Monday, September 19, 2005

Ennui

Lordy Lordosis am I sick of sitting around in a codeine fog. I have a followup visit with the surgeon tomorrow and after that, no matter how hard my ass hurts, I'm going to do a half-day at work. Anything to stave off this horrible, soul-sucking, creeping enervated ennui.

Promised Movie Reviews, best to worst:

The Life Aquatic: A fine, quirky, but decidedly minor movie. I don't share many people's high regard for Wes Anderson, but this was quite worth watching. Two codeine-soaked medical recuperations ago (early 2004, rotator cuff repair) I rented "Lost in Translation." I guess being laid up on dope produces some sort of visceral need for Bill Murray's late-period deadpan. But "Translation" was not the movie to watch while you're face to face with evidence of your body's inexorable decline into middle-aged uselessness. Bit too close to the bone.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Why did they take such care to surgically remove all the, you know, jokes? Aren't they rather the point? It's exactly what I predicted would happen. Douglas Adams was an amazingly gifted comic writer with an obsessive's ear for rhythm: Anything resembling carefully balanced verbal humor was simply removed by (I'm sure) writing committees who "polished" the script into complete inanity. That's not what I come to Douglas Adams for. (Found another gem the other night while suffering through the horrors of Colonoscopy Prep: "The Vogons are not above a little graft in the same way that the ocean is not above the clouds." That is why I love Douglas Adams' writing.)

Donnie Darko: I quit three-quarters of the way through. I'm not a fan of science fiction at all -- it's the sort of thing you outgrow in your teens, like Prog Rock or Ayn Rand. Adults who are still impressed with the sort of gee-whiz, what-if thinking that produces a science-fiction plot like Donnie Darko's... Well. We're not going to grow old together. Tangent Universes... Manipulated Dead... Ah, to be sixteen and enjoying my first bong-hit again. While I'm mildly embarrassed to say I share a planet with the writers of Roberta Sparrow's "Philosophy of Time Travel," I'm utterly mortified to admit I belong to the same species as Drew Barrymore.

I Heart Huckabees: Yack-yack-yack-YACK-YACK-YACK-yackety-yackety-yack. Yackety-yackety-yack nihilism. Yack-yack Theravadin Buddhism. Oh, look, they're fucking in a mud puddle -- and not even enjoying it much. Yack-yack Existentialism? Yack-yack Nietzsche! Yack-yack Bell's Theorem, Niels Bohr quantum mechanics, yack Heisenberg, yack Wittgenstein. This thing keeps telling you it's a comedy -- people knock each other over in elevators and punch each other in the face with balloons, so it must be a comedy -- but it's as unfunny as a church drama club reenacting Cheech & Chong routines.

Completely Out of Left Field Dept.:

Have also been reading John Powers' Sore Winners, a survey of the cultural landscape of the Bush Years by LA Weekly's media critic, who is also a film critic at Vogue. He put his finger on something I've been trying to formulate for some time:
Since the fall of Communism and the rise of centrist Democrats, even the faith in action [among the Left] has largely disappeared. The remnant of the Left is largely defined by patterns of consumption -- which magazines we read and which movies we see -- or by newfangled ideas of organizing -- such as Howard Dean's Internet-grassroots campaign. What passes for the serious Left isn't a set of shared ideas or values attached to a living social movement. It's an audience brought together by big-name freelance "radicals" -- [Michael] Moore, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Arianna Huffington, Jim Hightower, and showbiz figures like Susan Sarandon or Martin Sheen. What these folks have in common isn't a vision of the world -- it's fame.
This bothers me. Doesn't it bother you? Discuss among yourselves. In your discussions, please consider this month's Theme Statement: Blogging provides a comfortable illusion of activism. In fact, it is no such thing.

12 comments:

Don Porges said...

[Following your links...]

Richard Dawkins is married to Lalla Ward? I had no idea.

Derryl Murphy said...

I don't get raised hackles or anything when people dis SF (hell, my wife doesn't like the stuff, and I write it), but I'm curious that you would do so immediately after talking about HGTTG. And no, calling it humor writing doesn't count, since there are spacships and things.

Still haven't seen Life Aquatic. Hard to picture a Wes Anderson movie without Owen Wilson.

D

Matt said...

Your "I Heart Huckabees" review is genius.

As for the book, it sounds like more yackety-yack. That grouping of names suggests conservative yacking (Martin Sheen? Susan Sarandon? Ralph Nadar?).

I think that blogging can provide the illusion of activism, but it's hard to deny that it has had real effects. Bloggers have helped raise funds (think Paul Hackett); bloggers have helped bring important issues to the attention of the MSM (think Downing Street Memo); bloggers have helped coordinate phyical gatherings (Sheehan peace rallies). None of those activities in themselves have been successful in terms of single-handedly changing the agenda, but they have all contributed to Bush's 40% approval ratings.

