Tuesday, December 24, 2013

If Obama Had A Son, He Would Look Like Santa Claus

My favorite web-based anthology of junk news, lifestyle advice, and gay pride stories has seen fit to inform me that Fox News host Megyn Kelly recently stirred up a jolly good holiday “conversation” on race relations.  Her great offense: contending that Santa Claus and Jesus Christ had white pigmentation in a plainly jesting rebuttal to an equally plain but dead-serious article on Slate which insisted that the former figure should either be a black man or a penguin to avoid offending “nonwhites”.

Racist?  Nah.  Just Wrong.

For once in my life, I can forge common ground with the Yahoo! race-baiters and long out-dated NAACP unionists, even if they mistakenly assume that Santa Claus is a real person rather than a secular deity and that Megyn Kelly has a TV show because viewers listen to her arguments, which is about as preposterous as saying that Rush Limbaugh rules talk radio because listeners like to ogle his golden face and Olympian physique.  We can debate the skin color of Jesus of Nazareth, son of God, savior of mankind, if we wish to sound like irreligious, racially prejudiced idiots and project that we’re obsessed with people’s physical appearances instead of with their character, but much like the question of man-made global warming through vehicular and lung-related carbon emissions, the matter of Santa’s racial identity was scientifically settled a long time ago.  If Kelly’s first error was to even bother addressing anything written on Slate, one of the most unapologetically communistic and off-puttingly PC blogs on the internet, her second error was to fall back on misleading cultural stereotypes about the myth of Santa Claus instead of approaching it intellectually with evidence and reasoned proofs.

The truth is that Santa more nearly resembles America’s first-black-president-and-don’t-you-forget-it than he does any Caucasian of a similar profile, including the Saint Nicholas of legend, Pope Francis (if we’re to entertain that white-hispanics are a legitimate race, we must also account for white-latinos – correct?), and his mythological forebear Odin.  This is not to insinuate that Santa is necessarily black, as celebrity-in-chief Barack Hussein Obama should hardly be confused as a representative of colored or, more accurately, half-colored people at large, but only to say that if Obama had a son, he would probably look like Santa Claus.  To state this in slightly different way, if Santa had a sire and a mentor, he would look a lot like Barack Obama.  In fact, the more one thinks about it, the more apparent it becomes that the Santa of today could have been Obama thirty years ago.  So obvious are the similarities between the two that one can only speculate as to how a bright, young*, blonde, and, unfortunately for her target demographic, already taken ‘journalist’ like Kelly so carelessly overlooked them.  Hmm.

Like the globe-trotting apologizer of the United States, Santa is known for granting himself long and ostensibly well-earned vacations literally year-round in order to compensate for the unusually onerous stress imposed on his frail body by his grueling work.  Both men undertake arduous journeys of great importance across the world to meet with or remember people of all nations, even those that bear not the slightest relationship to the United States or to the Democratic People’s Republic of the North Pole.

Like the overseer of the administrative state, Santa surrounds himself with hordes of bureaucratic, low-level (ho ho ho) grunts, advisors, and servants to whom he can deflect the blame if any of his ‘presents’ have ‘unforeseen’ defects, glitches, costs, or other unworkable side-effects.  When these gifts do stand the test of basic functionality, he claims all the credit for the success of his inferiors, and when they fail the test, he either chastises their recipients for falsely expecting an entirely different gift or faults his little helpers for ‘bad customer service’.  Whatever the case, he swears that he will get to the bottom of the disaster and bring the culprits behind it to justice.  No one is ever more frustrated about it than he is.

Like the all-seeing eye of the National Security Agency, Santa observes and records his subjugates’ every word and move: he knows with whom they’re sleeping, he knows where they’re awake, he knows when they’ve said bad or good, nothing from him escapes.  Based on what he sees or hears, he will issue both punishment and reward, lavishing those he favors (or those who favor him) with the most expensive and spectacular benefits and slapping those he disfavors with a heaping lump of coal.

Like the commanding executor of the war on terror, Santa routinely abrogates his followers’ property rights and immunity against unreasonable search and seizure, forcibly invading their residence without a warrant and pilfering their stores of home-baked sweets.  Nor does he offer them just compensation for his takings, as he considers himself and his overworked racers far more needy consumers of the homeowners’ goods.  When the rare Constitutionalist does boldly indict him for breaching the conditions on which he was or wasn’t entrusted the executive office, he promptly dismisses his critics with the justification that he only encroaches on their hearth for their own good, aspiring merely to the greater security and happiness of his people.

Like the paterfamilias of the American royal family, Santa professes an unduly care for the children of the world, embracing them all as if they were his own and doing everything within his superhuman capacity to ensure that none of them should ever want for food, comfortable living, or recreational opportunities.  Each man makes it his personal crusade that all children should have cause to smile, and in so doing blesses untold multitudes of them with cause to break out in uncontrollable gushes of tears.  They are strangers at best and monsters at worst, differing only in how they opt to display it; while America’s patriarch hides his monster behind a veil of statesmanship and community service, the world’s patriarch wears it in the open, to the effect that his involuntary and youthful benefactors can espy his deception all the sooner.

Like the prophesied messiah of Environmentalism and modern Statism, Santa claims to possess the means of doing physically impossible, even divine acts.  His reins temper the climate of the globe and part the seas and storms to allow his passage; so profound is his dominion over the earth that he can inhabit innumerable regions of space simultaneously on the same night.  He has the power to cure poverty and shower fortune on all who believe in him, to spread the joy of the holidays even in those war-torn or disease-ravaged wastelands where joy is a distant mirage and death is a stranger to none.

Like the arch-bishop of the secular church of America, Santa preaches a message of materialism and salvation by the religious sacrament of altruism.  Christmas to each man is neither a reminder of man’s absolute fallenness nor a cause to honor the grace of God in giving us his son, but a call to celebrate and fervently demonstrate man’s inherent moral uprightness through the “spirit of giving” stuff (which must by logic entail the “spirt of receiving” on some other end) and showing “random acts of kindness” towards one’s neighbors.  Neither leader observes Christmas as an occasion for cherishing the everlasting hope and change that Jesus Christ offers to us, for both believe that the instruments of hope and change lie not with a make-believe god but with man.  The one commands us to place hope in an unkempt, gluttonous, slavedriving burglar who can conjure up physical wealth and goodies at every year-end, while the other promises a similarly magical hope through the iron power of the federal government and its seemingly limitless coffers.

