Tuesday, May 29, 2007

AND IN A DARK BROWN VOICE, SHE SAID: Movie reviews. Spoilers abound.

Bring It On: How can a cheerleading movie starring Eliza Dushku, and with "Oh Mickey" as end-credits music, be depressing?? Watch and learn.

First, Dushku is hotsauce, and although she isn't Faith levels of awesome here, she's still amazingly fun to watch. I'm not sure why I don't like Kirsten Dunst, but I don't--I find her really bland--but she isn't the problem here.

The problem is that this is a feel-good movie about class war. It's yet another movie where the white characters are morally compromised but never morally interesting, and the black characters are set dressing. I liked the idea behind the movie (almost entirely white cheer team learns that all its routines have been stolen--by an unlikeable, characterless villainess, because that's so challenging--from an inner-city all-black team) but absolutely hated the execution. Why does no one even suggest that the privileged squad should be penalized for its years of ripping off the inner-city team? Why does Gabrielle Union's character get approximately 1/20th of the depth given any white character? Why do I bother asking these questions?

Come Back, Little Sheba: Ratty noted that the title of the movie should have informed me that I was in for '50s melodrama. Yeah, this didn't work for me.

Picnic at Hanging Rock: I'm not sure what I would think of this movie if I'd known more about it beforehand. The music is brilliant.

But so much of the movie is predicated on the pretense that it depicts actual events. I only learned that the story was made-up when I google'd afterwards. And that knowledge left me with a weird, "You're nothing but a pack of cards!" feeling.

The thing is... there are real events that can't be explained. Making up fake events to demonstrate the inexplicability of life can easily feel very paint-by-numbers: Every time a possible explanation comes up, remove a necessary strut, so it collapses. I felt like Picnic did that. I also thought its emphasis on the sexual elements of its story became much, much less interesting when it turned out that someone made them up.

I don't present this as a confident opinion. If people who liked the movie want to object, I'd definitely like to hear about it. But it stopped working for me once the curtain pulled back and I could see the Wizard of Oz.

Sullivan's Travels: My first Veronica Lake picture! Oh, this was so pleasing. It's fast and funny and poignant; and Miss Lake's radiant beauty is matched by her unexpectedly deep, rich voice. That knockabout, ironic voice made the movie for me. But I'll note that its take on class conflict managed to be sunny-side-up and yet harder and smarter than anything Bring It On even dreamed of.

Monday, May 28, 2007

I watch the thinnest line
between the good and blog sides of my mind...

Club for Growth: Newspaper editorial boards against the gas "price gouging" bill. More here.

And a really lovely story of a Catholic school open to "any child regardless of faith, academic ability or emotional stability." I liked this detail too: "One school was adopted by 37 floor traders from Bear Stearns who pooled their charitable giving." Via Amy Welborn.

Also via Amy, the Washington Post Magazine profiles a midwife to DC's poor.
"We did use to play together, didn't we?" she asked, turning hre grave eyes to his. "You were a horrid boy, and kissed me once behind a door; but it was your cousin Vandie Newland, who never looked at me, that I lwas in love with." Her gaze swept the horse-shoe curve of boxes. "Ah, how this brings it all back to me--I see everybody here in knickerbockers and pantalettes," she said, with her trailing, slightly foreign accent, her eyes returning to his face.

Agreeable as their expression was, the young man was shocked that they should reflect so unseemly a picture of the august tribunal before which, at that very moment, her case was being tried. Nothing could be in worse taste than misplaced flippancy; and he answered somewhat stiffly: "Yes, you have been away a very long time."

"Oh, centuries and centuries, so long," she said, "that I'm sure I'm dead and buried, and this dear old place is heaven"; which, for reasons he could not define, struck Newland Archer as an even more disrespectful way of describing New York Society.
--Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I lost my bag at Newport Blogwatch...

Amptoons: "Social class, food service, and schools." One elementary school where kids worked in the cafeteria, and how that was sorted out. Comments very much worth your time as well.

Crooked Timber: (from comments) "Everyone gets what he wants. I wanted an overarching critique of the modern politico-economic system. And for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service."

