It’s not a joke, son!

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Published: Apr 01 2021, 01:01:am

Thursday, April 1, 2021


    It was no joke when, on January 30 of 2020, the World Health Organization declared a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” The existence of something called “coronavirus disease 2019” (COVID-19) made it into the headlines. Though, truth to tell, the ongoing second impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump was pretty much the big news story.

    On March 11, the WHO upped the ante, declaring the situation a “pandemic.” By then we knew enough about the bug to take it seriously. As we were in the most vulnerable demographic, we began the self-isolation recommended for seniors on March 16, our contribution to British Columbia’s curve-flattening strategy. And so it continues, the new abnormal that’s changed so many things.

    In the days before our second poisson d'avril celebration under lockdown, I was thinking about the recent tendency to turn designated days into whole weeks (as in retailers who now mark Boxing Week), or even seasons (Hallowe’en). It had to have been a joke when, on March 23, the Ever Given, a ridiculously large container ship almost twice as long as the Suez Canal is wide, veered sideways and wedged itself into the single-lane waterway.

    It remained there for the next six days and seven hours, significantly disrupting international marine traffic. Neither its Japanese owners nor the Egyptian authorities responsible for the canal’s operation acknowledged how hilarious it was that their predicament required the conjunction of a "king tide" with a "supermoon" to put things right.
    On March 29, around the time when the Ever Given was finally freed, a press release was “leaked” in the U.S., one apparently designed to encourage the stereotype of the German who can’t tell a joke. It said that auto manufacturer Volkswagen of America was changing its name to “Voltswagen,” presumably to emphasize its commitment to electric cars.

     OK. Then, on March 31, the company said something like “April Fool!” But, really?

    Announcements by publicly-traded multinational corporations have consequences. That's something Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk learned in 2018 when an off-the-cuff tweet about share prices led to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charging him with attempted stock manipulation, a complaint that cost him a total of $40 million in fines. No dummy, Volkswagen’s top executive (and Musk fan) Herbert Diess had to be aware of the real-world effects of his American subsidiary’s mistimed “joke.”
    Or maybe not. Perhaps the super-rich are as badly off their game as everyone else these days. How else to explain the phenomenon of “Non-Fungible Tokens”? Rather than attempt another potentially unfunny joke, I’ll just return to adding material to the Reeling Back archive. The last ten postings included:

KOYAANISQATSI — Artist and environmental activist Godfrey Reggio made his directorial debut with this memorable 1982 documentary, one of the first films to call the world’s attention to the ongoing climate crisis. (March 29)

POWAQQATSI — Documentarist Godfrey Reggio reasserted his concerns for the fate of the planet in this 1988 follow-up to his memorable 1982 feature Koyaanisqatsi. (March  29)

SCHOOL DAZE — In 1988, writer/director Spike Lee offered his own musical-comedy take on the all-black college experience in America, one in which class and colour play major roles. (March 20)

DO THE RIGHT THING — In 1989, writer/director Spike Lee looked at one hot summer day in New York, an examination of racism and police brutality all the more relevant in the era of Black Lives Matter. (March 20)

MO' BETTER BLUES — Denzel Washington was well on his way to major stardom when writer/director Spike Lee cast him in this 1990 romantic melodrama, the story of a jazz musician torn between two loves. (March 20)

JUNGLE FEVER — Less shocking than it once was, director Spike Lee’s 1991 drama offers a hard look at the issues involved in interracial sexual liaisons. (March 20)

WIDOWS' PEAK — This Irish-accented 1994 mystery from director John Irving examines the power centre of a Celtic social matriarchy in the interwar era. (March 17)

THE BROOD — Writer/director David Cronenberg’s 1979 study of sinful science probes the depths of anger unleashed by an experimental therapy. Oliver Reed plays the clinician whose treatments go horrifically awry. (March 15)

NAPOLÉON (1927) THE SCORE — On this CD released in 1994, composer Marius Constant reconstructs Arthur Honegger’s “lost score” for director Abel Gance’s silent epic, the 1927 feature Napoléon. (March 10)

NAPOLÉON — The single most ambitious and innovative film of the silent era, director Abel Gance’s epic biography was first screened in 1927. Lovingly restored in 1973, then taken on the road for gala screenings in 1982, it was worth writing about more than once. (March 9)