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SENE on Screen: The beloved film festival returns for its 13th year

For more than a decade, the annual SENE (rhymes with scene) Film Festival has celebrated film, art and music, and this year’s festival, which takes place October 13 – 16, will screen 130 films from around the world.

SENE was created by producing director Don Farias and artistic director Phil Capobres, who work to create a welcoming atmosphere for festival entrants and attendees. And their efforts paid off — for four years in a row, SENE was named one of the Top 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee by MovieMaker Magazine, one of the most respected voices in the film industry, and was rated one of the best reviewed festivals by FilmFreeway.

The festival made its COVID comeback over the summer. “We were thrilled that we were able to host fun events for visiting filmmakers in June,” said Farias. “It’s the first time in over a year that the world felt almost normal. I was impressed with the attendance, especially since I was not sure if people were actually ready to leave their homes. It was nice to see the filmmakers meeting new friends at our networking events. Everyone was ready to collaborate and begin creating films again. We expect October to be bigger with more filmmakers attending.”

SENE has been a powerful force in building community within the local film world, and while the festival receives films from all around the world, it makes a point to highlight all things local.

The festival will kick off on Wednesday, October 13, with a special screening of local filmmaker Christian De Rezendes’ SLATERSVILLE, a much-anticipated episodic documentary on the 200-year history of the first industrialized mill village in the U.S., located in the heart of the Blackstone Valley. The screening will take place at the Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket.

If you need more local film, a block of New England-made shorts and music videos will play on Thursday, October 14, and many of the filmmakers will be in attendance. “I enjoy meeting the filmmakers and hearing their stories,” said Farias. “Everyone learns something new when the filmmakers share their experiences during the casual, fun Q&A sessions after each program.”

The festival will primarily take place at the Artists’ Exchange in Cranston, with screenings going on simultaneously in both the Black Box theatre (50 Rolfe square) and Theatre 82 (82 Rolfe Square). Detailed film and schedule details are available at senefest.com.




Made To Be Broken

Marijuana prohibition isn’t the most ridiculous law on the books in Rhode Island, and these questions will test your knowledge of the laws that are. Knowing the right answer just might keep you out of jail!

Next time you ride the trolley, whatever you do, do not throw this liquid (do we even have fucking trolleys?).

ANSWER: Pickle juice. It is illegal to throw pickle juice when riding on a trolley. That’s oddly specific, isn’t it? One must wonder if there was a phenomenon of people assaulting each other with pickle juice in old time Rhode Island.

If a man slaps you in the face with a glove, turn the other cheek to avoid breaking the law, because this practice is illegal in good ol’ RI.

ANSWER: Dueling.

You can marry your cousin, you can marry your friend, you can marry that guy everybody thinks is wrong for you, just don’t marry one of these.

ANSWER: An idiot. Rhode Island law makes it illegal to marry a lunatic or an idiot.

When passing a car on the left, don’t forget to do this or you might break the law.

ANSWER: When passing on the left, you are required by law to make a loud noise. A horn will do. So will fart sounds, profanity or yelling Marco Polo, as long as you yell it loud.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew might be another way of stating this bizarro Rhode Island law. What are you not supposed to bite off?

ANSWER: Rhode Island law states you must not bite off someone’s limb. We’re talking to you, Jeffrey Dahmer. Don’t come to Rhode Island. We don’t cotton to your kind here.




Bright Days Ahead

Your Future Is Bright, a children’s book written by local author Corey Finkle and gorgeously illustrated by Shelley Couvillion, is an inspiring piece of work that follows children discovering a world of possibilities as they explore who they want to be when they grow up.

Finkle recalled that as a child, he sometimes found the idea of the future frightening and wrote this book to help assuage the fears of kids who look to adulthood with trepidation. “The idea was to make a book that could sit on the shelf next to Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, but be more reflective of our time,” he said.

Couvillion’s illustrations provide further comfort to kids by depicting the powerful relationship they have with their caregivers as they navigate growing up. “She’s perfect for this book,” Finkle said. “She somehow was able to capture the true love, affection and joy that exists between grown-ups and kids.”

Your Future is Bright will be available on April 13, and signed copies will be available at Books on the Square in Providence (booksq.com).




Between the Covers

My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix: When Abby’s best friend is possessed by a demon, she seeks to free her friend with the help of an evangelical Christian exorcist/ bodybuilder. Described as Beaches meets The Exorcist, this is as much a tribute to female friendship as it is a horrifying tale of demonic possession, and it’s funny and scary as hell. 

