Sunday, July 31, 2011

I'm Bob Dylan- Lost Pages from Dylan's Memoirs

         One night, Bono and I were on a train, having dinner and talking about how famous we both were.   
     “It’s hard to believe that a man like Bob Dylan could write so many profound songs in his lifetime,” I said to Bono. 
   “I know, it’s incredible. Even though I’m a bit of legend myself, it's almost intimidating sitting here talking to you.”
    “I’m intimidated myself,” I sighed. “The other day I spent three hours in a hotel begging me to explain what the meaning of existence was.”   
      “What did you tell yourself?”  
     “I said it would ruin my mystique if I ever said something in my life that made even remote sense.” 
     We continued talking on a wide variety of subjects that ranged from my musical career all the way to Bono’s musical career.
      Bono has got an amazing sense of right and wrong, although he occasionally forgets which is which. I told him if he had been alive in the early 1800’s, such is the strength of his moral conviction, that he would have most surely been born a midget.
    Bono said that, like the majority of my lyrics, that line could either be taken as brilliant or entirely incomprehensible, and the fun was to guess which. 
     The night wore on. Bono asked if I had any new songs, any unrecorded ones. It just so happened that I did. I pulled the pages out of my suitcase and showed them to him. 
    “These are brilliant,” he said, as I was handing him the lyrics. “You should record them.”
      I said I wasn’t so sure about that, thought that maybe I should pour lighter fluid over them- and then dry the pages off and then record them.
    He said, “No, no,” and then brought up the name of Daniel Lanois, said he was a producer, said he was a great partner, be perfect to work with me.
     I had no idea where he was going with this, so I asked him to elaborate. He told me that if I wanted to record another album Lanois could produce it. I didn’t understand why he was being so cryptic. If he has something to say, just say it. I asked him again what he was getting at, that he should stop speaking in circles, and he finally seemed to understand. He then said, “Lanois could be the savoir that would jetty your talent into the great highways of America and make you be the court jester you’ve always dreamed of being in the jingle-jangle morning.” 
     Lanois produce my new album? It didn’t seem like a bad idea. I told him I’d think about it. 
      Later that night, I went back to my house.  I listened to some news on the radio and then went into my bathroom and started removing the Mascara I had lately been wearing to conceal some of the wrinkles on my face. Twelve hours later, I left the bathroom and went into a small art studio on the property. I started thinking about Lanois, what Bono said. Maybe I should get back into recording, that old rat race. Lately, my live performances have failed to capture the inner spirit of the songs.  For the listeners, it must have been like going through deserted orchards and dead grass. There were just too many distractions that had turned my musical path into a jungle of vines. The windows had been boarded up for years and covered with cobwebs. And what’s worse, I could now only think of four metaphors for every situation instead of the usual eleven or twelve.
      Prior to this, things had changed and not in an abstract way, which was unusual for me. A hurricane had come and blown away my reputation. A Tsunami had licked up all my previous musical skill and dragged them into the impenetrable darkness of the ocean’s abyss. Also, my brain was becoming confused between reality and hyperbolic metaphors. The other week, an actual tornado formed in my backyard, and I stood there relating it to my musical career before my wife dragged me into the basement.
     Here the memoir travels back in time to when Dylan arrived in New York in the early 60’s, to make a name for himself. While many critics agree this fragmented structure serves as an excellent literary device, Dylan’s own explanation- that frequent drug use had corroded the area of the brain that conceptualizes time- no one would deny that the jumbled structure does little to make his life story any more interesting. 

