Warmer, partly cloudy. Simpsons-credits clouds, if you wish lots of big puffy flat-arsed clouds with patches of blue. At least Im getting all my use out of the several jackets I bought at Eddie Bauers before they closed the store ninety dollars each, marked down to about $15. I bought one in each color. If I was truly an obsessive I would have made copies of all the necessities of life keys, mints, Swiss Army Knife, Zippo, radio, sunglasses and put a group in each coat so I always run out the door without having to pat myself down five times like Im doing a one-man show on The Best of Cops.
This is my current Zippo. (Big 250KB pic warning, if you're on 56kps.) Its too nice to carry, though; coins scratch the pictures. I recently fixed an old favorite it worked fine, but didnt chink when you opened it. And they have to chink. I fiddled with the innards until I got it to chink, and now its back in rotation. Its horribly tarnished, too, which makes it look like something Ive carried for 30 years. Stopped a bullet in the Congo with this one, I did.
Friday is busy Im a parent helper at Gnats Lunch-School, as she calls it, which means that I have to get next Tuesdays column in the system Thursday night. Oy. Then piano lessons; then Target; then home for Friday afternoon housecleaning, then off to the Apple Store to get Tiger. So tonight I work. Which means I am now about to write a Joe and then finish this . . .
. . . okay, back. That one was done to the third movement of the New World Symphony and an interminable remix of New Orders Crystal. (New album on order; I like Waiting for the Sirens Call, but not with unslakeable enthusiasm.) Now something else. Not very consequential, so either skip to Joe or head along whatever path your bookmarks take you.
Note: the following is not about abortion. Everyone relax. It's about - well, I'm not sure.
I read a review of Palindromes in Entertainment Weekly, The movie was directed by Todd Solondz, one of those filmmakers whose work is invariably described as edgy, and concerns himself with finding the truths in human life revealed by those least likely to negotiate it successfully.
Early on, Aviva offers herself, without pleasure, to the horny young son of her parents friends. She wants to get pregnant, and she does. For her mother, played with a queasy mix of devotion and insensitivity by Ellen Barkin, the course is clear: Aviva must get an abortion. Many in the audience may think thats the wise choice as well, but this overly rote parental decision has a ghastly outcome, creating a potential unease.
Is Solondz making a pro-life statement? Yes, but not the one that you think. On the road, Aviva connects with Earl, a trucker with a guilty taste for young girls, and she lands at the homestead of Mama Sunshine, the relentlessly upbeat Christian matriarch of a family of wayward adoptees.
Uh oh, youre suppose to think. Relentlessly upbeat Christian. We all know the type. A fakey up-with-people type whose façade masks either cruelty, hypocrisy, or just plain empty banality.
A devout antiabortionist, with a husband whose feelings on the subject are even more extreme, Mama Sunshine regards herself as a holy savior of children. Many of her kids have disabilities (theres a girl with no legs), and when we see them perform the catchy-creepy teen-pop number This Is The Way (That Jesus Made Us), the layers of irony are headspinning.
Because, you see, uh
Because its ironic that
Oh, lets keep reading. Solodnz flirts with creating a youth version of Freaks, except that he treats these kids without a trace of mockery [Freaks mocked its freaks? It mocked the people who mocked the freaks], letting any exploitation reside in the eye of the beholder. Mama Sunshine clearly loves the children, yet she comes off as a subtly domineering cult leader who has made them over with a wholesome conformity that renders them mere reflections of her goodness. Its no wonder that Aviva feels saved and lost at the same time.
Maybe the kids needed structure? Guidelines? Rules? They were, after all, wayward. But heres the kicker, and the reason I brought all this up:
In Solondzs surreal image of the red state / blue state mash-up, Avivas mother embraces the right to abortion, yet she fails to grasp its spiritual toll. Mama Sunshine prizes life but not the idiosyncracies of the lives she rescues. So whos really pro-life?
I'm taking a flier here, a wild guess, but: the one who takes in the adoptees and, however imperfectly, lets them have a life?
Is it just me, or is this what people mean when they talk about moral relativism?
Not fair to cut him off there. He continues, alas: In Palindromes, no one is at least, not fully. Well, if I was floating in the amniotic sac, Id want Mom to be the imperfect adoption advocate, but thats just projection on my part. That leaves a girl like Aviva floating in the winds, swatted around by an America thats caught between dueling visions of cut-rate humanity.
So the two camps are morally equally, inasmuch as both are imperfectly conceived and realized by the characters in the film. Rewind: the mom is pro-choice but doesnt grasp its Spiritual toll. The group-home mom doesnt prize the ideosyncracies of the cast-off children she takes care of. So whos really pro-life? The question makes no sense, but we're so used to the construction, the false premise, the setting up of disparate ideas as moral equals, that we nod and say "ah, yes. Indeed." What's he trying to say? One's pro-life credentials are tarnished if you don't allow life to be all stumpy and weird and freaky, and pro-choice people should consider that abortion can be as much of a bummer. Both you sides, hang your head in shame! You're both cut rate. Now shake. See? That was easy.
Its the sort of argument that marks the Modern Mind in its most facile and aggravating: the presence of hypocrisy on both sides renders both equally suspect; wisdom is best manifested by posing trick questions; people who believe stuff are all alike, in a way, inasmuch as they believe stuff, and whats most dangerous is not what you believe, but how much you believe it. Conviction is good if the last word in your credo is but. Otherwise youre a fundamentalist.
The people who say these things - and again, I'm stuffing straw in the manniquins and waving the lighter around, I know - don't really believe that all conviction requires moderation, just the convictions of the other side. My point? I don't know. Maybe this: As much as I love Entertainment Weekly, they need new film critics who love pop culture, and don't always sound as if they feel ashamed they're writing for EW instead of a highbrown film quarterly. But I could be wrong.