And I'm going to edit this post to either delete this sentence, or add two more links, depending. I give you the suspense!

eta: You may un-suspend yourselves. Minisinoo: Native Americans in comics (I don't have an opinion on the series discussed, but I do have an opinion on the very awesome X-Men fanfiction links); and, donate to charities now, because it isn't Christmas. I especially appreciated the reminder of how many places can use your old electronics and software and such.

As far as where to donate: Amy Welborn has a post on small, grassroots Catholic charities, here and overseas. If you, like me, can't support Doctors without Borders because of their willingness to kill the unborn, let me suggest Caritas International. Or if anyone knows of some way to support DWB's non-abortion work only, please email me, since I know how much good they do.

I'll suggest your local crisis pregnancy center. Ours always needs maternity clothes, stuff for kids from birth to about age three (especially bigger items like strollers and cribs), receptionists, people to help sort clothes, mentors for new moms, homes where women in need can stay, and of course counselors. (And MONEY, hey. Did you know it can be exchanged for goods and services?) Anyway, there are lots of other excellent suggestions in Minisinoo's comments.
We label the feelings of our childhood with the names we learn as adults and brightly, confidently, refer to that old "anguish" or "despair" or "elation." The confidence of liars. For those words meant nothing to us then; what we lacked as children was precisely the power to designate and dismiss, and when we describe the emotions of one age with the language of another, we are merely applying stickers to locked trunks, calling "fragile" or "perishable" contents that, even were we to view them again, would be unrecognizable.
--Edmund White, Nocturnes for the King of Naples
I come home in the morning light,
My blogwatch says, "When you gonna live your life right?"

Jane Galt: "The disappearance of monkey bars, on the other hand, is a clear national tragedy. Ours were helpfully made out of steel and soared over our parents heads, so that when you fell onto the concrete below you knew you'd really climbed something. The current models in that playground are less than two feet off the ground, made of plastic, and look like about as much daring fun as Singles Bingo Night at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows."

Paleo-Future: Oh, this is amazing. If it's too big for your computer, you can see a little version here--it's the last image.

The Rat: Why you should read Gina Kolata's Rethinking Thin.
YOU'VE PROBABLY SEEN THIS Washington Post article (actually a book excerpt) on "selective reduction"--aborting one or more fetuses in a multiple pregnancy--but just in case, here it is. I'm not sure what to quote. There's this

Greenbaum, who is Jewish, takes seriously her religion's admonition not to take a life. What sustains her, she said, is the knowledge that the reductions she has been involved with were done for sound medical reasons. She would never, she said, work at an abortion clinic. "This is as close as I would get," she said. "Here, it is completely different. You are helping people have healthy babies."

Still, she says: "It's a very hard procedure, because the baby is moving, and you are chasing it. That is what is very emotional -- when the baby is moving and you are chasing it.

"Do you still feel emotional?" she asked Evans.

"I've come to look at it as: The finished product has a much better chance of surviving," replied Evans, who had been following the conversation intently. "Look, you never want to dehumanize it, because then you get cavalier. You have to keep the big picture in mind. We're not losing one. We're saving some."

but you should really read the whole thing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

TWO LINKS: Fascinating story of a reporter who had a magnet embedded in her finger, so she could feel magnetic fields: "I miss my magnet, but I knew it wasn't well understood when I started. I'm glad I know what a spinning drive and a ringing telephone wire feel like. I'm sad I can't feel them anymore." Via Hit & Run.

And a review of Carla Speed McNeil's romance-of-books comic, Finder: Talisman: "Every serious reader knows what it means to love a book. It’s a deep adoration, and it’s a tricky subject to tackle. Where others couldn’t have lived up to its needs, McNeil handles it beautifully." Via Journalista.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"YOU ARE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL OF THEM ALL." If anyone ever says that to you in an opera, run.

