24 April 2009

House of Fog and Sand

Ben Kingsley's best ever screen acting performance. It enters the Realm's top 20 movie list. But who has heard of it?

Last night I watched for the first time this 2003 movie with the above singularly uninspiring name. A debut by director Vadim Perelman.

It is an unheralded masterpiece of Shakespearean stature. Ben Kingsley's performance as an immigrant refugee to the US from post-Shah Iran is as fine a screen acting performance as I've ever seen by anyone, anytime. And Jennifer Connelly's nuanced and edgy rendition of her flawed character was revelatory.

I have since briefly Googled, Wikipeed and Amazoned it, discovering it is based on a book by an Andre Dubus III. The Amazon book reviews are mixed.

Surprisingly the brief reviews of the movie I've seen also seem mixed. Some even suggest this movie lacks believability. They must live in some cossetted urban Westernised material uberworld in which the type of espresso they order is a defining existential choice. Do these post-modern latte sipping would-be cineastes not have human fibre enough to feel the palpable exhilaration, when, after suspending disbelief and daring to plunge into the void, a creator weaves a path for you through the seductions of relativism and beyond the barbarism of nihilism, to a fleeting moment of clarity that is participation in the triumph of humanity through art?

I am astonished that anyone with feeling and insight into the human condition could not be moved by so credible a use of a trivial clerical error as a fulcrum for epically realised human tragedy. Or could it be that such superficial dismissal of far reaching aspiration for meaning, is the chosen de rigure posture of a "post-modern" intellectual ?

The almost flawless execution of this archetypal ancient Greek drama in the atmospheric yet banal and menacing bureaucratic pettiness of Bay area California in the nineties, is an object lesson in how modern cinema can be truly great. If only more contemporary filmmakers could so deftly tap into the deeply nourishing wellspring of our civilizational heritage in literature and art, we might see many more such masterpieces. Sadly these are quite rare. As it is, the shallow cinematic emotional tricks of the thriller and horror movie genres of Hollywood dominate the style and direction or far too many modern fictional screen dramas. They leave us unsatisfied; non-replete. Good art well realised does not do leave us in such a state. And this movie was genuinely cathartic in its treatment of a modern suburban tragedy. Shakespeare would have envied the director the use of this magnificent medium to render such grand themes and he would not have been disappointed in its execution.

I can not recommend this movie highly enough to lovers of art, literature and cinema. It's entered the Threalm Realm's self coveted top 20 movies of all time. It is better than "Slumdog", and almost as good as "Crash". But why is it that so many of these modern cinematic masterpieces have such awful titles?

16 April 2009

Right: wrong. Left: right.


Fantasy rules because fantasists have the power to declare their fantasy true.

Truth is whatever the powerful choose it to be. The new Truths are:
  • All government spending promotes economic growth; and
  • Humans are causing our climate to change for the worse.

Anyone who looks for a different truth outside the current cultural zeitgeist is now the fantacist. Afterall post-modernism decrees; truth is the just the prevailing fantasy.


The Left say government spending is good for us and that humans cause climate to change for the worse. Those who say otherwise are deniers of the Truth.

Resistance is futile.
You simply adopt your team's position on policy. Only idiots or fantacists argue for Truth. The Truth is what we receive from those who we make powerful.

It seems as if most of us are allocated a political team to support at birth or we choose a team in early adulthood, and that's it for life. You're either Left or Right. You're either for the team that reflexively goes with the idea that government is a powerful problem solver that can and should spend the money it prints or appropriates on causes it deems good, or you're with the team that instinctively thinks that government is only of limited benefit to humans even if it is a necessary element in the mix to help humans themselves solve problems and create wealth. (Justice v Freedom)

Whatever we actually think about the truth of an issue from then on, is of limited importance, unless the case for a truth is so good that it trumps the seductiveness of the perceptions in the public of the justice of the case. Freedom is quite vunerable in this process, although it is the true emancipator and wealth generator. Although freedom can trump truth, it only does so for those who believe in freedom. So because the "justice" tea, the Left, is now in the ascendancy the capacity of the "freedom" team to asset itself over the "truths" asserted by the Left is weakened.

The battle between the Left, the party of Justice, and the Right, the party of Freedom, is a battle for the Truth. The Right can only defeat the Left when it can demonstrate that Freedom is more valuable to humans than the mutable Truths asserted by the Left's perceptions of Justice.

And as the game is currrently played, if the team you are identified with has a position on the issue, then that is your position too.

Surprisingly this isn't seen to be bad by most people. They implicitly get it, because its just like the continuous popularity contest that they have experienced all their lives in school yards, supermarkets, work places, fashion magazines, media screens and entertainment events. If one team rules, they get to say what's true. That's just what happens on reality television, on desert islands and in the local netball/surf/soccer/bike club. So it must be so. Why resist the inevitable?
It's just so. An all new popular, friendly form of modern barbarism. Civilization and the seach for true meaning is so yesterday. Truth is just the thing that everyone agrees at the moment is the in thing.

There's just no room rational discourse on any policy issues now that this system prevails. Most of us were brought up in the old fashioned out moded belief that political leadership and media commentary was about striving to seek the best solutions for the whole polity. We all had a quaint notion that we had mutually interdependent roles to play in informing ourselves of the facts and distilling the truth, so we could make the best political and cultural choices for our communities in a democratic society. Not anymore. That's bunk. All that matters now for the enlightended post modern is which team is winning.

