Today: more than expected. Some stuff, and some more stuff, then the final word on the Great Wall-E Controversy of 08 into which I seem to be enmeshed.
(G)Nat’s off at camp for two days. It’s quiet and it’s lonely around the house. No one coming up to me with the latest drawing of Sonic or Tails or any of her own characters she’s invented, including Marine the Fox.
Drove out to the fireworks shack this evening – which is the subject of Friday’s column, so I won’t spend the material here. The remarks about the drive and the highways can be found on buzz.mn. One brain, three mouths. The proprietor of the fireworks store described all the individual products with detailed stories about the various effects each item would produce – a dry and technical recitation of features and benefits. Surprise: he’s an engineer! Or so I guess; one of his friends, upon learning I was from the Godless Red Press, encouraged him to show me his invention.
By gum, he had it in his truck. It’s a remote oil-warmer for airplanes. I know, I know: where can you get one? How soon? Small airplane pilots will love them, so don’t snicker, and I device will have many other applications. Basic idea: a remote starter that can be activated anywhere in the United States with a phone call. You call a number in Rhode Island, enter a code, and it bounces a wake-up signal off a bird. Driving up to the cabin? Use it to turn on the air-conditioner. I’m sure it’s not the first remote-starter, but it’s self-contained and compact, and pretty cool. He’s got it all figured out; he’s started production, has a logo and a trademark, and obviously the infrastructure in place. (He dialed it up on his cell while I was standing there, and turned it on.)
What a country!
Anyway – as noted yesterday, this is a big work week, so I’m scant here Bleat-wise. Should pick up tomorrow and Friday. There will be no Mpls site today, but perhaps on Thursday. Several fireworks-art updates on buzz.mn tomorrow, posted in between the video shooting sessions. So let's fill out the Bleat with our old favorite space-waster, Scans! These are from a May 7 1956 Life magazine. First, a look at the ideal secretary of the mid-50s. And today:
Her skirt matches the film cabinet, which matches the trim on her Dixie cup; the typewriter matches her skin and the stripes on her blouse.
You know, I almost suspect that they knew in the 50s how sexy glasses could be. Why, it's almost as if they had libidos and everything, but that can't be so; we learned that Elvis and the Beatles gave us libidos. Before then was the shame and the doubt and repression, oh no.
Here's what ordinary guys looked like, especially when jacked up on benzedrine:
He looks older than he probably was. (At the time.) (Duh.) I don't know why, but he looks like he could turn up in Hell as Pinhead.
Finally, a perfect little throwaway illustration in an ad for foil or basters or corn oil or something. Dad with pipe and meat, son, hawt Mom with short hair, Grandpa enjoying the post-war boon, the modern house implied in the background. Hey, let's all make fun of this and show how clever we are and better than those stupid people in the 50s who like believed all these ads and jumped up when the TV said new and improved!
Or let's not.
Now, Wall-E Fall-out.
Shannen Coffin at the Corner notes that you never know how much hate mail you’ll get until you take on a Pixar film. I’d add that the opposite is oddly true as well: I got a lot of very negative email about the review, some of which had to do with “shilling” (as one writer put it) for Disney, but most of which had to do with buying an eco-scary / anti-capitalist agenda because the characters were cute. Apparently I can write for years and demonstrate skepticism towards catastrophic doom-mongering, and it counts for nil. Ah well. Look, I think “JFK” is a pretty good piece of filmmaking. Its ideas are rubbish and its effect pernicious, but I still think it’s a compelling work. Doesn’t mean I believe a single frame.
Sometimes you separate the ideas from the movie, sometimes you can’t, sometimes you shouldn’t, and sometimes you don’t want to because you approve of the ideas. Asking me to reject Wall-E because its unrealistic premise has contemporary overtones is like asking me to swear off Star Trek because Roddenberry wanted a post-religious collectivist one-world government that eschewed money and property. It's like refusing to watch "The Sopranos" because you sense that the writers are making a point about unregulated private initiative, or hating "The Wire" because it regards public institutions with casutic contempt. Oh whatever. I understand why some people choose not to patronize something, and I know I do the same thing. I'm sure I've missed out on a few good movies. I'll live. I may look like a dunderhead if I try to discuss them based on what I read elsewhere, but that's the risk you run. That might be the reason I spend so much time on the ephemera of the past: it has been leached of its power to polarize. Frankly, I'd rather agree with a lot of people about the inherent coolness of an old motel sign than agree with half the number about the Outrage of the Day. I spend the whole day in my own head arguing about stuff, and come time for this, I'm bored with my own certainties - especially if they've been chewed over elsewhere by professionals. Basically, I assume that at least 37% of the readers don't agree with me on this or that, so I try to keep my spoutings to once or twice a week. But as I learned with the Wall-E review, the scope and scale of things that have become Touchy increases every day. This is not good.
Yes, I know, boo-hoo self-censoring me.
Apparently Andrew Sullivan took note of the review, and while I appreciate the patronage, this rankles a bit:
"Well Lileks loved it. Not all conservatives are stupid ideologues."
And not all liberals are stupid anti-consumerists who spaz out when someone praises the Works of Walt! Who’d have thunk it. Really, if one wants to cling, bitterly, to the notion that a believe in lower taxes and strong foreign policy and greater individual freedom re: speech and property automatically translates to a crimpled, reductive, censorious view of pop culture, go right ahead.
I related this to my wife, who said “It’s just a movie!”
“Nothing is just anything anymore,” I said.
That was probably always so for some, but seems the case for many now. Frankly, it’s what keeps me from discussing a lot of things here – I can see the other side, anticipate the arguments, and lack the energy to deal with the whole panoply of dissent that might arise from, say, praising the latest “Rambo” film. (Which, all things considered, was pretty good; the Cold War backstory is irrelevant, and the film spends its time meting out explosive vengeance to genocidal gang-rapists in Myanmar, without pretending its hero is doing what he does for the sake of Rightness and Truth. But I wouldn’t assume that anyone who didn’t like the movie supports SLORC, for Criminey’s sake.) You pick your battles. But if you can’t accept the existence of an amusing, touching robots-in-love story because it has some cautionary hyperbolic eco-scolding, then A) you’re denying yourself the sight of some of the most astonishing computer-generated art ever made, B) you’ve never been on a cruise ship.
Look: it’s a pro-human movie. Really. That’s the point of it all, wrapped up in metaphor and parable and satire. If it is impossible to even lampoon consumer culture as a force that invites a loose, agreeable, consensual form of collectivism – one that distracts people from more pressing matters occasionally - then we’re getting entirely too touchy. Besides, all the conservative critiques of contemporary culture can be found in the movie, if you look for them – the culture of the humans in the future is infantile, sensational, oral, banal. People who bitch about network TV ought to love this, because the culture 700 years hence is the logical end result of the idiot stew pumped out by the networks.
Well, as I say from time to time: I will disappoint everyone, eventually. In the end I will probably be writing for one person. My daughter, who will check in daily to see what nonsense Dad is spewing today.
Well, it's a living. ;)
See you at buzz.mn! Lots of fireworks graphics pictures in the next few days.