December 31, 2008

The New Year's Eve live-blog.

7:27 Central Time: Shouldn't you be out carousing? No. It's smart to stay in on the night when everyone else is out. So hang out here if you like. I hope you don't mind that I'm doing Central Time. But one must be somewhere? Where are you? Are you already in 2009? I see from Site Meter, that there are currently 142 people on the blog. There are readers in Dublin, Brighton, and Germany, so, hello, people of the future.

7:44: Celebrations around the world, but "A number of Arab nations - including Egypt, Jordan and Syria - cancelled planned celebrations in solidarity with Palestinians in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip after a fifth day of Israeli air-strikes on the coastal enclave."

8:24: Champagne cork popped.

8:44: I'm watching Mickey Kaus and Bob Wright doing their New Year's Bloggingheads.

9:27: "How cold is it in New York? Look at that jacket! What a candyass!" I exclaim, looking at Ryan Seacrest — whoops for a second there I called him Ryan Seaquest — who is wearing an overstuffed down jacket and ear muffs. We've turned on "Dick Clark's New York Rockin' Eve" — or whatever it's called. I check my iPhone. It's 19° in NYC. So: candyass! They go to commercial, and we switch to "South Park."

10:00: We're kind of excited about Kathy Griffin (along with Anderson Cooper) covering Times Square on CNN.

10:05: The sound technology on CNN is terrible! They're trying to talk to reporters in lots of different cities, and either they can't hear them or the crowd noise is blowing out the microphones. Now Anderson and Kathy can't hear each other when they are standing side by side. "Can we stop saying Pap smear?" Cooper asks, after Kathy makes a few Pap smear jokes.

10:52: CNN comes back from a commercial break with Lynyrd Skynyrd singing "Sweet Home Alabama" in Pikeville, Kentucky. It sounds terrible. Is it the CNN mikes? Or do they suck? Hey, is that Bill Clinton? Oh, that's not Kentucky now. It's New York City. And there's Hillary and Bloomberg. Bill is not wearing a puffy jacket. He's got a lovely brown leather jacket. Very attractive. He's got his values in order.

10:57: Close to the end in New York City. They're playing John Lennon singing "Imagine." Chris says: "It's sort of a downer of a song in the last 2 and a half minutes."

10:58: I'm kinda tired. Can I be on NY time?

10:59: The Clintons start the ball. The ball, the ball, the ball, the ball. Yay!!!! Happy New Year!!!!!!!

11:00: "Oh, I'm tired! Can I be on NY time?" "No! You have to be on the time that you're in!"

11:01: Oh! Good lord! The Clintons are dancing and it makes me cry! Now, Kathy and Anderson are dancing, and Kathy says to Anderson, "Are you seeing anyone?" and we all know that's a huge joke.

10:05: "2 thousand and 9. We got to the big 9." I say that, as if 9 is an especially magnificent numeral. CNN plays Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York," then Ray Charles singing "America the Beautiful," then Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World."

10:08: Lot's of folks are wearing those 2009 glasses, and I suddenly realize that this is the last year for the 00 glasses. You'll have to wait until the year 3000 to wear glasses like that. Will we even have eyes in 3000?

11:30: We've finished the bottle of champagne, and I'm making herb tea, as if that will keep me up until midnight. I've muted the TV, which is really annoying me, and Chris and I are making lists of all the movies we saw in 2008 and putting them in order. This little effort wakes me up a bit. Here's my list:
The Fall
Milk
Slumdog Millionaire
Synecdoche, New York
The Reader
Mongol
Iron Man
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Faster, Bigger, Stronger
Standard Operating Procedure
U23D
Australia
Dark Knight
Children of Huang Shi
Doubt
Rachel Getting Married
Sex and the City
11:35: Chris IMs his movie list:
Milk
The Fall
The Reader
Synecdoche, New York
Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Doubt
Frost/Nixon
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
U23D
Mirrors
Rachel Getting Married
Sex and the City
11:40: A shot of Times Square: Everyone has cleared out. Weird. It was the place to be, and then it's nothing.

11:47: Okay, now, who's in the Central Time Zone with me? The Central Time Zone rules!

11:51: "We're the only ones here! This is like a really messed up bar!" So says Kathy Griffin, looking down at Times Square. Anderson Cooper explains the notion of time zones.

11:59: CNN is playing some crap music. This is not the way I want to end a year or indeed what I want to do anywhere.

12:00: HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! We watched CNN do the countdown in New Orleans. It was really lamely done. "Wouldn't it be great if there was a hologram of the Clintons dancing there?" says Kathy Griffin. We laugh. First laugh of the year. That can't be the biggest laugh of the year. Let's hope there are many laughs.

UPDATE, 10/22/11: I'm just reading this by chance and laughing at that last line Let's hope there are many laughs. In the year I was anticipating, I met Meade in January, fell in love with him in February, and married him in August. 2009 was brimming with excitement and happiness... and many, many laughs.

UPDATE: 12/12/14: I'm just rereading this again, including my 2011 update calling attention to my the last line Let's hope there are many laughs, and I'm seeing that Meade, at 1/1/09, 7:51 AM, quoted that line and said:
"First laugh of the year. That can't be the biggest laugh of the year. Let's hope there are many laughs"

Raising my cup to that sentiment and taking my first sip of hot strong black coffee to that.

I am wishing Althouse and all her wacky worldly-wise wonderful readers a new year filled with hope, love, and friendship.

And laughter... always laughter.

My idiosyncratic list of quotes from the second half of the year.

I've already done the months of January-June, and I simply must finish this project. So, quickly, here goes.

"This is someone thinking 'I'll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and i know best.' Well, you fucking don't. This was shit, shit sub-editing for three reasons...." Giles Coren rants about copy editing.

"'Crackhead' is an embarrassing line item to have on a résumé." New York Times writer David Carr tells his sordid story.

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining." The quote that wrecked Phil Gramm.

"I wasn’t exactly sure what to say to you, except to start with, God, I love our country and I love what we stand for." Bush at the Olympics.

"The more I'm in public, I don't even want to pick my nose." Obama.

[MORE QUOTES TO COME!]

A few scattered thoughts on the movie "Doubt."

1. For a movie full of nuns and priests, there was damned little religion in it. There were references to "mortal sin," and Bibles and crosses were displayed, but I don't think anyone ever mentioned God or Jesus. In church, at Christmas, the priest was saying "Happy Holidays." Now that was part of his character. He also wanted the Catholic school kids to sing some secular Christmas songs. The head nun had a big problem with that, but somehow managed to voice her disapproval without talking religion.

2. Unfortunately, having fought insomnia all last night, I kept slipping into little naps. Maybe it was all God, Jesus, and Mary when I was snoozing, but I think not.

3. Booger acting. I know many actors go for the tears-streaming-streaming-down face or the single tear welling up and finally dripping slowly down the cheek, but tears are the most pleasant of the bodily fluids. In "Doubt," one character goes for many long minutes with mucus flowing from her nostrils, even taking the path across the lips and into the mouth. It's kind of distracting! Not since "Blair Witch Project" have we seen such booger acting.

4. I kept trying to picture how the play was staged. Now, I've looked it up. From Ben Brantley's 2004 review: "The play unfolds mostly as a series of dialogues, punctuated by two monologues - sermons delivered by Father Flynn to his congregation on the subjects of doubt and gossip." That sounds better than the movie.

5. It wasn't bad. It had a tight script and some nice Streepage.

6. "I don't have an organized religious thing, but I have love in my life."

7. I'm seeing all the well-reviewed year-end movies, and there's an awful lot of wrong-age sex. "Doubt" is about a priest accused of molesting children. "Benjamin Button," with its backwards aging character, had scenes of an old man in love with a young girl and an old woman in love with a toddler. "The Reader" had a 36-year-old woman seducing a 15-year-old boy. "Milk" had a man in his 40s pursuing relationships with much younger (and more fragile) men. "Slumdog Millionaire" shows a young teenage girl being sold for sex. I say that Hollywood is delivering pedophiliac titillation with the deniability of artistic pretension.

8. "Doubt" works as a law movie. There are no lawyers or trials, but the subject of evidence is well-explored. There's an especially good illustration of the way a lie can be used to produce a reaction that constitutes relevant evidence.

