Gushing Pretension

Is ‘The Fountain’ a beautiful story of love and life conquering death? Of a way to find life through death? Or just a terribly weird and hokey new age film that is, at times, unbelievably difficult to follow? I still can’t decide.

Donna might not be able to decide for her review, but I have no such difficulties. This movie was an astounding combination of misleading marketing, Oscar-nominee positioning, and irrelevant claptrap. The director moved the viewer through three related storylines in a jerky, disconnected manner, woven together with clunky metaphors that served only to remind us that throwing money at a bad story idea will never salvage it.

I was able to follow this movie, I just thought it sucked. The three stories converge in irrelevant and asinine ways, clumsily strung together in an attempt to convince the viewers to wrap themselves in a garment of caring. If you have the good sense to stay away, or you had the misfortune of believing the hype that it had anything to do with an exciting medieval Meso-American adventure, let me lay it out for you, in spoilerific detail:

Tom is a bald guy in a bubble in space with a dying tree. The web site for the movie tells you his name and reveals he’s an astronaut in the twenty-sixth century. He is headed for a nebula the Mayans considered sacred. He is haunted by the visions of Isabel, our dying, brave heroine.

Isabel lives in the modern world, dying of cancer in that delicious way that involves no suffering or symptoms. Her husband Tommy is trying to discover a procedure to save her. He hits upon a process that reverses aging, but it doesn’t seem to cure cancer so he moves on in his work. All Isabel wants is for Tommy to read her unfinished novel about the fountain of youth.

As he reads we get glimpses of the book, and about conquistador Tomas who must save Spain by finding the Fountain of Youth, which is actually the Tree of Life.

Tom, in his bubble, promises the dying tree that it won’t die, even as he eats of it. He languishes over finishing Isabel’s novel for her, a promise made by Tommy.

Tommy discovers too late that his new treatment cures cancer, and Isabel dies.

Tom’s tree dies before he reaches the nebula that is Mayan heaven. Tom finishes the novel by using himself as a Deus et Machina – he appears before the Mayan priest and uses his glowing lotus self to convince the priest that Tomas is a god. Tomas gets to the tree, drinks the sap, and plants grow out of him, perpetuating his existence while killing him.

The tree is reborn as Isabel. The End.

Yes, I get that it’s about the nature of eternal life. The cycles are really quite Pagan. But fastening these three mediocre tales together with Spell-o-tape does nothing more for them than make them an Important Film or, as I like to call it, a monumental pile of crap.

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Tracking the Economics of GMO

Diapason Commodities Management has just announced its agricultural commodity-based index which incorporates only non-genetically modified organisms.

This is a really excellent, and somewhat chilling, idea. It’s a great idea because economics have been shown to be an excellent predictor of the relevance of trends and ideas. Chilling for the same reason – what if this bombs?

Index funds tap into the collective unconscious in ways that Jung could only have wet dreams about. Whether it’s the Christmas Index or terrorism futures, election results or Oscar predictions, indices and futures markets are surprisingly accurate because they even out the shortsighted guesswork of individuals and really allow us to work together by motivating us in the one way just about every human can be inspired by: greed. If this non-GMO index shows that these companies are doing well, it’s pretty likely that foods that more resemble nature are on the rise overall. However, if the value of the index falls, we might be looking at a world of trees with Prozac in their sap and corn that grows human ears for replacement operations.

So this index could show how much foresight and wisdom is really embedded in our collective unconscious, and how much convenience overshadows it. Face it, it’s a pain in the ass to spray pesticides on crops, and it’s annoying to find bruised tomatoes in the bin at the store. GMO holds the promise of finding ways to unlock the secrets of DNA and answer all of life’s problems with another strand. Of course, genetic manipulation is likely to have effects that will not be clear, for good or ill, for generations to come. Could be the generations of the plants and animals manipulated, or the generations of the humans interacting with and consuming them. Our ability to foresee long-term consequences of our actions are usually impeded by politics, sex, and our own lifespans. I don’t know if a futures market is capable of transcending these limitations we have, or if it will just compound the issue.

I also don’t know if, in a century, we find that all the GMO products produced now were actually the salvation of the planet. What I do know is that I’m too shortsighted to be willing to risk the world’s future on a guess.

Marriage By Any Other Name

Marriage in America is indeed a contract — a contract that comes with more obligations than rights. Marriage in America is a civil right that is not now and has never been in the past dependent upon any one religion or even religion in general for its justification, existence, or perpetuation. Marriage exists because people desire it and the community, working through the government, helps ensure that married couples are able to do what they need to in order to survive. At no point is religion needed or even necessarily relevant.

I wholeheartedly concur that marriage is a contract, and that it is a contract with the community. That doesn’t mean, though, that marriage isn’t first and foremost a sacred rite. The confusion lies in the fact that churches were the first institutions of community in most places. The rituals that developed necessarily encompassed the entirety of the needs of the community.

The Romans were extremely secular, and their marriages generally paid only passing homage to their gods, as was their wont. The rights and responsibilities of marriage were established by the secular authorities. However, this departure was muddled by the Church more or less taking over Rome (although the question of who assimilated whom is probably worthy of its own discussion).

We have reached a point in the maturity of our society when we do not need the auspices of a single (or even multiple) religious institutions in order to attend to the needs of our populace. Like it or not, people don’t need a belief in a higher power to ensure safe food preparation, prevent homicide, or rear children. Plenty of agnostics roam the earth in a state that passes for happiness, and secular humanists seem to have gotten it right.

Marriage was intended to be a sacred rite. The fact that it came to shoulder the burden of other, very necessary, civil responsibilities does not change this fact. The word itself should be relegated to a religious ceremony, and the definition of an appropriate marriage (or handfasting, for that matter) should be left entirely to the religious institution. To suggest otherwise is to dishonor the varied beliefs of the vast majority of this planet.

The civil contract between a couple and the community should be the sole responsibility of the local municipal authorities. Priests and rabbis should not work for the State, at least not in this country. Let judges and mayor sign the licenses. Taking God out of the equation in this manner might make it a little easier to allow people to have normal family lives even if they don’t happen to believe that a heterosexual union is normal for them.


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