Trumping

You can’t out tweet him, he live tweets during debates and events with the gusto of an insecure teenager. You can’t compete on television, he rules the networks. You can’t get anywhere joking about his hair; after twenty years of steady jibe-making the laughter has rubbed off (much like the natural hair on the top of his head did too). Plenty of trash has been written and said over the last six months about The Donald, including tonnes of the most pathetic stuff. Why is he popular? How long can he last? Is the Republican Party doomed?

On the last point yes, the GOP (Grand Old Party) is doomed, at least in its current incarnation. The trouble with living is the requirement to adapt. If you do not adapt, you die. Simple. And scientific. That is how natural selection became the modus operandi of the natural world. The post-Bush GOP, with its stonewalling and Tea Party will die. A refreshed, hopefully more moderate Republican party will arise, with gib walls instead of stone. Donald Trump maybe the much needed wrecking ball. Unlike other candidates for President, like the bloated pantomime villain that is Senator Ted Cruz; or the dumbo-eared (and self-consciously balding) Marco Rubio, The Donald does not take himself seriously. He knows his own personality, warts-and-all, and he is able to appeal with the whole thing. His total lack of shame would be remarkable, if it wasn’t for the fact that he has so much to be ashamed of.

Rubio certainly (and Christie to a lesser extent before he dropped out) seems more than a little embarrassed to be seeking the Republican nomination. I don’t think he has the stamina to remain standing after the National Convention. Oftentimes people run for President to improve their own standing in the party, hopefully establish some kind of national profile, and connect with donors who will help them in their Senate and Congressional campaigns. For examply, Paul Ryan was a little known Congressman before 2012, then Mitt Romney put him on the ticket for Vice-President and now four years later he is Speaker of the House of Representatives, the highest ranking Republican in the land. Presidential elections make more Whips, majority leaders, and speakers than actual presidents.

But alas, not this time. Rubio does not stand to gain if he stays in the race only to lost the nomination to Trump. In the senate he looks prominent enough to replace Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when that old tortoise shuffles on. He should be looking to that opportunity and give up on the notion of becoming president. I’d wager he’ll be offered Vice-President, but Senate Majority Leader is a real job, VP is worse than a bucket of lukewarm piss. It can be thrown on a gravestone, but that’s an insult to some.

Donald Trump is the pivot point of all this, everything depends on what he does and how much support he gains. It is interesting that he has found a foe in the legacy of the Bush family. He drew boos when he went after George W Bush’s record as president, and Jeb Bush came back with coolness. The irony is suffocating. George W Bush is brought in to make his brother electable. Re-write those political satire scripts, reality is taking laps around the insane circus!

Finally, and this is a truth that extends beyond metaphorical confines, you can’t play cards with The Donald, he always has the Trump.

US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dead

http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/76866780/US-Supreme-Court-Justice-Antonin-Scalia-dead?cid=app-android

Not wanting to tarnish tragedy for his loved ones, but this is a very interesting development.

Justice Scalia was one of the four deeply conservative justices on the supreme court. His death means that President Obama will have to nominate another judge to fill the seat. Suddenly Obama’s lame duck status as a president about to leave office changes. This will affect his legacy.

The conservatives on the Court can no longer straight down gun control legislation if it made it through Congress. The process will be incredibly messy.

Unknowledge

There’s no certainty at the top

But relentless knowing unknowns

And shadowy unknown unknowns

And awful unknown knowns

When the devil brings down the mountain

Through an easy impossibility

He just disagreed.

How hot your world burns

How bleak the days ahead

And succeeded by the bright eyed prince

Your bloody crown his laurels

Then repeat the tape

Turn his bright eyes blank and cold

Crush his spine with heavy unknowledge

And burst the dream of peace.

War needs no certainty

No stringent rationale

It’s like falling off a mountain

Peace is the climb.

Pondering a summers day

The sun is up, the sky is blue, the breeze is gentle.

Not a bother, some food, some work, some thought.

Not too much of any, not even quite enough

Good while the summer days last

When the sun is up, the sky is blue, and the breeze is gentle.

