Evil Forces in the World

Reflections on ''Evil Forces in the World,'' as well as occasional remarks concerning ''Good Forces in the World.''

Thursday, July 10, 2003

There is no denying that Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is the most entertaining movie I've seen in a very long time, and I think it's safe to say that I'm easily entertained and thus entertained often. For example, I find profound human suffering to be a hoot, and there's a lot of that going around.

That's not true. That last part is the definition of evil. Callous indifference and sadism are both evil, albeit in varying degrees and in different ways. That you've so let your guard down to evil as to not be shocked by such a baldly malicious statement literally turns my stomach. I am sickened by you and all that you represent. I can imagine you wearing a powdered wig, rouge, and feeding living lizards to yourself for the sole purpose of pleasing your foul, cavernous belly. I've seen the face of evil, and it is you. That said, I have no doubt that you also have your moments, and your dress sense is both irreverent and fresh.

Suffice it to say, Johnny Depp is rad. There's no getting around this. He always was. I'd just like to point out that I've been a Depp man since the 21 Jumpstreet era. This gives me the inner strength I need to get through the day. Soon, he will be massively large, much like "the sun, moon, and stars." (While you're at it, please "take these chains from my mi-i-i-ind.") Orlando Bloom was very good. Ring a ding. When is Geoffrey Rush not baaaaaad, as in bad means good, not bad meaning bad? In fact, the entire cast was really good. A lot of solid character actors, some without eyes. I've never liked Jonathan Pryce, but managed to convince me in the role of a simpering wimp.

Yeah, I'm not even going to point out that Keira Knightley is unambiguously luminescent presence in the movies.

Elvis Mitchell has a mega-crush on her that is getting embarrassing for all concerned. First, this: "Mr. Verbinski's staging is as vertiginous as an amusement park ride and places the wiry and beauteous tomboy Keira Knightley at the center. Her physical assurance suggests what Nicole Kidman might be like if she didn't spend so much time coughing tragically into handkerchiefs in an equally tragic pursuit of important roles." This is artfully done. He masks the ogling with a devastating aside about Nicole Kidman.

And then: "Ms. Knightley is strident and confident in her movement, an ability that makes her all the sexier and alluring, which is fortunate, given that her acting skills aren't quite as devastating as her looks." This is an eighth grade tactic. It's just not cricket. Right, so she's a really bad actor. Of course. The thing is, she's dope. She's just plain dope. There's no getting around it. The performance was excellent. Mitchell is yet again trying to mislead us into believing that he doesn't have an old man crush on Knightley, who was born in '83. (When I was three. I was already wearing shades and playing "Who Can It Be Now?" on an electric keyboard. That's not true. Who can it beeeeee now?)

I have to say, Portman was holding it down for a decade. She was the celebrity crush of all discerning thin-lipped men, and she established the raw power of the, and these are unfortunate and unnuanced tropes I'm about to introduce, stylish and slender (and brainy) Semitic "babes" who will redeem this civilization (the "West" broadly conceived, but the Mosaic aspect in particular: Israel and diaspora redoubts in America, France, South Africa, etc.) forever from any and all charges of being less than the greatest thing/place ever. This is Natalie Portman as a function of USA symbology. The 2002 MTV VMA awards were the right time for the counter-attack to begin. But Keira Knightley has snatched the mantle, and she's a limey. Good grief. There is no sense in which she's even Mediterranean rim, let alone Levantine. This is a world-historical crisis.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I've even seen Where the Heart Is and Anywhere But Here. In fact, I've seen Anywhere But Here more than once, and I think I saw both of them the day they opened. (Mars Attacks, Beautiful Girls, and, of course, The Professional, are clearly just good movies, so I think that's legit). Whatever, man, that's loco. I'm not even going to try to justify that. Alright, I will. I am pretty indiscriminate when it comes to movie viewing.

Might I add that Jena Malone, another veteran of Lifetime movies that somehow made it to theaters, has suddenly become really, really good?

So yes, I am a loyalist. I'd have a dodgy rifle strapped to my back in Aragon, absolutely. And even I'm wavering on the Knightley question.

