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SEK discusses Guardians of the Galaxy, Marx Brothers on Graphic Policy Radio

[ 39 ] September 16, 2014 |

If you’re interested in what I have to say about Guardians of the Galaxy, I was a guest on Graphic Policy Radio radio talking about it last night.

I made a number of claims about the film, foremost among them its indebtedness to mid-period Marx Brothers films.

I also said quite about something I kept calling “old-school sci-fi wonder” — though I have no idea why I became so wedded to that phrase — and Parks and Rec, because anytime I have the opportunity to discuss Parks and Rec, I will.

UPDATE: I forgot many of the interesting tangents we went on, e.g. What would a science fiction film that wasn’t anthropocentric actually look like, and would it ever get made? (For example, can you imagine a film version of an Iain M. Banks novel?)

AND ALSO: All of the “Bert Macklin, FBI” stuff on Parks and Rec — his deep commitment to his flights of fancy — always reminded me of what Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes would’ve grown up to be like, so Guardians of the Galaxy struck me like a “Spaceman Spiff” serial.

AND ALSO, AGAIN: A discussion of abusive relationships, in which I noted that “it’s a really weird thing to be talking about in the wake of the Ray Rice incident, but this was an abusive relationship, but also very clearly love. I think this is something that gets glossed over in popular culture — yes, let’s condemn people who abuse their loved ones, but don’t make it so that people don’t love the ones they beat, that’s where the pathos is, that’s where the humanity is…We tend to like to simplify things when we’re demonizing people. And I think the film did a really good job of showing that love exists in an abusive relationship — and God, is anybody recording this?”

Check Out Pop Culture Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with graphicpolicy on BlogTalkRadio

If ladies burped, farted, or told raunchy jokes, I could see them serving in the infantry. But…

[ 138 ] September 14, 2014 |

Lioness training in Iraq via United States Marine Corps

Of course women aren’t fit to serve in the infantry. Men are pigs who will sexually assault and harass them at the drop of a beret.

[This post is brought to you by a pair of your old friends.]

About those walking dead…

[ 77 ] September 10, 2014 |


A dead Facebook friend literally went zombie today — a mile-walking app hijacked his account and started posting how far he’d traveled and how many calories he’d burned doing so.

I would’ve been deeply saddened if I didn’t think he’d find it damn hilarious.

But it brings up an interesting question — how would you like to be memorialized online?

For the record, when I die, I encourage everyone to treat it in the spirit I would. Bad jokes aren’t merely welcomed, they’re required. Remember me at my worst best and best worst, is how I’d like it.

If y’all sit shiva and don’t swap “SEK was a world-class dumb-ass” stories, I’d be very disappointed, you know, if I wasn’t dead.


SEK’s new AV Club column: On circles and lines in The Hudsucker Proxy

[ 27 ] August 21, 2014 |


Yes, I am a man obsessed — obsessed with circles!

This may be the greatest conversation I’ve ever had

[ 70 ] August 8, 2014 |

SEK went to the supermarket to pick up tuna fish for his elderly cat who now only eats food that also contains tuna. As tuna is on sale, he purchases twenty cans of it and is on the checkout line in front of POLITE DRUNK MAN.

POLITE DRUNK MAN: You don’t eat all them cans, now?

SEK: Wasn’t planning on it.

POLITE DRUNK MAN: TV say they full of Menicillin.

SEK: Mercury?

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Menicillin, bad for the children, real bad.

SEK: I promise not to share it with any kids.

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Menicillin’s terrible, make ‘em have miscarriages.

SEK: The kids?

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Ain’t even get a chance to be kids, they born miscarried, or with arms.

SEK: I’ll keep that in mind.

POLITE DRUNK MAN: Dead babies with arms, that’s what Menicillin do. Best watch out.

SEK: I will, promise.

And the winner of this year’s “DUDE! THAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE THE SUBTEXT!” Award is…

[ 150 ] August 4, 2014 |

Alabama Representative Mo Brooks.

Because Jesus-fucking-Christ what is wrong with you?

A screaming comes across the Internet…

[ 28 ] July 31, 2014 |

It just occurred to me that my daily output at Raw Story would make for a damn fine Pynchon novel:

Pro-choice satanists align with bare-breasted anti-gun advocates and a liberal pope against a cabal of baby-penis-sucking Orthodox Jews controlled by a blowhard television personality calling his followers to “rise up” against an abortion clinic where no abortions are performed — all while a cat walks around with guacamole on his head.

I don’t know about you — but I’d read that.

RELATEDLY: Every time I hear the host of the Diane Rehm Show, I’m convinced she’s a Pynchon pun come to life.

SEK’s New Internet Film School column: How the politics of Snowpiercer don’t matter if you’re an idiot anyway

[ 6 ] July 24, 2014 |

Here you go. Sample:

Much praise has been showered upon the unsubtle English-language debut of South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer, but the most interesting came from an unexpected source, conservative columnist Michael Potemra, who wrote that “the film succeeds aesthetically and as pure entertainment” despite the fact that “it’s a pretty heavy-handed Marxist allegory.” Convincing your ideological opponent that your “heavy-handed” slagging of their belief system is an exceptional work of art is quite the feat. Imagine convincing the grandchild of someone who survived a concentration camp that Leni Riefenstahl brilliantly captured the pain of the German people when she had Hitler lay a wreath on the Great War memorial in Triumph Of The Will. Not going to happen.

