Inside the Mind of the Alt-Right, the Internet’s Nihilist Nazis

February 2, 2017 Featured, Politics / Religion, Pop Culture Comments (4) 623

A friend and I recently spent an hour or so dissecting the mind of the alt-right. Brian is a good workout buddy not only because he gets me to the gym, he also shows up with interesting topics.

This time around, he said he’d just had an epiphany: The members of the alt-right are frustrated pick-up artists whose misogyny fills them with hate.

In my experience this is pretty accurate, but I don’t think it’s quite that specific. I am, fortunately or unfortunately, pretty familiar with the alt-right. This is thanks to my early Internet adoption (when Usenet was one of the few interesting places), and several years of morbid fascination with 4chan.

My read is that young men (primarily) are led to the alt-right by a particular blend of toxic masculinity, animal instinct, and frustrated entitlement. Members of the alt-right are struggling with the very feelings of powerlessness and disillusionment they project onto left-wing “snowflakes.” It’s their chosen solution, a performative embrace of cultural talismans of power, that makes them pawns of fascism.

It all starts with the rules.

Let’s back up. First, what’s the profile of your typical alt-right troll?

Male. White. Intelligent, but not TOO intelligent. Just a bit above average. Young — usually not older than 30, and often too young to drive. Tech savvy; gamers and programmers are over-represented. This may be a product of the alt-right’s primary recruiting channels (4chan, Usenet, and Reddit) or it may be something deeper. Notably, I do not believe sexual orientation plays a prominent role — in my non-scientific observation, there are just as many queers inside the alt-right as outside.

There are certainly exceptions to this profile. There are certainly women, older men, and people of color inside the alt-right, but they are far less common, and I believe them mostly outliers. In my theory they are drawn into a community created by angry white men, motivated by a sense of tribalism and a desire to belong.

As an intelligent white male who generally understands how systems work, your future alt-right member grows up feeling like the world should pretty much give him what he wants. They regard themselves as masters of the world, in a way. They know the rules, they understand how things work. My theory here is that programmers are especially prone because they’re especially rule-oriented. They write code, which dictates how the world operates today.

This is where stuff like “Seduction” arises. If you regard the real world as a sort of Matrix with underlying program you can manipulate, then it stands to reason there are cheat codes for stuff like social interaction and sex. A peacock, three negs, then going caveman should unlock the next level as surely as the Konami code.

When it doesn’t — when knowing the rules doesn’t pay off the way it should, in love or money or fame, and our future alt-right member feels he isn’t getting what the world owes him, the result is a powerful cognitive dissonance, frustration, and anger.

The alt-right is about performance, not belief.

Clearly, none of this functions without a baseline of toxic masculinity. But toxic masculinity in itself does not forge the alt-right; most, if not all men in the United States grow up with toxic masculinity. The path to the alt-right, like the path to the Dark Side, originates with how one handles that cognitive dissonance.

The alt-righter’s response is to blame the rules. Maybe they decide their failures stem from cultural bias in favor of women and people of color; maybe it’s just that the rules are inconsistent and unfair. One way or another, they decide they will no longer obey those rules. They are above the rules, outside of them. They’ve taken the red pill; they can see the Matrix.

This is why a key aspect of the alt-right is the performative aspect. It’s not sufficient to sit at home and quietly hold alt-right beliefs, or even to join like-minded conversations on Internet forums. No, to truly embrace the alt-right, one must troll social networks and confront strangers. With your pepe avatar and a ready arsenal of memes, you unload racist invective and display your lack of empathy like a peacock spreading his tail.

The motivation is pure ego defense. Rather than process feelings of inadequacy and failure, the alt-righter grasps onto some alternative iconography that makes him feel powerful; some stimulus that will generate a predictable response and restore his feeling of being in control. There is nothing in American culture that fits this definition more than bigotry.

