Friday, December 14, 2007 by Michael Reynolds
Hey, it's me, Jehovah. It's been a while since . . . What do you mean, "Jehovah who?" Jehovah who can grow a tumor the size of a Christmas tree ornament on your taint. That Jehovah. Don't get smart with me. I know if you are sleeping, I know if you're awake, I know if you've been bad or good and if you've been bad, guess what Chester, I don't give you a lump of coal, I turn you into a lump of coal and shovel you onto the "down" elevator.
Great. I'm already cranky and I just started. What is it about the blogosphere that brings out the extremes in everyone? (Of course I know. It was rhetorical.) Anyway, regular readers may remember me from Michael's old blog, "The Mighty Middle." But as popular as that gig was, (especially with the young folk,) I think most of you still put me together with my own book: The Bible. And a lot of you are wondering what the hell is happening with the long-awaited "re-imagining," Bible Too.
Yes, I do realize that's about the ninth different working title. But my old editor -- who was totally on-board with Bible: The Divine Cut -- got a promotion. Now she's a Vice President in charge of some damn thing, I can't make any sense of the titles there. (I could: but it would involve a plague of frogs and blood raining from the sky.) Assistant editor, associate editor, editor, editor and publisher, editorial director, vice president in charge of publishing editors-in-chief? WTF? What's the matter with Pope, Cardinal and Bishop? Or if that's too religious for the secular bastards, how about Tall, Grande and Venti? That's something they'd understand, and so would the rest of us.
Anyway, out with my old editor, in with this new one. And she'll be damned (actually . . .) if she'll stick with the old title. "I'm just not feeling the whole Divine Cut thing. I think the zeitgesit has shifted."
The zeitgesit. Bitch actually zeitgeisted me. Do you believe that shit? Like I'm some peckerwood Gallilean. Like I'm going to just shift nervously in my seat and go, "Oh, well, if the zeitgeist has shifted . . ."
I didn't want to get off on the wrong foot with the woman, right? But you can't let a New Yorker pull the "Z" word on you and get away with it. (Especially when by 'New Yorker' we mean Tennesseean-who-lost-her-accent-at-Swarthmore.) So I say, "Yeah? Because I was thinking the whole gestalt of the word 'divine' will really work for the demo."
That's right, I gestalted her ass. You're going to zeitgesit me, beeyatch? I will gestalt all over you. Keep it up and I will shift your paradigm. And by the way? That's not a metaphor when it's Me talking.
Anyway. Where was I? Oh yeah: everywhere!
Come on, that's still funny.
Anyway, back and forth and back and forth on the title, and we end up agreeing on Bible Too. Fine. Whatever. But then she starts in with her notes. And I swear to Me, if brimstone wouldn't contribute to global warming . . . But do I want to end up as the bad guy every time Al Gore opens his mouth? No. No, I do not.
So I spare my editor -- and the surrounding two blocks -- and I sit there (and everywhere else) listening to her tell me how she still wants to cut Ten Commandments down to three.
You people know I'm really not difficult to work with. You know that I love you and keep you. And if you give me half a chance, I will make my face to shine upon you and give you peace. But I'd already voluntarily gotten rid of the stuff about idolatry. Plus, I'd already dropped the coveting. (Funny story: it was actually Satan who asked me to cut the coveting and lusting thing. Overcrowding down there is out of control. Seven circles of Hell? I wish. We're at 312 circles and still expanding. It's like Phoenix.) Plus I dropped the whole Sabbath thing and the adultery thing. (Speaking of overcrowding in Hell. Not to mention a certain lack of torment. If you catch my drift.) So I was already down to six commandments. But three? Three? And then she's like, "Could you write it so that they're all shalts and not shalt nots?"
At that point I realized that my art was being severely compromised. Not that I think I'm that great, I'm not saying I'm Shakespeare -- let's face it, "Nehemiah begat Azriel" isn't exactly "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day" -- but still, within my genre (Holy Writ) I'm one of the top talents. I've sold almost as many books as Stephen King. I don't have to put up with this.
And I was all ready to tell her that. I was. But then it occurred to me: Oh, my Me, we haven't even started to talk about a cover concept yet.
So, yeah, I wussed. I gave in on the commandments because I knew (duh) we'd be going ten rounds on the cover. You have to pick your battles.
Besides, maybe three commandments really are enough. Who am I to argue? And she gave me some leeway on the wording. I can't use "shalt not," but I can use, "shalt avoid wherever possible." It's a little wordy, but as long as I get my point across.
