Tag Archives: America

Witty but woebegone

Woody Allen rant

If 2016 was the year of celebrity deaths, 2017 was surely the annum of celebrity downfalls.

Sparked by the toppling of one of Hollywood’s most prolific alleged sex pests Harvey Weinstein, an entire balustrade of power-wielding, pussy-grabbing men has come tumbling down in recent months; Kevin Spacey, Louis CK and Brett Ratner head up a very lengthy list. Of course, the most powerful man on the planet has had many a finger pointed in his orange direction, but so far, to no avail…as has another wormy, smarmy, self-obsessed star.

For some bizarre reason, Woody Allen is still being allowed to make movies. Every fucking year. Despite having been openly accused of kiddy fiddling by his own adopted kiddy, and then going on to marry another adopted kiddy, the man still is given free rein to populate our cinemas with inane, pseudo-intellectual babble about himself, his ego and his unquenchable libido. Hell, Allen has even come out in support of the unanimously maligned Weinstein, causing chip-off-the-old-block Donny Trump Jnr to wade into these murkiest of waters and slam the weedy, wordy, whiny comic. When The Donald’s spawn is providing the voice of reason, you know you’re headed up thon creek without thon paddle.

Now, these allegations against Allen are of course highly disturbing, and shouldn’t be trivialised or swept under the carpet. But there is a case to be made for the idea that the personal life of an artist shouldn’t interfere in the appreciation of their artistry. Throughout history, genius scumbags have gotten off scot-free with their scumbaggery precisely because they were capable of rising above it in their professional life. Caravaggio was a do-badder of the highest order, Picasso reputedly bullied and battered the fairer sex and Michael Jackson’s status as the King of Pop was briefly compromised by his inability to stay away from the royal play pen. Despite this, all three are hailed as prodigies and virtuosos – and they’re by no means the only ones. Hindsight in particular has a habit of encouraging us to look past a man’s faults and assess his creative output apart.

Applying that dictum to Allen, we can shelve the (unproven) allegations about inappropriately touching his seven-year-old foster daughter Dylan and the (very much proven) allegations about inappropriately cheating on his partner with her latest adoptee Soon-Yi and inappropriately marrying said adoptee at a later date. Put the philandering and paedophiliac accusations aside, and assess the man’s art with the cold, analytical eye of a movie lover…and the point still stands. How the fuck is this man still being allowed to make movies?

For one thing, he has a serious hard-on for the Big Apple. Sure, no problem; New York is a vibrant city, who wouldn’t love to live there? The thing is, Woody does live there – and he won’t fucking shut up about it. He has 77 writing credits and almost as many directorial credits on IMDb, and the vast majority of those are set in or around the iconic US city. Sure, he had a brief spell over the last decade where he tried to branch out with stories set in major European metropoles like Barcelona, Paris and Rome – but he’s returned to his old stomping ground of late. There’s a new movie in the pipeline for 2018, too. Of course there fucking is. Guess what it’s called. A Rainy Day in New York. Shock horror.

Indeed, that title could even be a microcosm for the career of this cringe-inducing cynical upstart with a preoccupation for all things sexual, especially if it involves far prettier and far younger things than himself. Allen never tires of casting himself in the lead role as a witty but woebegone writer/actor/comic/megalomaniac who is irresistible to the most beautiful ladies Hollywood has to offer. Without doubt, he’ll include more than one wrangling, hand-wringing monologue on the foibles and frustrations of modern life, pretending to address hard-hitting philosophical questions but really just showing off his ability to construct a wordy shell of a joke without a substantial punchline of an interior. What’s more, nasal kvetching about the injustice of life rings more than a little hollow when it’s delivered inside the grandest of New York apartments, which more often than not feature a grand piano or a chaise longue. If things were really that bad, Woody, you’d have put an end to them long ago. A bullet to the head would be infinitely more effective in curbing your woes than squeezing pithy, cynical one-liners out of them.

