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Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Vampire Thing

Sooooooo romantic.

A REMINDER. Just taking a quick break from a job of work (why I've been somewhat absent of late). I have a niece with a head injury and a broken pelvis because a cop slammed into her car going the wrong way on a one-way street. Was he in pursuit? Who knows. She has two children, a husband, and an extended family who are all injured and traumatized by a single act of no doubt unintended violence.

Why does this make me think of vampires? They're only a fantasy, after all. Their violence occurs in the realm of the imagination, not reality. Except...

Vampires have become a media obsession. Movies and TV series devoted to romanticizing their undead plight and explaining away their unfortunate habit of killing others to keep on keeping on. The defense against their blatant moral turpitudes? Coolness. Pretty faces, fashionable costumery, superhuman invulnerability and violence, and perverse sexual innuendo, as if murder were akin to orgasm and eternal life.

Hard not to perceive the metaphor of American youth and its various isolating pathologies, including drug addiction, homosexuality, perceptions of racial, gender, and ethnic discrimination, and [sigh] existential alienation.

I'm calling foul. This is a realm where so-called entertainment has become politics in a big way.

Most vampire movies and TV shows are the exact opposite of a coming of age story. They're a truncating of age story. A malevolent version of Peter Pan. You don't ever have to grow up. What does it mean when you're invulnerable to injury, immortal, and never have to experience the sunshine of public scrutiny? You're free to kill the uncool because they are mortal, lesser, inconsequential. Who, then, are you?

What are vampires? Parasites. They have to kill others to survive. Do the math. How many people does a vampire have to kill to perpetuate his adolescent sense of immortality? Right. It doesn't matter. Because he and she are so cool their victims are mere cameos in the drama of me. There are no consequences because time no longer matters. There is only the eternal NOW of the beautiful ones. And never any sign of accumulated wisdom. Just repeated expressions of monotonous appetite. A perfect picture of teenage consciousness.

In the old days, vampires were villains. They were the evil that continually stalks the good. Now they're the beautiful that consumes the dull and the fatally frail who can't afford designer boots.

But there are consequences. To everything we do. Every life casually tossed away, or even put into danger, affects dozens and dozens of people. Our narcissistic children may be in a state of denial about that. They may dream of a world in which they get to do whatever the hell they want because they're young and invincible, but it isn't true. Being a selfish, self-obsessed pig isn't romantic. It's just sub-human.

Which we're doing a pretty good job of convincing our kids is the right way to be. They may fancy themselves undead. But in reality they're just, well, dead.

Screw the whole vampire craze. Time for everyone in its thrall to wake up and smell the coffee. Two movies that show vampirism as the curse it would inevitably be: We Are the Night and Midnight Son.

Now I have to get back to work. (GW: I spent one hour on this. Now I'm back on task.) And my prayers for Sandy and her family.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Super Bowl Weekend:

The REAL State of the Union

American Rome

SOTU. The president can say whatever he wants in January, but nobody's listening. The time when all eyes are upon us is the Super Bowl in February. In America the Super Bowl is a whole weekend. In the rest of the world, it's the four or five hours encapsulating the game itself.

What should the world think?

First and foremost, that this apotheosis of American "sport" is no longer a sporting event. Let's not forget that the rest of the world has its own Super Bowl, the World Cup Soccer Tournament, which engenders emotions tantamount to war but never becomes, well, the imperial circus our own football championship has become. World Cup games have intervals between playing periods, but they do not fill them the way we media-addicted Americans do. The literal centerpiece of our most prized travesty of sport is the Halftime Show, in which we presume to offer the best of American entertainment, meaning an act that will appeal to the largest possible number of our population with the least controversy. Which is to say that it is somehow representative of our shared tastes and values. Otherwise, there wouldn't have been a towering outrage about the exposure of one female nipple a few years ago. (Which the rest of the world doesn't care much about btw. Only Americans don't want to know that women have nipples. uh, I do) What we saw this weekend was the latest NFL/NBC assessment of mainstream American entertainment preferences. Really?

