Up at The American Scene is the first installment in what I hope will be an occasional series about the politics of France, for the purpose of following the country’s progress in opening up to the modern world, and as a comparative study to the American issues we get so fed up with.
This one is about pension reform. What do you do with a government that can’t pay for its system and an electorate that would rather imagine the problem will go away if it’s ignored thoroughly enough?
It seems that Patrol has had a week full of articles on TV shows. This is appropriate, of course, not just because it is finale time, but because a few of the most iconic and groundbreaking items on TV are coming to an end. For good. Of course I’m talking about both Lost and Simon Cowell, but I’m also talking about perhaps my favorite television series of the past decade: 24.
A couple of weeks ago I laid out my case for why Jack Bauer, the show’s main character, needed to die for this season to make any moral sense at all. Well, the series finale came and went, and Jack’s still alive. In fact, they repeated an ending from one of their earlier seasons (I can’t remember which one) where Jack is told by the President to run away as a fugitive. Jack, in both seasons, had done very bad things that deserved his being hunted down by American forces, but the President in a moment of gratitude and/or guilt gives him a few extra moments to escape before law enforcement arrives.
Strangely, the ending worked. In fact it was probably a bit more emotionally satisfying than the Lost finale (which I still loved), but the satisfaction this finale brought was of a much cheaper, less profound, kind. It was like sugar, or desert. At this point, I suppose the upcoming 24 movie will pick up with Jack living life peacefully in some European country, where he then gets wrapped up in some terrorist plot against one of our allies. Or something like that.
Oh Dear Lost-Lovers,
I know your recent loss of Lost is looming; it’s hard to let go of a love so long in lingering. Even when you had begun to think that perhaps it’s time for less Lost; you feel its absence and know that while the drama’s players are now found, you are lost.
I can empathize; I was lured then left by a long-running love once. And, I lived to tell that there is hope. That you, too, will find your way to the church and see there all that you loved about Lost.
In fact, what if I told you that I knew where that church was? What if I said its doors will once again open this fall? And what if, over the summer, it were possible to begin to climb your way out of the purgatory in which you now find yourself?
What if you could have back all of what made Lost your greatest love – and more?
Characters that feel like family, unrequited love, death and resurrection, action and adventure, consipiration, mysterious origins, sub-sub-subplots, high-techery, super-suspension of disbelief, familial uber-loyalty, double-crossing, triple-crossing, flashbacks, fabulous acting, rich characterization, profound writing, a weekly abandoning of your mundane existence into a world of enigma and possibility, beautiful people, unlikely heroes and likeable/hateable villains – all of these could once again be yours. And then add to that humor, silliness, stupendous non-sequiturs, elaborate covers, spies and Captain Awesome.
As much as I would love to promise you tropical polar bears, time travel, flash sidewayses (that is the correct plural of flash sideways, right?), immortals, and smoke monsters, you won’t find those here.
And still, you ask, “Where can I find this great hope?”
Patton Oswalt follows in a long line of comedians, typified often by Lenny Bruce, that use their jokes to highlight the struggles that people face and the various ironies of contemporary life. Most of us don’t know Oswalt’s more brilliant work, as we only know him as the voice of Remy the Rat from 2007’s Ratatouille, or the guy that’s less fat than Kevin James in “The King of Queens.” This is unfortunate as he has a way of showing us some deep truths about ourselves that we’ve locked up inside our cynicism. His jokes typically lampoon politics, foreign policy, George Bush, Mesopotamian cuneiform script, KFC, gay pride and insipid frivolity. Of particular interest to this discussion, however, is his focus on religion.
Rand Paul, Senate candidate from Kentucky and the first official, openly Tea Party-affiliated candidate in U.S. politics, has caused quite a stir with his comments on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And in typical fashion his opponent has seized on these remarks and will likely exploit them to his benefit throughout his campaign.
