Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Jimbo Goes To The Movies: 'Finding Dory' (2016) Review

It's not the best Pixar movie of the decade, but it's nonetheless an immensely enjoyable little diversion. Bonus: it features Al Bundy as an ornery octopus with just seven tentacles.

By: Jimbo X

Of course, Finding Dory is an unnecessary sequel. Indeed, the 13-year-late follow-up might just be the most superfluous Pixar movie to date, a film that clearly has no creative reason to exist other than to capitalize on a popular I.P. and make Walt Disney a ton of moolah.

But in that shameless cash grab, something unexpected happened – Pixar wound up making a really, really good movie. Granted, it’s not quite as good as Inside Out or Toy Story 3, but it’s certainly a more enjoyable romp than Monsters University, Brave and especially the studio’s ultimate disappointment, Cars 2.

The plotline for Finding Dory is pretty much a carbon copy of the script for Finding Nemo, albeit with a grander flare for extravagant action sequences. Whereas the first film was a heartfelt paean to the insecurities of parenthood, this flick is pure popcorn hokum through and through, a movie more interested in connecting one improbable escape sequence to the next, even more improbable one than laying on the sentimentality.

That’s not to say Dory doesn’t have its syrupy moments. After all, the movie is about a character trying to find her long-last parents. Nonetheless, the movie never gets bogged down in the saccharine stuff, instead emphasizing the kind of high drama you’d expect out of the latest Mission: Impossible offering.

Nemo and Marlin, the father and son clownfish duo that were the focal point of the original, are stuck playing second bananas to the eponymous character, a blue tang plagued by short term memory loss (which, as displayed in the film, appears to be much closer to fish ADD than anything else.) Stirred by faint recollections of her parents, Dory decides to make the trek from the Great Barrier Reef to coastal California, an endeavor that is filled with dire miscalculations and missteps from the get-go. After almost being devoured by a giant squid, she finds herself stuck in the “quarantine” zone of a marine rehabilitation institute, where the stern-yet-reassuring audio recordings of Sigourney Weaver play on an infinite loop. There, she meets an octopus – well, technically, a septupus, since he only has seven tentacles – voiced by AL FUCKIN' BUNDY, who hashes out an agreement to help her escape if and only if she gives him a tag that allows him safe passage to that cephalopod Shangri-La … Cleveland, Ohio?

From there, we’re introduced to your usual assortment of quirky Pixar side characters. There are two seals who hang out in the bay beside the institute who sound like the blokes from Top Gear and a seagull named Becky that is either diseased, mentally retarded or both. But hey, she’s at least handy with a bucket when it counts, though. Rounding out the franchise newcomers is a whale shark with poor eyesight (but a crucial water duct navigator), a beluga with echolocation abilities that rival Daredevil, a gigantic (and gigantically emo) clam and a gaggle of otters whose sole function in the film is to look adorable so as to distract human captors.

Which brings us to the best thing about Dory – its absurdly over-the-top action sequences. While you probably shouldn’t be looking for realism in a film about talking aquatic life (which is apparently something that the reviewers who inherited Roger Ebert’s domain name take into consideration), the stuff that goes on here is just absolutely bonkers. Whereas the wackiest thing that happened in the first film was Nemo hopping out of an aquarium tank in a dentist’s office, this flick ends with a 20-minute long truck-jacking that culminates in a big rig careening into the San Francisco Bay. Granted, we all knew octopi were intelligent creatures, but who knew they were intelligent enough to operate a manual transmission?

Sequels – especially ones like Dory that are meticulously crafted to reap profits instead of tell decent stories – are tricky business. While no one will ever lump this one along with the likes of Aliens or Terminator 2, you at least have to give Pixar some credit. Really, they could have simply phoned in a lite and frothy rehash of the original, but instead, they sought to do something unexpected. It’s not quite a jailbreak movie and it’s not quite an ensemble caper movie, but it definitely has touches of both sub-genres infused into its celluloid structure. The guys at Pixar never sat out to make “a bigger and badder” Nemo, they simply took the core concept of the first movie, wedged it into a carefully formatted jape narrative, and went buck wild with the set pieces. I mean, if you are going to make a movie about something as ridiculous as an octopus trying to help a fish find her mother and father, why not anchor the hootenanny around an I-5 car chase?

For those of you worried that the film takes an undesired detour into soulless Cars 2 like territory, rest assured, the film still packs plenty of emotion (if not forced emotion, in some respects.) The film’s big reunion scene has all the syrupiness you’d expect it to, and the grand finale gives the series a nice sense of closure – although considering the impressive box office take, we probably won’t have to wait another 13 years for Finding Hank, or Finding Destiny or Finding Forrester or whatever the hell they want to call part 3. Oh, and the requisite pre-feature short? My goodness, is it the goddamnedest most adorable thing ever.

