Monthly Archive for October, 2008

Friday Night Feature – Night of the Living Dead (1968)

This 1968 horror movie classic by George A. Romero is still the zombie film all others have aspired to, but never quite matched.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is overrated, and why McCain is probably the Manchurian Candidate

Ernest Hemingway’s famous war novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, is often cited as an exploration of the effects of war on people — in particular, the Spanish people during the tragic Spanish Civil War. The novel’s protagonist, Robert Jordan, is an American professor who volunteers on the side of the Spanish Republic, and, through the course of the novel, exhibits all the traits of a rugged Hemingway hero. Although set in the midst of the civil war, the war atmosphere Hemingway created is poorly executed, and his characters — with the exception of Robert Jordan — are hardly credible. It is really a novel about Ernest Hemingway’s ideal man: heroic, graceful in the face of death, enduring, macho, and, more than any of the other characteristics, a rugged individual. But it took him 400 pages too many to explain this.

Continue reading ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls is overrated, and why McCain is probably the Manchurian Candidate’

The vote is in

Today I voted for Obama via absentee ballot, even though I’m registered in New York and the Democrats will surely carry the state – save some generated international crisis, or a mysterious missive from Al Queda conveniently appearing just days before the election. Sorry Nader, I won’t even give you a protest vote this time. I want the Republicans to get spanked, and, let’s face it, you didn’t put on that panda suit.

Friday Night Feature – Surplus

Surplus: Terrorized into Being Consumers
, is a clever video montage about consumerism by Swedish filmmakers Erik Gandini and Johan Söderberg. Starring George Bush, Silvio Berlusconi, Jacque Chirac, Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, Fidel Castro, Bill Gates, and “anti-globalization guru” John Zerzan . Don’t miss the great montage of Steve Ballmer going apeshit at a Microsoft conference (min. 37:15).

I found a direct download link (right click, save as). It’s a large higher-resolution .avi file, but I had trouble getting it to work. Maybe you’ll have more luck.

Semiotics and Media

People may not really think they’ll become the people they see in the ads, but the paradigms invoked by advertisements do seem to matter a great deal in terms of how people understand their social identity.

The same goes for any other kind of media, apparently. The recent flurry of invented narratives in the race for the US presidency comes to mind – especially McCain’s campaign, which has changed narratives repeatedly in the last few months, depending on which way the polls are going. (thanks Tom)

Link to professor Tom Streeter’s insightful web essay on semiotics in media.

Chandler on Hammett

In his 1950 essay, the Simple Art of Murder, Raymond Chandler writes about the various styles of mystery writing and the genius of Dashiell Hammett, the first hardboiled detective fiction writer. Hammett himself was a detective at the Pinkerton Detective Agency in San Francisco, until health problems and disillusionment with some of the agency’s tactics drove him to try his hand at writing. He wrote with the lingo, he wrote about what he knew, and he wrote with a stripped-down style that Hemingway later became famous for. Chandler writes:

Hammett took murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it into the alley. [...] He wrote at first (and almost to the end) for people with a sharp, aggressive attitude to life. They were not afraid of the seamy side of things; they lived there. Violence did not dismay them; it was right down their street.

Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse; and with the means at hand, not with hand-wrought duelling pistols, curare, and tropical fish. He put these people down on paper as they are, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes. He had style, but his audience didn’t know it, because it was in a language not supposed to be capable of such refinements. They thought they were getting a good meaty melodrama written in the kind of lingo they imagined they spoke themselves. [...] He is said to have lacked heart, yet the story he thought most of himself is the record of a man’s devotion to a friend. He was spare, frugal, hardboiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.

Friday Night Feature – Guirilandia

This is a short movie I shot in 2002, shortly after I came to live in Spain. It’s basically about what feels like to be a guiri – Spanish slang for foreigner.

Download (right-click, save as), or watch it here.

Best watched while inebriated.