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John Micklethwait, Adrian Wooldridge – The Right Nation: Why America Is Different

Posted by StepTb su luglio 21, 2016

Penguin, 2005
488 pagine

This book, while well written and balanced, was originally published in 2004 and clearly missed some pieces of the puzzle.
2009-2017 has been the Obama era. Democrat, afro-american. The next President will most likely be H. Clinton, Democrat, woman, wife of a Dem ex-President.
It’s clear that Dems now represent the mainstream and dominant US culture.
But are Dems “the Left”? Not by any European standard, as the authors demonstrate.
On the topic of the Right tradition in America and its progressive radicalism, Rick Perlstein and Richard Hofstadter works go a little bit more in depth.
Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus chronicles the birth of a “new” type of modern conservatism, a reaction to the 1960s Democratic cultural revolution, and a resurgence of the populist, paranoid tradition well described in The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays. And The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan chronicles in detail how that tradition was absorbed by the Republicans to create a new, successful, dominant paradigm (Reaganism).
But there’s something missing. If the book’s thesis can sound convincing coming from the Bush era, where Dem politicians were anonymous, now the situation has reversed: Dems dominate the political discourse, and traditional conservatives have become anonymous. We’ve now seen the Goldwater tradition transitioning from the political underground to the mainstream, with the Tea Party and Trump, and virtually all the 2015 GOP candidates having more radical views than anyone in the recent past. On the other hand, a slow but steady Dem resurgence was happening during the Bush years, culminating with Obama taking office.
Bill Clinton and his “third way” position were able to reconcile the 60s Dem ideas with the new Reagan paradigm. It was a big win, a perfect representation of the seemingly global conclusive triumph of the American model after USSR’s collapse (The End of History). So much that, shortly after him, in the UK Blair made a traditionally “Left” party acquire a more Right identity, with the masses rewarding the decision. Since then, the contemporary professional and affluent elites have been gradually shifting to publicly support the Dem narrative, abandoning the traditional Right. And this is a change with gargantuan implications.
If one looks close enough, the Dem culture doesn’t really represent the lower classes, but the affluent metropolitan professionals (the world’s WEIRDest demographic), plus what they see as “the minorities”, determined in an arbitrary way through a process of “market segmentation”, where the excluded segments are instead seen with contempt (which in turn pushes those guys to embrace the populist, paranoid style).
The values of New York (finance) and California (tech and entertainment), the two main driving hubs in the innovation economy, in a situation where most of the country’s real incomes have been stagnating for decades, have easily become the model to emulate for the rest of the affluents.
It’s a very particular situation, where some of the most radical post-modern ideas have managed to become dominant, constantly discussed and repeated in the mainstream (way more than in Europe), but nothing in the pro-corporations, pro-competition, pro-careerism paradigm has softened, going back to resemble the Reagan years now more than ever instead. A strange marriage between the two has occurred (I guess Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, even if written from a marxist perspective, had a great point), and what’s happening outside of this formula is incomprehensible by the ones inside of it – all that stuff is just “on the wrong side of history“.
If this keeps on being the mainstream paradigm, the next logical step could be solving the tension between larger-State supporters and business elites with a decline towards crony capitalism, against which we’ve already been warned by Rajan & Zingales.
Micklethwait and Wooldridge gave an important warning too, on p. 387:

But in general the federal government should err on the side of caution on issues where reasonable people can disagree […] It should recognize that different communities have different views on both politics and morals […] And it should try, as far as possible, to allow those communities to make decisions for themselves, rather than forcing them to bow to Washington. Agreeing to disagree offers the country the best chance of avoiding an endless culture war in which each side uses the federal government to force its views on the other.

This opinion reflects a correct understanding of the American political tradition and The Federalist Papers – one could say it’s a traditionally conservative opinion.
But, starting with the Bush years, we’ve seen the opposite happening. That traditional, decentralized, agreeing to disagree way of thinking isn’t that popular anymore, and opinions have started to radicalize.
A piece of the puzzle is, in my opinion, that the world normally represented by the traditional, non-paranoid, non-money obsessed old Right values (religion, community, nuclear families, defense, etc.) gave a sense of belonging and social cohesiveness to the non-metropolitans (something Dems and metropolitans are quick to dismiss or ignore), but has gradually disappeared (see Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community). And the ironic thing is that the most likely ones to live by those values now, no matter what they publicly say, are exactly the affluents: they’re the ones having stable marriages, benefiting from a cohesive and rich social network, sharing their days with similar people only, and living in a safe environment that isolates them from crime – a point also observed by Charles Murray in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.
With no belief in the alternatives (the Dem narrative or the metropolitan/big business style), a lack of a socially enriching sense of community, globalization and the 2008 crisis, stagnation and rising inequality (thus lack of faith in the system), life can easily lose meaning for the non-metropolitan non-affluent ones, a situation asking for trouble (decadence and fertility decline in the best case scenario; radical ideologies, extremism and violence in the worst).
It’s difficult to imagine the US easily fixing an apparently inevitable growing ideological divide, where both sides see each other with increasing hostility – and this in turn will make effective reforms impossible.
Micklethwait and Wooldridge did a good job explaining why we can’t label the Dem position as “the Left” (that’s why I use the word Dem instead of Left), since the US political spectrum has always been narrow – and they correctly identify religion, capitalism and geography as the three main reasons preventing mainstream expansions to both the “real” Left and the far Right.
But they tried to make too much of a “linear” argument for a more complex situation, and didn’t predict the incoming historical shift that changed the equilibrium. So this is still a very informative book, but there are too many new variables that make it outdated now:
1) the Right Nation is inherently right-wing but isn’t that cohesive anymore – there’s an increasing ideological divide, 2) even in the US, some of the traditional right-wing (social, much more than economic) values are in crisis, 3) the mainstream culture has become Dem-dominated, with Dem’s value proposition massively betting on “the minorities” and winning battle after battle, 4) the elites, increasingly disconnected from the masses, supported the turn, which included dismissing many old values as wrecks of the past (but keeping on living their private lives largely following or benefiting from them instead), 5) the big absent in the US spectrum has historically always been a “real” Left, but the other big absent in recent times has started to be the traditional, non-crazy Right. While the only big winners have been the WEIRDs.

7/10

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Humphrey B. Neill – The Art of Contrary Thinking

Posted by StepTb su giugno 15, 2016

Caxton Press, 2010
201 pagine

First published in 1954 and updated in subsequent editions by the author until 1963, this book predates various observations and topics of modern behavioral economics.
To understand and appreciate it, you need to keep in mind it was written during the era when Keynesianism was ruling undisputed (roughly from 1945 to 1973), and both social scientists and policy makers were thinking of the prosperity puzzle as solved and of human economic activity as predictable.
Neill was going against the grain, part of a skeptical minority. This also explains why he doesn’t seem to apply the same strict contrarian rules to his own ideological biases – which become obvious in some black-and-white thinking passages (other than when he self-describes as “Libertarian”, “conservative”, “realistic reactionary”, and when he cites, p. 150, “Ayn Rand’s wonderful new book, Atlas Shrugged” – ugh).
The book is heavily and explicitly influenced by Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Charles Mackay, 1841), Les Lois de L’Imitation (Gabriel Tarde, 1890), and Gustave Le Bon (La Psychologie des Foules, 1895; Psychologie du Socialisme, 1896).
The edition I bought (6th ed., Caxton Press 2010) has way too many typos – the editors did a poor job.

