Friday, June 29, 2007
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde--the silent one with John Barrymore.
The two notable things about this movie are 1. Barrymore and 2. the changes made to the storyline. As far as 1., he's creepy and awesome. Even at the story's beginning, when he's supposed to be practically perfect in every way, he looks ferocious and kind of like he's about to bite the head off a bat. His fit during the first transformation is great. (...Though the second transformation slides into the ridiculous.)
2. is really annoying. Not only is Jekyll's early perfection pushed over the top in a way it isn't in the novel; not only is a Henry Wotton/Jimmy Stewart in Rope figure introduced, rather than having Jekyll seduce himself, play Richard to his own Lady Anne; but Jekyll's downfall occurs when he... sees a fan-dance. Yep. Sex made him a monster. Not even the chance to see Nita Naldi could keep me from being desperately bored by this idea. I was really glad I'd read the novel first, since if I had assumed that this was Stevenson's own storyline I doubt I would have bothered to read it.
Random notes: The intertitles are illustrated and a lot of fun. The close-up shot where Hyde's horrible hands first begin to move is genuinely shivery--thrilling and frightening even to those of us raised on contemporary horror techniques.
Powwow Highway: There's a pony in here somewhere.
...No, okay, it really wasn't that bad. This is a demi-political road movie in which a rough-edged American Indian Movement guy and his best friend head out to find and presumably rescue the AIM guy's sister, who was framed for drug possession. Both of the lead actors (Gary Farmer and A Martinez) were really good, and I'll be looking for more of their movies.
But rrraaaarrrrrggghhhh, this was really predictable, sentimental, and cliched! It's just not good. If the writer/director had decided to take this in a noirish direction, it could have worked so much better--there's past ('70s) vs present ('89 I think), past (1800s) vs past ('70s), mysticism vs politics, attempts to escape the past and "the system" and one's own personality.... I swear, this could have been a really good movie! Instead, it's... not.
And my nightmare, in which I was in Jeepers Creepers 3! No joke. I don't even know if there is a Jeepers Creepers 3--there is a 2, but I haven't seen it. Anyway, for all my complaints about the original flick, it now joins Misery as only the second horror movie to give me actual nightmares. ...Sometimes I was just watching the movie, in which survivors from the first one and the sequel teamed up against the eeeeevildoer. Other times the action was real, and I was one of the terrified characters. Other times I was the evildoer! Yipes.
Interestingly, two elements of the nightmare were drawn from things I genuinely liked about the movie: the golden afternoon, light-drenched, in which the first half takes place--just gorgeous to look at; and the full-throttle ending. I hated the very last shot (thought it was overdone and kinda goofy), but the way the plotline ended was very, very satisfying, and my nightmare picked up on that.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
...As The Hill noted last week, 133 plaintiffs filed a civil suit against Romney’s Utah finance co-chair, Robert Lichfield, and his various business entities involved in residential treatment programs for adolescents. The umbrella group for his organization is the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS, sometimes known as WWASP) and Lichfield is its founder and is on its board of directors.
The suit alleges that teens were locked in outdoor dog cages, exercised to exhaustion, deprived of food and sleep, exposed to extreme temperatures without adequate clothing or water, severely beaten, emotionally brutalized, and sexually abused and humiliated. Some were even made to eat their own vomit.
But the link to teen abuse goes far higher up in the Romney campaign. Romney’s national finance co-chair is a man named Mel Sembler. A long time friend of the Bushes, Sembler was campaign finance chair for the Republican party during the first election of George W. Bush, and a major fundraiser for his father.
Like Lichfield, Sembler also founded a nationwide network of treatment programs for troubled youth. Known as Straight Inc., from 1976 to 1993, it variously operated nine programs in seven states. At all of Straight’s facilities, state investigators and/or civil lawsuits documented scores of abuses including teens being beaten, deprived of food and sleep for days, restrained by fellow youth for hours, bound, sexually humiliated, abused and spat upon. According to the L.A. Times, California investigators said that at Straight teens were “subjected to unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse… and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping and toileting.” Through a spokesperson, Lichfield has dismissed the similar charges against WWASPS to The Hill as “ludicrous,” claiming that the teens who sued “have a long history of lying, fabricating and twisting the story around to their own benefit.” ...
