Monday, July 31, 2006

"Like London Bridge"? Really?!


Evidently not only will one's various junior high romantic entanglements drop out of high school and make a mess of their collective lives, but even one's early celebrity crushes, seen on the Disney channel at the hazy age of eight, will plummet from the heights of fuzzy hip hop positivity to the depths of nü-skank aesthetic. And to act dumb as a rock.

It's like she combines the very worst qualities of Gwen Stafani ("this shit is like bananas") and Britney Spears (cries, saying "they don't understand"). These days I'm less embarassed of my M.C. Hammer phase.

Look: I saw you all when you played Hutch Court in 1999, and that was the sexiest thing I think MAB has ever put together. That said, Jabba the Hut himself does not turn me off as much as the phrase "my lovely lady lumps."

What the Hell happened to you?


Lauras 9, 29.


Thanks for your comments and suggestions!

The high front that has been slowly rotating across the nation will finally give way to a trough on the west, bringing relief inland from the Pacific coast. Unfortunately, as th same high arrives in the more humid East will bring temperatures past the century mark in many place with the added threat of high humidity. Relief will follow later this week, today and tomorrow in the Midwest, and late on Wednesday on the east coast, in the form of massive thunderstorms gusting to 60 mph. As Jessica said, "Thanks, Al Gore." Oh, and there's a tropical low to the east of the Windward Islands. As soon as the Canary Current heats up a little, we're in big trouble.

The Tigers had a meltdown yesterday against the Twins, including eighth inning catastrophe that brought an end to what had been shaping up to be one of the best games of pitcher Jeremy Bonderman's career. Oh well. They didn't sweep the Twins. They are, however, ahead of the division runner-ups White Sox by 8.5 games, and just one game from typing their whole last season of wins. We'll see what happens.

- JULY - is the month of Parks and Recreation.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Primo Levi, Whitney Young, and J.K. Rowling.

The Washington Post: Interstate Abortion Bill Clears Senate. Chad signs accord with neighboring Sudan.
The New York Times: In California, Heat Is Blamed for 100 Deaths.
Reuters: TOur de France winner Landis tests positive.
The New York Times: Six Are Shot at Seattle Jewish Center.
The New York Times: Israel Suspending Lebanon Air Raids After Dozens Die.

What subject of conversation is more tedious to you than anything else?


Friday, July 28, 2006

Teen Angel.


These people are too stupid to be alive.

Why on earth wasn't his class ring on her finger in the first place? There is a plausible answer to that question; it involves the two of them being frisky (so much for the innocent early days of Rock and Roll). But if that's the case, who gets frisky in a car parked on an active railroad crossing? If they weren't getting frisky, where was the stupid ring (about which she cared so much) in the first place? And all this is on top of the idiocy of flirting with a train for a class ring in the first place. He could get another. Or who knows, the ring might ever survive the dance with the train. More likely than some sweet sixteen-year-old. Finally, what was the guy (who cares about his girlfriend so much) doing while she was rooting around for the ring? He just says "she went back." Is something more sinister at work, or (as the song seems to suggest) is he a clueless bumpkin who doesn't know when his one true love decides to go play tackle football with seven hundred tons of raging steel at sixty miles per hour.

Am I wrong?

Are the people in this song anything other than mindless idiots?


Lauras 6, 29.


- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Beatrix Potter, Marcel Duchamp, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.


Where would you like to see the 2016 Summer Olympics hosted? (If you're from Chicago and you list Chicago, list at least one alternative... not to hate on Chicago or anything, it's just I know how half of you are likely to go here.)


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Adrift in the Mainstream, Page 1


I want to exploit you.

Not really, but I've been spending the last eighty minutes revising (for the nine millionth time) the first page of my novel/thesis project Adrift in the Mainstream, and it's one of those situations where I've dissected and reassembled the damn thing so many times I feel completely unable to track it. That is, am I butchering the soul of the thing, or is it actually starting to make some sense? Or both or neither?

I'm going to post the first page here. Please let me know what you think, and please don't hold back. You've all been sweet talking about Dead Man's Chest, so now I'm all ears since things are a bit closer to home...

Your tender toes never felt such wind but once.
Your tender toes would never feel...


but then after all...

but then...

excuse me...

but you never were a very excessive or flagrant girl.

Always well grounded.

Always solid, reliable, feet on the ground to use a figure of speech, and your tender toes never felt such a desperate push and tug but once. I know because I was there. At the edge of Lake Michigan. Down at the Warren Dunes. Up on the beach. You might as well have been standing at the ocean's side, what, the way those slow gray waves rolled along that midnight shore. Sand black and heavy. An afghan fog. A breezy turn of the cog.

I know you never thought yourself sensitive to things like these. But the wind is persuasive. Am I right? Everyone has to have a moment. Am I right? Everyone has to breathe now and then.

I can see that weekend in its entirety. First, nothing new. All recycled. You piled in the station-wagon when Betty and Bast had finished combing their hair. They thought, maybe, that Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman would commit suicide and resurrect themselves within the skin of a twin. And Rodney? Rodney was atrundled up with two diapers: one on his rump and one on his head. He drooled onto his stubbly chin. These three sat in the back.

Up front sat mom and dad in stony silence. You drew them in class sometimes. Your teachers called you an excellent artist, but you knew the truth. These people were easy to draw. Children owned by parents with souls might run into trouble, what, with the rendering of emotion and all.

You sat in the hatchback, sideways, seatbelt off, reading the finest of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike because they built the range of depths and drains you plumbed back then. The family, on the other hand, left you alone and you thanked greasy God and read on in silence like your sweet Aunt Carr had taught you.

The cement cord of I-69 roped down, languid about Lansing. It hooked into the chord of I-94 which bowed toward the hoop of Indiana before loping and looping into Chicago. But halfway through Berrien County your parents left the expressway and pulled over at the Warren Dunes State Park. They paid $5 so you could set up a tent on the empty and apocalyptic parking-lot on the shoreline. When the engine shut off, even Bast and Betty stopped talking, exhausted from their hours of shouting.

"Will there be rats?" you asked.