I saw Leos Janacek's Jenufa last night at the Kennedy Center, with Patricia Racette as the title character. It was breathtaking. I'm deeply opera-illiterate (I'm not sure I can tell good singing from bad singing, let alone good singing from great singing), but I found it incredibly moving. And I do think I can tell great acting: Racette's face and body were both beautifully expressive. Anyway, I don't know what I can tell you to make you go see the thing (it closes on Thursday!--there are only two performances left, but they're not sold out yet), but you really, really should. (About 2/3 of the way through, after one particularly raw scene, I turned to my companion and said, "You know, there are nights when the pregnancy center feels a lot like that....")
THE SIRENS WOKE ME UP AGAIN: Via Decanonon, which looks like a lot of fun (and not just b/c she said such kind things about me!), I see that the Weakerthans are playing in New York on June 22!!!!!!! (She says the 23rd, but the concert website says the 22nd.)

I am there. Not "I will be there"--this does not convey an adequate amount of certainty. I am there. If the Messiah tarries, I am there. (If the Messiah doesn't, I may ask if we can't have just a few songs before the apocalypse starts.)

Anyone want to meet up beforehand? (Why you should go.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

QUEENS AND CREATURES: Movie reviews. In chronological order.

Operation Petticoat: Aww, this thing convinced me that my guy is actually Tony Curtis rather than Cary Grant. They're both fun, but Curtis is just... he lights up the screen every moment he's there. Whereas Grant is kind of Cary-Granting at you a lot, which is lovely, but not as arresting as Curtis.

Having now torched all my credibility, I'll say that I liked this a lot. Both the sexism and the weirdly random racism are intrinsic to the plot, so if you don't want that, this movie will pose problems. I was able to growl intermittently at the sexism and be simply baffled by the (infrequent, but plot-crucial at one point) anti-Asian racism, so I could put those things aside and enjoy the movie for what it was.

Fear and Trembling: Belgian chick goes to work at Japanese company and undergoes a series of increasingly-awful humiliations.

I... I don't know what to do with this thing. It really clings to my memory. I find myself thinking about it a lot. Sylvie Testud is clearly brilliant as the Belgian chick.

If I had to come up with a better plot synopsis than the one above, I think I'd say, "A European conceives a utopian vision of Japan, then revenges herself through narrative when it doesn't live up to her childhood dreams." Or, "A white girl wanders around the world looking for a cross to die on."

So I think you can see the problem. There are also very basic filmmaking problems: intrusive voice-overs, sentimental explication of metaphors that work in novels (this was adapted from a novel) but don't work in movies. I'm almost grateful for those problems, though, because I'm not sure I could've handled the intense humiliation narrative if it had been done better.

In the end... I think this is worth seeing, as long as you keep in mind that the narrator doesn't understand her situation very well. I'd actually be really, really interested in responses from anyone in my readership who's seen this movie, since, like I said, it has stuck with me.

The Queen: I hardly know what to say about this other than, SEE IT NOW!

I've watched a lot of movies presenting a narrative of decline--from Grand Illusion to Gone with the Wind. I think this is the fairest and most honest I've ever seen. If you've read "Reflections on the Revolution in France," you absolutely must see this. It captures both the Burkean insight (the people will love somebody as an embodiment of the nation--better it be the Queen than the Prime Minister [or President!]) and the counterargument (projecting that kind of love onto a particular person both damages the object of love and promotes a sentimental patriotism). I loved the disruption of sex-roles. I loved the intermingling of compassion and humor. I loved everything about this movie.

The Thing: I Netflix'd this because of Sean Collins's praise, and really, you should read his review rather than mine. We disagree on some aspects (I hated the cast, but am startled that he didn't mention the phenomenal Ennio Morricone soundtrack, especially w/r/t the first scene, which he justly praises) but if you want to know if you'll like it, his review is probably better than anything I could say. I didn't think the mistrust plot linked illuminatingly to deeper issues, despite obvious ways in which it could--the foreigners are the first ones to encounter the alien.

Jeepers Creepers: OK, here I'm a bit more willing to say Sean is just wrong. Not entirely: I wasn't the audience for this movie, and I'll try to be clear about that in what follows. SPOILERS FOLLOW, and since Sean notes that he's really glad he viewed the movie unspoiled, you should read his thing and only then decide if you want to read the rest of my review.

OK... the genre-swerve didn't work for me at all. I was completely caught by the first segment of the film. I loved Justin Long as the brother, especially (and am sort of surprised that Sean preferred the sister, who struck me as fairly standard-issue). But when the brother discovers the "psycho Sistine Chapel," the movie swerves from serial-killer movie to creature feature. And those are completely different kinds of fear, for me. As soon as I stopped thinking of the "Creeper" as someone who might actually kill actual me, it stopped being scary.

