Iron Sky and the Jokeless Comedy

Iron SkyThe setup sounded too perfect: at the end of World War II, the Nazis relocated to the far side of moon, developing their war machinery for a future invasion of earth. Add in a hot German school teacher who thinks that The Great Dictator is a laudatory 10-minute short about Adolf Hitler, and an African American astronaut who the Germans “improve” by changing his skin tone white, and you have the makings of comedy genius. It even features Udo Kier as the current Führer, and as everyone who knows anything about film knows: no film with Kier can be all bad. But the question remains: how did Iron Sky, a comedy about Nazis on the moon, not elicit one laugh from me?

The film is not bad. It looks good. Julia Dietze and Christopher Kirby as the protagonists really do light up the screen when they are together. And there are amusing moments. I especially liked when the US president (a very awkward parody of Sarah Palin) found out that all the other countries had lied about not putting weapons in space. She said, “You’re all liars, just like my ex-ex-husband!” When they complain, noting that the US also broke its word, she responds, “We always breaks ours, that’s just what we do.” Also: Finland is the only country that stood by the treaty. It truly is the country where I want to be!

But all of that material is the exception in being modestly sharp satire. Overall, the satire is incredibly blunt, because the writers clearly don’t care much about geopolitics. All the major powers in the film are narcissistic and so much more the silly for it. The president is thrilled that her assistant has started a war because all presidents who start wars in their first terms get re-elected. I’m not saying that there aren’t some politicians who are every bit this self-serving. (Most are far more self-deluded.) But as a target for satire, it would have been tired in 1812, much less 2012.

The bigger problem is that the film doesn’t really even try to be funny. The filmmakers seem to think that the concept is so great that it creates its own laughs. And that might have been the case if the film took the time to get the viewer vested in the concept. But it doesn’t. It is just: Nazis on the moon. They’ve created all kinds of new war technology, but they still drive around in cars from Hogan’s Heroes and have computers the size of small towns. Oh, and they have to go to earth to get a cell phone, because they can’t possibly figure out who to charge the one they have.

In addition, there are far too many special effects in the film. They are well done, of course. But who cares? It’s just filler. The whole film could be easily rewritten as a play. There is a great battle between the earth and the moon Nazis. Yet we are only introduced to the people in one of the spaceships. So it serves no narrative function. There is more than enough hand-to-hand combat that does. So what is the point of all this other than to make Iron Sky look like a “real” film? I doubt there is another reason.

And then what are we are supposed to take away from Iron Sky? I guess it is that the Nazis were bad, but that the rest of the world isn’t all that great either. And the future of humanity is the Nazis, but only after they’ve seen all eleven reels of The Great Dictator, because once the Führer has been mocked, well, those Nazis just melt. But that’s all giving the filmmakers a good too much credit. I don’t think they want the viewer to take anything away from this film. And that is a real problem when you are creating satire.

Ultimately, it all would have been fine if there had been some jokes.

Yes, Wall Street Did Breaks Laws — Many

Matt TaibbiThere is a huge misconception, pushed equally by odd bedfellows in the financial community and Obama supporters, that Eric Holder didn’t send anyone from Wall Street to jail because “no one broke any laws.”

This preposterous meme grew out of something Barack Obama said on 60 Minutes. Here are the president’s exact words:

“Some of the most damaging behavior on Wall Street — in some cases some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street — wasn’t illegal.”

Obama, a brilliant lawyer and wordsmith, was not saying that all of the behavior leading to the crash was legal. He merely said that some of the worst behavior wasn’t illegal. Which is true. Meaningless, but true.

Of course, some of the worst behavior was very illegal. This is confirmed in the fact that Holder extracted billions of dollars in settlement monies and even, in a few cases, obtained guilty pleas for crimes like fraud, manipulation, bribery, money laundering, and tax evasion.

—Matt Taibbi
Eric Holder, Wall Street Double Agent, Comes in From the Cold

Ordinary Iranians Are Happy With Nuclear Deal

Iranian Reaction to Nuclear DealSo a deal has been reached between Iran and the west. And I’m thrilled. For one thing, I’m not afraid of Iran. As a country, it has shown itself to be reasonable. And the people of Iran are generally quite pro-American. I’ve long felt that we should be engaged with Iran. As it is, we act like a jilted lover — just can’t get over that 1979 revolution. And we refuse to take any responsibility for creating it. You know, if we actually did push democracy overseas — if we had held the Shah in line and made him create a more just country — the revolution probably never would have taken place. Khomeini could have died in obscurity in France.

But what do my fellow Americans think? Well, mostly, they think, “What?! A deal, you say?” They just aren’t plugged in. They don’t especially care. The only people who really care are those who are plugged into conservative media. They’ve been fully manipulated into thinking that this is the worst thing in the world. So this evening, I was treated to a local news segment on it that really highlighted the people who were angry about the deal. Now each and every one of them was angry for the same reason. As the Merovingian would say, “They were told to be angry and they obeyed.” If a Republican were in office, they would think this was a good deal.

I don’t really care what Americans think. Similarly, I don’t care what Benjamin Netanyahu has to say. P M Carpenter gave Matt Yglesias a little ribbing because he posted one of Netanyahu’s tweets in Hebrew. But how could it possibly matter? We all know exactly what he had to say: this is the worst thing ever; Armagedeon; betrayal; shame shame shame; and so on. Who cares? Clearly Netanyahu has incentives that have nothing to do with the good of the world, the US, or even Israel.

But I am interested in what the Iranians think of this deal. So I was pleased to see that Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain over at The Intercept wrote, Iranians’ View of the Nuclear Deal: Optimistic, With Significant Caveats. It’s not surprising that the Iranians would be pleased with the deal: like people everywhere in the world, they care about economics. This is a deal that will both improve their economy and make war less likely. What’s not to like?

