi Hendrix, or Prince or…any other real musician. Kanye West, being both a hip-hop star and a Kardashian by marriage, is the perfect poster boy for this "Lotto Culture", and he behaves accordingly. 

So what in the world does reality television, hip-hop and the "Lotto Culture" have to do with gun violence? It all has to do with the disrespect and disregard of skill and discipline. To hurt or kill someone with your bare hands, or even with a knife, usually requires a certain amount of skill and frankly, courage. Martial artists study and train for years and decades in order to master their art and sharpen their skills. These years of training instill discipline, and with that discipline comes respect, both for yourself and for others. This discipline and respect is the key to unlocking the wisdom of when it is appropriate for the martial artist to unleash his skills. In opposition to this, the gun requires no discipline, no skill acquisition, no respect and no wisdom. The shooter may have great skill, but it certainly isn't a requirement nor is it necessary in order to kill someone. It is also worth mentioning that you can get into a fist fight and lose and not die or even have serious damage done to you. But losing a gun fight usually ends with someone in grave medical condition, and most-often dead.

A gun user also does not need courage. To kill someone with your hands or with a knife means you must get close to them in order to hurt them, that means they are close enough to you to hurt you. In a fight things happen. You can be the greatest trained fighter in the world but if you break your hand on a guys skull, or you blow out your knee, or the guys friends jump in, or he maces you or something like that, then all bets are off. A fist fight brings with it inherent risk for both fighters. The same is said for using a knife. Knowing where to attack on the body with a knife, and when, takes years of hard work and training to fully grasp. Killing with a knife also means you have to get right next to your opponent/victim, and when that happens things can go wrong. Your opponent may be unarmed, but when you are that close to them, they could disarm you and now you are the one who is at the disadvantage. In contrast, no courage is needed to kill with a gun.  You can kill someone with a gun and not even be within ear shot of them. You can shoot someone without even trying to hit them, which is not something you can do with a knife or your fists. Guns, like hip-hop and reality tv, provide a short cut to power. This "Lotto Culture" short cut is a form of cheap grace, which eliminates the development of discipline and the nurturing of respect for oneself and for others that come with it.

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR ISEVERYTHING!!

Fear is epidemic in America. It is ironic that we sing about ourselves by saying we are the "Home of the Brave" and yet we act completely the opposite of that. We are afraid of everything. We have been trained by politicians and the media to be afraid of everything. We used to be told to fear the God-less communists conspiring to get us and infiltrating our nation. Now we are told to fear the God fanatic terrorists who are conspiring to get us and are infiltrating our nation. Blacks are told to fear whites, and whites to fear blacks. Everyone is told to fear immigrants and immigrants are told to fear everyone. We are taught to fear the known and the unknown. Fear your neighbor, fear a stranger, fear the criminal, fear the cop, fear the rich, fear the poor. We are perpetually fed a steady and hearty diet of high fructose fear syrup.

We are so inundated and overwhelmed with fear that we become fatigued, and as any fighter will tell you, fatigue makes cowards of us all. Fear forces us to think emotionally and not rationally. Our fear and emotion leaves us paralyzed and cowering under our beds until we can take it no more and frantically scream for politicians to do SOMETHING to protect us and "our way of life" from whatever we are told is menacing us. That 'something' usually involves taking a chainsaw to the constitution and writing gigantic checks to the military industrial complex. The empty tough talk of these politicians manipulates us into not only accepting, but demanding, the reduction of our liberties, all in the name of security, or more accurately, the illusion of security.

It used to be that we weren't so afraid. "Our way of life" is something that you hear a lot in regards to security and the war on terror. "Our way of life" is actually a transient thing of little value. It means going to the mall, eating junk and watching football and Dancing with the Stars. People have not fought and died for this country in order to save "Our way of life". They fought and died to defend our constitution and the rights that constitution tells us were bestowed upon us by our Creator. When politicians say "Our way of life" it is code for the "Lotto Culture", meaning we don't have to actually do anything in order to maintain our creature comforts. It is why they told us we should all go shopping after 9/11, so that we would all go back to being fat, happy and asleep, while those in power gutted the constitution. It is why the powerful, from both parties, take the easy road of slashing our constitutional rights rather than asking us to change "Our way of life". We used to be the type of people who wouldn't sacrifice our liberties for "Our way of life", but rather sacrifice "Our way of life" for our liberties. That time is long gone. We are now a nation of frightened children, led around by our noses by those that use fear to manipulate and control us. They keep us fat, stupid and scared and keep the "Lotto Culture" of short cuts and cheap grace alive and well by promising us security in exchange for liberty. As Ben Franklin said, "He who would trade liberty for some temporary security deserves neither liberty nor security." So it is with the "War on Terror" and so it is with the Second Amendment and the "Gun Debate".

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, from the founding of American culture in a post-monarchist and gun centric age, to the modern era and it's denigration of skill in the form of vapid reality television and vacuous hip-hop music, combined with the incessant trumpeting of fear to the masses, we have created a perfect storm where gun violence prospers. As a nation we are so thoroughly manipulated and controlled by fear that we as a people have become emasculated and are forced to rely on the gun as both a mythic totem and a phallic symbol to desperately try and regain and reinvigorate our withered masculine energy. 

Far, far too many people have died in mass shootings here in America these past few years. I know I am not alone in hoping that we never see the horror of another mass shooting here again. But I also know that regardless of whatever legal or political maneuvers are undertaken to curb gun ownership and violence, the symbology, mythology and psychology of our unique American culture will insure that America will continue to be doomed to remain under the bloody spell of the Way of the Gun.

© 2015