Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Weekend Reading, Labor Day Edition

    What better novel for Labor Day weekend than Joshua Ferris's brilliant debut, And Then We Came to the End? It's truly the Labor-Day read for our time. It's formally masterful its first-person-plural narration, with a collective officeplace "we" who does the narrating, like this:
     

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Weekend Reading, August 24: Back to School

    Well, it's that time of year. Fall classes are about to begin, or have begun, and I'm definitely sure I saw at least one batch of red leaves this week.

    So, with that anticipatory autumn sadness in the air, my book recommendation this week is Paul Murray's novel Skippy Dies, set in an Irish high school. If the title hasn't spoiled it for you already, the title character meets his demise in the first few pages:
     

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Weekend Reading, August 10: Occupy Mars!

    I'm going to start a semi-regular series of "recommended weekend reading" posts. My recommendations will inevitably be all over the place, and I don't expect to focus on anything except things I happen to like. Ideally, each installment would have both a book recommendation and a link to a short story or poem available (with the author's permission) on the web.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    Moving The Needle With Spike Lee

    I just read David Denby's lukewarm review of Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer (subscription required) in which Denby calls the movie a failure but praises Lee as being one of the few filmmakers out there who would ask the kind of question about faith that he posed in the movie.  I haven't seen the movie and don't know that I will.  I don't watch every Spike Lee Joint the way I watch every movie made by Woody Allen.  But I do pay attention to him and some of his earlier films, especiall

    Hal Ginsberg's picture

    The Dark Knight Rises

    On the strength of Mary Ann Johanson's 4-star review of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises in the Monterey Weekly, http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/news/2012/jul/19/dark-knight-rises/, I did something for the first time since the releases of Gran Torino and Mystic River, I bought a ticket to see a non-arthouse film. Given Johanson's expansive rave, I was expecting not only a cinematographic tour-de-force of but also scathing social commentary decrying the overlordship of New York, er Gotham, City by financial robber barons.

    Instead, I suffered through a bombastic, repetitive, over-long, and occasionally incoherent fascist fantasy. I have not seen the first two Dark Knights, so at least some of my confusion may be due to unfamiliarity with details in the previous films. To be fair, I'll concentrate here on my problems with Dark Knight Rises that could not result from ignorance of its predecessors and conclude with a critique of its retrograde politics.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    The Batman Movie Shooting

    Last night, twelve people died in senseless gun violence at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie.

    Batman, of course, is a character who is a lunatic vigilante, and so some crazy people identify with that fantasy figure in the wrong way. Batman is also a character who has lost his parents to senseless gun violence. (They were killed on a family outing to the movies.) It's an authoritarian vigilante fantasy about stopping people from shooting each other.
     

    Donal's picture

    Bane for Dummies

    Have you heard, this new movie, the Batman movie -- what is it, the Dark Knight Lights Up or something? Whatever the name of it is. That's right, Dark Knight Rises, Lights Up, same thing. Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane. The villain in the Dark Knight Rises is named Bane. B-A-N-E. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran, and around which there's now this make-believe controversy? Bain. The movie has been in the works for a long time, the release date's been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental, that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?" - Rush Limbaugh
    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Ray Bradbury Is Dead, Alas

    Ray Bradbury has died, the newspapers all say. I am grateful that he lived so long, and sorry that he's gone.

    Donal's picture

    Torture is not Missing from TV

    Finale Spoiler! My wife insisted that I had to watch the ABC primetime show Missing, in which former spy Becca Winstone (Ashley Judd), married to supposedly dead spy, Paul Winstone (Sean Bean), is always searching for their kidnapped son Michael (Nick Eversman). She was sometimes hindered and sometimes assisted by Dax Miller (Cliff Curtis) at the CIA and Giancarlo Rossi (Adriano Giannini) at Interpol. There were lots of evil-looking Eastern European types wielding black semiautos, friendly but cutthroat double agent Martin Newman (Keith Carradine) and cute but deadly double agent Violet Heath (Laura Donnelly). And of course Paul was not really dead, or the walrus.

    Donal's picture

    The Future and Past of the American Empire

    I've written before about energy depletion guru John Michael Greer, one of the presenters I saw at ASPO's conference in DC last year. I ran across his dystopian blog novel, Star's Reach, well over a year ago, and have thought about reading it from time to time, but never quite got around to it. But I read the first chapter this morning:

    One wet day as we walked north toward Sisnaddi, old Plummer told me that all stories are scraps of one story, one great and nameless tale that winds from world’s beginning to world’s end and catches up everything worth telling on the way. Everybody touches that tale one way or another, or so he said, if only by watching smoke from a distant battle or lending an ear to some rumor in the night. Other folk stray into the one story and then right back out of it again, after carrying a message or a load of firewood on which the fate of kings and dreams will presently depend. Now and then, though, someone no different from these others stumbles into the deep places of the story, and gets swept up and spun around like a leaf in a flood until finally the waters drown him or toss him up gasping and alive on the bank.