Both the beginning and the ending were excellent; but in between, the story lost me, because I wasn't scared anymore. I started noticing all the weird contrivances, which is pretty much the death knell of a horror movie.

I'm more willing to say Jeepers Creepers doesn't work than I am to say The Thing doesn't work. The ideas behind The Thing are more coherent (and the music is just on a different planet from the predictable music of Jeepers Creepers). Both are worth seeing if you're interested in horror movies. I'm not sure I'd recommend either if you're not.
THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE: Someone better than I could write something really poignant connecting the death of Jerry Falwell and the decline of Tammy Faye Bakker. All I know about either of them, I learned from J.D.s (thanks, Canada!)... and then from the Gospels.

Darkness must go down the river of night's dreaming;
Flow morphia slow, let the sun and light come streaming
Into my life...
If you wanna feel blogwatch for yourself,
Then go ahead; I'm not gonna stop you.

Claw of the Conciliator: A haiku in which the trees are more active than the dead.

Daniel Mitsui: As Chesterton said, white is a color. Also, awesomesauce. Blogroll Mitsui now, while there's still time!

Jane Galt: I'm hinkity about linking to this, because it's her response to someone who decided to take her dog's death as an excuse to berate her. But I think she says a lot of really necessary things about--among other things--how little we know about another person's grief.

ShoeBlogs: "Sleeping Beauty" shoes. I'm stupidly in love.

DIY Noir. Via The Rat.
Modern kids are raised with the understanding that people don't spontaneously burst into song at crucial moments in their lives. And isn't that a horrible thing, to remove such evidence of grace on earth from their belief system? Of course there are people who start tap-dancing at unexpected moments, or improvise a tune while plucking lyrics from the air. They're called children, and if you spend any time with them, you'll witness life as a musical forty times an hour.
--Ty Burr, The Best Old Movies for Families

via About Last Night

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TWO LINKS: Did the Catholic Church suppress dissection, stifling both medicine and the arts? You get three guesses, and the first two don't count....

And make your own elegant moonshine! (Via Ratty.)
It was a fine, clear, January day, wet under foot where the frost had melted, but cloudless overhead; and the Regent's Park was full of winter chirrupings and sweet with spring odours. I sat in the sun on a bench; the animal within me licking the chops of memory; the spiritual side a little drowsed, promising subsequent penitence, but not yet moved to begin.
--The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Monday, May 14, 2007

IN SEARCH OF LOST PANTS: Search requests bringing people to this ramshackle blog. In chronological order.

george washington fanfiction [Richard Brookhiser says, “Oh score, this one’s a ‘Desperate Housewives’ crossover!”]
How do people feel about bacon [Is OM NOM NOM NOM!!! a feeling?]
human stain pilsner urquell
funny definition of a conservative
tame gay
what position is a bat in when his fingers make a hat above his head
allan Bloom V for Vendetta

are a lot of teens lazy worthless and immoral
how to make a light saber from foam pool noodles
I want to help the needy but not my spouse
last unicorn objectivism [“Men don’t always know when they’re happy.”]
judith martin miss manners cia training agents
liberation theology song irish catholic punk
ways to raise one’s social status
cayenne as treatment for homosexuality
that happened in the 20th century heidegger [from Tel Aviv]
which group of workers are looked after by the patron saints called dismas ["'Tis no sin, Hal, to labor in one's vocation."]
zero mostel socrates plato
why do conservative men love goth girls [It's the romance of decline.]
pictures of front porsche of old colonial momes [all azaleas and outgrabe]
bloom criticizes the mousetrap
slap tybalt with a fish
radio salmon [I actually wrote about this!... sort of]
which elephant trauma might be prevented
some random guy shanking people
funny anecdotes involving forklifts
ron weasley et ronald reagan
I INTERVIEWED DAVID BLANKENHORN on his new book, The Future of Marriage. I highly recommend the book. It has flaws--I'd say the beginning and the end are the weakest parts, oddly enough--but it's absolutely worth your time if you are at all interested in the nature of and controversy over marriage and family structure.

