Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like your responses to a thought experiment.
Imagine yourself in a large group of people. An official-looking person asks the group to separate into twenty-six smaller groups, organized according to the first letter of members' first names.
Then another official-looking person comes into the room wheeling a cart of cupcakes in three different flavors: chocolate, say, lemon, and red velvet. (The you in this thought experiment both loves cupcakes and loves chocolate, lemon, and red velvet cupcakes equally.) As the official-looking person walks around the room, she offers each person his or her choice of cupcakes (this is apparently a bottomless cart). Some people choose chocolate, some lemon, and some red velvet.
Then, when the official-looking person gets to your group, the people who share the first letter of your first name, she says, "Oh, sorry, the lemon cupcakes aren't for you. You may have your pick of the chocolate and the red velvet." You take a cupcake, perhaps chocolate, perhaps red velvet.
Then she continues on, offering members of the rest of the groups their choice of all three kinds of cupcakes.
So here's the question: Are you angry that you weren't given the choices the other groups were given? If so, how angry? (I will reveal that, in the piece I'm working on that includes this thought experiment, the title of the section is Fuck You and Your Goddamn Cupcake, which ought to make my answer clear, but you have no obligation to agree with me.)
Note, please, that the question I'm asking isn't about practicality—a cupcake is a cupcake, I still like red velvet, if that's the way it worked out then whatever—but about the visceral emotional reaction you do or don't have to the thought.
Usually I don't find wrongnumbertexts.com particularly compelling, but this makes me very, very happy.
Last night, as I was stirring sauce for dinner and Mike was cutting vegetables:
MIKE and JOEL (singing along with the stereo): Once more, you opened the door, and you're here in my heart, and my heart will go on and on.
JOEL: God, we're so gay.
MIKE: We're old, too. Don't forget old.
JOEL: God, we're so gay and old.
Last night Mike and I watched the middle third of Avatar. (We watched the first third two nights ago and, one presumes, will watch the third third tonight; time was when we could watch a long movie in one sitting, but now we are old and fall asleep at the slightest provocation, except when we want to, in which case we lie awake staring at the ceiling for hours (in Mike's case) or go downstairs and eat chocolate (in mine). )
I enjoyed Avatar when I saw it in the movie theater. I thought it was visually gorgeous and deeply moving. At the same time I was deeply disturbed by its politics. "Yeah," I said to friends the next day, "I just saw Blue Like Me." Thank God the white guy could come and save all the colored people. The—I don't know what to call it; blueface?—aspect just made it feel more shamefully self-satisfied.
The thing that I could never figure out was whether their acceptance/celebration of him once he showed up riding the Great Leonopteryx was realistic or just an Orientalist fantasy. On the one hand, it was his fault that the humans were there in the first place, and how could that be forgiven him in any way? On the other hand, he did lead them to a victory that implied the humans would never come back, so from a certain perspective they were better off even though he'd destroyed their home, and they did place a pretty high premium on being Toruk Makto. I tried and tried to figure out an analog in my life so that I could test the proposition, but I failed.
Then, last night, when the Home Tree fell, Mike—I'd mentioned my difficulty to him—said, "Well, obviously, it's 9/11." And I was like, Jesus Christ, I'm an idiot.
And it was pretty easy from that point on. I mean, imagine (if you're an American) somebody shows up, insinuates himself into your life, makes you trust him and like him, and then says, oh, by the way, I gave Osama bin Laden the plans to the World Trade Center. As far as I'm concerned, at least, nothing he did after that could possibly lead me to forgive him. He could probably manage it so that I would only want to see him exiled or thrown in prison forever rather than being executed for treason—which is saying something, since the list of people I think should be executed for treason is a long one—but if he was then like, oh, my friend Sigourney Weaver is dying, can you help her, I'd be like, fuck off.
"The Omaticaya," said Mike when I suggested as much to him, "are much more forgiving than we are. You can tell because they're blue and wear loincloths."
I'm almost hesitant to post this, given how obvious it all seems now that I've figured it out, but one of my new year's resolutions is to revivify my moribund blog, and it seems I'm now well-medicated enough to prefer follow-through to avoiding embarrassment.
Note, please, that none of this makes the colors in Avatar any less pretty.
I’ve written before about my tendency to confuse vastly different things (Middlemarch and Middlesex, socks), so I might as well add that for a long time I didn’t understand why everybody seemed to have so much respect for the inventor of scuba diving as a thinker and literary figure. Then I realized that Jacques Cousteau and Jean Cocteau were different people.
I realize it’s a rough economy, but if I were a drug dealer, I would find a way to advertise less likely to get me arrested than handing out flyers.
A conversation from this morning, as Mike was leaving for work.
JOEL: Why are the dogs so excited?
MIKE: They love us unconditionally.
JOEL: What’s that about? I mean, it’s not like we’re even that nice to them or anything.
MIKE: Well, I’m on my way. I love you conditionally.
JOEL: Me, too.
MIKE: I’ll be back late tonight, but I’ll bring a list of my conditions.
JOEL: Make sure to put it on the fridge so I can start ignoring them as soon as possible.