Anglican Samizdat

April 15, 2010

Bill Maher: Palin envy

Filed under: Pop-Culture — David Jenkins @ 11:40 pm

What I would really like to see is the MSM’s reaction to Bill Maher calling Michelle Obama a MILF. Sadly, that isn’t going to happen, and the fact that he used the epithet about Sarah Palin has been largely ignored because – well, anyone can say anything they want about Sarah Palin. According to Maher, she is a moron. A moron who made 12 million dollars in less than a year; Maher’s net worth is only $13M. Perhaps he is envious.

Ugh. Obnoxious comments from “Hardball”‘s Chris Matthews and “Real Time”‘s Bill Maher, who were discussing Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann on TV. Matthews said, “They showed up together looking — well, they’re attractive ladies.” And then Maher added: “I think you’re right. You hit on something there. They’re attractive, especially to the Republican Party which is not known as the party that does really well with the opposite sex. Usually they’re doughy white men. I think they look on Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin as, you know, MILFs … and I agree. They’re morons I’d like to forget.” Hey, guys? It’s still sexist — and unprofessional — when liberals say it.


March 5, 2010

The Venus de Milo cover-up

Filed under: Pop-Culture — David Jenkins @ 6:23 pm

From the BBC:

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Police in the US state of New Jersey have ordered a family to cover up their snow sculpture of the famous nude Venus de Milo after a neighbour complained.

Eliza Gonzalez sculpted the snow-woman with her son and daughter on her front lawn in Rahway following a snowstorm.

It may be decent, but is it art?

February 27, 2010

Toxic TV

Filed under: Pop-Culture — David Jenkins @ 6:51 pm

Leo Tolstoy in his later years was taken to see a film by a friend. His response was, “why would anyone watch such rubbish?”

Malcolm Muggeridge, after a lifetime of making his living from television, retreated to a small English village and had his television aerial removed. I met him in the early 1980s and mentioned how much I enjoyed his writing. He said that that was music to his ears; I doubt he would have responded similarly had I said how much I enjoyed his TV appearances.

Theodore Dalrymple isn’t swayed favourably by the pernicious twaddle that emanates from the electronic purveyor of mental pollution either:

Shortly before Mr Blair was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain, a newspaper discovered that I had not had a television in my home for about thirty years. This struck the editor of the newspaper as an extraordinary circumstance; so extraordinary in fact, rather like having been an anchorite in the Syrian desert subsisting on locusts and honey, that he contacted me to ask whether I would agree to having a television installed in my home so that I could tell readers, after a week of watching it, what I thought of it. This I consented to do on one very firm condition: that the newspaper took the television away at the end of the week. The newspaper agreed.

When the television arrived, I plugged it in and turned it on. The picture was grainy, for something else was required, evidently, to have a good reception. But it was good enough to know what was going on.

The programme was one of those in which a degraded family, or perhaps I should say a group of human beings who have lived in close association for some time or other, airs its appalling behaviour in public in return, I should imagine, for money, and for the prurient delectation of a voyeuristic audience.

A fattish woman approaching middle age was complaining in a monotonously high-pitched voice, halfway between a harangue and a wail, about her three daughters who were aged twelve, thirteen and fourteen respectively. According to her, they ‘did drugs’ and had left home to be prostitutes.

At this point, the presenter of the show interrupted her and asked the audience to give a warm welcome – with, of course, a round of applause – to the three young trollops in question, who came tripping down the steps to the television set with smirks of self-satisfaction on their faces. No lack of self-esteem there, I thought; rather too much, in fact.

Of course, mother and daughters began at once to trade high-pitched insults and accusations, and generally behaved like a dog and a cat enclosed in a sack. There was undoubtedly a morbid fascination in all this, though the spectacle was disgusting; suffice it to say that I was not encouraged by it to take steps to ensure that the television had a permanent presence in my home.

