Friday, June 30, 2006

Million Music Geek March

89.7 KMSU FM will be participating in two parades next week. Volunteers/listeners/fans/groupies are welcome to march with the station's float. If you plan to march, Karen and Gully ask that you please wear your KMSU or MSU wardrobe.

On Tuesday, KMSU will have a float in the St. Peter 4th of July Parade. The float is unit 72 and will meet on the corner of Washington and Flandreau at 9:30 am.

On Saturday, July 8th KMSU will have a float in the North Mankato Fun Days Parade. The float is unit 84 and will meet on the corner on Webster Avenue at 10:30 am.

I will be in the St. Peter parade for sure, but I am not sure if I will be in the North Mankato parade.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

June 29th Birthdays and Events

Here are some other people celebrating their birthday on June 29th:

Antione de Saint-Exupery (French children's book writer)
John Toland (Pulitzer Prize Winner)
Breece Dexter Pancake (Pulitzer Prize nominee)

Actors and Actresses
Jill-Michele Melean (actress, "Reno 9-1-1")
Judith Hoag (actress, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Zoe R. Cassavetes (actress and daughter of John Cassavetes)
Eva Truffaut (actress and daughter of Francios Truffaut)
Michael Carter (actor, Return of the Jedi)
Slim Pickens (actor, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)
Katherine DeMille (actress, daughter of Cecil B. DeMille)
James Patterson (actor, Silent Nightly, Bloody Night)
Maria Conchita Alonso (actress, Predator 2)
Gary Busey (actor, The Buddy Holly Story)

Other Film Related Birthdays
Seamus McGarvey (cinematographer, The Hours)
Ray Harryhausen (special effects legend, Clash of the Titans)
Edward T. Lowe Jr. (screenwriter, House of Dracula)
Bernard Herrmann (composer, Psycho & Citizen Kane)
Leih Lo (martial arts star and director, Clan of the White Lotus)
Heather Plott (makeup artist, The Cell)
Amanda Paller (special effects technician, Freddy Vs. Jason)

Porn Actress Birthdays
Alexis Malone
Nathalie Wood
Misty Knights

Musician Birthdays
Nicole Scherzinger (member of The Pussycat Dolls)
Don Dokken (member of Dokken)
Katherine Jenkins (opera singer)
Lowell George (song writer)

Other Birthdays:
William Mayo (founder of the Mayo Clinic)
Kwame Ture aka Stokely Carmichael (civil rights activist and Black Panther member)
Ruth Ann Wardinski (mother, elementary school teacher)

Marriages on June 29th:
Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck
Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe
Woody Harrelson and Nancy Simon

Deaths on June 29th:
Katherine Hepburn (actress, The African Queen)
Rosemary Clooney (actress, White Christmas)
Saint Peter (apostle and first Bishop of Rome)
Jayne Mansfield (actress, Promises! Promises!)
Irving Wallace (author and screenwriter)
Bob Crane (actor, "Hogan's Heroes")

Historical Events on June 29th:
1613 - The Globe Theatre in London, England burns to the ground.
1863 - George Custer is appointed as a U.S. Union brigadier-general
1950 - In soccer, United States defeats England 1-0 in the Football World Cup.
1956 - The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 is signed, officially creating the United States Interstate Highway System.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Superman Article in Mankato Free Press

Today's issue of the Mankato Free Press has an article about Superman Returns, exploring whether the Man of Steel is still relevent to contemporary audeinces. I was asked my opinion about the matter:

But like “X-Men,” “Batman Begins” and “Spider-Man,” “Superman Returns” will have an audience, said Nathan Wardinski, film writer for Static magazine and host of KMSU Radio’s “Maverick at the Movies.”

“Comic book heroes seem to be as popular as ever,” Wardinski said. “Last summer had two big comic book adaptations, ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘Fantastic 4.’”

And even though it’s been 20 years since the last “Superman” movie, the political climate is right for the movie release, Wardinski said. Richard Donner’s “Superman: The Movie” was released in 1978, in the wake of Vietnam and the Watergate scandal.