Some key passages:

pp. 42-44:

The public is perhaps right more of the time than not. In stockmarket parlance, the public is right during the trends but wrong at both ends!
One can assert that the public is usually wrong at junctures of events and at terminals of trends.
So, to be cynical, you might say, “Yes, the public is always wrong when it pays to be right – but is far from wrong in the meantime”. […]
The “time element” is the most elusive factor in economics. We need to get that fixed firmly in our minds. (Insofar as I am aware, there is no known method of timing events or trends).
Therefore, when we adopt a contrary opinion, as a guide, we must recognize that we may be too far ahead of the crowd. This is because economic trends often are very slow in turning, or reversing.

p. 80:

Students of crowd psychology know that the average voter pays scant attention to the fundamental facts concerning either the candidate or the platform. He accepts “what he feels”. The forces of suggestibility and contagion form the image in his mind.
Mystery is an al-powerful tool. “Tell ‘em nothing and promise ‘em anything”, counsels the politician; “and, above all, never reason with voters; affirm but never explain; repeat what you’ll do for ‘em, but never argue”.

pp. 83-85:

The aim of this writer’s contrary comments is to proffer interpretations in the field of economic psychology, still largely unexplored. One does not find, for example, the title “Economic Psychologist” used as yet. The few writers who are paying serious attention to the study of human behaviorism and its influence upon economic trends refer to themselves as sociologists, economists, or psychologists.
However, it is evident from studies and papers presented in recent years – and from the surveys of consumer intentions and attitudes which have been conducted for the Federal Reserve Board – that the field of economic psychology is one in which serious concentration will be focussed in coming years. […]
So, while we cannot foretell the future, we can be confident that economic psychology will be a required subject for study as we learn more about economic trends and cycles – and what starts and stops them.

p. 92:

However, we need not to be too discouraged, it seems to me, because the whole field of economics remains a “guessy” one. Little, if any, progress has been made over the years in attaining profitable accuracy in economic forecasting. And, mind you, this condition still exists, notwithstanding the extraordinary volume of statistics that is now available to students and which was not known to former forecasters.
It seems to me that the long history of economic forecasting clearly demonstrates that “psychology” is the missing key. You may have all the statistics in the world at your finger tips, but still you do not know how or when people are going to act. Accordingly, the statistics frequently lead you astray.

p. 94:

A basic usefulness of contrary opinions is to guard against predicting the unpredictable; or, to put it another way, to avoid being ensnared by faulty general predictions. […]
I believe it is correct to say that the theory [of Contrary Opinion] is more valuable in avoiding errors in forecasting than in employing it for definitive forecasting.

pp. 101-102

Making predictions has become a mania. Practically all economists are called upon for their future views – and many go out of their way to write articles and make speeches about “what’s ahead”. […]
But the significant fact for us to hold before us is that the more prominence predictions receive the more inaccurate they are likely to be. […]
If you believe the predictions, you go against them to protect yourself. Thus, you help the predictions to go haywire.

p. 104

Most of us can’t stand being alone more than half an hour, and our idea of reflection is merely to reflect and repeat what someone has told us! (We’re imitators, that is.)

pp. 106-107

[Entrepreneurs] built so fast and furious that their second step – of combining enterprises and pyramiding one on top of another – has led to the submersion of individual effort and the fostering of group effort and the conformity of the individuals to a mass pattern. […]
Business organizations have become too large for individual management. We have entered the era of group management. Mass conformity has, naturally, gone along. […]
May it not be that cyclical movements will be of greater (rather than lesser) intensity in the future, because of this development of mass conformity?

pp. 110-111

It takes us average humans a considerable interval to shift our viewpoints, once we have established a given mental outlook.
That is, if we have (mentally) accepted a trend as moving in one direction, we are not inclined to change our outlook until well after the trend turns. […]
However, if we adopt a contrary course and try to anticipate a change in the current, we’re more likely to recognize the signs of an approaching whirlpool or precipitous drop than if we merely assume that if the river is smooth here it must be smooth all the way.

pp. 113-114

As you browse over the opinion which have been published through the years – in eras of good times and bad – you are struck over and over again by how often the prevailing conditions produced the opinions; […] Little effort was made to analyze what had happened previously – things which would cause a change in the future.

p. 118

When economic affairs are booming and “everybody” feels cheerful, optimistic, and prosperous, no one wants to hear disparaging remarks or bad news about how things are going. […] If someone suggests that booms and periods of optimism always overshoot the mark and bring about corrective reactions, that said someone is called a “prophet of gloom”. He is politely (or unpolitely) told to shut his pessimistic mouth. […]
At another time, when the economy has been slumping and “times are bad”, then the opposite psychology prevails. People […] get into the frame of mind that allows them to believe that everything is in bad shape. What is more, they expect things will remain that way. […]
Rut-thinking is a common trait. I have said that the art of contrary thinking may be stated simply: thrust your thoughts out of a rut.

p. 125

The “crowd” is most enthusiastic and optimistic when it should be caustious and prudent; and is most fearful when it should be bold.

p. 128

I’m confident you are aware of how different a wellthought-out opinion is from one that is caught on the fly, so to speak, or one that is merely a reflection of a crowd’s fears or hopes. An individual may think out his opinions, whereas a crowd is swayed by emotional viewpoints rather than by reasoning or reason-why arguments.
Emotional and thoughtless opinions spread widely from imitation and contagion.

p. 131

Being positive, specific, and dogmatic is about the most harmful habit one can fall into. […]
The value of the contrary approach is the opposite. It prevents one from being a dogmatist; one avoids being positive about conjectural matters; as one reads, he mentally needles the writer or commentator.

p. 133

Instead of leaping abruptly from affirmation to its opposite (from general opinions to contrary opinions), we need to consider the synthesis (combination) of parts of general opinions and their opposites. […]
Take the leap from the General Opinion to its Opposite (or from affirmation to negation) and then, from the ideas thus released, work back to a speculative and reflective conclusion, or synthesis. In this way, we may avoid denying facts which are elements in the generalized opinions we are analyzing contrarily.

p. 140

It is evident, I think, that propaganda, skillfully engineered, manipulates opinions. […]
We are now witnessing, and shall increasingly experience, “thought and desire manipulation” which is almost firghtening to contemplate. I do not hesitate to assert that contrarianism offers protection against the Depth Manipulators.

pp. 155-156

Remarking that to be able to be caught up into the world of thought – “is to be educated”, Miss Hamilton emphasizes that the Athenian method of education was not geared to mass production. It did not produce people who instinctively all went in one way, and were conformists. There were countless contrarians in Greece back in Socrates’ day.

p. 166

Many devotees of chart reading, for forecasting stock prices, subscribe to the idea that a chart is worth a thousand words of analysis and statistics. Permit me to twist this around. I maintain “the right contact is worth a thousand charts”.

pp. 173-174

The sameness of writings on business, finance, and economics – and of course on the stock market – is such that it is almost impossible for an individual to think for himself. He is brainwashed.
The protection against brainwashing is contrary brainwork. It is hard work to think, but it is worth it.[…]
If Washington experts appear before our television screens with brave predictions of things to come, let us not forget that they are there to persuade us to think their way. The open-mouth policy is a scheduled phase of modern government.[…]
There is one noticeable trait – a paradox – that is pertinent to today’s trends of opinions: a) A person is commonly slow to change his mind, while being b) Quick to pounce on a new fad or shift to a new fashion.
Which is to say we are quick to conform, but slow to differ.

pp. 182-183

It seems impossible that in the gret Tulip Mania in Holland in 1640 the human herd could be such utter fools as to bid up tulip bulbs to 5500 fiorins each (equal to approximately $3,000) and crack a nation’s banking system in the process.[…]
And did it really happen in our lifetime that clergymen demanded “a life (sentence) for a pint”; and the confiscation of automobiles and the closing of huge hotels for what is now completely legal?
When mass manias are tied to a personality (Napoleon), patriotism (war), or God (the Crusades, or witchcraft), the hypnotic contagion of the crowd has no limits. It must wear itself out, as in the case of the Crusades, that took two hundred years.

