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Friday, February 28, 2003


SENDING IN A HORSE TO DO A TOASTER'S JOB PT. 3
And finally, there was the person who told me she needed to get a photocopy, so I showed her to the copy machine. "No," she said, "it's something smaller that you can take home with you. It's like, laminated or something. Do you have that?" I bombarded her with questions until I figured out that her boyfriend had sent her down to look into getting a copyright for his stage-name (he was one of those "hip-hoppers" you hear about on TV). "So can I get one of those here?" If only I had such powers...

Thursday, February 27, 2003


SENDING IN A HORSE TO DO A TOASTER'S JOB PT. 2
In another sad tale of a mother trying to do her son's homework for him, a woman told me her son was doing a project on Dakota Indians in the Saint Paul area circa 1800, and s/he wanted to know what kind of weapons they used. She also seemed to think they had carriages of some kind, but what they were called or used for she did not know.* I helped her look through our fairly extensive resources, but she was in a hurry and basically wanted me to tell her the answer. This is not uncommon.

One time a Grizzly Adams-looking sort of fellow was working on a resume and wanted me to tell him what to write in the "Objective" line. I explained to him that I didn't know what his career goals were so I certainly couldn't tell him what to put there, and on top of that there are certain professional standards to which I must adhere (i.e. "I can't write your resume for you, sir"). He had a hard time grasping this, though, and said "I don't want to play games" as if I knew the right answer and refused to tell him out of spite.

On the one hand, we have the common problem of people wanting us to do their work for them, and on the other we have an endless maze of vague communication difficulties. It's tough to help people who don't know what they want, especially when they're translating what their son said his teacher told him to do. Figuring out what people really want is a good 80% of the job.

There have been a huge number of times I've had a kid ask me a question on his younger brother's behalf, who just happens to also be in the library but is too shy to talk to me, or something, and is therefore unable to clearly explain what his homework assignment is. Maybe they can sense the hot bitterness and frustration bubbling just beneath the surface of my delicate skin, fearing that it will burst suddenly, pouring over them in a tidal wave of violence. Kids! I don't know where they get these crazy ideas.

*There was something about snakes. The Indians danced. I seem to recall a man in a hat. I think that movie was called 'Billy Jack.'

Tuesday, February 25, 2003


SENDING IN A HORSE TO DO A TOASTER'S JOB
There are an unbelievable number of people who come in to the library looking for information that someone else asked them to gather. I don't know who these people are that can send such minions to do their bidding...wait...no...actually, I do, they're called children and they've got their parents wrapped around their sticky little fingers like bubble gum. Today a mother came in asking for a children's book about the city of Red Wing. There is no such book, of course (not counting this one), and most children's books about Minnesota don't go into that much depth. She asked to look at the adult books, then, wondering which books might have information about Red Wing. She spotted "Twin Cities Uncovered" and asked me "would that have it?" I can't even begin to describe how this vexed me. Unless she had just moved to town that day- and I knew she hadn't- there is no possible way that she could not have known that "The Twin Cities" are Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Do you think there would be anything about Red Wing in a book about Minneapolis and Saint Paul? No? Well then, here, have a college degree on me. You've earned it.

Monday, February 24, 2003


Oh. My. God. The Mink Lady is preggers. I weep for that unborn child, and all those who may come to encounter it.

Friday, February 21, 2003


CLASSIC TALES FROM THE LIBERRY #4
Borrowed (or "stolen") from a co-worker:

The weirdest question I ever had was the guy who needed "a picture of an acre."

I asked him what he meant, and he said "you know, a picture of an acre of land. Like with grass and trees on it. To give my students an idea of how big an acre is."

The "my students" part truly terrified me.

