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The First Look at the What We Do in the Shadows Series Suggests NYC Is Awful For Vampires

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When the series based on Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows hits FX next year, the story’s going to be somewhat familiar, yet still distinct from the source material. There are vampires all over the world, and we’re about to meet a gaggle of them who’ve been living in New York City.

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TimidWerewolf
18 days ago
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So excited for this!
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Republican Extremism and the Myth of “Both Sides” in American Politics

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In this video, Carlos Maza talks about how the Republican Party has become more extremist than the Democrats, which has caused our government to cease working in the way that it should. It’s worth watching in full.

Over the past few decades, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have moved away from the center. But the Republican Party has moved towards the extreme much more quickly — a trend that political scientists’ call “asymmetrical polarization.”

That asymmetry poses a major obstacle in American politics. As Republicans have become more ideological, they’ve also become less willing to work with Democrats: filibustering Democratic legislation, refusing to consider Democratic appointees, and even shutting down the government in order to force Democrats to give in to their demands.

Democrats have responded in turn, becoming more obstructionist as Republican demands become more extreme.

Maza references the work of Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, who have written several books on Congress, most relevantly 2012’s It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. The pair have been saying for some time that the present dysfunction in American politics is the fault of the Republican Party, as in a 2012 Washington Post piece titled Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem. and a 2017 piece in the NY Times.

What is astounding, and still largely unappreciated, is the unexpected and rapid nature of the decline in American national politics, and how one-sided its cause. If in 2006 one could cast aspersions on both parties, over the past decade it has become clear that it is the Republican Party — as an institution, as a movement, as a collection of politicians — that has done unique, extensive and possibly irreparable damage to the American political system.

In the video, Maza and Ornstein rightfully criticize the “knee-jerk neutrality” on the part of the news media, the inclination to blame “both sides” for failing to work together on specific issues and for the general dysfunction, and in the process refusing to acknowledge that Republican extremist views and tactics are to blame much of the time. They’re not talking about propaganda outlets like Fox News or Breitbart here, by the way — they’re referring to the NY Times, MSNBC, CNN, NPR, and the like. They argue that this impulse results in Americans not getting a clear picture of how our government is failing. Adam Davidson recently made much the same point on Twitter.

Both-sidism operates at every level. From the highest and most noble aspirations and core identity of journalists to the most cowardly, trying to solve a quick problem on deadline level. It is shoved into the brains of newbies and a source of enormous pride for veterans.

Both-sidism determines who gets hired, who gets promoted or fired, how editorial and business decisions are made.

It is so fundamental that there is no mechanism, no language to truly critique it from within. And little ability to adjust when it makes no sense.

You can see “both sides” at work in stories about climate change (making it seem like the science isn’t settled), vaccines (ditto), and even mass murders (“Billy was a quiet boy who loved his momma until he killed 12 children with an assault rifle”). These kinds of stories do their readers the injustice of not telling them the truth. Journalists need to stop doing this and as readers, we need to push them on it.

But what about the voters? Leading up to next week’s midterm elections, much of the focus of progressive anger has been on Donald Trump. But he seems to me to be a symptom and not the disease. The Republican Party is the disease. Take Trump away and, while that might mean fewer accidental nuclear wars, the biggest problems still remain. As long as Republicans persist in operating as a bloc with obstructionist tactics and producing legislation without meaningful debate against the desires of the people, there are no good Republicans. Vote them out, all of them.

Tags: Carlos Maza   journalism   Norman Ornstein   politics   Thomas Mann   USA   video
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TimidWerewolf
18 days ago
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Steven Moffat's New Dracula Miniseries Is Going to Be a Period Piece

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Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ long-awaited Dracula miniseries is finally happening, and the BBC is partnering with Netflix to make it a reality. And here’s the best part: Oh yeah, it’s a period piece.

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TimidWerewolf
36 days ago
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Don Siegel’s ‘The Shootist’ and the Problem of John Wayne

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Reviews / June 22, 2018

The Shootist
Directed by Don Siegel
Paramount Pictures, 1976

The Shootist is one of the greatest Westerns ever made, although it is rarely named as such. It is John Wayne’s final film, and possibly his best performance. Wayne, of course, essentially invented the on-screen American cowboy: swaggering, gritty, terse, self-contained, charming, relentless, invincible. Under the direction of John Ford, he became an icon in short order, a masculine ideal across several generations, and came to define the mythology of the America frontier, rooted as it is in the puritanical doctrine of Manifest Destiny. The Shootist, in a way, contains the entire genre within itself: in the opening montage, which uses footage of Wayne throughout his 50-year career, we learn of the famously violent deeds of aging gunfighter John Bernard “J.B.” Books, who voices his credo: “I won’t be wronged; I won’t be insulted; I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” The year is 1901, and Books has come to a modernizing Carson City to confirm what he already knows: that he is dying.

After getting the painful details from his old friend Doc Hostetler (James Stewart, who starred with Wayne in 1962’s canonical The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), Books seeks a comfortable place to spend his final days. He finds it, kind of, in a boarding house run by widow Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) and her son, Gillom (Ron Howard). Proper, God-fearing Bond is more than a match for Books’ prickliness, and the two eventually develop a mutual understanding. Gillom, himself a hothead and aspiring gunslinger, soon finds out that his idol is staying in his house. Others sniff out the news in short order: the opportunistic Marshal (Harry Morgan) who can’t wait for Books to die and tells him so; a shifty reporter (Richard Lenz) who proposes to write a series of articles embellishing Books’ life; an ex-girlfriend (Sheree North) who wants to marry Books and get rich off his name; the undertaker (John Carradine) who tries to sell him a burial and grave “befitting [his] status”; and, of course, young guns shooting for the title, and old enemies with a score to settle. The only stranger who doesn’t take advantage of Books is the blacksmith, Moses (Scatman Crothers): the scene in which the two seasoned men haggle for the price of Books’ horse is a highlight of the film.

