Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer Movie Review

I think of this blog more as a way of talking to people I have met and whose comments I have enjoyed, so remember that when you read what I post below.

I have spent the evening looking at blogs and thinking of the recent article on Wikipedia in the New York Times. I don’t get the appeal. Those brief paragraphs and excited utterances exhaust me. After a day sitting in front of a computer, I need to move around and do something that requires attention.

These thoughts, I will explain how, led to musing on the movies “Die Hard,” “District 13” and writing by Robert Stone, Kem Nunn, and Melville.

What I find strange in all of this on-line stuff is that suddenly we are getting comments and news updates from people who don’t leave their houses. And we are thrilled to comment in the little box provided. Talk about Pavlov’s dog.

Who are these bloggers and wikipedia writers? Where do they get the time to write such long and detailed postings? Are they working? What do they live on if they don’t work? Is our economy being distorted by the gift economy? What kinds of perspective and attitudes are formed by such interactions? What kind of world is being created that relies on quips and rapid updates by anonymous individuals who don’t worry about a paycheck? They don't have a feedback loop, like the market. They don’t seem to worry about consequences. Reading them, I thought of Paul Kramer’s “On Depression,” “It seems worrisome that the depth of modernity should reside in some highly delimited subspecies, say, depression in young, educated, pessimistic, middle-class neurotics.”

Believe it or not, the summer’s best action movie treats this theme. “Live Free, Die Hard’s” story (really a device to connect great action shots) is that clueless computer nerds get manipulated by an evil computer nerd who only became evil when the hidebound US government bureaucracy ignored his superior analysis of the US security situation. So he picks up his toy (his laptop) and zaps the nation with the aid of his girlfriend, Maggie Q who combines beauty, brains, and martial skills. Evil computer nerd looks good in black and hires serious guns—one of them the French actor who acted/performed parkour in “District 13,” 2004’s best action movie and in terms of action better than "Live Free, Die Hard."

The computer nerds in “Live Free, Die Hard” are a sad and pasty lot. They live in squalid conditions. They call themselves by ridiculous handles. They collect toys. They lack interior lives and do not engage the world – so unlike the American male of novels. In “Moby Dick,” Quequeeg gets hired because he is so skillful with the harpoon. Nunn’s burnt out men squandered their promise as surfers. Stone’s men are good on the water and have vivid interior lives.

Computer nerds have a worse image problem than librarians (and the NYT is solving that for us; we are cool now.) The French should be disturbed about their image, also. The guns in "Live Free, Die Hard" are French, techy, and good in the dark. They don't play with toys.

Robert Stone and Nunn do not have blogs. I like that I have to wait for their books. When I read them, I can feel the effort required to frame a thought. I like that they bring a knowledge of how things work to their writing—that Nunn will describe light on water and how to stand on a surfboard, and Stone will describe what a flock of migrating penguins looks like from a Navy ship.

I am disturbed when a quote from a study of depression describes my feelings about bloggers. Something strange is happening here.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

Dear Jackie,
Although we are unfortunately in the same class as the bloggers you worry about, being bloggers ourselves, I really enjoyed your post! I, too, worry about what seems to me to be profound shifts in our culture. People like you and me who read and think more deeply and value personal connections in the physical world, are perhaps becoming anachronisms.

I can tell you, though, that the young folks coming along, are not all the same. There are still teenagers and young adults who think deeply and engage in the real world. They have vivid internal lives, in your great phrase. But enough people are living a life at one remove from physical reality that it is really shifting our culture.

I really want people to think about these changes. We can't move the clock back and push the technology underlying these shift back into some box. But we can, and should think about how to adjust the way we raise children and teach students and associates to help them compensate for the disadvantages this new style suffers. All the while, we should be looking for how we old fogies can pick up on the advantages of the new technology and new "multi-tasking" way of life. While they skim very shallowly over life, they also are covering very broad territory. Maybe we can manage to eke out the best of both worlds.

Or maybe not.