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RIP Jean-Luc Godard

Cinema has lost one of its Michelangelos. You can’t exaggerate about the influence Jean-Luc Godard has had on movies. He reinvented the way we watch them, first through his influence in France in the 1960s, then on the American cinema of the 1970s and around the world ever after. Godard was a destroyer of cinematic conventions, showing the audience that his camera was a spying device, reminding viewers that they were accomplices in a game of false objectivity.

He was so obsessed with environment and the psychology of location that he figured you might as well turn the camera away from the actors and shoot the film crew sometimes. He let technical imperfections in a piece of celluloid or sound show his artist’s hand, the way a drip painter might. He could leave one actor and follow a new one just to see if she were doing something interesting. He could stop a petty crime story and have two lovers sit in bed and talk about their feelings for an hour. He turned up his nose at things first year film students learn–like continuity between one action and another.

He taught us new rhythms not only in where he cut the film but in how he paced the drama of two people talking. My guess is that if you could tap your foot to a movie, he gave us the time signature that was the cinema of the 1970s, including “The Godfather” and “Taxi Driver.”

Godard was a beautiful interpreter of Hegel and shortly thereafter a profoundly stupid Marxist (a trap a lot of intellectuals fall into) who liked to turn housewives into prostitutes and rock bands into revolutionaries in increasingly tedious ways. He didn’t think you could capture things like the Holocaust on film without creating it through false aesthetics, therefore he rejected films like “Schindler’s List” on artistic grounds that very often sounded like moral ones. (I think of him when I remember Atom Egoyan’s misbegotten attempt to handle the Armenian genocide by not handling it).

Godard was also the Israel critic who didn’t mind himself when his comments seeped into anti-Semitism. His obsession with what was fake and what wasn’t led him early on to recreate our film language–and later in life led him to artistic dead ends. He was often, like the late Christopher Hitchens, an occasionally insufferable blustering blowhard–whom for some reason you couldn’t live without.

My favorite Godard film is “Contempt,” in which you watch a marriage disintegrate in front of your very eyes over semantics and ennui and the crushing weight of minutes. He made it early in his career when he was still curious about how humans interacted and his amazing style still didn’t allow doctrine to be inflicted so much on his characters. After that, there’s plenty to love: “Breathless,” “My Life To Live,” “Alphaville,” “Pierrot le Fou,” “Two or Three Things I Know About Her.” Others can fill out my list.

There are probably going to be some nasty things written about him today, just as there were about the queen. So I’ll say something I hope Jean-Luc would have appreciated: “You were the shit we couldn’t live without.”

I want us all to consider how gun rights supporters were coping after the Uvalde, Texas gun massacre.

I do this because those of us in anguish at those events knew we were going to face a horrible backlash in the days after. The gun rights crowd couldn’t share in the grief because they knew people were angry at them. So their despair had to turn into something else. Tantrums. Lies. Conspiracy theories.

You knew to watch for it. That you were going to hear a lot of lashing out. A lot of untruths. Gun fans would distract us by suggesting that immigrants were somehow the real problem behind an American gun tragedy. When that failed, they would blame mental health. When that didn’t work, I was fairly certain they would turn to another familiar ploy: and say the tragedy didn’t happen at all. That those smiling kids, now dead, never existed. After all, gun fans had denied the reality of worse massacres than this one. Why would they suddenly demonstrate sympathy for the pain of others?

Here’s the deeper psychological message those gun enthusiasts are trying to get across to you: “It’s not me,” they want you to know. “I’m a good person, so it’s got to be somebody else. It’s got to be other people. It’s got to be you!” In other words, you were hearing the responses of children.

There’s a reason for that. Many rock-ribbed gun rights supporters likely developed their attitudes about firearms as kids. They couldn’t think to fight back against their social conditioning at the time, so they have been forced to rationalize the beliefs now as adults … and yet still with a kid’s defenses.

I grew up in Oklahoma. I was taught to shoot when I was around 12, maybe younger. (I can’t remember because I never liked guns, though I wasn’t a bad shot). There were three firearms in my house when I was growing up, including a handgun. These were sometimes left out when kids were around. My late father indeed taught me to shoot, and the understanding was that he was placing trust in me, fostering in me a feeling of independence and facility and acceptance that my fate was in my own hands, which seems like a gift when you’re a child. It also seemed to jibe with some vague notion we all have of the Second Amendment of the Constitution and our freedom in nature. You can’t help but form a bond over that, no matter how questionable.

