Way Too Good To Fact-Check

A lot of people are yukking it up over this story – yep, including me the other day. You recall it – Italian “artist” selling an “invisible sculpture” / block of air / “vacuum full of energy” for $18,000.

“The vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that ‘nothing’ has a weight,” Garau said of the statue according to as.com. “Therefore, it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us.”

Italy 24 News reported that per Garau’s instructions, the sculpture must be displayed in a private home free from any obstruction, in an area that is about 5 ft. long by 5 ft. wide. Because the piece does not exist, there are no special lighting or climate requirements.

The story was, to say the least, thinly sourced, to the point where the BS meter is howling.

On the other hand? This, along with the “dumpster fire” last week in Uptown Minneapolis, is the ultimate metaphor for society today.

It’s a cube of nothing – that means whatever the viewer can conjure from it.

It’s no different than “woke”-ism. Or “Critical Race Theory” . Or “Whiteness” theory. All of them are conclusions that are left to the viewer to fill in any way they want.

Signore Garau may be a garbage artist, and a con man extraordinare – even if you assume the story isn’t a hoax (and I’m abou 50-50 – mixing wealthy Frenchmen and dubious “art” is never completely implausible.

But the metaphor he is alleged to have constructed may be the best bit of literature, or at least the best bit of (unintentional?) literary symbolism of the year.

Whether it happened or not.

I Missed My Calling

An Italian “artist“ just sold an invisible statue – and not for invisible money, either:

an artist has sold an invisible statue for 15,000 euros. His name is Salvatore Garau and he has managed to auction his “work” for an amount that many consider crazy. However, he defends his creation tooth and nail.

The artist explained that “the success of the auction confirms an irrefutable fact: the void is nothing more than a space full of energy, even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle that nothing has a weight. It therefore has an energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is to say, into us

My mission is clear. I need to create a better space full of energy.

The world of art demands it.

Pop Life

I’ve never much liked the entire “Seventies Midwestern Arena Rock” genre. 

But among the bands in that genre, it’s Styx that’s always gone beneath and below the rest, the one whose impression to me swerves from apathy into active dislike.  

It’s not that they couldn’t play.   They certainly had live game. 

But unlike REO Speedwagon, or Head East or Trooper or April Wine (I know, they’re Canadian, but they fit the genre) or Michael Stanley Band or any of the others that were more or less like them, Styx’s Dennis DeYoung spent most of the late seventies and eighties whining about how awful being a pop star was, how degrading the machinery of the stardom industry was, and what mindless sheeple the fans were. 

To which I eventually responded “OK – then go to work in a meat processing plant and quit your whining”.

We’ll come back to that.

———-

This is the Sinead O’Connor I suspect most of us remember:


This is the response I suspect most of us, even us Protestant goyim that found, nevertheless, much that was admirable about JPII, would have loved to have made:

Thirty years and change along, and it turns out it wasn’t (just) rabid anti-Catholicism. Turns out she really, really, really loathed being a pop star, and she also had some serious mother issues:

In the book, she details how her mother physically abused her throughout her childhood. “I won the prize in kindergarten for being able to curl up into the smallest ball, but my teacher never knew why I could do it so well,” she writes…O’Connor was 18 when her mother died, and on that day, she took down the one photograph on her mom’s bedroom wall: the image of the pope. O’Connor carefully saved the photo, waiting for the right moment to destroy it.

“Child abuse is an identity crisis and fame is an identity crisis, so I went straight from one identity crisis into another,” she said. And when she tried to call attention to child abuse through her fame, she was vilified. “People would say that she’s fragile,” Geldof said. “No, no, no. Many people would have collapsed under the weight of being Sinead O’Connor, had it not been Sinead.”

Of course, being an “artist” (I put the term in scare quotes not because O’Connor isn’t one – she was an exceptional singer – but because the term has been stretched far beyond meaning these days) means being able to pass the abuse on without ever having to adopt any sort of adult coping skills, which is one of the reasons people go into being one in the first place.

