Friday night I was in one of those news-hungry moods, and nothing helped; no matter how many times you reload a page, it’s not going to make anything happen. The TV channels were particularly worthless. I don’t ever care who’s on Larry King, but when I want news about, you know, war, my disinterest in Mr. King’s show actually forms a black hovering blob that hovers next to my head; if Larry appeared in the kitchen, the blob would fly towards him in a second and eat his face. I want news, not some leathery pumpkinhead in suspenders pitching nerf-wads at some starlet! News! The world is ending! I need news!
Of course, it’s not ending; it never does. Not all at once, anyway. Every day the world ends somewhere for someone. Ideas take a little longer to die, and history dies only to don a sheet and haunt everyone in the neighborhood for a couple hundred years. Part of this mess today is due to the idiocy of the First World War, the Mother of all Wrong Turns at Albequerque. My grandchildren will deal with the empty echoes of Kaiserism.
So I watched a movie. But what? It was a hot night, and needed a hot-night movie. Either some Southern noir in which everyone’s always mopping their brow and saying “ma’am” with malicious politeness, or a black-and-white urban drama where guys in soaked shirts try to stab each other while bongos play on the soundtrack. I went with “Rear Window,” one of my favorite movies. And not just for the obvious reasons – Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Grace Kelly, nifty plot with Grace Kelly – but for the world it evokes. It’s New York 1954. Real or not, I don’t care; it’s what I’d like to think it was like. The sounds: (I wonder if old refugees from Manhattan, dozing in the Florida sun, hear the horns of the ships when they dream. I wonder if anyone ever noticed when a day passed and the horns hadn’t been heard.) The set is like a vast archeological dig, and if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll be stunned. Hitchcock commissioned a gigantic courtyard of a Greenwich Village block, and managed to hint at the world beyond in a way that gives the film an infinite number of untold stories. There’s a bar, for example:
So? you say. Well, that’s the telephoto lens shot our hero takes of the bar across the street. Here's a pull-back:
And here’s the alley in context – a shot that shows about 25 percent of the entire set.
Do you get the sense of the scope and scale of the world Hitchcock evokes? Aa crowded restless world made up of countless small dense places. And yet your eye always goes exactly where he wants you to look.
There's a guy in the studio apartment who spends his days bent over the piano smoking cigarettes, trying to write a hit song (languorous third-rate Rachmaninoff, as it turns out). Here he is:
I’ve probably mentioned this before, since I know I’ve discussed this movie before – I do have an original thought penciled in for later this week, and I’ll keep you apprised – but the actor actually was a songwriter; he wrote “Witch Doctor” and “Come On-a My House,” the latter of which irritate me to no end with that “Come On-A” stuff. A famous Armenian who later took a rather high-toned English name and made a killing as an impresario for warbling anthropomorphic rodents.
Have I really said this before? Again and again and again and again, in the words of the song? (“I Repeat,” by New Musik, in case you’re curious) Perhaps. Well, there’s always something new here, even if it’s the same thing differently phrased. For example: I’m convinced that this is something else done before, but I can’t quite put my finger on it – unless it’s just so obvious it’s every song that ever used a cello. Fifty-four seconds, so you’re not committing to a lot.
That was Sunday night’s little exercise. Saturday night I had the house to myself for a while, since my wife had taken Gnat and two friends to a movie, so I did more Garageband “composition,” using the JamPack expansion modules. It’s amusing to see how you recycle the things you knew and liked; at the end of it I thought Kate Bush “Running Up That Hill” drums, New-Order-meets-Chris-Isaak guitars, Boston powerchords, Linsday Buckingham arpeggios.
Sounds gruesome, I know, but it’s therapy. It scours the brain. Drives away all other thoughts. Even the news. But it’s powerless against the giggle power of three 6 year old girls. When they returned from the movie they bounced into my studio and made a game of Freeze: when I played the music to test a passage, they did the shimmy / hully gully / batusi / Spongebob Spasm, and when I stopped the music they froze. I was tempted to be Evil, and say “if you stay frozen while I’m gone, you’ll get ice cream” then take the dog for a walk, but no.
The primary accomplishment of the weekend was standing without sceaming, if you must know. Saturday I was shaving when I experienced the worst back spasm I’ve ever had. Almost took me to my knees. (I know what I did to deserve it, and won’t be doing THAT exercise for a while.) I applied some salves, including the inefficacious Bath & Body Work cream that does nothing but make the area tingle with such electrified vivacity you forget the pain. Until, of course, you wipe your eyes with the hand you used to apply the cream, and then you feel just like one of those YouTube exhibitionists who pepper-sprays himself and posts the weepy-shrieky results for all to enjoy.
And now back to the news, whatever I can glean. Not to push any causes, but if you wish, this is where I donate: the Maden David Adom ambulance service.
Center-right ruminations follow, so you’ve been warned. And if these seem like far-right ramblings, you really need to get out more.
