Steeped in Metaphor

I like the hearse on the new book jacket for Thomas Pynchon’s new novel Inherent Vice. It’s a surf bum hearse, with painted pictures on top of the paint job. I have a hearse on my book shelf, reminding me of my father. Getting ready to start a new fiction story gets me excited for the new metaphors within the pages. The first line of the book, perhaps Pynchon’s set-up for a good joke, is the quote “Under the paving-stones, the beach! – Graffito, Paris, May 1968” If that’s the beginning of the gag, then I’m already in on it!

I just watched a movie where an unwitting hero battles a well-armed military-focused corporation in the slums of South Africa. This guy’s a dupe for the corporation, which is power-hungry for using their conventional technology and hopefully getting more from the aliens. The government barely exists in Johannesburg, and Nigerian thugs make seem to control District 9. They make a living doing a brisk trade with cat food.

That’s right, I said cat food. If you watch TV or stream vids off the Web, you probably know by know that the aliens in this movie are addicted to cat food. In mockumentary-style filming, we watch these creatures totally embarrass themselves, drunk on what looked like antifreeze, eating tires, puking and pissing all over the place. But they love cat food.

Media exists in this new version of a city that has a long history of racist activities. So media follows the woeful hero, who is in love with his boss’s daughter. He becomes a terrorist to save his life, and reunite with her. “The whole world is watching!”

The soldiers don’t wear uniforms with civil flags on them. They wear logos on their uniforms. They like to watch the “prawns” die, and beat the crap out of them.

What message am I supposed to get here? Well, I just watched Derrick Jensen in a video, and he used a metaphor that made all of this seem like, well, cat food. Governments are murdering the earth, to paraphrase the radical tree hugger. Hmm, government as murderers.

I go watch a corporate-funded movie about corporations that kill, and battle thugs to capture the faithful husband and hero. Instead of murderers and thieves, I walk away thinking about my American history classes. Many times I have read that movies were the distractions of the Great Depression. Sure, times were tough back then, but people always dressed up to go to the movies to take a break from their suffering.

Take that metaphor and multiply it by 10, and we find ourselves in 2009 with many more distractions. As companies trim their payrolls, the number one budget-cutting measure for most businesses, the parks stay filled, the sidewalks teem with shoppers, and the machine keeps sputtering along.

Last week, I had a day of fishes. Ate fish (a rare treat for me), went to a place with fish in the name, and watched a movie about a fish who wants to be human. Swimming in my own poop i suppose. Thinking about that and my new keys. New locks to think about. New rituals to develop with the cut pieces of metal. New neural nets to go into. And an item that Stephen Dedalus forgets when he leaves his light house home in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Nice metaphor, losing the key to your home.

So who to blame in District 9? The hipsters and their art warehouses (sorry, thinking about the Mission District in SF, Supe Dist. 9)? All the humans want the aliens to go. They’re fed up. The corporation is making them go away,.. to District 10 (umm, that’s the Bayview here in SF. How apt.). But a twist happens, setting us flesh-humans up for a sequel. Brought to you by Hollywood corporations, SONY, and Peter Jackson. As moviegoers chew on that distraction, a real one is happening.

Looks like the apocalypse has finally begun for Western Civilization. SIX fires ring Athens, Greece. In the real world (though I watched a hill of fire on a video just now). The cradle of civilization, or the one that our country is based upon. The ancient capital burns!

Is that in a movie too? I think 2012 has Athens getting destroyed in it. COMING SOON FROM SONY!

Yes, Mr. Pynchon, “the beach” indeed!

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