Music Video of the Day: Golden Spiral by Holly Miranda (2019, dir by Natalie Morales)


I like this music video because it doesn’t look like it cost much to make but, at the same time, it also communicates the idea that the world is on the verge of ending.  This is the Ides of March, after all.  If there’s ever been a day to appreciate apocalyptic art, this would be it.

Personally, I have my doubt as to whether or not Julius Caesar really appreciated art.  Everything that I’ve read about him would seem to suggest that he was more into war and military history than into artistic representations of those same things.  Cassius, however, probably had a god eye for art.  He sounds like he was an intellectual.  As for Brutus, I imagine that he always made sure to say that he liked everything that everyone else liked.  Brutus was probably a lot like the character that Tatum O’Neal played in Basquiat.

Anyway, enjoy!

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #16: Zoolander 2 (dir by Ben Stiller)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Wednesday, November 30th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

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On October 14th, I recorded Zoolander 2 off of Epix.

A sequel to the 2001 cult hit, Zoolander 2 came out earlier this year and got absolutely terrible reviews and quickly vanished from theaters.  Watching the film last night, I could understand why it got such terrible reviews.  Zoolander 2 is not only a terrible movie but it’s also a rather bland one.  Somehow, the blandness is even more offensive than the badness.

Zoolander 2 opens with Justin Bieber getting assassinated and Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) being forced to come out of retirement and discover why pop stars are being targeted.  And, of course, Zoolander can’t do it without the help of Hansel (Owen Wilson)!  Penelope Cruz is in the film as well, playing  Zoolander’s handler and essentially being wasted in a role that could have been played by anyone.

Oh!  And Will Ferrell returns as well.  Ferrell gives a performance that essentially shouts out to the world, “Fuck you, I’m Will Ferrell and no one is going to tell Will Ferrell to tone his shit down!”

Actually, I think everyone in the world is in Zoolander 2.  This is one of those films that is full of cameos from people who probably thought a silly comedy would be good for their image.  For instance, there’s a huge number of journalists who show up playing themselves.  Matt Lauer shows up and I get the feeling that we’re supposed to be happy about that.  There was a reason why people cheered when the sharks ate him in Sharknado 3.

You know who else shows up as himself?  Billy Zane!  And Billy Zane has exactly the right type of attitude for a film like this.  He shows up and he mocks the whole enterprise by giving the Billy Zaniest performance of Billy Zane’s career.  For that matter, Kiefer Sutherland also shows up as himself.  I’m not really sure what Kiefer was doing in the film but he makes sure to deliver all of his lines in that sexy growl of his.  Kiefer knows what we want to hear.

You may notice that I’m not talking about the plot of Zoolander 2.  That’s largely because I couldn’t follow the plot.  This is an incredibly complicated film but it’s not complicated in a funny way.  Instead, it’s complicated in a way that suggests that the film was made up on the spot.  It’s as if the cast said, “We’re all funny!  Just turn on the camera and we’ll make it work!”

The problem with Zoolander 2 is obvious.  The first film pretty much exhausted the comic possibilities of making a spy film about shallow and stupid models.  Don’t get me wrong — the first film did a good job but it’s not like it left any material untapped.  But I would ask you to indulge me as I imagine an alternate reality.

Consider this: Terrence Malick was reportedly a huge fun of Zoolander.

Let’s take just a minute to imagine a world in which Ben Stiller asked Terrence Malick to write and direct Zoolander 2.  And let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Malick agreed!

Just think about it — 4 hours of Zoolander and Hansel staring up at the sky and thinking about nature.  “What is this thing that causes the heart of man to beat?” Zoolander asks.  “Are we nature or has nature become us?” Hansel replies.

That would have been a fun film!

Let’s Talk About Sharknado 4!


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Last Sunday night saw the premiere of Sharknado: The Fourth Awakens!

