August 15, 2008
Nebbish, fatalistic, existentialist, etc….
I was lucky enough to be exposed to Woody Allen’s work at a young age. I vividly recall watching Bananas with my father on television some time in the early 1980s and I remember not only finding the slapstick humour hilarious (which my father is quite fond of) but also noting that there were a lot of “smart jokes” in the film, most of which I was too young to understand. Nevertheless, I filed away the name “Woody Allen” in my mind for future use.
When Arts & Entertainment Television was launched (back in the days when you’d actually get to see some real art on television), the station would play a lot of his films. It was then that I was introduced to his other classics such as Sleeper, Love and Death, Annie Hall, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and my personal favourite to this day, Manhattan. At this point I in my life I was able to catch not just his jokes, but also the philosophical dilemmas in his films that were so self-referencing and personal. His neuroses, his paranoia, his existentialist defeatism, all were on display in all their glory for us to watch, to sympathize with, and often to share. Rather than discuss the merits of Woody Allen’s films, I think it best to simply state that they’ve been both smart and funny: a combination that seems simple yet so foreign in a time when smart and funny rarely intersect. A time in which we now live where smart is often associated with irony and funny is now in the realm of pubescent toilet humour.
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July 19, 2008
After the success of “No Logo” Naomi Klein has set her sights on “Disaster Capitalism”
Her grandfather was a Marxist who was fired from Disney for trying to organize the workers. Her father fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War. Naomi Klein made her name in the materialistic 1990s by railing against Nike for using dirt cheap labour abroad and against Starbucks for squeezing out the little guys. She became an intellectual celebrity with the publication of “No Logo” in 1999 where she decried the rise of corporations and how they monetized every aspect of our lives and culture. In our post 9/11 world, Klein has upped the ante in her war with the corporations in her latest book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Klein turns her fury towards American policy since the Second World War and how “disasters” have provided pretexts in which to spread globalization and corporate power at the expense of the poor. Her central thesis is that free-market economics as defined by the Chicago School and in particular Milton Friedman were implemented against the will of the people around the world through disorientation whether caused by war, coup d’etats, or disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.
Is Klein right? Is there a conspiracy by corporations and their government partners to cause chaos like war or to take advantage of disasters like tsunamis in order to spread the reach of corporations for the sake of profit? Jonathan Chait of The New Republic doesn’t necessarily agree with her theory in: Dead Left.