Yet for all his repetition and irritation, the man is still revered as one of America’s finest directors. He regularly reels in all manner of A-list glitz and glamour to tart up his dreary cinematic turds. How can this happen? How can the flesh-and-blood incarnation of Arty Ziff continue to thrive in the 21st century? Weinsteingate is an opportunity to still Allen’s “busy hands” once and for all, yet his unabating ability to crank out filmic faecal matter by the wheelbarrowload just demonstrates that even the current epoch of scandal and censure isn’t enough to topple this wiry-haired weasel off his perch.

With new stories emerging every day, there’s still time for him to come unstuck – and let’s hope he duly does. If not for his victims, at least for future generations of cinemagoers. For God’s sake, won’t somebody please think of the children?

Platforming

We all know online petitions are an utter waste of time, but I signed it. Of course I signed it.

I mean, one of the most hideous humans among us has somehow fluked himself into the highest office in western democracy, and he gets offered a state visit to the UK? To glad-hand one of history’s most famous state leaders, one of the most noteworthy women the planet has known, the world’s favourite grandmother?

I’m astounded it’s even a point of debate. Of course he should be given a state visit.

Continue reading Platforming

Cappuccino and bile

Well, it’s finally happened. Inauguration Day just squelched straight in and kicked its muddy boots off right on the hearth rug, leaving Donald John Trump as the official, no bullshit, bona fide President of the United States. Given the endless mosaic of hysterical and, let’s be honest, completely unhinged rhetoric flashing across my computer screen at the moment, I’d half expected none of us would wake up at all the following morning.

And yet, here we all are. That’s one more for reality, and another big fat zero for cyberspace.

Continue reading Cappuccino and bile

Trumpspotting

Blame life. Blame racism. Blame misogyny. Blame the Director of the FBI. Blame sex, lies and videotapes. Blame social media. Blame the great unwashed. Blame not only their hygiene but their appalling lack of education. Blame the 54% of white women who voted for a guy that jokes about dating his daughter and brags about casually groping complete strangers. Blame nationalism. Blame media bias. Blame the tilt of the world’s axis. Blame the callous, cunting disaster that 2016 has shown itself to be. Blame life. Just don’t blame Hillary Clinton…

…but why the fuck shouldn’t we blame Hillary?

Continue reading Trumpspotting

First injection free

Coming from a country that generally bankrupts its citizens if they find themselves in an emergency medical situation, far be it for me to talk smack about the NHS. How can anyone argue with free health care? Sure, the US of A has free speech (sort of), but free health care? That’s for Socialists! Health care in the U.S. is something of a luxury, like a free beer on the airplane or a mint on your pillow in a 3 star hotel paid for by the company account. That is, people who can afford it, get health care.

I understand that the NHS isn’t perfect; what system is? It seems nothing short of backwards that doctors here only prescribe the drugs that you actually need for your condition, and refuse to write you largely recreational prescriptions. Medication is given out like candy in the U.S. –  it’s like Halloween for grown-ups all the time! Provided you have health insurance, or enough money to pay for private doctors, prescription drugs are plentiful for folks looking to make themselves more balanced, motivated and confident, or at least to sedate themselves to the point where they don’t give a shit.

You don’t have to prove you need medication either. In fact, random samples of drugs are offered to patients, pick-and-mix style, thanks to the young, attractive college students working part time for drug companies. Endless gaggles of chatty, blond 20 year olds in their mothers’ heels wheel suitcases full of drug samples into the doctor’s office day after day.

Never mind you don’t feel depressed; you might as well take some antidepressants home for your friends to try out! Finding it difficult to concentrate on writing your Masters dissertation? Here’s a prescription for ADD meds! Don’t smoke? Who cares – try a few handfuls of smoking cessation samples anyway! They have a hallucinatory effect while you sleep, and turn your otherwise boring dreams into Technicolor erotic escapades! The best sex you’ve ever had, the doctor quips with a sleazy wink as you redress. As you hasten to leave, the good doctor offers a course of Botox to remedy that furrow in your brow, with the first injection free as an incentive. (Botox, by the way, is generally extra; no one’s health insurance is that good.) Yes, medication is the American way.