9. We had a long discussion of the meaning of the little magnetic dancing ballerina the priest gives the boy.

ADDED: John Podhoretz gets it exactly right. Slightly spoilerish Excerpt"
[Writer-director John Patrick] Shanley's certitude about the lack of certitude in his play demonstrates why it was a mistake to put him at the helm of the movie version, since it proves he is an even worse interpreter of his own work than he is a director of it....

Doubt works not because the story is ambiguous, but because it is not ambiguous. It is, rather, a potent and unforgettable account of systemic injustice.
Podhoretz, like me, is not buying the bogus profundity of snot: "Viola Davis... may win an Oscar for best supporting actress largely because she goes without a tissue for a few minutes."

The New Year's Tick has arrrived, replacing Father Time, The New Year Baby, and The Ball.

I asked for your drawings and photoshoppings of the new New Year's mascot, the New Year's Tick. That lovable master of the animated gif, Chip Ahoy, has come forward, so let's do the countdown.

I'm still looking for drawing of the tick that make him lovable and memorable. I've thought of a name: Tock the Tick. See? He represents time.

***

I've done all my out-of-the-house New Year's celebrating yesterday and today, and now I'll be home blogging tonight, so please hang out here. I've got a couple things I want to post, and then I'll start a New Year's Eve live-blog post. We'll talk about the old and the new and what's on TV, we may reproduce some of what passes for conversation chez Althouse, and if we are lucky, as the clock ticks, there will be more New Year's ticks.

Harvey Milk speech.

"Milk" may be the best movie in all of the following categories:

1. Depiction of the political process. (Other example: "The Candidate.")

2. Blending recreated historical scenes with archival footage of historical events.

3. Recreating the look and feel of the 1970s. (Other example: "Boogie Nights.")

4. Making an implicit and effective argument for a political position.

5. Showing a character's emotions through his reaction to opera. (Other examples: "Moonstruck," "Slumdog Millionaire.")

6. Artistic representation of the moment of death.

7. Artistic representation of assassination.

8. A serious drama that creates surprising empathy for a character who doesn't deserve it and is not the hero of the story. (Josh Brolin was painfully brilliant as Dan White.)

9. Depiction of a formal debate in a political campaign. (The debate with Briggs about Prop 6.)

10. A character tells his story into the microphone of a tape recorder. (Other examples: Philip Baker Hall as Nixon in Robert Altman's "Secret Honor," John Hurt in Atom Egoyan's version of "Krapp's Last Tape.")(Not quite in the category: Ralph Fiennes in "The Reader." It's not in the category because — spoiler — he's reading books, not telling his own story.)

11. Scene reflected in a convex mirror. (The fisheye effect.)

12. Scene shot through a window with reflections on the window.

13. Depicting the importance of whistles. (Here's the competition.)

14. Depiction of political apathy. (The first appearance of Cleve Jones, played by Emile Hirsch, who was Chris McCandless in "Into the Wild.")

15. Use of notes stuck all over the wall to create alarm about a character's mental distress. (Other example: "A Beautiful Mind.")

16. Recitation of (part of) "The Declaration of Independence."

17. Actors looking uncannily like the real-life characters they play.

18. Sean Penn movie.

19. Gus Van Sant movie.

20. Movie released in 2008.

"The Sensitive Female Chord Progression."

It's everywhere, apparently. I'm not sensitive enough to chords to be able to hear things like this on my own (though it helps me a lot to know that a suspect progression can be tested by seeing if you can sing "What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?" over it).

(Thanks to EDH for sending the link.)

I'm quite serious about replacing the depressing Father Time/Baby New Year with the New Year's Tick.

I like to frontpage comments, you know, and now and then, I need to frontpage my own comments. This is one of those times.

There was that "tick" post on New Year's Eve Eve (i.e., last night):
"New Year to arrive a tick later."

Oh! A tick!
Ricpic waxes poetic:
The New Year came in wobbly.
A tick or two behind.
It threw off lonely sticklers.
The rest? They didn't mind.
And Stephanie says:
?retal kcot a evirra ti t'nseoD
(Wait a sec, I have to do this.)

Then blogging cockroach says...
tou ieduv siht kcehc einahpets yeh
... and links to this:



That drives reader_iam to poesy:
i do love the backwards elements of the cockroach nature
as don't we all
or at least should
if not ought
Blogging cockroach responds in kind:
that should be tuo
which proves i ve had too much
spilled cheap merlot tonight
to be hopping around backwards
lookout when the champaign flows
tomorrow night wheee
which i hope doesn t turn into
eeehw
anyway here is tick tock gone bad
and too long
but you can stop it when it
ceases being funny about 40 seconds in
hey they can t all be gems
and i promise never to trip
trippingly to reader s ear
a cockroach doing that would
freak some people out
but just don t sleep on the kitchen floor
and we ll all be fine
Chip Ahoy says:
.diputs era stac yhW

dnuora gnifoog tsuj s'ti swohs swollof taht oediv etunim 4 ehT .yllaer toN
The cockroach continues to inspire reader_iam:
ah but cockroach
your trips are tweets to the ear
like birds in dawn of spring s own dawn
here here see here they sing
back again as always are we
so wake up
if only, and to ...
The cockroach skitters on across the keyboard again:
not having the vers libre poet in me
i fear my prosaic nature sometimes
misses the subtleties of
dear reader s lovely lines
which is not to say
reader should not write
a lot more of them
because you always want more
when someone doesn t quite
write enough rather than when
they write too much
which is also true about food
but i m not as appreciative when
the cook has cleaned up
too well afterwards
Then, when everyone is nestled all snug in their beds, I am awake. It's 2:23 a.m.:
And where is everyone? Last night, you guys were talking all night, and now here I am with insomnia and no one is around.

Were you afraid of the tick?

Thanks for all the poetry, but it was all before midnight. If you can't stay up until midnight tonight, how do you expect to celebrate New Year's Eve tomorrow night?

I think I'll try to draw a picture of the New Year's Tick. Or see if I can get people to send pictures of the New Year's Tick. And I'm going to push for the adoption of the New Year's Tick as the new New Year's mascot, replacing that stupid — and frankly depressing — Old Man and Baby mascot. Or the Ball. What the hell kind of symbol is a Ball?

I hope that doesn't offend blogging cockroach. You must understand that we can't have a cockroach as a holiday symbol. Not for New Year's anyway.

This insomnia is giving me grandiose thoughts, but I really think this New Year's Tick thing can catch on. Perhaps if we draw it the right way. I think Santa Claus wasn't such a big deal until those Coca Cola ads got the character drawn just the right way. People loved him once his attributes became appealing and standardized.

Help me do that with the Tick.

Also, that "Night Before Christmas" poem helped with the popularization of Santa Claus, so maybe some of you poets can write something similarly beguiling about the annual arachnid.

Inside the kitty cat wall clock he hid/Our eagerly awaited arachnid.

See? I can't do it!

An arthropod/From God/Trod...

No... I need help with the poem. And with the drawing. And with the sleeping.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds/Not knowing the Tick crept so close to their heads....
(Links added.)

In the cold light of morning — and it's — I can see these are not mere insomniac ravings. I really do want drawings — or photoshoppings — of the New Year's Tick. I will reward you with frontpagings and tags. More poems too. I love the poems and the depictions of ticks — detickshuns, if you will.

We went out in the icy snow and celebrated last night. Tonight we stay in. I'll be live-blogging New Year's Eve, so please join me. I will reward you profusely with frontpagings and tags... and ticks.

"Granted he's in Chicago now, he's cut his teeth in politics in Chicago. But when I saw him walking around town in rubber slippers..."

"... I said, OK, that's who he is. That's the local boy that grew up here. How many other people go away, come back, and slip right back into rubber slippers?"

He also "flashes the 'shaka' or hang loose sign," he seems to love "shave ice," and "he's got the nice form" in body surfing, this Prez-E of ours.

The List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

The proclamation has come down. You can no longer use "maverick," "from Wall Street to Main Street," "desperate search," "monkey" (the suffix), "game-changing," "carbon footprint," "winner of five nominations," "green," "going green," "first dude," "staycation." Probably a lot more. I'm culling these words from a tediously written article, when I just want to see the list, because I can't get to the official website.

"Any unbigoted or bigoted books on God or merely religion, as written by persons whose last names begin with any letter after H..."

