Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Taking It on the Chin

The first dodging of the new quarter.
The Artful Dodger: Leno Earns Big Bucks While Others Take It on the Chin

TV reminds me that the world is unjust. Everyday I watch the news and hear from Mr. Newsie Newsman that innocents die in terrorist attacks, that the financial chasm between the rich and the poor widens steadily and that the space marble called Earth inches toward self-imposed environmental self-obliteration. But injustice never stings more than when word of it comes from the mouth of Jules Asner.

Along with every other major news outlet, E! announced Tuesday that NBC had signed Jay Leno to continue hosting "The Tonight Show" until early 2009. Over the next four years, Leno will earn $100 million. That's roughly $96,000 per every dribbling opening monologue Leno delivers, which means about $24 million per year.

You know Jay Leno. He's the chin with the talk show host attached - the one whose inoffensive brand of humor makes late night safe for Grandma. This is the guy who tries to squeeze laughs out of headline typos. This is the guy whose go-for-the-obvious-joke sense of humor tarnishes the sparkling reputation predecessor Johnny Carson earned for "The Tonight Show."

(Leno is also a UCSB alumnus, but hey - they can't all be winners, right?)

Apparently anxious to ditch his image as the Danny Tanner of late night, Leno this week spent a chunk of his newfound fortune hiring a Howard Stern flunky, "Stuttering" John Melendez, as his new announcer. Stern publicly criticized Leno's choice, calling him "creatively bankrupt." Leno, on the other hand, has succeeded only in finding a way to make his douche bag co-host Kevin Eubanks less cool.

I'm no David Letterman fan, but I think he's funnier than Leno because he rips mercilessly on Dr. Phil. Letterman reportedly earns $30 million a year to host the "Late Show," CBS's answer to NBC's "The Tonight Show." The two salaries are exorbitant but comparable. However, I question why either one makes eight digits when some that are better skilled at comedy go impoverished - in celebrity terms, of course.

For instance, Conan O'Brien makes $8 million a year on "Late Night," which follows Leno's show. Beloved by college-aged audiences, O'Brien cracks jokes with character. Quirkiness like a cactus chef that plays "We Didn't Start the Fire" on a flute snags high ratings with the 18- to 24-year-old demographic. It's not everyone's taste, for sure, but it doesn't seem fair that Leno makes roughly four times what O'Brien makes.

And O'Brien is doing well, comparatively. Jon Stewart, whose wit makes Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" one of the sharpest half hours on television, makes a speculated $1.5 million per year.

Finding a definite annual salary for Tina Fey, head writer and cast member on "Saturday Night Live," is difficult, but she makes less than $1 million for her work. "People in the past have made as much as $1 million [on SNL], so I'm told. Now it seems people are maxing out at $300,000 or so," Fey told Writer's Digest in 2000. Conversely, Kelly Ripa, the anti-Tina Fey, rakes in $5 million a year for he work on "Live With Regis and Kelly."

If celebrities are going to be awarded such sums for comedy, they should deserve it. If studio execs had a clue in their heads, they'd use the money that keeps comedy dinosaurs like Leno and Letterman on life support and hire one of the many up-and-comers.

I hope Leno doesn't spend any money on fixing his chin; presently, it's the funniest thing about him. One day he'll shuffle off into that comedy limbo that Johnny Carson went into, allowing an O'Brien or Stewart or Fey to make it big. In the meantime, there's not much we TV viewers can do but laugh at the punch lines we like and wait until our comedic heroes age enough to become mainstream-friendly.

Daily Nexus opinion editor Drew wants to lick Tina Fey's glasses.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Fossilized Glob of Sphinx Ejaculate

