March 31, 2007

Eric Hoffer

Got a recommendation from a co-worker to read Hoffer's The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. Just reading the quotes from it and it sounds fascinating.

posted by sstrader at 11:41 AM in Language & Literature | permalink

March 24, 2007

More lies

Sheesh, this week needs a round-up of all of those things people repeat as true that are, simply, not. Thanks to Reddit and Digg for reminding me that for every 10 idiots, there's at least one smart person ready to take them down:

posted by sstrader at 10:54 AM in Culture & Society | permalink

March 23, 2007

Music order


Order Information

Author: PROKOFIEV, Sergei
Title: Complete Piano Sonatas
Edited and with an introduction by Irwin Freundlich
Quantity: 1
posted by sstrader at 1:37 PM in Music | permalink

March 21, 2007


The Recording Industry Association of America is a trade group that represents the recording industry in the United States. Its members consist of a large number of private corporate entities such as record labels and distributors, who create and distribute about 90% of recorded music sold in the US. ... The RIAA was formed in 1952 primarily to administer the RIAA equalization curve. This is a technical standard of frequency response applied to vinyl records during manufacturing and playback. ... The RIAA also participates in the collection, administration and distribution of music licenses and royalties.

posted by sstrader at 8:31 AM in Culture & Society | permalink

March 20, 2007

Art lie, now with more science fiction

Neal Stephenson calls 300--now get this--Classics-based sci-fi and that behind critical complaints lies politics and not aesthetics or history. 300 came out of the Rotten Tomatoes starting gates strong but has since fallen to 60%/51% where its defenders revel in its action-fluff and its detractors see merely fluffy-action. Stephanie Zacharek of Salon sets the tone for most of the complaints:

A recent, characteristically beard-stroking New York Times article pondered the way reporters at an international press junket for the computer-generated extravaganza "300" zealously attempted to read the movie as a metaphor for George W. Bush's war on Iraq. ... The bigger question to ask about "300" is why, for a supposedly rousing tale of heroism, it's so curiously unaffecting.

And I baffle at Stephenson's sucking up to his readership by turning 300 into some sort of a techie history that it is not. I guess he'd consider A Knight's Tale to be included in this new form of sci-fi with its heavy metal soundtrack and Hollywood-based history.

I wonder if the TMNT adaptation will have as many fervent defenders?

posted by sstrader at 12:00 AM in Cinema , Culture & Society | permalink

March 18, 2007

Art lies, by Leni

The New Yorker, in Judith Thurman's piece on Leni Riefenstahl, addresses the issue of seductive art caught in a lie:

Riefenstahl’s “genius” has rarely been questioned, even by critics who despise the service to which she lent it. ... Yet one has finally to ask if a creative product counts as a work of art, much less a great one, if it excludes the overwhelming fact of human weakness. That fact is the source of soulfulness and dramatic tension in every enduring narrative that one can think of. A seductively exciting surface, such as the morbid spectacle of a mass delusion, may distract from, but cannot insure against, a slack core, and in Riefenstahl’s case a handful of sequences singled out for their formal beauty and a quality that Sontag calls “vertigo before power” have achieved an influence disproportionate to their depth or originality.

Tim Rutherford-Johnson has had similar questions on his mind lately.

posted by sstrader at 8:01 PM in Art | permalink

Food and drink

Many times, during the weekend, we will order delivery from Chico & Chang's simply because they offer six-packs of diet Coke (whcih we're usually out of). Today is one of those times.

posted by sstrader at 2:30 PM in Personal | permalink

March 14, 2007

Art lie

I'd previously read about some of the historical indiscretions in 300 the graphic novel and 300 the movie, but this article contains a more complete explanation. The most notable elisions:

  • Sparta, like other Greek states, was a slave state--those few free Spartans lived off of the hard work of the many slaves
  • The elite did not go through the difficult training that the slaves did--greatness did not result from social Darwinism
  • The political leaders where part of a check-and-balance to the kings--they were not decadents leeching from the brave soldiers
  • Spartan men paired with boys--Athens was not unique in this, and in fact Sparta was much more characterized by it
  • Many other Greeks fought at Thermopylae--unlike in the movie, they were equal to the Spartans

Most of this you remember from history class, but the article points out the philosophical deceit in the changes made in 300.

No mention is made in 300 of the fact that at the same time a vastly outnumbered fleet led by Athenians was holding off the Persians in the straits adjacent to Thermopylae, or that Athenians would soon save all of Greece by destroying the Persian fleet at Salamis. This would wreck 300's vision, in which Greek ideals are selectively embodied in their only worthy champions, the Spartans.