Pontypool Changes Everything, by Tony Burgess: Sure, we’re all sick of viruses, but this virus is a little different. It’s an aural virus, spread through conversation that takes hold and turns the listener into a rage-filled zombie. If you are sick of the same old, this is a new kind of horror.

Under the Skin, by Michel Faber: Absolutely, positively, the best book you will ever read about a cat-humanoid who wears a human skin suit with huge fake tits and seduces Scottish hitchhikers in order to use their bodies for horrific reasons. Under the Skin is a weird, hallucinatory novel told from the perspective of an alien who doesn’t like her job.

The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum: Not for the squeamish. Horror legend Jack Ketchum is a sick fuck, and this book is one of his sickest. This book is based on the real-life murder of Sylvia Likens. Sylvia’s parents ask their neighbor, Gertrude Baniszewsk, to take care of Sylvia for the summer. Gertrude took care of her alright; she kept her in her basement and tortured her, and brought in the neighborhood kids to help.

What makes this book so stay-with-you-forever unsettling is Ketchum’s understanding of evil. He seems truly angry for the girl, and writes to give her some much needed vengeance.  

Zombie, by Joyce Carol Oates: Told from the perspective of a Jeffrey Dahmer style serial murder, literary icon Joyce Carol Oates’ rare foray into horror is an experience unlike any other. Written in a bizarre, broken style of the killer’s voice, Zombie gets us inside the brain of a person you otherwise wouldn’t want to get within a thousand feet of.

if you like Oates’ horror writing, check out her impossibly unsettling story I Know Where You’re Going, I Know Where You’ve Been. If you have daughter, you won’t be able to leave her home alone after reading this.

Bonus:

Paperbacks from Hell, by Grady Hendrix: This isn’t a horror novel; it’s a collection of the most eye-catching, bizarro horror book covers from the era when paperbacks ruled. There are Nazi leprechauns, repressed memories, incestuous families and all other sorts of horrors that made the ’70s and ’80s an amazing time to be a horror reader.




Here’s What You’re Missing!: Local podcast explores cultural blindspots

Nothing missing with Tony (left) and Matt (right) behind the mic

I sat down with Tony Pacitti and Matt Ferrara at the What Cheer Writer’s Club podcasting studio, right before they were about to record their latest episode of “What Did We Miss?,” A pop-culture podcast that’s smart and well-researched, and takes a much-needed optimistic approach to art and culture in a time where people will haze each other over the accuracy of superhero costumes.

Mark Fogarty (Motif): For the uninitiated, what is the podcast about?

Tony Pacitti

Tony Pacitti: The idea of “What Did We Miss?” is for us to have an excuse to visit pop culture, whether it is books, TV, movies, music, comics, video games — things that we are familiar with but have not engaged with ourselves. Or something that we have pre-conceived notions about. To go through our pop-culture blindspots and check them off one at a time.

Matt Ferrara: It’s also a way for us to hold ourselves accountable for what we’re consuming.

It’s easy to say these are the things I like, and stay in that tunnel vision. But for the podcast, it’s a way for us to branch out and force ourselves to say, “This is something I’ve thought about but have put off because I’m lazy.” It puts your feet to the fire to say, “No, I’m gonna read this book, I’m gonna watch this movie that maybe we wouldn’t have given a chance otherwise.”

Fogarty: What are your big cultural blindspots?

Pacitti: Music in general is a big blindspot. I’m guilty of settling into my comfort zone and sticking with a band or genre. On one of our latest episodes, we went through the best music of the 2010s. Matt compiled a best-of list, and the consensus was these are the best five albums of the decade and I hadn’t heard any of them. We’re talking Beyonce’s Lemonade, Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar — names I know, but I have no frame of reference for the music.

Ferrara: The assumption when you hear the premise of the podcast is that we’re going to cover big things like The Godfather or Gone With The Wind, but we’ve also used it to do things that have a cult following, like Penelope Spheeris or Bitch Planet, which is a comic we just did an episode on.

Pacitti: Also some big stuff, you had never played Doom. 

Ferrara: We did Purple Rain.

Pacitti: We had the hosts of the podcast “You can do it, do it” on and did an episode on The Beatles. They had never really gotten into The Beatles. And so after the episode, they said, “Yeah, The Beatles are really good.” Of course they are.

Ferrara: We like pushing what the show can be.

Fogarty: Was there a particular episode where you introduced yourself to something you really fell in love with?

Matt Ferrara

Ferrara: I really fell in love with “The Venture Bros.” Where has this show been my whole life? It’s at this cross-section of everything I love. From Hanna-Barbera to Fantastic Four to dopey ’70s Marvel villains. This is my show.

