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Mmm...that's good politicking!

After my post about Rudy Giuliani, which was admittedly quite negative, I thought it might be nice for me to post about one of the GOOD things to come out of all this pre-election hoopla:

The awesome barrel of crazy that is Mike Gravel.

Now, I realize that his campaign videos have been making the rounds lately, appearing over at Dvorak Uncensored and Reason's Hit and Run blog, but I want to get in on the action and post them here as well.

First, we have 'Rock,' the shorter and better of the two:

There's just something so utterly pleasant about this video, despite it's high creep-out factor and potential pretentiousness. Perhaps this pleasure stems from the fact that I've secretly been waiting my whole life for a legitimately, yet harmlessly, crazy mainstream presidential candidate. Honestly, haven't you? And nothing says crazy like a video of a grumpy old man staring at you for over a minute, then randomly picking up a large rock and heaving it into a pond before slowly walking away with his back to the camera. At some point, after watching the clip for the third or so time, with Gravel's disgruntled, squinting eyes glaring back at me, I was compelled to call my family and weep. Is that strange?

Next we have 'Fire':

Now, see, while the last clip might have FELT excruciatingly long and slow, 'Fire' actually IS excruciatingly long and slow. However, 'Rock' is comprised of a single take (no doubt owing a debt to the great Andrei Tarkovsky's technique of 'sculpting in time'). 'Fire,' showcasing a new awareness of cinematic style, features a few cuts. The first takes us from a shot of Gravel gathering firewood to a close-up of Gravel, sitting opposite us across the campfire. The next cut, interstingly, brings us to a point-of-view shot from Gravel's perspective. Now, we're looking down at the campfire as it crackles and burns. And we CONTINUE looking down at the campfire, from Gravel's point-of-view, for the next 7+ minutes. My theory is that, by allowing us to share his gaze as he stares, unblinking, into this fire, Gravel is communicating to us that he is, in fact, the type of crazy S.O.B. who stares, unblinking, at fires for long periods of time. Honestly, he could be a pyromaniac, which would certainly be an interesting quality in a Commander-In-Chief.

The only other possibility of which I can conceive, after watching these two clips, is that Mike Gravel has become a performance artist and is merely performing an installation, not actually running for president. And, in all seriousness, that's just as good in my opinion. I'm only disappointed that he can't use the corpse of Marcel Duchamp as a running mate, since Duchamp was born outside of the US. Also, as a corpse, he may not qualify; I'll have to check the Constitution. Edit: No dice

Be sure to take a look at the various parodies and video responses to these Gravel clips, particularly 'Rock.' I'm half motivated to make one myself, although my idea would involve tossing the rock into the water, watching it for a moment, then calmly walking out into the water, submerging completely and remaining under the water until it's safe to assume I've drowned. Given the generally filthy state of the bodies of water near me, and my own personal aversion to coming down with bizarre water-borne diseases, I'll probably have to give that a pass.


I love these campaign videos!

I saw the rock one on The Daily Show a couple of weeks ago, but these two as companion pieces work much better. I'm starting to think they have the feel of Rivers and Tides - not so much that Gravel is an artist, but that they are about reconnecting with the land. Both represent time and change. We see Gravel walking away from the camera along the pond until he his almost out of sight - the throwing of the rock was a bold act of change. With the fire video, we see time and change in the sticks burning, background sounds are audible, and again a connection with the land and its surroundings.

Actually I have no frickin idea what he's trying to communicate, but it's something, so I'll go with my perceptions. They are definitely minimalist "un-campaign ads" and for that they're rather brilliant for not being like the typical political ad, and thus much more funnier for those, unlike me, who can't watch paint dry. ;-)

The stoners should like him. And if Gravel wins, they may like watching the videos even more so. ;-)

OK, so Gravel has no chance of winning, but he might become a cult favorite.

Re: I love these campaign videos!

