Friday, July 27, 2007

The Irony of Ironing: A Treatise on the Ramifications of Cinematic Ironing

When Steven Seagal kicks Bad Guy #5 in the sternum during the grandiose finale to Nico, a thousand cries erupt from haberdasheries everywhere. For unbeknownst to the casual disciple praying at the temple of Toscani and his unyielding fists of ferocity, this act of valiant rebellion against the foes of the world ruptures more than mere Manichean dichotomies concerning the good (the Seagal) and the bad (the savages giving Seagal dirty looks). No, devastation of epic proportions, that’s the blow dealt – swept forth determined to diminish Seagal’s aura (as if anything could possess such insolence) and to cause our eyes to crust over in shock and repulsion. The baleful corollary to Seagal’s kinetic prowess?

A crease exploding across the southern boundaries of his pantaloons, a great swathe of insulting, fibrous torment besieging Seagal’s cherished trousers, cut as there were from the finest Inuits his mob connections could round up using only the slogan: ‘Ever wanted to be Steven Seagal’s trousers? Apply now!’

This chasm in the integrity of Seagal’s fashion sense thankfully did not burden too much his ambition to kick everyone else in the room at least once. However, it did present a cumbrous obstacle to overcome at particular moments, such as when, while thrusting a knee into the spleen of a man addicted to doilies, his stereoscopic flair perceived the affliction. The wrinkle was pulsating and caught up within a tornado of fire, debris was beginning to coat his opponents and even induced a sound technician nearby to asphyxiate. Seagal’s outrage started to boil, but before he could address the bizarre occurrence, the outrage congealed in a fit of mitigation, prompting him to forget the ailment, and so he continued to mount assault upon assault on his foes.

You may well conjecture that, as this battle was at the denouement of the film, wrongs were quickly righted when Seagal finished banishing evil from the universe, he being now able to tackle the clothing disfigurement. But that is not what happened, for Seagal’s triumph segued into the poetry of end credits before action could be launched. Seagal and his juddering trousers became trapped in Nico’s spatio-temporal continuum, located somewhere between Seagal’s concluding knuckle elixir and the exultancy of his name drifting up the vertical, a five-minute stretch of desolation. It was Seagal’s skill in dismantling the organs of his adversaries that initiated the discrepancy in the first place – he was cursed by his own glory, how unfortunate.

Why is there no comprehensive theory of ironing? How do particle physicists and quantum enthusiasts ever hope to complete that grand utopian Theory of Everything if they feel obliged to shun an enterprise as felicitous as ironing? What are the chances that we will one day unearth an unfinished manuscript attributed to Hegel titled The Philosophy of Ironing?

Those willing to argue that German Idealism tended to reserve the energies of cogitation for metaphysical queries more than for shuffling with an ironing board are sorely delusional. Kant was famously rigid in his routine, his strolls down the park replaced pocket watches for many, and there is no doubt that his frilly shirts got the iron treatment in a similarly scheduled manner.

‘Where philosophy ends, ironing begins.’

I can’t remember with any degree of certainty who said that, but it may have been Marx – after all, how can one forget all that talk about linens in Capital?

Whatever the great man’s motives for creating this distinction, he must have gone temporarily insane to utter such illogical speculation. Perhaps a knock on the head during the tumult of 1848, or maybe Engels had been badgering him to the point of madness over a proposed TV pundit show he had conceived as a rival to Hannity & Colmes.

The truth is that ironing and philosophy are indissociable. One may be able to philosophise with a hammer, but if you’re bereft of crinkle-free sweater-vests, that’s when substantial problems arise. “Pure sophism” is the pithy remark to bellow at whoever harangues with such fallacious dualisms, regardless of how awe-inspiring their beard may be.

And why would the two notions be insulated from each other, like two naughty children caught attempting to replace their teacher’s diaphragm with a goat?

This is needless segregation and would have even been looked down upon during apartheid. Absurd reasoning, such as it mirrors the foregoing description, neglects to see ironing and philosophy not only as co-existing, but also as intrinsically interlinked. The maxim displayed above should be reconfigured to say the following: 'Where philosophy ends, ironing ends.'

