Monday, November 13, 2006
I have never read Niall Ferguson, the historian. I have wasted enough of my time, as a Southern historian, reading what the defenders of slavery have to say that I am not really very interested in reading the British version of Time on the Cross about how wonderful the colonies were, and how nice the world would be if France and England had realized that Germany had EVERY RIGHT to help Austria eviscerate the Balkans in 1914. It drains the soul to see what lengths ideologues will go to prove a series of idocies with a lot of hair-splitting and speculation and rather transparent rhetorical tricks. And all they have to say to their critics is, "Sorry to upset the liberal orthodoxy in academia! Everybody is so politically correct these days! Stop the Academic Inquisition!" and they think they don't have to defend their arguments.
But I have read Ferguson the deep political thinker, whose column appears in the L.A. Times. (Despite the ban on conservatives I keep hearing about, The L.A. Times carries Ferguson, Jonah Goldberg, and Max Boot. If the ban is on honest, decent, rational conservatives, then the L.A. Times is guilty, as is every media outlet in the country.) He is a douchebag who would be shunned in any ethical newspaper interested in real balance, but journalistic affirmative action mandates that conservatives get equal time, despite their lack of equal merit or accuracy. (Which explains why Mallard Fillmore is the conservative equivalent of Doonesbury.)
This week, Ferguson weighed in on ... Borat.
He claims that Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays Borat, was one of his students when he was at Cambridge. I'll take Ferguson's word for it since I have never caught Ferguson in a really blatant fabrication (unlike Goldberg or Thomas Sowell or Ann Coulter or Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh or so many others. Max Boot, I don't even understand what his point is most of the time, so I don't know if he's a blatant liar or not.)
According to Ferguson, it seems that Cohen, when he entraps Americans and provokes them into acting like racist and homophoobic fools, is carrying out some kind of mean liberal mission. Ferguson casts the brave Red State inhabitants as martyrs, victims of Borat's insincerity. And Ferguson ties it all in to the Nov. 7 election, coming as it did just days after the release of Borat.
... American audiences roar with laughter. The film is a hit, topping the box office again this weekend and generating close to $68 million so far.
The explanation is, of course, that nearly all Borat's victims are Republicans. God-fearing, often Southern and just a little unused to tricky foreigners, such people were supposed to be the Republican Party's core support. Suddenly the rest of the nation is laughing at them - and outvoting them. It's as if blue America is in on the joke being played on red America by Sacha.
Is Ferguson writing this just for the benefit of people he knows are unlikely to see the movie? Yes, there are some very funny scenes involving racists and homophobes, but there are also scenes of Borat interviewing and interacting with people who are given the same opportuniy to be dumb. New York feminists are shocked by Borat's condescending attitude and refuse to talk to him anymore. He meets with a humor instructor, provoking some very funny material. He learns to drive and has some funny moments with a driving instructor, but not at the driving instructor's expense. He meets with a lot of people, but the scenes that are provoking comment from Ferguson (and other conservative commentators) involve overt expressions of racism, sexism and homophobia.
You know, if Al Franken or John Kerry pointed at the Borat movie and said, "Those dumb people are Republicans," the right-wing would be all over them. But Ferguson is on their side, so it's perfectly acceptable for him to say "Borat is making fun of Republicans in his movie by singling out stupid, racist, homophobic, misogynist Southerners." Never mind that conservatives frequently say things like, "liberals are just as racist, sexist, etc. as conservatives." That talking point won't work very well if your main point is that Borat is just another liberal making fun of the people of America's heartland. But I have little doubt that Ferguson will be contradicting himself on this point within a few weeks, if it suits his talking point of the week.
Ferguson then points out that Democrats shouldn't be so quick to start making fun of those hi-larious racists and homophobes that make up the Republican base. (He said it. Not me. Just because it's the conservative talking point de jour, doesn't mean liberals are really saying it. Or thinking it.) You see, the Democratic win on Nov. 7 doesn't really mean a whole lot in the long run because those far left extremists who want to surrender to the terrorists and ban the Bible and impose mandatory gay weddings weren't the choice of "many disillusioned Republican and independent voters."
But the Dems they backed were often so-called Blue Dogs, such as newly elected North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, the former pro football player who opposes abortion and birth control.
Oooh, look! The professor put in one example! That puts him in another class entirley from the usual conservative columnist. He must be a GREAT CONSERVATIVE INTELLECTUAL. (Extra points, professor, if it turns out to be true!)
In other words, conservative Dems.
Gosh. Nobody else (except Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, all the anchors on Fox News, half the anchors on CNN, and everybody who got the White House Talking Point of the week memo) mentioned this. The professor really is a GREAT CONSERVATIVE THINKER.
Ferguson then warns the Democrats of being like Borat. They shoudln't make fun of or antagonize the racists and homophobes in America because ...
... the Democrats could quite quickly alienate the voters they managed to win over last week - or rather the voters the Republicans managed to drive away.