Do NBC and the NFL really believe it is noncontroversial and quintessentially American to crown this ultimately American event with a performance by an expatriate with a fake British accent who has condemned a sitting American president to foreign audiences?

And then, of course, it's simply an unfortunate happenstance that one of her Brit extras at Super Bowl 2012 flips the bird to the American audience and says "Fuck you." Sure.

What's not a happenstance is Madonna making her entrance drawn by Roman centurions, in a context that cannot be regarded as anything but a jeering comparison of America to the Rome of the Caesars. An over-extended empire living on its past, rotten to its core and on its way out, postponing the calamity by distracting the masses with bread and circuses. All of us who are watching are the real fools. Hey, look at M.I.A.'s right hand sweeping the tiny apron aside from her red panties while the left is giving you the middle finger and the cockney mouth is giving you the FU. (Guaranteed: no guy saw the finger.) It's called misdirection. Like the whole Halftime Show.

Sorry, NFL. You've been had. (Your own insistence on Roman numerals is an intrinsic accomplice.) She's no longer a gap-toothed, down home American girl of easy virtue. She's Mata Hari on a world stage built by the Babbits of Middle America. She's laughing her ass off. At you. Sorry, Madonna fans. You've been had. She doesn't want to entertain you as much as piss on you and laugh at your applause and adulation. Sorry, guys of all ages. You've been had. There will be no wardrobe malfunction because she's learned from YouTube that her arms and hands look like harpy claws and she no longer wants you to see anything of her cosmetically reengineered body but one flash of gold rimmed panties. Yuck, yuck, NBC. All that GE money and White House cronyism is coming in pretty handy about now. I'm sure Caesar Obama is laughing up his sleeve. He's the emperor who has done more than any other to open the gates to the barbarian hordes. By all means let's cheer the imminent sack of Rome. Madonna the 80s whore has become Medusa the black-clad high priestess of a new dark age. The murderous mirror that reduces life to stone with a lip-synched incantation of the tired tired catechism of royal presumption. What we fought a Revolution to get rid of and have now forgotten. The United States of Alzheimer.

I'm sure the foreign audience got the message. And I'm sure they love it. Like all kids love it when the teacher leaves the room. (U.K.? Fuck you. And I can't remember if I said this because my memory isn't what it used to be: Fuck you.) Aren't those Americans crude, ignorant and awful? Of course they are. We're doing so much better since they started hating themselves as much as we hate them. Aren't we? Sure you are.

What should Americans think? Well. There's so much more content to work with. First off. The Madonna part. Who gives a damn about a 50-plus year old hag nymphomaniac who hates America and never could sing? [Spit.] At best it's boring. At worst it's, uh, boring. Who in the hell could get worked up about Madonna? Her face looks a wide version of David Bowie's, frozen in space-time, only with a blonde wig. Didn't she used to have tits? We could at least get worked up about Lady Gaga. Everything else aside, SHE can sing. Next: Probably 500 hours or more of network sports channels and local sports channels offering analyses of why the gladiators of New York will beat the gladiators of Boston, or vice versa, which they confidently expected you to watch all fucking weekend. Did you? Pre-game shows that lasted as much as eight hours apiece on game day. Did you watch? Statistics vs statistics. Eli vs. Brady. Brady vs. Eli. Eli vs. Peyton. Coughlin vs. Bellichick. Gronkowski vs. Cruz. The Rematch. NFC East vs. AFC East. NFC vs. AFC. Red Sox vs. Yankees (uour favorite). Flashbacks to David Tyree. Brady's fire vs. Eli's cool. Giants trash talk vs. Patriots simmering desire for revenge. Hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of bullshit. Did you watch?

