Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Paladin Club

So I'm working on this steampunk novel called "The Paladin Club," but that's not what this post is about. No, I'm going to write about my other passion: World of Warcraft. I love my pallies in WoW (I have one that's 85 and one at 80 that I haven't started to level in Cata yet). They're both Ret/Holy. I tried tanking and I disliked it. What's the point of getting better gear and going through all that effort if you don't get to do something flashy once in a while? We'll maybe tanks do, but the rhythms of the tank class just didn't appeal to me. I'm much more comfortable as a healer and that's all right.

I just read the following on the WoW Insider site:

For us, it procs an effect called Hand of Light that lets us use any of our holy power-based abilities as if we had the full 3 holy power stored up without actually using our holy power. As I said in the section about haste, Hand of Light procs off of auto-attacks, so while a slow weapon might be better for your attack abilities to work with, a faster weapon will cause more mastery procs.

This means that my insistance on 2-handed weapons may not be the wisest course! A shield with sufficient strength, expertise, mastery and crit could equal or exceed the 2 handed weapon because of the greater frequency of proccessing the Hand of Light through auto-attacks, which happen more frequently with a one-handed weapon! Thus allowing me to cast the important Templar's Verdict. I hate it that my Exorcism spell is my top dps function. That's because I haven't understood the full implications of Hand of Light. I must remember that whenever Hand of Light procs, I must use Templar's Verdict--which acts as though I have 3 holy power, no matter how much holy power I have. If it procs while I have x3 holy power, I can get off 2-3 Templar's Verdicts in a row, causing as much as 60k dmg. This is really big.

If furthermore, I have a lighter, faster sword, then Hand of Light will proc more frequently! Thus allowing me to cast Templar's Verdict more frequently! While the damage Templar's Verdict does is dependent on the amount of damage a weapon does, it could be a wash without the shield, given that the frequency of TV proccessing increases. Add in the strength bonuses from the shield, the armor bonus, and the enchantment and you could even have a greater dps than with a 2-handed weapon.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Lamentations of Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was a genius, but a genius with a strong moral character and sense of loyalty and duty. What he wasn't was a good businessman. A recent immigre from the Balkans to the U.S., he assumed that people were as good as their word. In the person of Thomas Alva Edison, however, he found his sinister, dark, pathological identical twin.

We Americans love our heros. Edison was not only a genius, he was a shrewd businessman. But his treatment of Tesla was nothing short of despicable. In the documentary I watched last night from PBS, Master of Lightning, the hum between the lines became obvious that Edison was envious of Tesla's genius. Their feud over currents, DC (Edison) v. AC (Tesla) was the stuff of legend. Their showdown at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1892-3), which Tesla won, is the stuff of epic drama. You can feel the pathology working in Edison's mind, as he strives to show people the dangers of AC current by electrocuting animals and finally human beings. Repulsive.

Tesla, the airy, disconnected, obsessive-compulsive idealist and dreamer, spent his early paydays on mature research and development, and ended up penniless. He'd signed his lucrative Westinghouse contract back over to the company during Westinghouse's financial rocky period. The AC motors he had patented, and which drove the industry of the world, had made billions for corporations, yet he was a pauper. Finally, Westinghouse granted him an allowance for food and lodging for the rest of his life. Ironically, exactly what he would have enjoyed in the communist/socialist state his homeland became. It is precisely this trenchant irony, which gives his story so much dramatic potential.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Social Security Theater

Social Security is a political football, but is it really in any danger of being greatly altered in the imminent future? Doubtful. The world of politics is rarely concerned with real, substantive change, but more often fanning the flames of the electorate's fear and anger over proposed changes. That's what's happening here. Social security is such a fact of life that it just can't be messed with. While bankers may own and fund the government to a large extent, even they are powerless against the vast horde of social security recipients who vote. But political fearmongering? No harm, no foul. The democrats look good to their base when they oppose efforts to derail social security by privatizing it, and the republicans look good to their far smaller base when they propose to do just that. Nothing changes, but both parties earn political capital.

Social Security is monolithic and unstoppable. If ever there was a structure that has earned the title "too big to fail," it's SS. I've paid into it every day of my working life. I expect and depend on it to be there for me. Not as my sole means of support in my old age (unless I live to be very old), but as a supplement.

Unfortunately for us, the bankers and Wall Street have decided that if Social Security is to survive, then they can get a drink at the public trough too, every now and again. It's what we're left with. Two social structures, monolithic in attitude, diametrically opposed, looking at each other with hatred blazing in their eyes. But neither one can afford to strike first.

Friday, December 24, 2010

This Day

In the catalogue of classical Christmas music, there are a few obvious standouts. Handel's The Messiah is probably the most famous, with the Bach Christmas Cantata and Vivaldi's Gloria close seconds. My personal favorite, however, is Ralph Vaughn William's Hodie (This Day). What's it like? Well, it's extremely programmatic, which is to say, it tells a story. This is not music to enjoy, as much as it is to be inspired by. In tone and sonority it's rather like a sacred version of Holst's The Planets. Vaughn Williams has set a variety of sacred and Christmas themed secular texts to music. Parts of the New Testament that deal witht the birth of Christ are interposed with set pieces, arias, which have as their texts mystical poetry in the English tradition of Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Drummond, and the father of the entire genre, John Milton.

Mystical, mysterious, the sonorities are largely in a minor key, which makes the occasional shifts into major chords exceedingly dramatic. In this scene, the Angel of the Lord appears to Joseph, to convince him to "take unto thee, Mary thy wife..." The angel prefaces his comment with "Fear not." Were I to hear such mysterious and turbulent minor chords under an angel's command, I would fear aplenty! But I'm not a saint. Maybe they can withstand more ambiguity than I.

(Note, put the marker to minute 5:00 to begin the Angel's recitation).

In the above section, minute 5:00 through the end of this cut, Vaughn Williams introduces the themes which he will return to twice more in the piece. Note the dramatic shift into major chord on the the word "Jesus!"

Of the several standalone arias in the piece, my favorites are The Oxen (text by Thomas Hardy), sung by the baritone soloist, and Bright Portals of the Sky (text William Drummond), sung by the tenor. The former is an idyllic lullabye, perfect for a Christmas Eve candle-light service. The latter is a glistening, jewellike, piercing stab of mystery, like looking at the face of God.

The absolute highlight for me, however is the Chorus of the Three Kings, which in my mind creates even more mystery and power than Ring Out Ye Crystal Spheres, the thundering epilogue, set to text by Milton, which is the penultimate moment of the cantata.