Back to Depp. Part of what is so cool about the man is that he lives in France. When it comes to symbology, I obviously am against France as a solidarist, chauvinistic, totalizing, anti-American fleshpot; that said, I'm down with France on nonconceptual grounds. As far as I know, Depp's decision to lay his dome there is not an ostentatiously anti-American gesture, and thank heavens for that. Even if it were, it's not clear that I'd be enraged, at least in his case. Contradictions are inescapable, and we should be careful in judging the personal decisions in others, particularly when we lack the rich context that we need to make responsible judgments about discrete details like an off-color remark.

This is another thing I believe to evil. The "destruction of privacy in America," to shamelessly gank the subtitle of Jeffrey Rosen's excellent The Unwanted Gaze. More on this to come.
Who stole my licorice?
We did,
'Cause we're heathens
Like back in Sweden
Livin' in a weed den
Funny papers readin'
And heedin'
Like "stay ice
Cold, lyrics, see
Lyrics are twice as nice
I.e., courageous
Like influenza
Check my candelabra,
Smack you with my credenza
Wearing a Mercedes-Benza
Hood ornament
As a necklace in the tournament
Of fly gear,
My gearshaft aft is daft
And phat like President, Justice, and Governor Taft
Hit you so hard, you'll be needing a life raft
Made from sea turtles, I know you wear a girdle
But I'll put you on a griddle
Fry you up, bread you, sautee you a little
Like a cutlet,
Josiah Bartlett

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Shapiro pointed this out. Predictably enough, it is mind-bendingly awesome. Consider the following:

BUSEY: My imagination and my mind works overtime, you know, and naturally. I have many thoughts going on at once. You, you know what? I would like to give you a backstage pass to my imagination.

ADAM: I'll take that, yeah.

BUSEY: Okay, first thing you gotta know is when you get lost in your imaginatory vagueness, your foresight will become a nimble vagrant.

ADAM: See, I don't have a pen, so I can't even right that down. I'll try to remember it, though. I'll try to remember it.

BUSEY: Yeah, that's something you learn on your own, though. Doesn't matter the words I give you, what matters is the words you have inside you to tell you what I just told you in your own way.

ADAM: Uh-huh. Okay.

BUSEY: Boy, I'd love a glass of iced tea.

ADAM: Oh, that would be awesome. Do you have a glass of iced tea?

BUSEY: Only in my mind. And that's good enough.

I don't even know where to begin.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

You damn patriarchalist
Franz Liszt
"You ponce!"
"But your mom says ..."
Eat your greens,
Your black beans
and your pinto beans
Bare branches
Valerie Hudson and Andrea Den Boer are pioneers, and they deserve our praise. You can read their groundbreaking International Security article, "A Surplus of Men, a Deficit of Peace," here.

What do they mean by "bare branches"?

Selection against female offspring produces an excess proportion of males in society: surplus males. Given the long history of son preference in China, it is not surprising that the Chinese have a special term for such surplus males: guang gun-er (also transliterated as guanggun, guangguer, or guanguen), alternatively translated as "bare sticks" or "bare branches," indicating those male branches of a family tree that would never bear fruit because no marriage partner might be found for them.

The disastrous social consequences of a barbaric practice are now blindingly obvious to all those paying attention.

Who are these young surplus males? First, they are not equivalent to the bachelors of the West. Single men in the West are not surplus males: Indeed they can and often do form semipermanent attachments to women and produce children in that context. Surplus males, on the other hand, do not have such possibilities. In a marriage market where women are scarce and thus able to "marry up," certain characteristics of young surplus males are easily and accurately predicted. They are liable to come from the lowest socioeconomic class, be un- or underemployed, live a fairly nomadic or transient lifestyle with few ties to the communities in which they are working, and generally live and socialize with other bachelors. In sum, these young surplus males may be considered, relatively speaking, losers in societal competition.

This is true of most single men in the West, but not of those who are ill-educated, ill-clothed, misanthropic, cranky, irascible, uncouth, and who listen to nothing but Scarface and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" (on repeat) and who've taken Ol' Dirty Bastard and Flava Flave (of "cold lampin'" fame) as their style icons. These surplus males are destined to be catapulted into the sun and vaporized, except that this would probably take too much effort. No, they will be buried under a mountain of fried overripe plaintains and poison-laced Nilla wafers, which will put them out of their, or rather "our," misery. Bloody hell.