However, if you are unfortunate enough to be like the millions of New Yorkers without health care, you are all but screwed. If by some stroke of terrible luck you end up in the back of an ambulance, the $850 ambulance ride is only the beginning of your financial woes. In your sorry state you might be taken to a hospital (hello lifelong financial bankruptcy for you and your family!), and if you’re supremely unlucky you might be taken to a Brooklyn hospital made famous by video footage of an ER nurse repeatedly stepping over a dying woman (who had collapsed on the floor of the waiting room) with as much concern as for a mop that had fallen over.

If that is your situation, then you’d be better off doing what some churches advertise in a desperate and defeatist attempt to increase their congregation numbers: try praying. Apparently simply dying in the middle of the floor isn’t enough to get you noticed; indeed, even multiple stab wounds to the head might be treated as a you-can-wait-your-damn-turn scenario. You have to be haemorrhaging out of each eyeball, have a knife lodged in your throat and half your brain spilled on the floor for an ER nurse to admit you, and even then you might have to wait your turn because there are countless other bleeding patients ahead of you. This is New York, after all.

So I find it fairly incredible that I can simply go to a UK health center and leave my wallet in my pocket. Not only that, I receive real and timely treatment. Recently, after hanging upside down on a trapeze, I had a brief spell where I couldn’t distinguish between objects of the same colour, and experienced an odd numbness in one arm. So off I went to the GP.

The GP’s extraordinary caterpillar eyebrows furrowed closer together as I talked. He ordered a taxi to take me to the hospital, informing me gravely, “it sounds as if you have a hole in your heart.” Having been in a New York hospital, I prepared myself for the worst. Would I croak on the floor of the waiting room like that poor woman in Brooklyn and my loved ones would have to find out about my tragic demise from video footage on the hospital security cameras?

My worries were assuaged when I didn’t see anybody dying on the waiting room floor. Speedy medical assistants and nurses ran a slew of tests on my eyes that left the world blurry, and then seen by the neurologist who asked if I spent any time upside down. “The trapeze explains it,” he said. “It sometimes happens. There’s no hole in your heart.”

And that was that. Sure, I was temporarily blinded, no one had offered me even an ibuprofen to ease my pain, and the GP was obviously an idiot, but my heart and wallet were intact. I was free to continue ignoring bills and credit card payments without the establishment encroaching on my god given right to ruin myself financially. Instead, I was given a pair of disposable sunglasses (free!) and sent out into the bright light of the day, wholeheartedly grateful to stumble home.

Not very American

It’s a known fact that the majority of the world looks down on America. Maybe some regions more than others, but we’re pretty much on everyone’s shit list. I was never fully able to understand why until I left America and moved to London.

Now I know what you’re thinking, and no this isn’t going to turn into some pro-America piece where we’re all chanting “USA! USA!” by the end and shoving oversized food into our mouths. America is the #1 producer of media in the world, and as such people have a lot of exposure to us. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a lot of quality programming. We have a channel very similar to the BBC called PBS that’s funded by the government and shows historical, educational, and nature shows. And yet somehow the majority of the quality programming seems to get filtered out when it crosses the sea. Somewhere over the Atlantic the signals for the award-winning documentaries about African refugees drift off and instead you’re left with the lowest intellectually possible productions out there, i.e. Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Pawn Stars, etc.

Some people might say that there are a number of factors that could contribute to this, but not me. I place sole responsibility on one person and one person alone: Rupert Murdoch, the Australian devil and owner of Fox News. From a business perspective, I congratulate Mr. Murdoch on finding a niche in broadcast news. But from a cultural perspective, I want to punch him in the throat and laugh.

I recently befriended an Eastern European man who loves to show me horrible American news clips. People looking for leprechauns, car chases, entire segments about puppies, etc. This is what he knows about American culture, the crazy crackheads that Fox News decided to put a camera in front of and ask for their opinion.

