...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Off-Screen Violence

Brad Pitt chops off the zombie-bitten hand of a woman a half-second after she's bit. We don't see it but we sense it. He later will lodge a crowbar in a zombie's head and and then try to wrench it out to use on the next zombie, in flight & heading, ha ha, his way. The crowbar's end and the head it's in are below the frame. For what it's worth, I appreciated these choices, made though they were to secure the PG-13 rating and the largest possible box office.

Thomas Pynchon

     Doc and Shasta sat parked by the edge of the empty swamped [excavated] rectangle and watched its edges now and then slide in, and then after a while things rotated ninety degrees, and it began to look, to Doc at least, like a doorway, a great wet temple entrance, into someplace else. The rain beat down on the car roof, lightning and thunder from time to time interrupting thoughts of the old namesake river that had once run through this town, long canalized and tapped dry, and crippled into a public and anonymous confession of the deadly sin of greed.... He imagined it filling again, up to its concrete rim, and then over, all the water that had not been allowed to flow here for all these years now in unrelenting return, soon beginning to occupy the arroyos and cover the flats, all the swimming pools in the backyards filling up and overflowing and flooding the lots and streets, all this karmic waterscape connecting together, as the rain went on falling and the land vanished, into a sizable inland sea that would presently become an extension of the Pacific. 
- from Inherent Vice


Monday, July 28, 2014

Rhyming Movie Reviews

World War Z:
A little too much for me.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Leonard Cohen

"We all feel when we're loved that some concession has been made. And we probably none of us deserve the love that we expect. So, when it comes to us, we can legitimately understand it as an exception to the rule."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Michael Robbins

“The only really effective antidote to the dreariness of reading the New Atheists,” Hart has written, “is rereading Nietzsche.”

This is wise counsel for believers and atheists alike. In Nietzsche we find the full power and terror that atheism is capable of.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mary Karr

You have constantly to question, Is this fair? No life is all bleak. Even in Primo Levi’s camp, there were small sources of hope: you got on the good work detail, or you got on the right soup line. That’s what’s so gorgeous about humanity. It doesn’t matter how bleak our daily lives are, we still fight for the light. I think that’s our divinity. We lean into love, even in the most hideous circumstances. We manage to hope.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Renata Adler

     On the other hand, our local controversy is whether we ought to require the ability to read at an eighth-grade level before we let any university student in. I can't understand how that is the question. Surely we are obligated to give them, at least, an eighth-grade education while they're here and before we send them out. "I found the whole work disappointing," Nina Valindez, a student in one of my own courses, here in the city, wrote, in her paper last term. "It was more theatrical than filmic. It did, however, remind me of many nineteenth-century novels such as Vanity Fair by Thakkry. And many of the better novels of Jane Austen." Pat Gertz, one of my best students, wrote a paper on "The Sorted Love Affair in Fiction of the Forties." The paper expressed all the views that a student of my generation might have held, of which affairs were and which were not to be considered "sorted." And yet. And Shelley Muess. Ms. Muess, who had received a passing grade, left many agitated messages last term, after midnight, on my answering service. She warned that she would have to take our case to the Student Faculty Grievance Committee and enter a Denunciation/Demerit against my record with the Faculty Appraisal Board. I called her back. I asked what the trouble was. She said she had never received less than honors grades before. Since it had been a matter of some importance to me that I not actually flunk anybody in this intellectual swamp and rip-off I mentioned that the exam had only required each student to list the films shown in the course. Students were allowed to help one another with it, to take it home and turn it in the following week. Since Shelley Muess had missed most of the films, and misspelled the ones she got, a passing grade seemed to me not ungenerous. "Well," Shelley said, hardly able to breathe with indignation, "I'm not an English major." The chancellor of our branch of the university once asked me what I thought of the head of our division now. I said I thought he was a thug. "Ah," she said, with a chiming laugh and a lilt, clapping he hand just once. "You writers! What a way you have with words." For the most part, the students treat me with grave, gentle concern, as though I were something strange--a giraffe, say--among them, or an apprentice on a tightrope, or one of their own on a bad trip.
- Speedboat


Who is the man who will reflect on his weakness, and yet dare to credit his chastity and innocence to his own powers, so that he loves you the less, as if he had little need for that mercy by which you forgive sins to those who turn to you. There may be someone who has been called by you, and has heeded your voice, and has shunned those deeds which he now hears me recalling and confessing of myself. Let him not laugh to scorn a sick man who has been healed by that same physician who gave him such aid that he did not fall ill, or rather that he had only a lesser ill. Let him therefore love you just as much--even more. For he sees that I have been rescued from such depths of sinful disease by him who, as he also sees, has preserved him from the same maladies.
Confessions, 2.7

Summer Viewing

ROGER: Nick?

NICK: Uncle Roger. How’s it going?

ROGER: What are you doing here, Nick?

NICK: What? Oh, I wanted to see where you work.

ROGER: Yes, no--What are you doing here?

NICK: What? Oh, oh you mean here in um New York, here.


NICK: Oh, uh, well I had an interview at Columbia, so Mom said I should look you up.

ROGER: Ahh. Sit down.


ROGER: That’s what all the phone calls were about.

NICK: Phone calls?

ROGER: Yeah, your mom’s been calling me.

NICK: Well did you speak to her?

ROGER: We’re playing phone tag.

NICK: Yeah, well she uh she said you could show me what you do here.

ROGER: She did, huh. Well, there’s not a whole lot to show you Nick.

NICK: Really? Um, like, what do you, what do you do all day?

ROGER: What do I do all day, what do I do all day. I sit here and think of ways to make people feel bad.

NICK: Oh, I thought you wrote for commercials.

ROGER: I do, but, you can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad.

NICK: Well why not?

ROGER: [Sigh.] Because it’s a substitution game. You have to remind them that they’re missing something from their lives—everyone’s missing something, right?

NICK: Well yeah I guess.

ROGER: Trust me. And when they’re feeling sufficiently incomplete, you convince them that your product is the only thing that can fill the void so, instead of taking steps to deal with their lives, instead of working to root out the real reason for their misery, they run out and buy a stupid-looking pair of cargo pants.

NICK: Um, so uh, um is it fun?

ROGER: Can be. 
Roger Dodger (2002)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

No Words

to compete with these words of dismay and lament. Any art now sincerely made must be "an almost touchingly brave attempt to dance away from the edge of ecocatastrophe," as the end will not seem unusual to most people.