Re-Write Development Hell (Updated)

Sifting through box office wrecks, the hows and the whys, often can be instructive – and fun. And they can tell us much about ourselves and contemporary mores.

It used to be said, ‘read biography’. Today, an aging self-styled campus sage might advise a precocious undergrad to blow off History 301 (a). Kick back in the upper stacks ‘checking out franchise development and cross promotion’. He’d be right, too. Except the sage wouldn’t know the student already likely has started a multimedia company in his dorm room by now.

Oh, there are the obvious ones. We all have our favorite worsts: Waterworld, Ishtar, Heaven’s Gate, etc. Some threatened studios. Superman lately came close, too. Egos, budgets, bad scripts . . . perhaps the exhaustion of the American myth-telling reservoir. And some projects have lasting improbable impact beyond all immediate recognition. Syd Meade and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, being re-issued yet again, an example.

So all the way around, we’re not talking purely creative judgments. Sturgeon’s Law — 90% of everything is crap and all that. Crap sells. So what if the Warlord’s war plan was and is crap. That, too is besides the point. The irony of “You asked for the best you got the best” is not limited to bad garage bands.


We thought about this watching the Warlord’s VFW speech. It had a power-Vicodin vibe to it. True, he failed to deliver the knock-out Belushi line — “Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” But there were a moments when it seemed touch and go.

Think of the VFW gig as a preview of the war’s “Direct To Video Marketing” phase. There are only two rungs lower: Pay-Per-View and the “New, Unrated Cut”. The old high brow marketing cliches are over and done. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington? Out. Green Berets? Fini. A May-December romance? Non. It’s a buddy comedy, it’s a shoot-em up? Terminated. Now, they’re not even trying, just pouring the nihilism syrup straight from the tap.

Wednesday’s pre-emptive ‘Stab-in-the-Back’ meme is politically a marketing winner. The base comes back. All can blame Democrats for everything. Meanwhile, the Neocons still see a chance to burn out American power and lives in pursuit of their agenda for the Realm, and Pat and the others relive the trauma of 74-75.

John Warner’s gentle defection is overplayed — not even within the same solar system as Goldwater’s visit to Nixon. Warner even points to the blame on Maliki. Still, the Warlord’s Script Doctors screwed up — everyone needs to get the new green re-write pages before going live. Pace this morning spoke with the old yellow pages which left room for a smidgeon of his integrity — by the afternoon he too was back on the new green re-write. It doesn’t matter. Everyone knows Pace is correct. This expedition is overextended and exhausted.

Many Hollywood screenwriters use computer screen writing assistants to create templates and formulaic story lines, you know — (a) introduction; (b) rising tension; (c) complication; (d) resolution; (e) epilogue, character arcs, complications, etc. Not a few refuse to accept scripts unless already in these computerized formats. Does a theater goer care? That they’ve seen the same basic movie hundreds of times? Not if all is done well.

Same with wars. There are certain basic templates, rules and realities. Must haves that the public never really thinks about. And when they do, it usually is in a superficial pundit way. What the actual lifecycle costs to acquire, train, maintain, support and deploy, let alone replenish Human Capital in the Force is an gigantic unknown reality.

The realities of flowing these forces in or out of a theater of operation also unknown — which is why Time magazine can print such Pentagon-spun numbers so credulously. And once in theater, the deployment costs and vulnerabilities for POL (petroleum, oil, lubricants) crazed platforms and logistics and so on. “Loggies” are a breed apart and their wizardry close to the cosmic, but woe be to the OSD or NSC pinhead who ignores their professional judgments.

The first noxious phrase pundits tosses around was a year ago — “the army is breaking” etc. They pick these phrases from sneezing and shaking hands in Green Rooms. Next it was “clear and hold”, followed by the “Anbar Bargain”. All empty words to empty heads. The latest empty phrase being batted around? “Only one brigade can come out in a month at best”.

It’s really entertaining. Imagine a Suit showing up from the Studio on a set wracked by labor strife, actors incapacitated by drugs, rival studio crews sabotaging equipment, a spineless director, empty funds and angry town locals threatening a mass riot, all over a flooded sound stage. The Suit struts in, views the situation says “I see signs of progress, but I am not feeling the creativity, people!” and then turning on heel gets back in the Bentley for lunch. Perhaps a call on the car cell phone bitching that the Producer is too weak. Not too far off, eh?

As we’ve written several times, tt will take 8-10 years to reconstitute the Force even if we begin pulling out NOW. This is not to say the choices are only binary complete “withdraw” or “stay in Warlord land”. Withdrawals can be managed to allow political forces in Iraq to seek their own level of balancing violence. Even with some residual strategic core force in place.

The Warlord shot his wad years ago. And we can not maintain the surge. Period. So the only question is on what basis the withdrawal occurs and what future U.S. posture remains in Iraq (and under what misrepresentations). The pay-per-view marketing of this loser and the unrated cut will be Buchanan in his most orgiastic bliss, mark these words. The true horror of what the Warlord has wrought has yet to shoved into America’s celubutante-besotted eyes. But it will be.

Btw, also bad news for Israel Cheney Will Attack Iran Before 2008 gang we think. Even their Script Doctors ain’t that bad. Strategic withdrawals are among the most difficult achievements. In the best of circumstances. A sufficiently pissed off Iran could make the American withdrawal fall closer to Chosin or worse. Despite Kaplan’s effort to stroke some B2-porn for the Neocons.

The Stiftung’s sense of play at the moment? The Warlord’s gotterdammerung psychic imagery will continue but we’ll see basic withdrawals begin in ’08 simply to preserve the structural viability of the Force. Masking the cognitive dissonance will be a virulent and divisive direct-to-video “enemies” campaign possibly surpassing 2004.

The wild card? How openly and aggressively Iran wants to celebrate its strategic victory. Or push onwards. Absent a true Iranian provocation, we still don’t see the Realm going back into Lebanon before Fall ’08. YMMV.


  1. Dr Leo Strauss says

    As a total non-sequitor, the website for “The Electric Church” is up . . . looks overly mannered but clever.

    Shaghai is <a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>now considered the world’s best remaining city for art deco before it gets bulldozed.</a> Get there while you can.

    Finally, in this stream of consciousness comment — it’s Friday, hot and our Founding Fathers built the friggin’ capital on a swamp — picked up an E.C. live version of “Let It Rain” (1976) Hammersmith Odeon and there are all sorts of technical glitches and backup singers ridiculously out of key that electronics would remove today — but there was something ‘analog/native/real’ in the drums, guitars and vocals that make me value it FOR its defects in a way.

    We miss the days of stacking mounds of Altec Lansing boxes, snaking the the mikes to the stacks of McIntosh amps and the sound board. Mixing an elusive art. Some bands oblivious to the fact they can’t play. Their fans even less so. Yelling over spot placements. And then unleashing walls of analog sound. It was all raw, often chaotic. But it was truly alive.

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