As soon as Fox News paved the way for this mediocre bullshit, many other more reputable news sources followed suit and now YouTube is filled to the brim with all these wonderful clips of below average intelligence Americans, whose families have probably been breeding amongst themselves for the past 100 years, trying to give commentary on US foreign policy. Most of these people look like they’ve never left their home town let alone their home state, and are supposed to be contributing meaningful statements about the crisis in Ukraine.

Normally I wouldn’t be too fussed. I don’t even live in the country anymore, so it’s not my problem anymore, right? Wrong. It has followed me on my 5,000-mile journey. People actually expect this behavior from me, and are disappointed when I don’t deliver, stating that I’m “not very American”.

Granted, these clips and shows are what they have to go on as far culture, but you’d think they’d actually be pleased that I don’t have my head shoved so far up my ass that I don’t know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Wrong again. I feel like the first couple of weeks of meeting anyone new here they’re watching my every move and word, waiting for me to trip up and do something stupid so they can point and laugh like I’m some monkey performing tricks for coins.

I’ve unwillingly become an ambassador for America. The very thought sends shivers down my spine. I’m sure you’ve encountered plenty of Americans in your day-to-day lives and didn’t even realize it, because most of us are normal people who keep to ourselves.

But there’s always the few halfwits that ruin the fun. On a recent trip to the National Gallery, I was in the security line behind this horrible older American couple. Everyone else in front of them managed to open their bag, and move along, but these two just didn’t seem to get the memo. Instead they proceeded to harass the security officer with very specific questions about where to find certain art pieces and make as much noise as possible. The security officer didn’t know of course, and they departed in a huff, leaving me to face the man who would probably not greet me with the same kind smile as before. Without even thinking about it, the phrase “You all right?” spurted from my mouth in a thick British accent. Gauging from his expression, I had gotten away with it, so with no other choice, I finished the transaction with “Cheers.”

I usually follow the saying “When in Rome…”, but goddammit is it hard being an American in Europe. My friends at uni have gotten used to it and hardly bring it up anymore, but every time I encounter a stranger, it’s a stark reminder of the world we live in. Perhaps one day I’ll get over myself, but until that day, all I have to say is: fuck you Rupert Murdoch.

Black, or white, or brown

It’s time to talk about the color of our skin. More specifically, who even cares about the color of our skin?

Here in the United States, you are black, or white, or brown, before you’re American. We don’t have a single, unified people. We aren’t all American. You are African-American, Mexican-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic-American. Never just American. Your skin color, your origin, supersedes your status as an American in the United States.

So to answer my own question, Americans care about the color of skin. And that’s bullshit.

See, it’s these trivial labels that exacerbate the racism that Americans love to vehemently deny. It has infected the culture of the United States. Everything from films and television to literature has constant racial undertones and reminders that your race is constantly affecting your life. And comedy is no exception.

America is chock full of funny assholes, and thankfully comedy itself is blind to your race – it just wants you to joke about the things that make you cry. But of course color is never far away. You can talk about all your misfortune, you can talk about your problems, but if you’re black or Hispanic, your jokes are sadly rarely going to be about anything but your race.

And then there’s Vine. Vine lets you share six-second videos of whatever you’d like to share. To some it’s just quick catharsis, to others Vine offers a way to advertise your cheap porn site or cam girls haven, but Vine is seeing most success as a comedy site – six-second humor, and of course race has influenced this too. A favorite video type is “White people be like ____, Black people be like ______”. These scenarios only serve to make people look like uncivilized assholes. Especially the people who make the videos.

By placing a subtle focus on racism, we draw attention away from the fact that it is indeed still racism. No matter how we deal the cards, if it’s racist, it must stop. People are people regardless of something as stupid and trivial as how we’re colored.

Let’s stick to finding comedy in regular things, like your girlfriend fucking your brother, morbid obesity, daddy problems. If we soulless fucks can concentrate on that, maybe the rest of the world can follow suit.