I happen to be re-reading Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges‘ insightful, moral, indignant, even prescient 2009 bestseller, Empire of Illusion. Subtitled The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, the book is a clairvoyant peek into the events that would ensue some seven years after its publication.
Hedges frames the first chapter with scenes from Vince MacMahon’s TV wrestling extravaganzas and then veers into several Reality TV shows like The Swan and Survivor to posit that, well, we are majorly fucked up.
Ahem, you know, as do I, which current President of the United States became known to the widest swath of the populace through his appearances on televised wrestling spectaculars and his own “reality”-based TV emetic.
Hedges is, largely, a scourge, one that our contemporary culture (and I use that term awfully damned loosely) is in desperate need of. Of course we’ll blissfully ignore him. A shame, that, because rather than paying heed to an intellectual grounded in deep historical references and a principled outlook, we’ll have to have our asses handed to us by outside forces — perhaps even vile outside forces — because an empire that’s as majorly fucked up as we are cannot stand long.
Ignore One, Get The Other
From the book:
Celebrities…. are held up as proof that anyone, even we, can be adored by the world. These celebrities, like saints, are living proof that the impossible is always possible. Our fantasies of belonging, of fame, of success, and of fulfillment, are projected onto celebrities. These fantasies are stoked by the legions of those who amplify our culture of illusion, who persuade us that the shadows are real. The juxtaposition of the impossible illusions inspired by celebrity culture and our “insignificant” individual achievements, however, eventually leads to frustration, anger, insecurity, and invalidation. It results, ironically, in a self-perpetuating cycle that drives the frustrated, alienated individual with even greater desperation and hunger away from reality, back toward the empty promises of those who seduce us, who tell us what we want to hear. We beg for more. We ingest those lies until our money runs out. And when we fall into despair, we medicate ourselves, as if the happiness we failed to find in the hollow game is our deficiency. And, of course, we are told it is.
Checklist: celebrity worship, frustration and anger, the overthrow of reality, our own complicity in the scam, self-medication (see The Opioid Epidemic). The man nailed today’s holy land.
A Real Cinephile
I dunno what this means. Maybe you can tell me. I’m going down the list of the highest grossing American movies of all time and realizing, Shoot, mang, I ain’t seen many of them.
Okay? Here goes:
- Gone with the Wind — Saw the first half hour of it; had to get up and turn it off. Couldn’t take any more.
- Jaws — Nope.
- Avatar — Uh-uh
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens — No.
- Jurassic World — Ixnay.
- Iron Man — N.
- Frozen — I may have. The Loved One might have got it from Netflix. Can’t say.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — N.
- Titanic — Yeah. Went with Delia Chandler. We both cried.
- Star Wars — Uh-huh; only I remember next to nothing about it except there was a sort of funny scene in a bar.
- The Sound of Music — No. Nazis and “My Favorite Things.” That’s a weird trip.
No. Just No.
- E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial — N.
- The Avengers — N.
- Furious 7: Was this really a movie? What was it about?
- Beauty and the Beast (2017) — I saw the Cocteau version made in 1946; why did it have to be made again?
- The Fate and the Furious — I thought it was The Fast and the Furious. Was there a typo?
- Iron Man 3 — Three of them?
- Minions — Saw it. It passed the time.
- Captain America: Civil War — I prefer actual comic books.
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King — This movie was made specifically to annoy me: It deals with some England-y kind of Middle Ages world with magic thrown in.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon — I like Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” Does that count?
- The Dark Knight Rises — I really liked the original Dark Knight, primarily because that guy who eventually died in real life did such a good acting job. Still, I ditched it about two-thirds of the way through because it was way too long.
That’s it. I can’t take anymore. I’m going to put on my collection of Warner Bros. cartoons. I like Bugs Bunny.
Out There Art
By the way, jump in your hot rod and motor over to Brown County before the 31st. You’ve got to catch the 16th annual Back Roads of Brown County Tour. It’s a delightful trip through the sticks and woods of perhaps the prettiest stretch of Indiana extant. Brown County’s artists and craftspeople open up their home studios and they’re eager to show you how they create their masterpieces or living room accoutrements, depending on their predilections.
The Loved One and I, along with our friend Les, visited four terrific artists’ lairs: Monique Cagle’s Sleepy Cat Studio, Dixie Ferrer‘s deep woods retreat, and the mom and daughter operations of Sarah Noggle (loom and weaving) and Sarabeth Noggle (letterpress and prints). Getting to the first two destinations, I have to admit, was an adventure. The Yellowwood Road construction project forced us to take washboard roads in a circuitous path to get there but the trip was worth it.
[Image: Jeremy Hogan/Herald Times]
That’s two fall Sundays in a row that TLO and I have enjoyed the wonders of this area. Hmm, maybe this stretch of S. Central IN ain’t half bad after all.