"... to stay on the safe side, please include H itself, though I think I have mostly exhausted it. ... The complete works again of Count Leo Tolstoy. ... Charles Dickens, either in blessed entirety or in any touching shape or form. My God, I salute you, Charles Dickens!"

The books Seymour asked to have sent to him, in "the longest, most pretentious (and least plausible) letter from camp ever written," the last thing J.D. Salinger published. Salinger turns 90 on New Year's Day, which provides an occasion for pondering the oft-pondered question: What's he been doing all these years?

***

Hey, I wonder if Richard Hasn't-Slept-With-Althouse Cohen is impressed by Seymour's book list?

***

Have you noticed that Instapundit always has a post that goes up in the middle of the night? Think he's really up and writing then? I'm really up now, writing. Maybe old J.D. is up and writing, adding one more sheet to the stack of pages he started piling up more than 40 years ago.

UPDATE: Instapundit awakens and answers my question:
Those are scheduled posts, for the benefit of people in the other hemisphere, or people who are up late and bored.
Tigerhawk razzes:
Is there any person with more regard for his fellow man than Glenn Reynolds? He is actually concerned with the welfare of bored people all around the world! And I agree. What with all the people worried about starvation, disease, war, and poverty, somebody has to speak out for the bored. Glenn has put his stake in the ground and said "the boredom stops here!," and I am down with that.
Much as I'm gratified by the instaänswer and tigerhawkswoopery, I'm a little sad that this discussion of boredom has occurred on the J.D. Salinger post and not yesterday's Camus post where boredom — ennui — would have fit so nicely. In Reynoldsian theory, the French existentialists must rank high, as they attend to the great problem of boredom. In Althousian theory, the blogger is not here to help you with your boredom, but to delight at serendipitous juxtapositions. So here is something Jean-Paul Sartre's blogged last October:
My sleep continues to be troubled by odd dreams. Last night I dreamt that I was a beetle, clinging to the slick surface of a water-soaked log as it careened down a rain-swollen stream toward a waterfall. A figure appeared on the horizon, and as the log drew closer I could see that it was Camus. He held out a hand and I desperately reached for it with my tiny feeler. Just as the log drew abreast of Camus he suddenly wihdrew his hand, swooped it through his hair and sneered "Too slow," adding superfluously: "Psych."

It is my belief that the log symbolizes the precariousness of Existence, while the tiny feeler represents Man's essential powerlessness. And Camus represents Camus, that fatuous ninny.

Read the whole blog, Being and Nothingness, where the tags are:
bleakness
despair
ennui
existence
meaninglessness
the bourgeoisie

December 30, 2008

"New Year to arrive a tick later."

Oh! A tick!

Beleaguered Blagojevich will go ahead and appoint a Senator: Roland Burris.

"Mr. Burris, 71 and a Democrat, is a longtime political player in this state, who has run for governor before, including mounting a primary challenge against Mr. Blagojevich. Mr. Obama backed him over Mr. Blagojevich in that race."

Richard Cohen reacts to that Karl Rove column about how President Bush read a lot of books while he was President.

And by "Richard Cohen," I do not mean my ex-husband Richard Cohen. I mean that WaPo columnist to whom people have often asked me if I am/was married.

The never-slept-with-Althouse Cohen writes:
One of [the books Bush read] was Albert Camus' "The Stranger," with its unforgettable opening lines: "Mother died today. Or perhaps it was yesterday, I don't know." After reading Rove's Wall Street Journal column, it's clear there's much we all don't know.

Bush's choice of the Camus classic is odd on the face of it. It is a novel about estrangement, about an amoral, irreligious man (Meursault) who never shows emotion. It is a book out of my Gauloise-smoking youth, read in the vain pursuit of women of literary bent,* and not something I would think an over-60 president would read. Maybe this is what happens when you have to give up jogging.
And what's Cohen's excuse for forgetting so much of the book he claims to have read? Or did he just read the first page? Or was that just the only part of the book that was "unforgettable"? If you want to skewer Bush for reading "The Stranger," you should bring up the part where he kills an Arab for virtually no reason at all.
[T]hat Bush is a prodigious, industrial reader... does not conform at all to his critics' idea of who he is.
"Industrial reader" is a good phrase, one that makes me think I'm being too mean to RC.
They would prefer seeing him as a dolt, since that, as opposed to policy or ideological differences, is a briefer, more bloggish explanation of what went wrong.
Bloggish? Bloggish? As if your column — your column that is entirely parasitic on Rove's column (ugh! that sounds like Rove needs a medicinal ointment) — is so damned deep. Cohen, you're losing me.
[But] the books themselves reveal -- actually, confirm -- something about Bush that maybe Rove did not intend. They are not the reading of a widely read man, but instead the books of a man who seeks -- and sees -- vindication in every page....

The list Rove provides is long, but it is narrow. It lacks whole shelves of books on how and why the Iraq war was a mistake, one that metastasized into a debacle.
Metastasized into a debacle? That's one of those dead-metaphor mixed metaphors. I wonder what George Bush thinks about mixed metaphors....
Bush read David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter," which is about the Korean War, but not on the list is Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest," which is about the Vietnam War. Bush read some novels, but they are mostly pre-movies, plotted not written, and lacking the beauty of worldly cynicism. I recommend Giuseppe di Lampedusa's "The Leopard." Delicious.
Delicious? Are women attracted to men who pronounce things that are not food/drink "delicious"? I think not! And what's his point? From the novel:
"We were the Leopards, the Lions, those who'll take our place will be little jackals, hyenas; and the whole lot of us, Leopards, jackals, and sheep, we'll all go on thinking ourselves the salt of the earth."
So... the Democrats are jackals and sheep?
_____

* That might have impressed Althouse. But the truth is that I can't think of a single time that I found a man attractive because I noticed the book he was reading. And yet there are many times when I snap-judged a man to be a fool because of the book he was reading. Be careful with the books, lads.

_____

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade said:
"I wonder what George Bush thinks about mixed metaphors...."

Best bloggish idle musing of the year!
I really appreciate that. Meade has my number.
NOW will you sleep with me?
More things to wonder about.

Anthony said:
C'mon already, Althy, we're waiting for what books would make you throw yourself in a blind passion at he-who-would-be-reading-one.
Well, there's "Get Me a Table Without Flies, Harry"...
A friend once told me that (this was in the late '80s, mind you) if I just went into a local coffee shop wearing my spandex biking shorts and read Sartre I'd "get all the p*ssy you want". Maybe so, but it'd be hairy and wearing Birkenstocks. No, I never tried it.
Who wears shoes that way? Is it like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and socks? (NSFW.)

Chip Ahoy said...
Why Literature Is Bad For You, Peter Thorpe

A onetime professor of literature at CU Boulder. Here, let me save you $3.20 on the secondary market. The book amounts to a screed against the people with whom Professor Thorpe shared a Department, and the Masters students with whom he came into contact. He apparently studied their traits closely, eagerly tallied their most damaging characteristics and categorized them, then described how it was Literature that distorted otherwise perfectly good personalities. It's hilarious. It's horrible. I laughed, I cried, I couldn't eat or sleep for days. I'm fairly certain I made up this last part, or possibly I read it somewhere.

Yes, that's right, I'm doing it too. Cohen reminds me of someone I've previously met somewhere in literature. His archetype has already been perfectly delineated in a book by a writer good at describing people. I automatically subsumed Cohen to a characterization I have already meet, thus I deny his unique contribution, if there is one.

Actually, Cohen's review, which I'm smart enough to avoid, makes me go, "Gah!" Reminds me of real people I know in real life, irritating people, always eager to tell me what books I really must read, lists of them, in order to become enlightened like themselves. The unstated assumption sits flatly, that I'll remain dull and unenlightened until then. I reflexively spit on the floor and immediately regret having spit, because it is uncivilized, and because now somebody must clean it up, most likely myself.

And have you ever cleaned spit off a carpet? A dampened rag, a little Oxiclean, it's not all that bad. But I wouldn't have to do it! If everyone would just stop telling me which books I must read, and stop using words like Galuoise instead of cigarettes, industrial instead of industrious, and delicious instead of good. Yes, it reminds me of overlapping cases in Peter Thorpe's book. Students of literature, avoid them.