7.5/10

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Stuff Seen, Oct+Nov+Dec 2015

Posted by StepTb su ottobre 31, 2015

Zui hao de shi guang / Three Times (Hsiao-Hsien Hou, 2005) [6]
Le voyage du ballon rouge (Hsiao-Hsien Hou, 2007) [6-]
Tian xia di yi quan / Five Fingers of Death (Chang-Hwa Jeong, 1972) [7]
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (Robert Fuest, 1971) [7+]
Dr. Phibes Rises Again (Robert Fuest, 1972) [6]
The Harder They Come (Perry Henzell, 1972) [6.5]
The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973) [8]
Thriller – en grym film (Bo Arne Vibenius, 1973) [7]
Cani arrabbiati (Mario Bava, 1974) [Arrow Video 2014 restored edition] [8]
Blade Runner [The Final Cut] (Ridley Scott, 1982-2007) [9]
Gorky Park (Michael Apted, 1983) [6.5]
Witness (Peter Weir, 1985) [8]
Year of the Dragon (Michael Cimino, 1985) [7.5]
El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970) [7]
My Name Is Julia Ross (Joseph H. Lewis, 1945) [7.5]
So Dark the Night (Joseph H. Lewis, 1946) [7]
Terror in a Texas Town (Joseph H. Lewis, 1958) [6.5]
They Live by Night (Nicholas Ray, 1948) [7.5]
On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray & Ida Lupino, 1951) [7]
Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray, 1956) [7.5]
Gonin [Director’s Cut] (Takashi Ishii, 1995) [7.5]
La rose de fer (Jean Rollin, 1973) [6]
John Wick (Chad Stahelski & David Leitch, 2014) [5+]
The American (Anton Corbijn, 2010) [5+]
Snake Eyes (Brian De Palma, 1998) [6.5]
1408 (Mikael Håfström, 2007) [6.5]
Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992) [6.5]
The Telephone Book (Nelson Lyon, 1971) [6.5]
Spy (Paul Feig, 2015) [4]
Femme Fatale (Brian De Palma, 2002) [6]
The Black Dahlia (Brian De Palma, 2006) [5]
Redacted (Brian De Palma, 2007) [6]
Crime d’amour (Alain Corneau, 2010) [6]
Passion (Brian De Palma, 2012) [7] [underrated, and an uncommon example of a Hollywood remake far superior to the original]
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) [7]
The X Files, s10 ep1 (Chris Carter, 2015) [5]

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Stuff Seen, September 2015

Posted by StepTb su settembre 30, 2015

La promesse (Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne, 1996) [7+]
Rosetta (Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne, 1999) [8]
True Detective s2 ep1 (Justin Lin, 2015) [6+]
True Detective s2 ep2 (Justin Lin, 2015) [6+]
True Detective s2 ep3 (Janus Metz Pedersen, 2015) [6]
True Detective s2 ep4 (Jeremy Podeswa, 2015) [7] [a very well directed+edited final part rescues the whole ep]
True Detective s2 ep5 (John Crowley, 2015) [7] [finally an ep with a decently written script, the characters act and talk like humans for the first time]
True Detective s2 ep6 (Miguel Sapochnik, 2015) [6.5]
True Detective s2 ep7 (Daniel Attias, 2015) [6.5]
True Detective s2 ep8 (John Crowley, 2015) [6.5] [whoa, what a letdown this second season was. the plot is messy and unbalanced (making no difference in the way important points and useless details are treated), dialogues are overly descriptive and lacking subtlety, characters’ dark aspects feel forced (and, mostly, just sketched) and their behaviour robotic (the underrated Colin Farrell is the only one who managed to translate the stiff, mechanic material into a human performance). in general, the writing takes the 1st season’s few flaws and multiplies them, without keeping any of its strengths. the direction is nothing special and lacks atmosphere – even if Crowley and Podeswa did a better job than the others. we can also see TV series fanboyism in action once again: audiences and critics hated “The Counselor” (2013), but both the direction and the script of that movie are better than most TD s2, which in certain aspects seems to imitate them (being Pizzolatto an obvious fan of McCarthy), especially in the way the story ends – but again, TD’s ending is the worst one of the two, given its smothering moralism (the lead male characters aren’t stupid and displayed both negative and positive traits, but they sinned, so they all must be punished in the end) and meek conventionality (the women remain alive and safe). anyway, is Pizzolatto a one-trick pony? were Fukunaga and Arkapaw the real driving forces behind s1? I fear the answer is positive in both cases.]
The IT Crowd s1 ep1 (Graham Linehan & Ben Gosling Fuller, 2006) [7]
Le gamin au vélo (Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne, 2011) [6.5]
Deux jours, une nuit (Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne, 2014) [8] [it’s unbelievable how many missed the point of this film, and apparently stopped watching it before the last, unambiguous, 5 minutes. yes, cruel workplace politics, the contrast humanity vs. business economics, and the socially destructive power of financial problems are all recognizable themes, but most of anything else this is a movie about depression, and the hard journey to overcome it. after being pushed and forced by her husband to have a series of difficult face-to-face interactions, the protagonist discovers the true nature of a supposed ‘friend’ and, on the other hand, the existence of new, this time real, supportive friends too. at the end of her ordeal, she’s a better person (see the immediate negative answer to her boss’s offer), and she realizes that finding the strength to fight again and a human ‘safety net’ of support was what she needed to feel alive again, even if things didn’t turn out right. it’s, of course, also a political film; but there are enough subtleties and complexities to make it acceptable, and its heart is in the right place. all in all, one of the absolute 2-3 best works by the Dardenne brothers.]
The Emerald Forest (John Boorman, 1985) [7.5]
Long men kezhan / Dragon Inn (King Hu, 1967) [7]
Xia nü / A Touch of Zen (King Hu, 1971) [7.5]
Da zui xia / Come Drink with Me (King Hu, 1966) [6.5]
Dareka no Manazashi / Someone’s Gaze (Makoto Shinkai, 2013) [short] [6]
Kong shan ling yu / Raining in the Mountain (King Hu, 1979) [6.5]
Beyond Rangoon (John Boorman, 1995) [6]
The General (John Boorman, 1998) [7]
Les revenants s1 ep1 (Fabrice Gobert, 2012) [6.5]
Kagemusha (Akira Kurosawa, 1980) [8]
The Running Man (Paul Michael Glaser, 1987) [7]
Pitfall (André De Toth, 1948) [7.5]
American Sniper (Clint Eastwood, 2014) [7]
Hai shang hua / Flowers of Shanghai (Hsiao-Hsien Hou, 1998) [7]

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John McWhorter – The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language

Posted by StepTb su settembre 24, 2015

Oxford University Press, 2014
208 pagine

Sensationalistic title. You’d expect a work of total debunking but you won’t find it here, since the material isn’t suitable for something like that (not overwhelming, black-and-white incontestable enough).
The actual content isn’t much, and you can already find it, explained in a neutral/non-polemical way, in many books that cover the subject.

6.5/10

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August 2015 Log

Posted by StepTb su agosto 31, 2015

VIDEO:
Ah fei zing zyun / Days of Being Wild (Kar Wai Wong, 1990) [8]
Dung che sai duk / Ashes of Time [Redux] (Kar Wai Wong, 1994-2008) [7.5]
2046 (Kar Wai Wong, 2004) [7]
La spiaggia (Alberto Lattuada, 1954) [8]
Redline (Takeshi Koike, 2009) [6]
Bron/Broen, s1 ep1 (Charlotte Sieling, 2011) [6]
Jôi-uchi: Hairyô tsuma shimatsu / Samurai Rebellion (Masaki Kobayashi, 1967) [7]
Kari-gurashi no Arietti / The Secret World of Arrietty (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2010) [7+]
Kokuriko-zaka kara / From Up on Poppy Hill (Gorô Miyazaki, 2011) [7]
Colorful (Keiichi Hara, 2010) [6]
It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 2014) [7]
Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki / Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosoda, 2012) [6.5]
Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014) [6.5]
Bob le Flambeur (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1956) [7]
Le doulos (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1962) [8+]
In Search of the Perfect Human Diet (C.J. Hunt, 2012) [6]
Trudno byt bogom / Hard to Be a God (Aleksey German, 2013) [8] [I’m not sure how to rate this one – it’s so unique there’s almost nothing you can compare it to. It can be a frustrating experience, because of the dialogues and narrative chosen form, which eliminated all the linearity and the philosophical substance from the original 1964 novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, making its story obscure and incomprehensible; but, at the same time, it’s an astonishing accomplishment in terms of visuals and originality. More than anything else, it’s the remarkable testament of director Aleksey German, who passed away just before its completion, and dedicated 15 years of his life to make his nightmarish vision a reality. Critics have compared its scenic design, image composition and hallucinated feel to Bosch and Bruegel, but, even if those are probable influences, I’d say the main tone is more akin to a twisted, dark Rabelais.]
The Bank Dick (Edward F. Cline, 1940) [7.5]
L’armée des ombres (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969) [6.5]
Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971) [8]
L’Apollonide (Souvenirs de la maison close) (Bertrand Bonello, 2011) [8]
Night Mayor (Guy Maddin, 2009) [short] [7]
Glorious (Guy Maddin, 2008) [short] [6]
A Trip to the Orphanage (Guy Maddin, 2004) [short] [6]
Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair (Guy Maddin, 2009) [short] [6.5]
Very Nice, Very Nice (Arthur Lipsett, 1961) [short] [8]
21-87 (Arthur Lipsett, 1964) [short] [7.5]
A Trip Down Memory Lane (Arthur Lipsett, 1965) [short] [7]
Pandora (Derek May, 1971) [short] [7]
Un flic (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1972) [7-]
Permanent Vacation (Jim Jarmusch, 1980) [6]
Yin shi nan nu / Eat Drink Man Woman (Ang Lee, 1994) [6.5]
Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1984) [7]
Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013) [6.5+]
Mystery Train (Jim Jarmusch, 1989) [5]