Pacitti: I had never seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre before we did our Halloween run of episodes. I was surprised at how much was left to the imagination, which makes it scarier. That led me to the sequel, which is just insane. 

Ferrara: We like doing episodes where one of us is familiar with it but the other isn’t and gets to introduce something they love to the other. I love Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Even editing the episode I thought, man this guy needs to calm down. Take it down a couple notches.

Fogarty: Was there any work of art that you earnestly tried to enjoy, but just couldn’t get into?

Ferrara & Pacitti in unison: Cats. 

Ferrara: We didn’t watch the movie, we watched a direct to DVD filming of the stage production from 1998. It’s tough to watch. 

Pacitti: It’s not designed to be a movie, so you are losing the impact of seeing all this amazing choreography. That athleticism is missing when there are these quick cuts to weird close-ups of background people making dumb cat faces. 

Ferrara: It’s clear that these people are great dancers.

Pacitti: I can recognize a good performance, but for the most part it is gibberish nonsense.

Ferrara: I watched it once, then I watched it a second time to take notes, and I thought, “Why am I doing this to myself?”

Pacitti: None of our questions were answered, we left it only with more questions.

Fogarty: Have you come to any revelations doing a specific episode of the podcast?

Pacitti: We did an episode on Phish. And that was a case of us having an opinion prior to having engaged with it ourselves. Which is, in general, a shitty way to operate.

I realized there’s a lot of good stuff here, and while it might not be for me, I got a peek into why people are so fanatical about that band and that music.

I don’t think either one of us walked away a convert, but we walked away with an appreciation for something neither one of us thought we would appreciate.

Ferrara: That speaks to what, hopefully, we would like people to take away from the podcast — this is someone’s experience, so it is not always good to come at people’s pop culture opinions with a hot take or an intensity.

Pacitti: We’re in a moment, and we have been for a while now, where a lot of fan communities are particularly loud and obnoxious and there’s a seeming disconnect from the fact that this is all subjective. Your opinion is not a fact. It’s hard to have a reasoned discussion with someone who doesn’t agree with you, And we’re talking about things that at the end of the day are small potatoes, we’re not talking about politics…

Ferrara: It’s carrying over into politics.

Pacitti: Yeah, but we’re talking about cartoons and shit. I’d like to think we’re open-minded with something like Phish. We’re trying to correct some of our close-mindedness.

My opinion on Phish was based solely on the people who liked it, maybe people I knew when I was younger. So, I’m basing my opinion on a band that has existed for decades off of people I knew for a very short period who I may not have liked. That’s dumb.

Ferrara: It’s harder to speak passionately about something you love and not sound super earnest or dorky. It’s easier to attack something. It’s easier to be critical, so that’s the defacto.

New episodes are released every other Wednesday. You can find “What Did We Miss?” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Google Play. Or follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at WhatDidWeMiss? Upcoming episode feature: The video game Doom, HBO’s “Succession” and the comic Bitch Planet.




The Left Versus the Left: Progressive media is filling the void

It is commonly understood that there is a bias in the television news media with Fox News on the right and MSNBC and their ilk on the left, but the real conflict is between the corporate left broadcast media and the independent progressive left media — a conversation many might not be aware is happening. What divides the two camps is simple: It comes down to where you get your news.

Claiming that MSNBC and CNN, among others, represent the ideas of the left shows a misunderstanding that most people under 30 get their news online. More than 39 million people have cut the cord and no longer have access to cable. 

While left-leaning corporate broadcast media has been consumed with Russian conspiracies (albeit appropriate, given our corrupt commander-in-chief), a new independent left has emerged. Provided by podcasts, left-wing magazines and YouTube channels, this new left is less likely to be controlled by corporate interests and presents a world-view different from their corporate counterparts.

If you get your news from MSNBC you might think that the Russiagate case was a slam dunk, Bernie Sanders has no shot of winning, the Ukraine investigation is the most important story of our time and Nancy Pelosi is the first line of defense against Donald Trump. 

Get your news online and you’d see the holes on the Russiagate story, learn that Bernie Sanders has been consistently second in the polls and has the best chance of beating Trump in the 2020 election. And you’d see that while the so-called #resistance pretends to fight Trump, the democratic leadership gave him $750 billion for his already bloated military budget, allowed a ban on trans soldiers to go through, gave him money for his wall and to create a Space Force and voted for the Patriot Act to be renewed.