This is why trolling is a definitive aspect of the alt-right. The specific content, the argument itself, is totally unimportant. The only important thing is to keep their attention and make them behave the way you predict. Specifically, to make them angry.

Spend some time on 4chan, and you will find threads in which young trolls share screenshots of long trolling sessions, which generate a collective laugh. The longer they can keep a conversation going, especially if the target of their trolling responds with escalating anger, the more powerful and successful the troll.

Within alt-right culture, the worst thing to do is show an emotional response to provocation. This grants power to your tormenter. Strength comes from stoicism, from being the first who can accuse the other, “U Mad, Bro?”

The alt-right worship the anti-hero.

Brian mentioned a letter he’d read from an alt-righter, praising the film Taxi Driver and suggesting its creator would appreciate the alt-right movement. My question to Brian was whether he thought the letter’s author recognized Travis Bickle as an anti-hero, or related to him as an ordinary protagonist.

Alt-righters worship anti-heroes, but especially those anti-heroes who express a declarative philosophy that puts them outside society. Heath Ledger’s Joker looms large, and alt-right memes and artwork often place members of the movement in the role of “wanting to watch the world burn.” There is no greater hero to the alt-right, however, than Fight Club’s Tyler Durden.

Rarely do members of the alt-right recognize the inherent tragedy of anti-heroes. Brian asked me whether I believe they even understand what an anti-hero is, or if they outright mistake them for the protagonist. Here he and I diverge; he thinks they know full well what an anti-hero is, and choose to embrace them. I think many of them mistake sociopathy for bold individualism, and (like stockbrokers quoting Gordon Gekko) completely miss the point.

From what I can tell, the alt-right recruits most followers when they are young. Very young. It begins during the early teens, when emotions and sex drive both run their hottest, and when feelings of shame and failure and inadequacy are at their most powerful.

The alt-right as chimps in a bonobo society

Brian drew a parallel between rape and alt-right membership, the thesis being that both are attempts to reclaim power after sexual rejection. That got me thinking, as often happens, about humans as animals and the influence of our baser instincts.

A dramatic and interesting contrast exists between our two closest animal relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos. Chimp society is violent, and stresses on chimp tribes often lead to brutal attacks. Bonobo society, in contrast, is entirely non-violent but hyper-sexualized. Introduce any stress to a bonobo group (a newcomer, a food source, or any other social disruption) and the response will be a literal orgy. They have literally replaced violence with sex as a means of social sorting.

Bear with me, I promise I’m going somewhere with this.

This leads to a question I’ve seen some raise: Are humans more chimp, or bonobo? We have traits in common with both. Look at the murder rate among our primitive ancestors, however, and an interesting trend emerges. Experts place the murder rate among the earliest true humans at a level consistent with most other mammals, but as our species evolved that rate shot up to 30 percent, extraordinarily high but consistent with other primate species — except bonobos. That rise in the murder rate correlates roughly with the concept of property ownership — the point at which many experts say humans turned from a matriarchal, free-love society to one where men expected to own access to reproductive resources (ie, women).

I’ll phrase that in a shorter, simpler way: When men decide they own women, they either get the sex to which they feel entitled, or they turn to violence. To be clear, I’m speaking of animal instincts here, so it should not be interpreted to excuse any behavior. We also have an instinct to shit wherever we stand, but to maintain a society we learn to use the toilet.

Here’s where we come back to the alt-right. See, that instinctive behavior, the idea of men owning women, the braggy, chest-puffing machismo is something American society, what some would describe as liberal society, has worked hard to purge. As a culture, we have deemed that unacceptable, but it retains a power over our animal instincts and urges. Humans will always be vulnerable to the political strongman for exactly that reason.

To the alt-right, that social compact by which we devalue machismo in favor of egalitarianism is just another rule they are above, one more aspect of the Matrix that those of us who are “blue pilled” cannot see. Thus they embrace sexism and male domination (“Gorilla Mindset,” if you will). They embrace tribalism in all its forms — racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia — and reassure themselves that anyone who claims otherwise is only pretending, only trying to abide by the rules.

