Two Words: Jeff Ellis
How bored was I at work last night? I was so bored that I actually ended up having about an hour long political conversation with Lou. Lou is a guy who comes into the store every night around two in the morning and proceeds to spend the next couple of hours just sorta standing around talking to the various night stockers while they're trying to do their job. For some reason, this man has decided to adopt us as his surrogate family. Usually, I am not happy to see Lou because, quite frankly, he gets in the way and causes my crew not to get their work done. And since, for my sins, I'm the night manager, when my crew doesn't get their work done, I'm the one who is held responsible.
Usually, whenever Lou approaches me, I start trying to project a very strong (if polite) Go Away!
vibe. But last night, I was actually bored enough to talk politics with this guy. Turns out that Lou, who tends to be an almost stereotypical blue collar type of guy -- Tony Soprano without the mob connections almost, is not only collects bizarre conspiracy theories (much like myself) but actually goes the actual mile necessary to believe those conspiracy theories! So, for an hour, he told me that the Trilateral Commission was simply a front organization through which Israel and the Rothschilds secretly control the world and I told him he was an anti-Semite.
("I'm not an anti-Semite," he said, sounding rather hurt, "I just don't like Jews.")
Turns out that Lou had a conspiracy theory to explain everything from the Kennedy assassination ("Oswald acted alone!?" he repeated my claim with a harsh laugh, "Shit, man, look at the evidence! Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't even alive past '59!") to the use of fluoride in our water supply ("Why don't you ask the Rothschilds why we need strong teeth?") to the truth behind 911 and our subsequent invasion of Iraq. ("Shit, man, you know those sand n-ggers," and at this point, I started encouraging him to lower his voice, "don't have the money necessary to pull that off. Only one group has that type of money and you know who that is!" "George Soros?" I offered. "No!" Lou snapped back, "The Jews, man, the Jews!")
Now, how can you argue with someone like that? Well, the answer is that you can't and this is unfortunate as a lot of his opinions -- while crudely humorous as a display of paranoid ignorance -- were in the end, capable of laying the foundation for a lot of very destructive acts. The thing with Lou and most other conspiracy theorists is that by the time anyone tries to use anything resembling common sense on them, they're so deep into that paranoid bog that even common sense becomes just another conspiracy. (Or, as the popular term amongst that group seems to be, disinformation
As Lou showed me first hand last night, once you've accepted one conspiracy as the truth, it makes it all that more easy to believe whatever else might come down the pike. When you've convinced yourself that 9-11 was really the result of a plot between George W. Bush and Israel, than it's no great leap to believe Henry Kissinger's tapping your phone, that Charles Manson was actually a government agent, assigned by J. Egdar Hoover himself, to bring an end to the Summer of Love, or that JFK's murder was masterminded by H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison. Hell -- once you've accepted that the Council on Foreign Relations is actually a front for a ring of homosexual Satanists and pedophiles, it sounds almost reasonable to claim Ted Bundy was not only the victim of a CIA mind control experiment but apparently the nephew of ex-Kennedy official and all-around conspiracy bogeyman McGeorge Bundy as well.
For the record, the identity of Bundy's father is uncertain but it is generally accepted that Ted and McGeorge did not share the same gene pool, regardless of their last name. But, don't try to tell Lou that as I made the mistake of doing last night. The only response you'll get is a snort of laughter and a rather condescending shaking of the head. In fact, Lou eventually got so frustrated with my refusal to accept the truth that he actually left the store in frustration!
As he left, however, he did promise to return tonight and to bring along a few books that "you really need to sit down and read."
My natural instinct is not to waste any time or words on the recent rantings and ravings of Al Gore but, for the past two days, I haven't been able to turn on the radio or watch the news without being reminded of the "speech" he gave to those wacky folks at Moveon.org so I guess I might as well throw in my two cents.
Some people have called Gore's speech "traitorous," which I think is going a bit far. And I doubt his words will serve to demoralize our troops -- quite frankly, Gore's never been an eloquent enough speaker to affect anyone beyond those who already agree with him. I'm tempted to call Gore's speech juvenile but that runs the risk of assuming too much maturity on the part of juveniles. No, Gore's speech was childish, a ten year-old's idea of what an idealist is supposed to sound like. The fact that it was well-recieved is largely because Moveon.org is a ten year-old's idea of what an activist organization should be. To even go into the ideas that Gore was attempting to express with that speech is to grant the former Vice President a favor that he has not earned.
