Monday, 21 January 2008

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About the Previous Liberal Fascism "Post" ... Wasn't meant to be one. Was what professional bloggers call a "draft." Now that I think about it, that is what "professional" bloggers call a "post": blustery quotations, predictable sarcasm and no original thought. I'm no professional blogger. But Jonah Goldberg is! You no doubt wonder why I continue to bother with this intellectual fraud. Has something to do with finishing the dissertation, with all the crossing of t's and dotting of i's I've performed these past few months. Bothers me someone could write something so crassly opportunistic and demand it be taken seriously. Bothers me more some people will oblige. Goldberg bathes in the adulation of those who know no better. Attend to the plaudits of the proud anti-intellectual! Witness the alexipharmic email he published this evening! You're a guy looking at two fish saying, "They're the same thing: fish." [Michael Ledeen]'s the specialist in ichthyology saying, "Nice try, but please. But this is a carp and the other is a haddock. The differences may be enumerated thusly ... " That carp are freshwater fish and haddock saltwater matters not! "Both are fish," Goldberg opines, "and should be treated as such. All that is required to raise either is a saltwater tank and some fish food. What do you mean, have I raised them myself? They're both fish. All they need is fish-food and saltwater. Are you some kind of expert or something?" When informed that his interlocutor is an expert, instead of demurring, Goldberg takes comfort in the ignorance of his readers. They know carp and haddock are both fish. They know all carp and haddock (being fish) need is fish-food and saltwater. "What," they demand, "could an ichthyologist possibly add to the conversation?" To which the ichthyologist rejoins, "Fewer dead fish. Better smelling tank. Cleaner filters. Edible food." Only expertise renders his opinion suspect. Experts distinguish when they should simplify. Imagine the headlines in Goldberg's ideal republic: "Anti-Anti-Fascists Lose Teeth," New York Times, 16 February 2008 A new and grotesque method of asserting their authority [has] been adopted by the Anti-Fascisti at The Corner. Entering apartments, they force residents to utter the national cry, "All Fish Are Fish, Are Fish, Are Fish!" Those who refuse to obey have some of their sound teeth pulled out. Would that my dissertation could "rise" to Adam Bellow's "high" standards ...
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Heath Ledger & Hollywood Clout I wouldn't normally post something like this—I'm none too keen on celebrity culture—but I wanted to note that I find the passing of Heath Ledger unaccountably saddening. Many an underreported (and likely undeserved) panegyric will echo through the media in the days to come, but few (if any) will address much more than the personal nature of this tragedy for those who knew him well or our hypothetical loss as consumers of contemporary cinema. But how hypothetical is our loss? Depends on how powerful the lost actor or actress is. Consider other selective stars who, like Ledger, leveraged their clout such that they only appeared in films they believed in: Had Johnny Depp died at 28 (in 1992), he would be remembered as Private Gator Lerner, Wade Walker, Officer Tom Hanson and Edward Scissorhands. In 1986, the 28-year-old Daniel Day-Lewis would have starred in My Beautiful Laundrette and A Room with a View. A 28-year-old Ralph Fiennes would be remembered as the "star" of a made-for-television movie about Lawrence After Arabia (1991). Now consider all the movies that would not have been produced had these three not thrown their weight behind the pet projects of talented directors. Where would Tim Burton be without Depp? Would Scorsese have been able to reestablish himself after Casino and Kundun had Day-Lewis not unretired to star in Gangs of New York? Would Harry Potter ever hit the screen had Fiennes not committed to play Voldemort? (Maybe.) Point being, the loss of talent with little clout (River Phoenix) has no real impact on what movies get made, whereas losing talent of Ledger's clout alters the Hollywood landscape. There will be no more gay cowboys. (There would have been none had not Ledger signed on. Studios were not feeling favorable to Ang Lee after the smashing success of Hulk.) The fate of the film Ledger was currently shooting, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, directed by the infamously hounded Terry Gilliam (who never would have brought Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to screen had it not been for Depp) is darker today than yesterday. Movies already being as bad as they are, I can't help but wonder whether much of my inexplicable sadness is explicably selfish: I would love to've seen what Ledger could've forced the studios to release. Now I never will.

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