     A month after finishing up a tour in Europe to publicize my 38th album, I went to New York to try and make a name for myself. I was 18, and came across the country from the Midwest in a four-door, sedan 57 Impala- straight out of Chicago, clearing the hell out of there- racing all the way through the smoky towns, winding roads, green fields covered with snow, a twenty-four-hour ride, dozing most of the way in the backseat, making small talk, strumming on my guitar, suddenly remembering I was the only one in the vehicle and leaping frantically into the front seat to regain control of the
      The big car came to a full stop on the other side of the George Washington Bridge. I slammed the door shut behind me, waved goodbye to no one, and stepped out on to the hard snow. 
     I was there to find singers, the ones I’d heard on record- Dave Van Ronk, Woody Guthrie, Charlie McCarthy.
      The CafĂ© Wha was a club on MacDougal Street in the heart of Greenwich Village. A man on the corner told me to go there and ask for a singer named Freddy Neil who ran the daytime show. Said if anyone could get me a gig, Neil could. This was a little odd, since all I asked the man for was a light, but I just took it in stride.  
      I found the place and was told that Freddy was downstairs in the basement engaged in a heated political debate with some of the hats and coats that were checked in there. And that’s where I found him. Neil was the MC of the room and the maestro in charge of all the entertainers. He was a tall, lanky dude with a well-trimmed, black moustache that he kept in his wallet. He asked me what I did. I told him I sang, played guitar and harmonica.
      “Well, play something for me, kid. Let’s see what you got.”
      I was signed to a record deal as I was taking my guitar out of its case, and was soon hailed by music critics all over the country as the best thing to come out of the folk music scene.
     The memoir shifts again to the recording of his album Oh Mercy, which one rock critic was famously noted as saying, “Out of all his 42 albums, Oh Mercy ranks somewhere in there.” 

     I was over by the pool, sitting with G.E. Smith, a man who claims to have been my back-up guitarist for the last 58 years. I like Smith, he’s mild-mannered, and has got thoughts that could kill a man, although I have no idea what this means. He had just spent 4 months on the road with Willie Nelson before both of them realized no tour had been scheduled.
     He asked me where I was living these days. 
     “Everywhere,” I said. “And nowhere.” 
    “What does that mean,” he asked, unable to comprehend my obscure comments but still feeling fairly certain they were the words of an undeniable genius- a common reaction people have towards me.   
     “It means nothing,” I said. “And everything.” 
     “Aren’t you just saying a vague answer and then following it up with it’s opposite to sound profound?”
     “Maybe,” I said softly. “But then again…maybe not.” 
     Just then, a waiter came up and asked what if we were ready to order. I explained to the waiter that I had achieved such a mythical status in the last 25 years that I no longer did such petty, mortal things as consume food or water. Then I ordered a fried enchilada.  
     Later that day, I went to the Marie Antoinette Hotel, where the Beatles were staying on their first tour in America. The success of the Beatles had finally gotten to Lennon’s head, and he now not only claimed that he had composed the majority of their songs, but also helped write the Magna Carta. Ringo was back at the studio, vigorously trying to hone in on his drumming ability, and could now hit two of the drums at the same time.            
    Night was falling. I decided to take a stroll around the French Quarters with a profound, stoic look on my face.         
     At the corner of the block, a frail, starving cat was crouched on a concrete ledge. You could see his ribs sticking out of his fur. I wished I had a jug of milk, I thought to myself. I was really thirsty.  
     I continued strolling into the dusk. About ten feet into the dusk, a bum approached me. He said I looked like a good guy, asked if I could help him out any. I took pity on his unfortunate state and gave him my autograph, and then continued walking down the road.

     The Other Musicians on “Oh Mercy” 

    Lanois had recruited an eclectic alliance of musicians for my new album. They included the singer Maron Rufkin who played in Bourbon Street bars like The Rising Sun before someone explained to him that the bar was a fictional place in an old folk ballad and didn’t actually exist. Rufkin was a regional star, he had a high pompadour and a set of pearly teeth. He told me that as a teenager he’d played with Memphis Slim. I thought I had something in common with him there because I had also once been ateenager. Rufkin had some fine songs. One of them had the line: “You do good things for people and it just makes them bad.” I might have thought about recording it if I hadn’t written thousands of better ones. There was also the guitar player Brian Soltz, whose licks were thought out like piano patterns but still left dabs of saliva on your face. And how could you forget to mention Lightning Willie Green, a man who achieved the incredible feat of being a folk legend without having written any songs or knowing how to play an instrument. 
     They were a good group of performers, and I felt they could me well. I had a couple of songs with me, though I had yet to write lyrics or melodies for them. Right now they were just blank pieces of notebook paper. But that was a start at least. All I had to do was sit down in a quiet place, remind myself I was Bob Dylan, and then some of the most brilliant lyrics in the world would start effortlessly flowing from my pen.   
      Cause I’m Bob Dylan. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jerking Off on Facebook

