Nearly a week has passed since I began this post, and I admit that, now, at the end of this quarter (exams start tomorrow), I just don't have to time to keep it up. Next quarter will be as bad if not worse, I think. So what's to do? I guess pop in from time to time and, when the air is clear, come up with something of interest. April is poetry's month, so I'm going to aim for a poem at least every other day if I can, though on the nights when I have to write out my lectures I realize I'll be lucky to copy over or type out even a haiku. But I will try.
Now, on to news that now feels like it's from the last century:
Barack Obama won Mississippi's primary [on Tuesday], after having Wyoming's caucuses on Saturday [a week ago]. According to the Clintonistas, who are still working that surrogate-racist-remark angle, these states don't count. I agree that it's unlikely Obama will win either Mississippi or Wyoming in the general election, but a recent SurveyUSA poll showed that he could probably carry some other states Democrats haven't won in a while, like Colorado and Virginia, while Hillary Rodham Clinton would win the Kerry states plus Florida and Ohio. (With a little help from Diebold, but you didn't hear that from me.)
In both cases, they defeat the establishment media's favorite McKrush by a hair. Looking at the SurveyUSA maps, though, I think it's fair to say that Obama would carry New Jersey (I mean, seriously) over McCain, and probably Pennsylvania as well, while Clinton would win Washington State and Oregon, which I cannot see going for Senator 100-years-in-Iraq. But what do I know? I thought Al Gore won. (That's right, he did.) I thought John Kerry would pull out Ohio. (He may have, but we'll never know, will we?) I thought...Bill Bradley didn't have a chance in hell, which is why I didn't join his campaign as a speechwriter. Well, my judgment isn't always so off.
Obama has a real test before him with Pennsylvania, which looks like prime Clinton territory, especially with all the Clinton boosters seeded throughout the state, and Hillary's ancestral roots in Scranton. From the governor, Ed Rendell, to Philadelphia's mayor, Mike Nutter, the state has Clintonland stamped all over it. (I'm not sure who new anti-abortion US Senator Bob Casey Jr. is supporting.) Even still, Obama will probably close the gap considerably, especially if he figures out a way to address the concerns that were raised during the Ohio-Texas scramble, about his fitness to occupy the warmonger's seat, his double-talking on NAFTA (which is to say, his credibility and claims to offer a new politics), and his ability to convince the Children-of-the-Corn zombies devouring those viral Muslim-smearing emails that he's not going to recite Osama bin Laden's verses at his inaugural--or, I must update, to don a daishiki, quote Amiri Baraka's onomatopoetic machine-gun verses, and rename the federal buildings after deceased Black Panthers.
(Truthfully, were Jeremiah Wright's comments about the racism Obama faced, or the US's global meddling and destructiveness that controversial? I know the answer...).
Meanwhile, New York State has a new governor, David Paterson. He's New York's first African-American governor, and the first legally blind person to become governor of any US state. Paterson's to the left of his predecessor on many issues, and has a strong track record on LGBTQ rights.
How about the horrid Bear Stearns news--first, they were on the brink of insolvency on Friday and had to be bailed out by the Federal Reserve, which has been working hard to keep a number of banks afloat, and JP Morgan Chase, and today they were snapped by JP Morgan Chase for the astonishingly cut-rate price of about $2/share--along with all the other negative financial indicators, like net job losses, rising inflation, the plummeting dollar, and increasing foreclosures and dead home sales? I remember that when I was graduating from college and considering what to do with my life, or rather, what to do that would help me pay off my student loans, and chose to work at a commercial bank (Boston then had half a dozen or so, nearly all of which have merged into one conglomerate) rather than an investment bank, Bear Stearns was one of the houses that someone of my classmates headed to, though they didn't seem, at least in my perception, to hold it in the same stellar regard as Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and some of the other investment firms. It nevertheless was until recently one of the premier firms, and just a year ago, its shares were selling at $170. The bank that employed Sanford Weill, Pursuit of Happyness author Christopher Gardner, and other important figures in Wall Street history is now kaput--and I doubt it'll be the last one to hover on the brink. All in all, the world of high finance looks extremely precarious right now, and from what I read on the Internets, some major economists have little confidence that despite the well-known acumen that Fed Chair Ben Bernanke possesses, neither he nor anyone else may be able to do anything to sort things out in the short term. A "depression" seems unlikely, and the scenario I suggested to C, "stagflation" (remember that?) may not come to pass (we can hope), but the recession is already with us, and may worsen before it wanes. (A Bush in office and economic problems: talk about the worst kind of dèja vu.)
Another question: given the Fed's massive underwriting over the last few months of the US's shaky financial institutions, are we witnessing the covert nationalization of some of these banks and non-banking financial institutions?
Is this more socialization of debt, as profits continue to be privatized?
And where's the outcry, from the right-wing and the DLC types, about this form of "socialism"?
I thought about going to see Michael Haneke's new film Funny Games last night, but passed on it. I'm a fan of his work--especially the outré The Piano Teacher, The Time of the Wolf, Code Inconnu, and Caché--but this new remake of his previous Austrian version of the same film sounds especially gratuitous and not really worth forking over $10 for. I'm also not a big fan of the film's primary actors, Tim Roth, Naomi Watts (who really is overexposed--memo to Hollywood, there are other actresses out there, including American actresses), or Michael Pitt, whose performances always seem to be lubricated by quaaludes, so I'll wait until Netflix carries the film to see it if I do.
I'm very curious, however, about Gaspar Noé's upcoming film, Enter the Void, still in production, which appears to be about post-mortal consciousness, if such a thing exists, with really visually stunning mandalas, time travel, and so forth woven into the script. His Irréversible is one of the more thematically and emotionally disturbing films to appear in the last 10 years, though his I'll Stand Alone and Carne aren't far behind. Both Hanneke and Noé seem motivated by a Schopenhauerian interest in pre-rational destructive behavior, a a hyper-Nietzschean view of power, and a post-Marxian, anti-bourgeois desire to shock by demonstrating the power of human cruelty and its consequences. But Haneke's approach centers more on violence and questions of ethics than Noé's, who is chiefly fascinated to explore two emotions, desire and disgust. Both locate their experiments in the domestic sphere, which they seem to want to explode. Noé's new film does not seem to touch upon his usual preoccupations, but then I've only read (badly) the French descriptions and writeups. There's a dead body involved, so who knows where he'll go?
Hanneke would be a good choice to direct the film version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road--close as it is in some ways to The Time of the Wolf--but John Hillcoat (who?) is doing the honors. Charlize Theron, Viggo Mortenson, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, and Michael K. Williams*--Omar, from The Wire!--are in it. I dread to see what it's going to turned into, especially given Hillcoat's background in music videos, but such is Hollywood. Perhaps Noé, whose treatment of homosex has veered from homophobic to enlightened, could consider filming one of the late Guillaume Dustan's novels. Nicolas Pages is probably too linguistically complex, but Dans ma chambre (In My Bedroom) or Je sors ce soir (I got Out Tonight) would be worth tackling. That is, unless another director (François Ozon? Lional Baier? Gaël Morel? Robert Sallis?) gets to them first. I doubt an American director, especially one backed by Hollywood, would touch these books, since they are relentless anti-sentimental, extremely graphic, and populated by a constellation of characters most American "gay" (male) feature films aren't interested in....
*For readers of The Road, can any of you predict which character Williams will play? When I think about the book, none comes quickly to mind.