Gasping on the beat, pulling at collars

It’s not too late to change course

To stop at the drowning of the toe.

Because the sun is up, the sky is blue, and the breeze is gentle.

I made a hole in my wallet that steals all my cash.

In return I get a brief reprieve from nothing,

Before something disappears.

Yet the sun is up, the sky is blue, and the breeze is gentle.

Slowly it builds, with tenderness it collects

And at my back it pushes softly

Growing with the years.

See that the sun is up, the sky is blue, and the breeze is gentle.

Not so gentle at my back, the cyclone force

Undeniable, irrepressible, drawing the edge

Moving me closer

Into the shameful quiet

Away from smiles and thoughts

And witty dialogue delivered without the wit.

Without me, the sun is up, the sky is blue, and the breeze is gentle.

Smarmy, self-interested git

Gareth Morgan, the maverick economist, the nemesis of all things feline, the father of the father of trademe.

He is well liked by many, and listened to by many more, but as evidenced by his appalling offer with regards to the crowd funding campaign to buy an Abel Tasman beach, he is a revoltingly reptilian cad.

The crowd funding campaign has reached $1.5 million, the asking price for the beach is $2 million, and the deadline is this week. Morgan believes the winning tender will be around $3 million. He proposes — like the worst trademe watcher who swoops in as an auction is closing — that the campaign has no chance of getting enough money by the deadline. So, he proposes to make up the rest, and in return wants private use of the beach (allowing the same public use as the current owner does). He  promises to give the beach to DOC after him and his sordid family have got their enjoyment out of it.

How this demented public shit still gets to be called a philanthropist is an offence against the English language. A philanthropist is someone who seeks to benefit the welfare of others, and Gareth Morgan is in this for his families enjoyment. That the public would eventually benefit from the Morgan families sloppy seconds is a profound insult to the dignity of this country. I know I am probably offending some friends/fans of Gareth, but I have to give expression to my disgust. This turn of events is simply nauseating.

I hope that the government steps in and matches the crowd funded money so the beach can be bought and added to the Abel Tasman National Park in the very near future. Take your money elsewhere Gareth, the heritage of Aotearoa is not yours to violate in private.

P.S Gareth Morgan has been rejected. Hooray!

http://m.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11586414

American Ultra; Casualty of Bad Critics

Last weekend I saw a movie. Nothing unusual so far but keep reading. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, which starred Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart (an established pairing, I refer you to Adventureland) as a stoner couple in a small town in West Virginia, whose life is torn apart by the CIA. Jesse was part of a project you see, he was enhanced like Jason Bourne to be a super soldier and then had his mind wiped blank when the project was cancelled. I don’t need to reveal anything more of the plot than that. Seth Rogan Slacker meets Jason Bourne. It is American Ultra.

This film was a critical and commercial failure, and I cannot work out why this was so. That is, I don’t know why it didn’t make back it’s $35 million budget. I expect it was a combination of economic factors, like the competition with Hitman Agent 47, And the difficulty marketing a genre hybrid film. But I do know why it was a critical failure. And it has nothing to do with the movie — but everything to do with vapid nature of film criticism.

I target Red Letter Media, a collection of film aficianado’s who produce good value discussion material on YouTube and hilarious reviews like Mr Plinkett. I target Peter Travers of the Rolling Stone magazine who since the death of Roger Ebert has become the de facto supreme critic. They should know better. I am taking aim Rotten Tomatoes and the whole rating/review aggregate system, which ends up dumbing down movie-going and supporting the cynical producer viewpoint of cinema being all about the numbers.

With your indulgence I will take these in reverse order. Rotten Tomatoes gave American Ultra a 42% rating. Stale if not rotten. That number was based on over a hundred ratings, but the real lump of pungent green putty from satan’s armpit is to be found in their narcissistic “critical consensus”; that the film had some good ideas but failed to reach it’s potential. Peter Travers said something similar, that Eisenberg and Stewart were good, but the film as a whole was not. That is kinder but no less brainless. Since when did film criticism equate to being a sour high school teacher who can’t handle the disruptive student? “Oh I am afraid they are a very disappointing child, they do not reach their full potential.” I challenge you, dear reader, to try to tease out any specific meaning from these remarks. What made the film not good Mr Travers? What is its potential Rotten Tomatoes? Is $500 million at the box office and ten Oscar nominations its full potential? If that is the measure then I am not at all surprised it didn’t reach it. If it is not then what in hell is?