The emergence of the independent left exposes the limits of the corporate media. It isn’t that the corporate media reports a different take than the left; the corporate media simply refuses to report anything that does not support the agenda of their corporate overlords.

One of the most glaring omissions by the mainstream media was the protest at Standing Rock. The protest arose in 2016 when Dakota Access LLC attempted to build a 1,172-mile oil pipeline adjacent to the Standing Rock Reservation. Worries that the proximity of the oil to the reservation’s water supply would cause environmental catastrophe created one of the longest protests in American history. While independent media began coverage right away, the mainstream media was months late to the story. 

Four years later, the media that came late to the party on Standing Rock continues to deny reality and refuses to cover one of the only presidential candidates courageous enough to join the protest at Standing Rock: Bernie Sanders (the only other to join the protest was Tulsi Gabbard).

They leave outsider candidates like Bernie, Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang out of graphics and keep their names out of headlines, while pushing the candidates (like Amy Klobuchar) who fit their agenda, no matter their floundering in the polls. CNN once reported the headline “Buttigieg a strong fourth,” Leaving out what one might argue is the little detail that Bernie Sanders had emerged in second place. Whether the Bernie blackout is conspiracy to favor candidates who won’t come for the corporate media’s bottom line or unconscious bias is up for debate, but its existence is undeniable.

Is MSNBC aware of the bias toward support of the military industrial complex or part of some vast conspiracy? Readers of Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent know this is not how it works. When Chomsky was asked by journalist Andrew Marr if he believed Marr was pushing a narrative he didn’t believe in to toe the party line Chomsky replied, “I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying…  but if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you are sitting.”

The divide is growing right under the nose of those who believe they are informed. But the truth is, you can consume five newspapers a day and watch CNN, MSNBC and NBC daily and still miss a massive and essential conversation about what is happening in the world. 

Watch CNN and you will never hear about America’s complacency in the genocide in Yemen. You might not know that the Obama administration’s intervention in Libya has reduced the corrupt-yet-somewhat functioning dictatorship into a nightmare state where slaves are sold on the street.

It would be easy to dismiss the YouTubers and podcasters as sad tin foil hat types, broadcasting from their momma’s basement — and lord knows there’s plenty of that on YouTube, but this new left comes with its own set of credentials.

Take, for example, Krystal Ball, Cenk Uygar and Dylan Ratigan. All used to work for MSNBC and left or were fired when it became obvious they wouldn’t play ball. Krystal Ball was given her walking papers from MSNBC when she dared suggest Hillary Clinton was not the best candidate to beat Donald Trump. Dylan Ratigan quit out of frustration and Cenk Uyger was pushed out of his time slot for being too hard on Barack Obama. He went on to grow his network, The Young Turks, into the largest political show in YouTube history.

The progressive left plays the role of journalist no matter who is in power, leveling criticisms at left and right whenever they do wrong. This kind of journalism is desperately needed in our time. 

This new left caters to a news-hungry crowd of young voters who have never and will never own cable. They are pissed, they are politically active and they are the future of the country. Dismissing the significance of this audience and where they get their information is a mistake the Democrats make at their own risk, yet still it seems to go all but ignored by the Democratic party. 

There is a vital conversation to be had as to what it means to be left and what it means to resist, yet the participants seem to be having this conversation in two different bubbles: one paid for by the military industrial complex and one made for the people, by the people. Which one is more likely to tell the truth?

If you want to get out of your bubble, but don’t know where to begin, check out a a sampling of some of the best of progressive media at motifri.com/leftvleft.

WHERE TO CATCH PROGRESSIVE NEWS

The Young Turks 

TYT network is the first major progressive news network on Youtube. Hosted by Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, TYT offers commentary and investigative journalism, pop culture news and more. 

Follow @cenkuygur, @AnaKasparian

NOTE: Uygur is currently running for congress and mainstream media has done a ton to smear him for blogs he wrote and things he said over a decade ago. What they don’t tell you is — he founded the Justice Democrats (the organization that gave us AOC), founded the Wolfpac to get money out of politics, fostered the career of many female journalists and has the most diverse cross-section of commentators than any other network, employing trans, LBQT, black & Latinx commentators. In other words, he has done more for progressive policies than anyone in media. 

Righteous anger level = Four middle fingers to the establishment

The Jimmy Dore Show

Jimmy Dore split off from The Young Turks over a disagreement on Russiagate. To his credit, Cenk Uygur let Jimmy remain on the show until Jimmy decided to leave. The two remain friends. Now Jimmy runs his own show and performs live comedy show all around the US. Self-described as a “jagoff comedian,” Jimmy is one of the most effective debunkers of mainstream media lies.

