The Social Network – a withapassion.com trip to the movies

October 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

There are many film titles worse than “The Social Network,” and many have been calling this film, directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, by other names. THAT FACEBOOK MOVIE, is how Nylon Men explains Jesse Eisenberg’s placement on their cover, where as Jon Stewart calls it “This facebook film.” “Facebookland,” I’ve joked, would have fit into the IMDB.com page of Eisenberg’s much more smoothly, alongside “Adventureland” and “Zombieland.”

These quibbles aside, The Social Network is the perfect title for this movie. According to the tell all that this film is baed on, Mark Zuckerberg’s lack of social graces and personal anxieties were the driving factor in the creation of Facebook.com. When I saw the film last Sunday, it was at a preview screening held by, of all things, MySpace,[0] and featuring a panel of the stars of the film and Sorkin himself. The popular arguments are saying the film is a statement against the rampant narcissism of the generation of young people who are social networking their asses off. At the same time, though, Facebook didn’t become the zeitgeist pwner it is until it opened up to the entire public. Farmville didn’t become a thing until your relatives could fill their hours with it as much as the Tracy Flick lookalike you went to college with does. Further, Sorkin himself doesn’t care about the technological aspects of the film, as he’s said every time he’s interviewed.

The film is about how something was created to simulate college social life, and ended up destroying friendships in the process. His script gives the tech prospects their due, as it had to, but it also knows that the meat of the story is Zuckerberg himself. The first conversation has Sorkin’s standard walk-and-talk dialogue style, pioneered in the Bartlett White House, but at a bar table, and multiplied to an amazing degree. Zuckerberg’s then-girlfriend is having one conversation with him, he’s having at least five with her. As an introduction to the character, the scene works perfectly, and tells you that your fears about a boring movie about website creation were completely misplaced.

The Social Network is being pegged by some as a Revenge Of The Nerds for the 21th Century, which isn’t lazy as it is incomplete. One of the best scenes in the film, wherein a Beck’s[1] pounding Zuckerberg, dejected from a breakup of his own making, simultaneously codes a website where peers can rate the looks of girls[2] on campus and blogs a petty rant about his ex, her body, and her family on his LiveJournal[3]. This will be pointed to for generations as one of the best depictions of the code writing process that’s ever been done. The layering of shots of screens that Fincher pulls off, where Zuckerberg is writing code in something called Apache, ripping photo libraries from different campus houses, writing blip after angry blip on his blog, and tying it all together with an amazing narration penned from Aaron Sorkin and delivered by Eisenberg. These aren’t your father’s nerds, they are angry, antisocial, and ready to sell each other out and down the river to get ahead.

Back in the club, though, Timberlake’s Parker doesn’t always work. His line delivery is excellent, but his story about a girl he couldn’t get doesn’t play as believable, because, well, Parker looks like Justin fucking Timberlake. The guy gives a great performance, but the hype surrounding it overlooks the fact that he’s frequently in danger of being viewed as blatant stunt casting. He overcomes expectations, but that’s not always something to be amazed by.

Finally, the movie’s secret weapon is Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ score. It keeps the movie pushing along at a furious pace, similar to the breakneck speed at which Zuckerberg’s brain is functioning. It’s mostly been kept from the public as Kanye West’s single “Power” is the song in the TV ads, and the choral cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” is the in theaters trailer song. Once people get ahold of the score, they’ll realize that Reznor’s still to be respected, even if Nine Inch Nails is retired.

This is all to say that while The Social Network isn’t the greatest film of the year (the title is still being held by Winter’s Bone), it offers a lot to all audiences, from the kids who’ll be checking into Four Square at the theater and their parents who, much like Justing Timberlake and Jon Stewart[4], claim to have no idea what changing your status means.

[0] The screening’s obsession with crowd sourcing the questions for the panel from MySpace, and doing no work at all to make sure the questions were worth the cast’s time, was a greater indictment of the youth than anything the movie has to offer.

[1] the award for product placement of the year, this is something Sorkin talked about at the Q&A. Initially, he liked the visuals and idea of Zuckerberg pouring himself a screwdriver, which would suggest drinking to get drunk. But, their researchers found out the exact beverage that was the Ambrosia which helped birth facemash.com, the predecessor to Facebook.

[2] Slate.com’s Luke O’Brien reports that the actual facemash.com was for rating the looks of both genders, so apparently, Sorkin took some creative license here and there.

[3] Which goes to show that these tech trends come and go. I mean LIVEJOURNAL? They would kill to be mentioned in any movie, much less the biopic of the internet generation.

