Michael Malice’s Red Pill Test

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

On a recent episode of his podcast, Michael Malice gave the following red pill test to his guest. I don’t agree with all of it, and I think it omits some things, but it’s still pretty good:

Do you agree that….

1. …the corporate press is the enemy of the people?
2. …conservatism is progressivism driving the speed limit?
3. …public schools are literally prisons for children?
4. …when it comes to Trump we don’t deserve him?
5. …the corporate press generally believes they’re your betters?
6. …progressivism is domesticated imperialism?
7. …the three legs of progressivism are the universities, media, and politics?
8. …the battle is won when the average American regards corporate journalists exactly the same as a tobacco executive?
9. …some people are better than others?
10. …Pinochet did nothing wrong?
11. …many people on the left wouldn’t care if you and your family were vanished?
12. …progressivism is a thinly-veiled fundamentalist faith?
13. …the biggest failing of the American Right is that Americans don’t understand how bad communism was?

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The Irishman and Joe Biden

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

Friends have noted that in THE IRISHMAN, Scorsese’s biopic of mobster Frank Sheeran, Sheeran comes off as a sort of Forrest Gump-type figure. He killed Hoffa! He ran guns to the guys who killed JFK! Many doubt the veracity of Sheeran’s tales, so who knows. He’s probably full of shit. But, interestingly if predictably, the movie omits a timely Sheeran remembrance of things past: how the Teamsters purportedly kickstarted the career of Joe Biden. It’s included in the book, but I haven’t seen a single reference to the episode in any review, probably because no one reads books anymore.

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Notes on Carousel/Liliom

Fenster writes:

Eddie Pensier, a child of the opera and a co-blogger here, got me going to the Met, and I am thankful for that.  But, still, I have never been much of a fan of Broadway musicals. Music class in my school in mid-century America was very heavy on the Rodgers and Hammerstein and I never really recovered.  Oh, I know a lot of the songs–my music teacher guaranteed that.  I will even now come down with a Bali Hai earworm from time to time, and work hard to get rid of it.  I will admit it: I mostly find R&H musicals to be stuffed with what Pauline Kael called “sickly, goody-goody songs”.

In retrospect I see this was a little unfair, especially to Richard Rodgers, whose songs written with Lorenz Hart crept up on me over time and completely won me over.  But I have continued to avoid his work with Oscar, and until recently had not seen the stage or screen versions of Oklahoma, The King and I, South Pacific, Flower Drum Song, The Sound of Music or Carousel.

I was recently in Budapest and determined to spend each night at a musical performance of some sort.  It was not hard to do.  Culture is a big deal in Budapest.


A store front next to my apartment.

There are lot of goings on. And so I was able to see a symphonic performance or recital every night I was there save the last night.  And then there it was: a Hungarian language performance of Carousel at the Budapest Operetta Theater.


I took the plunge.

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Posted in Movies, Music, Theater, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

S-t-e-a-m-boat A-Comin’!

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman. We had transient ambitions of other sorts, but they were only transient. When a circus came and went, it left us all burning to become clowns; the first negro minstrel show that came to our section left us all suffering to try that kind of life; now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates. These ambitions faded out, each in its turn; but the ambition to be a steamboatman always remained.

Once a day a cheap, gaudy packet arrived upward from St. Louis, and another downward from Keokuk. Before these events, the day was glorious with expectancy; after them, the day was a dead and empty thing. Not only the boys, but the whole village, felt this. After all these years I can picture that old time to myself now, just as it was then: the white town drowsing in the sunshine of a summer’s morning; the streets empty, or pretty nearly so; one or two clerks sitting in front of the Water Street stores, with their splint-bottomed chairs tilted back against the wall, chins on breasts, hats slouched over their faces, asleep—with shingle-shavings enough around to show what broke them down; a sow and a litter of pigs loafing along the sidewalk, doing a good business in watermelon rinds and seeds; two or three lonely little freight piles scattered about the ‘levee;’ a pile of ‘skids’ on the slope of the stone-paved wharf, and the fragrant town drunkard asleep in the shadow of them; two or three wood flats at the head of the wharf, but nobody to listen to the peaceful lapping of the wavelets against them; the great Mississippi, the majestic, the magnificent Mississippi, rolling its mile-wide tide along, shining in the sun; the dense forest away on the other side; the ‘point’ above the town, and the ‘point’ below, bounding the river-glimpse and turning it into a sort of sea, and withal a very still and brilliant and lonely one. Presently a film of dark smoke appears above one of those remote ‘points;’ instantly a negro drayman, famous for his quick eye and prodigious voice, lifts up the cry, ‘S-t-e-a-m-boat a-comin’!’ and the scene changes! The town drunkard stirs, the clerks wake up, a furious clatter of drays follows, every house and store pours out a human contribution, and all in a twinkling the dead town is alive and moving.