The newspaper had given me a timetable of programmes to watch, though it did not inform me as to the criterion it had used in their selection. Whether what my wife – who likewise had had no exposure to television for years before I met her – and I watched was better or worse than the average that was on offer to viewers, we could not say; but it seemed terrible pabulum to us, having approximately the same effect on our consciousness as a food-mixer on vegetables. It turned it into a kind of soup.

February 20, 2010

Youtube turns five

Filed under: Pop-Culture — David Jenkins @ 11:06 am

Malcolm Muggeridge used to say, “the camera always lies”. His denunciation was frequently made while holding forth in front of a camera – he seemed to enjoy sawing off the branch on which he was perched. According to Muggeridge the camera was a perfect example of what William Blake meant when he wrote:

They ever must believe a lie
Who see with, not through, the eye.

I wonder what he would have made of Youtube; he probably would have hated it.

Like much of the Internet, Youtube has given the common man a means to express himself, wresting it away from the grasp of the elite – who generally are inclined to overindulge man’s natural tendency to lie. This isn’t such a bad thing: with 10 hours of video being uploaded every second, the lies will tend to cancel each other out.

From the Post:

YouTube at five: how its videos became our collective memory.

Chances are, we never would have heard of Susan Boyle without YouTube.

If the frumpy Scottish songstress had blown away a skeptical audience with her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” in April of 2004 rather than April of 2009, no one except those who were watching Britain’s Got Talent on television that evening would know the name Susan Boyle. The more than 120 million people around the world who watched Ms. Boyle’s television debut would likely never have seen the rags-to-riches story.

That’s because five years ago, YouTube didn’t exist.

While it’s hard to imagine a world without YouTube, it was just five years ago last Saturday that a trio of ex-PayPal employees joined forces to register a Web address which would eventually become a site where anyone could post videos to the Internet.

A few months later, the first video, “Me at the Zoo,” was uploaded to YouTube’s servers, kicking off a revolution that would fundamentally change the role video and the Web play in our culture, altering our collective consciousness and helping millions of people understand obscure references from The Simpsons.

Today, YouTube is the world’s largest repository for video clips on the Internet, with a mind-boggling 10 hours of new video uploaded to the site every second and more than 100 million videos watched every day. It is now physically impossible for any human being to watch every video on YouTube in the span of a single lifetime.

February 7, 2010

James Cameron, Avatar Aeolist

Filed under: Pop-Culture — David Jenkins @ 10:55 pm

Add an ImageI took my mother to see Titanic when it came out. As soon as the first actor spoke, I knew it was a mistake: my mother at the time was in her late 70s, but her mind was – I was going to say the equal of a 20 year old’s – when idling, the equal of the combined mental capacity of fifteen average 20 year olds concentrating hard. She liked her films to contain interesting dialogue, a commodity that had been thoroughly expunged from Titanic.

So my expectations from James Cameron’s latest attempt to turn the graphics backdrop of Far Cry 2 into a film were low. I watched it this evening and was not disappointed; my mother, were she still with us, would not have approved.

Leaving aside the inevitable demonising of the military, large corporations and industry, the lionising of noble savages in ecstatic pantheistic harmony with their computer game vegetation – all of which are irritating enough in their own right – the dialogue was so mind-numbingly trite, it make Titanic look like Proust.

For those who are interested and want to save 3 hours, the story is: nasty men want a rare mineral that is under the noble savages’ village. Nasty men try to kill noble savages to get rare mineral; some enlightened scientists and a crippled soldier help the noble savages drive out the evil humans with bows and arrows and send them back to their own planet which is not green; in fact Gaia earth is dead. Finis.

And it was very long.

Other than that, I enjoyed it from the professional perspective of marvelling at how many hours it took to render so many pixels for so little edification.