Follow @jimmy_dore

Righteous anger level = = Five middle fingers and one for your momma. Jimmy is the angriest of them all, and possibly the most entertaining.

Rolling Stone presents: Useful Idiots with Matt Taibbi & Katie Halper.

Rolling Stone, continuing over a half a century tradition of being a voice for progressive media, recently began a podcast with Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper. Taibbi is the guy who took over Hunter S. Thompson’s old gig, chronicling fear and loathing on the campaign trail. Paired up with the hilarious Katie Halper, each week they give us the four foodgroups: Democrats suck, Republicans suck, something weird, something funny and most stoned moment of the week. 

Follow @kthalps, @mtaibbi

Chapo Trap House

Chapo Trap House is one of the most popular progressive podcasts and part of “The Dirtbag Left,” a term coined by Trap House’s female member, Amber A’Lee Frost. They are dirtbags because they refuse to moderate their anger to operate in polite society, and the result is a show that is brutally honest, filthy, hilarious and relentless in its criticism of American politics.

Follow @CHAPOTRAPHOUSE

Righteous anger level = Five middle fingers.

The Gray Zone 

The Gray Zone created by Max Blumenthal is the home of Aaron Maté, who won an award for his coverage of the Russiagate scandal. Blumenthal and Maté do a great job of forcing American’s to confront hard truths about the country’s role on the world’s stage.

Follow @MaxBlumenthal, @aaronjmate

Righteous anger level = four middle fingers

Kim Iversen

Kim Iversen has carved a niche out for herself as one of the prime defenders of Tulsi Gabbard and Gabbard’s stance on ending America’s policy of regime change wars. While the mainstream media has painted Tulsi as everything from a Russian asset to a closet Republican, Iversen shows her for what she is — one of the most principled people in congress.

Righteous anger level = two middle fingers

Ryan Grim

Ryan Grim writes for The Intercept and works for The Young Turks as an investigative journalist. Grim has been called “a left-wing populist attack dog” and he is, breaking stories that expose the DNC. Apparently, doing the job of exposing truth is “attacking” — I thought it was journalism.

Follow him @ryangrim

Glen Greenwald 

Glen Greenwald is no longer welcome on MSNBC after refuting their Russiagate narrative one too many times. Greenwald won the Pulitzer-Prize for his coverage of the secret surveillance program run by the NSA and remains one of the most unflinching critics of the American government

Follow him @ggreenwald

The Hill: Rising with Krystal and Saagar.

The Hill is producing one of the most subversive and brilliant shows on the internet. It looks like a morning show, complete with a milquetoast theme music and brightly lit set, but the hosts ,former MSNBC anchor, Krystal Ball and (sort-of) Republican Saagar Enjeti offer unflinching commentary criticizing both sides of the aisle.

Follow @krystalball, @esaagar

Empire Files with Abby Martin

Abby Martin has created a series of hard-hitting documentaries on American Imperialism. She’s as harsh a critic of US interventionism as they come, and it is hard to deny the evidence she presents — that our country is still a bad actor on the world’s stage.

Follow @AbbyMartin

The Tim Black Show

Self described as “America’s most watched black independent media on the left” the Tim Black show is funny, provocative and tackles topics the mainstream press ignores.

Follow @RealTimBlack

Sam Seder and the Majority Report

Former Air America anchor Sam Seder offers progressive commentary alongside Michael Brooks.

Follow @SamSeder, @_michaelbrooks

Secular Talk with Kyle Kulinski

Founding member of the Justice Democrats, Kyle Kulinski, is one of the most entertaining and eviscerating commentators on the left. 

Follow@KyleKulinski

This is by no means a comprehensive list, for HONORABLE MENTIONS check out: 

The David Pakman Show, The Michael Brooks show, Redacted Tonight, Vice News, The Rational National




Scary Movies for the Scary Season

We’ve rounded up a list of horror films sure to terrify you in this most terrifying of seasons.

The Loved Ones: One of the best horror villains of all time turns out to be a girl who just wants a prom date. When a cute boy turns her down, she and her father won’t take no for an answer. They kidnap the kid, torture him and stage a prom of their own. Features an unforgettable performance by Robin McLeavy as Lola Stone.

May & Roman (double feature): Lucky McKee’s May tells the story of a disturbed young woman obsessed with hands. To say anymore about this psychological slow burn horror would give it away, so I’m just gonna tell you to watch it. Angela Bettis is incredible as May.

