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Sunday, October 06, 2002

Apocalyptic Novels and Mainstream Movies
A bit of a weird weekend, mostly because of my mood, which wavered somewhere between blank and blurred. I just couldn’t focus or even figure out what I wanted to focus on. The only things I had to do this weekend were go to an appointment on Saturday afternoon and do the laundry on Sunday. Although I gripe and groan when my weekends are too full, I’m usually miserable when I have a lot free time because I’m always afraid that I’ve missed some golden opportunity or have misspent the glorious hours.

On Saturday I read a bit of Tribulation Force—yes, as in the “Left Behind” series—which may be responsible for my strange disposition. I’m not in the “Left Behind” demographic by a pretty long stretch, though I imagine that a lot of folks read them for similar reasons to mine—a desire to know what the fundies are up to. I read the first book in the series almost on a bet: I was in a used-book store with some friends and a pal offered me her change to buy whatever I was looking at. It was Left Behind, and it turned out to be a not-totally-horrible page-turner, without a whole lot of God talk (prophecies, yes; God-talk, mercifully little).

The thing that made me want to follow the series is the focus on Babylon. Fundamentalist Christians have been supporting Israel for decades because several of the end-times Christian prophecies involve events in the state of Israel: No Israel, no end times. In Left Behind the Antichrist took over the United Nations and was about to move the headquarters of world government to Babylon. The week that I read LB, Bush was at the United Nations talking about Iraq, and, of course, Babylon is located about 50 miles from modern-day Baghdad. So, I had to read on to find out what the fundies are thinking about when they ponder bombing Saddam.

My Saturday appointment was in a neighborhood where I lived about six years ago. It always had high-rise condos, but now the place is crawling with them. As I walked downtown, I must’ve passed at least 20 new buildings with the paint barely dry. Naturally, they’re in full resident-seeking mode. I’m an ideal candidate for their “city living” sales pitch, and I confess I fantasized about living in one of the deluxe but sterile buildings.

After a spot of guilt-inducing shopping at Old Navy (their prices are so ridiculously low it’s impossible to even imagine they’re paying decent wages to the folks who put the clothes together; I've tried to buy clothes in stores more appropriate for my age and station in life, but I never wear them and have concluded I'm supposed to dress like a teenage boy), I went to see Barbershop, another bit of culture that wasn’t made with me in mind. It’s a movie that achieves what it sets out to do (sell tickets, get some laughs, uplift the audience) in a pretty effective way. The acting was uniformly good (I only realized afterward that Troy Garrity, the white wannabe, is Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden’s son!), and the story had a nice resolution.

I tell you, though, now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m really worried about Jesse Jackson. I’ve always like Jesse—I went to a bunch of rallies in D.C. when he was running for president, and I hate the dismissive way that a lot of politicians, journalists, and voters write him off as a hopeless case. But his campaign to have disparaging references to Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks cut from the DVD and video versions of the movie is whack. The comments come from a character who’s clearly full of shit, and everyone else in the shop gets on his case for disrespecting civil rights heroes. For a genius communicator, Jesse isn't displaying much faith in folks' ability to deconstruct messages.

It’s a little surprising that there haven’t been more mainstream black movies about barbershops. I remember the debut of Empire Road, one of the BBC’s first Afro-Caribbean shows, which was set in a black barbershop in Brixton. I was never knocked out by Norman Beaton’s acting, though. Empire Road was no Coronation Street.