Tuesday, September 19, 2006

High on Sorkin

We here at the Strawman love, love Aaron Sorkin. We love his wit, his assured charm, his facility with the spoken and written word, and, not least, his overall bravura. The guy’s got chops. If we didn’t love the entirety of A Few Good Men (adapted from his Broadway play) we certainly loved that testy verbal exchange between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson near the end. You remember, “I want the Truth”; “You Can Handle the Truth”. (Actually, that’s rather topical with respect to the whole definition of torture debate going on. But anyway)

And let us not forget our love for West Wing, that White House Drama about the political machinations and fascinating personalities at the highest level of government. We remember downloading all of the episodes we missed, watching them more than twice, if only to follow the oftentimes hurried and inscrutable dialogue. We were sad to see it go off the air, but not surprised. We barely watched the last two seasons. And when Leo (John Spencer) died, well, what was left to say? President Bartlet was succeeded by President-Elect Santos -- both democrats, as fanciful as that was. But the show’s decline began when its writer and creator, Aaron Sorkin, was fired two seasons prior. And of course, he needed a Job, so he went to Hollywood.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is Sorkin’s new job, and he’s brought along Bradley Whitford from the West Wing. The show revolves around the behind-the-scene travails of a Saturday Night Live type production where Whitford and Mathew Perry (of Friends fame) are tasked to helm writing and directing responsibilities. Perry, the writer, has an addiction (or will likely develop one) to painkillers. Both Sorkin and Perry have had histories of drug addiction, so the casting is both self-referentially smirking at us, and so Meta as to be absurd. The charcters were already unbelieveable to begin with, and even more so now. Moreover, it’s self-flattery of the most cringe-inducing sort that Perry’s character is a brilliant award-wining writer, formerly of the NBS network, from where he was fired three years prior, only to be asked back to the network.

Everything about S60SS is self important and bloated, much like the West Wing. The only difference between two, however, is that the bloat and self-importance was necessary for the subject matter of the West Wing, whereas S60SS feels incredibly self-satisfied, not to mention self-masturbatory. When you write about politics at the highest level, seriousness, vapid moralizing, and false, if bien-pensantt, equivalencies are what one traffics in without regard to accuracy. The source material is the White House. But when its Hollywood, and it’s about a “comedy show” and the guys who run it—pah-leas. Which is to say I found nothing particularly compelling about S60SS, nor was any of Sorkin’s script for the pilot the least bit memorable. Needless to say, I didn’t like, and now await its inevitable cancellation.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mea without the Culpa

After some infelicitous words about Mohammed's teachings and their broader implications on the essence of Islam, namely that they resulted in “evil” and “inhuman” things, the Pope is backtracking. Sort of:

“At this time I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims”

Right. Obviously the emphasis is mine. The Pope’s non-apology turns on rhetorically self-protecting phrases like being deeply sorry “for the reactions”, but not for the actual remarks which, of course, he had the right, and good sense, not to make. Also, that he thinks his remarks “were considered offensive” regardless of whether or not “he” considered them offensive (where he remains silent) elides responsibility again. Although, if he truly believed they were offensive it’s unlikely he would've made them in the first place.

But in the Pope’s defense, the remarks he made where quoted from a medieval text, from which he took the caution to explicitly attribute (“and I quote” etc.) And yet that seems to confound the Pope's conduct, since it must have been clearly obvious to him the incendiary nature of his remarks and the likely response.