Thursday, October 30, 2008

EA is watching. . .

The Digital locks EA put on Spore last month got a few folks mad - it was, after all, a process a company set in place for limiting your access to your software. (Apparently EA considered it fair for consumers to be forced to ask for permission to run the software they had purchased. Sounds fine to me.)

Now EA is stepping up the standards of behavior for its customers; from now on, any users locked out of EA's online forums for misbehavior will be locked out of all of their games which require logins.

"Your forum account will be directly tied to your Master EA Account, so if we ban you on the forums, you would be banned from the game as well since the login process is the same. And you'd actually be banned from your other EA games as well since its all tied to your account. So if you have SPORE and Red Alert 3 and you get yourself banned on our forums or in-game, well, your SPORE account would be banned to. It's all one in the same, so I strongly recommend people play nice and act mature."

Now, the obvious solution is just not to buy any more EA games, ever, the way many of us boycotted EMI when they shackled so many of their releases with crippling copy-protection a few years back. EA appears determined to slowly morph into some of the villains from their own games.

UPDATE: The higher-ups at EA have quashed this rumor. They will not, it seems, ban you for misbehaving. They just could.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why I love Dinosaur Comics. . .

If there's a better mashup of the silly and sublime I don't know what it is. (From Tuesday. The day before's was pretty great as well.)

Yesterday's conversation. . .

Admittedly, most modern humor is built around awkwardness and non sequitur, and I've rarely been one to buck these trends and demand something different. At any rate, I've often found a really good non sequitur, delivered in the right context and with the appropriate emphasis, much funnier than your average stand-up punk and twice as cathartic. Thus I feel duty-bound to reprint my approximation of my roommate's comments yesterday upon looking at my iPod:

Logan: "How much memory does that thing have?"
Me (not thinking): "I don't know."
Logan: "You don't know?"
Me: "Sorry - it's a 30GB."
Logan: "How do they cram that much into that little thing? My computer only has 40GB of memory. That's just so much memory we're all gonna die."


My apologies to my audience, however limited: I haven't been feeling great lately and haven't felt the drive to post (Ziggy Liberated in particular has taken it in the shorts). I even pondered reviving Forest For the Trees this week but couldn't build up the drive to scan my old drawings and touch them up. Anyway, I'm starting to get out of the blahs so expect me back up to speed relatively soon.Link

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"John Hodgman: A brief digression on matters of lost time"

John Hodgman has all but taken over BoingBoing recently, which put my patience on edge until I decided to actually listen to the guy. This video is a suitable distillation of his essence - warm, witty, personable and sentimental. The NPR crowd probably eat this guy up.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wasn't the doll sitting by the window last night?

Eric Snider links to what is possibly the scariest television commercial of all time. It's not the baby doll that gets me (certainly the Elmo dolls are no less creepy), but the slasher movie editing and deranged announcer. This commercial debuted in a time long before children's laughter and reanimated dolls were standard horror fare, so it's possible that they wouldn't be as terrified of this video as EVERY SINGLE MODERN PERSON would, but I still like to think there was some element of evil in this commercial's production.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Semi-Classic Album of the Week #3: Metallica - "Master of Puppets"

Metallica - Master of Puppets (1998)

Yeah - Master of Puppets. Recommending this album to a dedicated metal fan in 2008 is like "recommending" Pixy Stix to a five-year-old; they already know what it is, and you can guarantee they've already found it palatable.

Nevertheless, it's a testament to Metallica's glory years that they released their best album a month before I was born, and it's still one of the heaviest, most intense and dedicated metal albums of the recording age (though some of Baron von Armageddon's early wax cylinder pressings from the turn of the century shredded as only turn-of-the-century riffage could).

This album's razor-sharp metal aesthetic gives it most of its appeal. It's neither as brutal or sadistic as Slayer's contemporary offerings, nor as fantastical, overblown and ridiculous as. . . well, as pretty much every other metal album of the time. It's much crisper than Metallica's early releases, but showcases the band at the peak of their talents, before they beefed up the production and lost the sense of adventure they showed on their first three albums.

"Battery" may very well be the very best Metallica opener of all time. It's pure fast-as-nails punk and it's unforgettable. The album runs through a good mix of fast and slow tracks, all of them very technical and all of them heavy. The first half a dozen times you lie awake at night with "Master! MASTER!" echoing through your head, you might even enjoy it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A line I wish I'd included in my Death Magnetic review last month. . .