A philosophy without ironing is not a philosophy, like a Bond film without Dalton is not a Bond film. Ironing is the hidden kernel at the root of the mental fizzing that stimulates one to ask a question such as: does the plurality that constitutes society wholly eliminate the striving for some kind of universality?

Macaulay Culkin was able to utilise an iron as an instrument to solve his quandaries. By tweaking its accepted function, he transmogrified the object into a deadly weapon, thus impeding the guy from Celtic Pride who is not Ray Stantz from executing illegalities on his body. Why can philosophy not enact the very same implementation of ironing, I ask?

How did the 20th century’s greatest philosopher gauge the conundrum of ironing?

At first, it seems, he was tentative, unwilling to commit to the unknown variables inherent in the act. Conditioned already by years of ivory tower wraiths spewing nasty invective his way, clouding the unambiguous realities of socks smoothed out and cummerbunds impeccably unblemished, he couldn’t help but miss the blatant truth.

Hence, we see Jean Claude Van Damme flowing from one scene to another in Bloodsport, clad in the most rumpled of turtleneck loincloths – even his galoshes were scarred by dimples in the fabric. But like all intellectual dynamos, sagacious discovery was not far away.

It was Street Fighter that announced the fresh paradigm shift to envelope Van Damme’s being. Cast your mind back to that blue beret, those military embellishments adorning his chest, the boots wrought from the potency of a thousand men, the camouflage hues sown into his skin – wasn’t it all the sort of sublime spectacle that even Guy Debord wouldn’t have had want to dismiss?

And where was Van Damme to be found in-between humouring Ken and Ryu, fondling Minogue and pummelling Gomez Addams? Why, he was putting in the hours with his trusty iron, of course. But let’s not annihilate our detractors in this appeal to re-evaluate the precise purview of philosophy vis-à-vis ironing with the simplistic and reductive statement that Van Damme found an awesome tool in the guise of the iron, one which would enable his sheets to become as refined as his intellect.

Yes, tassels were polished, but so much more was brewing with this coupling. For Van Damme located inside that plastic hub of evaporation, a compassionate, erudite interlocutor with which he could spend every evening discussing the specifics of his weltanschauung. It was a perfect marriage (literally, after 1998). The iron knew how to pronounce all the words that Van Damme had only read, it was witty and packed with insights, but demure and empathetic also. While Van Damme trained it in the ways of kicking people in the throat.

Ironing for Van Damme was a gateway, one that he discovered during the long nights of the Street Fighter shoot. Whereas Seagal’s lack of ironing apparatus condemned him to eternity imprisoned within a five-minute section found at the end of Nico, Van Damme had the foresight to eschew the iron no more, acknowledging the profundities wedged inside, and consequently embracing them.

Alas, the arbitrary nature of the realisation (or lack thereof) that accompanies the phenomenon of the iron becomes all the more apparent when we consider Blanka, erstwhile scientist in Street Fighter, cruelly reduced to being a green monster with bad posture. It is said, in Capcom lore, that Blanka carried around with him everywhere he went a lucky iron. “It was blessed by the lactations of Aphrodite herself,” says the boy who fixes the Galaxian machine down the pub. However, whilst filming Street Fighter, the wondrous object disappeared. Blanka left it one morning to go film an important scene involving smoke machines, only to return later to a void, a vacuity, left where the iron had been sitting. He was understandably distraught, smashed to pieces within his verdant exterior, but continued nonetheless, professional honour overriding the intense trauma of the situation. Sadly, Blanka’s career went exceptionally downhill post-Street Fighter, and besides a few Disney films starring opposite Judge Reinhold, he was never able to repeat the heights of that canonical film. Some say that the loss of the iron was the catalyst for this demise. But then again, who knows – that was some really bad posture after all.


Blogger The Film Fiend said...

I don't think I'll ever tire of reading your essays. Brilliant stuff.

Coincidentally, I consumed the Italian-financed blaxploitation opus Three Tough Guys this past weekend, in which Isaac Hayes fries an egg for the priestly Lino Ventura on an iron balanced precariously on his kitchen table. Is this the apex of cinematic ironing?

I'm not sure.

4:00 pm  

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