The speech really was the epitome of Al Gore, wasn't it? Most commentators are talking about the way Gore screamed throughout the entire speech and the way he jumped around the stage but that's pretty much old news. Gore's speaking style has always been reminiscent of the lesser performances of Leonardo DiCaprio; people just chose not to notice this in the past. No, what struck me was the whole schoolyard bully angle that Gore brought to his comments. While most Democrats (and not an inconsiderable number of Republicans) are critical of Bush's foreign policy team, only Al Gore would feel the need to list each and every single one of them by name while demanding to know why they haven't been fired. (Of course, no one seems to have thought of the fact that if everyone Al Gore mentioned was fired, there practically wouldn't be anyone left in either the State or Defense Departments.) To me, the speech finally went from being embarressing to full-blown satiric when Gore -- out of nowhere, in typical Gore fashion -- suddenly demanded to know why, if Bush was sincere about not supporting the so-called abuse of imprisoned terrorists, he hadn't condemned Rush Limbaugh, "his most prominent political supporter" according to Gore.
(Rush Limbaugh is Bush's most prominent political supporter? Well, Limbaugh is a major conservative and a Republican and all but is he really Bush's most prominent supporter, Al?)
This was apparently because Limbaugh wasn't outraged by the humiliation of the prisoners at Abu Gharib. Well, Al, Bush probably didn't condemn Limbaugh's remarks because he's the President of the United States, not a media critic. Why didn't you or Bill Clinton ever condemn Whoopi Goldberg for saying Bob Dole should have been castrated at the '96 Oscars? Because, to repeat everyone's favorite political cliche, this is America and we have freedom of speech and that means people can express a political opinion -- whether in a comedic monologue or a speech on talk radio or a childish little rant in front of a bunch pavlovian activists -- without having to worry about the President calling them up and shaking his finger at them for being bad boys and girls.
But, anyway, the whole speech was typical Gore. He seems to have finally figured out that if he not only preaches to the converted but also screams a lot while he's doing it, the converted will pat him on the back and maybe even give him a standing ovation. Since Gore's main motivation has always seemed to have been an almost pathological (and quite frankly, rather pathetic) feeling of insecurity, I imagine will be seeing a lot more sermons from the former Vice President.
And, while were on the subject, as far as the rights of captured Al Queada and other terrorists who might be suffering untold ridicule right now, I can find only two words to describe my feelings:
Well, yet another day comes to an end on 24
and, in the show's usual bizarre manner, it's probably the most positive finale the series has provided viewers yet. While the first season ended with Keifer Sutherland's wife being rather abruptly gunned down (this after enduring kidnapping, rape, amnesia, and Elisha Cuthbert all in the course of one day) and the second season found the President being poisoned by the show's resident fetching, bisexual terrorist (Isn't interesting how terrorists are always so much better looking in the movies and on television than in real life? If not for the age difference, one half expects to see Omar Shariff turn up as Osama Bin Laden whenever Fox gets around to making the unavoidable War on Terror docudrama.), this day simply ended up with Sutherland running around a middle school where he proceeded to point a gun into a classroom full of terrified students. (Reminding us that, again, if not for the age difference, Sutherland would probably turn up as either Klebold or Harris whenever Fox gets around to making the unavoidable Trenchcoat Mafia docudrama.)
Of course, along with doing that, he also managed to save Los Angeles from a plague by using a fire axe to chop off the hand of his daughter's boyfriend. (And it worked though it's far too late at night for me to go into the exact details of why this had to be done and why it worked.) While Sutherland dismembered his future son-in-law, President Palmer withdrew from the Presidential election (setting up the unattractive premise that next season, the country will be led by the guy who whose previous claim to fame was living in the basement with a talking stuffed bunny on Unhappily Ever After
) and Tony Almeida, the only regular character who, in the past, viewers could depend on not to act like 1) a complete idiot (while he may not be as fun to ogle as Cuthbert, he also managed to get through three days without once being menaced by a cougar) or 2) a raving lunatic (because, star or no star, Sutherland's Jack Bauer still comes across like one of those guys that all those web sites about the CIA and MK-ULTRA swear are currently running the country) was led away to face charges of treason and possible death penalty.