On the other hand, I'm reading Robert Sabuda's delicious adaption of Barrie's Peter Pan. Well, I'm not actually reading it, but rather, I'm studying the industrial pop-ups. A real tour de force in pop-uppery, and you're really not sufficiently educated in paper engineering pop-up mechanisms until you've studied Robert Sabuda.

This is a fun game to play. Let's bludgeon each other with the names of books we supposedly read, or possibly scanned the cover jackets or the Cliff Notes, or possibly heard about, and then use inappropriately artsy adjectives in an effort to elevate ourselves at each other's expense. Sniff.
Wow! Now, I think "Why Literature Is Bad For You" would work.

As for "Robert Sabuda's delicious adaption of Barrie's Peter Pan"... delicious... Chip Ahoy is named after a cookie, so it might be okay to call him delicious.

AND: About Chip's fun game — naming "books we supposedly read, or possibly scanned the cover jackets or the Cliff Notes, or possibly heard about, and then us[ing] inappropriately artsy adjectives in an effort to elevate ourselves at each other's expense" — may I suggest the adjectives "luminous" and "astonishing."

To all my commenters, the best commenters in the blogosphere.

Yesterday, the day I saw "The Curious Life of Benjamin Button" and wrote that post, I conked out early.

Oh, I don't know if it was from the movie or from the pizza and one glass of wine I had afterward or just from being somewhat old. Most of the people in the movie audience were old, so old, that when Cate Blanchett reassured the getting-younger Benjamin by saying that we all wear diapers in the end, and the chuckle from the audience was unnervingly warm, I had to speculate that there was a high Depends-to-butt ratio in the theater at that very moment. And who knows? Perhaps young soda-swillers wear Depends to the movies, especially to 3-hour extravaganzas like "Benjamin Button." Especially with all that water imagery:
[W]ater is often seen as a symbol for birth/re-birth, and [I] thought they used it well. Spoilers: The dad nearly throws Pitt in the water in the beginning, Pitt takes the dad to sit by the water, Tilda Swinton swims the English Channel, all of the work Pitt does on the boat and the sailing, Daisy takes up swimming after her injury, Hurricane Katrina...anything else?)
And Benjamin fighting the Nazis at sea. Or should I say Ben or Ben-yah-meen?
Here's a weird-ass quirk of mine: For years now, anywhere and everywhere I see the name "Benjamin" used in a narrative (especially a grand, old one) I substitute plain old "Ben." Amazing, how well that works and the perspective it brings.

I studied Arabic one summer during college, and there was a white guy in the program named Benjamin who insisted we all call him Ben-yah-meen. That experience, I think, has much the same effect on Benjamin perspective.
The quote in that first block is from Zachary Paul Sire in the comments. The 2 in the second block are from reader_iam and Freeman Hunt.

See? This post is a tribute to all the commenters who kept an interesting conversation going all night on that thread that I conked out after writing. In the morning, it's my habit to reach for my iPhone before so much as sitting up in bed. Supine, I check the news, mostly to assure myself that nothing terrible happened during the hours when I wasn't paying attention. (The Yellowstone caldera has not exploded, despite the recent, strange swarm of earthquakes.) Then, I read blog comments for a while. Last night's post had accumulated 73 comments. The second one was from me, right before I fell asleep. I was responding to the first comment, from Zachary Paul Sire, who wanted to know if I liked the movie, a matter I'd considered beside the point of the post. I answered:
It was okay. It would have been much better if it were tightened up... and livened up. Like many high-budget, high-aspiration movies of today, it was embalmed. Its "I have always loved you" theme was very conventional, and I never felt much real passion between the 2 lead actors. And neither of them ever said anything clever. But there were some excellent special effects in aging and youthening Pitt and Blanchett, and there were some nice moments. Where to cut? You can cut all whole old dying woman and her daughter scenes, as far as I'm concerned. Reminded me of "Titanic," bringing in an old, old woman to tell the story of her big love to her daughter.
71 comments ensued. I can't reprint them all. But I intend to frontpage much more than usual this morning.

Chuck b. said:
I always enjoy the Althousian disdain for sentimentality (or is it a midwesterner's disdain? or maybe it's just very lawyerly), although I myself enjoy many sentimental films.

Actually, I'm not very good at recognizing sentimentality when I see it. I just let myself get played.

... although I don't cry as much during commercials and sentimental television things as much as Althouse does. Actually, that's interesting. A'house report tearage not infrequently. Does that have something to do with her negative reactions toward...ineffective sentimentality?
Am I midwestern? The most midwestern thing about me is that my mother grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Second is: I went to college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Third: I've taught at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison, Wisconsin since 1984 (since I was 33 years old). So: 1. My formative years were not spent in the midwest, and 2. My time in the midwest has entirely been in these 2 university towns that don't really represent the region.

As for crying and sentimentality... 1. I might cry about something sentimental the way I might sneeze in the presence of dusty black pepper. It doesn't mean I admire the cause of the reflex. Quite the opposite. 2. I am cold to some emotional manipulations and susceptible to others. I might get judgmental and resist everything, but I might indulge and enjoy the easily won emotions of sentimentality. There is some good sentimentality. "The Bill Cosby Show" always made me cry. (And I do mean "The Bill Cosby Show," not "The Cosby Show," which I never watched.) 3. There are some things I regard as real art. I keep these separate, whether they provoke crying or not. The Kubrick movie "Lolita" caused me to cry profusely, but only after it was over, when I was trying to talk about it. That meant something.

Palladian said:
["Ben Button" s]ounds like a miserable Oscar-bait remake of "Big".
"Big" was much more fun, but like "Big," it gave us a chance to see an adult woman in love with a little boy — without all that nasty guilt that comes from awareness that we are witnessing pedophilia. Unlike "Big," it gave us a chance to see an old man in love with a little girl. Ah, but he's only 7! He's her age. And when an old woman tells him he should be ashamed of himself, we sympathize with the old man. I mean the little boy. And I bet pedophiliac old men believe that at heart they too are little boys.
And Brad Pit and Cate Blanchett? Can there be two more overexposed, boring actors on the planet?
Zachary Paul Sire said:
I love Cate Blanchett (anyone seen "Notes On A Scandal"? Now that's a good movie)...but Brad Pitt has never, ever been interesting to me. I can't think of one movie he's been in that I've enjoyed. Maybe "12 Monkeys," but that's because he was a supporting character. He and Cate, like Althouse said, had absolutely no passion or believability. Lifeless. Boring.
I love Brad in "12 Monkeys." Also in "Fight Club." In fact, I have a lot of respect for Brad Pitt. He picks some artistic projects, and he doesn't just rely on his pretty face — though perhaps he uglifies himself in part for the purpose of sending the message that he is so gorgeous that even uglified he's divine. In "Ben Button," he puts on that old age makeup, but then he emerges from it, so that Brad Pittifulness seems astoundingly new again. He then gets to progress to his "Thelma and Louise" level of insane male beauty. There's a scene in "Button" where he returns to the (old) Cate Blanchett in this form and she exclaims "You're perfect!" and I wanted her to say "Oh my God! You're Brad Pitt!"

Titus said:
For the most part I hate almost every movie that comes out because I find them too boring and too much made for "normal America". I also hate sitting in a movie theater for two hours with other people....

On a seperate [sic] note I have a fear of the dentist. I am only able to go once a year because I literally freak out 24 hours before I go. I have to be sedated, gased and anything else to go. I go every year in January but I now have a toothache so I have to go tomorrow and I am freaking out....

The only good news about going to the dentist tomorrow is he gives me good drugs.

He is a big liberal. His wife works at the front desk and his dog runs around the office.

My dentist is a straight queen. Every time I go in there he shows me one of his new Yoga poses that he has just conquered.
Chuck b. said...
"My dentist is a straight queen."

I loathe heterosexual gay men. What's the phobicity for that?

My dentist is a feisty latina and I am devoted to her. As a regular flosser and non-drinker of sugary beverages, my teeth are always clean and my gums are "tight". I love it when she tells me my gums are tight. Noone else tells me that.
Beth — who lives in New Orleans, the city featured in the movie but not the Fitzgerald story — said:
The more days I am from having seen ["Ben Button"], the more little "hey, that didn't add up" moments I think of. I too could have done without the entire mother/daughter hospital plot. I kept dreading possible outcomes, and that was a distraction.