Here are some things I'm wondering specifically.
1. How is the title? It's had both attackers and defenders. One criticism is that it has too much "spin." But I think I might like the "spin." What is the "spin" and is it good or bad.
2. What sense can you make of what is happening in this first page?
3. Are you inclined to keep reading, and why or why not?
4. What do you think of the characters from this first page?
5. What do you like, what irritates you, and what pisses you off?

If you want, I'm happy to critique your projects as well...


Understanding Postmodernism, #33.


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 5, Sentence 6:

In this context, modernist idealism seemed a tepid evasion of the work, and the pleasure, of engaging that alientating bourgeois culture.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Lauras 5, 28.


- JULY - is Blueberries month.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Alexandre Dumas fils, Gary Gygax, Juliana Hatfield, and Emily (who probably doesn't read this blog).

Bud to Blossom: Last week, Sumara stumbled into our conversation on Dead Man's Chest. It's very exciting to me; this blog doesn't get this much traffic and a lot of my friends have fallen into other distractions as the years have worn on (as evident in the dwindling list of links to their blogs). Anyway, Sumara has been very insightful in our conversation; she's from Sydney, Australia (a city which I hear is coterminus with Chicago in a number of ways) and writes about a variety of subjects, from art and film to family life. Check it out!

Given 180º E and 180º W as our borders, what's the furthest East and the furthest West you've ever been?


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lauras 4, 29.


- TIGERS - In Las Vegas betting circles, the Tigers have been calculated as the team second most likely to win the World Series. They're just behind the Mets, which means they're effectively expected to lead the American Series. Of course, Nevada doesn't have a team to root for, so that comes in to play (doubtless). Behind Tigers, a threeway tie between the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the White Sox.

- JULY - is Hot Dog month.
- YESTERDAY - was the Feast of St. James.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - George Bernard Shaw and Mick Jagger.

Wacky Tourist.

According to this, how long are you supposed to live?


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

In brief: Why I think the Israeli bombing of Lebanon is wack.


Lest I look back on this thing in a year and think I wasn't paying attention to what Jeff Danziger calls "the beginning of World War III."

Gemma has some worthwhile thoughts on the subject.

Like so many issues (see Dead Man's Chest below), the ability to take a truly informed stance on an issue is outstripped by the number of issues that compete for a truly informed stance. I suppose that I've given Flint and my career priority, and after that a couple personal interests here and there, but I hate to think that I completely lack a perspective (however general) on the present situation in the Middle East.

It seems to me, firstoff, that all proposed solutions to terrorism are short-term. That is, unless Israel is prepared to take out all of their enemies at once, which at this moment would begin with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran and end God knows where, the most they can do is deplete their enemies' forces and will and take away their weapons. The best bargain here will cost them at least a whole generation of Palestinians and Lebanese with a head full of memories of the Israelis dropping bombs on their neighborhoods.

It also seems that the "they threw the first stone" argument is problematic here; we expect Hezbollah to act as terrorists because they... well, are. Which is largely why the Palestinians isolated themselves internationally upon the popular victory of Hamas. Hamas and Hezbollah, however, are not your typical Lebanese any more than your average conservative bombs abortion clinics or your average liberal spikes trees. Israel, on the other hand, should place a premium on being perceived as a credible, legitimate power. The degree to which Lebanese civilian casualties have outstripped the Israelis (bear in mind, no war has been declared) really should raise all kinds of alarm among its neighbors.

In short, I see all the evidence of a double-standard here, and none of the counterarguments I've encountered seem particularly convincing. Yes, Israel retains the right to protect its border and retaliate against acts of aggression. The extent of the Israeli response, however, has invalidated its own legitimacy by perpetrating upon others the very offences toward which the response is directed.

(Some might point out that this is *really* about captive soldiers, but the political arena seems downright ludicrous on this front; more than ten times the number of Israeli soldiers have been killed fighting for soldiers' recoveries than those actually kidnaped.)

I don't have a convenient solution.

I do agree that there is a problem with restraint in that it suggests weakness and is easily exploited. But a strict offense doesn't seem to be working wonders either. Ultimately, I think both war and peace must be approached with a a mind for consistency and an expectation of subtlety, and perhaps most importantly, allowing short-term compromise for long-term stability and prosperity. There are ways to not capitulate to terrorist other than bombing Beirut neighborhoods.

And lest we forget, the U.S. is guilty of complicity here, at the very least. Our lack of forsight and circumspection has made our own position almost as compromised in the Middle East, and just as credibility challenged, as Israel itself. One might even argue that the U.S., having a greater objective distance (ie. we're not being bombed by Israel or Hezbollah) should demonstrate greater equanimity.

For all of our virtues, I find, we tend to fall down on any issue that won't resolve favorably in less than the next decade.


Urban Exploring.


I feel the itch.


Lauras 3, 29.


Will be posted today at around 7 PM, EST.

- JULY - is Foreign Languages month.
- TODAY - is Rat Catchers Day.

"Woe is me of the shilling of the armpit... It is of the form of an apple, like the head of an onion, a small boil that spares no-one. Great is its seething, like a burning cinder, a grievous thing of ashy colour... They are similar to the seeds of the black peas, broken fragments of brittle sea-coal...cinders of the peelings of the cockle weed, a mixed multitude, a black plague like half pence, like berries."
- British Manorial document, 14th century.

What languages do you speak?


Monday, July 24, 2006

Dead Mans Chest, Part 3: At World's End?


In the end, I liked Round Two of Discussion at lot more than Round One. There's something sexy and exciting about being challenged, to say nothing of being schooled, but nobody enjoys being dismissed. So I'm ready now to give some ground. I still think there's something, though...


I'm going to type up a statement of my approach to critiques in general, which might be useful in preempting misunderstanding in the future. Last winter, I posted some commentary on Orbital albums, and I was always waiting to be soundly put in my place, since my knowledge of techno and house is exceptionally limited. Well, that shoe never dropped, so maybe I got a little cocky.

Point being, my base of knowledge is very broad but not very deep, and I couldn't safely call myself an "expert" on anything except Flint, the Smashing Pumpkins, and maybe Antonin Artaud. That said, breadth is useful for allowing the possibilities of generalization. I'm ready to find out I'm wrong, but I'll generally expect a bit more than a "you don't know."