All in all, with Hodie, Vaughn Williams has used the mystery/mystic traditions of his English heritage (the mystery plays) and set it in a blistering and heartrending 20th Century minor key which only resolves into major keys infrequently but to tremendous dramatic effect in this piece. It's something to listen to in the candle-lit darkness. If you're in a Gothic cathedral, so much the better.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Psychopath Beside Me

Wow, what a title to post the day before Christmas Eve. Please be comforted. Tomorrow I will write about Christmas music. Today, however, I must get down in black and white what transpired yesterday that froze my blood.

An individual and I have shared many pleasant conversations in the past. He has shown me pictures of his trips, notably to the Gay Games in Berlin last year, where he was feted and received an award as a volunteer. I've also seen a side of him which has not been pleasant, a kind of darkness. It has been exposed on occasion when he has had a particularly difficult commute. He's confessed to me that he feels as though he hasn't been taken seriously, that his work hasn't been held in sufficient esteem, nor has he been properly recognized, and success has been elusive. At one point he opined that he might give up his professional altogether and take up male modeling. He has striking features and physique; so it's not a strictly delusional prospect, though he would need to lose the spare tire and get his teeth fixed, IMO.

Just two days ago he showed me a picture of an artwork he had created, drawn and painted. I had no idea he was an artist, but apparently so. As I recall I reacted solicitously.

Yesterday, I happened to open Facebook to see a picture of my sister. I asked him if he would like to see a picture of my sister. I was so delighted with her picture, she is gorgeous in it, and I was so thrilled and wanted to share my excitement. His reaction, "Well that's a strange request but I guess so."

Thereupon I again saw the darkness in his face which I've seen at times before. I regret to say, I ignored it. Standing next to Karen in the picture is her best friend Sue. Sue lost her eldest child to suicide a few years ago, and I said, "That's Sue, she has had a lot of tragedy in her life. She lost a son to suicide a few years back."

His response, I kid you not, was, "Well that's not the WORST thing that could have happened..." Verbatim, just as I have typed it here, with the emphasis on "worst." My immediate response to that was a volcanic rage so intense I could hardly see straight. I said, "I'm going to remember that. I'm going to put that away in my bag of tricks to pull out at a vulnerable moment so that I can completely minimize your feelings too."

He turned his back and spoke not another word.

Then my blood cooled and began to freeze. This guy is completely inappropriate. What's wrong with him? And then I realized--it's a character disorder. A Character Disordered person, according to M. Scott Peck, is a person who blames the world and causes outside himself for his problems. The obverse is a neurotic person, who blames some inner deficiency as the cause of their problems. The character disordered person sees the world as broken; the neurotic sees themselves as broken. Dr. Peck states that the neurotic is easier to treat. I have always seen myself as neurotic, but I've also survived a lot of abuse, so I have very low tolerance to threatening situations, and as a result of that I'm perhaps too defensive.

I'm reminded again of that darkness, not just metaphorical darkness, but a coagulation of blood in the face, a real physiological darkening of the features. I beheld his demon. And the blistering effect of his words. The way he was able to choose the most damaging thing to say that he could possibly have said. Fortunately for both of us he didn't insult my sister, or I might have leapt from my chair to strangle him then and there. Good for both of us. Meanwhile, I continue to detox from my SSRI preparatory to switching to a different medication. I'm fat, I'm single, I've only achieved moderate success, and I'm facing bankruptcy. I wouldn't trade places with this dude for anything.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Confession: I Know Squat about Politics

I cannot remain silent on this day of epic moral victory for lovers of freedom and the theory implicit in the American experiment that freedom includes the right to be different, even despicably different in the eyes of some.

Barak Obama signed the law 86ing DADT about an hour ago. It is a moral and political victory for the President and quite an achievement getting this law passed and signed against forceful and irrational opposition.

I must confess, however, that the president's brand of political consesus building was difficult to endure the past few months in the face of exceedingly vile, extremist right wing diatribes aimed at him. First, he came across as weak. Second, he came across as being a back-door deal maker, the kind of thing he campaigned against, and which the Republicans lambasted him for, even as he was caving in to their demands. Oh, how I wished someone would have just given it right back to them. In your face Mitch McConnell. Someone like ... Hillary Clinton?

But in politics, the proof is in the pudding. The echoes from the bully pulpit fade away, but the ink drying on the page is permanent! I voted for Barak Obama because I thought he would be a uniter and a consensus builder. I got what I WANTED! And then about 7 months into his term, I didn't really want it anymore. Instead, I wanted someone who would step on some toes and speak up against the unconscionable obstreperousness of the conservative wing of the Republican party (which is now 90% of Republicans it seems).

But Barak Obama didn't do that. He kept his head down and worked, worked, worked for the end goal. Meanwhile Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, slapping themselves on the back and crowing about their mandate, mistook the bully pulpit for actual political work. 3 weeks ago it looked like DADT repeal was DOOMED. But today? It's like a rabbit from a top hat. Obama delivered big-time. He'll have my vote for a second term. Not only am I glad I voted for him the first time around, I'm glad he stuck fast to his principles and didn't get involved in tit-for-tat childish, churlish screaming matches that could have ensued had someone else spoken from a strictly emotional point of view. The Republicans have been doing that now for 2+ years, after having decided that they'd done enough soul searching after the 2008 election. What has it got them? Tax breaks for the wealthy that will be repealed as soon as everyone realizes that continuing them will bankrupt the country. When push comes to shove, what will fall? Tax breaks for the top .001% of the population, or Social Security for millions? I'm banking on the former.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let The Right One In

Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in), 2008's best vampire flick, was a work of profound emotion, artistry and beauty. Ravenous for beauty, art, and depth, American audiences embraced the film to the extent that a Hollywood remake was assured. Hollywood doesn't play nice with independent films. Hollywood is about, without putting too fine a point on it, prostitution. Hollywood is a sewer which doesn't care or comprehend what storytelling is or should be, it is about money. Don't get me wrong, I like Hollywood movies as much as the next fellow, but I don't expect depth, tenderness, or relevance from them. This is why I am reluctant to see the remake of Let the Right One In, with its Americanized title, Let Me In. Hollywood is about dualities, right and wrong, black and white, truth and lies. It eschews the shades of gray that might frustrate audiences with their ambiguity and make them reflect on their lives. If they have to think, or feel anything other than excitement, audiences stop buying popcorn. Hollywood films agitate their audiences, they do not make them feel; they stir them up. Hollywood is to film making what the Bush Administration was to war making: the only two emotions they care about are shock and awe.

