Monday, September 7, 2009

Mad about Hugo

I'm still mad for Mad Men four episodes into the third season.

I think it's getting better, actually.

There's no attempt to make any of the characters either sympathetic or into bad guys, though some tend to lean in one direction or the other.  But no one's one dimensional. There are certainly no saints, everyone has flaws.  And the ambiance is, as ever, pretty much perfection.  This show on ad men is light on interruptions by actual advertisements, which is also nice.  Sometimes, like last week, they actually work those real-life interruptions into the spirit of the Mad Men universe by prefacing them with historical trivia regarding the particular brand's first appearance on the boob tube.

But I rarely spent a lot of time here fussing over TV I actually like.

Besides, I have a bone to pick with Oliver Stone, back here in the 21st Century (much as I hate to make the trip back to the present from the cozy world of 1963).

Oliver, I love your movies (well, some of them: Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, pieces of The Doors, JFK for some laughs, I heard World Trade Center was good, not much of Any Given Sunday, the script for Scarface).

But whatcha doing mythologizing Hugo 'Boss' Chavez?

I actually think your new documentary South of the Border might actually do a lot of good in helping to heal our relationship with the people and leadership of perhaps a few countries in Central and South America by giving them a voice and a bit of dignity that we as a nation always seem to be in offical short supply of for their ilk.

But the ends (almost never) justify the means.

I know clown boy W. and his evil Lord Cheney loved to heap shit on him and that crowd.  I also realize that the US has a shameful recent (and not-so-recent) history of propping up tin-horn dictators with ease down south of the border while demonizing anyone who even ever so faintly smells of socialism.  But Chavez seems like so much of a punk in every interview I've caught with him. 

I can't really say I'm surprised or that I expected better from Oliver.  He is, after all, just being Oliver.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.  After all, we need folks like Oliver to counterbalance the yahoos on the right.  Anyway, to those yahoos, I'm pretty indistinguishable from Ollie (or Chavez for that matter).

I'll reserve judgment on the flick until I see it.  After all, it's not only about Chavez, though he figures the most prominently, I hear.  And maybe he's an okay sort. He really does seem to despise Bush after all, so he has that going for him.  Of course, his personality reminds me a lot of Bush, too.  A 'true believer' with the permanent smirk plastered on the kisser.

Ollie did apparently cover a lot of other ground in the movie throughout Central and South America, talking to a half dozen or so leaders in addition to Hugo.

My concern isn't with the film so much (how could it if I haven't seen it?), it's with Stone's performance at the Venice film festival and particularly his glad handing/backslapping with Hugo on the red carpet.  Sort of tosses out any pretense of impartiality.

But then, the word 'unbiased' is not really in Oliver's vocabulary anyway, is it?

Enough with Oliver and Hugo, on to Doctor G, Manson and Hoarders.
No, that's not a new music act (though that would be an excellent band name), that's my channel surfing A.D.D this evening.

Doctor G is in her usual first-run slot (alas, a rerun tonight), Manson scores a History Channel prime time slot , though it's nearly a month past the 40th anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca murders (maybe it's 40 years since he was first indicted or some other such mile marker). And finally, a Labor Day A&E Hoarders marathon is underway (though I missed most of the day's festivities).

No new Y incisions to make with Doc G and I'm thoroughly sick of that punk Manson at this point, so I'm mainly rocking with Hoarders this evening.   I was going to get some work done.  But then I came to my senses.

'Give me the needle. Give me the rope. We're going to melt them down for pills and soap.' - D. MacManus, 1983

Well, well, well - this whole brouhaha around Obama's back-to-school address has drifted into the Twilight Zone (or, more appropriately, the McCarthy Zone).

It just shows you how polarized our country has become. It's not like Obama is going to whisper to the kids to go run and tell mommy and daddy that universal government run healthcare is the only thing that will stop grandma from dying tomorrow. "And your little doggies and kitties too. They will surely die without mandatory Big Government Health Factories. So will your brothers and sisters. All will be dead soon. Run and tell your parents!"

Wait, that's not right - our country is not polarized, at least not organically. No, there's a lot of pasteurization going on, lots of man-made pesticides being dropped down onto the great unwashed.

And looky, looky who's holding the big barrels of DDT - it's the right wing political and media machine preying on the uninformed and those who harbor a barely controllable hatred for the government (unsurprisingly, the overlap of these two demographics is considerable).

These poor slobs don't seem to realize that 1.) the government they fear and despise is theirs and 2.) the manner in which it is fucked up is institutional and doesn't change much regardless of the temporary caretakers that constitute the administration in power.

They have not really seen the enemy because the enemy is them.

They are missing the whole point regarding government run healthcare. Christ, it's not the fuckin' DMV. Look to higher education as the model. All universities are not private and guess what? Public colleges have not put the Harvards or Browns or Swarthmores of the world out of business. And a great many are superior to their private counterparts. But can you imagine the percentage of college educated Americans we would have with only private options? It would be a significantly reduced number and so would the number of people qualifying as middle class. Likewise the number of scientific and medical breakthroughs, business innovation, etc. We'd have predominantly rich and poor, informed and ignorant. Like the bad old days.