Oh, and since I can, here's what I think was the most interesting thing cut (for length reasons) from the version of the interview I submitted to the Post:
Q: What’s in this book that is unusual?

A: Being against gay marriage should not mean you’re against gay people. I talk about the equal dignity of sexual love, extending acceptance to gay and lesbian people. I separate myself from my religious tradition on this issue.

[Eve says: It's pretty fascinating to see the degree to which The Future of Marriage is shaped by Blankenhorn's memories of the civil rights movement, and his identity as a Southern liberal.]
Multi-National Force—Iraq
Baghdad, Iraq
APO AE 09342-140010

May 2007
Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen serving in Multi-National Force—Iraq:

Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate attacks, for example, have finally started to turn a substantial portion of the Iraqi population against it.

In view of this, I was concerned by the results of a recently released survey conducted last fall in Iraq that revealed an apparent unwillingness on the part of some US personnel to report illegal actions taken by fellow members of their units. The study also indicated that a small percentage of those surveyed may have mistreated noncombatants. This survey should spur reflection on our conduct in combat.

I fully appreciate the emotions that one experiences in Iraq. I also know firsthand the bonds between members of the “brotherhood of the close fight.” Seeing a fellow trooper killed by a barbaric enemy can spark frustration, anger, and a desire for immediate revenge. As hard as it might be, however, we must not let these emotions lead us—or our comrades in arms—to commit hasty, illegal actions. In the event that we witness or hear of such actions, we must not let our bonds prevent us from speaking up.

Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone “talk”; however, what the individual says may be of questionable value. In fact our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual (2-22.3) on Human Intelligence Collector Operations that was published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees.

We are, indeed, warriors. We train to kill our enemies. We are engaged in combat, we must pursue the enemy relentlessly, and we must be violent at times. What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings. Stress caused by lengthy deployments and combat is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign that we are human. If you feel such stress, do not hesitate to talk to your chain of command, your chaplain, or a medical expert.

We should use the survey results to renew our commitment to the values and standards that make us who we are and to spur re-examination of these issues. Leaders, in particular, need to discuss these issues with their troopers—and, as always, they need to set the right example and strive to ensure proper conduct. We should never underestimate the importance of good leadership and the difference it can make.

Thanks for what you continue to do. It is an honor to serve with each of you.
David H. Petraeus
General, United States Army

commentary here
All very well for blogs to have their watch...

GetReligion: This post makes me yearn to write a novel about American public life, in the style of The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini.

The Rat: I wasn't as hard on the technical/length aspects of The Good Shepherd as Ratty was, but that's largely because she'd already warned me about them. I thought it was surprisingly good. I agree with her that the wife and son lacked characterization; that this damaged the movie, but it's hard to know how it could have been fixed; and that the final ambiguity is really well-done. ...Rattus also links to a page about 19th-c French tours d'abandon, where women could anonymously leave their newborns.

Friends of St. John the Caregiver: Catholic org providing support to people caring for the elderly, especially aging parents. Via Mark Shea.
The court was very cool and a little damp, and full of premature twilight, although the sky, high up overhead, was still bright with sunset. The middle one of the three windows was half-way open; and sitting close beside it, taking the air with an infinite sadness of mien, like some disconsolate prisoner, Utterson saw Dr. Jekyll.
--Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Thursday, May 10, 2007

IS STUPID REALLY STUPID, OR A DIFFERENT KIND OF SMART?: Disputations, as usual, makes the necessary distinctions I didn't:

"Poe is kind of dumb, you know? He isn't complex."

Are these two sentences supposed to say the same thing? "Kind of dumb" = "not complex"?

In any case, I don't think there's any question that Poe the man was quite intelligent, and I think this comes out clearly enough in his writing. Without thinking it through, I wonder whether readers generally think that, if the author is intelligent, the
story is intelligent.

OK, yeah, I do think I was using "intelligence" to imply complexity, subtlety, doing a lot of sometimes-conflicting things rather than doing one thing really ferociously. Possibly that isn't a useful set of associations--I'm not sure. In general we tend to use "intelligence" very impressionistically, at least I do, and operate by feel more than by providing a checklist of qualities that make a work intelligent or not-so-much. Again, not sure if that impressionism illuminates more than it obscures....

