Archive for the 'Cultural' Category

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At the Fucking Movies

Enjoying yourselves? Fuckers?

I really love movies. I love ’em so much, I sometimes call them “film”, like a snob.

But I don’t go to the movies anymore. Once in a great while, a friend will cajole me into going, and I’ll go. But inevitably I’ll be distracted and irritated and want to leave, especially if I’m interested in the film. I sometimes think I’m the only person in the theater interested in watching (and hearing) the film.

Let’s recap why going to the movie theater sucks ass:

Mouth-Breathing Idiots


Two classes of these cretins exist: those who blatantly disrupt a film, and those who “whisper” about every event unfolding on the screen.

The former is easily handled: you tell them to shut the fuck up before you and your entire row of people rain blows down upon their heads. This works sometimes; other times it will shut them up for only 10 minutes, whereupon the threats must escalate and the film is now second fiddle to the real action.

The latter is more common. It happens when an idiot family from the idiot part of the county comes to watch a film slightly more complex than “Cars 2”. As the film begins and we see foreshadowing, they immediately begin whispering loudly to each other:

“Didja see that, Elmer? I bet she gonna cause him some troubles!”
“Ya think so? But she’s Cameron goddamn Diaz!”
“Don’t matter none! I can tell she’s gonna be the cause of all this trouble later on!”
“If’n ya really think so! But I’m not so sure about that there fella from the FBI, neither!”
“No! The FBI guy ain’t the killer! He woulda hafta been two places at once doncha think?”

This goes on throughout the entire film. And there is no remedy as the idiots will claim they were being quiet and minding their own business. Your only hope is to move out of earshot or leave and wait for the DVD.

I have beheld the latter type of Mouth-Breathing Idiots so often that I’m actually amazed when they don’t appear next to me.

Crying Babies

Look who's enjoying "Salò, the 120 Days of Sodom"!

This one used to haunt me like a nightmare. In the 1990’s, it got so bad that I bet one of my friends that I’d have a screaming baby next to me, guaranteed. We went to the movie and left early. I was $20 richer.

Some sort of backlash must have occurred because baby meltdowns at the movies are kinda rare nowadays. If you go to a comic book movie or a kids film, you should expect a few snot-nosed brats raising a ruckus. But the onslaught of brats at R-rated films has dropped in recent years.  I’m hoping it’s because dullard breeders were shamed from such behavior. If parents think that’s unfair, they should either drug their brats into a catatonic stupor or try being more thoughtful about their reproductive habits.

Mastication

No, not masturbation. Most masturbators are quieter than the slack-jawed bovines who down quarts of popcorn and soda or wrestle with a noisy plastic wrapper for 40 fucking minutes. What’s being said in the film? Who knows? All I can hear is crunch-munch-munch-munch, slurpy-derpy-slurp and rustle-ristle-rustle-ristle. I think they said something about needing to escape the office building in order to find the guy who was…oh, I dunno. It’s all just a bunch of noise. Who can hear anything?

OM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM!!!!

Ka-FLOOM!

And when I’m not losing the plot because of all the noise being made by the perfumed hogs who surround me, I’m being deafened by the Hollywood soundtrack. If a character sets a mug of coffee onto a glass table, it has to land with a loud ker-CHLINK! noise that has been compressed and signal-gained eighteen fucking times before being inserted into the scene.

Ker-FLAAMM!! Buh-ZZZHINGGG! Ka-WOOM...WOom...woom...

And if the action really heats up? You’ll need ear plugs to shield you from the head-splitting noises generated by another idiotic car chase or Michael Bay explosion. At these moments, even the popcorn munchers are drowned out. And everything that happens MUST have an accompanying low-frequency rumble to make your groin vibrate. If there is no low rumbling noise, then the movie must be boring and we should all just listen to the popcorn munchers.

 Comfort

My ass hurts. Ass. Hurts.

As a person with chronic back pain, I have to take into account how much money in medical bills I’ll have to pay after sitting in a tired, scummy, beaten-up old movie theater seat for the 30 minutes of commercials, 20 minutes of previews and 2 hours of film I must endure.

I can’t hit the “pause” button and stretch my legs. I am a prisoner here. I must listen to the munchers, endure the ker-FLOOM noises and wriggle in my seat as my ass screams for mercy. Why did I come here again?

Advertisements

I paid $11.00 to watch this?

You have two options once you’ve committed to go to the movie theater:
1. Go in early, get a good seat and endure 20 minutes of television commercials.
2. Go late, get a lousy seat, miss the commercials and watch 20 minutes of previews.

