Monday, January 02, 2006


Well, I'm back at work in the library looking at a bus.orgs text and not opening it. I've spent the last several weeks doing as little as possible and have been quite successful. I blew a bunch of money renting a house on a cliff in Mendocino overlooking the ocean. I see virtually no reason to ever visit the area again absent some abalone diving. It's cold. It's windy. It's rainy. It's expensive and the roads totally suck. Why exactly I felt compelled to go on vacation in northern california when I live there is a mystery.

Besides that, the whole "renting a vacation home" thing sucks. They post rules all over the place. The lady made me pay 95 dollars for a cleanup fee and then made us agree to clean up the place. The water heater was cold, I almost got electrocuted by a light switch, there was a leak in the middle of the room, there was rolly pollies crawling all over and the carpet was filthy. We weren't allowed to use the fireplace. I need to learn how to hang on to my money better when it comes to vacationing.

I saw some interesting movies over the vacation. "Syriana" and "Munich" which I liked. The recent conservative claptrap has been that there is a spate of movies apologizing for terrorism, avoiding the issue of arab terror and exuding the notion that there is a "moral equivalency" between terror and western civilization.

I admit it is trite for Hollywood to come off that way. It's rather like being impressed that "Brokeback mountain" is a large-budget movie about a gay love story. I don't find that, in itself, enough to garner my attention any more than a story about evil corporations and CIA shenanigans. All of this smacks of 20-something execs who barely got their whiskers thinking that there is something original about all of this. Somewhere along the line, popular culture has mistake titillation for controversy. There is nothing controversial about Madonna making out with Britney. It's boring, it's amateurish.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Ron Howards' "Cinderella Man" was a fabulous movie. Good movies, like a lot of things, play you without you thinking you are being played. It's about subtlety. Women's fashion, advertising, so many different things are so badly done that it's obvious you are being manipulated. The only thing I ask when you are manipulating me is that you do it well. Otherwise, leave me the fuck alone.

Syriana, and Munich, are indeed weak in that they fail to address the inhumanity of Islamofascism. However, they do address the reality of western machinations, the corruption of corporatism and democracy by big money, and the moral decay of those who see themselves as saving western civilization. Munich, in particular, asks the question; How is it that we can claim to be saving western civilization by compromising those things within us that distinguish us from the uncivilized savages we slaughter wholesale?

Really what the critics are complaining about is that niether Syriana, nor Munich, took sides on the side that they like. Syriana was weaker in that respect, as the notion of CIA drones blowing up the reformer seems silly. Certainly the CIA operates on a more subtle basis than that. The great, glaring wart on both the faces of this movies is a failure to address how really evil these terrorists are. But I'm not sure that I can fault hollywood for not joining the massive propaganda effort aimed at demonizing muslim civilization and driving a wedge between the mideast and the west. There is, in some sense, the unspoken motivation of these filmakers to heal the rift between us. I'm just not sure that they understand what type of rift that is, or what measures are required to deal with it.


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