This is not an especially new phenomenon; Rush Limbaugh is an early example of an alt-righter, with his screeds against the “Feminazis” who were “Pussifying” American society, and his rants about how liberals value consent above all else. Rush never particularly cared about what he was saying, as long as he could keep the attention of his listeners, and as long as their anger made him powerful. His politics were never defined by classical conservatism, but a performative display of lack of empathy. He, and his listeners, are classic alt-right.

From 4chan trolls to fascist pawns

 

Given this background, it isn’t hard to understand what attracts the alt-right to fascism and totalitarianism. Beyond a simple reinforcing of those base animal instincts, fascists are dedicated to the rules. By instituting draconian policies with no exceptions, the alt-right can reassert their mastery and control of the world they believe they understand.

Interact with them enough (hard as that can be) and you’ll gradually realize that their primary objection with liberals is that our compassion leads us to inconsistency. Because bleeding heart snowflakes are so concerned with people’s feelings, we make all kinds of exceptions that make the rules no longer apply.

Affirmative action gives people of color an unfair advantage over white people. Immigration is allowing outsiders access to limited resources that should go to real Americans. Women’s equality runs counter to the natural order and denies alpha men the sex to which they are entitled.

Way down deep, at the heart of it, is the same consistent theme of ego reassurance: The world hasn’t been fair to me. I haven’t received what I believe I deserve. I don’t want to feel like a failure.

This is, to me, the defining feature of the alt-right, the thing that sets them apart from conservatives, Republicans, true fascists, white nationalists, and the rest of the Right. It is perhaps ironic, perhaps predictable that it’s the exact accusation they most often level against their perceived enemies: They are special snowflakes who haven’t received the participation award they think they deserve.

The problem, of course, is they also become useful idiots for more nefarious forces — the true fascists, whose interest isn’t ego defense so much as actual power, or wealth, or racial purity. Your true motive is irrelevant when you’re embracing and voting for fascism and white nationalism; the end result will be the same.

Is there a practical lesson here?

So if we assume my theory holds — and I’ve done my best to sell it here — is there anything we can learn to undo the power of the alt-right?

I’m honestly not sure.

There are certainly lessons in how to deal with an alt-right troll:

  1. Don’t take anything he says as an actual argument, but understand that the central goal is (a) to show you how he’s outside the rules, and (b) to feel powerful by taking up your time and triggering your emotions.
  2. When an alt-right troll responds to something you say by demanding you “prove it” with links to news articles or other sources, understand that the motivation is just to waste more of your time and keep the conversation going. Nothing you link will prove anything.
  3. Understand that the ultimate reward for the alt-right is a strong response of any kind. Milo Whathisname isn’t upset when his speeches are cancelled by massive protest, he’s delighted — because he made that happen, and it makes him and his followers feel powerful. 10,000 people got mad, bro!
  4. Know that the best way to deal with the alt-right is to ignore them. Their deep insecurity and desire to feel powerful means something like an on-camera punch in the face will traumatize them, which is satisfying — but their need to reclaim power means such public embarrassment will motivate them to terrible ends. Were Richard Spencer not in the public eye, I would fully expect his next action to be a shooting spree or bombing.

As to preventing their rise? Keep an eye on your kids, I guess. If the primary motivator is avoiding feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness, then our best hope is to teach our children how to process those feelings in a healthy way.

I guess what I’m saying is we’re all counting on those Feminazis to Pussify the country before it’s too late.


Disclaimer: I wrote this in a big hurry and I’m pretty tired, and I sure hope it makes sense. If you liked it, I’d love if you would follow me on Twitter and consider supporting my work at Patreon.

