Thursday, December 23, 2004

My Top Twelve of 2004

Anyone who has begun to think
places some portion of the world in jeopardy.
-- John Dewey

Did I get yer attention?

Good. Bear with me for a minute or two. Tetris can wait, can't it?

I had to do an 'end of the year list', (for no other reason than to piss you off) -- but in my irritating obsession with "wanting to be different", I also had to make it a dozen -- as opposed to the standard "Top 10" found among writers who have much more discipline when it comes to cutting up their babies and leaving them in boxes beside the information highway.

I know that like all Americans, you suffer from ADD, which means that whether it's 22 dead in Mosul -- or a quick glimpse at a breast during the Super Bowl, your tiny cotton candy brain can only process a finite amount of information for a few seconds at a time before it jettisons the current 'thought' and moves on to the next smash-cut MTV-like commercial or "news flash" about the latest celebrity murderer.

(Hell, half the U.S.A. could be obliterated in a nuclear bomb, but within fifteen minutes, you'd be seeing commercials for Viagra in between the views of smoldering cities tearfully described by Katie Couric.)

Remember after 9/11?

"Can we ever laugh again?"

"Can we ever smile again?"

"Will we ever allow ourselves a frivolous moment in the face of 3000 dead, innocent Americans?"

You've gotta be kiddin' me.

Your typical American can lose a close family member, and within 20 minutes, they're being interviewed on CNN, looking for an agent, cutting a book deal, and acting like they just misplaced their car keys.

Memory loss apparently has its advantages -- but I'm here to remind you what the Year Of Our Lord 2004 was all about. One only has to do a quick perusal of Shark's total entries for the year to see highlights of every major 'cultural' event for the last twelve months.

For about fiftteen minutes, each of the following events dominated our lives as if our very survival depended on a full understanding of their importance. And as each "significant" moment was erased by the Next Big Thing vomited up by the collective Whore of Babylon known as "The Media", it was quickly replaced by another "Next Big Thing" -- so pay attention -- and um... get out your credit cards.

Remember these?

A breast, Mel Gibson, South Carolina and the Confederate Flag, Prayer prayer prayer, IRAQ, road rage, RIAA vs downloading, Abu Ghraib, Martha Stewart, the GOP Convention, The Olympics, and the Christoids vs Halloween?

Yeah, I didn't think so. Hell, I bet you don't even remember John Kerry. Here, see if this rings a bell:

Swift Boat.
Purple Heart.

...oh, sorry, I got hypnotized by the pattern there...

Anyway, if you think hard, you might remember these and other totally unimportant events that were blown way out of proportion in the year 2004.

If not, I'm here to help. I'm here to remind you that what you see, think, hear, and feel today is about as meaningless as a set of dentures on a duck.

And that as long as you stay forgetful, stupid, and scared -- this great nation will continue to function just fine -- thank you very much.



Final Word on the Super (toilet) Bowl ...wherein Shark tells you the significance of the most overrated moment in contemporary history, that nano-second when Janet Jackson's chemically enhanced breast was exposed on national TV -- during a football game, no less!

Passion Fruit ...wherein Shark does Mel Gibson's biblical bloodfest known as "The Passion" (which -- ironically -- was also a fab porno movie in the 1970s). Yeah, I know that pointing out a contemporary Christoids' hypocrisy is like shooting fish in a barrel, but sometimes, ya just gotta pull the trigger -- regardless of whose divine mythological being is gettin' gored. Besides, He and Mel both died for my... oh, nevermind. Get thee behind me, reader!

Take the Test: Are You a Racist? ...wherein Shark mocks his fellow crackers from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, from semi-guilty Yankee liberals who don't understand how if feels to be the only 'Americans' to have ever lost a war (exception: see Bush/Iraq, circa 2004) to toothless rednecks who fly Confederate flags over their mobile homes. (Note: this post was yet another reason for the late, great Mac-whats-her-name to misread, misunderstand, and misinterpret my vast superior intellect -- claiming once again that my 'racist test' is explicit evidence of my current standing as a slave owner and Grand Poobah of the Bumfuque, Alabama branch of the KKK.

