bilingual | zweisprachig

ramblings about all things cultural and otherwise

What You Can Do and Cannot

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Everybody knows the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is full of hypocritical shitballs. One of America’s finest news outlets thinks so too. But see for yourself…

Somewhat sad, I have to mention that this is just a satire. “ONN – Onion News Network” (slogan: “Making you seem better informed”), which is part of “the ONION,” really hit home with it, though. If this had been a real interview on NBC’s “Today” show, for example, a major rant would have followed. The lack of a rant should of course not belittle the fact that the FCC actually does operate in similar fashion. But instead, here is Seth MacFarlane’s take on the issue by way of his genius show “Family Guy” (the clip is from the episode “PTV”)…

Personally, I am opposed to any kind of censorship whatsoever—not just on TV, but in print media, on the radio, and internet as well. People should be allowed to express themselves in whichever words are necessary to bring their point across, anywhere and everywhere without exception.

Fuck appropriateness. If “fuck” (or any derivation thereof) is the right word to illustrate your emotional state towards the issue in question, then that makes it appropriate. Do not ever let anybody shut you up on account of the words you are using or the thoughts you are expressing with (or without) those words. Freedom of speech is a right, not a fucking privilege.

Here’s to the ideal society.

Written by renew.it.all

Tue, March 17, 2009 at 12:10 pm

The Time Is Now

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How do you like the new theme? A lot easier on the eyes, innit.

But anyway, today I want to introduce you to some of the news resources that I’m consulting regularly, some of which I’ve only discovered in the last few weeks. In contrast to the commercial, mainstream news media, these are for the most part independent and/or public, with a much greater density of information and complexity. If you are fed up with your regular newscasts (as I had been), then you might want to take a closer look at the following.

Democracy Now! (democracynow.org)
“Democracy Now!” is an independent, one-hour-long radio and television news broadcast that airs live every weekday on several hundred radio and TV stations and the internet from 8 to 9 a.m. ET (1 to 2 p.m. GMT). Only very recently did I come across this show which has been around for about 13 years now. All thanks to the documentary “The End Of America” (very recommendable, by the way).

For the past year or so, I had given up following the news entirely—mostly because the outlets aren’t exactly delivering news anymore but glorified tales of celebrity and town gossip. For example, why THE FUCK does CNN report on the Obamas choosing a dog for their kids? Who on this godforsaken earth really gives a shit? And what’s worse, 168 people deemed that story worthy enough of their comments (there’s probably the answer to the previous rhetorical question). This type of reporting is now everywhere, and at one point last year I had enough of it.

Luckily, “Democracy Now!” came my way. It is exactly the type of news show that I had been looking for all these years: thoroughly investigative, liberal, lots of time for interviews with involved parties (each program is 60 minutes long), an abundance of material background, a great network of independent correspondents and activists, and so on. This should be mandatory viewing for everyone. Period. To get an idea of what they’re doing at “DN!,” have a look at the show from March 16.

Every episode that ever aired is available for streaming on their website.

60 Minutes (CBS, 60minutes.com)
This is the only “mainstream” journalistic show from a major network that gets regular attention in my books. Most of you probably know it. “60 Minutes” has been around since 1968 and has remained a steady fixture in the news circle. In both quality and topic, the reports are very diverse. Compare the two following clips to see what I mean…

“Is Peace Out Of Reach?” (January 25, 2009)

“A Meal To Die For” (November 25, 2008)

New episodes air every Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on CBS, and are streamable on the website shortly thereafter. You can either watch complete episodes or just individual segments like the ones above. Fortunately, those streams are also playable on computers located outside the U.S.

The 1999 film “The Insider” (directed by Michael Mann and starring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino) was based on one of those segments. The film’s working title was even “60 Minutes.”

All Things Considered (NPR, npr.org/programs/atc)
This is a daily radio news broadcast produced by National Public Radio. It airs from 4 to 6 p.m. ET and is also available on-demand on NPR’s website for international audiences. Apparently, “ATC” is the third-most-listened-to radio program in the U.S.

Thorough reporting, no dilly-dally. That’s all there’s to it. Check it out.