BOOKS:
Ivan Turgenev – Padri e figli [LINK] [8]
Platone – Apologia di Socrate [LINK] [9]

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Stuff Seen, May+Jun+Jul 2015

Posted by StepTb su luglio 31, 2015

Take the Money and Run (Woody Allen, 1969) [7]
Sleeper (Woody Allen, 1973) [6.5]
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (Woody Allen, 1982) [6.5]
Q (Larry Cohen, 1982) [6]
The Jerk (Carl Reiner, 1979) [6.5]
Nine to Five (Colin Higgins, 1980) [5]
TRON (Steven Lisberger, 1982) [5]
The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson & Frank Oz, 1982) [6.5]
Missing (Costa-Gavras, 1982) [7]
History of the World: Part I (Mel Brooks, 1981) [7]
Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981) [7]
The Incredible Shrinking Woman (Joel Schumacher, 1981) [6]
Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981) [6]
Firefox (Clint Eastwood, 1982) [6]
The Entity (Sidney J. Furie, 1982) [5]
The Beastmaster (Don Coscarelli, 1982) [6]
Sorceress (Jack Hill, 1982) [5-]
The Sword and the Sorcerer (Albert Pyun, 1982) [6]
Black Christmas (Bob Clark, 1974) [5]
Melvin and Howard (Jonathan Demme, 1980) [6]
Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, 2014) [6.5]

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Stuff Seen, March+April 2015

Posted by StepTb su aprile 30, 2015

Hustle (Robert Aldrich, 1975) [5]
Stay Hungry (Bob Rafelson, 1976) [6]
Murder by Death (Robert Moore, 1976) [7]
Over the Edge (Jonathan Kaplan, 1979) [6]
The Amityville Horror (Stuart Rosenberg, 1979) [5]
When a Stranger Calls (Fred Walton, 1979) [6]
The Muppet Movie (James Frawley, 1979) [6.5]
Elvis (John Carpenter, 1979) [6]
The Fog (John Carpenter, 1980) [7.5]
Escape from New York (John Carpenter, 1981) [8]
The Howling (Joe Dante, 1981) [7.5]
1941 (Steven Spielberg, 1979) [7]
Stripes (Ivan Reitman, 1981) [7+]
National Lampoon’s Vacation (Harold Ramis, 1983) [7.5]
Outland (Peter Hyams, 1981) [7+]
Prince of the City (Sidney Lumet, 1981) [8]
The Verdict (Sidney Lumet, 1982) [8]
Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, 1975) [7.5]
The Edge (Lee Tamahori, 1997) [7]
House of Cards s3 ep1 (John David Coles, 2015) [6.5]
House of Cards s3 ep2 (John David Coles, 2015) [7]
House of Cards s3 ep3 (Tucker Gates, 2015) [6]
House of Cards s3 ep4 (Tucker Gates, 2015) [7]
House of Cards s3 ep5 (James Foley, 2015) [6.5]
House of Cards s3 ep6 (James Foley, 2015) [6.5]
House of Cards s3 ep7 (John Dahl, 2015) [6.5]
House of Cards s3 ep8 (John Dahl, 2015) [6.5]
House of Cards s3 ep9 (Robin Wright, 2015) [7]
House of Cards s3 ep10 (Agnieszka Holland, 2015) [6]
House of Cards s3 ep11 (Agnieszka Holland, 2015) [7]
House of Cards s3 ep12 (Robin Wright, 2015) [6.5]
House of Cards s3 ep13 (James Foley, 2015) [7] [some good moments here and there, but, overall, this 3rd season was a letdown]
Diner (Barry Levinson, 1982) [7]
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982) [7+]
Gloria (John Cassavetes, 1980) [6.5]
Ordinary People (Robert Redford, 1980) [6.5]
S.O.B. (Blake Edwards, 1981) [7]
Creepshow (George A. Romero, 1982) [6.5]
Twilight Zone: The Movie (Joe Dante/John Landis/George Miller/Steven Spielberg, 1983) [6]
The Postman Always Rings Twice (Bob Rafelson, 1981) [8]
…All the Marbles (Robert Aldrich, 1981) [7+]
On Golden Pond (Mark Rydell, 1981) [5]
Swamp Thing (Wes Craven, 1982) [5]
Slap Shot (George Roy Hill, 1977) [6.5]
Heavy Metal (Gerald Potterton, 1981) [6.5]
Death Wish II (Michael Winner, 1982) [5]
Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982) [7]

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Il complottismo non ha un colore, ma forse ha una causa

Posted by StepTb su aprile 25, 2015

Post sul complottismo che mi tenevo in canna da un po’ di mesi.

Colgo l’occasione perché non molto fa è uscito un articolo su Scientific American (link) che ricorda tre dati a proposito delle tendenza a credere alle teorie del complotto.

1) “Surveys by Uscinski and Parent show that believers in conspiracies “cut across gender, age, race, income, political affiliation, educational level, and occupational status.” People on both the political left and right, for example, believe in conspiracies roughly equally, although each finds different cabals.