And he warns us all that pissing off the nation's racists and homophobes might pave the way for a McCain victory in 2008, presumably because maverick McCain will be too spineless to stand up against racism and homophobia and misogyny because it would alienate the racists and homophobes, and McCain needs those votes.
(I may be misinterpreting Ferguson a bit. But this piece is so nonsensical and pandering that this fuckwit deserves what he gets. What a waste of a Ph.D. Almost as bad as Thomas Sowell. I'm not the least bit surprised Ferguson is an economic historian. Lots of arrogant assholes among the economic historians.)
And, to finish it off, Ferguson warns the Democrats, I mean, Borat (?):
If it turns out that the Republicans merely took a step back in '06, the better to jump ahead in '08, then the joke will be on Borat.
I see. So Santorum and Allen were explicitly ordered to be total douchebags and look like total idiots so they would scare off even their racist supporters so they could lose the Senate as some sort of Machiavellian plan to put McCain in the White House in 2008.
I suppose I should say something about how mind-blowingly stupid this plan would be, but I just don't know what to add. What really gets me is that last line:
... the joke will be on Borat.
Uh, yeah. Heh.
So let's say the rest of this douchebaggery is true and the Repugs steal the White House again in 2008. Sacha Baron Cohen isn't American. Borat isn't a real person. Even if all the stupid (but loveable) people in the movie were Republican (an assumption I wouldn't make, but the Professor seems to know everything), how is the joke on Borat? Will the new Republican president request extradition from Kazakhstan and then place a fictional character in custody at Guantanamo to find out if Hillary or John Kerry or Barbra Streisand put him up to it?
The joke will never be on Borat. Far too many Americans will always be arrogant and stupid and racist and sexist, and Borat will be able to do the same thing every two or three years until global warming kills us all.
If conservatives are so bent out of shape by pseudo-documentaries (like Borat) or real documentaries (like Fahrenheit 9/11) ambushing God-fearing, red-blooded, white-skinned Americans and tricking them into saying things that could be construed as "racist" or "homopobic" or "anti-Semitic" or "sexist" by the "politically correct" "liberals" who run the world, then why don't the conservatives pull a "Borat" of their own?
They should create a character and send him or her to ACLU meetings or anti-war protest marches or whatever and go into his or her act. Imagine "al-Hadji," the clever al Qaeda operative, going to anti-war protests and trying to buy guns or recruit the protesters into betraying America by helping him plant a bomb or sabotaging a military institution. (Secretly, of course, it's that lovable conservative jester, Dennis Miller, playing a harmless prank.) And when it gets to theaters, won't Americans howl at those funny protesters dropping their protest signs to run off with their high explosives to blow up Fort Limbaugh.
What about "Annie Roe," the abortion addict, who hangs out at Internet cafes and coffee houses and MECHA meetings, looking for quick sex with anonymous men so she can get another abortion in a few days. What a riot that would be! That would expose the liberals for what they really are, huh?
And Bob the Bible Banner. He hates God and Christians and the Bible so much, he doesn't just want them out of the schools, he wants them out of the country entirely. He stands on street corners in liberal areas and gets signatures and tries to entice liberals to join him in harrassing churchgoers and vandalizing churches and stuff like that. (All liberals hate God. Everyone knows that. Ann Coulter said so.)
I'm sure there are conservatives who think this would work. These are the same people who think Mallard Fillmore is funny. Conservatives base their views on a lot of silly nonsense. They are not interested in any first-hand knowledge from anybody they don't agree with. (Which is why my mother would much rather get her information on media and academia from Thomas Sowell and the local North Florida newspaper than from her son, who has worked in both media and academia. Boy, do I hate the silly nonsense articles she sends me from the Reason.com site.) That is why they have so little real salf-awareness of how idiotic they sound. Look at George Allen and Rick Santorum. They had no idea how stupid they looked. They were both baffled that the good people of (Virginia/Ohio) could possibly reject good conservative Republicans for evil liberal Demicrats who want to surrender to the terrorists.
But conservatives believe A LOT of things about liberals that just aren't true. They get their information from other conservatives. FOX News, incompetent and deceitful commentators, biased conservative newspapers, husbands, wives, co-workers, etc. And these people just have no idea what liberals really think or what liberalism even is.
That is why conservatives are delusional. They should learn what liberals think by talking to liberals. And any attempt to expose liberals using Borat-type tactics might be funny, but not for any of the reasons that conservatives might think. Watching conservative heads exploding when the liberals don't act as expected would be priceless.
(Please don't tell any conservatives about this idea for a conservative Borat. They might try it. One Michael Moore Hates America is enough. I think of the poitical satire documentary film equivalent of Mallard Fillmore and I shudder. It would be the end of civilization.)
