Sunday, January 10, 2010

Greed Heads and Tales

I finally caught Neill Blomkamp's District 9 Saturday morning. Brilliant film on so many different levels. Messy and wildly uneven, utterly original. Not necessarily very singular in the story itself, which at its core is as old as the corruption, oppression and racism that fuels it. No, this originality springs from its style and form, its base simplicity. The melding of science fiction into a grim story of slums, poverty, indifference, greed, abandonment, exile, comeuppance, redemption. No storybook ending and with very few truly sympathetic characters. It's not pretty - it made me almost physically ill at one point - but it is in the end beautiful.

I followed it up with a recording my DVR slurped up off IFC: The Source. It's a 1999 documentary on the Beats, covering the scene and people from the 1944 introduction of Ginsberg to Kerouac through 1997 when Ginsberg and Burroughs drifted off this mortal coil. Real interesting mix of historical footage, interviews, and contemporary celeb fans Johnny Depp, Dennis Hopper and John Turturro providing dramatic interpretations of the words of Beat pioneers. I identify with the Beats more than any other "movement" and have always been fascinated with those who forged the philosophical, cultural and creative ideals behind the name. The movement encompassed a mishmash of individualists, none of whom played bongos or sported a goatee or uttered "daddy-o" except in ironic disdain. Great stuff.

Great stuff to come in this vein too!  A movie focused on the 1957 obscenity trial resulting from the publication of Ginsberg's poem Howl the year before makes its theatrical debut on the 21st of this month - fittingly entitled Howl - and guess who has a prominent role in the flick?  None other than my gal Mary-Louise Parker!  I'll be on a break from work and will be lining up to see it for sure (my favorite actress and my favorite poem together in one place - could be a disaster but I'd never know).

Anyway, clearly I believe that digression - not discretion -  is the better part of valor.  What was my original point ... ?

... oh, yeah - lots of philosophical and political similarities between District 9 and the works of the Beats: fear and suspicion of conformity, oppression, corporate and government power, etc. So I worked up a sizable anti-establishment head of steam fueled by the combined energies of this double feature. When success is measured by power and money, the successful will often become so largely based upon their greed. Not always, certainly. But often. So it comes to pass that the greed-heads rule. Not all of them make it big, of course: there are plenty of poor, weak, loser greed-heads (often they end up being the loudest to compensate for their lack of success). No, it's only the most ambitious and driven of this breed who rise to the top. But rise they do. They can't be stopped, it's the human condition. Bummer.

After that one-two punch I changed gears to watch some playoff football. But with the TV sound down and stereo volume up, blasting my latest iTunes playlist "greedheads" (lots of Clash, Rage, Gang of Four, MC5, Sex Pistols, Black Flag, X ...)

I turned off the football last night after the Jets win, deciding to pass on the Eagles demise and instead catch another flick I missed in theatrical release: The Watchmen. It kept to my anti-establishment theme of the day and was dazzling, dark, and supremely entertaining. Good call on my part.

Sunday's turned into a very lazy day. So lazy in fact that I co-opted what was Saturday's post - this one - and made it Sunday's "gem" so that I'd feel the day wasn't an entire waste on all fronts. Well, why couldn't you have simply whipped up an honest-to-goodness new piece, you say? Did I say it was a lazy day? It was that lazy. And I really don't have anything to say.

I'll be enjoying the Simpson's 20th Anniversary special tonight ("In 3D, on Ice!"), but likely not the new episode of the show it celebrates scheduled just before it. It's my opinion that the first 9 or so years of the Simpsons was the best television ever produced before or since (and I include all categories of show and/or broadcast in that equation). It chronicled (and skewered) contemporary society better than any art I've come across (better than the news and other non-fiction stuff too).

The best comedy show from the beginning to the end of its run was also produced in the 1990s: Seinfeld. If Groening and company had pulled up stakes in 1998, the Simpsons would win that prize in my pantheon as well. It's not just a generational thing, either: I've been an ardent student of television my whole life and have seen them all at length. Every episode of I Love Lucy and Your Show of Shows, through the Honeymooners, Get Smart, Barney Miller, Cheers, and so on. They certainly deserve mention, as does Arrested Development in this millennium. Meanwhile, the last 11 or so years have been increasingly uneven for the Simpsons, but I guess that was bound to happen.  It still has more moments as a shadow of its former self than most shows have in their prime.  So - happy 20th, Springfield!

Now it's back to the grindstone for one last work week in corporate IT as a full time employee, at least for the foreseeable future. I'll be sure and soak in the political infighting and typically dysfunctional corporate goings on. Now to be sure, I'll see it all again soon in new settings but from the perspective of a consultant, an outsider, a dispassionate observer. And with the knowledge that this too shall pass (in a few days or weeks when that engagement ends and I can move on to the next happy corporate family with their own unique twists on the typical corporate pain points). But before all that, a break for a couple of weeks. Talk to you then.