    He said all this between one mouthful of cheap whiskey and the next, as we waited out a fall rainstorm under the crumbling gray overhang of an old ruin, and I rolled my eyes and thought he was drunk. Now, though, I am less sure. Yesterday, after I arrived at the one place on Earth I least expected ever to come, and nearly died in the process, the thought has occurred to me more than once that this journey of mine is part of something a good deal bigger than the travels of one stray ruinman from Shanuga, bigger than Shanuga or Meriga itself. That something bigger might be Plummer’s one story, for all I know, and if that is the way of it, I know to the day when it caught me up and set me on the road to Star’s Reach.
    Donal's picture

    Extinguishing Kinkade


    My wife is a sometime painter. She's done a striking reinterpretation of a Georgia O'Keeffe flower, several flowers she photographed herself, and even a portrait of me (that never gets older). She works long and patiently on each canvas. Around 2002, maybe, we walked by a gallery, and she pointed and said, "Those are by Thomas Kinkade." "Who?" "The Painter of Light." "Oh." As I recall, they were very bright paintings of yellow flowers with sunlight streaming across them—helped by a few downlights. "So ... is it that all his paintings are brightly lit?" "Yeah, pretty much." They were good paintings—I've seen a lot worse in gallery windows—but I wondered about the pretentious nickname.

    Kinkade was also known for his idyllic landscapes. Someone told me that there was some controversy because Kinkade didn't actually paint all the paintings he sold as "Kinkades." I love poster art—Mucha's Cigarette Paper Women, the Normandie, Klimt's Kiss, etc.—so reproductions don't bother me, but the Painter of Light seemed to be doing something else altogether:

    Hal Ginsberg's picture

    Elia Kazan Reconsidered

    I've been meaning to write about film for a while but haven't gotten around to it. For me, like most of us I guess, writing well requires both knowledge and passion about a topic and a sense that I have something unique to add. Lots of times, I have one or two but not all three. In late Spring 2011, I wrote a brief article entitled The San Francisco Giants have the Best Pitching Staff in Baseball.

    Donal's picture

    2011 Documentaries


    I took another quick look at Roger Ebert's site and ran across his top twenty list of documentaries released in 2011. Though I was vaguely aware that someone had done a documentary of Conan O'Brien, I hadn't heard a thing about the rest of them, including The Interrupters, above.
     

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Your New Year Public Domain Report: 2012

    Happy New Year, all. My spouse and I spent part of yesterday evening at our local revival house, watching a classic New Year's Eve double-feature of The Thin Man and After the Thin Man. Then we adjourned to a favorite bar for midnight; after all, that's what Nick and Nora would do.

    Donal's picture

    Flicks Watched Over Xmas Break


    The weekend before before Xmas I watched some classic films I had seen many times before - Holiday Inn in black and white, White Christmas in color - but one morning TCM showed All Mine To Give, based on the true story of a Scots couple settling in Wisconsin in the 1850s. Played by Glynis Johns and Cameron Mitchell, the couple worked hard, raised a cabin with help from their neighbors, prospered and brought five or six children into the new country - the American dream. But first the father, and then the mother took sick and died while the children were still quite young, and the oldest son, all of thirteen, followed his mother's wish that he find families to adopt each child. It was heart-rending to see the boy pulling an empty sleigh at the end of the film, on his way to work in a lumber camp, but at least they had neighbors with compassion.

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    #OurXmas - A Twitter celebration for those alone on Christmas - and everybody else

    I should be in San Francisco right now.  The plans had been made, tickets bought, room and board at the ready. A family Christmas vacation awaited. But then, life got in the way.

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Alec Baldwin shows American Airlines by quitting Twitter account

    For those following the silly drama between Alec Baldwin and American Airlines, the 30 Rock actor has now quit his Twitter account, saying he would start a new one.

    "Let's play a game called Mass Unfollowing. I want to crash this acct and start again. But, tonight at 10 PM, NY time, unfollow me," wrote Baldwin.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Shakespeare, Oxford, and the 1%

    Last weekend, Hollywood released Anonymous, a costume drama whose promotional materials ask "Was Shakespeare a Fraud?" They're not really asking the question; the movie clearly promotes the argument that it was "really" Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who wrote the plays.

    Donal's picture

    America in Primetime

    America in Primetime is structured around the most compelling shows on television today, unfolding over four hours and weaving between past and present. Each episode focuses on one character archetype that has remained a staple of primetime through the generations – the Independent Woman, the Man of the House, the Misfit, and the Crusader – capturing both the continuity of the character, and the evolution. The finest television today has as its foundation the best television of yesterday.

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