The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why Do I Love Jon Stewart?

The thing that continually impresses me about Jon Stewart is that profound respect for his guests. Even when he disagrees with them. Especially when he disagrees with them even. While the segments have an edge, when folks sit in the chair across from him, there is a respect paid to them, even if what they've said and done are in some cases neigh indefensible.

What folks don't seem to get is that it's the hackery and the punditry that IS the problem. The push for narrative and advance an agenda, as opposed to coming up with real solutions is what drives Stewart to comment with such verve. It's to expose the hypocrisy of the moment, and then move on to the next. That there are so damn many targets is part and parcel of the problem.

It's sad when a comedian has to be the one who takes up the reins to expose hacks and partisan cheerleaders who pretend that they're journalists. The adversarial model of shows like "Crossfire" are part of the problem, the idea that two sides are equal and opposite is rubbish. I can argue until I'm blue in the face that rape is an acceptable practice, and I'm never going to be in the right. Shows like it, and the pundits who appear on them could bring insight into the process, and insight into the debate, but instead, there is more often than not simply an expansion of talking points that are designed to obfuscate the real argument. They produce Sturm und Drang, but little substance. And that is really the point. If we had a real discussion about health care in this country, we could come to a consensus fairly quickly on what would service the population, and get doctor's paid. Instead, we have a vast machine that is dedicated to keeping middle men in the thick of things, and a butt load of cash changing hands on both sides of the aisle to hide that. If we had a real discussion about violence in this country, we would see that folks on both sides of the aisle are worried about the safety of their families, and the issue of crime is one about safety. Instead, we have a manufactured issue like "Gun Control" that draws off resources and attention, when at the heart of that debate is one about crime and safety. But that isn't the kind of discussion that leads to ratings. It might lead to solutions, and there is the real rub.

We don't want solutions. Or rather, our politicians don't want solutions, and neither does the media, because solutions mean an end to things. That means an end to funding for programs that politicians can point to that bring cash to their districts or states, or clients, and if we had a real solution, that funding would dry up, and they'd have to find a new issue, and actually work at solving that one as well, since they'd done so wonderfully with the previous. People might even begin to expect issues to be solved. Not managed. And managing problems is far more lucrative, it wields continuing power. The media is far more complicit with the managing of these issues, because that is continued sales for papers, it means you can assign a reporter to cover an issue, and call it a beat. It makes classifying and ordering up stories far easier.

We have now, a very much symbiotic relationship with the media and those in power. In the Bush years it became even more naked and out in the open with access only being granted to folks that could be relied upon to give stories that the Administration liked. And harsh criticism if folks actually used public words against them, which is a continuing theme for many folks who apparently don't understand that you can't copyright your speeches when you give them at rallies and in public. It is an attempt to manage the media even further, and the "Lamestream Media" narrative is nothing more than an outright attempt to circumvent the role of the Fourth Estate. Some feel that the role of the media is to essentially be a point for PR, and nothing more. Journalism is falling to the wayside for punditry and editorials that are written and managed by campaigns, as opposed to questioning folks on their positions, and investigating their actual motivations and actions.

Jon is someone who gets that we have entered dark country in journalism as well as politics, since the two have merged to the point that William Randolph Hearst only dreamed of. And as a comedian, he has greater latitude than many journalists today, since the producers and editors who actually run their shows and their presses are often actively working to keep narrative alive, over actual reporting and journalism.

We don't need more press releases disguised as "interviews" or "editorials." We need real journalism, and it is sad that a guy whose best movie role was in "Half Baked" is now considered one of the more trusted voices in the news, because he's under no obligation to deliver narrative, only to be funny, and his brand of funny is exposing exactly how absurd things are.

That he tends to skewer folks who are chock full of glowing hypocrisy doesn't reduce the absurdity of the whole mess, or that there are folks in the Fourth Estate who are actively complicit. Funny, but doesn't reduce how screwed up thing are. That he can be funny, and perform a service that other media outlets aren't, does he piss some folks off? Yup, but maybe if they weren't being so damn stupid, they wouldn't be made fun of.