And no, there's no real chemistry between the leads. There were much more appealing relationships -- b/w Benjamin and the folks in the home, mainly. And the tugboat captain was a favorite of mine.

But I am a partisan for it still; there are lots of movies shot in New Orleans, and this one made such wonderful use of places I love. The bandstand where Daisy does her nighttime dance is one where my friends and I would perform late at night, running wild in the park as teens. Lanaux House, the setting for the Button household, was also the setting for the nasty Gallier sibling household in the 1982 version of Cat People. Overall, I just loved our streets and houses and streetcars and greenery. It all looked so good.
Chuck b. said:
I was in N'awlins once for a week, drunk the whole time. I ate every meal at Paul Prudhomme's place (spelling?!) and marvelled at the cockroaches on the sidewalk that came out when the sun went down. I walked all the way back to my hotel stepping on one cockroach after another, like stepping stones. God, what a great town.
Palladian said:
I cry at the end of "It's A Wonderful Life"....

"It's A Wonderful Life" is a perfect movie. I know that some people think it's commie propaganda and that some douchebag at the New York Times (natch) trashed it this year, but still. Brilliantly detailed, perfect performances. Sob, sob.
Zachary Paul Sire said:
I've actually never watched the entire "It's A Wonderful Life" from beginning to end. I've also never watched an entire episode of "The Simpsons" from beginning to end. Some things just don't appeal to me.
Chuck b. said...
I've never seen It's a Wonderful Life, even a little bit of it.
LoafingOaf said:
I'm also sorry I don't find life so wonderful. Will the movie change my mind? I still smile through most days, though. Life is depressing but you may as well life at it.

Sometimes I come to Althouse blog and the prof's life seems so perfect, and I've never been able to detect any terrible, or even messy, things going on beneath the surface. She's even chummy with her ex, and her sons seem way too well-adjusted. Does she keep it hidden, or is she for real? She seems so "together" I feel if I browse her blog enough it will rub off on me a little. But I do wanna determine whether she just keeps it hidden or if her having her shit so "together" is for real.
You should read what they say about me on those other blogs — where I'm a decrepit, crazy drunk. Obviously, I control the message here. But, in fact, I don't lie about myself. Even though some of my antagonists think I'm outrageously self-absorbed, I rarely reveal anything about my real-world life. Haven't you noticed? My topic selection and various opinions and attitudes may seem idiosyncratic and distinctive enough to give the impression of a window into my life. And my photographs, by physical necessity, show my point of view. But I'm not telling you about any sorrows and struggles that may afflict me. Yes, I have a job that immensely benefits me, but it is exceedingly rare for me to write about my colleagues or students. If they were giving me trouble, you wouldn't know. I'm very lucky to have 2 sons — but I'm not going to say anything bad about them, and I mostly don't write about them. And you see my occasional chumminess with my ex-husband, but we separated more than 20 years ago. You have no evidence at all of any post-1987 love affairs that I may have had and how I may have suffered.

LoafingOaf said:
Oh, well, at least Sarah Palin's life and family turned out to be a mess.
Beth said:
LoafingOaf, I'm just making a guess here, so cut me some slack if I'm offbase.

You might find life a little less depressing if you cut back on the hating, just a bit. Take Palin, for example. She's not running for anything right now. She lost. Why bother looking for a Palin thread anywhere? I know, I know; there are scores of conservatives who can't get through a day without hating on Algore or blaming Bill Clinton for today's crappy economy or holding out for Obama's super-secret African birth certificate -- but they're not good examples for you to follow.

I'm not saying you should be Mary Sunshine, but a small adjustments might be in order. If you just keep your targets of anger current, you'll cut back on a lot of unnecessary bile. And that will increase the room for a bit of wonder in your life.
See how we help each other here?

Chickenlittle said:
She's even chummy with her ex, and her sons seem way too well-adjusted. Does she keep it hidden, or is she for real?

My ex-girlfriend is chummy with my wife. She's coming to visit next weekend--with her husband. We all laugh and joke about the past.

My point is that you can choose to get past horrible hurts in the past--or not. It all depends on the parties involved (and their will to party)
Palladian said:
"Oh, well, at least Sarah Palin's life and family turned out to be a mess."

A mess? She was nominee for vice-president. She has a beautiful family. If you want a mess you should look to yourself and figure out why this woman drove you crazy, why this woman turned you from an interesting commenter to a bitter, twisted loser. Take Beth's advice, Mr Sullivan, and chill out.
Reader_iam, quoting me in the original "Ben Button" post, said:
the old story is crisp and unsentimental

Indeed.
Finally, some love for Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald.

And that's the end of the line in this paean to commenters.

Happy New Year, everybody. Let's sing "Auld Lang Syne":

"So, is Bristol's baby's name one last dig at Hillary from the Palin family?"

"Sarah's first grandchild is named after Hillary's husband's nemesis...Linda Tripp! Sarah always manages to one-up Hillary!"

Wrote Zachary Paul Sire, somewhere in the long comments thread that spun out under my "Benjamin Button" commentary last night.

IN THE COMMENTS: Henry Buck says:
The Palins (I don't know about the Johnsons) just seem to like boys names that begin with Tr-

Track, Trig, Tripp ...

What's next? Trap?
EDH said:
No, Trog?

A remake by Oliver Stone, with Sarah Palin as Joan Crawford.

"Whatever the risk, this kill-crazy fiend from Hell must be destroyed!"
I prefer Trogg to make everything groovy. But if it's a dirty and sweet rock-star kid you want, call him Trex.

To stress conservatism, call him Trad.

Stay away from Trick, Truss, Troll, and Tran.

If you get twins, call them Tried and True.

December 29, 2008

I saw the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," about a man who is born old and grows younger.

Afterwards I read the F. Scott Fitzgerald story with the same title, and it seemed to me that we ourselves are living backwards, because the old story is crisp and unsentimental, and the new movie long, slow-moving, and nearly all soft edges. We younger ones are older.

Or, no. We like to think of ourselves as younger than the people who lived years ago, but we are the ones who live in an older culture. Even though F. Scott Fitzgerald would be terribly old -- 112 -- if he were still alive, he lived in a younger culture. So it's not backwards at all for us to be the ones who've gone all soft and sentimental.

Sentimental things that are in the movie but not in the story [spoiler alert]: baby Benjamin's mother dies in childbirth, his father is horrified by his old-man baby and abandons him on a doorstep, he's brought up by a kindly black woman, his love interest is named Daisy, he earnestly loves her all his life, she's a ballet dancer, she dances in the moonlight, she suffers a crippling injury, we see her as an old woman reminiscing and dying, there are churches full of histrionic black people, the Button family actually makes buttons, Benjamin sails the seas, Benjamin goes to Russia and to Paris, there's lightning, there's a hurricane, Benjamin carries his father down to the waterside to watch the sunrise, various characters philosophize about the transiency of life and the need to accept death, etc. etc.

The Howdy Doody caveman.

Neanderthals had red hair and freckles. (Maybe.)

(Can somebody Photoshop an image?)

ADDED: Combine:



Ah, there's this:



ADDED: 2 images, from Palladian and Lordsomber, respectively:



I love the complete contrast in mood.

The son says: "I got a feeling that when I have kids, I'm going to have a little girl, and she's going to be completely sensible."

The father says: "I do believe in karma, and if you think for one minute that there would be anything karmically correct for you to have a well-behaved little girl, you're dreaming."

Justin Townes Earle and Steve Earle.

***

That made me think of the old Cat Stevens song "Father & Son." The 2 points of view. The son seeing himself as different from the father, and the father believing the son really will be just about the same as he was.

Here's Cat, as a young man, singing the great song beautifully, powerfully. And here's old Cat -- "look at me, I am old" -- singing the song again, in his Yusef Islam self-re-invention. The voice is the same, slightly mellowed.

Who knows if the young man and the old man are different or the same?

Here's the post where I collect my favorite quotes from the past year.

This is an annual feature of the Althouse blog. I go though the whole year of posts and pick out the quotes that I like best.

"I have so many opportunities from this country. I just don't want to see us fall backwards, you know?" Hillary Clinton, tearing up for the ladies in New Hampshire.

"It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation. Yes we can. It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights. Yes we can...." Barack Obama.

"We know how to talk about eatin' fried squirrel." Mike Huckabee.