A few people wrote to ask why I linked to that shallow cup of froth on the HuffPo the other day; not a few asked why I condemned this but not that, which was the condemnable thing of the week for some. Fine. Consider it condemned. I should just come up with an all-purpose graphic of myself with my lips cinched tighter than a chicken’s rectum, with the words IF YOU THINK I SHOULD CONDEMN IT THEN I PROBABLY DO, because I am not a great fan of high-octane bile delivered via firehose 24/7. As I have said before, to no effect, I don’t believe that people who disagree with me are BAD and EVIL and want the country DESTROYED. (Which is why it’s always amusing when the courtesy is not returned. The other day at the park I had a mild little conversation with a nice woman wearing a black rubber bracelet that said I DIDN’T VOTE 4 BUSH, just in case the matter came up at this childrens’ birthday party; the moment she discovered I would be voting against Mike Hatch for governor – a man she didn’t particularly like – the temperature dropped 95 degrees, and she excused herself. Because people like me are RUINING MINNESOTA, I guess, and what’s worse is that we’re doing it intentionally. With foreknowledge of the disastrous consequences, which we want.) I think there are ideas that have unfortunate consequences, but for the most part they’re held by people who believe they will have fortunate outcomes. I’m sure most people who read this site who disagree with me have the same opinion. We want the best, and the struggle to find agreement is only fruitful if we respect each other’s motives. You don't have to respect the arguments, of course, but you have to respect the speaker, right up until the moment when they confirm your suspicions and reveal themselves as an utter diq. After that, well, have fun. (Some people in the public sphere come conveniently pre-revealed, which makes them fair game.)
I’d like to think I’m a pragmatist; I’m resigned to dying in a country much different than the one into which I was born. Resigned, and grateful; disappointed, and relieved. Some of those changes will be for the better, some for the worst. Both will the result of people with whom I agreed on some things and disagreed on others. Duh. In the end I’m an optimist about America, but maybe I just hang around too many Democracy-Whiskey-Sexy right wingers instead of the glum egg-suckers who believe we’re lost until we return to our revolutionary 18th century roots and privatize NASA. At the end of the day the average Democrat isn't going to sign on with International ANSWER anymore than average Republicans will wear pointy white hats to their national convention, and most of the overheated demonization of the Dummycrats or Rethuglicans only shouts to the choir. There are countries where the divisions are truly deep and truly fatal. This isn't one of them. If it is, then there are no words left to describe Iraq.
Anyway. What amuses me are the people who traffic in the Monolithic Them, the big scary bloc of fiends who stand in the way of perfecting America. (We’re so close!) To some, it’s the scary Christianists who want to convert everyone (Their motto: “We’ll figure out what to do with the Mormons later”) and to others it’s the mincing pink Gay Brigades who want to eliminate heterosexuality and make sure all babies are born to lesbians and delivered by buff naked doctors in leather chaps and big moustaches. This tends to make reasonable online discussions of faith-based initiatives or redefining marriage somewhat difficult, as the trolls inevitably end up manning the toll booth.
That HuffPo article was a perfect example of someone who spends a good deal of time working himself up over the image of a Hummer leaving a church parking lot.
And he did it again! His latest is called “The REAL reason Israel is going Full-Frontal on Hezbollah – NOW.” Can’t be the kidnapping or the missile attacks, after all. He thinks Israel – wait for it – might be trying to pick a fight with Iran. He wonders why Israel didn’t do an Entebbe raid to get the prisoners back – “dropping in special ops behind Hezbollah lines, giving the commandos some air cover, and then rescuing their two soldiers.” The phrase “behind Hezbollah lines” is amusing enough – as if there’s a red dotted border in south Lebanon beyond which no Hezbollah soldier passes. (“Sir, request permission to take the prisoners, melt into a suburban Beirut apartment complex, and take refugee in the bunker underneath the parking lot.” “Permission denied! We have rules, you know. Stay here, in the tent with the glow-in-the-dark logo on the roof!”) You can see his point; after all, Idi Amin never attacked Israel again after the Entebbe raid. Just go commando! It’s so simple, and the only reason governments don’t solve their problems with stealthy bands of men in face-paint is because something else is afoot – either that love of war, that whole boys-with-their-toys thing, or Devious Plots. See, if Iran tries to run an Israeli naval blockade, and Israel sinks the Iranian ship, Iran might fire a missile at Israel, and Israel might use that as a pretext to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities.
So far it’s grade-Z armchair wargaming, notable only for the forum on which it appears, additional proof that the intellectual bar for posting at this particular site has been set lower than a storm drain. But here’s the best part.
Just a final thought - although I doubt it, is it totally beyond the pale that these two Israeli soliders were instructed to allow themselves to be kidnapped in order to foster the chain of events I have just described?
Mind you, he doubts it. But somehow the machinations of the Iranians and Syrians are less worthy of public contemplation. Is it totally beyond the pale that Iran and Syria kidnapped the soldiers to force the confrontation? Is is, like, obvious? Then there must be something else going on.
It takes a certain kind of person to see a liberal free society attacked by Islamicists, and find himself wondering: what are those crafty Jews up to now?
New Quirk & Matchbook; see you tomorrow.