Stop being dumbasses and you won't be made fun of. Simple as that.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jon Stewart's Speech.

I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but it’s existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold it’s magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.

If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists and Stalinist and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker and perhaps eczema.

And yet with that being said I feel good—strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!

The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—butthey do it. Impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.

Look on the screen this is where we are this is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car swinging I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA. She loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a might river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by conscession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. You go then I’ll goOh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together and the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land.

Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. You’re presence was what I wanted.

Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Get a Life Or Kill Yourself

What is this blog about? Mostly media and pop culture. Film; television; comic books; all that good stuff. Sometimes you will even see entries about the people involved in production of all this.

However, what you will never see here is gossip. So, here is an entry about the type of people who seek gossip.

Do you care about the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie/Jennifer Aniston triangle? Then you're an idiot.

Do you care about who Paris Hilton is snorting coke with? Shut the hell up.

Does Bristol Palin's on again, off again with her Playgirl Baby Daddy just fascinate you? I hope you fall into a bucket of AIDS and crack your head open.

Does Miley Cyrus' parents getting a divorce interest you at all? KILL YOURSELF!

None of this is news. None of this is even entertainment news. And the fact that this shit sells is a stain on our society. What does it say about us as a culture that the Enquirer sells more copies than Time Magazine?

Every time I am on line at the supermarket, and I see one of these soccer moms reading the tabloids intently to find out who Kim Kardasian is sleeping with, I want to take a sledgehammer to their fucking skull and end them.

Get a fucking life, or commit suicide.

I don't think the personal lives of celebrities and their families are our business anymore than the personal lives of your neighbors down the street, or a small random family in Delaware. Is the personal life of your mailman something you follow?

If one is going to follow news regularly, I kindly suggest you follow local, state, national, and global politics. The kind of things that influence and directly affect all of our lives. We live in a world where celebrity gossip magazines outsell Time Magazine, and I am appalled by that fact.

If the lives of people doing "high profile" projects interest you, then instead of following the personal life of Snooki,* why don't you donate some money to soldiers fighting oversees? Each and every single one of them is more important than any of these poor excuses for entertainers.

Get a life, or kill yourself!

* By the way, I don't actually know who or what Snooki is, and I take great pride in that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And the Green Goblin is?

For decades a story has passed through Marvel and comic book fandom that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko split because neither one of them could agree on the true identity of the Green Goblin. After Ditko left, and John Romita Sr. came on board, the Green Goblin
was unmasked as industrialist and chemist, Norman Osborn.


John Romita later said:

Stan wouldn’t have been able to stand it if Ditko did the story and didn't reveal that the Green Goblin was Norman Osborn. I didn't know there was any doubt about Osborn being the Goblin. I didn't know that Ditko had just been setting Osborn up as a straw dog. I just accepted the fact that it was going to be Norman Osborn when we plotted it. I had been following the last couple of issues and didn't think there was really much mystery about it. Looking back, I doubt the Goblin's identity would have been revealed in Amazing #39 if Ditko had stayed on.

The rumor was that Steve Ditko wanted the Green Goblin to be a random mook, because in real life it's not always "the butler" who did it. Just like the recent resolution of the Crime Master story.


Later on came the rumor that Ditko was setting someone up near J. Jonah Jameson to be the Green Goblin, and a popular theory was Ned Leeds... oh, the irony on that one.

