Saturday, December 31, 2016

Come Quickly, 2017! Meanwhile, Read Dave Barry's 2016 in Review

2016 has been a heck of a year. Let's look back with a sense of satirical humor, shall we? 

Here's a snippet:
 The fall campaign was an unending national nightmare, broadcast relentlessly on cable TV. CNN told us over and over that Donald Trump was a colossally ignorant, narcissistic, out-of-control sex-predator buffoon; Fox News countered that Hillary Clinton was a greedy, corrupt, coldly calculating liar of massive ambition and minimal accomplishment. And in our hearts we knew the awful truth: They were both right.
Zing!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday Fun Video: The Dishwashing Robot

It's been a loooong time since I've posted a fun video, so here you go!

Hum from Tom Teller on Vimeo.

Travels with Charley - I Mean, Chin Ho Kelly

A celebrity goes to the Middle East and doesn't launch into half-baked political yammering and virtue-signaling moral preening! Instead, he conducts himself with grace and humility (and some charmingly self-deprecating humor too). Kudos to one of my favorite Asian American actors for doing it right.

‪A #Christmas Tree, a #Crescent Moon and a #dove with 8 lights for #Hanukkah, all present in one holiday display in the city of Haifa. This simple monument, more than anything else, captures my feelings about my visit here to the Middle East. Though I have listened and heard many impassioned viewpoints, my trip is not a political one. I am not so arrogant as to think that a two week stay qualifies me to be an expert on a conflict that has lasted for thousands of years. I am here to appreciate the beauty of this region. I am here to meet its extraordinary people, from every walk of life. I am here to respectfully bow my head in the birthplace of many of the world's religions. And most importantly, I am here to learn. ‬ What I do know though, is that I have already had some unforgettable experiences with people I now consider friends- Israeli, Palestinian, Bedouin, Jordanian, Christian, Jew and Muslim. And to all of you, above all else, I wish you #PEACE and a harmonious #COEXISTENCE. In fact, I wish that for us all. ‬ So if you shout. Or if you rage, I will not hear you. But if you want to share your opinion below in respectful dialogue, you are welcome here. ‬
A photo posted by Daniel Dae Kim (@danieldaekim) on

On Objectifying History, or, 2016 is Not a Sentient Thing Out to Get You

Indeed. Note this too:
Something incredibly important is missing here: the human agent. The very thing, the only thing, that makes history. The objectification of history represents a negation of human agency, of our operation of intelligence and will, of our shaping and reshaping of the nature of society through ideas, engagement and revolution. This negation has been explicit in 2016. The investment of this year with a kind of menacing power, the treatment of it as a uniquely disruptive year, the according to it of the qualities of cruelty and unkindness, is fundamentally a means of nullifying, or at least mystifying, the cause of political disruption over the past 12 months — which was electorates, individuals, conscious and alert, thoughtful and engaged. And decisive too.
So, knock it off.

While I'm at it, let me say here what some historian friends and I were discussing recently: STOP SAYING THAT 2016 IS "THE WORST YEAR EVER." This hyperbolic nonsense boils down to the unwitting admission of the complainer's own vast ignorance. Is 2016 worse than 1347 when the Black Death burst on the scene in Europe and began its destruction of some 30% of the population? Is 2016 worse than 1939 when Hitler's invasion of Poland started World War II, a conflict that would kill tens of millions? That's just 2 years for example. I'm sure you can come up with many more. 

On a related note, stop saying that "the country has never been more divided." Regardless of how you feel about Trump or Hillary or whatever else, this statement is obviously silly. Is the country more divided than it was during - oh, let's say - 1861-1865? Pfft.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Twitter-riffic Beclowning: #Trudeaueulogies

First came the silly utterance. Then comes the Twitter mockery.  There's nothing quite as entertaining as watching an overhyped public figure shoot himself in the foot.

Cuban Exiles Celebrate in Miami's Little Havana

Good riddance to Fidel Castro. 

2016 has seen the departure of all too many notables from David Bowie to Florence Henderson, but I can't say that I'm sorry to see the last of Castro. A bunch of my leftie friends are busy waxing eloquent about him, but my sympathies are closer to Andy Garcia's sentiments and to the Cuban exiles celebrating in Little Havana.

Here's a detail:
The passing of Castro was also welcomed by Miami’s mayor, Tomas Regalado, who was born in Cuba and whose father was a political prisoner for more than 20 years. 
“For 57 years Fidel Castro has been the symbol of tyranny and oppression of our people,” Regalado said in a statement. “I call on the Obama administration and the Trump administration to demand real changes from the Cuban regime, on behalf of many Cubans who have died in the U.S. and in Cuba waiting for this day and for freedom.”
UPDATE 1: Obligatory "Cuba Libre" joke/tie-in

UPDATE 2: A Yale history professor does some mythbusting. Good for him.

UPDATE 3: Read this.

