November 12, 2010

Nihilism for fun and profit

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , — Bob Patterson @ 6:03 pm

The confluence of three items, recently, in the World’s Laziest Journalist’s “in” box produced a Eureka moment when the nihilistic lessons of this columnist’s favorite movies snapped into focus.

The first item was a feature news report, from Scientific American, heard on KKGN, San Francisco’s progressive talk AM radio station, about a psychological study that indicated mice who worked harder for a reward enjoyed it more intensely. It was said to reinforce the traditional parental lesson that most kids are taught that the harder they work, the more intently they will enjoy reaping the fruit of their labor.

That, in turn, precipitated some college era memories about a deal whereby this writer would, if he pulled his grades up to a B average, be given permission to hit the bank account and buy a used car. One A, three B’s, and a C produced the B average and a high level of euphoria for the student. Unfortunately, the parent, in his best Republican style, said he couldn’t recall any previous quid pro quo agreement about good grades and an automobile. Say “so-long!” to the “value of hard work” lesson.

In the 2010 mid-term elections, the Democrats lost their majority in the House and almost lost their Senate Majority. Even the Democratic President had to assess the results as a “shellacking.”

At the end of the classic film, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, two prospectors watch the gold that they have risked their lives for, and work feverishly for, blow away in a strong wind. Howard, the old prospector, tells his partner: “Oh laugh, Curtin, old boy. It’s a great joke played on us by the Lord, or fate, or nature, whatever you prefer. But whoever or whatever played it certainly had a sense of humor! Ha! The gold has gone back to where we found it!… This is worth ten months of suffering and labor – this joke is!”

Long before having an allergic reaction to the lesson of the mice and hard work experiment, this columnist had been primed by life to promote a happy-go-lucky response (picture Earl Flynn scoffing at danger in a classic pirate film) to misfortune and disappointment.

If a person adopted such a cynical-cavalier attitude towards life, could he maintain it at that point in his life where he found himself lying on the pavement of a remote highway with a broken leg and a fracture skull? Does saying: “You know in the movie how they always say: ‘I think I have a broken leg,’ well when you have a broken leg, you know you have a broken leg” qualify?

Bleeding out the ear is a battlefield symptom of a fractured skull. When you arrive in the emergency room and the doctor wants to know if you have a concussion, he might hold up his hand and asks “How many fingers?” Would responding “Do you count your thumb as a finger?” qualify as an example of a proper cynical-cavalier attitude, at that moment?

[Personal aside: It wasn’t until 1982, when we reread 1984, that we identified the “déjà vu” quality to the “How many fingers?” question.]

When all three of these factors came into alignment after the results of the mid-term elections became known, this columnist shrugged his shoulders and asked himself: “What would Fred C. Dobbs do?”

We diligently searched the limited progressive media available for a result analysis of the “Eat, drink, and be merry – because tomorrow we die!” kind (often attributed to the men in World War I who faced the prospect of aerial combat with the Red Barron). “Where is it?” The progressive talk radio hosts were not as ebullient sounding as Rush Limbaugh.
Where has the hippie generation “Age of Aquarius” optimism gone?

While working on staff of a daily newspaper in Santa Monica, we had a boss who advised the workers that if there was an atomic attack on Los Angeles (just imagine that there is a foreign sub with missiles lurking off the coast of Southern California), then we all should: “Run towards the flash!” if an attack should take place.

So, where is the progressive talk radio with an excellent example of a cavalier attitude?

(Note the Berkeley area musical group “the Grannies” offer their fans a bumper sticker proclaiming: “My middle finger says you’re wrong!” Where can I get one?)

The Democrats, who expect (like the mice in the aforementioned Scientific American item) their hard work to pay off, are in a funk. The people, who enjoy the annual “Lucy pulls the football away” episodes from the Peanuts comic strip, will have to be content with reviewing all their favorite nihilistic movies.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with Howard’s speech at the end.
Citizen Kane to understand the “Rosebud” moment
Apocalypse Now for the “call in the air strike” denouement.
Help for the “Who wears the ring, must die!” line
The Third Man for the remark about what 500 years of peace and brotherhood produced for Switzerland.
Easy Rider to hear “We blew it, Billy.”
Cool Hand Luke just to see that last smile
At the end of The Sound of Music, didn’t the Nazis march into Austria?
Rebel without a Cause to hear “Ray, I got the bullets!”
Maybe even Treasure Island? Could the image of Long John Silver heading solo out to sea in big row boat be a metaphor for the plight of the Democratic Party at this point in time?

Some old Hollywood hands will offer the insight that all comedies end with a wedding and all tragedies end with a funeral.

Do you think that the Democrats and the Republicans are going to “kiss and make up” or is an Obama impeachment a very likely political development for next year?

Who was is that once said: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again . . . then give up ‘cause there’s no use looking like a damn fool”?

After more than six years of writing columns asserting that George W. Bush was a war criminal, this past week we got to hear some other folks say the same thing based on casual remarks the former President made during his triumphant round of promoting his new book on various TV shows.

Will his casual confession lead to a war crimes trial or will it mark the turning point where Dubya’s bad press no longer became a factor for assessing the potential for JEB’s quest to restore the legacy of the Bush Dynasty and win the 2012 Presidential Election?

Perhaps one of W. C. Fields’ comments gives the best clue: “If a thing’s worth having; its worth stealing (to get).”

Now the disk jockey will play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “If You Wish upon a Star,” and Joan Baez’s “Prison Trilogy (Billy Rose).” We have to go and try to convince one particular website proprietor that we will recant and repent and henceforth espouse a sincere Pollyanna attitude towards everything the Democrats do and should be welcomed back like the prodigal son in the Bible parable. Have a “Where’s Buzz” type week.

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