Atomic blondes have more fury

My wife and I went on a date last night and saw Atomic Blonde. She enjoyed it — it was the late showing, and she has a tendency to nod off in the theater if there’s any slack in the pacing, but she was bolt upright and wide awake the whole time — and I liked the twisty spy novel plot and shady characters with underhanded schemes. But two major questions were unresolved.

  1. If Lorraine Broughton and John Wick got in a fight, how high would the body count be? Note that I’m not asking who would win, because we all know they would both emerge bloody and battered but victorious, but how much havoc would be wreaked upon assorted minions, passers-by, and crime/spy chiefs? I give the edge to John right now, but only because he’s had two movies and more practice. Lorraine needs a sequel to even it up.

  2. How much did German rent-a-thugs get paid? It can’t have been more than the equivalent of $50K/year, right? Maybe bump it up a bit if they get some kind of hazard bonus, and maybe they’re better off than that with fantastic free healthcare (they need it), but whatever it was, it couldn’t account for the knock-down-drag-out fights they were getting into. Fierce woman charges into a guy, punches him so hard he flies up against a wall; he draws a knife and launches himself into her, she disarms him, stabs him hard in the back, stabs him a few more times in the chest, and he staggers back; he lurches forward again, wham-bam-wham, she pounds him in the face; he reaches for a gun, she throws him down the stairs. What’s his motivation? I mean, if it were me, at the first punch I’d be thinking to myself I’m going to be laid up for a week, it’s going to take more than a couple of ibuprofens to get over this, I’m not getting paid enough for this crap, I think I’ll just take a little nap right here. Heck, just the look on Charlize Theron’s determined angry face would have me backing up and saying “Lady, you win.” But they kept coming!

It’s a very angry movie, and I needed that. It’s also stylish and has a great soundtrack, if you like 80s music. For some reason, Theron reminded me of Iris — I recommend that no one or no thing pick a fight with her.

I now understand why Valerian bombed

How could Valerian fail? Luc Besson, $200 million budget, the stills and clips I saw beforehand were visually spectacular. And then I watched it last night. I would have fallen asleep if the flashing colors hadn’t made my eyes hurt. Besson made a movie with fantastic visuals, but he forgot to include little details like a sensible plot and relatable characters and some motivation for wanting the characters to succeed; it’s like being given the job of making a cake, not bothering with substance, and building an elaborate confection out of nothing but marzipan and lots and lots of food coloring.

It starts out interestingly enough, with a series of scenes starting with a contemporary ship docking with a space station, and visitors and residents shaking hands. Then, over time, the station gets bigger, more ships come, more handshakes, and eventually aliens show up, and we see a succession of weird aliens. Well, not so weird. My first disappointment is that all of the aliens are still all two-eyed bipeds with hands that can be shaken — for all the enthusiasm for Besson’s imagination, it has flopped down and died in the first 10 minutes. One of the tedious things about the visual effects in this movie is that he’s just ramped up the garishness that we saw in The Fifth Element — there are many scenes that are just incoherent, full of loud flashing colors and random design elements. It’s a lot like a Michael Bay movie without the violence.

The second disappointment is simple innumeracy. The space station has grown so much it has to be moved out of Earth orbit…to the Magellanic clouds? That’s quite a move, all the way out of our galaxy. But then later we learn that it was moved 700 million miles, which is just a small fraction of a light year. Scale and scope are completely confusing in this movie.

Then we cut to a distant alien planet called Mül, although in my head it was actually the Planet of the Androgynous Supermodels on a Beach Shoot. We’re introduced to the McGuffin of the movie, a magical rat thing (it looks a bit like Skrat, from the Ice Age cartoons, with warts) that, when fed these blue marbles, poops out buckets full of duplicate blue marbles that are tremendous power sources with ten times the energy needed to power an interstellar starship, but which the supermodels use to wash their face with in the morning. Suddenly, the planet is destroyed. Supermodels look weepy and horrified.

Fast cut to our Heroes, Valerian and Laureline. Valerian is a cocky frat boy. Laureline is aloof. They’re in love, I guess. We need to be told that, because you sure aren’t going to see it in their chemistry. The whole movie is then about these two young people scurrying about to reunite the Supermodels with Magical Rat Thing and a Blue Marble, although they don’t have a clue what they’re doing themselves. Neither do we. There’s some irrelevant nonsense about a growing danger to the space station and bad robots and misunderstandings and nefarious conspiracies that don’t really matter, and then it ends with some treacle about the power of love.

That’s it. That’s the whole movie. Two hundred million dollars worth of marzipan and food coloring. Skip it. Watch the psychedelic wormhole sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey again, it’s about as flashy and will leave you no less confused.

Which makes me think…maybe Valerian would have been more entertaining if I’d been high on ‘shrooms while watching it.