I don’t want this to be terribly confessional, so I’ll just say that I never saw a gun in my house ever used in a safe way. I saw guns used in unsafe, thoughtless ways several times. I believe now that somebody could have easily died in my house because the gun owner in my life was irresponsible.

So in whatever ways I felt beholden to my father for the psychological bedrock, that was undone when I became a truly independent, thinking person.

I’ve rarely seen any of my most intransigent gun-toting friends make that leap. They aren’t strong enough.

This is likely why gun fans couldn’t hear your cries of grief about what happened in Texas. You are trying in many cases to shred a bond with their fathers and mothers. They can’t handle that. They’ve been told that the way they were raised is good, that it’s based in strength and values and virtues and competence. That the things they believe won’t harm them and won’t harm anybody else and that in the aggregate what they are doing is for the common good. If they are still alive as of right now, they win the argument. It’s the 100-year-old smoker fallacy.

We all rationalize bad behavior that helps us (I have plastic in my house), but it’s another thing to eat tainted meat and say it’s good for you even as it’s making you sicker. Who does? Gun fans. Why? The bad meat temporarily makes them feel good in the face of fear. They fear strangers. They fear sudden events. The gun is sold as an antidote, even though guns increase the risk of harm for their owners and everybody else.

They will pretend this value system was arrived at through rigorous analysis. They have a couple of pro-gun studies (debunked ones) that validate their feelings. Since those studies’ “facts” can’t be proved, gun fans will invent hypotheses of their own, even call gun massacres hoaxes before they confront the reality that their “analysis” was wrong, that it wasn’t even analysis but retread, or that the people they vote for are backward and evil, and in fact that they hand weapons to psychotics to kill a lot of children mainly because of a desperate faith in their own failed folk wisdom. They simply promise that the guns are going to finally work at self-defense at some point in the future in ways that haven’t happened yet.

I knew instinctively when I was young that firearms were bad news, that they were useless if somebody else’s gun was already drawn on you or if bullets were already flying. I understood later on that most of the ways people imagine that they are going to defend themselves with a gun is by conceiving situations they can control. Even Chief Justice John Roberts made that mistake when he asked questions in a recent Supreme Court case, one in which an important New York gun law was struck down. Roberts imagined all the ways New York City’s residents were going to be safer when they were armed and they could shoot at targets he imagined would be as stationary as trees. The fact is, the theater of violence is a fast-moving one, and in most of the scenarios you conceive of in which you win, you aren’t actually a defender. Actually what you’re doing is called homicidal ideation. “I’ve got it all down in my head. I’m going to be fast with my gun when the slow-moving mugger walks toward me with a weapon. I’ve practiced shooting at a paper target.” This is the basic fallacy I’ve heard from every gun owner friend I’ve ever had. Every one. Smart and dumb, credentialed and not, young and old, male and female. There’s something appealing about imagining you are lighter and faster than physics would normally allow you to be. It’s the reason we watch Superman. And Dirty Harry. Both movies are fantasies, but only one is acknowledged as such.

No, you are not faster than a bullet. Your gun is not a reactive instrument. It kills people far away who don’t know they are going to die. That is what it was built for. It doesn’t shoot other bullets out of the air like Israel’s Iron Dome. You’d think gun fans, who pride themselves on how well they know the mechanics of their weapons, would understand that. And yet every argument I hear them make ends up being something like this: “If he pulls out a gun, I’ll just pull out a gun.”

I can’t tell you how many seemingly intelligent people I’ve met in the south who seem to think this is how life works.

What they are really protecting is a script they’ve heard and repeated since youth, protecting logical mistakes, not reading the actual science, which has not changed since I was a child: It says having a gun is less safe than not having one. Full stop. Handing guns out to everybody isn’t a successful crime deterrent strategy. It should actually be called “vote for the worst.”

And yet, the myth that a gun is a good thing, a loving thing, signs of a strong value system, a sign of patriotism, etc., persists because of movies and debunked studies that collapse like tissue paper upon any standards of rigor and reproducibility. Gun enthusiasts still think they are defending themselves 6,000 times a day even though there is no paper trail for these defenses, no database of 6,000 defenses a day in newspaper microfiche. They believe it because Dad would want them to, and pleasing dad is hard.

Humor me here and let’s imagine the parent-child bond another way: That having a father you fear teach you blunt, cruel lessons with a loud object that can destroy your internal organs is actually something that could cause you post-traumatic stress disorder. And that grown men repeating their father’s dogma about the goodness of gun ownership is just one more facet of a hostage crisis that they have carried into “adulthood.” They see themselves as Dirty Harry. Perhaps the rest of us might look upon them as Theon Greyjoy.