The piece is an interesting read, although kind of depressing by the time you get to the end and really digest it.


Oh, yeah – I said I’d come back to Styx and Dennis DeYoung. I have a habit of saying “we’ll come back to that”, and I don’t, always. I should go back through a few years of this blog’s history and finish some of those threads.

Anyway. DeYoung.

Uh…

Actually, for all the whining about the pop star life he had (and still has), and how vocally I dislike most everything he has ever written, in or out of Styx, DeYoung would seem have avoided the most cliched pitfalls of stardom; he’s abstemious and rigorously healthy, as devoutly Catholic as O’Connor is, well, not, and he’s been married to the same woman for 50 years; he used to take his family on the road to avoid, y’know, all the problems that families get when Dad is on the road all the time. And as whiny as most of his music was, in interviews he’s always been one of the funniest, most genial, and seemingly audibly well-adjusted, grateful people in the music business.

That might be worth an article all by itself.

Entropy

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Question from a writer’s forum:

“What books made you forget it was a book, and just want to eat at the George and race through the NeverNever on spell-box powered motocycles and play with the band, command that ship, and run with the pack?”

I had that feeling when I was a kid, devouring the Sci Fi section of the local public library.  I haven’t had it for a long, long time.  Modern literature just doesn’t grab me and suck me in as it once did. 

I miss that.

Joe Doakes

Possibility 1: we focused on the generally-acknowledged great books when we were younger. They seemed better because they were, pound for pound, better than the stuff you grabbed off the “New Releases” shelf at Barnes and Noble.

Possilbility 2: the stuff coming out today really does suck.

That Nagging Feeling Something Is Just Not Right

Background point 1: the Woke Mob in Hollywood has, for the past few years, been twisting itself into a self-righteous tizzy about “Tropic Thunder”, the 2008 satirical action comedy best described as “The Three Amigos go to Vietnam“; three prima donna actors to to Southeast Asia to shoot a Vietnam movie, and end up in the middle of a guerrilla war.

The movie was…not bad for anything involving Ben Stiller after Something About Mary. It also included Jack Black at the peak of his overexposure…

…and Robert Downey Junior, literally in (supposedly, satirically) blackface.

The PC mob, in full “eat its own” mode, has been on the…I can’t say “warpath” anymore, can I? The PC mob has been after the movie for Downey’s “blackface” appearance…

…notwithstanding that the whole point of the role is spoofing the arrogance of Hollywood’s “method actor” crowd, whose real-life methods weren’t a whole lot less absurd at the height of the fad. The “white method actor in blackface” schtick was, in fact, the same point the woke mob would like to make – actors sure can be disconnected, pretentious and arrogant – if they had senses of either humor or proportion.

It’s a point that is in fact, the only memorable part of that movie – which I remember being funny enough and not half bad, but then I only remember that because it’s the movie with Robert Downey in the perfectly absurd makup.

Background point 2: A key tenet of feminism is that women can do literally everything men can – and, more proximate to this post, females can do anything males can. (We’ll leave out the whole “even if they’re trans men and they’re in a weightlifting competition” bit – for purposes of this post, anyway).

OK. On to the post.


I don’t watch a lot of TV. I literally went six years without watching a network TV show – from the finale of The Office til sometime in 2020, I didn’t watch a single network television show (and other than local weather, nothing on their local affiliates).

For that matter, I went from the finale of Breaking Bad until probably a few months into the pandemic without watching much of anything on cable.

And truth be told, my habits haven’t changed much.

Even a show with a brilliant promotional campaign will rarely reel me in – and I say “rarely” out of pure intellectual honesty; it could happen, it might have happened, but I honestly can’t recall if it has happened.

If there was a show whose promos were not, no way, no how, ever going to reel me in, it’s…

Continue reading

Residual Forces

In Ben Shapiro’s Sunday interview with Gina Carano that I linked yesterday, there were several passages that resonated.

