Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You can fool some of the people...

OK. Got up early (for me) and here are some random morning thoughts, before I finish the death penalty index.

What's Funny?

It's taken a couple weeks, but this 365 self-portrait photo project is starting to be fun--sort of like slo-mo improv. (Thank you to everyone who encouraged me not to drop it.) I started out thinking about fine art photography and photojournalistic documentary work, but gradually I thought, this could be playful, like a Star Trek project. Much preferable.
It also nudges me to be brave, but not too awfully.

It's been a while since I pushed myself to try something unfamiliar like this. It reminds me of going on a trip--almost always I resist at first; but once I'm on the road I think, Why don't I do this more often?

Speaking of humor, of course I still love Stephen but I've already grown tired of The Colbert Report. It's good enough, but satire has to be pretty much the same as the thing it's mocking, and since I don't enjoy personality-based news, or even TV news at all, much less dimwits who are sure they are right, watching Colbert be a self-important dimwit news pundit got old really fast.
Satire and irony are fine tools for precision work, to use them over and over for everyday cutting makes them dull.
I just like it when people send me their favorite clips--then I don't have to watch the whole show. Same with Jon Stewart (thank you momo!).

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Colbert said that he loves doing his character, but finds it can be limiting when he's interviewing interesting people: "Sometimes I just want to talk about the Human Genome Project," he said.
Me too--I just want to listen to his interviewees talk and not trip over themselves trying parry his wit. Where's the fun in watching an amateur fence with a pro?

Forgotten Silver

More to my taste was the one-hour mockumentary I watched last night: Forgotten Silver (1995), by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings--that's him in the color inset photo) and Costa Botes. It's about Jackson discovering an unknown New Zealand filmmaker from the early days of filmmaking.
It's not satire, it's a loving tribute to moviemaking, even though the whole thing is made up, including, of course, all the "found" footage.

What's so impressive is the way they made all this old film--from scenes of the trenches at Gallipoli to a recreation of Jerusalem supposedly in the NZ forests--but really using the steps of a government building in Wellington, which they covered with jungle plants. The "Making of" feature was almost as good as the movie itself.

They showed Forgotten Silver on NZ public TV without saying it was a joke, and people got very excited about it. It's so well done and the jokes are so subtle, it's very believable. When the joke was revealed, however, people were enraged, and Jackson received a lot of hate mail. Funny how people like to watch other people fall for a joke but hate to fall themselves.

Death Penalty

Now back to the death penalty index.
I was surprised to find in a 3-12-09 Economist article a new argument against it--new to me, that is: the whole process is very expensive, costing more than keeping someone in prison for life.
The article states:
"As state governments confront huge budget deficits, eight more states have proposed an unusual measure to cut costs: eliminate the death penalty."

You probably know, this past March 19, New Mexico banned capital punishment. I don't think they said cost was a factor, but it seems a very American line of thinking: "We'd love to kill you, but it costs too much."
That's one reason it's hard to tell if Forgotten Silver is a joke or not--it's hard to come up with inanities of human behavior that cannot be believed.

"Is it not absurd that the laws, which detest and punish homicide, should, in order to prevent murder, publicly commit murder themselves?"
--Cesare Beccaria, An Essay on Crimes and Punishments, Italy: 1767

For me, the central question of the death penalty is, Who do we, as a civilization, want to be?


momo said...

what a fascinating story about the film! I can get why Peter Jackson would make a movie about a non-existant filmmaker--he loves the whole special effect/create a world thing so much.

Yeah, the taxpayers money argument trumps morality and ethics in some circles.

fresca said...

I liked this Jackson film so much better than LOTR (how long can I stand to watch battling orcs ? about 3 minutes, total)--but you're right--it's very much the same love of storytelling behind both efforts.

PaulD said...

You have a good eye for critique, and a good presentation.

As for me, well, someday I suppose I'll tire of those battles with the orcs, but for now, ...never mind.

Its always easy for me to oppose the death penalty, until I think of some of those vile, reprehensible acts that brought a person to the chair, then I get all mushy and irritable.

fresca said...

Right, Paul--me too--when I think of the victims, I get all emotional and definitely want to feed the perpetrators to the orcs.
That's why I don't think we should decide the issue based on our feelings alone, but on ideas and ideals, made when we are not all "mushy and irritable" (great words!).

Darwi said...

I was surprised with that statement that the death penalty costs more than someone being for life in prison. How do they kill them? With the diamond bullet????
Anyway, on the subject of that kind of the penalty, for me is a question how good punishment it is? I mean, ultimately, it can serve only to scare other criminals not to go too far (or at least not to get caught), but for that one who is about to be killed, it's not really the proper punishment. Unfortunately, my ideas about the proper punishment for such persons is utterly non-democratic so I'll not say it. But the main point, I would not kill them, no, I would kept them alive as long as possible....

fresca said...

Actually, Darwi, that IS an argument against the death penalty--some people say it is worse to live, say, in solitary confinement forever than to die.
(Though I imagine you meant something not even that nice...)
It's such a painful, awful topic, I feel sick after writing that index.

The reason the death penalty is so expensive is because of the long appeals process and...
Oh--here--I'll just cut-and-paste from The Economist:
"Studies show that administering the death penalty is even more expensive than keeping someone in prison for life. The intensive jury selection, trials and appeals required in capital cases can take over a decade and run up a huge tab for the state. Death row, where prisoners facing execution are kept in separate cells under intense observation, is also immensely costly."

deanna said...

I'm terribly far behind on your posts, but here I'll jump in. I admire you for doing the index, and I appreciate the information on cost and so on.

The way we do the death penalty doesn't make sense. I don't think we come anymore from a cultural understanding of this sort of punishment. People who circled around an offender and had to stone them (I shudder to imagine) must have been motivated not to have to do this often (well, some may have not been). I also imagine the great sadness that the "ideal" death penalty administration would bring - a reminder of the cost of tragic actions. It wouldn't preclude forgiveness, but in our culture I believe people feel it would. I think I'm just trying to say what you did, that the decision to do something like this ought to be based on ideas and ideals, rather than an emotional reaction.

fresca said...

You raise an interesting point, Deanna, the loss of immediacy and community in our modern justice system... Like so many other things in our mechanized American society, a lot of it indeed doesn't make sense anymore.
Much to ponder.
Anyway, yes, here's to ideas and ideals.