Sunday, November 12, 2006
(Conservatives may not remember what happened on that day. They've memorized the "Don't you remember Sept. 11?" talking point to use as a club against people who think a War on Terror should be fought against terrorists. (You should also have a plan beyond "Get lucrative re-building and military contracts for Repug cronies.") But Republicans seem to have forgotten that Americans got mad at being attacked. Why can't they see that people in, say, Iraq or, say, Afghanistan might also get upset at being attacked? Add invasion and occupation into the equation. Are we even yet? Have we evened the score for Sept. 11 yet? How many Muslims equals one American?)
I'm not sure what to think about Sept. 11 conspiracy talk. I remember thinking at the time, "Wow! They sure knew Osama bin Laden did it pretty fast!" and then never seeing anything that really showed how they came to that conclusion. And then there's the short-selling of airline stock that made a lot of money for somebody, a story that disappeared from the Right-Wing Corporate Media pretty quickly.
Anyway, this post has a lot of links that I want to look at. I have listened to people debunking Sept. 11, 2001, theories, and I never find them entirely convincing either. A lot of talking points that don't quite do it.
Most of the movie's in Las Vegas, too, which is pretty cool. Lots of points for being set in Vegas.
And the homosexual killers, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. When I was a kid, they kinda freaked me out. I had no idea they were supposed to be homosexual. I thought they were just weird killers.
And then there's Charles Gray as Blofeld. Ernst Stavros Blofeld is the ultimate James Bond villain and because I saw this so many times as a kid, Charles Gray was Blofeld to me. (He's also the criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which makes him the only person in that midnight movie classic who is also a Bond villain.)
Such a fun movie. It even kind of makes sense. Bond is tracking down a diamond smuggling ring, and it leads him to Jill St. John, a cheesy Las Vegas comedian, homosexual assassins, Jimmy Dean playing Howard Hughes, Natalie Wood's sister (she doesn't float either), Blofeld, a sinister international blackmail plan involving a laser, and a woman who turns into a gorilla. And also one of the guys from the original King Kong is in this movie.
So it's pretty nifty, for a lot of reasons. Even if it's not quite You Only Live Twice or Dr. No or Live and Let Die.
The DVD has a documentary that explains a little about why they had Connery (in You Only Live Twice) and then Lazenby (in On Her Majesty's Secret Service) and then Connery again (in Diamonds Are Forever). Connery quit after You Only Live Twice because he was tired of the Bond films and the amount of time he had to spend working when he did a Bond film. Then they got Lazenby for one film. (And I've heard a bunch of stuff about what happened to Lazenby. The DVD documentary says Lazenby didn't want to make any more Bond films. I've also heard that being Bond went to his head and he became a total asshole and wanted too much money. Who knows?) The documentary says that the end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service was filmed as the teaser for the next film, but they tacked it on to the end of OHMSS when they learned Lazenby was out. I'm a little dubious, but we'll go with it.
So with Lazenby out they needed a new Bond. Somebody wanted to make the series appeal to Americans more, so they adapted Diamonds Are Forever with its many scenes set in Las Vegas. And they also hired a new James Bond. An American James Bond. The actor James Gavin.
Well, yes, James Gavin. I think he was in Spartacus, as Julius Caesar, no less. When I try to think of what he looks like, I keep getting images of James Brolin or James Garner. I guess he was on the verge of being a big deal at one time. Something happened. I think the producers weren't really very confident with another new James Bond and they decided they needed Sean Connery one last time. (His second last James Bond movie. He would make his third last James Bond movie about ten years later with the kinda sucky Never Say Never Again.) So they offered Sean a bunch of money and his chance to develop two other movies. (Only one of which was actually made. It would be nice if that film was Zardoz, but it was something called The Offense, which hardly anybody has ever seen. It's recommended by some of the fine folks at imdb.com.)
Another interesting bit of trivia about Diamonds Are Forever is the involvement of Howard Hughes. They put him in the movie because he was friends with producer Cubby Broccoli. Broccoli had a dream that the mysterious Hughes had been replaced with an imposter, and it became part of the strip. In addition, Hughes used his clout with Vegas city authorities so that some of the big chase scenes could be filmed on Vegas streets.
All in all, a pretty nifty movie that I always liked as a kid. I still get a kick out of it.
Did I mention they don't follow the book very closely? They use the scorpion though! That's pretty nifty. Diamonds Are Forever is kind of like the movie version of You Only Live Twice because it has the same charatcters but they all kinda decide the book is dumb abd do other stuff. It's a lot closer to the book than You Only Live Twice but not as close as, say, From Russia With Love.
For more information on Diamonds Are Forever, see the wikipedia entry.
So that's it for the James Bond movies. Except for Casino Royale, which opens Friday. I will be reviewing that next week. I can't decide whether I want it to be good and fun to watch, or bad and fun to write about. Either way is fine with me.
But other critics aren't as open-minded as I am. I suspect they are just waiting to crucify the new Bond.
Pray for Daniel Craig.