Tag Archives: 2016 Reviews

Dennis Hopper explains the Trump phenom

By Dennis Hartley

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OK, it’s official.  The Clock has moved one minute closer to midnight:

What he’s been able to accomplish, with his um, it’s kind of this quiet generosity. Yeah, maybe his largess kind of, I don’t know, some would say gets in the way of that quiet generosity, and, uh, his compassion, but if you know him as a person and you’ll get to know him more and more, you’ll have even more respect. […] God bless you! God bless the United States of America and our next president of the United States, Donald J. Trump!”

Ah! So this is how the world ends. Suddenly, this makes perfect sense:

I get it now. You betcha! Here’s a sneak peak at his Inauguration Day:

A song fit for a king

By Dennis Hartley

Early 60s rock ‘n’ roller Dion reinvented himself later in the decade as a  singer-songwriter. Apropos of Martin Luther King Day, here he is performing one of his biggest hits of that career period on the Smothers Brothers show.  Ironically,  he didn’t write it, but he certainly made it his own. After all these years, the song still brings me to tears:

Wolves, bison & bears…oh my: The Revenant ***1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on January 16, 2016)

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“Nah, man…I gotta remember: NEVER get outta the boat!”

-from Apocalypse Now

If there’s one thing I’ve learned reading Jack London and Joseph Conrad and watching countless adventure movies over the years, it’s this: never get out of the goddamn boat. Remember what happened in Apocalypse Now, when they got out of the boat? Aguirre, the Wrath of God? The 7th Voyage of Sinbad? Uh, Deliverance? It very rarely ends well.

Latest case in point: Alejandro Inarritu’s sprawling survivalist epic, The Revenant. Once “they” get out of the boat, everything goes to hell in a hand basket; in this case, an authentic, hand-woven hand basket crafted by authentic First Nation peoples, in an authentic rustic setting. Inarritu’s film is not only steeped in gritty and authentic Old West verisimilitude, but tells its tale in real time. OK, I’m exaggerating-it’s only 3 hours.

The story is set in the early 19th Century, “somewhere” in the Rocky Mountain region of the Louisiana Purchase (I assume, as there are Frenchmen wearing fur hats lurking about). Leo DiCaprio stars as a crackerjack woodsman named Hugh. He and his half-Native American son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) have hired on as guides for a pelt-hunting expedition. After the party is ambushed by Indians, Hugh leads the survivors into the deep woods. While temporarily separated from the party, Hugh is severely mauled by an actual “grizzly mom” (it is the film’s most harrowing scene, which is really saying a lot).

His compatriots find him, barely alive, and begin to carry him along. However, they soon find the terrain too daunting to navigate with a stretcher. Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), one of the more mercenary members of the party, suggests putting Hugh out of his misery so they can make tracks. The party’s Captain (Domhnall Gleeson, son of Brendan) briefly considers the option, but decides to leave Hugh in the care of Hawk and a young volunteer named Jim Bridger (Will Poulter…playing who I can only assume is the Jim Bridger of legend, since the screenwriters take no pains to elucidate). One more man is needed, but the Captain has to first sweeten the pot with the offer of a reward. Guess who steps up? If you guessed our mercenary friend with dubious motivations, you are correct.

What ensues earns what I like to call my “3G” rating (Grueling, Grinding, and Gruesome). It’s a quasi-biblical, “to hell and back” tale of betrayal, suffering, fortitude and (drum roll please)…redemption. It’s also a bit of the aforementioned for the viewer, as he or she is required to channel the patience of Job while awaiting the redemption part.

Which reminds me of a funny story. Around halfway through, I had to excuse myself for a few minutes (hey-let’s see you try making it through a 3 hour flick with a 59 year-old prostate…and fellow sufferers be warned that the sights and sounds of babbling brooks, surging rivers and roiling rapids abound throughout). Anyway, as I left the auditorium, I noted that the recovering but not yet fully ambulatory Leo was slowly, painfully, crawling through brambles. I go do my thing; when I return to my seat several minutes later, I note Leo is still slowly, painfully crawling through brambles. I whispered to my friend, “So I take it I didn’t miss anything?” He confirmed that my intuition was spot on.

