My saved links (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Movies I've watched recently:

  • Medicinen (2014) - IMDb 1/10

    2016-12-12 19:00

    A car crash where your newborn child dies would be a less hurtful experience than watching this film. I'm kidding, but there is some truth lodged in that statement. This film is very "inspired" by "The Devil Wears Prada". By this I mean Nutley and his writer cohorts have concocted a story about an abhorrent person - played by Bergström, despite many doubts on my site as to what "playing" could be, according to herself - who starts ingesting a medicine that seems to change her life. Naturally, this medicine is a sugar pill. The medicine is also the only thing which is sweet about this film. The script is so poorly written that any, and I repeat, _any_ breathing thing - or dead - could easily excrete something which would improve and best this depressing piece of scatological experience, which all should avoid at all costs. Actually, I could go on forever about how bad everything from the direction to casting, acting, the soundtrack and segues are, but I will not. I refuse to. This is on par with Nutley-Bergström's "Angel", which also marked a new milestone in the string of eulogies to Swedish cinema that seems to be their goal. I'm angry to know the couple seem to use films as an excuse to a) go abroad and senselessly film scenes that have none or very little function for a film and b) have Bergström cry and copulate. Don't see this, even for "fun", which was why I saw it. I will never, ever see this film again, and I hope Bergström-Nutley never, ever make another film, write one nor act in one for the sake of humanity.

  • Yakuza Apocalypse (2015) - IMDb 4/10

    2016-11-26 17:10
    * * * *

    This film stretches beyond a regular action film and even really dips into the true meaning of the word apocalypse, but that's the most positive thing about it. Miike has been taking some major leads from Shakespeare, considering he lived a few hundred years ago, this film is truly not very original. Having said that, it's missing in atmosphere. It doesn't pace well and lost me a bit after 30 minutes and did not win the loss back. Having been Shakespearian before that, this film segues into being laughable and filled with fight (as most films by Miike are). Not recommendable to anyone who doesn't want to dabble in martial arts action-cum-half-assed weird dreaming, having fallen asleep with "Macbeth" on your face.

  • Bridget Jones's Baby (2016) - IMDb 1/10

    2016-11-20 21:22

    David Foster Wallace once used the term "hellaciously unfunny" about something, which is a term clearly applicable for this clownboat. Not only is this a film that overflows with prejudice and crap, be it sexistic, nationalistic or racistic, but it's completely barren where jokes should be. I liked the first film. I didn't like the second film, but this one I really loathe. It shouldn't have been made.

  • I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016) - IMDb 4/10

    2016-08-29 09:24
    * * * *

    This film is succinctly different from most others that are about serial killers in the sense that it's using silence and music well. Apart from that, this is a b-movie in several ways: apart from the two main actors, there's not much to use. The plot is quite simple, but at times I - a serial killer fan, so to speak - drifted away because the film didn't entice me more; the flow of the film feels contrived, making me feeling something that's very different to what often comes naturally when seeing works of directors such as Terrence Malick, Woody Allen and Richard Linklater. Also, the name-dropping of serial killers and such is more effect-seeking than anything else, more about trying to spook the viewer than create solid characters. Still, as a low-budget film, it works in creating a kind of solemn street-life atmosphere, the kind that came natural to director John Cassavetes, that very few high-budget films have. All in all this is not a particularly well-made film, but it's memorable.

  • Leap Year (2010) - IMDb 1/10

    2016-07-31 21:32

    Complete. Waste. Of. Life.


The Daily Show – “Drink Responsibly” (+ video)

I’m reading “The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests“. From it:

STEVE CARELL: The piece where Stephen and I go out drinking—God. That was actually my idea.

STEPHEN COLBERT: His idea was, “Let’s both go out and get as drunk as you possibly can and record while we do it.” I said, “I’ve got an idea—how about you do and I don’t.” He goes, “All right.” I said, “We’ll turn it into a report.”

STEVE CARELL: I was watching, every year, these local stations that have the intrepid reporter who decides to test the effects of alcohol on the human systems to show that one should not drink and drive during the holidays. And they take the sobriety test. I always thought that was so corny and kind of dumb. So I decided I wanted to do that, but actually do it and not act it and really drink all that stuff.

NANCY WALLS CARELL: It should be said you do not drink very often.

STEVE CARELL: I’m not a big drinker. So I really didn’t know what I was getting into. Stephen did, but he didn’t say anything. First we went to Times Square and played some video games, and then we ended up at a bar. I started with, I don’t know, white wine and I ended up with Jägermeister, with a lot of gin and beer and vodka and all sorts of things in between. But that was all real. And I had my shirt off, and I was getting him to punch me in the chest. I was just yelling at him to punch me in the chest. The next morning I woke up and I thought, “Why does my chest hurt so much?” Later I thought, “Oh, he could have stopped my heart so easily.” What the camera didn’t catch, because they ran out of tape before all hell broke loose and I was… There was a lot of vomiting that evening.

