Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Happy thought

Although I enjoy Hunter S. Thompson's writing immensely and his clear-eyed analysis coupled with absolute post-modern absurdism is both exhilarating and overpowering, I do know better than to read him at breakneck speeds. It's a little mentally dangerous. I picked up Fear and Loathing on the Campaign trail in '72 for whatever unclear reason, and I just tore through it in less than a week. I do. I know better than to do that.

And that's Hunter's most thoughtful work. In my opinion. Not that it's not full of gonzo insanity, and it's not that the context of his ravings doesn't make him seem painfully sane, it's just that his style is wildly manic.

Years ago I had this idea for a remake of an old Japanese film, Rashomon, w/ HST as the bit role of the traveler who's hearing the various stories from different people who happen to be in a diner, which replaces the abandoned temple, as the real story happens in multiple perspective flashback. And the whole thing would be based around Thompson's book Hell's angels. About a crime the Hell's angels may have committed. Rashomon was all about perspective. Cryptic, eh? Read the book and go see the movie and you'll see why the idea is a little controversial and would be a difficult movie to really make.

But anyway, it occurred to me that if I wanted to write as Hunter, I would have to read as much of his writing as I could. I read just about everything. Collections of letters (the man wrote three volumes of letters to friends and family over the years), his early novel The Rum Diary, FNL in LV, The great Shark Hunt, various collections from his later writings, etc. I tried to learn how to think like Hunter S. Thompson.

Let me tell you it's a very disturbing, if also enlightening, place. Not that he's wrong. Especially with Campaign. One of the great takeaways from Thompson's journalism in 1972 was that it's crazy to take politicians at surface value. And even worse, it's not objective. That's really one of the great lessons of postmodernism: rationality is not always rational. But the form of this lesson for Thompson was his life, and it made him a character. A celebrity. He could no longer practice his brand of journalism because he became the story. And he had to play a character that was intensely polarizing. It was probably ultimately a fairly self destructive character too, but only he would've know that for sure. I never did know 'em, so I couldn't rightly say.

The point of all this was that I didn't mean to be such a menace about behavioral economics, leveraged buy-outs, or the new Star Trek. It just happened to be the stuff I was thinking about while I was reading the Campaign Trail. I also shredded on the idea that Inifinite Jest is a difficult book, the difference between the progressive and conservative media approach (informative vs. demagogic?), the potential illusion of free will, and other related nonsense. I was pretty worked up by the time I got through.

I actually think the work of behavioral economics is very important. In the end, we've gotta start somewhere. The economic reform process is going to be long and hopefully fruitful. I just worry that we're picking at the scabs on our elbows while our intestines bleed out or something. Not that behavioral economics is the scab. The metaphor is never perfect. They've taken good basic research from the specialized fields of modern psychology, but the integration has to go further. Sociology, history, anthropology, really the entire field of the humanities, theology. We've gotta get the whole superstructure fit together. It's like a giant puzzle of knowledge.

In order for the social sciences to integrate, economics cannot seperate itself from the research and ideas of the wider field. It cannot be it's own seperate entity, but in order to maintain Friedman, that's what has to be done. And what this basic work that Thaler, Sunstein, Schiller, etc. are doing is showing us the the symptoms of larger philosophical problems that we cannot continue to ignore.

I really don't have any nice things to say about leveraged buy outs. So, I'm gonna move right on to the new Star Trek. It was. It was good. I enjoyed it. To a degree. I really felt like the movie should've started with the young Kirk racing down the road in the stolen car and saved the back story about his dad to be cut in along the way as self-reflective flashbacks to soften the brazenness of Captain Kirk's character. I really felt like Kirk needed a few brief flashes of self reflection. Not just that one slight aside to Uhura.

But it was still pretty smart and funny for the tent pole action/adventure genre. I would prefer if they got some of the physics right. Maybe there was some in there that I didn't notice. Abrams is definitely no slouch. I did like Spock designing the Kobayashi Maru. I felt like the rest of the stuff about the Maru was too easy. It should have been a more difficult question. Not so cut and dried. A little more sophisticated. I know that's a loaded word. It really shouldn't be. Still the new Trek was worthwhile. It was worth my time and money. For the most part.

Anyway, I've already started in on David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. Never read any of his work before, and it's clearly monumental. I am looking forward to reading this book this summer. Got to try and make it last all summer, and read other things. Comparative mythology, for example. William James. Mircea Eliade. Joseph Campbell. Some really 'difficult' books.

Anyway, that was really digressive. Sorry. I'm basically just muttering to myself under my breath in print. I probably do that too much.

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