Wednesday, September 14, 2005

CUT IT OUT

Book publishers are beginning to steal ideas from the makers of digital videodiscs, even offering readers “deleted scenes” and trailers. Above is an example of this from an ad for Brian Freeman’s “Immoral” in yesterday’s New York Times arts section.

Just like on most discs, these deleted scenes promise to be mostly junk that slowed down action, made the story too long or just didn’t fit. Stuff gets deleted for a reason, you know, and there’s a great distance between Julie Andrews mattress surfing in “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” and fleshing out Middle Earth to an epic nine hours in “The Lord of the Rings.”

In this ambiguous spirit, here’s stuff I cut yesterday because it slowed down the action, made my posting too long and just didn’t fit. I also suspect it’s all been said before.

The recovery from Hurricane Katrina is almost universally a horror. The thing that comes closest to even grim fun is watching the Bush administration and its ideological toughs get stuck in what they were punching at: the tar baby of federal responsibility. The more they struggle, the more they get caught up in it. So despite arriving touting small government, this gang has enlarged it considerably, first by creating the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, then with its Medicare drug benefit and now by essentially proving, again, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a vital role in protecting the nation.

Thinking state and local governments are going to fulfill the agency’s role by sending help to troubled neighbors (or even farther) means expecting cities and states to have resources and rescue workers expendable enough to send away and do without for lengthy periods. This is unrealistic, and should be especially so to fans of small government, even though they’re the ones espousing such plans. Without a federal response to natural disasters, taxpayers in Cambridge, for instance, would be expected to pay for more police officers, firefighters and equipment than the city needs. They would have to do so even in tight financial times to help in future emergencies in, say, Connecticut, Florida and Michigan, knowing that if they didn’t, the chances of getting emergency help in response are weakened.

That’s a tough sell. It inevitably brings the rational thinker back to the realization that in a country of 50 states and 3.7 million square miles, including Alaska and Hawaii, a patchwork of aid decided by annually revised tax revenue, local need and political expediency might run a distant second to a federal agency whose sole job is to coordinate and implement disaster response.

President Bush wants faith-based initiatives and small government. Reality — or, in Bush’s case, God — seems to be making this goal very difficult to achieve.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post.

Scape7 said...

Thanks! And thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

It's Eric, but I don't want to log into Blogger again...

But living in earthquake country...everyone should know you're on your own for seven days. If I lived in the East or Southeast, I'd feel the same way for hurricanes. Get ready with water, and then food, and have guns stored correctly if you need to eat crow on day eight. There's nothing that can save you, other than yourself being ready.

e

Indri said...

I just don't get why a writer would let scenes they'd cut be re-introduced. Unless the editor had originally cut them against the writer's better judgment.

It's just weird.

Scape7 said...

Free crap, Indri. It's crap!

But it's free.

And it's certainly easy for an author to say, "Here — here's some crap I cut out. Post it on the Web site and call it a bonus." Or for an author to go along with an editor with that attitude.

I dunno; do you think we'll be seeing more of this "deleted scenes" stuff from books?

Indri said...

God, I hope not.

Other possibilities for free crap:

1. The author's grocery lists,

2. Pages with one uplifting quote per, and instructions for the reader to use that part of the book as a journal,

3. A synopsis, in case the reader doesn't want to waste time reading the whole thing,

4. Sketches of monsters!,

5. An open letter from someone related to the author, ideally the spouse or significant other, telling the story of the work's creation in terms of what kind of havoc it wreaked in the home,

6. Fold and cut lines so the pages can be made into fancy paper airplanes.

wrecking_ball said...

How about an author's commentary -- in the form of marginalia with comments like, "Now, THIS was a really fun paragraph to write." Would be about as useful as some of the DVD stuff you get from the director/producer/key grip/second best boy.

(Actually, what WOULD be kind of fun is commentary by the characters... "What I really wanted to do here was put my foot down and tell her how I really felt, but unfortunately the author didn't agree with me.")

Scape7 said...

That's a great idea, Wrecking Ball.

As to Indri's suggestions, I would add an eighth: How about a soundtrack? (Maybe with those obnoxious bongs or pings or tones used to let us know when to advance a film strip in science class.)

There was some experimentation done with soundtracks for comic books done in the 1980s. It didn't seem to catch on, but now that we have CDs and Web sites ...

eric said...

Wait...didn't they do that on TV 40 years ago and called it comething like Batboy? Or Batter?

Batman! I think that's what they called it. I'm actually quite sure that's what it was called.

BLAM! POW!

I wasn't alive to see if they pulled off or not because I wasn't born yet.

Brian Wanamaker said...

"there’s a great distance between Julie Andrews mattress surfing in “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” and fleshing out Middle Earth to an epic nine hours in “The Lord of the Rings.”"

"President Bush wants faith-based initiatives and small government. Reality — or, in Bush’s case, God — seems to be making this goal very difficult to achieve."

This, I believe, is called a one-two-punch.

Scape7 said...

Thanks, Bwana.