How I won:
kidicarus222: smitch!
kidicarus222: dratch!
kidicarus222: bangtail!
kidicarus222: common wag!
sparklejetstream: tard face
kidicarus222: willem defoe
sparklejetstream: poo breath
kidicarus222: fat lady's fart cloud
sparklejetstream: ahoy!
kidicarus222: ahoy?
sparklejetstream: a word of exclamation
sparklejetstream: at your insult
kidicarus222: kablammo!
sparklejetstream: similar
kidicarus222: no, mine was onomatopoeia
kidicarus222: yours was mere exclamation
kidicarus222: and everybody knows that onomatopoeia beats exclamation
kidicarus222: so there
sparklejetstream: fart nugget
sparklejetstream: i won!
kidicarus222: fagg nurtet
kidicarus222: anagram double score!
kidicarus222: i win!
sparklejetstream: ooh bad words
sparklejetstream: minus points
sparklejetstream: C+
kidicarus222: tampon crumb
sparklejetstream: soda mold
kidicarus222: telephone clit
sparklejetstream: scissor bong
kidicarus222: gonad trauma
kidicarus222: no no -- horrific gonad trauma
sparklejetstream: wet monkey pube
kidicarus222: horrific gonad trauma is so much worse than wet monkey pube
kidicarus222: but fine
kidicarus222: fossilized gob of sphinx ejaculate

Saturday, March 27, 2004

The Jim Bonds Are Going to Conquer the Western Hemisphere

Now that an A separates me from the dust-laden world of gossip and family secrets William Faulkner proffered in Absalom, Absalom!, I realize that reading Quentin Compson is like reading myself.

Even when I read The Sound and the Fury, Quentin stuck out to me at the one I empathized with. Sure, the other two narrators were a retarded man-child with no sense of time and a racist bigot. But I still got into Quentin, this guy who’s so stuck inside his own head that he can’t realize how perverse his relations to his loved ones have grown.

Absalom, Absalom! hit a lot closer, though.

The version of Quentin in this book is me every time a latch onto a story or a chain of stories — a saga, maybe. I love a good saga. Quentin threads himself into the Sutpen saga like how I got into Faulkner’s Yokanapatopha. Or Ulysses last year. Or “Twin Peaks.” Or “Donnie Darko.” Or “Scream” back in high school. More than just reading about these people, Quentin fixates on them and reinvents them inside his own head. It edges on a sickness, but it something he and I share.

With that in mind, maybe I read myself too far into Quentin, but I could have sworn he’s acting like a journalist in Absalom, Absalom! as well as fictionist. He goes from Rosa to his dad, asking questions and growing a cohesive story from the tiniest seeds of information.

I’d wager that Quentin Compson is my personal hero — that is, if he didn’t bite it at the end of The Sound and the Fury. From suicide, no less.

I need to find better heores.

Bands Start Up Each and Every Day

Apparently, I am Schroeder. I could have guessed I'd be Linus.


- What movie is that?
- It's called "My Beautiful Laundrette"...
- I saw "Eternal Sunshine..."...

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Vexed, Hexed Prophetess: Cassandra in Yokanapatawpha County

Below is my final paper for my Faulkner seminar. I feel like it could have more ambitious, but my professor encouraged this line of thought, so I hope the product will please her as well. I figured posting it here would give a chance for the curious and the greedy Googlers to hear what I had to say.

“Vexed, Hexed Prophetess: Cassandra in Yoknapatawpha County”
Home cursed of God! Bear witness unto me,
Ye visioned woes within —
The blood-stained hands of them that smite their kin —
The strangling noose, and, spattered o'er
With human blood, the reeking floor!

— Cassandra, from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon

The incarnation of Jefferson, Mississippi that William Faulkner offers in Absalom, Absalom! is a Greek landscape, teeming with mythical personalities and disastrous possibilities. When the actions of the Sutpen family hearken back to classical tragedies, allusion responds with an echo. In those reverberations, the gods and heroes of Greek myth materialize in the post-Civil War south, adding depth to Faulkner’s characters and, in a way, equating the ruined South with ancient Greece: as two failed yet once-great societies joined by their epic literary legacies.

The most evident of the novel’s many mythological links is the one between Miss Rosa Coldfield and Cassandra, as both figures are tragically, desperately unable to tell their stories — a sad fate of narrative deprivation that Minrose Gwin calls “so powerful and so beautiful — and so madly seductive” (Gwin 160). Rosa poses a twist on the old philosophical riddle: if a woman tells a saga in the forest and no one is around to listen, does the saga truly get told? Faulkner’s novel accentuates Rosa, the embodiment of female voice in Absalom, Absalom!, with repeated allusions to the cursed prophetess to explain the phantom-like plight of the women who survived the Civil War. Such a comparison is not entirely favorable, however; through linking Rosa and Cassandra, Absalom, Absalom! extends the hex to all survivors of the war, insinuating that, like Rosa, their prophecies and recollections are forever tainted by bitterness and anger — perhaps to the point that these stories are better off not being told.

