This installment of Odds and Ends is going to be a bit strange I’m afraid, as you will see shortly. The first two items have been sitting around forever. And it reminds me that I need to create a special category for these, because the first two have nothing to do with politics. But we will get to politics shortly. Be prepared though, there is a big chunk of movie review in the second item. So buckle up, grab a cup of coffee, and read on!
- The French phrase “Les gens heureux n’ont pas d’histoire” literally means “Happy people have no history.” But there are a number of ways this can be interpreted. What it seems to actually mean is, “Happy people don’t make history.” There are two sides to this as far as I’m concerned. First, it is only the discontented who invent things or make great art. Pretty much all creativity is the result of someone who is not happy with what they find in life. And then there are all those “great” historical figures who don’t seem to be happy based upon the fact that they spend so much time killing people. Anyway, I thought it was interesting.
- Recently, I watched Dark Shadows again and so I had a better idea just what was going on in it. You may remember that I wrote about it over two years ago, Tim Burton’s Big Mess. Like most things, I had forgotten I had written it and largely had forgotten the film. So as I watched it, I went through the same process again—but with more insight. There are two problems with the film. First, it really is weak as pure entertainment. Second, and much more importantly, the politics of the film are some of the most vile stuff I’ve ever seen on the screen. So here are some additions to the previous article:
A big problem with the film is that it is a mess structurally with far too many loose ends, plot holes, and things that make no sense whatsoever. But let’s leave that aside. That seems to be the consensus of other film reviews and I don’t think I have a lot to add to it.
All the humor in the film is based upon two things. First, there is the fish out of water; Barnabas Collins is 200 years out of time. Second, there is the “proper gentleman” humor. I don’t think the film has a single joke that doesn’t date back at least a half century and probably more. An example of this is where Barnabas sees Karen Carpenter singing on the television and yells, “Reveal yourself, tiny songstress!” It works well enough because it’s Johnny Depp and we like him. But what kind of a writer puts such things in a script? The second kind of humor we see when Barnabas goes to his niece for romantic advice. I’m getting bored just writing about it.
The propaganda aspects of the film are so much worse. When I first saw the film, I speculated that Barnabas was not in love with Angelique because of the class difference. I don’t know why I even questioned this. It is quite explicit. And it is clear that the filmmakers understood that they had a problem with it because at the end of the film, Barnabas gives a short speech about how he couldn’t love her because she only wanted to possess him. Blah, blah, blah. This creates a very big problem. Barnabas likes Angelique well enough to have sex with her, but not enough to take seriously as a mate.
Then, after he spurns her, we are introduced to Josette—a woman we have no reason to think is deserving of being Barnabas’ love other than that she is blond and seems to be of the same social class as he is. Angelique has cause to be upset. I don’t think it is a misreading of the film to see misogyny. Angelique becomes more evil as she becomes more independent. And Barnabas’ choice for a mate was exactly the kind of woman that a late 18th century man would want. But she becomes the 20th century heroine?
What’s more, Angelique’s behavior is understandable given what we know of human psychology. People who have nothing have more of a tendency to latch on. It isn’t surprising that a poor girl would want to possess him. But the entire film goes out of its way to see the world only from the perspective of the landed gentry. It’s just terrible. This is a story that Americans, of all people, want to watch? I guess so, because the film was modestly successful. And there has been talk of a sequel. If that happens, I’m afraid someone is going to have to put a stake through Tim Burton’s heart.
- You are probably aware that there has been a lot of right wing freak out about a change in immigration law enforcement that Obama has not yet done. I wrote about it last week, Reform Republicans Only Sound Reasonable—It’s in the Job Description. Well, Jonathan Chait chimed in the other day to say that Obama shouldn’t do what many think he will do, because norms matter. His argument is that if Obama breaks this norm, Republican presidents will later use this norm to, for example, “stop enforcing the payment of estate taxes.”
I was glad to see that Brian Beutler at New Republic pushed back in a big way, The Liberal Fear of Obama’s Executive Action Is Irrational. It’s rather a long article, and well worth a full read. But basically his argument is the same as my argument was for filibuster reform: future Republican presidents will break norms regardless of what Obama does. Beutler even points out that Bush 43 didn’t enforce environmental laws. So what’s with all the worrying?
Let me just add, that regardless of what Obama does, future Republican presidents will use him as an excuse for whatever they want to do. It is what they always do. As I’ve argued for a long time now: given that the moderates Clinton and Obama were both called socialists, they might as well have supported actual liberal policies. Democratic moderation and even conservatism is always met by the right with shouts of, “Socialism!”
- In truly terrifying news, RT reported, Water Reserves in Western US Being Drained Underground—NASA Study. Basically, as bad as things are with surface water here in the west, it is looking far worse in terms of our ground water supplies:
The study by NASA and the University of California, Irvine found that more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. It is the first time researchers have quantified the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states, NASA said…
In the nine-year study, the basin—which covers Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and California—lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, almost double the volume of the nation’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead. More than three-quarters of the total—about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers)—was from groundwater, according to a statement by NASA on the project.
My main global warming concern other than biodiversity is rainfall. The whole thing does seem so hopeless. I’m sure that conservatives will continue denying the problem until well past the point of avoiding enormous damage—which is where we may already be. But here in the Home of the Free and the Land of Unaccountable, I’m sure these same conservatives will never have to admit that they had been wrong. I know that it’s kind of petty, but as our world is collapsing, will it be so much for all the deniers to admit being aggressively wrong? All I want is an opportunity to forgive them before the roving gangs kill us.
- Mark Ames has been doing some great reporting on the past of the libertarian Reason Magazine. Last month, he wrote, As Reason’s Editor Defends Its Racist History, Here’s a Copy of Its Holocaust Denial “Special Issue.” It’s amazing. It starts with this quote from the 1976 issue, “The German concentration camps weren’t health centers, but they appear to have been far smaller and much less lethal than the Russian ones.” If you don’t feel like reading it, here is an excellent interview with him on The Majority Report:
As Mr Moose Puppethead says, “Ha cha cha cha!”