American Elephants


Movies, Violence, Hypocrisy and Real Life. by The Elephant's Child

In all the conversation about “assault weapons” most of the commentary has concerned the cosmetic appearance of guns, and the number of bullets in a magazine. Some small number of the comments have concerned violent video games but there have been no serious studies that show a connection to disturbed people committing mass shootings.

On the other hand, let’s admit that movies are violent, unnecessarily so.  Hollywood’s minor celebrities, always anxious to get their faces and names before the public rushed to make a commercial to advance the president’s efforts to ban gun violence and guns. Though he claims to appreciate the Second Amendment, Obama is on record saying that he does not believe that people should be allowed to own guns.

The Hollywood celebrity bunch made a forgettable commercial for Obama’s original campaign for the presidency, so this one was much in the same style — a little gag inducing. Conservatives re-did the commercial, inserting clips from each particular celebrity’s very own movie, celebrating the very kind of gun violence they were so pompously opposing. It’s fun to see hypocrisy exposed. Demand a plan. Heh.

The president, you will notice, said not a word about violence in movies. Hollywood people are major campaign supporters and celebrities flock to the White House. When the CDC studies the causes of gun violence, movies will probably not be included.

Commenters write about seeing World War II movies, which only demonstrates how superficial the thinking. Hollywood is in business to make money. When a movie is popular, they pay attention to what was different about the movie. It is not an accident that so many popular movies have been remade several times. (Think Superman or Robin Hood) Special effects have taken over. What was once a simple car crash, is now a major spectacle with dozens of flaming cars flung high over freeway overpasses. A real-life Volt bursting into flame isn’t really shocking any more.

There was a time when most gun violence was in cowboy movies, where the hero pointed his six-shooter in the general direction of the bad guy, sound-effects provided the necessary sounds, and the bad guy fell down dead. Gangster movies were about the 20s and bank robberies and prohibition and car chases. The gangsters were recognizable because they had tommy-guns, wore black and black hats and drove big black cars that had a back seat or trunk large enough to hold a body. But the story was about bravery and cowardice, honesty and dishonor.

Special effects have taken over, and each movie must top the last. Heads explode in pink mist, wounds rip bodies apart, limbs are amputated. Whole groups of people are torn to pieces. What make-up cannot create, technical wizards will create with their computers. The sad thing is that Hollywood has lost the art of storytelling. Movies are just not so appealing any more. More violence, more gore, more blood, more sex, more squalor, more evil, more vulgarity, more bad language.

Movies once concerned the human condition, not in its excesses, but in its ordinary foibles. People are very human and struggle to understand their own human failings. Good storytelling makes you laugh or cry as you recognize bits of yourself and your friends and realize that perhaps you’re normal after all. That’s what storytelling has always been about, from how to have courage, how to be a hero when you are frightened, how to cope with the death of a loved one, how to be a good person, how to survive.

Think of some of the great movies: High Noon, Gone With the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, To Kill a Mockingbird, It’s a Wonderful Life, E.T., The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Singing In The Rain, Lawrence of Arabia, It Happened One Night. Shakespeare told stories, Homer told stories, Aesop told stories — all about being human.

People use movies as examples in conversation and thought. They justify ideas, not by history, but with movie scenes. Movie dialogue has become an integral part of conversation and speech. I notice because it is not natural to me, and I have been surprised by its prevalence. Often notions of history come from the movies rather than from historians’ evidence from the past.  The behavior of celebrities in real life is influential and imitated. So to assume that violence in movies has no effect on violence in society is absurd. Will that connection be investigated? Not by Obama’s Executive Orders.



Tiresome Celebrities, Preaching to the Rest of Us. by The Elephant's Child

I don’t know, maybe you are so impressed with “celebrity” that you welcome advice from those who are modestly well known because they were once in a movie or got their picture in the paper. Somebody must be, because so many magazines feature “celebrities” on their covers. I am not, and find them tiresome. Their movies are increasingly uninteresting, and dominated by the same old special effects, and nobody in Hollywood seems to remember how to tell a good story.

Anyway, these tiresome pretty people, inspired by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary decided to tell the rest of us that we should dump the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Somebody else, who also found them tiresome, took the trouble to juxtapose the violent scenes from their very own movies with their preachiness.  Delicious. Love seeing hypocrites exposed.

Because we occasionally spend money to see a movie, and their agents tell them how wonderful they are, doesn’t mean that said minor celebrities have any expertise in politics that might influence the rest of us. I only recognized a couple of them.  If you care so much, stop making such violent movies.  You are a bad example. Please — just shut up.