Like the once foreign-born, once Hawaiian pretender-in-chief, Santa is a fraud and an unconscionable deception whom a materialist media has perpetrated on society and unwitting parents on their offspring to effectively supplant faith in the good news of the Gospel with mindless belief in a slobbish and laughably inane Jesus impersonator.  He is a false idol who has attained the status of a cult figure through a series of sheer exaggerations or total fabrications.  He is a serial lie whose existence hinges on keeping people mired in a state of childlike ignorance and blind acceptance of statements that are patently false, just as our dear leader would have no existence if his base did not so gullibly trust his deceits about keeping their health insurance, cutting the deficit in half, closing Guantanamo Bay, making government more transparent, and maintaining the Bush-era tax rates.  He is a satanic mythology, a superhero of superstition, and an affront to all things holy, honest, and virtuous.

Shame on you, Megyn Kelly, for not seeing so obvious a parallel earlier.  I expected better of you.

OK, not really.

Merry Christmas.

* I honestly had no idea she was 43 until doing a Wikipedia fact-check.  You can decide if that’s young or not, as such judgments tend to be subjective.

Friday, December 20, 2013

He Ain't Got The Moves Like Jagger

Article written by George Stefano Pallas.  Views and bad writing expressed by the author are his alone and do not necessarily reflect nor should be construed as those of the Author.

The Voice of America has spoken, and the sexiest man on the planet isn’t.

People Magazine has courted controversy many times in the past for questionable fashion taste exhibited in Best & Worst Dressed lists, for its effective idolatry of the Obama family, and for its erroneous reporting on stories of people getting kidnapped, bullied to death, murdered by self-defense laws, and otherwise discriminated against, but it has never yet landed in water this hot.

The public outcry started soon after the celebrity gossip outlet declared pop band Maroon 5’s lead singer Adam Levine the Sexiest Man Alive in 2013, a verdict that fueled roars of dissension not only from the magazine’s female-leaning subscribers but also from males.  Said fellow artist and AIDS activist Elton John, “Are you (unprintable) kidding me?”

Beauty analysts hailing from such iconic publications as Vanity Fair, Marie Claire, and GQ have almost unanimously deplored the choice, stating that, “There’s more to genuine masculinity than maintaining a stubbly not-beard, singing in chipmunk range, sporting some cool tattoos, and dating a new supermodel every month.  The really sexy man has a stature befitting of his Spartan ancestors, nobility befitting of his stature, and the courage to finally pop a girl the question.”  Public surveys have largely reflected this mindset, with only 36% of 1000 randomly selected readers of the magazine describing Levine as “desirable”.

As if the decision wasn’t already unpopular enough, an official White House petition has now surfaced requesting that Obama wield his executive authority to force People into reissuing its special edition and crowning the rightful hunk of the year.  The stated reason: “Adam Levine has engaged in decidedly unsexy and unmanly behavior by volunteering to become a ruling party propagandist and help enroll gullible, young, celebrity-obsessed women into the most unattractive and demeaning program instituted by the federal government since the DHS, namely Obamacare.

“This isn’t even the first time that Levine has shoved his politics into places they don’t belong.  Back in 2012, he shared this eloquent tweet with thousands of ex-fans around the world: ‘Dear America, if you don’t re-elect @BarackObama, I’m gonna lose my s***.’

“That the statist imbeciles in charge of People Magazine’s administration should abuse their cultural influence in rewarding these lowly and embarrassing acts of semi-prostitution on the part of Levine constitutes a national emergency that warrants the intervention of the chief executive of the United States.  We request that President Obama immediately issue an executive order to strip Levine of his ill-gotten distinction and hold a special democratic election for the Sexiest Man Alive.”

A low-quality screenshot of the official petition.

Strong words, for sure, but effective ones, as the petition has already soared past the 100,000 signatures necessary to elicit a response from President Obama, gathering approximately 16.7 million within fewer than 72 hours of opening and trouncing the ratings of the singing competition show in which Levine stars.

His fellow judges from The Voice have had mixed reactions to the People opinion.  CeeLo Green said, “Sexiest Man Alive?  Ain’t that some ssshhhhhh!” and Christina Aguilera concurred, “It literally blows my mind.  He’s cute, yeah, but, like, sexy?”  Blake Shelton, on the other hand, had nothing but gushing praise for Levine: “I want to kiss him.  I want to kiss him so bad.  I don’t care if it's mutual or not.  Can you honestly tell me that you don’t have a little bit of a crush on Adam?  He’s sexy, is the word I’m using.  Sexiest man in the world.  I’m not saying I’d leave Miranda for him, but there’s some hot bromance on display between us, as I’m sure you’ve seen.”

Shelton appears to be all alone in his borderline man crush, as Levine’s job approval ratings have hit an all-time low.  Wolf Blitzer stressed on CNN that a scientific poll conducted nationwide by the network showed that only 20% of those familiar with the lead singer strongly or somewhat support him after “whoring himself” for the Obama regime, with 75% strongly or somewhat disapproving and 4% being undecided.

The ACLU has strongly condemned the reaction of “negative haters” to Levine’s political activism, saying that “the intense criticism from the right amounts to something like censorship and should be denounced by all as an affront to our basic human and civil rights.”

The Heritage Foundation, however, rebukes this as a vast distortion of the Constitution’s actual text. “The 1st Amendment enshrines a right to freedom of speech and association.  It does not guarantee a right to become a poster child – or grown man, to be precise – for illegal and ineffectual socialized medicine, and it especially does not guarantee a right to be respected and pampered with a silly title for doing so.  The ACLU only cheapens the importance of our natural rights and mitigates politicians’ liability to defend them when it broadens said rights to include such ludicrous vanities as beauty pageant titles.”

The country is still waiting with bated breath for the President to address this new entrant in a long line of “phony scandals” that have plagued his second term.  So far he has been silent on the issue other than to remark that he’ll “have to check with Sasha and Malia about this Mr. Levine.”

The petition doesn’t endorse any single replacement for Levine’s position but does delineate several nominees, including Willie Robertson, Jase Robertson, Jep Robertson, Phil Robertson, Hassan Rouhani, and Shelton, whom Levine himself dubbed the sexier of the two Voice judges in a tender smooch on live family television.

The Author looks on the whole affair with cynical disgust.  “I thought society already had enough problems reducing its women to inanimate pleasure objects with crude and hedonistic denominators like ‘sexy’ and ‘hot’.  Must we apply the same infantile and narrow-sighted measures of character to men, who should aspire for many things – honor, piety, independence, chivalry – but ‘sexiness’ least of all?”  When approached by journalists from the Files, Levine’s representatives said he was unavailable for comment.

