Monthly Archives: February 2009

30′s movies marathon – part 19

Captains Courageous (1937, USA) – A spoiled rich kid learns the joy of honest labor. The star here isn’t Spencer Tracy, but the kid, Freddie Bartholomew, who manages to be both obnoxious and likeable. Watched it all.

Charlie Chan at the Olympics (1937, USA) – This is the most stupid crime movie I’ve ever seen. Charlie Chan, a Chinese-American detective who speaks easternish platitudes in broken English, travels to the Berlin Olympics to retrieve a stolen gizmo. Watched: 43 minutes, in hope of seing a portrayal of Nazi Berlin, but the movie takes place in an alternate universe where Hitler never happened.

Blake of Scotland Yard (1937, USA) – The British really sucked at movies in the 30′s, didn’t they? A scientist invents a giant death ray, hoping thereby to end all war, presumably by obliterating the enemy. Watched: 9 minutes.

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937, USA) – Grown-up children don’t care about their sad, lonely, old parents. Watched: 32 minutes. IMDB reviewers say not to watch this if you feel suicidal.

Heidi (1937, USA) – Opens with Shirley Temple stripping(!), followed by Shirley Temple being cute. I loathe Shirley Temple, and I suspect her fans. Watched: 8 minutes.

Black Legion (1937, USA) – Didactic drama about the rise of a KKK-like movement of working class fascists. Not good, but it’s the first 30′s movie I’ve seen so far to deal with the most relevant subject of the decade. Watched: 38 minutes.

Not a girl, not even a person, just an empty hat

A new Joss Whedon series can be taken on faith. There’s no point in hyping it, because we all know what he can do. There’s no need to fear a flop, for the same reason. You can simply take it for what it is, and wait for the magic.

That is so rare on television.

In Dollhouse, a company rents out brainwashed operatives to act out scenarios for their clients, from being the perfect girlfriend for a weekend, (ie. prostitution), to being the world’s greatest hostage negotiator. After every mission their minds are wiped, ready for another imprint.

In other words, they’re a sort of shady Phoenix Foundation, a Section One for hire, providing the series with both a universal plot generator and plenty of arc opportunities. I like it when Joss Whedon has options. Joss Whedon should always have options.

“So, is it any good?” Wrong question. It would be the right question for, say, the next J. J. Abrams series, but not for the next Joss Whedon series. There is a time for every event under heaven. A time to be skeptical and ask if the premise really makes sense, and a time to just believe and put on your “Joss Whedon is my master now” t-shirt.

Well, okay then, for ye unbelievers: It’s good.

Do you take off your wooden leg before you make love to your wife?

I like the part of the counterculture that was offensive, funny and nutty. People like George Carlin, Robert Crumb – and Paul Krassner.

Krassner was editor of The Realist, a satirical underground magazine best known for the 1967 hoax The Parts That Were Left Out of The Kennedy Book, a supposedly censored excerpt from a Kennedy biography where Lyndon Johnson is caught fucking the bullet-hole in the neck of Kennedy’s corpse. I think that’s pretty funny. I think the aftermath is funnier: Some people, including Daniel Ellsberg, seriously considered that the story might be true. (The same issue contained the equally famous Disneyland Memorial Orgy cartoon.)

Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut collects these and other stories from Krassner’s life: about his friendship with Lenny Bruce, how he introduced Groucho Marx to LSD, his bizarre time as editor of Hustler, and his career with the Yippies.

Once, as an experiment, he decided to stop laughing, which triggered an onset of P. K. Dickian paranoia, and he spent a year in a world of cosmic conspiracies.

Well, maybe the drugs played a role too. Anyway, he got over it, (the paranoia and the not laughing, that is) – and he still performs stand-up comedy.

The book also contains my all-time favourite opening line of an autobiography: “I first woke up at the age of six.” When did you wake up?

[Insert random meaningless lyrics here]

There’s good music, and there’s bad music, and then there’s eurobeat, which is both.

You know McDonald’s strawberry milkshakes? I love McDonald’s strawberry milkshakes. It both isn’t food and transcends food, creating a delicious synthetic world of its own.

Now imagine a 0,4l cup of espresso that tastes like strawberry milkshake. That’s eurobeat. Sometimes, when I really, really need to get things done, I listen to this stuff at work for hours. Days, even, but that’s putting a strain on my sanity.

There are only two possible reactions to this music: 1) God, that’s terrible. 2) God, that’s terrible, (but I still haven’t pressed stop.)

But how would you kill a million?

It’s only looking back on Michael Moorcock’s four Pyat novels, ending with The Vengeance of Rome, that I appreciate how funny they are. You wouldn’t think that a series about the life of a fascist who spends time in Dachau could (or should) be funny, but it is.