As Westerns go, The Shootist is terribly, deliberately quiet—at one point, I heard Bond smile. The shots that are fired, when they arrive, become that much more jarring and gruesome. Wayne was 69 at time of filming, and Bacall was 51. The two had previously starred together in the sea adventure Blood Alley (1955), and they are mesmerizing here. There is no kissing or wooing or nonsense, only two withdrawn adults who have lived hard, tragic lives, and who recognize in each other the will to survive, though they have little else in common. “I don’t believe I ever killed a man that [sic] didn’t deserve it,” Books tells her while out on their lone buggy ride. “Surely only the Lord can judge that,” Bond coolly replies. Every movement made by Books is a movement of pain. His only respite is a bottle of laudanum, which he swigs from liberally and openly as his suffering becomes increasingly unendurable. We hear his labored breathing continuously, his grunts as he lowers himself down onto a special pillow. (Books has prostate cancer; Wayne himself had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 1964, and his left lung was removed. He died in 1979 of stomach cancer.) Although Wayne was obsessive about maintaining his virile and larger-than-life image—he made changes to the script of The Shootist in this regard—he is as vulnerable as he would ever be in this picture. “I’m a dying man scared of the dark,” he tells Bond, after killing a trio of would-be assassins in his room. There is none of this in 1969’s True Grit, the film that overshadows The Shootist as the peak of Wayne’s late career, and for which Wayne won his only Academy Award.

The Western as a eulogy on the passing of both the Old West and the Western itself was already an established subgenre at this point, and The Shootist, adapted from the 1975 novel by Glendon Swarthout, certainly belongs in this camp. What makes the film different, and special, is that it seems to rebuke the kind of brash, violent man Wayne spent his career playing. When Books decides that he is not going to let the cancer kill him, he arranges for three of his nemeses to meet him at the local saloon. Wayne is alive at the end of the shootout, but badly wounded. The sneaking bartender shoots him in the back, and Gillom, who has just arrived on the scene, picks up Books’ gun and kills the bartender. Books had told Gillom during a shooting lesson that “will,” above all else, is what it takes to be a great gunfighter, and we find out that Gillom has exactly that. But the young man is disgusted by what he’s done, and throws the gun across the room, rejecting the life that brought Books to such an inglorious end. Books smiles, finding peace in the broken cycle of violence, and dies. The cowboy-vigilante character, however, was just getting started in American cinema: The Shootist‘s director, Don Siegel, had trotted out a new breed in 1971 with his Dirty Harry, trading the Wild West setting for the disintegrating American inner city. (Clint Eastwood’s role was initially offered to Frank Sinatra, who turned it down because of a broken arm; John Wayne was the second choice, and he rejected the offer for that reason.) The rogue genre blossomed in the ’80s, a deliberate throwback to the Western.

The seemingly coincidental details surrounding The Shootist—that Wayne was having a hard time finding parts at the time because of his age, that he had had cancer, that he was obviously ailing, that it ended up being his final film, that in almost every way he was the American Western, that the 1960s had swept away so many of the “traditional values” he represented—make it a somewhat mythic experience, as befits a genre that is really a mythic stage upon which morality plays are endlessly waged, where rough-hewn men and women struggle to survive in the “wild country,” long before our every move was measured and dictated by the bureaucratic minutia of technocratic civilization.

The problem with John Wayne, and by extension the cinematic representation of the Old West, is that many of the “old ways” they enshrine are evil. Wayne was an avowed white supremacist, and white supremacy lurks at the heart of many a Western—perhaps most. What is Manifest Destiny but cover for and vindication of the continued dislocation, subjugation, and extermination of people deemed too dark and too savage—too inhuman—to deserve liberty. And while the Western as an art form is flexible enough to confront and at times subvert these evils, Wayne was not. Like Books, he could not satisfy the requirements of the credo he claimed to live by: both men quite brazenly wronged, insulted, and laid hands on people who had done them no harm, and both men got what they deserved: for Books, a violent death at the point of a gun; for Wayne, a legacy beyond repair.

K.E. Roberts





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TimidWerewolf
140 days ago
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Harlan Ellison was TV’s rejected son—and its harshest, most hopeful critic

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Spend a few minutes looking through the IMDB credits for Harlan Ellison—the legendary science fiction writer and master of the cranky poisoned pen who died last week—and it doesn’t take long for hints of his frequently fractious relationship with film and television to leak through. Outside of his long and fruitful…

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TimidWerewolf
140 days ago
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The Cry Closet

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Installed last month at the University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library. A sign hanging on it explained: "A Safe Place for Stressed Out Students. Otherwise known as The Cry Closet. This space is meant to provide a place for students studying for finals to take a short 10-minute break."

An art project, of course. Created by graduating senior Nemo Miller. (More info).

It obviously struck a nerve because this thing got a huge amount of media attention.



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TimidWerewolf
175 days ago
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