Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng

Reporter

Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.

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A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for ShoeComics.com. His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

Yes, Potential Senate Candidate Ashley Judd Has Gotten Naked on Screen. So Have These Political Figures.

| Mon Mar. 4, 2013 4:47 PM EST

Late Sunday evening, the Daily Caller's entertainment editor Taylor Bigler posted a short item on actress, activist, potential US Senate candidate, and rape survivor Ashley Judd. The post notes that Judd, who seems to be laying the groundwork for a 2014 challenge to Republican Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, has appeared in a bunch of movies naked, half-naked, or partially naked. The Caller piece cites her performances in films like Norma Jean and Marilyn and Eye of the Beholder, and is based on data from MrSkin.com, an online database of nude and sex scenes celebs have done on-screen. MrSkin.com—which I will decline to link to in this post—gives Judd four stars and ranks her as "Hall of Fame Nudity!"

(Click here to read my podcast partner Alyssa Rosenberg's rage-filled rebuttal to Bigler's post.)

Judd has discussed her nude scenes candidly before. She turned down an audition for the female lead in a 1992 Christian Slater film because the audition demanded a topless screen test. "My mother worked too hard for me to take off my clothes in my first movie," she told People magazine. And in this interview with Delaware County Magazine, Judd opened up about stripping down for the sex scene in Double Jeopardy, one of the films referenced in the Daily Caller story.

"But will Judd be the first potential senator who has — literally — nothing left to show us?" Bigler wrote, with tongue firmly ensconced in cheek.

Actually, no.

There was a time not too long ago that Scott Brown was a Republican senator from Massachusetts. Here's a photo of him:

scott brown naked cosmo nude
Brown was awarded Cosmo's distinction of "America's Sexiest Man," and appeared in this June 1982 spread. Via Cosmopolitan.com

Here are some other successful American politicians who were elected and appointed despite having borne their flesh for all the world and internet to see:

Arnold Schwarzenegger:

This doesn't even begin to touch the work he did during his earlier bodybuilder days. Despite the above clip—and some serious groping allegations—Arnold was elected as the governor who oversaw the world's ninth largest economy.

Clint Eastwood:

clint eastwood doug mcclure
Via TCM.com

The icon was a one-term mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California in the late '80s, and decades later introduced Mitt Romney at the 2012 Republican National Convention (here's how that turned out).

Jesse Ventura:

jesse ventura wrestling
Close enough. Via WWE

His enthusiastically shirtless and sweaty pro-wrestling did not stop him from getting elected governor of Minnesota.

Kal Penn:

Penn has acted in nudity-riddled set pieces and cheap, extremely awkward sex scenes (like in National Lampoon's Van Wilder, pictured above). And though he has never been elected to public office, he has served multiple stints as associate director for the Office of Public Engagement in the Obama administration.

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"Movie & An Argument" Podcast: Dennis Rodman, North Korea, and The Oscars

| Fri Mar. 1, 2013 5:48 PM EST

On this week's episode of A Movie & An Argument, With Alyssa Rosenberg & Asawin Suebsaeng, we discuss (scroll down for audio):

Listen:

Each week, I'll be sitting down to chat with ThinkProgress critic Alyssa Rosenberg (who also does killer work at The Atlantic and Slate's "Double X"). We'll talk, argue, and laugh about the latest movies, television shows, and pop-cultural nonsense—with some politics thrown in just for the hell of it.

Alyssa describes herself as being "equally devoted to the Star Wars expanded universe and Barbara Stanwyck, to Better Off Ted and Deadwood." I (everyone calls me Swin) am a devoted lover of low-brow dark humor, Yuengling, and movies with high body counts. I hope you enjoyed this episode, and tune in during the weeks to come.

We'll be featuring guests on the program, and also taking listeners' questions, so feel free to Tweet them at me here, and we'll see if we can get to them during a show.

Thank you for listening!

Click here for more movie and TV features from Mother Jones. To read more of Asawin's reviews, click here.

To find more episodes of this podcast, click here.

To check out Alyssa's Bloggingheads show, click here.

Dumb Comedy About Drunk Chinese-American College Kid at The Center of a Human Rights Controversy

| Fri Mar. 1, 2013 3:16 PM EST

Yup.

21 and Over
Relativity Media
93 minutes

The premise of 21 and Over is easy to grasp: Drunk Chinese-American college kid turns 21, and his two closest high school chums take him out for a raucous night on the town, during which he nearly reaches the point of horrendous alcohol poisoning. There are sorority girls and dick jokes aplenty. Hilarity theoretically ensues.

