Happy tax day, all you God-clinging gun-nut anti-NAFTA fools. The Rubeoisie, as Mencken might have called you.
What annoyed me about the Obama comments was the crude reduction of everything into economic terms, the most dismal prism through which to regard humanity. So the factories close, and the sullen mass of the lowly workers ball their fists, feel a strange sour bolus of resentment bolting up their throat, and think: must – channel – confusing - emotions- into – unreasoning – opposition – to – redefining – marriage. If the factories magically reappear, does everyone sigh with relief, quit church and drop off their guns? I have money! No need for the Magic Carpenter and that poorly-worded amendment. Call off the border patrol, too – there’ll be jobs and upward wage pressure for everyone. It’s not exactly an unusual thesis; I’ve encountered it for years. People cannot possibly believe these crazy things for their own sake; they must be driven to them by external forces.
It’s possible there are bitter people who regard their station in life as a direct result of the current rate of capital gains taxes, but it seems an insufficiently reasoned basis for a national economic policy. Oh, it’s possible; at this very minute one of the country’s innumerable domestic terror cells could be planning a bombing of a Planned Parenthood center, driven to extremism by the very possibility of a Colombian trade pact. But I doubt it.
Not to say economics don’t affect people; I’m not that stupid. But like any adversity, you meet it with a certain amount of psychological capital. The more grounded you are in things that transcend the dollar, the better you can deal with the downturns. Some seem to suspect that the “grounding” is nothing more than a stake in the ground to channel the bolts tossed off by madmen in the pulpits, but those are the people most likely to believe that church services either consist of yelling and snake-handling, or gaseous bromides pumped out over a complacent stack of prim-faced morons and hypocrites who spend the service lusting after young women in the choir. There is no goodness, only the momentary self-delusion accorded by participation in a consensual charade.
I’ve been trying to find the right words for a certain theory, and I can’t quite do it yet. It has to do with how a candidate feels about America – they have to be fundamentally, dispositionally comfortable with it. Not in a way that glosses over or excuses its flaws, but comfortable in the way a long-term married couple is comfortable. That includes not delighting in its flaws, or crowing them at every opportunity as proof of your love. I mean a simple quiet sense of awe and pride, its challenges and flaws and uniqueness and tragedies considered. You don’t win the office by being angry we’re not something else; you win by being enthused we can be something better. You can fake the latter. But people sense the former.
Another piece of paper flotsam from the postcard show: a Union Pacific coaster. Trains & Martinis: American style. Perhaps not the best drink to order on a train, unless the tracks are exceptionally smooth.
The Thirties is the one decade in the 20th century I don't feel. It doesn’t toast my cockles. This sounds silly and pretentious, I know, as though I have some Mystical Connection with decades, but I do have a sense, however inexpertly obtained, of what they might have been like. It’s not always what other people think, of course – most of what I think I know about the sixties has to do with the culture, not the counter-culture, and I couldn’t really care any less about the great Youthquake. Found this today on the internets: news from an “underground” radio station in 1969. They used PDQ Bach for the intro, and I'll have to doff my hat for that.
Heavy, man. That’s some quality juxtaposition. Anyway: the Thirties were wild and fascinating, but they’re like the 20s with the ballyhoo drained out, mad desperate optimism swapped for merry cynicism. The sophistication of the popular culture increased by six orders of magnitude in the space of a few years, and a beautiful severe streamlined vision of the future was created – and relegated to a few Post Office buildings around the country. I love it, but It doesn’t resonate. There’s something dark and hungry and lurid about it. Which brings us to the title-card art of a trailer for a 1933 movie, seen on the Warner Gangsters third collection. Imagine these words hurling themselves up on the big screen, ten yards tall:
. . . and you specifically said “Tijuana Donkey Shows,” and we can’t give you that. Not here. Ask around the corner at the used bookstore. But you also asked for something really different. Well:
See? We listened. We bring you:
Boy, that’s never happened before, has it? Breaking all the dramatic molds with this one. Who’s our dashing leading man?
He looks about 14, doesn’t he. But look at that design: the heart, the concentric circles, the silhouette of the trees in spring. Romance! Now check this: the couple standing on giant Valentine’s Day candy boxes, staring through a cubist fog at a castle:
Just to prove the point, here comes THE FIST OF THE ALTERED DREAMER:
Judging from a description of the movie, Eddie G.’s character starts out sweet and idealistic but ends up a megalomaniac meat-cartel boss.
Now it really gets wild: Hearts explode with stars and swirls, the trees sprout trees, and there’s a proto-Emerald City in the background. Oh, and there’s FURY in every word.
Triggered by burning candy box, perhaps. Now the telling part:
Translation: it’s a dog, and we don’t know how to sell it. It’s not a romance picture, because it has Edward G. Robinson, but it’s got too much sap and goo for a man’s picture. There’s almost nothing in the scenes shown that would make anyone want to see it.
Here's a little playlist for tax day.
The Rifftrax project is here. Buy it! Cheap at twice the price, and if I don't screw up their sales too badly, I get to do another one. In case you don't know what it's all about, well, it's a Mystery Science Theater 3000-type snarky commentary track for Spider-Man 3. You pop the movie in your computer, start the Rifftrax audio file, and voila: MST3K-style comments on a big-budget, heavily copyrighted movie.