Maroon 5’s fifth studio album entitled Overrated will be released soon and you can hear the group’s viral new medley One More Check / Payphoney below.

* Correction from the news team: Due to an accidental lapse in reporter accuracy and intentional lapse in the chief editor’s oversight, the video embedded above is not the latest hit from Maroon 5 and has nothing to do with Adam Levine.  But you probably inferred as much on your own just from how ‘sexy’ it was – the singing, that is, to be clear.  Definitely no Adam here.  And no, the Author isn’t going to ‘fix’ the ‘error’.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Another Belated Movie Review: A Series Catches Fire

Spoilers abound for this story that was released 4 years ago.  If you don’t know what’s coming in the movie, then you are officially culturally malnourished and have some serious catch-up to do on contemporary literature.

After my severe disappointment at the first cinematic third (or fourth – because the whole “arbitrarily bifurcate a book and make twice the money” scheme has regrettably become a trend) of the renowned Hunger Games trilogy, I didn’t feel that desperate to run out and see the following installment, but the opportunity to witness Katniss Everdeen’s continued resistance against the tyrannical Capitol of Panem from within the similarly tyrannical Capital of North America’s pre-Panem was a temptation too alluring to suppress.  Much to my surprise, succumbing to that temptation was a most rewarding endeavor, as Catching Fire is immeasurably superior to the poorly handled and sometimes ironically sadistic mess that preceded it.  While The Hunger Games succeeded only in so far that Suzanne Collins wrote a really compelling story, the script faithfully adapted it, and the actors understood their characters, Catching Fire actually succeeds as a movie in its own right, whether one sees it in or outside the Capitol; rarely does such a film roll along that offers such a delight for the senses and the thinking mind, that dazzles the eyes with magnificent and horrifying wonders while carefully raising themes of politics and individual ethics.

Catching Fire commences almost a year after Panem’s ‘star-crossed lovers’ Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark cleverly seized an unprecedented double victory in the 74th Hunger Games.  Their survival, however, was not won without great cost, for their status as Victors and effective national celebrities forces them to stand eternally in the public spotlight and to maintain the façade of unfailing love that drove the since ‘retired’ gamemaker Seneca Crane to spare them both in the arena.  “I went and spoke with the game mainframe.  He won’t be, well, living anymore.”  Sorry, that’s a GLaDOS quip.  Though Seneca’s trial by nightlock berries seems as morbid as anything else, Katniss and Peeta are fast discovering that their own fates are to be no less grim, condemned to fuel a machine of state propaganda and control that decays with every passing day she continues to survive.  Remarks their mentor and former District 12 champion Haymitch, “You never get off this train.”  In the lead up to the next year’s games, the young heroes travel across Panem on a victory tour, during which Katniss strives to appease the malicious President Snow, who suspects that her suicidal stunt was a treacherous act of defiance, and learns that this same stunt has transformed her into an emblem of hope for resistance factions mobilizing throughout the 12 Districts.  This leads her to a dilemma of pivotal consequence: will she perpetuate a lie and submit as a servant to the state in order to protect herself and her family, or will she do her civic duty in denouncing injustice and leading a revolution against the tyrannical forces that hold the districts in perpetual fear and slavery?

Snow, as it plays out, is determined to grant the rising star neither of these choices, observing that riots sparked by her image are swiftly escalating beyond both his and her own ability to suppress.  To keep his increasingly unstable vassals in line, he not only ratchets up the brutal “peacekeeping” demonstrations of his police forces but also prepares a shocking twist to the games for the event’s third “quarter-quell”: the tributes for this game will be reaped from each district’s pool of living victors, which effectively delivers an automatic sentence for District 12’s lone female survivor, Katniss.  Shuttled abruptly back to the Capitol along with Peeta, she will be challenged once again to save not just her life but her very identity, to preserve her innocence in the midst of all-consuming chaos against forces bent on the full annihilation of any morality she yet retains – and not by their wrongdoing, but by her own.  “Remember who the real enemy is,” advises Haymitch before she dives into the fray.  Whether she does is a question I’ll let the film answer itself.

The most obvious improvement that Catching Fire makes over the original Hunger Games simply lies in its production values.  Whereas the first movie irked me considerably because its cinematography and technical artistry looked like the result of entrusting a few ungainly teenagers with too much money and reserving absolutely none of it for proper camera mounts or effects software, the sequel actually resembles a legitimate, made-for-big-screen blockbuster with awe-inspiring visuals and a budget that was clearly put to good use.  After inducing an epidemic of headaches and nausea throughout the theater stalls, former director Gary Ross was thankfully given the boot and succeeded by a guy I’ve somehow never heard of named Francis Lawrence, who can hold a camera steady at the very least and knows how to stage action scenes such that the viewer can reasonably follow who’s winning, losing, or lost.  One of the more damning faults I found with The Hunger Games was that it Disneyized the violence so much as to render it weightless or even comical.  Good guys and bad guys were clearly drawn in the sand and the bad guys generally died so cleanly and pleasantly that many moviegoers gladly overlooked that human blood was being needlessly shed for their own sick amusement.  That the sequel neatly sidesteps many of its antecedent’s moral quandaries can be attributed largely to conveniences of the plot, as neither Katniss nor her companions directly kill much anybody the second time in the arena, but credit is also due to smart changes in the film’s direction.  Catching Fire retains the PG-13 rating that will be the series’ custom but wisely turns it from a handicap into a license; without adding buckets of gore or dwelling on graphic imagery, the movie nevertheless ratchets up the intensity of its action significantly through claustrophobic camera-work and incredibly lifelike effects.

Whereas the setting of the first movie’s bloodbath was little more than a generic and unevocative forest that could inexplicably burn up in places when appropriate and was later infested with the saddest CG hounds to ever appear on screen, the arena that the Capitol conceives for the 75th Hunger Games is a brilliantly imagined, downright disturbing reflection of the despair and madness that wrack the gladiators within it.  Unlike many movies masquerading as action pictures which portray cheery, tropical ‘rain forests’ as the director idealizes them, with soft sunlight beaming through a treetop canopy and the tranquil calls of wildlife reverberating across the floor (I’m looking at you, Predator), Catching Fire portrays a jungle that feels as a jungle ought: dark, oppressive, savage, and inhospitable to all but the most resilient of humanity.  This is the jungle of Heart of Darkness, of Lord of the Flies, and of King Kong, and the cinematography masterfully imparts both its sheer majestic scope from above the trees and its ruthless violence from beneath them.  Midway through the picture, Katniss and her company are surrounded and assailed by a pack of vicious baboons that could have been ripped right out of a Peter Jackson movie, which makes sense as the New Zealand company Weta Digital, veteran of LOTRKong, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, presides over the effects design for this chapter.  The tributes and animals blend almost seamlessly in the scene, so convincingly that the viewer can tremble at the beasts’ menacing hisses and recoil at every one downed by the heroes’ arrows or spears.  Without disclosing all of the surprises one will encounter in this massive dome of a Coliseum, the monkey episode is only one of many technically astounding sequences squeezed into a rotating circle of horrors, including a carnivorous blanket of fog that coats one’s skin in boils upon contact.  The sequel also expands on the vision of the Capitol which The Hunger Games only briefly teased in comparison; a dazzling complex of futuristic yet classically inspired architecture, flamboyant and hedonistic elites, and hovering jets that swoop overheard with an ominous thrumming sound, the Capitol is a spectacular and vibrant intersection of ancient Rome and several regions of the Star Wars universe.

