Entries Tagged as 'Internet'

Where Are the Anti-Semites at Occupy Wall Street?

October 26th, 2011 at 12:00 pm 84 Comments

Back in late 2009, pilule when many still believed that Sarah Palin was the future of American politics, left-wing filmmakers Chase Whiteside and Erick Stoll took their camera to a Borders book store in Columbus, Ohio, where the former Alaska governor was signing copies of her book Going Rogue. Whiteside and Stoll went up and down the line-up of Palin fans, conducting brief interviews, and then uploaded edited snippets to YouTube.

Surprise, surprise: The interviewees all sounded like idiots.

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The Prowl: Downward Dogs

August 19th, 2011 at 6:08 pm 2 Comments

I have recently embraced a new fitness regimen.  This is partly because I lead an almost entirely inactive lifestyle which I am certain is not healthy.  If I keep lobbying while wining and dining without increasing my level of physical activity, the odds of falling into a diabetic coma are extraordinarily high.  Good metabolism cannot last forever, after all.

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Summer Reads: DiPeso on You Are Not a Gadget

August 14th, 2011 at 12:32 am 3 Comments

The Internet has been touted as a paradise for individual liberty and democracy – a platform from which every point of view can be heard, a global town hall where the ideas of free individuals are the raw materials for the wisdom of the crowd.

Not so fast, says musician, virtual reality developer, and technology theorist Jaron Lanier in his book You Are Not a Gadget.

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Every Parent’s Online Nightmare

April 8th, 2011 at 5:42 pm 4 Comments

While Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow built solid careers on the silver screen, and Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry have lit up screens large and small in the seven years since the Friends went their separate ways, David Schwimmer’s career has been, while lower-profile, in some ways almost as deserving to note.   As would befit his nebbish alter ego Ross Geller, his specialty has been starring in and producing Broadway and Hollywood stage plays, and directing (and occasionally starring in) downbeat indies like Run Fatboy Run and Duane Hopwood.

This month’s directorial issue from him, Trust, is his most important post-Central Perk work yet – aided and abetted by In the Bedroom scribe Robert Festinger and Andy Bellin, and a powerhouse cast, including young Liana Liberato in what should be a breakout role. Trust me: Trust is an excellent movie, the kind of film that in the era of Ordinary People or Kramer vs. Kramer would have been a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination, and one that bears comparison to Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King in their prime.

The movie tells the story of Annie (Liana Liberato), the 15-year-old middle child of a white, well-off, attractive, and functional family in suburban Illinois, with happily married parents, doting grandparents, Mercedes and Volvos and swimming pools, and everyone headed for college.  This isn’t some Jerry Springer contestant’s abandoned daughter, desperate for male validation in an unsafe neighborhood.  Annie is wholesomely attractive, addicted to texting and Twitter and Facebook, and she just got her first Little Black Dress for her birthday – the better to help her swim in the fast lane with the sophisticated “cool girls” at school.

And Annie’s already taken the first step.  She’s in the middle of an online relationship with a “hawt and sXe boi” whom she thinks is a 15-year-old peer from California, but later reveals himself as a 20-year-old college athlete named Charlie.  That’s a little alarming, but it’s still a somewhat understandable age difference.  But wait — Charlie later reveals he’s 25 and a grad student.  Then again, Annie’s seen his blond, buff, and youthful picture, and while 25 is a little long in the tooth, it’s not like he’s icky-old, like her parents.  She agrees to meet him, turned on by the furtive thrill of this “older” man taking an interest in her.

Then she meets Charlie (played with serpentine charm by Chris Henry Coffey), and is appalled to find he’s well into his thirties (if not past the big four-oh.)  But he’s still very sexy for such an “old” man (his emailed pictures of gridiron glories were obviously from years ago).  And he makes her feel so sophisticated, so grown-up.  She’s living the dream that she’s seen on Desperate Housewives and Sex and the City and all her favorite movies and reality shows.  After a little prodding, Annie goes back to his hotel room, and you don’t need me to tell you what happens next.  (The movie is as non-exploitative and tasteful as it can be, and though Trust unavoidably veers into TV-movie territory at times, it overall remains a cut above.)

The major adult roles are played by Catherine Keener and Clive Owen as the parents, and Viola Davis as a saintly psychologist who is the only one to take Annie’s side during her nightmare ordeal.  With A-level actors on that level (Tony-winner Davis even managed to steal a scene from Meryl Streep in another sexual-abuse morality film, the excellent Doubt), the grownups could have easily mopped up the floor with teenage newcomer Liberato.  But in the ultimate exercise of acting generosity, they dial themselves back in her presence just enough to maintain their effectiveness while underlining that this is Annie’s story, and she deserves to tell it.  Director Schwimmer never forgets that she’s the victim here — even though everybody else does.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  In one of Trust’s most haunting and subtly disturbing scenes, a uniformed police matron leads Annie out in front of her whole school after her best friend outs her to the principal — past her hooting and hollering “friends.” The message is unmistakable: she’s the bad guy now.  Except for Davis’s therapist, the system “objectifies” Annie as much as a Larry Flynt layout, treating her as little more than a CSI evidence kit, not as a human being. Naturally and predictably, the more that Annie is psychically raped by the four-alarm response of the system, with every detail of her barely discernable sex life ransacked and laid bare to snoopy FBI agents and her own parents, the more she rebels, refusing to cooperate with the investigation and possibly even protecting “Charlie.”

