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ONE TWISTED SISTER: Musician Dee Snider flashes the devil's horns to the crowd at Monster Circus, a rock mecca in Vegas. Click Arts&Life or a link to story. / Photo by Ben Hansen, special contributor

Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

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Feedback and suggestions--printable and otherwise--always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Review: 'Watchmen': Do you remember the Cold War and Lee Iacocca?

By R.M. Monk

March 16, 2009 | Watchmen, the new superhero movie directed by Zack Snyder, who brought us 300, is so complex I wonder if the movie's target audience of young adults will understand the story at all.

Watchmen is set in 1985, different from the one you may remember. Nixon is in his third term as president and superheroes are a reality. The elaborate plot is a murder mystery with superheroes as the victims. To give a more comprehensive description would be futile (but here's the trailer anyways) because Watchmen is a wildly detailed alternate universe

That maybe a bad thing, for Watchmen is some of the most complex poetry I've ever seen. The movie even quotes from a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias. and is also one of the character's names. The movie's grandiose vision, which clocks in a two hours and 40 minutes, doesn't have much room for character development, so recognizing cultural cues, such as a character's name, is crucial to understanding the characters' backgrounds. I've seen this movie twice so far, and I don't think I've unpacked all there is to it.

Do you remember or know of the tension of the Cold War, the capitalist empire of Lee Iacocca, the television program The McLaughlin Group, and the decadence of Club 54? All these elements show up in varying degrees to help make the story and characters well rounded. After all, what does it say about a superhero that he goes to Club 54 in costume? The more culturally literate you are, the more you'll "get" this flick.

But you can't stop with only "real" history. Alan Moore, who wrote Watchmen as a comic book, played around with the standard superhero tropes that came before him. Previous comics were corny and rarely complex, and sometimes they still are. Moore deconstructed superheroes in an adult way. His work asked what if someone like Superman, who secretly is the socially awkward Clark Kent, tried to hook up with a woman. Does Clark Kent even have a sex life? Would he ruin his first time because he spent his youth learning how to be heroic rather than learning to be romantic? How much of a man is Superman if he can't get a woman?

That's just the tip of the iceberg that is Watchmen. If you feel overwhelmed, try reading the graphic novel. It definitely helped me acclimate to the story.

Watchmen, however, may still work for you without learning the culture. You still get the murder mystery, the savage fight scenes, the naked blue guy and his moral dilemma of saving humanity. If all that leaves you with is confused but with your mouth agape at images like the naked blue dude flying across Mars while Jimi Hendrix's All Along the Watchtower is played at full volume, it's probably still worth the ticket price.

P.S.: Don't bring your kids to this movie. Yes, it's about superheroes, but Watchmen is rated R for good reason. I must say I was appalled that the couple who sat in front of me brought their toddlers with them. What's more appalling is they were more than happy to cover their children's eyes during a sex scene but did nothing during a murder scene so gory it mentally traumatizes one of the characters. Parents, get a baby sitter for this one, and scold those who don't.



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