The Guardian must take headlining lessons from the HuffPo

Blazoned across the spiffy new tiled format of The Guardian‘s website were the words, “Amelia Earhart aeroplane fragment identified.” I know these words, and I know that in their particular order they necessarily imply A) there is a piece of an airplane, and B) it has been identified as belonging to Amelia Earhart’s erstwhile Lockheed Electra. Continue reading

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Movie Review: Gone Girl

When I think of my wife, I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brains, trying to get answers: What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What have we done to each other?

The somber, contemplative voice of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) speaks these words as he slowly runs his fingers through his wife’s hair. As the dreadful soliloquy comes to its inexorable end, the woman shifts her gaze upward. Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) cracks a chilling smile.

Thus begins Gone Girl, David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel of the same name. What follows is no less disturbing, a glacial two-hour-and-twenty-five minute luge down a winding track of lies and infidelity. Trust is the theme in these parts, and by the time the film hits the half-hour mark, trust should be in short supply. Continue reading

The Slow Death of a Cable News Network

CNN Worldwide made Jeff Zucker president of the company in 2013 to turn around their declining fortunes. Well, the numbers are in, and they don’t look good.

Twenty months after taking over one of the most prominent news brands, Mr. Zucker is still trying to define CNN’s place in a world of unlimited real-time information. He is laying off journalists and cutting expenses while trying to keep a once-leading cable network relevant in the digital age. The efforts largely remain a work in progress, underlining the stark challenges facing the news business.

So far this year, CNN ratings are hovering near 20-year lows. Average prime-time viewers are down about 6 percent to 176,000, compared with 2013, in the audience that attracts the most revenue for news channels, viewers between the ages of 25 and 54. Total day viewers this year are down 7.6 percent, to 122,000, according to Nielsen.

Continue reading

Ethnological Exasperation

An exhibit recently installed at London’s Barbican Centre has caused something of an uproar, with allegations of racism being brought against the exhibit’s creator, artist Brett Bailey. The exhibit — called “Exhibit B” — takes its inspiration from the “ethnological expositions” of the 19th and 20th centuries, in which indigenous peoples taken from European colonies where put on display to entertain stuffy white supremacist Victorian types. Typically, these “subjects” were black Africans, and, made to stand for hours behind bars or glass dressed in grass skirts or loin cloths, they were displayed to the public as ugly, unsophisticated savages. That recreating this sort of thing would prove controversial is wholly unsurprising.

The work consists of tableaux not unlike something you would see at the American Museum of Natural History, if people were treated like prehistoric animals. You can see more photos of Exhibits A, B, and C, all variations on the same theme, on the Web site of Bailey’s production company, Third World Bunfight. One actress portrays Saartjie Baartman, a woman who toured Europe as part of a freak show. She was known as “the Hottentot Venus.” Another actor is presented as “Nama man in glass cabinet.” Still another is simply labeled “Nama woman, animal trophies.” She’s accompanied by several stuffed antelope. In another scene, actors appear to be decapitated. The show progresses to scenes of modern asylum-seekers and immigrants who are characterized simply as “Found Objects.”

If the artist is simply repeating historical trauma, and the main objective is to shock, it’s inevitable that work falls into the tradition of “Crash,” “Django,” or even Donnelle Woolford. Black people may be the subject matter, but little consideration is given to them as members of the audience. When people protest those projects, part of what what’s being asked is whether the art, be it film, installation or otherwise is really communicating anything significant about race or falsely trading on the inherent gravitas we tend to give projects that concern themselves with that subject matter.

The thing these projects — “Django,” “Donnelle Woolford,” “Crash,” and “Exhibit B” — all have in common is that they were created by white men seeking to communicate messages about race, all in spaces that are dominated by white men. As such, they’re all funneled through that lens, and the question that pops up repeatedly is whether people of color and their history are being exploited.

This is a fair criticism to make.

Django Unchained featured an escaped slave as its titular character, depicted the sheer physical brutality of the southern plantation system, and showed how the trade of slaves between plantations tore families and loved ones apart. But the movie wasn’t really about slavery, was it? Continue reading

The only person who can stop a bad guy with a howitzer is a good guy with a howitzer

Unless said bad guy steals your howitzer and shoots at you from twenty miles away.

