December 27, 2005

Anti-Claus

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Back in the Reagan era it was Santa Claus who needed rescuing. The threat was to jolly old Saint Nick’s image. Innocent child minds were being polluted. The culprit: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984). PTA mothers, along with the regular band of uptight, self-righteous fanatics, picketed theaters. Even an LA Weekly reviewer dubbed it the work of “sick minds”. After a hot week at the box office, Tri-Star, about to make a public stock offering, for fear of the media fallout, actually pulled the movie. It was never released on the west coast. Silent Night, Deadly Night, is definitely not to be confused with another similarly titled landmark movie of ten years earlier, Silent Night, Bloody Night. Bloody Night has serious art creds. In the older movie the cast of psych-ward maniacs, like Ondine who plays the chief inmate, are all our favorite denizens of the Warhol Factory. Mary Woronov narrates. But the picture isn’t really about Christmas. Its plot is layered and, without wanting to give anything away, has to do with a homicidal maniac at large in a town whose leading citizens are all hiding a dark secret – very mysterious. Deadly Night, on the other hand, is a slasher film with just about the subtlety of a giant clown hammer. While it is true that on the surface there are similarities – both are the story of a deeply disturbed mental case on a serial killing spree – Deadly Night plays off the fact that, despite public sentiment to the contrary, there is, as any child could tell you, something very spooky about the portly red elf. The movie begins with a child who witnesses the brutal rape of his mother and cold-blooded murder of his family. To thwart easy recognition during the holiday season the robber is dressed as Santa. Years in a Catholic orphanage have traumatized the boy even further. Eventually, Billy, now 18, has come to associate Saint Nick with violence and punishment. Once a trigger is contrived, the rest is pure black humor. Santa as an ax murderer is, of course, an unforgettable image. Sheriff deputies with Christmas Eve orders to arrest him on sight is a good device. There’s no doubt that there is something brutal about seeing the jolly old bastard shot dead… twice. As far as the moral protest was concerned the gimmick of the movie is all about mistaken identity. Is it really Santa? Who’s in the Santa suit? Is it really a homicidal psycho maniac behind the white beard? What is odd is that irreverence to the authority of symbols is so loudly protested. Unless that protest comes from those, like the Bush Crime Family and the Neocons, who are fully aware of how flimsy their hold on the public mind really is.

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December 20, 2005

Osama-Santa

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Thank Jim Shaw for the picture of three robot Osamas razing a cityscape. It is part of a larger piece he did. The Santa hats were collaged on afterwards in the Christmas spirit without his direct knowledge. In the last election the Bush Crime Family and right wing opinion engineers in general capitalized on the battle over America’s most primary and basic symbols. The ancients understood the necessity of play – a little give and take – in the symbolic order. Jupiter had his lightning bolts, etc. All the gods had their particular recognizable emblems. Only their power wasn’t limited to these symbols. In America, Conservatism vs. Liberalism is all too often boiled down to those who would protect the symbols vs. those who would seek to denigrate them. The conservative mind, fraught with so many contradictions galore, is a complicated psychology to try and describe. On the one hand symbols like the flag and Bald Eagle are imbued with the greatest imaginable significance. Yet, at the same time, they are relegated to some kind of endangered list and one must at all costs, without the slightest regard for the greater democratic good, protect them from extinction at the hands of wayward do-gooders. In this scenario the symbols are incomparably powerful and simultaneously so frail as to need our constant attention and supervision. Since it is not a picture of a nascent culture that requires constant care and protection the Neocons paint, it must be one of an aging and doddering culture they would have us so worried about. There has from the start been the off-putting specter of death worship in the Bushevik lexicon. Air America’s Randi Rhodes (not to be confused with the heavy metal guitar noodler Randy Rhodes) made the comparison between the Neocons and The Door’s Jim Morrison. “Death, death, death,” she said, “It’s all about death”. While Morrison’s death wish is the subject of enough Doors songs to give Ms. Rhodes's comparison legs to stand on, it is remarkably romantic compared to the outright predatory nature of the Busheviks. Morrison’s use of death imagery is anarchistic, designed to undermine and collapse dominant symbology, while the rightists completely misunderstand the generative nature of the dark side. It is, alas, a symbolic house of cards the Neocons have erected as the basis for their authoritarian and cruelly predatory ideology. As with everything else the Bushevik system was exclusively based on immediate gains. No waiting around for these folks. Their whole strategy was boiling everything down to the most common psychological denominator in order to take full advantage of our most hidden prejudices and fears. The danger of primary symbols, however, is that they strike deep into our unconscious mind, far past the point of clear cut ideological returns, and are hard, if not impossible, for these death-mongers to efficiently control.