Ahh, that critic's balancing act of praise and good-natured condemnation, ever the aloof fanboy:

"Death Magnetic isn't so much a comeback for Metallica as it is an apology, an acknowledgement that they've made some mistakes and feel genuinely repentant. It might not be particularly compelling when held up to their best material, but it's a comfort that it exists and that they recorded it. It just might be the best album you never listen to."

Starcraft 2 isn't three games - it's ONE $150 game you can't have all at once

Blizzard announced earlier this week that Starcraft 2 won't be released as a standalone title, but as three separate games, each based on one of the main factions from the storyline, and each release, presumably, serving as expansions to the others (though this IGN story contradicts Wikipedia - it seems they are indeed expansions, albeit huge ones).

My first thought, was, naturally, will you be buying Starcraftmon Red or Starcraftmon Blue?

But that might not be fair. I'm sympathetic to Blizzard's claims that three games will allow them to expand story possibilities and give more content to players, but they could definitely find a better way to say it. After all, in the age of DVD-ROMs and downloadable content there's nothing stopping Blizzard from cramming one game to the gills and releasing it in 2010, though the game would retail for major bones and might not reap the profit margin these guys are used to.

And do I even need to say that if the first game doesn't feature all three factions from the getgo in multiplayer and skirmish modes, some dedicated gamers might get antsy? After all, the major charm of Starcraft was not the gameplay core, most of which was fairly derivative, but the three unique factions with different properties and play styles. Releasing the sequel as three games seems to defeat the purpose. I guess we'll see how things work out over the next few years.

On an unrelated note, I'll be following a different format for post titles from now on, writing them more as sentences and less as Awkward Headlines With Words I'm Not Really Sure Whether I Should Capitalize or Not.

They've Gone a Long Way Since "This Land"

It's been awhile since 2004's This Land, and I'll admit I've lost track of the JibJab crew over the last few years, mainly because most of what I saw seemed slickly-animated but terrible. But thank God for impulse clicks, because their new animation "Time For Some Campaignin' " is really, really excellent. It's nice to see these guys unafraid to go for the low jokes and slapstick humor (down to the running Clinton/Hillary joke) despite their worldwide sensation status. This one's downright epic - needless to say, I won't wait nearly so long next time.

Time For Some Campaignin' (JibJab)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama Campaign Revealed Talking Points To Media Before Final Debate

Anyway, it's on Drudge. Many of the points have more than a little truth to them, but this kind of thing doesn't seem ethical to me. Still, I'm not sure I buy into Drudge's assertion that the media has been taking secret orders from Obama-Biden. After all, McCain probably has a nearly identical series of talking points (whether potential points or actually written).

I don't know how widespread this sort of thing is, but if the media can't see the obvious bits of this memo for themselves, they're not bright enough to comment on the debate, and if they put the more subjective stuff to paper before they've even seen the debate, they don't deserve to be.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Robert Christgau Reviewed in His Own Style

I just spent the last half hour banging this out, with the thought that a few of you who are in on the joke might find it funny. (As always, click to enlarge.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dramatic Readings of Online Inanity

I just discovered this yesterday, and I must have watched it thirty times since then. This sort of thing would be easy to overdose on (though I still haven't gotten sick of Rick Astley, bless my heart):

How is Babby Formed?

(found via Randall Munroe, animation by some bloke named Shmorky)

Nice Going, Clumpy!

I can't remember who sent me this, but it proves nicely the resourcefulness and hardiness of those bearing my namesake:
They dragged Clumpy from the house and took him on horseback to somewhere a little less public. There they gagged him with the bung from a beer barrel and savagely whipped him. They threw the apparently lifeless body over a hedge, but Clumpy was clearly a man of some stamina. A farm labourer found him, and took him to the Green Man at Tunstall, where a servant recognized the bung with which Clumpy's assailants had gagged him; she had lent it to a man called Tom Tippenham. Clumpy's testimony, and this corroborative evidence earned Tippenham and his accomplice to a 2-year stretch in Ipswich prison.

Semi-Classic Album of the Week #2: Eels - "Electro-Shock Blues"

Eels - Electro-Shock Blues (1998)

It's fitting that one of the most personal, beautiful, and dark albums that I've ever heard is also one of the funniest and most hopeful. E's world-weary, often vulgar musings on death (including his sister's suicide), cancer and, ultimately, coping with the same make this one of the best albums of the 90s. (The album art for this release is strangely appropriate - the goofy cartoons in the liner notes and fatalist puns throughout the lyrics all give off a nice feeling of tired-in-the-soul, magic absurdity.)