Indeed, many of the allusions in Absalom, Absalom! refer to the darker side of Greek lore. Rosa, for example, is not immediately recognizable as the novel’s Cassandra figure. When Quentin firsts describes her as the aged woman cowering in the dark — out of sight, seemingly — one could easily identify her with the reclusive Medusa. As Walter Brylowski points out in a gathering of these references in Absalom, Absalom! — A Critical Casebook, each of the Sutpens get pigeonholed as various mythological characters: long-suffering Ellen as Niobe; mysterious Charles Bon as both the phoenix and the sphinx; and Clytie as the fearsome gatekeeper Cerberus (Brylowski 112). Such a technique is not unique to this particular Faulkner epic. Rather, Brylowski notes, “Viewed in this overall pattern, Absalom, Absalom! illustrates Faulkner’s habit of probing the moral situation of the South and projecting it on a screen of mythic references [in which] the actions find their analogues” (117).

The subset of Greek mythology that provides the most interesting way to view these Sutpens, however, is the house of Agamemnon — particularly the version portrayed in Aeschylus’ tragedy. In many ways the parallels are obvious. Agamemnon’s family inherits the curse of its forbearer, Atreus, causing much strife and bloodshed. Similarly, the Sutpens disintegrate when Thomas Sutpen’s sins manifest in the form of Charles Bon, his illegitimate son by his part-black first wife. Both stories feature powerful, active women named Clytemnestra — the murderous matriarch of Agamemnon and the half-black slave “Clytie” of Absalom, Absalom! who becomes caretaker of the family’s final generation. Most importantly, both works feature seemingly impotent women whose knowledge goes unappreciated: Cassandra and Rosa.

The elements of Greek drama are indeed present in Absalom, Absalom!; it is no coincidence that the novel repeatedly references the impenetrable, stony quality of the Sutpen visage — Rosa describes Judith as the “stone-faced daughter” and “the face without sex or age,” while Shreve imagines her face “like mask or marble” (Faulkner 151, 109, 158). Faulkner’s narrative explicitly recalls the masks worn by actors in traditional Greek tragedies just like Agamemnon — just like the tale of woe and disaster that the Sutpens seemed doomed to repeat. In classical theater, such masks indicate an actor’s mood or the temperament of his character, but they would also act as a makeshift megaphone. Actors’ voices would emerge from a cupped mouth-hole in order to reach the entire audience, a means of narrative amplification that Rosa — who tellingly does not bear the stony Sutpen face — would benefit from (“Greek”).

References to Rosa’s status as the Cassandra figure in this recycled and relocated tragedy occur almost immediately. Before any of his characters assume the novel’s narration, Faulkner’s text envisions Rosa’s childhood as toxically precocious, filled with “an air Cassandralike and humorless and profoundly and sternly prophetic out of all proportion to the actual years even of a child who had never been that young” (Faulkner 15). Mr. Compson imagines Rosa’s youth similarly. He guesses that she came to understand the Sutpen saga so well during an “aged and timeless absence of youth that consisted of a Cassandra-like listening beyond closed doors” (Faulkner 47). Even Quentin, who never verbalizes the connection, ascribes a noteworthy quality to Rosa’s unheard side of the story when he realizes that “she wants it to be told” (Faulker 6). Just as Cassandra tried in vain to get her kinsmen to heed her prophecies, Rosa wants desperately to narrate for willing listeners — “…people whom she will never see and whose names she will never hear and who have never heard her name nor seen her face will read it and know at least why God let us lose the War” (Faulkner 6). Rosa wants Quentin to remember her words, to repeat them and allow her voice to sound furiously from beyond the grave.

