Monday, August 30, 2010


I've worked with gravity and with music all my life.  In that sense I believe I'm fairly well rounded.  This isn't to say that I'm a lawyer.

The US was founded on Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, which asserts that "all men are created equal."  However, that foundational concept was by no means written into the US Constitution.  In the latter document, which is the foundation of our legal structure and our government, many caveats are added to the basic principle that all men are created equal.

After the Civil War, Amendments were added to the Constitution.  This was a reasonable and good thing to do to try to codify some of the implications of the cataclysm which nearly destroyed the country, and did destroy so many American lives.  The first ten amendments were of course added shortly after the Constitution was ratified.  Among these Civil War tempered amendments was the 14th, which says, among other things, that the very simple absolute fact of birth confers American citizenship with all its rights and responsibilities upon any person so born in the US.  This Amendment essentially includes the principle Jefferson stated in the Declaration-- that all men are created equal-- in the Constitution, at least where the Constitution is valid--namely, within the boundaries of the United States.  (One could view the Declaration as a universal manifesto of human rights needless to say.)

It is thus no accident that Brown Versus Board of Education is grounded in the 14th Amendment.  Even after many years of legal segregation, the foundation of the 14th Amendment shone through to the Supreme Court of 1954-55.  It is also no accident that the forces of a radical conservatism currently rankled by the fact of an African-American President--forces who seem to believe Mr. Obama is some sort of dangerous radical despite every indication to the contrary (including many serious criticisms of Mr. Obama from the Left)--these forces now work towards the goal of changing the 14th Amendment.

The thing about the birth clause in the 14th Amendment is, it's simple.  Just like the basic statement in the Declaration of Independence. All Men Are Created Equal.  If you're born in the US, you are a citizen.  There is a fundamental clarity that comes with this simplicity.  This clarity was strong enough to overturn a system of segregation which had previously been acceptable to the Supreme Court despite it's obvious evil effects on black American citizens.  The Federal Government colluded with various states not only to segregate schools and private businesses, but to disenfranchise black citizens and render them second-class citizens in any number of ways.  It is no exaggeration to say that the Segregated United States was a veritable Titanic of a Ship of State, and that the 14th Amendment was its Iceberg.

It strikes me that these current efforts to "do something" about the 14th Amendment are symptomatic--they point to dangerous goals which radical conservatives keep very close and mostly hidden, or at least hidden from the general public.  If the simplicity and the strength of the birth clause is replaced with some complicated set of rules and regulations, something very important--possibly even irreplaceable--is lost.  Or gained, if you're a radical conservative.  Just go back to the original Constitution and you'll see what I mean.

In that document, Americans are numerically defined, and only a relative few Americans are even allowed to vote.  Indeed, not even the 14th Amendment conferred the vote on women!  That took yet another Amendment, and that Amendment, too, is under attack in some quarters--see, e.g., the Southern Baptist Conventions resolutions on the "submission" of women.  The Right Reverend Land spoke at the Beck rally on Saturday, as did this guy:

I don't mean, of course, that Southern Baptists or even the Southern Baptist Convention wish to repeal the Amendment giving women the right to vote.  Rather, I suggest that a doctrine which asserts that at least wives must be submissive to their husbands could be understood to imply that a "good wife" should enter the voting booth with her husband, and vote as he directs.  

All men are created equal is the beautiful breath of melody upon which the revolutionaries of 1776 set sail.  Men, in this usage, means human beings.  The Constitution, including the 14th Amendment, is the foundation upon which the great house we all live in rests today. Some of its cornerstones are mortared in the blood of the War Between the States. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The DC Beck Event

MLKing in Birmingham Jail, April 1963

I attended the March on Washington in 1963.  I was 20 years old, and had been a part of the civil rights movement in Chapel Hill that spring and summer.  At the March I was just another guy in the crowd.  I was proud to be there, because I was a white southern boy.  I wanted to make the statement, by my presence, that all white southern boys were not racists or proto-klansmen.  If you want to read about the Chapel Hill movement, John Ehle's "The Free Men" is a good place to start.