NANCY WALLS CARELL: In Stephen’s car. STEVE CARELL Stephen drove me home and he said, “Whatever you do, there’s a bag here on the floor if you need to vomit. Please don’t try to vomit out the window.” And I said, “I’m fine. Don’t worry.” And the first chance I had I tried to vomit out the window, but the window was not rolled down and it was his wife’s car. It was Evie’s car. The vomit went inside the window mechanism. It was bad. It was bad. I still haven’t lived that one down.

STEPHEN COLBERT: The vomit went into the door. So no, we never got it out of the car. And I’ll never get it out of my mind, I’ll tell you that.

NANCY WALLS CARELL: I was home and I was really pregnant at the time, too. Stephen delivered Steve back to our condo and Steve just went straight to bed.

STEVE CARELL: I could hear them downstairs laughing at me. Colbert and my lovely wife were downstairs just laughing.

STEPHEN COLBERT: Well, we eventually laughed. Nancy was pretty mad, and I think at me, because I had done this to him. You know, no one wants their husband brought home stinking drunk.

The result:

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Review: Matthew Desmond – “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City”

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American CityEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The day Arleen and her boys had to be out was cold. But if she waited any longer, the landlord would summon the sheriff, who would arrive with a gun, a team of boot-footed movers, and a folded judge’s order saying that her house was no longer hers. She would be given two options: truck or curb. “Truck” would mean that her things would be loaded into an eighteen-footer and later checked into bonded storage. She could get everything back after paying $350. Arleen didn’t have $350, so she would have opted for “curb,” which would mean watching the movers pile everything onto the sidewalk. Her mattresses. A floor-model television. Her copy of Don’t Be Afraid to Discipline. Her nice glass dining table and the lace tablecloth that fit just-so. Silk plants. Bibles. The meat cuts in the freezer. The shower curtain. Jafaris’s asthma machine.

As the reader follows Arleen’s family and other individuals in this airy tome of current-day problems that are affecting the poor and, actually, the not-so-poor persons in the USA, your eyes will widen and your jaw slacken at the sheer magnitude, complexity and most horrid situation that persons who find themselves on the verge of becoming homeless face, not only in the USA, but nearly everywhere, mainly due to how bad societies treat their poor.

I, who am writing this, belong to the middle-class in Sweden. I bask in having been carried by a quite big social-security safety net that’s been behind me for the past decades. This, however, is changing. The average time it’s taken for a Swedish person who has been evicted from their rented (i.e. not bought and owned) apartment after they haven’t paid their rent, is two weeks. This is extremely worrying. People do not talk about this. Things are, clearly, worse in a lot of ways in the USA which is highlighted by Matthew Desmond’s powerful book. Here’s an example of how evictions were seen less than a century ago:

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. They used to draw crowds. Eviction riots erupted during the Depression, even though the number of poor families who faced eviction each year was a fraction of what it is today. A New York Times account of community resistance to the eviction of three Bronx families in February 1932 observed, “Probably because of the cold, the crowd numbered only 1,000.”

There is nothing special about Milwaukee when it comes to eviction. The numbers are similar in Kansas City, Cleveland, Chicago, and other cities. In 2013, 1 in 8 poor renting families nationwide were unable to pay all of their rent, and a similar number thought it was likely they would be evicted soon. This book is set in Milwaukee, but it tells an American story.

There are so many factors to think of other than finding a living space, for anybody. Here’s a simple paragraph on Sherrena, a landlord:

Landlords operated in different neighborhoods, typically clustering their properties in a concentrated area. In the segregated city, this meant that landlords focused on housing certain kinds of people: white ones or black ones, poor families or college students. Sherrena decided to specialize in renting to the black poor.

As racism plays part of a lot of places in US culture, this also generates more problems where segregation and discrimination is rife:

These economic transformations—which were happening in cities across America—devastated Milwaukee’s black workers, half of whom held manufacturing jobs. When plants closed, they tended to close in the inner city, where black Milwaukeeans lived. The black poverty rate rose to 28 percent in 1980. By 1990, it had climbed to 42 percent.

