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Archive for July, 2010

Spoke Too Soon

Last night I was awakened around midnight by a Very Angry Boob.    Ow!   Dunno why it waited so long to announce its offense at the recent slight to its wholeness–maybe the nice anesthesiologist at the hospital slipped me a thiry-six hour mickey.   My sister, who has had two mastectomies, warned me about this, and her prediction was right on.

I took some Ibuprofen and applied the handy little ice pack given me by the hospital.   And then watched the Cincinnati Bengals’ training camp for what seemed like hours (if you care, pundits have high hopes for this team now that they’ve signed OchoCinco’s good buddy Terrell Owens).   I had never before realized how truly slim are the pickings on late-night television.

When Boob calmed down a little I went back to bed.   It woke me up again around six am, and this time I took a Darvocet.   That stuff really works!    Although, as Desert sez, you feel as though your brain is full of spiderwebs.  Hope I don’t need much more of the stuff.   Blegh.

At the many pre-op interviews I was regularly asked if I took “illegal substances.”   My answer was that if I did, I sure as hell wouldn’t tell anyone.   Truth is, I wish I had some illegal substances right now–they may not dull pain as well as Darvocet, but under their influence you don’t really care.

Doc:   “Trep, you’ve camped in the trail!”

Trep:   “I know”.

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Ducts NOT in a Row

Well, folks, it’s over.   Had surgery on Bad Boob yesterday.    Many thanks to Desert Democrat and Mr. Democrat for all their help, and to Trep and Wise Elder Sis for much-needed moral support.

As Desert says (and she knows whereof she speaks), having surgery is much like taking comprehensive exams:    the wait and the worry are worse than the actual thing.    Medicine has made amazing strides, and the docs and nurses, including the gaspasser, were all friendly and helpful.   All supplied the information I requested and carefully explained why each part of the procedure was necessary.   Very different from the old days, when docs sort of grunted at patients in passing.

Highlights of the day:    Mr. Desert gave us excellent, clear directions on how to get through the crowded, frantic freeways in the center of Phoenix and make our way to the hospital.  As we were about to make the last turn, with thirty minutes to spare, I realized that I had told him the WRONG hospital–there are two with the same name, and naturally he thought we were going to the bigger, original facility.    Desert remained calm, turned the car around on a side street, found I17, and started driving north.   In the middle of my panic attack (I am FAR too rulebound–gotta work on that)  I had the sense to call the hospital to get directions and to tell them we might be late.   The person who answered the phone said “no prob,” which was very different from what I had been told in pre-surgery interviews, to wit:   BE THERE ON TIME.   Turns out we were just then approaching the proper turnoff, and in we went, making only one wrong turn into the driveway of  the PetSmart factory, which, oddly, looks very much like a hospital.   I signed in at the hospital’s Outpatient facility, and then–guess what–we waited.   I don’t know why hospital waiting rooms have such uncomfortable chairs.  Nor can I understand why they haven’t installed desks or tables for family and friends who want to pass the time with their laptops.  Oh well.

When my surgeon was ready for me, everything happened very fast.   In and out, as we used to say in another context.   The surgeon told me afterward that she could see nothing amiss, which is good news to hold on to until the pathology comes back.  The whole procedure took about an hour and a half, and then they hustled me out the door and into the hot sun. where Desert waited in her car.    She drove us to a place called “Fantasticos” and got me a California burrito (I was famished because I hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before).   Ignoring the nurse’s instructions, I wolfed down the spicy burro and would have eaten Mr. Desert’s as well, but I figured that at that moment he could take me in a fair fight.

Desert and Mr. Desert waited, patiently listening to me babble on until they were sure I had returned from la-la land, and then Desert drove me home while Mr. Desert followed in my car.    These are fine people, folks, and I am fortunate to know them.

Bad Boob is a little bruised and swollen this morning.  It  has a piece of gauze taped over the wound with a piece of clear plastic tape that is supposedly waterproof and germproof.  I am to leave it there until I report for a post-op consult next week.   I am most pleased to report that there is very little pain from the incision itself, although I spent much of yesterday afternoon and evening wondering if anyone had got the license of the truck that ran over me.  Latent effects from the anesthesia, I guess.   This morning I’m wondering how much I can get for a bottle of Darvocet in the parking lot at the Circle K.

One more thing:  White Guy was VERY happy to see me when I got home.   When I went to bed he curled up next to me–something he rarely does.   I don’t know how cats know, but they do.

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I seem to be watching a LOT of movies this week.   Truth to tell,  I’m having surgery on bad boob next week and I’m trying not to worry.  Movies are a great anesthesia.  So I’m back with an insta-review of The Book of Eli, which I downloaded from pay-per-view last night.

