Saturday, August 13, 2005


At the risk of no one giving a shit, a word on last week's episode of Six Feet Under.

I thought it was astonishing--one of the most wrenching, honest, and well-executed pieces of drama I've seen in a while.

The show's writers and actors pulled off a remarkable achievement, since the nature of the episode--the aftermath of Nate's (the most important character's) death and therefore the show's apotheosis--inherently set very high standards for them.

Significantly, the actors playing characters who, in the last few seasons, have been written into preposterous and even embarrassing plot-lines (when not forced to languish in repetitious mannerisms)--I'm talking mainly about Claire, David, and George--were given an opportunity to redeem themselves, and they took full advantage.

Claire, who in past episodes was forced only to appear on screen with her mouth glued to a bong as some sort of symbol of her angst, now licked at the dregs of a plastic baggy in the dire abjection of her shock at Nate's death. Her characteristic misunderstood-artiste eye-rolling now took on the quality of near-dementia. When Claire walked into the funeral room in jeans and a purple T-shirt, she was a vision of beauty, disorientation, and total exhaustion.

As for David: one of the series' most embarrassing errors of artistic judgment was David's abduction by the crack-smoking maniac. The post-traumatic stress David (and the viewer) had to endure was uninteresting, since the plot event which caused it was such a gratuitous, over-the-top reach for an infusion of high drama. In last week's episode the maniac returned, but now transformed into a haunting and deeply effective narrative device. The maniac reappeared, as he had occasionally in previous episodes, as a hallucination flickering on the periphery of David's vision. But now there was nothing gratuitous or forced about this device, because its purpose was entirely clear: the hallucination conveyed to the viewer the nature of the shock and grief which David was fighting to hold at bay: an actual, inescapable waking nightmare. David's panicked response to the hallucination conveyed perfectly the total physical revulsion one feels toward the loss of a beloved brother which--because the loss cannot be apprehended directly, and because the brother is now only a body, a corpse--takes the form of a traumatic memory disgustingly re-embodied in the flesh.

The writers made excellent use of George, whose role as an eccentric cum recovering major depressive has often veered into bathos. It is obvious that the funeral service is a disaster. David has broken down in panic and dementia and even the rather odious Rico has choked up and lost the ability to speak. Claire is beyond speech. At this point--when the outraged grief of the gathering has become insupportable--George emerges to say a few simple, eloquent, almost breathtakingly honest words about Nate's death and who he was as a person. This understated performance by George served as a precise demonstration of what it means to hold oneself together during a major depression.

Finally, what can be said about the use of Claire's flashback to 1994, Nate weeping and smoking pot in his bedroom on the day Kurt Cobain killed himself? That his words were so hokey--Cobain was "too pure for this world"--makes the memory all the more believable and moving. Fade-out to "all in all is all we are" as credits roll. Wow.

I do hope that the season's few remaining episodes won't, in their striving for a bit more, damage what this episode has achieved.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Sheehan: pathetic, embarrassing, ungrateful 

Well, it's like "NJDEVILSLADY4" observes on AOL's "Reaction Online":

"Cindy Sheehan had her 15 minutes of fame."

That's right! This lady has the audacity to interrupt the pleasant vacations and command the attention, not only of the "American people," but of the "president" himself? Not only is she so craven as to shove her unphotogenic mug in the nation's news cameras, and childishly demand her "fame," but all she's had to suffer for it is a dead son? Is that fair? And, true, her 24-year-old son was killed in Iraq--but isn't that fact cancelled out by her having a clear partisan agenda?

And take this AOL poll:

Do you agree with Sheehan?
Yes 53%
No 47%

Do you think the poll question means "Do you agree with the existence of Sheehan?" or "Do you agree that Sheehan deserves to be on televison?"?

What kind of "reality" show is this anyway? A grief-stricken woman camping in a tent in a ditch in rural Texas? Does she at least have to endure daily "challenges," or rope a steer to win an electronic kayak, or something?