For the fourth year in a row, SyFy and the Asylum allowed us to take a peak into the shark-filled life of Finn Shepherd (Ian Ziering) and his family.  Also for the fourth year in a row, the premiere of the latest Sharknado film was practically a national holiday.  Long before the film even started, #Sharknado4 was the number one trending topic on twitter.  I actually live tweeted the film twice, once for the east coast and then a second time for my friends on the west coast.  That’s right — I sent out over 300 tweets about Sharknado 4 on Sunday and I’ve never been more proud of myself.  Live tweeting the latest Sharknado is a lot like wishing someone you barely know a happy birthday on Facebook. It’s a part of the ritual of social media.  It’s like the Internet’s version of a Thanksgiving parade or a 4th of July fireworks show.

After four films, it’s easy to forget that Sharknado started out like almost any other SyFy film.  The first Sharknado film featured no celebrity cameos and very little of the self-referential comedy that has come to define the series.  In fact, I didn’t even see Sharknado when it first aired because it premiered, opposite a Big Brother eviction show, on a Thursday.  It was only on Friday morning that I discovered that Sharknado had become a phenomena, largely due to the fact that celebrities like Mia Farrow had decided to live tweet it.

After all this time, it’s easy to forget just how much we veteran live tweeters resented that attention that was paid to celebrities like Farrow, the majority of whom were virgins as far as live tweeting SyFy was concerned.  (The fact that the majority of Farrow’s Sharknado tweets weren’t that good only added insult to injury.)  The media acted as if those celebs had invented live tweeting.  They also acted as if Sharknado was the first entertaining and over-the-top film to ever premiere on SyFy.  Among those of us who had been live tweeting SyFy film long before the premiere of Sharknado and who had loved pre-Sharknado movies like Jersey Shore Shark Attack and Shark Week, there was more than a little resentment.

But you know what?  I watched Sharknado the following Saturday and I had a great time live tweeting it.  The next year, I made sure to watch and live tweet Sharknado 2 the night that it premiered.  The same was true of Sharknado 3 and I even ended up casting a vote on the question of whether or not April should survive that film’s cliffhanger.  With its cheerful absurdity and determination to continually top the glorious absurdity of each previous entry, the Sharknado franchise won me over.  In fact, the franchise won over not only me but hundreds of thousands of other viewers.  Sharknado has become very much a part of our culture.

As I mentioned above, Sharknado 3 ended with a cliffhanger and that alone indicates just how big a deal Sharknado has become.  Sharknado 2 was made because the first Sharknado was an unexpected success.  Sharknado 3 followed because Sharknado 2 had proven that the first one was not a fluke and that there was an audience for these films.  However, by the time 3 was in production, there was never any doubt that there would be a Sharknado 4.  Sharknado 4 also ends with a rather abrupt cliffhanger, leaving little doubt that there will be a Sharknado 5.  At this point, not doing another Sharknado film would be the same as canceling summer all together.

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As for what Sharknado 4 was about … well, does it really matter?  At this point, we know that there’s going to be another sharknado and that Finn is just going to happen to be nearby when it strikes.  We know that landmarks will be destroyed (in this case, Las Vegas is thoroughly ravaged during the film’s first 30 minutes).  We know that Al Roker will show up and say stuff like, “There are reports of a Lightningnado near Kansas…”  (Both Roker and Natalie Morales apparently survived being attacked by sharks during Sharknado 3, though Morales does have an eyepatch in 4.  Matt Lauer is nowhere to be seen so I assume he wasn’t as lucky.)  We know that celebrities will appear in a cameos and that the majority of them will be promptly eaten by a flying shark.  We know that Finn and his family will eventually have to use a chainsaw to battle the sharks and we know that at least one person will be rescued from the inside of a shark’s stomach.

We don’t really watch a movie a like Sharknado 4 for the plot.  We watch it for the communal experience.  Last Sunday was Sharknado Day and it seems like the entire world was on twitter, talking about Sharknado 4.  The majority of us weren’t tweeting about the plot.  Instead, we were acknowledging that we had picked up on the in-jokes and the references to other films.  When April (Tara Reid) showed up alive and was revealed to now by a cyborg, many references were made to the Terminator — both in the film and on twitter.  When we learned that David Hasselhoff has been rescued from the moon, it was time to make jokes about The Martian.  When it was announced that a sharknado was headed towards Kansas, I made a Wizard of Oz joke on twitter.  Three minutes later, in the movie, a house fell on a character who could charitably be called a witch.  We briefly got a shot of her feet sticking out from under the house.