But not everyone gets to go to college free, Steve.  Yeah, sadly I realize that.  So look at public vs. private primary schooling.  It's the model and type of service I'm concerned about.  Comparing it to the DMV or the Post Office is Apples and Oranges.

But people don't see the parallels. The insured and the uninsured. We have the chance (once again) to make that comparison obsolete and the fear-mongering wack jobs are helping to piss this away once again. Please, please, please, guys - hold your ground and deal with the political fall out. Ya gotta have real balls and intestinal fortitude to get this through.

These people are so fearful of a 'socialist' nation, with gray Soviet-issue bread lines and gas lines and vodka lines and line lines, with rows and rows of black and white government-issue buildings housing government-issue bureaucrats providing sub-par government-issue services. Guess what? Even if they're right, sub-par services are better than no services. And if you can afford better, do what you do today - buy it. Will the prices of the private stuff go up? Sure, some. But that can be managed. It shouldn't go up an appreciable sum if government healthcare is limited those who have none right now.

Democracy's a delicate balance - sort of an organizational teeter totter, balanced on both ends. Tip it all the way over in one direction and you have unfettered fascism, tip it all the way in the other direction and you have totalitarian communism. That's the over-simplified view of thing, of course. It's not a three position teeter toter, and right now we're teetering over toward the fascism end of things in the form of unregulated "free markets" (you know, the thing that brought us the economic collapse). You're as free as your balance sheet. We just need to get close to that democratic equilibrium by tipping the scales again in the other direction.

The problem is you have fat slobs like Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, and Glenn Beck sitting on the fascism seat of our teeter totter and weighing us down in that direction. And Sista Sarah has piled on a shitload of wolf carcasses along with the English Language she's slaughtered. That's a lot of words, some of them quite heavy. Meanwhile there are too many lightweights on the socially conscious end to counterbalance them. We need some big cojones to jump onboard.

"But come on, " a reasonable outsider would exclaim, "you have large majorities in the house and senate and the executive branch - how can you claim that this is so?"

I agree it isn't intuitive. But face it: the administration is there mainly by virtual of the badshit looniness of W. and Our Lady of the Yukon, with perhaps a dash of fear over what Grandpa Munster might do with The Button during one of his senile, hot headed fits. The congress is merely on one of its periodic swings and will inevitably swing back. I say these things having been a supporter of Obama from the moment he announced (actually, from the moment he gave that speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004). And I don't say this with any shame. Our country has always been a tangle of contradictions (that's the core of what makes it great). But we need to be cognizant of it.

Once liberals have a bit of power, we never seem to know what to do with it. That's the other thing complicating what should be an easy go of things. I say this as a commie-pinko gushing heart proud-as-punch card-carrying fellow traveler liberal. The right wing wack jobs still have it all over us in raising a stink and putting The Fear into the Fearful. When money's tight and jobs are scarce, that's not hard to do, and they can do it in the best of times.

"But come on," Mr. Average Joe 'The Watergate' Plumber on the street might say, "I know that Barack Obama is a commie socialist Islamic Kenyan national. I understand he'll soon be leading the nation's school children in a pledge allegiance to Stalin, Bin Laden, and the Socialist Kenyan Islamic States of America and signing them up for mandatory Swahili lessons so they'll be ready once he mandates its use as our official language."

"Steve," you might wonder in return, "aren't you being a bit absurd there?" No, sadly.

Open your eyes and think for yourselves, people.

This 'opt-out' thing is a slippery slope - next thing you know parents will be opting their kids out of art class because of its left leaning tendencies. We'll start locking people up because too many people opted out of whatever activity they were driving, so they must be a criminal. Parents will need to approve every person and topic discussed at the school.

Now you might say, "The parents have that right." They do. It's called private school or, if that isn't sufficiently censored or in line with their philosophy, home schooling.

And I'll ask myself, If McCain was President would I still be saying the same thing? Yes, I think so. Okay, so how Sarah Palin? Ehhhhh! Karl Rove? Ahhhh! Dick Cheney? Errrhhh! And they say waterboarding is torture (well, they don't, but the rest of us do).

Still, in all of those cases, if I had kids and hadn't yet put a bullet in my brain under those trying circumstances, I would still say the same thing: it's the president and he's going to talk mom-and-apple-pie-stay-in-school-get-an-education-help-others. What could be sinister about any of that? What is not good about that?

And I would tell my kid that day what I would tell them most days: Dad doesn't agree with the president about a lot but he does about the most fundamental things (though perhaps not the manner in which we should go about achieving them). Listen to the president closely as he/she emphasizes the importance of education and service. They are important. But never listen blindly to your country's leaders, regardless of the belief you or anyone has in their policies. Always listen critically.

But listen.