Give this Andrew Stanton guy his props. He had absolutely no incentive to make Finding Dory worth a toot, but by golly, he managed to turn what was almost destined to be a half-hearted warm-over into one of the more interesting popcorn cinema offerings to come pouring down the pipes so far this year.

Dory ain’t revolutionary cinema. Nor is it top-of-the-line storytelling. What it is, however, is an extraordinarily entertaining romp that never falls into the doldrums many films of its type are prone to. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming and it has some downright insane action scenes, especially for a kids movie. And come one, people: do you really think I’m going to give a negative review to anything starring Ed O'Neil as a misanthropic mollusk? 

My Score:

Three Tofu Dogs out of Four.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

This Week in Social Justice Warrior-Dom

A fond look back at all the things that had ultra P.C.-jihadists OUTRAGED ... before they forget all about them in just a few days.

By: Jimbo X

Media, special interest groups struggle to find self-benefiting angle to the worst mass shooting incident in modern U.S. history

For years, the liberal, secular-progressivist, pro-globalization, multiculturalism-uber-alles evangelists have strived to build a base around an eclectic mix of interests groups and minorities, who despite often sharing completely incompatible core beliefs, they theoretically assumed could be assembled as a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" supergroup determined to take down that most villainous scourge, the white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied male power structure (bonus points if they are Protestant and conservative-leaning, of course.) Like some sort of rainbow-hued Allied Powers, the regressive left did all they could to unite feminists, LGBT folks, Hispanics, the African-American community and - especially in the wake of 9\11 - Muslim-Americans as their ideological infantry for a figurative D-Day against the old, Caucasian guard. They were the future, their political adversaries were the past, and by golly, hand-in-hand this quirky coalition of minority identitarians were destined to unseat all of those racist, xenophobic and intolerant honkies and make America the great country it never could have been with old Whitey in command of the vessel. 

And then, the absolute worst modern mass shooting in U.S history transpired the morning of June 12. Forty-nine people - the overwhelming majority of them Hispanic and virtually all of them homosexual - were viciously gunned down by a carbine-toting attention-whore (he apparently checked his Facebook stream during the rampage to see how much publicity his early morning carnage was garnering) who, much to the dismay of leftist ideologues the world over - was also a pretty big fan of Allah. 

As expected, the American media is having a field day with the Orlando massacre, which has provided the cable news outlets with a twisty-turny, subplot-laden melodrama that puts anything Shonda Rhimes has typed up to shame. Was the shooter secretly gay? How complicit was his wife in the rampage? How much did his father know, exactly? It's even got a horrifically ironic plot twist that seems like it could've been lifted from an old Tales From the Crypt comic - since the shooter donated blood days before the massacre, there is a very strong chance that one of the 50-plus survivors from the rampage wound up getting an emergency transfusion containing the plasma of the very man who tried to murder them

Alas, the horrific incident has put the illiberal masses in a tough bind - one of their designated-protected-status special interests groups is undoubtedly responsible for mass murdering one of their OTHER designated-protected-status special interests groups, and there is virtually NO rational way to pin the blame on their "shared" ideological foe, the Republican, Christian, vagina-loving white man (indeed, the shooter himself appears to have fostered a pretty big disdain for the same group - not only was he a registered Democrat, he allegedly told black hostages that "they had suffered enough" and that he was actively targeting the lighter-skinned patrons of the night club.)

It's a tragic event that completely shatters the left's illusory idea of a coalesced, multicultural movement, and it certainly destroys their notion that the artificially forged "mass resistance" is one bound to the ideals of diversity, tolerance and ESPECIALLY non-violence. So, naturally, the agenda-driven faux-news sites and shameless advocacy groups did what they always do when something "problematic" arises - they simply ignored reality and started blaming it on the cis-het-white-male patriarchy anyway, stating that their impact on culture as a whole - while not directly inspiring the rampage, per se - is still pervasive enough to deflect blame from "their side" of the aisle. 