Quote of the Day: A Tribute to Toshiro Mifune

Check out this review of Mifune: The Last Samurai, a new documentary of the great Japanese actor, and then go check out the film itself. If you don't know who Toshiro Mifune was, you'll certainly want to. Just take a look at this wonderfully mad description:
Mifune was a one-man kamikaze burlesque show, as elegantly savage as his future inheritor Bruce Lee, as dextrous as Errol Flynn, as insanely comic as Curly from the Three Stooges, with a bombs-away ego all his own. 
... He was a hurricane who blew away the landscape that had come before him. He was really the first samurai of action cinema, the one who cast his cross-cultural shadow over everything from the evolution of the martial-arts genre to Eastwood and Bronson.  
He also turned down the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi!

Mifune got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame not too long ago.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED


Time for More Pre-Turkey Family Touch Football!

ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE?  There may be complications.

MM in the Kitchen: A Different Dessert for Thanksgiving

Pumpkin pie is so predictable, darling!  Shake things up with a lemon pistachio cake!

What's In a Name? A Turkey By Any Other Name Would Taste as Great

Naming names and Meleagris gallopavo!

Happy Thanksgiving from the Macy's Parade!


I'm not crying ... I'm chopping onions for the turkey stuffing!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving Recipe Festival!

The big day is nearly here, my darlings. Need some recipes? Here you go!
  • Crispy sweet potato roast. Please do not desecrate lovely sweet potatoes with marshmallows!
  • Mashed potatoes. Carb-errific! Please pass the gravy. 
  • How about these pretty potato stacks made in a muffin pan? They look like roses!
  • The ever-reliable Alton Brown offers his own version of green bean casserole.
  • How I do green beans: steam or blanche them briefly, and then saute for a couple of minutes in olive oil and garlic. Add a little salt and pepper, and that's it. They should be bright green and just a tiny bit crisp, not mushy. Try a bit of fresh lemon juice on top at the last minute for a tangy variation.
  • Roasted parmesan green beans are a nice option.
  • Try some roasted Brussels sprouts!
  • Cornbread dressing that's leaps and bounds ahead of the insipid white bread variety. Make your own cornbread, obviously.
  • If you already have the gorgeous cornbread dressing, you probably don't need dinner rolls (they're just filler anyway), but I know some people insist on them, so here's a recipe from King Arthur flour, and I have to admit that that flour is excellent.
  • Try making your own cranberry sauce if you don't want the canned kind.
  • Finally, the main event: Horrify your vegan friends and delight your fellow carnivores with a spectacular bacon-wrapped turkey. (Need a refresher on how to carve said turkey?)
  • Dessert: So many options! I'll leave you to pick your favorite(s). I always go for pumpkin pie first myself.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Comfort Viewing: "The Karate Kid, Part Two" (1986)

Had enough of the never-ending drumbeat of negativity, identity politics, and divisive rhetoric from all fronts?  Let me recommend one of my favorite movies, now celebrating its 30th anniversary (!).  I assume that you - as properly educated humans - have already seen 1984's original The Karate Kid, yes?  Of course you have.

There is a lot of good stuff in the sequel that it manages to engage without being prissy or preachy - eternally resonant themes like honor, justice, standing up for yourself, respect, mercy, love, friendship, family (both of blood and of choice), forgiveness, and reconciliation across divides of age, race, culture, geography, and time - and I'll leave it to you to enjoy the story, along with a gloriously bombastic, cheesy soundtrack. Hey, it's the 80s! It's OK!

 

By the way, don't bother with the rebooted Karate Kid from 2010.  Look, I love Jackie Chan as much as anybody, but there's only one Mr. Miyagi, and he is the late, great Pat Morita.  Go rewatch the original Karate Kid.

Quote of the Day: Media Hysteria

One journalist has a few words of advice for his colleagues:
For your own sake, and that of the republic for which you allegedly work, wipe off your chins and regain your composure. I didn’t vote for him either, but Trump won. Pull yourselves together and deal with it, if you ever want to be taken seriously again.

What kind of president will Trump be? It’s a tad too early to say, isn’t it? The media are supposed to tell us what happened, not speculate on the future. But its incessant scaremongering, the utter lack of proportionality and the shameless use of double standards are an embarrassment, one that is demeaning the value of the institution. The press’ frantic need to keep the outrage meter dialed up to 11 at all times creates the risk that a desensitized populace will simply shrug off any genuine White House scandals that may lie in the future (or may not).

Hysteria is causing leading media organizations to mix up their news reporting with their editorializing like never before, but instead of mingling like chocolate and peanut butter the two are creating a taste that’s like brushing your teeth after drinking orange juice.
It's certainly good advice, but it will also almost certainly be ignored. At least Kyle Smith can say he tried. 