SAM: "As an artist, think its amusing when people analyze and deeply read my work, comparing it to mythos such as the Ballad of Enkidu or the Tale of Giglamesh, or teh Bible. I get giggly. I highly doubt Mr. Bruckheimer and the writers of DMC had any notion to even suggest and symbolism in the way you describe. But it does work, nonethemore."

SUMARA: "As for reading these things into the text, I have no problem with that. Whether or not the writers of these films were consciously using myths and religious symbolism in their story and characters is in some ways beside the point - they are there anyway. As with the compass that doesn't work and yet does work, somehting doens't have to be "fact" or be "right", to be true."

I commented in brief on this, and my thoughts are essentially in line with Sumara's; that is, I don't think an artistic choice/action (depending on how/what you want to define) need be explicitly "intentional" in order to be evaluated as a component of a work. I'm glad that the discussion isn't focusing on this issue, but I do want to call attention to it, at least briefly, as an assumption and somewhat of a liability. I'd be interested in tackling this question with more rigor another time.

But for now, we'll go on and assume intentionality is moot.


My biggest mistake was claiming that the films tactics were "unprecedented." I should have known that this sort of assertion outstepped my knowledge of the subject. That is, I simply have not seen enough films, nor am I familiar enough with the subject to be able to back a claim like that up.

My second error was in levelling the continuum between "superhuman" and "Force of Nature / god / Act of God." Christian slightly misses the mark (but just slightly) in saying that I'm creating an arbitrary distinction between Davey Jones and Magneto or Jack Torrence; rather, my logic their can be consistent if I allow all three characters into the "pantheon," but that raises the issue of what makes Dead Man's Chest so unique in the first place.
Christian's best point, however, is that there isn't a challenge, at least not for an audience, in maintaining a psychological "antagonist empathy" with Davey Jones. That is, the claim that "he's just a bitter octo-man who's all out of love, and so lost without her" is valid.


A third clarification.

I understand what Dan is saying about the "tickling" effect of the self-referentiality (is that part of Mxzzy's frustration as well?)... but I was discussing this with my friend Reinhardt yesterday, and I think he may be understanding mythology in a somewhat different way than I am. That is, I haven't seen many Westerns, so I'm pretty well paralyzed there, but I think he's hinting toward mythology as something interextual, or at least defined within a tradtion. The importance of archetypes within Westerns, a blatant lack of regard for plausibility and, closely related, the commitment of the genre to its own trophes and legends rather (and their own evolution) rather than a psychological or sociological engagement of historical fact are probably his emphasis. (Dan, please correct or refine this, if you think I'm mistaken). Which I would agree with, but it's not my understanding of mythology.

* * * * *

A quick A Time To Kill-inspired exercise.

Suppose we all went to go and see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End together. Imagine that it's every bit as long and considerably more convoluted than Dead Man's Chest. They do succeed in offing Davey Jones, and the Kraken, and maybe even casualties are kept to a minimum. Then, at the very end, at the end, they do meet Captain Jack at world's end, but they are unable to do anything to help him. Likewise, the Black Pearl nothing but a wreckage. Why? Because; you can't bring the dead back to life. Without a curse, without the intervention of some greater-than-human entity, it does not happen.

Now clearly that won't be the way the franchise ends; it would lead to a de facto boycott and probably kill a couple careers. But since the film hasn't been released yet, we could speculatively keep it in the realm of possiblities, since it's well within the compass of the plot at this point.

My point here is that Christian's argument that "that's not the sort of crap you pull with Zeus," is... well, wrong. People pulled that crap with Zeus all the time. That's why women he wanted to rape got away by being turned into bulls. In fact, half of Greek mythology involves mortals pulling one over on the Gods -- but ALWAYS at a heavy price. On the other hand, are we to consider the divine lineage of Achilles and Heracles to be irrelevant in their respective stories. What about Gilgamesh, who bests the gods for a stab at immortality (though he then loses it to a snake)? Even the Judeo-Christian god who present texts depict as a good bit more austere and omnipotent than the rest, still saw fit to come down and wrestle with Jacob.

The connection between Dead Man's Chest which I've drawn narrowly to The Passion of Joan of Arc and less closely to The Ten Commandments is the pervasive, almost casual, correspondence between the divine and supernatural and the human. It seems suggestive of a text or document that attempts to embody, or at least imply, a whole explanation of the cosmos in addition to or even above a consideration of the story.

So to sum up:
1) I cast the net too wide; I should have made a more limited argument, excluding
2) that this narrative relationship is essentially unprecedented in film (b/c I don't know),
3) that the antagonists are not psychologically driven, and
4) that the antagonists are essentially like forces of nature and essentially unlike humans.
That said, I still/believe:
5) that Dead Man's Chest is unambiguously mythic in its use of archetypes, its personification of natural forces in a way that enables interaction and negotiation with humans, and that this is suggestive of a distinct cosmic order that the film actively argues,
6) that its plot is not incomprehensible and flawed, and that most criticisms I've read are unfair in that they evaluate it as a fundamentally different story than what it is. (That is not to discount faults in editing, poor editing, or Dan's "tickling," all of which I can see),
7) that #5 and #6 render the film unique if for nothing else than that they have been achieved in a big budget, commercially-driven film marketed to an audience accustomed to more linear, character-driven story.
8) In my humble opinion, I think the mythology still overshadows the psychology, though I will no longer argue that psychological justification is not present.
9) Is it Important? I don't know. I'd like to think so, but maybe that's just because it's made a somewhat dreary, bug-bebothered summer a bit better.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm confident that the franchise will find a way to resurrect Jack, but I don't think that invalidates the claims I've made (though it is, perhaps, a bit of a copout). I'm looking at mythology as an expansiveness of vision and point of contact between humans and their universe.

That, and they're totally crossing the Styx in the next film.

Keep writing. Keep agreeing and disagreeing.

This really has been one of the highlights of my week.


Understanding Postmodernism, #32.


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 5, Sentence 5:

If the image really conveys a distinctive reality, if collage articulates a poetic logic unencumbered by discursive rationality, and if the activity of the work somehow establishes an ethos with the power to reform society, it makes perfect sense to devote oneself to the unconscious to cultivate startling, apparently random connections among particulars, to experiment with automatic writing or other strategies for disclosing aspects of that authorial presence occluded by common sense, and to insist on art as the theatrical disruption of bourgeois hopes and conventions.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Lauras 2, 29.