Let the Right One In is a profoundly better title than Let Me In. It communicates layers of meaning. Let Me In is about teenage love: "stop being so self-absorbed and pay attention to me, you little twit!" Let the Right One In is a weighted phrase that conveys sadness, grief, desire, pain, longing that stretches across generations, hoping for the fleeting embrace of a soul-mate in spite of the defensiveness with which we guard our persons. It has nothing to do with teenage lust or even love for that matter. It is about rebirth, transcendence and communication; of becoming a different being when immersed in the dyad of love. If they didn't even come close with the title, how can the underlying film fare any better?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Post Censored

Well, I finally went over the edge at the Seattle Times. They posted this interesting story about a man in a banana costume getting arrested for indecent exposure. This, as you might expect, invited anyone with a budding standup comedy career to take their best shot. While several of my offerings made the grade (see Donuthole's posts), my favorite was censored. So I repost it here for the benefit and smiles of all:

How is a banana like a Liberal? They're soft and squishy on the inside, and yellow on the outside. How is a banana like a Republican? When they get older, they turn brown and are good for making bread.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Just Following Orders

Alex Jones, conspiracy theorist, is entertaining, that's why I watch his stuff. However, I can't buy into 9/11 was an inside job theory. It's more than simply a visceral rejection of the notion that our government could do something so evil and insidious. The facts simply don't add up. If the 19 hijackers were intelligence assets of the U.S., as Jones claims, how could they have been persuaded to crash planes into buildings? Conspiracy theorists might claim that they were simply patsies, who were duped into boarding and hijacking the flight, only to have the plane remote controlled into the trade center and the Pentagon. They point to the fact that these so-called Islamic fundamentalists led a rather debauched lifestyle leading up to zero-hour, going to strip clubs, getting drunk, and ordering porno. I don't know about you, but I have a lot more faith in a person's religious hypocrisy than I do in the government's ability to remote control planes into buildings.

Yes there are a lot of unanswered questions: The molten fragments dripping from the towers, similar to the reaction of steel to thermite. The extraordinary maneuvers of the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon after getting failing marks from his flight instructors one month before. The multiple reports of the sound of explosions before the collapse of the towers and building no. 7, as though it was a controlled demolition.

I recently heard a lecture by attorney Daniel Sheehan, who was involved in the Pentagon papers case, and investigated Iran-Contra, and Karen Silkwood's disappearance. He gave a succinct rundown of the conspiracy behind the JFK assassination that was amazingly lucid, and had the ring of truth. He spoke with absolute conviction and certainty, that it was the result of rogue elements within the intelligence community who felt betrayed by JFK, who allied with certain figures in the mob who despised RFK, to use their assets and resources (disaffected Cuban refugees) to murder the president, all financed by Henry Booth Luce and Howard Hughes. What makes Daniel Sheehan's recitation so convincing? It's because he connected the dots.

If Alex Jones were to confine himself to more rational claims, that rogue elements within the CIA allowed the hijackings to take place, or even greased the wheels to make M. Atta & crew's jobs easier, that would be a whole lot easier to believe than a conspiracy that went up to the to active involvement of the White House.

Because the claims are so wild, they suffer from what I would call David Icke syndrome: they seem like the ravings of cranks and kooks. Most people will reject them out of hand while there may be a kernel of truth embedded in the substrata of their arguments, because they can't be taken seriously. This is what happens to people on a crusade. It's so bizarre at times (David Icke's reptilians) that it seems to me as though madmen have pierced the veil of reality. They may really be onto something intuitively and psychically, but they've mythologized their own perceptions to the point that it seems fabulous. Maybe they're "useful idiots" to the conspiracy (if it exists) because their ideas are so far out. Or maybe they're just in on it and spreading disinformation.

The best lies are those that contain a germ of truth.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pyramid Power

The eye in the pyramid purports to symbolize the Divine, the grace of Providence. On the dollar bill it is accompanied by the Latin motto: "Annuit Coeptis." Apparently it translates to: "God has favored our undertaking," which in that sense, means the formation of the United States. However, I wonder if there is a deeper occult significance to the pyramid, as a symbol in general.

The pyramid is the shape of the power base of all authoritarian/monolithic human organizations since the beginning of time. The power of the "head" or leader, flowing down through successively larger groups of subordinates, to the bottom. Just look at any org chart from any corporation in the world if you doubt me. An entire software program (Visio) was created to visualize this exchange of power.

Always we must remember the "as above/so below" mantra of all occult/hermetic study. What goes down, may also go up. I.e, the head dispenses power, yes, but does he not also "receive" his power from the stratified layers beneath him? Of course he does, whether it is physical, spiritual, economic or mystical.

I'm reminded powerfully of the image of the Viles in Stephen R. Donaldson's fantasy trilogy, the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever. The Viles formed wedges, in which the power flowed from the back to the front, and through a focus or channelling wand. In much the same way, I believe, is mystical/occult as well as temporal power focused through monolithic bureaucracies. Not only do these bureaucracies focus control downward on their subordinates, they also channel power upward to the master. In this way are organizations based on this model made into closed systems that keep change and evolution at bay.

Which brings us again to Crowley. "Do what thou wilt" was his battlecry. I have always understood that to mean having complete licentious liberty. However, in my unevolved, unenlightened state, this was what I projected onto Crowley's words. In actuality Crowley was advocating freedom from the psychic slavery imposed on us by the illuminati, those invested in the pyramid of power that governs modern life.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Citizenship Clause

Citizenship and immigration has been front and center recently in terms of issues of relative importance to the polity. One of the meanest spirited attacks from lawmakers out of Arizona, which seems to be the galvanizing locale for such xenophobic opinion, is a desire to deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution states: "Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

On the surface, it appears that any individual, born within the borders or in the territories of the United States, is automatically entitled to citizenship.

Not so fast.

Read it again, carefully.

"...and subject to the jurisdiction thereof..."

Ah, the money quote.

The Supreme Court ruled in Wong Kim Ark that under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a man born within the United States to foreigners (in that case, Chinese citizens) who have a permanent domicile and residence in the United States and are carrying on business in the United States and who were not employed in a diplomatic or other official capacity by a foreign power, was a citizen of the United States.