The news media has done incalculable harm to itself throughout this election cycle (and well before it too), but it seems quite fixated on further clueless self-immolation.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Boys Are Back in Town: "The Grand Tour" Roars Online

A post-BBC Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond - yes, that glorious triumvirate of bantering car fanatics from Top Gear - are back with their new show The Grand Tour.  It only took watching the first 5 minutes to convince me that Top Gear (still limping along with new hosts) is dead. Not just kind of dead, mind you. It is a smoking ruin over which Clarkson and company are cheerfully roasting marshmallows.

Seriously, watch the first 5 minutes of The Grand Tour premiere on Amazon Prime streaming. They are perfectly conceived, flawlessly executed, and absolutely amazing right down to the musical accompaniment.

As for what other people are saying? The Guardian says,"Clarkson and co leave the BBC in their dust."  The Telegraph titles its review "How Jeremy Clarkson's new £160m show blew Top Gear out of the water."

(As for the BBC, its review complained that the premiere episode's undeniable swagger was "uncomfortably hubristic." Well, as a friend of mine says, "It ain't braggin' if it's true.")  Some fans are as busy tweaking the BBC as Clarkson himself is:
I'm more or less convinced that the BBC in the final analysis grossly misunderstood the magic of Top Gear. It wasn't about the cars, not really. It was about the larger-than-life personalities who were having fun with those cars.  The way in the end to deal with Clarkson is not to contain him, but to unleash him. 

I'll leave you with the trailer. New episodes every week from Amazon! 

Edible History: Pekin Noodle Parlor in Montana

It's the oldest continuously operating Chinese restaurant in the country! Pekin Noodle Parlor first opened its doors in 1911. The first documented Chinese eatery in the US is San Francisco's Canton Restaurant from 1849, but Pekin Noodle Parlor is the oldest still in business.

Quote of the Day: Self-Critique (or the Lack of It)

Glenn Greenwald gives the Democratic establishment a piece of his mind (and deservedly so):
Democrats have spent the last 10 days flailing around blaming everyone except for themselves, constructing a carousel of villains and scapegoats – from Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin, James Comey, the electoral college, “fake news,” and Facebook, to Susan Sarandon, Jill Stein, millennials, Bernie Sanders, Clinton-critical journalists and, most of all, insubordinate voters themselves – to blame them for failing to fulfill the responsibility that the Democratic Party, and it alone, bears: to elect Democratic candidates.

... Democrats need to accept their own responsibility and blame, and stop pretending that they were just the victims of other people’s failures and bad acts. They’re not divinely entitled to support from voters, nor to an unimpeded march to victory for their preferred candidate, nor to a press that in unison turns itself into Vox or a Saturday morning MSNBC show by suppressing reporting that reflects negatively on them and instead confines itself to hagiography. In fact, this entitlement syndrome that is leading them to blame everyone but themselves should be added very near the top of the list of self-critiques they need to begin working promptly to address.
Short version: GROW UP. 

Oh, and for what it's worth, despite what Greenwald says, I don't think the GOP did that good a job of actually following through on its post-2012 self-critique, but that's another story. 

2 Perspectives on American Working Class Voters

Take a look at these posts by a lay observer blogging and a law professor writing in the Harvard Business Review. Quite a bit of overlap.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Foreign Policy 101?

Foreign policy advice for a new president from Michael Totten makes for a bracing read. Here's the short version for those of you in a hurry:
In essence: Get real about Russia, finish off ISIS in Syria, back the Kurds to the hilt, downgrade relations with Turkey, repair our relations with Israel and crack down hard again on Iran. World peace won’t break out if you do these things, but we’ll be a lot better off than if you don’t.

All this advice is based on one simple principle—you reward your friends and punish your enemies. It’s the first rule of foreign policy, one that has been with us since antiquity and will survive until the end of time. Presidents who behave as though this rule doesn’t apply to them are as doomed to fail in foreign policy as rocket scientists who ignore gravity. Hubristically declaring that it would not do “stupid sh*t” like its predecessors, the Obama administration flipped this rule on its head over and over again—with Israel, with Russia, with Iran, and with Turkey—with disastrous results every time.

So turn things around. Again: Reward your friends and punish your enemies. Tattoo that rule on the back of your eyelids if you have to.

Monday, November 14, 2016

I've Heard Some Pretty Silly Post-Election Blather, But ...

These 3 take the cake for being the silliest and most unproductive:

(1) "If third-party voters had voted for Hillary, she would have won!"

Get real.  If those third-party voters had wanted to vote for Hillary, they would have voted for Hillary.  She was on the ballot right alongside the Libertarians' Gary Johnson and the Green Party's Jill Stein.  OK, riddle me this, Batman: Why do people vote third-party? ... Well? ... Because they don't like either of the two mainstream parties' candidates!  This should be obvious.  People complaining that third-party voters "should have voted for Hillary" have missed the point entirely.  Some of these folks (many of them? even most of them?) were never going to go for Hillary, period.  While I'm at this, who the heck are you to tell third-party voters whom they "should" vote for and then try to shame them for not doing so?  Go jump in a lake in Minnesota in January.