[4] The Daily Show interview, 9/30/10.

The State Of The Blogger, Summer 2010

June 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

As you may know, I’ve started a website with Jesse Myerson called The Busy Signal, which thanks to a core of writers, has started well. It is a website, unfunded and unmonetized, of contribution based blogging on the important topics of the day. This week, we push off the ground again to make sure our own problems, productivity, don’t continue to get the better of us.

If you enjoyed WithAPassion.com, I’m sure you’ll enjoy The Busy Signal, if you havn’t joined that program already in progress.

That being said, WithAPassion isn’t done yet, and there are other avenues I’m currently driving down as well. In terms of where I’m writing, here’s a rundown:

Features, the serious kind, will go to The Busy Signal, and will be linked to both here and at WithAPassion’s Tumblr edition.

These articles include the piece that will go up later today, “Big Windbag … ” – a lengthy focus on Andrew Breitbart, and not only why he and his cause are phony, but how his supporters and his favorite people on the right are wrong. In two weeks at the most, “Strike Three, Walking Away From the MLB,” on how I’ve decided that baseball isn’t worth the time and attention anymore, thanks to Bud Selig, and other elderly fools.

Sub-feature length pieces, and the less than serious works, will be written for WithAPassion.com, and will be linked to at the Tumblr.

These, will be your A&E reviews. Concerts, TV, etc. Upcoming for concerts: Nas & Damian Marley @ Williamsburg Waterfront, The Arcade Fire & Spoon @ MSG, Rock The Bells @ Governor’s Island, and Aziz Ansari @ Town Hall.

Small pieces, moments to be captured, etc., will be written for the Tumblr.

Seemingly, this includes things like poor product design captured at it’s failingest, and screengrabs of equal fail (i.e. Drake getting the NYTimes.com frontpage)

Brainfarts, as always, are on the Twitter. As will be as many links to the above as I can do without alienating that whole game.

Finally, there’s an idea I’ve been kicking around called “You Do Realize …” which is still in the planning stages.

Your faithful, and at times MIA, blogger,

Henry Casey

the shape of things to come

March 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

How Pawlenty Got His Teabagger Groove On: Ever So Covertly

February 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Have you seen the clip of 2008 GOP VP-also-ran Tim Pawlenty saying the GOP should take the Elin Approach and attack Big Government (code for “A White House that doesn’t have a Republican in it”)’s car with a golf club? If not, hey, it’s above, and if I were you, I’d have watched the clip before I read the text, but that’s because I’m one of those cripplingly OCD cover-to-cover guys.

Now you’re either back or you hate me, and either way I can say this: I don’t think I’m going too far here to suggest that Pawlenty, once thought of as the last middle-of-the-road Republican, has become just another worried Republican who thinks throwing red meat to the teabagging right is what he has to do. That clip really did a lot to make me think that the teabaggers have the GOP by the teabags, at least when it comes to their public statements.

And that clip might not even be obviously red meat to you. Maybe I’m reading too much in on this one, but . . . well . . . I’m pretty sure that Pawlenty’s done the tidiest bit of race baiting we’ve seen in years. He’s arguing that the teabaggers, represented by their homogeneously white/racist/moron packs, should rise up against The White House, and naturally by entension, the black president living in it, who somehow is now the brand name for big government, after 2000-08 saw the Bush administration grow government like Mark McGuire grew his biceps.

Pawlenty’s said in this clip, that they the people, aka they the true AMURICANS, need to stand up to Big Government because it is a threat that warrants violence. This is just a more covert echo of the vile shouting that translates to “the evil black nazi commie is a threat to the white people.” But by the fact that he’s using the Tiger/Elin story as a prop, he speaks to the other radically racist right trueism that the blacks are coming for the white women.

Aligning himself with Elin aligns himself with the white woman Tiger was “allowed” to have sex with. Tiger is comprable to Obama with ease, as he’s the last time someone in this country demolished a race barrier that stood for so long. Tiger had been encroaching on territory he wasn’t welcome in on the golf course, and now that elderly white men have found out that he’s reached the double digits in their women as well as their golfing trophies, they’re pissed and they’ve had enough. Tiger’s had sex with more skeevy barroom white women than the bands Poison, Dokken, and White Snake combined, which makes him a danger, just like they’ve convinced themselves Obama is.