(I should also mention that Gary Busey shows up, playing a mad scientist.  The fact that Sharknado 4 could find prominent roles for both the Hoff and the Busey says a lot about what makes this franchise so endearingly entertaining.  Considering that Penn Jillette was in Sharknado 3, you have to wonder if the franchise will eventually feature every single person who appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice.  Who doesn’t want to see a flying shark bite off Piers Morgan’s head?)

(Actually, as long as I’m mentioning stuff — here’s my favorite inside joke.  Finn and his family are driving through North Texas.  Just judging by the hills and the mountains in the background, this scene was not actually filmed in Texas.  Anyway, they stop off at a general store where Dog Chapman — the bounty hunter — sells them a chainsaw.  When the sharks attack Texas, a chainsaw-wielding army is waiting for them.  Among that army is Caroline Williams, who starred in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.  On the one hand, everyone viewing will immediately get the chainsaw joke.  But only the dedicated horror fans will truly understand why it’s so brilliant that Caroline Williams was credited as playing a character named Stretch.)

At this point, the Sharknado franchise is no longer just a series of films.  Instead, it’s a deliriously over-the-top experience.  In these times of partisan rancor, it briefly did not matter if you were a liberal or a conservative, a Democrat or a Republican.  For two hours on Sunday night, if you were watching and live tweeting Sharkando 4, you were a part of a gigantic family, a community of people with an appreciation for over the top silliness.  Sharknado 4 brought this country together.

That’s not bad for a film about a bunch of flying sharks.

If you missed Sharknado 4 the first time, catch it when it’s shown again.  Just make sure that you watch it with a friend, someone who you can trust to make you laugh.

And, for God’s sake, enjoy yourself!

Life’s too short not to enjoy a Sharknado film!

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Let’s Talk About Sharknado 3!


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(This review contains spoilers because it’s impossible for me to imagine that you somehow have not already seen Sharknado 3.)

Last night, I watched and live tweeted Sharknado 3 and I’m still recovering.  After the first hundred, I lost track of how many tweets I devoted to Sharknado 3.  Of course, I wasn’t alone in that.  Last night, it seemed like the entire nation was tweeting about Sharknado 3 and it was a wonderful thing.  At its best, twitter can be the great equalizer, giving everyone an equal voice and last night was one of those moments.

In fact, I was tempted to just devote this review to posting the best Sharknado 3 tweets from last night.  However, if I did that, 90% of those tweets would be from me.  Out of the millions of Sharknado 3 related tweets last night, mine were definitely the best.

Over the past three years, the premiere of the latest Sharknado film has almost become an unofficial national holiday, a summer version of the Super Bowl.  On twitter, Sharknado 3 was trending for days before the film even premiered.  And, once Sharknado 3 did start, it seemed as if everyone in the country was watching and taking bets on which celebrity guest star would be the next to die.  (I’m very proud to say that I correctly predicted the bloody and prolonged death of Frankie Muniz.) Even the majority of the commercials were specifically meant to tie in with the Sharknado franchise.

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Fans of the first Sharknado will be happy to know that Nova returns!

But what’s amazing and admirable is that, even though the franchise has now become an international phenomena, Sharknado 3 stayed true to its SyFy roots.  Ignore all the hype and you’ll see that Sharknado 3 tells  a story that will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched any SyFy original movie.  The world is threatened by a flamboyant threat, in this case a bunch of tornadoes that happens to be full of sharks.  Only one man (Ian Ziering as Finn) can save the world but first, he has to deal with skeptical military jackasses.  As always seems to happen in these films, he’s separated from his wife (Tara Reid playing the role of April and sporting a truly badass robotic hand).  Meanwhile, their teenage daughter (Ryan Newman as Claudia) has gone off on her own and finds herself right in the center of the disaster.  It’s a plot that has been used in thousands of SyFy and Asylum films but director Anthony C. Ferrante directs with a lot of energy and writer Thunder Levin provides so many clever one liners that it doesn’t matter if the storyline is familiar.  Ignore all the hype and you’ll discover that Sharknado 3 is still a wonderfully fun film that features everything that we love about SyFy movies.