I admit, it’s very dicey using psychological arguments to attack political stances. The Soviets did it, after all. And I wouldn’t want far lefties trying to assign any “sicknesses” to my belief that Marxism is a pseudo-scientific mass murder plan.

But keep this in mind: It is almost a certainty that the horror that went down in Texas is going to be called fake news sooner or later. Or that gun fans will write off the response of normal people to the horror this way: “Democrats murder babies, so I can live with 19 elementary school kids being torn apart by bullets.” (This is an exaggerated version of an argument one of my friends once used. He’ll never have enough self-awareness for shame, unfortunately.)

What are these if not a child’s responses? And why would these adults act like children were it not for the huge amount of denial involved? A child’s denial. And what deep, deep thing are they denying?

I’m sorry to drag people’s parents into this, but I grew up in this mindset. I know where it comes from and whom it is they think they are protecting.

It’s important that we go there. Because gun fans are going to keep getting our children killed unless they are brought to some reflection about their actions and their values, or forced to explain why it’s so important that people die just so they can hold onto their fragile identities.

I grew up with at least three guns in my house in Oklahoma, including long guns and handguns, and learned to shoot them when I was young. So I’ve been hearing the flawed reasoning of gun rights supporters my whole life. We are hearing them again after the mass murder of children in Uvalde, Texas. I myself didn’t care much about the gun issue until 20 children were slaughtered, along with six adults, in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. Then I realized kids were dying every day unnecessarily because people like me were not speaking up about what we knew.

The following is a list of things gun enthusiasts will say to you in the backlash as most Americans demand sensible gun laws. The assertions are going to include outright lies about history and physics, logical fallacies and cute bumper sticker slogans that talk around the substance of the argument. (“Guns don’t kill people” is irrelevant to the question of whether people should be allowed to have them.)

But you can answer these things, because in the end, the words are almost always rooted in childhood defense mechanisms. And that’s because gun fans have been taught to say these things (and not think about them) since childhood.

Them: “Gun laws don’t work. Criminals will just get guns wherever.”

You: “Three hundred thousand gun purchases were blocked in 2020. That’s 300,000 people who were so unable to get guns ‘wherever’ that they risked going exactly to places where they would fail.”

Them: “The founding fathers wanted us to have the strongest weapons so we could fight the government.”

You: “The Second Amendment was written amid a discussion about the best way to put down rebellions against the government. Which is why the militia wording is in there. And founding father Thomas Jefferson curtailed gun rights in his successive drafts of the Virginia constitution. So there is actual written proof that the founding fathers didn’t believe in limitless gun rights.”

Them: “Why do people want to punish good, law-abiding gun owners after a shooting?”

You: “Why do ‘good’ gun owners pursue policies that protect the worst gun owners? Let’s put it another way: If you hate the idea of watering down of schools’ test standards because you think it’s unfair to students who make an ‘A,’ apply that logic to yourself. If gun laws are watered down, it really doesn’t matter how “good and law-abiding” you think you are–because you’ve asked to have no standards in the first place. And thus the rest of us don’t have to treat you with the respect you’re craving because you’ve basically asked us to give you a participation trophy.

Them: “Most liberals won’t tell you, but most gun deaths are suicides.”

You: “Yes, statistically speaking, you have reminded us what these weapons are mostly good for.”

Them: “There are too many guns in this country and you can’t confiscate them all.”

You: “You don’t need to confiscate them. Tough gun laws change the way these guns flow through society, the same way federal monetary policy changes the way money flows through the economy. Good policy affects the points at which guns are allowed to be sold, moved and transferred and the extent to which they are allowed to be loaded and modified. Bad actors are usually caught tripping over these invisible wires because they are often doing something else illegal. When the guns are illegal, they can be seized. When they are seized, they don’t put bullets in children’s bodies.”

Them: “I read about a guy who defended his home with a gun on Monday.”

You: “Great! Now tell me about 30 more guys who defended their home with a gun on Monday and you will be tied with the people who used guns to murder.”

Them: “When seconds count, the police are minutes away. … In other words, better to have a gun.”

You: “Your gun is also minutes away. Because nobody has a few seconds to stop bullets already flying, a struggle already in place, an ambush in progress. In fact, given how much hindsight is involved in gun fans’ explanation of how violence works, the gun always seems to be days, months or years away.”

Them: “The left always demonizes law-abiding gun owners after a shooting!”

You: “If you try to force murder weapons into the hands of teachers to try to hide the fact your solutions are a failure, then forgive people who might think you are an actual demon. You don’t know exactly what kind of monstrous thing you’ve asked somebody so that a questionable belief you have can be preserved.”