Planet Money (NPR, npr.org/blogs/money)
This is a blog and podcast which successfully explains the world’s financial situation in laymen’s terms. I highly recommend this place to everyone who is interested in the ongoing crisis but is as dumbfounded by the experts’ terminology and rhetoric as I am. Wonderful.

The Baseline Scenario (baselinescenario.com)
Once you’ve got the hang of the aforementioned financial terminology you should stop by this great blog. (You might notice that it looks similar to mine. It’s where I stole the new design from.) It is maintained by three financial experts who really know their field. They are equally fond of bringing the issues across in simple words as the folks at NPR’s “Planet Money.”

One of the writers, Simon Johnson (former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)), was on “The Colbert Report” just last week. Check it out (the segment with Johnson starts at about 4:50 into the video)…

Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! (NPR, npr.org/programs/waitwait)
Here’s another NPR show. This one’s a weekly news quiz of about 45 minutes. It airs every Saturday and is available to stream and download. If you’ve followed the week’s events, this is the place to go. Hilarious and informative at the same time.

This American Life (thisamericanlife.org)
Along with “Democracy Now!,” this is the most exciting of all the resources in this post. Over thirteen years in the making by now, “This American Life” is an extraordinary weekly radio broadcast that offers insightful reports on all kinds of issues. The makers like to call it a “documentary on the radio,” which, indeed, it is. The quality of the reporting and the careful handling of the sometimes delicate topics is outstanding. As a result, “TAL” is one of the most successful radio shows and podcasts in the U.S. (By the way, this also comes from public radio. Notice a pattern here?)

Episodes air every Friday and are available to stream and download the following Monday. Brandnew episodes will air about twice per month. In the other weeks, older shows are rerun. I would like to give you some pointers as to where to start in the immense archive that is available on the show’s website. Every single back episode can be streamed for free, so you’re easily lost.

  • In May and October of last year and February of this year, “This American Life” teamed up with some people from NPR’s aforementioned “Planet Money” to produce a series of insightful, yet easy-to-understand episodes about the state of the economy and how we ended up in this quagmire in the first place. These three one-hour-long episodes single-handedly allowed me to understand the situation we’re in right now. They are an even better place to start than the “Planet Money” blog. Absolutely brilliant.

    Downloadable transcripts are available in PDF format for all three of these episodes if you want to re-read some key issues.

    When you’re done with those, you can head over to my brothers in arms at Schreibkrampf and have a look at a more condensed but visualized version of what Jon Stewart likes to call the “clusterfuck to the poorhouse.”

  • Somewhere Out There” from February 13, 2009
    This is sort of a Valentine’s Day episode. Although your usual love stories are also talked about, the major highlight for me is one about two eight-year-old girls. In fact, the two girls are transgender boys, i.e. girls trapped inside a boy’s body. They talk about their hardships of being faced with such a situation—the trouble in school, the dirty looks from the neighbors, the parents’ struggle, etc. But they do it in such an adult and mature way that you can’t have anything but utter respect for both of them. Never in my life have I heard an eight-year-old talk so eloquently, articulate, and well-spoken about their life, let alone two of them. Stunning.
  • The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar” from March 14, 2008
    A granddaughter of Bobby Dunbar’s, a Louisiana man who was famously kidnapped as a child in 1912, unearths astounding material evidence in connection to her grandfather’s kidnapping that will ultimately rewrite the histories of three families. I just listened to this one last night and have to say that I was more than just impressed.

When you’re done with these five episodes, there’s only about 370 left to go. Get to it. (-; The material on “TAL” is so amazing and mind-blowing that I’m most likely going to keep posting about individual episodes in the future.

Moreover, show host Ira Glass teamed up with premium cable channel Showtime a few years ago to produce a TV version of the radio show. So far, two seasons (six episodes each) have aired and a couple more should be down the road. Here’s the trailer for the TV show…

And if you want to put a face to the strange man’s strange voice, here is Ira on David Letterman’s “Late Night” in April of 2007.

This shall be it for now. More resource recommendations to come in one of the next posts.

Written by renew.it.all

Tue, March 17, 2009 at 2:24 am

Fishy Travels

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How Fish Came To Be Wrapped In Newspaper
by Brian G. Smith

I once wrapped a fish in a road map, and the next morning it was gone.