One in particular:

I would go to a barbecue on the beach in California, and all these people would go [switches to sotto voce] “Hey, I agree with you. Messed up, isn’t it?”.

And I’d be…’This is your house. Why are you whispering?'”

It reminded me of another episode.

I was talking with a couple of reps from a metro media organization – TV, newspaper, it matters not. And when one of the representatives and I had a moment without the others around, that person swiveled their head around to make sure nobody was listening, and whispered to me “Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I love [the NARN]. I’m on you guys side. I just have to keep quiet about it”. I felt a little like a reporting working in East Berlin or Warsaw in 1974, getting a furtive, samizdat note from a local that the Stasi or ZOMO wouldn’t be able to trace.

This was over a decade ago.

I think of this because it is now in vogue for lefties to tell people “there is no such thing as cancel culture. There’s just consequences for actions”.

Right. And that “action” is “dissenting from the progressive worldview in public”. No more.

Required Listening

“People tell me ‘I see what’s happening, and I”m so afraid’. And I tell them ‘you should feel more afraid that they’re making yiou feel afraid'”.

Get the truth about Gina Carano, because God knows the media won’t give it to you.

It’s from Sunday’s Ben Shapiro podcast. And while Carano isn’t a highly polished radio guest, her story – then and now – is utterly fascinating.

Big Left has been ideologically cleansing academia for decades. They’ve largely consolidating their control of the educational-industrial complex. They’re consolidating Hollywood and Big Tech now. Along with that, they – and a Big Sort – are doing the same with major metro areas.

And conservatives have in many cases obliged by moving on to greener/redder pastures.

But just as Eden Prairie is following Edina into the moldy blue camp as conservatives concede the battlefield, the culture war is coming for you, wherever you are.

At some point, the good guys and gals have to draw their lines in the sand.

Who’s Afraid Of Jan Levinson?

We’ll take a break from stanching the flow of blood from Western Civilization to reach across the aisle to admire on of the civilization’s crowning achievements.

Submitted for your fan-geek edification, this very long, gloriously detailed oral (well, transcribed) history of perhaps the greatest single episode of comedy television of the 2000s, the “Dinner Party” episode of The Office.

Beggars

The Guthrie Theater had to cancel its entire Spring and Summer run of
performances because of the deadliest virus known to mankind.  They need
help to keep the doors open.  Their state grants and corporate sponsors
aren’t enough.

Won’t you considering digging deep to support the Arts?

Um

Well

No.

Joe Doakes

Hard pass.

Same with you, NPR.

Programming Note

As background: Thursdays are usually my slow day here on SITD. I usually do a little surge of writing over the weekend that tides me through the first half of the week – and the end of the week usually brings its own observations I scramble to get in for Friday.

But late-week fatigue, other commitments, and the like have made Thursdays the red-headed step-day of the Shot In The Dark schedule for years and years, now.

I’m going to fix that. Sort of.

So – the urge to do another book project has overtaken me. And writing Trulbert as a “Dickensian Serial” on this blog six years ago was not only a lot of fun, but short-circuited some of the usual pitfalls of trying to write a book, most particularly the whole “self-discipline” thing.

Indeed, I believe the fact that one of you readers called it exactly that was what sparked an interest to turn an extended series of “comical” posts into a novel. And it was suggestions in the comment section that led to an actual ending.

So I’m gonna do it again. I’m going to earmark Thursdays for the new project.

Or should I say, “new” project.

Thursdays will likely be light on other content, and devoted to a “chapter” of my next project.

More next week.

Open Letter To Seth Rogen

To: Seth Rogen
From: Mitch Berg, Obstreporous Peasant
Re: Issues In Fulfilling Your Request

Mr. Rogen,

In regards to your request that everyone who questions “Black Lives Matter“ should“F*** off” and not go to any of your movies: We’ve got a bit of a problem here.

I’m not going to say I haven’t enjoyed a few of your movies; “Zack and Miri make a Porno” was worth a watch. And Freaks and Geeks was pretty essential, although that was mostly a Linda Cardellini thing – and you played basically the same role you’ve played in just about every movie since.