In this post-apocalyptic morality tale, Denzel Washington plays a lone wanderer named Eli who travels through a blasted landscape of windswept deserts, disintegrating shacks, and stunted leafless trees.    We learn early on that while he is polite and soft-spoken, Eli is a serious badass who can wield a handgun, a shotgun, a bow, and a serrated sword with vicious efficiency.   We also learn that he has a book he reads every night, that he is traveling west, and that he has been doing so for thirty years.

Eli visits a town where he barters with a geeky Tom Waits.   While at the trading post he is ambushed by thugs, and  he takes all of them down without breaking a sweat.  This brings him to the attention of the town’s ruler, Carnegie, who is played with devilish relish by Gary Oldman.   Carnegie is able to hold power in this town because he knows where potable water can be found.   When he discovers that Eli has a book, he sends a young girl to spy on the traveler because he is one of the few people living who is old enough to remember how important books can be to civilization.   She later mimics Eli saying grace before meals, and from this Carnegie realizes that the book Eli carries is a bible.   Now he really really wants the book because he knows faith is key to ruling people.   And the chase is on.

I won’t give away any more of the plot in case anyone reading hasn’t seen the film.   I do want to comment on the cinematography, which seemed a bit too precious to me in the beginning, but grew on me as I watched.   The characters and the landscape are filmed with a drab palette nearly devoid of color–chiefly sepia tones, so everything is brown, brown, brown.  Long-range outdoor shots and pans show us miles and miles of cracked grey highway running through empty brown desert while a brown sky lowers overhead.   One night Eli and his companion camp inside some crumbling concrete walls.   When morning comes a long shot shows us they’ve slept inside nuclear towers like those at Three Mile Island.

Walking stolidly through this bleak landscape, there is Denzel.   He is like a rock in this movie, solid and unflappable.   I’m not sure the directors could have pulled it off without his estimable presence.

One last observation:   some commenters on this film at IMDB do not like its religious cast.   A few go so far as to say it must have been funded by “the church” (whatever that is).   I guess they missed the plot point where Oldman’s character sez that the nuclear war began as a fight over religion (are we supposed to think:   Christianity and Islam?), and the reason that bibles are so valuable is that they were all burned after the war ended.  And the end of the film urges us to think that all books are important because they are bits of culture, the remaining vestiges of human civilization.

I prefer to think of The Book of Eli as an apocalyptic Western, a shootout between people who have something to live for and those who are hopeless, in both senses of that word.   All in all, this is an okay film (it’s a hell of a lot better than 2012) that features great acting on the part of the two leads.

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Wikipedia tells me that Roland Emmerich’s critics generally agree with what I wrote in my previous post:

“A consensus amongst critics is that Emmerich’s films rely too heavily on visual effects, and suffer from cliche’ dialogue, flimsy and formulaic narrative, scientific and historical inaccuracies, illogical plot development, and lack of character depth.”   (I know, I should have checked with Wickipedia or IMDB before flapping my gums).

Emmerich is not phased by such criticism, apparently, claiming that his aim is to produce “popcorn” movies that all can enjoy.   He also directed Independence Day and Godzilla which, now that I think on it, are also family-oriented.

The Wikipedia article tells me that Emmerich, who is European, has repeatedly complained about racism and heterosexism in Hollywood.   He sez that his decision to cast Will Smith in Independence Day was resisted by the suits running the production, which shows you what the suits know.  Smith was the best thing about that movie (except maybe for Jeff Goldblum, who has perfected the bumbling-geek stereotype–see his roles in Jurassic Park, The Fly, The Big Chill).  Emmerich supports gay and lesbian causes, as well, thus putting his money behind his beliefs.

Maybe I’ll rewatch some of Emmerich’s other films and write reviews with all this information in mind.   In the meantime, last night I recorded The Book of Eli from pay-per-view.   Review forthcoming.

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My recent posts have been downers, so I’ll try to lighten up.  Trep tells me she likes my movie reviews, so here are reviews of two films directed by Roland Emmerich.

Last night I watched 2012.  It stars John Cusack, and I figure any movie starring either Cusack (John is brother to Joan) is worth watching:   both are comedic geniuses.

But even Cusack could not save this film.  Now 2012 is not a horrible-bad movie, like Megapiranha.  Woody Harrelson does a great comic turn as a crazed end-of-the-worlder.  And, needless to say, the effects were state-of-the-art spectacular.

In the Poetics, Aristotle opined that of all the elements of narrative (plot, character, and so on) spectacle is the least connected to dramatic art.  Even though it has “an emotional attraction of its own,”  he says, spectacle “depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet” (V 19).  I have to agree with A on this one, although today’s stage machinists have amazing stuff in their digital arsenals.  Effects are dandy as long as they support a coherent narrative or moving characterization;   otherwise, meh.