Perhaps Amanda Marcotte's Salon screed "Overcompensation Nation" is the perfect place to start. Per Mrs. Marcotte, the real root cause of the Orlando massacre wasn't the bigoted, intolerant Islamic religion, but rather, the white-male manufactured and marketed "toxic masculinity," which she describes thus:

Which, of course, doesn't sound anything at all like Muslim culture, which is so tolerant of women that Pakistani senators DON'T threaten to rape activists on live TV broadcasts and the Qatar government DOESN'T arrest rape victims for committing "adultery." And of course, countries like Iran, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are SO welcoming of homosexuals that they DON'T have laws on their books mandating gay people be executed for engaging in man-on-man loving in their own private quarters. And certainly, Islamic countries DON'T routinely post among the world's highest homicide rates and Islamic extremists AREN'T responsible for a near totality of the planet's religiously-motivated murders. You would NEVER hear about Muslim radicals murdering 2,000 people over the course of a few days in Nigeria, or plotting to toss gay people off rooftops in London, or recording themselves skinning dissidents alive and throwing their still-living, muscle-tissue-exposed bodies off cliffs. And even if they were, Marcotte theorizes, such horrendous acts ain't SHIT compared to the horrendous things white, Christian radicals are doing ... like refusing to leave empty wildlife refuges out in the middle of nowhere, picketing abortion clinics and protesting the funerals of dead gay people, which I think we can all agree is INCONTESTABLY a worse transgression than actually being responsible for those funerals in the first place. 

After attacking Donald Trump and - for some inexplicable reason - the guys on Duck Dynasty for wearing beards, Marcotte goes on to blame the culture of "toxic masculinity" for ALL of America's gun violence, stating "this persistent pressure to constantly be proving manhood and warding off anything considered feminine or emasculating is the main reason why we have so many damn shootings in the United States ... the common theme is toxic masculinity, a desire on the part of the shooter to show off how much power and control he has, to take male dominance to the level of exerting control over life and death itself."

Alas, as to how this culture of "toxic masculinity" explains away the 1,000-plus homicides committed by women in the U.S. In 2014 - a disproportionate amount involving child victims, no less - uhh, well, umm ... oh shit, look, a bunch of white private school kids may have tried to lynch one of their black classmates! Whew, that was a close one ... for a minute there, I thought I was actually going to have to address REAL data instead of imaginary constructs!

But what if you want to find a different religion to peg the blame on? Well, The New York Times gave us not just one, but two meandering screeds blaming Christianity for promoting "a harmful atmosphere for gays." In the wake of the Orlando massacre, it is Christians - not Muslims - who ought to "repent for the ways they've helped create a culture that devalues LGBT people made in the image of God," writes blogger Julie Rodgers. Mercer University professor David P. Gushee does her one better, stating "even polite half-acceptance leaves LGBT people in a demeaning second-class position," which in turns makes it easier for non-Christians to demonize homosexuals. Interestingly, the Times - whose majority shareholder just so happens to be Mexico's wealthiest businessman - didn't dedicate too much ink to all of the homophobia ingrained in the Hispanic church, such as Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, Calif., overseen by Roger Jimenez, who said "the tragedy is that more of them didn't die" shortly after the shooting. Nor was that much said about Jose de Jesus Manzo Corona, a Ministry of Development and Social Integration official in Jalisco, Mexico, who tweeted "too bad it was 50, not 100" just hours after news of the shooting broke. Considering how one of the most popular crowd chants in Mexican soccer is to call the other team's players "male prostitutes," maybe the Latinos ought to be taken to task for all the toxic anti-gay rancor in their communities, too?

But of course, the ultimate display of self-serving identity politicking came in the form of - surprise, surprise - a Black Lives Matter protester, who reckoned a June 13 community vigil at the University of Missouri mourning the lives of those lost in the shooting was a most opportune time to complain about white peopleI wish this many people came out to our racial demonstrations and our Black Lives Matter movements," the bespectacled "mourner" declared. "I don’t want to stand up here and be angry, because this isn’t for me, this isn’t for you, it’s for the people that we lost, and the people that we lose tomorrow, and the people that lost yesterday. But I thought I’d take a moment to list out some facts that many of you probably don’t know because you’re white."

So what's the big takeaway from all of this? Well, it's a cynical outlook, I know, but maybe - just maybe - nobody really gives a damn about the people who died in Orlando, other than the fact it gives them another talking point to promote their ideological propaganda. I'm sure the London vigils that transformed into voguing contests were well-meaning, but isn't using the brutal murders of 49 people you never personally knew as an on-ramp to celebrate your own identity politics - whether it's to promote LGBT pride, further an anti-gay agenda, support new gun controls measures or rally for less restrictive gun laws - kind of a callous, exploitative thing to do? 

I'd be a little skeptical of all those outraged tears, folks: after all, to some people "tragedy" is nothing more than the most desirable form of publicity there is. 

More fun with guns!