After a bit of roundabout in this fashion, I finally convinced him that a good way might be to find out how large an acre is and then use a map to show the area. We looked it up in World Book, photocopied a map of the city, measured out an acre and drew it on the photocopy...so it turns out that while there is no truth in "there's no such thing as a stupid question," even stupid questions have answers.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003


TENSIONS ARE HIGH
When I'm not worrying about losing my job, I have encounters like this:

woman: "Can I get on a computer?"

me: "Do you have a library card?"

woman: "Jesus Christ...I don't have it with me..." (rummaging through purse) "Why do I fucking come here?"

me: "Excuse me?"

woman: "I was just talking to myself."


Tuesday, February 18, 2003

OUT OF TOUCH
Not feeling much like engaging with the outside world today (see recent posts for explanation). Fortunately, the many insignificant distractions I've been finding for myself have led to discoveries like this excerpt from an old e-mail:

I was at a zoo in Northern California and they had some kind of butterfly jail (I don't know the word for it- a secure enclosed space full of plants and butterflies) and a sweet little butterfly landed on my arm and uncurled his little proboscis and went to work. It tickled a teensy bit and a few people gathered around to watch, which made me feel like Jesus or Snow White.

Meanwhile, I'm listening to Superchunk and recovering from a weekend of excess. Two trips to two different Guitar Centers, one excursion to the sale at the Electric Fetus (resulting in the acquisition of Woody Guthrie's Asch recordings vol. 1-4, Herbie Hancock's soundtrack to "Blow-Up," Simon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence," and Elizabeth Mitchell's children's album "You Are My Flower"), late-night drunken pizza ordering, a forgettable meal at a suburban Chinese restaurant (during which the epic "Dinty Moore vs. Kikkoman" battle erupted), a margarita guzzling session at the "Restaurante de Ol' Mexico," a visit from an old friend, and, most notably, the wedding of a great couple. I'm pretty sure I embarrassed myself at the reception, but not in the spectacular pants-around-my-ankles manner which I was expecting to, more like the "wow, who is that gyrating spazmo?" variety of shame which is sure to have had more of an impact on me than on anyone who might've witnessed it. Still, I fear to show my face for several days, so I've buried it in DVDs and high-quality television programming. Time to get back to work, then. Library-related anecdotes to follow in the coming days, I promise.

Friday, February 14, 2003


THE SHADOW OF DELUSION'S REGIME
...from David Gray's "Let The Truth Sting"

I wanted to end this week on a positive note, but instead I've decided to take my expressions of bitterness up a notch. In that spirit, then, I offer this Valentine's Day dedication to Minnesota State Auditor Pat Anderson Awada, President George W. Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Senator Strom Thurmond, former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and to the oh-so-many others who have used their power to kill or impoverish around the globe:

Memory Lame by Jim O'Rourke

It's quite a gamble to speak out of place
Those things could kill you and so could your face
What occupies me pays a low rent
Because fondness makes the heart grow absent

These things I say might seem kind of cruel
So here's something from my heart to you
Looking at you reminds me of looking at the sun
And how the blind are so damn lucky

Those holes on your face could be used better ways
Breathing's a distraction when you chatter away

These things I say might seem to be lies
To seem risque or sensationalize
And too many people can remember your name
Always walking you down memory lane

These things I say might seem to offend
But not half as much as I'd like to intend
'Cause listening to you reminds me of a motor's endless drone
And how the deaf are so damn lucky

I'd be happy if life came to a stall
Then I wouldn't need my senses at all

These things I say might seem out of line
But day to day I'm right every time
Looking at you reminds me of looking at the sun
Too long

You'll find that in no time you'll be talking to yourself
Along with everybody else
Then you'll despise the look in their eyes
May be difficult to tell if you're looking at yourself
And you look fine if you don't mind
The empty look that's on your face
A black hole that's out of place
And out of time and in a tight bind
To find something smart to say when the silence comes your way


Thursday, February 13, 2003


WHAT I MEANT TO SAY WAS...
Bad, bad things are happening to public libraries everywhere around the nation, but I'm so focused on what's happening locally that it's hard not to shrivel down to an ineffectual ball of tension and worry. Since I can't talk about it without bleeding uncontrollably, here's what Morgan Wilson of explodedlibrary.info has to say.

Okay, I will make a few calm, measured statements about this.

Who ever heard of a major city with no public libraries? What the Hell country does Pat Awada come from? Oh right, Eagan, where they have exactly one public library (a monolithic cross between a Pizza Hut and a Star Destroyer) and everyone can afford to buy books, if, in fact, they even read at all. Public internet access is probably not a big deal in Eagan, nor do I imagine are services for the unemployed or the recently emmigrated. Hell, who needs government-sponsored adult literacy programs? Neither Gov. Pawlenty (also from Eagan) nor Auditor Awada seem to think we do in Minnesota, based on their budget plans. These are urban issues, and their voting base inhabits the big-money suburbs. Those people don't want to pay taxes, so we get screwed. I'm simplifying, and I'm bitter, but this is my space to rant. This is a battle of words, and when they're going so far as to change the name of the Department of Children, Families, and Learning to the Department of Education, then I'm going to be blunt and harsh. Why make the name change? Because it's much easier to take money away from the Department of Education than it is to take money away from children and families. Which leads me to my next point:

Throwing money at a problem will never solve it, but taking all the money away certainly won't help. That's been the approach to education for awhile now. Our new State Auditor Pat Awada says "when it comes to overall city spending, the more LGA that a city receives, the more they spend." LGA stands for Local Government Aid, which provides as much as a third of the budget for cities such as Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth, and Saint Cloud. Never you mind that the Twin Cities are the cultural and economic centers of the state. And who cares if the State of New York, for example, spends $792 million on LGA? Here, in Minnesota, it's a huge problem. Right. Could it be that our current administration has completely lost sight of what it is that's made this state a great place to live? All they care about are roads. Yes, infrastructure is important, but if we can borrow $2 billion for the highways then why can't we successfully educate our children, or keep our libraries open, or even, dare I say it, make an effort to take care of those who can't take care of themselves (the mentally ill, the homeless, the poor, etc.)? Oh, Hell, just read more about Pawlenty's plan to issue bonds for transportation spending.

Because of Pawlenty's decision to invoke the Governor's unallotment powers, our After School Enrichment program was cut. This was a "non-essential" program to help low-income children of color get homework help and provide them with a creative outlet. These are kids who come to my library and raise Hell because they've got nowhere else to go and nothing to do. Their parents don't want them home and there are no other community resources for these kids. On the upside, this should give me more good stories about vandalism. Thanks, Mr. Governor! At least we'll still have a police force to deal with the increased crime that's sure to result from putting kids on the street, and the unemployment that's sure to result from an increasingly segregated, poorly educated populace. Conservatives have no idea just how many people there are that badly need help, no matter how much the Right claims they want to "empower" people by taking away those support systems.

And so I declare "Hell" the word of the day, 'cause that's where it feels like I'm living. Let's take a look, now, at some images of Hell. Here's a nice one. Ouch! Oh, good lord! Well now, this looks kind of fun, actually...

Wednesday, February 12, 2003


NOW TO WAR
The White House put out a nice, fluffy report on national security last September, "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America." An excerpt:

Traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents; whose so-called soldiers seek martyrdom in death and whose most potent protection is statelessness. The overlap between states that sponsor terror and those that pursue WMD compels us to action.

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction— and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

[...]

We will always proceed deliberately, weighing the consequences of our actions. To support preemptive options, we will...continue to transform our military forces to ensure our ability to conduct rapid and precise operations to achieve decisive results.


There's a harsh reality to what this really means in terms of military action. You can read more here, but a distressing excerpt follows:

Using weapons of mass destruction: There is active preparation for the use of nuclear weapons. The March 2002 leak of the Pentagon’s “nuclear posture review” revealed that the earlier concept that nuclear weapons are only a form of deterrence, to be used in retaliation against other nuclear powers, has been dumped. The new position foresees the use of “low-yield” nuclear weapons in three scenarios: against targets able to withstand attacks by non-nuclear weapons (such as underground bunkers); in retaliation for an attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; and “in the event of surprising military developments”, such as an “Iraqi attack on Israel or its neighbours, or a North Korean attack on South Korea or a military confrontation over the status of Taiwan”. “North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya are among the countries that could be involved in immediate, potential or unexpected contingencies,” it says. A report published last year by America’s National Institute for Public Policy, a right-wing thinktank, declared that “nuclear weapons can... be used in counter-force attacks that are intended to neutralise enemy military capabilities”. The authors of the report include senior Pentagon officials and the deputy national security adviser. Geoff Hoon, British defence secretary, told MPs earlier this year: “I am absolutely confident, in the right conditions, we would be willing to use our nuclear weapons.” (“The new nukes”, Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian, 6/8/02). The talk of “low-yield” nuclear weapons is merely to prepare the ground for using nuclear weapons as such. The Defence Threat Reduction Agency, a $1.1 billion agency set up in 1998, is studying how to attack hardened and deeply buried bunkers with high-yield nuclear weapons. (Washington Post 10/6/02)

The price in human lives would be terrible. According to the Washington-based Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), a “mini-nuke” attack on Saddam Hussein’s presidential bunker would cause 20,000 deaths in Baghdad. Many more would be maimed, burned, and suffer the effects of radiation. No cause for concern, believe the Americans: while a careful study by Jonathan Steele in the Guardian (20/8/02), drawing on a variety of sources including estimates by aid agencies, reveals over 20,000 Afghans died as a result of the US invasion, there is hardly a mention of the fact in the world press outside of his article. Nor is there coverage of the study by the Medical Association for the Prevention of War, Australia, which estimates that a US attack on Iraq would cost between 48,000 and 260,000 lives immediately and 200,000 from the effects of the war. The study, whose methodology has been endorsed by the former chief of the Australian Defence Forces, also says that the use of nuclear weapons would raise the toll to millions.

Till now biological weapons programmes have been carried on under cover of peaceful uses. Now the Pentagon is openly pushing for the development of offensive biological weapons “to produce systems that will degrade the warfighting capabilities of potential adversaries”. While leading naval and air force laboratories presented proposals to this effect in 1997, the Marine Corps has now submitted them for assessment by the US National Academy of Sciences. (Counterpunch, 8/5/02) The NSSUSA’s eagerness to get control of the public health systems of third world countries should be seen in this light.


Far more disturbing is this massive report from the "Project for the New American Century," an organization founded by, among others, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz — which stands as nothing less than a call for world domination. This model for US military supremacy came out in 2000 and has been closely followed by the Bush Administration. Other scary proposals have come from, among other sources, the RAND Corporation. Here's part of a startling presentation by Laurent Murawiec
to the Defense Policy Board, an advisory board headed by Richard Perle with members including Newt Gingrich, Dan Quayle, and Henry Kissinger:

An ultimatum to the House of Saud

Stop any funding and support for any fundamentalist madrasa, mosque, ulama, predicator anywhere in the world. Stop all anti-U.S., anti-Israeli, anti-Western predication, writings, etc., within Arabia. Dismantle, ban all the kingdom's "Islamic charities," confiscate their assets. Prosecute or isolate those involved in the terror chain, including in the Saudi intelligence services

Or else ...

What the House of Saud holds dear can be targeted:
—Oil: the old fields are defended by U.S. forces, and located in a mostly Shiite area
—Money: the Kingdom is in dire financial straits, its valuable assets invested in dollars, largely in the U.S.
—The Holy Places: let it be known that alternatives are being canvassed

Grand strategy for the Middle East

• Iraq is the tactical pivot

• Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot

• Egypt the prize


These are the people shaping U.S. policy. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Many thanks to the Research Unit for Political Economy and Chris Bahn for starting me down this path of horrific discoveries. Don't forget to listen to "Confederacy of Dunces" tonight! Raw, uncut, progressive rapping: 10PM Central Standard Time at Radio K (just click on "Listen Now!").

Tuesday, February 11, 2003


THRILLING MIRACLES

1. The raw bacon bookmark. [courtesy of David W.]

2. The Total Information Awareness thong. Just what the citizenry have been clamoring for.

3. And finally, a library patron coined a new word today: "extensifying."

Monday, February 10, 2003

EASY TARGET
I could waste the rest of my life taking shots at romance novels, but this is extraordinary:

Her breasts, now fully exposed, were so inviting in their ripeness a tonsured* monk would abandon his psalm chanting to taste of them! Duncan's self-control flagged and his shaft lengthened and swelled to an unbearable degree. His curses became a groan and, overcome by need, he worked free the clasp holding his plaid in place and let it fall.

From "Devil in a Kilt" ("Hell was never so sweet...").


*tonsured
adj : having a bald spot either shaved or natural; "tonsured monks"
Source: WordNet ® 1.6, © 1997 Princeton University


HOT NEW LOOK
A woman came in today wearing a tan jogging suit with the words "KICK BUTT" sewn into the seat of her pants.

THIS MAN IS NOT HELPING THE CAUSE
What is "the cause?" Eliminating the polarization of sex, gender, and sexuality. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered rights, equality, freedom, acceptance and safety. Abolition of sodomy laws. Realistic sex-education. Access to safe, legal contraception and abortion. In short, the creation of a sex-positive society. So, no, Malcolm Prinzing's antagonism isn't helping the cause, but it makes me laugh anyway. I am a bad liberal.

[AP story via Anarchist Librarians Web]

Sunday, February 09, 2003


YOU GUYS ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS.
I am proud to announce the triumphant return of STYX. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, Styx has a new record coming out called "Cyclorama" (sure to become known as "The Carrot Album").

Unfortunately this is not the Styx most have grown to know and love. Apparently Dennis DeYoung has not overcome his sensitivity to light, a crippling malady he confessed to on VH1's "Behind The Music." DeYoung was the voice of "Lady" and "Come Sail Away," and is perhaps best-loved for his creation of the whimsical "Kilroy Was Here" stage spectacular. It's too bad there was no kiss-and-make-up session for Styx, but c'mon, those guys don't make out. No way, man.

Fear not. Even though Styx '03 is little more than The Tommy Shaw Band, check out the guest stars: BRIAN WILSON. Renowned rock drummer/vocalist BILLY BOB THORNTON. And most amazingly, TENACIOUS D. I don't know how this titanic collision of geniuses came together, but I'm more than happy to report on such an exciting development in the wonderful world of entertainment.

Thursday, February 06, 2003


CERTIFIABLE
I will win no awards from the ALA for saying this, but one of my favorite things about working in a public library is meeting all the wackos (freaks, crazies, lunatics, crackpots, ninnies, screwballs- call themselves what they will). They're not always fun (the nice-looking old gentleman who told me to fuck off comes to mind) but inevitably they make for interesting stories.

We have a new loon inhabiting the place. He looks fairly normal, and the first couple of times I spoke to him he acted fairly normal, he just seemed a little grim and impatient. The other day, though, he plopped down a "learn Spanish" audio tape set and asked me about passports. As is standard around here, he didn't make a complete sentence (he didn't even phrase it as a question) so I reiterated "you want information about how to get a passport?" He told me no, and then said "I'm going to Mexico and I want to learn the language." Okay, that explains the cassettes, but not why he approached me and used the word "passport" twice in a sentence. Then he spent an uncomfortably long time taking out his wallet and looking for his library card and asked me if he could check the tapes out immediately. I said "sure" but pointed him to the circulation desk. Again, a long time passed during which he said nothing to me but made no effort to move, either. Eventually he tottered off.

That wasn't so strange, but later I was talking to my co-workers about him and the truth was revealed. When he got to the circulation desk he told the clerk he didn't have his library card (ah!) and so he went out to his car to get it. Our maintenance guy saw The Loon go outside, approach his car, look inside, and then stand staring up into the sky for several minutes. When he came back in, he told the clerk "Call 911, I locked my keys in my car." Woah, woah, hooooold on there, cowboy! I don't think that qualifies as an emergency.

On another occasion he asked to see a phone book to look up the phone numbers for local radio stations. By way of explanation he said "I saw a play last night and they made some pretty derogatory comments, apparently about me, so I need to call the radio channels." Now, I wasn't there, but this is what I was told. I can only assume that local radio would take an interest in his plight the same way 911 would quickly dispatch a unit to handle his automobile situation. I do admire his assumption that any artwork he views which offends him is somehow directed at him. My guess (and this is a wild one) is that he felt challenged as a white male. Those guys love to talk on the radio about how put-upon they feel. The white man: truly an endangered species.

But here's the really good part (my apologies to those who've read this far). The Loon wandered into our meeting room where there was a grantwriting workshop taking place. He approached the woman running the program and said "I'm gonna get a bucket of paint and make a ring around every pothole." My favorite part of all this, really, is that the woman asked him if he needed to talk to someone from the library (she wasn't a staffperson). She assumed (correctly) that freaks making unsolicited pronouncements about life-goals should be directed to the reference staff. Good for her! Unfortunately he just repeated himself, emphatically, while making pointing gestures. Humoring him, now, she asked if he meant the potholes in the parking lot. He told her "no, all the ones on my way to work." So, if you find a trail of circles on the street, DON'T FOLLOW IT! The Loon may be luring you toward his nest, where there are more of his kind. They're benevolent singly, but dangerous in packs. Beware.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003


"THAT WAS DEPRESSING. LET'S GO HOME AND WATCH JOE MILLIONAIRE."
The time has finally come, dear readers: I have made my pilgrimage to see- nay, experience- the Gesamtkunstwerk that is NAQOYQATSI. While I took in the emotive vibrato of Yo-Yo Ma intertwining with images of sinewy athletes, fields of binary code, and great feats of destruction, I noticed a distinct lack of meaningful connections or striking revelations. I searched in vain for a reason to believe that there was a masterly consciousness shaping this motion picture. Looking to www.qatsi.com for inspiration merely strengthened my disappointment. Instead of revealing a subtle thread of brilliance that I had missed in my viewing, the site only proved my fear that Godfrey Reggio's latest creation was as obsolete and unsophisticated as it seemed:

NAQOYQATSI takes us on an epical journey into a land that is nowhere, yet everywhere; the land where the image itself is our location, where the real gives way to the virtual. As the gods of old become dethroned, a new pantheon of light appears in the integrated circuit of the computer. Its truth, becomes the truth.

This isn't complete garbage, but considering how long it's been since others prominently made similar observations (Marshall McLuhan and William Gibson come to mind), I'm not sure that Reggio realizes how behind the times he is. Originality is not a requirement for great art as I understand it, but in the process of recycling decades-old ideas the artist should somehow engage their progenitors, directly or indirectly. Ignoring those echoes from the past as though the artwork was (newly) created in a vacuum results in embarrassment for both creator and consumer. This simplistic, depoliticized conception of art (from www.qatsi.com) furthers the embarrassment:

Art has no intrinsic meaning. This is its power, its mystery, and hence, its attraction. Art is free. It stimulates the viewer to insert their own meaning, their own value. So while I might have this or that intention in creating this film, I realize fully that any meaning or value KOYAANISQATSI might have comes exclusively from the beholder. The film's role is to provoke, to raise questions that only the audience can answer. This is the highest value of any work of art, not predetermined meaning, but meaning gleaned from the experience of the encounter. The encounter is my interest, not the meaning. If meaning is the point, then propaganda and advertising is the form. So in the sense of art, the meaning of KOYAANISQATSI is whatever you wish to make of it.

To avoid (his own) accusations of being a propagandist or an advertiser, Reggio relieves himself of the responsiblity of being a creator of meaning. I think it's unfortunate that he can't admit to having an agenda in his art, which reinforces my belief that NAQOYQATSI has done nothing to distinguish itself from a random collage and is therefore a failure. What makes this collage more interesting than any other when there's no recognizable personality driving it, and little in the way of aesthetic coherence? I did take some amount of pleasure watching the film, though it was not stylistically impressive. If I felt like I'd learned or gained something from this experience I would've excused, among other things, the computer generated dollar-signs, but instead they stand out as the awkwardly immature product of someone working in unfamiliar territory.

NAQOYQATSI repeats the same images we've been bombarded with for years: Madonna, Einstein, Hitler, MLK, television commercials, the NYSE, mushroom clouds, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, among others. I felt like I was waching a deeply unnecessary remake of the videos for Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire" and "Right Now" by Van Halen, but with less of an agenda. Certainly Reggio is aware of the political implications of his work, however he may deny the significance of his specific intentions. KOYAANISQATSI clearly defined an opposition and presented it in a novel format, while NAQOYQATSI could be made by just about anyone with a television remote control and a Philip Glass record. With Reggio's "art is free" statement in mind, then, his film looks awfully thin. What's to stop me from making my own low-fi version with pictures of Oprah, clips from "Zardoz," and the word "AIDS" scribbled on a sheet of paper? [I joked about this to Maggie afterward and the more I thought about it the better an idea it seemed, especially because we at the Koven are such good singers ("Kooooh-ven-y-qatsi...")].

If NAQOYQATSI is a film about death and war, why is it so unaffecting? Why should we decry the destructive capabilities of humanity (presumably Reggio's intent) if we aren't given any compelling reasons to mourn the loss of human life? Reggio's images of culture here include brand logos, religious and political icons, sporting events, currency, and a horrifying montage of digitally melded (and melted) paintings. The meaning I was trying to get out of it would've been better served by different images and different juxtapositions; the apparent lack of compassion in the film left me cold and unsatisfied. For me, then, the key to this question, and thus the film, is its most jarring moment: a sudden image of a row of trees accompanied by a sforzando in Glass' score. Soon after we see the trees rocked by the impact of a powerful blast. My conclusion? It isn't the destruction of human life that concerns him after all. As sad as the state of human affairs is, no amount of mass murder is as dreadful as the despoiling of nature.

That's the authorial intent I've gleaned from seeing the first and third parts of the Qatsi trilogy (I need to borrow the POWAQQATSI DVD from Chuck). Humankind is obliterating nature to feed its artificial environment, and Reggio seems to abhor this process above anything, to the point that he can express nothing but disgust with humanity. Maybe he just doesn't like people very much. I can't totally blame him for this sentiment, and I like to think that his empty depictions of human culture are self-reflexively critical, but I can't be sure. Do the athletes represent mechanical single-mindedness, a satirical vision of human "progress," wondrous achievement, or something else entirely? I may have the freedom to decide, but in my mind NAQOYQATSI raised more questions about its own validity and merit than the subject it probably intended to: the imminent destruction of life on Earth.

editor's note:
The title of this rant is derived from comments overheard in the theater during the end credits. If NAQOYQATSI had succeeded as an artwork then it would've been more depressing than "Joe Millionaire." It wasn't. "The Lord of the Rings" does more to instill respect for the Earth than NAQOYQATSI, even if it might glorify war in the minds of many who see the films. Let's hear it for Treebeard, the oldest living creature in Middle-Earth! Kickin' industrialist ass- take that, Saruman! [insert exaggerated Kung-Fu sounds here].

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