Monday, March 24, 2014
If you're reading this, then my blog has gone into hibernation mode. There have been 10 months of my writings from PhGeek.com--a website whose plug was unceremoniously pulled out of the blue. That I was able to save my writing--and share it here--has been a joy.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bushes
It was 19 March, 2003, and I had traveled to Los Angeles, where, being concerned about such things, the townspeople were abuzz at the prospect of having the Oscars cancelled; secondary was their concern about the forthcoming, doubtless very brief occupation of Iraq, for being a place whose more-than-occasional bread and butter was made by sequels, Gulf 2 promised all the same quick mechanized victories as the first, but given the advances in technology, the cinema haute couture recognized this skirmish to be more of a television production (indeed, one wonders if this is the quickly marketed response to Waugh’s comment that he does “not expect to see many travel books in the future,” (qtd in Fussell 215). Throughout the day, concerns continued at the frightening prospect that Mr. Bush’s war would prevent the Academy (here used to refer to the film league rather than the higher Academy explored soon enough in this essay) from giving out awards. (Incidentally, they were not prevented; the dead Conrad L. Hall, the rapper Eminem, and the convicted statutory rapist Roman Polanski all won, though none were present at the ceremony.) Yet as day turned to night over the Pacific, and as the first wartime night in a decade settled over the Atlantic and Potomac, the President spoke to the nation. I turned to my traveling companion and smugly said, “Here’s the start of the Bush 2004 Presidential Campaign,” and, alas, I meant it! Such was my ignorance, an ignorance which has been so rightly fixed by the perspective of those who have traveled more and written better than the meager offerings of this writer, for by exploring the conventions used by the giants who have come before me, I have been able to understand how they achieve their pursuits of clarity, of vision, and of the honest truth of Mr. Bush’s war.
|I von an Oscars 2003. You party vit me?|
Axis of Evil, for his traveling companion Christopher called Iraq “a paradise compared with Teheran.” (47) With such words one certainly can hope that Mr. Bush’s war can become a global venture.
Surely, those inclined to say their nays will cry out such vague arguments as “But Iraq had no connection to the 9/11 attacks!” or “Were there not intelligence lapses concerning the existence of weapons of mass destruction in the country?” I am of course reminded of the subtitle of the Twain book here explored, which is “The New Pilgrims’ Progress” (emphasis mine). Surely those filled with piety and having lived lives of virtue are best set to become the newest pilgrims, and Mr. Bush highlights this fact. Now, naturally, the existence of a few paltry sums of oil do sweeten the deal, but this is a war of enlightenment. Twain noted that “the Koran does not permit Mohammedans to drink” but that “their natural instincts do not permit them to be moral” (368). Perhaps this is owed to some sort of geographic flaw, for Twain too comments on “the God-forsaken barrenness and desolation” (455) and “leagues of blighted, blasted, sandy, rocky, sun-burnt, ugly, dreary, infamous country” (456) whilst in the region. Indeed, the verbiage that this master author implies, certainly, that the territory is so in need of metaphorical white picket fences and curtains in the windows that he can but muster rather clunky language. Language indeed, for he finds himself frustrated at one point that his guide cannot stomach the “unspeakable humiliation” (381) at being renamed, as all guides on Twain’s journey are, Ferguson. (One is of course reminded of the impartial need by stabilizing forces in the American frontier to take Native American children, ship them from their ancestral lands, and send them to English-only schools in a modestly successful attempt to purge from them their wicked heathen ways.) Twain punctuates his point by noting that such renaming “can not be helped. All guides are Fergusons to us. We can not master their dreadful foreign names” (sic, emphasis mine, 381). Dreadful indeed, for who among us longs not for the day when the weary names which so confuse us can be replaced; who among us does not look eagerly for the day when the far-flung corners have such easy and convenient names like Georgetown, or Donaldsville, or Arbusto?
|Arbusto! Whats that mean in English?|
Byron, Robert. The Road to Oxiana. New York: Oxford UP, 1982.
Fussell, Paul. Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars. New York:
Oxford UP, 1980.
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels and Other Writings. Random House, 1958.
Twain, Mark. Innocents Abroad: The New Pilgrim’s Progress. Hartford, CT:
American Publishing, 1869. Digital Edition. Scituate, MA: Digital
Monday, March 10, 2014
|The pop-up matchbook. Wild.|
How apropos that our question-creating machine spit this one forth today, replete with the picture of 1994's The Shadow. This was a movie that I drooled over ahead of its release; I had the teaser poster, with its "who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men" poster on my wall; I savored every tv commercial for it (including a great one that I remember running during the M.A.N.T.I.S pilot).
Why was I so eager to see this movie? In the year previous, I had discovered old time radio shows (then available on cassette tape by a few vendors). The Shadow in its original radio form was a bit crude, as it was produced in the mid 1930s; the golden age for radio production being, in my estimation, from 1945 until the end of the 1950s. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable, with a pre-Citizen Kane Orson Welles and Agnes Moorehead and the strange, almost otherworldly commercials for Blue Coal.
I distinctly remember seeing the Alec Baldwin starrer with my brother and uncle, in a theater which is now an IHOP. It had the pedigree of a winner: July 1 release, ample marketing campaign, Alec Baldwin 4 years removed from Red October and two years removed from Glengarry Glen Ross, a Jerry Goldsmith score, and supporting roles filled by Jonathan Winters, Peter Boyle, and Tim Curry. Oh, and did I mention that Ian freakin McKellan is in it too? All of that mixed with the luxurious production design and Russell Mulcahy's impressive action resume and care for a throwback, 1930s sensibility was sure to make this film a winner.
You know that sinking feeling that you can get watching a movie when you see that it simply is not working? The one that is a result of a fundamental lack of the parts jelling? That was watching The Shadow.
|It's like a bat... man.|
When it came to geek movies of the 1990s, studios needed their bacchanalia of Batman codpieces, zany Phantoms, and yes, lousy Shadows. They needed to swear off the fat of pulp stories, so that, six years later, the same pulp sources would start to be treated earnestly and seriously. It started with Bryan Singer's X-Men starring, ironically, the very same Ian McKellan who had moved from comic boob in The Shadow to a metaphorical Malcom X.
Thus is the legacy of The Shadow: necessary tomfoolery before the serious work began.