Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What We Know About The Joker

Ruminations about the man behind the masque.

Though this past weekend’s top performing movie is titled The Dark Knight, it might easily have been called "The Clown Prince." Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker, already hailed as Oscar-worthy, owes more to Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice than it does to previous Batman malefactors. Ironically, Keaton was the first film Batman and could have played off against himself as both the Caped Crusader and the Prince of Fools.

Like Keaton's Beetlejuice, The Joker in this latest Batman-iteration is the ultimate trickster: a destroyer of worlds and a slayer of men, whose word cannot be trusted and whose motives cannot be divined.

The Joker’s wild success throughout The Dark Knight's dark nights depends on a script which constitutes a stacked deck in his favor. For most of the two hours of this latest Batman saga, everything goes the Joker’s way. He knows where mob kingpins will be meeting and gains access with impunity. He easily defeats the defense mechanisms of a high-security bank. He cannily manipulates good guys and bad guys alike seeking both a higher class of criminal and a lower class of law enforcer. He survives high speed truck flips, Kevlar-armored right crosses and highrise bungee jumps.

Though he is painted up to be an enigma wrapped in a riddle (or was that someone else?), based on evidence from The Dark Knight, we do know the following things about The Joker:

  • He is a munitions expert. He is equally at home with C4 suppositories and oil barrel chemical peels.

  • Though he is an expert project manager, at least in the bank-robbery field, he is prone to waste his resources.

  • He is empathic. He knows just what to say to push anyone over the edge of madness, and then leap in after him.

  • He is a man ahead of his Timex. The Joker can take a likin’ from Batman and keep on tickin’. He may once have belonged to a fight club.

  • He obviously was involved in covert ops in the past. He knows how to anticipate scenarios and plan alternatives. He knows where to acquire esoteric weapons and how to use them.

  • He moonlights as a Mary Kay agent.

  • He has had access to Jack Benny’s joke vault.

Omigod! The Joker is Jason Bourne!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Random Thoughts

Out for the Count

I haven't posted for the last several weeks because I've been recuperating from my third cardiac ablation. This last procedure seems to finally have returned my heart to regular sinus rhythm, though only time will tell.

Since about 2000 I've suffered from an irregular heartbeat, first in the form of atrial fibrillation, and then, after my first two ablations, a persistent heart flutter. My downfall this time around was not the procedure itself, which went as smoothly as a "non-invasive" procedure could go. This time around I was given a "bridge" anti-coagulant to which I had a bad reaction. Evidently, when blood seeps into a muscle it acts as an irritant and leaves what looks like a bruise in its wake. My experience of this, which required a visit to the emergency room on the evening of July 4th, was as if my entire right thigh muscle was locked in an unrelenting "charley-horse."

At any rate, I haven't done much over the last week other than down pain killers and watch television. In-between reruns of Star Trek Voyager and The Dog Whisperer, I have had some random thoughts which I thought I'd share here:

Newtonian vs. Einsteinian Media Biases:

Harold Innis, a founding father of Media Ecology, used a Newtonian metaphor to argue that the nature of a civilization is determined by the characteristics of its dominant communication medium. Innis believed that a medium contained either a time bias or a space bias.

Cultures that carved their stories into stones, like the early Sumarians or Egyptians, were time-binders and tended to be conservative in terms of change and stable in terms of social hierarchy. Stones were hard to carry any distance, but lasted a long time. Carved stone is an example of a time-binding medium.

Papyrus is an example of a space-binding medium, which the Romans used to command a vast empire. Papyrus could be carried easily and allowed the Romans to send orders over great distances, but it didn't last very long, and was subject to destruction by fire and other forces. Cultures that used more portable materials were able to command vast empires, but lacked the stability of stone or clay cultures.

The Internet, upon which rich media technology is dependent, may be the first instance in human history of a medium which binds both space and time equally. Therefore, it may be time to abandon Innis' Newtonian metaphor for an Einsteinian metaphor. New electronic media, especially the Internet, bind both time and space. The ubiquity of the World Wide Web is counterbalanced by the permanence of server storage and retrieval, a combination I have called the “Memory Well.” Combined with cheap and ubiquitous recording devices, sites like YouTube and blogs like Crooks and Liars permit the permanent storage and and nearly instantaneous retrieval from anywhere in the world of any cultural event, from political panders to sneezing pandas.

A society which based its communication structure on the Internet would have to change its notion of what knowledge is and how to communicate that knowledge to its citizens. Just as the handheld calculator freed students from the need to memorize the multiplication tables, the Internet Memory Well may force a reassessment of what needs to be taught and how to teach it.

A One-Horse Race

Remember when John McCain's bid for the White House was declared dead and buried? How is it that it was resurrected?

Is there anyone besides me who thinks that the McCain run for the Presidency is a farce? Has any candidate for President committed so many factual gaffs, surrounded himself with so many counterproductive advisers or seemed so out of touch with the true concerns of the electorate?

Even George W. Bush in his dry-drunk prime could run a coordinated political campaign. John McCain can't remember that Czechoslovakia is no longer a country, or that Sunnis are different than Shias. He can't even remember what he was for before he was against it. He admits to economic ignorance and technological backwardness. He perpetuates positions on Iraq and civil liberties that have been proven non-starters for years.

I think that the Republicans know that 2008 is not going to be their year, big time, and so they have fielded a non-candidate, letting poor McCain fulfill his lifelong dream to run towards a goal that no Republican can win.

The question is, what neo-conservative wheels are turning while we are distracted by the continuing political circus? Are the major trauma of the home mortgage crisis or the oil price fiasco evidence of neo-con last ditch efforts to cash in before January 20, 2009?