Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
A remarkable tale of immigrant success, wrapped around a crime story.
"Mindfulness is a capitalist grift: How faux enlightenment maintains our status quo": A great piece from Salon's Kali Holloway.
“The corporate adopters of mindfulness, which also include Procter & Gamble, General Mills and Aetna, have grown to include companies in every area of business, stretching far beyond tech to banking, law, advertising, and even the United States military. (Although, it should be noted, deep meditation may actually be damaging for some PTSD sufferers, exacerbating the condition.) Strip away all the fuzzy wuzzy, and one glaring fact stands out about mindfulness’s proliferation across the corporate world: At the end of the day, the name of the game is increased productivity. In other words, the practice has become a capitalist tool for squeezing even more work out of an already overworked workforce. Buddhism’s anti-materialist ethos seems in direct odds with this application of one of its key practices, even if it has been divorced from its Zen roots. In an article about ‘McMindfulness,’ the pejorative term indicting the commodified, secularized, corporatized version of the meditative practice, David Loy states ‘[m]indfulness training has wide appeal because it has become a trendy method for subduing employee unrest, promoting a tacit acceptance of the status quo, and as an instrumental tool for keeping attention focused on institutional goals.’”
"The Web We Have to Save": At Medium, Hossein Derakhshan champions the "free web"and argues why it must be rescued from obliteration.
“Around me, I noticed a very different Tehran from the one I’d been used to. An influx of new, shamelessly luxurious condos had replaced the charming little houses I was familiar with. New roads, new highways, hordes of invasive SUVs. Large billboards with advertisements for Swiss-made watches and Korean flat screen TVs. Women in colorful scarves and manteaus, men with dyed hair and beards, and hundreds of charming cafes with hip western music and female staff. They were the kinds of changes that creep up on people; the kind you only really notice once normal life gets taken away from you. Two weeks later, I began writing again. Some friends agreed to let me start a blog as part of their arts magazine. I called it Ketabkhan—it means book-reader in Persian. Six years was a long time to be in jail, but it’s an entire era online. Writing on the internet itself had not changed, but reading—or, at least, getting things read—had altered dramatically. I’d been told how essential social networks had become while I’d been gone, and so I knew one thing: If I wanted to lure people to see my writing, I had to use social media now. So I tried to post a link to one of my stories on Facebook. Turns out Facebook didn’t care much. It ended up looking like a boring classified ad. No description. No image. Nothing. It got three likes. Three! That was it. It became clear to me, right there, that things had changed. I was not equipped to play on this new turf—all my investment and effort had burned up. I was devastated.”
"'To Take a Wife' (2004) / 'Shiva' (2008) / 'Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem' (2014)": At Ferdy on Films, Marilyn Ferdinand reviews three films from the directorial duo of Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz.
“The Elkabetzes are unabashedly political and appropriately follow the second-wave feminist rallying cry that the personal is political by using this family saga to suggest the larger contexts in which these people operate, specifically, the Mizrahi immigrant experience and the suffocating religious dicta that offer little room for movement, especially to women. We see the seeds of Viviane’s discontent with her marriage in the rule-bound attitude of her husband. He and Viviane have different ideas about parenting and religious observance. In ‘To Take a Wife,’ Viviane gives her young son Lior (Yam Eitan) some milk after he has eaten chicken to calm his stomach even though it breaks kosher dietary law and excuses her willful oldest son Eviatar (Kobi Regev) from accompanying Eliyahu to synagogue, a refusal that fills Eliyahu with shame. In ‘Shiva,’ he polices the mourning, pronouncing what is and is not customary and correct, scolding the mourners for not focusing on Maurice, yet behaving hypocritically by using the occasion to try to persuade Viviane’s oldest brother Meir (Albert Iluz) to coerce her to return home.”
"Film Writing on the Spam Internet: A Hasty Categorization": An excellent, hugely timely essay by Vadim Rizov of Filmmaker Magazine.
“I’m not interested in rehashing the usual laments about the decline of Film Criticism in general, just in trying to pinpoint and name, precisely, what is happening. Two days before The Dissolve’s shuttering, the unabashedly lowest-common-denominator film news/rumors/etc. site CinemaBlend was acquired by Gateway Media, meaning that its approach works: there’s a large enough and profitable audience for articles like (example chosen at random) ‘5 Huge Things The Batman v Superman Trailer Taught Us About Lex Luthor.’ A lot of ‘film news’ often reads like what it is: a hastily reformatted and barely altered press release. (I was very impressed by the entertainment journalist who, on Twitter, had the chutzpah to complain about press releases with film titles in all caps, as this made their work of reformatting harder.) The content is redundant, and not much to begin with — a casting rumor, perhaps, or a still from a forthcoming hyper-marketed release — but I can’t argue with objective reality: there is a much larger audience for this kind of instant fishwrap non-news hastily rewritten and posted on literally dozens of websites than what I might want to read. These readers form a substantive plurality of people, and that can’t be argued away with a frustrated ‘but they shouldn’t.’”
"Hollywood, It's Time to Retire the 'Lovable Misogynist' Movie Hero": Once again, Lindsay Ellis nails it (this time, at IFC.com).
“Lovable misogyny rarely furthers a narrative or builds interesting characters; it’s just there because it’s normalized. And, again, this is not an issue of volume, it’s an issue of the pervasiveness for that being the go-to Thing when you want to give your male lead a character arc. It usually doesn’t add anything (I’m looking at you, ‘Age of Ultron’ ‘prima nocta’ joke that everyone hated), it’s just set dressing that’s placed there for no reason other than the assumption that the drooling caveman audience will get confused at its absence. It’s 2015, it’s not weird for women to have jobs and fix cars and punch faces anymore, move on!A male protagonist need not be some flavor of lovable misogynist in order to be relatable. Audiences don’t start walking into walls, confused, when the male lead fails to make snide remarks about how girls don’t know how to punch faces (it’s ‘character development,’ see). Here’s the thing so many defenders of the gender dynamic shown in ‘Jurassic World’ are missing — people aren’t offended because of a kneejerk reaction to sexism, people are offended because that dynamic is just so tired. Because here’s what we’ve learned in the month since ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ was released: nobody feels cheated by the omission of ‘relatably sexist’ characters. Nobody found that they couldn’t relate to the narrative because more facetime goes to female characters than male characters. Outside of certain extremist jokes of human beings who are by now little more than a punchline, ‘too many women’ is not a criticism that we’ve heard from its (still predominately male) audience. When your characters don’t make gender roles a Thing, the audience won’t, either.”
Silas Valentino and Danny King of The Village Voice compile a fun list of "The Ten Absolute Worst Journalists in the Movies," including Hayden Christensen's Stephen Glass in Billy Ray's excellent 2003 drama, "Shattered Glass."
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
A look at the entire "Alien" franchise, and a reappraisal of its unloved installments.
A tribute to the late Powers Boothe.