May 21, 2009

Angels, demons and tedium

Filed under: Pop-Culture — David Jenkins @ 12:10 am

I watched the film “Angels and Demons” this evening. If you are tempted, don’t bother: the religion is wrong, the science is more or less wrong and it commits the cardinal (not a pun, really) sin of being boring: the hero played by Tom Hanks is Indiana Jones on a valium overdose. The supposed contention  between religion and science is part of the plot, but in such a ham-fisted way that even the casual viewer will come away convinced that there is no contention. There is an anti-matter bomb whose only reason for being in the film, as far as I can tell, is so the heroine can talk about the God particle. The Higgs boson actually has no more to do with God than any other particle; nevertheless, its appearance is portrayed as  somehow challenging God since it was present “at the moment of creation”. The anti-matter bomb also blows up, of course, but, really, an anti-matter bomb isn’t terribly practical:

Antimatter is a real substance, first theorized in 1928. “Every time you squeeze a lot of energy into a small space, you produce equal amounts of matter and antimatter,” Landua explains. “Nature doesn’t like to create just one sort; it always produces both to keep a balance. I compare it to digging a hole in the sand, and then you have a pile next to it. You can’t do one without the other.” The first antielectron was produced in 1932, and particle accelerators helped scientists create the first antiproton in 1955. Antimatter was first produced at CERN in 1995, though not by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). But unlike in the movie—where CERN has produced a gram of antimatter—the facility has actually only produced a small amount of the substance. “In the movie, we switch on the LHC and it produces a gram of antimatter in a few minutes,” Landua says. “That’s not possible for two reasons: It would need much more energy to do it—with present efficiency, it would take 10 ^ 22 joules—and the reality of how quickly antimatter can be produced … it would take about a billion years to produce a gram. We can make about a billionth of a gram in a year.”

All of this I could forgive if I had been entertained: alas, the film is dull. The acting is stilted, the characters unconvincing and the plot silly. The worst part is the Tom Hanks character wasn’t killed, so he could be back.

February 14, 2009

Talent Redux

Filed under: Pop-Culture — David Jenkins @ 10:29 am

I have always thought that J. B. Priestley’s view of his own work could well apply to John Updike; not that Updike would have the modesty to admit it. Priestley thought of himself as a talented, but not great novelist.

So while I don’t think that John Updike was a great novelist, I do agree that he was a spiritual failure:

John Updike, who died two weeks ago, was certainly a great novelist; his books are Add an Imageintelligent without being clever-clever, and are highly readable. And he was the only major novelist of recent times who was interested in Protestant theology (a massive plus-point for me). So I ought to be a big fan, and for a while I was, but the more I read, the less sure I became. It perhaps sounds an unpleasant thing to say about a recently deceased person, but I see him as a spiritual failure.

This is somewhat redeeming, though:

But he said some great things along the way, including this nice little anticipation of Dawkins: ‘Among the repulsiveness of atheism for me has been its drastic uninterestingness as an intellectual position.’

December 5, 2008

Dawkins and the Daleks.

Filed under: Pop-Culture — David Jenkins @ 11:23 pm

When I was growing up I used to enjoy watching Dr. Who: it was a good example of how imagination could make a low budget production come alive – at least it seemed that way to a 10 year old.
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The CBC isn’t good for much, but it does have ad-free classical music on the radio and Dalek nostalgia on Friday nights. The nostalgia and the fact that the new Dr. Who is produced in Cardiff – the place of my misspent youth –  are the 2 reasons I watch it.

Imagine my surprise this evening when I saw Richard Dawkins explain to a disbelieving audience that we have not acquired new planets in our solar system, but that the entire earth has moved. He was about as convincing on Dr. Who as he is in The God Delusion.

I can’t help wondering why he agreed to appear in such a pseudo-scientific fantasy: perhaps to convince us that even atheists can be fun. Next I imagine he will appear with the Muppets to show us that atheists are cuddly; of course, it won’t be him who decides, but the electro-chemical disturbances that are swirling around in what passes for his neocortex.

He wasn’t exterminated this evening; but there is still hope since there is another episode next week.

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