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Archive: October 2004

William Gibson returns to blogging

William Gibson returns to blogging: "Because the United States currently has, as Jack Womack so succintly puts it, a president who makes Richard Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln. And because, as the Spanish philospher Unamuno said, 'At times, to be silent is to lie.'"

Via: Boing Boing

14 October 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

The Ultimate Silence

The Ultimate Silence: "Six years ago today, Matthew Shepard was murdered for being homosexual."

12 October 2004 by Steven | Permalink | One comment »

Return of the Search Keyphrases

For some reason, about half of the search keyphrases by which people have stumbled upon Peiratikos lately are Kill Bill-related. About half of those are postmodernism in kill bill or similar, which makes me happy because I thought Kill Bill was one of the most aggressively postmodernist films I’ve ever seen (I think Quentin Tarantino probably disagrees, though).

Tragically, Anne Frank’s livejournal has been “suspended.”
tim o neil
I think you must be looking for The Hurting.
captain america mark gruenwald
I think you must be looking for Motime Like the Present.
what does the acronym marvel stand for
Machine Assisted Realization of the Virtual Electronic Library
why kids worship superheroes
Lack of prayer in the schools is my guess.
shrimp fins and scales
Remember, children, God Hates Shrimp.
bryan lee o malley
Try or Scott Pilgrim Dot Com. Then buy Scott Pilgrim and Lost at Sea. And read them.
pages are numbered
I wish.
what does the plank of a ship look like
Here’s a plank from the quarter deck of the USS Arizona.
does god care for animals?
Frankly, no.

It Zwibble is dead

Christopher Reeve, perhaps best known for his role in the classic Earthday Birthday, has died.

Christopher Reeve

Bright Young Things

Rose and I saw Bright Young Things a few weeks ago but haven’t written about it because we’ve both been awfully lazy w/r/t blogging. Oh well. I’ve also been reading the literary source, Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, except I haven’t actually read any of it in a couple weeks, so I suppose I’m not reading it anymore right not. Not because I didn’t enjoy what I read or anything.

Anyway, the most immediately obvious reading of Bright Young Things, and one which many reviewers have pointed out, is as a social critique of our modern society’s own Hiltons and Britneys. It certainly is, although not directly. The public obsession with celebrity qua celebrity is much the same, but the scandal is different. There’s a big difference between reading a pruriently coy report of the exploits of Agatha Runcible in a gossip column and watching a porn video of Paris Hilton. There’s a subplot in Bright Young Things in which Agatha and friends inadvertently destroy the political career of the Prime Minister after his daughter invites them to wrap up a night’s partying at her house. It’s a fictional counterpart of the Clinton sex scandals, but the vitally important difference is that Clinton got away with it. That ridiculous orgy of scandalized public entertainment forever changed the relationship in American culture between sex, morality hypocrisy.

Every aspect of the movie’s construction—the visuals, the editing, the narrative—feels like a freewheeling jazz band gone out of control. The central narrative thread, as much as there is one, is a romantic farce in which Adam Fenwick Symes continuously is unable to marry his fiancée Nina Blount on account of being broke. He’s supposed to publish a book and get rich from that, but the manuscript is confiscated at customs. He wins a thousand pounds in a bet, but he foolishly gives to an unreliable drunken major to bet on a worthless horse. He gets a check for a thousand pounds from Nina’s father Colonel Blount—but the colonel signs the check “Charlie Chaplin.” These misadventures weave through an unending series of vibrantly filmed parties at which everybody snorts cocaine and expresses profound boredom. The one early moment that threatens to put the brakes on the fun is the suicide of Simon, Earl of Balcairn and writer of the famed gossip column Mr. Chatterbox. The passing mention in the movie that he’s twenty-three when he kills himself is sobering—he’s twenty-three years old and he’s killing himself because he wasn’t invited to a party? or maybe simply because he’s bored? But the unstoppable fun/gossip machine grinds right over his corpse and churns out more scandalous gossip.

The party parade does finally begin to fall apart. I think the turning point is when Miles mentions he’s the new Mr. Chatterbox writer. It’s understandable when Adam takes the Mr. Chatterbox job earlier in the movie, since he’s at least pretending to want to make something of himself, but Miles is one of the true decadents, whom you can’t imagine has done a single useful thing in his life. That he would stoop to employment–albeit employment that involves doing what he always does anyway and then writing about it—he must be really desperate for cash. In fact, the only characters in the movie who aren’t broke seem to be the two nobody likes: Archie Schwert, an entirely uninteresting fellow who nevertheless throws the best parties, and Ginger, a creepy slug whom Nina ends up deciding to marry only for his money. The drunken major and Colonel Blount also seem to have money they want to give to Adam, but they’re also both mad as hatters and serve as mostly unwitting antagonists in his desire to get the money.

The best thing about Bright Young Things is the way it avoids moralistic critiques. In fact, it saves its sharpest satiric derision for those shouting the loudest moral denunciations. The disgraced Prime Minister and the evangelist Mrs. Melrose Ape both condemn the activities of the beautiful young people, but they both participate in and are complicit in those very activities. The movie suggests Mrs. Ape prostitutes her Christian choir of young girls to party goers. Their true enemies are the gossip columnists, who gleefully expose their hypocrisy. As for the beautiful young people themselves, the movie is content to subtly point out the pathetic truth about them: they’re all penniless and bored. They like to talk about how bored they always are, but it’s a long time before they realize they’re telling the truth when they say it.

The arrival of World War II near the end of the movie isn’t a comeuppance for the characters. Their world has already collapsed, and the war only marks the finality of the collapse. The only ones left by the end are Ginger, Nina and Adam. Their younger selves, from before the war, would probably say they’re much worse off in the end, but they’re really not. Ginger has lost his vast wealth (if he even had it in the first place) and is a fugitive from the law, but at least he’s got £34,000 and a means of escape to America (where he’s sure people appreciate outlaws like him). Adam and Nina, inevitably, are still broke, but they’re together and in love, and that was all they ever wanted anyway, even when they wouldn’t admit it to themselves.