There are many personal stories told throughout the book, not in a sensational way, but seemingly to highlight how often extraordinary things happen to ordinary people:

Lamar paused to take in the scene. Just the previous winter, he had climbed into an abandoned house, high on crack. When the high wore off, he found he couldn’t climb out; his feet had frozen. Lamar kept partying after returning home from the navy. In the mid-1980s, crack hit the streets of Milwaukee, and Lamar started smoking it. He got hooked. His coworkers at Athea knew it because he wouldn’t have cigarette money a couple days after payday. Lamar remembered losing his job and apartment. After that, he took Luke and Eddy to shelters and abandoned houses, tearing up the carpet so they could have a blanket at night. Luke and Eddy’s mother was around back then, but her addiction eventually consumed her, and she gave up her boys. Lamar ate snow during the days he was trapped in the abandoned house. His feet swelled purple and black with frostbite until they looked like rotten fruit. He was delirious when, on the eighth day, he jumped out of an upper-floor window. He would say God threw him out. When he woke up in the hospital, his legs were gone. Except for two brief relapses, he had not smoked crack since.

Just because you may be fortunate enough to have somewhere to live, that’s not the end of problems inside of those four walls:

Tenants could trade their dignity and children’s health for a roof over their head.13 Between 2009 and 2011, nearly half of all renters in Milwaukee experienced a serious and lasting housing problem.14 More than 1 in 5 lived with a broken window; a busted appliance; or mice, cockroaches, or rats for more than three days. One-third experienced clogged plumbing that lasted more than a day. And 1 in 10 spent at least a day without heat. African American households were the most likely to have these problems—as were those where children slept. Yet the average rent was the same, whether an apartment had housing problems or did not.

The horrid, rugged, complacent and even torpid stories of people actually becoming evicted cut to the bone of me:

“Can I have until Wednesday?” she asked. The deputies shook their heads no. She nodded with forced resolve or submission. Dave stepped onto the porch. “Ma’am,” he said, “we can place your things in our truck or on the curb. Which would you prefer?” She opted for the curb. “Curbside service, baby!” Dave hollered back to the crew. Dave stepped into the house and tripped over a Dora the Explorer chair. He reached over an older man sitting at the table and flipped on more lights. The house was warm and smelled of garlic and spices. One of the deputies pointed to the built-in cabinets in the kitchen. “This is the kind of shit I like,” he told his partner. “They don’t make this stuff anymore. Tight.” The woman walked in circles, trying to think of where to begin. She told one of the deputies that she knew she was being foreclosed but that she didn’t know when they were coming. Her attorney had told her that it could be a day, five days, a week, three weeks; she decided to ride it out. She and her three children had been in the house for five years. The year before, she had been talked into refinancing with a subprime loan. Her payments kept going up, jumping from $920 to $1,250 a month, and her hours at Potawatomi Casino were cut back after her maternity leave. Hispanic and African American neighborhoods had been targeted by the subprime lending industry: renters were lured into buying bad mortgages, and homeowners were encouraged to refinance under riskier terms. Then it all came crashing down. Between 2007 and 2010, the average white family experienced an 11 percent reduction in wealth, but the average black family lost 31 percent of its wealth. The average Hispanic family lost 44 percent.

…and people would do nearly everything to avoid eviction:

Men often avoided eviction by laying concrete, patching roofs, or painting rooms for landlords. But women almost never approached their landlord with a similar offer. Some women—already taxed by child care, welfare requirements, or work obligations—could not spare the time. But many others simply did not conceive of working off the rent as a possibility. When women did approach their landlords with such an offer, it sometimes involved trading sex for rent.

People who look for somewhere to live often found out how this affects not only race, age and money but whether you have children or not:

The cheapest motel Pam could find charged $50 a night. They checked in and started calling friends and relatives, hoping someone would take them in. Two days passed without any luck, and Pam began to worry. “Everybody we knew weren’t answering our phone because they knew we needed a place to stay,” she said. Then Ned lost his part-time construction job. He was fired for the two days of work he missed when helping his family move from the trailer park. Job loss could lead to eviction, but the reverse was also true.

When house hunting a few days earlier, two landlords had turned her away on account of her kids. One had said, “We’re pretty strict here. We don’t allow no loud nothing.” The other had told Pam it was against the law for him to put so many children in a two-bedroom apartment, which was the most Pam and Ned could afford.

In 1980, HUD commissioned a nationwide study to assess the magnitude of the problem and found that only 1 in 4 rental units was available to families without restrictions. Eight years later, Congress finally outlawed housing discrimination against children and families, but as Pam found out, the practice remained widespread. Families with children were turned away in as many as 7 in 10 housing searches.

