Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stupendous Facial Hair of Political Thugs in the Americas

10. José Martí

9. Rutherford B. Hayes

8. Julián Trujillo Largacha

7. Fidel Castro

6. Andrés Avelino Cáceres 

5. George Crook

4. Abraham Lincoln

3. Venustiano Carranza

2. Máximo Gómez

1. Chester A. Arthur

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Gun Culture

I was standing in line at three in the morning waiting to see The Dark Knight Rises at the Metreon in San Francisco when I first heard about the shootings in Aurora. Based on the number of people waiting for the 3:45AM showings at the Metreon, I imagine I am not alone in having had the experience of learning about this mass murder very shortly before seeing the most anticipated movie of the year. However, despite the highly associative proximity of these events, I feel quite uncomfortable connecting them in a meaningful way. Let me explain why.

In April 1999, two kids wearing trench coats walked into a school and started shooting. That same month, Keanu Reeves wore a trench coat when he walked into a security checkpoint and started shooting. The second event happened in the movie The Matrix. Some people insisted on drawing a connection, saying that these kids took inspiration from that particular violent movie. Or they connected it to Doom, saying that these kids took inspiration from that particular violent video game. Or they connected it to Marilyn Manson, saying that these kids took inspiration from that particularly violent music.
Don't you wish you were as cool?
In a way, all these wild-eyed attempts to make sense of the insensible are understandable. The killer chose to fire off his weapon in a theater showing a movie that some critics argue glorifies violence. If the killer sought to glorify himself by committing an act of heinous violence, perhaps he got the idea at the movies. And those gun-wielding, trench coat wearing hackers looked awfully cool shooting up all that flesh and concrete. High schoolers are impressionable, you know?

So what do we make of the shooting at a Sikh temple in Milwaukee earlier this week? Can we find a movie to blame? No? Well, since it's already a foregone conclusion that the media was responsible, try this explanation on for size. The right-wing television and radio apparatus makes a sport of hating foreigners and Muslims. The Sikhs that were killed a few days ago were neither foreigners nor Muslims, but they sure looked like outsiders, at least in the mind of the average Rush Limbaugh listener.

Rather than blaming characters as outlandish as Bane or Glenn Beck, maybe we should consider the possibility that the media reflects the pulse of popular consciousness as much as the other way around. Mental illness, egomania and unhinged hatred are not only housed in the domains of Hollywood or talk radio. They exist throughout a diversity of communities across the land of the free, home of the brave. Our society might want to consider the implications of blaming the mirror for showing us what we really look like.

Well-meaning liberals will now suggest a discussion of gun control laws. Movement conservatives will be excited to harangue liberals for such a suggestion. I will note that Batman never uses guns. I like to watch Batman movies, but others like to go hunting on the weekends. To each his own. Guns don't kill people, movies do.

All will be resolved, including what I think of The Dark Knight Rises, in Part II. Part II will be bigger and more violent. After reading Part II, you will learn that these posts were always intended to be part of a trilogy. Part III will never live up to the hype of Part II.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Logic of Dreams

Chungking Express
1994. 102 minutes. China. Directed by Wong Kar-Wai. Watchdate: 11/2/2012.
Chungking Express expresses romance and a sense of longing through moments, images and somewhat poetic abstract structure that take prominence over the two intersecting central narratives. The narratives do not follow a standard story logic, rather they use the associative logic of dreams: Qiwu is in love with May and his birthday is May 1st while he understands their relationship through canned food expiration dates; Tony Leung’s character gets over a relationship with a flight attendant by falling in love with a woman who later becomes a flight attendant and when he invites her to meet him at a restaurant called California, she ends up going to the state of California instead.

The movie lies somewhere between the real (in that it depicts how people really live in Hong Kong to a certain extent) and the surreal in that it follows this odd associative dream logic I just attempted to describe. So pretty much the same deal as Fallen Angels yet this movie felt somehow warmer. I don't mean that to be derogatory to Fallen Angels, both warmer movies and colder movies appeal to me in different ways.

Anyway, Wong Kar-Wai has not yet fully captured my imagination. But his work appeals to me probably because the weird associative logic of his narratives reminds me of my own tendencies in storytelling.