Come hanno confermato vari poll e studi prima di questo, il complottismo non è né di destra, né di sinistra.
Qui userò l’aneddotica: come chiunque capace di ragionare, anche a me capitò, appena iniziato a capire cosa fosse la politica, di imbattermi nel “pensiero” estremista di un colore e dell’altro, e di riconoscerlo in entrambi i casi come imbecille ad essere generosi. Ciò che non focalizzavo ancora bene era il fatto che entrambi utilizzassero della retorica complottista per portare avanti le proprie tesi – questo perché ho scoperto cosa effettivamente fossero i complottisti solamente una volta avuta l’ADSL e finito per sbaglio nel pozzo online delle paranoie in libertà di cui prima ignoravo l’esistenza.
Tuttavia, nel frequente caso in cui il grosso degli anni giovanili venga passato in ambienti saturi di litania anti-USA, anti-Israele e anti-“sistema”, ci si può facilmente convincere che ormai, in quest’epoca post-WWII e post-68, il complottismo abbia trovato casa per l’appunto nel pensiero sessantottino del “fight the system” e bla bla; tale è stata per un certo periodo anche la mia sensazione. Un confronto, anni dopo, con utenti americani, mi ha svelato che, ironicamente, nel Nuovo Continente il complottismo viene al contrario visto come “di destra”, a causa del loro peculiare assetto politico in cui la dx (che sia conservatrice o libertarian) non è mai dx sociale, ma sempre contraria alle politiche stataliste, e quindi è la dx quella ad essere scettica e, nei casi estremi, paranoica nei confronti del “sistema”. Ma anche la loro sx è mobile, e abbraccia con disinvoltura aperture complottiste nel momento in cui le fa più comodo (dal noto esempio dell’omicidio JFK a tutte le paranoie contro le corporation, non ultime quelle sulla Monsanto e su tutti gli OGM).
La prova empirica di quest’assenza di colore, nel nostro panorama nazionale, è stata data dall’entrata nell’arena politica del M5S; costruito su più basi sedimentate (il seme originario può essere individuato negli spettacoli grilleschi anni ’90), sfruttando un’onda lunga di sentimenti antisistema, non s’è fatto scrupoli ad accogliere e far leva a livelli diversi su complottismi d’ogni genere (1, 2, 3, 4), e, allo stesso tempo, ha pescato a strascico lungo tutto l’asse da dx a sx.
A distanza di tempo, appare evidente come le ideologie estremiste poggino le proprie basi su complottismi più o meno celati: per essere estremisti, costoro necessitano di prendere una posizione manichea secondo cui “l’altro” è il nemico assoluto che li opprime, mentre ammettere proprie colpe e mancanze finirebbe inevitabilmente per trasformare il bianco/nero in una scala di grigi, e dunque ricadere verso posizioni centriste.
Più o meno celati, perché spesso il ragionamento complottista si annida dietro talmente tanti strati di retorica che può diventare difficile riconoscerlo come tale. Un caso che non può più essere celato, perché la Storia ce l’ha consegnato già analizzato e sviscerato, è quello del filone antisemita che culminò nel periodo nefasto cui resterà indissolubilmente legato. Un caso molto più insidioso, perché nascosto dietro problemi sociali realistici e al ricatto morale del politicamente corretto, è quello, tipicamente di sinistra, del dividere la popolazione in gruppi identitari a cui rivolgersi politicamente e ai quali vendere il concetto (complottista) secondo cui ogni loro problema è causa di un altro gruppo identitario, stavolta di maggioranza, che li ha sempre oppressi – ignorando platealmente il fatto storico che, lungo il corso del tempo, anche in quella stessa maggioranza il potere è sempre rimasto nelle mani di una minuscola élite.
E infatti,

2) “Group identity is also a factor. African-Americans are more likely to believe that the CIA planted crack cocaine in inner-city neighborhoods. White Americans are more likely to believe that the government is conspiring to tax the rich to support welfare queens and turn the country into a socialist utopia.

3) Infine, “42 percent of those without a high school diploma are high in conspiratorial predispositions, compared with 23 percent with postgraduate degrees.
– Come mostrano i dati, la variabile dell’educazione da sola non basta a spiegare la tendenza al complottismo: nonostante si rilevi una riduzione, quasi un quarto di chi possiede titoli superiori alla laurea triennale ne risulta ancora non immune.
Potrebbe quindi essere spiegata col benessere economico? Pare di no (vedi più sotto).
Io ho una teoria su quale sia il fattore principale, che ho dedotto da una ricerca sul web in cui ho confrontato varie fonti.

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_National_ConspiracyTheories_040213.pdf
La prima pagina riassume un po’ tutto il discorso di poc’anzi. C’è una distribuzione equa di chi crede ai complotti, che varia grandemente a seconda di come viene formulata la domanda (non essendoci una definizione universale di cosa sia esattamente un complotto, la formulazione della domanda può contenere questo o quell’altro bias e variare di molto il risultato), ma anche del tipo di complotto (NWO e global warming schiaccianti tra i repubblicani, e invece pari sulla guerra in Iraq).

911worldopinionpoll_Sep2008
World poll sul 9/11, condotto nel 2008. Nigeria e Kenya figurano meno complottiste dell’Italia.

A cui va aggiunto http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9760.2008.00325.x/abstract
Si legge solo l’inizio, ma riporta che nel 2006 il 22% dei canadesi credeva al 9/11 come complotto attuato dagli stessi americani. Più della media mondiale, e di varie nazioni nettamente più povere, di due anni dopo.

http://www.911truth.org/images/ZogbyPoll2007.pdf
Poll sul 9/11, la correlazione dell’income non è evidente. Si abbassa e poi si alza quando si passa alla fascia di reddito più alta. Quindi nemmeno la variabile del reddito basta a spiegare la tendenza al complottismo.

http://www.aei.org/files/2013/11/06/-public-opinion-on-conspiracy-theories_181649218739.pdf
Vari poll condotti nel tempo. Pochissimi considerano la variabile income, ma, dove c’è, mostra variazioni di pochi punti. La variabile dell’istruzione ne mostra di più, ma ci si aspetterebbe maggiori variazioni, soprattutto tra high school e college. Il dato ricorrente è di nuovo che, pare, siano equamente distribuiti demograficamente e politicamente, e che varino a seconda del tipo di complotto. Ad esempio, il complotto sull’assassinio di King vince nettamente tra le minoranze etniche e i democratici.
Nelle loro parole:
We don’t find compelling evidence from the data in this document that particular demographic groups are susceptible to a belief in conspiracy theories. It depends on the theory. Middle-aged Americans are more likely to believe in the JFK assassination conspiracy than older or younger ones. Young people and Democrats are most likely to subscribe to conspiracy theories about 9/11. Women are more likely to believe foul play was involved in Princess Diana’s death. While the demographic data presented here are by no means exhaustive, we’re hesitant to endorse what much of the literature concludes – that the young and less educated are more prone to conspiratorial instincts.
– Quindi sia il loro risultato, sia quello più diffuso, mostrano come correlazioni principali delle altre rispetto alla povertà.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2044-8309.2010.02018.x/abstract
Studio che mostra come ci sia una correlazione tra un tipo di personalità machiavellica e la credenza ai complotti. Chi crede ai complotti, è probabile ne farebbe uno.

http://www.psypag.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Issue-88.pdf
Compendio di vari studi. Alle pp. 8-9 elenca la serie di correlazioni finora emerse da essi: bias cognitivi, alti livelli di rifiuto delle norme sociali, autoritarismo, sensazione di impotenza, basso self-esteem, bassa fiducia, cattivo carattere, alti livelli di cinismo politico. Conclude sostenendo ci siano vari meccanismi sia cognitivi che sociali in gioco, e che, per ora, oltre alle correlazioni trovate, gli studi siano ad uno stadio troppo precoce per avventurarsi nell’individuare quali siano invece le cause.
Alle pp. 23-24, parlando della possibile ma in realtà sfuggente correlazione tra complottismo e autoritarismo, secondo me c’è il passaggio che riassume tutto:

Several studies by Monika Grzesiak-Feldman have shown that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in Poland are more likely to be held by authoritarians. Likewise, a study in the 1990s by Yelland and Stone found that authoritarians are more amenable to persuasion that the Holocaust was a hoax, orchestrated by a massive Jewish conspiracy. Viren Swami, a psychologist at the University of Westminster, has demonstrated that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are associated with authoritarianism in a Malaysian sample as well. But there’s some evidence pointing the other way as well. In a separate study, Swami and his colleagues at the University of Westminster showed that 9/11 conspiracy beliefs are associated with negative attitudes toward authority, and John W. McHoskey found that people high in authoritarianism were more likely to be anti-conspiracist when it comes to the JFK assassination. So what’s going on here? It looks like the content of the theories is what matters. The research on the psychology of authoritarianism has long shown that authoritarians tend to derogate and scapegoat minorities, which seems to be what’s going on in a lot of these anti-Semitic cases: a minority is being blamed by the majority for the ills of society. Swami’s Malaysian study actually proposes that the anti-Semitism shown by the Malaysian respondents might be a proxy for anti-Chinese racist attitudes: there are very few Jews in Malaysia, so Malaysian authoritarians might displace their ethnic aggression from a relatively powerful and socially accepted minority group (Chinese) onto one that is almost non-existent in their society and so can be scapegoated without consequence (Jews). In contrast, a lot of modern conspiracy theories have a very populist and antigovernment tone. They blame authorities for the evils of society, not minorities – the American government blew up the Twin Towers, MI6 killed Princess Diana, and so on. So it makes sense that authoritarians would be less likely to believe that their governments are conspiring against them and anti-authoritarians would find this idea more appealing. There’s no uniform association between authoritarianism and conspiracy belief – it seems to depend on the specifics of the theory in question.