(taken from Monkeybicycle)

It must’ve been almost four years ago that I’ve read this wonderful one-sentence story. Just imagine a fish on a road trip. Did he take the map with him, or did he memorize the map and leave it? Or did he not go on an actual road trip at all but rather vanish into the map itself and can now be seen skipping and flapping across it, leaving a trail of dots or an intermittent line, as it is so famously done in Hollywood’s road movies to visualize the protagonist(s)’s journey across the country? Of course the title, which is almost as long as the story itself, puts another twist on the whole issue. What do fish do now that they are wrapped in newspaper? I would love to know.

Over the years, this ultra short story popped back into my head every once in a while and this time I finally remembered to post it here. The entire genre of “micro fiction,” or “flash fiction,” as it is apparently called, fascinates the hell out of me. Famously, Ernest Hemingway wrote an early example,

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Whoa! It is mind-boggling how six words (only seven syllables) can have such a strong effect. All of the stories from this genre have one thing in common: that which is not said is more important. That’s where the real story lies; in the questions which the presence of the few words evoke. The beauty of it is that every reader has different questions, i.e. each story is infinitely manifold. It is also striking how important the punctuation is. For a text of such brevity, the right usage can be very effective and convey even more meaning; or raise more questions.

The online and print literary journal Monkeybicycle has a nice collection of such one-sentence stories as the one about the fish and the map. Some are relatively long, some very short. All of them, I think, are by unknown writers, for most of whom this was probably the first publication. Have at it…

Batch One
Batch Two
Batch Three
Batch Four
Batch Five
Batch Six
Batch January 2009
Batch February 2009

Back in early 2007, The Guardian asked a number of well-established writers to pull off a Hemingway stunt to write equally short stories of their own. Read them here. One of my favorites is Jeffrey Eugenides’s (who is an overall great writer, by the way): “Defenestrated baby, methamphetamine, prison, rehab, relapse.” Simon Armitage also did the “baby” thing: “Megan’s baby: John’s surname, Jim’s eyes.”

Wired also asked contemporary writers for their own micro stories a few months earlier. See here.

There’s even a blog dedicated to the six-word story, aptly titled Six Word Stories. Most likely, it’s not the only one.

You don’t need to be an internet whiz to find a bulk of examples.

Have fun with this stuff and feel free to report back with some interesting findings.

“The (K)night Is Darkest Before Dawn.”

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A good friend of mine watched “The Dark Knight” yesterday and sent me and another friend an email about how he didn’t really like it and couldn’t understand the hype and raving reviews. I just sent off my reply and felt like sharing it with more than just the two people to whom the email was addressed.

By the way, we all write each other such mails nearly on a daily basis, of course always about different films, music, or topics; and most certainly not always this long. Come to think of it, we should consider publishing those on the regular. That shit is priceless. (Hey, if you’re reading this, let me know what you think of that.)

So here goes, completely unabridged, unedited, and with unchanged orthography—email style!

(NB: The views and opinions laid out in the following paragraphs are entirely my own. Fuck you if you don’t like ‘em. I can only quote the Joker: “Why so serious?” But kudos if you disagree and speak up. Let’s talk it out.)

well, since you asked… (warning, longish ramblings to follow. i couldn’t stop myself.)

for one, i never really liked christian bale. can’t really say why, though. maybe because he always plays these really weird characters (american psycho, machinist, equilibrium, batman, etc). or maybe it’s because the dude is from wales. no idea. his recent outburst on that movie set didn’t exactly highten my view of him either. the guy has come off as a full-blown arrogant prick for a while now. but whatever… (i, too, was really bothered by his deep voice in “TDK.” wtf?!)

for another, i have never seen a batman film. TDK was my first and will also be my last. i’m not into those comic-book-superhero-vs-supervillain movie adaptations AT ALL (except for the proper ones like “Sin City;” mind you, i don’t have anything against comic books, just movies that are based on them).