(2) "Bernie would have won if he had run!"

Fine, I think that the wacky Vermont socialist would have been more competitive than Hillary if he had been the Dems' nominee for the general election.  But he wasn't, so this line of whining is pointless.  Nobody knows or can know if Bernie Sanders would have won against Trump because he didn't run against The Donald, and nobody will ever know what would have happened.

(3) "Women who didn't vote for Hillary have internalized misogyny!"

This is the boringly familiar sexism smear taken to stupid lengths, prompted by the humiliating fact that women voters (notably white women) did not break for Hillary in the vast numbers that the Clinton campaign hoped for after it traded on the idea with its (face it, uninspiring) slogan of "I'm With Her."  Calling a woman sexist (even misogynist!) for not voting automatically for another woman is a shameless bit of nonsense, and the very idea that a woman should vote for a candidate - even a hopelessly flawed one - because that candidate is a woman is a ... wait for it ... sexist fallacy.  Shockingly enough to some of those pundits and partisans, women have minds of their own, and this time around a whole bunch of the ladies decided against Hillary.  Oh, don't get me wrong: I think it'd be great for the country to elect a woman to the White House (Taiwan just elected its first female president recently, and the UK was first of all to be a major Western nation to have a woman as head of government with the Iron Lady decades ago).  Still, I don't want just any woman to be president, and I sure as heck didn't want a mendacious career political sleazemonger like Hillary.  It's not enough to be just any woman candidate for president.  You have to be the right one if you want my vote.

Bonus: "Let's get rid of the Electoral College!"

*sigh*  Good luck with that.  

Quote of the Day: Hey, Limited Government is Hot Again!

Via Samizdata comes this thought:
"It has been delightful to wallow in the grief of triggered leftists. Yes, their candidate lost. And no, they have neither self-awareness nor irony and that is bloody hilarious. But for classical liberals/libertarians or even smaller state Conservatives, the man who won is by no means our guy.

... I am far from depressed by Trump’s victory, though I agree with him in so few respects. Not least because our statist foes are about to relearn a proper fear of excessive state power and in particular of such undemocratic and unconstitutional devices as presidential executive orders."

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Day After

Well, I gotta admit, I was not expecting that! Trump carried Pennsylvania? Michigan?


The wailing, gnashing of teeth, and the wearing of sackcloth and ashes by distraught Hillary fans proceeds apace around me, but let's get real here: she was a deeply - and, in the end, fatally - flawed candidate. As the incomparable Iowahawk said:
Also, it turns out that smugly, contemptuously belittling, insulting, demeaning, stereotyping, alienating, mocking, and occasionally outright demonizing an entire segment of the American public and then expecting those "deplorables" to vote for you ... doesn't actually work. (Shoot, even a leftist paper like the Guardian figured it out. See this too.)

As for me, I'm just glad that the absolute worst presidential election in living memory is finally over and that I can sort of stand to look myself in the mirror.

One more thing: Drink in the hysterical, disconsolate, Schadenfreudelicious tears of the media as it flings itself into a total meltdown.  It behaved horribly with naked bias throughout this entire business, and any good Greek tragedian would nod sagely to see that in so doing it chose the form of its destructor when it thought it was about to crown its anointed and sail into a paradise of influence peddling and cozying up to the halls of power. You made your bed. Now lie in it.

Still, let's end with a joke, shall we?  



Saturday, October 01, 2016

Your Feel-Good Story of the Week

Amid all the increasingly appalling political lunacy, let us take a moment to sit back and appreciate the sheer splendor of this moment as a golf fan takes on professional golfers. Hey, it ain't braggin' if it's true!


Photos from the Front Lines

Combat photographer Michael Yon gives a name to helicopter halos. Take a look at the remarkable images of the Kopp-Etchells Effect.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Interview with a Chinese Dissident

The New York Review of Books sits down with filmmaker Ai Xiaoming. (Her films are banned in China, by the way.) The whole thing is fascinating, but here is a piece of it:
Q; I’m curious about how you became politically active. During the 1989 protests you were not involved with the student movement. 
A: People like me who went through the Cultural Revolution, we are often skeptical of politics. I was a teacher and I watched the students but didn’t participate directly. I went to Tiananmen Square twice but mainly watched this from a distance. 
Q: What changed? 
A: In 1999 I spent a year abroad at the University of the South in Tennessee. It had a huge impact on me. I saw how people discussed social problems. I remember participating in commemorations for Martin Luther King, Jr. on his holiday. I thought: this is how a university ought to be; I want to bring this back to China.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

Mini-Movie Reviews: 2 to See, 1 to DVD

Sorry, darlings, I've been busy with the Olympics and getting ready for school, but very quickly, since it's Friday and you might be heading off to the movies ...


