Monday, November 30, 1998

Velvet Goldmine, Velvet Goldshmine

"Is there life on Mars? Duh. I dunno."
Self-indulgent director Todd Haynes serves up a 124-minute MTV video disguised as a movie. His narrative sense indicates signs of aphasia and the continuity sense of the hero of Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron. But let's get into it anyway. Plot summary time ...

After a puzzling bit about a flying saucer and Oscar Wilde in the Victorian era, Haynes starts off with the can’t-lose structure of Citizen Kane: a reporter investigates the life of a Famous Dead Guy to find out who he is (or, in this case, A Famous Guy Who Faked His Death Got Caught and Disappeared). The reporter character (Christian Bale) does a few interviews, but Haynes quickly loses interest, forgets about the narrative frame for about an hour or so and gets into what he really likes: intervals of bisexual soft porn and a mishmash of real glam rock songs and invented glam rock songs served up via the fake personas and fake bands of the Bowie-esque Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and the Iggy Pop-ish Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor).

The posters touted this movie as a satire of the world of style-over-substance. Rubbish. Haynes believes in style-over-substance, and peppers the movie with Oscar Wilde quotes to prove it. (And also scatters jackdaw gatherings of intellectual fun facts—the nod to Kurt Weil in Curt Wild; Slade’s “Maxwell Demon” persona—a reference to the thermodynamic conceit of Maxwell’s Demon, second-hand from Thomas Pynchon, no doubt—you get the picture.)

As noted in that Harrison Bergeron reference, Haynes doesn’t tell his tale in order or waste time clearing up who the characters are. Who the hell is Jack Fairy? Does Eddie Izzard’s character turn into a televangelist? He’s an image-maker, not a storyteller. His movie is a love letter to the glam rock era—a fanboy movie and boring as hell to non-fans. Weird Al is funny when he imitates Bowie. Haynes isn’t joking. He offers his B-side Bowie pastiches in all sincerity. Technical flaws aside, Haynes fails at the heart of the matter. No sense of character. No sense of the human beings behind the images. Glam is glamour, natch. An artificial perfection composed for the camera. The real person the camera doesn’t see—that’s what’s interesting. But Haynes never shows that person. He’s just not interested.

Neither am I.

Thursday, November 19, 1998

"Globalization" my ass

Globalization is an obvious scam.

If we make the planet one giant, free-flowing “market,” capital will flow to the cheapest possible labor – namely, the most brutally exploited, powerless labor. American industry will pack up and leave to whatever dirtbag country it can find where the peasants (or political prisoners) will work for next to nothing. This will cut American labor off at the knees – and destroy any hard-won leverage they’ve painfully won over the last century. (“The bosses need us!”) Well, now they won’t. But the pain will be delayed. The American public will continue to buy cheap shit made in China at Walmart with credit cards. Until the game of musical chairs ends.

And the American people who aren't making shit will discover they can't buy shit.

We're being systematically screwed.

Wednesday, November 18, 1998

The Clinton Inquisition

This Clinton hysteria is all weirdly theological. Unexpectedly, the Clinton Inquisition resembles the Spanish Inquisition.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

It's a theological probe into the nature of sin. One side -- intensely zealous to find the truth at any price. The other side -- wondering why they care so much. The disagreement regarding Clinton reflects a larger disagreement. The division between those who think there are degrees of sin and those who think all sin is equally horrible ...

There are no degrees of sin? Sure. Sin is sin. Thinking about adultery is as bad as doing it. Besides which, each sin contains every other sin -- to steal is to murder the self you would be if you didn't steal; to whorishly commit adultery with the world against the Holy Church; to set the world and its pleasures as unto an idol before the living God, to covet...


So -- if you apply this principle to the political realm -- lying about sex is the same as treason, bribery and high crimes because Clinton is THE PRESIDENT, the chief law enforcement officer and he swore an oath to...


But it's not about sex.


No, no, no, no, no. Never.

But it is about sex.

Would we be getting this nuts if it was all about food?

Say, Paula Jones was the hotel manager of a Ramada Inn. Clinton's spending the night. So deeply into something he works past the hours of the restaurant and room service...and all of a sudden comes down with a case of the hungries...

Whereupon he sneaks down into the hotel kitchen after hours and makes himself a midnight snack. A nice, not-so-little well-packed roast beef sandwich just inches away from Clinton's mouth...

But Paula enters the kitchen. Turns on the light. Hand on hip. Pissed...

PAULA: What are you doing?

CLINTON: Just making myself a sandwich.

PAULA: Excuse me? Are you aware that the restaurant is closed?

CLINTON: Are you aware I'm the Governor?

PAULA: This is trespassing. It's private property!

CLINTON: Aw, hell. Don't make such a big deal out of it...I'll pay for it.

PAULA: That's not the point! It's the principle...

CLINTON: Aw, to hell with it...

He walks away. Our hotel manager is pissed. This is theft! Trespassing! And that implied little power trip of "I'm the Governor." She's not going to put up with it! So she sues him...

People laugh it off. Her lawsuit doesn't get very far....

And then she summons Clinton to make a deposition about his eating habits. She also summons certain people in Clinton's staff....

Including Monica Lewinsky.


But she lied under oath.


Along with Clinton himself WHO COMMITTED PERJURY BEFORE THE GRAND JURY when he stated he had never emptied ten whole cans of Reddi-Whip from the White House Kitchen walk-in fridge on the night of...

Outrage! Shock! Shriek, moan, wail!

Yes, Clinton would still be facing Impeachment -- even if he'd only lied about food.

It's not about sex at all.

So what is it about? Sin of course. Not any specific sin -- but the very nature of sin itself

More to come.