Note the conditions of the precedent: the parents had a permanent domicile and were carrying on business in the United States. They were here legally, and thus were subject to the jurisdiction of the United States of America.

In the case of an illegal alien, I think, as a lay person, it's entirely reasonable to doubt whether a person here illegally is "subject to the jurisdiction..."

The path forward for Ariz. Senator Russell may be instead to frame the law in those terms. "Be it resolved, that a person or persons, who is present in the United States through false or illegal methods, cannot and shall not be considered to be subject to the jurisdiction of the United States."

The upshot would be to invalidate the children of such persons from automatic citizenship if they happen to be born here.

In the case of children who are older, who are socialized culturally to the United States, they could be considered to be "naturalized" in the common if not the legal, meaning of the word.

Most folks who know me know me as a liberal. However, I'm not so liberal as to want to give the country away, and I am contemptuous of those on the Left who seem to hold this position. Let me have it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mulholland Dr. (Part 2)

The Spine of Mulholland Dr.

The narrative spine of Mulholland Dr. is very simple. Diane Selwyn is experiencing depression and mental decompensation because of personal and professional problems. She suffers a professional setback when she loses a nice role at an audition to her former lover, Camilla Rhodes. This exacerbates her deteriorating mental condition. Diane fantasizes that some external force caused this to happen, like a mafia plot. At a party at Adam Kesher’s house, Camilla and Adam reveal that they’re an item. This severe cruelty further pushes Diane over the edge. Diane meets a hit-man at Winkies and hires him to kill Camilla. He tells her that he’ll leave a sign for her to indicate when the job is done. Diane notices that a stranger has overheard their conversation and has reacted with a horrified expression. Diane goes home and goes to sleep. She dreams of an idealized vision of herself named Betty Elms who is tantalized by a mysterious woman named Rita who is pliant to Betty. Diane awakens and discovers that the hit man has left proof of his deed. Camilla is dead. Diane suffers a psychotic break with reality, joylessly masturbates in a vain and pathetic attempt to reconnect with a reason to live, and then shoots herself.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Convincing UFO Footage

Okay, I've got a confession. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe. That is not to say I believe. Seeing is believing. To date, I haven't seen anything. But, the next best thing to seeing, is seeing convincing video. And this certainly qualifies.

If it isn't a balloon, it's something very odd indeed. However, I can't rule out a balloon based simply on the way it moves.

The donut hole in the center reminds me of the Maury Island Incident.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mulholland Drive (Part 1)

I've been working on an essay about David Lynch's film Mulholland Drive. I'll post it here in segments.

David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive contains a proper, causal narrative with a linear plot, even though it doesn’t seem like it.

What makes Mulholland Drive work for me is the way in which Lynch uses all his old cinematic themes, memes and symbols to tell us a fresh story. He’s always been interested in doppelgangers, and the subterranean current of evil and depredation that underlies consciousness and reality (if indeed, there’s any difference between the two). We surround ourselves with fantasies of goodness, of optimism and light, when the ultimate, final reality of our lives is that they end, and all we are left with is “that cold model of the barren earth which serves as paste and cover to our bones.” The essential psychological agony we feel when we contemplate life’s final result is the energy that fuels the films of David Lynch as well as many others.

Lynch’s cinematic style in Mulholland Drive employs standard cinematic techniques in individual scenes, while rejecting causality in the narrative arc with a deliberate obfuscation of point of view. Betty is a pert, perky blonde with a great deal of personal ambition, whose Hollywood dream of becoming an actress in motion pictures seems to play out with almost serendipitous ease. Each of Betty’s scenes employs a standard narrative structure. They exhibit distinct settings, characters that possess rational motivations, which in some cases, conflict, a pivotal moment (dramatic crisis) and a resolution. Moreover, Lynch’s visual style affirms the narrative structure. He uses camera angles, shots, zooms, pans, etc., to reinforce the standard cinematic narrative point of view. This is Betty’s point of view, just as it is Betty’s narrative.

Through symbolism and metaphor, however, Lynch infers an additional layer of meaning every bit as intentional as Betty’s motives. Betty’s character is a perky go-getter. Her identity is fixed and known. Rita, on the other hand, is amnesiac. Her identity is completely unknown. Thus we are confronted with the surface mystery of Mulholland Drive, the mystery of Rita’s true identity, and all that that implies (we know that she was about to be murdered before the accident that resulted in her amnesia). Betty discovers about herself that although she is a talented, pretty, precocious blonde, she’s also tantalized, intrigued and perhaps obsessed with Rita’s alluring mystery. It sucks her in. For her part, Rita is in a state of flux. She’s tabula rasa. And Betty is extremely attracted to that… And the audience is extremely attracted to them both.

There follows mysterious vignettes in which Betty and Rita journey to a mysterious nightclub called Silencio (Silence), there’s a shadowy figure called the Cowboy, and a puzzling blue box that can be unlocked by a key. This key is central to the turn of the super-narrative. When Betty unlocks the box, she disappears. Diane Selwyn, a person mentioned earlier in the film, and whose body the women have discovered prior to their trip to Club Silencio, wakes up. In fact Cowboy appears in the doorway and says “Time to wake up pretty girl,” or something to that effect. Diane looks exactly like Betty and is portrayed by the same actress, Naomi Watts.

Lynch’s camera now demands we abruptly shift our allegiance to the Diane character and we reluctantly submit to the camera’s tyranny, or we leave the theater. Relentlessly, the camera uses the same traditional cinematic techniques to establish that we are now in Diane Selwyn’s point of view. But wait! What about charming Betty? We want to go back to Betty and Rita, and discover the answer to the mystery and achieve the happily ever after ending that we were promised, albeit with a little dash of lesbianism for extra flavor! This is precisely the cinematic trope that Lynch is lynching. The message of Mulholland Drive is that the cinema is an illusion, and if you imagine your life by its principles, you destroy yourself so thoroughly, emotionally and existentially, that real death is a welcome relief. This is the sub-narrative. In terms of the super-narrative, Betty is Diane’s alter-ego. She never really existed. Everything that happened in the movie up to the point where Diane Selwyn wakes up, is apparently a dream of Diane’s. The second half of the film is unremittingly bleak, as Diane’s entire world crumbles around her. She has lost a good role to her lover Camilla, and then lost Camilla to Adam, which heaps betrayal upon betrayal. One element of noir has survived; Diane has hired a hit man to kill Camilla (played by the same actress who played Rita). When Diane realizes that the job has been done, she shoots herself, and that’s the end of the film, except for the final image of the chanteuse from Club Silencio assuring us that there’s no afterlife.