Here are some micro-reviews:
  • The Secret Life of Pets: Animated fluff that's diverting enough but also disposable. The premise gets old fast, and so do some of the jokes. If you want animated critters in a much smarter tale, get Zootopia. I'll give Secret Life of Pets a B. (74% on RT)  Don't bother paying movie theatre prices. Catch it on DVD if you like, especially if you have little ones running around.
  • Star Trek Beyond: Director Justin Lin takes us on an action-packed adventure with loads of great visuals, an intriguing new character in Sofia Boutella's Jaylah, a few really good lines, and even a good bit of heart. It really is more than just Fast and Furious in Spaaaaaaaace. Grade: A- because (a) parts of the often-predictable plot are messy and not a little silly (come on, now, it's movie #3, and I'm expecting much more) and (b) people keep hiding Idris Elba under a mountain of alien prosthetics and dubious motivations, and that's no way to treat him! (83% on RT)  Still, see this flick on the biggest screen you can, because the scenes of space station Yorktown alone will blow your mind.
  • Kubo and the Two Strings: Astounding animation that flawlessly combines stop-motion and CGI to tell a poignant original (for Hollywood) story that will have you weeping into your popcorn Pixar-style. Grade: A. (96% on RT) Here's a flick that might actually be worth seeing in 3-D.

The University of Chicago Welcomes the Class of 2020

And does so gloriously. Would you like to read more about the University's robust commitment to free inquiry and expression?  Of course you do!

Granted, it's kind of sad that it even has to declare something that should be obvious at a university, but in this day and age ... 

Oh, and here's a bit from the letter to incoming freshmen (or do I now have to say "freshpeople"?):
"Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Cajun Navy

DIY rescues down in flooded Louisiana. That's some can-do spirit, initiative, and neighborly feeling: see a problem, do something about it, save some stranded folks.

Japan's Multicultural Olympians

I don't know about you, but I've about had enough of the various lunacies in Olympic broadcast coverage. Sometimes the most interesting things are elsewhere. Check out this writeup about Team Japan that I just found.

Currently Japan is sitting pretty in Rio with 33 medals, 10 of them gold.

Friday, August 12, 2016

From Rio: A Tale of Two Images in Sportsmanship

The Egyptian judoka refusing to shake his Israeli opponent's hand vs. the gymnasts from North and South Korea taking a selfie together.

Crushing the Competition ... and Commentators' Puny Vocabularies

The NBC Olympic commentators have been - as a collective - ludicrously bad this time around. I couldn't believe I actually read these words just now about the US women's gymnastics juggernaut led by Simone Biles and Aly Raisman:
The commentators, whose voices normally bounce with enthusiasm, sounded suddenly weary. Would people care about a competition that wasn’t competitive? Would they grow bored of greatness? Or, as one of them plaintively asked, "How many times can you say ‘Wow!’ and ‘That was amazing!’?"
What kind of question is that? As my buddy Alessandra says, "There's no kill like overkill."  When greatness is on full glorious display, you don't ask why. You watch and are glad you were there!

By the way, commentators, let me suggest this.  On second thought, if you can't come up with words, then just be silent. That alone would improve the broadcasts immeasurably.

Friday Fun: Cockatoo vs. Kittens

Advantage: cockatoo.

The Awesome Diversity of Team USA

Here's something you might not know! 48 members of Team USA were born in 30 different countries on 6 different continents. The melting pot is in the hunt for medals in Rio!

Monday, August 08, 2016

Monday Therapy: Take a Chance

Lawd, another Monday.  Here's a little Shakira to help get you ready to face another work week.   The song is featured in the animated movie Zootopia, so that's why the Colombian songbird appears as a gazelle with hips that don't lie.


By the way, Zootopia is probably the best movie I've seen this entire disappointing year of films.  No, really!  I'll try to write a full review, but it's an A+ movie.  It's also now on DVD, so hop to it!

Friday, August 05, 2016

Movie Madness: DC Fans vs. Rotten Tomatoes

HAHAHAHA - Apparently this is for real!  DC fans have started a petition to shut down movie review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes because the collected reviews for Suicide Squad stink.  Isn't that like shooting the messenger?

Personally, I've about had enough of DC movies. The idiotic and grimly pretentious Batman-Superman smackdown was stupid and awful, and I said so at the time.  After that mess (how did you screw up both Superman and Batman so badly at the same time? AND Lex?) I lost all hope that Suicide Squad could be any good.  After this latest kerfuffle I think I'll just save my money ... and maybe go see the new Jason Bourne flick instead. (Here's just one review out of hundreds.  The phrase that caught my eye: "Suicide Squad amounts to an all-out attack on the whole idea of entertainment.")  The DC movie universe is a joyless, grayscale cesspool where fun goes to die be brutally murdered.  In the rain.

Besides, this little temper tantrum by fans about reviews is pretty indicative about how DC as a wider community can't get its priorities straight.  Usually I'm slamming the studio and execs, but today my target is DC fans, and my accusation is the same.  Your priorities are all screwed up, dude.  How about you take your rage out on DC for making a crappy movie that reviewers hate instead of on reviewers for hating a crappy movie?  DC bigwigs:  How about you quit making crappy movies? 

