Time To Wake Up

I know I haven’t posted in forever, I know I’ve been distracted and sidetracked and have, basically, ignored this blog for damn near two months now, but I haven’t entirely forgotten about it or you and to prove it, I’ve embedded the following video BECAUSE the moment I finished watching it, I wanted to share it with you.

Seriously, I fucking love this guy.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, make time for it, bitches, at least skip to the 9:00 minute mark and watch from there.  (Warning: the following clip contains a political conversation.)

I don’t know about any of you, but I’m ready for the revolution.  Let’s have it.

See you soon, dolls.

~Nikki

Absolute Power Corrupts, Absolutely

Animal FarmThe nature of man is a tricky thing – much more complex and fickle than we often like to think.  Throughout our evolution, humans have tried a number of societal and governmental structures, some with great success and others with tremendous failures.  Some have led to near-miracles while others came to disastrous results.  Some succeed in certain cultures and communities but fail in others.  The one constant that has proven true in every society, in every group of people and at nearly every turn is that no man is immune to greed or corruption.

Animal Farm is George Orwell’s simplistic tale of corruption in a communistic community.  Rather than be ruled by the human dictator who owns the farm, the animals who work it pull together to overthrow him and ban him from the farm.  They agree on a system built around equality, around shared work for shared rewards.  Without one specified leader, they agree to live and work side-by-side, none anymore powerful or wealthy than the rest.  And so it goes for a short while.  But soon a couple of the smarter animals (pigs, of course) notice that things could work more smoothly and with greater benefit to the farm with a few changes.  Each pig presents his plan to the group and lets them reach a consensus.  Majority rules.  Harmony is achieved but short-lived.  Before long, one of the pigs realizes he can manipulate the more gullible animals by villainizing the pig who opposes him.  Once his opponent is banned from the farm, he becomes a kind of dictator, all the while changing his rhetoric to suit his own selfish agenda.  Many of the animals cannot read and are easily fooled.  It bears a remarkable resemblance to the structure of North Korea’s current government and the propaganda spewed upon its poor citizens.  I think this book was written for a Young Adult audience, which makes for a somewhat simplified narrative, but its lesson loses none of its poignancy or relevance.

With any political piece, it’s easy for the narrative to become preachy.  A writer has to be careful to let the point make itself in the unfolding of the story, something Orwell did with grace.  At no point while reading Animal Farm (or his more complex political novel, the iconic 1984) did I feel he was forcing his personal views upon me.  I’ve read that he was an advocate for socialism; in his life, he warned of the dangerous potentialtumblr_mgu6ej8ENw1qc6j5yo1_400 outcomes of both communism and capitalism.  No doubt, anyone who’s paid even the smallest attention to the goings-on of the world within the last 50 years would agree that communism simply doesn’t work.  It has always amazed me how the most basic definition of communism sounds perfectly fair and idealistic and yet, there has never been a society capable of maintaining it without corruption.  This speaks more to the nature of humanity than it does to the philosophy itself but that hardly matters.  For all practical matters, communism with regards to the human race has by and large been a failure.  Orwell gracefully lays out the causes for that in this book.  And one could argue that many of capitalism’s negative effects (an excessively uneven distribution of wealth leading to the disappearance of the middle-class via the expansive gap between the rich and poor, the working class being forced to work more and harder for less reward, and greed corrupting the free market, to name a few) as described in Orwell’s 1984 have recently come to fruition.

Regardless of his political views, any reader with even a slightly open mind will find meaning in Orwell’s work.  His storytelling isn’t pushy.  It isn’t preachy or obvious.  He was a master of language who artfully crafted stories that depict the corruptible nature of man.  Ultimately, the take-away message from both 1984 and Animal Farm isn’t that one societal structure is good or bad, but that any and all forms must answer to the people they govern through some form of regulation or system of checks and balances.  Orwell warns that any governing body is only as honest as the people who make it up.  I think we can all agree with that.

~Nikki

I Struggle To Find Any Truth In Your Lies

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get political.  That’s not what this blog is about.  It is a pop culture blog, though, and as such, I feel it imperative to share with you things I find relevant to our current culture.  The video I’ve embedded below is relevant for a couple of reasons: 1) it is damn funny (and what more do you need?) and 2) it reflects the current state of our news media – the fact that not one single journalist/news broadcaster out there in America today gives a shit about giving an unbiased perspective on current events.  Every single one puts a slant on every single story (whether it be their own personal opinion or that of the network that sponsors them) so much so, that FACTS just don’t exist anymore.  People literally make it up as they go, believing whatever happens to serve their argument, paying no mind to concrete evidence or universal truths.  I am relatively young and didn’t pay much attention to the news until the past decade, so maybe it’s always been this way and I just didn’t know it.  Regardless, I think it’s a damn shame.  My thanks to Jon Stewart for making it funny, at least.

~N.

Mother Should I Trust the Government

Oh my god, HBO, enough already! I have a house that needs cleaned, a yard that needs mowed, and groceries that need purchased.

So yeah, Veep is pretty great.

