Sunday, February 28, 2010

I Love You! I Really, Really Love You!

The New York Times' Caucus Blog didn't note if Van Jones teared up when addressing Glenn Beck directly in a speech to the NAACP, but I insist on believing he did. It renders the image so much creepier, and that much more entertaining, when he does a Sally Field channels Jim Jones by way of Bob Marley [update: with a--how could I have missed it?--shout-out to Avatar ("I see you"*)]:
“I see you, and I love you, brother,” Mr. Jones said. “I love you and you cannot do anything about it. I love you and you cannot do anything about it. Let’s be one country. Let’s be one country. Let’s get the job done.”
I'm going to love you forever, or until the weight of my love caves your skull in. Jones was in Los Angeles accepting an award, apparently for some artful obfuscation conflating "green jobs" (not to be confused with "little green men"--much more often sighted, if slightly harder to verify) and civil rights, thus diverting some portion of the public purse to a grateful political network. The actual wording of the award citation may have differed somewhat.

Anger on the Left over Jones losing his scalp was more aroused by who would wear it, the hated Beck, than by the loss of Jones, whom Beck raised for his purpose from a deserved obscurity (for the man, not his former office, which deserves much more skeptical clarity). It's understandable; Beck and his ilk are not sated by these political kills but only made hungrier. So a Van What's-His-Name is beside the point--it's the principle, so to speak, of the thing.

But Rahm Emmanuel, being no fool (witness the lack of public declarations of personal love for political enemies), must have viewed Jones as a relatively cheap loss, and one better taken earlier rather than later. A guy like that has the potential to become a real embarrassment down the road, and if you've already satisfied one campaign-debt with the absurdity of Van Jones, Green Jobs Czar, indeed, if you can essentially retire that debt early, well... Van Jones was the political equivalent of the decoy flares aircraft jettison to fake-out heat-seeking missiles. Or he would be, if such systems held the potential to explode unexpectedly in flight. Good riddance.

I, however, join those lefties who still lament the loss, if not for the same reasons. Van Jones would have made great theater. You're right, this isn't fair at all--he is making great theater. Here's hoping he gets the roles and attention commensurate with his talent. His most recent performance proves his commitment to his art and devotion to celebrity. Acting takes the courage to risk your dignity; or so actors and their acolytes insist, endlessly, often in undignified fashion. So, in my best imitation of James Lipton's purring drawl I say: Bravo, Van Jones! Encore!

*alternate title, for the Freudian-themed Horror Film version: Vangina, The All-Seeing Eye.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I'm afraid m0re financial tr0uble t0 rep0rt here. We've c0mpletely exhausted 0ur supply 0f a certain v0wel, and haven't the means as yet to resupply; we'll be making d0, as y0u see here. And still, m0re semi-c0l0ns than we kn0w what to d0 with! Perhaps we can arrange s0me s0rt of barter with s0me0ne 0ut there? We als0 have Qs c0ming 0ut 0ur ears!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

--Oh, the earth is the best! That's why I'm a vegetarian.
--Well, that's a start.
--Uh, well, I was thinking of going vegan.
--I'm a level 5 vegan -- I won't eat anything that casts a shadow.
The Simpsons

If this year's newly broadened selection of Oscar nominees for Best Picture, doubled from five to ten, isn't quite as silly as the Dodo's demand that "all must have prizes", it is enlivened by the same spirit. All must have honorable mention, and any boost in video rental revenue that might accrue from it, in the hard commercial reality that is our side of the looking glass.

Perhaps the diluted field of nominees will subsequently dilute the indignation of arbiter elegantiarum and also-ran alike when the Academy, say, acquiesces to the brute force of box office by honoring the technological brilliance and treacly storytelling of Avatar, or, observing some other shadowy political consideration, declares the shopworn caricature of masculinity at war that is Kathryn Bigelow's capable but unexceptional The Hurt Locker worthiest of worthies. There are more important foci for one's outrage after all.

Speaking only for myself and having just endured Avatar with a novel combination of awe and abhorrence, I must give Mr. Cameron his due, earned by the sheer scale of his ambition and the fruits of his technical innovations. Uncle. If today's self-styled cognoscenti condition their praise (or praise mostly out of fear Cameron--or an avatar thereof--will turn up at their door in some sort of amphibious/aircraft/diving-bell plaything), tomorrow's will resurrect him in some future Next New Wave movement. Right now it's just "too soon", like joking about a recent human calamity.

Still, I protest hoarsely through this constricted windpipe: while I understand the epic expenditures of these films necessitate a simplified story that travels well from language to language, need they be so cloyingly cliched? To resort so reliably to hoary politico-sociological themes? I'm just asking. The vast back-catalogue of Western art that is our great public domain brims with basic, broad story-lines that have long ago proven their cross-cultural appeal. Pick a template and leave the demagogy to the politicians, I shout up at the colossus (only echoes answer).

Cameron's recourse to the theme of colonial capitalism despoiling a land and the wise pastoral folk intimately connected to it for his science fiction epic takes fashionable liberal misanthropy to its logical conclusion. You hate the rich? The West? White people? The male sex? Corporations? All of the above? Sluggard! We hate humans. Game, set, match.

But where does one go from here? The charitable view has Cameron merely throwing red meat (or, more appropriately, something fair-trade and/or free-range) to the censorious set to pacify them as he indulges his, and our, appetite for spectacle. It's a shopworn conceit already after all (I'm sure I recall "I don't like humans" surfacing as an epithet for this passé pose years ago among the hipsters). But what to do when, once led by the Sherpas of sanctimony to the summit of conspicuous contrition, we find the land already settled? Come back down, I implore; way too much development on Mt. Misanthrope.

But this is no answer for the ambitious. As a general in the regnant cultural empire, he must conquer new territory always, thematically as well as technologically. It matters little to the martial hero what standard he bears, as long as it bears him. So, if the noble ideal of racial equality, bogged down in the stubborn swamps of human nature, had to turn on itself and declare first that one race (guess which) should become the cathartic repository of the resentment of the rest, then finally that race as such is an illusion (created by the aforementioned "race" and its "science", thereby brilliantly adapting the shoddy narrative while keeping its villain ever in the foreground) then it necessarily follows that the species itself eventually has to fall from grace.

This we already know as the extreme boundary of environmentalism. Just as the noble ideal of equality of the races of man before God withered in the absence of God and became the perversion, and inversion, it now is, the eminently practical ideal of maintaining the environment for humanity's preservation has gone the same route. Some now proclaim humanity is the disease threatening the environment's preservation. First the White man as scourge of the globe, now the species as a whole is the great cosmic pestilence. Next up: "species" do not exist.

Forgiveness is a necessary component of the movie-going experience for all but the best directors in this cinematic Age of Indulgence. All things being equal, artistic freedom is a good thing. But when are all things ever equal? Many of today's directors would benefit from a little more harness (I know we would). Taking in a little Tarantino? Don your lead apron of lenience against the careless doctor's irradiation of idiocy. Bring a jumbo-sized tub of forbearance, salt it as necessary with resolve, and enjoy the pretty flashing pictures. Just don't confuse them with reality, or imbue them with morality.