All the actors from the original return in top form minus 22 who weren’t allowed to do anything meaningful anyway and 1 who was just a bureaucrat.  Jennifer Lawrence has rightly been showered with praise for her sophisticated embodiment of Katniss and Josh Hutcherson appears to understand Peeta’s character more this second time, even if the writers don’t and lazily persist in synthesizing him down to eye candy.  The same goes for Liam Hemsworth, whose Gale is once again barely in the film even with all the extra time it passes in District 12 prior to the games.  Those who’ve read the series to its end might recognize his constant absence as a subtle and effective ploy by lazy writers (one of which happens to be Collins) to simplify Katniss’ ultimate decision, but that’s in no way the actor’s fault.  Stanley Tucci is both familiar and detestable in the part of charismatic TV host Caesar Flickerman, perfectly fusing all the most irritating aspects of Fallon, Seacreast, Leno, and their imitators, and Woody Harrelson, whom I initially thought a bad choice for Haymitch, successfully delivers many a funny line while simultaneously wearing a mantle of cynical realism.  “I’ve come to drink.”  “Now there’s something I can help you with.”  Donald Sutherland, idiot though he is, exudes pure malice and iron-fisted pragmatism as Snow, solidifying him as one of the more hateful and believable villains written in recent years.  Elizabeth Banks is given a rather short hand as the eccentric Effie, who kind of fulfills the comic relief slot within the movie, but nevertheless manages to show a large range of emotion from behind numerous layers of possibly the ugliest makeup that Covergirl ever tried selling to real people (in all seriousness, what are they thinking?).  All the new characters are exceedingly well cast, with Sam Claflin lending an endearing pluck, elusiveness, and dashing heroism to Katniss’ eventual ally Finnick Odair and Phillip Seymour Hoffman subtly conveying Plutarch’s deft hand in diplomacy and manipulation, which surpasses even that of President Snow.

Most of the flaws in the picture are related to poor time management decisions in the editing room.  As with the first movie, Catching Fire is split fairly evenly into two major acts: the plodding anticipation of and preparation for the games and then the televised brawl itself.  While The Hunger Games generally allowed itself enough time in the first act to cover each of the key plot points, from Katniss’ reaping to her past relationship with the bread boy to her frustration at Haymitch to her interview by Caesar and so on and so forth, this following movie essentially tries to incorporate a third act through the victory tour on top of the other two and feels especially rushed as a result.  Major events in the book, such as Peeta’s feigned proposal, Haymitch’s background, and Katniss’ discovery that her personal rebellion has ignited a national revolution, are either omitted entirely or so thoroughly trimmed as to fit within a 10-second blurb on state-controlled TV reports that are broadcast across Panem.  Rather than focusing on these developments, which Katniss and the reader by extension would actually have descried first-hand, the filmmakers instead attempt to exhaustively show the delicate partnership that President Snow builds with his Head Gamemaker/Propagandist-In-Chief Plutarch.  While this is understandable given Hoffman’s standing within the industry, the scenes between him and Sutherland felt to me like an unnecessary diversion from the main narrative that served no purpose other than to a) emphasize that Snow is a really bad guy, which we already know, and b) artificially make the twist conspiracy at the end all the more surprising by implanting the supposition that Plutarch is someone he’s really not.

Director Lawrence’s use of IMAX cameras is also strange, as the format goes completely unused for the first 1.5 hours, including for several aerial landscape shots that might have benefited from its application, and then is used solely from the moment that Katniss rises into the arena onward, even for cutaway shots to President Snow that give us a closer view of his face than we would ever want.  In this sense, the large-screen is less of a tool to enhance the cinematography in certain places and more of a means to signal a change in the mood of the film, which is a clever trick but hardly exploits the technology to its fullest potential, as The Dark Knight Rises did in 2012.

Regardless, these quibbles are far overshadowed by a powerful story about tyranny, media, the nature of the celebrity, and the courage to risk one’s comfort, reputation, or very existence for a greater cause.  While the first movie was only mildly dystopic in tone, showing us government elites who were vain, childlike, and completely insulated against the costs of violence, Catching Fire shows us a politiclass that is evil and depraved beyond measure, that knows no justice, fears no God, and answers to no authority but raw power and force of arms.  The Capitol that marches through Katniss’ town, razing private property to dust and publicly lashing or executing all who dare resist, is one that we can recognize throughout history and around the world, from the mass executions occurring in present-day North Korea to home invasions by the Red Guards in Mao’s Communist China.  More than anything else, though, the movie is a resounding ode to doing what is right in the face of terrifying opposition, even if that action puts your own life at risk or appears to turn the whole world against you.  In a major example of this point, Peeta and Katniss are instructed on the victory tour to read from written cards, i.e. ’prompters, so that they don’t inadvertently say something ‘incorrect’ and make political targets of themselves; when they address an audience from District 11 off the cuff, their speech is bold, sincere, and meaningful, but when they conform to delivering prepared, state-sanctioned sound bites, their voices are empty, bleak, and soulless.  In the ultimate act of symbolic defiance, Cinna garbs his tribute in a wedding dress that blazes into the glorious semblance of a mockingjay – its wings extended in an adamantine challenge to Snow’s despotic rule.  On the very next day, he gives his life for this offense, but wins immortality in return; his sacrifice will kindle a revolution, his work be enshrined forever in the minds of those he died to liberate (or at least of those he died to show one of the movie’s coolest special effects).

The producers of Catching Fire could easily have taken the low road and churned out another no-budget, haphazardly composed, Twilight-esque cash-in to take advantage of undiscriminating teenage girls, but instead they gave us a stunning and uncommonly thought-provoking sci-fi drama that appeals to multiple demographics and has intelligent direction, writing, and performances.  This is a genuine blockbuster worthy to stand beside such titans as The Lord of the Rings and Dark Knight trilogies.  Henceforth from this film, the odds are ever in the series’ favor.