Them: ”People have a natural right to defend themselves with a firearm.”

You: “Guns are designed to shoot someone in the back at 100 yards. No one has a natural right to that power. No one has a moral right to that power. The legal right to that power in the United States has always been complicated and is not what you think.”

Them: “We should just arm teachers.”

You: “The gunman you armed will shoot the teacher first. Probably while that teacher is showing a child how to glue something together. And why are you mobilizing the world and all the people in it to dangerous behavior they don’t want to follow and doing so mainly to accommodate the fact that your reasoning has not worked thus far?”

Them: “They did a study and found more than 6,000 people defended themselves with guns yesterday.”

You: “There is no database of 6,000 gun defenses yesterday. There is no newspaper microfiche repository of 6,000 gun defenses. There are a couple of phone polls of very small numbers of people done by researchers who didn’t validate whether the people bragging had actually used their guns in a legal or illegal way–or really did anything other than yell ‘I have a gun.’ The researchers then amplified these mistakes into 2.5 million gun defenses a year, even though this would suggest that gun owners are experiencing a crime wave like nobody else is and that it’s been going on continuously for a quarter century through the Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, Trump and Biden eras. The fact that the pro-gun figures don’t take year-to-year crime into account is dispositive that they are fraudulent.

Them: “A good guy with a gun stopped the church shooting at Sutherland Springs, Texas in 2017.”

You: “The NRA instructor who shot Devin Kelley did not stop a mass murder. He put a barely happy coda on it when the killing work was largely done. Kelley successfully killed 26 people and wounded 22 others, doing exactly what he’d set out to do. It really didn’t matter at that point if a bystander or a cop wounded him or ended his life. If the NRA instructor had been in the church, he would have likely been another victim or just as likely shot another congregant in the confusion, which is what usually happens when the good guy with a gun is fighting in close quarters. This is another, gaping hole in the ‘good guy with a gun’ theory. It requires dozens of people to act as a physical distraction so that the hero can get a clean shot.”

Them: “It doesn’t matter what liberals say about guns. They murder babies through abortion.”

You: “The idea that you are ready to turn your backs on slaughtered children as a kind of intellectual trade means your argument is a tactical one, not a moral one, and thus morally indefensible.”

Them: “Knives kill more people than guns.”

You: “That’s a lie. You probably meant to say knives kill more people than rifles, in which case you left out handguns on purpose (a distinction without much difference) and so you were still lying. The bigger point you are trying to make is that knives are just as lethal as guns. If that were the case, you would be OK just having knives. You aren’t because your premise is, again, untrue.

Them: “There’s more crime where there is more gun control.”

You: “That’s another lie. It’s based on a book whose author was caught lying. Quoting a liar makes you a liar also. We have every other developed country to show us how well gun control works, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned. The reason we say it doesn’t work in the U.S. is not derived from a scientific analysis. It stems from a desperate defense of culture. And you can use culture to defend almost anything, even human sacrifice. Which really is how you should be considering your argument right now.”

I would not listen to Greg Abbott give a press conference on a mass shooting in Texas for the same reason I would not listen to Charles Manson give a press conference on the Tate-LaBianca murders.

–*Tom Hardy is completely unrecognizable to those who don’t know who he is.

–*Why words refuse to work with Rudy Giuliani anymore.

–*Why you’ll never know what’s in this confidentiality agreement.

–*Why do we not hear from Leonard Nimoy anymore?

–*Which actresses bared all as part of a routine medical examination?

–*Why this olive branch is a peace symbol and not something you should put in your mouth, Taylor Swift.

–*Why when you click this link, God will not be there.

–*The end is nigh. Invest in gossamer wings.

–*This human growth hormone has had it with Lance Armstrong.

–*This old drunk used to be a young drunk.

–*How come you never hear from your partner’s genitals anymore?

–*How the #MeToo movement has ruined this cabbage cleanse.

–*The market will crash any day, says this investor waiting to buy assets from you on the cheap.

–*Why trading barter corn for dental care is the new normal.

–*Why this famous celebrity never saw the rock coming.

Now that spring has sprung and temperatures are rising, many homeowners are bound to have visits from less-than-welcome creatures. But there is a way to deal with these pesky visitors other than using poison. Consider these natural methods of pest control.

–*Try spraying a little alcohol.

–*Put garlic at any of the ants’ entrance points.

–*Try to reason with the ants using Cartesian logic.

–*Try setting the ants on fire. Everybody knows that fire is natural.