Ultimately, Straight would pay out millions in settlements before it finally closed. However, to this day, there are at least eight programs operating that use Straight’s methods, often in former Straight buildings operated by former Straight staff.
more (and more)
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Permanently dead? Very possibly.
A PROPOSAL making its way to the House floor would hurt everyone from the average American taxpayer to the struggling African farmer. It would enrich a small number of big businesses in a few dozen congressional districts. It would claim money that could otherwise go to priorities the Democratic majority supposedly champions: environmental conservation, student loans, Head Start, food stamps or children's health insurance. Even President Bush wants to reprioritize the spending.
So what will the Democratic leadership do about it?
Monday, June 25, 2007
Oh, give up for my blogwatch...
Club for Growth: I went to these bars in college. Above the law since 1997! (Or hey, how much does the drinking age destroy social cohesion?)
Daniel Mitsui: Ave/Eva.
Hit & Run: Like Solidarnosc in reverse.
Journalista: How! I'm Dani Moonstar. (Scroll like Minnehaha.)
Ninomania has a lot of interesting comments on today's Supreme Court decisions, esp. on the shift from parental rights to students' rights, and the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case. "A few years ago the Court declined to recognize an across-the-board 'drug exception' to the Fourth Amendment 'knock and announce' requirement. But in myriad other ways, the war on drugs has greatly changed our law, and not necessarily for the better." Y'all might find this an unexpected perspective from a self-confessed fan of Nino Scalia.
Scrutinies: Homework, homeschooling, and opportunity costs.
The Rat: Is it smart to tell your smart child she's smart? Yeah, no. (This of course plays into my deep horror of valuing your child--or anyone else--for her abilities and attributes, rather than just for the fact that she's alive.)
But when I arrived back home, heavy-laden and panting and sweating under D.C.'s swampist cloud cover, I heard the hometown equivalent, and felt my spirits rise: Out by the Union Station fountain, a man was playing the saxophone and singing hymns into a microphone. I caught "Amazing Grace," "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," as well as a couple I didn't recognize. They were breathy, shuddery, panhandling-style with syllables missing; and they were everything I love about my city.
Your vote: If I'd been on that taxi line (shut up, I had bags and bags of books, and if you'd heard me wheezing like Black Beauty's last moments you'd've called me a taxi too!) for another ten minutes, which would I have heard first?
b. "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing"
c. "Moon River"
d. "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"
Oh, heartbreak city, you're never loved as well as you deserve. In this way you resemble all my sweethearts.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
...Neither man would describe what they’d endured. “It is secret, intimate,” Fr. Roman said, “I saw saints fall, and I saw the simple rise and become saints.” Fr. George admitted that he gave way under torture. When a victim is out of his mind with pain, he doesn’t know what he is saying. Fr. George told his interviewer, “It was a spiritual fight, between good spirits and evil spirits. And we failed on the field of battle; we failed, many of us, because it was beyond our ability to resist … The limit of the human soul’s resistance was tried there by the devil.”
This emotional and spiritual damage was even worse than the physical pain. Fr. George went on, “When you were tortured, after one or two hours of suffering, the pain would not be so strong. But after denying God and knowing yourself to be a blasphemer—that was the pain that lasted … We forgive the torturers. But it is very difficult to forgive ourselves.” At night a wash of tears would come, and with it, returning prayer. “You knew very well that the next day you would again say something against God. But a few moments in the night, when you started to cry and to pray to God to forgive you and help you, was very good.”
