Saturday, January 09, 2016

From a Certain Point of View

Why I Don't Allow Anonymous Comments on Any of My Social Media

I was watching someone this morning get into a fight with some Gamergaters on Tumblr, and once again I was glad that I don't engage in a lot of arguments anymore on Blogger or Tumblr. I'm sure that makes this blog less interesting to read, but my peace of mind is worth a lot more to me.

I'm actually on my third blog on Tumblr. My first was deleted around 2011 when I was reported for harassment. The person who reported me was actually a virulent and dangerous bully who thought it would be fun to make a friend of mine think she was being stalked. When I called her out by name and url, she reported me and my blog was deleted. Oh, well. I made a new one, and a new one after that.

But ever since then--and a number of other fight incidents--I've disabled the ability to reach me anonymously. There were a lot of people following me back then who were friendly to my face and sending me hate messages and bullying notes when given the opportunity to hide their identities. And since I don't exactly think the best of people in the first place, I decided to cut it off. And here on the blog, too. The pointless, endless fights just aren't worth it.

Someone was asking me on Tumblr why I don't allow anonymous comments, and it just made me suspicious of them. What mean thing do they want to say to me that they're too cowardly to put an identity to? I suppose I could just be paranoid, but... well, that was the case before: friendly to my face, cruel with a mask on.

Look, I'm fat. I'm not really attractive, but I dare to post pictures of myself online. I lean left politically, especially socially. I'm anti-gun. I'm anti-war. I think we should take in more refugees. I'm pro-LGBT and pretty open about being bisexual. I think Black Lives Matter. I think libertarians are ridiculous. I love The Phantom Menace. I am mentally ill. I am poor. I'm receiving public aid, including Medicaid. I'm too old to like cartoons and know who Maddie Ziegler is. I like pictures of naked women. These are all polarizing things that people can't stand, and they want to send me hate-filled messages about them. And I don't want to hear those messages because, as an abuse survivor, I don't need messages that validate the negative thoughts I have about myself. But even if that wasn't the case... who cares? Who cares if some asshole is angry because I felt good one afternoon and wanted to post a photo of myself drinking an Icee? (Yeah, that's something I got a snarky, anonymous comment about once.)

I don't really want that person to have the momentary, immediate satisfaction of calling me a name or trying to make me feel bad about myself just to make themselves feel less weak for a second. Find another way to be empowered.

And some people have opinions that I honestly consider... brutal. Brutal and hypocritical, especially when it comes to poverty and social welfare and the economy and race and politics in general. And I feel like engaging those opinions--particularly in a civil conversation--just legitimizes them. These are people who tend to identify themselves as "Christians" and "patriots" and then act like anything but, and who provoke other people into being angry so that they can pretend they're just getting vitriol over their beliefs and not because they're acting like assholes. They think pushing a liberal to be anything other than polite and civil is "proof" that people who believe in social justice aren't as compassionate as we claim. I'm not going to reward your barbarism with civility so you can feel like your merciless arrogance is somehow respected and tolerated as a legitimate opinion. I'm not going to validate you by caving in to respectability politics. Sorry, you can find someone else to play that game with.

It's not like national debates are going to be settled by two strangers on the internet and the tone with which they write messages.

I see a lot of people who say "You just don't want to be disagreed with." And that's not actually true. But at the same time, as someone with no power or influence... who the hell cares? That's just a self-serving way of getting mad at me for not wanting to subject myself to your negativity.

Friday, January 08, 2016

This Week in Neat-O

:: AV Club has an interesting article breaking down some of Fargo's excellent second season soundtrack.

:: Did you see Aretha Franklin's performance of "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" at the Kennedy Center Honors last month? That woman is a national treasure.''

:: This Is Why Poor People's Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense

:: John Oliver on New Year's Resolutions.

:: David Bowie's birthday is today. Happy 69th, Dave! Want to know what he was doing when he was your age? Here you go.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen since mid-December.

I'm so glad I finally got to spend a day watching Satyajit Ray's acclaimed Apu Trilogy. I've always wanted to see these films, and I'm kind of glad it took me this long to get to them, because I got to see them in what are apparently recent 4K restorations. These films tell the story of Apu, from birth to adulthood, as he grows, learns, and experiences happiness and tragedy. These are gorgeous films to look at; sumptuously detailed, but not showy. They are about the humanity that exists across India, in diverse regions, and the way we alternately connect and disconnect from one another, be it our parents, our friends, our children, our ways of life, or even ourselves. All of the films are great, although Aparajito suffers a little from being a middle passage between two films, but Apur Sansar is probably the one that affected me the most, where Apu goes with a wedding to a friend, finds himself becoming the groom in order to save the bride from embarrassment, and goes on a journey that leads to something of a self-acceptance that I found very moving. These are sincere, beautiful, mysterious films that I really can't do justice to by summarizing them. They tell the story of a life, but in a way, they embody life and its tragedy and its optimism. **** for each.