While I stand by my conviction that the film would not have suffered from judicious trimming, it still has much to recommend it, particularly for fans of adventures like Black Robe, The New World, The Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves, Never Cry Wolf, or The Naked Prey. In context of its striking visual poetry, there is one film evoked that must have inspired Inarritu and/or his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and that is Letter Never Sent, Mikhail Kalatozov’s tale about a state-funded quartet of Russian geologists who become trapped by a wildfire while diamond-hunting in Siberia. The 1960 film was breathtakingly photographed by Sergey Urusevskiy, also renowned for his work on Kalatozov’s The Cranes Are Flying and I Am Cuba (my review). Like Urusevskiy, Lubezki fuses natural light wide-angle photography with classically composed long shots and audacious hand-held takes that make you scratch your head and wonder “how in the hell did the camera operator shoot that without running into a tree?!”

The director and screenwriter Mark L. Smith co-adapted their screenplay from Michael Punke’s 2002 book The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge. I didn’t realize until doing a little research after seeing the film that Hugh Glass was a real-life trapper and frontiersman (how I know who Jim Bridger is, yet have never heard of this guy…is one of life’s mysteries). I also learned this is not the first film based on Glass’ exploits; that honor goes to a 1971 western called Man in the Wilderness, directed by Richard C. Sarfian (how I know and love Sarfian’s 1971 classic Vanishing Point, yet have never heard of his other 1971 film…is another of life’s mysteries). What isn’t such a mystery are the 12 Oscar nominations, which include Best Actor and Supporting Actor for DiCaprio and Hardy. DiCaprio earns his statue for the al fresco dining alone (you’ll know when you see it). Hardy is perfect playing a character who could be an ancestor for those mountain men in Deliverance. And I can’t emphasize this enough: Never, never get outta the boat.

The Fall and Rise of Ziggy Stardust

By Dennis Hartley

Pushing the envelope, to the last…

Wow. Simply wow.

I had put off watching David Bowie’s “Lazarus” video for several days because I had a feeling it would disturb me on many levels.

It did.

But it also moved me, in ways few music videos have. Many people have observed over the last few days that his new album Blackstar was a final “gift” to his fans. Perusing the comments for the YouTube posting confirms it was (I only made it through a few before I lost it).

In the song, Bowie laments: Look up here, I’m in heaven/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen. But for a parting refrain, he lays a reassuring hand on our shoulder: Oh, I’ll be free/Just like that bluebird/Oh, I’ll be free/Ain’t that just like me? Yes, David, you sly devil…it’s just like you.

The emotional impact of the video reminded me of this swan song:

I am also reminded of Warron Zevon, who released The Wind, just 2 weeks before his death from mesothelioma in 2003 (he had received the diagnosis several weeks before work began on the album.). Not surprisingly, mortality is a running theme through most of the cuts; in “Keep Me in Your Heart” (the album’s closer) Zevon also seems to be offering his fans an epitaph and  preemptive grief counseling.

Like Bowie, Zevon  begins with impending doom: Shadows are falling, and I’m running out of breath…but finishes: These wheels are turning, but they’re running out of steam/Keep me in your heart for a while.

On the up side, we’ll always have their music. As Jim Morrison sang:

Well the music is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your only friend
Until the end

David Jones is on his way

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on January 11, 2016)

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1947-2016

Live to your rebirth and do what you will
(Oh by jingo)
Forget all I’ve said, please bear me no ill
(Oh by jingo)

After all, after all

(Pushing through the market square, so many mothers sighing…) I woke up this morning to get ready for work, turned on the Today show (…news had just come over, we had five years left to cry in) and saw the lead story (…news guy wept and told us, earth was really dying…cried so much his face was wet, and I knew he was not lying). No, not him! Fuck!