It was a complicated moment in my life, but what I did was fueled by a simple idea that I still don't believe was mistaken, namely, that segregation was wrong, and that it could be ended by acts of good will on the part of the perpetrators.  That's not to say that I wasn't naive.  The so-called "Southern Strategy" proves that, and that strategy continues in Mr. Beck's assembly today.  We'll see how it goes, and if Beck and the rest of the right wing punditry can gin up a Republican majority in Congress come November.  If that happens, we'll then get to watch a rerun of the impeachment game the GOP spent most of Clinton's second term playing.

I happened to watch Brian Williams' piece last night on Hurricane Katrina five years out.  It's just remarkable that the country could have actually impeached Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky mess, yet let Mr. Bush slide for his incredible incompetence concerning Katrina.  The aftermath of Katrina was breathtaking in its horror.  America at every level let hundreds of people literally die, when aid was available.  George Bush was President and had the power to do something.

Yet today we have another Tea Party rally, and on the very place that M.L.King gave his reverberating speech, and on the very date, and Mr. Beck can even pretend with a straight face that he was unaware of this synchronicity until after plans had been made.  This is how racism works in the 21st Century.  And if you have your doubts, watch the Katrina piece--surely it's on line.  Because that, too, is how racism works in the 21st Century.

One thing though.  Dr. King didn't have a radio show, and a teevee show, to build up attendance for the March on Washington in 1963.  People came to that March because it was time to say something about racism in the United States, and time to make some changes.  Seems to me that given Beck's media presence, if he doesn't draw a million people it's an abject failure on his part.  Hell, that many people believe the world is coming to an end tomorrow.  Any tomorrow.

Sunday Morning Update.  I never found some place to watch the Beck event on tv yesterday.  Surely it was covered, but who knows.  From what I gather, the turnout was relatively small (overhead shots generate a count of 87 K I've read).  But the primary thing is, the rally turned out to be weirdly a-political, living up to it's vague description of "restoring honor to America."  That's not really much of a phrase, and made less so by the fact that no one would actually explain what it meant.  Of course Dick Herbert is exactly right when he points out that the mere placement of the event on this hallowed ground and hallowed date has, in itself, a meaning:

And it was a relief to read Herbert's piece after reading the appalling "coverage" of the rally which the NY Times offered up as news.  The sandpapering away of basic mainstream media credibility is a 24/7 operation, and this is the latest evidence.  Nonesense flying ants, indeed. 

Here's what I think happened, for what it's worth.  As the moment of the event grew nigh, somebody Mr. Beck respects told him he wasn't wise to be fooling with the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King head on.  So he didn't.  It's the same pattern Beck has exhibited before--he's a man of indirection and snark, but if he's called directly he backs down (until he can get in front of his own people--then whatever he backed down on will be repeated again).  On Friday he told Joe Madison he didn't stand by his assertion that President Obama was a "black racist," a phrase he's used more than once.  Suddenly his supporters couldn't even remember when he ever said such a thing.  Same deal with having this event at the same place as the '63 March on Washington.  Called on it, Beck goes "What, huh?  Are you kidding?  I never looked at a calendar.?" 

With Beck it's probably about the money.  He's raking it in now.  But people who are on top do falter.  It happens all the time.

Alternatively, a guy named Jeff Kaye has a different view which is certainly worth your time to think about as well:

I'd also recommend Driftglass's Sunday Morning Coming Down, Part II (see my links).  He reprints Steve Gilliard's "We Told You So."  The other relevant anniversary this weekend is Katrina.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Details of Denial

We watched The Messenger last night.  It's a wonderfully acted movie and depicts a necessary aspect of war which our government, since the start of this bloody decade, has striven mightily to keep from our tender sensibilities.  For a long time, during the Bush years, it was actually close to illegal to photograph a flag-draped coffin. Photographers on the government payroll who did make such photographs were summarily fired on occasion.  President Obama has removed at least that stigma, but on the other hand, I'm not seeing much in the way of such details on any of the news programs I happen to watch.  As the Woody Harrelson character remarks, "They ought to put every funeral on TV."  Indeed.  And it was interesting that the U.S. Army cooperated fully with the making of the movie, and approved of it.  Mostly the military lives in the real world by necessity.  They may have to put blinders on when it comes to some decisions (one wonders if our military planners actually believe that attacking Iran is a sensible course of action, and if not, one hopes the planners will have the courage to demur), but there's no denial about the basic facts of war.  Men and women die, often horribly, and their friends grieve, often without relief.  When Sgt. Montgomery takes up the mission of informing the next of kin (NOKs) that their loved one has been killed, he says, "I never had any grief counselling, much less learned to give grief counseling."  The funny ad now running concerning the drill sargeant shrink and the weeping patient has in it some serious truth.

