Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowgirls

Waylon & Willie had something to say about this.

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars or drive them old trucks
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
‘Cause they’ll never stay home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they love

Well, also, doctors and lawyers have a strong economic advantage over cowboys, who don’t get paid much. It’s not a wise career decision.

But it does have one advantage, the image. Cowboys are the personification of American manliness.

And the girls are going to take that away, too. Felice House is repainting iconic cowboy images with women in them. Shocking, I know. But they look amazing.

Quick! Someone inform them that if there is one job that would pay worse than women’s work, it’s gotta be cowgirl.

That Wilkins guy loves to rub it in

Yeah, John, I know.

As he points out, this is probably more a difference of timing than Nobelist vs. pop science communicator. A modern university education has had to pare away so much to meet the demands of a population that just wants to get to the point and get a degree and get out and get a job, that a biologist, for instance, can complete a four year program and never once take a philosophy course, take almost no history or language or arts course (we do demand that our students take ONE course in those disciplines), and so you can be a competent scientist with almost no awareness of the breadth of human knowledge.

And then there are right-wing hacks like Jordan Peterson who want to completely abolish the humanities and to worsen the situation even more.

The movies in Morris this past week

Last week, I didn’t write up my impressions of The Meg because it was just too depressing. I was first dismayed at the opening sequence and set up because it postulates that there is a whole new, ancient, isolated biome at the bottom of a deep ocean trench, over 10 thousand meters down, and nothing makes sense. There are giant sharks prowling around this lightless, constricted deep? Why? How? They explore it with a surprisingly roomy manned submersible, which is almost plausible — people have gone down almost 11,000 meters in a bathyscaphe — but why, in this modern day, wouldn’t the preliminary observations have been made with an ROV? There’s also a scene where a submarine is damaged by a monster shark at this depth, and…

…it explodes in a giant fireball.

If you don’t get why that was incredibly stupid, then maybe this is the movie for you. I just couldn’t get past the absence of any acknowledgment of pressure in a movie that has subs shuttling like yo-yos between the bottom of the ocean and the surface, and that has a giant shark found in a marginal habitat that can survive being squirted straight up to terrorize coastal waters.

I guess there were supposed to be some jump scares in there, but I was unable to recover any ability to suspend disbelief after the first 5 minutes. Also, I just didn’t care about any of the characters, except to hope they got eaten. I was mostly disappointed there, too. It made me so cranky I even wanted the stupid little dog to get inhaled, and once again, no joy.

This week, I saw Operation Finale, which wasn’t bad at all. It’s basically a vehicle for the two stars, Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley, to reverberate off each other, and they were both good. It’s the tale of the Israeli operation to extract Adolph Eichmann from Argentina in the early 1960s so that he could face justice for his role in engineering the Holocaust, so it’s very much a good vs. evil story…but it’s a complex difficult good vs. a deceitful, slimy evil, so it isn’t at all cartoonish.

It helps that I hate Nazis. I didn’t have much trouble believing this story.

Also playing this week: The Predator. I just said no. It’s getting easier to avoid some bad movies now that we have a two screen theater and have more choices.

Usually more choices, that is. Next week we’re getting Unbroken: Path to Redemption, some treacly Christian movie directed by Harold Cronk, of the God’s Not Dead series. That’s a fuck no from me. The other choice is The Nun, a supernatural horror movie, which makes for an interesting combination. I’m just hoping some devout Christian fanatic attends both on the basis of the titles, and ends up running screaming from the theater. As for me, though, it looks like I’ll be sitting out the next week.

The movie this week was…the Prairie Light Film Festival!

Yeah, it was a bunch of movies, and I saw most of them. My eyes! Need a nap now.

The only one I missed was The Rider, which looked good, but I did see the other four, listed here in ascending order of my appreciation.

4. Hereditary. You know, I heard a lot of praise for this movie, but I didn’t care for it much at all. It’s a supernatural horror film, which means that it is a succession of creepy/scary/gross events which don’t need to make much sense, because spooky/mystical reasons. It’s well-made, but I just didn’t see much point to it all.

3. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Mr Rogers! I like Mr Rogers! But you’ve probably heard—you shouldn’t find out about your heroes. A couple of things bugged me: 1) He was a lifelong Republican, and 2) while he was happy to support a black cast member (Officer Clemmons), on learning that he was gay, he warned him that he better not ever be publicly exposed. I guess there were limits to his tolerance. While he did good things, it’s clear he was a wealthy, privileged Christian who was locked into his comfort zone — he wasn’t going to support anything that made him uncomfortable.

2. Sorry to Bother You. Nobody told me that this was SF/fantasy/dystopian story! It was on the weird side, and enjoyable, even though it was taking a painfully humorous look at capitalism and racism. Fun! And grim! This is one I’d like to see again, because the first time through I was wrestling with trying to figure out what kind of movie it was.

1. 8th Grade. Best of the bunch. A fantastic performance by the lead, although maybe she was just living the real experience of being in junior high. It’s just a simple slice-of-life story, but it’s made compelling by the actor and the remembered awfulness of 8th grade. Yeah, it sucked. The movie brought it back to life.

We’re going right back to the popular cheesy stuff this weekend: it’s going to be The Meg! I guess I’ll have to go to bring some balance back to my movie-going.

True Facts about DEVO

I did not know that Devo was founded in the aftermath of the Kent State massacre.