All we have in film criticism is logic. It isn’t science, there is no universally acclaimed film, no matter what there will be people who don’t like Star Wars, or Titanic, or Citizen Kane. Criticism is opinion backed up by reasoned argument. Reviews are just the opinion part, but even then it is opinion masquerading as fact. Peter Travers writes that the film is not good. That is a statement of fact, because it omits the crucial preface “I think”. By skipping that it claims to be fact and fact must be backed up with logic and reason. When that happens a film review becomes elementary film criticism, and suddenly worth a damn.

Red Letter Media does deal in film criticism. There is no suggestion that the guys involved are espousing facts, they discuss their opinions and back hem up with logic. So far so good. But they slammed American Ultra, a film I liked, to the evident hurt of writer Max Landis, who took the criticism personally. Well, they were pretty harsh with their appraisal of the writing, and Max Landis responded on twitter with a lament for originality in Hollywood. He was proverbially crucified for that remark. He wasn’t meaning that American Ultra is a beacon of originality, with it’s plot heavily influenced by the Bourne films as I have already mentioned. But it wasn’t based on anything. There was no TV show, or comic, or novel of American Ultra. It wasn’t a remake of an old (no not so old) flick. It is as original as anything humans routinely manage, and the routine is rarely practiced now in Hollywood.

What makes this important to me is that with such commercial and critical failure it will be all the harder to get future films like it off the ground. Making a film is incredibly difficult, and making an independent film is near impossible. The action sequences in American Ultra require a Hollywood budget, plain and simple. I don’t want Hollywood to simply be the province of the tentpole blockbuster, The Avengers, Star Wars etc. The trap Red Letter Media falls into is the same that catches film students everywhere. You learn so much about the craft, about what makes a good film that the idealised perfect film becomes a standard by which you measure everything you don’t like. The things you do often get a free pass. Who cares about the plotholes in Inception when the film was so engrossing? But for some reason you don’t like American Ultra, maybe because it has Kristen Stewart and she still has the Twilight taint. That is poor criticism and I accuse Red Letter Media of it.

Why did I like American Ultra? Well, I have a very simple and logical measure. Did it achieve its ends? For an action/comedy did it thrill me and did it make me laugh? Yes, and oh my god yes. There is a sequence in a supermarket in which Jessie Eisenberg fights several armed men with items off the shelf as weapons. It is brilliantly shot, with one fluid shot following Eisenberg for a couple of minutes of violent action with no cut. The choreography is superb, Eisenberg’s skinny awkward physique beating larger and stronger assailants is funny and actually believable. He doesn’t ham. Kristen Stewart gets a few punches as well (taken and given) and the emergence of two bloody people through the smoke near the end denies the consequence free violence often portrayed in Hollywood.

The writing was sound too, right up to the finish. The final line tying back to the accidental brilliance of Eisenberg’s character, long suppressed by amnesia and dope. I won’t reveal it, I hope you will see the movie. Piracy has hurt the film greatly. After typing it into Tumblr I found that half the posts on it included links to streaming websites. Piracy doesn’t hurt big blockbusters, but they are the ones to go after it most fiercely. It does hurt smaller Hollywood movies, which do have distribution deals (unlike Indie flicks) and must make money in the cinemas. I hope that Blu-ray sales give American Ultra the second wind it deserves.

Finally, on Kristen Stewart, she is a good actress. Twilight is dead and gone and forgotten. For every clunker she has done I can point to something she did well. Speak, Into The Wild, Adventureland, The Runaways. Every oeuvre has its drudgery as well as its gold. I’ll happily take the gold wherever I find it.

Brooding

Hark! Who knocks? And do the dogs of war slip past our eyes?

So helpless we, the people with our urban sprall

Cannot without a leader’s call

Summon back the dogs.