So, like, uncool Cindy Sheehan. I'm going to slip on my rubber "Angel" and "Courage" bracelets and change the channel.

Now let's get underway with the ritual sacrifice.

"Slow news month" 

So what's up with these fucking rubber bracelets? According to BBToyStore.com, their top sellers are:

"Livestrong" (Official Lance Armstrong, Adult and Youth sizes)
"Support Breast Cancer Research and Education"
"One World One Cause - Tsunami Relief Effort" (3 colors)
"Find the Cure"
"Pope- Rest in Peace, 1920-2005"
"Share Beauty Spread Hope"
"Support Our Troops" (4 colors, including camo, tie-dye, stars & stripes)
"U.S.A." (2 colors, Adult and Youth sizes)
"Beach Bum"

I can't help but notice the relentlessly "positive" messages proclaimed by these "bracelets." The slogans are either against bad things (breast cancer, the tsunami, bullying) or for good things (faith, the troops, U.S.A., angels). (I actually don't know whether it is the Pope or the Pope's death which is being celebrated in the Pope bracelet, but I presume it's the latter.)

Am I to understand that adults are wearing these pieces of crap? What must go through one's head? "Yeah, I haven't been into this kind of cheap wearable fad since I was in, oh, 5th grade--but heck, now I'm 45, and they're kinda cool, and some of their messages seem to connect to "grownup" concepts like war, terrorism, and faith and values, so why not?"

That said, I am now going to go purchase the charcoal black "Bush Lies" bracelet, the 17th-ranking slogan (ahead of, I'm happy to note, "Courage," "Honor," and "Hope," as well as "Don't Worry Be Happy" and "Jesus Is My Soul").

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Why does Cindy Sheehan hate the Bible? 

Today, watching channel 3 in Champion, PA, I watched the president of the Cornerstone Broadcasting Network in conversation with the author of "American Prophecies." The latter man cited a passage from Revelations that refers to "Babylon" (Iraq) being "punished" (invaded) for its "sins" (Saddam/not being under U.S. control). Isn't it astonishing how this "Biblical prophecy" has been "fulfilled" by America, God's kingdom on earth?

In other news, a message from Drive Democracy:
We were honored when Cindy Sheehan appeared at our April event at Riverside Church in New York City. We were thrilled when Cindy traveled with our national barnstorming tour, and we are today proud to have DriveDemocracy members in Crawford with Cindy as she camps outside President George W. Bush's ranch, demanding to talk with Bush about the death of her son, Casey Sheehan, in Iraq.

You may have seen some of the extensive media coverage of Cindy's courageous campaign. We urge everyone to consider traveling to Crawford to support Cindy. She will camp there on that lonely road throughout Bush's vacation until the president meets with her. She could use our continued support. (Directions to Cindy's HQ "Camp Casey" in Crawford are at the bottom of this email or get more links at the DD blog).

Even as that drama unfolds, DriveDemocracy is completing its plans for a Nashville rally next Sunday where we will offer alternative voices to the religious extremists and their "Justice Sunday II." We are within range of our fundraising goal. If you haven't yet contributed, please consider helping out on this critical initiative. Please click here to contribute: https://www.onlinecontribution.com/drivedemocracy/

And in case any of you want to go to Camp Casey, here are the directions:

Directions to "Camp Casey" where Cindy Sheehan is attempting to meet with President Bush. From McGregor (highway 84 and 317), drive north to Crawford (6.3 miles), turn left onto West Fifth at intersection and drive .3 miles to Praire Chapel Road, turn right. Drive 4.9 miles to Camp Casey. You can get details from the Crawford Peace House, 254-486-0099, http://www.crawfordpeacehouse.org/.

As for "Justice Sunday II"--if any of you haven't been watching "Christian" TV for the past while, rest assured that the gloating over God's having personally intervened in the 2004 election so as to deliver unto "God's people" (Bush voters) a righteous victory against bedeviling odds (and evidently against all math), has not abated a bit.


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