Who was trying to kill Camilla/Rita in the beginning of the film? Diane, of course. Betty, Diane’s alter-ego, was Diane’s subconscious attempt to psychologically deal with the guilt of hiring the hitman. But solving that mystery is not the reason for the film’s existence, just as who killed Laura Palmer was never the raison d’être of Twin Peaks. The purpose was to show the story, with as much psychological truth as possible, of a sad and pathetic loser who kills her lover and herself in Hollywood. What makes the film work as art is Lynch’s steadfast refusal to explain anything, and to pull the starkest images out of his subconscious that he possibly can.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grandma's Eulogy

This past weekend, flew back to Decorah, Iowa (place of my birth) to attend my Grandmother's funeral. Also wrote and delivered the eulogy. Several cousins asked for a copy and so I thought I'd post it here for all and sundry...

Maude Pruisman

I want to thank you all for coming today to honor the memory and celebrate the life of Maude Pruisman, my grandmother, and the grandmother of many others here. She was also great grandmother, aunt and great-aunt for many more here today as well as a mother-in-law and a cousin to some. As Maude’s eldest grandchild, I have been asked to share a few short remarks about our dear grandmother, or grandma, as I always knew her.

Grandma lived a very long time. In those nine decades she saw almost the full breadth and scope of the 20th Century. When she was born, President Woodrow Wilson was in his first term, automobiles had only been around for 15 years and most people didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing. When she was 54 years old, just two years older than I am today, Man landed on the Moon.

Like everyone who lives a very long time, her life was full of ups and downs. When I remember Grandma smiling and laughing, those times she had the biggest smile on her face, was when she was with her grandchildren. I think that her grandchildren brought her the greatest pleasure in her life. A close second was successfully bidding 10 no-trump in a spirited game of 500, or experiencing a very long discard run in Skipbo.

Grandma liked to cook, and she was a good cook. All of the grandchildren I’m sure will remember her Apple Koogan, her sour green bean casserole and vinegar potato salad, but I also remember her fried bullheads. I’m sure if I could taste them again, I would appreciate them a lot more than I did when I was 7 years old. Grandma also liked As the World Turns, and going to coffee with Grampa Klaas, and all her friends, in downtown Kanawha.

I am old enough to remember when Grandma had a job. She worked for the school system in Kanawha where she was employed as a cook; she used to help out in the kitchen when she was living at Eastern Star, too. She was always a very hard worker and an immaculate housekeeper. I am also old enough to remember Manley, and going to visit grandma at her house there, where grandma lived with her first husband Charlie, and where their four children: Glenn, Betty, LaDonna and Rhonda were raised. During one memorable visit there, I learned a painful lesson about not playing with sewing machines.

Grandma had more than her share of heartbreak in her life as well. She suffered tremendous grief having all four of her children and one grandchild (Cally Jo) predecease her. The hardest to bear was probably the first: Aunt Rhonda, who I remember as a laughing, friendly sixteen year old. One day Rhonda and I were riding our bikes in Kanawha, where grandma moved after marrying Klaas Pruisman, when Rhonda fell off and skinned her knee in the road. The sight of her bloody knee and tears made me panic and I ran home to grandma’s house screaming that Rhonda was hurt real bad. Grandma was in a state of panic to match mine, but then Rhonda came pedaling up, saying that it was “nothing.” Then Grandma got mad at me for scaring her. I was so confused.

On the day of Rhonda’s funeral, grandma sat weeping in her chair in the Kanawha house with a grief so powerful it couldn’t be helped by anything I could do. My heart breaks when I remember it.

Grandma taught me many things, and gave me many gifts. Of the lessons she taught me the most vivid was that work is its own reward. Despite her wisdom, in the end, I decided that work as its own reward is pretty rotten compensation. Grandma and Grandpa had apple trees in their backyard. One summer I went to stay with grandma and grampa for a week. Unbeknownst to me, my mother and Grandma had cooked up a plan for me to do some chores. The chore in question was to pick up the fallen apples from the apple trees in grandma’s back yard and put them in a bucket to be thrown away. Well, I enjoyed that as much as any six-year-old can who’s picking up mushy, rotting apples covered with bumble bees with his bare hands. To this day I have no idea why it was so important that I use my bare hands for that job, rather than rubber gloves, or a hand spade. But suffice it to say, the possibility of using such common-sense tools never even entered grandma’s mind. Grandma, you see, was German, and never afraid to get her hands dirty.

In retrospect, I much preferred visiting my Aunt Dolly, who made me costumes, and who had much better toys to play with.

I had many more visits with Grandma after that. All of them were much nicer, but then I was never asked to pick up rotten apples again, either.

Grandma gave me a couple of gifts that were very special to me. The first was when I was three, and in St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester. I was going in for major surgery and grandma asked me what I wanted. I said “a baby-doll.” I’m not sure why, but it was probably because I’d seen one of the other children in the pediatric ward playing with one and I wanted a similar experience. Apparently there followed a family conference as to whether it was appropriate for a boy to have a baby-doll, and a decision was reached that it was probably okay. If only they could have known! In any event, I was given the baby-doll, which followed me into and out of surgery and through recovery. Another gift I remember fondly was a recording of Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing Beethoven’s Fifth. I played the grooves off that record.

When I was a little older Grandma and Grampa used to go on trips with Mom and Dad and Karen and me. On one trip out west, near the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, Mom and Dad came back to the campsite after visiting a casino (a pursuit Dad has never fallen out of love with) to find Grandma suffering heatstroke from the desert sun and me shivering inside a sleeping bag after swimming all day in ice-cold water. Later in the trip as we were driving over the Rockies, Klaas made the comment, “Mountains: You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all.” Mom held her tongue for 800 more miles until we returned to Iowa, and Klaas marveled about how much the corn had grown while we were away on the trip, and Mom said, “Cornfields: you’ve seen one, you seen ‘em all.” And that, as Lily Tomlin would say, is the truth.

So in the end, I knew Grandma as well as anyone. She was an uncomplicated person who knew her own mind, and when she formed an opinion, she stuck to it. She was stubborn that way. She expressed her feelings and always tried to be fair. I can’t say she was always happy or even generally happy, but she wasn’t a sad person, either. She knew that family meant more to her than anything else in her life. It was her great joy and accounted for her greatest grief when those relationships ended too soon.