When one is at a loss for words after a great artist dies, it’s not uncommon to default to the old standby that “(he or she) meant so much, to so many people.” Of David Bowie, it may be more accurate for one to say that “he was so many people, who meant so much.”

Bowie invented the idea of “re-invention”. It’s also possible that he invented a working time machine, because he was always ahead of the curve (or leading the herd). He was the poster boy for “postmodern”. Space rock? Meet Major Tom. Glam rock? Meet Ziggy Stardust. Doom rock? Meet the Diamond Dog. Neo soul? Meet the Thin White Duke. Electronica? Ich bin ein Berliner. New Romantic? We all know Major Tom’s a junkie

This one is hitting me hard. I’m 59 years old, so I’m getting a little used to watching the musical icons I grew up with dropping like flies…but this is one is hitting me hard. We’re talking Bob Marley and John Lennon; this is a significant loss to the music world.

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Favorite Bowie album? For me that’s like choosing a favorite child. If pressed, I’d have to say my favorite Bowie period would be the Mick Ronson years (Space Oddity, Hunky Dory, The Man Who Sold the World, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Alladin Sane, and Pinups). There was something magical about the Bowie and Ronno dynamic; right up there with Daltrey and Townshend, Plant and Page, Ozzy and Tony, and Jagger and Richards. Luckily, this era was captured for posterity in D.A. Pennebaker’s 1973 concert film, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: the Motion Picture. Visually, the film is less than spectacular, but the performances are mesmerizing.

I’m sure his family had understandable reasons for keeping mum on his illness, and I respect that; but I can’t help but speculate on whether or not Bowie’s highly-developed sense of theatre prompted him to choreograph his demise into a sort of farewell installation piece. Consider: his final album (which he had to know was going to be his swan song) was released on his 69th birthday January 8…2 days prior to his death. It’s as if he anticipated the great sense of loss amongst his fans; it’s a reassurance, a form of grief counselling: “It’s alright. I got my affairs in order; came up with a few odds and ends here to leave you with…it’s OK. Enjoy! It’s only rock’n’roll. After all, after all…”

What’s on your DVR?

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on January 9, 2016)

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Years ago, in days of old (when magic filled the air)…before the interwebs (or cable, even), we ancient folk suffered a kind of post-holiday, affective disorder called “mid-season blues”. Granted, one could say the very concept of television “seasons” has become moot, with a growing wave of cable subscribers (350,000 in Q3 of last year), who have “cut the cord” and opted for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, etc. etc.

But there remain some of us who still subscribe (literally) to the Old Ways. I don’t know, perhaps it’s that tactile sensation of brandishing a remote. Or maybe it’s the warm, special feeling I get when I receive my monthly Xfinity “Triple Play” bill of $244, which not only gives me access to the interwebs and 200 channels (out of which I only watch about 15 with any regularity), but provides me with a good ol’ reliable land line, which keeps me up-to-date on all the latest phone scams (“Hello! I’m calling from Microsoft.”).

If you dig around enough, you can still find some worthwhile teevee for your viewing pleasure. It does take some work, because you have to be willing to hold your nose and sift through a load of offal (read: reality TV programming) to unearth the odd gem. So for anyone who cares, here is my current top 10 list of “must see TV”, in alphabetical order:

Decades (Decades) – Now that the “History” Channel (home to the likes of Pawn Stars, Ancient Aliens, and erm, Swamp People) appears hell bent on covering anything but, history buffs have to do a little detective work in order to get their fix. This daily news magazine, the flagship show for the Decades channel, is right in the wheelhouse. Hosted by Bill Curtis, the show employs the venerable “this day in history” formula, utilizing clips from the news vaults of parent company CBS. “And that’s the way it is…”

The Director’s Chair (El Rey Network) – Robert Rodriguez goes one-on-one with fellow directors, Charlie Rose style. Not unlike David Steinberg’s excellent Showtime series Inside Comedy, the peer-to-peer shop talk approach yields conversations that are candid, insightful, and enlightening. Guests have included John Carpenter, Michael Mann, Francis Ford Coppola, George Miller, and some buddy of his named Quentin something.

