Monthly Archives: January 2008

Too soon? Giuliani and Cloverfield

City

The Beast is dead.
-Ed Koch on Rudy Giuliani

I know Cloverfield was released two whole weeks before Giuliani flopped in the Florida primaries. But in the offline world, two weeks is still sometimes a short enough time span to hang a trend on. ars brevis, vita longa. We don’t have much to tie these two together, but they’re great mile markers to show our distance from 9/11.

Giuliani is a national service. He was integral to the healing process; if he didn’t come along, therapeutic America would have had to invent him. Thanks to Giuliani, it’s OK to laugh at 9/11. It’s OK for our hemp-smoking friends to scoff at the Republicans’ unstoppable fear campaign. “Looks like someone is living in the past! Contemporize, man!” We’d have a tighter parallel, more narrative resonance, if Giuliani had waited till February 5 and crashed and burned in New York, like the Cloverfield task force. But any end of an era will do.

Flaming Monster

Half the subconscious fun of the burgeoning New York disaster flick genre is anticipating the moment that will be most 9/11-esque. Is it the collapsed skyscraper or the rolling dust cloud? The mass evacuation? The rescue workers? Are those towers twins? And the guiltiest pleasure, Is it too soon?

Cloverfield (known for months only by the shorthand of its release date, 1-18-08, dates being the new nomenclature of disaster) showed the seam in its fabric when plot-point character Lead Soldier tells our heroes the U.S. Gov’t is prepared to give up the island of Manhattan. The quote arrives pre-meta, like a programmatic decree from Hollywood: New York is Fair Game. ‘Ready?’ is no longer even the question for destroying New York on film. It’s open season, and the monsters have permission to do their worst.

Cloverfield monster

Because New York is already gone. And no other American city ever needs to be destroyed again—we can watch movietime New York get destroyed over and over again, in eternal return. The imagery of 9/11—different, of course, from the event itself—came at us mediated, interminably looped, lodged in our brains not as memory but as movie memory. It’s familiar, it’s reassuring, it’s part of a genre. Disaster joins the list of big New York story types: Upper West Side liberals fall in love; City Kid finds American Dream through organized crime (immigrant) or dance competitions (native); Muppets (showbiz, banking) Take Manhattan.

That brings us to the Dust—the Dust on Tom Cruise’s face in War of the Worlds, the Dust on Cloverfield’s “SoHo” streets as the head of the Statue of Liberty rolls down it. That dust is less verisimilitude than homage, Spielberg or Matt Reeves quoting 9/11 like PTA quotes Scorsese. We’ve had big movies treat the Destruction in New York theme before—WotW, I Am Legend. But Cloverfield is not a big movie, on which to test the mass-market waters for 9/11 disastertainment feasibility. There was plenty of experiment with Cloverfield: would the jerky camera work? the ARG web sites? the secret title? the youtube promos? Underneath those unknown variables, the control, the safety, the sure thing—was 9/11.

None of this is the closure we had thought we’d find looking forward from the other side. We didn’t win like we swore we would, but that time is over, and so far post-post-9/11 feels better than what we had before.

As curator of the exhibition Little Boy, Takashi Murakami proposed that Japan’s sexually stunted, violent culture of cartoons and monsters, to quote Mark Stevens’s review, “represents the strange, even psychotic response of a population traumatized by World War II, and then made impotent and infantilized by occupation.” This may be related.

Grand Theft Auto IV
Life after People

Update: Huzzah!

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Rebellion (Lies)

Iraq banner

Drumroll. The number of discrete, individual lies (also known as false statements) in the argument the White House presented during the runup to the war in Iraq is 935, according to War Card, a comprehensive analysis the Center for Public Integrity published yesterday.

The poetic balance of Bush’s obfuscation is that his argument was not, at bottom, about WMDs themselves, but that Saddam Hussein was lying about them. The White House Web site still hosts a dedicated banner to their theme, Iraq: Denial and Deception. The War in Iraq was launched to hold someone accountable for not telling the truth. What they wanted, they said, was for him to come clean. The lie was: ‘He lacks honesty.’