I liked it. I went over this already, but that's all I really feel like saying about it. ***1/2

One of Eric Rohmer's "Moral Tales," this one about the mind games two men play with each other and with a beautiful young girl staying at a villa with them over the summer. The men are mostly idle; they are intellectuals and concern themselves with dissecting the girl, Haydee, a free spirit with many lovers and admirers. The film's narrator, Adrien, is unreliable, and works on many assumptions he has but never really questions, secure in his intellectual superiority over Haydee, who is quiet and more insightful than he condescendingly gives her credit for. As in most of the "Moral Tales," Adrien's morality is not meant to be a universal morality, but one that he has fashioned for himself, and which has questionable conclusions. An interesting movie, the first ever shot by the great Nestor Almendros. ***

Another in the "Moral Tales" series, and probably my second-favorite. It mainly revolves around a conversation that occurs one Christmas night. Jean-Louis is a Catholic man in his thirties hoping to marry a woman he admires from afar; Maud is his best friend's lover, a divorcee who values honesty to the point of being blunt. They spend the night in her apartment and talk for a long time, getting to know one another, talking about love, sex, marriage, the future, philosophy, friendship... it's an excellently-observed scene, and the ramifications of that conversation and a moment of near-intimacy echo into the future. Takes are held for a long time... this is the kind of film that reminds you how exciting acting can be when characters are allowed to regard one another and relate to one another, instead of reciting lines of dialogue at one another in close-ups. ****

Another film by Satyajit Ray, this one concerned with the passage of time as the old world gives way to a new one. The main character is a landlord who lives in a palace by the sea. His palace is crumbling and he spends his days in idleness, his money running out and his house staff dwindling. Still, he insists on throwing lavish concerts in his ornate music room as a show of status, clinging to his old lifestyle even as the nouveau riche pop up around him. He will have everyone know his place, even if it costs him everything. It's a powerful, evocative film. Roger Ebert compared it, rightly so, to King Lear, as a story about a man with whom we sympathize even as he stubbornly indulges his vanity. ****

A disturbing, psychological film about a child abduction. When the child goes missing, the cop on the case (Elizabeth Banks) becomes haunted by a similar case she worked seven years before, in which two 11 year-old girls abducted and later murdered a baby. Both girls (Danielle Macdonald and Dakota Fanning) are 18 now and have recently been released from juvenile detention, and seem to be trying their best to re-integrate into their old lives. The film (directed by documentary filmmaker Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener, based on a novel) is told in non-chronological order, revealing more about the past in ways that inform the present. I felt like some of those twists were pretty obvious, but the film's intensity and some of the performances (particularly Diane Lane as the mother of one of the girls) make it a compelling picture. ***1/2

Okay, I get it. It's not a great movie, but in another way, it's also kind of completely awesome. Patrick Swayze is basically like an American Bruce Lee in this movie, as a bouncer who is tasked with cleaning up a dive bar that becomes the focal point of a fight against corruption. I can't really defend it, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. Fun flick. ***

Eddie Murphy gets caught up with Tibetan mystics trying to locate the child who will bring peace to the world, but who has been abducted by a demon played by Charles Dance. It's not the unmitigated disaster I'd always heard, but at the same time... nothing about this movie really works. Big Trouble in Little China gets everything right that this movie gets wrong. I feel like the problem is that it's basically one those mid-80s fantasy adventures but the director and producers are trying too hard to make it a comedy. As I was watching it, I wanted it to be fairly straightforward and fun, with comic moments as the goofy, cynical main character becomes more and more drawn into it, like Big Trouble in Little China (or Ghostbusters or Galaxy Quest or a hundred other movies that get the balance right). But there's no real sense of fun here, and too often the movie stops so Eddie Murphy can just do his Eddie Murphy thing because it worked in previous movies. But it just doesn't here. Nothing works. **

Not as good as Divergent, which was more about personal growth, but I'm digging this series. I think the brutality of the bad guys creates a sort of intensity that makes the stakes seem bigger than they tend to in these YA movies. Can't wait for more. Really, anything Shailene Woodley wants to do at this point, I'll probably be into. ***

THX 1138 (1971)
Another movie I can't believe I haven't seen before now. I recently watched all of George Lucas's student films, and this felt like the culmination of all of them. I did find it draggy in the middle section, but a very compelling film, particularly in its editing, cinematography, and sound design. I've never heard anyone talk about it, but is everything that happens supposed to be taken at face value? There are a lot of familiar themes of dystopian science fiction, but its focus on drugs (and its main character's chemical imbalance) made me see themes of addiction recovery, perception, and anxiety that made me wonder if most of the second half wasn't occurring in THX's mind. Weird. ****

I spent a bit of last night reading about the making of this movie and the battle between director Nicholas Ray and writer-producer Budd Schulberg for control. To me, it felt like a big missed opportunity. Christopher Plummer plays a young man from the Audubon Society who goes to the Everglades at the turn of the 20th century to stop plume hunters who are poaching the bird population. Burl Ives plays the leader of these pirates. It's a bizarre movie, and Plummer seems miscast. Some of the characters get lost in a plot that veers into the nonsensical at times. It felt at times like I was seeing a rather turgid and unsuccessful adaptation of what must surely have been an involving novel. I didn't really like the movie, although there were individual elements and scenes I thought were really something, but reading some of the stories was pretty great. A missed opportunity. **

Monday, January 04, 2016

Muppet Monday

I'm having a rough morning this morning, trying to clean before the pest control guy gets here for the usual January inspection, and I'm having some trouble... three years in therapy and I still have emotional breakdowns over the vacuum cleaner. Yeah, hire me for a job... So, there are no Muppets in this one, but it's still wonderful and it satisfied my ADHD (or whatever) this morning, so here you go.

This is Jim Henson's Oscar-nominated short film Time Piece from 1965. I know I've had it up some time before in the past 11 years; it's one of my favorite things he ever did. I always love this kind of rapid montage, free form jazz, rhythmic piece. It's all music and editing, sounds and surreal sights, punctuated by one word, repeated four times. It's an experimental film, using a lot of the same techniques Jim would later use in his Sesame Street films, many implemented by puppet builder Don Sahlin: cutout animation, pixellation, reverse motion, etc. (Sahlin also plays the guy who gets hit in the face with the pie.) You can see Frank Oz running past in an office (he's also in the gorilla suit), and the girl is played by Enid Cafritz, a portrait artist.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Song of the Week: "Silver Machine"

Hawkwind, 1972. RIP Lemmy.