Fr. George once attempted to write a memoir of his Pitesti experience, but found it impossible: “Sometimes I was hammering at one word, timidly, then persistently, then intensely, to madness. The word became nothing other than a sequence of letters or sounds. It had no meaning. It didn’t tell me anything. I would say: ‘beating’ or ‘pain’ or ‘prayer’ or ‘curse’ … and I would substitute one for another without any change; none told me anything! I would say ‘cell’ and the word would not speak. I could say instead ‘lelc’ or ‘clel’ or ‘ellc’ with the same result. Everything was mute and absurd." ...
Yet the worst was still to come. In order to demonstrate that they had truly become “the Communist man,” in order to fully embody the persona demanded of them, these mentally and physically battered prisoners were required to become torturers. They were compelled to assist in the “re-education” of new prisoners, and any reluctance or leniency was cruelly punished.
more (via Mark Shea)
(And what are we gonna do unless they are?)...
Alias Clio: A field guide to irony. "It should be added, however, that there are dealers in irony for whom the initiated circle is not of outside hearers, but is an alter ego dwelling in their own breasts."
Daniel Mitsui: Remnants of a Nagasaki cathedral; Gothic cathedral in full color.
Hit & Run: The taco truck menace.
The Wall Street Journal has an economics blog. (Via... the Club for Growth, maybe?)
"When the anti-terrorism cop is Muslim." Via Ratty.
From the Institute for Justice: "Victimizing the Vulnerable: The demographics of eminent domain abuse." Probably via Hit & Run.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Also, if you've emailed me, I will respond, but it may take me a few days. If you haven't emailed me, but you might want to, please do! I'd love to hear your thoughts, questions, concerns, suggestions, etc. I really appreciate the emails I've gotten thus far.
Regular blogging should recommence soon. For now I will just say that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is still awesome. "I've loved you more than any woman's ever loved a rabbit."
Monday, June 11, 2007
more--this excerpt doesn't do it justice (via Amy Welborn)
...I wish I could slow things down at this point, could linger a bit in those months after our marriage. I wish I could feel again that blissful sense of immediacy and expansiveness at once, when every moment implied another, and the future suddenly seemed to offer some counterbalance to the solitary fever I had lived in for so long. I think most writers live at some strange adjacency to experience, that they feel life most intensely in their recreation of it. For once, for me, this wasn’t the case. I could not possibly have been paying closer attention to those days.
Which is why I was caught so off-guard. I got the news that I was sick on the afternoon of my 39th birthday. It took a bit of time, travel, and a series of wretched tests to get the specific diagnosis, but by then the main blow had been delivered, and that main blow is what matters. I have an incurable cancer in my blood. The disease is as rare as it is mysterious, killing some people quickly and sparing others for decades, afflicting some with all manner of miseries and disabilities and leaving others relatively healthy until the end. Of all the doctors I have seen, not one has been willing to venture even a vague prognosis. ...
...“It is necessary to have had a revelation of reality through joy,” Weil writes, “in order to find reality through suffering.” This is certainly true to my own experience. I was not wrong all those years to believe that suffering is at the very center of our existence, and that there can be no untranquilized life that does not fully confront this fact. The mistake lay in thinking grief the means of confrontation, rather than love.
and Gracia Burnham:
more here if you subscribe to The New Republic; I don't, so I'm relying on Get Religion's excerpts and comments here.
...Gracia attended a senior-citizen Bible study at the First Baptist Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, where she’d been invited to speak.
Fifteen frosted-haired ladies, some wearing sweaters decorated with hollyhocks, gasped as Gracia pulled a piece of stiff batik fabric from a Voice of the Martyrs white plastic shopping bag. Using her teeth, Gracia showed the class how she’d wrapped the fabric, called a malong, around her to make a changing room and a bathroom. The toilet was a theme of the weekend. “The first few times I made a mess of it and had to wait until I got to the next river to wash it,” she said.
...She then showed the ladies how the fabric served as a blanket, a backpack, and even, on one occasion, a stretcher for a 14-year-old Abu Sayyaf member named Ahmed. At first, she had loathed Ahmed for hoarding food when she had none, throwing stones at her while she bathed — fully clothed — in the river, and pushing her along the trail saying “faster, faster.” As she and Martin slowly starved, Gracia prayed to find a way to love Ahmed.
