Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Revenant (2015)

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Geraldo River has made my review of The Revenant Obsolete

Writers Without Money

It takes a lot of money and a lot of talent to make a film as bad as The Revenant.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who won Best Actor, and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won his second consecutive Best Director award, The Revenant cost 135 million dollars. I suppose a hefty chunk of it went to pay for DiCaprio’s salary. A lot more probably paid for travel expenses. The Revenant was filmed in four countries, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Argentina. That makes it the most expensive photo expedition in history. Just about the only thing worthwhile about this 156 minute long pile of crap is Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, which is, it must be admitted, at least competent. Whether or not Lubezki deserved the Oscar for Best Cinematography is hard to judge. Like just about everything else in The Revenant, there’s simply too much of it. This is a…

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Texas Comes Full Circle

On November 22, 1963, a white man named Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated the President of the United States. Whether Oswald, a communist fellow traveler who had previously defected to the Soviet Union, intended to kill John F. Kennedy to strike a blow against American imperialism, or whether he was a patsy set up by the “deep state” to cover up their murder of an insufficiently militarist member of the ruling class, is still unclear. We’ll probably never know the real answer.

What we do know is that two years before I was born, Lee Harvey Oswald went to Dallas, Texas, and opened up the gates of hell. The 1960s was a decade where every decent public figure was murdered. Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Fred Hampton, one by one each leader who could have made a difference was stuck down by a “lone gunman.” Well, in Fred Hampton’s case, he was assassinated Gestapo style by the Chicago police, who busted down his door and riddled him with bullets, but most people outside of the activist left have forgotten him anyway. The slaughter of the 1960s, having eliminated all of the good liberals and smart black nationalists, left us with nothing but stupid black nationalists like Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton, and venal, corrupt white politicians like the Clintons. We’re still paying the price.

In the Summer of 2014, the ongoing police murder of black men came to a head in Ferguson Missouri, where we witnessed police SWAT teams point machine guns at non-violent protesters. Unlike the early 1960s, where even the reluctant Kennedy brothers finally called in federal troops to put a stop to the violence in the Jim Crow South, the political and media elites in 2014 did nothing. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, even Bernie Sanders watch police murder after police murder and respond with nothing but bland platitudes. They give the kind of speeches politicians are obligated to make, but little more. None of them has shown the leadership that would put us back on the right track. The lawyerly and evasive Obama, who always tries to please everybody, as usual winds up pleasing nobody. The more the political and media elite speaks, the less they seem to do, and the more they seem to divide black and white Americans against one another.

So here we are in the Summer of 2016, 53 years after the murder of John F. Kennedy, back in Dallas, the city that gave us the term “lone gunman.”  Just like Lee Harvey Oswald, Micah Xavier Johnson is a veteran of the United States military. Unlike with Oswald, who has never been considered a “representative of the white race,” the media seems positively certain they know why Johnson opened fire on police officers guarding (or more accurately trying to repress) a Black Lives Matter protest. He did it because he hated white people. He did it because he hated cops. Well, he may have. He may not have. Deathbed confessions off camera in the middle of the chaos of a mass shooting are irrelevant. We’ll probably never really know, but the damage has been done. The right wing media has already framed the incident as a “black on cop crime.”  The NY Post and the Drudge Report  are busy huffing and puffing and trying to spin the massacre in favor of Donald Trump. The Black Lives Matter movement has been tarred by a murder in which it had no involvement.

And the gates of hell remain open in Dallas, Texas.

The Deer Hunter (1978)

Michael Cimino has just died.

http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-36696560

So I will reblog my review of The Deer Hunter. I have seen Heaven’s Gate (it’s as bad as the critics say). I have not seen his other films.

The Deer Hunter is a flawed masterpiece. It’s racist, reactionary, overly long, but in the end it’s a great work of art. It’s worth seeing, if only to get an idea of how the American invasion and occupation of Vietnam ultimately destroyed America.

Writers Without Money

Three quarters of the way through The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino’s iconic, and very long, film about three Pennsylvania steel workers in Vietnam, Mike Vronsky, Robert Deniro, returns home on leave, and meets Linda, the fiancee of his best friend Nick Chevotarevich. Chevotarevich, a young Christopher Walken, is still missing in action, but it’s clear Linda doesn’t care quite as much as Vronsky does. She loves Mike, not Nick, and isn’t shy about letting him know. Since Linda is played by Meryl Streep, we are certain that this this will be a deeply emotional, deeply significant exchange between two great actors.