Many tracks are funky and dissonant, but we see the real showpieces when the band stops to take a breather. The guitars in the introductory track seem to click with every strum, a happy consequence of playing some fairly-contorting chords. The title track midway through is probably the most hopeless and understated moment on the album, but absolutely crucial. It is, in fact, always darkest before the dawn.

Things eventually start to look up, of course, with brighter tunes and self-effacing lyrics ("Are you missing the dearly bereft?"), promises of brighter times - proving that life's best moments mean nothing without the dark bits to balance it out. The band never topped this.

(See here for an explanation of this feature)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Put To Video

This is beautiful and beautifully-done. An ode to egalitarianism and human respect. We have true freedom and human unity* when we acknowledge our own responsibilities.

(found via BoingBoing, posted by Xeni "Hussein" Jardin)

*I would have written "brotherhood", but I didn't want to undermine my own comment with an ironically sexist term. Can anybody suggest something that would work better?

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Grandpa Sense is Tingling (An Old Man vs. Obama vs. Hitler vs. Godwin's Law)

My wonderful BYU college paper printed the following editorial this morning:

Hitler and Obama

My wife and I took a trip down to St. George this weekend and we had an opportunity to talk with a great uncle who lived in Austria during World War II. He remembered he was six years old when he heard Hitler speak for the first time. He told us he had a very distinct feeling of how evil Hitler was. The conversation switched to politics later on and he told us that he had the exact same feeling when he heard Obama speak for the first time. There's the common saying that those who don't learn from history are bound to repeat it. I'm not a hard-core Republican or anything like that, but since he received the same revelation for these two people, shouldn't we be doing something?

St. George

The wonder of this letter pretty much speaks for itself. Were it an anonymous letter, I would presume it some sort of sly satire against the sort of people who might actually write something like this. Unfortunately, this student has elected to have his name attached to the actual letter, something that no sly satirist would ever allow without some sort of winking comment in the letter itself to indicate that, no, I am not in fact that stupid.

I was immediately inspired to fire off the following response, which undoubtedly will not be published on Monday:

My Grandpa Sense is Tingling

Daily Universe,

Friday's letter from Christian Anderson has set a good many of us straight. After all, if his great uncle in St. George feels that Barack Obama is eeeevil - the same way he felt as a child in Austria when he heard Hitler (gasp!) speak - then all of this debate, issue-weighing and consideration of the abuses of the current administration is naught but a waste of time.

As Christian said, "I'm not a hard-core Republican or anything like that, but since he received the same revelation for these two people [Hitler and Obama], shouldn't we be doing something?" As a man of unrestrained passion and principle, I felt compelled to punch out a couple of bull moose and read the collected works of Walt Whitman before issuing a resounding "Yes!"

I'd like to thank the Daily Universe for printing that cogent, astute letter, but there's still a long way to go. Now that secondhand accounts from octogenarian immigrants are the standard, I'd like to suggest an elite force of such individuals determine the next election, rather than the farce we currently have in place called the electoral college. "McCain is a kind man", one might say, prompting a hundred thousand people in Miami to register Republican and watch reruns of the Dick Van Dyke show on Nick at Nite.

Dustin Steinacker

Christian's letter has been the butt of many jokes around campus. I left the following line out in the hopes that it wouldn't be venomous enough to entirely dismiss for publication: "I am inspired by the thought that this "Christian Anderson", an honest-to-God college student, may be receiving an actual University Degree in the foreseeable future. Good luck with that, Christian, though I wouldn't stick with a major until you consulted Herr Unkle Anderson first. One must not be a hardcore Republican to maintain a personal status as a dedicated idiot."

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Semi-Classic Album of the Week #1: Mr. Bungle - "California"

I love writing about music. For some time I was one of the top reviewers on the user-driven review site, and had a few top reviews with aggregate hits approaching the hundreds of thousands, less because of my proficient prose and more because of my glowing praise of already-popular albums - hardly controversial writing. My tastes have since expanded a great deal, and I find of late that I enjoy the immediacy and personality of a blog format far more than the opportunities offered by a site like Sputnik.

So I'm introducing a new feature, such as it is: Every Monday, I'll be posting a short review of a great album that has affected my life in some significant way. Some have blown me away, introducing me to new artistic possibilities and changed my tastes in some dramatic manner (see below), and some merely stand the test of time as fantastic albums. I see this as a great opportunity to promote some of my favorite music (I'll be posting Amazon links as well for those with enough trust in my taste to actually purchase the music I love.)