If you like it, watch the tables turn with Roman. This time, director Lucky McKee plays the creep and Angela Bettis directs. Together the films paint a portrait of loneliness from both the male and female point of view.

Martyrs & Inside (French double feature): The French, mostly known for pretentious art-house flicks happen to make the nastiest most extreme and brilliant horror films out there. Here’s two of the best…

Martyrs tells the story of two women, tortured and kidnapped, who seek their revenge only to uncover a bizarre cult with a particular philosophy.

Inside features the brilliant Béatrice Dalle as a disturbed woman convinced another woman is carrying her baby in her belly. Beatrice proceeds to try to cut it out of her, and what follows is an hour and half of horror that is not for the squeamish.

Love Object: Have you ever seen one of those super-realistic sex dolls and been utterly creeped out? Love Object is the movie for you. When Desmond Harrington takes a liking to his co-worker, he orders a Real Doll that looks just like her and then begins to think it’s talking to him. This is the Uncanny Valley in full effect. Another slow-burn creepshow.

Joshua: Featuring the brilliant Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga playing parents to a sociopath 9-year-old unhappy about his newborn baby brother, Joshua is an overlooked film with a brilliant shock of an ending that is impossible to see coming.

Eden Lake: This hyper-realistic film featuring Michael Fassbender tells the story of a tragic accident in the English countryside when a vacationing couple comes across a group of delinquent teenagers who go on a murderous rampage. What makes this movie so effective is that the events of the film are plausible and escalate in a completely realistic fashion. Warning: This one will make give you a phobia of white trash teenagers with English accents.

The Battery: This zombie apocalypse horror comedy was made with a low budget by Connecticut filmmakers. It follows two men stuck together in the zombie apaocalypse because there is no one else around. What if the only person left was someone you hated? Funny and brutal with a beautiful, intimate feel, The Battery breathes new life into the tired zombie genre.

The Signal: The Signal works like Pulp Fiction or Go, three intertwined stories that converge in the end. Each part has a different director and different genre — one is a love story, one is a black comedy and one is zombie apocalypse  — and it all make sense, because the signal makes anyone who sees it insane in a different way, giving each part a different feel and point of view. It’s a weird experiment in low budget horror, and it’s fun as hell.




Call of the Dirtbag Left: Chapo Trap House are gaming on stage in PVD

The massively popular podcast Chapo Trap House often references Lovecraft in their recordings about politics. Because what better describes American politics than an ancient leviathan that lives underground, will someday wipe out all there is, and offers humanity zero hope of overcoming it? 

For those uninitiated, Chapo Trap House is the vanguard of the “dirtbag left,” a term coined by Chapo’s only female member, Amber Lee Frost. In addition to Frost, the gang includes Will Menaker, Matt Christman, Felix Biederman and Virgil Texas. They made a name for themselves tearing apart centrists, capitalism and Hollywood blockbusters alike. They boast more than 30,000 patrons despite constant criticism for being Bernie Bros (true), all white men (not true) and being generally hateful toward the Democratic establishment (extremely true).

But those who dismiss them as “irony boys” miss the dirtbag left’s ability to tap into the undercurrent of emerging progressive rage. They speak to a growing audience irritated with the feckless Democratic Party and toothless leftist commentators — there is no “We go high, they go low” in the Trap House. They specialize in low blows, and as a Grey Wolf (the ironically too-cool name they gave their subscribers), I appreciate their ability to be pissed off.

Their love of Lovecraft has led them to run a series of podcasts where they play the game Call of Cthulhu in front of a live audience. They first tackled Lovecraft in episode 74, titled “Table Top Game Theory, Episode I,” where they connect Lovecraft to the world of the alt-right by making one of their characters a phrenologist and involving the ancient ones in the pizzagate conspiracy. With the house of horrors the news has offered lately, one can only guess what scandal will inspire them. The possibilities are as endless as the city of R’lyeh.

Watch the members of Chapo Trap House play Call of Cthulhu on Aug 23 at the Columbus Theatre as part of NecronomiCon. For more information, chapotraphouse.com




Frank Underwood vs Donald Trump: Who’s More Evil?

deskNetflix’s “House of Cards” season 4 premiered today, and it got me thinking about Frank Underwood. He seems downright charming and harmless compared to the rogues gallery of Batman villains gracing the Republican debate stage, especially Donald Trump.

I began to ponder, who is more evil — Donald Trump or the fictional character Frank Underwood, brilliantly played by Kevin Spacey?

In order to treat this fairly, we have to acknowledge the sins of both fictional characters, and of course, there will be spoilers, so if you aren’t caught up with season three, stop reading now.

