Friday, April 17, 2009

On Torture

I hadn't planned on posting for a few days, but then the memos of the past administration's torture practices were released. What can one say but disgusting, simply disgusting. If Republicans want to save themselves from themselves and hope to mention Cuba's sorry record on "human rights" without being laughed out of the room, then they might begin by publicly denouncing not only these policies, but also the people who implemented them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Agrarianism, the Suburbs and Political Incorrectness in Movies

I recently finished a book entitled "God, Man and Hollywood: Politically Incorrect Cinema from Birth of a Nation to The Passion of the Christ" written by Mark Roger Winchell. It makes an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes movies (though I must say that I wish he had devoted more time to the technical aspects of movie-making. One can read the entire book without encountering phrases like auteur and mise en scene.)

However, for anyone who does choose to read the book, there are a few deeper criticisms which are worth considering. Much of the book is devoted to movies that celebrate Southern Agrarianism (or at least localism) as opposed to an implied cosmopolitan North. Some of the movies in this category which Winchell praises are Intruder in the Dust, Gone with the Wind, The Trip to Bountiful and Gods and Generals. I have nothing against the Southern localism or paleoconservative Herderian sense of belonging that Winchell promotes in the book; the problem is (I think) that no one else objects to the localism either; only the nastiness with which the localism has been occasionally associated (i.e. segretation, disenfranchisement, lynching, etc.).

Winchell clearly--and rightly, I would say--does not want to defend this nastiness, but since the nastiness comprises the politically incorrect attributes of Southern localism, the title of the book seems somewhat redundant. It is true that there are far too many academics and cosmopolitans who unfairly dismiss localism as xenophobic and either wish to toss it in the dustbin of history or allowing it to remain as a curiosity, rather than actually engaging with it critically (and with a healthy degree of self-criticism). Even so, the agrarianism of the Amish is not politically incorrect; just quaint.

A really politically incorrect film would not be one promoting agrarian life, but rather one that emphasized the positive aspects of suburban existence. The suburbs have been lambasted in almost every movie that ever dealt with them--The Man in the Gray Flannel Suite, The Graduate, American Beauty, Revolutionary Road--but, seriously, what other arrangement allows people to engage in modern society while still providing them with badly needed privacy? If you want to watch something politically incorrect, watch Little Children; now there was a politically incorrect movie.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I seriously doubt that this story is true, but if it is no one could have imagined a better parody of the rise of the age of the "accounts, economists and sophisters":

Obama's Gift to the Queen [Jonah Goldberg]

This just in:

Diplomatic jaws dropped across the continent yesterday when it was revealed that U.S. President Barack Obama had, once again, fumbled a routine protocal of international statecraft: finding the right gift for a foreign leader or head of state. In a private ceremony with Queen Elizabeth, Her Royal Highness bequeathed to the Obamas one of the earliest known copies of William Shakespeare's Henry V. She also presented him with the framed orginal sheet music of John Newton's "Amazing Grace." To the Obama daughters, the Queen gave a dollhouse-sized replica of Windsor Castle with a functioning train station in the year of the compound. They also received a prize Shetland pony. Mrs. Obama was given a ruby ring commissioned and worn by Queen Victoria.

The Obamas, unfortunately, did not seem prepared for the occasion despite the row set off by the exchange of gifts between Prime Minister Brown and the U.S. President barely a month ago. Mr. Obama rather unceremoniously handed the Queen a shopping bag from the Duty Free shop at Heathrow airport. It contained a signed paperback copy of Dreams of My Father, purchased at the WH Smith shop at the airport, a bottle of Johnny Walker Scotch (black label), a CD of the Swedish band ABBA's greatest hits (still in shrink wrap with a 2-for-1 sticker on it) and ten bags of M&Ms with the presidential seal on them.

The Queen responded in a rather flat: "How delightful."