Monday, December 31, 2007

Movie Reviews that Suck

I have written on movie reviews before - talking about the annoying cliche that the book was better than the movie. Now I want to talk about what annoys me about movie reviews, in general. There are two broad categories of movie reviews I despise. Then there is a general thing about reviews that annoys me that I will start with first.

I absolutely HATE it when a reviewer tries to get cute with the title or subject matter in the title of the review, such as saying "Waterworld sinks" or some such crap like that. Which brings me to the first broad category that I hate. Reviews that spend the whole review complaining about some aspect of MAKING the movie or the stars in it that has nothing to do with what is on the screen when you watch it. Like criticising the aforementioned Waterworld for costing over $100 Million dollars or whatever it was at the time, or for Kevin Costner's cut of that, and taking up half the review with that crap, then complaining that the movie just doesn't seem like it was worth that much because it wasn't the best movie ever made. Or some bullshit like that. I mean, unless you had to pay a much higher ticket price for that movie than for any other, the cost to make it is IRRELEVANT. You pay the same amount to see some indie film made for $2 million on credit cards. (And then THAT film gets kudos for being so GOOD on such a small budget). What a load of horse puckey. I don't CARE how much it costs to make a movie. I don't CARE if the actors in it are, in real life, as charming as potted plants (and as smart). When one sees a movie, one doesn't see any of that. And so a reviewer should not talk about any of that. A reviewer should talk about the experience that starts when the lights dim and ends when the credits roll, and that is it. Nothing else.

In my ideal world, critics would not be allowed to even see the credits, nor know anything about the movie, including who was in it, until after they had viewed it and written their review. Thus, the review would be limited to what was on the screen - and the buzz, the false controversies from the production, its costs, the actors - all of that bull scrid crud would be kept out of it. Mentioning any of that is like an English teacher giving you a lower grade on your paper because she didn't like the shoes you wore to class when you turned it in. Review the movie, not the damn process. In my ideal world, any reviewer who mentions anything but what was in the movie on the screen in a review would be fired, then, on the way home from the unemployment office, he would be kidnapped, locked in a coffin, and deported by submarine to a small island nation run by ex-Bush administration neocon lackeys. Ahem.

My second broad category of annoying reviews are those reviews where it is clear the reviewer had an opinion going in and stuck to it, despite what was on the screen, perhaps not even paying attention. Like a review of Hudson Hawk I saw that, after it finished violating my rule number one above (complaining about the $70 million price tag), then went on to complain that they were singing during the robbery at the beginning for no apparent reason - thus proving that the reviewer had a brain the size of a walnut, and that the reviewer had the attention span of a one year old, because it was stated very clearly as they started an entire discussion about songs that the reason they sang them was they used them in lieu of watches to keep track of time - each song was a specific length and so they'd choose one based on the timing they needed.

Another annoying subpart of this kind of bad review is the one where the reviewer has decided, because of the low-brow subject matter (or some other reason) that they simply cannot admit liking a film, leading to such reviews as one I read where a reviewer of a low-brow comedy said that he "laughed all the way through it" but still gave it few stars and a bad review because, well, it was juvenile. Or some such nonsense. When last I checked, a comedy that makes you laugh all the way through it should properly be given four out of four stars because hey, that's what comedies are SUPPOSED to do. What, could it possibly be better than that?

Thus ends my rant. Maybe, with luck, someone reading this will become a movie reviewer some day and will avoid this nonsense. Then my life will have been complete.

Libertarians are Nutty

I've heard it all before. Libertarians are nutty. Ron Paul is a lunatic. He's a white supremacist. And so forth. And there is a bit of truth to that. There are plenty of libertarians who ARE quite nutty. That's part of why I call myself only libertarian leaning rather than a Libertarian. But then again, there are plenty of Republicans who are quite nutty, and Democrats, too. Yet somehow that doesn't automatically delegitimize either party (well, for some it does, but you don't see it used as a general bludgeon like it is used against Libertarians).

I think it is great Ron Paul is running and is doing so well because I agree with a lot of libertarian ideas. I also disagree with some of them. And I think some are a bit nutty. Some say that means one should not support Ron Paul because of a parade of horribles that would happen if he won. But that is rather crazy. Because any sane person could tell you that it doesn't matter if Ron Paul has some crazy ideas - they would never get implemented by Congress, and the media, in the GOP backpocket, would be all over him for it, stopping him at every turn. Because strangely, our system of checks and balances and our free media only really work as a check on power when someone in power tries to do something AGAINST the powers that be, which are generally rich and GOP (and lately fundamentalist). So the powers that be would NEVER let any of Paul's outliers get implemented. Not even close. So why emphasize them when they are not the real issue? Because they are afraid of the things he COULD implement, because those are the things that are extremely popular and part of why he is doing as well as he is.