First, we need to list the evil deeds and compare. Trump called for a ban on Muslims, called Mexicans rapists and wishes to build a wall to keep them out of our country. So he’s a racist demagogue. Can that compare to the evil deeds of Frank Underwood?

Season three spoilers follow:

Frank Underwood murdered a congressman, threw Rooney Mara’s sister into a moving train and ordered the death of that pretty young prostitute. He lied and manipulated his way into the White House, and he did that thing-with-China-that-I-did-not-understand in season two.  Pretty damn evil. Much more evil than Trump. So obviously he wins the contest, right?

Maybe not. Let’s look a little deeper at Trump.

Trump supports Putin, a leader who is known for shutting down journalists and having his enemies murdered. When someone alerted The Donald to these facts he replied, “At least he is a leader.” Yes, Mr. Drumpf, if by leader you mean a fascist dictator who murders the opposition.

So we can agree that while Frank Underwood may actually have ordered deaths and we have no evidence that Trump has ever killed anyone, we know that he would not disapprove of Underwood’s methods and may even admire them. Underwood gets the job done. In fact he is an almost ludicrously efficient politician. Isn’t that all that matters?

Honestly, this isn’t a fair contest because as the viewing audience, we know where Frank’s bodies are buried. Who knows what the hell Donald has gotten away with? For instance, take the rumor that Trump once raped his former wife, Ivanka because he was angry at her for pushing him into scalp reduction surgery (yes, that’s why his hair looks like that). In response to Ivanka’s accusation, his lawyer claimed, “You can not rape your own wife.”

So did he do it? Ivanka recanted, but the truth is, this is more than a rumor. This was something Ivanka claimed was true in their divorce hearings. Would she just make that up? Or is it more likely that it is true and she recanted later after getting a “yuge” settlement in the divorce? Either way, we can’t prove it, so let’s throw that out. But with his attitude toward women, is it really that hard to believe?

Where the debate gets interesting is when we consider two different ideas of evil. One is the vision of evil as represented by The Devil — an evil that brilliantly manipulates human vice in order to move forth some agenda. The second relies on a a selfish moron.

Trump certainly is no evil genius. He speaks at a fourth grade level and has almost no grasp of policy. He makes no attempt to win over those with a college education and famously stated, “I love the poorly educated.” Of course you do, Donald. You are an idiot, so you need idiots to follow you. We hear pundits remark on the brilliance of Trump appealing to voter anger, but most people I know do not find him appealing in the least. In fact, he is so insultingly stupid, I find it almost impossible to listen to him without wanting to rip that dead gerbil off his head and make him swallow it until he chokes. On the other hand, Frank Underwood could easily manipulate us, just like the Clintons probably have.

We can brand Underwood’s version of evil as “power for the sake of power.” Trump’s evil is not that brand. He already has power and seeks more as the ultimate ego stroke — overcompensation for a tiny penis, despite his claims to the contrary. Most men get a sports car to fulfill their inadequacies; Trump needs the whole country.

Trump’s brand of evil falls into the selfish moron category, better described by the phrase “The Banality of Evil.” This famous phrase was used by political theorist Hannah Arendt in her book on Adolph Eichmann. Her thesis was that Eichmann was no evil genius, but an ordinary moron motivated by selfishness and an inability to think things through, rather than any ideology.

Sounds like a dead-on analysis of Trump, right?

So now the question comes down to this: Which version of evil is more frightening? Underwood’s Machiavellian plotting? Or the banality of Trump’s evil?

While Underwood is certainly frightening, he is also predictable in a way. Underwood needs to hold onto power and anything that would threaten his hold on that power must go away. If the country fell apart under his leadership, we would impeach him. He has to at least pretend to act in our interest; he is bound by his own need to stay in power.

But what about Trump? A man of below average intelligence so afraid of being insulted he once sued Bill Maher for claiming he was half orangutan. A man who spends most of his day responding to tweets. Can we trust Trump to act rationally when his actions are always a childish reaction, a defense mechanism designed to keep his own ego afloat? Would he drop a bomb on North Korea to seem not weak?

Then with the world in wreckage he’d blame the country for his failures the way we blame our exes for our failed relationships. Just like when he called Iowa voters “idiots” for preferring Ben Carson to him. It’s not me, it’s you!

Trump wins hands down. What makes him particularly terrifying is how he has somewhat normalized racism for a segment of his followers. He has actually made it okay to speak the unspeakable. The things your racist uncle used to save for Thanksgiving dinner after he had a couple of Bud Lites in him are now said aloud. And your uncle now has a support group to make him feel okay about what he thinks about the Mexicans, led by the potential leader of the free world.