–*Set about 50 anteaters loose in  your home.

–*Play John Mayer constantly. The ants will know this is one party they do not want to go to.

–*Everybody knows ants hate chalk. Write “Fuck you, ants,” in chalk on the floor.

–*Make a ton of money and move into a house that’s better built.

–*Essential oils will repel ants but will likely attract Gwyneth Paltrow.

–*Ants communicate with pheromones. Disrupt their communication chain by trying to destroy all pheromones in your house, including your own.

–*Stick your hand into a fire ant pile and let them repeatedly sting you until they become bored with the practice and leave.

Salon de la Guerre now has 32 albums available on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Bandcamp and other sites where can buy and stream music. My latest is Stereoisomer. You can check out the catalogue here and here.

Salon de la Guerre’s 32nd album is going to come out in the next week. It’s my hardest, fastest, most rockin’ album yet, full of up-tempo alt rock guitar numbers.

To whet your appetite, I’m uploading another cut from SoundCloud. The album will soon appear on iTunes, Amazon, Pandora and YouTube, as well as other music distribution sites, including one big one I won’t mention that’s been in the news for hosting rich asshole anti-vaxxers.

As always, I recorded the album at my home studio in New York City on Logic Pro. I wrote the album, sang on 10 tracks and played guitar on eight of them.

The Banality of Eva

No one ever starts out as a bottom feeder
You’re a pristine block of wood and you carve your own features
Next thing that you know you’re in the tabloid reaches
Got flashlights for eyes just like the dumpster creatures

Made in the trash but
Seeking the light
Morning caller
You’re still made of night
Doing devil’s work
To learn what’s right

Who would ever guess at the banality of Eva
Only those who knew when she was young and peevish
You only had to see she was a little bit tasteless
You only had to know she was a lot impatient

Breaking the mold, wanting to fit in
Never quite knowing what suit she’s in
Wanting to be a celebrity
Wanting to crush all her enemies

Stylish stylish stylishly late
For your for your destiny with fate
Come to be come everything you hate
Your average-ness, what you hope is great

My plumbing is all
Messed up after two years
Riding a bike during this Covid
Business

The straws and tubes
With which god made a crotch
Are all bent and skewed
Nothing comes out right
I spatter and dribble piss like
A broken radiator

But I can hiss and sob
A man made old before his time
Graceful in my imperfection

Plato said there are no objects just ideals
So you can think about that as you sadly
Consider my ruined junk

Stereoisomer

Salon de la Guerre is releasing its 32nd album in a few weeks. It’s titled Stereoisomer, and I’m sharing the title track and a few others on Soundcloud today.

Most of the album is unabashedly loud, raunchy, guitar-driven hard rock. After releasing my previous album in November, I set about trying to get a brighter guitar sound than I’d previously achieved with my home recording equipment, and I finally found the magic formula. After that, I knocked out most of the basic tracks in a couple of weekends in December. But then I had to figure out how my voice was going to get around all these bigger electric thrashing sounds (a problem I’ve heard discussed by rockers as diverse as Sting and Iggy Pop). There’s a practical reason heavy metal singers use loud, overblown voices, and I’ve gradually figured out what it is: Big Guitar doesn’t leave much room in the sound picture, and the best singers have to float above it. Then there are people like me who have to fake it.

I also had to figure out which lyrics best suited this particular instrumental attack I’d come up with. That took me a few months. As it happens, there are plenty of things in the world to be angry about (I’m looking at you, Russia) and turning your despair into angry expression is an emancipating act that sometimes only art affords you.

“Stereoisomer”

I shed the costume and now I’m chased by snow drops
Had to shed my parachute gear
Had to let go of the octopus gravity
A Dutch girl crying wish you were here 

Blown out face of a Jugendstil building
Looks like we landed in the zone
I’m a nationless man finding the pins in keyholes
A traitor with a rubber for a soul

Wore a pig costume
Hair done page
Now I enter the metafiction stage
Don’t know love from rage
The human cell is acting its age

Behold the age of aromatic polymers
Benzene rings and nylon legs
Sometimes it’s scary the way things crystallize
Show you the girl, the life you left behind

Did you hear the propellant stop burning
That’s when the V-2 started to fall
See it etch the tomato sky of morning
Hope we live to be amazed by it all

Wore a pig costume
You’re on my cape
Never left the re-entry stage
But the eukaryotic cell plays
Plastic man in a plastic age 

And when I broke, broke through the wall
I found a chemical lab and scored it all
Please send word to Truman
I’m sorry that I’m AWOL

Copyright 2022 Eric Randolph Rasmussen