There is no other option. Despite the fact you’ve paid a premium for a seat, burned gasoline to get there, endured a long line to buy a ticket and plumped down next to some popcorn-munching behemoth who smells like a Malaysian garbage dump, you STILL have to endure commercial advertising. Why? BECAUSE HOLLYWOOD SAYS SO.

Hollywood

Finally, there’s the content. I’m like anybody else. I enjoy watching spectacles on the big screen. At this point, that’s only reason I’d ever attend a public screening. If a movie intends to intrigue me intellectually, it can’t do so in a movie theater. May as well go straight to DVD (which is what most foreign films and independent films do anyway).

"It's Jim Carrey in...whatever. You'll pay to go see it. Fuck you."

I have no idea how mainstream America continues to line up for Jim Carrey comedies and stupid revenge films and all the “two women struggling against all odds in a world they didn’t make” movies. Somehow, these films make bank at the box office. I’d sooner shoot myself in the face than sit through that crap, but I guess that’s why the movie theaters are what they are: halls of consumption for the lumpenproletariat.

Will people eventually flee the blockbuster theater experience for the more civilized art house scene? I doubt it, and that’s a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Case for Virginia

Here’s the challenge: if someone has never been to America and doesn’t have the time to see every corner of our vast country, which one state would you recommend they visit to get the most rounded appreciation of what America is all about?

Which single US state offers a sincere glimpse into the American way of life with lots of cool, interesting things to see and do?

Difficulty: California is too big too see in less than two weeks.

"Thus Always Unto Tyrants". It's so welcoming!

I’ve given this a lot of thought and the answer is Virginia.

Right now, most of my American readers are screaming. They have another state in mind. Probably California. But they are wrong. If you have never been to America and you want to know what “average” America is like while still enjoying some recreational fun, Virginia is the best choice.

Here comes the Case for Virginia!

(note: I’ve only been there twice and I am not employed by the Virginia Tourism Board)

History

How many Monticellos does your area have? Hmm?

European skeptics like to sniff at America because we are ‘inauthentic’ and have no history worth mentioning. These snobs have never been to Virginia!

Virginia was founded 400 years ago. It isn’t as storied as Rome, but Virginia is no Silicon Valley, either. It’s old. From Pocohontas and Capt. John Smith to Washington and Jefferson, Virginia is a microcosm of early American history.

In fact, Virginia is so fucking historical that there’s too much of it to outline here. Tourists will be tripping over colonial mansions and Civil War battlefields until they finally land in Colonial Williamsburg.

Williamsburg may be a tad schmaltzy, but it’s far less offensive than those bell-ringing turds in livery who stand outside European museums. Take THAT, you snooty French academics!

If you have any interest at all in American history, Virginia is practically the goddamn epicenter of it all. You just can’t miss.

Recreation

Virginia Beach doesn't suck!

Millions of Brits flock to Florida every year to escape the grey and loll in the sun. Once their discount airfare gets them there, the poor saps pay a premium for the privilege.

Not so in Virginia. Virginia Beach is reasonably priced and offers a less crushing experience. You’ll see plenty of hot bikini chicks as well as plenty of scary fat people, which is why you came to America in the first place.

Most importantly, Virginia Beach attracts middle-of-the-road American visitors. You won’t meet too many snotty rich people; nor will you have to abide a bunch of ghetto trash. Instead, you will come belly-to-belly with middle class America.

If you have kids with you, Busch Gardens and King’s Dominion should replace your Disney desires without robbing you blind. There’s a couple of big zoos and enough water parks to float your trunks for weeks.

For adult fun, Virginia is for Lovers. It’s true. I know because I once banged a chick from Virginia. And man, she was HOT. If you visit Virginia from overseas, use your sultry accent to score a Virginian. You wont regret it.

Culture

It ain't much, but it's all-American.

No. Virginia is not renown for the arts. But it is the home of GWAR, so that’s gotta count for something.

Yet Virginia is a diverse place. Despite its slave-holding past, about 20% of the population is black, 10% is Latino and the rest are white or various shades of world workers in the industrial northern part of the state. What this means is the outsider will meet a wide array of people.

You won’t like them all. Some of them are jerks. But most of them are nice and actually do believe in exuding some form of southern hospitality. This is where the visitor will really learn something about America. That’s what defines us: ethnicities all jammed together and trying their hardest to get along despite the evolutionary call of the tribe.

We have no Tito or Stalin to force us to live together. Instead, America (and Virginia) tends to unify under Christianity. You’d be a fool to visit Virginia and not check out some churches and even some public church events.