“Like the original ‘Star Wars,’ the ‘Superman’ of 1978 was an antidote for the cynicism of the time and people welcomed the film as a relief from their anxieties about the state of the world,” he said. “Between the war in Iraq, high oil prices, and the numerous White House scandals we are reading about today, there certainly is a parallel political climate. I think today’s audience will also be receptive to a message of hope.”

Read the full article here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Sex Matrix Has You

Here is an interesting editorial about the growing power of conservative organizations or "think tanks" (or "the American Taliban" as Erica Barnett calls them) and their influence on public policy and sexuality. An excerpt:

Consider: In the last year, Ohio lawmakers held hearings on a bill that would ban abortion in all cases, including to save the life of the mother. The federal Centers for Disease Control adopted new guidelines that advise all women capable of conceiving a baby to regard themselves as "pre-pregnant." (From now on, according to the federal government, I'm living for two: myself, and my pre-baby.) At least 31 states have sex-ed policies that emphasize abstinence for (pre-married) straights. Thirty-six states have full or partial bans on abortion. Twenty-four states make women wait at least a day after "abortion counseling" (counseling is required by 32 states and includes, in some cases, information about the purported "link" between abortion and breast cancer, and, occasionally, an offer of anesthesia—for the fetus). Forty-three states allow health-care institutions to refuse to provide abortions. Forty-seven states and Washington, D.C., allow health-care providers to deny women reproductive services or information of some kind.

All this, combined with the issues of gay marriage and the war on sex toys, makes for a frightening trend. Exerting control over the sex lives of a population has not merely to do with propriety or even institutionalization of religious beliefs into law (although these actions and attempts certainly qualify). Rather, what is really at the heart of this matter is control.

If a person or a group of people's sexual activity and sexual appetites can be controlled or shaped, then the rest of that person can be controlled. The Catholic Church has attempted to do this with their clergy, making them take oaths of celibacy starting in the Middle Ages. Although the Church will argue that celibacy has theological implications (according to myth, Jesus was the product of a virgin birth and he was never married), the demand for celibacy is rooted in control and allegiance. If these conservative organizations are serious about creating a celibate America, they should observe the Catholic attempt at celibacy and note how well that turned out.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Your Plagiarism is Showing

Yesterday Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) held a press conference and announced that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq. Fox News immediately began gushing about the announcement:

Reading from a declassified portion of a report by the National Ground Intelligence Center, a Defense Department intelligence unit, Santorum said: "Since 2003, coalition forces have recovered approximately 500 weapons munitions which contain degraded mustard or sarin nerve agent. Despite many efforts to locate and destroy Iraq's pre-Gulf War chemical munitions, filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist."

Unfortunately for Santorum and Hoekstra, the weapons that had been "found" were actually remnants of pre-1991 munitions whose existence had been acknowledged by the White House long ago and they pose little or no danger as weapons of mass destruction. For those who are not aware, chemical weapons have a shelf life of about five years.

This is a classic example of manipulating intelligence to make it look threatening. Essentially, this press conference was a weak imitation of the misleading testimony that Colin Powell gave to the United Nations in 2003. Santorum and Hoekstra are even referencing the same equipment that has since been dismissed by everyone in the intelligence field, even the White House. This whole thing is a bit like a student who copies someone else's homework . . . and gets all of the same answers wrong.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Happy Solstice!

Today is the Summer Solstice, traditionally a day of celebration.

Middle Panel of "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Bosch.

Many weddings occur around the solstice. Although today this has largely to do with weather condidtions and scheduling, in the past this was considered a time of year to celebrate the joys of the earth and the flesh.

A happy and indulgent Solstice to everyone!