But that is precisely what a student of film should be able to do—divorce content from form, and remove both from the historical context, in order to understand how a piece works. Which is not to say that Potemra is a student of film, because despite his praise for the “aesthetic” of Snowpiercer, he also claims that “the train is an excellent set, a realized world that manages, amazingly, to avoid claustrophobia.” Potemra seemingly prefers to remember the more well-lit second half of the film to the painfully claustrophobic opening scenes. The latter half of the film, after all, concerns the tortured choices the capitalist elite must make in order for humanity to survive—a theme much more to the liking of someone who writes for the National Review

UPDATE: If only I’d known that Jonah would publish his review the same day I did mine!

In his defense, I don’t think he understood it was an insult

[ 144 ] July 15, 2014 |

SEK takes his car to TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN in order to make sure it won’t explode and kill him when he makes a road trip next week.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: You just put a new battery in it?

SEK: That I did.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: Means your electrical is reset, our computer can’t do a lot of the tests.

SEK: So long as its fluids are replenished and it doesn’t have murder in its heart, I’m fine.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: So when do you need it by?

SEK: I have a meeting at 2 p.m.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: I don’t think I can have it done by 1:30.

SEK: No a problem, I work online. Just need to be back home and I live around the corner.


SEK: I write online.


SEK: As long as they pay me to.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: I thought that was computers did that.

SEK: ?

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: They don’t have that shit programmed out yet? Our computer tells us what happened with a car, figure it was the same with what the President said and shit.

SEK: I don’t think they have a computer that can do that.

TRUSTWORTHY LOCAL AUTO MAN: Couldn’t be worse than what they’ve got.

This has to be parody, right?

[ 129 ] July 10, 2014 |
I make words with my mouth on the Internet. What more do you want from me?

I make words with my mouth on the Internet. What more do you want from me?

Erstwhile conspiracy-monger Alex Jones is basing his new conspiracy theory on…something Joan Rivers said.

I’m increasingly convinced that those conservatives who claim Jones is a “false flag” might be onto something, because I’ve seen my share of “Michael Obama” and “First Tranny” jokes over the last six years, but I’ve never seen them directly connected to a United Nations plot to turn us all into “biological androids” who live “to serve the state.”

Steven Soderbergh and the real measure of humanity

[ 241 ] July 9, 2014 |

Soderbergh really looks like Buster, doesn't he? ("YES MOTHER" is the appropriate response.)

Being that I’m the kind of person who has his own film school and what-not, I decided to read Esquire’s interview with the now-not-but-soon-to-be-again-retired Stephen Soderbergh. “Could be edifying,” I thought to myself — and it was, especially this passage:

A real litmus test for me is how people treat someone who is waiting on them. That’s a deal-breaker for me. If I were on the verge of getting into a serious relationship and I saw that person be mean to a waiter — I’m out. That’s a core problem. You’re being mean to someone who’s helping you. What is that? Everyone knows who the assholes are, and I avoid them.

Because it’s a funny story, but in the ’90s I actually waited on Steven Soderbergh quite a bit, and if that’s his litmus test, he didn’t pass it. Not even remotely.

Because as memory serves, when Soderbergh was a regular at the used bookstore/coffee shop I worked at, his treatment of me then would’ve been a deal-breaker for him now.

One particularly memorable conversation involved his then-obsession with Ambrose Bierce. I’d placed the special orders for the books myself, so I knew they’d just come in the week before Mr. Ambrose Bierce Expert saw me reading Mason & Dixon behind the counter. He proceeded to excitedly tell me, at length and with some volume, that I was wasting my time reading Thomas Pynchon, because Ambrose Bierce was where it’s really at.

He went on and on and on, enthralled by his own love of Bierce — which, after I became an Americanist and read him, I believe is totally justifiable. But the point is, Soderbergh wouldn’t just have failed his own criterion for the measure of humanity, he would have done so spectacularly.

Which, as a friend on Facebook noted, might be the point. He might have chosen his worst character trait as the defining characteristic of humanity because it’s something he had to overcome, and given the depth of charity to the underprivileged and unvoiced evident in his work, I’m tempted to believe that.

Because as much as I despised him as a patron when I had to deal with him, I can’t help but admire — however begrudgingly — what he’s done with himself in the years since, especially Che.

I know I’m defending the film against an idiot of an ideologue at that link, but even if I had to defend it against Roger Ebert himself, I’d do so with the same vehemence…

…despite how I feel about the man personally. He’s just that talented, damn it. There’s a real humanity to his late-period work, especially in the films that everyone hated because they dealt with unsavory subjects like prostitutes or viral pandemics or Che.

So on behalf of all the baristas and book-store employees he berated before he came to understand this truth as being self-evident, I’m just going to go ahead and forgive him.

You’re welcome, Steven.

The 300 Best Guided By Voices Songs: #300 “Not Behind the Fighter Jet”

[ 22 ] July 1, 2014 |

Some of you may believe that I chose this song as the 300th best of the 983 Guided By Voices songs in my collection simply because I’m pandering to Farley … and you’d be partially correct. This song is both great and has fighter jets in it, as you can hear for yourself below:

More importantly, it’s a moving — if sloppily done — adaptation of William Butler Yeats’ “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” which is a poem, and a good one at that. Granted, it lacks the chiasmatic magic of the original and the First World War context, but other than that, it’s about fighter jets, which the Yeats poem is also about.

In all seriousness, though, the two lack any connection other than their fatal airiness, but what makes Robert Pollard’s lyric here so moving here is the contrast between the grandiosity of faux-narrative and its narrator.

A wounded mercenary bleeds,
In the hall of fantastically fine things.
Where the path of glory leads,
Lately, I think it’s grown too hard.

As I’ll say countless times, no doubt, depending on how long I pretend to be doing 300 of these, I do believe Pollard tossed this lyric off.

He went big when he was half in the bag, probably, with tales of mercenaries and their fine halls, but sobered up, pulled back, and admitted that even lying about his exploits proved too hard. Which, admit it, is what humanizes this track in the first place.

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