Of course, Orlando wasn't the only hot spot for hot lead over the last fortnight. Grab your N.R.A. hat, fellas, it's time to take aim at a whole bunch of other recent firearm-related tomfoolery that's been happening en masse these days:

And no matter if you are pro-gun control or anti-gun control, there's at least one news story out there that ought to please you and your agenda-furthering ways. A proud pro-gunner? Then you should be pleased as punch that a CBS reporter who cooked up some documents for a piece meant to show how easy it is to get a semi-automatic weapon is now looking at potential felony federal charges for making a straw purchase. Not a fan of the gun lobby? Then don't be too sad - proving once and for all that concealed weapon carry is the solution to all of our mass violence problems, an Ohio gun shop owner was shot and killed by a student June 19, whose gun accidentally went off during - get ready for the cruel, cruel irony - a concealed weapons permit training class

I am woman, hear me roar (and also, commit unspeakable crimes)

Here at The Internet Is In America, we wholeheartedly believe that men and women are equals in every conceivable way ... well, except for when it comes to athletics - we all know that's a recipe for disaster. One area we are particularly interested in leveling the playing field is in the domain of savage, cruel and inhumane violence. Long thought to be the bastion of the XY-chromosome set, the fairer sex is certainly making great strides in bringing a little perverse parity to ghastly crime these days; as such, we consider it both a pleasure and an honor to highlight the remarkable, trailblazing work of all the homicidal ladies listed below: 

So that settles it: judging from how good they are at murdering their children, parents, friends and perfect strangers, women can't be considered anything short of men's equals in every category. I mean, sure, 85 percent of all female marines can't pass the same physical fitness exams that a statistically insignificant 97 percent of their male counterparts do, but when it comes to committing cold-blooded murder and ghastly abuse of minors? Sorry boys, anything we can do, they can clearly do better

London bans "unrealistic body images" in local advertisements

In 2015, advertisements for Protein World, a dietary supplement manufacturer, were defaced in London subway stations. The ad, which featured a hot chick in a bikini, was criticized as "body shaming" by many irked passers-by, almost all of whom were probably envious that they lacked the will, self-control and discipline to stick to a regimented diet. Well, thanks to London's still kind of newish mayor Sadiq Khan - whom just so happens to be a Muslim - future mass transit enthusiasts won't be offended by such displays ever again. On June 13, Khan implemented a citywide ban on advertisements "promoting unrealistic expectations surrounding their bodies." Transport for London, the official agency that oversees the city's subway systems, lent Khan their support, releasing a statement declaring that they would no longer permit adverts that "could reasonably be seen as likely to conform to an unrealistic or unhealthy body shape, or as likely to create body-confidence issues, particularly among young people." Of course, one has to wonder if the ads are really promoting "unrealistic" beauty standards when, as evidenced by the existence of the poster board models themselves, they quite clearly are attainable. Furthermore, one has to wonder if the same "this ad shouldn't exist because it makes me feel bad that I haven't made something out of myself" rationale should be applicable to ads for luxury products, like designer clothing, ritzy watches and sports cars - I mean, doesn't Khan know how bad those ads make people without money feel about themselves? Alas, others have floated up the downright asinine assertion that Khan - as an aside, were you aware he is a practitioner of Islam? - made the unilateral call to ax the ads because his faith doesn't look to kindly upon ogling at the female form. Clearly, this was an preposterous claim totally invalidated by an anti-Brexit pit stop Khan made in Manchester, in which all of the female attendees of said speech were burka-clad and not-at-all-suspiciously clustered towards the back of the throng, which as a sheer coincidence, appears to have been about 99 percent brown-ish men


Seeing as how African-Americans make up three-quarters of the NBA and nearly seventh-tenths of all NFL players, we here at IIIA sometimes worry that the nation's black populace sometimes get unfairly stereotyped as world-class athletes. Indeed, Lebron James and Khalil Mack are indeed some impressive physical specimens, but as surprising as this may be, not all black men in the United States are professional athletes. In fact, there are actually more black men who AREN'T pro sports stars than there are those who make millions of dollars playing big time ball, and - shocking, I know - some of them even, gasp, do illegal things, some of which are serious enough to warrant lengthy prison sentences. To help call attention to this completely aberrational and justly under-reported statistical quirk, it may be worthwhile to examine a small sample of some of the more recent (and most certainly unusual) instances of African-Americans doing something that is completely anathema to our accepted cultural narrative concerning the U.S. black experience - that is, committing insanely violent crimes

And in news that may indeed eerily portend a lot of mayhem later this summer, the Twitter account of top Black Lives Matter organizer DeRay McKesson was hacked June 10, revealing a "leaked" back-and-forth IM conversation with fellow BLM big wig Johnetta Elzie, who discussed, among other things, plans to cause so much havoc at the upcoming Republican and Democratic national conventions that martial law will be declared and Obama will get a third term of office. Now, this is the kind of stuff that's next to impossible to confirm 100 percent, but if there's even a granule of truth to what's been leaked (including insinuations that Attorney General Loretta Lynch has been actively coordinating "mass civil disobedience" strategies with BLM leaders), well, folks ... this might just be the eeriest calm before one of the biggest shit storms in American history. 

