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Paul Segal
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Photographer isolates the movement of a single person in his shots. I think this may be the pinnacle of the animated gif as a form.
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Paul Segal

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the entire Final Fantasy series explained, one tweet per game
You know what this world needs? Unnecessarily short plot summaries of all the Final Fantasy games. This is a public service. You're welcome. #1 [x] 6:12pm Feb 5th 2013 via web. dcawley. Donavon Cawley...
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"More people watch the NFL on television than any sport so therefore IT IS THE BEST SPORT. You have fewer Twitter followers than the person you're criticizing? YOU'RE A HATER. You don't like that album that went platinum? YOU JUST JEALOUS. BuzzFeed has put a bunch of pictures of kittens together in a way that is easily passed around by idiots? THEY HAVE FIGURED OUT THE INTERNET THEY ARE SUCH BRILLIANT PACKAGERS OF CONTENT THE FUTURE OF MEDIA. We have become a culture that, because we can quantify things in a way we've never been able to before, are acting as if those numbers are all that matter."
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this is perfect
“I'll teach you how to flow.” (The Tempest). “He speaks plain cannon fire, and smoke and bounce.” (King John). “I have within my mind / A thousand raw tricks of these bragging Jacks, / Which I will pr...
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David McGimpsey - Six Poems
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I can't wait to be the only person around me who doesn't appear to be laboring under the delusion that they are setting off on a grand adventure
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Paul Segal

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So, I saw Spring Breakers.

NOT RECOMMENDED unless you already think you might like it, in which case you will probably enjoy at least parts of the film.

Spring Breakers is full of indelible imagery, but it's choppy and disjointed and ultimately stupid (and almost certainly meant to be stupid, which is no excuse). It almost had a strong dramatic arc, but really could've used quite a bit cut out of the soft middle.

Harmony Korine, in general, knows what he's doing. He gets how movies work - on top of his admirable eye for shot composition and color, he has a strong sense of visual storytelling, and is adept at conveying suspense, mood, and his characters' internality through editing. These strengths make Spring Breakers' flaws more frustrating, as if Korine had no one to tell him when a scene was floundering or falling short of what he intended to communicate.

Korine is good at long takes and long scenes, and seems to enjoy composing them, but he often lacks the confidence to follow through - he too often falls on montage to cut up the longer scenes into punchy little chunks, and the clips he cuts in as contrast, or to attenuate the mood of the scene, are too often reused from earlier in the film. When he cuts with purpose, and not to shore up a scene that he's unwilling to let stand on its own, Korine's use of montage is one of the film's strengths. This is most notable when he frequently throws in glimpses of the aftermath of an impending mistake, while the characters fail to anticipate the consequences about to fall upon them. However, by the end of Spring Breakers I was so sick of the same shots of beach partiers, and flashbacks to the first act, that I wished the film was at least ten minutes shorter. Another disadvantage of the reuse of footage is that it sometimes feels like scenes were shot back-to-back but are presented as occurring days apart - this may or may not be the case, and Korine's playing with chronology makes it distracting when identical mise-en-scène recurs in more substantial form than one of his quick cuts to flashback.

At the beginning of Spring Breakers, I was sure I was watching a full-on satire of the entirety of "youths behaving badly" film. The opening montage of cartoonishly sexualized beach partying, set to "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites", is hilariously over-the-top, and the scenes of the protagonists' ordinary college lives are exaggerated equally, in different directions, so that I was inclined to think the whole thing was a series of facetious gestures, a big formalist film joke.

That sense was upended for when uncomfortable earnestness emerges with Selena Gomez' character, Faith (SO SYMBOLIC). Faith is nominally a Christian struggling with temptation, but she seems to lack any understanding of just what all this "sex" and "partying" stuff her friends are into actually is. Gomez plays up Faith's conflicted morality so much that I found it hard to believe she was actually experiencing the insidious temptations that led her to follow her larcenous, licentious best friends to Florida. They just show up, say "get in the car, loser, we're going Spring Breaking", and she agrees.

It doesn't help that Korine saddles Gomez with the film's most tiresome aspect - a series of monologues to her friends and to herself in which Faith explicitly lays out the symbolic value spring break represents in these girls' lives, an idea Korine repeatedly revisits in her ironically upbeat phone calls home. This material could've been archly funny if it was a bit more pointed and clever, but Korine writes it as a girl who's just blithely trying to make the best of the debauchery her friends are pulling her into, and Gomez is stuck playing it that way.