One day, he was injured in a firefight and soiled himself. Gracia could see he was mortified. Thinking of her own son, Zach, who was about the same age, she took Ahmed’s clothes to the river to wash them. There, she was filled with love. The last time Gracia saw Ahmed, who had been carried wounded through the jungle in the malong, like a sling, he had gone stark raving mad and was tied by the hands and feet to the walls of a hut in the southern Philippines. Someone had stuffed a sock in his mouth to keep him from screaming. She wondered aloud to the Bible study class where Ahmed was now — still crazy, perhaps, or pushing another hostage up another steep mountain path. Or, most likely, he had died and gone to hell.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
* the body as sacrifice, to be offered up entirely to God--lifted high on the Cross, exaltation gained only through submission and humiliation--the monstrance vs the parade float....
* love defined, or at least demonstrated, as an exchange of sacrifices--Christ's for us, and ours when we give our lives to Him. I kept thinking about this stuff while reading Nocturnes for the King of Naples: In that book, lost love appears to suffuse the entire world, every object, memory, possibility. For Christians, sacrificial love (though not lost love) in fact suffuses the world.
* identity--"Catholic" so often is treated as an identity-category, like being black or being Irish or being gay, something you can have ownership of, something defined solely by the members of the community. To what extent do we have Catholic pride instead of Catholic faith?
...Not sure what else to say, so I'll stop here for now, and add more if I (or you all) have more to add.
Hard-Boiled Egg: You can laugh now, but I'd never made one before! I basically did what this page told me to do, and it worked perfectly. (My freezer still doesn't work, so I used a bowl of water chilled in the fridge rather than a bowl of ice water. Didn't seem to affect the result.)
Hot Cocoa: mix one large spoonful of cocoa (I used Hershey's plain cocoa--maybe a heaping tablespoon?), three smaller spoonfuls (maybe three level teaspoons?) of sugar, and maybe about a quarter-teaspoon each of cayenne and cinnamon. Fill the rest of the mug with milk, stir stir stir, and microwave on high for about two minutes. Serve with buttered bread.
When I first heard about this, I was intrigued--I love spicy-sweet--but also wary. Toast and cocoa is one of my all-time comfort foods, up there with macaroni and cheese. Did I really want to mess with success?
Yes. Yes I did. This was fantastic! The first sips were definitely spicy-hot, and I needed the buttered bread to cool me off a little. The spiciness diminished as I drank, though, or else I got used to it. The cinnamon and cayenne worked really well together. OM NOM NOM NOM.
I'm guessing this would be the basis for an excellent mixed drink, as well, though I don't know exactly what the liquor would be. Dark rum, maybe? Would pepper vodka be too weird?
Two lime-butter pasta sauces: 1. Put a hunk of butter in a saute pan. Squeeze half a lime over it and add a splash of balsamic vinegar. Cookity, adding chopped garlic (I think I used three cloves), until everything is brown and rich and sweet, stirring and messing with the heat to boil off much of the liquid and then keep the rest simmering. At the last moment, dump in some fresh chopped tomato, stir and cook quickly, and serve with pasta, black pepper, and parmesan.
The result: I mostly loved this--the lime-balsamic-garlic-butter combination worked so well. My quibble was that I should probably have cooked the tomato much longer, rather than basically just heating it through, so that it could stand up to thick spaghetti; or else I should've used angel hair pasta and left out the parmesan at the end. The tastes here were a little too thin and bright for the pasta.
2. This was inspired by the way my hands smelled after washing the dishes from the previous two recipes! ...Put a hunk of butter in the pan. Squeeze a lime, or half a lime, over it. (I used a whole lime this time, but had such a hard time getting juice out of it that I think the previous recipe might've had more lime juice.) Cook with chopped garlic, cinnamon, cayenne, pepper, cumin, and chopped tomato. Serve with buttered spaghetti.
