And Now The Oscars Might Have No Host At All…

So Sayeth Variety:

Another option being tossed around is not having any host at all, but rather “a bunch of huge celebs, something ‘SNL’ style, and buzzy people” to keep the show moving, the insiders said. A stunt like a group monologue was floated, one source added.

What’s interesting, aside from the nap I’m going to need because I’m so tired of being right all the time, is that they’re blaming Kevin Hart for not standing there like a man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at him:

One top talent rep wondered why the Academy didn’t more thoroughly vet the host, particularly given that Hart has been asked about some of these jokes in the past.

“My clients are bummed. They’re bummed Kevin didn’t stay the course and serve as an example. It dampens the experience, hopefully [the Academy] can pull it together so we can focus on the excitement,” said the rep.

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Why, that looks suspiciously like confirmation of the thing Kevin Hart said when he “passed on the apology”. You know, the fact that he’s been asked about this stuff before, has dealt with it, and doesn’t want to deal with it again. But… if they knew that, then why would they offer him the host job, with no seeming plan in place for dealing with the predictable outrage?

They weren’t planning on the outrage happening, now were they?

Was this the plan?

  1. Hire edgy (but non-threatening) comic to host.
  2. Wait for someone to notice past edginess, which does not jibe with present edginess requirements.
  3. Issue ultimatum that he apologize for past edginess.
  4. ???????
  5. Edgy (but chastened) comic hosts new Super-Rainbow-Friendly Oscars. PROFIT!

I think that was the plan. Then again, if they’re seriously considering turning the Oscar’s into a SNL-style group-hosting madness, they might not know what “plan” means. Then again, if they actually do that, I might actually watch the Oscars this year, just to taste the sheer horror of it.

Probably not, though.

This Crash Course is the Last Christmas of Alexander the Great YouTube Videos…

… it’s not actually about Alexander the Great, but some nonsense tertially related to Alexander the Great.

Normally I like Crash Course, because it doesn’t take itself too seriously and usually provides some kind of interesting take on historical events. But this one is trying so hard to be Woke that it ends up saying absolutely nothing at all about its ostensible subject, and the things it does say are, well, wrong.

  1. The only reason Alexander didn’t build institutions is because he died before he could build them. At the time of his death he was back in Babylon and preparing himself to build the Hellenistic Empire that would have fit the Hellenistic Culture that arose in his wake. His death without an adult male heir is also the reason that Empire collapsed, despite the efforts of at least some of the Diodachoi to hold it together. For further reading, check out Ghost On the Throne
  2. Alexander wasn’t a very destructive conqueror. Most of the deaths of his wars were military ones, i.e., his soldiers and the ones he was fighting. He wasn’t a sacker of cities, and indeed was careful to respect the lives and property of the people he subjugated. He was so as a matter of policy, pertaining to point 1: He wanted the Greek and the Persian, the Greek and the Egyptian, the Greek and the Syrian, etc., to come together in a single realm. He acted accordingly.
  3. Alexander pursued Darius because Darius was the crowned King of Persia, and Alexander’s reign would never be secure until he was dead. And after Darius died, Bessus claimed the throne. Comparing this to Ahab’s monomaniacal obsession is deeply silly. Do you not understand how monarchies work?
  4. Other conquerors didn’t just decide to emulate Alexander randomly. Why, for example, did Julius make Alexander his hero, and not, say Hannibal? Or Scipio Africanus? Or Phyrrus of Epirus? They were all great generals, too. Why  Alexander particularly?

    The answer lies in what Alexander was fighting for. His aura was never merely about war and conquest, but war and conquest in the name of a unified world. War to end wars, if you will. That appealed to Caesar, and Napoleon, and others, precisely because it was what they wanted to accomplish, too. Both Caesar and Napoleon grew up in times of political disorder and wanted to bequeath an ordered world to posterity. So did Alexander. Their admiration is neither accident nor dumb-jock hero-worship, as your endless references to dimwit reality stars seems to imply.

  5. And as regards that, we get it, you’re Too Smart for The Jersey Shore. But you’re not smart enough to ignore it, so it infects this video about a legendary historical figure for some reason, and in an ironic twist, to your beginning moaning, ensures that people will know about Jersey Shore as long as this video exists on YouTube. Nice job.