So what’s the point of this? I thought Pawlenty was the possible sane center of the tootsie-roll pop of nutjob that is the GOP. That he wouldn’t sell out decent moral/policy principles for a cheap laugh. That he wouldn’t get BushYearsAmnesia. But this means he’s not to be taken seriously anymore.  Which brings me to the last thing to consider of having proximity to valid on the right: Ron and Rand Paul, the sort of out Ned, Rod and Todd Flanders of their generation. I’d like to see them take the reins of the party, but I bet that Ron Paul, who does tend to rant like a crazy man screaming at the clouds, has called more than a couple things retarded over the years, so Sarah Palin’s gonna squish him to keep the spotlight on herself, right?

Was Martha Coakley’s Political Death All They Needed?

February 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Game Change co-author John Heilemann has a piece in this week’s NYMag where he wonders about the upside for democrats to having Scott Brown win Ted Kennedy’s seat. Well, it doesn’t look that way to me, and I guess that might be because I’m not a weekly contrarian who’s supporting the President’s delusions in the hope of getting close enough to write a sequel. What happened in Massachussets just aggravated the folks who wanted to think the Democratic Party’s days of drowning in inch-high water were over. Which up until a couple nights ago, I was pretty sure was going to continue to be reason you could exchange for cold hard cash at even the zombiest of banks. Martha Coakley, it turns out, had to be a sacrificial lamb to show the entire Democratic Party to look itself in the mirror, take off the Bipartisanship Beer Goggles, and realize that they’re all alone now, and it’s not that bad. As long as the Democrats can clean themselves up, try and remember which iconic sports legends are important to their districs (and almost ran against them for crying out loud), there’s a future out there, and it doesn’t need to include nudie models in pickup trucks.

Heilemann says maybe Scott Brown is a guy who isn’t a big dumbass like everyone else with an R affixed to the end of their name. What evidence do we have to run on, with this? The fact that he’s voted for health care in Massachussets? Well, fuck, he’s said he wouldn’t vote for health care reform for the country now so surprise surpise, he’s just another god damn hypocrite who will support one policy and claim that when they vote against it, only after the President supports said policy, that 1) they never supported it, and 2) supporting it now would ruin our freedom and make the founding fathers cry in their graves. We all know that the only founding fathers that the GOP cares about now are the fringe lunatic bigots who are still doing Civil War reenactments where they get to take turns pretending to be The Greatest Man Alive and the new face on the $1 BIll: Robert E. Lee. Look at McCain veering hard right in fear of the teabagger polling ahead of him. All the GOP seems to care about is nurturing the jobless morons with enough time to protest on Washington and not enough brain cells to have any clue why. And yes, I’m mocking them for being unable to hold their jobs at the McDonalds drive-thru window, because I’m sure that’s the only place that would hire the people dumb enough to be writing the signs we’ve all seen.

But back to my point, that there is a positive outcome of the election in MA. It reminded Obama that he’s the head of a party of … well … they’re not all bad, but they’ve got a lot of folks who have been behaving like … well, … and I don’t mean the ones Rahm meant when he used the phrase, but … “procreating delayers.” It provoked Obama to reenact the movie 300 by taking on as many GOP climate change denying hot air buffoons that would show their face in a room with him, and to do it by himself. He knew that if he had certain members of the party in the room with him, they’re known as Conservadems, they’d probably start peeing their pants when the republicans started throwing out straw man ideas like the “Tort Reform Would Fix Everything!” shit that anyone who has been doing their homework, which obviously the President had, could disprove with less energy than it takes to keep Boehner looking like The Thing. Even Brick Tamland is more convincing than Evan Bayh.

But in the last two days, it also seems to have woken the progressive wing of the party up, most of whom seemed to have been keeping quiet during the clusterfucks organized by Chuck Grassley, because they realized that the GOP isn’t going to do anything to help pass health reform on the 25th at the Ideas To The Magical Table Summit. We all know that, because the week prior to Tuesday had been spent by people like Eric Cantor trying to say the political porridge wasn’t warm enough for him to feel safe entering a room with the President and the Democrats. I’ll change my Twitter avatar to Michael Steele if the event on the 25th does anything to help further bipartisanship, which is close to the bet that 11 progressives have made in the last two days with some of them authoring and the rest cosigning a letter to Harry Reid, telling him to bring the Public Option back, and use reconciliation to get it through. By making this statement, these democrats are saying, we don’t really give a fuck about the GOP, and why the hell should we?