Some quotes, not from the CPI, just for flavor.

Literary
“It was absurd to subject her to this passion for truth, an Occidental passion, like the passion for alcohol.”
-Graham Greene, The Quiet American


Strategic
Tactical

“Don’t get upset when a family lies to you about one of its members’ committing a crime, those at the Marine meeting advised, in an admonition unusual for an institution that places great value on truth telling: ‘This is not an attempt to cover up, it is an attempt to save the honor of the family. They know he did it. They just don’t want to lose face. This is fine, you know the truth, let the family keep its honor intact.’”
-Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq

Specific
“I want them [‘countries around the world’] to understand the nature of the man who runs Iraq is the nature of a man who doesn’t tell the truth. He says he won’t have weapons of mass destruction; he’s got them. He’s not only got them, he’s used them. And he’s not only used them in his neighborhood, he’s used them on his own people. That’s the nature of the man with whom we deal. For 11 long years, he has deceived and denied.”
-GWB, December 3, 2002 [via the White House]

“Why We Know Iraq is Lying” A Column by Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Center for Public Integrity
Rebellion (Lies)

Update: 60 Minutes: “Saddam Hussein let the world think he had weapons of mass destruction to intimidate Iran and prevent the country from attacking Iraq” [via CNN]

The World Is Fair

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.thedailyshow.com posted with vodpod

Dont be a loser

Steve Powers

Steve Powers, Roaming (2007), from Steve Powers: The Magic Word at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts [via artforum]

Morrissey hand to forehead has become a signature pose (we could call it Morrissey Resigned, or maybe just Morrissey Pausing). Powers, the artist behind Coney Island’s Dreamland Artist Club, plays with the idea of Morrissey as Sign, where Morrissey’s face behaves as a logo that quickly communicates a sophisticated identity, like a brand or corporation’s would.

Every Day is like Sunday

Not related, but totally awesome: The Diana-Morrissey Phenomenon, which chronicles Morrissey’s prophecies of Princess Di’s ‘accidental’ death

Top 10 Minority Party and Administration Victories of 2007

Surge

(Also, this is my 100th post. w00t, LOL. And each one a classic.)

We could have been remembering 2007 as the year the Democrats took over Congress. The exuberance we felt between Thursday and Tuesday night last week was a more concentrated dose of that fleeting sensation of relief after Election Day 2006.

Accompanying tracks are neither hierarchical nor thematic.

10. The Mukasey Confirmation
In which we pledged, pledged, pledged not to approve his nomination until he clarified his stance on waterboarding.

Radiohead, Videotape

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Nobody Knows Anything

Who’s Crying Now?

Before New Years Gloss over-confidently predicted:

Of course, by the time I get back, at least one of the major presidential candidates will be having a Howard Dean-style Iowa meltdown, so I’ll probably be racing to finish some hilarious remix to post on YouTube in the sad, vain hope of getting Jeanne Moos’s attention. 2008 is going to suck.

As with everything on this site there was no intention of following through, but lo, the constancy of the Internet’s malicious humor does provide:

This was The End of Her. An e-mail I received Monday afternoon had the subject line, “She’s Toast.” Either her sob was calculated, rolled out to complement her Sunday Morning talk show laughing fit as demonstrating the suite of acceptable Human Emotions, or it was genuine, which was worse. Consensus had it this was her Muskie moment, when in fact it was her Checkers speech.

Maureen Dowd has the right analysis today (why does it seem she’s only on when it comes to the Clintons?):

But there was a whiff of Nixonian self-pity about her choking up. What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us.

Clinton Agonistes. A more recent precedent than Eisenhower’s Nixon shrewdly begging for sympathy would be the first Bush-Gore debate in 2000, when the V.P.’s trounce of the forensically challenged Republican candidate played to the victim’s favor. That moment showed that Wounded Puppy plays better on TV than Confident and Skilled. Or Clean and Articulate.

Links
Huffington Post: Clinton: Tearing Up “Could Well Have Been” My Turnaround
Dowd: Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?
CJR: Play Misty for Me