They will likely freak you out. Some churches are…charismatic. But even an old atheist like me knows that life in the South (and most of America) is defined by its churches. In Virginia, it is the neighborly call of Christ that binds them. It shapes the one cultural aspect they all share. Sniff all you like, but if you want to understand America you better learn to understand her strange affinity for this wacky religion.

Landscapes

Are you kidding me?

What Virginia lacks in high culture it makes up for in varied, beautiful landscapes. Bring your camera because in this one state you will be framing misty mountains covered in greens and yellows, lonely roads winding through ancient farms, mighty estuaries racing into the Atlantic, waves crashing on sandy shores and Neoclassical buildings rising up against the azure sky.

Yes, Arizona has deserts and Maine has craggy shores and Texas has endless brush and Colorado has majestic peaks and California has big trees. But Virginia has almost all of that stuff and it’s all within a few hours’ drive. Virginia wins again!

And then there’s DC…

Washington DC

Giant-ass domed buildings? Yeah, we got that shit.

As you head north, you leave behind the mountains and farms and enter something truly American: enormous suburban developments, godawful strip-malls and gigantic glass-and-steel office towers. This is the epicenter of the might that is the government of the United States. Defense contractors, lobbying organizations and massive federal agencies ingest and disgorge hundreds of thousands of busy bees every day. It’s a madhouse. Drive carefully.

Just beyond is the nation’s capital. Enjoy the irony of the grinding poverty in her ghettos. Shake your head at the ostentatious displays in our inauthentic public spaces. Marvel at the galaxy of junk in the Smithsonian and gawp in disbelief at the massive jets suspended inside the aerospace museum.

You want world-class museums? Yeah. We got that shit.

DC is worth a visit, but it’s not more American than Virginia. Seriously.

It’s the People, Stupid

Happy Virginians at the recent presidential inauguration

I’ve been lucky to meet average folks in Europe and Japan. I’m an average guy, too. Weird, but average. And meeting my fellow average people gives me a much greater sense of a nation’s culture than meeting its service workers or representatives or immigrants.

When foreigners visit America, I’d like them to see cool stuff and have a good time and meet average Americans. They’re not the salt of the Earth. They’re not particularly noble or bright. They aren’t even very pretty.  But they are the genuine article. They are the are the distilled remains of our history and they are the real faces and real voices that betray all that Hollywood crap you watch on your satellite dish.

These people are hard to find in New York, Florida and LA. There’s plenty of them in the Midwest, but Virginia has more to offer than Iowa does. Sorry, Iowa.

Truth be told, I don’t personally give a rip about Virginia. But if some accountant from Ghana told me he wanted to see America but only had two weeks and no desire for long journeys, I wouldn’t hesitate.

Virginia, man. It’s America in a bottle.

You Virginians can now tell me how right I am; the rest of you can tell me how wrong I am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Samsara

Trippy.

This post isn’t about the psychedelic trance composers Digital Samsara (although if you dig that kind of thing, they really are the best).

This post is about samsara in the digital age. And by samsara I refer to the Hindu concept of an endless continuation of births, deaths and re-births. Samsara is intrinsic to the Hindu spiritual world and samsara is also the cornerstone of western Science. Evolution and astronomy describe forms of samsara. Even the human condition – our social and cultural mores and constructions – are samsara. They ebb and flow and wither and transpose without end.

The only certain thing is change, eh?

Digital samsara is the inevitable demise and rebirth of concepts and systems in the digital domain. We must accept this. Whatever format or feature or function that you adore will eventually disappear and you will never see it again.

Sadness over the “loss” is understandable. Something dreadfully important – something cosmic and universal! – went away forever. We grieve. Then we move on. And as we do, new forms appear and hold us spellbound. We fall in love again.

We are all used to this cycle. It describes our lives. But there is one aspect of our lives that is utterly intolerant of samsara.

Money.

The continual generation of wealth doesn’t work well with samsara. It’s hard to bank on cataclysmic change. Widget producers won’t give you a big hug when you inform them that widgets are out and whachits are in. And those smug whachit manufacturers will shit a brick when whatchits go out of style and some young punk replaces them with gidgets.

Enormous fortunes are won and lost on single events (blips, really) along the continual line of samsara. Only the craftiest, wisest thinkers can maintain their fortunes through a cycle of death and re-birth. Such people are very rare. Steve Jobs is one and he survived just two cycles. Now he has joined the NeXT project himself.

The trouble with samsara is its inevitability and its impassivity. It can’t be cajoled or convinced. It can’t be bought off. It just…is.