Still, these 3 events had their positive sides. As the series ended, the hand was being reattached (and Cuthbert didn't seem to harbor any dismemberment-inspired grudges against her Dad), Palmer never did come across as a particularly effective President, and while Tony's situation seemed bleak, I'm sure that things will resolve themselves should the producers and the actor hold a successful contract renegotiation. And while it is true that this season ended with Sutherland's hero breaking down into uncontrollable sobs behind the wheel of his government-issued SUV, he should be gratified to realize that the show's writers had evidently forgotten that -- just 24 hours earlier -- he was a heroin addict.
So, all-in-all, it was a rather positive day as far as 24
is concerned. As it's probably obvious to anyone who might skim through the archives of this site, I'm addicted to every minute of this over-the-top, brilliantly produced, wonderfully acted, and amazingly implausible show and I have been since the first season. If I haven't said this before (and I should have), 24
really is the perfect Libertarian TV show because, for the past three seasons, it has basically provided minute detail about why it takes one government agency (populated by a mix of humorless paper pushers, slackers who look like they'd be perfectly willing to save the world if they could just run across the street for a good cup of coffee first, and border-line psychos with crippling drug habits), 24 hours to deal with situations that -- reasonably -- could probably have been solved in thirty minutes if not for an overwhelmed President and a top agent who keeps gunning people down seconds before they can reveal what they know.
It is true that, in the course of just one season, this show manages to casually kill off an amazing number of people. While the second season seemed to try to live up to the priceless reasoning provided by California's governor in True Lies
("Have you killed people?" "Yes, but they were all bad."), this third season pretty much was a return to the first season's principle that every dispatched bad guy is required to take about a hundred or so innocent civilians along with him. Seriously, after this third day, how many people are actually left breathing in L.A.? True, five or so years did pass from the second season to the third but still, can enough children be born in that amount of time to make up for everyone killed by Dennis Hopper in season one? (Not to mention that a good deal of California's rural population is probably still suffering the after effects of that atomic bomb that went off twelve hours into season two.)
(A California political sidenote from someone who is involved not a whit in California politics: I'm now taking bets on just how many more months will pass before Schwarzenegger pulls as Jesse Ventura, bolts the Republicans, and reregisters as an independent. I've never been ashamed to admit to being a loyal voter in every Republican primary since 1992, but it still seems kind of predestined, doesn't it?)
Now, I'll be honest -- excessive violence in media disturbs me. I'm not talking about the type of violence you might see in a serious film about, say, the Viet Nam War or a docudrama about ganglife in the inner city. Sometimes, in order to tell a story with any type of honest at all, you have to show some pretty unpleasant things. We live in a violent world and it does us no good to create a culture of denial as far as that's concerned. (Indeed, the Passion of the Christ
is a good example of a film that submerges itself in violence without forgetting that it's violence.) No, what I'm talking about is the type of casual, escapist violence that turns up in so much of pop culture nowadays. I'm talking about summer movie spectacles where millions of dollars are spent so that some computer somewhere can produce a more authentic image of some anonymous extra getting ripped in half by indiscriminate machine gun fire. I'm talking about films that tell us there's nothing objectionable about a young girl being sadistically butchered for the sin of being sexually active (as long as that painful butchering is couched in ironic, pop cultural commentary cribbed from an unproduced episode of Dawson's Creek
-- it's as if Ted Bundy's greatest crime was that he didn't watch enough TV when he was younger). I'm talking about Anthony Hopkins acting all warm and cuddly as Giancarlo Gianni's entrails splatter on the Florentine street below is glorious color. I'm talking about violence that invites the viewer to take the same joy out of the sight of blood and pain that Charlie Manson gets from watching Valley of the Dolls
. I'm talking about stories where the point is violence for the sake of violence, without anything else going on in their heads, without even attempting to offer the viewer anything else to leave the experience with. I'm thinking about Kill Bill, Volume One
if Volume Two
had never existed.