If the 2009 film In the Loop has never crossed your radar, (and you like dark humor and the UK), seek it out, pronto. The people who brought you that blast of sharp political satire (director Armando Iannucci and writer Simon Blackwell) have created another, similar treat for television. In the Loop was about a group of government officials from England and America, dealing with a snafu that could potentially start a war. It’s dark, has some of the most spectacular swearing sequences I’ve ever seen, and that dry humor I so adore. In comparison, Veep is a little lighter, with less use of the c-word. It’s In the Loop, the D.C. edition, spliced with the zany incompetence of Parks and Recreation.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Selina Meyer, the vice president of the United States, and Leslie Knoppe, she is not. Advertisements had me assuming that she was going to be a savvy force to be reckoned with, but the pilot showcased someone who has so much bullshit to deal with, it’s almost impossible for her to handle it all successfully. She relies heavily on her staff and assistants, who are mostly idiots (BUSTER BLUTH ALERT!!!!!!). The core trio of advisors are Gary, Amy, and Mike, (Tony Hale, In the Loop vet Anna Chlumsky, and Matt Walsh). Gary and Mike are the dolts of the group, and Selina verbally skewers them accordingly. Still, she couldn’t make it without them: At a press event, Selina literally doesn’t know the names of attendees, and relies heavily on Gary to whisper information in her ear.

In the Loop (film)

In the Loop (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The pilot focused on a scandal involving the cleanup required after Selina uses the word “retard” at a press conference, against the backdrop of attempting to garner support for her Clean Jobs Commission project. Her cause is viewed as a joke by all – the gooey, disintegrating cornstarch utensils she’s trying to put into regular use at the White House certainly don’t help the effort (try stirring a hot beverage with a biodegradable spoon).

The writing here is aces, the pace is fast, I laughed out oud a few times, and was amused almost the entire time. And I’m not someone who is enamored with the world of politics either, let me just say that. If you’re staying away from this show because you hate the political landscape or find the topic generally mind-numbing, you’re missing out. I mainly gave this show a chance because I loved In the Loop, and Entertainment Weekly gave it a glowing review; I wasn’t disappointed. Iannacci and Blackwell are gifted writers, and with Veep, HBO continues to prove itself to be something I increasingly am unwilling to live without.

~Annie

We Had Made A Wish That We Would Be Missed

Christopher Hitchens passed away a few weeks ago.  I didn’t know if you’d heard.  He died Dec 15, 2011, a dark day for humanity.  I can’t say that I knew him but I can say with certainty that I’ll miss him.  The body of his work as a journalist, an essayist, an author and an activist has left a profound impression on me and I’ve long considered him one of the most brilliant people to have graced us with his words.  He was a man of uncommon integrity.  In many ways unconventional, almost always controversial, and relentlessly committed to seeking and revealing truth.

It’s strange to me that I could feel the loss of a person I’ve never met.  I admit I’ve felt it before, just a few times.  I was 17 when Chris Farley died.  I remember lamenting the certain fact that never again would I watch a new skit of his on SNL or go to the theater to see his latest comedy.  I felt it again six months later when the news broke of Phil Hartman’s tragic end.  What a tremendous loss – these comedic geniuses whose work brought such joy to my life.  A few years later, John Ritter died suddenly and I felt as though I’d lost an old friend.  I grew up watching Three’s Company and his death literally felt tantamount to one of a childhood pal.

I didn’t learn of Hitchens’s death until a week or so had passed.  I saw this amazing video someone put together and posted on youtube and quickly jumped over to google to search for information, for facts, since, as you know, the internet can sometimes spread false rumors.  Sadly, the truth of his death could not be denied and I sat stunned and heartbroken.  I can say with absolute certainty now that I will never have an opportunity to see him speak, to listen first-hand to him say the words that have stuck with me for years.  I will never again read something new he’s written.  I will never find an opportunity to meet him, to shake his hand and tell him how much his work has shaped the person I’ve become.

Who will you miss, of those you’ve never met but who have, in whatever way, been such a part of your life that you’ll mourn them, anyway?

~Nikki

Killing Me Softly With His Song

I saw Bill Maher live the other night and, though I didn’t believe it was possible, I love him even more now.  He says the things I feel and try so hard to articulate but for which, I can’t ever find the right words.  Repeatedly throughout his stand-up, he pieced together the incoherent thoughts in my head with such razor sharp wit and biting sarcasm, I damn near came in my capris.

I admit I do not find him attractive, but his intelligence and poignant, scathing humor literally turn me on.  I watch his show weekly and find myself, over and over, shouting at the TV: “Finally!  Someone is saying what I’ve been thinking!”  He’s so damn clever, so quick, so sharp, so, so…so funny.  I regularly watch his show, Real Time With Bill Maher, on HBO and I admit his opening monologues often leave something to be desired.  Which made me mildly nervous that his stand up would be the same.  Or, like so many other comedians who recycle material, I feared it would consist mostly of the shtick I hear from him every Friday night.  Au contraire, mon ami, he rocked the muthaf**kin house.

The hour-and-a-half show was 80% politics, 15% religion, 5% relationships/sex and 100% hilarious.  If you’re a godless liberal who bases your opinions on facts (those things that are scientifically sound) like myself, check him out.  You’ll love him.  He basically tries to get people to use their brains.  You know, actually think about the world around you and how you fit into it.  Research issues from every perspective before forming a solid opinion about them, back up what you say with factual data, not fairy tales or blind ignorance.  Pull your goddamn head out of the sand and take a hard, clear look around.  And most of all, be honest.  I know Maher offends tons of people -conservatives, believers of any religion, Republicans, members of the Tea Party, the extremely wealthy who want to hoard their money, the bleeding hearts on the far left- but what I admire most about him is that he refuses to placate or pander to anyone.  He says exactly what he means.  Like it or not, at least you always know what he genuinely thinks.  While I don’t always agree with the things he says (though I usually do), I am always certain he’s not bullshitting me.

~Nikki