What sticks to the spiders web

Is fast forgot when the corpse is dry.

What was it? A fly?

Do flies govern spiders now?

Works a pall but a jobs a job

Or so they say those people

Who long ago forgot to dream

And watch children drown against the stream.

What change will come, and what change can?

Who dares to shift the good lord’s plan?

And wallow in the fog of possibility.

Not us. Not me. I just don’t see.

Who made it thus? By whose hand

Is it all this and that

All A to B

And then blind C.

Blaming is fun, it passes time

And gives me room to sit and stare and hate

And know that I will not be knowing after

The glass runs out of sand.

Times up, and brooding’s done for now

To be followed by activity, that unconscious thing

That puts to sleep the spectre around the corner

Who is only thought to be there.

Be there a little longer, I’ll be back soon enough to brood.

Clark VS Rudd

To quote the ruddy dumpling former Australian PM himself, “they’re ratfucking us!”

He was talking about China in the 2009 Copenhagen climate-change summit, but the statement can be appropriated to the contest for UN Secretary General.

Just who the receiving party is in this scenario is not yet clear. What is clear is who the right person for the job is.

Helen Clark led the Labour government for three terms 1999-2008; bringing in paid parental leave, interest-free student loans, signing the worlds first free trade agreement with China, started the Kiwisaver retirement scheme, and many other achievements. Since 2008 she has led the United Nations Development Programme and supported many countries around the world to decrease poverty and increase prosperity. At her worst she’s a micro-manager. At her best she is a decisive and positive leader, who inspires hard work and develops key relationships which prove critical to handling crisis.

Kevin Rudd led the Australian Labor Government for almost a term before being deposed for gross incompetence. Adept at crisis management because of his agile mind and temperament he was awful at every day governing. Quick to anger, impatient, mistrustful; Rudd alienated everyone in his government and left Julia Gillard no option but to remove him from office. Not content to ruin his own government, he set himself up as foreign minister and within three years had ruined hers. Back as PM just in time to be beaten soundly by the second worst PM in living memory — Tony Abbott. Oh, he has achievements, like saying sorry to the Aborigines for the stolen generations, signing the Kyoto protocol, and navigating the Global Financial Crisis. But the man is awful to work with, and despite his speaking of mandarin, he was a disaster for Australia-China relations.

I am open to being proved wrong on this point, but it seems quite clear to me that the job of UN Secretary General requires sound relationship building. Whoever is in the role needs to have relationships with leaders of all types, some democratic, some authoritarian, some downright dystopian. The Secretary General needs to be able to play the part of a trustworthy go-between. Especially when conflict prevents leaders from directly contacting each other. It is a serious role, requiring a person to be pragmatic, and able to uphold the ideals of the UN while dealing with the stark realities.

It is obvious to me that Kevin Rudd is not capable of this. Yes, he was a diplomat in the past, and yes he was foreign minister. But he used the latter position to undermine the Prime Minister, whereas Helen Clark stepped in to act as Foreign Affairs Minister when Winston Peters was engulfed in scandal. No one faulted her for doing so because she was undoubtedly the best person to do it. In doing that she demonstrated her faith in Peters by not replacing him. It was an excellent piece of face-saving. That relationship building is precisely what is needed.

Australia has wavered in their initial promise to support Clark because of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. She came to government with complete indifference to the UN, and changed her position as she tended to her ignorance. Bishop now supports Australia taking a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, and she understands how having an Australian at the top of the organisation would benefit her country and government. But Rudd isn’t just an Australian. He’s a puffed up, angry little man, in whose hands the political integrity of Australia was ruined. For ego he was willing to destroy a government. You don’t risk the world on such people.

It should be remembered that Julie Bishop supported the most misogynist leader in a generation so she could go into cabinet. She is pro-women only as far as she is concerned. No wonder she doesn’t like Helen Clark.

Perhaps it will be all for naught, since Eastern Europe maintains it’s their turn for the role. With the problems in Ukrane and Russia’s involvement in Syria, I think that would be unwise. Let Aunty Helen put sense back in to the world.