A final point, germain to my title: If you want to teach us about Alexander the Great, teach us about Alexander the Great. If you want to teach us about people who haven’t been talked about nearly as much as Alexander, but who deserve to be, then teach us about that. But don’t talk about one in a video about the other, because you end up teaching about neither.

And yes, I know that blogging about a video published in 2012 might as well be commenting about 50’s Fashion Tips, but there’s plenty of internet people doing exactly that, so welcome to the Post-Modern Age. Everything is Too Old to talk about, and nothing is.

Do the Oscars Really Need a Host?

So here’s how the Kevin Hart thing went down:

  1. The Academy (whoever they are) offers a comedian a job being meh funny for a few hours while pretty people in gowns walk across the stage to announce other pretty people in gowns and then give each other shiny statues.
  2. Activists on Twitter (whoever they are) digs back through his tweets and his standup routine from ten years ago and discovered stuff that was not all about the LGBT community.
  3. The Usual Call for Apology is issued.
  4. Comedian posts video stating that he’s Moved On from That Time, and everyone else should.
  5. This is Not Good Enough.
  6. Comedian posts another video declining to apologize on the grounds that he’s Addressed This Before.
  7. This is Super Not Good Enough.
  8. Comedian announces that he’s declined the gig, whereupon he apologizes.

Other than the apology coming after the point when it might have done any good (not really, though), this is obligatory. The only question is how soon we’ll get the Burned by Oscar Controversey, Comedian Mounts Comeback narrative. My guess is next year, depending on whether his next flick with The Rock performs above or below box office expectations.

The obvious question now is, who hosts now? The more interesting question is, why anyone? I’m completely serious. The perennial complaint of the Oscars is they go on too long. What better way to slice the Gordian knot of technical awards and laundry lists of people to thank than removing the superfluous element of what’s ostensibly an award show?

All the introductory elements of the show can be handled by one of those navel-gazing retrospectives. All the introducing can be done by some red-carpet casualty who’s not up for any awards (that’s 90% of what happens now anyway).

All hosting the Oscars gets for you is the harrumphing consensus that you should never do it again, partly because one of your weak one-liners Offended someone, and partly because you’re Not Billy Chrystal, who remains the only acceptable Oscar host (along with Zombie Jonnie Carson) in the eyes of people who care about such things. And there’s a low six-figure paycheck, which sounds nice from where I sit, but I don’t have to pay for Southern California real estate or Hollywood divorce lawyers.

Skip it, give the people their statues, and let’s get on with the mindless speculation about what’s gonna go up next year.

New Summer Poetry

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Over the course of that rainy muddy monsoon that was the summer of 2018, I wrote some poems, cheap, messy, quick, and therefore true. I consider it an expression of this idea I call Suburban Zen, which I have not fully defined. It’s closer to Zen that way.

It’s a Kindle-exclusive, and it’s 99 cents. You know what to do.

This is my second such collection. The other one, Stir, was longer and composed over a longer period of time.

I am likely to keep doing this. There’s an ease an a gratification in making such small offerings. They keep the juices flowing.

Ace Of Spades Does “The Other Side of The Wind”

ie9ybrhceuuozazbrohuAs part of a retrospective on Welles for its weekly movie post.

His opinion matches my own. It’s an odd little movie, ambitious and self-referential, with an element of satire, both of Hollywood culture in the 70’s and of the art-house trends of that decade. The film within the film, which has the same title, is colorful and stunning to look at but also incredibly basic, to the point of being plotless. That’s a pretty strong critique of what avant-garde cinema tends to do, which is to say, spin its wheels fast enough to dispense with such pedestrian things as narrative, and then to expect plaudits for it. Which it usually gets, because, as the main movie demonstrates, everone wants to act like they’re in, even when nothing they’re looking at makes any sense at all.

Is it as good as Citizen Kane? I don’t think so, but what is? Not that I accept the notion that Kane is the Greatest Movie Ever Made, (because what does that even mean?) but it is a good movie. Kane tells a man’s story, beginning to end, and in the process of doing that leaves open the notion that for everything we know about him, there was more, a core of him that he alone will take to the grave. It’s watchable and provocative.

This doesn’t rise to that height. It lacks the Everyman subject. Movies about Hollywood are inevitably more interesting to people who are in Hollywood than the rest of us, and while it’s certainly fun to see Welles pronounce a plague on all their houses (if in fact that’s what he’s doing, but I think that’s there), there’s a kind of been-there-done-that to such a message. The provincialism of the elite is a well-mined subject.