The earnestness of Gomez' portrayal also makes it hard to swallow her participation in her friends' antics - their suggestive banter and behavior amongst themselves is probably meant by Korine as a depiction of how young women are naively conditioned to sexualize themselves at all turns, but taken in contrast with Gomez playing an actual naïf, her friends' exhibitionist joking around feels monstrously inauthentic. Their suggestive interplay feels less like any type of commentary than like the invented sorority-girl behavior that's the bread and butter of softcore exploitation film (funny how that works!).

This playful restlessness gives way to their desperation to go away for spring break, which gives us the film's one truly virtuoso sequence: a single-take robbery scene that I don't want to describe for fear of spoiling the magic for anyone reading who might actually watch it in the future. Seriously, at the end of this scene, I thought to myself "well, that was worth the price of admission" (though I must admit I caught a matinee). I've read it's an homage to Joseph H. Lewis' classic b-movie "Gun Crazy", though, so it may be familiar to viewers who are better cinephiles than me.

After the robbery, it's back to their frivolous lives, but fortunately, the mannered depiction of Southern suburban college life is all out of the way once they get to Florida, where the friends indulge in an relatively authentic - at least as authentic as MTV reality programming or Girls Gone Wild - depiction of what people seek on a spring break trip south. This middle section of the film is stylish but soft - we lazily observe the ambiguous fulfillment of the characters' petty bacchanalian desires, until they finally get in perfunctory legal trouble. It seems like the worst thing at stake here is spending two days in jail for failing to pay a fine, apparently forced to wear the same bikinis they were arrested in the whole time, but they get bailed out as the film introduces what must be the real reason for its existence: James Franco.

Franco nearly disappears in a role for once as Alien, a drug dealer and would-be rapper. The role gives him his customary opportunity for cocky self-aggrandizement and charismatic bravado, but, since Alien isn't meant to be likeable or admirable at all, it frees him from the typical "oh, it's James Franco again" James-Franco-ness of most James Franco performances. The character is consistent and believable, though, a vivid and recognizable depiction of one of the worst kinds of man. Alien is an emotional bully whose every action seems intended to shore up his self-image - he alternates between self-praise, demanding whatever he wants at the moment, and overtures to prove that he's really just a nice guy, lookin out for people, just trying to do something good for these girls.

In another of the film's best scenes, he fails to convince Faith that he is a nice guy, and her exit provides the impetus for the film's last act, something I can only describe as a triumph of ironic futurism. Franco's character and the remaining three girls push each other further and further into their inevitable embrace of sex, drugs and violence, and Korine layers the superficial trappings of innocence over what we're meant to see as their true, corrupted selves. If I were a media studies student, I'd posit that Korine's development of these characters is meant to show that beautiful, callow young people robbing and murdering each other is the inevitable culmination of Western capitalism. Fortunately, I have no reason to write that essay.

There are a few great sequences in the third act, most notably a violently psychosexual scene where the girls turn the tables on Alien (culminating in a line that had the whole theater laughing) and a singalong by Alien's poolside piano which moves into a gorgeous slow-mo montage of the girls joining him in his thuggish vocation. By the end of the film, Korine is seriously overdoing it, but he still had me smiling even with little tricks like dressing Alien and the girls entirely in colors that glow under blacklight for the climactic confrontation at Gucci Mane's neon-pink-glowing house. With the requisite violent climax out of the way, the film's conclusion is ambiguous about the moral fate of the characters, which is much appreciated - if Korine decided to belabor one of the points he flirted with making earlier, it would blunt the film's sharp edges.
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Miscellaneous thoughts:

- Characters watch My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic like three times in this movie, and every time it's both distracting and hilarious.

- Gucci Mane was pretty good. Nothing really impressive about his performance, but he felt totally natural, like a regular dude, not a rapper reading lines.

- It didn't seem like there was much original Skrillex music in the film, despite prominent use of a few of his singles. It sounded like the score proper was mostly Cliff Martinez. (Checking the soundtrack listing, there are three new Skrillex tracks and one new remix, but only a half dozen original Martinez compositions. I wonder if the soundtrack holds up on its own...)