I make no claims to be a music encyclopedia or distinguished aural connoisseur - I certainly know quite a bit about what I enjoy and try to seek out new sounds and opportunities when possible, but my blog and everything on it is uncompromisingly introverted and my resources and income are limited. The "semi-classic" label for this feature is intended to connote the subjectivity of my recommendation. Sure, I love all of the albums I'll be featuring, but what do I know?

Though I've started with my favorite album, keep in mind that from now on they'll be featured in no particular order. Anyway, the couple hundred of you who read this thing should know my shtick by now. So without further ado:

Mr. Bungle - California (1999)

Mr. Bungle's interpretation of The Golden State is at once familiar and shockingly new. This soulful, dangerous album's finest moments often connote an image of the California portrayed by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, but touched by a melancholic madness and sense of confident adventure that sets this apart as an entirely new creation.

So the best tracks - "Retrovertigo", "Pink Cigarette" - are genuinely sweet but unsettling, working as impactful, vocal-driven pop, yet at the edges of their composition lurks a twisted subversion that lends them a depth you'll find in few other records. On California Mr. Bungle hones their eclectic chops to precision, creating a record as visionary, scattered and organic as anything this gifted crew (including the venerable Mike Patton) has ever worked on. Oh - and the lyrics are as perfect as any I've seen.

On this, their last and finest album, Mr. Bungle breaks the mold on every track, from the hellfire-tinged cautionary rockabilly number "None of Them Knew They Were Robots", the funky, creepy "Golem II: The Bionic Vapour Boy", the steady, cinematic "The Holy Filament" or the heavy, technical Arab thrash of "Ars Moriendi". Every track is killer and this album has nary a wasted moment. With so much fine music to consider, I unhesitatingly call this my favorite record of all time.

You want this album - you just don't know it yet.

Buy This Record Through Amazon

America's 'Lost Monarchy': The Man Who Would Be King

Had our first president supported the popular idea of a coup and taken on the monarchy lo those many years ago, we face the fascinating prospect of a lineage-based American monarchy today. The theoretical rightful heir of which, according to genealogy heavyweight and Newsweek, is Paul Emery Washington, an unassuming Texas retiree who holds more than a minor blood bond to Mr. Washington himself.

Direct relation or not, Mr. Washington, I would thank my lucky stars that history worked out the way it did. I certainly don't begrudge you this neat little tidbit of personal trivia (a wonderful icebreaker at parties to be sure were you not an octogenarian), had history worked out differently, Mr. Washington, inviolable chaos theory suggests that you wouldn't exist at all, much less as the duly reigning monarch of the United Kingdom of America.

A sovereign, sobering thought to be sure.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Yet Another Good Reason Not To Move to the UK

The new hot job for 2008: Level One All-Seeing Eye for the Minister of Traffic. On a positive note, they'll be able to fill a future V For Vendetta sequel on location.

Hey - Don't We All Want a "Deferential" Media?

The McCain campaign has decided to keep Sarah Palin away from reporters and other agents of the media who will not treat her with the proper "deference." As important as it is to treat the possible future leader of the free world with the proper veneration, shying away from any unpleasant or impolite questions about difficult topics or her questionable past actions, we present the following guide for journalists who may find themselves in the path of this possible future Vice President, the heartthrob a "heartbeat away" from the Presidency:

. . . The problem of gotcha journalism has recently become so pronounced that, now, it’s being engaged in not merely by journalists, but also by voters themselves (though, we should note, we have yet to see any convincing proof that such “members of the electorate” are, in fact, concerned citizens, rather than self-interested partisans and/or individual organs of the liberal media elite out to spread their socialist agenda to freedom-loving Americans). Take, for example, the Temple University grad student who, while waiting in line for a Philly cheese steak on Monday and finding himself face-to-face with Sarah Palin, asked her about Pakistan. (“How about the Pakistan situation?” the sweatshirt-swathed scamp demanded. “What are your thoughts about that?”) Which is shameful. Just shameful. His lips may have said, “Pakistan,” but his eyes said, “Gotcha.”

Where is the deference, Random Grad Student? Sarah Palin has done nothing but volunteer to serve the nation—our nation—by being A Heartbeat Away From The Presidency; how dare you ask her about the situation in some foreign country? Have you left no sense of decency?

This behavior simply cannot continue. The audacity we’ve seen in our media of late—Katie Couric, as you may have heard, recently had the temerity to ask Palin about the economy—is becoming a disgrace to the profession, and an insult to all Americans. Those who care about journalism and its future must unite against such misbegotten attempts to inform the electorate.