Drays, carts, men, boys, all go hurrying from many quarters to a common center, the wharf. Assembled there, the people fasten their eyes upon the coming boat as upon a wonder they are seeing for the first time. And the boat is rather a handsome sight, too. She is long and sharp and trim and pretty; she has two tall, fancy-topped chimneys, with a gilded device of some kind swung between them; a fanciful pilot-house, a glass and ‘gingerbread’, perched on top of the ‘texas’ deck behind them; the paddle-boxes are gorgeous with a picture or with gilded rays above the boat’s name; the boiler deck, the hurricane deck, and the texas deck are fenced and ornamented with clean white railings; there is a flag gallantly flying from the jack-staff; the furnace doors are open and the fires glaring bravely; the upper decks are black with passengers; the captain stands by the big bell, calm, imposing, the envy of all; great volumes of the blackest smoke are rolling and tumbling out of the chimneys—a husbanded grandeur created with a bit of pitch pine just before arriving at a town; the crew are grouped on the forecastle; the broad stage is run far out over the port bow, and an envied deckhand stands picturesquely on the end of it with a coil of rope in his hand; the pent steam is screaming through the gauge-cocks, the captain lifts his hand, a bell rings, the wheels stop; then they turn back, churning the water to foam, and the steamer is at rest. Then such a scramble as there is to get aboard, and to get ashore, and to take in freight and to discharge freight, all at one and the same time; and such a yelling and cursing as the mates facilitate it all with! Ten minutes later the steamer is under way again, with no flag on the jack-staff and no black smoke issuing from the chimneys. After ten more minutes the town is dead again, and the town drunkard asleep by the skids once more.

My father was a justice of the peace, and I supposed he possessed the power of life and death over all men and could hang anybody that offended him. This was distinction enough for me as a general thing; but the desire to be a steamboatman kept intruding, nevertheless. I first wanted to be a cabin-boy, so that I could come out with a white apron on and shake a tablecloth over the side, where all my old comrades could see me; later I thought I would rather be the deckhand who stood on the end of the stage-plank with the coil of rope in his hand, because he was particularly conspicuous. But these were only day-dreams,—they were too heavenly to be contemplated as real possibilities. By and by one of our boys went away. He was not heard of for a long time. At last he turned up as apprentice engineer or ‘striker’ on a steamboat. This thing shook the bottom out of all my Sunday-school teachings. That boy had been notoriously worldly, and I just the reverse; yet he was exalted to this eminence, and I left in obscurity and misery. There was nothing generous about this fellow in his greatness. He would always manage to have a rusty bolt to scrub while his boat tarried at our town, and he would sit on the inside guard and scrub it, where we could all see him and envy him and loathe him. And whenever his boat was laid up he would come home and swell around the town in his blackest and greasiest clothes, so that nobody could help remembering that he was a steamboatman; and he used all sorts of steamboat technicalities in his talk, as if he were so used to them that he forgot common people could not understand them. He would speak of the ‘labboard’ side of a horse in an easy, natural way that would make one wish he was dead. And he was always talking about ‘St. Looy’ like an old citizen; he would refer casually to occasions when he ‘was coming down Fourth Street,’ or when he was ‘passing by the Planter’s House,’ or when there was a fire and he took a turn on the brakes of ‘the old Big Missouri;’ and then he would go on and lie about how many towns the size of ours were burned down there that day. Two or three of the boys had long been persons of consideration among us because they had been to St. Louis once and had a vague general knowledge of its wonders, but the day of their glory was over now. They lapsed into a humble silence, and learned to disappear when the ruthless ‘cub’-engineer approached. This fellow had money, too, and hair oil. Also an ignorant silver watch and a showy brass watch chain. He wore a leather belt and used no suspenders. If ever a youth was cordially admired and hated by his comrades, this one was. No girl could withstand his charms. He ‘cut out’ every boy in the village. When his boat blew up at last, it diffused a tranquil contentment among us such as we had not known for months. But when he came home the next week, alive, renowned, and appeared in church all battered up and bandaged, a shining hero, stared at and wondered over by everybody, it seemed to us that the partiality of Providence for an undeserving reptile had reached a point where it was open to criticism.

This creature’s career could produce but one result, and it speedily followed. Boy after boy managed to get on the river. The minister’s son became an engineer. The doctor’s and the post-master’s sons became ‘mud clerks;’ the wholesale liquor dealer’s son became a barkeeper on a boat; four sons of the chief merchant, and two sons of the county judge, became pilots. Pilot was the grandest position of all. The pilot, even in those days of trivial wages, had a princely salary—from a hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty dollars a month, and no board to pay. Two months of his wages would pay a preacher’s salary for a year. Now some of us were left disconsolate. We could not get on the river—at least our parents would not let us.