Fargo (FX) – I confess being late to this party; I passed on Season 1 because I have a block against shows spun from films (personal problem). I had so many friends lobbying me to check out Season 2 that I finally binge-watched all 13 hours, to get them off my back. Imagine my surprise once I discovered how extraordinarily good the show is. The Coen’s involvement is minimal, but their thumbprints are all over it: arch, darkly funny heartland noir, smartly written, marvelously acted and tightly directed. Kirsten Dunst and Patrick Wilson are both up for possible Golden Globes tomorrow night, and rightfully so.

Humans (AMC) – What this UK-produced sci-fi drama series may lack in originality (it’s the umpteenth riff on Ray Bradbury’s short story, I Sing the Body Electric and/or Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) is more than made up for by its dynamic execution. Currently on hiatus (AMC has confirmed a second season for 2016), the narrative centers on how the addition of a servile “synth” (your basic drop-dead gorgeous android) to the household affects the dynamics of an already dysfunctional upper middle-class family. While the android is allegedly factory fresh, there are hints that “she” may have a complicated past, which introduces conspiracy thriller elements to the tale. Uniformly well-acted, but the most compelling performance is by Gemma Chan as the family’s synth. The series was adapted from the Swedish TV drama Real Humans.

Independent Lens / P.O.V. (PBS) – I’m consolidating this pair of curated series because they are, in a fashion, two parts of a whole. Both provide a fabulous showcase for indie nonfiction films (representing a truly democratic diversity of voices and topics) that may not be otherwise accessible to a broad audience (on “free” TV, no less!). I’ve noticed that many of the better documentaries I’ve covered at the Seattle International Film Festival find their way to PBS (getting distribution for a documentary can be a tough row to hoe).

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) – With no disrespect to Trevor Noah, who is doing a bang-up job with The Daily Show, what with Jon Stewart’s retirement and Stephen Colbert’s defection to the straight world, I’ve been going through satirical withdrawal. But thank the gods for HBO, and their wise decision to give John Oliver a platform for his pointed, gloriously demented take downs of hypocrisy in all of its guises.

 Live from Daryl’s House (Palladia) – Daryl Hall has had an eclectic career, stretching himself as an artist in ways that may surprise casual music fans who only think of him as one-half of one of the most successful pop music duos in chart history. His musical flexibility comes in handy in this multiple platform cable show (since 2011) and webcast (since 2007). It’s a simple concept; a guest artist joins Hall and his band at his rustic home/private studio in upstate New York for food, conversation and (of course) lots of jamming. What makes it fun is the vibe of intimacy and spontaneity (although you can tell from the incredible tightness of the arrangements that they’ve rehearsed all the numbers). Still, it gives you an enjoyable illusion of being a “fly on the wall” at the session. The guest roster has been quite varied, ranging from established classic rockers, soul, R&B, blues and pop artists to up and coming acts. Some personal favorite sessions: Todd Rundgren, Joe Walsh, Nick Lowe, Ben Folds, Rumer, Allen Stone, Grace Potter, Dave Stewart, Smokey Robinson, Toots & the Maytals…hell-(as they say) it’s all good!

 Maron (IFC) – Following in the footsteps of Seinfeld and Louis, comedian/podcast host Marc Maron plays a theatrically embroidered version of “himself” in this acerbically amusing look at what comedians “do” those remaining 23 hours a day when they are not on stage. Yes, it’s another show about “nothing”…but darker and more angst-ridden than the aforementioned, with a Saul Bellow vibe. But still funny. Very, very funny. Trust me.