CJR’s new software guards against gotcha-ism (Megan Garber for Columbia Journalism Review)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"Google Goggles" Helps Save You From E-mail Regret

I admit that I looked like an idiot the last time I wrote about a new Google feature. But this one appears to be genuine, even though the press release makes it look like a huge joke. I'm the sort of person who isn't often sure what month of the year it is before I take 1.5 seconds' thought, but a little investigation revealed us safe from the month of April, so I'm going to go ahead on this one:

(from the Associated Press)
If you're the kind of person who types tipsy and regrets it in the morning, Google's "Mail Goggles," a new test-phase feature in the free Gmail service, might save you some angst.

The Goggles can kick in late at night on weekends. The feature requires you to solve a few easy math problems in short order before hitting "send." If your logical thinking skills are intact, Google is betting you're sober enough to work out the repercussions of sending that screed you just drafted.


"Sometimes I send messages I shouldn't send. Like the time I told that girl I had a crush on her over text message. Or the time I sent that late night e-mail to my ex-girlfriend that we should get back together," [Gmail designer Jon Perlow] wrote when announcing Mail Goggles on a company blog.

Let me get this straight - this one is real, but the far-more-plausible Google Custom Time was a joke?

Stress Relief Breathing Exercises

I highly recommend the following "Karate meditation" breathing exercise for reduction of stress and anxiety. It's only takes a few minutes and it's quite effective (at least more effective than your usual frantic dwelling on things).

How To Reduce Stress Quickly With Karate Breathing Meditation (Elizabeth Scott for

Garfield Minus Garfield and Related Surrealism

I've been hip to the whole "minus Garfield" phenomenon for some time now, but every time I come back to it I find a new wealth of humor and resonant comedy. And I'm being serious.

The deal is that Garfield (the comic strip) can be immensely improved by removing the titular character (Garfield himself) entirely. As far as I know, the whole thing began a couple of years ago, on the goofy message board Truth and Beauty Bombs, where an idea proposed by MackJ spiralled into a netwide phenomenon.

Mack proposed that removing Garfield's often-redundant dialogue would improve the strip, and by gum he was right. The strip took an odd, surreal tone that made it much more readable:

But with Garfield acting as the straight man to Jon's depressed madness the strip still didn't have the schadenfreude, the madness, the isolation that it needed to become truly great. Later in the thread, people got the idea to remove Garfield entirely, and the idea took off.

Earlier this year, was born, and achieved a modest level of success. The idea is hardly original at this point, and some of the strips featured on the site are direct copies from early samples on the TruthAndBeautyBombs thread, but it's such a convenient place to read Minus Garfield strips that I still feel inclined to celebrate it. If these examples don't compel you to check out the site's archives, feel free to read more of my cynical political ramblings.

Facial Hair Rules and Codes

My school permits moustaches but disallows other types of facial hair. I think the rule might best be summed-up as follows:

"Our apologies - at this university you're not allowed to look like a subversive. Might we suggest something more in the way of the creepy pedophile look?"

Monday, October 06, 2008

U.S. Representatives Voting on Bailout Bill Privately Threatened With Martial Law

"Vote for our unconstitutional bailout bill or face unconstitutional martial law!" Let's spread this freedom and democracy to the rest of the world!

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Upshot of Economic Worries

Always the provocateur, Scott Adams provides a list of positives that everybody can agree on for our economic and credit woes. Spun the right way, we may be inching toward a new utopia:

- Rent gets cheaper when housing prices fall. That's a redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor.

- While it will be harder to get a mortgage for an $800K house, that house is only worth $500K now. That should make it a lot easier to qualify.

- Gas at $4 per gallon is a necessary condition for creating the next economic boom: renewable energy and green technology.

- A good recession now and then is necessary to purge the economy of things that need purging.

- College students are starting to choose technology majors over finance majors, probably because of the financial headlines, and this bodes well for the future.
I also like Scott's use of trends (evaluating every issue in context of similar situations). God bless this man for moving away from poop jokes:
And allow me to leave you with a pinch of optimism, just because I can. I call it Adams' Rule of Obvious Calamities. It states that any calamity that is foreseeable by the public at large won't turn out so bad after all. The best recent example was the Y2K problem, where computers worldwide were expected to fail. It seemed impossible that those issues could be resolved in time, but they were.
The Credit Crunch Explained (Scott Adams)

Kotaku: Cave Story (Doukutsu Monogatari) Confirmed For Wii

What a pleasant surprise. How fitting that such a fantastic little indie game (and a true labor of love) will see new life (and hopefully a new following) on the consoles. Cave Story (still free for download) is one of the best and most whimsical (not to mention darkest) little platformers I've ever had the fortune of playing through. It's Metroid and Castlevania and Mario and Earthbound and. . . and I need to play it again.