The effects in 2012 were clearly intended to appeal to children, which makes good sense in a marketplace where G-rated movies make tons more money than serious films.   The effects spectacularly depict a long series of near misses:   our hero madly drives a limo carrying his family through LA as streets cave in behind them and tall buildings fall in their paths;    he madly drives an RV through Yellowstone as a volcanic eruption trails behind, close enough to take off the back end of their vehicle;   the family boards a huge Russian tanker in Vegas, becoming airborne just as the runway collapses in front of it.  You get the picture.

That the plot was written for children is also made clear by the only drama created, aside from the will-they or won’t-they effects:    the son is skeptical about his deadbeat writer dad’s commitment to the family, obviously preferring mom’s live-in lover.   Of course adults in the audience know the lover hasn’t got a chance, because he is played by a character actor while dad, after all, is played by John Cusack.

After many close calls and a quick trip around a world whose geography is altering before our very eyes, the family reaches a series of arks that have been secretly built in China.  The arks are intended to save Important People such as the Queen of England, rich folks who could afford the billion-dollar tickets, and exotic animals like elephants and giraffes who miraculously survive being hauled through the Tibetan mountains slung under helicopters.

Our heroes manage to sneak aboard, despite the really tight security (although they sort of gum up the works in the process).   The arks survive 30,000 foot tsunamis and volcanic eruptions and shifting land masses and lions and tigers and bears, oh my, and thirty days later discover as the waters recede that the earth is still livable.  Need I say more?

After I deleted 2012, my appetite for empty spectacle apparently unslaked, I remembered that Emmerich had also directed The Day After Tomorrow. I sort of liked that movie when it was first released, so I watched it again.  It fares rather well in comparison to 2012, featuring adult characters with adult issues.  And a young Jake Gyllenhaal as an additional treat.

You may recall that Day After concerns massive, world-wide storms created by global warming.   The effects are good here, too, but they are not the point of the film, which centers on scientists’ efforts to convince unbelieving politicians that they need to evacuate the northern hemisphere Right Now!    The subplot features the hero’s efforts to rescue his son, who is trapped by a giant snowstorm in the New York Public Library, of all places.  This leads to some good bits where librarians quarrel over whether to burn Neitzsche, or not, in order to keep warm.

The Day After Tomorrow is more environmentally conscious than 2012, where the world’s destruction is caused by a solar flare.  Day ends with a scene in which two guys in a space station, who have given us a sort of bird’s-eye commentary on events throughout the film, look down on a globe whose northern half  is covered with ice and snow–down to and including Italy.  But the world is still beautiful, and, as one of the astronauts observes, the air is clearer than he has ever seen it.

Hokey, but effective.  I have to wonder, though, about Emmerich’s insistence that global devastation can have a happy ending.   That’s the very definition of fantasy, and finally, it does not serve environmental politics well.   People who are taken in by these films can imagine that they will be among the saved, either by inherent worth or pluck or luck.  How does that differ in substance from The Rapture narrative?

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Matt Iglesias reflects on the latest conservative gaffe over at ThinkProgress:

“At some point conservatives need to ask themselves about the larger meaning of this kind of conduct—and Andrew Breitbart’s—for their movement. Beyond the ethics of lying and smear one’s opponents, I would think conservatives would worry about the fact that a large portion of conservative media is dedicated to lying to conservatives. They regard their audience as marks to be misled and exploited, not as customers to be served with useful information.”   (http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2010/07/the-shame-of-the-daily-caller)

This point is related to that I was trying to make in my last post.   How does it serve conservative opinion-makers to lie to their constituencies?   Are they confident that their lies will never be found out?   Or that when lies are found out, conservative audiences want so badly to believe that they will overlook the lie?   Even as I’m typing these questions, an awful suspicion is nagging at the back of my mind:   the answers are clear, and they are not answers I like.

Conservative pundits lie to their audiences because (a) lies get conservative politicians elected;   (b) and (c)  even when lies are found out, conservative audiences will continue to believe the lie because it fits their world view.  That is, they are more comfortable believing a lie, even one they know to be false, than they are in rejecting either the lie or the people who invented it.

For example, consider the Bush adminstration’s lie about Iraqi possession weapons of mass destruction.   Polls showed that more people believed that lie in 2006, long after it had been effectively refuted on the ground, than did when it was invented in 2002.   Conservative true believers had to hang onto that lie in order to justify their belief in the war and in Bush.   Even when their sons and daughters were being killed in his war of choice.

Here’s another example, now forming in conservative circles:   even the least aware conservatives must know that our current economic slump was brought on by the reckless spending and non-regulation of the Bush administration.  Sooner or later, though, conservatives will get around wholesale to blaming the whole thing on Obama.   This meme isn’t universal yet, but I predict it eventually will be, when things don’t get better as fast as naive people think they should.