A slew of happenings demonstrating the many, MANY advantages of being "disadvantaged" 

Let's talk about "currency" for a minute. You know, the term isn't just applicable to money matters; indeed, there is a - pardon the pun - wealth of things out there that could be considered forms of de facto capital, like credit and reputation, that allow an individual just as much ability to get things done as good old fashioned moolah. Well, as judging by the recent-ish stories below, it looks like we can add a new cultural commodity to the list of valuable, exchangeable goods - frothy, ideology-driven, self-centered righteous indignation: 

And of course, you can't have an installment of This Week in Social Justice Warrior-Dom without touching upon all of the wacky, "multiculturalism uber alles" shenanigans going on across U.S colleges and universities. Wondering what our future caretakers and governors are learning in the hallowed halls of higher education (and on the taxpayers' doles, no less?) Well, at Wayne State they've dropped a freshmen mathematics course in favor of a diversity workshop, students at Western Washington University are demanding that an "Office of Social Transformation" be established to police students and professors from using "cissexist" and "ableist" language, Yale is contemplating dropping works by white poets from their required reading list, the University of Northern Colorado is using a "bias response team" to go after faculty members who dare promote anything in class other than a "fuck the white man" pro-globalization philosophy, Emory University is proudly pimping the shit out of a black professor's new book that blames all of the failings of inner city blacks on "white rage," and UC-Irvine temporarily suspended its College Republicans club because ... well, just because, it appears. Alas, there is indeed a silver lining here; according to the most recent U.S. News & World Report estimates, about 40 percent of all individuals who attend college never earn a diploma, which means their chances of applying all of that cultural Marxist pseudo-radical commie claptrap in the real world are virtually nil. 

The downside? They still have an unlimited number of chances to keep failing in higher education, and guess who's paying the bill for them to flunk introductory algebra for the 42nd time

United States Department of Justice censors Orlando shooting 911 transcripts for our own good

On June 20, the United States' Department of Justice released an official transcript of one of the phone calls the Orlando massacre gunman made to 911 responders. But, uh, there was just one, slight, insignificant little hitch: the transcripts were heavily, HEAVILY redacted, with such cryptic, indecipherable "quotes" from the shooter as "I pledge allegiance to [omitted], may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted.]" After ferocious (and entirely justified) blowback on social media from irked legislators and taxpayers alike, the FBI eventually released a slightly less redacted version of the 911 transcript, which still contains numerous portions vaguely referred to as "[Arabic]," which yeah, probably means he was screaming "Allahu Akbar" over and over again and Loretta Lynch don't want to publicize it. Interestingly, the DOJ still hasn't posted the transcript for the shooter's second 911 phone call, which FBI officials have gone on record saying it contains juicier tidbits about the shooter's potential links to other Islamofascist terrorists. So, uh, why exactly did the DOJ censor the transcripts so heavily? Per Tampa FBI field officer Ron Hopper, "part of the redacting is meant to not give credence to individuals who have done terrorist attacks in the past ... we're not going to propagate their rhetoric, their violent rhetoric, and we see no value in putting these individuals' names back out there." Of course, the FBI could also just release the 911 audio in full and let the masses decide for themselves what the shooter's motivations may have been, but by golly, if that were to happen, people may accidentally assume that some Muslim people may be prejudiced, homicidally violent ideologues who pose a grave threat to national security. Fifty bullet riddled corpses is one thing, but the notion that someone may have their general anxieties about an ethnic minority even partially affirmed by 911 audio? Yeah, better keep this one under lock and key for the long-term ... 

News anchor fired for saying statistically verified, scientifically irrefutable things about black community sues former employer

On March 30, Pittsburgh-area news anchor Wendy Bell got shit-canned for making "insensitive remarks" on Facebook.  Commenting on the shooting of five black people March 9, Bell stated the following: 

Despite virtually everything Bell said in the post being 100 percent, federal-data-backed factual statements (which were even backed up publicly by our noble Commander in Chief), WTAE got antsy when some social media opportunists with a brazen aversion to indisputable reality started saying the 21-time Emmy Award winner's words were, you guessed it, "racist." Well, Bell decided she wasn't going to take that kind of Orwellian, reverse-populist McCarthyist bullshit and turned around and sued her former employer June 20 for violating her civil rights. "Ms. Bell's posting of concern for the African-American community stung by mass shooting was clearly and obviously not intended to be racially offensive," the suit states. "Had Ms' Bell written the same comments about white criminal suspect or had her race not have been white, [the] defendant would not have fired her, much less disciplined her." 

