Would you want the interwebs to vote on whether you get to keep your job?

torches_pitchforks

Can we stop this?

We all now live in an early 20th century midwestern small town, where a person’s moral worth is discussed and decided over back fences by people with nothing better to do. And where a single sin gets you banned both from church and from drinking at the American Legion.

Take a break from the daily outrage, everybody, and make sure the rent is up to date on your own glass house.

The “Last Tango” Twitter Storm

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According to some, our current time should be called the Post-Truth Era, which has brought us our first Post-Truth President aided by (among other things) dozens of post-truth “news” stories, articles, statements, and tweets.

The “Last Tango actress was raped” story, which went viral these past couple days, is a good example of what Post-Truth looks like, how it behaves, and how hard it is to combat.

Some facts before I continue:

No, ‘Last Tango in Paris’ Director Did Not Say Marlon Brando Committed Rape
3 December 2016 5:54 PM, PST | The Wrap | See recent The Wrap news »

The 1972 film “Last Tango in Paris” was pilloried across the internet this weekend over the belief that director Bernardo Bertolucci had admitted that a rape scene between stars Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider was an actual rape. But in an interview a decade ago, Schneider herself said that no sex of any kind took place during the scene, in which then-48-year-old Brando’s character uses butter to have anal sex with the 19-year-old Schneider. In fact, she said she felt “a little bit raped” by her director and co-star because they manipulated and coerced her into doing the scene, »
– Tim Molloy

I had to search for the Tim Molloy retraction article above. Every other publication (and social media, of course) went with the click-bait version that Bertolucci and Brando raped Maria Schneider on camera in a movie you’ve seen. And Bertolucci is finally coming clean after all these years.

Except, none of that happened. There was no rape. There was no real sex, consensual or otherwise. And the Bertolucci interview was from 2013, not now. Oh, and he didn’t say what those articles said he said. He said what Tim Molloy said he said.

There is an interesting discussion in this general area. Several actually. About power relationships (and abuses of same) in Hollywood and the wider world. About what is permissible in Art to obtain (or hope to obtain) a great performance. We could bring up the recent Profiles theater scandal. And talk about Balanchine. And that horrid studio director who made child actor Jackie Cooper cry on camera by telling him his dog had died. And the butter scene in Last Tango will be a good addition to that discussion. Along with dozens of other mindfucking directorial stunts from that era and before and after. We can talk about the psychic price of emotional coercion. And the extra responsibilities one should feel toward a young person that you’re about to turn into an overnight star.Truffaut clearly felt such responsibility, Bertolucci didn’t. He didn’t care about anything but his film.

I would love to have these discussions .. and many more on similar topics … and you’ll probably find that we agree on most of them. I’m not a fan of the tactics mentioned above. Or of the behavior. In the service of Art or personal pleasure or anything else.

What we can’t have is a discussion about rape in relation to Last Tango in Paris (1972). Because no rape occurred. And no sex happened, consensual or otherwise. It was rated X for nudity and language and adult situations as portrayed by actors. Not C for Crimes.

Here, let Maria Schneider tell you. Again. She stated that not only was there no actual sex in the infamous “butter scene,” but no real sex in the movie, period. “Not at all,” Schneider said.

Who starts these things? Who sat in a room somewhere, happened to see a three-year-old interview with Bertolucci who’s nearly 80 now and hasn’t made a film in years, decided to distort his statements just enough to get attention, then watched the Internet version of the Telephone Game spin out. Who does this? And what do they get from it?

I lost friends over this, by simply stating that the story didn’t happen the way they had heard it did. They were only Facebook friends, but, hey, in times like these we need all the friends we have.

And here’s a depressing thought. If it’s this hard to cry bullshit on fake 50-year-old movie gossip, how the fuck are we ever going to correct the record on stories of national import.

How will we ever get a real President again? One who’s sort of friendly to the truth. Who’s Post-Post-Truth.You know?

Death to Memes!

Okay, so maybe your friend is having a bad day and you decide that posting a little inspirational message (in pretty type or accompanied by a nice photograph or funny drawing) on facebook might be just the thing to cheer them up.

That is a nice thing to do. Sending good thoughts over the interwebs.  And, you never know, it might cheer your friend up. So I guess I don’t want death to all funny pictures and quippy quotes. But can we, please, stop trying to elect our President by meme?

First of all, posting memes for your candidate doesn’t accomplish anything … really … except to remind all your friends, yet again, who you’re voting for. I don’t know of a single voter who (upon being polled regarding why they support a particular candidate) replied, “I saw this meme on twitter and just knew – right then – John Kasich was my guy!”

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And it’s not like you’re starting a meme discussion. You post a Hillary meme, then your cousin posts a Bernie meme in response, then you answer her with another Hillary meme and she Bernie-memes back, and so on and so on  until one of you finally concedes and says, “Okay, your memes win. I’m changing my vote!”

If you take my advice and stop meming, think of all the time you’ll be freeing up in your schedule. Time to spend with loved ones. Or getting exercise. Or thinking up something of your own to say. And who can tell where all that stuff might lead? ‘Cause, you know …

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Which Guy Always Needs His Phone?

And which guy could safely leave it at home?

If you guessed that the ER doctor on call needs his cell phone with him at all times, you win! Having his phone could save lives. And your prize for picking the ER doctor is your choice of a) a library card; b) a trip to a museum; or c) a romantic evening with your significant other.

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If you picked this guy, you lose. And you’re probably one of the 6 billion or so non-ER doctors who pretty much never need their phone. Everything that’s happening on it can wait until you get home. Your punishment for picking loser guy is a) a library card; b) a trip to a museum; or c) a romantic evening with your significant other.

