President Obama on Leno’s Tonight Show: I’m Stunned By Those AIG Bonuses

President Obama on Leno’s Tonight Show: Stunned By Those AIG Bonuses

Whenever a late-night television show features a sitting president, it usually comes as material for a stand-up comedy routine. But on Thursday night, President Obama overturned another tradition when he appeared on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show to promote his economic recovery plan. President Obama held his own with the comedian, countering Mr. Leno’s jabs about the executive bonuses given out by the American International Group, saying, “The only place where I think this might work is Hollywood.” Obama did not explicitly endorse the House bill passed on Thursday, which would tax bonuses paid to those whose companies have gotten large amounts of federal bailout money, saying “The money’s already gone out.” “I think the best way to handle this is to make sure you’ve closed the door before the horse gets out of the barn,” he said.

When Mr. Leno asked whether someone should go to jail for the AIG debacle, President Obama replied, “Most of what got us into trouble was perfectly legal.” In his appearance with Mr. Leno, Obama carefully balanced his comments between projecting a sense of good humor and projecting a presidential bearing. For example, he momentarily appeared to look startled when Mr. Leno joked that the president had laid the problems of the banking sector at the doorstep of the Treasury Secretary, Timothy F. Geithner. “I love how you say it’s his problem,” Mr. Leno said. For a moment, President Obama gave a stone-faced look to Leno. Then he broke into a laugh, as if he suddenly realized that Leno’s put-down was meant as a joke. “All of this is my responsibility,” Obama said. “I’m trying to break a pattern in Washington where everybody’s always looking for someone to blame.”

President Obama with Jay Leno: I’m Stunned By Those AIG Bonuses

Interested readers will find more in today’s edition of The New York Times here.

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Drux and Flux: The Flow of Progress into Tragic Social Decay

Drux and Flux: The Flow of Progress into Tragic Social Decay

It is only for the sake of those without hope
that hope is given to us
.”

Walter Benjamin

Drux and Flux: Visual Comments on Today’s Deepening Economic Crisis

Drux and Flux won the Canadian Film Institute’s 2008 Award for Best Canadian Animation, as well as an Honorable Mention for Best Experimental/Abstract Animation at the 2008 International Animation Festival in Otowa, Canada. Director Theodore Ushev’s Drux and Flux presents an oppressive and miserable vision of how both the contemporary commitment to an over-arching belief in progress and to the ever-expanding industrialism in society have effected modern life. The five-minute short film opens with shots of a printing press, which are used to present the film’s opening titles. That scene then switches away and shifts, through rapidly choreographed cuts, to an elevated train, a dimly-lit manufacturing city-scape, the interior of a factory, then to the manufacturing building’s inner workings. The cuts are rapid, and the fast pace is maintained throughout the film.

The quickly cut scenes track the rise and fall of industry and are accompanied by increasingly discordant sounds on its background music track. Scenes from Soviet propaganda posters and the clashing of gears and girders are juxtaposed, along with almost subliminal flashes of the words “1932″ (the year of Hitler’s first election-run for Chancellor of Germany) and “Juggernaut” (a possible reference to perceptions of WWII Germany as an “unstoppable force”). The latter disturbing associations between ever-increasing industrialization, exponential technological advance and the rise of totalitarian political regimes can be quite unsettling. Drux and Flux culminates with clip-art style images of a human skeleton that is reinforced with building materials, yet it’s still unable to support itself. The overall result for the viewer of this film is a vision of the potential horrors of modern-day industrialization, which has been summoned like a nightmare brought about by watching too many hours of late-night horror films while listening to a constantly-looping off-speed recording of Verdi’s Il Travatore Anvil Chorus.

Ushev drew his inspiration for Drux and Flux from a variety of sources. Sociologist-philosopher-political radical Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man (1964) is cited as his starting point, a work that presents a wide-ranging critique of both advanced capitalist and communist societies. This book theorized about the inevitable decline of revolutionary potential in capitalist societies and about the development of new and potent forms of social control, especially over the common working person. Marcuse argued that “advanced industrial society” created false needs which fused individuals into homogenized particles that comprised the existing system of production and consumption. Advertising, industrial management, politicians and the mass-media cooperated to brainwash members of the working class, eliminating their potential for effective expressions of negativity, critique, and opposition. The result, according to Marcuse, was a “one-dimensional” universe of thought and behavior, in which the very aptitude and ability for critical thinking and for developing either opposing or alternative social positions was withering away.

As Drux and Flux travels through its series of dismal industrial scenes, one is left with a deeply sad mood about the frightening impressions of the enormous slabs of metal and rust, the smells of rotting death. By the end of this short five-minute journey, the viewer is left to wonder whether this is what things actually might be like when our industrial world finally reaches its end.

Drux and Flux: The Flow of Progress into Tragic Social Decay

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