Surprisingly Meryl Streep, who would later become famous for the number of foreign accents she could mimic, plays Linda in a quiet, understated, and completely “American” manner. Even though the first hour of The Deer Hunter is centered around an elaborate Russian Orthodox wedding, Linda is more Fargo than…

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Giant Escape City (2015): First Impressions

This is the now most viewed post on my blog, surpassing my post On Being a Failed Writer (which got “Freshly Pressed” on the WordPress front page), my use of the John List murders to frame my review of The Omen (which got linked by the biggest newspaper in New Jersey) and my review of Saturday Night Fever (which was one of the first things I wrote for this blog, way back when it was called “Pair of Outsiders,” and which consistently gets hits on Google).

I suppose what it proves is that the Internet is still a practical place. The Giant Escape City is a useful, cheap hybrid with a good drive train and an already installed rack. You can find it on the Giant Bikes website, but there aren’t many reviews. In fact, it’s difficult to find a good review of almost any bike that costs under $2000 dollars. Cycling magazines tend to prefer the exotic, custom titanium bikes with breakaway frames, $10,000 dollar carbon road bikes that weight less than my foot (I was going to say “less than my dick” but carbon fiber engineering still hasn’t gotten to that advanced state), touring bikes from obscure, earthy crunchy hippie manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest. A good cheap, Taiwanese hybrid? Forget about it.

Local bike stores are often high-end local bike stores, at least in New Jersey. I suppose it’s different in Seattle or NYC. Trying to buy a good $1000 dollar road bike or a decent $1200 dollar touring bike is a bit like walking into your local Ferrari dealer and trying to buy a Honda. Part of the reason I bought the Giant Escape City was that it already had the rack. That doesn’t sound like much, but add the cost of labor to the cost of buying a third party rack and you’re looking at spending about another $100 dollars. What’s more, bike mechanics hate little jobs like that. People who ride touring bicycles often tend to be bike mechanics, and usually just order a rack from the Internet and install it themselves. Getting a Topeak Explorer rack put on my late, totaled Raleigh Clubman (I survived a catastrophic crash. it did not.) took what seemed to be forever. It was a great deal at REI back in 2011. The rack ate up all the savings.

On the whole, the Giant Escape City has served me well. I broke one of the fenders changing a tire and decided just to take the other one off. The gearing can be complex and the chain used to slip a bit before I got the most recent tuneup. But if you want a hybrid with a rack, touring bike gearing, and nice clean looks, I’d recommend it over something like a Trek FX. In any event, I’m planning to do a lot of long distance riding over the Summer and will report back extensively.

Writers Without Money

I’ve been through quite a few bikes over the past few years. I wore out the drive train on my Trek 7.2. I wrecked my Raleigh Clubman (and wound up spending 3 days in intensive care). I currently have an entry-level road bike, an aluminum Specialized Allez, and a cheap city bike, a Jamis Commuter 1.

Neither the Specialized nor the Jamis is suitable for light touring, the 200 and 300 mile rides I want to do this spring. You can’t mount a rack on a Specialized Allez. The Jamis is made of high-tensile steel. It only has 7 gears, and it weighs a ton.

Last month, I bought a Giant Escape City.

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My requirements were the following.

  1. Cheap. As much as I would like to buy a Trek Madone with full Dura Ace, it’s out of my price range.
  2. My tires of choice are 700 x 28s or…

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Reading the Landscape: 46

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Riding through Watchung Reservation in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, I come upon the Deserted Village of Feltville.

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I park my bike to have a look around.

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The Deserted Village of Feltville is in some ways the model for all American suburbia. An employer builds housing for his workers.

David Felt, a businessman in Boston, Massachusetts, decided to move to New York City in 1825. By 1844, the production of his mill could not grow fast enough to meet the demands of the merchants he supplied, so Felt began to look for land in New Jersey on which to build a second factory. Eventually he bought land from the descendants of Peter Willcox, and in two years, he had built a mill on Blue Brook, two dams for the mill, and a town for the workers in the mill. He named this new town “Feltville”. Within the little town, Felt gained the nickname of “King David”, for he required the residents to attend services in the churchhouse and their children to attend classes in a one-room schoolhouse.

The nearby towns of Basking Ridge and Berkeley Heights started out in fact as corporate villages for the gigantic Bell Labs complex in Basking Ridge. Feltville is now part of the Watching Reservation and the Union County Park system (one of the few things New Jersey has ever done right.

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What to do if you find Yogi and Boo Boo trying to steal your picnic baskets. I occasionally see black bears in Watching Reservation but never manage to get close enough to take a photograph (not really a good idea anyway).

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Don’t selfie-shame me bro.