Philip Berne

Movie Review: Black Swan

Movie Review: Black Swan

For fans of Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan engages some of the director's best tropes. It is thankfully more Pi than The Wrestler, more Requiem for a Dream than The Fountain. Throughout the movie, I had the vague feeling that I should be bored by what I was seeing, but instead I was constantly engaged. Even some of the mundane and tired aspects of this genre felt fresh and new under the hand of Aronofsky and the panicked eye of Natalie Portman.

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A Cartoonish Way to Prevent Cruelty

A Cartoonish Way to Prevent Cruelty

In graduate school, I mostly studied –isms. Feminism. Marxism. Racism. I got a Master's degree in Cultural Theory, which is sort of an intersection between philosophy and deep analysis of English literature. Mostly, I read philosophers who talked about literature and wanted to change the world. When I started my course of study, I thought I would get a PhD. I thought I would become a professor. But over the course of two years of graduate study, I realized that all we were doing was reading and talking. The authors we read were writing mostly in terms so abstract that you could hardly divine what they were talking about, let alone what they wanted to accomplish. It seemed a terrible way to change the world, talking but not doing anything. So, I left.

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Twitter Power and the Hobby Lobby

Twitter Power and the Hobby Lobby

Yesterday an old friend posted on Facebook: "XXX dislikes craft stores (and all stores for that matter) that say, "no nothing Hannukah in here - we are a Christian store. We only celebrate Christmas." Nice." How old is this friend? I used to babysit her and her brother when they were kids. She still lives in our hometown, Columbia, Md. Columbia is a fantastic place to grow up. It is often rated one of the best cities in which one could live, along with neighboring Ellicott City. Columbia is a planned city, and a progressive city. It is zoned to be integrated, in terms of socio-economics, and most schools have a racial and religious mix that is far more diverse than the rest of the country. It is the sort of place I'd like to raise my own children, and the open-minded upbringing I had in Columbia certainly shaped my worldview for the rest of my life.

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The Freedom of WikiSpeech

The Freedom of WikiSpeech

I've had a lot of trouble wrapping my mind around the whole WikiLeaks affair. My first instinct was conservative, to say the least, and perhaps even jingoistic. I agreed with the sentiment that WikiLeaks, and its founder Julian Assange, was directly attacking the U.S. I hadn't felt this way about the previous WikiLeaks revelations, but something about this recent information dump struck me differently. In the past, the revelations had always been about the wars the U.S. is fighting abroad. I have some complicated views on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I won't get into them here. But regardless of whether you are in favor of continuing the fighting abroad or withdrawing all of our troops, I think we can all agree that war is the most dire situation in which a country can find itself. It's not a decision to be made lightly, or ignorantly. That is why I was supportive of previous WikiLeaks actions. Americans should know the truth about the wars we are fighting, and that means the entire truth.

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Happy Birthday To You Who Won’t Read This

Happy Birthday To You Who Won’t Read This

Today is my wife's birthday. She isn't sentimental about birthdays or most holidays, so I won't get in trouble for not remembering to wish her a happy birthday before she ran out the door, rushing to get our son to pre-school on time. I'll probably get in trouble for how much I spent on her present. She asked for a spa day. A massage and a facial. I'll never understand why women like to get their faces poked at as a gift, but she doesn't understand why I sit in front of the television twiddling my thumbs for hours at a time.

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We Need To Talk

We Need To Talk

When I think of the communication breakdown that we're experiencing in our culture, my first instinct is to blame AOL. Yes, AOL, which for many of us was the first way we experienced the Internet. Or, more specifically, I blame Elwood Edwards, whose voice you would hear every time you logged onto AOL and discovered that "You've Got Mail." Was there any sweeter sound? It was so optimistic. A lilting tone with an upward lift at the end. A single spondaic stress with an iamb at the end. It was like the dinging sound of a slot machine when you win. Vegas casinos have long known that people will associate that ringing with winning in a Pavlovian sense, and will keep inserting money not just until they win, but until they hear the reassuring "ding." The same was true for AOL. We would log on multiple times, waiting as the page slowly filled in over our dial-up connections, until the end when Mr. Edwards would make his proud proclamation. Or not, at which point we'd feel dejected. Like we had failed, somehow.

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Are Premium 3D Glasses Worth It?

Are Premium 3D Glasses Worth It?

I was going to review Harry Potter this weekend, but I realized that would be a pointless endeavor. I try to review films on the edge of good taste, to either save my readers from a horrible film, or recommend a surprisingly good one. Harry Potter is a no-brainer movie. If you have seen the first six movies, you must see this one. If you haven't seen them, you have about 15 hours of movie watching to do before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I will make any sense. So, instead of reviewing the obvious blockbuster hit, I decided to try an experiment.

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Cut, Copy and Hate

Cut, Copy and Hate

Digital culture ran smack into politics this week when celebrity gossip site TMZ published what it claimed (uncontested by those involved) were screen shots of a Facebook conversation had by Willow Palin, the daughter of the controversial political figure Sarah Palin. I remember the days when a politician was stabbed in the back by a gruff, anonymous source who used a fake name and passed dossiers in a dark parking garage. Reporters would work for days to verify the claims just to make sure they were true. Now, all you have to do is press shift-cmd-4, and you can make a perfect copy that you can distribute to the entire world in an instant. It's still easy to fake information, but it's even easier to pass along the raw data.

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A Modest Travel Safety Proposal

A Modest Travel Safety Proposal

It is a sad day when I board a plane and all I see around me are potential terrorists. And I'm not just talking about the obvious terrorists, the disgruntled white Midwestern men. Remembering that most successful terrorists look just like us when they fly, it is impossible to feel safe and secure on an airplane. These potential enemies are all wearing underwear, in which they could smuggle explosive devices (or large sums of cash, if you live in Md). They all have shoes on, with thick soles that could easily hide weapons or bomb-making material. They bring with them luggage, certainly large enough to carry a mass destruction device. Everywhere I look, all I see is danger.

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The Social Tide Receding

The Social Tide Receding

There were a few instances that made me realize my social networking habits had gone too far, for too long. One of them went something like this. I would say to my wife something like: "Hey, my friend Gina is pregnant."

"Who's Gina?" My wife would ask.

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Movie Review: Skyline

Movie Review: Skyline

I've heard the movie Skyline compared to Cloverfield, as the same movie but with better camerawork. It's true that Skyline takes concepts from obvious influences, Cloverfield being one, but in many ways it also comes across as fresh and new. It isn’t a very good movie, though it is mostly an enjoyable ride. But the best part about Skyline is that it's a fair benchmark for just how far special effects have come in the decade or so.

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Wired Makes a Boob of Itself

Wired Makes a Boob of Itself

Thank you Wired. Thank you so much for the boobs cover. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. I was racking my brain trying to think of a lighthearted topic for a Friday column, and there you come, smacking me in the face. At first I thought it was just silly, but with all the attention the cover has been getting, I couldn't look away. So I'm going to tackle this topic head on. I'm going to grab it with both hands. Motorboat. Sorry, couldn't think of a stupid pun so I just stuck that in.

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