Ray Donovan (Showtime) If you miss The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, or Sons of Anarchy, this series should more than adequately fill that void in your life that cries out for a weekly “criminal thug as harried family guy” drama to really sink your teeth into. The Donovans are a clan of Boston Southies who have transplanted to sunny L.A. Liev Schreiber leads a fine cast as Ray, a Hollywood “fixer” (think George Clooney’s eponymous character in Michael Clayton, or Harvey Keitel’s “Mr. Wolf” in Pulp Fiction). Ray’s methods for making his wealthy clients’ problems “disappear” are discreet, but hardly legal. Of course, he does it all to support his family, who are dysfunctional at best. In fact, he spends just as much time making his own family’s problems disappear; especially those of his two brothers, and his father (Jon Voight, rarely better, as one of the most odious “bad dads” of all time). Can’t wait for Season 4.

Star Talk (National Geographic Channel) – Astrophysicist/head cheerleader for science Neil deGrasse Tyson continues his crusade against ignorance and superstition in America (yes, it’s still rampant…have you been following this election cycle?) with this lively, brain-stimulating talk show, which just wrapped up its second season. Far from a dry science lecture, Tyson infuses pop culture and humor into the mix; inviting a scientist and a standup comic to share the stage with him each week. In turn, this panel parses and adds color to Tyson’s in-depth, pre-taped interview with whoever that week’s special guest is. The guests hail from a wide spectrum of professions: actors, musicians, authors, entrepreneurs, politicians, film directors, astronauts. What I love about the show is how the conversation expands into all directions (art, music, religion, politics, history, philosophy, economics, etc.) yet always loops back to science, and the joy of discovery.

Gulch fiction: The Hateful Eight ***

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on January 2, 2016)

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*** OVERTURE***

(Hum your favorite Morricone song for 7 minutes…or check your email and come back)

Chapter One:

8 down, 2 to go.

Quentin Tarantino was the guest on a recent episode of AXS TV’s The Big Interview with Dan Rather. It was actually one of the more engaging and genuinely interesting interviews that I’ve seen to date with the iconoclastic writer-director (who is not shy about granting them and/or talking about himself ad nauseam-with minimal prompting).

One thing I learned was that Tarantino plans to make 10 films, and then he’s out. Apparently, this has been his plan all along; but it was news to me. Maybe he’s modeling himself after Kubrick? Then again, it’s likely that Mr. Kubrick didn’t plan to stop at 13 films; he had to stop there because he sort of…died. I’m sure it’s more along the lines of “going out on top”, which is understandable (especially if you’ve already made a bundle).

Q.T. also told Rather that once he is so sated, he wouldn’t necessarily retire from the creative arts altogether. More specifically, he expressed interest in writing for the stage. This would be a good move, I think, because he has a particular genius for penning great dialog; in fact I think it trumps his other filmmaking skills (formidable as they may be). He could handily become his generation’s David Mamet; he shares a similar gift for giddily profane pentameter (pair up Glengarry Glen Ross with Pulp Fiction sometime).

Chapter Two:

But for now

Which brings us to The Hateful Eight, which is (as the director helpfully annotates in the opening titles) “The 8th Film by Quentin Tarantino” (just in case we nod off during the Overture and are suddenly awakened in startled confusion by the first of many gunshots).

The director remains encamped in 19th Century America, moving a decade or so past the antebellum South tableau he employed in Django Unchained. The setting is a wintry Wyoming. A horseless, snow-bound bounty hunter named Major Marquis Warren (Samuel Jackson) flags down a stagecoach, chartered by another bounty hunter, who goes by the charming nickname of “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell, affecting an unabashed John Wayne impression throughout). Russell is transporting alleged murderess and bank robber Daisy Domergue (a scenery-chewing Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock. Russell warily takes the stranded Jackson aboard (along with his baggage-three outlaw corpses).