Of course, one thing that distinguishes Sharknado 3 from other Asylum film is that it is full of celebrity cameos.  Usually, I am weary of excessive celebrity cameos because they’re distracting and the celebs often turn out to be terrible actors.  But the celebs in Sharknado 3 all do a wonderful job.  (Add to that, the majority of them get eaten, as well.)  Then again, the same could be said for the entire cast.  Regardless of what they’re asked to do or say, Ian Ziering and Tara Reid both full commit to their performances.  Casting director Gerald Webb is indeed one of the unsung heroes of the entire Sharknado phenomena.

The film opens with a shark attack on Washington D.C. and it’s during this time that we meet President Mark Cuban and Vice President Ann Coulter.  And, oh my God, how certain heads on twitter exploded when Ann Coulter showed up.  But you know what?  After seeing Sharknado 3, I would totally vote for a Cuban/Coulter ticket.  I don’t care what their platform is, they know how to fight sharks and they seemed far more believable than anyone who is currently running for President.  At first, I assumed that Mark Cuban was supposed to be playing himself and I thought that Sharknado 3 had somehow managed to predict the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.  However, I then checked with the imdb and I discovered that Cuban was playing President Marcus Robbins.

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The same people on twitter who were bitching about Ann Coulter weren’t much happier when Michele Bachman showed up, playing herself.  (For a few minutes, I was hoping that the movie would be full of cameos from former Presidential candidates.)  However, the political cameos in Sharknado 3 are bipartisan.  When the action moves down to Orlando, noted Democrat Jerry Springer shows up as a tourist and promptly gets eaten.  And then Carlos Danger himself, Anthony Weiner, shows up as a heroic NASA guy.  Eventually, for those of us who lean towards the libertarian side of the political spectrum, Penn Jilette and Teller eventually show up.  Personally, I suspect that Teller knew how to stop the sharks but, of course, he wasn’t going to say anything.

As for the cameos from various media personalities, Sharknado 3 never manages to top the moment from Sharknado 2 where Kelly Ripa stomped a shark with her high heels.  But no matter — it’s still fun to watch Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda get drunk while sharks fall around them.  And then Matt Lauer gets eaten by a shark so yay for that!

(Incidentally, whether intentional or not, the film was full of former contestants from The Celebrity Apprentice, with Ian, Penn, and Lou Ferrigno all showing up.  Personally, I would have enjoyed seeing Piers Morgan get eaten by a shark.)

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However, of all the celebrity cameos in Sharknado 3, nobody could top the Hoff.  When David Hasselhoff first showed up as Finn’s father, it felt like a funny but obvious joke.  Of course, Finn’s father would be David Hasselhoff.  But you know what?  Give credit where credit is due.  The Hoff actually gave a pretty good performance and, during the film’s interstellar climax, he managed to do a pretty good impersonation of George Clooney as he looked out into space and said, “It’s a beautiful view.”

And yes, Sharknado 3 does go into space.  How could it not?  The film may have started out as an homage to the classic weather disaster films but, by the end of the movie, it turned into a delirious combination of JawsGravity and Interstellar.  By the time Finn was exploring the stomach of a shark while it floated through the starry sky, Sharknado 3 had achieved a definite state of grace.

Incidentally, the film ended with a cliffhanger and we were asked to vote whether or not April would live.  At first, I voted to kill April because, quite frankly, I thought it would be fun to see a vengeance-obsessed Finn.  But then Tara Reid tweeted the following and made me feel totally guilty:

So, I’m changing my vote!  APRIL LIVES!

Of course, all this means that there will be Sharknado 4 and I can hardly wait!

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Trash TV Guru : “Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda”


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Okay, I’m gonna step waaaaaayyyy out of my usual “comfort zone” as a self-appointed critic here — and probably step in it, quite literally, with some points I’m going to make about what the over-two-hours-in-length self-promotional, self-congratulatory pablum I just watched on the Discovery Channel, Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda — says about our society in general and our collective taste in television programming, but what the hell? I’m in the mood to piss off a lot of folks who deserve to have their delicate sensibilities prodded at worst, completely shattered at best, so here we go.