Or did you pursue the counter-programming (adjudged a total failure by rating firms... apparently, we want this kind of nonsense to distract us). Marathons of Absolutely Fabulous (BBC America), Say Yes to the Dress and Toddlers & Tiaras (TLC), and on the ID Channel, murder after murder after murder. You know. The American way that proves women are so much better than men, unless the even more enlightened LGBT denizens of the Logo Channel are somehow putting us all to shame without our knowing about it because nobody's watching.

Or were you researching all the bally-hooed Super Bowl commercials that were leaked ahead of time on YouTube so that you could place bets on which would be most and least popular? In the process, did you notice what these ads were saying about us as a people, about "the state of the union"? That men do nothing but drink beer? That wives are universally sanctimonious shrews? That teenagers are solipsistic monsters with cellphones glued to their uncomprehending ears? That small children are uncontrollable divas who must be catered to from their first word onward? That your sons are retarded idiots? That your daughters are streetwalkers in training? That hip-hop transcends the entire prior history of music? That individuality consists of tattoos? That (to men) trucks are pagan idols? That (to women) yogurt and weight loss programs are almost as life-saving as collagen-inflated lips? That the new spiritual enlightenment is high-speed internet access? Unless it's German or Korean cars you can't tell one from another? That the way and the life and the truth are basically a matter of the latest color-coded cellphone? That peeing in the pool is synonymous with personal liberty?

No? Maybe you're one of the ones who just liked the gazillion dog commercials. Because in an age when all innocence has been one-linered into sarcastic oblivion and sexual/fart jokes, dogs have become the last fleeting repository of a sense of innocence we've lost but somehow remember. We're terrified and tyrannized by our own children, but we can still respond to the pathetic desire to please of Wego the rescue dog, who will go to any lengths to provide his love objects with what they really value: Beer. Unsaid? We don't deserve him. Unstated? We don't care. We're here to drink beer. Funny? You be the judge.

The State of the Union? Not good. Unless, improbably -- buried in all the thousand hours of degenerate crap -- you somehow managed to dig out the buried lede. A game between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. It was a great game, despite the 30-minute halftime that was really 45 minutes. Both teams were spectacular. Neither gave up, ever. For all the hype and distractions, it came down to a final play that could have decided the game. Yes, Eli was great. Cool and weirdly confident under pressure. Brady was great. One of the greatest ever. I used to hate him. Now I know he's an ultimate warrior, and I will never criticize him again.Manningham was great. So was Wes Welker. And on and on. In a great game, mistakes will be made. There are are no goats. There are no losers, so long as everyone is giving his all. And they all did.

Is America at halftime?  No. There's no final Mayan clock unless you're just counting down your own final days, which is an understandable distortion. If you're eighty going on I-want-the academy-to-remember-me after I die.

The State of the Union? Better than expected. An ultra-rich prettyboy named Tom Brady cared so much about losing that he was absolutely devastated by a loss he never even imagined could happen.

This is not humiliation. It is passion. I feel only admiration.
(And speaking of Roman copies, does this one ring a bell?)

That is the American spirit. He will be back. And so will we. Not in the gimpy, half-assed apologetic terms of Eastwood's ad, but with the full-throated roar of our tradition.

If you're truly American, rich and handsome and impervious to humdrum annoyances don't count as negatives. When you fail to do your best or to accomplish what you set out to do, that's what matters. That's what distinguishes us. Not assigning the blame or the costs of failure to others, even when others might be to blame. Leaders are the ones with big enough hearts to take on the hurt for everyone.

Why we like dogs so much. Their hearts are pure. So are the hearts of the best of us, rich and poor. Forget the millions involved, who hasn't see the most vital pups jostling each other for dominance?

Which isn't a bad thing. At all. Even if only child Obama will never have a clue.

State of the Union: Heart. Still. Beating.

Keep it that way.

P.S. Will and William. You both move me. I have something specific to tell both of you. I promise not to disappoint either of you.

In the interim, what I have to say to my critics:

Me? I'm still here. And I will be. Talking too much, as usual.

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