I like your interpretations. But the great thing about these clips is that they are open to ANY sort of interpretation one might like. To whit:

I believe that the rock in the first video represents Mike Gravel himself (GRAVEL...get it?) Similarly, rocks are known for being hard, firm, and resolute, all qualities typically identified with maleness. Therefore, the rock represents both Mike Gravel AND his place in the patriarchal order which he's trying to subvert. For starters, Gravel's "to-be-looked-at-ness" isn't terribly high, as he's a fully clad, elderly male and not typically the center of the camera's attention (and, implicitly, that of the male gaze behind the camera). Yet he challenges the camera by staring out at the audience, capturing its 'Male Gaze' with his own while subjecting himself to the camera's gaze.
Then, after sufficiently subverting this paradigm with his minute-long challenge, he turns his back to the camera's male gaze, at once showing his independence and power over it. He then grabs the rock (remember, symbolic of himself AND his patriarchal role) and throws it into the water. Water is traditionally seen as a feminine symbol, and one might, at first, perceive this as an attack on the feminine. However, the rock SINKS into the pond, affecting only momentary rippling changes. Thus, Gravel and the patriarchy are subsumed within the larger feminine symbol.

Therefore, the 'Rock' ad is clearly a piece of feminist agitprop designed to garner the female vote.

(And if you think that piece of BS is bad, over-the=top, and not an accurate representation of scholarship on that subject, read some film studies books and get back to me! :-P)

Re: I love these campaign videos!

Therefore, the 'Rock' ad is clearly a piece of feminist agitprop designed to garner the female vote.

An original interpretation there! ;-)

I was reading the YouTube comments while in CT and saw this LA Times article, which is pretty amusing:

Gravel's politics are a politics of the body and of the physical world, of what is underneath our language and above it, what is broken and beautiful, the real world of human beings.

I suggest to you that a Gravel presidency would lead to an entirely new America, doing to us what cubism did to post-impressionism: dragging us moaning in glorious epiphanic pain into a new world.

It may be that Gravel, like Vincent van Gogh, Friedrich Nietzsche or indeed, Crispin Sartwell, is a premature birth of an astonishing future. He may toil in obscurity, misunderstood or ignored in his own time. And yet, whether we can fully theorize him or not, Mike Gravel, though he may never be president, has brought us all to the very brink of political ecstasy.

I agree with this blogger's comment though: everyone will remember these videos while the typical campaign ads will be long forgotten. We complain about campaign financing, pols both right and left being in bed with corporate sponsors, and then whenever someone comes along and is quirky yet tells it like it is (such as Kucinich) people make fun of them. Yet look at our current second-term President! If you do what you did, you get what you got. So, Gravel has opened a new door in campaign videos rich in metaphor and symbolism AND dares to be different...it's refreshing. (I'm grinning.)

I'm pretty sure I won't be voting for Hillary or Edwards...

Re: I love these campaign videos!

I'm pretty sure I won't be voting for Hillary or Edwards...

I honestly have no idea who in this whole race I'd actually be willing to give my vote, especially amongst the frontrunners. Not Hills, not John 'Remember when I was interesting 8 years ago before I TOTALLY sold out?' McCain, not John "$500 Haircut" Edwards, not Rudy, not Mitt "Dog on the Roofrack" Romney, not Fred "I was on Law and Order, Damnit!" Thompson, and probably not even Barack "Qualified, Shmalified!" Obama, though for some reason I can't totally dismiss him...damn his charisma!

Of course, this says nothing of the evolution-denying nutballs like Tancredo, Brownback, and Mike "'Member when I was fat?" Huckabee, nor the boring ones like CT's own Chris Dodd, Tommy Thompson, or Congressman Duncan "I'm in the race too!" Hunter. Joe Biden's too much of a politician (and a loudmouth), while Kucinich is WAY too big a leftist/Big Gov't type to ever get my vote, even if I agree with him on a number of issues.

The only candidates with whom I have ANY sympathy are fringe guys. Ron Paul's interesting, even if he's a bit TOO libertarian for me. Bill Richardson is also pretty cool, and though I'm not with him on every subject, I think he's got a good deal of experience and is more than capable of doing the job. Pity he's got no chance of winning.

Then there's Gravel. If he ever managed to make the final race, I think I would vote for him just for being INSANE. And I agree about at least daring to be different...even if it IS a carefully marketed, intentionally 'different' message, it still got my attention far more than anything any of the serious candidates have said or done.

Re: I love these campaign videos!

