One Week Later

It’s been a week since we all watched — stunned — as an army of cultist haters, fascists, racists, and thugs, invaded and raped our Nation’s Capitol. Since then the wind seems to have (at long last) shifted to a new quarter. Nothing in the last four years was enough, but this straw was too heavy.

How real that change is remains to be seen, but the House is set to move forward with a historical second Impeachment, and with McConnell now giving it his blessing, and many Republicans desperately wanting to buy redemption, it’s possible we might see a conviction in the Senate.

Which makes writing a post very hard to focus on.

Part of the distraction involves concerns about the Inauguration next week and just how that will go down. What we’ve allowed to take root and fester will not go away quickly or quietly. I hope planning and preparation will be perfect, but I have concerns about corruption, infiltration, and competence.

So it’s hard to focus on anything else, but I did watch two thoroughly adequate movies and read a thoroughly adequate book…

§ §

I have to credit Amazon Prime for having an interesting catalog of old and recent ‘B’ movies — even some ‘C’ movies. Most of them don’t amount to much, but there are some unregarded gems among them.

I can’t say that CQ (2001), directed by Roman Coppola, is one of those gems.

It’s a work for a film gourmet, and I’m not sure if it’s a gem or a dud. That it never really grabbed me, and that I don’t have any interest in re-watching it, might be a sign it’s a dud.

At least for me.

On the other hand, a true film gourmet, or especially a filmmaker, might find more within it than I did. The pedigree is certainly good, Roman Coppola, of course, is the famous Francis Ford’s son.

My wannabe filmmaker days, and my currency with the art, is pretty far in my past now. It wasn’t until the end I realized one character must be an analogue for Dino de Laurentis. (In retrospect it was obvious, but it’s been many decades since I swam in those waters.)

My point is that someone more connected with filmmaking might find a lot more value in the film than I did. It may be that, on some high analytical level, it’s a work of brilliance. If so I’m afraid it was over my head, but this might be a film that a filmmaker would love.

On the other hand, it’s also possible it’s self-indulgent navel-gazing. When it comes to a Coppola film that could go either way. FWIW, Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 66% (critics) and 69% (audience).

Paul Ballard with his Codename: Dragonfly actress (Angela Lindvall).

It’s a film-within-a-film, the inner film (Codename: Dragonfly) is a cheesy Sci-Fi effort much along the lines of Barbarella (1968).

The film’s protagonist, Paul Ballard (Jeremy Davies), is the editor for the film, and through a series of events ends up directing when the difficult auteur director (Gérard Depardieu) is fired because “the film has no ending” in the opinion of the producer.

Ballard is a wannabe filmmaker, so he has integrity regarding film, and is caught between the artistic needs he feels and the insistence of the producer for a shallow exciting ending. I do have to credit Ballard’s solution.

I have to give it an Eh! rating. It never engaged me, and some of the characters seemed very poorly developed. In part I never related (like, at all) with the protagonist and didn’t find him very likeable.

The scene at the airport where Ballard spends a bit of time with his busy dad (Dean Stockwell) who is passing through was interesting in playing against trope. His dad is obviously sensitive and loving, just preoccupied.

All-in-all, not sorry I saw it, but it didn’t do much for me.

§

I also wasn’t hugely whelmed by The Circle (2017), but I do give it props for not submitting to the need for everything to be, at least a little bit, a action-thriller.

I fully expected a scary jeopardy scene, a fast chase scene, or at least for protagonist Mae Holland (Emma Watson) to be menaced and threatened by apparent Black Hats Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt).

But not only are there no explosions and no gun fire; I don’t believe I ever even saw a gun.

So it’s not that kind of movie, which I applaud. That said, I find myself a bit askance at what seems to be the film’s message.

Which is that the privacy-invading technology we’ve become addicted to is wonderful… when used the right way. The final scene indicates a major sea change in Mae, and it’s definitely not how I expected the film to end.

When the film begins, Mae works as a customer service rep for some unspecified company. Her friend Annie (Karen Gillan) has an important position with The Circle (think Google) and, because they’re hiring new employees, gets Mae an interview.

The Circle’s CEO and COO speak to Mae.

The interview goes well and Mae is hired to work as a “customer experience” rep. It doesn’t take long for her to realize The Circle is a bit seriously passive-aggressive when it comes to employee participation in corporate activities.

For instance Mae is approached by co-workers and asked why she spent no time with the “thousands” of employees who came in on the weekend to work or participate in corporate-sponsored activities. They put subtle pressure on her to join in various “optional” things.