Which is, more or less, what ISIS intends to do.

The group is now firmly entrenched in their holdings and the Iraqi military, as before, is reluctant (or unable) to launch an offensive against them. The 52 American-made and supplied M198 155mm howitzers they captured ought to come in handy; they can park them up to 25 miles away from Baghdad and shell the city with pinpoint accuracy, thanks to the M982 Excalibur GPS-guided 155mm artillery shells they also happened upon in the pillaging. Continue reading

Must be a slow news day

I mean, there are over 200 girls missing in Nigeria, probably kidnapped by those Boko Haram assholes, and Vladimir Putin has pretty much banned everyone from writing, singing, or otherwise performing anything even remotely naughty. And then there’s that whole “looming specter of war” thing going on Ukraine. But other than that, there isn’t a whole lot going on. Nothing that rates a headline, at least.

Except….

HOLY SHITBALLS, MONICA LEWINSKY IS TALKING!

Lewinsky has stayed virtually silent about the affair the past decade. She writes in Vanity Fair that “the buzz in some circles has been that the Clintons must have paid me off; why else would I have refrained from speaking out? I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.”

Wow. This shit is almost as interesting today as it was when the scandal first broke sixteen fucking years ago, isn’t it?

And by that, I mean “not very interesting at all”.

 

 

 

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ebola

Ebolavirus is deceptively simple. A mere seven proteins surround and comprise a filamentous capsid, which houses its archaic genetic material: a single strand of non-segmented RNA. Yet, treatment — much less a cure — for the hemorrhagic fever Ebola engenders in humans and primates continues to elude us. Of those unfortunate enough to contract the virus, 50% to 90% will die, and there’s literally nothing we can do to help them.

If the raw numbers don’t frighten you, the symptoms sure as shit will. Ebola — like all Filoviridae — is extremely virulent; a few particles are enough to spark a full-blown infection. Injecting itself into a host cell and hijacking its reproductive proteins and organelles, the virus begins cranking out copies of itself at an exponential rate. When the host cell can no longer contain the replicated virus particles, it bursts. The released particles infect other cells, and the process continues. The mass destruction of tissues causes severe hemorrhaging. In infected persons, the lining of the stomach and intestines are sloughed off, and the victim to begins to vomit and defecate blood boiling hot with Ebola particles. The connective tissues beneath the muscles are eaten away, and without such moorings, the muscle and skin of the face droop cartoonishly from the skull. Weakened veins and capillaries break apart with the slightest pressure, making the administration of intravenous drugs or nourishment, or blood transfusions, a dubious proposition. The surface of the tongue peels off. The whites of the eyes, ravaged by the virus, turn blood red. The body bleeds at such an incredible rate its clotting agents are unable to keep up with demand. Most infected persons die of hypovolemic shock within 10 days of becoming symptomatic. It is a horrible, painful, and humiliating way to go. The only silver lining — and it is admittedly a stretch to call it that — is that the virus attacks the brain and body in equal measure. By the time an infected person crashes and bleeds out, he or she is essentially brain dead. Continue reading

How not to title a news article

The Salt Lake City Tribune posted a nice summary of the Grammys yesterday, hitting all the high notes, from Daft Punk’s toppling of Taylor Swift to Trent Reznor’s ineluctable profanity-laced post-show Twitter tirade.

But something caught my eye: the article’s title.

Daft Punk, Macklemore top left-of-center Grammys

Wait. What? Do mine eyes deceive me, or is the Tribune trying its hand at subtle editorializing?

“Left-of-center”? Because Queen Latifah married a bunch of people, some of whom just happened to be gay? That ultimately, this proved more memorable than whatever shitty song Madonna decided to sing?

If that be the case, it seems prudent to point out 52% of Americans would back a law legalizing gay marriage in all fifty states. Which means the Grammys were not left-of-center, but fucking center.

As in perfectly fucking normal.