Admittedly, Mr. Compson tells Quentin that Clytie was mistakenly named so, and should have rightfully been named Cassandra (Faulkner 48). Like Rosa, Clytie’s version of the Sutpen saga is also silenced. And critic Dirk Kuyk argues against interpreting allusions as the driving force behind any of Faulkner’s work, seemingly contradicting the allusion-based interpretations offered by Walter Brylowski. Kuyk writes,
While many critics have pointed out the book’s many allusions, each has wisely refrained from making the allusions the book’s determining designs… [Ralph] Behrens is no doubt right in pointing out how the allusion to the story of David helps to enrich the meaning of Absalom, Absalom! Yet once the allusion becomes the design it screens out everything in the novel that has no parallel to the Bible (Kuyk 117).
So while there’s considerable evidence against locking solely Rosa into the role of Cassandra, Rosa exemplifies the would-be communicator qualities of Cassandra tidily enough to warrant focus exclusively on her Cassandra qualities. She is a communicator — a writer, a poet, and an oral storyteller. The text even alludes to a sparkle of precognition involving Rosa’s immediate knowledge of Charles Bon’s death after she hears gunfire. She explains, “And then I went back home, stayed for five years, heard an echoed gunshot, ran up a nightmare flight up stairs, and found [Clytie]” (Faulkner 120). Conversely, Clytie tidily embodies the two chief roles of Agamemnon’s Clytemnestra: as a matriarch and as an agent of decisive and destructive action. Like Clytemnestra swinging the axe into her husband’s body and felling the house of Agamemnon, Clytie burns down Sutpen’s Hundred, literally destroying the family’s home. Thus, this paper focuses on the wealth of information supporting Rosa as Cassandra and — regardless of how Mr. Compson thinks it ought to have been — Clytie as her namesake.

As nearly every quality about Rosa would indicate, Cassandra exists within her. Even the origins of Cassandra and Miss Rosa’s respective curses overlap. According to numerous versions of Cassandra’s story, those who might benefit from Cassandra’s divinations disbelieve them because she rejects Apollo as a lover (“Cassandra”). As the patron of prophecy, Apollo cruelly and ironically twists Cassandra’s talent so that while she always accurately foresees oncoming ruin, no one ever believes the predictions. As such, she in her narrative labels herself “the prophetess to Troy of all her doom” (Aeschylus).

Absalom, Absalom! eventually reveals that sexual rejections has also caused the aged Rosa’s “curse” — dark seclusion in her house, and years of burning anger and yearning for an audience to listen to her tale. After his wife Ellen dies, Thomas Sutpen seeks Rosa, Ellen’s much younger sister, as his next wife — but only if she can bear him a male heir first. Rosa is so insulted at this sexual advance that she quite possibly goes mad with anger, re-envisioning the first half of her life in fairy tale, if not epic, proportions. In Rosa’s retelling of events, she’s an innocent pawn in a cruel game controlled by the snarling “demon” Thomas Sutpen — the “ogre,” as she frequently refers to him. Gwin posits that it’s not the loss of a sexual relationship or even marriage that has “cursed” Rosa. Instead, her curse lies in the lack of a listening audience, the absence that only spinsterhood can bring. As Gwin argues, “What she struggles to do in chapter five and in her whole narrative is to restore herself to her text of desire and fullness… to recreate herself as a subject who creates language” (116). But stuck in her house, Rosa is literally and figuratively “shut up.”

Befitting a character whose entire existence is an extended allusion to Cassandra, Rosa fails to be heard. Even when Quentin goes to Rosa to hear the Sutpen saga, the text carefully notes that he “was not listening” and instead imagining the story how he wanted to see it (Faulkner 139). And when Quentin relates the story to Shreve, Rosa’s hyperbolic imagery of the fire-breathing ogre vanishes altogether. Most importantly, Quentin does not live long enough to tell many people about any side of the story — Rosa’s or his father’s — as he commits suicide on June 2, 1910 in The Sound and the Fury, which takes place during the summer after Absalom, Absalom! (Faulkner 139). As Quentin predicts early in the first chapter, Rosa’s voice “would not cease, it would just vanish” (Faulkner 4). Indeed it does just that when Quentin Compson’s life ends.
By mapping a once-great empire like ancient Greece onto the post-Civil War South, Faulkner’s narrative tries to elevate the South to the lauded level of one of history’s mightiest civilizations. But in the end, he only indicts the South of the same shortsighted ambition-without-reason that can erode a society from the inside out.