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December 12, 2005

Crystal Warship

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One of the things that was most interesting about Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ, besides all its other little heresies, was that the devil was played by a woman, Rosalinda Celentano. It’s hard to know what Gibson was going for, asexual androgen or shedevil. George Bernard Shaw is not so cryptic in his 1921 play Back to Methuselah. (As is the case in pre-Christian mythology) the serpent is definitely a woman. Shaw subtitled the play “A Metabiological Pentateuch” and it was very much meant as a satire of the original theological vs. scientific debate in the 19th-century. The play is, in fact, often accompanied by Shaw’s screed on the issue, “The Infidel Half Century”, a remarkably thorough essay in which no sides come out unscathed. What is so annoying about the recent attempt by Christo-fascists to reinvigorate the century-and-a-half old debate in the guise of “Intelligent Design” is ultimately how dull they are. No doubt the media saw nothing but a divisive spectacle, a lightning rod issue, to promote their own ratings. The thinly fabricated debate was nowhere made more entertaining than on the August 10th episode of Ted Koppel era Nightline. The topic was, of course, “Intelligent Design” and Nightline producers, in a stroke of theatrical genius, pitted conservative Washington insider George Will (a.k.a., George Swill) against Stephen Meyer, the slimy bible thumper type from something called the Discovery Institute. Swill’s job as a self-serving rationalist was to articulate the scientific position, while Meyer represented the religious backlash. As lightning-rod issues go there is unfortunately still some juice left in this one as witnessed by the Jesus Fish / Darwin Fish emblems sporadically still visible on the trunks of cars. The clash of these two personalities was, however, what makes for a good show. Meyer is the mustachioed greasy country preacher with the hair died black incarnate, popularized in movies like The Night of the Hunter (1955), who send enlightened conservatives running for shelter in their basements, while Swill is the faithless intellectual ogre who makes irrational fundamentalists pray for fear in their own dark basements. The episode had it all. There was even the subtle (subtle for TV, anyway) subtext that these two positions perfectly underscored the widening rift within the conservative party. After the Harriet Miers debacle, that rift has become more like a chasm that the Busheviks have regrouped to straddle. Shit is flying. The proto science fiction type deliberation of Back to Methusaleh about faith and human evolution, especially the moral kind, is unfortunately out of the question in a country that has seen the fearsome specter of its theocratic underside, usually prudently and well hidden from the light of day, so publicly exposed.

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December 03, 2005

The Culture Wars

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Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters vehemently defended Pentagon story plants in Iraqi newspapers. Peters argued that we were fighting “postmodern warfare,” his term. In “postmodern warfare,” Peters righteously explained, as if it was his own invention (and maybe it is), “to win the media is to win the war!” On Fox News Bill O'Reilly is self-destructing. It is a terrible sight to behold. To put a seasonal spin on it, we are, according to the banner-waving right-winger, engaged in a "cultural war" on the home front to save Christmas! Liberals, according to the latest ever more feeble list of conservative talking points, do not celebrate Christmas. As spinning-head-screaming-throats go, O'Reilly is among the most self-hating of the breed, a homegrown version of the suicide bomber, he will seemingly do anything no matter what to try and save the party line, even sacrifice himself publicly on the altar of a bright lit soundstage. Only the Busheviks have exhausted so much rhetoric there is little left for O'Reilly than to argue that Christmas is a patriotic landmark and those who don't celebrate it are traitors to the Union. Never mind that among the myriad Constitutional ideals O'Reilly and his ilk have to sabotage in order to get at that point is religious freedom. Do the ends always justify the means? These folks are so outright wrong-headed, it is hardly worth arguing with the maniacs and they know it. It has been their strategy all along to trash anything and everything that comes between them and their selfish goals, the more absurd their position the better for them. Woe to anyone who argues. It’s like talking to lunatics. They are so wrong on every different level its impossible to know where to even begin making headway to try and make sense of it all. It is like the scene in The Brotherhood of Satan (1971) in the sheriff’s office when the characters try and figure out what the hell is going on. By no means is it anywhere near the best part of the movie. Basically the story is about a father, his daughter, and his girlfriend who seemingly unwittingly enter into a small desert town terrorized by dark forces. Children are mysteriously vanishing. Among the highlights are the abduction sequences. In each case the parents of the child are brutally murdered by one of the child’s toys turned deadly weapon: a toy tank crushes a boy’s family in their car to open the movie, later on a doll turns cutthroat, literally, a mounted knight figurine beheads a father, etc. After which the children purposefully march off to the Satanic coven to eat red cake with black frosting before the hovering black hooded priests take them away. What follows is a Devilish orgiastic frenzy you really have to see for yourself. The ending is left wonderfully open ended by director Bernard McEveety, who was also involved in the cult favorite A Boy and His Dog (1975), staring a very young Don Johnson. Back in the sheriff’s office, however, the true face of evil is yet to be revealed and the characters, including the sheriff, his deputy, the preacher and small town doctor are all desperate to stop the carnage before it is too late. At that point it is all guesswork. The sheriff is, of course, a realist. The preacher counters with the possibility that the only explanation might be metaphysical. While the deputy, who has throughout the movie been avidly reading sensational tabloids has his own ideas about what is behind all the mayhem: “Little green men”. What can they do? In the end the doctor, hidden agenda aside, suggests they are too tired to figure anything out and they turn in for the night. When answers are illusive, after all, anything is possible. Who’s to say one way or another what is the truth. All ideas, no matter how preposterous, are of equal value. The scene makes one realize: no wonder things are the way they are! How can folks agree on anything when some blame god, and others are sure it’s the nefarious handy-work of space aliens. Politics is no doubt the art of disagreement. In the era of the postmodern cultural wars, however, it has become little more than the science of distilling everything down to the most primary "wedge" issue – divide and conquer. But Christmas, Bill O'Reilly, really? The Christo-fascists are going down in flames. Christmas is the least of their worries.

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