Here's the New York Times review of the Messenger.

Other reviews complained that the movie was too "slow."  Finding such complaints didn't surprise me.  I had watched, by accident, John Mills' great World War II movie set in the midst of the air war against Germany,  The Way to the Stars, the day before.  The two films are quite similar.  They center on the quality of character in a context where, more and more, heroes with character are passe--probably because development of character creates eddies in the pacing and thus risks lost of attention among the twenty-something viewers which most films are crafted to entertain.  In the Mills example, an American bomber pilot chooses not to have an affair with a widowed Englishwoman who runs a pub/hotel near the base, but instead has a quite believable friendship with her based on their shared loneliness (she grieves for her husband, he misses his wife and children--how many movies would, instead, have the American cheat in such circumstances, or even deride the choice these particular characters make).  Mills also believably eschews a developing romance with a pretty, overprotected English girl living at the hotel because of the grief in which his friend's death has left the widow in question.   The Way to the Stars is quite similar to it's more famous cousin, Twelve O'Clock High.  Unlike Twelve O'Clock, Stars has no gun camera footage at all, although both films present the tense moment when returning bombers are counted and the missing ones noted.  It was this aspect of the Allied Air War which seems to have been the most memorable to the recent participants--not the action, but the ache of living with the knowledge that friends would not return.  George McGovern, who flew one of those bombers (and never mentioned it in his campaign for President in 1972), talks of leaving an empty bunk as it was before a friend and roommate failed to return--for the war's duration no less. 

Very similarly, Sgt. Montgomery, in The Messenger, ends up in a grief-driven friendship with the widow he notifies of her husband's death.  The two consider a physical relationship, care deeply for each other--yet are both aware that such a choice isn't right for the conditions they are in.  Indeed, both films produce what one might term "realistic" happy endings, with the Mills romance finally getting started as the war is ending, and with the widow giving Sgt. Montgomery her new address and consenting to allow him to visit her sometime in the future.  Possibilities are at least pointed to, if not immediately realized.

In the dry terminology of developmental psychology, both these stories are about deferred goals.  Deferring goals is something adults are supposed to learn to do as they develop out of the childhood context.  The child screams for whatever it immediately wants.  The adult waits and works towards the desired.  The Bush wars suggested that the public practice a different sort of denial, unfortunately.  We were to ignore the wars entirely, and to continue shopping.  Meanwhile, our wars were and are being conducted by "professionals," many of them private mercenaries no less.  War has become another specialization.  A significant feature of our wars is now the pilotless drone, operated by computer by technicians in control rooms thousands of miles from the events.  And in our movies, what sells is decisive, riveting action--the explosion seconds behind the hero's passage, the sniper's bullet surprising the conversation, the tumult and incoherence of battle--be it D-Day or the courtyard in Somalia.  A story about a recovering veteran who has the character to keep his soul's scream silent--too slow.  But--again--the U.S. Army saw The Messenger as a movie to cooperate with, to aid in its production.  Or does a movie like The Messenger speak to all those who can no longer deny.  As Harrelson says to Ben Foster (Sgt. Montgomery), "you're not fit to sell insurance any more."  It's hard to argue that even the raw recruit wouldn't benefit from the wisdom this film depicts.  Oh yes, possibly some kids might choose not to enlist after seeing such a movie.  But it's actually much more likely that the kids are going to not go at all--not with the next shoot-em-up always available at the same ticket window.  And the Army knows this too, no doubt. 

Samantha Morton (photo as Olivia, in The Messenger) is the third key character in the film.  Like the Foster and Harrelson characters, she is grown up, and as we discover, she was grown up before getting the dread news that Foster and Harrelson are enlisted to bring as their "mission."  Harrelson is cynical: he's spotted a man's shirt on the clothes line at Olivia's house as they are leaving, and theorizes that she's being unfaithful--a caution to Foster not to become emotionally involved with Olivia.  It turns out to have been her husband's shirt--she'd coincidentally found it and washed it on the day the news came, but tells Foster in a later scene that he was long gone before he died--that the Army had already stolen him.  Olivia resists the temptation of an affair with Foster, however.  Why?  Because it's apparent that neither she nor Foster are ready for deep emotional involvement, no matter how sad and grieving they are, respectively.

