Great Souls

TCT interrupts its usual fare to announce the arrival of this marvelous new book by our friend Niranjan Ramakrishnan:

nr book

The price is steep, but I can assure you the author is as substantial and original on this topic as anybody could be. His parents were involved in the Quit India movement, and actually met Gandhi.  He himself is a Gandhi scholar, and a penetrating social critic.

FWIW, TCT considers the topic of whether nonviolence works better than violence to be right exactly at the center of Socialism 2.0. This book is certainly not limited to that question, but has much to say on it.

Why (Most) Movies Suck

The market totalitarians who call themselves “conservatives” are messing their drawers over the very idea of adding $50 million to the laughably puny $145-million annual budget of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Conservatives,” you see, say they think the NEA is a boondoggle.

Contrast this sense of where boondoggles come from with the excellent recent reportage of New Yorker critic Tad Friend on the workings of the corporate capitalist movie studios — where $50 million, by the way, is less than half of what gets spent there on a single movie, a.k.a. “property,” according to Friend.

As Friend reports:

“Studios now are pimples on the ass of giant conglomerates,” one studio’s president of production says. “So at green-light meetings it’s a bunch of marketing and sales guys giving you educated guesses about what a property might gross.

This, of course, means that:

Marketing considerations shape not only the kind of films studios make but who’s in them—gone are lavish adult dramas with no stars, like the 1982 “Gandhi.”

Even within this situation, which is well-known to industry insiders, if not the general public, there is no doubt what corporate capitalist movies are:

Marketers and filmmakers are often quietly at war. “The most common comment you hear from filmmakers after we’ve done our work is ‘This is not my movie,’ ” Terry Press, a consultant who used to run marketing at Dreamworks SKG, says. “I’d always say, ‘You’re right—this is the movie America wants to see.’ ”

Friend finds the resulting imperatives “unexpected,” but nonetheless does a great job listing them.

Read moreWhy (Most) Movies Suck

Tis the Season…

…of trying to decide which bad, unsatisfying choice to make with one’s ballot. Vote big and ugly, or small and gestural/protest?

Personally, Biden’s breath-taking denunciation of democracy in Seattle last weekend ended any last glimmers of hope for a nose-holding Obama vote by me. In Oregon, where there are mail-in-only elections (no polling stations available), I just voted C-Mac (not J-Mac!) — Cynthia McKinney. In 2002, McKinney was targeted for the boot from Congress because of her outspoken rejection of post-911 war hysteria. In her second Congressional stint, she actually “introduced articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush as (H Res 1106)” in 2006, when the nation was about to elect the Democrats, thinking — oh-so-mistakenly, as always with the modern, Clintonoid, “triangulating” Democrats — that they were about to do such things. And, unlike Nader, for whom I’ve previously voted twice, McKinney is also trying to help build the Green Party, which I think isn’t a bad idea, given the state of the planet.

Nevertheless and meanwhile, for the best statement of the conundrum I’ve seen, I refer you to my friend, colleague, and teacher, the Gandhi scholar and freelance writer, Niranjan Ramakrishnan. On today’s edition of CounterPunch.org, Ramakrishnan writes:

My fundamental problem with Obama is not with his solutions but with his diagnoses. The problem is not partisanship, as he keeps harping. If anything the problem is the lack of partisanship – partisanship with the Common People. Partisanship with the Constitution against the Corporations. Congressional Partisanship against a usurping Executive. Partisanship of the press against those in power. Unlike Obama, I think that before we can go forward, we must first go back.

Click here to read the whole of this wonderful, thoughtful piece.

While you’re at it, consider sending CounterPunch a couple bucks, too.