Saturday, February 28, 2009

Death and Romance


People have a tendency to romanticize — to weave narratives that sound nice, fit snugly in the brain, but do not necessarily reflect reality. Take, for example, the faux-medieval vision at work in this notoriously sword-and-sorcery-nerdy rock video from Chris Dane Owens, pointed out to me by fellow ex-Film Bulletin writer Liz Braswell (and if Liz, herself a fantasy author, thinks it’s geeky, well…).

That romantic impulse in turn causes other nerds to rebel by deconstructing and de-romanticizing things — including superheroes, as in next week’s big Watchmen movie, about which this highly educational video was created by your government, for your protection, so it is every citizen’s duty to watch. Are YOU in violation of the Keene Act?

Two men (gods? man-gods? men-becoming-gods? shining Moorcockian cosmic messiahs?) who may well be in violation of the Keene Act are, of course, Scott Nybakken and Dan Raspler, a current and former (respectively) DC Comics editor who will duke it out in a Debate at Lolita Bar this coming Wednesday about nostalgia’s value or lack thereof in sci-fi, so more about that in a couple days.

In the meantime, Scott forwards this decidedly un-PETA and de-romanticizing video of a killer whale performance at an aquarium gone awry — no dead people, just one very unlucky pelican. (No demon, Scott also sends this cuter video of Australian firefighters rescuing a wildfire-surviving koala. And as it happens, our April 1 debate will be about religion and our May 6 debate about animal welfare, so all these themes are in some sense connected — and then there’s our likely June 3 debate about UFOs. By the way, Ryan Sager, victor in our last debate, just blogged about this unintentionally darkly-humorous excerpt from Werner Herzog’s Antarctica documentary Encounters at the End of the World, featuring a suicidally-deranged penguin.)


Say what you will about the Darwinian view of the world, at least it helps keep us from over-romanticizing non-human animals. Then again, there is apparently a part-animated, part-live-action 3D Yogi Bear movie in the works, so have we really learned anything? Perhaps we could learn more from a 3D Yogi Berra movie. Berra (who, like Abe Vigoda, is still alive) is, after all, the man who inspired the book What Time Is It? You Mean Now? Advice for Life from the Zennest Master of Them All.

And speaking of wisdom and carnivorous activity, check out the way the best species of all — homo sapiens — turns food into calorie-dense art on the glorious site ThisIsWhyYoureFat, pointed out to me by one of my ACSH co-workers, Jeff Stier (who is actually quite the gourmet, I should note). As my “Month of Evolution” draws to a close, I would advise other species who wish to compete with us on this planet to stop being so tasty.

Of course, some animals work better as pets than as food, such as the Portuguese water dog, which looks more than a little like the late Uber, my parents’ lovable prior mutt. It’s the breed the Obamas are considering getting. That’s plenty cute, but I must nonetheless say some negative things about the President’s recent speech — and even more so about David Brooks — in tomorrow’s entry.


Jacob T. Levy said...

Thanks for the Keene Act link; hadn’t seen that.

I love that Rorshach’s mask morphs into a question mark for the “if you suspect someone of being a vigilante” bit– nice nod to The Question.

But the use of 911 in a 1977 clip threw me out it for a moment. I don’t think 911 was in widespread use until the mid-80s, was it? (Yes, yes, a decade and a half of Dr. Manhattan could have changed all kinds of things.)

From now on we must all refer to Scott as a cosmic messiah.

Todd Seavey said...

According to Wiki., 911 was started as a national emergency number in 1968, imitating a similar Canadian system, of all things (though Canada, a.k.a. Mirror-Mirror U.S.A., used a different number).

By 1990, of course, Public Enemy was informing us that “911 Is a Joke,” since government responses to problems still aren’t very reliable. And speaking of fighting the power, fighting the powers that be, I’m off to that anti-government-spending American Tea Party protest at City Hall (and a couple museum exhibits I want to see), but more on that — and, as it happens, things from Canada — tomorrow, if I survive.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Ah, but here it says “This problem was at least partially solved in the USA, Canada, and the UK by dialing “0″ for the local assistance operator in case of emergency, although faster service could be obtained if the user dialed the full number for the Police or Fire Department. This system remained essentially unchanged throughout most of North America until the 1970s… The first US 911 emergency phone system came nine years later and was set up in Alabama in 1968, but it was not in use everywhere until the 1980s to standardize the number across most of the NANP. The implementation of 911 service in the USA was a gradual and haphazard process… The rapid replacement of electromechanical switching systems in the 1980s with electronic or digital systems eliminated the problem of older switches that would not recognize 911″

I feel validated. :-)