artifacts of the marionettes
Monday, May 23 2005
I feel more comfortable making alterations to existing concrete-mortared stone installations around the house now that I know how easily and accurately old structures can be torn out, particularly with the tools I have: a four pound sledge hammer and a cold chisel with an inch-wide bit. Today while Gretchen was off in Albany lobbying the NY State legislature to allow the sale of emergency contraception without a prescription, I took the opportunity to go crazy on the concrete-mortared front stoop, ripping out a couple square feet of thinly-veneered concrete and replacing it with a much tighter, flatter array of stone, all of it mortared with Portland cement tinted chocolate-brown. The cement looked like shit (literally) as I was slathering it in and it made me wonder if maybe I should have mixed in a little less red. I'm hoping, though, that it will look good once it solidifies and weathers a little. I've learned that the use of several different colors of mortar make stonework look more organic, and even if one particular color is a little over the top, it's usually balanced by the colors of adjacent mortar.
Tonight Gretchen and I watched the movie Team America: World Police, which is by the same goofy geniuses who bring us the steadily-improving Comedy Central anchor South Park. You know going in that the movie is performed entirely with marionettes, so when the movie opens with a crude marionette walking in front of a cheesy backdrop of Paris you find yourself thinking "I don't know if I can sit through two hours of this." But then the camera pulls back and you see that this marionette is being operated a bigger, fancier marionette. Team America, you see, is an action adventure starring modern high-tech marionettes, the kind capable of subtle animatronic facial expressions. I didn't really know such marionettes exist, but they do.
As in South Park, the creators are often find much of their physical humor in the limits of the medium. For example, in many of the fight scenes the marionettes jump up in the air and hover with arms outstretched, Matrix-stylee. But since they're marionettes, you see them swaying visibly on their strings.
When we're not being entertained by such artifacts of the production, Team America is a great sendup of moronic red white and blue patriotism (and action pictures generally). Bystanders are gunned down and priceless wonders of the world are casually obliterated in the name of American "fuck yeah!" freedom and justice. Back on the home front, honky tonk jukeboxes mostly just play a dopey country song about how freedom ain't free but will instead cost you a buck oh five.
But the movie also has something for the wingers in the audience who hate sniveling Hollywood Lexis liberals. Making fun of actors and actresses is an essential point of the movie - one which didn't require their services and mocks "acting" relentlessly. Our hero, for example, is a Broadway actor recruited by Team America for his "acting skills." They figure he can put his skills to good use, you know, infiltrating the terrorists. Of course, our hero doesn't look the slightest bit Arab and he doesn't know any Arabic, but that doesn't matter what with the wonders of modern plastic surgery and his virtuosic "acting talent." It turns out that terrorists automatically know what you're talking about so long as you sprinkle gibberish with words like "jihad" and "Allah."
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