By re-imagining Cassandra as Rosa, the novel creates an icon of the ruined South — a muted muse who can inspire only one short-lived schizophrenic with her story. However, overlooking the critical ban on authorial intentionality, one could wager that Faulkner himself did not want Rosa’s story told. Rosa narrates the fifth chapter, or as some critics have dubbed it, the “Rosa chapter.” Throughout it Rosa’s disembodied voice echoes in vacuous space, not tethered to traditional dialogue with the quotations marks and “she saids” that characterize written dyadic conversation. As if this insinuation were not blatant enough, female narration subsequently vanishes, giving way to the less vitriolic second- and third-hand accounts of Mr. Compson, Quentin and Shreve (Gwin 165). And for the only living character with an eye-witness account of the Sutpens’ self-annihilation, Rosa’s narrative is rife with exaggeration and blatant bias. Most tellingly, Absalom, Absalom! ends with Quentin realizing that he loathes his homeland and the sordid lives of the his ancestors, a disgust he denies all the way until his suicide. Quentin concludes the novel arguing against himself, his self-denials too emphatic. He cries, “I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!” (Faulkner 303). Just as Cassandra dies in Agamemnon, so too does Rosa’s treasured narrative: as a result of the pervasively corrupting nature of a civilization struggling to maintain its dignity in its final moments.

Jefferson, Mississippi recreates the Greece of classical mythology in a way that allows the Sutpens to slip effortlessly between personas. Throughout the novel, characters can embody Antigone and then Electra and then Persephone successively. Yet Rosa maintains her role as Cassandra steadily. She is the constantly ignored prophetess, the one who sees it all coming, the one who knows how it will all end and the one who ultimately vanishes into obscurity. And this continued presence inextricably ties the Sutpens to the curses descendants of Atreus.

Shortly before Quentin and Shreve begin their animated discussion and re-enactment of the story of the South, Quentin recalls how his classmates plague him with questions about his exotic homeland. The voices echo in Quentin’s head, “Tell about the South. What’s it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all” (Faulkner 142). Essentially, then, Question’s explanatory response is to retell the life of Thomas Sutpen and his dependents. Absalom, Absalom! in its epic, exclamatory voice of prophecy, lumps the whole of the South in with the cast of some great tragedy — woe and anguish and cursed lucklessness — which continues to ruin those born even long after the Civil War, poisoning them with an anger that warps memories and replaces actual occurrences with gross embellishments and demonizations. Bound for suicide in The Sound and the Fury even before Absalom, Absalom! begins, Quentin has his place in this pervasive ruin; the text remarks on his fixation on his inherited curse when it compares him to a “tragedian in a college play, an academic Hamlet,” placing the same dooming mask of Greek tragedy worn by the Sutpens onto his face as well. (Faulkner 142). It is a brutal and caustic indictment, but one Faulkner clearly feels strongly about — likely one he wished he didn’t have to make and one he hoped would one day fade into the darkness as the voice of Rosa Coldfield did.
Works Cited

Aeschylus. Agamemnon. Translated by E.D.A. Morshead. E-Books @ Adelaide. 7 March 2004.

assandra.” Mythography. 8 March 2004. cassandra.html.

Brylowski, Walter. “Faulkner’s Mythology.” Absalom, Absalom! — A Critical Casebook. Edited by Elisabeth Muhlenfeld. Garland Publishing, Inc.: New York, 1984.

Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom! New York: Vintage Books, 1986.

Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury: A Norton Critical Edition. Edited by David Minter. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1994.

“Greek Theater.” Teaching Ideas. 18 March 2004. uk/history/files/greektheatre.pdf.

Gwin, Minrose. “The Silencing of Rosa Coldfield.” Absalom, Absalom! — A Casebook. Edited by Fred Hobson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Kuyk, Dirk. Sutpen’s Design: Interpreting Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

EDIT: Looking at this years later, I cannot honestly say if what appears above represents the final version of the paper. However, it is pretty close to that.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

A Rabbit in Her Hat and a Pussy in Her Pants

My idea for the name of Vegas' next big act, an all-female nude magic revue: "The Magic Carpet." Hey, it's better than "Presde-clit-itation."