- WEATHER - Yeah, it's either hot and scorching or a riot of thunderstorms. Pretty much everywhere. Except here in New York. Where it's nice. We had a weekend of rain, but I wasn't complaining.

- TIGERS - Last Monday I predicted that the Tigers would have to starting beating ace team or their best-records-so-far wouldn't amount to much. The next day they went into their three home game series against the World Championship White Sox and lost 7-1. I wasn't happy. The Tigers went on to win the series with the next 2 games, and then win a series (2-1) against Oakland. The White Sox are 6.5 games behind in the division; the equivalent of 2 series. I can breathe a little easier. The playoffs are looking more and more possible.

- JULY - is Doghouse Repairs month.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Alexandre Dumas père, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Amelia Earhart.

BBC News: Tsunami kills dozens in Indonesia.
Yahoo! News: House fails to override stem cell veto.
BBC News: Heat wave breaks record for July.
CBS News: Nation Swelters In Heat Wave, No Relief Likely Until Weekend As Heat Wave Grips The U.S..
New York Times: Israeli Buildup at Lebanese Line as Fight Rages.

What is the furthest north and south you've ever been?


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Dead Man's Chest, Part 2: Standing my ground.


Disclaimer: There are spoilers.

Okay. So I'm essentially willing to throw in the towel and give my opinion a vote of no confidence with regard to The Squid and the Whale. That is, I'm unmoved: I still hate the film. But my assertions are altogether broad, and I don't think that my arguments are any better than what people have said in response.

With Dead Man's Chest, however, I'm ready to argue until I'm out of breath. In fact, I went to see the film a second time today, just got back and I'm thoroughly ready to tussle.

I'll try to speak to each of your comments in order. (Hoping not to unnecessarily offend anyone.)

MILLIGAN: "You may have put your finger on why films based on Classical mythology have typically been either poorly conceived (Troy) or awesome but commercially unsuccessful (Clash of the Titans).
By the same token you don't often see the works of, say, Neil Gaiman appearing in film either. Transgressing artistic conventions is fun, but does not tend to rake in the dough."

If my hypothesis is correct, then you've called attention to one more remarkable thing about this film: that it's managed to be awesome and commercially successful; to transgress artistic conventions and rake in the dough. Why? Well, I might get to that a bit more in response to Clinton's comment, but I think it has to do with the fact that we generally go to movies to enjoy ourselves. If people can enjoy a film that transgresses artistic conventions, they're not going to be driven away. In fact, experimental art in general would far better if more artists could/tried to walk this line.

GEMMA: "I buy this as an argument for the power of the trilogy when it's finished—and I'll go see the third film with the same level of devoted groupiedom either way—but I'm not sure I buy it for Dead Man's Chest alone. I like the focus on conceiving its own mythos, and I think the two movies thus far have been extremely successful in building the world. But I would be equally frustrated dropped into the middle of a central book in the Iliad with no compass, and that was my struggle in Dead Man's Chest."

Keep in mind I wasn't arguing it was the perfect movie. I argued that it was extraordinary and important. It is flawed. So are many great movies, including Casablanca: try to watch it objectively and answer me how overwrought is that? By way of criticism I thought DMC was too thoroughly scored, and indulged in the mania of overlong fight scenes that has afflicted every big-budget action flick for the last several years. I would have liked to have seen decisive moments, like when Sparrow asks Will to "pay his debt" and his subsequent deception of Elizabeth made a bit more explicit. In other ways, I think that the movie was incredibly traditional. For example, in terms of its place within the trilogy ("first one stands alone, second one mucks it up, third one is Spring Cleaning") DMC fell right into line. Same goes for the jealous lover rule, which I would like to see a level head prevail over (since the circumstances were pretty damn extreme) just once.

But beyond this, I have to disagree with you. Whether or not the explication of cause-and-effect is as clear as we want it to be doesn't really come to bear on the mythology of the piece. That is, we're given no guarantees that this film will stand on its own without Curse of the Black Pearl, and frankly, I don't see why it should. It's not like any secret was made of the fact that this is a trilogy.

On the other hand, while I can say plenty of nice things about Curse of the Black Pearl and its imaginative conception, the discrepancy of power between protagonist and antagonist, and its extension in the form of narrative grandeur, is completely unique to Dead Man's Chest. The villains of BP made it into a ghost story, not a myth, which could be argued in several ways, not least however is that now we've got the antagonist of the first film leading us with long odds (literally?) across the River Styx. BP, in other words, was within the realm of safe and familiar storytelling. It did not break the narrative barrier in any of the ways that DMC did. I'm not talking about mythos as "building the world" but as confronting the audience with a new relationship to the film.


Thank you m'dear! :)

MXZZY: "I still think that the film could've have benefited from some more editing. There were too many jokes & references in the dialouge to the first movie when visual cues would have worked just as well. Otherwise, it was very enjoyable."

Like what? I only caught a couple; Elizabeth and the rum (which I thought was funny), and the Two Pirates that Got Away. Actually, the history of the monkey, the complexity of the relationship between Jack, Will, and Elizabeth, and the story of Barbossa are not verbally explicated at all, but relied completely on our familiarity with the first. I think that might even be part of Gemma's complaint, if I understood correctly.

DAN: "Still haven't seen this. Not sure I plan to after the first film (which was dull despite some inspired schtick from Depp) and the critical drubbing the sequel has recieved everywhere but here.
Are you sure your high hopes and admirable populist sentiments haven't transformed incoherence into radical epic flatness? I recall a facetious Film Comment article about the buddhistic haze of unknowing in Michael Bay's films.

Dude! You didn't see the movie.

"High hopes?" Actually, I was expecting to be let down given how much negative press this film has gotten. I was more suprised at how much I liked it.
"Populist sentiments?" Yes, the masses can get it dreadfully wrong (Star Wars Episodes I and II and ~III are pretty solid examples) but I don't think critical acclaim is a much better yardstick.