This is the opposite of Mr. Bush's "Shop!" admonition, and the opposite, as well, of all the Rambos and rescue adventures that populate the movie houses of 2010.  And it's the opposite of "Bringing Democracy to Iraq" as well.  This movie is worth seeing because it lets us see our real life, from a slightly removed perspective--so that we can see it better.  Sunday, after the Mills movie on Turner Classics, they ran another, later Mills film, also starring George Peppard and Sophia Loren.  It was about a group of commandos aiming to find some hidden German facility producing missiles (I think it was).  It would be interesting to see this plot in the context of a search to find the drone command center.  If such a movie were made in Hollywood, the protagonists could always be killed off before any American soldier is harmed.  Certainly there would be no need to shake American Exceptionalism to its very core foundations.  Such movies have been successfully made in times past.  I think of the Young Lions for example.  The idea would be to exploit the tension between the obviously heroic efforts to thwart a kind of high tech sniping which is intrinsically amoral, and the fact that the heroes are clearly on the "wrong side."  Stories of the American Confederacy work this way.  The best example of all might be Das Boot.  Such flims would not suffer from "slowness"; instant gratification would be served.

The exqusite denial portrayed in the love scene between Foster and Morton is nonetheless a cinematic moment of great and enduring elegance, because it depicts true adult life. (It is also the pivot of the movie--the moment after which things change.) The question is, can such a scene be appreciated by a film audience which is not, itself, adult--which craves instant gratification--or will such an audience return to the movie in ten or twenty years and only then, "get it."  When I was a kid I loved Flying Leathernecks, and found The Bridges at Toko-Ri to be boring.  My father once said, of movies like Flying Leathernecks, "you have to read between the lines."  At the time I had no idea at all what he meant.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Fall Light

I'm of the opinion that fall light arrives at some indistinct point in August, at least in the "upper South."  I noticed it last weekend, or maybe it was early this week, looking out my window by my weigh-station at the scrap metal store where I work.  Admittedly, the office is air conditioned, which means that if the light is right, one might imagine just about any pleasant season going on out there.  Frequently my little trip to the hamburger joint for lunch is a blast-o-reality much like that encountered upon leaving the supermarket on a hot humid day.  Here in NC it's been 90 and above almost constantly since late June, with quite a few days getting close to 100.

My homemade dish in a fall past:

Anyway.  There is a "fall light."  It has to do with where the sun rises on the horizon, and how the shadows fall across the tree trunks and lawns, and usually it arrives some time before those wonderful fall temperatures, when the joys of sawing and splitting firewood and the hint of wood smoke in the air are still far to the north of us.  If we have a wood fire here in September I'll be surprised.  Back thirty years or so we'd have frost now and then in September--that too is most unlikely in the 21st Century.  And of course being the weather, Fats Waller will always be right, just like the broken watch (but much more delightful): "One never knows, do one."

Today Libby and I head out to play an afternoon wedding over at a little place called Sherrill's Ford.  It sounds a bit like a car dealership, but I think it's a spot near a lake over north of Charlotte and west of Lexington.  Daughter of old friends of ours is getting married.  We remember her as a tyke, just as we remember our own daughter (now 31) at all those various "ages" children go through as they grow up.  She and the bride, Sarah, grew up together more or less.  We'd go over to Sarah's house, eat, watch a rental movie, of a weekend.  I think I'd tend to go to sleep during the movie.  Sarah's dad did construction like I do now and then.  Sarah's mother and Libby commuted together for a while, the long haul from out here in the deep Piedmont woods to the northern apex of the Research Triangle.