         When it comes to techniques 
         For beating one’s meat
         Nothing can quite compete
         To the feeling you get 
         When you get your dick wet
         Looking at pictures of girls on the Internet
         That you’ve previously met, 
         Especially if they’re barely dressed
         Oh is there anything quite as intimate
         As Jerking Off On Facebook?
         Now before you start accusing me 
         of using my poetry 
         As an opportunity  
         To start abusing this cherished network
         I must protest quite adamantly 
         That is not my intent you see
         In fact the site inspires me  
         To flog my bishop so religiously
         It’s really more of a compliment
         Whenever I Jerk Off On Facebook.
         & I don’t simply view the domain 
         As a vehicle to 
         Help drain
         My testicles of the cum which is compelled to escape  
         Whenever I feel compelled to masturbate 
         I also quite enjoy the status updates
         Whenever I’m Jerking Off On Facebook.
         Cause how I could live life without going insane
         If I didn’t know for sure what Phil ate for lunch today
         Or how much money Jimmy paid for hot dog buns
         Or which season of Lost Sarah is in the middle of
         But I guess for me, the way I feel
         Is if we’re all gonna be so masturbatory
         We might as well just do it for real
         And Start Jerking Off On Facebook.
         Cause when that original nerd Mark Zuckerberg
         Created Facebook and gave it to the world
         The one thing he knew for sure
         Is that lust is what brings us all together
         Without out, we could hardly stand each other
         & all our daily tasks & excursions are really just 
         barely masked                  
         perversions which serve as diversions 
         which occurs when one’s lust is
         submerged in
         the mechanical formalities and tyrannical varieties 
         of this puritanical society we have no choice
         to be born in 
         which is why we must feel so reborn when        
         We’re Jerking Off on Facebook.
         Oh but we’re all so normal when you see on us 
         on the street, 
         with our what’s ups & not much
         and do you have the time & I’m doing just fine
         But the minute we get back home, & we’re all alone,
         & all the lights are out, & all the doors are closed,   
         That’s when we unveil our souls
         Ogling over pictures of people we know
         Cause in the 21st century, intimacy is something 
         does alone
         While Jerking Off On Facebook.
         Yes, we're all such peeping Toms, aren't we?
         Peeping into our computer screens
         But fortunately masturbating in bushes 
         is a thing of the past
         Now we can do it in the privacy of our homes at last
         Pretending we’re breaking into someone’s house when 
         they’re not there
         And looking through their photo albums 
         at all their different colored hair  
         Without once moving from our computer chair
         Oh when it comes to convenience, 
         nothing can quite compare
         To Jerking Off On Facebook.
         & we’re not really at her house 
         & we’re not really home
         & we’re not exactly communicating 
         but we’re not quite alone
         & we’re talking a lot but someone forgot to plug in
         the iPhone
         & we’re not out there and we’re not in here
         & we’re at our most vulnerable 
         when we’re being insincere
         Oh but who can afford to be so blue  
         When there’s just so much these days to jerk off to 
         Especially When You’re Jerking Off On Facebook. 
         & you just got a friend confirmation 
         from an acquaintance
         You don’t remember ever 
         having a conversation with
         And another one from someone 
         you think you met in July
         And there’s photos of her 
         in a skimpy bikini on a windy beach
         In the spring of O’5
         & her favorite movie is Good Will Hunting,
         & her favorite band is Smashing Pumpkins
         & she likes to post quotes from Alexander Pope 
         & Walt Whitman
         And one from Wizard of Oz 
         said by one of the munchkins-
         Or was it the Tinman?-
         & you know her so well 
         even though you only talked to her once
         But now that you’re thinking about it 
         you’re thinking the conversation
         Might have been with someone else
         Oh it’s so hard to keep track of people 
         you don’t know
         When You’re Jerking Off On Facebook.
         And there’s new pictures of your best friend’s 
         15-year-old sister Lizzie
         & all her fifteen-year-old friends
         & all their fifteen-year-old titties
         & you befriend them all in the end
         Not the titties, 
         but your best friend’s sister’s best friends
         And they accept your friend request 
         even though they also don’t quite                     
         When exactly you two met
         But I’m sure 
         it was some time somewhere someway back when
         When they were hanging out 
         with their other best friends
         & what does it matter in the end?
         We’re all so close anyway 
         in this global community we’re living in
         Oh, I’m so emotionally invested in  
         Jerking Off On Facebook.   
         & in the end, my friends,
         it’s just so nice to see 
         society harmonize so harmoniously
         We’re all bound so tightly together
         As tightly as lovers 
         As we sit alone
         in a dark room at night 
         looking at pictures of one another
         While Jerking Off On Facebook.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Analysis of W.B. Yeats’ To A Child Dancing in the Wind


