Tuesday, May 16, 2006

peta cemetery/ beta bonanza

In Gates of Heaven, the pill is blamed for the rising cult of pet-dom, a pacifier for unfruitful mammas. Randomly coming upon the televised feeding of a komono dragon late one night, I watch the giant lizard lash about in giddy response to the trainer's whistle, anticipating that meal of live rats forthcoming. Pavlov woulda been proud. The love between the two is tactile, the exchange queerly mutual, one less of pet-owner (or even zoo denizen-zoo employee) and between two sentient beings that perhaps don't quite understand one another but at least respect the relationship they have somehow forged in this world.

Not that we need look beyond the gates of our animal kingdom to find compatibility problems. Another late night in front of the tube brings a by turns hilarious and illuminating study of human sexes, courtesy of the BBC. A girlfriend and I snicker when they bring male and female brains out of a bucket, and laugh out loud whenever the curt voiceover mentions "female brain sex," which instantly makes appear in my mind some hot lez lobe action.

In one bizarre study of many they trot out, they test how men and women hear differently. Since men only hear with one side of their brain, they cannot process words that come out of one side of their headphones. Of course, as a music critic, I sweat for a second that maybe I'm only hearing half of the words (which may be why I detest 80% of all lyrical music) and may soon lose my jobs to the J-Hoppas and J-Shephs of the world, but since most music is made by bros anyway, there's little to worry about at the end of the day.

An underlying theme is how a rush of testoterone into the fetus determines sexuality as well as future physical capabilities (one scientist predicts the outcome of a race by only measuring the length of the male runners' ring fingers), arguably creating two vastly different creatures that only seem to speak the same language. Which is to say, I give up explaining playoff basketball to her and she stops dissussing whatever it is she is telling me (I'm kinda just ogling her and not paying attention) and we go back to petting the doggy and kitty nearby.

Errol Morris gazes upon but rarely dissects scientifically the interaction between man and animal, in how different creatures somehow co-exist and exchange across irreconcilable borders. Come Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, there is the complex interchange not just between man and beast, but also that other pet of man's, mechanical machinations (detailing also curious hybrids such as mammalian hiveminds and robots as insects). Come Fog of War, Morris stares into the visage of a number-crunching statistical machine for the Pentagon that thinks it's a human named Robert McNamara (the void stares back courtesy of the Interrotron).

Errol's interpretation of nature as interactive and personable is diametrically opposed to his friend and goader, Werner Herzog. Stuck in the Peruvian jungle in Burden of Dreams, he sneers his synonyms for nature: violent, base, miserable, a curse, all fornication and mess. Far from Germanic order, here god is just pissed, frustrated, at wit's end (hmmm, sounds vaguely like a certain auteur megalomaniac), the master's creation project abandoned in frustration. No pets to be made of the exotic birds, but rather close-ups of a dead macaw, ants devouring it as fast as their mandibles will work. In Herzog's rainforest, birds don't chirp jack, they scream bloody fuckin' murder. Who could be into recycling and earth first when the environment is but a "harmony of overwhelming and collective murder"?

What does Herzog gaze upon though that doesn't flood with red though? Even amid the whimsy of Les Blank's film, Werner Herzog Eats his Shoe (an extra on Burden of Dreams), Herzog opens the short by declaring a fatwa on western culture, a Holy War on the boob tube, railing against not just commercials, but also Bonanza! Maybe he just never ate at one with Hoss, but Herzog also considers cooking to be the only legitimate alternative to film-making. Not that you can trust a guy who eats his shoe boiled in duck fat. Give me a big juicy live rat any day.