Grade rating: A-

Trailer Reviews
The Coca Cola Polar Bear Movie – I thought of pinching myself while watching this, but then I remembered that sleeping men can’t pinch themselves.  This sounds like something that George Stefano Pallas would invent.  Or write that someone else had invented, because he doesn’t make the news – he reports the news.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – How does one go about critiquing that which he cannot understand?  I haven’t the foggiest idea what this movie is about other than that Ben Stiller directs and stars in it.
Robocop – My first thought on seeing this was, “Oh great, another Samuel L. Jackson movie,” and my second thought was, “Oh great, another cheap and gratuitous sci-fi remake that some greedy studio green-lit because the original apparently didn’t have enough explosions or CG crap in it.  Those seem to be doing really well between Carrie, Spiderman, The Day the Earth Stood Still, etc.”  But then I listened and thought that this sounds like an interesting, post-9/11 (to use one of the most cliché words in the blogger’s lexicon) update of the original Robocop.  There are some obvious subtexts on drone warfare just within the trailer and the action looks polished enough even if that theme doesn’t figure prominently into the overall production.
Noah – You wouldn’t know it from the ad, but this film is the love labor of several Atheist earth-worshippers who contend that the reason God flooded the earth, thereby destroying whole expanses of it, was because man was destroying the earth himself and thus committing the unforgivable sin of environmental exploitation.  In any case, the special effects look terrible and Noah appears to have firebending magic or some other superpowers.
I, Frankenstein – In which Frankenstein’s monster, or an ugly, vampire-like guy whom we’ll arbitrarily associate with Mary Shelley’s most famous book in order to make more money, fights hordes of mindless gargoyles without any discernible plot or motive guiding his actions.  This probably has a higher CGIPerSecond rate than any other trailer that I’ve seen.
Divergent – I’m predisposed to hate this just because it’s a trend-follower, and the trailer did little to alleviate that hatred.  The premise is stupid and unoriginal (um, Harry Potter Houses anybody?), the action looks bland, and a dude had to take his shirt off for the trailer.  There’s an immediate tip-off to garbage if ever there was one.

* An invective unrelated to the movie itself: The only theater in the near vicinity of the hotel at which my family harbored was a member of the AMC chain and it marks both the first and definitely the last time I will ever support said company with my presence.  After being bombarded with the customary slew of cringing-worthy ads, some of them repeated multiple times, that competitor Regal also foists on early customers, the ass of an operator in the projection room played the company’s dumb logo animation and the obnoxious tune that accompanies it not once, but twice, before proceeding to show a blaringly loud, overlong, and totally humorless introductory video that says nothing more than “keep track of your stuff and turn off your cell phone”, which we had already been advised through a number of ads and other ineffectual “how to watch a movie politely” videos that almost nobody heeds anyway.  From there it segued into the obligatory assault of ear-shattering trailers, which were intermixed with a multitude of AMC clips bragging about their IMAX screens’ unique capabilities as if everyone in the theater had not yet paid to watch the film in that format.

Finally, after nearly a half-hour of excruciating self-promotion videos and condescending instructions on how to enjoy the show, the movie began to play, and all was good from that point forward.  Up until the credits, that is, when Coldplay’s much-hyped new single Atlas, which was produced exclusively for the movie, rang out in all its haunting glory from the speakers, then abruptly cut out roughly two minutes in to be replaced with whatever generic playlist AMC designed to make noise in an empty room while people walk by it.  When I and numerous others cough up $15 to watch a movie at a cinema, we expect to watch the whole movie, including the names crawl at the end and including the songs by Coldplay, The Lumineers, and Imagine Dragons that were written and performed specially for those few who like to sit through the whole picture.

If ever there was a just cause for instituting such a savage offense against God and man as the Hunger Games, the utilitarian commanding officers and idiotic grunts at AMC would provide such a cause.  To quote the great American Charlton Heston, um, “Darn you!  Gah darn you all...”  The next time you want my money, you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

** Another invective unrelated to the movie itself: I am now firmly decided that, come Mockingjay Part 1 or 2, or any other popular movie for that matter, I will avoid the opening and maybe second weekend crowds like the plague.  Between the audiences of Catching Fire and The Hunger Games, I’ve inductively concluded that many moviegoers and particularly those of teen girl-oriented features are either startlingly ignorant of basic public etiquette, incapable of interpreting visual cues correctly and responding with the appropriate emotions, amoral hero-worshippers, or a combination of all those characters.  Whether Katniss’ fans are breaking into laughter when she brings down the arena dome with a lightning-infused arrow, a scene that should inspire awe, snickering when she faints following a drug injection and the realization that she’s been deceived and manipulated, a scene that should move them to shock or tears, or cheering as in the original film when the bad guys get killed in cold blood, a misfortune that should evoke furious remorse, I’m constantly persuaded of a bleakly ironic truth: so many Americans echo the intellectual deformity and moral depravity of Panem’s elite class that it’s only a matter of time before the one people morphs into the other.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Shades Of Occupy In New Social Movement

Article written by George Stefano Pallas.  Views, bad writing, and excruciating double-entendres expressed by the author are his alone and do not necessarily reflect nor should be construed as those of the Author.

The official graphic associated with Shaders; this must have taken a really long time to put together.

A large group of five protestors has assembled on a sidewalk in south Los Angeles to exercise their entitlement of civil disobedience.  Waving cleverly hued, multi-saturated banners and reaching out to passers-by, they are people on a mission that their leader Elton James summarizes as “To remind the American people that we are the 49 Shades, and to clarify that we won’t answer to the 50th anymore.”

A vocal member of a grass-roots, progressive movement that’s gaining steam across the nation in the wake of a widening income gap, James is basing his peaceful but hardcore demonstration deep in the lore of a bestselling dystopian fiction series by Ayn Rand.  Although books in the genre, from “1984” to “The Hunger Games” trilogy, have often inspired fierce intercourse among readers about police surveillance, desensitization to violence, and social justice among other things, none of them have yet aroused a more passionate political revolution than Rand’s iconic and still relevant 50 Shades Arc.