To a Child dancing in the Wind, 1916
Dance there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water’s roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool’s triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.

What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind!
     The success in which Yates creates a visceral reaction in his readers is due to his subtle manipulations of an otherwise strict adherence to form. By training the reader to be on the look out for certain patterns in his poems, the sudden variation from those patterns causes in the reader a feeling synonymous with disillusionment. But one must have illusions in order to be disillusioned, and Yeats' use of form is that illusion, carefully constructed only to be broken.   
     To a Child Dancing in the Wind is a good example of the ways he goes about breaking the patterns that he works so hard to construct: 
     On the surface, the poem is fairly straightforward: a girl dances on the shore, not hearing the ominous sounds in the incessant crash of waves, or the howling of the wind. But to the narrator of the poem, the wind or water’s roar alludes to the injustice at the core of nature: the constant defeat of noble passions in a world where only disorder remains triumphant. Love, the noblest of all forces, is lost as soon as won, while the fool triumphs (And who is the fool but someone not motivated by love?). In a similar vein, the best laborer is dead- he is the best because he too labored out of love- and “all the sheaves to bind.” A sheaf is a bundle of cut stalks of grain or similar plants bound with straw or twine. It’s deliberately vague, refusing to convey the image of a specific product untied, but rather the more abstract, all-encompassing notion of all things in nature fragmented. The following line alludes back to the wind, retroactively implanting in your head the image of the wind scattering the sheaves previously mentioned. This too is another victory for Uproar.
     The poem captures the diverging impressions the concrete world makes on the young and old- the young is immersed happily in nature, while the old is kept at a distance, linking objects with symbols of injustice. It’s not hard to guess which one is happier, and the entire poem is infused with a melancholy tone. But what elevates this poem beyond a mere exercise in formalism is the subtle deviations from its meticulously constructed form. These deviations, or breaks, are quiet and gentle, the ominous whisper of entropy. In this poem, the break is in the number of syllables in each line, and the employment of slant rhymes (rhymes where either the vowels or consonants of stressed syllables are identical- known/one, bind/wind).
     The first fives lines are all six syllables long, and then the sixth line, "Being young you have not known", is seven syllables. The pattern continues in the same manner- the next five lines are all six syllables long, and then the sixth and final line is seven syllables again. The additional syllable in the halfway mark creates a break in the poem, revealing that the poem is in fact made up of two halves (the first concrete, the second abstract) which are then synthesized in the last line.
     The first five lines reference only concrete objects: the shore, wind, water, salt drops, hair. The seven syllables in the next line signal an intermission, followed by another five lines, this time dealing all with abstractions. The shore and wind are forgotten, replaced by 'fool's triumph' and 'love lost as soon as won' and 'all the sheaves to bind’. All images of the injustices in the world, but like the sheaves, nothing concrete to bind them too.
     The final line of the poem- the monstrous crying of wind- synthesizes the concrete world in the first half with the abstract notions of injustice in the second half; the synthesizing of the abstract and concrete have now allowed nature to weep for the injustices of the world.
     The other variation is in the rhyme pattern: Yeats uses two slant rhyming couplets in the poem: known/one, bind/wind. If he disregarded the rhymes altogether in these moments, the effect would be too jarring on the reader. But the use of slant rhymes suggests a quieter, assiduous effect- a straining but failed attempt at perfect form. The monstrous crying of the wind breaks the harmony created by the poem’s strict rhyme pattern. The wind has blown the rhyme away. And isn't rhyming something we associate with childhood- the calming affect of nursery rhymes. 