Which brings us, with all due respect, to the point; you’ve kind of got a formula – to the extent that once you’ve seen one of your movies, you’ve kind of seen them all.

Which puts us in a bit of a pickle. I can’t “f*** off” and skip your movies, since logically, unless your formula changes, I have already seen all your future, lovable-bumbling-stoner/slacker-fish out of water movies as well

Please see to this.

That is all.

Too Far

The stupidity of the mob that is seizing headlines and rewriting/erasing history is on daily display.

But now, they’ve gone far, far beyond too far:

It’s a statue of legendary confederate general, slave trader and blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Wait – he was never a confederate general, never owned a slave, and was born nearly 100 years after the Civil War.Indeed, Vaughan was something of a center-lefty during his way too short life.

So of course the mob is vandalizing his statue.

Talk About Injustice

Budget cuts have claimed Live From Here with Chris Thile, the show that picked up where A Prairie Home Companion was amputated when Garrison Keillor got #HimToo-ed.

While I don’t think its move last fall to the Town Hall Theater in NYC helped it one little bit (it had to be a lot harder to meet the nut there than at the Fitz in Saint Paul), the show was one of the few local MPR non-news productions to be genuinely worth the time.

And yet Keri Miller just ticks on and on.

Perspective

This blog is eighteen years old and counting. Granted, it’s been a hobby the whole time – other than my annual fund drive and the occasional Google Ads check, it’s never been a money-making proposition. There’s aways been something else to keep me much, much busier from 8-5 – initially a couple of kids, plus a career; these days, the career covers most of it.

But the goals have always been the same: talk about the things in this world where not talking about them would drive me completely crazy, and try to convince the “other side” that there’s another way.

Christian Toto – longtime journo, and conservative film critic – has been at it longer, with different priorities, and a story that resonates with me; a conservative in Saint Paul is a fish at least as far out of water as one in Hollywood.

The whole thing is worth a read, but here’s my pullquote:

What’s different now about me?

I’ve embraced more of Andrew Breitbart’s spirit, his vision. It IS a culture war, and one side has far more ammunition. I’m not looking for domination, though. Given the chilling clampdown on free speech I simply want all sides to be heard without, as Dave Rubin would say, being called a Nazi … and then punched.

Once upon a time that was the liberal’s default position. No longer. It’s time to act accordingly. Taking that basic stance makes me both an outlier and a culture warrior. Guilty as charged on both fronts.

If you’re a left-of-center movie buff, I hope you’ll stand by me, too. Let’s argue about the best, and worst, content streaming into our homes.

We can agree to disagree, assuming you acknowledge “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” got stiffed by the Academy in 1948.

Worth a read.

Wascally

The CDC advises people over 60 to avoid crowds, stay home to avoid the virus.
If all of us old people are going to be sitting around in our bathrobes, self-quarantined, Netflix should bust out the good stuff. 

Pajama party!

Joe Doakes

Sometimes I wonder if kids today would know what to make of Warner Brothers cartoons…

Disconnected

This is today’s celebrity class:

The TL:dw version: A bunch of entitled, overpaid people blessed/cursed with fame, are virtue-signaling the rest of us by “singing” the worst song in pop music history [1] – a mewling paeon to socialism and atheism from a singer who himself became so embittered and disconnected from the world by his fame and wealth that it had become something of a cultural punch line before he was murdered and became the icon for the death of every baby boomer’s innocence – as they hole up in their Manhattan condos, California estates and rural getaways…

…as millions of people wonder how long their paychecks are going to keep coming, or if they will, and the rest of the country waits to see if the army of homeless that crowd California’s streets get completely ravaged by this new plague.

Imagine, indeed.

I’ve never been a hugeLarry the Cable Guy fan, but for today, I am totally on board.


[1] This may be a reach – but work with me, here.

I think “ex-Beatle preference” is a key dispositive indicator of political outlook and personal attitude.