With that in mind, I'm surprised to admit that the violence in 24
-- the wanton killing, the casual sadism -- hasn't disturbed me since the death of Jack's wife at the end of the 1st season. (Even in that case, even as you knew that poor woman had been put through far too much just to be casually gunned down off screen, you still couldn't forget just how much of a pain she'd occasionally been over the past couple of hours.) I realized this tonight as I watched Sutherland chop of a costar's hand. I know that somewhere out there, someone who probably votes the same way I do, is getting outraged over this episode and its casual violence but I'm afraid I can't bring myself to share the emotion. If the violence on 24
doesn't disturb me, it's because 24
wisely gave up any pretense of having any relationship whatsoever with reality. While so many other films and TV shows can only be bothered to make a stab at reality when it comes to showing lingering gore and broadcasting death gurgles (To return to those guts in Hannibal
, the scene isn't objectionable because Lecter kills the guy. He's a serial killer -- that's what he does. It's objectionable because it's obvious that more thought and craft was put into capturing that half-minute of guts splattering on the ground than was given to coming up with a compelling script, fresh performances, or anything else that would have made the film noteworthy beyond detailing what an Italian character actor looks like gutted), the minds behind 24
have fully accepted the fact that their show is a live action comic book. For all the wanton violence on display, to get overly upset about it would be like getting overly upset about the Green Goblin killing Gwen Stacy while Spiderman helplessly watched. (Though, for a young comic book reader like myself, that actually was quite upsetting. Then again, at that age, I probably shouldn't have been watching a show like 24
Well, I had a point somewhere in there but I fear it may have been lost in the babble about Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Green Goblin. Oh, here it is -- I love 24
because it is one of the few shows on television to realize that it is a total fantasy, as much of a comic book carnival ride as the exploits of the Green Goblin and as entertainingly unreal as we all secretly suspect Schwarzenegger to be. Wisely, it plays its material straight (and hence avoids drowning in the insidious quicksand of excessive irony and forced pop cultural cachet) without ever forgetting or letting the viewers forget that this dark drama would essentially be an outrageous comedy if it focused on 24 hours of the life of any of the characters other than Keifer Sutherland's psycho-with-the-President's-cell-phone-number. If we can accept that Sutherland can still put together coherent sentences after spending each season sleep deprived, traumatized, tortured, and needing a heroin fix, we can accept a few hundred or so anonymous casualties without losing any sleep.
In the end, the only disturbing thing about 24
is the numerous web sites across the internet that are apparently maintained by people who -- assuming that they have time to watch TV in between worrying about the Bilderbergs, MK-ULTRA, Satanic pedophile rings led by former U.S. Presidents, double agents spreading disinformation, and other prominent threats of the New World Order -- probably view the show as a documentary, as a type of Survivor: Area 51
or an American Secret Idol
, where Clay Aiken threatens to release another album unless Simon and Randy kill Paula within the next thirty or so minutes.
So, in the end, thank you 24
for once again dispensing with bothersome concept like plausibility. Thank you for giving up on logic thirty minutes into third hour and for not even bothering to be anywhere near coherent after the twelfth. And here's hoping that things make even less sense next season.
Praise da Lord, I can see once again!
That's right -- Monday afternoon, I got myself a new pair of glasses to replace the ones that mysteriously vanished on me nearly a month or so ago. Of course, before I could select the new frames, I had to get my eyes examined once again and it turns out that apparently, my eyesight has gotten significantly worse over the past three years -- which was good to hear since it proved that, regardless of the fact that I was somehow stupid enough to lose my old pair in the first place, I needed new glasses anyway. Anyway, as for these new frames -- well, how much can you really say about 'em? They're glasses and I assume that kids in junior high still get beaten up for wearing them and that most people's subliminal reaction to them is to take them as a sign of weakness. As much as it tears my near-sighted with a stigmatism soul to admit this but unless you happen to be Tina Fey or Michael Caine in the 1960s, wearing glasses will probably never be taken a sign of being hip, sexy, or cool.
Luckily, for me, I just turned thirty and have already become comfortable with the fact that my chances of ever being seen as hip, sexy, or cool before time runs out (that would be within the next ten years) are pretty much negligible. So, I'll just be happy (no, happy doesn't express the euphoria I feel right now) with the fact that I can actually see again. The world is no longer a impressionist painting to my eyes.