Cinematic Polemic

(DISCLAIMER: I'm going to be discussing two films in this post, neither of which I've seen. If you feel that I've judged either of these flicks incorrectly, I urge you to read this as yet another unasked-for criticism of our culture. Danke schein.)

A couple of highly-charged bits of filmmaking are being thrown into wide release today: Religulous, a Bill Maher/Larry Charles screed on religion, and An American Carol, a shallow assault on progressive "anti-Americanism" that takes aim at traditional right-wing boogeymen (Michael Moore, Islamic fundamentalists, liberal college professors) and evokes ready comparisons to Uwe Boll's Postal.

Both these films seem to make their points earnestly while trying for a few jokes, and both do a hearty job of indicating the problems at work in America - and not in the way they expect.

Religulous, starring Bill Maher and directed by Seinfeld pioneer Larry Charles, is probably the funnier of the two, and fairly transparent. Anybody who knows anything about it already knows nearly everything about it - it's a documentary about religion (more specifically Christianity), and Bill Maher and Larry David are involved. I would expect the "cynical smirk to fair questions ratio" to hover around 5:1 for this one.

And it seems for all the world to be a typical attack documentary; Maher trots the globe, picking the sorriest, most pathetic religious believers and pointing out that they are, in fact, silly goons. It's the film equivalent of Jay Leno asking people on street corners how many sides you'd find on a triangle ("Four! No, wait - is it an odd number?"). When you consider that a good 88% of human beings identify themselves as believers in God, it's no significant surprise that an earnest agnostic-faced atheist managed to find a few stupid jackasses among them to ridicule. I even know a few myself! It's been awhile since the fact that some people believe in God for wrong or even ignorant reasons made headlines, so kudos to Lions Gate for bringing it back to our attention. It's Borat for the Scientific American set! I'm sure the film is profoundly unfair, but if you already love/hate Bill Maher the way most of us do you'll know what to expect.


And if there's ever been a film designed by its very premise to repel me, it's David Zucker's An American Carol, wherein a left-wing nutjob (Michael Moore, played by a guy who looks a bit like Michael Moore) is visited by a bunch of right-wing nutjobs (y'know - Kelsey Grammar, Leslie Nielsen and Jon Voight, playing a bunch of ex-presidents who have posthumously converted to neoconservatism), who teach him that America is, y'know, really great and he should just shut his mouth. I never liked Zucker's films (Airplane and assorted spoofs that are essentially live-action versions of Mad Magazine fare), but this might be the first one that's actually dangerous.

I don't have a problem necessarily with reminding us of great, if clichéd, moments in America's past (the Revolutionary War, a general commitment to freedom and rule of law), but of the film's self-righteous militaristic patriotism, a philosophy adopted only recently by the neocon right wing who has done more to destabilize our freedom and civil rights - all while pointing toward brown people as the real enemies - than any flag-burner could ever desire or manage. Doesn't this film miss the point that criticism of a country's flaws, when appropriate, is one of the surest indicators that you love said country and want to improve it, and nationalistic, reactionist regressivism is one of the surest indicators of a slide toward self-righteous depravity and self-assured exceptionalism (one of the few things that could really destroy this country)? For those of you who managed to parse that gramatically-questionable sentence, it was a rhetorical question.


Does anybody else worry that the real conservative movement is over, and all we have left is the kind of Reaganesque neoconservative garbage and progressive hogwash that produces films like these? Why can't we get a real conservative picture to theaters, one that champions freedom and small government without legitimizing stingy treatment toward the poor, attacks the spiraling American Military Industrial Complex while understanding the need for a basic national defense, or champions the rights to free expression and privacy from government surveillance and interference without politicizing such an important, basic assault on our liberties? I'd like to see a picture that understands the Constitution and the Bill of Rights pragmatically, as necessary tools for freedom that we follow to the letter simply because they're the only anchors protecting us from misguided or even scheming politicians, without holding up the Constitution as an end in itself.

In other words, why can't we get a picture with some principles worth defending (defined, you'll notice, as those principles which happen to be mine)?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008