Moorcock has turned the inter-war period into one long orgy of sex and cocaine, a grotesque farce as told by a liar. After moving quickly in and out of favor with Mussolini in Rome, the exiled Russian Jew-in-denial Pyat comes to Munich, where he becomes Ernst Röhm’s lover, and, briefly, (in a shocking scene worthy of The Aristocrats), Hitler’s cross-dressing dominatrix. Pyat still dreams of a technocratic utopia, he designs gigantic tanks and other impossible weapons for his friends to build. But in the end he’s just a drug addict who jumps from one bed to the next.

It’s funny, in a very brutal way. But the comedy is not for fun. Moorcock is deadly serious. He’s trying to capture the mindset of the people who exterminated the Jews. The preposterous and grotesque events here are not Moorcock’s way of playing light with fascism and nazism, they’re his way of taking them seriously, while avoiding the clichés of Holocaust fiction. The madness follows naturally from that.

The result is full of insights into fascism, presented with disturbing vividness. I love it. The Pyat Quartet is, as a whole, one of the great novels of our time.

30′s movies marathon – part 18

The Lower Depths (1936, France) – A thief, a bankrupt baron, and assorted poor people live in a lodging house. Based on Maxim Gorky’s play. I think I rather like socialist realism, especially when it’s done with grim humor. Watched it all.

Big Brown Eyes (1936, USA) – Fast-talking crime comedy, with many right ingredients, but I just don’t care. Watched: 10 minutes.

Winds of the Wasteland (1936, USA) – These old westerns almost make me not like westerns any more. How dreadful! Watched: 8 minutes.

Mayerling (1936, France) – Wonderful historical romance. The crown prince of Austria-Hungary finds the love of his life in 1880s Vienna. Correct in the outline, though the events are a matter of historical controversy to this day. Watched it all.

Klondike Annie (1936, USA) – Any definition of pornography that doesn’t include Mae West’s smile is deficient. But she can’t act, and neither can anyone else in this movie. Watched: 16 minutes.

San Francisco (1936, USA) – I am prejudiced against movies that begin by solemnly informing you that the uninteresting people (including Clark Gable at his most despiccable) you’re about to meet may all die horribly at the end. In this case the disaster is the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, but the same applies to, say, the Titanic and Pearl Harbor. Watched: 11 minutes.

Wedding Present (1936, USA) – Cary Grant, the man’s man who put modern boy-men to shame, (yes!), plays a boy-man with an annoying sense of humor. Watched: 8 minutes.

Si ja til ansvarlig piratkopiering

Jeg har vokst opp med piratkulturen. Før internet ble utbredt kopierte jeg spill på disketter fra venner. Jeg satt i en time og ventet på nedlastingen av min første stakkars lille mp3-fil, og jeg husker hvordan vi alle måpte da vi så The Matrix i DivX-format.

Hvis du sier nei til piratkopiering, sier det meg først og fremst at du tilhører en annen verden, en annen generasjon. Som påstand gir det meg like lite mening som å si at du er mot fargen blå.

Det mange har oversett er at piratkopiering kan misbrukes. Nettop fordi ingen kan hindre deg i å gjøre hva du vil, ligger det et ekstra ansvar på deg. Hvis du laster ned, og laster ned, og laster ned, og bare en sjelden gang kjøper, så er du en snylter. Ja, jeg snakker til dere, voksne pirater med fast inntekt.

Ansvarlig piratkopiering er å hente ned hva du vil, men kjøpe det du finner som er bra. Med det oppnår du to ting: Du belønner favorittkunstnerne dine. Og du sender et signal til film- og musikkbransjen om at akkurat denne artisten eller regissøren, eller akkurat denne sjangeren, vil vi ha mer av.

Og da får vi det. Er det ikke genialt? Det nytter lite å klage på all den dårlige musikken og de dårlige filmene, hvis du ikke er villig til å betale for det som er bra.

Og hva er det som hjelper oss å finne det som er bra? Nettop: Piratkopiering. Så hent i vei – og kjøp.

All was well in the world, because there were nine planets, and the ninth planet was Pluto

Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astronomer who “killed Pluto” (OMG!!) talks about how to define a planet, and why it really doesn’t matter how many planets we have.

About why people were so upset about Pluto:

You know what I think it was? Because I put a fair amount of thought into this. When you learn something early in elementary school, and – you didn’t learn what things were, you just memorized something – that’s really what happened there. If you memorized something, and then later on that breaks, you feel like something attacked you. The memorization of the planets was kind of like an intellectual version of comfort food. All was well in the world, because there were nine planets, and the ninth planet was Pluto. And you memorized it. Had you learned that these were dynamic bodies, that had these properties, and then you learned that there were new objects that had new properties, I don’t think people would have gotten upset. [..] My hope is that in the textbooks to come, there will not be an exercise in memorizing planets.

Which is a good excuse to link to Richard Feynman’s essay on what science is.