The film is the latest Hangover knock-off; it was written and directed by the same guys who wrote The Hangover. The movie stars Skylar Astin (the anti-bro from Pitch Perfect), Sarah Wright (Jerry's daughter from Parks and Recreation), Miles Teller (this guy), and Justin Chon, a Korean-American actor who is passed out for most of the movie and is thus reduced to a glorified ethnic prop.

It's the comedy-film equivalent of an empty calorie. It's inexcusably tiresome, and you've seen the same movie at least eight dozen times in the past three years. But unlike most movies about hormonal drunkards, this one is unique in the sense that it was at the center of a human rights controversy.

Yep. Here's an excerpt from an AP story from October 2011:

Rights activists have criticized a Hollywood studio for filming a buddy comedy in an eastern Chinese city where a blind, self-taught activist lawyer is being held under house arrest and reportedly beaten.

Relativity Media is shooting part of the comedy 21 and Over in Linyi, a city in Shandong province where the activist Chen Guangcheng's village is located. Authorities have turned Chen's village of Dongshigu into a hostile, no-go zone and activists, foreign diplomats and reporters have been turned back, threatened and had stones thrown at them by men patrolling the village...Relativity declined comment but said in a press release that filming in Linyi began last Wednesday. In the release, Linyi's top Communist Party official Zhang Shajun is quoted as calling Relativity's chief executive Ryan Kavanaugh a "good friend" while Relativity's Co-President Tucker Tooley describes Linyi as an "amazing" place.

(Chen Guangcheng is the blind Chinese civil rights and anti-poverty activist who gained international fame for his work documenting the Chinese government's policy of forced late-term abortions and sterilization. He was arbitrarily detained in August 2005 and escaped house arrest in April 2012. He also looks like a fantastic Grand Theft Auto character.)

Relativity Media (a studio previously involved in films like Bridesmaids and Shark Night 3D) caught the ire of a lot of Chinese human rights campaigners and pissed off their allies in the West. "Picking Linyi as a film location is probably not a good idea, but signing a deal with [Zhang Shajun] a person who is directly responsible for one of [the] most egregious and cruel abuses of a human rights defender in China is really beyond the pale," Nicholas Bequelin, senior researcher in the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, told TheWrap.

21 and Over was the first film made under Relativity's Chinese co-production venture. The decision to film in the city in Eastern China was a result of Relativity's deal with Chinese authorities: In order to distribute in the People's Republic's hugely profitable market, the studio was required to produce an alternate cut of the film specifically for Chinese theaters. The Chinese version is a cautionary tale; it changes the main character to a Chinese native who travels to an American college campus as an exchange student, becomes ensnared in a world of objectionable youthful dissipation, and then returns to China having learned his lesson. (The filmmakers' Chinese "liaison" had creative input.)

The United States looks bad, and Chinese moviegoers presumably get to have a nationalistic chuckle along with their cultural propaganda.

21 and Over was released the same week that retired NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman took a four-day trip to North Korea and ended up befriending totalitarian dictator Kim Jong Un, whom Rodman calls "an awesome kid" who is a "very honest" and devoted family man who is beloved by his countrymen and by Dennis Rodman. Fun facts.

Now here's a trailer for the miserably unfunny waste of time that human rights advocates also don't like:

21 and Over gets a wide release on Friday, March 1. The film is rated R for crude and sexual content, and crimes against humanity. Click here for local showtimes and tickets.

Click here for more movie and TV coverage from Mother Jones.

To read more of Asawin's reviews, click here.

To listen to the weekly movie and pop-culture podcast that Asawin co-hosts with ThinkProgress critic Alyssa Rosenberg, click here.

C. Everett Koop, the Only US Surgeon General Frank Zappa Sang About, Dead at 96

| Tue Feb. 26, 2013 10:52 AM EST
1916-2013.

C. Everett Koop, the most famous Surgeon General the United States ever had, passed away Monday at his New Hampshire residence. He was 96.

Koop, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and served until 1989, was famous for the aggressive anti-smoking campaign he launched in 1984. A former smoker, Koop challenged the country to become "smoke-free" by the year 2000, and railed against cigarettes as "the most important individual health risk in this country." His unprecedented action on AIDS awareness drove Reagan administration policy and kick-started a national conversation on sex education and safe sex. His initial report on the disease drew heated controversy for its frank discussion of sodomy, condoms, and his advocacy of teaching sex ed to kids as early as the third grade. (The government printed 20 million copies.) And although he staunchly opposed abortion on religious grounds, he declined to use his position to campaign against legal and safe abortion in America.