Critics have a couple disadvantages when it comes to recognizing present-tense, as Milligan puts it, "artistic transgressions," and I'd say narrative transgressions in particular.
The first being that the masses go to a movie to have fun. Critics go to a movie to try not to have fun so that they can be discriminating and convey information rather than blind praise. The problem is, when one tries not to have fun (even allowing one secretly hopes to fail) it necessarily involves consciously laying down more fetters and expectations than we'd otherwise have. Sometimes a tangled plot will be just that, a tangled plot, or as you put it, "incoherance." But if it's more, if the tangledness is caused by something other than a lack of writing ability or organization, how would someone know? Only with a certain amount of patience and open-mindedness that I see little sign of in most critics.

The second disadvantage, which I hinted at before, is that film is only a hundred years old; it was born into storytelling conventions that, by-and-large, still apply today, certainly within popular film. I really feel that most of my insights into DMC don't come from films at all, but from fiction and mythology. I recognized something I'd seen elsewhere, but scarcely ever in a movie. That is a context that cannot develop simply through watching and critiquing a hundred movies.

Beyond all this, I don't know what to say because you haven't given me any reason or argument other than the Collective Opinions of Critics Everywhere.

* * * * *

Usually when I post comments on a movie or some music, I'm lucky if I get any comments at all, so I'm happy that this has merited some conversation. But I'm still a little frustrated because I feel like most of the comments so far haven't really addressed the claim I've made. This is unfortunate, and I think, plays into a common traps in politics and journalistic practice these days; not to answer the difficult questions with which we are confronted, but to dress them up as something easier and less ambiguous.

My claim about the movie? I might be wrong, truly, and if so, I'd like to know that I am and I'd like to know why. And if I'm right... I'd like to know that my position has withstood genuine scrutiny.

I'll say it again: my claim is that Dead Man's Chest is mythic.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Understanding Postmodernism, #31.


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 5, Sentence 4:

Each in its own way took literally claims that were intended metaphorically and thereby managed simultaneously to parody modernist idealism and to open new imaginative territories in which formal energies were inseparable from unrepresentable forces in dizzying contradiction with one another.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Lumas 26, 29.


- YESTERDAY - I indulged a lovefest for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and a hatefest for the Squid and the Whale. I'm interested to hear what you think.

- JULY - Is Culinary arts month.
- TODAY - Is World Kissing Day.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Nelson Mandela and John Glenn.

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."
- Nelson Mandela

Assign yourself a seven digit vanity phone-number.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.


There are spoilers.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest may just about be the most important and wonderful film I've ever seen. In order to say that I'd have to split some hairs amazingly fine, but I still find it difficult to be too superlative in my praise.

And utterly exasperated too, because I think the critical reception is absolutely wrong-headed about the film; that they're watching it wrong and what they point out as its flaws are actually aspects of its greatness.

* * * * *

Many of the positives come easily:

The highest honor, in most peoples' eyes, goes to Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, deceptively dark, deceptively light, deceptively errant, deceptively erring captain of the Black Pearl.

Second on the list we'd probably point out the imaginativeness of the whole enterprise. The Flying Dutchman was to this film what The Black Pearl was to the original. Davy Jones is a villain worthy of the last run's Barbosa. As far as the conceptual landscape of the piece, its creators are not resting on their laurels.

Finally, we'd talk about the other actors and their performances. Keira Knightley was given more room to stretch and expand than last time, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, and poor, stiff Orlando Bloom were at least as solid as they've ever been.

Where most reviews start to get critical is in talking about the plot. So last Friday, when Jessica and I went to the theater to see the film, I was expecting a tangled, or at least a loose, plotline.

The plot is simultaneously loose and tangled.

I want to draw, in hugely broad and generalizing strokes, the history of western storytelling. The first recorded stories were probably records that had originally been passed along orally (in some cases for many hundreds of years) before being permanently set down in a fixed form. Since space and memory were more of a limitied commodity back then (that is, a culture's literary tradition being progressively limited by a storyteller's memory, clay tablets, and papyrus) retained stories took on multiple roles: history, theology, and entertainment. The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest illustrations of this amalgamative treatment... in dozens of episodes, Gilgamesh is led through explanations of the universe, rousing adventures, and a quest for the life of his friend Enkidu. The Iliad and The Odyssey are preeminently praised largely because they are myths infused with a strong sense of character and personal consequence (even when destination is fixed). Beowulf and the Tragedy of Rostram and Saurab are later examples. And of course, I'd be crucified in some circles for saying this, but the Bible, the Jewish Talmud, the Islamic Hadiths and the Hindu Vedas all have the qualities of amalgamative tradition. In all cases, the stories being passed along were also intact mythologies; they attempted to situate their characters (and, by extension) humanity in the Universe, and by default, the Universe was a central protagonist, at center stage, holding all the cards. And so on.

With the proliferation of trade, increase in travel, and especially the development of the printing press, recording and disseminating print became much easier. This coincided with the golden age of Elizabethan theater, Shakespeare, Jonson, Molière, Cervantes and the rise of the novel, and progressively more "refined" forms of storytelling. And I could say a lot now about Protestantism, industrialization, the rise of the a middle class, Western imperialism, the Enlightenment and Romanticism and so on... these all led to and informed a less integrated literature; one that was more concerned with detached reflection that exaltation and revelation. While there was still room for theme, symbolism, and stylization, it either existed in harmony with the psychological story taking place, or (as in both modernist and postmodern movements) strove against such conventional structures as an explicit and deliberate critique.

I'm trying to draw very broadly two distinct traditions; one in which a story is practical and multi-dimensional and stylized by default, and one in which a story is esoteric, abstract, and psychological by default. The break is not clean; Cervantes and Chaucer were separated by several hundred years, represent the extremes of a period of transition, and both would have seemed alien to each other as well as to contemporary or ancient texts.

Mainly, however, the point that I'm making is that by the time film came around at the turn of the twentieth century, Western art was analyzed in default strictly along lines of character and plot.

It stands to reason, then, that all examples of films and screenplays would either be written as the psychological default or deliberately and consciously stand against it.

There are some exceptions actually; all that I know of take the form of an adaptation of an earlier text or story, and one of the best examples (ironically) is The Ten Commandments. Charleton Heston manages to play a psychologically intact Moses through most of the movie, but at the end his transformation is so complete and daunting that it's frightening; we might say obsessive and hallucinatory (if we couldn't say that this is, after all, Moses). An even better example is The Passion of Joan of Arc in which the fire and the host run the show, and clearly dominate all characters except the namesake, and maybe Artaud.