Of course, a tirade by Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper, Bob Schieffer, or Keith Olberman has much greater effect on public discourse, but bloggers have helped make those tirades possible, in their own way.

Neddie said...

-- I'm curious that you would do so immediately after talking about HGTTG.--

Oh, come on -- it's dead easy, Darryl. HHGTG is satire. Not just humor with "spaceships and things" but dead-on, feet-on-the-ground, clear-contemporary-target, human-nature-skewering satire. The space-shippy goofiness is simply context -- it provides a home for Douglas Adams' observational barbs. He'd be equally funny in an 18th century farmhouse or an African village. The Universal arises out of the Particular.

Sci-fi invents its own Particular. It creates the moral universes against which its conflicts play out. This is a form of Cheating, in this seasoned observer's judgment. That's all.

Nobody said...

Oops! I actually quite like 'Huckabees'. I didn't view at as comedy though, to me it came across as a odd little psychological puzzle and I had fun using my psych training trying to guess where they were going before they reached the destination. And I was happy to guess the end result before the end of the movie. Nice to know the money Uni cost me went towards something completely uselss.

Hitchhikers... Ugh. The moment Prosser told Arthur the plans were simply 'in the basement' I knew they obvious had no confidence in the verbal humour of Adams work...

Derryl Murphy said...

It's Derryl with an "e." Darryl is my brother-in-law (really).

Not worth the argument, I'm thinking. You have your "seasoned observer's judgement" and I have my own. I'm pretty sure Adams was happy to consider himself an SF author, though.

D

Lance Mannion said...

I beg your pardon! Blogging does not provide me with an illusion of activism.

It provides me with an illusion of having a life. The illusion of political activism follows from that, the way the illusion of having a sex life follows from my MILFSeeker membership.

Please do not conflate the merely contingent form of loser-ness with the original cause.

cali said...

What exactly *is* blogging about anyway?

An illusision of journalism...activism...community?

I liked your film reviews mucho. "Lost in Translation" is worth viewing more than once. (I can count on one hand the number of films I consider worthy of multiple viewings. I don't like to re-read books either.)Try it again when you're feeling spunky.

Neddie said...

Derryl: Sorry about the misspelling. I imagine we've also got differing definitions of what we mean by the term "science fiction," too, so yeah, it's certainly not something we should jump on each other about. That Way the Madness of Cross-Purposes Lie. Peace, brother-man.

Matt: I've been mulling your comment all day, and I think I've got a post brewing on the topic. No, Powers is decidedly not a conservative writer, although I share his healthy skepticism for some aspects of contemporary leftism.

Lance: Let's do cyber. What are you wearing?

devil's rancher said...

HHGTG is satire. Not just humor with "spaceships and things" but dead-on, feet-on-the-ground, clear-contemporary-target, human-nature-skewering satire. The space-shippy goofiness is simply context -- it provides a home for Douglas Adams' observational barbs. He'd be equally funny in an 18th century farmhouse or an African village. The Universal arises out of the Particular.

Sci-fi invents its own Particular. It creates the moral universes against which its conflicts play out. This is a form of Cheating, in this seasoned observer's judgment. That's all.
(saiddie Neddie)

This is what I love about Stranger in a Strange Land, why I go back to it again and again, and why I thank the deity of my choice that I have yet to see a film "adaptation." Has one been made? Well, I don't want to know.

What I came away with after my recent second reading of SIASL is the same thing that fills me with horror these last few days after reading (I'm behind, yes) the May issue of Harper's, on the "Soldiers of Christ." The book was somehow Satire-Before-The -Fact, and what Heinlein foresaw was the future of militant, political Mega-churches. I don't know where I'm going with this, just rambling, but SIASL was pigeon-holed as Sci-Fi, and I see it as nothing of the sort. And now, I'm scared.

Mike said...

Captain Heinlein's vision grew much darker with his later novels. Like many SF writers, he accurately predicted trends we see realized today. I wouldn't call him a liberal, though, unless you think Starship Troopers was parody.

As you suggest, we blog for many of the same reasons the Bowling Band plays.

For me, it's like an extended conversation with some very bright friends.

I also like to post irritating comments on conservative's blogs, just to annoy them and let them know there's other points of view.

Pat Greene said...

About blogging.... I have a Live Journal that is read by, tops. 70 people. Although among all the small trivilaties I do write about political issues sometimes (mostly legal issues -- especially capital punishment), with one exception I don't think of anything I've written as activism. Standing around in the Florida sun doing poll monitoring, yes, blogging, no.