This is not hyperbole — the effects of this racism are clear. Trump supporters assaulted a black protestor at one of his rallies. Other Trump supporters beat a Latino man claiming Trump as inspiration. How will this play out over four years of a Trump presidency?  A Trump presidency will be like “The Apprentice: Isis addition.” It will be the greatest recruitment video ever made.

Whatever evil Frank Underwood has in store for us this season, he is nothing compared to the real live candidate edging closer and closer to the actual presidency. Think about that when you watch season four. This is no Netflix show, people. This is your country.




A Parent’s Guide to Introducing Your Kids to Star Wars

Star Wars is the perfect bonding vehicle for parents and their kids. Pretty much everybody at least likes Star Wars (except the few weird assholes who refuse to watch it — get over yourselves you closed-minded freaks), but if you try to bond with your kid watching Star Trek, you might be sentencing them to live in your basement for the rest of your life, beating the Borg to autographed pictures of Seven of Nine.

Star Wars is an important part of growing up. How else are you supposed to explore your father issues? My own son learned quickly to defy me, just like Luke defied his father before him. Having seen Star Wars at the tender age of two, my eldest now responds to every reasonable request by dramatically shouting, “NEVER!” just like Luke did when Vader asked him to join the Dark Side. Relax, son, I just asked you to stop slathering your brother with peanut butter, not rule the galaxy.

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Introducing your child to the holy trilogy can have its own series of pitfalls, and doing it correctly can be the difference between whether your child is drawn to the Dark Side or the Light. Here are a few rules to keep you from making the same mistakes I did:

You must keep the secret that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Even more important is the reveal that Vader saves Luke in the end of Return. I grew up in the ’80s, a Cold War kid, and Star Wars defined my concepts of good and evil. Vader’s redemption blew my mind.

Avoiding Star Wars The Force Awakens SpoilersHow Star Wars fans need to navigate the Internet today… may The Force be with you.

Posted by IGN on Tuesday, December 15, 2015

My other son, who is two years younger than his brother, learned from his older brother — and way too early — that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. He now associates Vader with his own father, the cool guy who plays with him. Telling your kid too early that Vader is Luke’s father can confuse their ideas of good and evil. Kids have a hard time seeing their dad — or any dad — as evil. It will be years until the way I’m screwing up my kids is revealed and they begin to resent me.

As a result of this early introduction, my younger son identifies as Sith and will refuse any light saber other than red. He also swears like a truck driver and headbutts me every chance he gets. As in Star Wars, so in life. The Dark Side it is.

Make sure you show them in the proper order. The proper order is, of course, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, although some have argued that 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6 also works. The latter turns the prequels into basically an extended flashback that explains Vader’s motivation. Or you can arguably just skip 1 and 2 as they serve no real purpose to the story whatsoever.

If you really want to geek out, you can do 4, 5, 1, 2, the “Clone Wars” TV show, 3, 6, “Star Wars Rebels,” then buy yourself a Storm Trooper costume and resign yourself to a life alone.

Do not introduce them to Jar Jar too early. Kids love that shit. You might hate Jar Jar Binks. I hate Jar Jar Binks. Every reasonable person in the world hates Jar Jar Binks, but Jar Jar Binks is like crack to a 3-year-old. You can try to explain to your child how Jar Jar conjures up ugly racist stereotypes, how he is annoying, culturally insensitive and moronic, but forget it. Jar Jar is dumb and pink and he hurts himself a lot and probably farts. I don’t recall him farting in the movies, but he does. You know it and I know it, and that’s what kids are into. Farts. They’ll love him.

Don’t show them too late. Waiting until the kid is too old means they will be unable to appreciate the charms of the early special effects. If they see too many movies before Star Wars, they’ll get into that weird phase where they think movies aren’t good unless they look like a video game and jam a million special fx in your grill. To them, Star Wars will look like a bunch of Muppets and miniatures.

Whatever you do, don’t show them the legendarily bad Christmas special. It might be really funny for you and your ironically distanced friends to get shitfaced and rip on it, but showing your kids the iconically terrible Christmas Special is akin to telling them Santa Claus doesn’t exist. No one should have to see a wookie wearing a virtual reality helmet while a weird pink-haired lady erotically talks him off, and no one, but no one, should have to hear Carrie Fisher sing about “Life Day.” That’s just child abuse. No one should watch this disasterpiece without alcohol, and you probably shouldn’t let your kids drink either — just sayin’.