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Through a lens, darkly
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I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but hostility, chaos, and murder.

– Werner Herzog

The great director Werner Herzog spoke those words in a voiceover for his 2005 amazing documentary Grizzly Man, about an eccentric environmentalist, Timothy Treadwell, who ends up mauled to death by one of the very creatures he’s devoted his life to studying, understanding, and protecting.

The voiceovers in the film are few, but when they come they are devastating. Over a visual of a sniffing, edgy, and hungry grizzly, Herzog explains in his dry, apocalyptic German accent:

“What haunts me is that in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me there’s not such a thing as the secret world of the bears. And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food. But for Timothy Treadwell, this bear was a friend, a savior.”

It is Herzog’s singular genius that he can be humanistic in his respect for Treadwell’s physical courage and moral discipline, but at the same time can hammer home the futility of Treadwell’s quest – and by extension, the ultimate futility of all human conceit.

I grant you that Herzog is an acquired taste. But if you’ve been watching this deeply embarrassing and profoundly insulting presidential campaign — virtually none of it dealing in any way with even one of the pressing issues facing your family and the world right now — it’s clear to me that Herzog is probably justified in his nihilistic worldview.

Oh, well, enough happy talk.

I’ve been a fan of Herzog since seeing his Aguirre, Wrath of God, and Grizzly Man only cemented my awe at his talent for cutting through tripe. Imagine my glee at finding out that Herzog’s latest work, Encounters at the End of the World, is the headline attraction at the upcoming Grays Reef Ocean Film Festival. In addition, the festival features several works by local filmmakers, including Jim and Mari Carswell and Michael Jordan. Read more in Linda Sickler’s coverage beginning on page 11.

Indeed, the word of the week is movies. You’ll find Jim Reed’s overview of a new art-house series at a local multiplex and the inaugural Savannah Gay & Lesbian film series. In addition, Reel Savannah is bringing in the documentary Man on Wire.

I’D LIKE to introduce a new freelancer, Patrick Rodgers, who pens the gripping account of last week’s (ultimately futile) rally in Atlanta in support of Savannah’s Troy Davis, who is sentenced to die later this month. Patrick is a former contributing editor at The South and we heartily welcome his work in our paper.

SO LAST WEEK the Savannah Morning News reported that because of Hurricane Ike’s effect on the Gulf oil industry, prices at the pump would likely go up about 65 cents a gallon.

Lo and behold, within hours of that story running, prices in most of Savannah rose to — yup, almost exactly 65 cents a gallon higher, about $4.39.

How prescient. And how interesting that the industry “experts” cited by the Morning News could predict to the penny how much your local Parker’s or Enmark would raise prices.

Yes, how interesting — especially considering the fact that when I was in Charleston this past Sunday, I filled up my tank — for $3.69 a gallon. While you were paying $4.39.

From Myrtle Beach to Georgetown on down to Edisto, gas prices average well under $4. Only as you get close to Suckerville — uh, Savannah — are there big price increases.

Now, there’s always going to be some nimrod who e-mails me saying, “Jim, you fail to grasp the complexities of the free market,” yada-yada.

Maybe. But I do know price-gouging when I see it. And I’ve lived long enough in Savannah to know why we’re now paying nearly a dollar more a gallon than Charleston:

Savannah is a town full of easy marks, who balk at paying ten bucks to see a play or concert but who’ll pay any price at the pump without a peep, and who’ll pay any amount in local taxes, asking little or nothing in return.

This is a town that constantly brags about having the fastest-growing port in the country — it’s so close to key transportation routes! — but never stops to wonder why gas is still so much more expensive here than elsewhere.

And it’s a town with more than its share of businesspeople who are more than happy to take advantage of the above facts.

Like I said, Werner Herzog may be pessimistic — but he’s almost always right. cs