The people in Iran who are against the deal are very interesting: “fundamental Islamists who are now the only real hard-core nationalists in the country.” Other than the “Islamists” in that, the same could be said of the US: “fundamental Christians who are now the only real hard-core nationalists in the country.” That’s one of the things that has been so amazing to watch since 9/11: the two sides hate each other because they are so much alike. Or perhaps I should say the three sides, because the Israelis are the same.

What’s sad, is that Americans don’t know this. And that’s because our “neutral” press thinks that the right way to balance Netanyahu is to quote Lindsey Graham.

Another Fake Conservative “Sting” Operation

David Daleiden - The Face of EvilIt seems that the conservatives have done another one of the undercover videos that we so love from James O’Keefe. And here we have the same thing with questionable edits. But the main thing is that it shows Deborah Nucatola of Planned Parenthood talking about selling fetal body parts from abortions.

Snopes gives the claim a rating of “undetermined” because they are careful and lack much of a backbone. But the article is pretty damning. To begin with, it notes that even in the full length video, it isn’t clear what Nucatola is talking about. But this should tell you everything you need to know, “Nucatola states a price of ‘$30 to $100’…” For body parts?! No wonder Planned Parenthood is in so much trouble: they clearly aren’t good at business if they are going to sell off body parts at this price.

Planned Parenthood has made clear what’s going on in a statement:

In healthcare, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases. Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different. At several of our health centers, we help patients who want to donate tissue for scientific research, and we do this just like every other high-quality healthcare provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards…

So what’s with the money? Healthcare providers charge for the storage and transportation of the material. That’s why Nucatola said, “It has to do with space issues, are you sending someone there who is doing everything, or is their staff, what exactly are they going to do, is there shipping involved or are you coming to pick it up.” And certainly the people who have produced this undercover “sting” know this. Back in 2003, Planned Parenthood went through the same thing — being accused of selling body parts.

After Planned Parenthood pointed this out, the group (laughably calling itself “Center for Medical Progress”) responded more or less triumphantly. They claimed that the reproductive healthcare group had admitted to this heinous act of selling body parts. This is pretty typical of conservatives. Accuse an enemy of doing something that is completely standard and ethical, and pretend that it is a big deal. And it is: to conservative outlets. The Federalist reported, BLACKOUT: Media Go Dark on Planned Parenthood Organ Trafficking. Yes, if only the mainstream press would credulously repeat every conservative hoax, the world would be so much better! (Note: the mainstream press has on many occasions done exactly that.)

So what is this Center for Medical Progress? Well, it seems to have only been in existence for about two months. It is the brainchild of David Daleiden, an anti-choice activist. And Daleiden is — Wait for it! — a college buddy of James O’Keefe. So it’s the same old thing. Throw a bunch of tape together and hope that you can make the nation far worse off before anyone notices that it was a total scam. Will it work in this case? I don’t know. I thought International Business Times did a good job with the subject, Who Is Deborah Nucatola? 5 Things To Know After Planned Parenthood Director Is Accused Of Selling Baby Body Parts. But I’m a bit concerned about just how seriously The Washington Post took it, Undercover Video Shows Planned Parenthood Official Discussing Fetal Organs Used for Research. The fact that anyone is even talking about it is pretty bad. How long will these chicanery artists be given a fair hearing?

H/T: Paul Bibeau is a comedic genius with a bit of a political bent. He is, for example, the guy who brought us the hilarious Ayn Rand and L Ron Hubbard short stories. I don’t go to him for politics, however. But the other day he brought my attention to this, Snopes Thinks That Planned Parenthood Black-Market-Baby-Parts-Story Might Be Bullshit.

Morning Music: Dizzy Gillespie

Jambo CaribeDo we not deserve a little happy music? I think we do. First, we have a great nuclear deal with Iran. Second, that nuclear deal is making conservatives apoplectic. They are absolutely certain that it is going to be the worst thing ever. But it is strange. If we back out of this deal, all our European partners are just going to let the sanctions end. It will be America going it alone, as we have with Cuba all these years — and with the same results I’m afraid. So we could use some happy music — the conservatives most of all.

Here is a nice Caribbean influenced tune, “And Then She Stopped” off Dizzy Gillespie’s album, Jambo Caribe. It’s very pleasant — the kind of music you should listen to when it is too hot (which it is). Of note here is James Moody on flute.

Anniversary Post: Rosetta Stone

Rosetta StoneOn this day in 1799, the Rosetta Stone was rediscovered. It contained more or less the same text in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the ancient Egyptian script language Demotic, and ancient Greek. It was a big deal, because no one at that time could read hieroglyphs. So it was important in the rediscovery of that language.

Written in 196 BC, it established the cult of the King Ptolemy V for all the world. He was in his ninth year as king — a position he took at the age of five. Apparently, his father died. To avoid any problems, his father’s favorites killed his mother and more or less took control with Ptolemy V as a puppet. But they too were soon murdered. You know how these things go.

The Rosetta Stone was original displayed in a temple to celebrate Ptolemy’s divinity, I assume. It was later used as a building material for Fort Julien, which was built in the 15th century. But in 1799, the French found themselves in control of the fort. Pierre-François Bouchard was an engineer with the French Army, and he was put in charge of rebuilding the fort. Lucky for us that he was. When the stone was found, he immediately saw it for the important artifact that it was. And he saved it.

Eventually Fort Julien was taken by the English in 1800. They took the Rosetta Stone back home and it has been there ever since. Happy anniversary Rosetta Stone!