More often, however, screenwriters and directors consciously flirt with a line, and it usually happens in big epics where the character is at the center of a whirlwind with only haphazard and tenuous connection to the edges: Kurosawa's Ran, Scorsese's Gangs of New York, Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Kane and just about anything by Kubrick. Kubrick, perhaps, is the most daring in his probing, but still, they all ultimately default to character as the preeminent, driving element. They can still, ultimately, collapse into personality as the final rendering of reality.

There may be monsters and gods, but it's always a human at center stage.

Not so with Dead Man's Chest.

* * * * *

The critics are coming down on the plot because they are reading it by a definition of narrative convention rarely transgressed by even "experimental" filmmakers. By these standards the Odyssey, the Bible, or Majnun and Leila would be in tatters. This highlights the truly impressive feat of Dead Man's Chest : while it does meet the criteria of psychologically plausible and interesting characters, most engagingly in Captain Jack and Elizabeth, it is not beholden to them, nor does it prefer them. With the economy of a text that encapsulates religious, political, and artistic worldviews, the focus is on Acts of God and Forces of Nature.

This mythological preference is most explicit in the role of "destiny" in the film. If half of the films out at any one time invoke "destiny" and "fate" at some point, Dead Man's Chest means it, and not as the shadow play destinies that play out in the films of Kurosawa and the plays of Chekhov. Davy Jones and the Kraken are Forces of Nature as uncompromising and inevitable as the Greek and Sumerian gods; what seems like a "convoluted plot" is, in fact, an intricate dance of the characters to exert a mastery that they can plainly sense is insufficient. Like all great ancient texts, they prove their mettle not in their ability to best their fate (for if they escape, it is only at the behest of a higher power) but in their awareness of the response. This plays out, beautifully and majestically, in Will's ill-advised gambling exploit, Elizabeth's final submission to circumstance, and above all, Jack Sparrow's ultimate plunge. From the opposite angle, the "three day" gift of Davy Jones to Sparrow, the momentary retreats of the Kraken, and the (quite strategically placed) providential circumstance are all active elements; their favor is neither arbitrary nor is it "earned" by the characters. It is borne of the antagonists' curiosity, and needs no further explanation. The characters (unlike the critics) understand this, and cope as best they can.

Also consider the use of objects. Dice, compass, ships, the thrice discarded dress, the twice discarded and once reclaimed cap, the dripping tea cups and floating coffins are far more than props or set pieces; they are totems. Like Coleridge's albatross or the golden fleece, these objects are tools of negotiation between the supernatural world of the antagonists and the immediate world at hand. There is a correspondence between these objects, the antagonists, and the protagonists as objects of curiosity. As such, these objects take center stage as characters in their own right.

Consider how many issues are resolved by mythological conventions. Many people are appalled at the body count of this film; it seems arbitrarily cruel to any minor or incidental character. Yet from a mythological perspective, the higher powers have no interest in these creatures. Why, then, shouldn't they die? They've no claim to attention nor any tools of negotiation. How might the film's disemboweled ships (all hands on deck went down) stack up next to the death of every firstborn of Egypt or the slaughter of 100,000 knights in the last battle of Mallory's King Arthur?

Finally, to return briefly to the plot, if nature / the gods come upon us as a succession of waves, as obstacles in the form of sequential threats and deliveries, than a plot that emphasizes the nets characters weave around each other in a frantic effort to stay ahead is not only plausible, but necessary to sustain plausibility. The alternatives are a single sustained moment of struggle and defeat, or that the characters really are equal to their obstacles and can face off as a Force of Nature themselves. The first would prohibit an involved story, the second a touch of humanity.

And this is the source of my awe and admiration. Dead Man's Chest is not only a vividly rendered story with compelling and exciting characters in an exotic, almost umbral setting... it's a point of negotiation between modern fiction and mythology. I can touch Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth; I can connect with them as human beings. And they can connect with a quite literal personification of Death, of the Sea, of Nature or Corruption; of erratic elements that are thoroughly inhuman in disposition. That is, I am drawn with the protagonists in the spirit of Longinian sublimity. My admiration is a response to the protagonist's composure in the face of inevitability. My empathy is a response to their passions and vulnerabilities. The film is a point of contact, successfully bridging two wildly different styles of storytelling and bringing them back into communication.

It brings me into contact with the Sea and Death myself.

It allows us all to be, audience, characters, and nature, at center stage.

Essentially, it has accomplished what Kubrick and Scorsese have not.


The Squid and the Whale.


A surprising number of people have asked me to back up my opinion on The Squid and the Whale and now, knowing that I'm somewhat in the minority, I'll plead my case.

There are a few spoilers here...

I'm going to be a bit of a traditionalist for a moment. In the 1700s, the first time that the novel emerged as a defined form of literature, it was the subject of intense political scrutiny as a possible tool of insurrection. The positive social value pushed against this argument was that the novel was able to "instruct and delight." And while I don't want to adopt all of the historical and political baggage that goes along with the concept as originally put forth, so long as I keep my interpretation pretty broad, it's difficult to think of art (including film) that I've appreciated that hasn't done one or the other.

The first problem with The Squid and the Whale is that it's a clumsy lump. In the end it ends up being a very traditional Bildungsroman, a pseudo-autobiographical yarn about Walt Berkman (who looks exactly like big Pete from The Adventures of Pete and Pete... Pete, you young letch you) dealing with Teenage Things from the middle of a messy divorce involving self-absorbed, shallow, selfish people. Well, okay, not exclusively shallow, although Jeff Daniels as Bernard (the father) was shallow enough to walk across without getting your shoes wet. What I'm saying is that at the end, the story is about Walt's struggle with his assumptions about his family, his scrutiny of people he's admired, and how he has a mess of a time figuring himself out given the lack of anything immobile to use to get his bearings. It's a "who am I?" story.

Fair enough.

Thing is, I didn't get this until the very last few minutes of the film. Up until the final apartment showdown, I had no idea that Walt was the central focus of the film and (ideally) my attention. The film up until this point seemed evenly split among the members of the family. For some reason, I was always dragged into scenes that existed, evidently, to highlight moral ambiguity. Which was profoundly confusing when the ambiguities never seemed to make its way back to the plot, much less any final stasis/resolution (or chaos/uncertainty).