i only watched it because of Heath. i had seen the trailer and was immediately blown away by his performance. the man had recently died, which was the first time i had ever heard of the film and probably the only reason why i watched the trailer in the first place. to be perfectly honest, i probably would have never seen the flick if Heath hadn’t died, even if i had heard the same arguments about his “stellar performance” that have been floating around ever since. basically, i was a gawker who wanted to see the film that ultimately killed a man. fortunately, i had seen the trailer before and knew that i was in for a treat (from an actor, not a movie).

with all of that being said, i don’t particulary like the movie as a whole (now that i’m giving it some thought, which i hadn’t bothered to do before). apart from being a comic adaptation, it’s one of those blockbuster-(action)-sequel-flicks (number six or seven in a franchise) that serve no other purpose than the commercial one. i simply despise those movies out of principle. it’s narrow-minded, i know. but fuck you, that’s how i roll. (o; it’s just my way of making a selection in this vast jungle that is the movie industry. james bond, harry potter, matrix, or lord of the rings are just a few examples of movie series that i wouldn’t piss on even if they were on fire.

sure, there were some great scenes in TDK that didn’t have the Joker in them; the camera work was pretty solid throughout; and i even liked the idea of the hero being pushed so far that he’s on the verge of becoming a villain himself. but overall, the story was lame, the film was too long, and there were too many different storylines, iirc.
that whole cliché-moral-dilemma scene (the one with the ships in the harbor; convicts on one, law-abiding citizens on the other; on both ships there’s a detonator to blow up the other one) was just plain bad. the love triangle between chris bale, aaron eckhart, and maggie gyllenhaal?? bitch, please! and why did such fine actors as aaron and maggie “sell out” to such a film? i still remember how i literally yelled at my tv (“what the fuck?! oh come ooonn! jeeesuusss!”) when the half-faced (or two-faced) aaron eckhart just stepped out of his hospital bed and went apeshit on everybody. btw, it was only now (after having typed the word “two-faced”) that i realized he was supposed to be the same character that tommy lee jones played in an earlier film. that tells you a lot about my knowledge of batman.

and to be even more honest, i have no clue why everybody is praising Heath to high heavens now that he’s dead. don’t get me wrong, i’ll be the first to admit that he delivered an astonishing, once-in-a-lifetime performance as the Joker. one that i will surely remember for the rest of my life. but why everyone suddenly considers him the finest actor of his generation, i will never understand. sure, i knew him, saw some of his films, and was even downright shocked when i caught the news of his death. but he was never on my radar of people that i was going to keep an eye on (not that i have any authority on seeing and acknowleding every acting talent that crosses my path, but still…). and there’s a reason.

because, let’s face it, he was in a bunch of shit movies playing shit characters. maybe he acted well, but certainly not so well that i’d put him at the top of his entire generation of actors (although i could very well be just an ignant motherfucker). almost everything (with maybe the exceptions of The Four Feathers and Monster’s Ball) that he did before Brokeback Mountain was crap. certainly the movies themselves were. and since then, he had only been in a handful of other films. but all of a higher quality than the stuff before “the gay one.” so, even if it sounds rude, he just got a huge bag of pity (germanism alarm!) handed to him by the yellow press. they just love stories like his. “young actor (accidentally?) kills himself while at the top of his game professionally. leaves ex-fiancée and child behind.” on a humane level, it’s undoubtedly a cruel story. but don’t make him a saint “just” because he did extremely well during his last job and died afterwards. it reveals more about the people who are spreading these stories than about the man himself.

nevertheless, due to his sudden death at such a young age and his mind-blowing Joker (which will always be his legacy), he’ll forever be the James Dean of our generation. i have no doubts about that. whether that’s a good or a bad thing remains to be seen/discussed.

in short, TDK is mediocre at best when it comes to “cineastic” quality. (it would be very interesting to debate whether “cineastic quality” was one of the Nolan brothers’ intentions.) but it is quite entertaining, i have to admit. probably due to its fast pace. the 150 or so minutes just flew by. Heath, on the other hand, is amazing in it and had far too little screen time. i remember thinking “when’s the joker gonna have another scene?” when i watched it in september or so. i’d gladly re-watch the film just to witness that unique on-screen aura again.

alright. nuff said. sorry for the ramified commentary.
(believe it or not, i just wasted 90 minutes of my life for that. what is wrong with me?)