Here's something relevant that made me laugh out loud:


Anyway, the only thing the DC moviemakers are doing with any effectiveness is driving me into the arms of Marvel.  Ah, Marvel, fun, colorful, freewheeling, quippy, whose problems and peccadillos now seem like mere nitpicking trivia after the sort of total self-immolation DC keeps performing.  How's this for a conspiracy theory: DC's movie division is run by a cabal of Marvel undercover agents who have managed to infiltrate DC at the highest levels and who have been tasked with destroying DC root and branch.  Seriously, DC couldn't be doing a better job of alienating its fans and destroying itself if it were trying.

Friday Fun: Nike's New Ad

Now here's a fun ad!  You may recognize the narrator. That's Oscar "Poe Dameron" Isaac. Keep an eye out for famous cameos, too.

Rio Games Start Today

The Rio Olympic train wreck hoopla's about to start, so it's time to cut to the chase: here's a half-snarky ranking of all the Olympic events so you can plan to watch or not watch.  By the way, I totally don't think equestrian sports should rank so low ... Then again I'm living up (or down) to the stereotype that girls love horses, right?

Also: some sports are pretty much servings of world-class eye candy.  Let's make a deal, ladies and gents: let's not accuse each other of ogling and objectifying so we can get on with watching - respectively - men's water polo and women's beach volleyball, OK?

I might not have much free time these days, but I will be watching the opening ceremonies tonight because - get real - I can't resist making stupid comments, especially about fashion choices in the Parade of Nations.  Every time at least one delegation wears (designer!) clothes that look like they were pulled out of Rio's festering, disease-ridden waste dump of an ocean.  Still, perhaps this year's most fashion-forward outfit might be mosquito netting.

By the way, I will also assuredly be punching the mute button on my remote control A LOT.  For the most part the TV commentators are completely insufferable. Bob Costas at least has a streak of sassy smart-aleck that makes him occasionally entertaining, but the others are an undifferentiated mass of Joker-like Botox grins and inane hype-spewing chatter.     

I may not have reached this point of grumpiness, but I'm getting really close.  I do think this argument has some substance to it, by the way, especially given that the IOC is now approaching FIFA-level amounts of scandalous self-absorption, corruption, and Scrooge McDuck-like piles of money. 

Sweet Christmas, I'm getting annoyed just writing this post.  I have no real interest in the Rio Games other than a morbid desire to see whether they (and the media coverage) are going to be as horrendous and silly as I think they're going to be.  Oh, all right, and also because anything's an improvement on the current nonstop media coverage of Hillary and Trump.  Yup, coverage of an actual toxic stew of sewage and trash is still better than coverage of those two figurative toxic stews of sewage and trash.  

Oh, all right. One last thought: on the up side. You all know that I hate the "everyone's a winner" sappy mentality of school culture where everybody gets a trophy just for showing up.  At least the point of the Games (the brutal REAL point, not the happy-slappy propaganda talking point) is flat-out WINNING. For the next two weeks, despite all the inevitable nonsensical claptrap about whatever and retch-inducing images of NBC broadcasters attempting to samba, we're also going to get coverage about athletes training and working hard and having goals and being dedicated and embracing discipline and aiming for excellence.  We're going to get coverage of just how bloody hard it is to get really good at something.  And I'm all for that as an antidote to the milquetoast, maudlin approach that celebrates general mediocrity.  Hey, thrill of victory and agony of defeat and all, competition and contest, winners and losers on the field, and even if you didn't win, you worked and trained and competed hard in the attempt to win or at least to improve yourself.  There's a life lesson to be learned.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

True Confessions: Instead of Watching the RNC or the DNC ...

Seriously! Instead of watching the GOP's and the Dems' dueling dumpster fires (*insert banjo music here*), I did just about anything else.  Sure, some people will complain that I'm not doing my civic duty or whatever by not watching ... to which I say, DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO WITH MY OWN EYES.

On one night (I forget which), I actually watched the following flick on Syfy instead. The thing is laugh-out-loud horrible, but hey, at least (a) it was entertaining and (b) I know for a fact that neither Sharktopus nor Whalewolf is going to be the next president.

 
 
Yup, that was the dude from Starship Troopers, another laughably awful flick. (The Robert A. Heinlein book on which it's based is much better. Trust me on this, will ya?)
 
Then I proceeded to binge-watch a bunch of shows on Netflix.  I'm thinking of giving the coveted Mad Minerva endorsement to this candidate or possibly this one.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Fun: Real-Life Pokémon Go in NYC

OK, I laughed out loud.  Enjoy!

Star Trekkin' Across the Universe

I've had about all I take of political nonsense all around, so I'm just going to enjoy the fact that the new Star Trek movie is finally premiering.  Until I can get to the theatre and come back with a review for you lovelies, take a gander at this fan film:


And then watch this:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Fur Flies In UK Politics

Quote of the day: "There are tensions in Parliament. Stand-offs, bristling, screeching and hissing. And no, we aren't talking about the Labour Party."