Oh, and the claim he is a white supremacist? That concerned me, until I realized it was based solely on a single $500 donation given to him by a white supremacist that he refused to give back when confronted about it by some GOP schill, because he didn't want to play the stupid political games with such things. I'm sure probably hundreds, perhaps thousands, who are white supremacists have given to probably every single other GOP candidate running. Perhaps some have given to some Democrats as well, though I think that probably stopped happening right around the time the Southern states turned GOP from Dixiecrat. And yet because of this one single donation out of millions of dollars, suddenly Paul is smeared as a white supremacist. What is sad about this is that I've seen others I generally respect repeat this false claim.

In the end, none of it matters, because in today's GOP, a real small-government conservative has no chance at all of winning the GOP nomination. The GOP and the media have made sure to marginalize him or ignore him at every turn. Still, he may do better than they think. In any case, he won't win. So whether one supports him or not is less about him and more about what it says about the current state of the GOP and the Democrats.

Back to libertarianism. I lean that way. I lean that way because of my uncompromising position on civil rights and on my belief that it is best to keep government as small as possible - because power corrupts. I don't think the market is some panacea. I think there are things that only government can do. I just would rather limit the government to doing ONLY those things, and nothing else. As to what those things are - that is open to debate. Some are obvious. Some are less so. Some fall somewhere in between.

I don't feel like getting into all of that now. I do just want to acknowledge that yes, there are some nutty libertarians and some nutty libertarian ideas and I don't subscribe to either. But then again, I don't belong to any political party and my opinion of the two major parties couldn't be lower.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Ray of Hope is a Ray of Warm Sunshine!

Victory! Dodd's maneuvers in the Senate prevented the horrid telecom bill from getting passed this year. Unfortunately, this may only have delayed it, but I'll take anything at this point! It is heartening to see there is at least one Democrat with some backbone who is willing to show real leadership and actually DO something rather than just mouth platitudes on the way to surrendering to the GOP.

This also means that perhaps there is more time for the lawsuits against the illegal activities of the telecoms to progress, though probably not enough.

The ultimate message is, though, that one can stop the GOP agenda if one actually tries - keep the pressure on! Make sure this bill NEVER comes to pass! Now I feel at least a little bit better today. Though I still feel bad about something personal that happened this weekend - more on that later...

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Tiny Ray of Hope

There is a tiny glimmer of hope that perhaps some small sliver of the horrid law breaking done by our government might be pushed into the light of day through an ACLU civil case. I can only hope that the judge does his job, follows the law, and holds those responsible for destroying those CIA tapes in contempt (and throws their collective asses in prison). All no thanks to any of the Dems in Congress (with the exception of Dodd, whose hold is being ignored).

And they fold yet AGAIN - hell, they enable!

This post by Glenn today (about how Reid is caving in to everything the GOP wants on FISA, including giving total amnesty to the phone companies, blocking yet another avenue of accountability) just makes me want to say "fuck it" to the whole thing and abandon any support for Dems entirely. It disgusts me so much I can't say anything else about it right now except a bunch of words that won't contribute much to the conversation.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Democrats Fold Like a Lawnchair (Again!)

As no surprise to anyone, Democrats once again fold like a lawnchair. Nice to see how well they work as an "opposition" party - for fuck's sake, they can't even mount an effective opposition to the GOP when they control both houses of Congress! This is just pathetic. This is sick. Someone, please, tell me WHY I should be supporting a party that folds and lets the GOP do whatever it wants while, at the same time, giving the GOP political cover because the GOP isn't in charge? Please tell me? Why should this party not be utterly destroyed to make room for a new party, one that will actually oppose the GOP?

I just want to scream.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Women as Sex Objects and The Male Gaze

More specifically, MY male gaze. This is another topic I've also thought about for a while and just did not have time to post about (or energy). Chasing a two-year-old can do that.

I've often seen the complaint voiced by some women about problems with the male gaze, or being seen as a sex object. (I've also seen some men and women complain about NOT being seen as a sex object, usually because of being unattractive in some way).

Here goes my random thoughts on this subject from my own gaze. First, I'm a male, I'm heterosexual, and so I like to look at attractive, sexy women. I have since puberty. And that is pretty normal. And liking to look is not something I would ever apologize for, nor should I or anyone. Looking is normal. And it is also harmless. And it isn't even cheating to just look. I look. My wife looks at men (and comments to me as well, sometimes negative, sometimes positive). That's all just part of the fun of being alive. And there is nothing wrong with it.

Doing something more than looking, even just making an inappropriate comment, that is something else, but I'm just talking about the gaze here, and the thoughts in my head when I do so, nothing more. (I never comment anyway - not only is it rude, but I think I'd be too shy to do so even if I wanted to).