But reading through the transcript linked to above, it seems pretty clear that Paul is applying libertarian ideas in a philosophical way, not trying to overturn this landmark legislation. Even in the transcript, it’s obvious that he senses a trap, that these remarks will come back to haunt him. He gives all sorts of qualifiers, hesitating and stalling before answering the question.
What Paul, as a libertarian, likely believes is that market forces would have inspired business owners to open their restaurants to people of all races once they discovered how profitable it would be, and that, therefore, the legislation was ultimately unnecessary. Morality is a market force after all, as is evidenced by the growing fair trade industry.
But it was a gaffe, nonetheless; a result of ideological consistency trumping political reality. I think David Brooks put it well when he explained, “When you have got insurgents, when you have got outsiders, they come in, A, not knowing when to shut up, and, B, sometimes with weird ideas.” Basically, Rand Paul wasn’t thinking like a politician when he made these remarks. And that will probably come back to bite him.
Now that Lost is over, there are still many questions: was the island drawing Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Jin, Sun and Locke in, or was it all just coincidence? What will become of the island now? What’s up with the polar bear? Is there anything duct tape can’t fix? What will I do on Tuesday nights?
If you were expecting answers about science and the supernatural or free-will and pre-determinism in last night’s finale, you were probably disappointed. Jack volunteered to carry on Jacob’s role, but then tells Hurley he was only supposed to have that job for a little while. In the alternate Los Angeles reality, the passengers of Oceanic flight #815 keep crossing one another’s paths unexpectedly, however it’s not until Desmond gets a flash of “not Penny’s boat” written on Charlie’s hand that he begins devising an elaborate plan to help the survivors find one another. Chance or fate—it’s still a coin toss.
Some things are indeed sacred – set apart. Only with the greatest degree of penitence and reverence shall such objects or artifacts be approached. And even then one ought to question their motives and intentions for approaching.
In spite of this universal reality, we again see the brazen arrogance of our society, its gatekeepers and the public manifested in the heretical handling of a pillar of contemporary American culture. And I will not apologize for standing my ground. I will draw a line in the sand – a line which you do not cross. A line that places those icons on the pedestal they deserve. You don’t draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa. You don’t defecate in Duchamp’s Fountain (unless you’re using the one at his house when he invites you over for BBQ). And you don’t adapt, adjust or alter the A-Team.
In great anticipation of Iron Man 2’s opening scene, I sat, snarfing snacks shortly after I savored supple steak and scintillating conversation with several associates. I sat, a mouthful of corn in both popped and syrup form. I sat, my captain’s chair slightly reclined, feet perched atop empty seat in front of me, and seasoned my obese tub of popcorn with the salt of my own tears as I watched the last of my childhood heroes die a humiliating death before my eyes (and by this point already greasy pores).
Most of the time, the experience of watching a terrible movie is just plain terrible. But every so often, a terrible movie has the rare ability to bring people together, offering its viewers the opportunity to bond through their mutual suffering.
I remember renting Open Range one Saturday night back when it was a new release. About a dozen of us sat around a friend’s living room with pizza and beers, ready to enjoy an action-packed Western. We suffered silently through the first 50 or 60 of the 139 excruciating minutes. Finally, as the aging duo of Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall stared out over the titular open range in presumably deep contemplation for about the hundredth time, my friend Brad called out, “Line!?” We all burst into laughter and the collective tension released at that moment provided a catharsis that eclipsed the climax of the film. We spent the rest of the evening injecting our own dialogue into the numerous gaps ala Mystery Science Theater 3000. We still talk about it as one of the best movie nights ever.
There seems to be a similar reaction from any audience that manages to sit through Birdemic: Shock and Terror, an independent film that has recently given Plan 9 From Outer Space a run for its money as the “worst movie ever made.” Here is the synopsis, which manages to switch tenses five times in just four sentences: “A platoon of eagle & vultures attack the residence of a small town. Many people died. It’s not known what caused the flying menace to attack. Two people managed to fight back, but will they survive Birdemic?”
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