Saturday, January 27, 2007

I've seen the future, baby

All of the big foreign policy questions of our time have been rendered irrelevant. They have all been answered. And the answer is always the same. No matter the question, the answer, it seems, is murder.

In the latest example, we learn that our government has targeted Iranians in Iraq. They are to be murdered on sight with no pretense of a trial. This is just another small detail in our strategic vision for victory in Iraq. We are not exactly sure what that strategic vision is, but we plan to achieve by murder, mass murder. The fact that our murder spree hasn’t achieved its goals, whatever they may be, is not seen as evidence that murder is not a good strategy. It is evidence that we have not murdered enough.

Dr. chuckling will now don his white lab coat and speculate that those who see murder as the answer to all of the questions are simply projecting their own fears and insecurities onto humanity in general. Many have noted that those who advocate the loudest for murder are not the ones who will go out and commit it themselves. The Bush’s, the Cheney’s, the blog nutzi’s, are all cowards in their personal lives. There is no way in hell that they will fight their own war. There is no principle for which they would fight. They kid themselves that they are brave by sending other people of to kill.

Dr. chuckling believes that because they are such craven cowards afraid of losing their own lives, they assume that everyone is just like them. In their back brains, they cannot imagine that anyone would sacrifice themselves for the sake of an idea. And they cannot imagine that anyone would fight against overwhelming odds.

It probably goes back to the playground. Because the George W. Bush’s, the Dick Cheney’s, the blog nutzi’s, the pundit class, and most of the rest of the “murder is the answer for everything crowd” did not fight back when they were bullied in their youth, they believe that others will not fight back when they are likewise bullied by the armies we command. They do not, and probably cannot understand that for many people, an idea can be more valuable than their life. The idea may be religious. It may be nationalistic. It may be simply self-respect.

Had these cowards been more observant on their playgrounds they could have learned. Many kids did not consent to being bullied. Many kids fought back. They fought back knowing they would get hurt. Knowing they would lose. And when those kids fought back, the social dynamic changed. The bully would win every fight, but he would also be hurt. And the other kids rooted for the kid that took the punishment. They respected him. And if it went on too long, they ganged up on the bully. Eventually, the bully backed off.

Unfortunately, that same playground dynamic we see in Iraq and elsewhere plays out with weapons and mass murder. The end will be the same. The bully will be hurt and withdraw. The death and destruction, however, are real.

It would be bad enough if the pathology of murder as the answer to all questions were limited to the nut cases in the White House, but it now envelopes our entire culture. Every day the news reports our intention to kill people without any kind of legal arrest or trial. It is so commonplace that no one even disputes the strategy. Not on moral grounds. Not on practical grounds. Murder, baby. The fix-it for all our problems. Never mind that it’s the cause.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

An Inner City

Just walking around the neighborhood on a Saturday morning taking snapshots with my toy camera.

Dream nightmare

Toward the end of Dreamgirls, Eddie Murphy launches into a truly horrible song and I’m thinking I can’t believe I’ve actually paid good money to hear Eddie Murphy sing. But then in what is arguably the only decent musical moment in the show, Murphy’s character says enough of this shit and launches into some James Brown-style funk. Unfortunately, pretty much the rest of the music in the movie is more of that shit.

Dreamgirls is a musical that portrays the rise of a Supremes-like girl group fronted by American Idol washout Jennifer Hudson and a Motown-like record label run by Jamie Foxx. Eddie Murphy plays a Soul singer on the downward spiral and Beyoncé Knowles and Danny Glover also have bit parts as well.

Had I thought more about it, I would have questioned the idea of paying good money to see Eddie Murphy act, but he was actually pretty good as James “Thunder” Early, an R&B legend who was unable to de-saturate himself enough to make it in the white world. Or maybe his acting just looked good by comparison. Jamie Foxx was a total stiff, Danny Glover didn’t have a lot to do and Beyoncé had a small part and one big song at the end.

Jennifer Hudson, the former American Idol wannabe, is the main character. She is the leader of the girl group and far and away the best singer. But in order to make it on television, the talented but overweight Hudson is forced to sing backup to the beautiful but bland Knowles. The movie is best when Hudson is on the screen. I’ll leave it to more insightful critics to judge her acting skills, but her character’s story line, attitude and vocal skills easily dominate this lame-assed movie.

Ultimately, a musical cannot be that much better than its music and the music in Dreamgirls is mostly American Idol-style power ballads and screaming, with some Broadway show tunes and a little bit of R&B. It would have been much, much better if they could have used the actual songs of The Supremes.

The subplot outside the movie, however, is interesting in a nightmarish way. The movie’s central theme, that beauty and blandness triumphs over talent, played out in real life as well. Although Jennifer Hudson was the main character and Beyoncé Knowles played what was essentially a bit part, when it came to awards, the studio pushed Knowles for Best Actress and Hudson for Best Supporting Actress. There is no way in hell that anyone could watch that movie and think that Knowles was the lead and Hudson the supporting actress. That would be like nominating Olivia deHavilland as Best Supporting Actress in Gone with the Wind rather than Vivien Leigh. It was truly a very sad case of life imitating popular entertainment.

And unfortunately, that’s also an example of popular entertainment imitating corporate and political life. George W. Bush is by far the most obvious example of one who has done nothing to deserve a lead role, yet gets it through connections. As we know all too well, the less talented have been promoted over the more talented throughout Bush’s government. And if anecdotal evidence proves accurate, the corporate culture is at least as bad. And media? The hair is so much more important than what, if anything, is underneath it.

Still I can’t think of another situation so rife with hypocrisy. To have a film about producers screwing over Jennifer Hudson’s character because of her looks and then screwing her over for her looks in real life is just sick. The movie? Well, it sucked in the way that big Hollywood happy ending movies always suck. As far as killing time with a date before late night dinner, drinks, and the fun stuff, it had it’s moments and you could certainly do a lot worse.