Recently, Steve Ditko came out and settled this rumor once and for all. In Robin Snyder's "THE COMICS" Vol. 20, No. 3 [March 2009] there's a two page essay written by Steve Ditko titled "The Ever Unwilling", in which he mentions the Green Goblin. Here are the relevant extracts:

"So certainly, the GG [Green Goblin] could hardly be any reason for me quitting Marvel"

"Now digest this: I knew from Day One, from the first GG story, who the GG would be... I planted him in J. Jonah Jameson's businessman's club." [prior issues of the newsletter had a contest to identify all the planted appearances of the character]

"I planted the GG's son (same distinct hair style) in the college issues..." [referring here to Harry Osborn]

So, after forty years, this urban legend has finally been laid to rest. Norman Osborn is the Green Goblin, always has been the Green Goblin and always will be the Green Goblin. He was conceived that way after all.


As for why Steve Ditko and Stan Lee really split up, I cannot even begin to speculate there. Except that I believe the answer is a lot more mundane and complicated than any urban legend could be. But even I always believed that a talented guy like Steve Ditko leaving Marvel over the secret identity of one character was something too absurd to be real.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Transformers: The Dark Side Of The Moon

So, that's the title of the new "Transformers" movie that Michael Bay is imposing on us. "The Dark Side Of The Moon." I wish Pink Floyd could sue over this.

Allow me, if you will, to post what will likely be an entirely accurate synopsis of this movie.

* Shia Laboof's life moves forward. Nobody cares.
* The government are dicks to Autobots for no reason.
* The Decepticons are led by a returning Megatron AND another guy who was a badass in the comics but will most likely die like a bitch in the movie.
* They launch random attacks so Bay can masturbate furiously to giant robot carnage, and this causes the government to be even bigger dicks and betray the Autobots.
* The soldiers from the first movie GO ROGUE to help them, Shia Laboof and his love interest beat the Decepticons to the ancient MacGuffin that's never been mentioned before but was hidden on or near Earth thousands of years ago in the most convoluted interplanetary history retcon yet.

Oh, there's one new thing though. NASCAR robots made by the military. Because when I think of the US Armed Forces, I think NASCAR. My prediction: they're going to be redneck stereotypes in an attempt to "counterbalance" the ghetto stereotypes in RoTF, and be just as obnoxiously retarded. Think Cartman in tonight's new "South Park" episode, but as a robot.

Freedom of Speech & Rick Sanchez

For those of you who say that this is a Freedom of Speech issue, I strongly disagree. In any corporation in America, if you sit around your lunch room and say “My boss is a jerk”, you will get fired. Rick Sanchez has freedom of speech. No one hauled him off to prison for his remarks. No one censored him. Freedom of speech means that you can say whatever you want. It doesn’t mean that there are never any consequences for what you say.

Secondly, to those of you who say, “Jews do control the media. He was telling the truth. What’s the problem with telling the truth?”, here is my problem with that statement. It has to do with the word “Control.” If you say, “Jews are disproportionately represented in the media given their percentage of the population”, then I have absolutely no problem with that statement. It is certainly true. But the problem is, by saying that Jews “control” the media, you are implying that Jews are not simply a group of people who have a common heritage and religion, you are implying that they are group that works together and has some kind of master plan to control the media. You are also implying that Jews are not really Americans, they are some kind of foreign or insidious group who uses the media for their own nefarious purposes.

And finally, and most importantly, you are being racist, because you are saying that it does indeed matter what someone’s ethnic background and religion is. If the majority of people in the media were Christians that would be a non-issue, and I’m sure it’s the case that in most industries the majority of the people in power are Christians. But you never hear the statement that “The Christians control the dairy industry.” So basically by making it an issue that Jews “control” the media, you’re saying that it’s fine if Christians dominate an industry, but that it is bad or something to be remarked upon that Jews dominate an industry.

Why should it matter that a lot of people whose ancestors came from Eastern Europe and are Jewish work in the media? I think the implication is that Jews don’t share our American values, and that they are up to something. They are controlling us with their pro-Zionist, pro-gay, leftist, Anti-American values. And that’s why I think it’s objectionable to say that “Jews control the media”, because you are implying that Jews are outsiders who are not loyal Americans, who might have their own agenda and who aren’t good old normal folk. Also, it’s the same argument that has been used time and time again over the centuries to persecute Jews.