I loved her with all my heart, even though she sometimes frustrated me to distraction. For some reason she found a lot of what I had to say very amusing. Those kids, they say the darndest things…

A friend of mine from college once asked me if I believed in life after death. I said no, that I believe in the resurrection and the life. By that I mean that I believe in the sleep of death, and it is not only what I believe, it is also what I prefer to believe. Grandma is no longer with us, she’s passed on. Her grief and pain are wholly healed. Some day, the horn will sound, and all will rise. On that day, I very much believe, Maude Pruisman will find her name written in the Book of Life. I accept that on faith, and I furthermore hope on that day to find my own name written in the book with other than erasable ink, just as Grandma, my mom and dad and all my aunts and uncles have tried to ensure for me through their instruction and example, and for whose efforts I have been insufficiently grateful.

Thank you for listening.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost - It was All A Dream...?

The opening shot of the pilot of Lost features an eye. Jack's eye, it turns out, opening. The last shot of the end of the series, six years later again, zooms in on Jack's right eye, shutting. This film technique is a framing device. It is a bold and unambiguous choice. The first frame of any moving picture is inarguably important for setting the frame of reference for what follows. The tight focus on the single eye also implies that the story following will be intimately involved with this character's point of view. What he sees is important. The camera is in some ways his eye. To end the narrative also focused on his eye implies that everything in between was experienced by him and through him. And it raises the question, is this observer reliable? Is he experiencing a three-dimensional composite reality shared with other living human beings, or is this a private reality, a dream?

The producers' choice to roll the credits over the deserted wreckage of Oceanic flight 815 cements the latter view. While the producers ended LOST with enough ambiguity to allow differing conjectures as to what was real reality, the film technique of beginning and ending the series focused on Jack's eye proves their true intent. The entire series was a fever dream in the mind of Jack Shepherd as he lies dying on the ground after the crash of Oceanic flight 815 from Sydney. Letting go and accepting his own death is the purpose of the six-year narrative which follows, just as Jack's father Christian, leads him to do in the final scene of the final episode. It is a very, very emotional moment. While the "it was all a dream" ending is generally a copout, in this instance it works profoundly, and proves that there's life left in the old tropes, if they're executed extremely well.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Something's Afoot

Something's stirring deep within. Awareness is creeping down into the cracks and crevasses of my psyche to affect my subconscious with the understanding that I am being, and have been for the past two years, somewhat self-destructive and self defeating. This is probably due to minimalist treatment I have sought for my depression, but I also believe that I'm lazy by nature. My parents tried to amend that character flaw by forcing me to work at jobs ranging from paper delivery, lawn mowing, grocery store stock boy, cheese factory drudge, etc. All the while I really wanted to retreat into my own head. This is the focus of my extremely quiet life now. However, in the past year, I have retreated farther. In 2009 I spend 2000 hours playing World of Warcraft and elevated three different characters to 80th Level. That's the equivalent of a full-time job. I don't begrudge the time, except I didn't get any writing done. Writing is hard because, unlike a videogame, you can't go to that inner place where you feel warm and comfortable and insulated from the outside. Writing is painful self-examination. There's nothing I like better than to lay in my bed, watching a tv episode (on DVD, so there's no commercials) and playing solitaire or bejeweled on my laptop. I don't have to think about anything. But nothing gets done, either.

I'm now feeling a new need to lose weight, get organized and work harder at making my hopes and goals a reality. This is good news. And with it comes energy. I'm excited! I've re-cathected with my apartment, which I'd fallen out of love with. Perhaps this coincides with more sunshine and warmer weather. That's probably part of the process.

Friday, May 7, 2010

To Arizona - a Postcard from Heinrich Himmler

While I'm white and speak fluent English, I am quite paranoid about traveling to Arizona anytime in the near future. What is "reasonable suspicion" besides carte blanche to the police to stop anyone and demand to see proof of American citizenship? My fear is not that I would be stopped, but what would happen if stopped, since I would refuse to comply. Thus, today's photo from times gone by: No. 8 Prinz Albrecht Strasse, the former headquarters of Hitler's feared gestapo, which is a German portmanteau combining Geheime Staatspolizei, which translated into English, comes uncomfortably close to "Homeland Security." So let us pause to remember where anti-immigration policies can eventually lead.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Android v. Windows Mobile

Microsoft has dropped the ball in the phone wars, giving ground to Android, and allowing it to achieve market supremacy. While I chose the Samsung Omnia with Windows Mobile 6.1 as my first smartphone, I am regretting the decision. Windows Mobile is simply too small and too cluttered. Furthermore, navigation is iffy and flakey. Even scrolling from the As to the Ws in my phone book is problematic. I chose the Omnia because I was comfortable years ago with my iPAQ handheld computer, but I desire a more robust user experience, not hesitancy and glitches. I do believe I will catch the next lifeboat off the sinking Windows Mobile ship.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Music Man

Depression <

I think this has much to do with listening to music over the past few days. Good music, too! Those who know me know I love music and that I have two favorite composers that rise to the very top of my list of delights: Philip Glass and Richard Wagner.

Philip Glass is the minimalist composer who wrote Einstein On the Beach. The term minimalism isn't strictly accurate in his case, as he employs minimalist harmonies and melodies, but prolix notation--using revolving arpeggios--to create the effect of stillness in motion. It's quite remarkable when it works. It doesn't work all the time. However, his plaintive, minor sonorities strike just the right mood in me, and apparently in others, as his star has grown over the years. I became a die-hard fan the first time I listened to The Photographer all the way through in 1985. I have since acquired almost everything he's written, but especially the film scores, which really show off his moody, completely unique, style and substance.