First off, Nik Wallenda , an umpteenth-generation daredevil and great-grandson of the legendary Karl Wallenda, has balls of brass. He just walked across a 1,400-foot gorge  that’s over 1,500 feet high on a fucking cable. It was incredible. It was an amazing feat I couldn’t undertake if the lives of myself and everyone I loved depended on it. Bravo, sir. That was some genuinely incredible stuff and I tip my cap to you with all the respect in the world. I’m not here to denigrate your amazing accomplishment, in and of itself, in any way, shape, or form. Unfortunately, the show that featured your breathtaking, heart-stopping, courageous, death-defying performance was complete shit. And a lot of that, Nik, is your own fault.

That’s because you allowed yourself, I’m guessing quite willingly, to be used. By a ratings-hungry cable network, a shove-it-down-your-throat segment of Evangelical Christianity (not that there’s really much of a mellow, “live-and-let-live” contingent among that bunch), your own fame-starved ego, and the American public’s passive-aggressive thirst to see our idols brought low at any cost — even and especially if it means their death.

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Taking those culprits for this show’s demise, then, in order : obviously there are a lot of worthless channels on the tube competing for our attention right now, but few are are as openly hypocritical and shamelessly self-aggrandizing as Discovery. During the numerous commercial breaks that peppered  the interminable,  90-plus-minute lead-up to Wallenda’s actual walk itself hosted by low-rent presenters Natalie Morales and Willie Geist (go on, say it with me — “whoever the fuck they are”), which was every bit as hype-inflated as the Super Bowl pregame and loaded with obviously staged “candid interviews” with Wallenda and his family and “actual behind-the-scenes footage” of his training (that just happened to include a shot of him parking a Mitsubishi car and Mitsubishi just happened to be the main sponsor of Skywire Live), they kept pimping the show debuting right after, Naked And Afraid, a “reality” program that apparently drops an overweight, middle-aged couple into the middle of the jungle with no clothes, no food, and no dignity, and dares them to survive. Real classy stuff. And this from a network that still tries to pretend to specialize in educational programming? Please. Discovery is a channel featuring lowest-of-the-lowest-common-denominator shows that are developed by greedy, shameless executives and watched and enjoyed by stupid people. Rumor has it that not only was Wallenda’s walk not over the Grand Canyon as advertised (actually, that’s not a rumor — it took place on Navajo Land  along the Colorado River that, frankly, isn’t part of the Grand Canyon, and the local tribal chief is apparently quite pissed about the network constantly referring to his area as being something it’s not), but that he had a light-weight emergency parachute hidden under his shirt in case he fell. I actually hope that’s true, because I like to think that there’s enough humanity left in the assholes that make these shows to at least not want to see their star performers get killed, although that same promise of potential death seems to be at the crux of Naked And Afraid‘s apparent “appeal,” as well. But more on that in a minute.

Next up, the Christians. Despite Wallenda’s wife insisting that her husband’s main goal with this spectacular stunt was too — yawn — “inspire other people to follow their dreams,” it’s quite clear that what he was really trying to do was promulgate his religious faith, and make a boat-load of money in the process. You’d think a guy in his position would be doing everything he could to keep the amount of weight he was balancing on that cable to a minimum, but he wore a heavy, dangling silver cross around his neck, thanked Jesus with every step he took and God with every fourth or fifth step, and indulged in some of the most purple, over-the-top, nauseating proclamations of faith you could imagine. “Dear sweet Jesus whose precious blood sanctified us all and in whose honor and glory I move forward across this gorge, please, I beg in your holy name, make these winds rising from the canyon floor die down and carry me across in safety to the other side so I can give you all the credit for the work that I’m out here doing” isn’t exactly a verbatim quote from Wallenda, but it may as well be. And did you happen to notice the not-exactly-camera-shy televangelist phony Joel Osteen on hand to pray with Nik, his wife, and his kids just before he went across? Of course you did, a snake like Osteen wouldn’t be there otherwise. It seems a little bit weird that a guy of Wallenda’s background — who uses his mother’s last name rather than his dad’s, a most non-traditional way of keeping the famous family name going , and who grew  grew up in the ribald world of carny performers — would throw his lot in with repressive, right-wing Bible-thumpers, but that certainly appears to be the case . You’ll find less overt religiosity in any given episode of the fucking 700 Club than there was on Skywire Live.