But then Mae becomes involved, first with the mysterious Ty Gospodinov (John Boyega) who turns out to be the software designer who created TrueYou (think Facebook). He’s no longer in power at The Circle, and hates the invasion of privacy, but has been sidelined as a “visionary” who is “free” to pursue his own projects.

Mae also becomes involved with The Circle in a big way. She ends becoming, in fact, a central figure.

Ty Gospodinov takes Annie on a tour of data servers.

I expected two things, and the movie surprised me by delivering neither. As I mentioned, I expected the usual hero-in-jeopardy thriller as Mae turned out to be a threat to whatever evil plans Bailey and Stenton are hatching. I also expected Mae to be a hero who destroys the privacy-invading behemoth.

Instead, Bailey and Stenton seem basically well-meaning with good ideas, but just maybe not the right guys to pull it off. Mae ends up fully buying into, and becoming a primary spokesperson for, The Circle.

All that power just has to be used in the right way.

I have seriously mixed feelings, and that may be the film’s real value: getting one to think about both sides of that equation. Technology certainly does have the power for much good.

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a terrible score: 15% (critics) and 21% (audience). I suspect a lot of that is thwarted expectations. The film is intellectual, not action-thriller.

I give it a strong Eh! rating. I’d even say it’s worth seeing. (Where else can you see Amy Pond and Hermione in the same film?)

§

I’ve mentioned a couple of times before Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (2016), starring Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart.

I assumed it was another ‘B’ movie (on Amazon Prime), but I found it very engaging and fresh. I give it an Ah! rating and recommend it to everyone who likes movies about comic book heros.

It’s a nice new take that reminds me a little bit of the Kevin Smith movies with Jay and Silent Bob. It’s apparently based on an old TV show.

(After the Eh! ratings, I had to throw in something better.)

§ §

I feel bad calling Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man (2020), by Emmanuel Acho, “thoroughly adequate” because it’s so much more than adequate. It’s an excellent book, well worth reading, and I highly recommend it.

I was just hoping for more of an examination of the tension between black identity (and by extension between any cultural identity) and an essentially neutral identity as merely “human” — I’m fascinated by that tension. It’s one that white males in this country really never feel.

(Even white women feel it between various notions of “being a woman” and the notion of being a gender-neutral human.)

Even more so than with CQ, the miss here is entirely on me. My background already gave me much of what’s in this book. I think it would be quite valuable, however, for white people with fairly white backgrounds.

(Not that I’m making any claims to expertise, just some experience, but it’s why a lot of the material wasn’t new to me.)

I’m still struggling with what an old white guy can say about race in our culture, but I haven’t forgotten George Floyd. In fact, he’s been much on my mind, but I feel inadequate to the discussion. (For one thing, that background I mentioned is many years in my past now.)

Most of the book is Acho explaining black experience, and that’s definitely something every white person in this country should be read in on. Acho is a former NFL player — he played with the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s currently a sports analyst for Fox Sports 1.

He is also an activist with a weekly web show, also called Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. See his website for more info!

The book might not have delivered what I was hoping for, but I do recommend it and give it a strong Ah! rating.

§ §

Damn. Writing this post I realized I’ve been misspelling “Capitol” all week — I’ve been using ‘capital’ which refers to wealth, uppercase letters, or a city that’s a state’s seat of government. The big white building P45’s army stormed is the Capitol.

(I still have to go through my old posts and find all the places where I used Yin and Yang wrong — reversed the meaning.)

Stay safe, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

10 responses to “One Week Later

  • rung2diotimasladder

    I never did finish watching The Circle. Didn’t grab me either.

    As for what it’s like to be a woman vs. just human, I have some experience with that! So my two cents: I think there’s a greater tension involving race. That said, I have rarely, if ever, felt that being a woman made me feel powerless or feel perceived in that way. Others obviously have a different view.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      It raises some interesting issues, although I found the ending a bit unsatisfying. The issues are worth considering, but the movie not so much. I did like that they didn’t make it into an action-thriller or Annie into an action hero. (Quite to contrary, it’s possible to see the movie as a tragedy and Annie as its central villain.)

      I think most POC would agree there’s more tension in race. We seem to have made more effective strides against misogyny (although things still can get very ugly) than we have against racism.

