September 02, 2004

Stuff & nonsense

On purely selfish grounds, I'm relieved that the conventions are over, and I can, except for the debates, get back to my normal schedule. I watched, as I did last July, and as usual, I will keep my own conscience.

It's amazing, though, what a rohrshach test politics is. Let me say this: I think the candidate who's stressing a difficult war and his role in it will win, while the candidate stressing a difficult war and his role in it will lose. How's that for instant reflection? (And yes, I can be far more nuanced than that, and I do actually have opinions about these things, but that's not the purpose of this blog, and I have no intention of saying more.)

Before the politics started, I sat down with the five year old and, instead of the usual Spongebob Squarepants (which, I think, is a fantastic cartoon -- as entertaining for adults as it is for children, and as inspired at times as the classic Warner Brothers cartoons), I put Buster Keaton's The General in the DVD player. I was amazed at how much he laughed, and how much I laughed as well. Yes, Keaton's character is a confederate, and at a few moments I couldn't help thinking that Keaton's screen bravery and antics were in the fictional service of a horrendous cause, but it's still a tremendously funny film.

Can't remember where I came across this, about conspiracy theories in the Arab world, but there's a point I wish the author had made, but didn't, but that's really the key to the whole thing. It's not that basic logic, analytical skills, or skepticism is somehow alien to Arabs, it's the utter lack of freedom that's to blame. The power of progaganda in a closed society is tremendous -- look no further than the Ukraine in the 1930s, where neighbors were turned one against another through the invocation of kulaks, who, some were told, were vermin. A free press, coupled with loud, frequent criticism of the more retrograde trends (the anti-Semitism, in particular) from the West, would go a long way toward breaking the loop of conspiracy theories.

Books and now DVDs and videocassettes are piling up at stately ideofact manor at an alarming rate. On the plus side, I've got a long weekend coming -- perhaps I can finally get to see Sunset Boulevard again (and without the five year old). For my money, it's one of the most disturbing films ever made. And speaking of movies, Ghost of a Flea is well on his way to convincing me that Italian cinema didn't die with Fellini.

Update: Fixed the link to the conspiracy theory essay. Thanks, Camassia!

Posted by Ideofact at September 2, 2004 11:39 PM

The link to the article on Arab conspiracy theories goes back to the General movie. Was it this? (I saw it on A&L Daily.)

Posted by: Camassia at September 9, 2004 02:33 PM