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And yet, for all the talk of wanting to give the “praise and glory” for his achievement to his “lord and savior,” Wallenda sure seemed to enjoy stroking his own ego, as well. Every one of the completely scripted “interviews” with his family before he actually hit the high-wire was a puff-piece designed to portray our ostensible hero in the most glowing — dare I say radiant — light, and when he did finally begin his perilous crossing, he first insisted that he just wanted to ‘quit talking” and be alone with his thoughts , before  duly proceeding to to yak (and, as we’ve already established, preach) to the camera the entire twenty-plus-minute duration of his trek. He complained of being thirsty when he was finished. Gee, wonder why that would be?

Finally, we need to focus some of the blame for this debacle not on its star, nor his hangers-on, nor his network bosses, but on ourselves. We watched Wallenda’s tight-rope act, at least in part, to see what would happen not if he made it, but if he didn’t. Just like the folks who are really watching NASCAR hoping to see a fiery and fatal crash. Or who are watching an NFL to see a gruesome, career-ending injury. Or who are watching Naked And Afraid to see the couple starve to death or be eaten by wild animals (another thing Discovery would, presumably, never allow to actually happen, at least for legal, if not moral, reasons). At least in the Roman gladiatorial arena they were upfront about why the crowds were there, but these days we don’t have the guts to look at ourselves that closely and honestly. There’s something deeply flawed within the human mind, or heart, or soul, or wherever it is, that the supposed blood of Nik Wallenda’s supposed savior can’t fix — in fact, the very notion that we think we need some poor schmuck’s blood to save us from anything (well, okay, specifically to save us from ourselves) is just further proof of what I’m talking about. We feel that the death of another somehow not only justifies our existence, but even more perversely sanctifies it. I’m no saint. I’m a flawed, contradictory, complex, perhaps even entirely unfathomable human being. And so are you. There’s no way that somebody’s demise is gonna change that and somehow make us “pure”  — whether that somebody is Nik Wallenda, John F. Kennedy, Dale Earnhardt or Jesus Christ. We may desperately want to think that seeing someone of great accomplishment die a very public and spectacular death somehow “proves” that we’r every bit as good and worthy as they are, but honestly, folks — that was never in doubt. Nik Wallenda puts his pants on one leg at a time just like you and me. He doesn’t need to die to prove that, and his “savior” — whether real or imagined, which is another debate for another time — didn’t need to die to prove it to him. Can we please just grow the fuck up as a species and leave all this blood sacrifice bullshit behind us one and for all? Countless “living gods” and heroes of one stripe or another have either mythically or actually sacrificed themselves for us by this point, and we’re still the same sorry-ass bunch as ever. This whole “purification by blood” thing just ain’t working. Can’t we try something else?

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Well, no, apparently we can’t. Not as long as there are TV networks willing to tease the possibility of death in order to grab ratings, and not as long as there are people willing to prostitute out their talents to said networks for that purpose. Wallenda can pray with Joel Osteen to find any other angle on why people were watching his show tonight all he wants to, but the ugly truth of the matter is that lots of folks were secretly hoping to see him perish, and 2,000-plus years of the kind of Jesus-freaking he was doing tonight haven’t changed that fact. It’s said that every society gets the monsters it deserves, and while Nik Wallenda hardly qualifies as a monster by any stretch of the imagination, his show tonight — and all its ilk — are definitely monstrosities that exploit the darkest recesses or our human nature, stoke them to a fever pitch, and make suckers of us all. They pervert even the most astonishing feats and twist them into something cheap, ugly, degrading, and degraded. And we respond by loving every minute of it and lining up for more.