They do like their monumental statues in South Dakota

I’m not a fan of the big heads carved into a mountain farther west, but this one looks good.

That’s Dignity, a new monument that was unveiled in Chamberlain, South Dakota recently.

The Dignity sculpture is a stunning combination of art and history. Located on a bluff between exits 263 and 265 on Interstate 90 near Chamberlain, the stainless steel, 50-foot-tall statue was specifically designed by sculptor Dale Lamphere to honor the cultures of the Lakota and Dakota people. That’s why he used three Native American models ages 14, 29 and 55 to perfect the face of Dignity.

“Dignity represents the courage, perseverance and wisdom of the Lakota and Dakota culture in South Dakota,” Lamphere said. “My hope is that the sculpture might serve as a symbol of respect and promise for the future.”

Representing the rich Native American culture of South Dakota, the 50-foot Native woman gracefully wears a dress patterned after a two-hide Native dress of the 1850s. She holds outstretched a quilt featuring 128 stainless steel blue diamond shapes designed to flutter in the wind. During the day, her star quilt – a representation of respect, honor and admiration in Native American culture – glitters in the sun with color-changing pieces that move with the wind. At night, LED lights cause the diamond shapes to glow in the night sky, casting a peaceful presence easily visible from the Interstate.

In the year of my birth…

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has a feature that allows you to look up by year the time words were first published. One curious thing I noticed is that there are huge numbers of words introduced in the 40s on, most of them technical and scientific words, but in more recent years the number of novel words is drying up. Why? I don’t know.

I did look up what words were introduced in the year I was born, and there were lots of them. But this series caught my attention.

I think it means that emotionally I am far more childish than my advanced years would imply.

Under fascism, there is a new flowering of arts and music

That’s the myth, anyway. Repressive governments will stir up a rising of protest music and street art and great poetry and literature so we’ll at least have that. But wouldn’t you know it, Donald John Trump is fucking that up, too.

I am surprised to learn that there is a Nazi death metal scene in Minneapolis. It’s small but growing, led by a local patent lawyer named Aaron Wayne Davis in his spare time, through a website called Behold Barbarity Records and Distro.

The site sold a customary catalog headlined by name bands like Slayer and King Diamond. But closer inspection reveals an exhaustive selection of more obscure titles, with album covers sprinkled with permutations of neo-Nazi symbols like swastikas and iron crosses.

Take Deathkey, whose 2010 album is called Behead the Semite. Then there’s Aryanwulf, whose songs include “Kill the Jews” and “At the Dawn of a New Aryan Empire.” There’s also the Raunchous Brothers, whose rhyming poetics include such passages as, “You’re of no use to me, you disgraceful fucking dyke, so I’ll shove you in the oven like the glorious Third Reich.”

There are plenty of similar lyrics quoted at the link, so I’ll spare you. I did learn how to write a Nazi death metal song, at least. It isn’t hard.

He describes the power of hate music: Drop the slogan “White people awake, save our great race” a couple times in a chorus, then quadruple it per song, and you have listeners nodding along to it with every step and stumble of their day.

OK, that’s the dark side. There has to be a light side to oppose it, right? There must be some musical genre that has arisen to oppose Nazi death metal. It’s like some core principle of the universe. And out of the darkness rises a gleaming bright beam of beauty and light.

It’s Insane Clown Posse and the Juggalos. On 16 September, there will simultaneously be two rallies on the mall in DC, one of white nationalists, another of juggalos. They are expected to clash.

I have learned that many Juggalos are radical leftists, and that the duo are not fans of our current administration.

Save for this one issue [the FBI has labeled Juggalos a “loosely organized hybrid gang”], ICP is not an explicitly political band, and there are some pro-Trump Juggalos. But the overlap between the Juggalo March and rabid Trumpies is likely to be minimal. Juggalos view their community as a loving family that accepts everyone just as they are, which is the opposite of what Nazi pricks—or, as they prefer to be known, “white nationalists”—advocate. And, in the unlikely venue of a Time magazine editorial on last year’s wave of creepy clown sightings, ICP’s Violent J had this to say about the clowns in Washington:

These clowns threaten the very fabric on which our nation was supposedly founded upon—and for some f—ing crazy-a– reason, they’re getting away with it. From keystone-cop clowns shooting unarmed citizens, to racist clowns burning down Islamic centers or clowns in the NSA spying on us through our cell phones and laptops, America has turned into something far more terrifying than Insane Clown Posse’s Dark Carnival.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that radical leftist Juggalos are mobilizing online in opposition to the Trump supporters who are giving clowns a bad name.

I guess I should have expected this, given the nature of their fanbase. But gosh, this could be interesting, come September. The Nazis ought to be worried; they’ll have sticks, but Juggalos have hatchets. Of course, the ICP can be neutralized if the Nazis think to deploy magnets.