Look: a moral ambiguity isn't good for much if a character plows right through it thoughtlessly. This is my second major complaint. Bernard, who I hoped might get hit by a cement mixer withing the first couple minutes, was the worst in this regard; for all the blatant and oft-repeated meditative rants on his wife's issues, he never seemed for a moment to really scrutinize his own actions or his past. He never even seemed to scrutinize his objectives or his own arguments with anything more than a peripheral glance. His accusations were a one-note tactical maneuver ("let's work this out because you know you owe me...") that never gave way to an actual discussion or even a nuanced tennis strategy, but simply dissolved into invective. (Maybe this is why he was such an apparently lousy writer, although I can't think of anyone who has ever gotten a one-sentence rejection letter).

I don't have a problem with two-dimensional characters. I have a big problem with stories that distort two-dimensional characters in some tortured attempt to make me believe they're "deep"; worthy of my empathy and consideration. Bernard was the worst offender by thousands of leagues, but truthfully, there wasn't much by way of depth on almost anyone else's line either. Yes, Owen (younger brother) was tortured, but did it ever lead us / take him anywhere? Walt was convincingly rendered, and I would say the same for Joan (his mother) and Sophie (his girlfriend)... too bad we couldn't have seen some more of Sophie. She was genuinely interesting; why didn't she get some of Bernard's more useless moments?

And finally, there's my own strong bias. Bernard was a compilation of every nasty writerly stereotype out there: pompous, aloof, pretentious, stupid, short-sighted, egomaniacal, shallow and selfish. I know plenty of writers with some of these qualities (and certainly I play some out on my own), but I've rarely encountered such a garish mishmash of unpleasantry. He was like a Severus Snape who trades off his competence and allure for a couple five dollar nouns. So why would I want him in my living room for an evening?

In short, I have three complaints:

1. The form of the story changes, directing me first to follow four family members with equal attention, while my focus is actually intended for the son, Walt. This feels like an accidental choice that doesn't reward my scrutinizing or rigorous viewing.
2. The narrative is deceptive in that it provides superficial evidence of character struggle and reckoning that fails to build or materialize either in the plot or in relationships between characters.
3. I hate obnoxious artists; I was too mad at Jeff Daniels' character to enjoy anything much.

I'll allow that #3 isn't a good argument that this is a awful film. It is a good reason, however, for me to feel that I wasted my evening by spending it with an insipid and trivial person.

After my own violence in writing this, I should allow that a number of people have come to defend this film.
In fact, a lot of people I deeply respect on this think I'm dead wrong about this film, and for all I know they're right.

Still, I'm unconvinced on every front.

The Squid and the Whale seems to me to be the most appalling, offensive artistic conceit; a small world pretending to be large; a simple world pretending to be complex. In short, a world that looks entirely inward while claiming that it looks out.

Note: Now I'm going to write about a movie I thought was absolutely spectacular.


Understanding Postmodernism, #30.


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 5, Sentence 3:

First, there occurred the astonishing interpretation of modernism provided by surrealism and dada.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Lumas 25, 29.



- WHAT IS A GOOD MOVIE - Mean Girls.

- WEATHER - When will Al Gore finally get his apology? It's pretty much hot everywhere. Yesterday, 48 of 50 states recorded temperatures of at least 90 degrees. 21 of 50 states recorded over 100, 26 at least 99 degrees. Valentine, NE, one of the hottest inhabited places recorded 113. Death Valley reached 126. AccuWeather says:
"The heat wave gripping the nation right now is one that doesn't come around every year. For example, how about the blistering temperatures in the Plains this past weekend? At least 40 records were broken Saturday, many by several degrees, and 20 more records fell Sunday. Among the records that fell Saturday were three all-time records, including an oppressive 117-degree reading in the capital city of South Dakota, Pierre. Records have been kept for over 70 years in each of the three cities that eclipsed all-time records."
Tomorrow we'll get a 5-10 degree break, but things will be toasty again by Wednesday.

- TIGERS - The Tigers have increased their lead over the White Sox to a less-than-razor-thin 4.5 games. We'll see if they can hold that, as their going up against the Sox in a series at Comerica starting tomorrow. It's impressive that the Tigers have maintained their record this far into the season. But they tend to falter when they go up against their fellow contenders; they've been swept by Chicago, and haven't fared well either against Boston or New York. (Oakland barely counts this year). I think this next week will be decisive; they have to be able to play pressure with ace teams if they're going to make the playoff, and this standoff with Chicago probably might have the division championship in the balance.

- JULY - Is Herbal / Prescription Awareness month.
- TODAY - Is Yellow Pig Day.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Last Saturday - Rembrandt. Sunday - Shoeless Joe Jackson, Tony Kushner.

Reuters: Mumbai train blasts kill over 160.
Major League Baseball: 2006 All-Star Game.
BBC News: G8 supports 'open' energy markets. Storm kills more than 100 in China.
New York Times: 2 Leaders Urge Peacekeeping Force for South of Lebanon.
New York Times: Pace of Israeli Attacks Steps Up.

Of all the classes you've ever taken, which would you choose to put more effort into if you had a chance to do it over again?


Friday, July 14, 2006

Understanding Postmodernism, #29.


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 5, Sentence 2:

And those politics would combine with two other factors to undermine high modernism and create a cultural stage for a variety of postmodernisms.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Lumas 22, 29.


Today: Pretty scary.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Understanding Postmodernism, #28.


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 5, Sentence 1:

That city, however, seemed to depend all too often on the most appalling politics.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Lumas 21, 29.


- JULY - is Bison month. (July is also under consideration to be M. Bison month).
- TODAY - Is Cow Appreciation Day.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Patrick Stewart and Harrison Ford.

What's That Bug?

What is the Beatles' greatest album?


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Understanding Postmodernism, #27.


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 4, Sentence 9:

Baudelaire's alienated withdrawal inside the intricacy of form now opens the way for rebuilding a formal site where the spirit learns to dwell reflexively within its own deepest powers and, for some of the poets, to project from such states the Orphic task of building a truly habitable city.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Lumas 20, 29.