       Hush, little baby, don't say a word,
      Mama's going to buy you a mockingbird.
      And if that mockingbird don't sing,
      Mama's going to buy you a diamond ring.

     Whatever subtle awareness of life’s disorder children attain is always assuaged by the nursery rhyme’s perfect meter. The first line is typically ominous, entropic- and if that mockingbird don’t sing- and in the second line the rhymed word signals a regaining of order- Mamma’s going to buy you a diamond ring. Everything is in its right place, the nursery rhyme suggests, so now you can go to sleep. But everything is not in its right place- the wind has blown things out of order. This is why the wind is monstrous- by refusing to follow the rhyme pattern it blows away our image of the harmonious word we perceive as a child- so perfectly embodied in that very rhyme pattern. 
     The poem is a metaphor for the creation of metaphors. It chronicles the birth of imagery, through our initial experience of the sensory world, to the abstract notions born from experience’s inevitable disillusionment, to the final linking of those ideas to nature. But more importantly, it links the ability to symbolize with age. In our youth, the waves and water are not linked to anything but themselves- the visceral power of the objects being far too strong to suggest anything but themselves. But as we get older, more and more we link nature with the ideas of life that begin to form in our minds, begging the question:  Is the metaphor an expression of our loneliness, or is our loneliness brought on by our ability to see things metaphorically, thus intellectually distancing ourselves from the sheer visceral power and excitement of objects?
     Do we use metaphor because the objects around us have lost their power? A baby can be enthralled by keys dangling in front of him. The light reflected from the dangling keys is powerful enough on its own. But for adults who have grown weary of the sun, we are forced to rejuvenate our interest in the concrete by linking them to the abstract. The keys must symbolize something else if we are to be enthralled by them once again, symbolism being a poor attempt at recreating our youthful enthusiasm for the world around us. (And of course the closest attempt at recreating youth's enthusiasm for the sheer, visceral power of objects are hallucinogens, which return a sense of awe to objects without the aid of symbolism; someone on acid can be just as enthralled by dangling keys as a baby). But symbolism is not a return to youth, but a symptom of our irrevocable banishment from childhood- those happy highways where we went and cannot come again.


Monday, July 4, 2011


The Most Overrated Movies of All Time 

          These are the movies bound to come off the tongue of 88% of the people you ever talk to when you bring up the Favorite-Movie Question. For me, these aren’t simply bad movies, but movies so unduly lavished with praise that I have no choice but to judge the entire character and moral compass of the person who likes them.

6. Easy Rider 

               The 60’s were a wild time for movies: Directors began breaking free from the confines of major studios, unconventional-looking actors were taking on leading roles, and everyone was on so many drugs they actually thought Dennis Hopper was talented. Easy Rider probably has the thinnest story of any movie on the AFI TOP 100 List: Two coke-peddling hippies named after legendary outlaws head down South on motorcycles, meet a soused lawyer played with early-in-his-career mania by Nicholson, and up getting killed for having long hair, or for searching for America, or for being just too damn cool to live. I’m not exactly sure why they get killed, but let’s face it, do rednecks ever need a reason to test out their shotguns on other people? At least this is what this self-glorifying, You’re-only-cool-if-you’re-a-hippie, Master(batory) piece wants us to believe. The whole movie is an homage to itself, Fonda and Hopper acting out their own martyrdom at the end- sacrificing themselves in the name of Non-conformity. But what they both never realize is that martyrdom is a two-step process: you have to do something good first, and then get killed for it. And while they both end up getting killed, I don’t recall them ever doing any good in the world. In fact, I don’t recall them doing much of anything but riding down the highway on their Harleys, trying to look cool.

