Sunday, March 25, 2007

Risking Psychological Annihilation

Charley Rosen (newly blogrolled):

Besides talent, there's a huge difference between winners and losers. Winners always play hard no matter what the score is or where their teams might rank in the standings. Accordingly, after a game, win or lose, winners are totally drained physically and emotionally.
On the other hand, losers always keep their sense of self intact by rarely (if ever) making an all-out effort for every play in every game. The very notion of risking even a temporary psychological annihilation is too frightening for them to consider — even subconsciously.
With my (over?)sensitivity to language implications, I do not prefer to characterize people or behavior in terms of "winners" or "losers." Beyond that quibble, Rosen's observation is compelling.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Valentine to Kelly Clarkson

I've always been taken by "girl next door" types. Kelli Clarkson, from Burleson, TX, is the ultimate girl next door type - including the circumstance that, as a guy, you do not want the girl next door to be prim. You want her to be cute, down to earth, and a bit of a playa. Kelly Clarkson is cute, is unaffected by her celebrity, and is a fun playa-grrrl.

This shows what happens when a playa-grrrl next door gets famous, moves to L.A., has a bit too much to drink, and goes with her friends to a Metal Skool concert. Metal Skool pulls her onstage. She tries to tell them she's had too much to drink, yet that only encourages the band.

The good part starts at the 4 minute mark, when the band starts into GNR's "Sweet Child of Mine". No hair has ever fallen across eyes more alluringly than Kelly's. It's also cute that, like the rest of us, Kelly basically only knows the chorus to the song. Watch as the lead singer tries to help her, by subtly cuing the words for her. Enjoy. Kelly is.

Postscript: When she starts singing, Kelly is as natural and unaffected as she could be. She puts more of her true self out there - nakedly exposed for the audience - than most performers would dare to, even if they could.

It's impossible to watch this without thinking of Kelly and her girlfriends, ten years ago, jumping around in each other's Burleson bedrooms, singing to CD's and pretending they were rock stars. Onstage with Metal Skool, even Kelly's rock and roll "I've had too much to drink" licentiousness looks like what teenage girls would do - to scandalize and amuse their girlfriends, during bedroom concert performances.

During this, watch for the lead singer's double take reactions to Kelly during the performance. He keeps looking offstage to share looks with someone. Notice how "the lead singer for Yellow Card" gets so into it he sort of forgets the band is more interested in hearing Kelly sing. I really enjoy this video.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


In "300", Spartans are offered their lives, their land, their riches, every good thing their civilization enjoys - and more ... IF ... they will bow down as subjects of the Persian King Xerxes.
Spartan King Leonidis goes to war with Xerxes - not for Greek lives, land, riches, or any good thing - but for freedom. Leonidis will not give up his freedom, or that of his people. It is one of the earliest instances of a people warring for a philosophic concept: freedom - instead of warring for traditional motives of land and treasure.
In the movie, Spartan King Leonidis despairs at sending his Spartan nation to war. Freedom is still a fresh concept in history. Leonidis could bow to Xerxes - as would've been Sparta's only option just a few years before - when she was not yet a nation committed to freedom. If King Leonidis bows, his Spartan people would live long and prosperous lives. If Leonidis fights, his people will very possibly be slain - to the last man - by Xerxes' military hordes. Spartan Queen Gorgo counsels her husband:
"It is not a question of what a Spartan citizen would do, nor a husband, nor a King. What, my dearest love, would a free man do?"
In 480 BC, the world had Xerxes. In modern day, we have the lovely gentleman pictured above, holding the sign. Is this gentleman protesting political change in Afghanistan, or in Iraq? Is he counterprotesting the freedom-demanding student movement in Iran? Negative. He is standing in London - outside the French embassy, protesting the very Western freedoms whose protections he is enjoying.
h/t Powerline, who caption the picture: "Reductio Ad Absurdum".
Last note: though "300" is gorgeous and entertaining, critics HATE it. Why? "300" celebrates every political and philosophic concept which "progressive" movie critics typically stand against. At Protein Wisdom, Melissa explains:

A rock-n-roll thumping score, over-the-top visuals, and Fred Astaire grace-filled battle-scenes featuring flying heads and spurting limbs serve as the backdrop to the story. The theme is simple and that is why critics scorn (see here, here, here and here) it and audiences love it. On the evil Persian side symbolized by a gold-adorned Xerxes there is hubris, decadence, slavery, treachery, bribery, betrayal, theft, cowardice, rape and weakness. On the good Spartan side symbolized by Leonidis and his wife Queen Gorgo there is faith, restraint (except during fighting—leave no prisoners—another reason for reviewers to hate it), freedom, loyalty, willingness, courage, giving, bravery and strength. The good side wins even in loss.

Spartan’s King Leonidis is offered a savior’s choice: “Worship the devil in return for all the kingdoms of the world.” Leonidis declines and tosses the messengers into a well, thus declaring war on the vast Persian army. Leonidis was not in a mood to treat with the enemy, also known as diplomacy, also known as appeasement, also known as certain submission, i.e. slavery. Perhaps this is the biggest sticking point with critics (see above): the lack of nuance.
Queen Gorgo has the nerve to speak out to the Persian messenger and the Spartan Council. How dare she? Well, she serves as the moral compass to King Lionidis; they are a team, and a formidable one. Marriage and family as societal strength surely also riles the critics [since the traditional marriage argument = special reverence for traditional marriage strengthens our nation].

300 lays out simple themes for the taking, the last one the most important. Persia was undone by their decadence and softness as much as anything. If America is to take a lesson, it should be taken from the Persians. The high ideals and simple beauty of democracy deserve a fight. Riches and indulgence and decadence and licentiousness will undo the greatest of cultures. America should worry about rotting within. That’s a danger bigger than any suicide bomber. With a weak will to protect the ideals, the enemy is already victorious.

Winners and losers, right and wrong, good and evil. This movie will make a lot of money. The progressives will despair.

As an aside: This is not a movie for children.

John Podhoretz, a columnist for the New York Post, is THE WEEKLY STANDARD's movie critic:

Because the actors are unimportant, Zack Snyder received no pressure from a top-of-the-line star to adjust his script to make his heroes more attractive, more modern, and more politically correct. There's no way that a Brad Pitt could have played Snyder's Leonidas. The part would have been altered to ensure Pitt got to deliver a speech bemoaning the tragic cost of war. No Spartan would have delivered such a speech, of course, but if Brad Pitt is your Spartan, he's going to insist on it.
In animated features, the story is king--and the stories that work are ones with clear moral conflicts in which flawed characters are called upon to sacrifice for the greater good. Stars don't like playing characters with flaws, or characters from different times whose views on social matters don't conform to our own. If semi- animated pictures aimed not at kids but at adult moviegoers now really take flight because of 300's smashing success, the future will not be so bright for Hollywood's star system. But it will give adventurous moviemakers some room to breathe free.