And I do have to admit that as far as glasses go, I did make a pretty good choice as far as the frames went. Small, round, black. Very basic without being stuffy.
Could they even be called hip, sexy, and cool?
Some days, it's hard not to feel like a complete and total idiot. I'm having one of those days today though, in all honesty, I have one of those days just about every day. That's the joy of being chronically insecure and neurotic...
However, usually, I don't start feeling like an idiot quite this early in the day. Usually, I spend the late morning and afternoon in a somewhat cocky mood before I go to work and everything goes to Hell.
But -- today, I already feel like an idiot. For the last few hours, I have been crawling through every nook and cranny of this two story house of mine (and it has a surpisingly large amount of nooks and not near enough crannies, I have discovered) because somehow, between falling asleep last night and waking up this morning, I managed to lose my glasses.
One very simple but very necessary object -- the only thing that I really have to be responsible for on my days off -- and somehow, I have not only managed to lose them but apparently I have managed to lose them so well that I'll probably end up having to go buy a new pair.
It's the type of brilliant thing only a complete idiot could pull off, no?
Of course, the main difficulty in this search, as of right now, is the fact that I'm blind because I don't have my glasses on!
I'm tempted to call into work tonight. "Hi," I'll just say, "I'm afraid I'm blind so I won't be coming in to work tonight."
Well, back to the endless search...
(That is the closest I can come to spelling out the sound of shock that I tend to make whenever I find something so shocking that it need be acknowledged with a sound.)
Okay, here's a quick confession. I haven't been on-line for about a week. Why? Because I got sick of coming onto the internet and finding the same old crap over and over again. As powerful as I believe the internet to be, it can also be as monotonous and repetitive as a Chicago's greatest hits compilation album.
But enough trash talk about Peter Cetera...I go away for a few days and then I come back and Blogger is completely different and suddenly, I'm having to dig through all of my various papers in order to find my password so I can actually get back into the system and update my web page --
I do not like change!
Which I guess explains a lot about me in general...
Last night, I watched the latest episode of The Sopranos
for the second time this week. I was strangely compelled to watch this show twice even though the major plot development that was featured in this episode left me cringing in near pain. For those of you who missed the episode (or, jumping on the current "This season sucks" bandwagon of people who still can't deal with Big Pussy getting whacked, refuse to watch the series all together), Tony's spoiled, Ivy League daughter, Meadow, ended the show engaged to her well-meaning but rather passive boyfriend Finn. Finn ends up asking her to marry him because, as this episode made painfully clear, he couldn't think of any other way to get out of the fight they'd been having for the past ten hours. Which doesn't make Finn a bag guy -- it just helps to prove that, unfortunately, he's a typical 20something, the type of guy who gets out of having to look for a job by explaining that he doesn't want to take a degrading, minimum wage job away from a minority without a hint of irony. He's the type of guy who gets out of making tough decisions by asking his significant other what she wants to do, as if he's making it clear that he's willing to sacrifice his own pleasure for her. He's the type of guy who -- when faced with the terrible reality that sometimes arguments can't be solved, that sometimes things don't work out for very real reasons -- responds by saying whatever will keep his current, idealistic fantasy world alive. He's a pathological liar whose convinced he's telling the truth.
And while I previously said that he was a typical twentysomething, that wasn't quite truthful on my part. Watching the show last night, I didn't see a whole generation of kids born a few years after me represented in Finn. No, when I watched that well-meaning but ultimately weak and deluded narcissist last night , I was suddenly hit with the unsettling revelation that I was watching myself.
Certainly, I tried to tell myself that I was simply watching a version of who I was three years ago when I asked a girl who deserved better to marry me for much the same reasons Finn asked Meadow. But, as time has progressed and I've played it over on my mind, I found myself more and more fearful that I was simply watching myself with no convenient little qualifiers to hide behind.
It was like watching a car wreck but far worse because I was the pedestrian stuck in the middle of a head-on collision.
So, that's my weekly endorsement of The Sopranos
: This week's episode revealed, to me, depths of self-loathing I could barely even imagine.