5. Good Will Hunting 
             So what if Will Hunting was viciously beaten as a child, even to the point of cigarettes being burned into his chest,  he was blessed with the most enviable combo: dashing good looks and a brain to rival Einstein’s. To be good-looking and brilliant are the two best cards you can ever be dealt, which is why if someone happens to be dealt one they're probably not dealt the other. As for me, I’d gladly have Will’s movie star looks and effortless genius than be some ordinary-looking guy with average intelligence whose parents were decent enough to use an ash tray whenever they finished smoking a cigarette. Because the sad truth is, most people do not want to see a movie about a so-so-looking guy who isn’t very good at anything, because well...that sounds too much like most people. Good Will Hunting is uplifting precisely because it’s not relatable. It allows us to indulge in the very comforting fantasy that we too are not living up to our genius potential because of unresolved emotional issues (and that in the right light, we look like Matt Damon). Real inspiration in movies comes from real hardships, and Damon’s genius is so innate and effortless, all the obstacles he faces in the movie seem easily solvable: Just get a couple of hugs from Robin Williams, have one good cry about your abusive step dad, then walk into a NASA, show them your IQ Score, and take over the desk of whoever is getting paid the highest salary. But what about the rest of us? Even if we’re lucky enough to have a psychiatrist as warm as Robin Williams help us untangle all the repressed emotions that keep us from moving on in life, we still have to find out what, if anything, we’re good at, and work really hard at that one thing our whole life. Good Will Hunting is about as inspirational as the story of Paris Hilton’s rise to success.


          If the message in Easy Rider is, “You’re only cool if you’re a hippie,” then in Juno it’s been altered to fit with the times: “You’re only cool if you’re a hipster.” So if you don't want to be sneered at as “One of them”, you better start saying quirky phrases with spoonfuls of ironic enthusiasm (Yo-yo- yiggady-yo), have a witty, pre-written line ready to fire back at all times, sprinkle your conversations with references to both main stream and obscure culture (this way you show that you are far too complex to be pigeon-holed as either a populist or a snob), pretend to smoke a pipe because it makes you look kooky, mix youthful colloquialism with archaic/big words (Basically, I’m completely smitten with you...Dude, it’s just so totally atavistic, you know?) and care so little what other people think that walking through a high school hallway seven months into your pregnancy doesn’t phase you in the least. The movie is a girl’s revision of her high school days, all the awkwardness, insecurities, and desperate need for approval conveniently replaced with self-assurance and wit. People can watch this movie and pretend they were just as clever and aloof as Juno back in their day, totally forgetting that no one in high school wasn’t at least a little tempted to be accepted by the Popular Crowd. And yet, for all its hip posturing, the movie has some pretty conservative values: All women are incomplete without children, Jason Bateman’s character is a bad man because he doesn’t want one, and when Juno’s precocious resilience finally gives way to doubt, she naturally goes to her father for some Wise Adult Platitudes: “My opinion is, you should love someone because they see you exactly the way you are.” (And I always thought you should love someone because of their completely distorted image of you).
          Juno is elitist the way that J.D. Salinger was. Everyone outside of her small circle of friends are lumped together as dull conformists, and the movie invites the audience to join in on this kind of snobbish compartmentalizing, so they too can feel like Outcasts, the few rare individuals who would actually get such non-mainstream humor. And the joke’s on them, because everyone fucking likes this movie.


      When Fight Club came out in 1999, it became an instant classic among adolescent males, always a safe sign that a movie isn’t very good. While Fincher has matured a lot since then, at the time of Fight Club he was still suffering from Oliver Stone Syndrome, which is defined in the American Journal of Psychiatry as: “The delusion that your thoughts are so lofty and urgent they must be hammered repetitively into the audience’s head, subtlety being the kind of risk only shallower artists can afford to take, like Beckett or Shakespeare.”
       In Fight Club, this Chinese-water-torture type of didacticism is achieved by Edward Norton’s narration, which is constantly telling you what to think with the same kind of brainwashing numbness found in the Consumer culture its constantly telling you to think about. This could be excused if the ideas in Fight Club were as exciting as Fincher thinks they are. But try as I might, I don’t see how our reliance on material possessions- which is annoying, at best- somehow justifies terrorism. Instead of blowing everything up at the end of 
the movie, can’t Edward Norton’s character just, you know, try not to depend so heavily on things?