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Westworld: Unanswered Questions for Season Two

December 9, 2016 Featured, Pop Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (0) 243

** As you may have guessed, this post contains spoilers for Season One. **

I was reluctant even to begin watching Westworld when it debuted. With J.J. Abrams involved, I anticipated a Lost-style mess of unanswered questions and unresolved mysteries. Instead the show’s first season generally proved satisfying, even if it often traded pace and story for a big reveal.

The show’s biggest reveals, the true identities of Bernard Lowe and the Man in Black, were teased for so long and so frequently they hardly could have surprised anyone. The Maze, it turns out, was an elaborate metaphor. Wyatt, like Bernard, turned out to have the most obvious and unsatisfying true identity.

That said, the Westworld season finale fit the story so far, and didn’t fumble or cheapen the rest of the season like, say, True Detective‘s first season finale. With most of the major mysteries resolved, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect from the show’s second season, but some viewers may have overlooked unanswered questions.

1. What host did Robert Ford create in his secret lab?

Leading into the finale, the show made a point of lingering on a first-generation host printer, slowly assembling a new host. We first saw this Episode Seven, when Bernard kills Theresa, and many viewers expected to see a host Theresa turn up in Episode Eight. Instead, we got another shot of that printer still at work. In Episode Ten, we see in the background that the printer is empty, its work complete.

So who came out of that printer?

Considering that the mystery was not resolved in Season One, and the way clues were subtly-but-not-subtly worked into several episodes, the most obvious conclusion is that the Robert Ford who took Dolores’s bullet in the head was a host impersonator, and the real Ford is still somewhere in the park. Or, given Ford’s face turn to host liberator, perhaps he uploaded his mind into a host body, and shuffled off his mortal coil? That would fit, quite literally, with his stated desire to “become music.”

2. What is Delos’s Larger Plan?

In numerous conversations, Charlotte (Delos board member and exhibitionist) referred to some larger plan from Westworld’s parent company. We don’t know for sure, but since it wasn’t addressed we should assume Peter Abernethy, living thumb drive, made it out of the park with proprietary information. It appears the board will not be around to receive it, but the question remains: What exactly did Delos have in store?

Let’s hope it’s not the far-too-obvious and done-to-death “military application” for hosts. They’re hardly Terminators, anyway, when a single shot can bring one down. It seems more likely Delos is interested in immortality via host clone, which would fit nicely if Ford did indeed upload his own consciousness.

We know the same medical technology used to repair hosts can also fix human injuries (assuming Sylvester, the tech with a temporarily slit throat is not himself a host). It seems highly likely that technology already has applications outside the park, explaining the gratitude the Man in Black receives from strangers. If that element of the Westworld tech is already functioning outside the park, what more might Delos be after? What is it that could be smuggled out in the mind of a host?

I have my own theory, that I’m not quite ready to give up on. What if Ford’s software can be used to control an actual human brain?

3. What’s the relationship between humans and host duplicates?

We know the hosts are physically identical to biological humans in almost every way. We know this is a change from the early technology, and that it is, for some reason, “more cost effective.” We know that at least one person, Arnold Weber, lived a second life as a host–but we don’t know for certain, because we didn’t observe it, that Robert Ford built Bernard Lowe. We also know that Arnold, who was responsible for the core host software, was tormented by the death of his son.

What if Bernard is not a host clone of Arnold, but in fact Arnold himself, reanimated by Westworld’s medical tech and “reprogrammed” by its software? It’s not much of a leap to think this would be possible if a host brain, like the rest of its anatomy, is identical to the real deal. This might also explain why some hosts have memories of an earlier life they cannot shake–which would suggest an even deeper back-story for Maeve.

The flaw in this theory? We do see Maeve resurrected from whole cloth in the finale, after her body is destroyed by fire. So clearly the identity is not tied directly to the body, but it might still be that an actual human mind can be uploaded into a host–and that doing so might facilitate a backup that would enable future resurrection.

