Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Stranger in a strange hand

This curious news item appeared mid-August. Obviously, I have been living under a rock since I only found out about it the other night. Lina and I were sitting in her torn-apart living room (she's moving) and going through the latest issue of Vanity Fair.

She says, "Did you see something about Bush reading The Stranger in here?"

She tells me this because she knows The Stranger is my all-time favorite book. Ever since I was 17. It was assigned reading. I told my Honors English teacher I wanted to adapt it into a film. (I think at the time, I mean, it was 1995, I envisioned
Keanu Reeves as Mersault. Come on! I was only 17!)

Obvious, we were enjoying vodka-based beverages so we naturally got sidetracked and began looking up crap on YouTube. The next day, however, I Google-ed the information.

Sure enough, Lena was correct. It may not have appeared in that particular issue of Vanity Fair, but it certainly made the news earlier this month while Bush was on vacation at his Crawford ranch.

Of course such an event would make the news. Bush has said his favorite book is the Bible and his favorite "philosopher" was Jesus. And the only other book I know for certain he has read is The Pet Goat.

Why the hell would Bush be reading the most famous novel by the beloved French author
Albert Camus?

Media outlets like Slate begged for more information regarding the President's vacation read. On The Daily Show,Jon Stewart pointed out, for those who have never had the pleasure of reading The Stranger, "it's a book about a Westerner who kills an Arab and dies with no remorse. Why it would strike a nerve, I don't know."

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said that the President found the book to be an "interesting read" and commented that they had a brief conversation on the origins of French existentialism.

This disbelief that Bush would read such a novel stems not only from the book's ironic subject matter, but because, well, the President reading any deep literature is just amusing in itself. When it became public knowledge that President Clinton (all hail) gifted Monica Lewinsky with Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, it didn't seem that odd. In spite of what many may (still) think of Clinton, and all of the coverage surrounding the Lewinsky scandal, the fact that Clinton presented his mistress with a beloved piece of American literature didn't seem completely bizarre. Clinton was a literate intellectual. But President Bush reading The Stranger while on vacation? Absolutely and completely bizarre (er...absurd).

Why the hell would Bush be interested in French extentialism? Granted, over a year ago, he quoted Camus while speaking in Brussels, but we all know he doesn't actually write those speeches. And his use of "freedom is a long-distance race" is quite ironic, mainly because Camus' idea of freedom was one which could only be achieved once society was freed from the restrictions of religious dogma.

Going back to Tony Snow's comment about he and the President's dicussion of "French Existentialism", it is important to note that most Camus historians believe Camus would have rejected his work being classified into the extentialist genre. Many would say that he subscribed to absurdist philosophies, but much of Camus' work questioned how absurdism played into our lives -- can life be meaningful while having no meaning? Subconsciously, could Bush be questioning his motives and the legacy of his politcal career?

During his time, Camus was well-known as a vocal political activist opposed to totalitarian movements. His extentialist contemporary, Sartre, was an ardent Marxist (this supposedly led to the end of their friendship, as Camus opposed totalitarian politics on each side of the spectrum). He was a member of the French resistence to the Nazi Occupation and spoke out against the Soviet Union throughout his life.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bush sees himself as the leader of anti-totalitarianism in today's world, a concept he so frequently contradicts in policy and subsequent action. However, it is obvious he fails to see any of this contradiction, even though the simple statement of being "either with us or against us" reeks of totalitarianism. His blind faith in Evangelical Christian "morality"? Also totalitarianism.

In 1957, in a speech commerating the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against the U.S.S.R., Camus made this statement:

But I am not one of those who think that there can be a compromise, even one made with resignation, even provisional, with a regime of terror which has as much right to call itself socialist as the executioners of the Inquisition had to call themselves Christians.

If he were alive today, don't you wonder what Camus would be saying now?

Maybe I should give credit to Bush for reading The Stranger, but I doubt it was done to broaden his horizons. I think he really just read the words, reading...but numb to what the words are acutally saying.

When Mersault killed the Arab, he may have not felt the "remorse" we are trained and conditioned to feel after doing something wrong. But Mersault was not completely immune to the affects of his actions.

Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness.

Mr. President, are you knocking on that door of unhappiness?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Screw You Jonathan Franzen

Ok. Jonathan Franzen recently published his memoirs. Fabulous.

I have read both The Twenty-Seventh City and The Corrections. The first of which is a fictional account of several families in St. Louis. In The Corrections, a mythical city of St. Jude (the Patron Saint of Lost Causes, as he points out upon first mention) stands in for St. Louis. Both books were engrossing yet mired in pompous dribble. As I finished both, I felt sort of dirty and empty, although I had devoured each novel in record time. It could be compared to eating a incredibly rich meal in an expensive restaurant with the most amazing ambiance, yet when you clean your plate, you realize that the food just wasn't that good.