Anyway, thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I feel a lot better. As always, try to behave. Love your neighbor as yourself. As you do unto the least of . . . Oh, hell you know the drill. Just don't make me smite you. Peace out.
Thursday, December 13, 2007 by Michael Reynolds
Hysterical. For anyone who ever took a philosophy course
by Michael Reynolds
So, there are these guys who hit balls with sticks, right? Then, like, they run around in a circle.
Well, it turns out they're taking steroids. So that they can whack more balls with their sticks.
Apparently, this is the end of civilization
as we know it.
Yeah, I don't get it either.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 by Michael Reynolds
I'm in a comment black hole at Done With Mirrors
and rather than tit-for-tat until Cal can't stand it anymore, I'm moving my part of the discussion over here.
Here's why the tired old wheeze about "liberal Hollywood" grinds my last nerve. It's not because I doubt that "Hollywood" is "liberal." Get a big bunch of creatives together anywhere and you have a hotbed of liberalism. It's inevitable. (The last really conservative creative was Salvador Dali. No, Tom Selleck doesn't count.) People whose job involves making shit up tend to be liberals -- make of that what you will. The whole creative thing involves moving the bits and pieces of reality around, and that's not a job for the kind of guy who gets his answers from books of Holy Writ.
I hasten to add at this point that "creatives" is a vague sort of term, not really defensible, but useful because we all kind of understand who it describes. Writers, directors, painters, musicians, poets, choreographers, cinematographers, editors, sculptors, fashion designers . . . all those people that conservatives think of as fairies and weirdos.
Anyway. Yes, creatives tend to be politically liberal. Just like accountants tend to be politically conservative.
Where we get into trouble is at the point where we start accusing accountants of injecting conservative ideology into their work. Except that we don't do that, do we? We don't do that because we all have an idea what it is that accountants do, and we sort of intuit that the job probably has more to do with numbers, and with the specific requirements of the job, than with ideology.
Well, news flash: the creative business also has a lot to do with numbers. (The kinds following a dollar sign.) And it's really mostly about the specific requirements of the job. I don't know about painters, those people are nuts, but we in the writing business are mostly about telling a story, and then getting someone to pay us for it. The "telling" part is surprisingly difficult to do well enough to get paid for it. So the requirements of the job -- plot, character, structure, typing, self-loathing, irrational fits of anger, all that shit -- are really kind of what we focus on. At no point during my work day do I ask myself, "How can I ram my ideology down someone's throat?" Instead, I spend my day thinking, "How the hell am I going to pay off this subplot?" And, "Does this make any goddamned sense given what's happening between Fred and Barnie?" And, "Wait, am I subconsciously ripping off a Flintstones episode?"
This is a sore subject with me because work that my wife and I did has been described as everything from reactionary to satanic. Here's my favorite, an obviously intelligent man who analyzed
one of our book series as "a post-colonial analogy." Believe me when I say that the term "post-colonial" never entered our consciousness at any point during the five years we were writing the book series in question. You know what entered our consciousness? What we were really thinking? "Oh, my God, we have no story!"
But art is always a Rorschach test. People see what they want to see. People see projections of their own preoccupations.
The obvious truth is that Big Media -- movies, TV, books -- is run by a handful of gigantic corporations. You've got your Sony, your GE, your NewsCorp, your Disney, your Viacom, and a few others. Huge corporations, none of which could remotely be considered socialist-pinko-pacifist front organizations.
In order for the liberal Hollywood conspiracy theory to hold water, you'd have to believe the following:
1) Creatives, struggling to succeed in one of the most competitive businesses in the world, have plenty of spare time to lard their work with America-hating leftism. Fuck the plot, let's have the character sing the internationale
in chapter nine.
2) Gigantic coporations, run by guys whose compensation depends on the performance of their company's stock, turn a blind eye to liberal propagandists who spend corporate resources on projects designed to appeal only to hairy-legged feminists, Subaru-driving assistant professors, and Al Qaeda sympathizers.
Writers, directors and others don't spend their days trying to do their jobs, no, they spend their days trying to turn your children gay. And mega-corporations finance these activities. That's the gist of it. It's as absurd as any other conspiracy theory.
Whether it's publishing, movies or TV, here's how motivation breaks down for the average creative:
60% Score a decent payday.
30% Don't fuck up, don't fuck up, please God don't fuck it up.
6% Achieve revenge on all those who've slighted you.
3% Especially women who refused to sleep with you.
1% Ram your political ideology down the throats of the unwitting masses. Nyah hah hah hah!