With campus shut down until the fall and nowhere to go, Casale and friends would decamp to the Akron home of Mark Mothersbaugh, a part-time Kent State art student whose graffiti art had caught Casale’s attention. Parsing through the aftermath, the pair began collaborating, drawing on Dada and other Interwar art movements to create bizarro, disconcerting takes on agitprop posters, 50s ad graphics, and religious pamphlets. They also started playing music—Casale on bass, Mothersbaugh vocalizing over an early Moog synth—hoping to capture the sound of things falling apart.

Even before the shootings, Casale says he’d felt American society regressing. He even had a name for the phenomenon—“devolution,” or “devo” for short—an art and literature concept he’d conceived with classmate and poet Bob Lewis, who also played in the band for a brief stint. It was a response, Casale says, to the failed promise of utopian progress peddled by post-WWII politicians and consumer culture. But what began as an in-joke, fodder for late night discussions and Casale’s graduate work as an art student, took on a new gravity and urgency in the wake of the Kent State shootings.

I did not know anything about the band’s history, but I did figure out that they were all about subversion and highlighting the malignant influence of all-consuming capitalism on the country. It’s nice to see it spelled out. Although it’s not as if Devo was ever subtle.

No one talked about brands in the 1970s in the way the word is used today. Brands were limited to Cheerios or Levis or Marlboros. Other than The Who making a joke on their Who Sell Out LP, and Captain Beefheart on Safe as Milk, there wasn’t even a nod to the irony of “rebellious” rock acts being part of the mainstream, corporate, commercial grind. I was quite aware of that disparity from the beginning. We knew that rebellion and its various poses (leather, chains, long hair) was obsolete and cornpone. We played with that conflicted duality in all that we presented, musically and visually, because that was central to the whole concept. There was nothing we did that was not on purpose. Nothing that I could not articulate. We were a a self-proclaimed canary in a coal mine warning people about the emerging dangers of technology as a god to be worshipped, rather than as a tool to be exploited, and the centralized Corporate Feudal State that seemed to be barreling full speed ahead.

Our brand was real freedom, rather than freedom as an advertising campaign where the consumer was told how to be free. We were performance artists when there was not a label for that either. We were pioneers who got scalped. We were roundly criticized and called “sell-outs” by the rock press for creating self-designed merchandise. We were attacked by preeminent music critic, Robert Hilburn, for integrating film with our live show, where characters and objects were in sync with our musical, theatrical performance. He said, “If we wanted videos, we could go to an arcade. Rock ‘n’ roll or stay home Devo!” Maybe we should have stayed home. But then no one would agree that De-evolution is real as they readily do today.

They were prescient, but they could do nothing to stop the forces of de-evolution. And now we live in the Age of Trump.

The movie this week is…BlacKkKlansman

First, though, a little advertisement: starting this weekend, the Morris Theatre is holding the Prairie Light Film Festival, a whole week with a rotating roster of good movies, movies I’ve wanted to see, but had low expectations that they’d ever play in small town rural Minnesota. It’s a small, mostly white and conservative town, and we’ve long had this single screen movie theater that has had to play it safe with their choices if they want to be profitable, and that means we get movies that will appeal to college students or the general community, without a lot of risk-taking. For instance, Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was the sole movie being shown for about a month a few years ago. Enough said.

So now we’ve got this crazy wild festival coming up, and we’ve got a second screen, so finally the theater can show movies with narrower appeal, like BlacKkKlansman. Once upon a time, I would have estimated the chance of a Spike Lee film being shown in Morris as negligible — not because the theater management wouldn’t have liked to, but because they needed movies with broad appeal to the Morris audience. But now they can, and I am so happy.

BlacKkKlansman is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Right at the top of my list. Great acting, amazing story, strong and relevant theme, beautifully structured. I had no idea how they were going to pull of the central conceit of the story — a black man joins the KKK — but the way it was done, that there were two undercover cops using the same name, and it was the white guy, Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman, who would appear at Klan meetings, while the black guy, John David Washington as Ron Stallworth, would manage everything over the phone, worked well. It also worked well because it gave both Flip and Ron opportunities to grow in the roles they were playing. Driver was great as a Jew who realizes that this is his battle, too.

But I have to say something about the end of the movie. It was the most powerful gut punch I’ve ever experienced at a movie. So below the fold is a kind of a spoiler — I’m not going to give away any details of the plot, but I am going to say a few things about the structure of the ending.

[Read more…]

Childish Gambino has released a new video

“Feels like summer”.

This is the first time I’ve ever said this, but…go read the YouTube comments. Lots of people are explaining the meaning of the images, but even there there is a lot of ambiguity, just like in the lyrics.

You can feel it in the streets
On a day like this, the heat
It feel like summer
I feel like summer
I feel like summer
You can feel it in the streets
On a day like this, the heat
I feel like summer
She feel like summer
This feel like summer
I feel like summer

Seven billion souls that move around the sun
Rolling faster, faster and not a chance to slow down
Slow down
Men who made machines that want what they decide
They’re just tryna tell the children please slow down
Slow down

I know
Oh, I know you know that pain
I’m hopin’ that this world will change
But it just seems the same
(It is not the same)

You can feel it in the streets
On a day like this, the heat
It feels like summer
I feel like summer
I feel like summer
You can feel it in the streets
On a day like this, that heat
I feel like summer
(I feel like summer)
I feel like summer
(I feel like summer)

Every day gets hotter than the one before
Running out of water, it’s about to go down
Go down
Air that kill the bees that we depend upon
Birds were made for singing
Waking up to no sound
No sound

I know
Oh, I know you know my pain
I’m hopin’ that this world will change
But it just seems the same
I know
Oh, I hope we change
I really thought this world would change
But it seems like the same

I know
Oh, my mind is still the same
I’m hoping that this world will change
But it just seems the same
I know
Oh, I hope we change