"A cartoon character is how I see myself and it's worked for me for 40 years. I would rather be a cartoon than a genius!" Dolly Parton.

"Because I'm an ordinary person, I thought that they meant, 'What's your biggest weakness?' If I had gone last I would have known what the game was. And then I could have said, 'Well, ya know, I like to help old ladies across the street. Sometimes they don't want to be helped. It's terrible.'" Barack Obama.

"In addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it." Toni Morrison raved about Barack Obama.

"Doesn't it seem like she's being pimped out in some weird sort of way?" David Shuster, talking inanely about Chelsea Clinton.

"Listen, I'll never forget you. You were the only guys who would listen to me for a couple of months. Do you think I'd ever forget you?" John McCain, on the phone with the bloggers.

"I am not saying goodbye to you. I only wish to fight as a soldier of ideas." Fidel Castro stepping down as president of Cuba.

"I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother." Barack Obama gives a speech about Jeremiah Wright.

"I don't get too high when I'm high, and I don't get too low when I'm low." Barack Obama, explaining that he has "the right temperament for the presidency."

"Oh, damn. Where did you come from? I’m white. I’m entitled. There’s a black man stealing my show." The Rev. Michael Pfleger channels Hillary's inner voice.

"Oh, this is so terrible: The people they want her. Oh, this is so terrible: She is winning the general election, and he is not." Bill Clinton channels the media's inner voice.

"Maintain." Bloomberg flips out.

"I've been to 57 states." Best Obama gaffe.

"Ladies, doesn't it all sound too familiar? Once again, a woman is told to put her dreams aside to benefit a man, to benefit a party of men. Obama, a freshman senator who has paid no dues, is treated like anointed royalty; while a hard-working woman who has battled her entire life to break the glass ceiling is treated like a leftover meal, and thrown down the garbage disposal. You know how this feels. You've been in Hillary's shoes. You've seen the pretty boys that come in the office, almost no experience. They glad-hand the boss; they take credit for your work, talk a good game with real specifics, and then what happens? They get promoted while you, the hardworking backbone of the office, are told to go fetch the coffee or set up meetings for these dweebs that couldn't carry your bra if they had to." Rush Limbaugh channels the feminists.

"We now know who the Democratic nominee will be." Tim Russert, speaking prematurely, on May 26. 18 days later, he died, prematurely.

"My name is such a vanilla, white-girl American name." Ashley Holmes, self-renamed Ashley Hussein.

"This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Barack Obama at his most megalomaniacal.

And this is the moment when I hit the wall. This gets us through the first half of the year. You'll have to wait for Part 2.

"Why did I do that and write the story with the girl and the apple, because I wanted to bring happiness to people..."

"... to remind them not to hate, but to love and tolerate all people. I brought good feelings to a lot of people and I brought hope to many. My motivation was to make good in this world."

A world-class bullshit artist, keeping up the bullshit.

Another memoir hoax, and once again, Oprah fell for it:
["Angel at the Fence"] was the tale of Herman Rosenblat, who said he first met his wife while he was a child imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and she, disguised as a Christian farm girl, tossed apples over the camp’s fence to him....

Ms. Winfrey, who hosted Mr. Rosenblat and his wife, Roma Radzicki Rosenblat, on her show twice, called their romance “the single greatest love story” she had encountered in her 22 years on the show....
Here's the New Republic article by Gabriel Sherman that exposed the hoax:
"It's a lie. It's one big lie," says Henry Golde, 79, who was liberated with Herman from Theresienstadt, in 1945. Rosenblat "was normal," Golde adds. "I don't know what happened. Something went haywire, to tell a lie like that on national TV. It's terrible." Golde, a former New York City cab driver who now lives in Appleton, Wisconsin, says he was angry when he first read about Herman's story in the 1990s. "What the hell? I said. What the hell is he writing about?" Golde remembers....

"A love story set in a concentration camp as a way of teaching about the Holocaust actually inverts the reality of the Holocaust, denies it in its own way," [Michigan State University professor Kenneth] Waltzer wrote me in an e-mail. "The reality of being in a concentration camp was that ... [n]ormal impulses like those of young lovers were disrupted, collapsed. The idea that two people in the circumstances described--a prisoner in a camp, in a group of brothers, the primary source of loyalty, and a girl in hiding under false identity with a family group, her primary source of loyalty--would put all up for grabs by meeting daily in the open at a guarded electrified fence means that the writer didn't really understand, and the publishers and moviemaker didn't really understand either. And this is why all this is so important. There is denial of the Holocaust, this isn't that, but there is also denial of the substance or reality of the Holocaust--and this is definitely that."
IN THE COMMENTS: A little pity, from Bissage:
Mr. Rosenblat is a world-class bullshit artist?

Gee . . . I don’t know . . . that sounds kind of harsh. Anyway, he’s certainly not the only guilty party in this false-memoir scheme.

Go to the link and look at the cover of the bound proof. Was the fence really a single strand of barbed wire? Is a white dove the same thing as an angel? Was there ever a white dove at all? Is that an illustration of an apple tree that actually existed near Buchenwald?

These are stupid questions, of course.

But so too is it stupid to ask whether Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and has a reindeer with a red nose that lights his way. Stupid for anyone except children, that is.

There are those who make it their purpose in life to jealously guard the memory of the Holocaust and that’s a good thing, for the most part.

Still, a little poetic license can be a good thing too.

Does it really change the horribleness of the Holocaust to say a little girl tossed an apple over a fence?

In early drafts of "Angel at the Fence" the little girl tossed over a hot pastrami on rye and an egg cream.

The editors thought that was going too far and they were right!
And William:
Let us come together in the sunlit, upland pastures and gather cow patties. Let us pile these patties one upon another and build such a towering edifice that God in his heaven looks down upon us and says "What a pile of bullshit"...The idea that the Holocaust is the one atrocity of the past century that should be immune from evasions and myths and denial is itself a cow patty that can be used as the keystone for the arch of a lofty cathedral of bullshit.....Some addled old man packed his wounds with a poultice of bullshit. I can relate to that. We all try to invent a usable past. He tried and failed, but the attempt was not evil.
AND: Glenn Reynolds links like this:
HEH: “Another memoir hoax, and once again, Oprah fell for it.” She’s a sucker for a good life story, true or not.
The Obama angle. You know, Oprah's gullibility is no joke. She's hugely influential. Skeptoid put her first on his list of "Ten Most Wanted: Celebrities Who Promote Harmful Pseudoscience."
To her estimated total audience of 100 million, many of whom uncritically accept every word the world's wealthiest woman says, she promotes the paranormal, psychic powers, new age spiritualism, conspiracy theories, quack celebrity diets, past life regression, angels, ghosts, alternative therapies like acupuncture and homeopathy, anti-vaccination, detoxification, vitamin megadosing, and virtually everything that will distract a human being from making useful progress and informed decisions in life. Although much of what she promotes is not directly harmful, she offers no distinction between the two, leaving the gullible public increasingly and incrementally injured with virtually every episode.

When you have a giant audience, you have a giant responsibility. Maybe you don't want such a responsibility, in which case, fine, keep your mouth shut; or limit your performance to jokes or acting or whatever it is you do.
At some point, the real hoax is Oprah herself.

"Today’s financial crisis is Obama’s 9/11. The public is ready to be mobilized."

"Obama is coming in with enormous popularity. This is his best window of opportunity to impose a gas tax. And he could make it painless: offset the gas tax by lowering payroll taxes, or phase it in over two years at 10 cents a month. But if Obama, like Bush, wills the ends and not the means — wills a green economy without the price signals needed to change consumer behavior and drive innovation — he will fail."

Thomas Friedman argues for a gas tax to eliminate the lure of low prices.

"Brett Favre walked solemnly through the tunnel..."

"... paused to give Ricky Williams a congratulatory pat on the shoulder pad and continued on toward what would now appear to be an overdue retirement. Chad Pennington jogged off the field followed by a horde of cameras, to a chant of 'M.V.P., M.V.P.'..."

A chart of all the top ten movie lists for 2008.

Here. I've been catching up on a lot of movies these last 2 weeks. "Slumdog Millionaire" (twice), "Australia," "Rachel Getting Married," "The Reader" ... and, coming up: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Doubt," "Milk." After seeing all these movies, will I keep up my movie-going or will I max out and go back to resisting this strange practice of sitting in the dark having my emotions manipulated for 2 hours?