Monday, June 12, 2006

June Static Article - Uncensored

The June issue of Static magazine is now available throughout Southern Minnesota. The magazine contains an article authored by me titled "And the Most Disturbing Film of All Time Is . . ." about Pier Pasolini's film Salo: 120 Days of Sodom. What Static published was a slightly censored version of what I originally submitted to the magazine, so I have made the original text available here. The bolded text indicates sections that were edited or omitted. I have added graphics to spice up the text.
By Nathan Wardinski
Making definitive statements or lists of “the greatest” or “the most” is always problematic. Attempts at categorization, be it a list of favorite films by an opinionated shopper or one of the “100 Years” lists compiled by the American Film Institute, always suffer from the same Achilles heel: they are based on the body of work viewed by the categorizer and how that work conforms to that author’s tastes, aesthetics, and ideology. So, rather than saying Pier Pasolini’s Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom is the most challenging, disturbing, and all around disgusting film ever made, let’s say instead that Salo is among the most challenging, disturbing, and all around disgusting films ever made.
Salo is an adaptation of Marquis de Sade’s book The 120 Days of Sodom. In Pasolini’s version, the story has been updated to Nazi controlled Italy, where four fascist libertines bring nine teenage boys and girls to a secluded palace and torture them physically and psychologically. The film features such images as a woman raped on broken glass, naked teenagers led around on leashes, the consumption of human shit, and a man’s nipples burned off with a branding iron. At this description, Salo probably sounds like a vile, inhuman, and unwatchable piece of film. For most, this is probably true. The trouble is that Salo may also be a brilliant piece of work, one that violates social and artistic principles and uses its aesthetic transgressions to question the function of art.
Salo is a film that violates the viewer on a number of levels. On a primary level it is viscerally challenging, indulging many taboos, including fecophilia and incest. But in the equation of brutal scenes divided by total running time, Salo’s gross violence falls below films such as I Spit on Your Grave, Irreversible, or Maniac. The pictures that carry the label “most disturbing film ever” tend to wallow in their violence, letting the viewer witness every drop of blood and hear very scream of anguish from the victims. Yet, Salo is slightly different—and perhaps more disturbing than others—because it mingles physical and psychological suffering. In one of the film’s most nauseating sequences, a young girl crying in mourning for her dead mother is stripped naked and, still crying, is forced to eat a freshly produced piece of feces off of the floor. While the act of consuming shit is disgusting enough, Pasolini’s film stacks our emotions by violating her physically and psychologically.
Despite its difficult content, Pasolini’s depictions of sexual perversion are never pornographic. In contrast to The Passion of the Christ, most of the scenes of torture occur in wide shots. The film does not cut in and show the details, but lets the setting oppress the subject through framing, while the audience imagines the details of the act.
In addition to the visceral taboos of the film, Salo is challenging on thematic and aesthetic levels. The film repeats the same set of scenarios in the three parts of the film, labeled as “The Circle of Obsessions,” “The Circle of Shit,” and “The Circle of Blood.” In doing so it rejects an archplot structure, and denies its audience the comforts that traditional narrative usually provides. There is little rising action other than the increasing control and brutality visited upon the captives. The resolution does not outwardly condemn the evil of the fascists or purge the audience of it the way that a typical horror film would, but rather takes the fascists increasing control of their victims to its logical and nihilistic conclusion.
Lastly, Salo is challenging thematically. The film could be interpreted as a metatexual piece of gothic horror. In the film, bourgeoisie prostitutes tell stories of sexual misadventures that stir the imaginations of the fascists and their violations of the youth are based upon the stories. The artistic and ideological implications of these stories seem largely ironic, if not a little muddled. Salo is much like the tales of these prostitutes and it suggests that stories like this are prone to inspire copycat behavior. Salo could be interpreted as a deliberate act of incitement. On the other hand, the violence is carried out by fascists looking for inspiration for behavior that they are predisposed to indulging, and the film could be interpreted as a critique of power. The ambiguity in the film makes it difficult to say which, if either, of these interpretations is correct.
In the end it is difficult to tell what to make of Salo. It could be, as some have argued, that the film buries itself in its own filth or it could be that the film is a critique of power or of the horror genre. Or it could be that Salo consciously attempts to inspire us to immoral (or perhaps amoral) action and thought. It is the ambiguity about this film and its intentions that makes it among the most disturbing films ever made but also makes it a fascinating film to watch for those who can stomach it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Minnesota Morning

Don Larsson usually gives film reviews on Minnesota Morning, hosted by Karen Wright, on 89.7 KMSU FM every Friday morning at 9:30 AM. Tomorrow I will be substituting for Don and review Thank You For Smoking and The Omen.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

6 June 2006: Apocalypse Now

There has been a degree of hoopla surrounding the numerical representation of today's date, 06/06/06. The theists who take the Bible literally would tell us the combination of numbers 6-6-6 is a sign of the Beast, the Antichrist, who will lead the forces of Darkness against the believers of the Nazarene and bring about the Apocalypse, as written in the Book of Revelation.