The behavior of young surplus males also follows a broadly predictable pattern. Theory suggests that compared with other males in society, bare branches will be prone to seek satisfaction through vice and violence, and will seek to capture resources that will allow them to compete on a more equal footing with others. These theoretical predictions are substantiated by empirical evidence so vast and so compelling as to approach the status of social science verity. Cross-culturally, an overwhelming percentage of violent crime is perpetrated by young, unmarried, low-status males.

Oh, but it gets worse.

When bare branches congregate, the potential for more organized aggression increases substantially. For example, experiments have shown that the "risky shift" is more pronounced in groups of males than in groups of females. The advocacy of risky choices by men in group situations appears to enhance their social prestige. As Courtwright puts it, "Men who congregate with men tend to be more sensitive about status and reputation. Even if they are not intoxicated with drink or enraged by insult, they instinctively test one another, probing for signs of weakness....Disreputable, lower-class males...exercised much greater influence in bachelor communities like bunkhouses and mining camps. They both tempted and punished, for to fail to emulate their vices was to fail, in their own terms, to be a man."

There are a number of conclusions to draw from this, the first of which is that India and China will become even more hellish and violent than is the case at present in the decades to come. That comes as a surprise to no one. Domestic turmoil spells international tension. The second conclusion is that I must now isolate myself in some sort of coffin, complete with nutrient drip and light reading. The bare branches must never again congregate. Shun them. It is the non-evil thing to do.
Jeremy Waldron is all that stands between the triumph of good and evil. This may well strike you as a peculiar assertion, particularly in light of the fact that Waldron is perhaps best known for his argument concerning "the irrelevance of moral objecticity." Even if there is such a thing as truth when it comes to moral rights and wrongs, there's no way for us to establish said truth in an uncontroversial way.

We need an illustrative example. Despite the fact that I personally have access to the Truth, many of you will dismiss my commandments by, for example, denying that Carly Pope's unadulterated dopeness is such that its power, if harnessed, could power a million grow-lamps, thus allowing us to use hydroponic technologies to feed those benighted millions who go to bed only half-full. And I don't mean those of you who want a cookie. ("What do you want, a cookie?" This was the constant refrain of my misspent youth.)

Again, you will appeal to "science." "That's nonsense," you say. "Scientists have shown that 'dopeness' cannot fill human bellies." Yes, yes, but can your science do this? (Because I don't have access to a webcam, you can't see that lightning bolts are flying from my fingers, not unlike the lightning bolts that gave Luke Skywalker a powerful electric douche in the climactic three-way battle at the close of Return of the Jedi.) I didn't think so.

Back to work, kids. I'm bringing up Waldron because of the following sentence in God, Locke, and Equality:

But it is important to remember that there was no advantage to Locke -- as there might be for a sneaky authoritarian or patriarchalist or bourgeois apologist in the twenty-first century -- in pretending to be a partisan of basic equality.

Waldron has identified three deeply evil constituencies, all of them sneaky: authoritarians, patriarchalists, and bourgeois apologists.

Patriarchalists: This cuts close to home, as any weak-minded and/or incompetent man has benefited in various ways from the waning power of the patriarchy. Now that collective political and economic organizations have learned to draw upon the unambiguously superior intellect of women, these men (i.e., we) are doomed. It is now only the tall, dark, and handsome swains among men who will have any place in the world to come. They will be used as breeding stock. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be slowly, steadily rubbed out through the gentle hand of genetic engineering, social ostracism, etc. And the world is almost certainly better off as a result. With that conviction in mind, I think it's safe to say that I'm no patriarchalist. That said, there's no denying that patriarchy was a good deal for runty male goons. They've had a good run. Now they will be obliterated.

Bourgeois apologists: I saw Swimming Pool last night and enjoyed it. I didn't enjoy ogling Ludivine Sagnier's bare bosom, mind you. I wouldn't say that I'm squeamish, exactly. I just found it unremarkable. Not offensive, but not worthy of comment. I suppose I'm commenting.


Moving right along, I enjoyed it in large part for the atmospherics and the air of menace. It occurred to me that I have bourgeois sympathies, sympathies that must be extirpated immediately.

So what's up with the searching self-examination? The battle against evil begins at home.