Scapegoat, ovvero scaricabarile. De-responsabilizzare psicologicamente se stessi caricando qualsiasi colpa sulle spalle di un capro espiatorio.
Riassunto del tutto: la correlazione tra complottismo e povertà non è abbastanza consistente da poter essere indicata come la principale, sia per ciò che emerge dai risultati esistenti, sia perché mancano ancora studi in materia, e, allo stesso tempo, non c’è una correlazione solida quanto ci si aspetterebbe con l’istruzione.
C’è invece una correlazione ormai provata tra complottismo e varie attitudini psicologiche individuali, tra le quali emergono soprattutto alienazione, “scapegoatism” aka scaricabarile, senso di impotenza, sfiducia nel mainstream (e quindi anche nelle istituzioni) di qualsiasi tipo.
Ipotesi mia finale: da questo si può ipotizzare che un paese come l’Italia, nel quale indoli come scaricabarile e sfiducia sono diffuse, e il declino (che la nostra pessima classe giornalistica si ostina ancora a chiamare “crisi”, ma questo è un altro discorso) è manifesto ovunque da troppi anni, produca più complottismo di, ad esempio, un paese con meno benessere ma avviato verso lo sviluppo, in cui i cittadini hanno iniziato ad avere fiducia nelle istituzioni perché stanno funzionando.
Il dubbio che resta è di essere nel pieno di un circolo vizioso: le persone che tendono ad avere tali qualità negative, e dunque credere ai complotti, magari lo fanno solo per via di una proiezione sul prossimo di ciò che (consciamente o meno) “sanno” di loro stesse, ma ciò significa anche che, se tali persone ne avranno la possibilità, costruiranno o popoleranno istituzioni disfunzionali che avranno l’effetto di propagare una sfiducia verso le stesse sul resto della popolazione, e dunque a loro volta alimentare i sentimenti che danno vita ai complottismi.

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January+February 2015 Log

Posted by StepTb su febbraio 28, 2015

VIDEO:
Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman, 2014) [7+]
Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (Carl Boese, Paul Wegener, 1920) [7.5]
Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1929) [8]
The Wind (Victor Sjöström, 1928) [7.5]
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Brad Bird, 2011) [5+]
Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014) [6.5] [even if Boyhood’s production idea is innovative and Linklater’s direction masterful, the script itself mainly displays a parade of stereotypes, from the violent stepfather figures to the idealization of college experience as a resolutory climax of sort. It doesn’t take risks (and its clear and simplistic political undertones work as a contradictory, limiting, negative force that seems to prevent it), and it doesn’t offer any particular insight into boyhood, male adolescence, or life in general. It’s a film as confused as its own characters, and nowhere near the masterpiece status critics have thrown at it. Just compare it to Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959) – case closed]
Kis uykusu (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2014) [7.5]
Machete Kills (Robert Rodriguez, 2013) [4]
Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014) [6]
Grudge Match (Peter Segal, 2013) [6]
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1927) [8.5]
The Crowd (King Vidor, 1928) [8.5]
Where Eagles Dare (Brian G. Hutton, 1968) [7]
Two Mules for Sister Sara (Don Siegel, 1970) [6]
Joe Kidd (John Sturges, 1972) [6.5]
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Michael Cimino, 1974) [7.5]
Love and Death (Woody Allen, 1975) [7.5]
A Star Is Born (Frank Pierson, 1976) [4]
Coming Home (Hal Ashby, 1978) [7-]
The Incredible Hulk, s1 ep1 (Kenneth Johnson, 1977) [6.5]
Piranha (Joe Dante, 1978) [5]
Superman (Richard Donner, 1978) [7] [like it or not, you have to give this movie some credit; it was hard to do better, in 1978, with such a story. Donner’s direction is remarkable, and the film’s influence on virtually every following superhero movie, including the post-2000 ones, is undeniable. On top of that, Reeve was a perfect casting choice, and created “the” live action Superman icon]
Rocky II (Sylvester Stallone, 1979) [7]
10 (Blake Edwards, 1979) [6.5]
An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978) [7-]
Kramer vs. Kramer (Robert Benton, 1979) [7]
Meatballs (1979) [6]
Breaking Away (Peter Yates, 1979) [6]
The Wanderers (Philip Kaufman, 1979) [7]
Return of the Secaucus 7 (John Sayles, 1979) [6.5]
Caddyshack (Harold Ramis, 1980) [7]
Superman II (Richard Lester & Richard Donner, 1980) [5]
Reds (Warren Beatty, 1981) [7]
Rocky III (Sylvester Stallone, 1982) [6.5]
First Blood (Ted Kotcheff, 1982) [7+]
Rambo 2 (George P. Cosmatos, 1985) [5]
Rocky IV (Sylvester Stallone, 1985) [5+]
Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986) [7-]
Fatal Attraction (Adrian Lyne, 1987) [6.5]
Rambo III (Peter MacDonald, 1988) [5+]
Our Nixon (Penny Lane, 2013) [6.5]
Rollerball (Norman Jewison, 1975) [5]
Every Which Way But Loose (James Fargo, 1978) [5]
Sisters (Brian De Palma, 1973) [6]
Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma, 1980) [8]
Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 1981) [7]
Scarface (Brian De Palma, 1983) [8-]
Popeye (Robert Altman, 1980) [7]
Body Double (Brian De Palma, 1984) [7.5]
The Untouchables (Brian De Palma, 1987) [7+]
American Gigolo (Paul Schrader, 1980) [7]
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) [8.5]
Body Heat (Lawrence Kasdan, 1981) [8]
Excalibur (John Boorman, 1981) [7]
Tightrope (Richard Tuggle, 1984) [6]
Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) [8.5]

BOOKS:
Karl Popper – Auf der Suche nach einer besseren Welt: Vorträge und Aufsätze aus dreissig Jahren [LINK Amazon, Italian edition] [9]
John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge – The Right Nation: Why America Is Different [LINK Amazon] [8]

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Quote of the Day

Posted by StepTb su gennaio 9, 2015

« Nonostante la mia venerazione per la scienza, non sono uno scientista. Perché uno scientista crede dogmaticamente nell’autorità della scienza mentre io non credo in nessuna autorità ed ho sempre avversato il dogmatismo, e ancora ovunque lo avverso, soprattutto nella scienza.
Sono contrario alla tesi secondo la quale lo scienziato deve credere alla sua teoria. Per quanto mi riguarda, I do not believe in belief, come dice E. M. Foster; in particolare non credo nella scienza. Credo al massimo alla fede nell’etica, e anche lì solo in pochi casi. Credo, ad esempio, che la verità oggettiva sia un valore, dunque un valore etico, forse addirittura il più alto valore, e che la malvagità sia il massimo non-valore. »

– Karl R. Popper, in Alla ricerca di un mondo migliore: conferenze e saggi di trent’anni di attività

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2014 / Best Albums

Posted by StepTb su dicembre 31, 2014

As always, still in progress…

7.5/10
Los Random – Pidanoma
Fire! Orchestra – Enter
The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
Goat – Commune

7/10
Ambrose Akinmusire – The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint
Dan Weiss – Fourteen
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata
Wild Throne – Blood Maker EP
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
Kairon; IRSE! – Ujubasajuba
Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun
Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
Orange Goblin – Back from the Abyss
Ty Segall – Manipulator
Natural Snow Buildings – The Night Country
The Body – I Shall Die Here
Andy Stott – Faith in Strangers
Conan – Blood Eagle
Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
Murmur – Murmur
Desmadrados Soldados De Ventura – Interpenetrating Dimensional Express
Richard Dawson – Nothing Important
Perfume Genius – Too Bright
Carla Bozulich – Boy
Eyehategod – Eyehategod
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Gone Girl
Padang Food Tigers – Running My Habits Clean EP
Coffinworm – IV.I.VIII
Aphex Twin – Syro
Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were
Kayo Dot – Coffins On Io
Sólstafir – Ótta

