|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
|Just Add Popcorn
Thursday, June 15th, 2006
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? email@example.com|
|President Bush declared the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands a National Monument today, preserving hundreds of thousands of square miles of reef and atolls for all time – or at least until they’re swamped by global warming’s rising seas. The president’s motives for this good deed may be legion, but according to the New York Times, he was chiefly inspired by a movie about the islands made by oceanographer and documentarian Jean-Michel Cousteau. The screening at the White House, says the Times, “had a powerful effect” on the Bushes.*
This isn’t the first time Mr. Bush has been moved to action by a movie. In the days after hurricane Katrina, while New Orleans lay flooded, and its citizens sat stranded and starving, the president vacationed blithely on. Only when the White House staff screened a DVD compendium of TV news coverage of the devastation was the president moved to act.
And so, while this page has occasionally been critical of President Bush’s handling of his duties, the time has come to bury the hatchet. Instead of more criticism, which falls on deaf ears anyway, the moment has come to apply the Rumsfeld Doctrine and play the hand we’ve been dealt. While Mr. Bush’s policies have hitherto been entirely destructive, harmful both to the nation and the rest of the world, we now see a way to set the president on a more constructive path. If movies moved him on Katrina and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the magic of the silver screen can inspire him to do the right thing on other matters.
The president recently gave the Indian nuclear weapons program his blessing. Before he sanctions any other countries’ nukes, Mr. Bush needs to watch Dr. Strangelove, the 1964 Stanley Kubrick classic about the final destination of the nuclear weapons trip. And before adding further trillions to the national debt, the president would be well advised to watch the BBC adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now. The story is a cautionary tale about the outcome of constructing financial houses of cards. Not to spoil it for anyone, but the ending is not happy.
On the subject of regime change and the imposition of colonial power on those who don’t much want it, there are many choices. Our pick is John Huston’s 1975 adaptation of a Kipling story, The Man Who Would Be King. The fate of the two British soldiers who set themselves up as gods in a foreign land is a lesson for anyone inclined to confuse his will with that of a higher being, making it highly appropriate viewing for President Bush.
Al Gore’s documentary about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, couldn’t have been released at a better time. Mr. Gore has expressed his willingness to come to the White House and discuss his movie whenever he gets the invitation. Ian McKellan’s star turn as Richard III in the 1995 film version of Shakespeare’s play might give the president food for thought the next time he’s tempted to abuse his great powers. As for eschewing diplomacy in favor of armed conflict, Mr. Bush can do no better than the Marx Brother’s Duck Soup, the most intelligent film ever made about war.
In fact, before viewing any of the other films on this list, Mr. Bush should sit down and watch the entire Marx Brothers oevre. Since he failed to get it from Andover, Yale, and Harvard, let the Marx Brothers provide the education in geography, economics, history, art, literature, and science the president lacks. It’s the critical foundation for all other learning, and Mr. Bush will likely pay more attention to Groucho, Harpo, and Chico than he did to his former instructors.
If he doesn’t have time for that, let the president ponder Groucho’s one paragraph distillation of the liberal arts, and proceed from there: “Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... Now you tell me what you know.”
Surely the president can handle that much; any child of five could. If he can’t, we’ll have to follow Groucho’s advice and send for a child of five.
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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