      Which is vaguely weird to me. Sexual differences are real — there are genuine issues to work out. Racial differences only exist socially — biologically the “race” is homo sapiens sapiens. There are no actual differences; just misperceptions. So it seems as if racism should be easier to fix, but obviously it isn’t. That right there is a good indicator of how deeply embedded and systemic our racial problems are.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        That’s a good point about biological differences. I hadn’t thought of that before. You’re right, it is weird.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        What I can only guess at is that our primitive tribal sense of “the other” is actually stronger than our misogyny. (Which, when you come down to it, is probably a socially grown thing that came later — our need for mates is a much deeper wiring, I’d think.)

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I didn’t have room in the post for digression, but my own experiences these last few years, and watching The Circle got me thinking about how many accounts we all have on various platforms.

    At a quick count, for me, it’s two ISPs, four email accounts, Sprint, Apple, YouTube/Google, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, Best Buy, Dell Computer, Pay Pal, USPS, Tor Books, Windy (weather app), Discord, Dominos, Papa Johns, a local Chinese restaurant with its own website, OpenTable, NextDoor, my condo association’s website, the MLB site, the Baseball Reference site, StubHub, TicketMaster, H&R Block, Turbo Tax, Cub foods, the local Library, the Social Security site, my company’s HR site, my company’s financial site, IBM’s Quantum Experience, and a bunch more I’m probably forgetting.

    Oh, and two WordPress accounts, although I haven’t used the one for my long-dead brief baseball blog in years.

    There are things I actively avoid just because it means creating yet another goddamned login. I just think it’s weird being spread out that much.

    One of the aspects of The Circle is the idea of what they call “completion” — having everyone signed up. CEO Bailey (Hanks) points out the requirements for signing up to their “Facebook” service requires the same identification as registering to vote, so they have a scheme to treat an account as registration to vote and even as a means to vote. The idea is to enfranchise all voters an eliminate voter access issues.

    Then they move to the idea of by requiring all citizens sign up for their service as the only way to register and vote. In concept, a true democracy. It’s a clever way of highlighting the advantages.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Another loose thought I wanted to capture: It’s not the case that anyone’s background experience or education makes them free of prejudice, or even just of bias. It’s human to form opinions about groups of people based on one’s perceptions (right and wrong).

    What education and experience provide is a counter-balance that helps one be more aware of one’s thinking and more inclined to self-check.

    Which got me to wondering if a long history of fighting one’s own racial biases has any value in helping fight one’s scientific biases. I’m wondering if the developed facility of self-checking becomes any sort of habit.

    I do presume to consider other points of view specious or absurd, so a fair question is what gives me the right? What about my biases? Part of my answer is that I’ve been closely self-checking for a long, long time. I know the inside of my head far better than, from what I can tell, most people do.

    (One of my favorite Batman moments is when Scarecrow develops a new scare potion that causes a person to confront their worst inner self. This usually completely debilitates people. When Scarecrow uses it on the Batman, it appears to work, Batman is incapacitated. Or so it seems. It turns out he was faking. Scarecrow is surprised, but Batman tells him he’s perfectly well aware of his inner demons. Me, too. There’s very little I don’t know about myself!)

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Looks like the House impeached Trump as of a few minutes before this comment. But the Senate reportedly won’t consider it until after his term is over. Just unbelievable that we have to watch this nightmare of an individual be in office for another week and hope he doesn’t do anything dangerous.

    Have to admit I never noticed the difference between “capital” and “capitol”. I don’t know if I’ve ever written anything about the US Capitol in particular, but I’m sure if I did, I got it wrong.

    I’m not going to think too much about how many accounts I have lying around.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yeah, I was watching! 232-197 with 10 Repubs voting in favor! McConnell would have to call an emergency session to get Congress in session, and he won’t do that. (He won’t even say if he’ll vote to convict, but he has said he’s glad the Dems are Impeaching.) I’m sure he wants to put it on the Dems, but if it means a conviction, I’m good with it. It would be an important mark in the history books and prevent that POS from ever running again.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    A friend of mine sent me this the other day…

    I knew he looked familiar…

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Just imagine the horrifically messed up state of things when we’re worried about an attack during the Inauguration coming from the very people charged with protecting the peaceful transition. It’s astonishing how far this country has fallen from its core values in such a short time.

    I’m a hard-core cynic and raging misanthrope with a very dim view of the human race, and I’ve been observing and regretting this slide into the sheer head-up-the-ass stupidity of our culture since the goddamned 1970s, and even I’m amazed at our social course over the last two decades.

    If we don’t excise this boil on our political ass, I believe the USA is doomed to fall.

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