The wise among us understand and accept this. Our business venture will not grow exponentially forever and guarantee us wealth and happiness for generations. Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

Yet strangely, it is this very belief that pervades corporate concepts of the digital realm and threatens the balance of our digital lives. There are some who believe that the digital samsara can be forced to obey crumbling old rules of wealth creation. They use power, threats, money and guns to force their way. They will lose in the end. But we must ask how many will suffer before that day comes.

What the SOPA legislation actually looks like.

Like children, the RIAA and MPAA want to continue suckling the warm familiar taste of mother’s milk. They cannot imagine a world without $17.99 CD’s and $12.00  movie tickets. For decades, they have had free reign to bilk artists, cheat writers and gouge consumers. Things have been so good for so long on this blip, this birth, this life.

But that life played its hand. Ratcheting up prices, monopolizing distribution and collecting radio stations are the modern business equivalent of performing a heart and liver transplant on a 99 year old man. It is fighting samsara, not surrendering to it. Despite all these efforts, the body is still dying.

These should be the watchwords of the old distribution method.

A wise man would have looked at the scope and reach of the Internet and realized that a new era in human expression was presenting itself. The RIAA and MPAA, like children, did not see this. It was like a heaven of wine and caviar had appeared before them, but they insisted on continuing to suckle their mother’s teat

But not everyone was so blind.

It was technologists who understood samsara and paved the way. From nappy-headed wunderkinds like Shawn Fanning to inscrutable geniuses like Steve Jobs, these were the people who saw plenty. Rather than grieve for the loss of the old ways, they welcomed the beauty of the new ways.

This cannot be stressed enough: the monetization of online content distribution was pioneered by programmers, not the music/film industry.

Rather than greet this new creature, the entertainment cartels have entered digital samsara screaming and kicking. Like children torn from the breast, they cry.

I want my profitability back!

It isn’t coming back. The 99 year old man is dying. You are too old for your mother’s milk. Do not grieve. A great rebirth has occurred. Celebrate it!

Wise people have discovered that there is profitability in the new medium. It’s a different system, though. Rather than convincing 100,000 people to spend $10 on your content, you must now convince 1,000,000 people to spend $1. In all likelihood, the volume will not be there to realize your prior years of obscenely high profits. But the new medium operates more efficiently and cheaply, so your costs can go down.

In the short term, this will hurt. In the long term, purveyors of content that people want will become fantastic gatekeepers of global intelligence. In the long term, the money will come.

But you must be patient and wise. The RIAA and MPAA are neither.

Right now, the raging child is threatening to destroy the medium rather than exploit it. The child wants its Mommy back and if Mommy is gone then it will fashion a new Mommy from the body of the woman that should have been the wife.

We can rebuild her! We can bring her back to life!

All around the world, the entrenched industry is seeking to stop digital samsara and somehow stifle human progress. SOPA, ACTA, etal. are the cries of children who have been tossed into the backyard pool by a no-nonsense Dad. Swim, damn you!

As we all know, samsara does not yield. Digging in your heels and generating friction is merely adding tension to the tectonic plates of society. There will be outrages and destruction. And none of it will slow or limit the next set of deaths and re-births. BBS > USENET > Napster > Kazaa > Limewire > BitTorrent. A natural evolution moves in sync with digital samsara, buffeted by the **AA into unusual habitats, but continuing to grow and improve and morph as necessary.

All the weapons in the arsenal of billionaires fail to make a dent. DRM and HDCP burst, then weaken, then dissolve in the face of perpetual change.

Yes, pirates sail the Seven Seas. But in the digital realm, there is no need to damage and plunder; one need only understand the sea and the wind. The pirates are fine sailors and can see the changing winds and read the stars while their pursuers struggle to stay afloat. The money-changers curse the storms that the pirates ride out in quiet bays.

Many years ago, Nordic people settled in Greenland. Rather than live in harmony with the land, they exploited it for wood and domestic animals. They refused to subsist on fish and sea mammals like the natives did in the north. In fact, the settlers sometimes hunted the natives for sport. The natives tried to explain to the settlers that Greenland was not Scandinavia; samsara dictated a different approach.

Eventually, the Greenland settlements collapsed. The natives, however, still thrive.

In digital samsara, the pirates are not evil men bent on plunder. They are denizens of the media and are trying to teach the “settlers” how to live there. But the settlers want fresh meat and crops grown in perfect rows. They want the Old World. They refuse to learn how to survive in the new one.

The settlers will cause some deaths and they will destroy some things, but they will eventually fail. They will collapse. Samsara will go on.

It is the way.

Worth noting: while writing this missive, I was told I was being laid off from my job after seven stable and productive years. I grieve, but I also realize that this death will lead to a re-birth and I look forward to that new face.