The Combo Plate

Because this post will have a variety of topics which I’ve been thinking about for the past several days. But due to work, I haven’t been able to write these thoughts down.

I. The Lakers-Celtics series:

I’ve exhausted my anger after game 4, so as I watched the Lakers bent over and spread their cheecks as wide as possible for the Celtics in game 6, I wasn’t even angry. I was just disappointed, disappointed because the Lakers did not even put up a fight. I mean, for crying out loud, this is a must-win elmination game on the road against THE premier franchise in NBA history, and the best the Lakers can do on this stage is to lay down and submit themselves to a 39 point(!!!!!) ass-whooping?!? I mean, come on, at least have a fight or two, if nothing else but to show that you still feel something! Shit, if I were Kobe, I’d punched out Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnette just to show that I’m feeling at least something.

I’ve imposed upon myself a media blackout for the coverage of game 6, because I’m afraid if I read anything, my anger would come roaring right back, and the Lakers are just not good enough of a team to get my blood boiling.

II. The Hulk and the Problem of a Real Anti-Hero:

Speaking of rage, it seems Hollywood is absolutely incapable of making a decent-to-good film based on The Hulk. They have done it for pretty much every other major Marvel franchise (Spiderman 2, X2, and Iron Man), but somehow The Hulk continues to suck on the big screen.

Which brings me to this article on Slate, which takes a contrarian position and argues that the Ang Lee-directed film of The Hulk released in 2003 is not as bad as critics and fans said it was. In fact, the author argues that that movie was very underrated. I agree that the Ang Lee Hulk movie was indeed underrated, but not to the extent that the author argues, but a little exaggeration is understandable, given that the purpose of the article clearly is to be polemical.

I have my own theory as to why it is especially difficult to make a good Hulk movie, and it is this: The Hulk, unlike other Marvel anti-heroes, is really and extremely anti-heroic. Other Marvel anti-heroes, like the X-Men or Iron Man, are anti-heroic up to a point: they certainly have issues with their society, but at the end of the day, they still pretty much operate based on a mainstream ethics. The Hulk, on the other hand, is at bottom nothing than a metaphor for pure anger, which is much harder to sublimate into a kind of simplified good-vs-evil morality.

Therefore, it is very difficult to make The Hulk a sympathetic character, because he doesn’t operate within mainstream morality, and it is also very difficult to make him a flippant, joyous character because his origin story is extremely traumatic. In other words, The Hulk represents something more complicated and nuanced, psychologically speaking, than most other superheroes. Ang Lee tried to fuse both the psychological complexity of the character with the comic-book feel of joy together in one movie, but my suspicion is that such a mix can’t be accomplished, or at least accomplished well. In many respects, the Ang Lee movie was a success, insofar as it subverted the conventions of a typical superheroes movie, but it is definitely a near-miss.

Fundamentally, it is much easier to write a truly anti-heroic character on the page than it is to translate him onto the screen. For example, all film version of Hamlet that I have ever seen have the tendency to exaggerate one aspect of his personality at the expense of others: the Laurence Olivier version emphasized his indecisiveness, while Mel Gibson overplayed Hamlet’s violence.

Not that The Hulk approaches the psychological nuances of Hamlet in any way, but the problem is similar: how do you successfully capture characters with complicated psychologies faithfully on film? The answer is not so clear, and I’m not sure film, as a medium, is ultimately capable of doing this.

III. Preliminary Thoughts on Liberty of Conscience by Martha Nussbaum:

I’ve been making my way through Nussbaum’s new book titled Liberty of Conscience, and so far it has been a good read (Crooked Timber has a pretty good post on it here). The philosophical issue Nussbaum is dealing with is this: how to reconcile the Free Exercise and the Establishment clauses of the First Amendment. This is a long-standing issue in legal philosophy and constitutional philosophy. I first learned about this issue in Silverstein’s ConLaw class two years ago, and Nussbaum’s attempt to coherently relate the two clauses is thoughtful and articulate.

Rejecting the framework of separation, Nussbaum instead chooses the framework of equality to connect the free exercise and establishment causes, which she attributes the origin to Roger Williams. (Aside: This section is interesting in itself, as Nussbaum’s account of his ideas greatly piqued my interest to read him myself one of these days). Separation is rejected in favor of equality, Nussbaums argues, because the concept of separation is too bare-boned for the task.

I can’t give a full account of her whole arguments here, but as much as I like the book, I am not convinced by Nussbaum’s account because to me, it is not compelling enough to persuade me why public institutions should favor a religious characterization of conscience over a non-religious one. I would buy her argument if I believed that conscience is primarily religious in character, but this doesn’t seem right to me.

IV. A Song to End this Number: Beastie Boys – 3 Minute Rule

They don’t make them like they used to, because it would take too much money to clear the copyright for all the samples, even though “3 Minute Rule” only features two samples. This song has so many quotable lines, some memorable ones:

  • I’m out of your back door and into another
    Your boyfriend doesn’t know about me and your mother
    Not perfect grammar always perfect timing
    The Mike stands for money and the D. is for diamonds
  • A lot of parents like to think I’m a villain
    I’m just chillin’ like Bob Dylan
  • People come up to me and they try to talk shit man
    I’ve been making records since you were sucking on your mother’s dick
  • You slip you slack you clock me you lack
    While I’m reading on the road by my man Jack Kerouac

If you love hip hop at all, Paul’s Boutique should be an absolute required listening. In fact, if you like music made in the last 30 years, it should be a required listening. Anyone who can drop Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac in the same song should be applauded to the highest degree, and the insults I just quoted are absolutely hilarious.


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