Take every political movie you can think of from the last couple of years. Everything by Michael Moore. The latest Redford movie. Syriana. That DePalma Iraq movie. Every single liberal political movie you can imagine. Add up all their budgets. All together. They don't equal the marketing budget for a Spiderman movie.
There is no liberal Hollywood conspiracy. No liberal publishing conspiracy. No liberal TV conspiracy. Unless of course you mean the conspiracy to make a buck.
Monday, December 10, 2007 by Michael Reynolds
To put it in Republican terms: Richard Nixon vs. Ronald Reagan.
On the one hand you have the smart guy, the experienced guy, the tough-as-nails guy. On the other hand the charismatic dreamer, the guy with big ambitions, the guy with the romantic narrative.
That's where we are now with Hillary and Obama. Hillary is the Democrat's Nixon. Obama may be our Ronald Reagan.
Hillary, we think, won't screw up. Or at least she won't screw up through ignorance or lack of planning. Hillary won't crumble. Hillary won't stand there and take it, like Jimmy Carter did. Her enemies will have reason to fear her. Our first ever serious female candidate is no pussy.
Hillary knows Washington like Nixon knew Washington. She knows where all the levers are. She knows where they bury the bodies. Hillary has one big-ass Rolodex.
Obama seems riskier. We don't know if he's tough. We don't know if he'll keep his nerve when the whole world seems to be coming down around him in flames. We don't know if he can fall down seven times, stand up eight. Like Hillary can.
And Obama would be a babe in the woods in Washington. Just like Reagan was. And yet, it seems Reagan may have accomplished one or two things. And in the end it was Reagan waving jauntily as he rode off into the sunset, a big dumb goof who bent Washington over, rode Washington all around the Oval Office, and made Washington love it.
Richard Nixon, you may recall, left town under somewhat different circumstances.
And yet, the smart money would have picked Nixon in a head-to-head with Reagan. Just like the smart money -- including the money of yours truly -- is on Hillary.
We don't know if Obama will launch the bombers and cruise missiles during an international crisis. Hillary? No one doubts she can drop the hammer. And you need a president who will do that, who will send men to kill other men.
But we like Obama's narrative. We want it to be him. Into Obama we can pour our hopes. Nothing gets poured into Hillary.
Obama can tell the world that we're back. We are the Americans again. Just when they were writing off the American "empire," just when we were looking like a spent force, boom! We relaunch the brand.
I lived in France when JFK was president. The French loved Kennedy. The day he was murdered the French cried like we did. Obama could be that guy. He could be the American president that the whole free world -- and some of the not-free -- adopt as their own. Don't sneer at that. A big part of our power derives from the fact that the world only hates us because they love us.
Shhh. Don't tell anyone, but we have a secret cheering section of billions around the world. We are still the great hope of the human race, and Americans may forget it, but for much of the world we remain the shining city on a hill. A bit tattered, lately, yeah. But we could fix that.
President Barack Hussein Obama, by way of Kenya, Indonesia and Chicago. Only one country can tell that kind of story. That's right, world, we just handed the button to a black guy with the middle name of Hussein. Why? Because we are the United States of America, and just when you think you've got us pegged, just when you think we're ready to crawl into a corner, just when you think we've lost our mojo, boom! Instant mojo.
Back, baby. Back with Barack.
Will Hillary send the CIA to waterboard bad guys? Yes. In a heartbeat. Will Barack? No.
Question: would Obama's reluctance to sanction torture be a sign of squeamishness or a sign of confidence in the deeper meaning of this country?
I kind of think the latter.
My inner Nixon and my inner Reagan vie for dominance. Darkness and Light. Paranoia and Optimism. Ruthlessness and . . . and what? Hope? That's not really a pairing, is it? Ruthlessness and hope?
I voted for Dick Nixon in 1968. (I confess that frequently, like the Ancient Mariner explaining his albatross.) The Dick Force is strong within me. (I may want to rewrite that phrase later.) I mistrust hope the way only a covert optimist can. I hate being played for a sucker. I hate getting my hopes up only to have the inevitable guillotine of mocking reality come rushing down and . . . well, okay, we'll drop that metaphor now. You get the point. It's safer to be the smart guy making the smart bet, so that later, when despite myself I'm as disappointed as any giddy nitwit college kid, I can say, "Toldja so."
But you know, a month after my smart vote for clever Dick, there I was, out in front of the White House waving a "Honk for Impeachment" sign. So. So much for smart.
I'm on the bubble. I support Hillary Clinton for president. But I want Obama to sell me. I have the feeling, based on nothing but a hunch, that most Democrats feel the same.
Sunday, December 09, 2007 by Michael Reynolds
In the back of:
In the parking lot of a: