Last night as we were on our way out of the theater following a screening of W., my ladyfriend and I were asked to record an interview with a Swedish radio journalist regarding our feelings on both the movie and the actual man. Since I've apparently represented the entirety of America on the Swedish airwaves, I suppose it's appropriate now to spout my feelings to the rest of the world.

When I first became aware of the existence of W., my reaction was that it's simply far too easy to take two-plus hours' worth of shots at our still-President. How, I thought, could a comedy about a self-parody really be all that interesting? It wasn't until much later that I learned the movie had been directed by Oliver Stone, and while I'm by no means a fan of all, or possibly even most, of Stone's films I was was intrigued enough to put W. on the "will see" list.

I think it's not giving too much away to say that the movie charts the course of George W. Bush's life from his induction into a frat at Yale until just before the 2004 presidential campaign (also, the boat sinks!). Structurally, it intercuts his distant past with more recent past in an attempt to evoke resonances between events in Bush II's first term and his troubled history.

To use a term of technical film criticism jargon, my reaction to the movie was more or less 'meh'. I do give credit to Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser for attempting to draw Bush as a semi-real character rather than a pure caricature. What they could not overcome was the fact that George W. Bush simply isn't a very interesting man.

So Bush is an alcoholic, privileged rich boy who's had everything handed to him his whole life and suffers from extreme Daddy Issues? Gee, that's fresh and compelling. And how do you draw an audience into the inner life of a guy who pretty clearly lacks one? The closest we get is visualization of Bush's "happy place": being all alone on the field at the empty Texas Rangers stadium.

Far too many scenes build to, essentially, punchlines consisting of well-known Bushisms with which we are all too familiar. There's an overall lack of drama stemming from the audience's foreknowledge of every single event that's going to happen. This, of course, is an issue with any biopic or historical fiction, but what one generally hopes for is interesting characters and an evocation of the tension those characters felt during the events in question. In W., the Grand Events are generally dispensed with via stock (and/or artfully altered) news footage after which we are treated to dramatizations of conversations had by the Big Players Involved. Maybe the revelation of Dick Cheney's grand worldview of American Empire is supposed to be shocking but, really, how can it be at this stage?

Speaking of said players, I must give credit for both best performance and most interesting characterization in W. to Jeffrey Wright for his portrayal of Gen. Colin Powell. Making Powell the sympathetic character in the Bush administration was most likely a gimme for Stone and Co., but it does work. Conversely, Thandie Newton's Condoleezza Rice is simply a silly cartoon. Elizabeth Banks's Laura Bush is boring as hell, but then again so is Laura Bush. Richard Dreyfuss is excellent as Dick Cheney and deserves praise for a relatively subtle performance given his source material.

Swedish Radio wanted my opinion on how W. was likely to affect the Bush legacy. I told them that Bush's legacy was written long before this film, and that even without it Bush will be remembered at best as a President who not only failed in everything he attempted to do (unless the plan was to create a state of perpetual war and chaos, which is entirely likely), but diminished the power and stature of the United States to such a degree that American hegemony over world affairs is likely over forever.

If that latter point is true perhaps I should be grateful to W.



No musical thing I've ever been involved with has been reviewed before. Before now, that is.
Venerable metal blog Chronicles Of Chaos has written up Flaming Tusk's Abigail EP in their Demos department. Read the review.


regarding Sarah Palin

A longtime reader (hi, Dad!) wrote me to express his surprise that I hadn't written anything about Sarah Palin in this space. Perhaps I've been attempting to ignore her so as not to feed the troll.

I would write Sarah Palin off as a cartoon, a self-parody and a caricature if it weren't for two things: the success of her demagoguery and the insult to women she embodies.

The former is, of course, the reason she was brought onto the McCain ticket. In addition to transparently and cynically attempting to attract disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters, McCain's campaign realized that Palin was perfectly cast to play well to white suburbanites and rustics suffering from Authoritarian Personality. She's somebody they can "relate to" who is "like them". While McCain had to attempt to appeal to the majority of Americans, Palin was tasked with currying the favor of reactionaries, racists, medieval-minded Christianists, jingoists and homophobes. Her affected "golly-goshdarnit" aspect puts an apple-cheeked mask on the grinning demon of insinuation, hissing at us to wonder "who Barack Obama really is". Let's not forget that the base she is pandering to isn't merely the bedrock of a political party, but the lowest and meanest parts of human nature.

Her candidacy is an insult to American women, particularly those who've devoted their lives to achieving some kind of political parity with men. However, it's not merely the fact that she was chosen specifically because she is a woman which causes offense, or the attempted manipulation of the female electorate evidenced by her selection. Rather, it is the particular stereotype of femininity she chooses to adopt as her public persona.

It's popular to characterize Sarah Palin as stupid. I find it difficult to believe that anyone can achieve political success, especially on the national stage, by being staggeringly unintelligent. Even George W. Bush, who is by no means an intellectual, clearly has a type of fratboyish social smarts. However, it is clear that Palin is more than happy to appear, accurately or otherwise, like a rampaging airhead. Proudly oblivious of key foreign policy ("what's the Bush Doctrine?"), unable to name credible news publications that she reads to inform herself, inability to speak in public without clumsily relying on GOP talking points... the list continues to grow. She epitomizes two of the most contemptible aspects of modern right-wing politics: the populist appeal of total ignorance ("hey, she's an idiot like me! I really relate to that!"), and the denial of responsibility via rejection of reality as evidenced by her reaction so far to Troopergate.

As an aside, this may be brilliant positioning for her role as Vice President, since under Cheney it has become clear that the new purpose for the VP office is to manage all the outrageously illegal activities that the White House cares to undertake. The Republicans, via Alberto Gonzales and many others, have clearly demonstrated their belief that public expressions of abject incompetence are a viable legal defense against charges of criminality. Perhaps by installing as Vice President a woman who goes out of her way to cultivate an aura of ditziness the nascent McCain administration is merely taking the next logical step to cover the ass of the Imperial Presidency.

In sum, the women of the United States have been offered as their political champion a picture perfect cliché of the subservient, ignorant, photogenic Conservative Woman. Her politics, of course, are also essentially anti-woman, what with her refusal to recognize that the decisions to carry her daughter's pregnancy to term and to essentially force her daughter into a loveless marriage with the mullethead who knocked Bristol up are choices. Palin's antique religious philosophy doesn't do her gender any favors, either. I shudder to think of the impact her election may have on a generation of American girls, and that's sad. Her elevation to office should be a cause for celebration, and it would be if her place was taken by any number of other, vastly more qualified women.

For me the possible election of a McCain/Palin ticket smacks far too heavily of a dystopian sci-fi novel in which the President dies in office to be replaced by a moronic religious zealot who decides that launching all our nukes at Canada is exactly what Jesus wants.

Remember, everbody: turnout, turnout, turnout. Go vote.


good feedback

Vanshnookenraggen seems to like the Flaming Tusk EP.


People of the world.

NYC extreme metal band Flaming Tusk has just released their first EP, Abigail, onto an unsuspecting world.

To download it for free, in pretty much every possible digital format, visit flamingtusk.com and click on Music, or visit our bandcamp.mu page, or use this handy embedded player:

Abigail (Guts Down The Drain) by Flaming Tusk



title imminent

The Flaming Tusk demo has been promoted to the Flaming Tusk EP. Title TBA.

Add flamingtusk.com to your RSS feed reader, or just, y'know, keep checking back.

Plus I'm sure I'll announce it here.