Malu and I watched the V for Vendetta DVD. How did this get made? To me, it’s a pointed and direct critique of the present U.S. government — with the “Strength Through Unity” posters substituted for “United We Stand”. (It was written during the Thatcher/Reagan years, but seems like it’s been updated — I haven’t read the comic.)
The Wachowski Bros. is the answer, I guess — it was a long standing project of theirs, since even before the Matrix movies, so the making-of featurette says. My guess is that they did some sort of quid pro quo deal, trading the Matrix sequels for a green light on this one.
Anyway — secret prisons, politicized religion and symbols, militarism, accusations of insufficient patriotism and terrorism. One of the lead characters is a terrorist, though they are careful that he doesn’t slaughter civilians — it all seems scarily prescient, especially the attitude, which isn’t gung ho, smash the “terrorist”, but rather smash the corrupt secretive lying government. The “terrorist” quotes Jefferson and Shakespeare and wears a mask throughout, making his acting task near impossible, and also making it somewhat frustrating for the audience. Like the 1st Matrix movie — a treatise wrapped in a heavily art-directed thriller.
Conversion via e-mail between an old friend and myself:
Friend: Just got back from X where a relative now lives. It was in many ways like the perfect town — super liberal, nice old Craftsman homes on cozy, tree-lined streets; friendly people; no one locks their front door; the stores are locally owned (no chains); free movies in the park; free outdoor concerts where kiosks sell Thai food or locally-made ice cream made with local ingredients; there's communal compost; a massive farmer's market; the health food store is huge and carries mostly local, organic food (not Horizon or big pseudo-organic companies); gorgeous scenery — really the closest thing to a utopian society that I’ve experienced. But there was an essential ingredient missing that made it seem kind of boring to me. It was the whitest place I've ever been. I was on the lookout for people of color and didn't see a single African American person in 5 days. (There were a couple of Native Americans and a few Asians, but that was it. Certainly not enough for an influence to be felt.) Heaven is indeed a dull, one-dimensional place. The locals we met were very happy there but made comments about how the town was a little too perfect, that there was something eerie about it — but I wondered whether they would actively want economic and ethnic diversity and the complex and challenging issues that go with it? I couldn’t help thinking that these people live in a bubble, that they're missing out, that it's sort of unhealthy or just plain wrong in today's multi-culti world. Maybe I’m acutely aware of this because we live in the most economically and ethnically diverse part of our area where the whites may complain about crime, but the multi-cultural aspect makes it anything but boring.
Me: Hmmm, paradise is boring, eh? Well, I guess it would be. Maybe we need difference, the unexpected, the not perfect and even the undesirable to keep our edges as beings and as a species? We sharpen and hone ourselves against the nasty old world, and we become who we are as a result. You buying any of this? We need something to push against, some resistance and some reminders that we can’t just coast — some tests, surprises, practice, uncertainty and even unpleasantness to make us ask ourselves constantly who we are, what do we want, where are we going and do we really want to go there?
Or maybe I’m simply justifying the [somewhat bumpy] life I lead? [NY is more suited for the wealthy now, but it is still a place where ambitious creative types struggle against the odds in tiny apartments and with not quite enough money.] Maybe I’m secretly jealous of your relative and others who have made a place that eliminates all the bad stuff. (And the “other”, as you say.)
Friend: I totally buy what you say. In my opinion, we do need the nasty stuff — the struggle and resistance give life purpose. How can you strive to achieve if you're already there? Can art and great ideas flourish in a stagnant environment? I think about things like The World cruise ship where millionaires live year round — is it the perfect existence or total hell?
Anyway, I like what you say about surprises, unpleasantness and uncertainty as motivation — little kicks in the butt. No fun, but perhaps necessary.
Daniel (a journal reader) wrote in the following:
When the Bass brothers financed the first Biosphere, that earth in a bubble out in Arizona, the trees all failed in an interesting way. All the trees in the biosphere were droopy and lacked the strength to stand upright. They grew, but were too weak to stand. They studied the problem and found the answer. No wind. The Biosphere bubble lacked any wind so the trees had nothing to make them sway. It was the swaying, pushing against an invisible yet very palpable force, that gave them the strength to grow upright, stand reaching up to the sky. I met one of the Bass brothers at an American Museum Association show and he took me to a Blues club that he owned in Fort Worth. The band was rocking and he was so down home I forgot all about the Biosphere so I never got to ask if the story was true.
A religious procession on 9th ave in the 50s yesterday (phone picture):
The brass behind had a novel way of keeping their music in front of them: