Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Selling the Jeep

It's finally time! I am researching various fun and efficient vehicles and it is time to sell the Jeep.

Here are a few parting photos of the Jeep I have loved:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Film and Politics

Since my move out east, I’ve been kicking back into gear with a few things in life, that being my interest in filmmaking and the current political environment (probably because it is just a relevant and media-saturated topic.) Well, recently I bumped into some interesting history in the realm of film (and politics, sort of) that dates back to pre-World War II and have a fascinating applicability today. It is actually very interesting stuff, and like the famous quote from George Santayana (1905) “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it“so here is a little fascinating history lesson from which to learn a thing or two!

One of the most influential filmmakers in the short history of film would have to be Akira Kurosawa (1910 – 1998). And while many modern filmgoers might not know the name, they would definitely be affected on some level by the more modern and popular directors of our day that celebrate the rich visions of Kurosawa (Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, etc.) In fact it wasn’t too many years ago that Kurosawa was given a lifetime achievement award by the Academy. Having watched nearly all of the Kurosawa films that I can get my hands on, I can tell you that while they typically move at a slower pace that the modern A.D.D. adrenaline-paced jump-cut media equivalent made popular by MTV in the 1980s, the imagery, the drama and character depth, and the storylines remain relevant and completely visually captivating to this day. But for me, one very fascinating facet of his life in beyond simply talking about his films would be the history the man lived through (without making to pop a reference, or likening him to the simplicity of the character, he is to Japanese and world history events as Forrest Gump was to American history.)

So here is the interesting history bit: Kurosawa was getting into the filmmaking arts in the political post-imperial history of Japan, the end of the age of the samurai, but still influences by the samurai social classes. He has these vivid memories of his father wearing a samurai topknot-hairdo and striking certain very ritualistic poses when polishing his samurai sword. In fact, Kurosawa made quite a number of films on the topic of the samurai. But Kurosawa was a modernist and Japan was changing. One of the ways this was exemplified was in his alliance with the art communities Japanese Proletarian Movement (more on that, and even more.) They were these romantic artists who would paint, draw, perform and make films that placed a certain emphasis on the average working class person. History tells us that the proletarian movement was fundamentally a Marxist effort to move society and government toward a Socialist mindset (understanding that while this is a simplification of the terminology, Marxist socialism would eventually evolve, or devolve depending on your perspective, into a modern communism paradigm.) So here is Kurosawa feeling that things need to socially change to benefit the common man, and so he and his artist friends decide to throw in their talents in the realm of this Japanese Proletarian Movement, attempting to have an affect on society but more specifically government to take up these causes.

Jump to post-World War II occupied Japan, occupied meaning American soldiers, political advisors, and business consultants came to Japan to “occupy” it for the sake of change for the following seven years of history. Kurosawa would say of this transition time in reflection that while he was a part of the Japanese Proletarian Movement, he wanted to keep working, so he never did create any art that put him in hot water, politically speaking. But then some interesting history happened. Contemporaries of Kurosawa in the film industry began to speak of the “occupational army” as the “liberation army,” meaning that people began to get a grip on the values of a real democracy in contrast with the socialist-Marxist ideal and saw the outcomes of freedom begin to reach into their social experience. Soon Kurosawa would leave behind his earlier feelings about the Proletarian Movement and embrace this new found freedom.

"The freedom and democracy of the post-war era were not things I had fought for. They were granted to me by powers that were not my own. As a result, I thought it was all the more essential for me to approach them with an earnest and humble desire to learn and to make them my own. But most Japanese in these post-war years simply swallowed the concepts of freedom and democracy whole, waving the slogans around, without knowing what they really meant." -Kurosawa.

At this time in history Kurosawa would go on to make movies like “No Regrets of My Youth” which document the emotional impact of freedom liberated to them by the new democracy, making movies about love and youth. Kurosawa began to explore a number of topics that touched both Japan and the West. But being a student of life and a studier of people and society, he began to see a negative side effect of democracy, a weakness in it’s exploits, in that Japanese young people (people like him, in their 20s and 30s) were entering into an age of hedonistic and libertinistic lifestyles. The freedom that liberated also gave them the opportunity to loosely apply that same freedom as an investment in their own social destruction.

In response to this, Kurosawa redirected his interest toward creating films that pointed to these self-destructive lifestyle choices, in movies like “Drunken Angel.” As a result many youth at that time reflected on watching the movie and how it helped them to step away from those types of destructive lifestyle choices.

Here is where the history lesson ends and some commentary begins. I think that we can see so much of our modern reality in the life and experiences of Akira Kurosawa. If you read over the definitions of Hedonism and Libertinism you can see how this particular weakness in democracy has pervaded our social experiences: from work, to school, to films, to politics. These days people act as if the presence of hedonism is like a star on the flag of our American democratic freedom, media pretending that our soldier are out fighting for our right to be hedonistic. The phrase hedonistic doesn’t exist in our society any more, probably because of the negative connotation. Now it is politically redefined as a protected class of freedom, defended by our democratic way of life (no longer a weakness but rather a core protected belief system.) Now, couple that with a modern proletarian movement: hedonistic lifestyles that want the government to finance support and become responsible for Marxist-socialist ideals. In the end it looks like the following: people buying into a social paradigm that says they should live their lives with their happiness as the highest ideal, and at the same time institutionalize social programs that take care of “others” via the government. Does this sound at all familiar? I think it is bleeding into our democratic-social model, and is becoming the new democratic-socialist-Marxist paradigm (aka modern communism.)

Reflect on the following: If your highest ideal is equal to where you put your time, money and life, is your personal happiness your highest ideal (forget what you say, how are you living?) And are you expecting that institutionalized social programming is the answer to social issues (has this crept into your ideology?)

Some might read this as a little alarmist, but again, like Akira and "Drunken Angel", media has an influence on our values and I am simply concerned that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.“