Pray Before Play: The New Amendment ...wherein Shark projects the current Christoid-Right Wing Fundamentalist Tent Revival into the near future; when people who pray violate Matthew chapter 6, come out of the closet, and pray their asses off in public. Whoops! Who knew there was more than ONE religion in the good ol' U. S. A.? Goddammit. Don't you hate it when you have to be fair?!

A New Plan For Iraq ...wherein Shark explains the "Exit Strategy" for the disaster known as Vietn... I mean, Iraq. (READ THIS. FORWARD IT TO YOUR SENATOR AND CONGRESSMAN.)

Stress Is Killing Me ...wherein Shark explains why the hormone Cortisol is constantly coursing through your veins in direct proportion to the amount of TV News you consume; ie. why you're a sick puppy stuck in an overcrowded kennel filled with ultra-violent paranoid inbreeds.

He Kills People: Fine. He Downloads Music, GET HIM! The U.S. government can't catch Bin Laden, but they can track down 12 year old kids who download music off the internet. Fuck the Terrorists! Madonna needs her royalties!

Iraq: It's Over; We Lost ...Wherein Shark tries to remember happy crowds in the streets of Iraq? Showers of flowers and kisses? ...but no, he keeps seeing the image of a hooded prisoner standing on a box with wires stuck on his fingers. We went to Iraq and were supposed to 'fix' the "region" with a nice dose of Freedom and Democracy... Remember Abu Ghraib? Well, there goes the neighborhood!

Martha Stewart's Dear Diary ...wherein Shark exposes Martha's private prison journal. (By the way: Ken Lay and Jeffery Skilling are free. Martha Stewart is in prison. Never mind; your job is to Entertain Yourself, keep your eye on the swinging pocketwatch -- and don't you dare ask any important questions.)

Secret GOP Convention Plans ...wherein Shark exposes Karl Rove's top secret, minute-by-minute plan for the Republican Convention.

Olympics Opening Ceremony ...wherein Shark shares a touchy-feely, we're-all-supposed-to-squirt-a-few-tears collective cultural moment with his fellow Americans... and ends up wanting to get a Manlicher-Carcano rifle and find a nice open view on the sixth floor of any building in America.

Hell House: A Halloween Nightmare ...wherein Shark gets "scared straight" by a vision of Christian Youth somewhere near Burleson, Texas.


If you go to Blogcritics and viddy any of these essays, LEAVE A COMMENT.

That let's me know I'm not alone.

"You mean I'm not alone?!"

Monday, December 20, 2004

Shark Watches HUD again...

Watched "HUD" (1963) again this weekend. Oh. My. Gawd.

(1963 was the year when America's innocence died. If you lived through that year, it's impossible to forget.)

HUD is one of those rare films that actually deserved the many Oscars it received. Patricia Neal and Melvin Douglas - for acting: James Wong Howe for gorgeous B&W cinematography. (Newman didn't get an Oscar for his acting even though he probably deserved it. Few actors have eaten up the screen like Newman did as Hud, and the only case of an equivalent was in COOL HAND LUKE (1967) which Shark believes to be the Greatest Film Ever Made, by the way.

Oh, the beauty of this classic black and white. The disregard for standard lighting 'logic' and conventions -- which adds to the beauty and other-worldliness of this film.

Story was adapted from the great Larry McMurtry's first novel, "Horseman Pass By" -- a Texan family is torn between two philosophies, a common dichotomy -- new vs traditional, young vs old, nihilism vs tradition, selfishness vs compassion, greed vs altruism -- or in writer Arthur Koestler's terms:

self-assertive -vs- self transcendent,
ie. inner vs outer,
preservation of the self -vs- harmony with the greater good,
I,Me,Mine -vs- family, tribe, community

This film also contains one of the most powerful, classic, and quotable lines in all of film history -- and is ESPECIALLY applicable today:

Hud's father, Homer Bannon says:

"...Little by little, the look of the country changes because of the men we admire. You're just going to have to make up your own mind one day about what's right and wrong."

One is reminded of the loss of the admirable characters of our narrative myths -- replaced by a cultural landscape teeming with steroid studs, singer sluts, killer crazies, rapists, sports heroes, shock jocks, fake faith healers, con men, weighlifting/actor/governor, politicians who lie-cheat-steal, etc etc etc ad infinitum.