That’s a sentiment that might have dawned on those watching Obama’s Question Time with Republicans, if they hadn’t felt it before. Obama’s line explaining how the GOP roped themselves into voting against Health Care Reform seems to be where the lightbulb might have finally come on. He argued that after spooking the villagers into thinking that Death Panels were fact, that there’s no way they would have voted for reform. If I’ll give the Democrats points overall in any way, I’d say that most of them know better than Obama about trusting Republicans. Why would the Republicans have spooked the hillbilly teabagging moonshining comic book ducks in a barrel if they had wanted to vote for health care? These people are at least smart enough to know that there are no death panels. Even Michelle Bachmann, I’d assume knows that she’s lying. So if they know they’re lying, then they have no intent to vote for it, so let’s forget about 60.

It kind of reminds me of Kevin Eubanks taking his guitar and telling Leno where to shove it, as it’s been announced that Jay’s gonna need to find a new chuckle buddy. The Democrats have been sitting in the corner with a mix of smiles and winces, while the big chinned morons are telling what they take for jokes and gladhanding the dipshits. It took a big kick in the face to wake ’em up, but hey, it’s not nearly as easy to be run over by a pickup truck when you’re awake.

HBO GO?

February 16, 2010 § 2 Comments

Back in August, back when I had a functionality in me that left me able to write decent blog posts, and not just Twitter posts, I wrote a little piece called I Want My HBO, where I thought of a service called HBOnline where non-cable subscribers could get HBO content on their computer. It turns out, they had something in the works, but it’s nowhere close to what I’m looking for … yet.

HBO GO is what they’re calling it, and while I’ll admit that’s a catchier name, it also sounds like something you’d order at a sushi bar. Ehchbeeyogo?

But the real problem in their service as spelled out by their website at the moment is that you must be still attatched and suckling at the cable tv industry’s teat in order to get into HBO GO. This could change with the announcement that they’re going to make about the service tomorrow, (NYM via NYT) but I’m not holding my breath. I still don’t trust the telecoms not to have lifelong deals with HBO that are punishable by death if voided. If HBO thinks this kind of measure will stem the tide of piracy against them (see this wonderful essay from Astra Taylor from the new edition of literary journal The Baffler for more on piracy, and if you enjoy it, subscribe, damn it) they’re mistaken.*

HBO’s content, by and large, smashes the competition in the face with a brick. They used to be aware of this, you know:

So you lost The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under, and that show where the ladies loved their shoes and hated men; HBO, you’ve still got a lot to offer and a lot to get your superiority complex back about. True Blood is great fun, and it doesn’t even feel like a guilty pleasure anymore. Even though I hate on him, Bill Maher is one of the last frank and honest people on American television. The pretty funny Bored To Death is your weaker comedy show, because 1) you have the genius that is Larry David’s ever evolving Curb Your Enthusiasm, and 2) Eastbound & Down is just so amazingly fucked in the head I’m not sure what to classify it as. I know people that swear by Big Love, and you’ve got another David Simon masterpiece on deck, Treme. For once, it’s been proven that it can be a good thing to have the market cornered on old white guys, albeit geniuses who make you piss yourself in laughter or want to get piss drunk from thinking on how shitty the country can get. And I’m not even going to discuss the stuff that works for you that I just don’t think deserves it (Entourage, Hung, In Treatment, and Real Sports). But then again, you can’t be too great: you gave Joe Buck his own show. Also, you do reality tv right: by making documentaries.

Why did I just make a laundry list of reasons to fellate HBO execs for free on the side of the road? To remind them that they know how to do things differently, and to say, HEY, STOP MAKING THOSE WHO CAN’T STAND THE CABLE TV SERVICES HAVE TO PIRATE YOUR G.D. CONTENT!

*I can’t find the new Bill Maher comedy special from this past weekend at any online stomping grounds, so they’re getting better.

On my way back.

December 8, 2009 § 1 Comment

 

A proper warning. I’m working on an insanely long blog post about the iPhone that I’m either releasing in one bomb drop (no drones, no Flex) or a series of manageable posts. (Which would you prefer? I’ve barely gotten past the intro and I’m at around 600 words, drop a line in the comments with votes on this) It’s not a “new” topic, by any stretch of the imagination, but I think I’ve had it for long enough to put a well informed review up.
Warnings on two counts: 1) Insanely Nerdly, 2) Do not expect class warfare talk about how it’s for the rich or the insidious nature of AT&Ts political donations, those mass mailers for Credo do that more than enough for my taste.
Also: I might turn off the comments feature if I don’t get much of a reply. It’s not too heartening to have an empty comments section. So, comment!