The time passed as it will, and the oak and hickory trees I pitched my log cabin under got another twenty feet taller without my noticing, and back in '96, when Hurricane Fran paid us a visit, quite a number of them fell over, somehow managing not to hit the house even if they did take the power line down.  It was a message though, and now, while I love the cool shade they give us, I also look at them carefully, noticing the not quite plumb way they stand, remembering how the ones that fell seemed to be balanced on thin dinner plates of roots and soil--so thin that it seemed unlikely that they could remain standing for decades and decades as in fact they do.  There's also the fact that the Red Oaks amongst the gathering seem to be dying, and are probably a third of the total group of giants.  When a Red Oak dies it keeps standing for several years, but the roots are rotting in the ground, just like the branches are rotting overhead.  Then a much gentler wind can knock them over, or a big branch can suddenly let go when it gets soggy from a rain.  These trees are known as "widow makers" because someone sawing them can be killed by a silent, falling branch from up above, shaken loose just by the vibrations of the saw.

These widow makers make perfect firewood, since they're dried out standing.  A lot of my firewood I gather by sawing up ones that have already fallen, deep in the woods.  They will remain dry for years, held up by their top branches.  I get the pleasure of wandering the woods to find them, the fun of sawing and splitting them, and rolling them out to the truck with the wheelbarrow.  Then driving back to the house, tossing them off to make a great looking pile that says "ok, you'll be nice and warm for another chunk of time, you've caught up with the weather now."  Then getting it stacked, under a piece of roof tin--and about then even if it's cold, a nice beer sitting on the stoop and just looking at the work done.

So the start of all this fun is right now, Saturday morning, August 21, 2010.  The fall light is here. 

I was going to argue with that charlatan Franklin Graham this morning, concerning his remark about Mr. Obama carrying the "muslim seed."  Mr. Graham noted that muslims are "born," where as christians are made by choice.  Since he is of the evangelist school, one would have to ask, why then does he bother with the so called work of evangelism?  Of course back in the day, this work was actually a masqued cultural aggression in the service of the exploitation and control of resources.  As the charlatan philosopher William Bennett said yesterday on the radio, "this is an nation of commerce."  But if those other religions are simply inherited, it would seem there's not much room for actual "conversion" as a religious process.  This wouldn't really matter, of course, to the folks who are just conning the natives out of their stuff--the true task of the Bennetts and Grahams. 

Personally, I enjoy firewood gathering on Sunday morning.  Then I can come inside and watch something on the Dish.  With a nice fire of course.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

After Jumping off the Cliff

The link is to a very detailed conversation concerning the fate of a now 23-year-old Canadian who was severely wounded in the initial invasion of Afganistan by US forces just after 9/11/01.  He's been sitting down in our little part of Cuba ever since, while various angels dance on ever shrinking pin-heads with ever more audacious pirouettes for our enjoyment and amusement.  Somehow reminds me of the time Andy Jackson explained to the Cherokee that they really didn't own anything east of the Mississip, and had best start a-walkin out to their ancestral lands in Oklahoma.  "Way down yonder in the Indian Nation," Andy sang, slapping his sword on his thigh and sipping some of that good Tennessee Sour Mash between verses while the little black boy with the banjo took a break on the old 5-strang.

 Mr. Bush is of course now retired and working on the itinerary for his upcoming book tour.   If he drank any more he'd certainly have hissef a nice on-the-rocks from that bottle of Jack.  As it is, a glass of good Texas sweet tea will surely suffice, along with a modest helping of barbeque and slaw.  I'm torn between Andy Devine or Chill Wills as the man best suited to play either Jackson or Dubya.  It is a constant source of annoyance to me that America's first genocidal President is commemorated on the $20, which has become the $5 bill of the first decade of the 21st Century.  It's an unavoidable denomination--switching to $10s makes my ass hurt.  Third possible candidate for the dual role--Slim Pickens of course. 

Photo is of the actor Chill Wills.  I recommend watching George Stevens' Giant just for his cameos.  If the voting goes for Slim, I'd guess his famous ride in Dr. Strangelove approximates Mr. Bush's decision to leap boldly off the cliff.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Didn't You Know This Fact Was Going to Show Up?