There Are Some Controversies You Just Don’t Want To Stir Up by The Elephant's Child

Let’s review. During the debate last week, when asked what he planned to cut to help balance the budget, Gov. Romney responded by saying “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things.  I like PBS, I love Big Bird.”

But I’m not, he added, going to borrow money from China to subsidize Big Bird.

Everybody loves Big Bird, children love Sesame Street, Moms love Sesame Street, so of course the Obama campaign leaped to the defense of Big Bird. Lesson for Obama campaign: it always pays to do your homework.

In this case the facts lead to headlines like “Big Bird makes more money than Mitt Romney, but is still on the government dole.”

•The Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives about $450 million from Congress each year.
•About $280 million goes to PBS and the local stations.
•Federal funding makes up about 12 percent of the PBS budget.

The facts that a little homework might turn up, that the media never reveals:

Shows like Sesame Street are multimillion dollar enterprises capable of thriving in the private market.  According to the 990 tax form all nonprofits are required to file, Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 — nearly a million dollars — in compensation in 2008. And, from 2003 to 2006, Sesame Street made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales.

The Republican National Committee points out that in the last few days, Obama has mentioned Big Bird eight times, and Elmo five — and Libya not at all. So the always on top of everything Obama campaign quickly turned out this ad:

There is something deeply revealing about Obama’s blithe willingness to portray Wall Street as an enemy. Wall Street is key to American prosperity —even to American greatness.  Lots of important and impressive Americans have had careers on Wall Street. What Wall Street does is important. Wall Street matters, The Weekly Standard said. The Washington Examiner said “With the Big Bird ad, Obama plays the small politics he once denounced.”

At InstaPundit, a reader comments “Lost by Obama: Wall Street, Main Street and now Sesame Street.

Another reader emailed “Today’s Obama for President commercial was brought to you by the number ‘1.1 trillion‘ and the word ‘deficit‘.”

The Sesame Workshop has sent a cease and desist request to Team Obama:

Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns. We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down.

Jeff Emanuel comments: “nothing says “I’ve completely lost control of this narrative” like embracing …a seven-foot-tall yellow feathered multi-millionaire.”

ADDENDUM: Sesame Street received a grant of $1.067,532 in stimulus funds in August 2010, from the Department of Health and Human Services.  The funding was to promote healthy eating, according to the federal Recovery.gov website. “Sesame Workshop will carry out an expansion of its highly successful ‘Healthy Habits for Life’ initiative, which promotes improved nutrition and increased physical activity targeting low-income preschool-aged children and their families and care providers.”

The project created 1.47 new jobs, the website reported, which works out to $726,000 per new job created, which seems to be in line with the rest of the stimulus bill. Kathleen Sebelius has a lot to answer for, aside from violating the Hatch Act.



Two New Trailers for Series 3 of Downton Abbey. by The Elephant's Child

Tears and trouble. The British upper crust soap opera  that we all love.  Better than Dallas. The period styling is marvelous.



WATCH: Downton Abbey Season 3 Trailer by American Elephant
August 15, 2012, 4:38 pm
Filed under: News, Television | Tags: , , ,

For those of us addicted to the gripping British period soap-opera, Downton Abbey, the seasons are always too short, and the wait between is always much too long. But now we at least know how long the wait will be. The third season will broadcast in the United States starting next January. (Ugh!) This trailer comes from the UK, where it begins next month. (Hmm, perhaps a subscription to Hidemyass is in order):

Shirley MacLaine makes her Downtown Abbey debut as the Countess of Grantham Cora Crawley’s American mother—a role to rival Maggie Smith’s beloved Dowager Countess (“She’ll bring enough drama of her own”)—arriving when the Earl of Grantham learns the estate is broke. This, of course, doesn’t make for wedded bliss between the newly engaged Mary Crawley and Matthew, and the look on his face when Mary wonders, “if we could disagree over something as fundamental as this then shouldn’t we be brave and back away now?” says it all. Other points of note: Branson’s back, Bates is still in prison, and there are no signs of the two younger Crawley siblings or the servant staff. [click image to watch]



Mr. Rogers Auto-Tuned. Good Morning to You. by The Elephant's Child
June 13, 2012, 7:19 am
Filed under: Entertainment, Television, YouTube | Tags: , ,


HealthCare Mandates and Pizza Toppings by The Elephant's Child
April 6, 2012, 6:28 am
Filed under: Latin America, Movies, Politics, Television



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