And as for why those gravely offended by Bell's comments AREN'T equally offended by the reality of young, black male violence and its scientifically-validated ties to father absenteeism? Apparently, pointing out the existence of a problem in African-American communities is more offensive than completely ignoring its root causes and letting the cycle of misery perpetuate from generation to generation.  

The "rape cultures" we're NOT discussing

So last week, there was furor a plenty over Brock Turner, the Stanford university student-athlete who received a six-month sentence for sexually molesting - but not technically raping - a drunk woman at a social mixer. Surely, the massive outrage had little to do with the circumstantial elements of the incident (what, with Turner pretty much being the poster child for what most neo-neo-liberals would deem "white privilege,") and everything to do with collective outrage over the unspeakable savagery of the crime itself. However, if the universal outrage over "rape culture" indeed revolves around a shared hatred of the despicable crime of rape itself, where were the same people calling for the judge in the Turner case to be publicly flogged when the news broke about Chad Cameron Camp, the 26-year-old Oregonian who allegedly spent half an hour grouping a 13 year old girl on a June 15 American Airlines flight? Furthermore, were was the same white-hot anger when a 19-year-old Yemeni immigrant was given 18 months probation for raping a Swedish 13-year-old (which local authorities, unbelievably, blamed on the nation's "Nordic drinking culture?") And where are the outraged protesters clamoring for justice for 15-year-old Karen Perez, whose brutal rape and strangulation was recorded on camera by her underage boyfriend in Texas? And for the love of Christ, why isn't anyway going on a Cosby-esque, legacy-destroying revisionist purge after police documents confirming that Michael Jackson stockpiled child pornography at the Neverland Ranch were made public? Judging from the tepid response from the miscellaneous SJW camps out there, it looks like the only time rape is worth combating with a public show of force is when it involves a college campus and a ready-made villain who nails all the check boxes - white, male, wealthy, straight, Protestant, conservative and "able-bodied" - necessary to further their pro-diversity, patriarchy-disestablishing Tao. Oh, and if you are the victim of anyone who doesn't fit that description? Sucks to be you - in the eyes of the ultra-progressivists, your horrific abuse only has value if you get assaulted by the "right" kind of rapist. 

Illegal immigrant tries to kill Donald Trump; media remains mum, online detractors praise would-be assassin

Imagine, if you still possess such faculties, the media's reaction if an assassination attempt was made against Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama at a public rally. Go ahead, feel free to select your own cultural pariah boogeyman - a Klansman with a homemade radioactive cannon, a gay-hating preacher who says homosexuals will be cursed with literal flaming buttholes, etc. Empirical wisdom would suggest that such an event would draw heavy scrutiny from the media, if not receive around the clock, updated-every-30-seconds wall-to-wall multi-platform coverage. 

Well, when 19-year-old Brit Michael Sanford - irony of ironies, one of them there "illegal immigrants" the old Trumpster ain't too keen on - attempted to wrestle a handgun away from a security officer at a June 19 pro-Donald rally in Las Vegas, the startling incident barely made a blip on the national radar. According to the Secret Service, Sanford - an autistic fan of Robot Wars - drove all the way from Hoboken, N.J. to murder the presumptive Republican presidential candidate. 

"Don't blame him really, everyone always says they would have killed Hitler if they had the chance," writes a young woman named Syd Monroe, who claims to be "owner at self-employed." Continuing, she states "I wonder had he succeeded what would all of Drumpf's avid anti-gun supportors [sic] done then?"

"Dont' give up on your obsessive-compulsive goals, Michael," writes Rick Mulcahy of Colby College. "Best of luck in future Trump stalkings."

"Finally someone took some initiative to do what many of us are thinking (and don't fucking deny it either!)," writes Azure Adams, who claims to be a clinician at Southwest Behavioral Health. "But 19 year olds are not the best at planning these kinds of things and effectively carrying them out. So next assassin, you are up."

"I hope someone blows that racist fucker's head off," writes James Eastwood. "He is one of one of the only people whose death I would cheer for. I will be throwing a huge party is [sic] Donald Trump does die..."

And to think: the media wants us to believe Trump supporters are the radicals we ought to be deathly afraid of!

...and a few headlines that speak for themselves...