Roy Edroso and many others have covered the amazing Mosque At Ground Zero controversy and continue to do so. Mr. Obama made a very moderate statement on Friday which, to say the least, puts the so-called issue in a Constitutional context. Today, without a doubt, the Right-Wing Radioheads will continue to fulminate about the Mosque At Ground Zero. The true and sad cost of this blatant politicization of the faith of many thousands if not millions of Americans is apparently of no interest to people like Sean Hannity, not to mention many of our Senators and Congress Persons. An antidote to some of this jingoism and viciousness aired on NPR yesterday in the form of a series of interviews with Americans of the Muslim faith concerning their first experience celebrating Ramadan, which includes fasting. No doubt Hannity and the like will dismiss any information coming from NPR as being suspect--no matter that we could hear the individual voices and, with ease, understand something of who these nice individuals are. Libby and I listened as we drove along I-85, coming back from Georgia in our nice rented, airconditioned Impala.

Anyways, reading the news this morning, I find the following fact:

Seems there's already at least two mosques located "near Ground Zero." Not at all surprising given the wonderful ethnic diversity that is New York City. But still--how much more depressing can this racist, jingoistic campaign aimed at inflaming the country against muslims become. Does Hannity not recall that a day or two after 9/11 some idiot out in Arizona shot and killed a man working in a convenience store because he was wearing a turban? I mean really! A guy named "Sean" of all things might have some sensitivity for the sport of knee-capping. You'd think?

Well, onwards and upwards with the arts. Check out Mr. Edroso if you want to read more on the fulminating class. He's over in my links section.

The photo is of the "Blue Mosque," Istanbul, Turkey

Update: A distinction of sorts has now been made, between the constitutional issue of which Mr. Obama spoke, and "American Opinion," supposedly solidly against the "Mosque At Ground Zero."  Even Mr. Harry Reid, D Nevada, suggests that "American Opinion" now be considered.  The Democratic Party is going gain nothing by this sort of "concession," as they gained nothing by conceding more and more to the hard right in last year's conversation on American health care.  There was, after all, no "American Opinion" on the "Mosque At Ground Zero" until the whole thing was pumped up by propagandists.  Even with all the propaganda, people who live in Manhattan are in favor of the mosque. Oh, you doubt there was no "American Opinion" on the "Mosque At Ground Zero."  Well, then, you must burn with a white hot rage at the facts depicted here:

Because it's this same crew who have pumped up the rage today, and the same so-called "desecration."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Dr." Laura's Racist Gaff

"Dr." Laura recently

A brief comment, as Libby and I are heading out to Georgia to play some music for a contradance tonight. (Y'all come, if you're in the neighborhood--Go Bulldawgs). Dr. Laura's outburst Tuesday to a caller, which concluded with "maybe you shouldn't have married outside your race," is remarkable for it's regurgitation of the worst of "commonsense" views.

I was happy to see Ed Schultz spend some time on the outburst on his MSNBC show yesterday. I thought "Dr." Laura looked rather aged in the photos he posted with the story. Why she's ever had a radio show and the presumed competence to give advice to people, I have no idea. What she's always been good at is off-the-cuff judgments frequently laced with sarcasm. She's a humorous minor character in a drawing room comedy, at best--Roz Russell in Picnic maybe. "Don't go with that drifter tonight, even if he looks like William Holden, and if you do, for gawd's sake don't let him in your drawers and ruin your life." Hopefully she's made a big enough mistake to get kicked off the air. As Schultz noted, the best way to achieve that result would be the General Sherman strategy. Pretty soon we'll have separate but "equal" grocery stores and banks in the US of A. Dr. Laura dancing on the head of a pin--has she got the chops anymore? Those nekked pics of her were from quite a ways back.

Update: re Laurie's comment, I think the only "place" for Dr. Laura is now as a character in a play or skit denoting outmoded and passe views from an earlier era. Of course culture being what it is, these various "eras" overlap, and for many, Dr. Laura appears to be a genuine source of cultural and ethical knowledge. Which I guess means that our great cultural schism reveals itself along many fault lines when we take observations with precise instrumentation. She has become merely an eddy in the stream these days, however. The big warriors are now taking on whole world religions and nations. The seismometer points to a big upcoming noggin explosion when the Repeal-the-14th-Amendment crowd looks in the mirror and sees a "Right-to-Lifer."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tarsem's The Fall--Some Thoughts

Catinca Untaru, star of The Fall

I'm not sure where I heard about The Fall. Definitely not via a typical review.