Serious Biblical scholars have identified the number 666 and the Antichrist as a coded reference to the Emperor Nero, a Roman leader who intensified the persecution of the Christians. Nevertheless, the faithful have continuously applied the book to their contemporary time period. The book has been a source of fear and entertainment, since nothing is quite as exciting as believing that you are witness to the end of the world.

The Book of Revelation is a frightening book for those who take the Bible literally. After the Rapture, in which all the true believers in God are swept up into the Heavens, the rest of the world's population is subject to plagues, famines, and natural catastrophes leading to a final battle between those who have sided with Christ and the forces of the Antichrist, which means everyone else.

Exactly who is a true follower of Christ and who is charlatans is unclear. This small detail has been the source of debate from civilized discussion to major violent conflicts.

The Book of Revelation is a source for evangelists, street preachers, Jehovah's Witnesses, insane homeless people, and others to point to with urgency and proclaim that the end is near and that without accepting Jesus and eating a piece of stale bread, your soul is doomed to eternal suffering.

At this point it may seem as though I am saying that theists should become educated about the history of their religion and their fear of the apocalypse will subside. While that may be true, I say instead that the theists should fear the apocalypse, not for the fairy tales of boogeymen with serial numbers or the pestilence that their supposedly loving god will fling down on the earth, but for the true nature of the word apocalypse: revelation and consciousness.

The Apocalypse of the theist’s Bible is a time of war. And no wonder. These people need conflict. They welcome it. For all we are told of the of the Nazarene messiah’s promises of love and peace, his followers have done nothing for the past 2000 years but make war upon those who dissent from their creed.

From the riots in the streets of pre-Christian Rome, to the Crusades of the eleventh century, to the Inquisition of medieval times, to the Salem Witch Trials of the seventeenth century, to the rise of jihadists and the sexual abuse scandal of our own period, the theists have shown time and again that their only understanding of discourse is war and bloodshed and they will imprison, lie, and murder anyone who stands in the way of their idols and the priest who speak for them.

We too must now enter a state of war. Like most wars, it is fought in the present, for the offenses of the past, with the hope of securing the future. This war is not a matter of bloodshed. It is a war of ideas, an intellectual crusade to liberate the minds of man from the oppression of superstition.

In the time of the Enlightenment, scientists and social progressives made major advances in western civilization and many of these advances were in direct conflict with the church. In our present timethe descendentststs of those brave scientists are finding themselves in conflict again with religious conservatives. The past decade has seen major conflicts arise between Christianity and Islam, and progressive sociaanti-intellectualal pursuits have been met by the threat of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, the rise of fundamentalist Christianity, an intelligent design debate, public posting of religious icons, and federally mandated abstinence education.

Western civilization is now at a crossroads. It may continue forward in the Promethean spirit or it madecendentsnd into the downward spiral of theism. It is up to those of us who have the means and the intellect to lead the way. Nietzsche foresaw this in his book On the Genealogy of Morals:

"Someday, in a stronger age than this decaying, self-doubting present, he must yet come to us, the redeeming man, of great love and contempt, the creative spirit whose compelling strength will not let him rest in any aloofness or any beyond, whose isolation is misunderstood by the people as if it were flight from reality -- while it is only his absorption, immersion, penetration into reality, so that, when he one day emerges again into the light, he may bring home the redemption of this reality; its redemption from the curse that the hitherto reigning ideal has laid upon it. The man of the future, who will redeem us not only from the hitherto reigning ideal but also from that which was bound to grow out of it, the great nausea, the will to nothingness, nihilism; this bell-stroke of noon and of the great decision that liberates the will again and restores its goal to the earth and his hope for man; this Antichrist and Antinihilist; this victor over God and nothingness -- he must come one day."

Now, at the dawn of the Age of Satan, it is incumbent upon the true ubermensch, the men and women of consciousness and power, to bring about an apocalypse. The creative arts have always been the most diabolical. Dionysus, one of the direct predecessors of Christianity's Satan, was the Greek god of art and debauchery. Given this, I will begin producing creative work imbued with this Dionysian spirit, work that is designed to inspire and incite a cultural war of ideas that will bring us to a true apocalypse.

