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Saturday, March 20, 2004

HELLO DALI, WHEREVER YOU ARE 

In his 1944 review of Salvador Dali's autobiography, Life, George Orwell writes that for Dali, distinguishing between the truth and the imaginary was of little consequence. What was most important to the Spanish surrealist was his creative recall of what he would have preferred to take place. In post 20th century America there is no time to wait for memory to warp reality, especially not when you can alter it on your own.

Claremont College psychology professor Kerri Dunn is facing charges of filing a false police report after claiming her vehicle had been vandalized and defaced with racist slurs. She told authorities that the crimes against her property and the "hate speech" graffiti had occurred after she gave a lecture on hate speech at the college. Police and FBI have witnesses who state that it was Dunn writing the slurs and hammering away at the windshield on her own Honda Civic. Kerri Dunn is either a closeted performance artist or someone who desperately needs treatment from a professional who is not a member of the Claremont Psychology faculty. For Dunn it wasn't enough to lecture against hate, she insisted on to be victimized by her subject. Unable to find any takers, self-loathing appears to have been her only recourse.

Mel Gibson's Passion is collecting more dough than a millennium of Sunday sermons could possibly extract from the gullible. His movie is based on his fantasy of how the torture and execution of Jesus of Nazareth played out 2000 years ago (not well for the victim). There is no evidence, gospels or otherwise, to concur with Gibson's notion that Jesus was the only human being to ever lose 10 times the normal blood volume for an adult (10 pints) and live long enough to be crucified. Yet Mel, like many other filmmakers, hasn't let objective fact get in the way of telling the truth as he envisions it. The Passion is being hailed as a spiritual experience for believers, thus provoking the question: Why does it require a "preferred" memory to provoke a spiritual moment for these people? Is the truth insufficient? As director John Ford famously remarked, "When you have a choice between printing the truth and printing the legend, always print the legend". The difference between what took actually place and what Gibson prefers to have taken place is, at this writing, about $300 million dollars and climbing.

With truth an inconvenience easily circumvented, martyrdom is hot and everybody wants a piece of the action.

All that is required is an imagination and a willing audience and both can be found in abundance.










Thursday, March 18, 2004

PRESENCE OR PRESENT? 

Maybe St Patrick’s Day came early this year, or maybe his representative was unclear on the calendar. Tuesday, I was visited by a cheerful spirit carried in the form of celtic looking woman who accompanied the late afternoon fog as it swept up from shore. I was reading a magazine and smoking a cigar in front of a coffee shop when she lit in front of my chair. I am pretty certain that she had entered my life from stage left, though I couldn’t exactly swear to it. I looked up from my reading to see her smiling and anxious to convey some thought to me. Perhaps sixty and looking every bit like Judy Dench's Hecuba in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, her eyes took on an impish grin as she moved closer. It was clear in her manner that what she had to say was meant for just the two of us. In a whisper spoken like a forbidden language she said " I really like your cigar. I think it's great someone still smokes".

Now in Santa Monica one tends to assess an individual carting carry-on luggage, dressed like a washer woman and engaging you in unsolicited conversation to be either an aging hippy or a player in the city's flourishing street theatre for street people. One always anticipates the deceptive first words of lucid conversation to quickly deteriorate into an irrational babble from which there is no escape in the event you aren’t carrying cyanide; no deliberate acts of ignoring the mad will ever wake them; stick your nose in your magazine and pretend not to hear them but your only hope is that another distant voice inside their tangled synapses will compel them down the road.

Delightfully and surprisingly, there was no moment of mental disengagement. My new friend was sane and sober and captained our discussion steering between the topics of pop culture, mass marketing, Iraq, her career as a journalist and time spent living in London. Confessing her disdain of popular entertainment, she recommended to me a film "The Triplets of Belleville", and was both amazed and pleased that I had seen it. We quickly established there was a mutual admiration of the movie and moved on to discuss the film's music, creator and its various paeans to multiple artistic influences. She advised me that she has no time for most entertainment offerings and finds it hard to have conversations with her acquaintances that are sustained on a regular diet of Cineplex and 'Friends' reruns.

We would have continued our interlude but her bus inconveniently showed on time and as quickly and unexpectedly as she arrived, the spirit exited stage right and beyond my field of vision.

I’d never seen her before that afternoon though I occupy that same chair several afternoons a week. Perhaps I was incapable.

Monday, March 15, 2004

TERROR 1, SPAIN 0 

Does the new Socialist government of Spain believe pulling troops out of Iraq is going to temper the bloodlust of the Islamo-Fascists of Al Queda?

Get a grip Espana. You've experienced a monsterous tragedy in Madrid but the Islamic loonies are out to whack everyone not fully committed to the Haj. If you don't carry a Koran, wear a Chador or hand over enough extortion money to keep Bin-Laden , Inc. in business, you're an infidel and that means you have to go - permanently. And especially in Spain, where the great Islamic empire that Osama hope to restore was vanquished over 500 years ago.

Playing nice with bullies has never been a winning strategy unless you happen to be buying time for your big brother to show up. It only delays the inevitable beating and once the bully realizes you are willing to take a thrashing and deliver concessions, your life is now a daily hell. The time tested means of eliminating a tormentor is to take him head-on by kicking him in the cajones until he understands you are disinclined to be victimized; often the first couple of blows are sufficient because the bully never anticipates retaliation and when his gonads are ringing sufficiently he comes to a swift conclusion that his time and efforts are better spent elsewhere.

If you want to withdraw troops from Iraq, then don't delay until July. Take them immediately and deploy them to Afghanistan where they can hunt down the vermin that killed your citizens; and do so before it decides to come back for more.





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