It might be a long-shot, but it would help answer another question I just can’t give up:

3. Why do Logan and Hector seem so similar?

This question has haunted me since early in the season, and I’m not the only one. I refuse to believe a show as detail-oriented as Westworld could accidentally hire two similar looking actors, allow them to keep their hair and beards almost identically groomed, dress them both all in black, and give them both minor villain roles. I still believe there must be some connection.

Again, the obvious answer is that Logan became Hector, by whatever process Arnold became Bernard. It’s notable that Hector never appears in the earlier timeline with William and Logan. The last time we see him, on horseback, he is seated and naked–exactly the way we have seen hosts throughout the series.

Coincidence? Maybe. There is one scene between Hector and the Man in Black, early in the series when they break out of of prison. I don’t recall any subtle nod to a shared backstory, or other indication that Hector meant more to the Man in Black than any other host. But again, I refuse to believe it’s coincidence.

To those who point out they are played by different actors, I will only point out that the show would have to hire similar actors if they wanted to keep the connection secret. To have the two characters played by the same actor would make it too obvious.

So did the Man in Black perhaps use his position as Delos majority shareholder to design a special torment for his villainous would-be brother-in-law? Or did Westworld accidentally cast Javier Bardem and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the same show?

Hopefully Season Two will tell. We only have to wait two years to find out.

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Don’t Be a White “Ally”

November 17, 2016 Featured, In The News, Politics / Religion, Pop Culture Comments (0) 427

Irony, in the Alannis Morissette sense of the term, is when you write an essay using the word “ally” for simplicity’s sake, even though you hate the term, and that essay goes viral and becomes probably the most-read thing you’ve ever written.

A little too ironic, don’tcha think?

So I want to take a moment to explain why I dislike the term “ally,” and generally try not to use it. I’m adapting this from a response I emailed last July to Our National Conversation about Conversations About Race, a podcast that I absolutely love and to which I give my strongest possible recommendation?—?so if this sounds familiar, maybe you heard it there.

In my own life, I have encountered the term “ally” primarily as a member of the LGBTQ community. I’ve many times had straight people tell me they’re “allies,” and it’s always rubbed me the wrong way.

I think it’s that it’s because a person identifying as an “ally” immediately makes the discussion about themselves an their identity, and perhaps their membership and identification with the group.

When someone says “how can I help?” that’s great, but saying “I’m an ally, how can I help” tells me that your real goal is for me to validate you and include you in what you see as “my club.” If you see a car broken down on the side of the road, or a person who maybe needs CPR, you don’t say “I’m an ally,” you just ask if they need help.

I think what troubles me more is this: Inclusion and respect and equality are morals we should expect of everyone. They should come standard on all humans, and standing up for them should not constitute an identity. Recognizing and opposing discrimination and privilege shouldn’t earn anyone a gold star, they should just be expected.

There’s no word to identify oneself as opposed to murder?—?we just label the murderers. The same ought to be true of the racists, the homophobes, the bigots, and so on. A person who stands up for what’s right isn’t an “ally,” they’re just a decent person. I guess if someone wants to identify as extra-involved in the effort, they can use “activist.” But even that feels easy?—?I’d rather see a person demonstrate their activism than tell me they self-identify as such.

I recognize that, in the wake of Trump’s election and the ensuing rash of hate crimes, it’s clear that opposition to bigotry does not come standard, and there is value in announcing oneself as tolerant and respectful. The word still rubs me wrong, because it normalizes bigotry, and even if bigotry is terribly, frighteningly common, I still don’t want to see it normalized.

As a culture Americans are programmed to worship equality and justice and freedom, and we should all feel harmed and offended by violations of those values. Yes, our entire history is one of utter hypocrisy, and we have *never* since our inception been equal or just or free?—?but that doesn’t change the way we’re programmed, and it doesn’t mean we can’t aspire to make those values a reality, even if the men who wrote them were full of shit.

I’m not an ally, I’m a white dude who’s disgusted by racism and inequality, and I don’t want to live in a society that is systematically biased against other people, or where my tax dollars are used to oppress and harm my neighbors.