December 28, 2008

"What are you doing here?"

What are you doing here?

IN THE COMMENTS: Joe said:
Urban legend/joke. This story has run several times in the past years. Probably goes back decades.
I said:
But it's Reuters!
wgh said:
IMO, you have to question any story that spells it "dumfounded."
Pogo said:
The reprinting of urban legends as true stories by news organizations that supposedly run rigorous fact-checking tells you much about the sorry state that afflicts journalism.

Revel calls it "the triumphant cult of voluntary ignorance", staffed by "docile instruments of disinformation".

It exposes why Reuters, and the NYTimes, and CNN, and others should not be trusted in anything they write at all. And that is a terrible thing.
To be fair, the story is dated Jan 9, 2008. I picked it up yesterday because it was teased in the sidebar of another Reuters story.

Chip Ahoy said:
Ha ha ha ha ha X 1,000,000

I mean, très horrible

But this is soooo one year ago.
He's right about that.
^^^ + What Pogo said.

Museum of Hoaxes
1/14/2008, status undetermined.

Snopes messages
1/09/2008

Digg 1/10/2008
Actually, none of those links establish that it was a hoax, but they do show it's all very one year ago. The big lesson for me is: Watch out for sidebar teasers. But also, I wonder, where was I last January 9th that I missed this story? I try to keep up on current prostitution news. Oh, I see: It was the morning after the New Hampshire primary."I listened to you and, in the process, I found my own voice," said Hillary. Was there a Bradley effect? Obama had just unveiled a new campaign theme: "Yes We Can." Distracting, it's true. Still, this is an eclectic blog, and it was wrong to do post after post about the campaign unleavened by doings in the world of prostitution.

"We are a multicultural society, and people expect this American life to continue the same way in heaven."

Are Christians Christian? Is God multi-culti?

At Curved Glass Café...

Chris at Barrique's

The Jonathan in that Boer War photograph is probably not the Jonathan that lives today -- fraudulently honored as the world's oldest creature.

"Since they have several giant tortoises on St Helena, they simply named the next largest one Jonathan. The date of 175 years old is being assumed because the Jonathan in the photograph of 1901 looks like the Jonathan of today. As they are very difficult to date, no one can say with any certainty that this current, reigning Jonathan is 176 or 150 or even 200."

Very difficult to date....
I guess I’m just like a turtle
That’s hidin’ underneath its hardened shell.
Whoa, whoa, oh yeah, like a turtle
Hidin’ underneath its hardened shell.
But you know I’m very well protected —
I know this goddamn life too well.

Condoleezza Rice is asked about the "widely held belief" that she voted for Barack Obama.

"And as secretary of state, I'm going to keep my partisan or non-partisan views to myself on that. But I think all Americans were taken with the fact that we were able, after the long history that we've been through, that initial birth defect of slavery that we elected an African American."

I'm taking that as a yes.

You know.

You know.

Searching the world for the double-fisheye effect....

... I find this:

The Double Fisheye Effect

I can see where I went wrong there. I should have put the convex mirror in the corner of the shot, where the most distortion is. I'll have to go back there. But I'm not at that café anymore, I'm at this one...

Photo 72

... experiencing thermal distortions.

Voices that died.

A music collage.

What is life like for a graveyard tree, rooted in death?

Graveyard Trees

Are their psyches distorted?

Graveyard Trees

But what is any soil composed of...

Graveyard Trees

... if not the dead?

I'm not sure I should let you see this tattoo.

"Mildly NSFW."

"It’s a little creepy to see this ancient bald man in knickers."

Let me blog Guy Trebay's amusing rant about famous people who need to change their style. The whole thing is good, but what tipped the scales to bloggable for me was the prime men in shorts material:
“People pick on Madonna unfairly,” [said Joe Levy, the editor of Blender], speaking of the star’s fanatical self-transformations.

It is certainly true that, in her role as seeker and radical self-improver, Madonna has provided a shiny alternative to a pop landscape that, without her, would doom audiences of the world to the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Shakira or, shiver, Angus Young.

Mr. Young, in case you’d forgotten, or never knew, is a guitarist and founder of the Australian metal band AC/DC. And he has been performing in the same stage garb for almost his entire career.

That is to say he has been wearing knickers and a schoolboy cap for twice as long as Miley Cyrus, the tween moppet, has been alive and honing a hapless sex-kitten routine.

Mr. Levy put it this way: “It’s a little creepy to see this ancient bald man in knickers.”
Angus Young? More like Angus Old. But Angus can do what he likes. I'm not going to invoke my "Men in Shorts" rule against Angus Young.

December 27, 2008

Winter fog... cemetery...

Winter cemetery

Winter cemetery

Winter cemetery

Winter cemetery

The suddenly warm temperature on top of deep snow raised a lush fog. Last night, driving on a narrow road next to the lake, I said, "This is what death looks like in the movies. Driving into nothing." All the familiar landmarks had become invisible, and I felt lost even when I knew exactly where I was.

The fog remained, but it was easier to see things in the morning. I remembered the photographs I'd taken in the graveyards last December -- here and here -- so I went back to that place to see what the fog was doing to it this year -- and to do some things to it myself with the fisheye lens.

As I drove into the cemetery, just by chance, on the radio's "Sinatra" channel, Van Morrison was singing "That's Life." I can't find the Van Morrison version, but here's Frank Sinatra. Lyrics (by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon):
I said that's life, and as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks,
Stompin' on a dream
But I don't let it, let it get me down,
'Cause this fine ol' world it keeps spinning around...

That's life and I can't deny it
Many times I thought of cutting out
But my heart won't buy it
But if there's nothing shakin' come this here July
I'm gonna roll myself up in a big ball and die
What a crazy song! It's all life affirming and then, impetuously, suicidal.

IN THE COMMENTS: Original George says:
Keep On the Sunny Side...
William says:
I like the Jewish custom of leaving a pebble by the tombstone -- a pittance of memory by the eternity of death. Even if you could find them, a few bright flowers on a day like today would be overwhelmed by the bleakness of nature. Sad that the Irish custom of taking a whizz on the most elaborate tombstone has fallen into disuse. A few yellow streaks against the mausoleum of some forgotten notable reminds us of the transience of life and the abiding value of malice and envy in human affairs.
Sir Archy -- our favorite ghost! -- says:
I know, Madam, that Entertainments of the Nature of a Turn through a Graveyard, such as you have taken, are apt to raise dark & dismal Thoughts in tim'rous Minds and gloomy Imaginations; but, for my own Part, because of my Sanguine Nature, I do not know what 'tis to be Melancholy; and can, therefore, take a View of Nature in her deep and solemn Scenes, with the same Pleasure as in her most gay and delightful ones, especially when contemplating such Pictures as you have made upon this Occasion.
Dark & dismal Thoughts in tim'rous Minds and gloomy Imaginations... I have these sometimes. But I must say that this morning, I wasn't the slightest bit spooked by the thought of all the dead bodies as I stalked about looking for the oldest headstones and the most gnarled trees. The winter cemetery is more evocative of death than the green one, which I have also photographed, but in winter, I work more efficiently. I'm not here for meditation. I'm here for art. I concentrate on that and on not stepping in snowbanks higher than my boots.

George says:
You can get van morrison's version at amazon as an mp3 or on the album 'The Best of Van Morrison Volume 3', on rhapsody, and on itunes...
Ah, yes. Good point. Done, with iTunes. Now, I'm listening to it on infinite repeat as I write this.

"I'm told by Academy members that David Fincher would have a better shot at Best Director... if only he wasn't considered such a jerk...."

Ha ha. Oscar time again. Have you seen "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" yet? We have not, but will very soon. Yesterday, we saw "The Reader." I did that long post the other day -- "Kate Winslet is 'so offended' by the use of the term 'statutory rape' to describe what she does in 'The Reader'" -- and got into an exchange with Eugene Volokh about that, so that became the movie I most wanted to see. (For now, I'll just note that the Kate Winslet character, a 36-year-old woman blatantly takes advantage of the 15-year-old virgin as the story is presented in the film. More on that later.)