I'm sure I did conflate writers and their work, as well, which was--how to say?--dumb.

Horrible Thoughts writes:
This may sound like a stretch, but I would nominate Avram Davidson, particularly his Dr. Esterhazy stories, as thoughtful commentary on human nature under the guise of science fiction. If you’ve never read through The Inquiries of Dr. Esterhazy, you really ought to. In your stupid/fierce conception, he would probably not be either, but the oodles of intelligence that ooze out of the text make up for any lack of ferocity. I understand that he was once a Talmudic scholar. He is also the reason that I occasionally frustrate my wife by randomly proclaiming my implacable opposition to the “damned monophysites!” Often loudly, and in restaurants.

Thanks very much to both!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

BOXING CLEVER: In defense of stupid writers.

One of the most cringe-inducing genres is the defense of a great writer on precisely the wrong terms. "Dickens is really a conservative!" "Eliot really liked the Jews!"

And, for exactly the same reasons, "Keats is so complex!"

No, he kind of desperately isn't. This is not the way to defend him.

You can defend Keats the way I defend Poe: When this guy hits a thing, it stays hit. Poe is a ferocious poet, not an intelligent one. "Annabel Lee" is obvious in the way a Childe ballad is obvious--and heartbreaking the way a Childe ballad is heartbreaking. And it's only our contemporary prejudice in favor of the individual quote-unquote genius, I think, that prevents us from seeing that Poe is a master. He knew how to say important things in a way that nobody else could manage. ("Hop-Frog," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Fall of the House of Usher"--and yeah, I do tend to think if your creation passes into the common vocabulary over at least a century, it's because you understood something deep and true about human nature.)

Poe is kind of dumb, you know? He isn't complex. Hans Christian Andersen is only marginally more intelligent. The thing that they mostly do is hit things very very hard.

Sometimes people can be intelligent and punchy. Emily Dickinson is the obvious example. And I'm not trying to argue that if you have to pick between hardcore and complex, you should always pick hardcore. I'm not arguing that Miss Lonelyhearts is better than Emma, even if the former is more blunt and the latter is more intelligent. (I strongly prefer the former, but this post is not, I hope, solely about my own preferences.) All I'm trying to do is suggest that something can be stupid and still great; really, all I'm trying to do is to keep people from defending astonishing but dumb works of art on the grounds that they're "deep." No. They're fierce--that really isn't the same thing.

ps: I would also be really interested in a discussion of deceptive works, which hide their complexity and intelligence under a heavy screen of genre. I'd argue that Donna Tartt's Secret History, most of the well-known Chandler, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and James Whale's "Bride of Frankenstein" fall into this category.

pps: Oh hey, I remembered that this post was supposed to be about Faulkner, actually. Um... yeah. He isn't that smart. But As I Lay Dying is still terrific. I'm sure there are smarter authors who couldn't hit horror as hard as he does there--I mean, honestly, I think probably Michael Chabon or somebody is straight-up smarter than Faulkner, but that's seven different kinds of not the point.
...Were I not a Christian, for instance, I'm pretty sure I would envy Christians their beliefs about the afterlife, since the survival of consciousness and the resurrection of the body more or less matches up with my deepest longings concerning what awaits after death. (This correlation is one of the many reasons, of course, why I am a Christian to begin with.)

Yeah, I, uh... don't agree with this. Not that I think Ross is wrong--just that his emotional response here is pretty much three hundred percent the opposite of mine. It was when I converted, and it still is. Quite possibly this is an indication of my own lingering mistrust and/or self-protective loathing of God (I have never claimed I didn't have issues!), but there it is.

More on cold comfort; more on providence.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

See you on the TV, call you every day,
Fly across the blogwatch just to let you get your way...

(I offer this song free to anyone [sister?] who wants an example of RPS in pop culture. My apologies if she is already on it.)

The Agitator: "Police are increasingly going to homes with agents from regulatory agents under the guise of 'code inspections.' Once inside, they then search for criminal misconduct. The process negates the need for a search warrant because it's allegedly a regulatory inspection, not a police search."