Like many white kids, I spent my formative years totally buying into the “Shining City on the Hill” mythology, before my eyes were opened by some very patient black activists who took the time to bring me around. Ultimately, what I’m really after is turning that mythology into reality.

I want to live in that make-believe America I heard about when I was ten. That’s a fairly selfish goal, but it seems like one a lot of white Americans would share, if they would wake up to the reality of our society instead of choosing to blindly believe the myth.

I have the feeling Trump’s election did wake a lot of people, which might be a sort of silver lining. But personally, I’d encourage people not to label themselves “allies.” Just, you know, be staunchly against murder.

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A Guide to Pokémon Go Crashes

July 14, 2016 Pop Culture Comments (0) 387

The Non-Starter

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You click the icon, you hope and pray that the servers might be up and you might have some fun. Nope. At least you get a reminder who’s responsible for your agony.

The Progress Bar

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Will it or won’t it? You wait and watch that progress bar like you just pulled the handle of a slot machine. Sure is easy to stay aware of your surroundings when you aren’t playing Pokémon Go!

The Classic Taunt

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This is as far as many players ever get. Squirtle, Psyduck, and Golbat are taunting  you. Pikachu looks like he’s rooting for you. Magikarp shares your frustration.

The Omega Mon

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You’re in! Time to catch some…wait. Something is wrong. There’s nothing here! No Pokéstops, no gyms, not a single Pokémon. You’ve entered a post-apocalyptic landscape (Poké-pocalypse?) where all you can do is wander, aimlessly. Forever alone.

The Vacant Lot

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Even the landscape has forsaken you. This is truly a disturbing universe.

The Blank Stop

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You’re pretty sure there was a store here yesterday. Don’t you dare spin that circle yet, or you’ll get nothing. Nothing!

The Blank Stare

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Look at the way he’s staring at you. Stupid Psyduck. Is there anything you can do about it? Nope. Sorry pal, duck season ended two minutes ago.

The Fight-Stopper (AKA “Pugilius Interruptus”)

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Awww yeah, you’re all ready to get your fight on. Time to take down that gym! Ready, set, go! Go? Oh no! Time to force quit. Again.

The Mid-Capture (AKA “Blue Ball”)

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Yes! You’ve got that legendary in the ball, and you’re just waiting for that third wiggle to prove he’s staying in there, and… No. No! NOOOOO!!!

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Luckily, most of the time when you restart the app you’ll have that Pokémon safely in your collection. Probably.

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5 Things I Hate about PokémonGO

July 14, 2016 Pop Culture Comments (0) 237

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This Paras was just hanging out in the shade in Central Park

I never played a Pokémon game until last week. Then, like most of America it seems, I threw myself into the addictive machine that is PokémonGO. I’ve now caught somewhere around 200 Pokémon (it’s hard to count because I’ve traded many of them to upgrade others) and walked (or run) something like 50 miles in search of the wee beasties. As much as I enjoy the game, I like most users find aspects totally frustrating. Here’s the five things that bother me most.

1. The Servers. The Servers!

989a0243-7df9-416b-97a9-3362b7b9fc92You know this had to make the list, and I’m putting it first because everyone knows what I’m talking about and we’re all sick of hearing about it. How is it the servers always seem to wait to crash until you’re already far from home–or, God forbid, have traveled to a specific destination in search of that legendary Pokémon?

It seems to me that to publish a game that mandates introverts leave their homes, and then have the game crash every time they get a mile from home, is a form of bullying.

And can we agree that when you’ve licensed the rights to the most popular video game franchise in the world, your servers shouldn’t come from GoDaddy? Continue Reading

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The Big Short is my favorite movie of this year’s awards season.