Richard Wagner hardly needs an introduction. He was the enfant terrible of the 19th Century, turning music, drama, politics and poetry on their heads, and through dint of pure willpower, became internationally recognized as the genius he truly felt himself to be. While Wagner's music, programmatic and romantic, is far from minimal, the use of chromatic tonalities has something in common with Glass (or rather Glass with it). While Wagner is all thundering power and brass in most cases, some of the gentlest, most sensitive and emotional passages are his best: such as Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde and the Overture to Lohengrin. Of course, my good friend Steve Will will recognize the Tristan und Isolde music from the score to the film Excalibur.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beethoven and Liszt

My friend Steve Will today blogged about Naxos music company, which publishes some of the rarest music performed. I just happen to LOVE Beethoven and Franz Liszt. There's an old story that Beethoven was present at Liszt's first Vienna concert (at age 11 years or so) in 1822, and actually kissed the apollonian youth post facto. God I wish I could have seen that. In any event, Liszt later transcribed Beethoven's nine symphonies for solo piano. Naxos has released performances of these transcriptions over time, and I've been waiting for a while for my favorite of the symphonies to be released, Symphony No. 7, with its sonorous, emotional second movement. It is, as I expected: sublime. However, my favorite in this recording is the 4th Movement, in which Beethoven's and Liszt's sonorities mingle and merge in a kind of Reece's pieces combination of classical musical rhapsody. Konstantin Scherbakov's virtuoso playing is not all pounding thunder, which I became accustomed to listening to Horowitz over the years, but has delicacy and sensitivity, and hooks your heartstrings...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Zune and Audiobooks

The problem for Zune users who want to listen to audiobooks has always been the lack of a bookmarking feature. I used to get around that by cutting the audio files, usually MP3s, into 45 minute (or thereabouts) sections. I then had to edit the file data to indicate that the genre was "audiobook" and make sure to title each section in sequence so that they would appear next to each other in the list of files. Because there was no bookmarking feature, one needed to listen to the 45 minute file in a sitting, or keep track of where you were in the file in order to quickly find where you'd left off. That was servicable, but not optimal.

Then, along came Audible. With Audible, audiobooks were kept in their own category--not mixed with music, and were usually kept in one or possibly two, large files (3+ hours each). Best of all, they had a bookmarking feature, which meant that you could pause playback, choose a new file to play (if you had a hankering to listen to "Magic Carpet Ride" in the middle of your book, for example), and return to resume the playback where you had left off. Unfortunately, the audible format was proprietary. Audible manager, the software used for loading books on your Zune, would not recognize any file format except the proprietary .aa (Audible) format.

But then along came Overdrive Media Console. With a little bit of work, one can turn MP3 files into an OMC compatible Audiobook with a bookmarking feature. You have to join the files back into one large file (if you've split them, or ripped them from a CD). I use Roxio Media Creator's Sound Editor. I load all of the files into the sound editor, then export the mix as one large file. Then I use the Overdrive Media Console Wax creator to create a wax file. This file marks the location of the audiobook file and will associate cover art with the file. You then use the Overdrive Media Console's transfer wizard to put it on your Zune. The book goes in the Audiobook section, next to your Audible downloads. It's a slick method. Not as easy as simply ripping a CD to your Zune, but the time it takes (probably 5-10 minutes per title) is worth it for the bookmarking feature.

It took me a few attempts to work out the kinks. Here's what I found. When trying to transfer the file to the Zune I kept getting an error that my wax file had an invalid path. I spent a few hours trying different methods until I realized what I was doing wrong. I had a hyphen in the pathname. The transfer Wizard does not like hyphens, but it seems to do okay with underscores. Also, to save time in the future, I associated the .wax file extension with the Overdrive Media Console transfer wizard. So all I need to do is double-click the .wax file to transfer the audiobook. Slick!

The second thing I learned is that 96 bits or 64 bit samples are plenty for an audiobook. Mono is actually a clearer and more satisfying listening experience for voice recordings than stereo and it takes up half the disc-space of stereo. So, most of my unabridged books are in files about 90 MBs, 90,000 kb. For a 30 GB Zune, I still only have half of it filled, even though I have 2 dozen audiobooks on the hard drive.

I love my Zune, and I didn't want to have to switch to Itunes and the Ipod in order to enjoy audiobooks. Zune + Overdrive Media Console is the the best solution at present. Until Zune comes out with a solution which is as simple as ripping audio CDs, that is.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mine Kampf

After watching coverage of the West Virginia mine disaster last night, it is impossible to deny it. Profits have more meaning and worth than the lives of workers. This is the grinning demon-idiot face of lassez-faire capitalism left unchecked. People who have less money have less right to live.

This is the philosophy that made possible the Ford Pinto. The brutal, beyond soulless, evil force of the bottom line, when it applies the spreadsheet of business to the nectar of life, and becomes, instead of a way to improve life, the incarnation of Moloch. It was ugly in the 1970s, and its even more repulsive today. Excuse me while I go find an antiemetic.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Catholics and Kubler-Ross

Contemplating the hole that the Catholic hierarchy has dug for itself regarding its ongoing sex abuse scandals, it occurred to me that their reactions follow closely the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross model of acceptance. The Kubler-Ross model has been applied to the psychology of dying, of addiction, of trauma and disaster. And these scandals are a disaster for the Church if ever there was one.

To recap, the Kubler-Ross model starts with DENIAL and then ANGER. Up until recently, the Vatican was entrenched in these two phases. Anger was more the position of the rabid lay defenders and apologists than the clergy. After this weekend, however, I think the Church has moved into a BARGAINING phase, though still peppered with denial and anger. See my previous entry regarding how Benedict's own preacher compared the suffering of the church in response to the scrutiny of the western media of the scandals to the "collective suffering" of the Jews in Europe. (As repellant and nauseating as that concept is to anyone with a conscience or mind).

In essence, they were saying that the Church was a victim, too. And that proper scrutiny and criticism of the hierarchy was tantamount to anti-semitism, which is an irrational animus. But that, it seems to me, is a bargaining position. And that's why I think they're in the bargaining phase.

Unfortunately, if their reactions really are following the Kubler-Ross model, it will get worse before it gets better. After Bargaining comes DEPRESSION. Only after depression comes the final stage of ACCEPTANCE.

I do pray they get it before they're left with only wild-eyed blind followers who have idealized and idolized the church; i.e., replaced God in their souls with a kind of Idolatry of the Church... I think Western Civilization is stronger with the Catholic church intact than broken, and I want Western Civilization to survive. So I do wish them well. But they must stop their appalling self-pity. Otherwise, that hole they've dug may turn out to be a grave.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Catholic Scandals - A New Reformation?

Outrage over the Catholic sex abuse scandals has heated up in the past few weeks, as reports detailing a Wisconsin priest's abuse of deaf students in his care, and the resulting coverup, which reached the Vatican, and Pope Benedict personally, have been widely disseminated. Today, Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, delivering the Good Friday homily in St. Peters, insisted that the recent criticisms leveled at the Vatican in general and the Pope in particular, were akin to "the collective violence" of antisemitism. While the Reverend may have had a point to make concerning individual guilt versus collective guilt, the audacious hyperbole of conflating international criticism to the Holocaust is unbelievably self-pitying arrogance.