The result: Absolutely delicious. A subtle citrus taste, under the darker, richer spices and the deep, glossy taste of the tomato.
The nurse is looking anxious and she's quivering with fright...
The Agitator: "Really? A party where not a single person was drunk, and not a single person drove home after having a drink, is the 'worst case' [of underage drinking] he's dealt with in 15 years? Really?"
Disputations: Non-cheesy attempt to use athletes to evangelize! Maybe there is a Loch Ness Monster.... "So while I'd still be interested in a movie about how faith guides and sustains mediocre scrub leaguers, I really enjoyed 'Champions of Faith,' and I think it would be ideal for Catholic youth groups or high school sports teams. (There's even a companion guide with discussion questions included.)"
Waiter Rant: "Eating Standing Up"--or, airbrushing the staff meal. And, via WR, the Froo Froo Menu Generator! eta: Oh my gosh, the menu generator is jawesome. Jerked Bat with a Beer Mousse! Szechuan Coyote with a Non-Aspirin Broth! Hee hee hee.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
It's--okay, look. It's basically a commonplace book, not an essay. You should probably read it if you're interested in how death and (especially) grief shape culture. It'll tell you what to read next, and maybe what to look for and wrestle with in those other, better texts.
But it doesn't work, fundamentally, as an essay. To the extent that there are statements, rather than suggestions, those statements are unsupported and sometimes wrong. For example, unsupported: The "modal logic" argument just plain don't work. If you make the psychological claim that denying the importance of death leads to denying the importance of free will--because you want to say that nothing really important dies, and so you have to say that nothing really important changes--okay, I can walk along with you. But if you try to make that into a syllogism, you get caught up in precisely the confusion between "death" and "change" that Bottum notes and then ignores. He actually identifies the flaw in his own argument and then just says, "Yeah, but it sounds right, no?"
And, although this is not the most important thing about the essay: There's only the most token gesture toward the ways in which rituals of sex and generation shape culture. It's entirely possible to defend death's claim on culture without denying the claims of these other facts.
As long as I'm throwing wild punches, I really would have liked more discussion of guilt, and its relationship to grief. Girard gets dismissed way too fast, too insouciantly. In general, in this piece, there's way too much assumed common ground, common sensibility. If I don't share Bottum's sensibility on these issues, how can he expect non-Catholics to do so?
Really, "Death and Politics" reminded me of an earlier First Things essay, Leon Kass's "L'Chaim and Its Limits: Why Not Immortality?". There, too, I felt that suggestion was being confused with statement, that bases were being stolen, and that some aspects of death were being marshaled against other, equally true aspects. Kass's essay led me to write my short science-fiction story, "Now and at the Hour," which you can find on page 21 here (PDF); and I think Bottum's piece, too, would really have benefited from more science fiction. Think harder about what a world without death, or without some kinds of death, or without some kinds of mourning, looks like! Be more specific.
My first look shows the level half-way down.
What next? Ration the rest, and try to think
Of higher things, until mine host comes round?
Some people say, best show an empty glass:
Someone will fill it. Well, I've tried that too.
You may get drunk, or dry half-hours may pass.
It seems to turn on where you are. Or who.
--Philip Larkin, "Party Politics"
Monday, June 04, 2007
Melt a good hunk of butter over high heat in a saute pan. Squeeze about half a lemon into the butter. Cook and stir until everything's all bubbly and boiling, and continue cooking for as long as patience endures. When you've basically got a slick of lemony butter residue, dump the (bagged, because I'm not soaking spinach in my sink, ick) spinach into the pan and cookity, stirring and making sure the ex-butter gets all over everything, until you've got it how you want it. The butter should be partly browned.
You should be able to drain the spinach pretty well just by lifting it out of the pan with a fork--you shouldn't need to drain it in the colander or press down on it, though of course you can if you want to. Add black pepper and cayenne as desired, and eat with buttered toast or olive oil-roasted potatoes or some such thing.