- JULY - is Baked Beans month.
- TODAY - is the day when the sun rises and sets along Manhattan's gridline.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Henry David Thoreau and Bill Cosby.

TEMBOKBOMBER.COM - Jakarta graffiti.

What is your musical group called and what kind of music do you make? What would your first album be called?


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Understanding Postmodernism, #26.


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 4, Sentence 8:

And at the other pole, poets as diverse as Pound, Apollinaire, and late Rilke use syntactic gaps to articulate the powers of will or pure concentration to compose new models of self: cubist simultaneity and transformations of perceptual into conceptual realities provide the basis for imagining that the encounter with history can take on an intensity in the present, enabling one to "schufst du ihnen Tempel im Gehör" (build [your] temple deep inside hearing).

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.


Lumas 19, 29.


- JULY - is Copious Compliments month. I say this because my readers can not only assimilate this information but, being at the height of both physical beauty and cognitive prowess, put it to uses not merely complimentary, but transformative and transcendent in nature. You have a nice smile, too.
- TODAY - is World Population day.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - John Constable and Suzanne Vega.

"A poet that reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits."
- Robert A. Heinlein

Who was the most famous person to graduate from your high school?


Monday, July 10, 2006

Lumas 18, 29.


- ANOTHER ONE - To Kill a Mockingbird (the film).

- WEATHER - Tomorrow, as humid air from the gulf moves in against a cool front that moves down from Canada, races over the great lakes, storms will break out throughout Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York New Jersey, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachussetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, D.C. and Delaware, Georgia and Florida. Meanwhile, a desert high sits solid on the West over Nevada, Utah and Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma. A cool front presses across the northern Rocky mountains: Washington and Oregon. ··· Which of these trends will win out? ··· The desert high will win out; as the week progresses the jet stream will retreat north bring above-average temperatures to most of the nation.

- TIGERS - Baseball season is halfway over. Last year at this point, the Tigers we fifteen games back. This year, the Tigers are on top, the White Sox are 2 games back, the Red Sox 5, the Yankees 8. Very nice. Tonight: the Home Run Derby. Tomorrow: the All Star game. Featuring Tigers Pudge Rodriguez up-front and Kenny Rogers on reserve. (Unfortunately, no Verlander...) And about a million White Sox for you Sox fans.

- POSTMODERNISM - I forgot it today. I'll get it tomorrow. I'll be consistant this week. I promise!

- JULY - Is cell phone courtesy month. (Ought to be every month...)
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Marcel Proust.

- NEWS OF THE WEEK - Japan May Postpone North Korea Resolution.
Reuters: Chechen rebel leader Basayev killed: Tass.
ABC: Italy winds World Cup in penalty shoot-out.
The Star: Aviation history is made by 'flapper'
Guardian Unlimited: Japan Resolution Still Includes Sanctions. General Motors Board Agrees to Explore Nissan-Renault Alliance.
NPR: Craigslist Sued Over Housing Ads Content.

You think it's fun! But the rest of the world disagrees.


Friday, July 07, 2006

Understanding Postmodernism, #25.


This project is an informal discussion of modernism and postmodernism, ultimately to be applied to the larger Gothic Funk debate. A more detailed description of the project is available here. PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS AND JOIN THE DEBATE:

Paragraph 4, Sentence 7:

Thus Eliot's The Waste Land makes the failure to integrate the multiple layers within Western culture the poem's access to strange psychic states in which neurotic obsession borders on giving the mind access to the emotional conditions at the core of all self-transcending rituals.

Charles Altieri, "Modernism and Postmodernism," The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1993), 792-796.

NOTE: If you are interested in reviewing the entire article to get a sense of the arc of the essay, leave a comment and I'll see about sending you a copy.


Lumas 15, 29.


- WEATHER - Today is beautiful and blue almost everywhere. Granted, the gulf coast is being drenched with a mild low moving over Florida, bringing rain all the way to Texas. And the relief is temporary; by Monday the eastern half of the nation will be hot, muggy, and stormy as ever this year. But for today... ahhh.

- TIGERS - Trounced Oakland yesterday. Smarmy Dmitry Young is taking a break in the miners. Justin Verlander, on the other hand, won't be going to the All-Star game. I guess eight White Sox players aren't enough from one intraleague team.

- JULY - is anti-boredom month.
- MONDAY - was the Feast of St. Thomas and the start of the Dog Days.
- TUESDAY - was Independence Day and the moment when Earth was at Aphelion.
- SUNDAY - is the Feast of Our Lady of Peace.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Last Monday: Franz Kafka. Last Tuesday: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Victor Babeş, Louis Armstrong, and Ann Landers. Wednesday: P.T. Barnum. Yesterday: Frida Kahlo, Bill Haley, the Dalai Lama, and President Bush. Today: Ringo Starr and Robert Heinlein. Saturday: Beck. Sunday: Ann Radcliffe (who wrote The Mysteries of Udolpho), Matthew Lewis (who wrote The Monk), Tom Hanks, and Courtney Love.

Crazy week, newswise.
BBC News: Chad rebels 'launch CAR attack' Flag amendment fails by single vote.
BBC News: US Guantanamo tribunals 'illegal'
Houston Chronicle: 5 U.S. soldiers accused of Iraq rape, murders.
Reuters: Ex-Mexican president ordered arrested in massacre.
Reuters: Mexican Election Too Close To Call, Both Candidates Declare Victory. Rebels, government troops battle in Chad. U.S. officials: North Korea tests long-range missle. Independence Day liftoff for Discovery.
ABC News: China, Russia Resist North Korea Sanctions.
Associated Press: Enron founder Ken Lay dies of massive heart attack.
Washington Post: U.S., Allies Seek Punitive Action Aginst N. Korea.
Spaceflight Now: Discovery arrives at space station after a two day chase.
Newsday: NY court rules against gay marriage.
Reuters: Taiwan to test-fire missle.
Reuters: N. Korea may have long-range missle at site.
The New York Times: 3 Palestinians Killed as Israel Renews Strikes.

"We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don't like?"
- Jean Cocteau.

Art Crimes: New York 52.

The Greener Side: Bedbugs' neverending night on the town.


What is a memory you associate with the circus?


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I'll post something worthwhile on Friday...


Sorry guys, I've really just needed a little time to unwind. I'll be back on stride soon.