So yes, when I gaze, I may also think about things sexual, though as I age, such things happen less and less. I guess one can't be a horny teenager forever. Now I look and appreciate, but the idea of actually even thinking about sex with someone, well, it tends not to happen because my practical mind would throw up all the reasons it couldn't and I'd never get to the sex part. So I just look and appreciate to myself and that's about it most of the time.

Something I want to get out, though, is that even where I do look at a woman as a sex object, in that I find a given woman attractive in that way, that doesn't affect how I view that woman in any other way. In other words, it is only relevant in my mind as to the question as to whether or not this is someone I'd consent to have sex with (if I were otherwise available to do so). It does not affect my judgment about anything else - for instance, if it was a professional situation, it would have nothing to do with my evaulation of the woman at doing her job. One simply is irrelevant to the other. Or to put it in reverse, just to be clear. If a woman is a kick-ass lawyer who writes the best briefs on the planet, that does not affect or translate into my view of her as sexually desireable (though I should caveat that to say that I find smart women very sexy).

What I'm getting at is the occasional gaze and accompanying appreciation of attractive women I see out in the world really is on a parallel track to how I otherwise think of women. If a woman is not attractive to me, I would not have such thoughts, and would turn down that woman for a date if such a scenario ever was possible, but that has nothing to do with my evaluation of that woman on any other axis of competence or worth. It is only relevant to that rather narrow question of "is she dating material?" which, when one is married, is really an academic question anyway, barring some sort of open marriage (which I definitely do not have).

Otherwise, I evaluate women the same way I evaluate men - based on competence and who they are. I don't quite understand why the question of whether or not I find a woman sexy should even enter into anything beyond that - maybe some men get flustered or something, or maybe they are just assholes, I don't know, but it just doesn't make any sense to me, particularly in a professional setting. Why would you screw about with your livelihood based on factors that have nothing to do with acheiving it? (Like why would you pick for a job someone you find sexy when they can't do the work over someone who will make you gobs of money but is not sexy to you? Particularly if you are married an unavailable anyway? Ok, I guess that goes back to the "asshole" theory above).

Why am I even posting about this? What is the point? To say that someone finding you sexy does not mean you won't be taken seriously and really shouldn't have any effect on anything beyond that narrow question - Does that person find you sexy? Which, usually, is nothing more than trivia, either way, unless both people are single and looking.

And thus ends another disjointed memorialization of my thoughts...

Hate Tolerance, Feminist Critics, and Equality

It was hard coming up with a title to convey everything that I was thinking of as I decided to make this post, so I did my best. What spurred me to actually write this was this post at Feminist Critics, though a lot of what is in this has been bouncing around my head for a while now.

The post referenced above got me going because I think it is ultimately an unfair criticism. Painting all who call themselves feminists as 'hate tolerant' because they don't protest the more extreme elements of radical feminism just isn't fair. To me, it brings to mind what is wrong with some brands of feminism, in that they paint with a broad brush, denigrating men for the same sort of thing, for not protesting things that other men do, for instance, male politicians or leaders, or CEOs, or criminals. And that simply isn't fair either. One is not responsible for the acts of others just because you share a demographic. You can show evidence of the one million of the worst mysoginistic men in existence, and it is irrelevant if you are using their existence and deeds to somehow reflect on me or on men, in general. I am not responsible for what others do. "Class men" is not responsible either. Particularly where the actual perpetrators of violence, and those in power are a very tiny fraction of the population. And so it is with feminism. The most radical feminists are only a fraction of the total number of feminists. Why should one have to prove "creds" by criticising them? True, there is one difference, in that the decision to be associated with the name 'feminist' is voluntary (while being a man really is not), but the basic principle is still the same.

It has been argued that the criticism should not be so stinging because if you are a feminist and you do criticise the bad elements of feminist radicals, then it "isn't about you" - but I think that sort of thing rings rather hollow, just as hollow as when it is said by feminists making thinly veiled generally-applicable misandrist statements and then saying men shouldn't be upset because if it doesn't describe them, it "isn't about them." I call bullshit on that.

So I don't really think it is valid to try and paint with a broad brush and apply the sins of few feminists against all feminists. It IS, of course, appropriate to criticise the hell out of the sins themselves. But don't attribute them to those who don't espouse them. Speaking of criticism, that brings me to my next point.

This post by Aposate also got my attention. While I agree with much of what she says, something in it stood out, where she said that 'I see “Feminist Critics” and I see zero value in it. ' That to me seemed rather dogmatic. What is she saying, that there is no value in criticising feminsim? That is what she has done in this post and in others. Or is it the idea of the site itself, having a site of non-feminists give critical analysis of feminism? I don't agree with everything on that site. I also think some of the comments can be rather obnoxious. That said, it is an order of magnitude better and more polite, more open to real discussion, than many many femisist sites I've seen and read. And even if one doesn't agree with most of what is on that site, I think it has value simply because of the dangers of echo chambers and the extremism that they breed. Avoiding discussion of feminism with people who haven't already drunk the cool-aid is another way to extremism. I try to read sites I don't agree with just to get other points of view. What is sad is that so many of those sites don't even let someone like me (who doesn't just blindly agree with everything the site sponsor says) make a comment, or if I do, I can get visciously attacked, as I illustrated in the echo chamber post (pointing here and here).