So by and by I ran away. I said I never would come home again till I was a pilot and could come in glory. But somehow I could not manage it. I went meekly aboard a few of the boats that lay packed together like sardines at the long St. Louis wharf, and very humbly inquired for the pilots, but got only a cold shoulder and short words from mates and clerks. I had to make the best of this sort of treatment for the time being, but I had comforting daydreams of a future when I should be a great and honored pilot, with plenty of money, and could kill some of these mates and clerks and pay for them.

— Mark Twain

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Notes on “The Exterminating Angels”

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

The 2006 “The Exterminating Angels,” the middle part of what I take to be writer-director Jean-Claude Brisseau’s trilogy on the subject of the modern young woman, is too severe to be effective as trash and too devoted to extremeness to be accepted as art by most Americans. It’s a philosophical work that intentionally muddles the physically and conceptually outré — a French specialty. The plot concerns a film director named François — an obvious stand-in for Brisseau — who is auditioning actresses for an erotic thriller. The aspirants, young and lithesome, compete for his attention, each attempting to impress the filmmaker with her audaciousness. (The actresses, mostly unknowns, are uniformly daring and touchingly vulnerable in extremis.) François watches them, obviously aroused yet mindful of his role as observer and interpreter. He’s trying to get at something: the place where pleasure overlaps with savagery, where sex becomes dangerous. He’s foolish enough to imagine that he can preserve his analytical distance. In some ways François is the everyman counterpart of the frankly Satanic Christophe from Brisseau’s previous film, “Secret Things.” Where Christophe consciously destroys young women, François’ tutelage takes the guise of art. It’s unintentionally destructive, but destructive just the same. Only towards the picture’s end does François realize that by encouraging these girls to succumb to passion he’s thrown himself into the gaping maw of Pandora’s Box. The girls thank him for freeing them, then hate him for the same reason. Eventually they have François thrown in jail for harassment. (Using the language of occultism, one of them accuses him of “initiating” her.) Questions concerning passion, fidelity, voyeurism, performance, and the nature of male-female relations are raised and never quite answered (that’s a feature not a bug). Contra those who see “The Exterminating Angels” as nothing more than a horndog’s indulgence, I think it’s one of the few recent movies about sex that can stake a claim to a moral point of view. (“Showgirls” and the aforementioned “Secret Things” are two others.) The pair of fallen angels who inspire François, and occasionally intervene in his favor, are perhaps unnecessary, but they lend a fatalistic air to the proceedings, and invoke the supernatural agency on which Brisseau’s work thrives. Partially based on Brisseau’s experience filming “Secret Things,” “The Exterminating Angels” anticipated MeToo by over 10 years. Amusingly, it was distributed in the States by the Weinstein Company.

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The Veil of Onondaga

Fenster writes:


Why is it that people who say they are speaking truth to power are often the ones with the power?

Why is it that people who claim they are being bullied are actually the bullies?

Why is it that people who are the safest often claim the highest levels of fear and terror?

All irony is apparent not real.  It disappears under the microscope.  You get a little frisson in your brain when it chafes at a juxtaposition, sensing that objects that should be distinct are too close to one another.  But there they are.  Pick at the ironic proposition a little and you find that it has its own logic and consistency.

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Notes on “Tuff Turf”

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


The 1985 “Tuff Turf” is an intriguing cult item and a key entry in the James Spader canon. Spader’s Morgan moves to L.A. from Connecticut. His Angeleno friends speak of Connecticut the way a fur trader of the Upper Missouri might speak of Boston; when they say the name of the state, they pronounce the second C. Screenwriter Jette Rinck hasn’t decided what Morgan represents, so he (or is it she?) has him represent everything. He’s a vigilante, a privileged white kid, a busted down-and-outer, a ladies’ man, gay. Spader shoulders each of these personalities with equal enthusiasm; he’s some kind of chameleon. “Tuff Turf” isn’t as knowing as a Jack Hill movie, but it often moves like one; it has Hill’s energy and his dive-bomber approach to genre. The main narrative thrust is Morgan’s bullying at the hands of a crew of ethnic-looking high schoolers. (The idea is that L.A. is some kind of barely civilized backwater, filled with vaguely Mexican characters possessed of rough manners and rougher haircuts.) They’re bigger than Morgan, and more masculine, and there’s real subversiveness and kink in the way their jockeying for status trips into mutual torment. A scene in which Spader is whipped in a white-tiled bathroom is almost pornographic in emphasis. Spader is a real object here. He has Anne Wiazemsky’s face and George Michael’s hair. For the first two-thirds, director Fritz Kiersch maintains a high level of energy. When he doesn’t know what to do, he throws in a musical sequence. At one point he even has Spader sit down at a piano and lip-sync to a crooned ballad. In the final third Kiersch attempts to transition to a minor key, and the movie loses something. The editing is consistently idiosyncratic, wobbling between cut-rate New Wave lyricism and Eisensteinian percussiveness. I love the party scene. Former Disney star Kim Richards seems to be having a lot of fun dressing up as a bad girl and doing what she can to draw Morgan’s interest away from doe-eyed Robert Downey, Jr.

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