Road Rage

In 2001, when the "rolling blackouts" doused the traffic lights in my part of Los Angeles, I was amazed at the behavior of the drivers. East Coast motorists would have cut directly to Demolition Derby. But not those Californians. Even at the major intersections, they spontaneously slowed down and began to take turns. It was enough to restore my faith in human nature.

Of course, if those polite Golden Staters had been able to hear the cackling of the Houston hyenas who were messing with their power grid, they might have raised a posse and headed straight for South Texas. For the scavengers of Enron were not only ripping off the whole state, they were joking about how much fun it was to gouge the old, the sick, and the poor.

The main thing you need to know about "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," is that it is NOT a film by Michael Moore. It uses some of the same tricks, such as a soundtrack full of sardonic counterpoint (for example, a clip of President Reagan extolling "the magic of the market" is followed by footage of a natural gas facility, accompanied by the song, "That Old Black Magic"). But the tricks are in service to a solid indictment, not a half-whacked conspiracy theory.

Some have criticized "Enron" for being too admiring of Head Hyenas Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Andy Fastow, and Lou Pai. And yes, it does drool a bit over their bad selves. Based on the eponymous book by Fortune writers Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, the film also relies heavily on the testimony of former Enron employees who (to judge by their plush surroundings) deserted the sinking ship with their Rocquefort intact. Of all the people interviewed, only one man speaks for the 20,000 employees whose cheese disappeared into the pockets of "the smartest guys in the room."

It is worth noting that while three of the Head Hyenas wait to have their wrists slapped by Blind Justice, the fourth, Lou Pai, turns out to be the smartest guy of all. After helping his subsidiary, Enron Energy Services, lose $18.8 billion and put 5,500 people out of work, Pai made off with $270 million. Then he divorced his wife, married his favorite stripper, and bought a 77,5000-acre chunk of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in southern Colorado.

To be sure, Pai later sold the property when it looked as though the locals were going to win a lawsuit over water and timber rights. But he did OK, I'm sure. You won't see him on BET any time soon, but the man is a "playa."

Unseemly though it is, the aforementioned drool is what makes "Enron" convincing. The whole country thought these guys were "smart." And the last I checked, the popular definition of the word has not changed. For too many Americans, "smart" still means, "Screw you, I'm driving my armored Hummer right through the intersection."

April 30, 2005 10:30 AM |

Categories:

Soundtrax

PRC Pop 

The Chinese pop music scene is like no other ...

Remembering Elvis 

The best part of him will never leave the building ...

Beyond Country 

Like all chart categories, "country" is an arbitrary heading under which one finds the ridiculous, the sublime, and everything in between. On the sublime end, a track that I have been listening to over and over for the last six months: Wynnona Judd's version of "She Is His Only Need." The way she sings it, irony is not a color or even a set of contrasting colors; it is iridescence.

Miles the Rock Star? 

Does Miles Davis belong in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame? Here's my take on his career ...

Essay Contest 

Attention, high school jazz listeners ...

more trax

Me Elsewhere

Edward Hopper 

Painter of light (and darkness) ...

Dissed in Translation 

Here's my best shot at taking Scorcese down a few pegs ...

Henri Rousseau Revisited 

"Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris" appeared at the National Gallery of Art in Washington this fall ...

Paul Klee's Art 

Paul Klee was not childish, despite frequent comparisons between his art and that of children...

Our Art Belongs to Dada 

Rent my "Dadioguide" tour of the Dada show (before it moves to MoMA) ...

more picks

Blogroll

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by published on April 30, 2005 10:30 AM.

Some Like It Microwaved was the previous entry in this blog.

The Roots of Civility is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads


AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

culture
About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Dewey21C
Richard Kessler on arts education
diacritical
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Flyover
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

dance
Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

jazz
Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
ListenGood
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Rifftides
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

media
Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Overflow
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
PianoMorphosis
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
PostClassic
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Sandow
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

publishing
book/daddy
Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

theatre
Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

visual
Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
Artopia
John Perreault's art diary
CultureGrrl
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.