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Do You Remember the BonziBuddy?

Everything you could ever possibly want to know about the notorious adware app from the AOL days. Probably too much, to be honest. 

By: Jimbo X 

I’ve long believed that “nostalgia” has a 15-year incubation period. Granted, you can feel a flurry of emotions about things that transpired five or 10 years ago, but I don’t think that you can really feel those whimsical pangs of days gone by until at least a decade and a half passes you by. An old commercial from four years ago or an old video game from eight years ago are just outdated things, but a 15-year-old advertisement or consumer product? All of a sudden, its ephemeral association with your own history makes it a transcendent object. It’s no longer just some old thing … now, it’s a vintage relic of yesteryear.

As such, we’re just now getting to the point where early 2000s culture can be properly designated as “nostalgic.” This is especially interesting, since it is the first arbitrarily-defined “quindecimester” to entail a heavy volume of Internet-borne evanescence.

Which means we’ve finally gotten to that cultural tipping point were new media things like AOL chat rooms, Real Player and early flash-based gaming can be considered legitimate historical subjects.

Amid those unforgettable first encounters with Rotten.com and malware-baiting “free music” Napster alternatives, at least one sidebar in the Big Book of Early 200s Nostalgia ought to be dedicated to the BonziBuddy – one of the more famous (and, in some circles, infamous) downloadable desktop apps of George W.’s first term of office.

How to describe the BonziBuddy to all you young 'uns? Well, conceptually, the adware was kinda’ like Siri, except it didn’t do anywhere near as much. Oh, and you couldn’t talk directly to it, although you could type up inquiries and hope for some sort of quasi-useful retort. But by and large, the download was really only valuable because it served as a low, low-tech text-to-speech translator. Yeah, I know all of this shit must feel downright antediluvian to the children of the iPad, but back then, it was still cutting-edge stuff. The program also did a few other things, but before we get into that, some history.

When Microsoft Office ’97 launched, it came with this feature called Office Assistant. Basically, it was this annoying little cartoon paperclip that would pop up on screen while you were working on homework assignments and clutter your desktop with all sorts of unsolicited advice on paragraphical indentation and adding MS Paint artwork to your research papers. Although the feature is looked upon with incredible disdain today, way back when, it was apparently popular enough to warrant legitimate DLCas an array of Office Assistant skins made their rounds on the Internet – among them, a little green parrot named “Peedy.”

Enter upstart Bonzi Software, who in 1999, released a freeware program that effectively served the same purpose as Microsoft’s Office Assistant project, albeit with the addition of text-to-speech functionality. Ultimately, this was a rather ballsy move on Bonzi Software’s part, seeing as how the software not only kinda-sorta-not-legally “borrowed” the technology from the old Lernout & Hauspie Microsoft Speech API 4.0 suite, but featured “Peedy” as its official avatar.

Rest assured, I am just as curious as you are as to what the "save you money" tab does. Curious, and very suspicious.

Although I haven’t been able to uncover conclusive proof that MS threatened legal action, the wrath of Bill Gates must’ve nonetheless spooked the suits at Bonzi Software real good, as it was less than a year before they retired “Peedy” and replaced it with their own proprietary mascot – the eponymous BonziBuddy, which was stylized as a cherubic, purple gorilla.

Looking back on it, none of the program’s features can be considered all that remarkable – even considering the state of technology at the time frame. Still, if you were a junior high schooler circa 2000, it was pretty hard to not be intrigued by the app. I mean, it was free after all, and like any eighth grader has the ability to say “no” to a downloadable app (especially one that was touted as being a "$40 value," despite seemingly no traces of evidence indicating there was ever a retail version of the program sold anywhere at anytime) that allows him to make his parents’ PC say all sorts of crude and ribald things via a cartoon monkey. The pull, frankly, was irresistible.

The BonziBuddy was pretty much a case example in trying-way-too-hard preteen marketing 101. As soon as you downloaded the little sucker, the eponymous spokes-ape made his big debut on your desktop by literally surfing across your screensaver. From there, he (I’m assuming it’s a he) would start yapping via word balloon, which was accompanied by that unforgettable, warbled voice. There was a bit of an effeminate twang to the character’s brogue; so basically, he(?) sounded like a seven-foot tall mechanical drag queen (or Janet Reno, if there's any kind of difference there.)

As far as the app’s functionality, the text-to-speech tool was the big selling point, but it wasn’t its only feature. You could also ask him to relay obscure facts back to you, send pre-emojis in emails, manage downloads, sing (I vividly recall two songs – that “Day-zee, day-zee” song from 2001 and another ditty I vaguely remember but, for the life of me, can’t recite a single lyric) and look up stuff online. And that’s where BonziBuddy showed his shadowy underbelly.

