Sunday, January 30, 2011

Plagues And Pleasures On The Salton Sea

I admit the only reason I got this DVD was because it is narrated by one of my favorite personalities, John Waters. (Although I know of his work starting with Pink Flamingos, it’s his art collection that I find more interesting.) “Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea” is both a depressing and funny documentary about the man-made disaster called the Salton Sea. For over 70 minutes, the DVD showed several current residents of the communities surrounding of Salton City, Bombay Beach and Niland. There is an aura (and literally, the smell) of death around the Salton Sea and you can see it in the demeanor of several of the residents interviewed for the film. Once a year, I will see an article on the LA Times with a photo of a million dead tilapias, victims of the high alkaline levels at Salton Sea. And yet, there seems enough motivation for these locals to stay. There is always hope that the State of California or the Federal Government will clean up – Congressman Sonny Bono was the champion until “he went skiing,” as one of the residents stated. Some people stay in hopes that real estate prices will pick up and provide them their own version of the California Gold Rush. As I watched the DVD a second time, I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to not have options in life. Residents of the surrounding cities each had a story to tell about what makes them stay.

So where does John Waters fit in all of this? Any other narrator would have worked just fine but John’s steady monotone is the perfect complement to several humorous scenes. To inject humor in the most tragic of conditions somehow distracted me from the reality of this environmental disaster, that our planet can only sustain so much stupidity and money-making opportunities.

Soundtrack is by one of my favorite instrumental bands, Friends of Dean Martinez.

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