      Shawshank Redemption is in the tradition of movies that use a modern day institution as the setting for an overt Christian allegory; other stories in this genre include Cool Hand Luke, One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest, and Mel Gibson’s inflated view of himself in Hollywood. One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest is the best of the bunch, mainly because director Milos Forman wisely evades the heavy-handedness of the book and focuses instead on amping up all the fun and mischief. McMurphy might die a carpenter’s death, but it’s for Earthily pleasures; the liberation of the libido from religious and societal guilt.
      Shawshank Redemption, on the other hand, is about as self-important and austere as the original story in the Bible. This is not to say Darabont is a Christian writer, just that he sticks so close to the ascetic tone of the New Testament, it makes you wonder why he’s even updating it in the first place.
      Where McMurphy slowly grew into the Savior’s Shoes, Tim Robbin’s Andy Dufresne walks into Shawshank a saint. He’s a symbol in prison garb, so how are we expected to identify with him? The movie is as pedantic as the Bible too. For instance, in 
the unlikely event the film’s message slips past the audience, Darabont makes sure to have the word Hope repeated five hundred thousand times in the movie. And if people are still confused as to what this movie is about, near the end Andy writes in a letter to Red, “Remember...hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” If, at this point, people still have trouble wrapping their heads around the movie’s intricate theme, the last line is: “I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams...I hope.” If people are still having difficulty figuring out what this movie is about, then they probably have a lot in common with the  main character in the next movie. 



         Life is like a box of chocolates: most of them have a really nasty filling inside, but none are quite as nasty as Forrest Gump. Robert Zemeckis’ 1994 Oscar-Sweeper is considered the feel-good movie of the decade, an odd term since, shouldn’t seeing any great movie in this parade of cinematic swill we are constantly being made to swallow, feel pretty good? But of course what feel-good actually means is that when the lights in the theater start to dim, our painful awareness of the hardships of day-to-day life are quickly drowned out in the sweet, sweet sound of sentiment. Feel good movies typically preach such messages as “If you try your hard, you will succeed” and “The love you get is equal to the love you give” and other phrases that aren’t true. At the beginning of the movie, Forrest’s Mom reminds him that “he is no different or worse than any other person.” If those other people are borderline retarded, I would have to agree, but this movie seems to forget an important point: recognizing that the mentally handicapped have been dealt a worse hand than you is not the same as being unsympathetic towards them. But this movie wants us to pretend otherwise, that all obstacles are relative. Some might think at a slower rate than others, severely limiting their options in life, while others can’t grow hair on their chest- you see, everyone has problems. And while it’s true that we all have crosses to bear, some are much heavier than others.
       But the movie goes one step further, having the audacity to suggest mental retardation is an enviable trait, a gift from God. For you see, Gump’s slow brain has allowed him to transcend all the pretty judging and racism everyone else is constantly engaged in. (This is a much cherished tradition in Hollywood- placing a halo on the head of the mentally and physically handicapped. As if it’s not bad enough they got dealt such a bad hand in life, we have to condescend to them too). Children and adults may pretend the seat on the bus is taken, but such a hurtful thought would never enter Gump’s angelic, pea-sized brain. Zemeckis has managed to make the first crowd-pleaser that views intelligence as a negative attribute. John Keats said a similar thing in Ode to a Nightingale, but at least he seemed a little upset by the idea. Gump’s quirky tone is disturbingly incongruous with its message, like listening to a campfire sing-along of Kumbaya and noticing all the lyrics have been replaced with passages from Becket.
       If people love this movie as much as they say they do, if they actually take its message to heart, then I think they should prove it by running out and getting a Lobotomy- a sure-fire way to rid yourself of all the sins your big old brain has burdened you with.
        Forrest Gump, albeit just a schmaltzy, bogus Hollywood movie, is really no different than all the sentiment passed off as wisdom by Christianity. People love Jesus for the same reason they love Forrest- they both lack all the imperfections and shortcomings that make real people so hard to like. But liking real people is the great challenge, in movies and in life.