The time has come for a war of ideas, a total war of ideas beyond anything the world has ever seen, in which we shall metaphorically smash the symbols of false wisdom, annihilate the enemies of mankind, and burn the doctrines of impotence until they are nothing but a memory of the past.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

The very successful Left Behind series, a franchise of novels in which of the prophesies of the Book of Revelation take place in contemporary society, are now being turned into a video game.

Okay, so we've got Christian paramilitary forces loose on the streets of New York, fighting to turn the United States into a theocracy, and shouting "Praise the Lord!" as they blow away those who refuse to convert. In the virtual world of Left Behind only the conservative Evangelical Christians were "raptured" - spirited into heaven for the big Super Bowl party and skybox seats to the ultimate battle between absolute theocracy and the absolutely AntiChrist. So who's "left behind" to blow away? Catholics, mainstream moderate Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, suspiciously well-groomed men, lesbians, and conservative Evangelicals who are closet gays. (As Congressman Barney Franks (D-Massively Funny) has said, "Throw the gays out of church? Who do you think has been playing the damn organ all these years?") Blowing away these good folk ("Praise the Lord!") - is that supposed to be the "Christian stuff" or the "cool stuff"?

How about this nifty game feature: the bodies of slain New Yorkers don't disappear after a battle, and no one gives them a decent burial. Instead, the festering corpses just keep piling up: left behind. Is that "Christian" or "cool"? Or how about this: The game portrays the United Nations - hello again, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, and Jews - as the headquarters of the demonic forces of the AntiChrist, who is spawned by DNA from two gay lovers (hello, Greenwich Village!). So nice to see you all, my errant, resisting brothers and sisters. BLAM! BLAM! "Praise the Lord!"

What is even more interesting is that the marketing strategy, as it was for The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is primarily targeting megachurches. To kick off sales, Left Behind Games plans to distribute one million copies of the game through churches.

The marketing of products like the Left Behind books follow Greg Stielstra's "PryroMarketing" model, as described in the article:

(1) Gather the driest tinder - people most willing to buy your product (for example, mega-church members);
(2) Touch it with a match - give people a free preview of your product (for example, Left Behind Games is distributing "presale" DVDs through pastoral networks);
(3) Fan the flames - for example, Mr. Warren sold the first 400,000 copies of The Purpose-Driven Life for $7 each to ministers and churchgoers. They formed study groups, which drove up sales of the hardbacks at some $20 a pop.
(4) Save the coals - keep a database of your customers, so you don't have to start again from scratch. For example, Left Behind Games told the Los Angeles Times that it plans to distribute 1 million copies of its violent video game through churches nationwide.

The game should be out in time for Christmas of 2006.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Welcome to the Jungle

The US has announced that it is starting "values" training for its soldiers in Iraq in wake of the Haditha massacre last November.

A top commander in Iraq has ordered that troops be given extra training in "core warrior values" because of allegations that American marines killed 24 Iraqi civilians in an unprovoked attack last November.

Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the top operational commander for the American-led forces in Iraq, has directed subordinate commanders to put the training in effect over the next 30 days. It will emphasize the importance of adhering to "legal, moral and ethical standards on the battlefield," the Defense Department said today.

I have mixed feelings about this development. I do believe that it is important to follow the Geneva Conventions, if for no other reason than that by following these treaties we can expect that our own POWs will be treated in a humane fashion. If we intend to win in Iraq and in the region, we will need to win the hearts and minds of the citizens. Shooting unarmed civilians is not going to aid this process.

The call for values training is suspiciously close to the the "sensitive war" remark that Republicans such as Dick Cheney blasted John Kerry for back in 2004. I never liked Kerry's idea and found myself in the horrible position of agreeing with the Vice-President. War is not about morality. It is about winning. Preoccupation with morality will not lead to victory. It will only make victory more difficult to achieve.

Another problem is that the cover up of the Haditha massacre--and it was a masssacre--goes beyond the low level soldiers on the ground, extending into the senior officers involved, the ones who who are supposed to instill the values in the troops. This is a systemic problem, like the Abu Ghraib scandel.

This call for values training is a classic band aid solution and an ill advised one at that. It will not change anything for the better and will just make the war harder to win.