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|. . . 2001-08-19|
While in non-monogamous sexual associations, I admit to a certain queasiness when faced with evidence of other male consorts, but this seems mere homophobic besmirchment by proxy, and easily overcome. Similarly, I'd prefer that everyone pay exclusive (although not in a critical way, please!) attention to me at parties, but that's simple egocentricity, familiar from year two of life onwards.
At any rate, it seems unrootoutably obvious to me that one either wants to be in a monogamous relationship or one doesn't, and that once one party decides not to be then the monogamous relationship is over: punkt!
This blind spot results, I suspect, from such character flaws as undue fatalism and overreliance on binary oppositions. And so it would logically follow that a jealous person should be more forgiving and more optimistic than myself, since they must assume some possibility that their monogamous relationship can coexist with nonmonogamous impulses in their partner.
It's all very puzzling.
And, although its topic is jealousy (far more centrally than, say, Bringing Up Baby's topic is dinosaurs), The Feminine Touch provides little insight.
Instead, as a post-1930s Hollywood comedy, it must devote all its ponderous energy to proving that every human being without exception exactly matches Hollywood stereotypes of behavior.
Like so: Fist-flailing jealousy is an infallible and essential sign of love, and its unnatural absence inevitably leads to rudeness and perversity.
The unfortunate lead gears in these creaking plot mechanics are given little room for play. Don Ameche is much more convincingly fatuous than convincingly brilliant or charming; Rosalind Russell, miscast as an uneducated nestbuilder, only comes alive when fending off unwanted advances.
But things pick up considerable when the movie shifts to Manhattan and the urbane secondary-but-more-interesting axis of the quadrangle (and then falls flat again and forever when it shifts to God's country where men are dopes and women are dopes). Goateed Van Heflin, playing an indolent insecurity-flaunting publisher, herein founds the Woody Allen School of Seduction with a welcome dollop of aplomb.
And, as the unrewarded sharpwit of his outfit, fixed highest in the movie's firmanent is Kay Francis in one of her last star parts. Clownishly clothed and drastically underlit, she bathes each dim scene in silvery melancholy, her "r"-less speech defect a persistent admission of the gulf between wisdom and power. Only set in such a labored farce could passivity seem so compelling....
You'd have to be crazy not to lunge at her -- to save her or save yourself, it's hard to tell the difference -- but in this sadly diminished version of the world, the only character who does is Rosalind Russell. And not for the sensible reason, either.
Recommendation: Show up late, leave early, and don't expect to be able to perform Othello any better afterwards.
|. . . 2001-08-21|
Inspiring verse of the day, from 1% Goat's "Now We Are Pirates":
So we had to eat him.
Now he's dead
But we found a map on a metal plate in his head,
In his head,
In his head,
In his head.
NOW WE ARE PIRATES!"
+ + +
Inspiring transitional paragraph of the day, from Nicole Loraux's The Children of Athens:
|. . . 2001-08-23|
Word of the Day
I may be a pig-ignant redneck, but by gum I ain't gonna have what meagre tools I got grabbed outa my draggingly-knuckled hands. Like, here's an inspiring elaboration (link via BookNotes) of the many uses of "like" in current American speech, which somehow is supposed to convince me that I should avoid the word. Will such a concise and adaptable bundle of usage be discarded out of fear of offending John Simon? Unlikley.
While still twitching in this fit of grammar rebellion, I noticed another justification (via Ecologues) for the singular-gender-neutral "they" (not that it really needs any more):
"A crucial theme of the book is how, in order to create something 'in the name' of Sappho, a writer must also 'forget' something about her -- almost wilfully blind himself to some critical aspect of her legacy."(Also contra the otherwise delightful Terry Castle, I like the sound of "candid maidenhood." Only the sound, I hasten to add, only the sound -- the "n"s and "d"s are so nicely arranged....)
"The Debutante" by Leonora Carrington:
On the morning of the First of May 1934, very early, I paid the hyena a visit. "It's a dammed nuisance," I told her, "I have to go to my ball this evening."
"You're lucky," she said, "I'd be glad to go. I don't know how to dance, but I know how to make conversation, anyway."
"There'll be lots of things to eat," I said. "I've seen trucks full of food coming up to the house."
"And you complain," relied the hyena in disgust. "I eat once a day, and you should see the stuff they give me!"
|. . . 2001-09-04|
I sent this letter before I read about the increasing use of the DMCA as a convenient way to suppress web sites (link via BookNotes) without the bother of legal justification: a particularly clear example of the DMCA stripping rights away from US citizens and draping them around well-padded corporate shoulders.
Dear Senator Feinstein:
In recent news coverage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, I read the following quote from "Howard Gantman, a spokesman for Feinstein": "We need to protect copyrights and this law was designed to do that."
I find this attitude deeply troubling. Copyright was already well-established law, and laws are meant to be enforced, not protected. Human beings need to be defended and protected; laws do not, except in so far as legislators may try to defend a particular law against other legislators in debate.