Alias Clio: Response to my woman-as-icon posts. A powerful post about the "trap of iconization"--I think this is totally true, but what I posted about is also true; and so anyone who finds himself (I think mostly it will be "himself"--?) drawn to either rejection or embrace of woman-as-icon should consider the ways in which this feminine iconicity is true and the ways in which it's false and hurtful.

In other words, if you're following this discussion at all, Clio's post is vastly worth your time. ...Comments also worth reading, especially since this is a good example of a discussion in which everyone is agreeing with everyone else but choosing different examples. So if you think either Clio's post or mine is simply missing something, check out her comments.

The intermittently-adorable Mickey Kaus on Maggie Gyllenhaal (scroll, y'all). I can't completely agree--I thought she was hot sauce like Tabasco in the excellent 1/3 of Secretary, and forgave the movie 1/3, though unfortunately the last third was the ending of the movie--but, yeah.

Mmmusing: "...This creates a special kind of conflict in the directionally-oriented structures of Western music. The music tells us we're going forward towards something, but our minds may get stuck in particular moments that have already passed." Via About Last Night. Ratty, read this! Tell me what you think! (...No, I'm totally not above exploiting my friends.)

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto: Hit & Run links to this story of troops bonding with their robots, and says, "The piece raises a lot of questions about the increasingly blurry lines that separate the human from the machine."

I'm skeptical of that, in part because I've heard vets talk about the troops' pet cat, etc., and they really didn't seem to think that loving that cat like crazy blurred the lines between feline and human. Like, at all. I think soldiers are probably capable of figuring out that the robot is not a person. (I'm pretty sure the strong emotional responses to tests that would blow up robots described in the article, for example, would apply to the troops' pet furry beasties as well. And animals have been awarded medals, if memory serves. Doesn't mean soldiers who cuddle kittens think cats are people.) ...You could either take this as my statement that robots are normal, or my statement that pets are weird. (I still miss my old dead horrible psycho cat.)

Unqualified Offerings, unsurprisingly, has the best quote.

Is it Faulkner, or is it Memorex? Acecakes in awesomesauce. Via About Last Night. I scored only 58%, despite actually recognizing one WF quote. More on him in a bit.

Top 25 Noir Films via ditto. "And I live in New York, New York the city that never shuts up...."

Churches in the Great War. Via Daniel Mitsui.

And in last place, Grindhouse-style posters for classic movies. ZOMG, more awesome than your mind can possibly handle. The colossal squid of awesome movie-poster-parody links.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

In the crowded court of your love
I was now a blogwatcher...

(Oh, now that loses something in the translation.)

Daniel Mitsui:
...A perspectival painting is, in many ways, not realistic at all. Some of these ways are obvious. The subjects do not move. Neither can the person looking at the painting move, or the failure of objects within the painting to move in relation to each other will reveal its artifice. The frame, usually rectangular, is unlike the actual periphery of our vision. And a perspectival painting is the view of a Cyclops; images do not double into two transparent parts when the two eyes focus on something nearer or farther away. Nor do they blur or sharpen dramatically; in reality, an object inches from the eyes and an object ten feet away cannot be seen in detail at the same time. A perspectival painting accurately presents what a man will see if he looks through a frame, with one eye closed, not moving, at something that does not move and that is far enough away for his eyes to focus on it in its entirety. Not surprisingly, the trick box that Filippo Brunelleschi invented to demonstrate his discovery of the technique created all of these conditions!

But there are more important ways in which a perspectival painting is unrealistic; it presents things as they are seen to be, rather than as they are known to be. It does not accommodate the vision of the mind's eye. Children draw in the same manner as cultures that have not adopted perspective in their art; they draw what is important. If they know of something present on the other side of a wall, or beyond the scope of their vision, they will draw it anyway if it is necessary to what they seek to communicate on paper. And its relative importance to that message will determine its size and placement in the drawing. This is the natural manner of composition in human artistry, whereas perspective is something that must be learned.

more; I think he may be unfair to the sky, but that's possibly b/c I am a huge fan of El Greco.

First Things: Really fascinating look at a ferocious Virginian Calvinist fictional detective.

Ross Douthat: "The seamless garment of death."