This movie, like Apocalypto or Passion of the Christ, seems in a special vein of rewriting of history that is not new. An artistic interpretation is a delicate balance between volumes of historical research and an iconic shorthand needed to summarize it. At what point can we criticize that shorthand for its representation of history? Do artists get a free pass to be praised for selective accuracies in their research and praised for expressive interpretation in their art, even when their interpretation defies fact?

posted by sstrader at 11:55 AM in Cinema | permalink


The short piece on Morning Edition this morning about Bush's visit to Latin America read like a Jon Stewart piece, and in fact may have stolen one of his running jokes. Highlighted were Bush's odd comments--at each stop mind you--on his anticipation to try some of the delicious local food. The final clip even has him chumming with the Guatamalan president thusly: ¿Tortillas? ¡Que bueno!

posted by sstrader at 8:40 AM in Culture & Society | permalink

March 13, 2007

Democrats allow Bush to start another baseless war

Read about this last night and hoped there'd be more mitigating details in the morning. There weren't.

posted by sstrader at 11:42 AM in Politics | permalink

March 12, 2007


Found on my way to Krog Bar on Friday:

posted by sstrader at 7:29 PM in Art | permalink

March 9, 2007

Recent movies

Borrowed The Departed from a co-worker. Very strong but definitely not the monument that some critics are making it out to be. Great dialog and very Donnie Brasco. The ending was kindof a mess but well-paced.

Finally watched South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. Oddly, it was on TV and--if Comedy Central is to be believed--completely unedited. I'm not sure how they'd say uncle fucker that many times if it were edited. Very funny with only maybe 20% dragging (The Mole's scenes were bla). The ending with Kenny was sweet even with the topless 36D angels. Trey Parker did some good work with the music, especially the chorus/medley near the climax and Satan's song "Up There."


Saw a "sneak preview" of the Korean monster flick The Host. Outstanding. The comedy overlaps with tragedy and at times you don't know how to respond. The CGI monster looked plenty scarey and had an uncomfortably vagina dentata oris. Quick reference to Gojira at the end (how could they not?) and a beautiful/moody final scene. The characters were wonderful with a greater depth than you'd expect with the amount of slapstick in the movie. I wish it would get wide release to ward off the threat of Hollywoodremakititis.

Purchased The Animation Show (Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt's collection from their animation festivals of 2005 and 2006) from Amazon. We went to see the ones in 2005 and we just missed the 2007 one the beginning of last month IIRC. Many good moments and high quality packaging. Hertzfeldt's "The Meaning of Life" is almost transcendent.

mol crowd mol space
posted by sstrader at 4:21 PM in Cinema | permalink

March 5, 2007

French climate science

Claude Allegre recants his belief in anthropogenic climate change and conservatives rejoice. It is, however, their distinct type of rejoicing without any research whatsoever. RealClimate has what should become a much-linked examination of and rebuttal to Allegre's assertions.

Science aside, Allegre's nonsense arguments were particularly annoying:

... the greenhouse-gas fanatics whose proclamations consist in denouncing man's role on the climate without doing anything about it except organizing conferences and preparing protocols that become dead letters.

Huh? So we're supposed to do something without organizing? OK.

posted by sstrader at 6:17 PM in Science & Technology | permalink

The untimely death of Rob Cordry

To anyone fortunate enough to not have watched Rob Cordry's new sit-com: that laugh track they play every 10 seconds is not used ironically. And it continues--at least for the 5 minutes that I watched--throughout the show. Eww.

posted by sstrader at 10:12 AM in Culture & Society | permalink

March 4, 2007

Video request

[ updated 5 Mar 2007 ] Two copies are up now.

Please, please, please, someone upload to YouTube the "Prom night dumpster baby" song from tonights Family Guy. It was as offensively hilarious as it sounds.

posted by sstrader at 11:01 PM in Culture & Society | permalink

Take *that*!

Found on Digg:

3 billion years old spheres that don't look made by nature!

Once in a while, and more times than some "scholars" wish, "out of place objects" come to the daylight to defy all preconceptions of History.

I love it.

posted by sstrader at 5:29 PM in Science & Technology | permalink

March 1, 2007

In the future

We'll all swear like characters do in HBO shows that are edited for basic cable. Begin getting comfortable with phrases such as "forget you" and "we hugged like wild animals." Made for TV swearing will be all the rage.

posted by sstrader at 4:49 PM in Culture & Society | permalink