6.5/10
Zola Jesus – Taiga
Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Chet Faker – Built on Glass
Junius – Days of the Fallen Sun EP
Bill Callahan – Have Fun with God
Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Piano Nights
Kiasmos – Kiasmos
Shellac – Dude Incredible
Down – Down IV – Part II EP
Pyrrhon – The Mother of Virtues
Cormorant – Earth Diver
Pink Mountaintops – Get Back
Big Red Panda – Big Red Panda
Body Count – Manslaughter
Keb’ Mo’ – Bluesamericana
Swans – To Be Kind
Thot – The City That Disappears
Oren Ambarchi – Amulet
Space Guerrilla – Boundless EP
Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors
Grouper – Ruins
Loscil – Sea Island
Earth – Primitive and Deadly
Electric Wizard – Time to Die
Left Lane Cruiser – Slingshot
Have a Nice Life – The Unnatural World
Junkfood – The Cold Summer of the Dead
Trap Them – Blissfucker
Death Grips – Niggas on the Moon
Vermont – Vermont
Spoon – They Want My Soul
Plantation – Out of the Dark EP
Sunn O))) & Ulver – Terrestrials
Behemoth – The Satanist
Aleph Null – Nocturnal

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2014 / Best Films

Posted by StepTb su dicembre 31, 2014

Just a draft, I’ve watched very few 2014 movies…

8/10
Kis uykusu (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Deux jours, une nuit (Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne, 2014)

7.5/10
The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones)

7/10
Gone Girl (David Fincher)
Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
American Sniper (Clint Eastwood)
The Lego Movie (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)
Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg)

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Stuff Seen, November+December 2014

Posted by StepTb su dicembre 31, 2014

Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004) [7+]
The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011) [5]
Nebraska (Alexander Payne, 2013) [8]
Kelly’s Heroes (Brian G. Hutton, 1970) [7.5]
Cockfighter (Monte Hellman, 1974) [7]
Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976) [7]
The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010) [7]
Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014) [7]
The Wolf Man (George Waggner, 1941) [7.5-]
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (Roy William Neill, 1943) [6.5]
The Curse of the Werewolf (Terence Fisher, 1961) [6.5]
The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014) [5]
Happy Christmas (Joe Swanberg, 2014) [6]
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014) [7]
Confession (Do-yun Lee, 2014) [6.5]
The Expendables 3 (Patrick Hughes, 2014) [5]
Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014) [6.5]
The Lego Movie (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, 2014) [7]
Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg, 2014) [7]

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Los Random – Pidanoma

Posted by StepTb su dicembre 30, 2014

Self-produced, 2014
Album

Il trio argentino dei Los Random (prima conosciuti solo come Random) aveva esordito con un EP (Prrimo, The) nel 2009 e un primo album (Todo.s los colores del) nel 2011, entrambi ottimi esempi di prog metal altamente variegato e ricco di trovate creative, percorsi da sfoggi tecnici ed esuberanza giovanile.
Il loro secondo full-length Pidanoma sposta l’asticella ben più in alto. Maturati sotto ogni punto di vista, i tre hanno confenzionato quello che forse è il più autenticamente innovativo disco metal del 2014.
Il trio ha trovato una formula completamente personale, che non suona esattamente come nulla si sia sentito in precedenza, e l’ha messa al servizio di un disco-macigno, da ascoltare per intero da capo a coda (sulla scia della tradizione prog dei concept album), costituito per lo più da tre pezzi finali di 16, 17 e 21 minuti.
Sebbene in questo calderone di influenze si intercettino riff sludge alla Melvins, post-metal alla Isis di Panopticon (ma in versione più calda e latina), prog massimalista alla The Mars Volta, post-hardcore e math rock alla Don Caballero, passaggi djent, e parti strumentali ora di ambient elettronico (Mia Gato está Solo en la Os) ora di post-rock alla Mono (Guri Guri Tres Piñas), la formula stilistica finale è una vera e propria fusione, che non suona mai frammentaria per il gusto di stupire o esibire virtuosismi, ma come un discorso unitario, coeso e coerente.
Siamo sostanzialmente nell’ambito della musica d’avanguardia – e, sicuramente, nel reame dell’avant-garde metal, che raramente è stato così interessante.

7.5/10

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Kairon; IRSE! – Ujubasajuba

Posted by StepTb su dicembre 30, 2014

Self-produced, 2014
Album

Fortunatamente, capita escano dischi capaci di iniettare nuova linfa in generi ormai sfruttati all’eccesso e accartocciati nei propri stereotipi, come, in questo caso, il post-rock.
Con un approccio meno “sinfonico” rispetto al precedente (e loro debut album) the Defect in that one is bleach / We’re hunting wolverines, i finlandesi Kairon; IRSE! aumentano le dosi di sovraincisioni stratificate e dissonanze, e, grazie anche ad una (auto-)produzione che conferisce a chitarre e batteria un’aggressività ben più grezza di quanto generalmente si sente nel genere, le lunghe distese di “wall of sound” si scavano uno spazio stilistico a sé.
Sarebbe d’altro canto limitante considare Ujubasajuba solo come esponente valido di un singolo genere: le sonorità “pastose”, al tempo stesso atmosferiche e ruvide, gettano in una pressa influenze che vanno dagli Hawkwind ai My Bloody Valentine, ancor prima di parlare il linguaggio di Mono ed Explosions in the Sky.

7/10

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The Body – I Shall Die Here

Posted by StepTb su dicembre 30, 2014

Rvng, 2014
Album

All’interno di una discografia dalla qualità discontinua, I Shall Die Here si situa tra le migliori uscite a nome The Body: cercando un bilanciamento molto più ponderato tra aggressione noise e droni ambientali, l’album è il più maturo e riuscito del duo Lee Buford & Chip King per quanto riguarda la costruzione delle atmosfere, con tutta probabilità grazie alla qui presente collaborazione col talentuoso Bobby Krlic aka The Haxan Cloak.
Colonna sonora perfetta per un film horror, il disco fa sprofondare l’ascoltatore tra tinte nere e ansie opprimenti, stimolandolo con trovate sonore variegate che prendono da dark ambient, drone metal, sludge e industrial, senza scadere nella monotonia o negli eccessi dissonanti che minano spesso e volentieri uscite di questo tipo, e che avevano compromesso il precedente Christs, Redeemers.

7/10

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Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun

Posted by StepTb su dicembre 29, 2014

Reprise, 2014
Album

Come rilasciato in un’intervista dal chitarrista Bill Kelliher, “[Death] always makes for really good story telling. It’s kind of the theme that we have a lot in our music. We’ve had a lot of friends pass away since the last record. I’m not really sure yet. I think we’re kind of focusing more about living on this earth and what would happen if this was your last year to live. I think that’s sort of maybe a little bit of what we might be kind of touching on.
Il sesto album dei Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun, uscito per la Reprise, riflette allo stesso tempo un ulteriore cambio di rotta stilistico, una volontà di conquistare nuovi tipi di pubblico ulteriormente al di fuori del’arena metal, ma anche una maturazione personale dei quattro, che mai come ora hanno una visione consapevolmente positiva nei confronti della vita.
Se proprio i primi due pezzi ad aprire l’album contengono versi come “Open your eyes, take a deep breath and return to life. Wake up and fight, fight for the love and the burning light“, e “I can see what this life has handed you, I can feel the weight. This time, things’ll work out just fine. We won’t let you slip away“, la cosa è non solo chiara ma anche appositamente sottolineata.

Quella dei Mastodon è un’operazione di svecchiamento delle formule metal, prog rock e alternative rock, che si mescolano assieme in un calderone sempre ispirato e altamente personale, dunque riuscendo sempre a spiccare sul resto del panorama musicale ad essi contemporaneo, e risultando sempre soddisfacente. Once More ‘Round the Sun non fa eccezione, e stavolta, a differenza di The Hunter, la parte del leone la fanno gli arrangiamenti (non solo chitarre, anche tocchi di synth e sample in un paio di punti), nei loro ultimi tre dischi mai così ricchi, rifiniti, ma allo stesso tempo non soffocanti nei confronti dell’orecchiabilità finale dei pezzi (come in molto Crack the Skye) – una complessità e ricchezza di dettaglio perfettamente rappresentata dalla cover del disco, opera dell’artista Skinner, di Oakland.
Essenziali sono infatti le melodie e la vena catchy di tutti i pezzi, che tocca il picco nei memorabili chorus di The Motherload, Asleep in the Deep e Ember City.