And as all concerned know, while this was unmistakably sexual abuse, it also wasn’t some slasher-movie maskie breaking into her bedroom and savagely raping her.  Nobody put a stick to Annie’s head and made her go up to Charlie’s hotel room and model sexy lingerie.  As Annie’s parents willfully break into transcripts of her IM sessions, they recoil in horror as they read the cyberchat and phone sex that Annie largely initiated with Charlie.  That’s where Trust really earns its title.  Will they ever be able to look at their “innocent little girl” the same way?   Will Annie ever be able to trust her own family again?

Trust is a hard to digest but sumptuous political layer cake of the hypocrisies of how we view teenage sexuality today.  Hollywood puts “To Catch a Predator” specials to scare stay-at-home parents on Friday night, even as the latest teenage sex romp or slasher film hits the weekend big screen and the sexually active teens of Gossip Girl, 90210, and Glee keep hormones at fever pitch during the week.  As outraged as he is by his daughter’s assault, Annie’s father works for an advertising agency that makes Kate Moss-type ads with X-rated youngsters barely older than Annie is.

Yet as pornografied and sexualized as today’s society is, in some ways we’re more prudish about teen sexuality than anytime since the days of poodle skirts and sock hops.  A 40-year-old man who has sex with a willing 16-year-old party girl at Mandalay Bay might be morally lax, to put it mildly. But is he really a dangerous “pedophile” the way that the foaming-at-the-mouth Freddy Krueger who snatches a screaming, My Little Pony-clutching 10-year-old off the playground is?  Does he deserve to be on a “sexual predator” list for the rest of his life?

Family-values conservatives should rightly delight in the film’s savage satire of all of the above.  But they too have a few stones that can be thrown at them.  Even after Bristol Palin’s little faux pas, the Palin-Huckabee-Bachmann set still insist that sex-ed programs that aren’t all abstinence, all the time “will not find their support.”  It is their Scarlet Letter, “Bible believing” fundamentalism that all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is a mortal sin which animates their “True Love Waits” abstinence-only campaigns – not a primary desire to keep teens from unwanted pregnancy or AIDS in itself.  (In fairness, at least the hard core fundies are consistent on that point.  I’m sure if you asked John Hagee or James Dobson, they’d tell you that a 25-year-old career gal in the city who said yes to her 30-year-old casual boyfriend was just as ”sinful” and immoral as her 15-year-old kid sister, who didn’t “wait.”)

Back in the era of Norman Lear sitcoms and Jodie Foster’s Oscar win for The Accused, real-life rape victims sadly had to fear “blaming the victim,” being told that they “asked for it.”   Today, as Trust illustrates, a young victim has to fear being treated by the system (let alone by the zero-privacy internet) not as a victim, but as collateral damage.  As take-no-prisoners DA Sam McCoy used to say on Law & Order (it’s spinoff, L&O: SVU did a memorable episode based on the notorious Sam Manzie case, which Trust appears to be very loosely inspired by), “People who get in the way of my cases get run over.”  If a young girl (or boy) isn’t ready to play ball and cooperate with the police (to shut down a predator before he strikes again), they themselves might get “run over” by an overzealous, conviction-happy system faster than you can say “Paula Jones” or “Anita Hill.”

As Roger Ebert pointed out, the most disturbing thing about Trust is its message that Annie might have been better off not telling anyone what happened.  And to its credit, the movie never resolves that question — any more than our society does.  What David Schwimmer, Bellin and Festinger, and a top cast DO resolve is that Trust is this year’s The Kids Are All Right a visually straightforward, emotionally lacerating small film about an up-to-the-minute social hot button.  It’s a small film that deserves to get top recognition.

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The Headlines Review

August 30th, 2009 at 8:10 pm Comments Off

Napoleon Linardatos presents a humorous take on today’s headlines.

“As Internet Booms, the Postal Service Fights Back”

-New York Times, 08.28.09

The U.S. Postal Service plans to start its own email service. The users of the service will be able to send and receive emails every day except Sunday.

* * *

“Bernanke Victimized by Identity Fraud Ring”

-Newsweek, 08.25.09

The Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, became suspicious when his attempted online purchase of Suze Orman’s The Laws of Money was declined.

* * *

“Colorado wildlife experts get aggressive going after smart bears”

-Denver Post, 8.24.09

Bears found in Mensa meetings will be shot at once.

* * *

“GOP Offers Seniors Health Bill of Rights”

-Associated Press, 8.24.09

Article I. Congress shall make no law reducing the massive intergenerational wealth transfers instituted by our political opponents in the years past.

* * *

“Yahoo renews vow to fight Microsoft”

-Financial Times, 8.25.09

Yahoo’s CEO said “We shall fight them on the closed circuits, we shall fight them on the e-commerce platforms, we shall fight them on the copper and fiber lines, we shall never merge.”

* * *

“Anne Fine deplores ‘gritty realism’ of modern children’s books”

-The Times, 8.24.09

J. K. Rowling’s newest book Notes from the Hogwarts Underground will be out this fall.

* * *

“Iran puts leading reformers on trial over unrest”

-Reuters, 8.25.09

The dissidents are charged with disorderly contact and astroturfing.

* * *

“U.S. limits visas in Honduras, stepping up pressure”

-Reuters, 8.25.09

In an effort to improve its relationship with the Obama administration, Honduras plans to turn decidedly anti-American.

* * *

“Italy to Ask Libya for Help in Controlling Migration”

-Wall Street Journal, 8.28.09

If Libya refuses the offer, Italy plans to cut off the head of Gaddafi’s favorite camel and place it in the dictator’s bed.

* * *

“Robbers pretended to sell President Obama health insurance policies to invade Long Island home”

-New York Daily News, 8.29.09

The victims got wary when they were told that the first insurance premium payment would consist of the plasma TV, the kid’s iPod and the “really cute shepherdess lamp.”