My jaw drops as I contemplate the meaning of the reverend's words. He believes himself, the pontiff and the church, to be the victims here, not the children harmed by the abuse that gave rise to the scandals in the first place. Unbelievable! How can Catholics abide it? Why they don't rip St. Peter's down stone by stone is beyond me. The sheer magnitude of the scandal also troubles me. It makes me wonder if Satan really does exist, and this is an infernal plot to seed the church with possessed priests bent on destroying it from within.

There's much about the Catholic church I can't abide, and I count myself fortunate not to have been raised one. Several of my cousins were, however, and they've all turned out to be quite good people. It's the hierarchy I can't stand. Really, the Catholic Church is the Roman empire redux. The levels and strata of power, from the autocrats to the aristocrats to the bureaucrats to the laity, is top-down, with the Pope occupying the place of Caesar.

However, that model is central to an organizational structure which permits unity of purpose and philosophy. It's had its ups and downs, but throughout the 300 centuries of Western Civilization (Joseph Campell says Western Civ began with the cave paintings 30,000 years ago), the top down structure has served us well at times. There's been rebellion, such as the Reformation, which severely compromised the church's temporal authority and led ultimately to the renaissance and the enlightenment, and gave birth to the Western Democracy we all enjoy. The Catholic church tried its best to adapt to Western Democracy, eschewing its innate feudalism for greater transparancy and discussion, and even allowing dissent. (Vatican II).

I find myself in the unbelievable (i'm using that word a lot today) position of actually fearing for the welfare of the Catholic Church, what has always been considered an eternal juggernaut. These scandals might bring it completely down. It's already paid $billions in restitution, and money=power. This hemhorraging of funds can't help its authority. But I worry what would happen to Western Civilization if the Catholic Church dissolves. One of the problems of radical Islam, is this idea that practically any Imam can make any fatwa against practically anyone. It's extremely chaotic and leads to misunderstanding and continuous violence. I do not want to see that happen to Christianity.

So, while I don't wish the Catholic hierarchy well, neither do I wish them ill. I hope they will abandon their self-pitying victimhood and clean house. Major repentance and reconciliation is called for.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


By Alan Moore

Who watches the watchers? Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985 (one year after George Orwell’s iconic anno domini), amid a kind of societal schizophrenia that is both twisted and completely rational. Watchmen is about the essential disconnection between morality and pragmatism. On the one hand we have the characters and situations of Watchmen, and on the other, we have preconceived notions about how super heroes are supposed to think and behave. Super heroes are supposed to be moral, virtuous paragons fighting for truth, justice and the American way. Alan Moore has a field day ramming that Titanic boatload of tropes into an iceberg of moral relativism, and the result is brutally ironic.

In Watchmen, super heroes are decidedly non-super. Only Rorshach has the values one associates with super heroes—he cares about the truth and about justice while all about him, super heroes are making closed-door deals, making political alliances, looking the other way when convenient, and allowing the hard truths to go unexposed. Richard Nixon, that paragon of pragmatism for whom the ends always justified the means, is still president in his fourth term. He is the perfect symbol of what Moore’s worldview intends to convey. This is a world of shadow dealings, of obfuscation and cover-up, of lies and innuendo, of muddy waters.

Alan Moore’s literary style here contains multilayered brilliance, with as many facets as the Koh-i-noor diamond (not the Hope—there’s no hope in this universe). Rorshach is aptly named for the famous psychiatrist who created the inkblot test as a window on the subconscious. In one of the best scenes of the film, Rorshach takes the inkblot test, his verbal responses betraying no hint of the profound agonies underlying each image as they raise memories of murder, mayhem, and injustice. Thus, Rorshach’s uncompromising commitment to his values becomes a dark obsession, rather than a mission.

Rorshach becomes like a Super-Ego, unable to compromise. He finally is unable to accept a world which has no absolutes. Watchmen is Rorshach’s dark night of the soul. He is experiencing an existential crisis throughout the story as he uncovers more evidence of greed, ambition, cruelty, avarice, larceny, sadism. He cannot see any beauty in humanity nor in the world. And in this world, ruled over by the Prince of Paranoia, Richard M. Nixon, there’s very little beauty to be seen. For Rorshach, though, beauty can be an idea, or even simply an ideal. But as the story unfolds, each of those underpinnings to the meaning of his existence is pulled away until oblivion remains as the only antidote to uncompromising agony.

The golden age of comics is the backdrop for this dark take on the realms of Camus and Kafka. Golden age superheroes have a multitude of problems with sexuality, relationships, addiction, and codes of honor which are at best mutable. Even their costumes seem embarrassingly ill-fitting. As “enemies of communism” super heroes are shown fighting (and winning) the Vietnam war. “God exists and he is American,” crows the scientist who helped create Dr. Manhattan, the ice-blue ambivalent supreme being which has evolved beyond “super” to “godlike” powers. In one scene, we are treated to the spectacle of the Viet-cong doing humiliating obeisance to Dr. Manhattan and worshipping him as a god, something the powers that be desired more than the lives of the 50,000 American troops they discarded in the attempt to make that fantasy a reality.

The Watchmen bring the idea or ideals of superheroes squarely into conflict with the world as it is, exposing comic book superheroes to be the psychological stand-ins we use them for—fantasies for making the world “right”, that there is an agency out there somewhere, that in karmic terms, looks after us, and repays right with right and evil with evil. Moore exposes that mind-set for the infantile moral pap it is. He at once ennobles and destroys the entire genre of comic books. As a work of art, it is sui generis, a attempt to deconstruct the entire genre, and turn it on its head. At this, Moore succeeds. The story, with its nihilistic ending, captures the notion that big ideas don’t change the world. In fact, nobody can change the world. You can only change your relationship to it, and that requires sacrifice, and yes, compromise. There are no absolutes. We swim without fins in a relativistic soup and all we can do is love one another.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good Karma

Today I made a donation to Mercy Corps for Haitian earthquake relief. I urge everyone to do so. My decision is not completely altruistic. At some point, it is likely a major subduction quake will strike the Pacific Northwest. Such a quake would possibly reach a force of 9.0 or thereabouts on the Richter Scale. I'm giving to Mercy Corps today because I want good Karma in my spiritual bank account. By being here for Mercy Corps today, perhaps they will be here for me at some point in the future. And if there's never an earthquake of that magnitude in Seattle during my lifetime--no harm done.