One last comment about feminsm (and this may be my last comment on that subject for a while - it feels like beating a dead horse and also there just doesn't seem to be too many people willing to discuss it (at least with me on this site - but then I don't claim to be the great source of discussion...))

I hear it often said that feminism is simply 'the radical notion that women are people.' Or that it is about equality or equal rights for women. And that is laudible and I agree with it. But something that I've noticed in my readings on feminism is that, really, that is not exactly true. That's something for the longest time that I could not quite put my finger on, that bothered me about feminism. The truth is, feminism is NOT about equality or women as people, not primarily. It is about promoting women. A subtle, but important difference. And I've noticed that one gets that true definition when someone, usually a man, attempts to use the first definition. Or rather, the definition put forth changes depending on the context.

If one is trying to show a person as unreasonable for saying something bad about feminism or for not supporting feminism, the first definition I mention above is used, to show just how unreasonable the person is for 'not seeing women as people' or for being against equality.

But then when the conversation is about actual equality, then the definition changes, and it really isn't about equality anymore, it is about promoting women, shedding light on issues important to women, etc. And so mere 'equality' is then said not to really be the point, but something more.

That bothers me. Because that, to me, sounds dishonest, or rather, is too convenient. Let me first just say that there is nothing wrong with a movement to promote women. I think it is needed for all the reasons you can think of. What bothers me is the dishonesty about pretending it is one thing when it is really something else. I don't know if I'm articulating this very well here. But basically, it just irks me to see it claimed that feminism is just about women as people or equality, when that really isn't true, those are secondary to feminsm. (And further, since very few people in this country would dispute that women are people or would advocate denying equality to women - it makes it seem to me that this is just a convenient definition used to bludgeon someone and avoid dealing with valid criticism of feminism).

In fact, I'll have to say, right now, the most troubling aspect of feminism, for me, is this false claim of 'its all about equality.' I'm all about equality. I have always thought women were people. But I don't claim to be a feminist. The fact that my support of equality is not enough to allow me to post in a feminist thread at amps I think is rather definitive proof that feminism is NOT primarily about equality. At least it is for me.

Again, to reiterate, there's nothing wrong with promoting women. Just admit that's what you are primarily about. Promoting women and women's issues. Not equality. It may seem like a silly or too-subtle difference, but it grates on me. One final thought on that - if one disputes my contention that feminists really don't do that definitional switchero - in other words, if someone takes issue with that and wants to argue that feminism really is mainly about women as people and equality, then would such a person, instead of criticising me, then label me a feminist because I share those views and call me part of the feminist movement because I embrace the core principles of feminism? If not, doesn't that suggest that I'm right?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happy Times

I thought I'd post on a more positive note today. I want to say, loudly and clearly, that I'm happy. Not that things couldn't be better. Not that there aren't lots of worries in the future - a new baby is after all, only 13 weeks away now. My job will evaporate in just over a year and I didn't get a new job I interviewed for a few months ago. I don't know what I'll be doing in a year. But despite those uncertainties (and worries about my wife's job as well, though mostly because of how dependent we are on her income, which even now is more than twice my own), I am happy.

This became most apparent to me yesterday when, as usual, I was home with my now two year, three month old daughter, sitting on my bed with the TV on, relaxing after work, waiting for my wife to come home (she usually comes home late). My daughter was in a very giggly mood, as she often is, and I was playing with her, swinging her around, tickling her, and just in general enjoying being with her while she enjoyed being with me. And I felt so very very happy. The feeling I had was that this was one of the happiest times in my life and that I'll probably be thinking back on this for a long time (this period in my life) as one of my happier times. Not that more happiness isn't to come. I'm sure it is. (I sure hope it is!) But that right now, I'm thankful and grateful and just plain happy that things are the way they are right now. Sure, in the future, we will have issues to deal with, but right now, we have a warm house, plenty of food, and plenty of quality time as a family. Those are the things that matter.

And joy of joys, I get to go pick up my daughter from day care in a few minutes and start another fun evening. Sure, it is work - picking her up, feeding her, getting her washed, and all of that. But it is so worth it. And the happiness is at a level higher than I think I've ever felt. I can't ever remember feeling so happy and content as I do in my life right now. So I'm going to savor it and enjoy it while it lasts and, at least for now, at least in good doses, not worry about anything else.