I suspect “progressives” prefer John Lennon. He was the angsty, prickly one, the one who seemed most prone to have a penchant for Sylvia Plath He died tragically, relatively young, and in the grand romantic tradition, illustrating and confirming the progressive’s innate hopelessness.

I’m going to guess conservatives trend toward the sunny, optimistic, irrepressible McCartney.

Me? I’m a guitar player. I’m with Harrison.

The Show Trial That Never Ends

Ben Sexsmith in Spectator on Taylor Swift’s pummeling into a deluxe, fashion-forward conformity.

While complaining that country singers are expected to “shut up and sing” because Dixie Chicks…:

Swift is shown to have been under at least some pressure to avoid being ‘political’, including from her own father, but the media she appears to be so vulnerable towards was criticizing and deriding her for not being political enough. Her reputation, which is so important to her, was suffering in the late 2010s because her silence on the Trump administration was held to represent ‘white privilege’ if not outright racism.
There was article after article about her ‘blinding white privilege’ and her ‘indifference to the struggles of people of color’. For Quartz, Swift represented ‘a dangerous form of white women’. For The Root she was ‘one of the most dangerous types of White woman’ (my emphasis). A Daily Beast writer said Swift was ‘the living embodiment of white privilege’. 
This was the greatest pressure that Swift’s reputation faced and it is hard not to suspect that her politicization did not have something to do with answering such criticism. There is no point in complaining about celebrities being progressive. You might as well complain about the winter being cold or the tides coming in. But it is preposterous to imply a celebrity’s progressivism takes courage and iconoclasm. It is expected if not demanded of them, and Swift and her friends clinking wine glasses as they toast ‘the Resistance’ is one of the most bourgeois images of our times.

About the same time I read the article, I heard this episode of the NPR “prog media” cheerleading broadcast “On The Media”, talking (approvingly) about the extent to which celebs have to go to prove they’re “woke”, and its political ramifications.

And it reminded me of the sort of exaggerated denouncements that people issued during Stalin’s show trials – when people literally virtue-signaled to save their lives. The Modern Left is a show trial that never ends – but hasn’t killed anyone. Yet.

Little Straw Men

A few weeks ago, I saw the new film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott “Little Women“. I’m told there are seven different versions on film out there – I’ve only seen parts of the 1933 version with Katherine Hepburn, and of course the 1994 version with Winona Ryder (of which the less said, the better).

I liked it. A lot. Yes, it’s a“Chick flick“, and I don’t care, because all I really care about is “is it a good movie“.

Around the same time, I saw a new statistic; a solid majority of doctors under the age of 35 or women.

That’s after a couple of decades in which the share of undergraduate degrees going to women has reached three out of five, on its way to an estimated two out of three in the next decade or two. This, as the education system becomes more and more dogmatically feminized, with the attendant treating of “boyhood“ as a pathology to be medicated into submission , and as the media seems to be incapable of showing males above a certain age as anything but loutish buffoons.

So I could see, perhaps, men staying home from yet another film that shows men as expendable cads (which, by the way, “Little Women“ doesn’t); It’s not like men don’t get a steady diet of that anyway.

But here’s an experiment for you: read this article – not a review – from the utterly underwhelming Kristy Eldridge  whom the Times helpfully notes, is “a writer”, entitled “Men are Dismissing “Little Women““. The article points out that the movie finished third in its opening week, behind two tent post blockbusters (Star Wars and the new Jumanji), and throws in a lot of pro forma “men just don’t care about female writers/artists/films“ whingeing.

One thing it doesn’t do is quote any men who don’t actually like the movie, or show any demographic evidence that men are shunning it any more (or less) than any other “chick flick“. Given that the film would seem to be at least a modest success (especially compared to the boat anchor 1994 version, which played like a high school production), that’d seem to be a little impossible if all those female viewers weren’t hauling their boyfriends/husbands along with.

The article promises male rage. It delivers Little Straw Men.