I was also reminded that we're sort of past the era when films could have 'negative' endings like HUD's. Maybe not.

Tragedy is as old as drama, but most moronic Americans want feel-good-popcorn crap to keep their tiny limbic regions from contemplating the meaninglessness of their lives. It's "too depressing" -- which means Shakespeare would be shit out of luck if he were writing for Hollywood these days.

"The comedies are great, Willie, but forget that stuff with the sad endings. Nobody wants to leave the theater on a bummer..."


Anyway, check out HUD sometime soon. It's a masterpiece.

Shark's Digital Christmas Card

A reminder of what Christmas is ALL ABOUT...

xoxo and Merry Christmas
from Shark

Married Christmas! Notes for the Dysfunctional

It's the holidays, kids, that time when we celebrate the birth of the Son of God and the Savior of Humankind -- by shopping, getting stressed out, and starting violent domestic squabbles with extended families we can't stand to be around any other time.

Yes, it's time for families to get together to celebrate the Season of Guilt.

Who do you buy presents for?

How much should you spend?

No matter what you decide, you'll always feel guilty: someone gives you a present and you don't reciprocate -- or you either spend too much or spend too little. There is no middle ground when it comes to gift-giving: You're either a nice thoughtful person deep in debt -- or a cheap, ungrateful bastard.

Loving relationships are pushed to the brink of total destruction by another annual dilemma fraught with guilt: "Where do we spend Christmas?" If inlaws live in separate cities, the decision is simple; most couples use the alternating system: "Yours last year -- mine this year."

For those unlucky enough to have local parents, the dilemma is more complicated. The alternating system is also used, but it always has to include the same annual arguments: Whose house do we visit first? How long do we stay? Where do we eat the Big Dinner? Where do we watch the Big Game?

The situation is bad enough if you're in a stable first marriage, but if you're on a second or third marriage, the presence of yours, mine, and ours multiplies the problems exponentially; dealing with half-a-dozen grandparents and a small army of semi-related children is great for the economy, but a killer when it comes to stress. Either way, numerous spats and hurt feelings will precede the same old inevitable plan:

Mom#1's house - Introductions to family members you haven't seen since the last major holiday. Try to avoid the token weird, alcoholic Uncle Bill. Eat the "Big Dinner" -- but go light -- since the earlier negotiated settlement meant dinner with both families.

(Note: Both Mom#1 and Mom#2 use sugar as the main ingredient in all their holiday recipes. Whether it's the glazed ham, the candied yams, or the Fudge of Death, your sugar intake for the day will be equivalent to eating your weight in M&Ms. If you're female, each time you compliment a dish, you'll spend the next 20 minutes jotting down the recipe. This is a psychological gesture that will forever endear you to your mother-in-law.)

At half time during The Big Game, waddle out to the car and repeat all of the above at Mom #2's house.

By early evening, you're bored, depressed, and suffering from severe pumpkin pie poisoning. Just when you're ready to pack up and leave, some idiot suggests a game of Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit -- or if you're really unlucky, Monopoly.

Mom #2 begs you to stay -- and you grudgingly agree in order to avoid a later fight with your spouse as a climax to the celebrations.

Six hours later, bankrupted by an eight-year-old capitalist prick with four hotels on Park Place, you head for the house.

What a day: Eighteen hours of food, drink, games, recipes, and guilt.

No matter where you choose to spend the holidays, you'll end up with the blues -- guilty because you're somewhere you wish you weren't -- or guilty because you didn't go and you know you should have gone. There is no way to avoid it.

Say that you decide to put your foot down and stay home for the holidays; on Christmas Day, you'll be imagining Mom#1 and Mom#2 tearfully staring at an empty chair at the dinner table, muttering your name into their eggnog. You'll wonder if the Christmas tree lights will support your weight as you hang from the rafters in the garage.

It's a tough time, but you should be consoled in the knowledge that millions of others are going through the exact same things at this time of year. That's why God made New Year's Eve: It's a chance for everyone to get drunk a week later (That's why it's called the alcoholidays!) and make a resolution to avoid all of this dysfunctional nonsense next year.

And you and millions of others like you will forget that resolution and do it all over again.

It's a tradition.