Category Archives: Popular Culture

It Makes Me Feel Old

…when people start talking about 80s nostalgia.

Late seventies, early eighties, was when I pretty much quit listening to pop music, so this is a conversation in which I can’t participate. The vast majority of the songs being discussed I wouldn’t recognize if I heard them. I have no idea what any of Prince’s songs sounded like (though I do know Cyndi Lauper and I remember Kim Carnes “Bette Davis Eyes”). But for those of my readers who are interested, it’s probably an interesting post.

Oh, and yes, I was also surprised that Callimarchus could write that with a straight face. I wonder what his wife thinks?

Alexander The Fabulous

That’s what it sounds like Oliver Stone should have named his latest cinematic atrocity.

Stone gives himself much credit of “telling the truth” about Alexander’s bisexuality as if it’s some progressive badge of honor, but at the same time he can’t get away from the cruelest, least imaginative stereotyping: His Alexander, as expressed through the weepy histrionics of Colin Farrell, is more like a desperate housewife than a soldier. He’s always crying, his voice trembles, his eyes fill with tears.

Actually, he sounds like an early version of Bill Clinton. If he got the lip-biting thing down, he’d be ready to run for “Alexander The President.”

The movie apparently tells us a lot more about Oliver Stone than about Alexander:

The movie lacks any convincing ideas about Alexander. Stone advances but one, the notion that Alexander was an early multiculturalist, who wanted to “unify” the globe. He seems not to recognize this as a standard agitprop of the totalitarian mind-set, always repulsive, but more so here in a movie that glosses over the boy-king’s frequent massacres. Conquerors always want “unity,” Stalin a unity of Russia without kulaks, Hitler a Europe without Jews, Mao a China without deviationists and wreckers. All of these boys loved to wax lyrical about unity while they were breaking human eggs in the millions, and so it was with Alexander, who wanted world unity without Persians, Egyptians, Sumerians, Turks and Indians.

Read the whole thing. It’s Mark Steynian.

Gratuitous Violence?

I have zero, no–make that negative–desire to see Mel Gibson’s latest flick, for exactly the reasons that Andrew Sullivan (as devout a Catholic as it’s possible for a gay man to be) describes.

The center-piece of the movie is an absolutely disgusting and despicable piece of sadism that has no real basis in any of the Gospels. It shows a man being flayed alive – slowly, methodically and with increasing savagery. We first of all witness the use of sticks, then whips, then multiple whips with barbed glass or metal. We see flesh being torn out of a man’s body. Just so that we can appreciate the pain, we see the whip first tear chunks out of a wooden table. Then we see pieces of human skin flying through the air. We see Jesus come back for more. We see blood spattering on the torturers’ faces. We see muscled thugs exhausted from shredding every inch of this man’s body. And then they turn him over and do it all again. It goes on for ever. And then we see his mother wiping up masses and masses of blood. It is an absolutely unforgivable, vile, disgusting scene. No human being could sruvive it. Yet for Gibson, it is the h’ors d’oeuvre for his porn movie.

I respect the faith of those who do believe and accept the story of Christ–they are clearly, for the most part, sincere. But it’s one that has never had any resonance to me–it simply makes no sense, and I am bemused by the bizarre notion that I had anything to do with an event which, if it happened at all, happened two millennia ago. Sorry, no, we didn’t all kill him. I accept no responsibility whatsoever.

I also have trouble getting my head around the notion that (as some have stated over at the Corner) this was “the greatest crime in history.” Greater than the Holocaust? Greater than the Cultural Revolution? Greater than the deliberate starvation of the Ukrainians? Really?

Only if one accepts the premise. (And no, please don’t try to persuade me, or others, of the truth of the Gospels in my comments section–there will be no sale, and it just wastes my bandwidth and disk space–in fact, I will delete any preaching or witnessing–providing a forum for others to proselytize on subjects of little interest to me is not the purpose of my web site).

It seems to me that Mr. Gibson has simply transferred his love of gory cinema to a purpose that he considers higher than money-making shoot’em ups. Perhaps if I were a believer, I might be willing to sit through such an exaggerated reenactment, but given my lack of belief about it, I see no redeeming value to the movie, at least for me, and Mr. Gibson will not be receiving any of my money for his little venture.

[Update on Friday morning]

Leon Wieseltier agrees with me, and much more eloquently (of course, he’s actually seen the thing). He too, calls it a “sacred snuff film.”

It will be objected that I see only pious pornography in The Passion of the Christ because I am not a believer in the Christ. This is certainly so. I do not agree that Jesus is my savior or anybody else’s. I confess that I smiled when the credits to The Passion of the Christ listed “stunts.” So I am not at all the person for whom Gibson made this movie. But I do not see how a belief in Jesus strengthens the case for such a film. Quite the contrary. Belief, a theory of meaning, a philosophical convenience, is rarely far away from cruelty. Torture has always been attended by explanations that vindicate it, and justify it, and even hallow it. These explanations, which are really extenuations, have been articulated in religious and in secular terms. Their purpose is to redescribe an act of inhumanity so that it no longer offends, so that it comes to seem necessary, so that it edifies. My victim of torture is your martyr.

While I’m willing to accept that a belief in Jesus strengthens the case for such a film (or at least I find the proposition no more baffling than a belief in Jesus itself), I can’t imagine that it would have any influence in creating a belief in Jesus. This is a film for hard-core Christians, and it certainly won’t hold any sway over people for whom there’s not at least a seed of belief to begin with.


I’m busy, but never too busy to read Lileks’ Bleat.

He has a review of “The Matrix” series. He also has a review of a particularly pathetic review of it, as well as a review of a generation that somehow thinks that the series is somehow profound, and relevant to a post-911 world.

I took away something else from the Matrix trilogy: it is a product of deeply confused people. They want it all. They want individualism and community; they want secularism and transcendence; they want the purity of committed love and the licentious fun of an S&M club; they want peace and the thrill of violence; they want God, but they want to design him on their own screens with their own programs by their own terms for their own needs, and having defined the divine on their own terms, they bristle when anyone suggests they have simply built a room with a mirror and flattering lighting. All three Matrix movies, seen in total, ache for a God. But they can?t quite go all the way. They?re like three movies about circular flat meat patties that can never quite bring themselves to say the word ?hamburger.?

Costume Tomfoolery

I don’t like wearing costumes, or think it worth the time and effort to come up with anything creative. I was most gratified when invited to a party last weekend (thanks, Cathy!) to learn that it was costume optional.

I haven’t cared much for Halloween since I was a little kid. Back then, we thought it was something you were supposed to outgrow. Somehow, though, many of my generation apparently didn’t–it’s become the biggest holiday of the year after Christmas. What is that all about?

Anyway, Robert over at has a collection of the lamest Halloween costumes ever.