The first installment in the appropriately sprawling saga of many volumes is entitled “50 Shades of Grey” and was published at the height of the Kennedy administration in November of 1963, a time at which income inequality was a major concern for a middle class being rapidly stripped down by economic expansions beyond their control.  Keeping with a personal fantasy that permeates many of her works, Rand imagines an America of the near future, in this case where the Union colors have been replaced with the Confederate, the States supplanted with income- and ethnicity-based castes called Shades, and the Constitution discarded in favor of a pure democratic people’s republic.  The Shades are tied up in a neverending struggle for political domination over each other, and the events of the books play out in the present tense from the intimate, 1st-person perspectives of several characters occupying the subservient Shades of the country, as they endure sadistic abuses from the ruling Shades in the majority.

Although most of Rand’s books have learned to the far right-wing in their views on trickle-down economics and extreme individualism, the Shades Arc has followed the footsteps of “Hunger Games” in evoking graphic displays of support from both sides of the aisle.  At the series’ core is obviously the question of whether the majority in any society has a civil right to bind the minority to its pleasure, and whether the weak should masochistically submit themselves to the dominance of the powerful.

But readers are largely divided on the answer to these tough questions.  James says to the Files representative, “It’s obviously a condemnation of upper-class privilege, unbalanced wealth distribution, and legal obstructions to social progress.  It’s the 49 Shades against the 50th in America.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”  Indeed, “We Are The 49 Shades” has become the main anthem of the reformational movement dubbed Shading and championed by millennials that’s thrusting its message all around urban areas.

Tea Party figures, however, have long held the books in equally high regard and vehemently denounce this new interpretation as a disgusting, unnatural, and exploitative perversion of Rand’s actual text.  “Who is the 50th Shade?” is their bumper sticker of choice, and they assert that the series consistently portrays members of minority-Shades in a sympathetic rather than a negative shade.

Whichever side is right, Rand’s novels have lately been whipping all their competition into the dust, climaxing at the #1-50 spots on many sales charts last March and finally securing a movie deal from Young-Adult mammoth Lionsgate shortly after that.  Just as Tom Clancy’s career flourished following a shout-out from Ronald Reagan, the 50 Shades Arc has benefited from extensive publicity and endorsements by celebrities.  President Bill Clinton has stated that he applies ideas from it throughout his daily life, and Kim Jong Un has credited it for making him a gentler husband to his wives and more benevolent ruler-deity to his people.

Last September, Texan Senator Ted Cruz notoriously delivered a 21-hour filibuster against the President’s signature health care reform law in which he read selections from the 44th and most controversial entry of the series, “Do You Like Shades Of Grey And Ham?” which even the most loyal Rand scholars disparage as a monotonous, purposely evasive, and utterly ineloquent attempt at poetry.

Cruz, already a noted fan of “Atlas Shrugged” and unapologetic follower of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy of unfettered, unchained capitalism, isn’t surprised either that the 50 Shades have become such a hot commodity in today’s action-driven literary climate.  “The books are like porn,” he admits with a laugh.  “Once you start them, you can’t stop.”

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The King's Dead (Again) – Let's All Weep Together

It’s come to my attention recently that a multitude of John F. Kennedy documentaries, novels, memorabilia, parades, and other celebratory occasions are sweeping the nation in recognition of the 50th “anniversary” of his assassination at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald, or of some other unidentified, clearly conservative-leaning person if you are to get your facts from Hugo Chavez-scholar Oliver Stone or the hordes of conspiracy theorists who are strategically timing the releases of their own accounts detailing Kennedy’s tragic demise.  My memory of Kennedy’s life and office probably differs dramatically from most other Americans’, particularly in that I don’t have a memory and care not to get one respecting the president who’s famous mainly for acting like a philanderer, romanticizing about outer space, looking like a sexy movie star (as opposed to Reagan, who really had been a sexy movie star and a big leftist in his youth before seeing the light, or Schwarzenneger, who really had been a… well, he was brawny to his credit), and getting killed.  This is not to insinuate that I regard him among the worst of this great country’s chief executives, but to illustrate the reasons for my interest in this wave of “assassination celebrations”; only the most current and outstanding manifestation of a long-running, popular trend, the hype over JFK’s decades-past departure is most intriguing not for any resounding strength or defect in the man’s individual character but for what it reveals about the American people’s psyche and their vain obsession with commemorating or correcting the curses imposed on their earthly condition.

As stated previously, the so-called wealthiest nation in the world (that paradoxically happens to be the brokest nation in human history) is no stranger to bemoaning its staggering poverty.  Aside from hawking the liberal deity John F. Kennedy’s death whenever the ones digit in the date aligns with 3, Americans also hold annual celebrations or “awareness-raising” parties for

* 9/11, in which we all convene to commiserate and feel very horrorshow solemn together and “remember” some lesson or disaster or other important point that we subsequently cast out of our minds for the remainder of the year.
* Breast cancer, in which we dress up in pink as a fashion statement to flaunt how much more we care than everyone else.
* AIDS, in which we wear red ribbons to do basically the same thing.
* Labor – read “unemployment”.
* And a host of additional commemorative dates that will vary based on your political leanings and the Size Of Your Heart!

The one thing common to all of these events is that they accomplish absolutely nothing other than to make their participants feel mushy inside and proud of themselves – no tangible decline in illness or poverty, no significant revelations in science, no reforms in current government, veritably no advancement of the human condition whatsoever.  On the contrary, one could reasonably argue that the yearly hooplahs yield precisely the opposite effects of what their proponents contend for; where they seek to sow knowledge in the low-information masses, they foster only historical ignorance and confusion, and where they desire to attain progress in medicine or welfare, they cause immobility and stagnation for the research that makes such progress a reality.  The more time that ‘social activists’ squander in calling attention to a certain problem and, in so doing, diverting much attention onto their own arrogant selves, the less time they have in general to actually rectify those ills they profess to despise.

On one hand, the very idea of “remembering”, or of calling back to mind that which wasn’t there before, some person’s or group’s suffering in synchronization with a particular day of the year flagrantly contradicts its own supposed purpose, which is to ensure that said outrage happens “never again”.  The man who has truly absorbed the lessons of history must remember neither John F. Kennedy’s death nor the terrorist attacks, new and old, of 9/11, as those events are already deeply ingrained in his mind and have influenced his character and actions accordingly.  Politicians especially should not be given to remembering major historical occasions whenever their calendar deems it appropriate, but should instead remain forever vigilant to the future consequences of their policies, by keeping the successes and tragedies of the past always at the forefront of their considerations.  That society should stoop to dedicating a whole day or even week of the year for an impermanent history lesson is a telling indicator of those same politicians’ failure to instill in students a proper reverence for the lives and the contributions, good and evil, of their ancestors.