If there's one common theme to the Bill of Rights, it's the need to protect American citizens from such "preventative" legislation. There's no doubt that police officers and public prosecutors would sometimes more easily enforce the law if those amendments, and other troublesome parts of the Constitution, could be conveniently dropped. But if those provisions did not exist, much too much added power would be gained by the wealthy and politically powerful at the expense of the relatively powerless. Our Constitutional protections help level the legal playing field.
The DMCA is a classic example of the kind of legislation that citizens need protection from:
Public domain and fair use are always under attack by large media companies, but defense of those concepts is absolutely essential to the cultural health and heritage of a nation. Profitability is the only rule that can be followed by a publicly-held corporation, but there are reasons besides profitability for making our culture and history available. (To take an example of special interest to California, much American film history will be forever lost over the next few decades: films deteriorate, inaccessible, in vaults because the multinational corporations which own them do not see sufficient profitability in making them accessible to the public.) Those non-profit-oriented reasons don't have a chance without public domain and fair use.
But the DMCA assumes that the best way to avoid disputes over public domain and fair use is to guarantee absolute power to the large media companies.
There is no requirement that a digitally protected work automatically unprotect itself once its content enters into the public domain.
There is no requirement for fair use workarounds to digital protection. On the contrary, even investigating such a workaround is criminalized.
There is no way for the consumer and scholar to protect themselves against the industry-driven shifts in media technology fashion which seem to take place every decade or so. To take another example from American film history, several of the great early sound movies of Ernst Lubitsch have never been released on VHS tape or on DVD, due to lack of anticipated profitability. They were, however, released briefly in the now-obsolete laserdisk format. Laserdisk players are getting rarer and more expensive, and will someday will be virtually unattainable. Purchasers of the Lubitsch laserdisks -- film schools, for example -- are able to preserve their investment by backing them up to another media format. If those disks had been copy-protected, the movies contained on them would effectively be lost to the public. Similarly, if 78 RPM records could have been copy-protected, there would be little left of the early history of jazz or blues by the time copyright restrictions ran out. Only the most consistently profitable works can survive such technological shifts.
There is no consumer protection against profit-gouging deals between large corporations. An early target of DMCA enforcers was software that allows DVDs to be played on the Linux operating system. Microsoft was able to cut a deal with the relevant media corporations, and thus gain extra leverage against any competitor; Linux, as a free operating system, could not. Should the manufacturer of a copy of a fifty-year-old movie really be given so much influence over the purchaser's home computer setup? Again, the DMCA criminalizes consumer protection.
Defense of our legal rights against the arbitrary rule of the powerful is what we look to our senators and representatives for. I believe that history will judge the DMCA as harshly as McCarthyism and the Alien and Sedition Acts. I urge the Senator to reconsider her support of this unjust and destructive legislation.
|. . . 2001-09-06|
Those Incestuous Weblogs!
I wonder if the necronautical proprietor of Alamut has ever seen the "Alfred Hitchcock Hour" episode "Final Escape," in which a prisoner named Paul Perry seeks freedom by being buried alive with a corpse.
|. . . 2001-09-08|
I don't like Pauline Kael's writing, and I didn't like her influence on movie criticism. And it's not like my opinion would have bothered her or interefered with her influence, but now I feel like I was being a little unfair, albeit cheating in a different game. Who would've been allowed to become a major American movie critic in the 1960s and 1970s except someone capable of creaming over Bertolucci? Is the virus to blame for the filter that lets it through?
After all, Manny Farber, the only American movie critic (that I've read) who's approached the level of the best French movie critics or the best American music critics, all the way back in 1966 was already smickety-smacketing his painfully sensitive skull against the terminal decline of the Hollywood studio system:
In a situation where what counts is opulence and prestige -- a gross in the millions, winner of the Critics' Award, Best Actor at a film festival -- the actor has to be fitted into a production whose elements have all been assembled, controlled, related, like so many notes in a symphony....While today's actor is the only thing in the film that is identifiably real, his [sic] responses are exploited in a peculiar way. His [sic] gaucheries and half-hitches and miscalculations are never allowed their own momentum but are used self-consciously to make a point.... The idea of movement per se has also lost its attraction to moviemakers. The actor now enters a scene not as a person, but like a Macy's Thanksgiving balloon, a gaudy exhibitionistic fact. Most of those appurtenances that could provide him with some means of animation have been glazed over. The direct use of his [sic] face as an extension of the performance has become a technique for hardening and flattening; and the more elliptical use of his [sic] face, for showing intermediate states or refining or attenuating a scene, has vanished, become extinct. In fact, the actor's face has been completely incapicitated; teeth -- once taken for granted -- or an eyeball, or a hairdo, have all become key operators. They front the screen like balustrades, the now disinherited face behind.(Live with the [sic]s, please; Farber's talking about Jean Arthur and Faye Dunaway at least as much as he's talking about Gary Cooper and Warren Beatty.)
So what was Farber supposed to do? Hold out, violently ill, for the all-too-passing pleasures of '80s horror and Bill Murray and the Hong Kong boom? And then be faced with the final blockbust of the '90s and 'oughts? No, better for Kael to stuff her timely craw till even it could take no more....
|. . . 2001-09-10|
"I'd suggest that M'sieu' try the Red-OutTM instead; it goes with meat...."
|. . . an' anotha thing . . .||... then again ...|