This gives you a much richer lemon-butter taste than the non-boiling methods I'd been using, while also making the spinach a lot less wet.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, RL Stevenson: OK, you already know what this is about. So the question is, given that you know the monster, do you need the book?
I'm not sure you "need" it really. The idea behind it is the striking thing. But there are really lovely descriptions of fogbound Victorian London; and Jekyll's final testimony, which closes the novel, has all the twisty, muttering self-deceptions you could hope for. I enjoyed this a lot.
Till We Have Faces, CS Lewis: Reshaping of the story of Cupid and Psyche. I'm pretty sure I would have loved this, or at least liked it very much, if I'd read it somewhere between fourth and eighth grade. The mythos is powerful, Lewis's changes are dramatically compelling, the characters are well-done stock fantasy (that isn't a criticism--stock characters often become stock for a reason), and the emotions have the potential to be ferocious and raw. I think Lewis's style is too direct and repetitive, though. I felt that I was being led by the hand, and that muffled the novel's passionate depictions of broken faith, anger at the gods (/God), possessive jealousy, and discolored love.
I'm glad that I finally read this, primarily because I loved the new light shone on the Psyche myth, even though the work itself isn't quite right. I really do wish I'd read it earlier, so if you know a middle-school fantasy reader, you might drop it in her lap.
Nocturnes for the King of Naples, Edmund White: I think John Heard is to blame for this one--think I spotted it in one of his posts and thought it sounded possible.
It's amazing. Grows in retrospect, too. A very short, drifting book, written in a sensual, associational style--all the metaphors go on longer than you think they should, and then shift into something else--basically about, I guess, the pointillist self; whether that self can love or only misremember; and the way both love and loss remake the world in the beloved's image, so that everything you see or touch seems to be calling the name of the person you'll always mean when you say, You.
Or: Judah Halevi's gay brother gets drunk under the iron bridge from "Still Ill," and writes the way Derek Jarman wished he could.
The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton: I'm leery talking about this much, since I only finished it this evening. For now I'll say only: 1. I thought it managed its difficult balance of light satire and genuine tragedy. 2. It seemed to be centrally concerned with which kind of life is a "real" life, which kind of life is cramped, which is free, which is possible and which is fantasy--more so than specifically which kind is right or wrong, although that division also comes up. 3. I liked the way Newland himself could recognize some of the symbolism in the events and objects around him, while missing so many other cues to morality and meaning. It's a subtler way of showing his severe lack of self-overhearing than I would have expected.
Anyway, I was very much struck by this book, and would welcome any comments from you all.
Alias Clio: Interesting, sympathetic critique of La Camille (Paglia)... and the sex zone vs. the drink zone.
Balkinization: What Marty Lederman calls "A Most Important Development on CIA Interrogation, Electronic Surveillance, and Congressional Oversight"--I'm posting this so I can come back to it later for something I'm working on.
Daniel Mitsui: Armadillo incense burner!
Disputed Mutability: On stopping hating the church. Hard to find stuff to excerpt to make you go over there, but here's a clip from part one:
Going from dyke to Christian (and the tackiest kind of Christian to boot!) was a huge step down in the eyes of those whose opinions mattered to me.and part two:
What worried me more was realizing that I needed Christians in order to love THEM. You can see this even in the quote from my residential program application at the beginning of the last post. The Bible’s clear message that we ought to love and serve and bless our fellow believers was starting to weigh on me and keep me up at night.Or just hit the main site.
Noli Irritare Leones: Comparing torture/"enhanced interrogation techniques" with police interrogation methods--Homicide, lies, and innocence.
Oxblog: "'A COKE IS A COKE AND NO AMOUNT OF MONEY CAN GET YOU A BETTER COKE than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.' -- Andy Warhol"
And two triumphant returns to the blogroll: Now the Green Blade Riseth ('07) and Dark October 618. Welcome back.