After picking up an additional straggler (Walton Goggins) down the trail a piece, a man claiming to be heading to Red Rock to assume duties as the new sheriff, the expanded party pulls into Minnie’s Haberdashery (sort of an old west Motel 6) to wait out a blizzard. Here they find a Whitman’s Sampler of western movie archetypes (Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern) who may or may not be there to simply round off the “8”. I can say no more except…the mystery is afoot (if it’s an inch).

***INTERMISSION***

(You can go pee now. What remains of this sophomoric review will be here, waiting.)

Chapter Three:

In conclusion

As usual, Tarantino does a cinematic mash-up, evoking (to name a few) Day of the Outlaw, Stagecoach, Rio Bravo (again),  Lifeboat, And Then There Were None, Green for Danger, The Petrified Forest, Ice Station Zebra and John Carpenter’s The Thing (if you see it, you’ll see it).

You may have heard the film was shot in 70mm. Veteran DP Robert Richardson (in his 5th collaboration with Tarantino) does a yeoman job with the format; but this expansive scope is an odd choice considering that most of the action is in a finite space, using claustrophobic staging (and the bulk of the exterior shots are of a blinding snowstorm!).

There’s a terrific 90-minute chamber piece buried somewhere in here, screaming to get out of this epic-length film (175 minutes, if you see the “roadshow” 70mm version replete with Overture, Intermission and Exit Music). In fact, it’s that patented snappy Tarantino patter I mentioned earlier that saves the day here; otherwise the film has that “déjà vu all over again” vibe that has unfortunately taken root since Inglourious Basterds.

Q.T.-you’ve done revenge. Here’s hoping 9 and 10 are less hateful and more thoughtful.

***EXIT MUSIC***

Gall Street: The Big Short ****

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on January 2, 2016)

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In my 2010 review of the documentary Inside Job, I wrote:

I have good news and bad news about Charles Ferguson’s incisive parsing of what led to the crash of the global financial system in 2008. The good news is that I believe I finally grok what “derivatives” and “toxic loans” are. The bad news is…that doesn’t make me feel any better about how fucked we are.

Remember 2008? That financial crisis thingie? Well, it’s time to dust off the pitchfork. Good news first? Writer-director Adam McKay and co-scripter Charles Randolph have (somehow) adapted Michael Lewis’ 2010 non-fiction book The Big Short into an outstanding comedy-drama that doubles as an incisive parsing of what led to the crash of the global financial system. The bad news…it made me pissed off about it all over again.

Yes, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, this ever-maddening tale of how we (meaning your everyday, average hard-working American taxpayer) stood by, completely unsuspecting and blissfully unaware, as unchecked colonies of greedy, lying Wall Street investment bankers were eventually able to morph into the parasitic gestalt monster journalist Matt Taibbi famously compared to a “…great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

However, what differentiates McKay’s film from the aforementioned documentary is its surprisingly effervescent candy-coating, which helps the medicine go down. For example, he sprinkles his narrative with helpful, interstitial tutorials that annotate some of the financial vernacular that gets tossed about. And as far as helpful, interstitial tutorials go, one could do worse than watching lovely Australian actress Margot Robbie take a bubble bath as she delivers an authoritative dissertation as to how junk bonds are created.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There are other elements that help the film work as beautifully as it does; for one the impressive number of A-list cast members (shocking, when you consider the subject matter wouldn’t likely strike your typical Hollywood green-lighter to be as bankable as, let’s say…a story that is set in a galaxy far, far, away).

The narrative has several threads, encircling a quirky, Oscar-baiting turn by Christian Bale as Dr. Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager (and possible Asperger’s sufferer) who appears to be a savant with numbers and financial trend spotting. He is one of the first to not only spot the needle heading for the “bubble”, but to figure out how investors, armed with such foreknowledge (and bereft of conscience) could become incredibly filthy rich.

