Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?

I initially encountered Noam Chomsky’s ideas in the school bookstore at Temple University, way back when I was getting my first Master’s Degree. We’re talking 21 years ago now! I remember it was after the first Gulf War and I was a bit befuddled by all the media hype around that conflict, and all the WW1 “The Huns are coming” style propaganda (babies bayoneted in cribs and such). Saddam had been a recipient of major US aid for so long, and had been a substantial military ally of the US, and suddenly he was Hitler. None of it made sense to me. Until I found Deterring Democracy at the Temple U bookstore on the Current Events shelf, that is. After reading it I “got” how the media works, how power works, how propaganda works. I continued to follow Noam’s political writing for the better part of 15 years. I delved substantially into his back catalog. I saw a few films about him. I saw him speak a few times, I corresponded with him once, and I even had a collection of his lectures on cassettes that I purchased from some dude in Maine.

I only occasionally read his linguistics or scientific work, however.  This work is the focus of  Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?, a clever little animated film by Michel Gondry. I really enjoyed the conversations about perception and language, about the origins of modern science, about those high-fallutin terms epistemology and semiotics. Chomsky’s recollections of his early education are always fascinating. And the animations were actually rather good, I thought. I put this little gem right up there with Waking Life as an animated film definitely worth seeing after eating special brownies. Or, when you happen to be sober but want some meaty brainiac stuff to churn over. And, if you hate Chomsky’s political beliefs, they are nearly absent from this film. All I know is I started watching this documentary in a profound state of depression, and by the end I was excited and happy to be alive and thinking!


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