Friday, September 21, 2007

America's Finest at Work

As of ten days ago, the nation has weathered six years without another major terrorist attack. We owe those years of safety to the work of law enforcement on every level, whether it's local police, Homeland Security or the TSA.

And in recognition of their fine work, let's review what the nation's men and women working in law enforcement and national security have accomplished lately:

A) Men who use the restrooms at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport can now relieve themselves without fear of foot tappers. This is important, people. After all, it's not like there could be anything else to worry about in an airport with a 100,000 passengers moving through it every day.

On a personal note, I don't feel that threatened by foot tapping. It kind of pales compared to the time I was one of the first people seated on a flight and the aisle filled up with a slow moving line of passengers, one of whom pressed his erect penis against my shoulder (and his pants were polyester. Ewww.) But if you haven't had that happen to you, I can understand how foot tapping might be traumatic.

Yes, Virginia, if Americans can ask each other for sex, the terrorists win.

B) We all know that the September 11 attack could have been prevented if only we had known what Mohamed Atta was reading. When he first tried to enter the US, he probably never would have made it out of the airport if baggage screeners had known he was carrying the pamphlet So, You Want to Destroy the World Trade Center. Now when you enter the United States--whether you're citizen, tourist or resident alien--airport screeners are collecting data on what reading material you're carrying. Don't you feel safer knowing that Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder Ron Gilmore has been reading Drugs and Your Rights? I do.

I can think of dozens of ways this information can be used to improve the quality of American life. As a start, I've written to the Department of Homeland Security asking them to keep track of the people who read Nicholas Sparks and keep them the Hell away from me (I haven't heard back yet).

C) This is the Homeland Security coup of the year: British musicologists can no longer enter the U.S. with impunity. The residency visa of Nalini Ghuman has been revoked. It's obvious: the undergrad years studying music at Oxford, the Ph.D. at Berkeley, the scholarly articles on Elgar--all cover. She was just lying low and keeping dark until the day she could walk into a seminar on harmony and counterpoint with bombs strapped to her chest and take out a roomful of music majors.

Keep it up guys, I'm feeling safer every day.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A New Renaissance is Upon Us!

I've been out of the loop on upcoming movies, so I am indebted to the ever-delightful Carl Pyrdum for news that Beowulf (the movie!) will hit the silver screen in November. Unfortunately, it won't be directed by Mel Gibson. Which is too bad: I was so looking forward to a film with a script entirely in Old English. I had even pictured how it would absolutely have to begin: Charlton Heston, all bearded and grizzly, his face illuminated by firelight, shouting Hwaet!. (Hwaet, the first word of the poem, essentially means "pay attention, losers.")

Well, as the Anglo-Saxons would have said, wá lá wá! (to translate, insert expression of disappointment of your choice). The script is in modern English, and Charlton Heston is not in the cast. Instead we have Ray Winstone (as Beowulf), Crispin Glover (as Grendel), Angelina Jolie (as Grendel's mother), Angelina Jolie's breasts (as Angelina Jolie's breasts), and Anthony Hopkins (as Hrothgar).

I'm a little taken aback that Grendel's mom appears human in the film. I've always pictured Grendel as looking a little like Chewbacca. Since there weren't any female wookies in any of the Star Wars movies I saw, my mental image of Grendel's mother has always been much vaguer. I did, however, assume some kind of family resemblance.

But on to larger issues: in the past three years we've had a major movie based on the Trojan War, another on the Battle of Thermopylae, another on Alexander the Great, an HBO series on the civil wars that finished off the Roman Republic, and now a major movie on the only surviving Old English epic poem. Is it possible that the entertainment-industrial complex is so alarmed at what they've done to the nation's intellectual life that they are now trying to reconnect us to the wellsprings of our cultural heritage, the history and literature of the classical and medieval worlds?

What's next? I would be surprised if there weren't several movies based on Greek mythology in the works. If you've read any Greek myths, you know that people are always a) having sex and b) turning into plants. Ready-made plots with lots of nudity and opportunities for cool special effects. What studio would walk away from that?

The Song of Roland would make a great movie too: lots of violence, fighting between Westerners and Muslims. Everything an American audience could want. No sex as I recall, but I'm sure Hollywood will find a way.

The possibilities for television are endless. Every episode of the L-Word could end with a televised reading of one of Sappho's poems. Jerry Springer could invite mother-son couples onto his show to talk about what the Oedipus myth means to them.

I'm really excited. Ten years ago when I pitched my idea of a musical based on the life of the Emperor Caligula, directors acted like I was some kind of nut. But now....

What a great time to be alive. The American public will get a classical education just by watching movies. Kevin Sorbo might get regular work again. And studio executives will start returning my calls.

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