Of course, we all know the BonziBuddy is shameless adware now. Before 9\11, however, we were a much more trusting society, and the idea that our beloved desktop monkey helper was actually a Trojan horse for surreptitious data collection and sneaky backdoor downloads never really crossed our minds. Alas, it is now blindingly obvious to anyone that the whole thing was a big ruse that preyed upon na├»ve Intraweb users – specifically, children.

For starters, the titular BonziBuddy wasn’t the only thing you downloaded to your hard drive. The app also downloaded a proprietary Bonzi Software toolbar to your browser, except they never told you that in the fine print. On top of that, the BonziBuddy itself had a bad habit of obstructing your browsing, popping up while you were trying to read IGN and filling the screen with all sorts of ads (including a few pioneering scareware ads that were designed to fool users into thinking MS dialog boxes had been opened.)

The app also launched this thing called BonziWorld, which was a jungle-themed central hub of sorts that redirected you to a bunch of Bonzi Software pages (most notably, for the company’s other big-seller, Internet ALERT.) The download also had the unstated after-effect of resetting your homepage to the company’s central site, triggering unwanted pop-up ads and – the biggie – tracking user web browsing information. Hilariously, a 2001 update tacked on another new feature – irony of ironies, an alleged “virus” checker.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before the app wound up in court. A 2002 class action lawsuit forced Bonzi Software to fess up to using scareware ads to deceive consumers and, representing the death blow to the app and software firm as a whole, the FTC slammed them in 2004 with a $75,000 fine for collecting data on underage users and not providing the federally mandated consent forms to their parents. The application was overhauled shortly thereafter, but it was for naught; the company would go belly up before the year was over.

Surely, those "recommended" sites have to be on the up and up, right? After all, there is NO reason to be wary of software that uses the phrase "best friend" with literal quotation marks included. NONE AT ALL. 

The internet being the wide-open chasm it is, however, users were able to download the BonziBuddy – or at least reach his central website – as late as 2008. Since then, however, pretty much all vestiges of the app’s existence have been scrubbed from the Web (well, except for the smart-alecky memetic recollections of salty forum dwellers, apparently.)

Outside of firing up your old Windows 2000-powered PC from way back when, it’s pretty much impossible to re-experience the BonziBuddy phenomenon. Granted, there are a few videos out there – and thanks to the Internet Archive, you can even view the old app website just the way it was in 2000 (which allows you to download some kind of file from the old site with the suffix .exe, but I ain't brave enough to run it) – but just gawping at the damn thing isn’t the same thing as actually fiddling around with it. You can watch speed runs on YouTube all day, but watching Ninja Gaiden II on the NES isn’t the same thing as playing it. The same holds true for the BonziBuddy – unless you lived it, you’ll never be able to fully comprehend it.

Of course, you can’t really evaluate the BonziBuddy phenomenon without taking a look at its creators – Joe and Jay Bonzi of San Luis Obispo, Calif. As it turns out, Bonzi Software was just one of their many ventures in the early 1990s and late 2000s, which also included something called TrueTv.com (no relation to the Ted Turner-owned TruTV, I assume) and Bonzi Aviation, Inc. Per legal filings, it appears the duo spent a bulk of their post-Bonzi careers working for a marketing firm called 2KDirect, LLC, whose subsidiaries include the digital ad network iPROMTEu.

As the ultimate ephemeral media platform – where videos, photos, text and even entire websites can disappear overnight – semi-obscure internet nostalgia a’la the BonziBuddy represent our newest form of cultural currency. While possessing virtually no financial value, recollections of pre-Myspace advents of the like serve as a time capsule to a bygone era, giving us a firmer grasp of the times than even the “legitimate” media of the era. The same way scores and scores of channels on YouTube are dedicated to commercials from the late 1980s and early 1990s, it’s really only a matter of time until before-Facebook web ephemera becomes the next big thing in “retro.”

At the time, BonziBuddy was just another novel attraction on a fledgling media platform. A decade ago, it was a nearly forgotten antiquity exemplifying the faults and flaws of the early days of the Internet. But now? It’s a bona-fide part of American pop cultural history, a shared emblem of an entire, technology-weaned generation and – perhaps above all else – a reminder of a less complicated, somewhat more innocuous society untainted by the omnipresent stain of reality television, social media vanity and the ubiquitous – and frankly, inescapable – gravity of the mobile-Internet-sphere.

And malware or not, goddamn, is that little gorilla just as adorable now as he was back when TRL was still a thing