More and more, I am of the opinion that we have to – should – choose what books we read, what films we see, what stories we attempt to experience and try to understand, on our own, with no recourse to critics. No one to hold our hands. Because even the most erudite critic can offer up very little more than interesting observations. The validity of those observations cannot be judged on any criteria that are not subjective, relative to a given reader/audience member. Add to this the inescapable influence of politics (between writers and critics, critics and other critics, etc.), prejudices of all sorts, the problem of audience expectations, and interpersonal squabbles. And...well...past this point it all becomes very complicated, and I haven't time to go there at the moment. I shall only say that as I age, I am learning more and more that I ought turn to the critics only as an afterthought, once I have already seen a film or read a book. Not before, which, of course, subverts the traditional view of critics as gatekeepers and shepherds and arbiters, the view of themselves that most critics cherish. And which often permits them to do much damage.
So, I say, "These are my impressions, and I have a great deal of knowledge with which to craft arguments supporting my impressions. But, in the end, even as a very educated and experienced reader and lover of film, my impressions are subjective. Your mileage may vary. Will vary. And I say, Caitlín, stop listening to the critics.
Case in point: Baz Luhrmann's Australia (2008). For four years, I avoided this film, though I'd unconditionally adored his Moulin Rouge! (2001), which I saw five or six times at the theatre. Last night, I saw Australia for myself, and it is amazing. Or I will say, rather, I found it amazing. Beautiful. Magnificent. Timeless. Important. Relevant. Possessed of all those qualities I seek in good storytelling and in all good art. That Australia is marked by its own quirky brilliance, it's own unexpected style, the unique voice of Baz, this is not its weakness, but its salvation. Indeed, it's only justification for existence. Also, it is fascinating as a retelling of The Wizard of Oz (1939). Now, these are my personal perception, and I believe I'm quite good at judging film. But, as I said, your mileage may vary. Belatedly, two thumbs, and two big toes, up. Five out of five stars. Whatever.
Also, if in the preceding discussion I have in any way reversed earlier statements on the worth and role of cities/reviewers, changing my opinions in not only my prerogative, it is to be expected of thinking people. Evolution, not stagnation.
The more I look at and study my work on Black Helicopters, the more I feel that this is the best thing I've written since The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. I know now that, before I hand the final ms. into subpress, I'll be adding another two scenes and expanding the closing sequence. Also, I suspect one of the new sequences will be written entirely in French. No, really. Why? Because I tried German, and that didn't work as well. Also, my thanks to Bill Schafer for encouraging me to do this novella.
Okay, so, in response to horror and tragedy, the National Rifle Association holds a press conference that can only, charitably, be described as an abominable sort of burlesque. It was hard for me to get past the claim that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” even though Adam Lanza shot himself. Which, it seems, carries us into "liar's paradox" territory. He was a bad guy. But only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns. But he stopped himself. Which perforce, following, Wayne LaPierre's infantile logic, makes Lanza a "good guy." But let's set that nonsense aside.
Let's look at this nonsense, instead. LaPierre's call for armed security guards at every US school. I'm not even going to debate how outrageously, dangerously stupid the idea is. Instead, I'm going to look at it from a financial perspective. In the United States, the are ~133,000 schools (100k public, 33k private; universities not included). This means we'd need a minimum of ~133,000 armed security guards for the job. That is, assuming one guard per school (which seems insufficient to the task LaPierre envisions). So, what will that cost? I've been investigating how much security guards are paid. Salary.com lists the 2012 annual median expected salary as $28,834. Which is pretty shitty. You can make more as a freelance writer. Anyway, so, a conservative estimate would indicate that we need ~133,000 armed security guards, and we'll need ~$3,834,922,000 to pay these women and men. Yes. 3.8 billion dollars, and this doesn't begin to address the additional expenses of Federal and/or state programmes recruiting, training, arming, and certifying these guards – not to mention retirement and benefits. That would, possibly, probably, at least double the cost.
This, in a nation apparently too poor to fund its public schools, where budget cuts are the norm, not the exception. Where art and music and physical education classes are being jettisoned for lack of funding. Where teachers work for salaries that barely constitute a living wage. Where many districts are shortening school days in an attempt to avoid school closures. Where school districts are being forced to consolidate, cut jobs, increase class sizes, defer maintenance, and cancel school bus routes. We cannot, in this nation, seem to scrape up the money for basic education, but LaPierre thinks that, in this economy, we can afford to arm 133,000 guards. And, of course, he's not going to begin to support tax increases that would pay for this insanity. The NRA certainly won't foot the bill. No, the requisite costs will simply materialize ex nihilo, because the NRA thinks it should be so.
Yeah, right. How many more atrocities must this country face before we tell the NRA to fuck off? They are a powerful force, employing powerful lobbyists – not to protect the supposed "rights" of people who think they need AK-47s to hunt deer or protect themselves from an imminent North Korean invasion – but to sell guns.** LaPierre and his followers are an especial alloy of stupid, ignorant, cruel, and insane.
Also, fuck the pope and his homophobia/transphobia, and fuck all those who follow him (which, of course, isn't all Catholics).
And So It Goes,
* Yes, there are very notable exceptions, especially as regards blogs. But I'm not about to try to list those that are, in my opinion, exceptional.
** From MSN.com: Thought the Sandy Hook massacre would inspire gun advocates to reconsider the benefits of massive quantities of home weaponry? No dice. Gun stores are reporting a massive spike in sales, especially of the country's most popular AR-15 — the same model used to do the dirty work of both Adam Lanza and the Aurora shooter. Fearing Obama could reinstate the expired federal assault weapons ban (or sidestep the right-to-bear-arms debate by outlawing selling ammo), sales are through the roof, and stocks are running low. Some say it's the usual pre-Christmas gun-buying frenzy, as the FBI says 2012's 16.8 million gun-buyer background checks is a record-setter even without December's numbers. Yup, America's got that "well-armed militia" thing down.