Yes, if you’re a convicted felon, you’re basically lost as well:

One day with Vanetta’s boyfriend, the two women sat in a van and watched another pair of women walk into a Blockbuster carrying purses. Someone suggested robbing the women and splitting the money; then all of a sudden, that’s what they were doing. Vanetta’s boyfriend unloaded his gun and handed it to her friend. The friend ran from the van and pointed the pistol at the women. Vanetta followed, collecting their purses. The cops picked them up a few hours later.5 In her confession, Vanetta had said, “I was desperate to pay my bills, and I was nervous and scared and did not want to see my kids in the dark or out on the street.” When she turned eighteen, Vanetta had put her name on the list for public housing. Becoming a convicted felon meant that her chances of ever being approved were almost zero.

All in all, this work could be seen as dystopic, but I simply see it as a matter-of-factly statement of where we are; how we treat those that are the most in need, is really a clear measurement of how well society is doing.

The author is clear in his statements, the book as a whole is a magnificent piece of work; I was wondering how he fared from writing it, just as I ventured upon this paragraph where he answered my question:

I am frequently asked how I “handled” this research, by which people mean: How did seeing this level of poverty and suffering affect you, personally? I don’t think people realize how raw and intimate a question this is. So I’ve developed several dishonest responses, which I drop like those smoke bombs magicians use when they want to glide offstage, unseen. The honest answer is that the work was heartbreaking and left me depressed for years. You do learn how to cope from those who are coping. After several people told me, “Stop looking at me like that,” I learned to suppress my shock at traumatic things. I learned to tell a real crisis from mere poverty. I learned that behavior that looks lazy or withdrawn to someone perched far above the poverty line can actually be a pacing technique. People like Crystal or Larraine cannot afford to give all their energy to today’s emergency only to have none left over for tomorrow’s. I saw in the trailer park and inner city resilience and spunk and brilliance. I heard a lot of laughter. But I also saw a lot of pain. Toward the end of my fieldwork, I wrote in my journal, “I feel dirty, collecting these stories and hardships like so many trophies.” The guilt I felt during my fieldwork only intensified after I left. I felt like a phony and like a traitor, ready to confess to some unnamed accusation. I couldn’t help but translate a bottle of wine placed in front of me at a university function or my monthly day-care bill into rent payments or bail money back in Milwaukee. It leaves an impression, this kind of work. Now imagine it’s your life.

Read this, which I think is one of the best non-fiction books that I’ve come across, which has been released in 2016.

View all my reviews

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From “The Daily Show book”, Stewart’s pose and a piece of Colbert’s brilliance

I’m currently reading “The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests” which has recently been released. It’s interesting. I’ve so far read a tenth of it, and it’s got some really interesting bits on the formation of the show, under Jon Stewart.

LIZZ WINSTEAD: Instead of Jon playing a character—the news anchor, one of the derelicts in a derelict world of media—Jon made a creative decision to take the show in the direction of the correspondents presenting the idiocy, and then Jon is the person who calls out the idiocy with the eloquence that the viewer wishes they had. And he did it in a way that’s not condescending, it’s not smug. It’s funny, it’s emotional, it’s calling out bullshit. So Jon became the voice of the audience.

JON STEWART: What we were also learning is that Colbert has a verbal equity that is second to none, and so, you could stuff ten pounds of shit into a two-pound sentence and he would Baryshnikov his way through it. Stephen has an agility, verbally, that’s unmatched.

Jon Stewart: [at RNC anchor desk] Now Stephen Colbert, our intrepid reporter, he’s been down on the convention floor all week for us, filing wonderful reports. Stephen, let’s go to him now. Stephen, now that the convention’s over, can you tell me, what’s your overall sense of the mood down on the convention floor? How did it feel to be there last night, during the speech?

Stephen Colbert: [with graphic identifying him as SENIOR FLOOR CORRESPONDENT] Well, Jon, as a journalist, I have to maintain my objectivity, but I would say the feeling down here was one of pervasive and palpable evil. A thick, demonic stench that rolls over you and clings like hot black tar. A nightmare from which you cannot awaken. A nameless fear that lives in the dark spaces beyond your peripheral vision and drives you toward inhuman cruelties and unspeakable perversions. The delegates’ bloated, pustulant bodies twisting from one obscene form to another. Giant spider shapes and ravenous wolf-headed creatures who feast on the flesh of the innocent and suck the marrow from the bones of the poor. And all of them driven like goats to the slaughter by their infernal masters on the podium, known by many names: Beelzebub, Baalzebul, Mammon, Abaddon, Feratis, Asmodeus, Satan, Lucifer, Nick, Old Scratch, the Ancient Enemy, and He Who Must Not Be Named. This is Hell, Jon, where the damned languish forever in a black flame that gives no heat, sheds no light, yet consumes the flesh forever and will not go out. Jon?

I love it. Reading about the show coming together under Stewart, Black, Carell, Colbert and so on is sweet.

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My saved links (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.