Equally pointless are efforts to “cure” disease or poverty simply by focusing the public’s eyes on either issue, a tactic that is most frequently observed in nationally televised sports and makes no sense for the following reasons: for one, such displays predictably revoke all enjoyment that a cancer-stricken woman might derive from the game as they constantly barrage her with memories of her failing condition, giving spectators and players alike an opportunity to share in a collective pessimism.  Secondly, the vast majority of people watching pink-clad football players on their couch have not the slightest useful understanding of the physical ailments these men are protesting and thus have no means of fixing them.  Finally, the mere act of wanting something doesn’t logically make or help it to be so – no matter the strength of one’s want.  I may yearn with all my nonviable cardiovascular tissue mass for a return to normalcy and constitutional government in the States, but that yearning will come to nothing unless (and probably even if) I translate it into action.  “Raising awareness” is the epitome of what some commentators aptly term symbolism over substance, a gesture that conveys an appearance of compassion and resolve while being utterly meaningless in reality and serving only to bolster the ego of those who extend it.  Everyone wants to bell the cat, but at the same time no one wants to try. All the rhetorical mouse’s plotting doubtless satiated his pathetic, walnut-sized brain’s craving for honor and praise within his community, but in the end it would liberate not a single rodent from the jaws of that predator placed over them by nature’s God.

The Kennedy assassination and all these other misery-celebrations have left me baffled as to the Who, What, and Why.  Is this event actually devoted to Kennedy himself or to those who have written and filmed so exhaustively about him?  Are we intended to salute the legacy of America’s sexiest president ever, or the impeccable headshot of Oswald that brought such legacy screeching to an early halt?  Would the media even care if another public official were assassinated, or are they just profiting from a good story that’s ripe for conspiratorial retellings?  What is the point of it all?  The most depressing thing about this whole fiasco is the realization that we’ll have to do it all over again with Abraham Lincoln in just two more years, accompanied with yet another obligatory slew of baseless Obama comparisons.  “Shoot me now!  Shoot me now!”

Postscript: See, I told you so.  The media are pulling this stunt all over again with the “1-year anniversary of the Newtown/Sandy Hook shooting”.  Let’s all join in our efforts to remind recovering families about the tragedy they endured a year ago, or maybe didn’t.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Introducing The Author's Playlist… and Lindsey Stirling

We recently asked readers of the Files into which unexplored territory they wished the staff to take their favorite internet journal, and the resounding consensus of fans requested the following motion.  By popular demand, then, here are the Author’s first reviews of music contemporary and enduring.*

“Sing, muse, sing to me a song of whooshes and whirrs, with vocals battered by electronic blurs, echoes, and scratchy FX.”

On second thought, don’t.  As a musically picky traditionalist and classically educated rebel against the status quo of pop-culture as it’s written by iPhone-wielding hipsters treading the corridors of public high schools, I have more dutifully resisted the emergence of that techno-funky travesty called “dubstep” than anyone else to my knowledge.  At least I have in my head, banishing Skrillex, Psy, and all their imitators to the darkest, most secluded vestiges of human digital creation.  With that in my mind, to wed radically unclassical dubstep elements with one of the most universally beloved instruments in the classical orchestra would probably seem a more toxic union and riskier gamble than just about any other combination, but the ever exuberant violinist Lindsey Stirling somehow manages to make such a marriage work in ways not just harmonious but beautiful. 

I first learned of Lindsey’s presence on Youtube by coming across her rendition of the iconic (at least among video games and those circles willing to recognize them as a true art form) main theme of the Halo saga, which was interestingly arranged and filmed if markedly less bombastic and memorable than Mike and Marty’s original composition, written obviously for a complete orchestra instead of just one piano and a violin.  Regardless of its worth comparative to the source material, Lindsey’s version must have incurred at least twice as many views and ‘likes’ as the most popular official Halo track on the site, and that her channel had amassed upwards of 400 million views was another indicator that she was probably doing something exceptional.  Aside from reproducing the sound of Halo, she had also churned out interpretations of works ranging from Zelda and Assassin’s Creed to Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones to Phantom of the Opera and a Fallout-reminiscient cover of Radioactive with Pentatonix of all things, many of which do dramatically surpass the original songs even when not accompanied with the consistently high production values and rugged Utah scenery that elevate her music videos.  Nevertheless, all of these ventures are just sideshows to her primary vocation, namely her self-pioneered blend of the violin and electronic beats that almost exclusively comprises the content of her debut album, recently re-released this year.

Lindsey’s style has been praised as original and invigorating by some and maligned as “dance music” by others.  Being much unlike Lindsey, who can bust a seemingly endless number of moves while playing simultaneously, and entirely unversed in all matters of dance excepting the Futterwagon, the Fox, and the Firebend, I can’t really vouch to the validity of that classification, but if it be true, hers is easily the most appealing dance music that has yet and ever will cycle through my senses.  The first allegro on her CD, Electric Daisy Violin, promptly establishes an spirited and energetic tone that will distinguish most of what follows, with a few tracks such as Crystallize and Elements and Song of the Caged Bird assuming a somewhat more solemn air.  Lyrics are mixed only minimally into the largely instrumental album, functioning primarily as background chanting to a symphony of strings and computer-generated percussion.  Lindsey’s use of dubstep differentiates itself from other artists’ – or entertainers’, for a more apt description – in that the electronic components are more of a supporting instrument than a means to cover up weak voices or to distort already melodious notes. Although the techno-beats are erroneously mixed louder on certain tracks than the violin, which should be the centerpiece of all her music, the two sounds remain mostly separate throughout the album while at the same time complementing each other superbly. A couple of the songs, notably Elements, sound exponentially purer and more powerful when the strings are isolated from the artificially generated electronic track, but then the orchestral versions of Crystallize and Transcendence (included with the deluxe, Target-exlusive release of the album) prove that the dubstep can actually enhance the music in some situations.

Lindsey imbues her music with an overflowing rush of youthful joy and force, flawlessly adapting the few strengths of the present to reinforce the everlasting virtues of the old – the end result being a sound that’s refreshingly classical but also distinctly modern.  I cannot recall a single occasion where $10, or any quantity for that matter, has bought a greater feast for my ears.  If Lindsey is not a better-looking 21st-century Vivaldi, then she’s at least the next best thing, no wrecking ball, vulgarity, or Super Bowl wardrobe malfunctions required.

This sampling is probably the most emblematic of her usual fare.  And fiery.

And Peter Hollens kind of steals the show from her by the very nature of this song, but it's a great duet regardless.

And this just went up yesterday.  She's a Mormon, BTW.  Make of that what you will, but you can appreciate that she doesn't try to hide her beliefs.