- Reuse of Skrillex singles aside, the sound design was quite good, and well suited to the imagery. Korine uses gun-cocking sfx to add a hair-raising sharpness to scene transitions, and voice-over from the girls and Alien to add a druggy languor to more relaxed sequences, and while it's all rather discomforting I suspect that's exactly what he's trying to accomplish with the sound.

- I was disappointed that there wasn't a full length reprise of "Hangin' with the Dope Boys" over the credits. Fortunately, there is a Franco-directed video for the song as performed by Dangeruss, the rapper who inspired Franco's character (if you don't believe rapper Riff Raff's claims that Franco bit his style):
DANGERUSS- HANGIN WITH DA DOPEBOYS (VIDEO) DIR. BY JAMES FRANCO
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This is apparently his whole thing that he does, his personal crusade, but I love how Evgeny Morozov skewers all the weak, shallow assumptions of technological utopianism in this review.

"What if some limits to democratic participation in the pre-Wikipedia era were not just a consequence of high communication costs but stemmed from a deliberate effort to root out populism, prevent cooptation, or protect expert decision making?"
"(Germany's Pirate Party) took the idea of the Internet seriously — only to discover that the rhythms and rituals of old-school politics do not stem merely from inferior technologies, but rather reflect assumptions about human nature, power, and justice. Relations among humans have many more layers of complexity than those among ants; there are inequalities, asymmetries, and grievances to be found at all layers—and what might seem like inefficiencies or gaps in participation or transparency might, on second look, prove to be the very democracy-enabling protective tissues that allow liberal societies to function."
"This lack of curiosity about how the world works is the most pernicious feature of Internet-centrism. Armed with the Internet, its proponents do not much care about the larger objective of their reform. They prefer to notice only those elements amenable to Internet interventions and discard all others."
Groups like Occupy Wall Street embraced the open-source logic of the Internet as an organizing principle. It explains a lot about why movements fail.
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I liked Twitter-short-story author Arjun Basu's comment on this: "Do you know how often I've had to hear this? And he didn't write it?"
Ernest Hemingway? William R. Kane? Roy K. Moulton? Avery Hopwood? Arthur C. Clarke? Anonymous? heminway02 Dear Quote Investigator: Most people are familiar with short stories, but there is another cla...
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Paul Segal

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this is a great article about an incredibly dumb topic

"Members of AKB48 are required to forego a love life while they are part of the girl group, although this may actually be illegal under Japanese law..."

"Four conditions must all be met to legitimize each and every term of a contract: kakuteisei (determinacy), jitsugen kanōsei (achievability), tekihōsei (legality) and shakaiteki datōsei (social justification).

It is the fourth, shakaiteki datōsei , that concerns us in the AKB48 case. This concept entails general ideals of morality and justice, specifically kōjo ryōzoku (public order and morality), a crucial and broadly ranging legal principle enshrined in Article 90 of the Civil Code.

Contract terms that violate kōjo ryōzoku are invalid. Textbook examples include: paying for a crime; terms that violate fundamental human rights, such as gender bias; terms that restrict individual freedom; and those that violate social morals such as human trafficking, prostitution or geisha provisions. While traditional geisha exist within the scope of the law, asking an employee to "entertain" a client does not.

Most would consider it an unjustifiable invasion of privacy if an ordinary company prohibited their employees from taking a lover. Apologists for the AKB48 chastity clause argue that a girl's value as an idol is compromised if it becomes known she has a boyfriend because her job is to "sell fantasies" to male fans."
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Paul Segal

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a sweet, earnest new Billy Collins poem in The Atlantic
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/01/orient/309182/
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Paul Segal

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"a nose user doing a sad face is a rare occurrence"
Twitter's Mary Kobayashi explains the lexicon of basic emoticons.
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:, ( "I’m sad but going to be fine because people who are actually depressed don’t do crying emoticons"

YES
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In his circles
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Excellent food. A nicely varied menu, many great varieties of naan, and our requested spiciness levels all came out accurate. Very attentive service. Our waiter was friendly ("but not creepy", a dining companion requests I add), knew the menu well, and had recommendations for all our questions. The interior is comfortable and tasteful. It may not look like much from outside, but don't pass this place by!
Food: ExcellentDecor: Very GoodService: Excellent
Public - a year ago
reviewed a year ago
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