What movies are you seeing? Did you see "Slumdog Millionaire"?
I'm told by Academy members that David Fincher would have a better shot at Best Director for Benjamin Button if only he wasn't considered such a jerk (yes, that factors in unless a pic is the absolute frontrunner), so Slumdog's Danny Boyle is the favorite.
Oh, why give out prizes for art anyway? If you're at the level of handing out prizes, why not stiff the jerks? Even for decisions that matter, like voting for President, we stiff the jerks, don't you think? The nicer person wins. Why pretend otherwise?

Icicle update #4.

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It's 46° here in Madison, Wisconsin, and for 24 hours, what was deep snow has been melting into thick fog. I'm no longer looking out my window as if from an ice cage.

December 26, 2008

Shopping for music recordings... why are all the shoppers male?

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I followed my 2 sons into B-Side Records, which was full of shoppers. I counted 15, all men. When did music shopping become such a heavily male activity?

"Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people -- whether it's building a school or handing out Viagra."

The United States is so creative.

"Merry Christmas, we're screwed."

"I never wanted to be the guy people looked at. I felt I could only be myself when I was alone, that I turned into some kind of novelty."

"The only way I could get through that time was to drink. I poisoned myself with alcohol for years but I've never been into drugs in the way it was sometimes made out."

Oh, the exquisite pain of being Johnny Depp -- a pain endured in the company of Kate Moss and the guys in Oasis. "I've never been into drugs in the way it was sometimes made out"... makes you wonder about all the ways of being into drugs.

And how can you not want to be the guy people looked at yet still become an actor? Actually, I think it's easy to penetrate that conundrum. He wanted to be an actor to hide inside characters that were invented by someone else. He could be in the world without having to be himself. Ah, yes:
"I was a million percent in love with Edward Scissorhands," Depp says of his 1990 film persona. "I remember looking in the mirror on the last day of shooting ... and thinking how sad I was to be saying goodbye to Edward."

Here he is attempting to talk about it, back in 1991 (when everyone, it seems, looked and acted completely different:

What do we think of a 30-something woman lurking in a school bathroom stall to eavesdrop on the conversations of schoolgirls?

She holds herself out as a loving mother who only wants to select the best middle school for her daughter.
"It gives you a glimpse behind the scenes," [Aimée] Margolis explained of her sub rosa research. "At the tour everybody’s ready for you, everybody has a happy face. They say what they want to say, and you hear what they want you to hear."
So she thinks this is the way to get the poop on the school.

Now, the NYT has promoted her method of spying, and I think it needs to be denounced as creepy, lest we have no end of adults hiding in kids' bathrooms.

And, of course, this would never have been perceived as cute if Mother Aimée had been Daddy Arnie, squatting in the boys' room.

Icicle update #3.

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Post-Christmas.

I hope you got what you wanted for Christmas. Do you like the day after Christmas? You can play with your presents and do whatever you want. Or do you focus more on the tasks of cleaning up, exchanging the bad gifts, and thinking that you have to go a whole year before there is another Christmas?

The day after Christmas.
Nice!
Bah!
pollcode.com free polls


By the way, did you know that Wikipedia has an entry for "Is the glass half empty or half full?"?

It's a charming example of that the utterly flat, doggedly factual Wikipediprose:
Is the glass half empty or half full? is a common expression, used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for optimism (half full) or pessimism (half empty); or as a general litmus test to simply determine if an individual is an optimist or a pessimist. The purpose of the question is to demonstrate that the situation may be seen in different ways depending on one's point of view and that there may be opportunity in the situation as well as trouble.

This idiom is used to explain how people perceive on events and objects. Perception is unique to every individual and is simply an interpretation of reality.
There are 8 links in that passage, which, in a concession to the shortness of life, I am not going to insert.

There's also a photograph of a half-full glass -- oh! I gave myself away! -- and then this, which I love:
See also
"Silver lining," it turns out, has a much richer history than the old 4 ounces of water in an 8 ounce glass, going back to 1634: "Was I deceiv'd, or did a sable cloud/Turn forth her silver lining on the night."

December 25, 2008

"Santa, baby...."



Eartha Kitt, died on Christmas... in 2008, at the age of 81. She was famous for singing that song about Santa Claus. But she was also famous as Cat Woman on TV's "Batman" ...



... "She may be evil, but she is attractive"....

... and for telling Lyndon Johnson that he should end the Vietnam War. And, as I've said before, I'll never forget the monkey fur dress she wore in the 60s.

I need to post this picture...

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... because I don't like seeing the "Harold Pinter's dead" post at the top anymore... though I'd be happy to keep talking about the movie "Synecdoche, New York," which I thought was pretty good. It was loaded with ideas and images -- for example, buying a house that is on fire and that stays on fire while you live in for years, until you die.* Much more could have been done with all of this. It could have been sharpened up and made more visually vivid, but it had only a $12 million budget, so it's actually astounding that they got as much out of it as they did.

I'd like to make a list of movies about theater, which would include this movie and my all-time favorite movie, "My Dinner With Andre." There's also "Vanya on 42d Street." I don't want all the movies about the life of actors, like "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Stage Door" and "All About Eve." (Put them on a separate list.) I want movies in which playwrights or theater directors delve into the meaning of theater. I'd add the Woody Allen movie "Melinda and Melinda," which we watched a few days ago. 2 playwrights -- one comic, one dramatic -- take the same story and spin out their scenarios.
___

* [SPOILER ALERT] ... of smoke inhalation.
___

I think that was the third footnote in the nearly 5 year history of this blog. I have been avoiding footnotes like mad. But why? And why, if my abstention has been so important, did I deviate here?

"Harold Pinter's dead... No, wait, he won the Nobel Prize."

That's a line in the movie "Synecdoche, New York," which we saw at the Sundance theater last night:
[In] Schenectady, the working-class city near Albany where Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a theater director, lives with his artist wife Adele (Catherine Keener) and their young daughter Olive (Amy Goldstein). Caden, who's had a critical success staging Death of a Salesman with young actors in the middle-age roles, is himself a premature old man; he hears mortality gargling at him everywhere. In the first scene, he wakes to a radio talk-show report about how the coming of autumn is a harbinger of death; from then on, Caden's life is one long fall. Reading the newspaper, Caden sees a headline about a playwright. "Harold Pinter's dead," he muses aloud. "No, wait, he won the Nobel Prize." He glances at the TV and sees his own animated form as part of a cartoon show, accompanied by the sing-song lyrics: "Then he died / Maybe someone cried / But not his ex-bride."
Today, I open the newspaper and see that Harold Pinter has died. He died yesterday, perhaps at the very moment when we heard the death-obsessed character in the movie say "Harold Pinter's dead." The movie is, in fact, all about death -- and life, too.... for contrast -- as Philip Seymour Hoffman shuffles through scene after scene, depressed, headed toward death, but working feverishly on his seemingly never-ending play -- his play and his life -- life being a big play and all the men and women merely players.
Harold Pinter, the British playwright whose gifts for finding the ominous in the everyday and the noise within silence made him the most influential and imitated dramatist of his generation, died on Wednesday. He was 78 and lived in London.

The cause was cancer, his wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, said on Thursday.

Mr. Pinter learned he had cancer of the esophagus in 2002. In 2005, when he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, he was unable to attend the awards ceremony at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm but delivered an acceptance speech from a wheelchair in a recorded video.
Here's the video.
An actor, essayist, screenwriter, poet and director as well as a dramatist, Mr. Pinter was also publicly outspoken in his views on repression and censorship, at home and abroad. He used his Nobel acceptance speech to denounce American foreign policy, saying that the United States had not only lied to justify waging war against Iraq but that it had also “supported and in many cases engendered every right-wing military dictatorship” in the last 50 years.

His political views were implicit in much of his work. Though his plays deal with the slipperiness of memory and human character, they are also almost always about the struggle for power.
I wrote a post at the time: "The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them." I don't like that, but I will pass over it on this occasion. Back to art:
Mr. Pinter said he thought of theater as essentially exploratory. “Even old Sophocles didn’t know what was going to happen next,” he said. “He had to find his way through unknown territory. At the same time, theater has always been a critical act, looking in a broad sense at the society in which we live and attempting to reflect and dramatize these findings. We’re not talking about the moon.”

Speaking about his intuitive sense of writing, he said, “I find at the end of the journey, which of course is never ending, that I have found things out.”
Which of course is never ending... which of course is....