Come sintesi delle varie influenze della band, Once More ‘Round the Sun funziona anche meglio di The Hunter, che non era altrettanto cesellato, upbeat e scorrevole, e senz’altro meglio di Crack the Skye, nel quale l’ambizione di costruire un concept in stile prog 1970s aveva preso completamente il timone.
Si possono trovare infatti riff sludge che rimandano ai loro lavori più vecchi, come in Asleep in the Deep, Chimes at Midnight e Aunt Lisa (con coro cheerleader finale), che poi evolvono in melodie “alternative” stilisticamente simili a quelle dei pezzi meno metal di Blood Mountain, ma anche fusioni tra strofe hardcore melodico alla Hüsker Dü (il cui approccio all’hardcore nei 1980s ricorda molto ciò che hanno fatto e stanno continuando a fare oggi i Mastodon nei confronti del metal) ed escursioni prog metal come nella title-track e in Halloween.

A differenza dell’album precedente, in questo si sente anche come una certa “distanza” tra la musica e l’ascoltatore, dovuta alla cura maniacale con cui il sound è stato reso ricco e scintillante; nonostante le maggiori dilatazioni pinkfloydiane, il suono era più essenziale e terrestre in The Hunter, mentre in Once More ‘Round the Sun tutto viene compresso in uno spazio minore, con più lavoro di sovrapposizione, e contemporaneamente ottenendo un effetto “dreamy” e ipnotico, quasi un parallelo al dream/psychedelic indie che ha avuto successo nell’ultima decade (coi Deerhunter eccetera).

Quello che forse sfuggirà a molti è che Once More ‘Round the Sun è un ottimo esempio di come si possa suonare prog, e anche chiaramente in stile settantiano, senza “fare” prog: tutti i momenti in cui i pezzi lasciano spazio a parti strumentali mostrano infatti evidenti influenze e omaggi al rock progressivo dei 1970s, ma scorrono su ritmi upbeat, si intrecciano e sciolgono in maniera vivace e rapida, e non durano un secondo più del necessario; questo disco dei Mastodon mostra una capacità di rissorbire e rinverdire le sonorità prog in maniera molto più fresca e convincente rispetto a cose come gli ultimi lavori targati Opeth, che vivono invece molto più di nostalgia che di innovazione.

Resta tuttavia impossibile non notare somiglianze con alcuni pezzi di The Hunter, particolarmente tra l’opener Tread Lightly e l’altra opener Black Tongue, ma soprattutto nel singolo The Motherload, che, riprendendo la carica alla Queens of the Stone Age dei tempi migliori ed anche l’idea di dare a Brann Dailor lo spazio principale al microfono, pare una versione meglio pensata e migliorata di Dry Bone Valley – il che conferma anche l’idea, esplicitata alla stampa dalla band, che il disco sia una continuazione, anche se con stile rinnovato, del suo predecessore.

C’è stavolta chiaramente anche un “quinto Mastodon”, il producer Nick Raskulinecz, che si è probabilmente trovato di fronte a uno dei compiti più complessi della sua carriera, dovendo bilanciare l’orgia di arrangiamenti e rifiniture messa in pista dal gruppo, e allo stesso tempo il loro chiaro desiderio di non suonare heavy quanto nei loro vecchi album, con la necessità di non perdere nel processo la loro aggressività e potenza; un obiettivo molto difficile, e il giudizio sul fatto che sia riuscito o meno dipende largamente dalle aspettative del singolo ascoltatore.

7/10

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Godflesh – A World Lit Only by Fire

Posted by StepTb su dicembre 3, 2014

Avalanche, 2014
Album

Nel 2010 Broadrick e Green riformano i Godflesh, e nel 2014 esce per la Avalanche il nuovo album A World Lit Only by Fire.
Ancora fedeli all’impiego delle drum machine, i due recuperano un sound vicino specialmente a Pure (1992), ma più spogliato ed essenziale. Oltre all’industrial dalle tinte infernali che diede il via al progetto, le maggiori influenze sono lo sludge metal e, nelle parti con la ritmica più martellante, il più classico hardcore punk dei 1980s. Il disco è un soddisfacente tuffo nel passato per i fan nostalgici, e al tempo stesso una dimostrazione di quanto la band sia stata ispiratrice per tutta la corrente del post-metal fiorita nei 10-15 anni passati: anche grazie all’esperienza e continuo aggiornamento maturati da Broadrick coi dischi a nome Jesu, non c’è molto che suoni davvero fuori posto rispetto ai tempi attuali.

6/10

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Distopie generazionali

Posted by StepTb su novembre 6, 2014

Non si contano le opere che trattano di distopie. Ciascuna di tali opere, tuttavia, non è riuscita ad anticipare correttamente i reali svolgimenti futuri, e ciò perché le suggestioni distopiche sono strettamente connesse alla situazione presente e passata in cui vengono immaginate, più che a visioni del futuro.
La chiave per capire la nascita delle distopie non sta nell’immaginarsi un futuro che progressivamente diventa sempre più minaccioso perché tale è la direzione naturale degli eventi, ma nel realizzare come sia una cristallizzazione del passato e/o del presente, resistente ai cambiamenti naturali del contesto, a costruire anno dopo anno quello che sarà un futuro nero.
Nell’immaginare le distopie, le fiction partono da un punto nella storia in cui il sistema distopico è già affermato, e una generazione intera si trova nata in un mondo già precipitato; ciò perché ogni distopia nasce come utopia. Il futuro distopico non arriva per progressione naturale della storia: ogni generazione cercherà di perseguire la propria felicità, perciò non finirà mai per mettere in piedi un sistema contrario agli interessi della propria maggioranza.

La distopia si crea perché un dato gruppo, in un dato periodo, vuole creare un’utopia per se stesso. La conseguenza è che il monopolio che così va a crearsi scombina gli equilibri e mantiene i privilegi da una parte della bilancia nonostante tempi e contesti cambino, e dunque chi nasce successivamente a tale cristallizzazione subisce un destino via via peggiore. Una volta che un modello mentale utopistico prende il potere, man mano che i tempi e le circostanze cambieranno esso si rivelerà anno dopo anno sempre più obsoleto: se, durante tale periodo, reagirà stringendosi e solidificandosi nel proprio monopolio invece di adattarsi o cedere, il futuro sarà inevitabilmente quello di una distopia, che finirà per crollare rovinosamente dopo essersi divorata le 2-3-4 generazioni successive.

Non c’è quindi da stupirsi se la generazione più utopistica del dopoguerra, quella dei baby boomers, sia stata anche quella ad aver creato il più sbilanciato sistema di privilegi per se stessa, cristallizzando il proprio presente a spese delle generazioni future, che si trovano a doverne pagare gli errori (tra cui i debiti da essi contratti). Ciò è accaduto in tutto il mondo occidentale, ma in alcuni paesi, come il nostro, per mancanza di un sistema di regole chiaro, efficiente, capace di assorbire ed adattarsi automaticamente ai cambiamenti, e allo stesso tempo con indicatori demografici via via peggiorati, le conseguenze sono state disastrose. Il fatto che si sia creata la famosa “casta” parlamentare è solo la punta dell’iceberg: fuori dalle luci dei riflettori ci sono decine di altre caste create dalla stessa generazione.
Voler dialogare con quella generazione per ridisegnare il sistema è inutile, dal momento che, dopo tutto l’investimento messo nella propria causa, ora essa non è capace di capire lo sbilanciamento che ha creato per chi è venuto dopo. Guardare la realtà dei fatti e realizzare come stiano effettivamente le cose significherebbe per loro dover ripudiare almeno parzialmente l’utopia che li ha guidati, e quindi l’idea di aver fatto bene, di aver combattuto cause giuste e di aver messo in piedi un sistema migliore del precedente. Peccato che su tali idee sia fondata la loro identità generazionale, quindi non ci si può aspettare alcuna comprensione.

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