But that’s just my opinion. There’s a larger value to the work that makes it worth checking out:

This is like discovering that Emily Dickenson had a complete collection of poetry hidden under her mattress since her death, or da Vinci had created another masterpiece but no one had laid eyes on it since the 16th century. This is akin to finding a trove of Greek drama previously unknown to exist, or a lost Shakespeare play.

I’d advise looking at the accompanying documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, as well.

Good-Bye, Fail Whale: Why I Left Twitter

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My reasons are common, but they are no less true for that:

  1. Twitter is Unfair. Twitter squelches the speech of the Right, but not the Left. The examples are too many to count, and they’ve been going on for a while. It’s going to continue that way. That’s what the people who run Twitter think is fair and just. They are Lib-Progs, so they’re going to run things according to a Lib-Prog perspective. It doesn’t matter that Jesse Kelly got reinstated. The sword of Damocles remains hovering over him and anyone else who dissents from the Narrative. I am not getting anything out of Twitter to merit participation in something that will profit those who despise me.
  2. Twitter is Angry. Even if the suppression of speech were balanced, a great deal of what passes on Twitter would be an unworthy addition to the national conversation. As I’ve said before, Twitter often has the function of Burroughs’ Tape Recorder, displaying the worst arguments of either side to the other, provoking greater and greater condemnations from both.  It’s all Burns and Owns and Destroys. It’s The Screaming of the Children of the Night.
  3. Twitter is Fake. One cannot communicate clearly in a riot. One cannot think clearly. One can only react and shout. The act of reducing a thought to 140 280 characters destroys nuance, consideration and depth. The reward of likes and retweets makes the exercise little more than a performance, an attempt to be applauded. If I am ReTweeted, I reach more people. Therefore I must make what I say basic and accessible, and at the same time extreme, so that it stands out in the storm. Debates are not good-faith attempts to persuade an interlocutor, but a display of rhetorical wizardry before an audience. It is dishonest at every level.

Since leaving, I have had moments of reconsideration. But then I remind myself that I no longer have the Angry Box, as I used to call it, sitting their on my phone to make me angry. I will no longer have pointless debates with strangers over questions neither of us have the honesty to admit our ignorance on.

Instead, I am here. Thinking, reflecting, considering, offering. Doing the Work.

Facebook is next.

Why Vice is Writing About Astrology

Apparently it’s 1971 or something, because Vice UK has a whole subsection of Astrological blather. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but also not:

But that’s not what brought me in. What brought me in was this exercise in Making Astrology Woke: Why Straight Men Hate Astrology So Much.

Astrology give Teh Marginalized a means of control and order in the cishetcarnophallocentricpatriarchy, you see.

To understand your and others’ personalities, to try to predict the future: ultimately, it’s grasping for control, when we have none. Women and queer people are drawn to astrology because it offers community and refuge, something to lean on during a time in which religion has taken a backseat. In a heterosexual patriarchy, cis-het men arguably have less to seek refuge from.

Do you ever notice how paragraphs of this kind can be, and regularly are, written about almost anything? Today it’s Astrology, yestrday it was Yoga, tomorrow it will be the new Woke edition of the I Ching. Always with the same rhetorical point: this new thing is better because the Right Sort of People are doing it, and the Wrong Sort are the ones who disparage it, because that feeds their Wrongness. We’ve gotten to the point where the derpy advice columns that have been sitting in the back of your newspaper for a century and more are being turned into a badge of #thestruggle by trowelling a pile of Frankfort School Crit-Theory manure all over it. Welcome to 2018.

What does my horrible self think of astrology? Not much, by which I mean, I don’t think about it a lot. Astrology is a means of organizing random data to create a map of your persona with concomitant suggestions as to when you should do stuff.

Is it valid? Shrug

Is it harmful? I can see if you took it way too seriously, it could be. I don’t know how many people do.

To me it’s like Jungian archetypes or Freud’s id, ego and superego: a heuristic of human impulses and needs. If you find it useful, go nuts. Just don’t expect anyone else to go for it in the same way.

And if you insist on making a shibboleth out of it, don’t be surprised at how those in the out-group react.