atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#5277: Contemplations

Having survived a coup attempt, Turkish leader Erdogan is now purging the shit out of his government. Turkey is a unique case for an islamic nation; the military is much more secular than the civilian government is and acts as a counterbalance to it. I'm nothing like an expert so I'm not going to try to analyze why the coup was attempted(though Erdogan has all the hallmarks of a totalitarian); it's Erdogan's response that I'm looking at here.

It's typical for an "authoritarian" leader to purge his enemies, especially when his power is challenged by a coup. Erdogan has had thousands arrested, and has effectively demolished the entirety of the Turkish higher education establishment, but this is merely the latest round of that; he's been running the totalitarian gamut (show trials, censorship, and so on) since he rose to power.

My worry is what's going to happen next. The next step along this trajectory is for mass executions to take place. It's where these things end up, sooner or later.

* * *

Every so often I start thinking about Can't Buy Me Love.

Yet Another 80's Teen Romance Comedy, it's probably the best example of them for several reasons. A bunch of actors who never went on to do much of anything else (with the exception of Patrick Dempsey and Seth Green), the "unpopular guy gets the popular girl" plot, an examination of stereotypes--there's a lot that's typical of the story. But every once in a while I start thinking about it again, because it's probably my second favorite movie in the genre. (The Sure Thing is first. I cannot stand Rob Reiner's movies, yet one of his is my favorite. Go figure. I never claimed to be consistent.)

The other day I was thinking about foreshadowing in particular. When we first meet our main character, Ronald Miller, he's a bespectacled nerd who mows lawns for spending money, and he's saving up his cash to buy a telescope--a really good telescope, about $1,000 in 1987 dollars--because he's an amateur astronomer. Nerd, in other words. In fact, our first view of him shows him sitting on a riding mower, wearing horn-rimmed glasses (in 1987) and a pith helmet. And the stage is rapidly set: he is cutting the grass at the Mancini house, home to Cindy Mancini, most popular girl in school, who comes home with her friends and utterly ignores him as he interrupts his struggles with a clogged discharge chute to tip his pith helmet and greet the girls.

The setup is that Cindy illicitly borrows a suede outfit from her mother and wears it to a party, where it gets ruined, and while Ronald is out shopping for his telescope he sees Cindy in distress and offers to help her by buying a replacement outfit for her...if she'll go out with him for a few months. "And that," finishes his proposal, "will make me popular."

The movie is probably free on any number of "on-demand" services, so I won't summarize further except to say that Ronald's plan works, after a fashion. The plot's not what I wanted to examine here. What I wanted to examine was foreshadowing. We see some uncharacteristic things in the movie which don't really register unless you think about them.

One of these things is Ronald's bicycle: it's a BMX bike, where the rest of his nerdy friends ride 10-speeds. And it occurred to me how true-to-life that was; when I was in high school, the popular guys (if they rode bikes at all, or prior to getting cars anyway) rode BMX-style bikes. People on the nerd side of the spectrum had 10-speeds.

Another is Ronald's physique. Where his friends are typical ectomorphs with no musculature, in the scene where he's washing Cindy's car Ronald is shown to have some muscle definition. Not as much as the jocks, but he's no sunken-chested wimp, either.

The movie does three things wrong. One, the climactic scene should not have ended with a round of applause; that was trite and corny even in 1987. Two, it takes repeated viewings to really understand what is happening during Ronald's "popular" phrase--things like the issue with his report card, his first day at school, and so on. The third--well, part of the theme of the movie is how popularity works, so I suppose I can excuse it, but a lot of the characters had very little independence of thought, to an overly simplistic extent. We do see it happen on occasion, but it's not obvious. The worst aspect of this can probably be chalked up to dramatic license, but Ronald's fall from the pinnacle is too total--it's everyone, where in reality he would have some people left on his side.

Overall, though, it's a very nicely done story, and I've always liked it. It's not art for the ages or anything, but it amuses me to think about it when I have nothing else to do but drive the Jeep to work.

Amanda Peterson (who played Cindy Mancini) had a spectacular voice. It's a shame she wasn't more successful.

* * *

The other day it occurred to me: Einstein developed his theory of relativity while working as a patent clerk. What does that say? To me, it says that even a hundred years ago government bureaucrats hardly did any of the friggin' work they're paid to do.


* * *

Western civilization has achieved more than any other civilization in history. Was it the Chinese who first sent men to the Moon? Did the Bantu invent the integrated circuit? Were the Hindu behind the development of the internal combustion engine? Did the Inca lay the first undersea cable? Was the theory of electromagnetism brought to Europe from an exotic locale by Marco Polo or Magellan? What nationality was Bessemer, who figured out how to make industrial quantities of steel? Who split the atom? Who invented calculus? Where did the germ theory of disease come from? Antibiotics? Vaccines?

Someone who lives in Lala Land. Yep, go ahead and keep believing that, shithead.

It's symptomatic of what is happening around the world that a politician can feel comfortable saying something like that in America, where all white people must fear the cries of tha's raciss! (Although the headline mischaracterizes what he says, of course.)

* * *

I laughed at this. Esp. "I wish it would suck MORE!"

* * *

We had a heck of a blow come through on Sunday. The weather radio (which has still not had its alarm table adjusted) blew off some four or five times as the weather service alternated between severe thunderstorm watches and warnings. I don't think it should alarm when a warning is downgraded to a watch, but maybe there are federal regulations or something for weather radios. Who the hell knows?

Though it took a while from the initial warning to the arrival of the weather, it was a pretty good soaking we got. We needed it--the grass was dry--but of course it means I must cut the grass today or tomorrow. We got a good rain on Saturday, too; that one I saw coming as I was walking into work, an immense circular wall cloud high in the sky with obvious updraft. It pounded rain for perhaps half an hour, then quit for the rest of the day.

I sat in the driveway for a while and watched the lightning, but whenever I do that I always get to thinking about the news story I read not too many years ago where a guy was mowing grass in sunny weather when he got struck by a bolt from a thunderstorm twenty-five miles away. A big thunderstorm has an immense electrical system that extends far from its nominal borders. So I decided to sit in the garage and watch (not that that would help if a long-distance "bolt from the blue" was going to hit me) but as I was moving there Mrs. Fungus got home and we went inside.

Anyway, once the storm hit, it rained continuously for hours. Lots of lightning, not a lot of wind, but plenty of rain. And as I said, we needed it...even though now I must cut the grass.

...but not right now. Maybe after six is when I'll start that, when the sun's heading down and the heat is less oppressive.


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