If you thought people fighting in UK politics is bad, you have another think coming.

The Few. The Proud. The Pokémon Trainers.

Look who's playing Pokémon Go!


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Life Imitates the Onion On Every Front

A few days ago I thought I had found the perfect visual distillation of this deplorable year.  As so often happens in situations like this, the year has, within the span of a mere week, somehow managed to get even worse.

Today is a day in which these things exist in the universe (in no particular order and with no attempt at being comprehensive):
  • This loopy argument about an utterly reprehensible human being somehow still makes a certain kind of sick sense if you want the news media to stop being the lapdog of the executive branch and go back to being a watchdog. (Sweet Christmas, did I just say that?)
  • This fangirly writeup about Nigel Farage, one of the UK's most hated public figures, doesn't seem to be ironic.  I'll say this for him: he said he wanted the UK out of the EU, and he actually saw his once-quixotic dream come to pass.  How many politicians can say that?  I mean, really.
  • Since we're talking about the Brits ... The Tories have descended into a rocket-powered roller coaster of backstabbing and power-grubbing, and last I looked, the two top contenders are embroiled in a catfight of hiss-terical proportions because one apparently said something of such grandiose stupidity that it can't be real ... can it? One of these two is supposed to be the heir of Maggie Thatcher?
  • Meanwhile in Australia, some frightened French holidaymakers had to call the cops to save them from "spiders as big as dinner plates." Bonus Aussie goodness: the cops said offhandedly that the tourists really should have been more worried about the 6-foot-long snake that had crawled into in their camper without being noticed. Riiiiiiiiiight.
  • Oh, well, we can escape the nonstop bad news and overheated political polarization by enjoying a little art, right? NOPE.
  • Now from the bastions of cherished academic freedom ... Haha, just kidding! That's PROFESSOR Big Brother to you! 
  • Hell, you can't even play the universe's hottest new game without running into corpses.
  • Et tu?  ET TU?  The whole thing reeks of a tawdry publicity stunt showmance as paparazzi-bait, and I definitely thought you had better taste than to stoop to that.
So let me sum up the current state of everything: "dumpster fire."  I was going to go with "omnishambles" since there's so much Britishness in the word, but I think the image of a mountain of combusting trash is so much more evocative.  In fact, I'll even hit you with some linguistic factoids about the terminology for this epic dumpster fire of a world in which we all are living.

Oh, all right. Not everything is horrible. Some things are merely batcrap crazy. Behold my pick for Headline of the Day: "A Fleet of M&M-Shooting Drones is the Black-Footed Ferret's Last Hope." And you thought it was Obi-Wan. 

Monday, July 04, 2016

Happy Fourth of July! The Original Brexit

On this quintessential American holiday, haters gonna hate ... but living well and having fun is the best riposte and response!  Enjoy your cookouts and fireworks!

You can sign the Declaration yourself at the National Archives online, indulge in some deliciousness, and/or enjoy this snippet from the delightful musical "1776":

Saturday, July 02, 2016

The Perfect Metaphor for 2016

Nothing that I could possibly write about Brexit or US politics or Venezuela or anything else (and all related mass hysteria on social media)  could be better than this image as a metaphor for the entire kit and kaboodle:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Movie Review: 3 Superhero Flicks (2016)

OK, darlings, let's do this in chronological order: Deadpool, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Captain America: Civil War.


Short version for the impatient: 
  • Deadpool:  Irreverent, gleefully meta-misbehaving R-rated romp. B+
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: As sleep-inducing as rhino tranquilizers and as vacuously pretentious as college freshmen. D
  • Captain America: Civil War:  Imperfect but entertaining anyway!  A-  (Was there a teensy bit of grade inflation due to comparing this face-off with DC's?  You betcha.)
For those of you who want more details, read on!

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated

The school year is finally coming to an end!  I can guarantee that the exhausted instructors are far happier about this than the exhausted students. Still, as I start to emerge from the black hole of school to look around at the world, all I see is TRUMP/HILLARY/BREXIT panic-mongering and media madness, and I'm tempted to dive right back into the black hole.

Anyway, as proof of life, here is a hilarious ad that I got from a friend of a friend. Let's have some fun with stereotypes and sport rivalries, shall we?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Movie Madness: "Ben-Hur" (2016)

Here's the trailer for the remake of 1959's Oscar-winning epic Ben-Hur, and I am all kinds of unexcited about this project, even if it somehow got Morgan Freeman to bring some dignitas by sheer dint of his voice:


Maybe the remake will surprise me and actually not be a disgraceful insult to the splendor and substance of the real Ben-Hur (i.e., Heston's, obviously), but I have my doubts.  Heston won the Best Actor Oscar for his turn as the complicated lead character, and I am pretty darn sure nobody's winning anything for the action-filled mess that is the remake if the trailer is any indication.