January 15, 2016 In The News, Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (1) 635

bigshottrailerThe Big Short is my favorite movie of the 2016 Awards Season*. I feel a little bad saying that, in light of yesterday’s Oscar nominations and their slate of white, white (blonde) faces, and the fact that The Big Short is, well, short on both women and minority actors. But the fact is I watched it through twice, and would happily sit through a third viewing. The film is alternately funny and gutting, the cast is pretty much universally brilliant, and the directing–from Adam McKay, who brought us films like Anchorman, Anchorman 2, and Funny or Die’s The Landlord–is impressive, avant-garde without being distracting, and making a complicated subject accessible.

* Okay, it’s tied with Mad Max: Fury Road, but since that came out over the summer it doesn’t really feel like an Awards Season movie.

Not too accessible, mind you. Despite the sidebar scenes in which celebrities like Selena Gomez, Anthony Bourdain, and Margot Robbie (in a bubble bath) break the fourth wall and explain complicated financial structures in layman’s terms–one of the film’s more unique and amusing contrivances–I frequently found myself leaning in so I could follow the fast-paced dialogue about derivatives, mortgage-backed-securities, credit swaps, and so on.

The Big Short is far from the first film about the 2008 Financial Crisis, but it might be the best combination of sweeping and accessible. Too Big to Fail captured the moves and conversations happening inside the banks and the Federal Reserve, and films like 99 Homes capture the human cost across the nation, but The Big Short takes a wider scope and time period to show the viewer what happened, through the eyes of a handful of professionals who predicted the crash. Continue Reading

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The Revenant is a stunning movie about Leonardo DiCaprio pursuing an Oscar

January 12, 2016 Pop Culture Comments (5) 873

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It’s no secret at this point that The Revenant involves a bear attack, and the film is almost worth watching just for that sequence. I have never seen such a visceral and realistic animal attack on film, and though I know it involved some combination of trained bear and CGI effects, I still can’t figure out how they did it. Most of the attack is one long shot, as the bear bites and mauls DiCaprio’s character, Hugh Glass. At one point she lifts him entirely off the ground and shakes him like a human dog toy, and the camera never shies away–it’s so close, at one point the bear’s claws appear almost to touch the lens.

It had to trigger some instinctive terror for DiCaprio, being beneath a massive grizzly bear trained to feign killing him, and it looks incredible on camera. When it ended, though, I felt worse for the bear than for Glass. Continue Reading

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Chris’s Top Stuff of 2015

December 31, 2015 In The News, Pop Culture Comments (0) 128

Time again to look back at another year and the entertainment media it produced. Rather than do a bunch of entries with different top things, I thought I’d cover it all in one post–and I’m not even going to explain why I like all the things I do, I’m just giving you the list and you can draw your own conclusions. Continue Reading

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The Top Thing of 2015

December 31, 2015 Politics / Religion, Pop Culture Comments (0) 131

Black_Lives_Matter_protestThis was going to be part of a larger “Top Things of 2015” countdown, but it sprawled out of control and so now it’s getting its own post.

2015 was America’s truth mirror. It was the year we had to face a host of sordid, ugly aspects of our culture, most of which had bubbled under the surface for decades. If you’re a fan of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, it was essentially the focus of each week’s main story: Here’s a terrible thing that’s been happening regularly for a long time, and most people have no idea.

Whether it was Black Lives Matter exposing power-mad murderous police, John Legend and Common talking mass incarceration on the Oscar stage, or Donald Trump making it abundantly clear that roughly half of Americans are virulently, openly racist, it seemed like everywhere you looked in 2015 you saw people pulling back the curtain on some shame we as a culture used to pretend didn’t exist.

This is, to my mind, a good thing. A very good thing. Sure, it’s disturbing and even depressing to see the ugliness in our society, and for a lot of people it’s shaken their faith in America and humanity. But I’m in the camp that says before we can solve a problem, we have to face it. These aren’t new problems. It’s not as if police haven’t been murdering black people in cold blood since police became a thing. What has changed is that the people suffering under such oppression now have camera phones and YouTube, and can prove to the world what they’ve been seeing forever. Continue Reading

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