For these and other high-profile efforts, Koop became a household name (a level of fame unusual for a public health administrator), with some admirers referring to him as a "scientific Bruce Springsteen" and a "rock-star." He is also the only US Surgeon General to, a) have had his own reality TV show, and b) have a Frank Zappa song written about him.

In 1991, Koop hosted a five-part documentary series on NBC called C. Everett Koop, M.D. The show, over which Koop exercised a good deal of creative control, focused on the future of health and medicine, as well as the shortcomings of the United States health care system. C. Everett Koop, M.D. also made Koop the first and only Surgeon General to win an Emmy Award. Critic Walter Goodman of the New York Times dubbed it a "painfully timely series," and Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly wrote that "Koop has the presence of a natural TV star."

Obviously not everyone was a gentle admirer of Koop's: During a 1988 world tour, experimental rock artist Frank Zappa performed a hip-hop-tinged funk song titled "Promiscuous" that was harshly critical of Koop's and other Republicans' approach to the AIDS crisis. (You can hear part of the song here.) The lyrics are not quite safe for work; but here's a verse:

Is Doctor Koop a man to trust?

It seems at least that Reagan must

(And Ron's a trusting sort of guy -

He trusts Ed Meese

I wonder why?)

I WONDER WHY

WONDER WHY

Zappa's opinion was evidently not the prevailing one: In 1990, Koop was presented with the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. And in 1995, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

8 Offbeat Facts About Tonight's Academy Awards

| Sun Feb. 24, 2013 5:17 PM EST

Much like Hanukkah, the White House Correspondents' Dinner, or North Korea's annual gymnastics festival, the Oscars come only once a year.

And if you are one of the tens of millions of viewers who decided to forego another rerun of The Mentalist or Betty White's Off Their Rockers, and instead watch a bloated and self-aggrandizing Oscar telecast, here's a supplement to tonight's viewing. This will not be a drinking game, a score card, an Oscar bingo card, a running count of how many awards Meryl Streep has won this evening whether or not she's been nominated for anything, or my self-indulgent list of predictions or favorite Oscar snubs.

Instead, here are a few things you should know (that you probably didn't, or had at least forgotten) about the 85th Academy Awards:

1. The state department has taken sides this year.

That's newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry signing an official departmental tweet the day before the Oscar ceremony. It seems as though the Department of State is not on Team Les Miz or Team Beasts of the Southern Wild.

2. The director of the 2013 Academy Awards is also famous for screaming profanity on CNN.

Speaking of John Kerry…Don Mischer, who is directing the Oscar broadcast for the third time in a row, is one of the most sought-after producers and directors of live television events. His résumé includes Olympic opening ceremonies, Prince's Super Bowl halftime show, this Taylor Swift documentary, and We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.

He is also famous for loudly swearing on live television while producing the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Following candidate Kerry's acceptance speech, the grand arena balloon drop didn't go according to plan: As many as 100,000 balloons failed to fall from the ceiling on cue. CNN aired live a long audio clip of Mischer yelling about confetti and balloons, as Van Halen's "Dreams" blasted on the loudspeakers. This tirade climaxed with a frustrated, "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU GUYS DOING UP THERE?!?!" which was heard by many of the 4 million viewers watching from home. (The money quote is at the 1:49 mark of the video below.)

The Federal Communications Commission subsequently received at least 25 complaints about Mischer's loud swearing.

3. The host of this year's Oscars was nearly killed by Al Qaeda.

Seth MacFarlane, Ted director and Family Guy creator, is hosting the show tonight. Both he and future Ted star (and would-be terrorist-puncher) Mark Wahlberg were scheduled to fly on the American Airlines flight that crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Wahlberg ended up flying on a different flight, and MacFarlane didn't board on account of his travel agent giving him the wrong departure time (also, he was hungover and overslept).

Here he is discussing this with Larry King:

4. Maggie Simpson, Ayn Rand, and the Academy Awards

The Longest Daycare is one of the films up for this year's Best Animated Short Film. It stars Maggie Simpson from The Simpsons in a dialogue-free 3D short with music by Oscar-winning German composer Hans Zimmer.

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