Are you still here?  Leave this pathetic excuse for an entertainment website and don’t return to these borders until you’ve watched all of Lindsey’s videos and bought a CD for yourself and all your musically impoverished, ignorant fellows.  Seriously, why on God’s not-that-green-holistically-speaking earth are you wasting your life reading words, albeit funny ones, about something that you’re supposed to hear?

Royals – Like many songs that blow up records nowadays, Royals has a dangerously catchy beat and moody, muttery vocals that you can hum all day long, but makes precious little logical sense when you attempt to dissect the lyrics in your mind.  The first line immediately establishes what looks like a thematic idea for the rest of the song, expressing the artist’s sentiment that she’s “never seen a diamond in the flesh”, i.e. that a perfect soul is illusive and even unattainable among mortal men.  However, this metaphorical and captivating observation disintegrates into a cryptic and probably nonsensical reflection about “chipping my teeth on wedding rings… at the moooovies”.  First of all, how on earth does that even happen, and secondly, why should we care?

I guess that’s kind of the point of the song: why should we care?  “We’re not caught up in your love affair.”  Gee, that’s a really deep profundity you articulated there, Lorde Whateveryourrealnameis.  It’s about darn time that somebody inside the entertainment industry vocally decried the celebrity culture of fame at any cost and the People magazines of the world that are much obliged to exploit their private matters for profit.  Now, if you’ll excuse me while I go ‘follow’ Lorde on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so I can ask her what in the world this jumbled bunch of malarkey means to her, how the chorus can express two contradictory sentiments interchangeably (you’ll never be a royal, but you want to be a queen bee?), and why the two shirtless dudes in her horrid music video are boxing randomly.  Is there some obscure, subliminal metaphor and/or inside joke I’m missing here, or are people just writing messages into this song in order to pretend they’re smart enough to understand something that’s not there to be understood in the first place?

Blurred Lines Feat. T.I. & Pharrell – The first time I heard that some nobody named Robin Thicke had made a song called, well, that, it had already outpaced garbage like Get Lucky to reach the top of the spin charts and had just sealed its fate in the halls of infamy with Miley Cyrus’ shockingly degrading twerkathon at the MTV Awards that nobody even heard about it until the state-run media graciously filled us in on the great artistry we missed; naturally, I wasn’t expecting anything meaningful from this single.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered a poem embellished in symbolism and philosophical subtext that challenged my preconceptions of what it means to live.  A fitting companion song to the credits of Christopher Nolan’s mindbending thriller Inception, Blurred Lines Feat. T.I. & Pharrell has none of its source’s succinctness** but all of its thought-provoking substance.

The narrator embarks in a state of stuttering confusion, chanting, “Hey, hey, hey,” monotonously and without purpose.  He has arrived at this condition through the progression of gradual steps, moving ever further away from reality as he continually immerses himself in the realm of dreams and fantasy, to the point that he can no longer see or reason clearly.  “Maybe I’m going deaf, maybe I’m going blind, maybe I’m out of my miii-iii-iii-iiiiind,” he emphasizes by artistically multiplying the singular I syllable into four or five.  From here Thicke shifts into the powerful and emotionally stringent chorus, crying out in a passionate burst of untempered fury, “I hate these blurred lines!” referring to the ever receding distinction between the real and the imaginary.

Rarely does a songwriter rise into the public eye who so eloquently laments the increasingly blurred lines of fiction and reality, between the idealistic world that so many people construct around themselves and the objective world that evades their gaze but will catch up to them in the end, whether or not they are steeled to face it.  In Blurred Lines Feat. T.I. & Pharrell, Thicke has done as much with lyrics mature, graceful, and uncommonly moving.  This is rightly the must-own title of year, so if you haven’t bought it yet, waste no more time.  After all, “I know you want it.  I know you want it.  I know you want it.”

Our God (Is Greater) – Chris Tomlin deserves credit for writing many of the best worship songs to overwhelmingly infiltrate and even dominate churches and radio stations around the country.  This is not one of those songs – even though it has unjustly wormed its way into every facet of modern Christians’ cultural life.  Our God (Is Greater) has all the sophistication and logical reasoning of an elementary school kid’s playground taunts and all the poetry of a Sunday school lecture.  “My Lego collection is bigger than yours, you peasant!  My test scores are twice as strong as yours, you simpleton!  I can out-jump, out-run, out-fight, and out-socialize any of you!  Oh, and my god can kick your god’s butt! because he’s greater, stronger, and higher than any other being – because he’s God!”  When the song isn’t stooping to petty and nauseatingly repetitious boasts about the superiority of the Christian God over all others, it’s either recounting various miracles that Jesus performed on earth, as though these acts are the source of his divinity and the one reason we praise him, or completely ignoring basic grammatical rules.  “And if our god is with us, then what can stand agaiiiinst… what can stand agaiiiiinst?”  Against what?  That’s a preposition, not an adverb.

This spiritually and substantively vacuous verse, reverberating around the world and making unconscious braggarts out of regularly nice people with its primitive, generic hero worship of a deity’s physical might, altitude, mystical healing properties, and awesomeness of power, may be one of the main reasons why the liberal Nones are so broadly coming to think that Christians are nuts.  C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, all of America’s Founders including the deists among them, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Dante Alighieri, Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, and countless other intellectuals would beg to differ, but such is the impression that Our God (Is Greater) will continue to foster.

Only one of these selections was disingenuous.  If you can correctly identify which one, you may leave a request for The Author to review any song or possibly album so long as it’s not pointless or obscene*** and doesn’t have the word “gangster” – eh, gangsta, pardon my language – in it.****

* We’re kidding, of course, as such a reader survey never took place and none of you wrote in demanding that the most cynical Author sling his mud at popular songs that are honestly ripe for his unsparing and unblunted criticism, even though you know you wanted him to… In truth, the only reason he did this was because he fancies the dancing violin girl in the videos rather pretty.*
* squared – Correction from Chief Editor Josephos Rex to staff underlings: That’s not the ONLY reason…*
* cubed – Staff underlings to the hand that feeds them: Come on, now.*
* to the 4th power – OK, you got me.

** That was sarcasm, as succinctness is a concept altogether foreign to Nolan.

*** Again, we’re kidding, because the Author takes the most glee in his profession whenever it allows him to expound just how pointless and obscene something is, hence the joy he has taken in ripping apart Alan Wake, Man of Steel, and Alien Cubed, among other monstrosities.

**** Christian rap titles are welcome and even encouraged, as the very idea of a Christian rap subgenre is hilariously stupid.