At some point in the middle of the semester in a graduate-level international existentialist film class, I realized that all of the movies on the syllabus were painfully boring. I pointed this out to the professor and argued that, though some of the films featured compelling subject matter, I'd rather watch Peter Jackson's epic rendition of King Kong any day.
Obviously this type of statement rubs film teachers the wrong way, so he countered that Jackson's work lacked the subtlety and intricacy of a Jean-Luc Godard or a Michelangelo Antonioni.
That was true, I said, but not a single entrant in the French New Wave or Italian Neo-Realist schools of cinema ever featured a giant ape wrestling dinosaurs.
All Jackson needed to be lifted from the status of successful filmmaker to that of towering artistic genius, I contended -- and still contend -- was a good art manifesto. So I went home and started writing one, and it sits unfinished on my computer's desktop today, over three years later.
It is called The Dawn of the Awesome and it details the tenets of the Awesomeist movement in art, an interdisciplinary pursuit of spectacle and monstrosity that's predicated on the notion that nuance is dead. Its first line says this:
Subtlety is for chumps and suckers.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges recently published a book called Empire of Illusion that covers a lot of the same ground as Awesomeism, except Hedges decries those trends as indicative of our society's growing self-delusion and ignorance.
With all due respect to Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges can bite me. I have not read his book because reading his book about, basically, how most of society doesn't read enough books, would be to tacitly agree with him. A more apt critique, I think, would be to destroy Hedges' book in some sort of hilarious explosion, preferably one prompted by a laser beam from space.
That would be awesome. Not that I'm in favor of destroying books, mind you. I just really like blowing stuff up, especially stuff that specifically argues that my instinct to blow stuff up is somehow wrong or stupid. Sometimes you don't need a reason to enjoy a massive explosion; that's the whole point of Awesomeism.
I will not go into the further intricacies of Awesomeism here because I've already written too long an introduction and I haven't gotten to the Mets yet. But yes, there are intricacies of Awesomeism even though there is no room for intricacy in Awesomeism. That's because irony is awesome, too. Basically, like all movements, Awesomeism has its great practitioners (Jackson, Slash) and its hacks (Michael Bay, most hair metal bands), and its best works need no real explanation, because eruptions and blistering arpeggios and apes wrestling dinosaurs never do.
A photo of the seminal Awesomeist painting, co-conceived by myself and former roommate Mike Carlo and painted by my talented father, is embedded below. It is titled "Vin Diesel and Usher Riding Into Battle on a Chariot Pulled by White Tigers."
So what does this all have to do with the Mets? Well, it's been a pretty awesome season for the Flushing Nine so far, and I don't mean in the vernacular sense of the term, the way that means "cool" or "great" or anything. I mean awe-inspiring.
Check it out: The season opened with massive expectations and a monstrous payroll, with the club entering a new park filled with tremendous scoreboards and huge advertisements and a cavernous rotunda that provoked passionate outcry. Then the Mets stumbled out of the gate, and the fans complained about the stadium and booed their best players, and took solace only in knowing that the things that went well went amazingly well, like Johan Santana's hot start and Carlos Beltran's play before he got injured.
Then came those injuries. And yeah, lots of teams have injury problems, but not like these. These are spectacular, awesome injury problems. The Mets lost three of their four best hitters before the All-Star break, and no matter what anyone says, it's still unclear whether any of them will be back this season.
It's drama, but it's not high drama. That's not the right term. High drama would contain some subtlety, and the 2009 Mets' season has entirely lacked that. If it was high drama -- like one of those existentialist films, maybe -- there might be trickier dilemmas or more nuanced situations. Not with these Mets. You want expectations? Pow! The Team to Beat. You want injury woes? Wham! You've got 'em. You want poorly conceived trades? Boom! Here's Jeff Francoeur.
Coming out of the All-Star break, the Mets are left with the team that is, by their standards, marvelously bad. It's gotten to the point that we're happy that Angel Berroa has joined the team, because at least it means there's a backup shortstop who can adequately back up shortstop. It's gotten to the point that Oliver Perez's six-inning, five-hit, four-walk outing on Thursday night is seen as a plus, a small glimmer of hope when everything else has gone so spectacularly wrong.
But the good news for the Mets, the real inkling of optimism, is that baseball can be awesome, too. Mets fans know that all too well from the end of the 2007 season, and depending on whom you ask, maybe the end of the 2008 season, too. Baseball can be magnificently unsubtle, and things can sometimes turn quickly and without warning.
How could that happen for these Mets? I have no idea. If I could predict it, it wouldn't be awesome. And I'm not saying it will happen; if these things happened frequently, they wouldn't be nearly so fantastic. All I'm saying is that crazy things do happen all the time, so it's not outrageous to say some unforeseen turn of events, like most of those injured players rapidly healing or some Minor Leaguer coming up and going all Kevin Maas on the division, could cast the Mets back into the thick of things by September.
Sure, there are minor moves the Mets could make right now -- calling up Jon Niese, for instance -- to give them a better chance of competing in 2009, but the bottom line is they're currently fielding a team with one great starter and one great position player and a bunch of guys who are barely above (and some slightly below) replacement level. That's not a recipe for winning, and if I weren't crossing my fingers and hoping for something miraculous, it'd likely be enough for me to call the season over.
But I won't, because I never do. I'm going away for a little while -- to Costa Rica, no less, to see rainforests and volcanoes and all sorts of breathtaking things -- and maybe by the time I return, something awesome will be happening.