Even if the mainstream media always and inevitably muddled it up in the past by having biases, predilections and preferences, they still at least tried to play fair or tried to be seen to play fair, because they recognised that there was a more important context than their own beliefs, the desire to get it right for the community and for the democratic process to work for the good.

What seems to have happened is that because the cultural geniuses and marketing gurus of the Twentieth Century discovered that all truth can be characterised as relative not absolute, therefore the pursuit of truth is itself pointless. This then easily translated into the related belief that it was no longer necessary to even play lip service to the notion that you needed to play fair, because that too was a relative concept, and who was to say where the balance should fall.

So the media no longer sees it even has to try to play fair. It can indulge itself in its own proclivities with moral impunity. We live in a world fiercely and arbitrarily polarised over serious policy issues that are hard to even comprehend (GFC, AGW, NBN) , let alone to have concluded and passionate political views about. But it doesn't matter anymore what the policy is, it only matters which team adopts it. If you suggest even that a chosen policy certainty has some credibility issues you can legitimately be characterised as an unbelieving trog.

So if one were suggest something relatively uncontroversial as little as 12 months ago, say, that government fiscal stimuli seems rarely if ever to have been successful in the past in boosting economic growth independent of the business cycle, even though this is based on a genuine, if peripatetic, search for truth in readings of economics, this would immediately be characterised as wrong, because it is not the prevailing left view. But it is not wrong because it is not right. That would involve an enquiry into the truth of the matter. And the truth does not matter in a post modern world. What matters is the power of the entity asserting the position. It is wrong because it is not Left. And the left rules.

So what does matter now more than ever is whose team you are on? If our team supports fiscal stimulus, unless you do too, then you are wrong. And what's more it's immoral to disagree with our team's position, because it means you don't support the poor and the unemployed who we say we are supporting with our fiscal stimulus policy. Any argument that capitalism and free markets have created most of the wealth to date, not governments, and that giving people access for their products to freely priced markets have lifted more people out of poverty in a shorter time than government commands ever has, is dismissed as self justificatory nonsense. Anyway, these Left geniuses say, it can easily be demonstrated this is untrue because US banks mis-priced the sub-prime housing mortgages that governments compelled them to give to the poor and underprivileged, and when the banks bundled and securitised those loans and sold them into global capital markets, there was an international credit collpase when the mispricing was discovered. And because only governments could bail those banks out to prevent an economic armageddon, now only governments can get the world back to prosperity.

And all we can now do is wait to see if the new truths of these neo-socialists of the Left, emboldened by the failures of their enemies from birth on the Right, are indeed true simply because they say they are. Will discougaging people from chosing to risk investing in their business by increasing the tax burden on them when that taxpaying sector is shrinking, create prosperity as the Left declare?

If they are wrong as seems inevitable, the road back will be longer, harder and more perilous becuase the debt burden that these leftists have saddled us with will be so much heavier. The only true hope lies in the recognition that the power of free markets to generate wealth is so strong that it can even overcome the gross stupidities of Leftists medlers with fantasies about their own truths.

But such is the power of the leftist fantasy that governments can deliver prosperity, notwithstanding the clear evidence to the contrary in the vast catastrophic socialist failures of the 2oth century, that this fight will have to be fought all over again in another generation. We seemto be hard wired as a species to continuously make this mistake, so powerful is the desire of ruling elites to meddle in and impede the wealth creating instincts of free people making free choices.

07 April 2009

Key didn't stop Baabarians crashing gates

Media implicated in stampede. Dispute over cause of injury.

3 News report from New Zealand that, at the controversial annual "Running of the Sheep" in Te Kuiti:

"a woman was bowled over by the marauding mob, her injuries no laughing matter. .."

The event co-organiser, John Fagan was reported in The Waikato Times as saying:

"We underestimated the crowd at the beginning of the sheep run and they (the crowd) kept coming in on the sheep and the opening kept getting smaller and smaller and just baulked them a bit."

However, in a developing controversy, he denied the 3 News suggestion that injuries were caused by the rampaging sheep:

A woman was also injured, but Mr Fagan denied reports it was the fault of the sheep. "A lady who was watching stood back, and caught her heel on something and fell backwards ... it wasn't as if she was caught in a stampede or anything."

It seems the catastrophe could have been precipitated by the media itself:

Mr Fagan said a photographer jumped out in front of the first lot of sheep, scaring them.

"Once you turn them, it's hard to get them going again ... we were in a fair bit of trouble out there."

And 3 News itself report that:

What started as a trickle rapidly became a flood, and with the barrier down Te Kuiti's Sheep Run began to look very much like its Spanish counterpart. ...A short distance away things were going from bad to worse.
Musterers and the odd 3 News reporter tried to stem the flow, but the sheep were not for the turning. All semblance of order completely broke down, the sheep crossing the main road and the train tracks heading into the hills.

Could the media's intervention have been the trigger for this out-of-control stampede causing injury to the crowd? Was the photographer from the press? Is this another case of not just reporting news, but making the news?

Meanwhile TVNZ reported:

With thousands of ewes and a party atmosphere, Te Kuiti was the place to be. Even the head shepherd, or own PM John Key, couldn't miss the world's largest sheep run, making time to attend the event

But the PM's presence and the party atmosphere were apparently insufficient to prevent the ensuing affray.

Lid dip Tim Blair