Initially of course, everyone thinks he’s nuts. But as word gets around that the big banks (through oversight and pure greed) may have created an Achilles heel for themselves that could be exploited by a savvy few (at the expense of, oh I don’t know…the rest of us?) a few other players enter the story (played with equal aplomb by Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt). What makes these four primary characters compelling is that while each has disparate motivations, they all share one trait: thinking outside of the box.

McKay cleverly employs a variation of the network narrative; all of the primary characters may not literally cross paths, yet once all is said and done, you come to understand how each of them represents (if I may extrapolate on Mr. Taibbi’s cephalopod theme) a mutually exclusive tentacle of that great vampire squid, jamming and sucking.

Ew. I think that’s the most disgusting sentence I’ve ever written. Anyway…see this film!

Bury my heart at the visitor center

By Dennis Hartley

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Oy, vay.  Disenfranchised white men with guns Patriots are takin’ a stand ‘ginst them revenooers. An’ don’t call ’em terrorists! From CNN:

Armed anti-government protesters have taken over a building in a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, accusing officials of unfairly punishing ranchers who refused to sell their land.

One of them is Ammon Bundy, the 40-year-old son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who is well-known for anti-government action.

He spoke by phone to CNN Sunday morning. Asked several times what he and those with him want, he answered in vague terms, saying that they want the federal government to restore the “people’s constitutional rights.”

“This refuge — it has been destructive to the people of the county and to the people of the area,” he said.

“People need to be aware that we’ve become a system where government is actually claiming and using and defending people’s rights, and they are doing that against the people.”

The group is occupying part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns after gathering outside for a demonstration supporting Dwight and Steven Hammond, father-and-son ranchers who were convicted of arson.

Prosecutors said the Hammonds set a fire that burned about 130 acres in 2001, to cover up poaching. They were sentenced to five years in prison.

The Hammonds, who are set to turn themselves in Monday afternoon, have said they set the fire to reduce the growth of invasive plants and to protect their property from wildfires, CNN affiliate KTVZ reported.

The Hammonds have been clear in that they don’t want help from the Bundy group.

They’re getting “help”,  nonetheless.  Apparently, an infinite amount:

When asked what it would take for the protesters to leave, Bundy did not offer specifics. He said he and those with him are prepared to stay put for days or weeks.

[…]

“We are using the wildlife refuge as a place for individuals across the United States to come and assist in helping the people of Harney County claim back their lands and resources,” he said.

Oh, I see. “Their” lands, and resources.  I know this may be American History 101, and you’ve heard this a million times before, but if I am not mistaken, the only “people” who can truly claim original “dibs” on the United States of America’s lands and resources are these guys:

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The above photo was taken in 1973. That’s the assistant Attorney General of the U.S. at the time, being escorted by members of the American Indian Movement into Wounded Knee,  South Dakota, during the the organization’s  armed occupation of the village.

The two and a half month-long standoff was ostensibly triggered by frustration over the failure of the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization to impeach a tribal president, who had been accused by tribal members of corruption and abuse of opponents. However it soon doubled as a platform for the activists to air ongoing grievances regarding the United States government’s failure(s) to honor treaties. By the time it all ended, 2 people had been killed, 15 were wounded.

Obviously,  armed insurrection has not proven to be the most sensible method for airing grievances here in the USA, at least since we became a democracy following the Revolution (and I think we can all agree that, generally speaking, the Civil War was a very bad idea).

That said…on a sliding scale of “injustices” (I’m just using the 1973 Wounded Knee incident comparatively here, not excusing  or condoning the AIM activists’ ill-advised decision to carry guns), and from a purely academic standpoint, those Native American folks at least had some historically documented reasons to  get all “up in arms” about it.

But these guys?

https://i0.wp.com/www.opb.org/images/upload/c_limit,h_1000,q_90,w_640/IMG_7740_fhofbw.jpg?resize=474%2C356

Not so much.

I just hope this situation ends peacefully. Erm…Happy New Year?

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UPDATE: Via Digby retweet…