Cheeri-Os,
r

Let’s hear it, folks. Tear me a new one. I’d love to indulge in this topic.

Written by renew.it.all

Thu, February 26, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Pre-Oscar Rundown

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In a couple of hours, the Oscars will once again be awarded for the past year in (mostly) Hollywood film. So, just like last year, I want to jump on the bandwaggon and offer up my two cents on the nominees: whom I’d give the Oscars to and who I think will ultimately get them. You can find a complete list of nominations at IMDb. Tomorrow, I will then comment on the final outcome and be a little more elaborate about my own votes (I just don’t have that much time right now as the show’s going to start in about half an hour).

For the first time in the ten or so years I’ve watched the awards show live on TV, I’ve actually seen almost every movie that’s been nominated. Of course, this isn’t so hard this year because many films have received multiple nominations.

Motion Picture
My vote: Milk
Academy will give it to: Slumdog Millionaire

Lead Actor
My vote: Mickey Rourke
Academy will give it to: Sean Penn

Lead Actress
My vote: Anne Hathaway
Academy will give it to: Kate Winslet

Supporting Actor
My vote: split between Heath Ledger and Michael Shannon
Academy will give it to: Heath Ledger

Supporting Actress
My vote: Marisa Tomei
Academy will give it to: Penélope Cruz

Director
My vote: David Fincher
Academy will give it to: David Fincher

Original Screenplay
My vote: Frozen River
Academy will give it to: Happy-Go-Lucky

Adapted Screenplay
My vote: Doubt
Academy will give it to: The Reader

Cinematography
My vote: Slumdog Millionaire
Academy will give it to: Slumdog Millionaire

Editing
My vote: Slumdog Millionaire
Academy will give it to: Benjamin Button

Art Direction
My vote: Revolutionary Road
Academy will give it to: Benjamin Button

Costume Design
My vote: Benjamin Button
Academy will give it to: The Duchess

Makeup
My vote: Benjamin Button
Academy will give it to: Benjamin Button

Original Score
My vote: WALL-E
Academy will give it to: Slumdog Millionaire

Original Song
My vote: No idea. If at gunpoint I’d have to say WALL-E
Academy will give it to: Slumdog Millionaire (the one with M.I.A.)

Sound
My vote: The Dark Knight
Academy will give it to: Benjamin Button

Sound Editing
My vote: WALL-E
Academy will give it to: Slumdog Millionaire

Visual Effects
My vote: Benjamin Button
Academy will give it to: Benjamin Button

Animated Feature
My vote: WALL-E
Academy will give it to: WALL-E

Foreign Language Film
My vote: Vals Im Bashir
Academy will give it to: Vals Im Bashir or Entre Les Murs

Documentary Feature
My vote: Man On Wire
Academy will give it to: Trouble The Water (maybe Man On Wire)

Documentary Short
I haven’t the faintest (haven’t seen any of them).

Animated Short
My vote: Presto (without having seen the others)
Academy will give it to: Presto (because Pixar always gets it)

Live Action Short
Same as Documentary Short

Can You Stand to Vote?

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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow hands out a big FUCK YOU to the U.S.’s voting system and its new “poll tax.” But see for yourself…

Call me cynical, but I’m not even surprised about this—the fucked up voting system in the states, that is.

Written by renew.it.all

Mon, November 3, 2008 at 8:54 pm

(Don’t) Vote Again!

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5 More Friends

The second part of the 5 Friends PSA campaign.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Snoop Dogg, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Ben Stiller, Will Smith, Steven Spielberg, Justin Timberlake, along with Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat, Zach Braff, Colin Farrell, Neil Patrick Harris, Scarlett Johansson, Shia LeBeouf, Tobey Maguire, Ryan Reynolds, and Jason Segal, are featured in a second of a series of public service announcements to encourage American youth to vote in partnership with Google, YouTube, Declare Yourself, and MySpace. The non-partisan PSAs, produced by DiCaprios Appian Way, were created to engage and inspire young people to vote and participate in the upcoming election.

Get it out there.

Written by renew.it.all

Thu, October 30, 2008 at 2:50 pm

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