"Remaking what?"

When I watch the new Ben-Hur and write a review, I might end up having to rehash my Exodus: Gods and Kings review where I said:
I seriously contemplated framing it all as a "I'm sorry, please take me back, I love you!" letter to Chuck Heston. 
... Come on, babe.  You know it's always been about you.
I should never have left Heston's Moses aside to watch Christian Bale's.  It was no contest, and the storytelling was garbage.  Seriously, how do you screw THAT up?  Well, in much the same way people are probably going to screw up the Ben-Hur narrative, I guess?  Come on, the story is supposed to be about the fractured ties between Ben-Hur and Messalla, and the all the trailer can do is have Messalla yell, "Are we having fun now, brother?" like a snippy teenager.  Is that really the best you can do?

Anyway, people tried remaking Ben-Hur as a TV mini-series back in 2010 (yes, this really did happen), and that project made no impact whatsoever.  

Dang it, stop remaking Charlton Heston classics already!  

Contemporary movies are getting to be so much sound-and-fury, CGI pixel insanity kinds of nonsense (with notable exceptions).  Maybe I should start doing reviews of more classic "old" movies to remind everyone, myself included, not to forget the great cinematic achievements of the past.  Sure, they were all made long, long before I was born, but I'm a history buff: we shouldn't become so engulfed in the present that we forget the things that went before and start thinking that the short-term, attention-deficit cult of Now is the only thing that matters.


Longing for a hero on a white horse?  How about four?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter 2016! Χριστός ἀνέστη!


Best wishes to all for a happy, contemplative, and restful Easter!  This year's art of the Resurrection comes from Baroque Venetian painter Sebastiano Ricci and dates around 1715-16.  Currently it resides in the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.  Click the image to enlarge for better detail.

Usually for holiday art postings I go for something from the Renaissance, but Ricci's vision has such a wonderful sense of color and composition.  Immortal angels and all-too-human soldiers alike are stunned by the sheer power of the figure of Christ risen in sublime glory.

For more Easter art (and related items), see the archives here.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Movie Madness: Terrible Movie Reviews 1, Ben Affleck 0

The reviews are rolling in for the much-anticipated Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and they are pretty brutal.  Look, La Parisienne and I were sure from the get-go that the flick would suck, but "30% on Rotten Tomatoes" is the kind of soul-crushing, black hole level of suck that not even I thought the thing could plunge into.  That's barely better than the 26% rating of the worst superhero movie I ever actually paid to see (that would be Green Lantern from 2011 ... and I still want my money back!).

So when someone edited a sad, sad song into this snippet of an interview with Ben "Batman" Affleck and Henry "Superman" Cavill, the internet ate it up with a Schadenfreudelicious spoon.  This thing is equal parts tragedy and comedy, and I suppose I should feel bad that I laughed, but ... The dead, glazed eyes of surrender just killed me.  At the same time, bless Cavill for bravely - nay, even heroically - soldiering on with a smile.  Take a look for yourself.  Oh, dear.  Oh, oh, dear.


PS: In case you're wondering, I still intend to go see this train wreck ... but maybe I should see Zootopia first (it may be a cartoon, but it's got 99%!).

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Help Wanted in Japan

Think you're up to it?

Care For Some Politics on the Ides of March?

Heh:
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Two ambitious senators have the opportunity to stop a pompous would-be tyrant from destroying the republic. To do so, they need to team up and take him down on the Ides of March.
Apply to Rubio, Cruz, and everybody's bête noireTrump.  Hey, the essay is good for a laugh, especially with this imagined Trump-ifying of Shakespeare's Caesar:
"And no one is more constant than me. No one. Maybe the North Star. Maybe. But I gotta tell you, the North Star gets hidden behind the clouds. It's true. It happens. But no cloud ever hides me. I can promise you that. Always I am Trump."

Quote of the Day: Ian McShane on "Game of Thrones"

The great British actor sums up the show in 5 words in this interview, which is itself well worth a read for its sheer personality.  By the way, if you've never seen McShane in Deadwood or Kings, you really should.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

Movie Review: Don't Do What I Did

I've been collecting data for a while, and now I finally have enough to write this post.  File the following under I've made a huge mistake


I have a pretty high tolerance for silliness, especially in the name of "so bad it's funny" and therefore "so bad it's good," but sometimes a project has absolutely no redeeming qualities of entertainment whatsoever.  Please take my word for it and don't waste any time or money on these gigantic steaming piles.  They all get a grade of F, and in my world "F" means "something I'll never, ever watch again."

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Free Speech on Campus: A Depressing Update

UGH.  

Thank goodness for FIRE and sensible campus defenders of free speech like Chicago.  Remember, kids: speech codes are unconstitutional!  I should report, too, that not every campus is a basket case: the student government at UC Santa Barbara just voted in favor of free speech ... though I have to shake my head that this is even an issue at all.