Steve Jobs – Villain or Villain?

Steven PaulSteveJobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011)

How do I hate thee, Steve Jobs? Let me count the ways.

Yes, I know it’s his birthday – Jobs would have turned 60 today – and therefore churlish, but let  me count them anyway. I’m four years too late to send him an exploding cake.

exploding cakeMost Jobs haters would start with the fact that he was a complete prick: he screwed over his business partners, fucked over his handful of friends, refused to acknowledge paternity of his first daughter and support her until forced, engaged in a felonious stock swindle because his sorry entitled ass hadn’t been feeling “special” lately, and made his employees feel both unappreciated at work and miserable at home for no reason other than Jobs’s own need to feel powerful and important. Apple products would have been just as successful – possibly more so – with half the mishegoss and none of the sociopathology.

A recent just-okay documentary and a hyperventilated feature (by Danny Boyle) portrayed these and Jobs’s other personal transgressions reasonably well, but none of that matters to me in the least. I didn’t work for Steve Jobs or know him personally, so his prickness is water cooler gossip – nothing more – and doesn’t make me “think different” about the products he supervised and marketed. Things that do matter (because they have impact beyond one businessman’s inner circle) include the following: an already rich Apple used virtual slave labor in China to make a rich Jobs and the company’s rich stockholders exponentially richer; Apple shipped countless other jobs overseas that could have stayed home, again to make the filthy rich filthier; Apple (and Jobs personally) used tax dodges and other morally indefensible behavior to make sure the United States government and its people enjoyed sparse benefit from this made-in-America company’s success.

Some of the the above, fairly standard Robber Baron stuff (worthy of a lesser Koch brother, Bill maybe) wouldn’t bother me as much if Jobs hadn’t pretended to be this real spiritual dude, an acid-dropping hippie dude, the Sad-Eyed Dylan of the Microchips. No, Steverino, you weren’t any of those things. You weren’t even an inventor, man. You were just Henry Ford in designer jeans. And, for a few years – the NEXT years, after the Board of Apple sent you into exile – you were Edsel Ford in Target-wear.

think_different_2-wallpaper-1280x800A lot of business guys – even narcissistic possible sociopaths such as Jobs – would settle for Henry Ford on a casual Friday with unimaginable wealth, but not the guy who used to pass out hand-written Dylan songs to potential girlfriends as if to say: “See, this is who I really am.” No, Steve, that is who Bob Dylan was and is and who you never could be.  You were a little better at writing code than song lyrics, but not by much. And you don’t belong in a photo alongside important people of history – some of whom were geniuses – any more than whoever is currently president of McCann Erickson.

apple cartoon

One of the worst things about Steve Jobs’s delusion that he was a creator, a visionary, a genius on a par with his Much Betters and More Importants was that he persuaded so many others … mostly young people … to share it. Thereby cheapening (possibly forever) the idea of what it means to be those things. And popularizing the notion that you can acquire them – and just about any quality, really – through the purchase of the right technology. You can download creativity. Sample vision. Remix yourself into a genius. At least for a moment. In your own mind. And on your screensaver.

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Information Wants to Be Free

Well, if that’s true, information got its wish.

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Boy, did it ever.

And, as a result, news and entertainment empires have crumbled, other industries still scramble to adjust, cultural authority has dissolved, and most of the fun jobs – musician, writer, photographer, actor, editor, filmmaker, etc. – have mostly been turned into hobbies.

Where we – buskers, all – play for hat money.

buskers 2

A brief history lesson. It was Stewart Brand (editor of the Whole Earth Catalog in the 1960s and the founder of The WELL and other “virtual communities” in the 1980s) who first uttered the words: “Information wants to be free.” Aptly enough, they were uttered at the first Hackers Conference in 1984 – I find both event and year ironic – and they were said to Steve Wozniak of Apple. Which I also find ironic. Here’s the full quote:

“On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”

Brand’s words – in and out of context – have been debated and distorted ever since; their meaning tends to change depending on who is doing the quoting. When computer scientists say them, for instance, they generally mean the cost of producing information has gotten progressively lower. And that, once information leaves the control of its source, it becomes virtually impossible to prevent its replication and wide distribution.

In other words, once the digital horse has left the barn, good luck ever getting it back.

When technology activists quote (or misquote) Brand, they are usually arguing against the tyranny of intellectual property rights and the oppression of the big bad corporations that preceded the bigger, badder corporations who profit from all that free intellectual property now.

When college students say it, they just mean they don’t want to pay for music, movies, TV, or anything else they can share or steal off the Net. And, when a whole generation has grown up acquiring the stuff they want for free, how does that particular horse get back in the barn?

All of which is a roundabout way of saying, “Welcome to My Blog.”

It already has some information, uploaded and retooled in a holiday frenzy. And it will acquire fresh information on a more or less daily basis. Which will mostly consist of my views and re-views of culture, politics, and history in more than 140 characters (i.e., the length of a tweet).

And, although my blog doesn’t actually “want” to be free, it is. So read what you find here at your pleasure. And your periodic displeasure … if I’m doing my unpaid job well. Feel free to pass it along.

And Happy 2016!

That time I read a book

That time I read a book …

Then got in a heated discussion over coffee with three old friends about what the author meant. Then started another book. Then took a date to a play and talked to the actors after. And picked up fliers in the lobby for another friend’s production and one for the revival house showing German New Wave films. Then stopped at a used bookstore right before it closed and bought two more books. Then met six friends at a bar where we went to hear another friend sing. And everyone (including some people we’d just met) went back to the singer’s apartment and talked through the night.

That time before the internet and laptops and cell phones and TV on demand in your pocket. That time before men (and women) became islands.

That time when I still had a brain.

young people talking