Yo, Franzen. We get it. Your intellectual & pompous ass just has to prove it's better than where they grew up. You really should get some serious therapy and learn how to deal with the fact you were born and raised in St. Louis. You obviously can't get over geography and frankly, it is beyond annoying AND offensive.

I take offense because I was born and raised in St. Louis. Yes, I moved away. No, I do not plan on ever moving back. Am I ashamed of where I grew up? Hell no. Every time I get on the plane after visiting I still get a bit teary-eyed because it means I having to leave people I love. The majority of my family still lives there. Many of my closest friends have built lives and families there. Are they ignorant and blind to the world beyond Highways 40, 44 & 270? No. Most of them are not (Hey, we all know morons). And after living in Boston for over 6 years, I can attest that close-minded ignorance is epidemic of every region. It's just part of life. Stupid people exist everywhere.

The fact Franzen can't stop whining about his formative years is clear-cut evidence of his ignorant blindness to the world.

NY Times just reviewed Franzen's memoirs, The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History. For those of you unfamiliar with the St. Louis area, I feel the need to point out some things which would be lost upon the casual reader. The Times' book reviewer, Michiko Kakutani refers to "the town of Webster Groves" (which Franzen apparently describes as "in the middle of the country in the middle of the golden age of the American middle class". Yikes. A nice description in some sense, but stop trying to be the second coming of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franzen).

Webster Groves is not a "town", per se. It is a suburb. St. Louis is structured differently from most municipalities. The City and County are separate, referred to as St. Louis City and St. Louis County. True "towns" do not exist for perhaps 50 miles outside (in most directions, and if you're from St. Louis, you think of this in terms of the highways). Webster Groves is also one of the older suburbs in the area, located in closer proximity to downtown than the other areas which have been so heavily populated with strip mall monstrosities (Hello? THE VALLEY? THE VALLEY?). It is an area of St. Louis county with older, charming houses and a lot of character (Shall I throw in something about it being now being a gilded suburb in the golden age of upper middle class?). There is a pleasant lack of aluminum siding and Poltergeist-ish subdivisions. The "downtown" area of Webster Groves remains a "downtown" area in which people could explore on foot, unlike the newer suburbs which have been overrun with chain restaurants.

(To Franzen's credit, on his website, he refers to Webster Groves as a suburb.)

Sure, St. Louis has its faults. But no place is perfect. There are places which make me cringe...and there are places which overwhelm me with their beauty. The Calvary Cemetary in South City has the most incredible masouleums (one of which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) and driving electric boats with my father in the lake at Forest Park remains my most treasured childhood memory.

So, Franzen. Shove it. You really should direct your gift with language into something more constructive than bitching about your childhood neighborhood. In your memoirs, you apparently own up to being a judgmental prick. Good. That's a start. It's okay to be a judgmental prick. Just stop whining about something you can't control. You were born and raised in St. Louis. Deal. Maybe you should get drinks with Brad Pitt. He's from SPRINGFIELD. Have you ever been to Springfield, Franzen? The birthplace of cashew chicken and numerous marry-me-on-reality-TV stars? The home to many a store selling W.W.J.D. merchandise? I doubt it. Jesus, Franzen, I bet you never even ventured into Bridgeton. But that Brad Pitt. I hear he still actually visits Springfield. I've never even heard about him publically saying an unkind thing about the Southwestern Missouri town (almost in Oklahoma!) he grew up in.

And he's doing quite well for himself, don't you think? He got over it. I got over it. Maybe you should get over it, too.

(Being from St. Louis, I believe this is where I have to throw in the obligatory "Go Cards".)

Monday, August 28, 2006

greenmelinda rides again

As promised, greenmelinda is now up and running. It's my portfolio site -- and still a major work in progress. (So don't hold that against me if you want to find me a job or something.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Tom Cruise Wants Yahoo! Cash

I was instructed to add this bit of "very true gossip" from an L.A. buddy on my blog...

(And since we all now how much I loathe those pesky scientologists and Tom Cruise, I felt obliged.)

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes went to the Yahoo! offices in an attempt to drum up cash for his production company (if you've seen the news, Paramount dropped him this week). He went in to meet with executives with his very miserable-looking slave girl in tow.

(Obviously, it would be unrise to leave Slave Starlet at home, lest she run away with Suri, er...the "second-coming" of L. Ron.)

I guess he thinks Yahoo! will pony up some cash since they've had him do corporate events in the past. I don't understand why he doesn't just go to that big scientologist movie-making factory located somewhere in the desert.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Appalachia is HOT

A friend sent this to me. I really cannot think of the words that may best describe it.

Hot, hot, hot, perhaps?