I need to start paying closer attention to these people. I admit my interest in politics for the last six months or so has been peripheral because I'm sick of campaign politics/financing and a lot of other bullshit. I don't feel particularly drawn to anyone yet, but I know for sure Hillary is out of the question, and I feel if she makes it to the General Election she'll lose and we'll be stuck with more of the same. Actually, with her we'd probably be stuck with more of the same. I'd like to empty out most of Congress, too. There are a few things I like about Edwards that I noted the first time around running for VP - he's specific about how he'll tackle certain issues, and I'd vote for him over Hillary, but I don't know. Yeah, Ron Paul is an interesting Republican - I can agree with several of his ideas, though I'm not sure about a "free-market health system." If health insurance worked like auto insurance, a lot of people would be screwed, and the state risk pools aren't cheap. I'm finding that out since I left my job and went on COBRA - ouch. And individual insurance (as opposed to group insurance through an employer) has all sorts of exclusionary illnesses they just won't cover. The Texas Risk Pool is as much as my COBRA, which is more than my rent. Since I've always worked for corporations and had good insurance, this is new to me...I feel for lower-income people with kids! I don't hear that often that deregulation of utilities was a great thing, either.

And I agree about at least daring to be different...even if it IS a carefully marketed, intentionally 'different' message,

That may be so, but under the current system they know they have no chance of winning - they knew that months ago. Kucinich knows that, and he's run before. Yes, he's said he believes he will win, but he's got to say that in order to be listened to. If these people didn't run it would further indicate how pathetic the system is and the amount of money it takes to win. I don't know, some of their messages get planted like seeds in people's minds even though they'll ultimately vote for a winner, so I'm glad they're there regardless of their oddness.

My father said to me the other day that he thinks I've moved more center, hah, I told him it just means I'm biting my tongue more! Also, I'm a per issue, partyless liberal. He's moved a bit more center because he can't really deny the behavior of these kleptocrats in the White House, the lack of integrity and how these issues affect his children (two being school teachers). I don't know what Republican he favors at the moment, but he'll never ever vote for a Democrat. We'll see.

I supported Wesley Clark and Dean before, ultimately voting for Dean when Texas got around to uselessly voting. Just wanted to add my 2 cents that not all Texas residents are blaringly red. Dean got screwed by the media, which isn't surprising since he wanted to curb media monopolies. ~sigh~

I think Gravel should make more obscure campaign videos. :-)

Re: I love these campaign videos!

My father said to me the other day that he thinks I've moved more center, hah, I told him it just means I'm biting my tongue more!

Heh...I've always been something of a centrist in some ways. I've become increasingly socially liberal, over the years, to the point of essentially BEING a libertarian in regards to personal, lifestyle matters. Fiscally, well, I'm conflicted. I think small government and less regulation are great ideals, but just aren't always possible, advisable, or even the best thing in every situation.

One thing's for sure, I wish we had more perspectives in politics than we currently do. Parliamentary systems aren't perfect, either, but I kind of prefer having smaller voting blocs and more parties and coalitions. I like divided government (as we have now) to an extent because it helps check over-reaching authority (something we could have used from 2001-2006). It CAN make it hard for good things to get done, as well, but I guess that's a necessary evil in a two-party system.

I can agree with several of his ideas, though I'm not sure about a "free-market health system." If health insurance worked like auto insurance, a lot of people would be screwed, and the state risk pools aren't cheap.

Health care is, by far, the most confusing issue to me. Not to say that I think it WOULD work, but I do not think we've yet had a single 'free market' in any industry...there's always subsidies for this or that, laws, loopholes, etc...just some kind of government involvement that forces markets one way or another and (typically) helps profit margins. Maybe it's unavoidable and real 'free' markets aren't possible, I can't say. My only complaint is the inefficiency often found in markets, speaking generally, which means that it sometimes takes a while for them to correct themselves (particularly in monopolized areas)...

But regardless, I just don't know what would be a good way to solve our health care crisis, and I wish I did because I could get RICH if I had a solution! :-P

I actually quite liked Wesley Clark, myself, though I didn't think he had much of a chance. And while Dean was also a bit more left than I am, I would have preferred him to Kerry, who I never cared for, despite my having voted for him in 2004. But, to be honest, I would have voted for a three-day old bowl of stew in that election had it been running against Bush.