My Winter Quarter Scorecard

English 197: A
Writing 105NM: A
Writing 165: A+
Writing 155: A
Overall GPA: Still not where I'd like it, but improving every quarter

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Sixteen Megatons

The Return of the Box (of cereal)

So if today’s March 25 and the last post was March 5, that means I let nearly two weeks slide by without even a single written record. Maybe I’m still debating whether this journal means much to me anymore — I think it probably does — but maybe this fifteen-day hiatus has been abnormally taxing.

I knocked it out of the park this quarter and I think I have a good chance a straight four-point-oh I belted out a kickass paper on Absalom, Absalom! for Prof. Waid and I composed a kickass little Flash animation movie for Writing 105NM. The Freaky Tiki lives here, if you’re curious. The opinion desk picked up a new junior member in Meghan, an adept copyeditor, a one-time she-saider and a rumored frog-nauseator. I trudged though “Caligula,” the second of Netflix’s happy accidents, and I survived three days in Las Vegas, during which:
  • the hotel smelled like barbecue sauce
  • nonetheless, the same hotel sparkled red, green and gold, just like the song
  • the pool was drained and surrounded by yellow emergency tape
  • fourteen people split a two-bed hotel room
  • I won thirty-eight bucks
  • I lost sixty bucks
  • I sucked at the card-based gamblings
  • I combined classiness and trashiness by drinking a forty in a limo driven down the strip by a guy named Umberto
  • I did the vodka slurpee
  • I Benny Benassied with Kami
  • I walked from New York to Venice, intoxicated all the while
  • I bought an eight-dollar gin-and-tonic
And as glad as I am that Kami invited me along for the ride, no holiday in the Furnaces will rest me up for a new quarter without the good friend-bad combo of Nate.

Nate walked away from Isla Vista and although I’m glad he’s moving toward a better place, I can’t imagine how the last few months of my senior year will change. First Cordy, then Fred… Now Nate’s gone too.

I guess I just never see it coming.

Ms. Inessa Kheyfets sent me a copy of “Battle Royale” on DVD. Maybe Japanese schoolchildren blowing each other away will ease me into the last half of spring break.

Resume transmission.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Holly Goodnight's Cousin from Colorado

Drew lives! — if only as a zombie powered by ethic and stick-to-itiveness. News from Boulder:

CaptainBon: hey drew!
kidicarus222: hi bonnie
kidicarus222: how's stuff?
CaptainBon: pretty good, pretty good. how are you doing?
kidicarus222: i'm getting ready for finals
kidicarus222: oh, and your plant died
kidicarus222: i'm sorry
kidicarus222: i couldn't save it from nexus neglect
kidicarus222: which i think i'll call nex-glect
CaptainBon: oh no! did it get a proper burial?
kidicarus222: it's still hangin in my back yard
kidicarus222: so i guess it got hanged
kidicarus222: and now, apparently, i'm displaying its corpse as a warning
CaptainBon: gasp!
kidicarus222: i know this must be very hard on you -- you cared a lot for little philomena
kidicarus222: (i named it philomena)
CaptainBon: i did! i'm tearing up a bit now.
CaptainBon: that is a good name. when did it enter into the magical drewland?
kidicarus222: a few weeks into the quarter
kidicarus222: my yard is full of thriving plants, however
kidicarus222: i'm gonna have pumpkins! i'll be a daddy
CaptainBon: the corpse must disturb them. how many pumpkins?
kidicarus222: just flowers so far
kidicarus222: but they look healthy enough
kidicarus222: if they can make it a few more months, bam!--halloween party in may
CaptainBon: you should make people dress up as pumpkins for your pumpkins coming out party.
kidicarus222: i think i'll be happy if they wear any costume
kidicarus222: and my pumpkins are not gay, assumabella
CaptainBon: no, they are debutantes.
kidicarus222: oh
kidicarus222: yeah
kidicarus222: i forgot there was that kind of coming out
kidicarus222: were you a debutante?
CaptainBon: no, but drew you are going to be soooo ashamed of me.
kidicarus222: ?
CaptainBon: at boulder, in the fall, i might rush.
kidicarus222: ay!
kidicarus222: why?!
kidicarus222: (i'm asking god here, not you)
kidicarus222: why?!
CaptainBon: i know, i know, i'm just thinking about it. because i think a big mistake i made at ucsb was not making enough connections, so maybe i should expand my horizons.
kidicarus222: well, there's always that
kidicarus222: i guess
kidicarus222: mutter mutter
CaptainBon: yeah, my dad is all for it and my mom is dead against it.
CaptainBon: and i am sketchy abouth the girls i'm moving in with.
kidicarus222: well, i know you'll decide whatever's best -- and then if it's not working, i know you're smart enough to reconsider
CaptainBon: if it sucks then i'll turn into a drunken embarassment to the house and try to get kicked out or something.
CaptainBon: not really, well, maybe, but no.
kidicarus222: no
CaptainBon: good advice, it would probably take more than i am willing to give to be kicked out.
CaptainBon: what else is new?
kidicarus222: not too much
kidicarus222: i've got this massive flash animation project i've gotta do
kidicarus222: so i should probably get to that
kidicarus222: sorry i'm not much with the chatty tonight
CaptainBon: it was good to talk to you, and tell nexus i said hello.
CaptainBon: don't apologize.
kidicarus222: i will
kidicarus222: (tell the nexus)
kidicarus222: (and apologize)
kidicarus222: (so there)
CaptainBon: good luck with your project!
kidicarus222: thanks
kidicarus222: back at you
kidicarus222: well
kidicarus222: you know what i mean
CaptainBon: sleep well when you get to!
kidicarus222: bingo