Here's a typical review. Maybe reviewers tend to get tired of watching movies. This particular slashing goes the extra mile and insults anyone who happens to like the movie. Go if you're stoned, it says. You'll like it if you're stoned.

This, in another context, is called framing. I'm very glad I watched the movie before reading any of this stuff. You might do likewise, actually, but I want to talk a little bit about the larger implications of the movie, as it resides in our current world, filled as it is with loud voices encouraging us to engage in a war with a whole religion--Islam--and to see the world beyond our very special, freedom loving borders, as warped, crippled, broken, paralized, almost suicidal, and in desperate need of what America seems capable of delivering--baptism by fire.

Lately there's been two different ranting themes from the American right, both centering on the 14th Amendment (how curious). On the one hand we find the so-called "Anchor Baby" issue, something Lindsey Graham, the "nice" Senator from the Pimento State, describes as mothers coming here to "drop" babies. The goal of these foes of one of the most generous features of a Constitution that, let's recall, was forged by slave-owners--why to get rid of said feature of course, and to make even the act of being born contain a criminal aspect. Then there's the other thing about the 14th Amendment--equal protection--just last week given form in the brilliant and courageous ruling in San Francisco that, as is of course obvious, a person in the Land of the Free should have the freedom to marry the person they love, period, end of story. Even our sitting President, Barack Obama, isn't quite on board with this ruling, although his so-called "position" on the matter is transparently a valiant effort to keep the issue from being tied around his neck like an anchor by the hateful and hate filled bigots who already are convinced he's a Communist Manchurian Candidate from Kenya or Indonesia.

The other theme of hate which seems to fill the air-ways these days is the "Mosque at Ground Zero" story. This too has an equal protection facet, well described by New York's Mayor Bloomberg when he explained the decision to allow the building of the Mosque, which actually isn't "at" Ground Zero at all--but of course hate marketers care little for nuance and clarity unless these abstract features happen to serve their interests. For more on this part of the story, see:,_extremism_at_ground_zero_%28again%29__/

Ever since 9/11/01, the Hate Merchants have wanted the United States to declare war on Islam. Since we had an extremely limited person as President at the moment of the event, coupled with a shrewd manipulator with an eye on U.S. strategic oil reserves and their gigantic economic implications, the Administration met hate half way and declared war on Terror, although it maintained a position as contradictory as that of Mr. Obama with regard to marriage, attacking Terror with buzz bombs which frequently killed random passerby as well or instead of the actual terrorist targets--which would of course be a method of Terrorism, just as it was when Germany used it against London. Oh yes, indeed I do understand that in the case of the highly sophisticated buzz bombs (no doubt manufactured in the Pimento State, which bizarrely has a crescent moon and a palm tree on its State tie--I happen to know because I was married wearing such a tie)we are able to direct their course with a high degree of accuracy from computers in air-conditioned rooms 10,000 miles away from the targets, which means that we can hit exactly the house we are aiming for, or the jeep even, whereas the buzz bombs just kinda rained down willy-nilly. That is a difference for sure.

But getting back to The Fall. I'm not sure what the critics' problem is, aside from an over-dose of cynicism, and an over-abundance of literalism, or at least literalism of a certain kind. The Fall is about the world. Its perspective is a dual but related one--it sees the world with the wonder of a child, and with the Olympian grasp of someone who has lived in the lands of Islam and other religions and cultures. Tarsem tells a simple, child's story to keep the stern logicians in their seats long enough to be inoculated by the poetry and beauty their logic endeavors to disregard. In the end, the suicide weeps and apologizes to the child, who forgives him. The Fall is even an act of love--apparently Tarsem spent his own fortune to get it made, with all those real locations, with even an elephant swimming in the ocean.

The two short documentaries of the making of The Fall which accompanied the DVD I rented are also worth watching. In them you will see hundreds of people who live in the locations, watching the filming. Try to think of them as the face of "collateral damage," for that is what they are. At the moment they remain more or less neutral. The lunatic who devised the events we call 9/11 has managed to get the United States to waltz with him in this decade-long dance of death. This Fall we may well turn back towards a war with Iran. That's what the haters seem to yearn for. Miss Untaru is from Romania as it happens. She might as well be from Iran, one of the few locations Tarsem was unable to film in.