I have to suspect the article was written long before the movie opened

Hollywood Polishes The Cannonball

Some stories shouldn’t need Hollywood to go all, well, Hollywood on them to make them riveting utterly compelling.

But they do it anyway. And it’s almost always a massive drag.

It’s not a new phenomenon; The Battle of the Bulge was utterly atrocious, seemingly feeling the need to dumb World War 2 down to a cowboys ‘n indians movie – for an audience that had in huge numbers actually been there. Even as a kid, the Hollywoodisms (“They’re sending tanks! Send the artillery and infantry to the rear!”) annoyed me to no end.

The effect wasn’t always catastrophic: the Great Escape didn’t completely bastardize the subject, the greatest POW camp break in history – although adding Americans to the cast was an audience-grabbing anachronism (all Americans had been sent to different camps shortly before the escape’s famous tunnels were started).

But Hollywood’s wall of shame exerts a powerful vortex.

Stories that don’t need the Hollywood treatment get it anyway. 12 Strong – the dramatization of the events of the fall of 2001, where 85 Green Berets – count ’em, 85 – led an insurgency that drove the Taliban from the battlefield. What “improvement” does a story like that need? Well, it got little from the movie – which was watchable, but traded CGI for story all too often.

And the Tuskeegee Airmen’s story needs not even a whiff of gussying up; is there a bigger underdog war movie of all time? (There could be – if Hollywood ever produces Brothers in Arms, the story of an all-black tank battalion that became one of Patton’s best, written by none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). But gussying up it got, with Red Tails, a George Lucas labor of love that substituted P51 Mustangs for X-wings, Germans for Stormtroopers, and white bigots for Emperor Palpatine.

Now, when I saw that there was a remake of Midway in the works, I thought “at last, someone can improve on the turgid but accurate-ish 1976 historical epic. Then I saw the most dreaded six words in movies: “From the maker of Independence Day” (a movie, it needs to be said, that I detest with a cordial passion) and gave up all hope. Roland Emmerich would seem to have turned the all-in total-stakes back-against-the-wall fight by the battered American fleet against an undefeated Japanese Navy that outnumbered it by a prohibitive margin and had aims on closing the trap around Hawaii into a video game – and made an even worse movie than the 1976 version.

Worse still? If there’s a story in American history that’s begging to just be told, it’s Harriet Tubman. Her story is both pretty universally known and completely misunderstood; a gun-toting freedom fighter who defied the entire institution of slavery while running runaways to the North (or, more often, Canada) and returned to run a huge, effective spy ring during the Civil War? One hardly needs a screenplay.

But a screenplay we get – and it’s abominanble:

Set in 1849 Maryland, full of danger, rescues, superstition, frivolous gunplay, and pop-politics, Harriet demonstrates the current exploitation of African-American history, through historical revision, simply to sell tickets while aggravating political identity, tribal separation, and perpetual grievance — the same way that politicians manipulate voters.
Ever since Harvey Weinstein confirmed Hollywood’s Obama Effect, film culture has sought various ways of appeasing racial anxiety through movies about black victimization and white guilt. It’s the new diversity, as one of Harriet’s progressives summarizes: “Civil war is our only hope.”
…The difference in approach tells everything about the modern state of Hollywood race consciousness. Dismissing Demme and Morrison’s perception of slavery’s aftermath (its internalized stress and ongoing need for explanation, relief, and catharsis), Harriet looks at Tubman on a first-name basis, as if to standardize her travails into a Slavery Land thrill ride: She suffers spells after a head wound that causes hallucinations (or prophecies) that may indicate either madness or saintliness; she sacrifices her love life to crusading zeal (the film’s only complex moment occurs when her lover laments, “I’d a died for you. If you’d a let me”); and she frequently sings out her discontent in several message-driven musical interludes: “Sorry I have to leave” and “Lord, why you let me live?”

Even NPR took a pass on it.

Why, it’s almost as if Hollywood doesn’t trust moviegoers to make the right conclusions.