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Passion in Fashion

Dissecting Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ From Both Sides of the Coin: Catholic-School Trained

If you don’t like a Jesus movie, does that mean you’ll go to hell?

As a product of the penguin house — that’s Catholic school to you heathens — a new movie about the big J.C. perked my interest. Besides “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Jesus isn’t often a leading man. And Mel Gibson, Mad Max-turned-would-be pope of his own retro-Catholic sect, had said that “The Passion of the Christ” would depict the Gospels accurately. Sure, there’s the Stations of the Cross that line the walls of my hometown church and the stained-glass window that makes him look like the lost Bee Gee, but for Hollywood talent to helm a Christian movie? God, that’s a big deal.

Others agreed, and I had to navigate through crowds of zealous moviegoers at the Ash Wednesday premiere. Not since high school have I seen so many faces with schmutz on them. I only wish some of the Christian groups reserving seats had been benevolent enough to share seats with straggling ticketholders.

As far as the film itself, please excuse the pun, but Gibson nailed it — nearly. As a film detailing the hours leading up to that famous Jesus Christ pose, it succeeds. It’s all there in this uniquely simple story — man gets arrested and tortured, then dies, then arises, holier in every sense of the word.

“We’ve done the research. … I’m telling the story the as the Bible tells it,” Gibson said in one of the four “The Passion of the Christ” film packets Artsweek received.

But then there’s more — often at the expense of Biblical accuracy.

For example, a female Satan (Rosalinda Celentano) pops her pale, veiled head into many scenes, despite her notable absence from that part of the Good Book. She and her messed-up Gollum baby make for an interesting artistic touch, but they contradict Gibson’s proclaimed mission statement.

Other additions, like Judas’ demonic hallucinations or the prominence of Pontius Pilate’s wife (Claudia Gerini), also glare at those with a working command of the Bible. But what stands out most is the film’s violence. A realistically depicted crucifixion must inherently be violent, but the Bible never specifies the extensive caning and scourging Jesus (James Caviezel) suffers. Again, it’s a valid artistic choice, but the gratuitous violence flattens Jesus’ character — instead of this miraculous son of God, he becomes a moaning blood sprinkler.

In a flashback, Mary (Maia Morgenstern) recalls a typical day around the house with her son, a carpenter who just happens to be the Messiah. It’s as fabricated as the Gollum baby, but it evokes the awesome paradox of Jesus’ status as both God and human. I wonder why Gibson didn’t invent more such scenes, both to put Jesus’ suffering in a human context and to break up the bloodbath.

“The Passion of the Christ” is alternately touching - it’s a personal ode to God that perhaps should have been called “The Passion of the Mel” — and disappointing - it focuses more on corporeality than spirituality. This Catholic doesn’t regret going, but I’d recommend you read the book — the book — instead.