For now, conservative pundits are satisfied with accusing Obama of socialism, imputing to him a  desire to take away money from the rich and redistribute it among black people.  So every time the administration succeeds in regulating some business or corporation, conservative pundits paint this as yet one more imposition on the freedom of  “real”–read “white” Americans.   Which explains why white Americans who subsist on the minimum wage can oppose regulation of Wall Street and oil companies.

When I was a child, the nuns told me that I must never tell lies because a lie is always found out (and also because to tell a lie made the baby Jesus cry).   These good women thought that the sin in lying lay in evasion or distortion of the truth.  But nobody cares much about the truth any more.   What they really care about is fulfilling their desires.  And what conservatives want is power:  to own all the money and to make all the decisions for everyone else–who you can marry, how many kids you must have, how you have sex and how often, and so on.   The wealthy among them want to be free to rape land and sea in pursuit of profit, and to steal any money/assets that aren’t nailed down.

That’s the real big lie.  And I suspect that Beck’s and Limbaugh’s audiences know, somewhere in their hate-befogged minds, that if wealthy conservatives and their toady politicians ever gain real power (as in taking over all three branches of government and suspending the Constitution, as Bush came close to doing), the fate of the average tea-partier will be no different from those they have been taught to hate and fear–black people and white liberals.   And that fate entails poverty, deprivation, and pain.

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“Venal Fear Pimps”

My title cites Tim Wise’s recent post to Daily Kos in which he coins this term to name Faux News and scum like Andrew Breitbart.   These folks are running a scam of major proportions.   Here’s how it works:   they assign some poor intern to watch miles of video footage taken at public events featuring liberal black or white speakers, such as NAACP conventions, or demonstrations, or Acorn offices.   When she (I’d bet on her gender) finds something that can be edited in such a way that its subject seems to support anti-white racism, she sends it along to a higher-up, who then edits it and writes the necessary copy to pimp white fear.  Faux then flogs the edited tape 24-7 while their dolt anchors chatter on about Obama’s determination to “get” white people or some other such nonsense.

Take their fearmongering over two New Black Panthers intimidating voters in Philadelphia during the 2008 election.   They never bothered to mention that most of the voters in that precinct are black, and that they voted overwhelmingly for Obama, whose total vote there was something like 588 to 6.  If there are any white voters in that district, were they scared into voting for Obama, or not voting at all, because they saw these two guys (whom they likely know personally or by sight)?  Give me a break.   Or maybe the two Panthers frightened the six black people who wanted to vote for McCain?   It would be more plausible to suspect fraud on the part of the vote counters in the precinct than to believe that more than six black people actually voted for McCain.

I don’t understand the long term payoff for conservatives in continually charging black people and white liberals with racism.   I understand that the Republican party is still committed to the Southern strategy, which indeed brought many new voters to their rolls during the late 1960’s.  Old habits die hard.   But do they really think that there are new young voters out there who can be lured to their party by these tactics?

For one thing, they apparently have to manufacture examples of  anti-white racism because they are hard to come by in the real world.  All black people and most white liberals understand the corrosive effects of structural racism as well as the personal hurt that can be caused by racist remarks, and so they don’t buy into it.  I know many older whites who have spent years trying to overcome the unthinking racism with which they grew up and who, as a result, are exceedingly careful about what they say.

So there is a finite number of people in the country now who buy into hard anti-black racism with the levels of intensity that were regularly expressed without criticism prior to the modern Civil Rights movement.   And I hardly ever hear anti-white racism from anyone (except me).  Allow me to demonstrate how odd it sounds:

There are still Young Republicans who are as conservative, and crazily so, as Jim DeMint or Rand Paul.   I first encountered these rancid young white guys when I taught at a large urban high school.   Because this school’s district was on a river front, it included downtown with its large  black community, but it also included a lot of wealthy white families who had homes on the river.  In general this worked out fine;   the kids tolerated and even liked one another.   I suspected in those days that race was a class issue;   wealthy whites don’t need racism, while (some) poorer whites need it as a scapegoat to account for their own precarious positions in life.   That’s how it worked during the eighteenth and nineteenth-centuries and most of the twentieth.

But when the Young Republicans at this school realized that I actually liked black kids and taught African-American texts, they took me on as a conversion project.   In fairness, they did not know that they lost me the minute they walked into my classroom, with their short blonde hair and immaculate button-down shirts and arrogant white faces.   I had great fun riling these guys then, and I’ve fenced on and off with their college-age equivalents over the years.   They are all alike in dress and mannerisms, and lately, in their beliefs.   Their favored argumentative tactic is bullying.

These guys are from Texas–can’t you tell?

Okay, enough of that.  Back to my point:  aside from these few young people, what is to be gained, in the long term, by crying “anti-white racism” at every turn?   Particularly now that the media have now figured out the tactic and are falling all over themselves to debunk Breitbartian claims.

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