Paste in a few paragraphs from a post you wrote and find out what famous you write like.
January 21, 2014
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards — Kierkegaard
[T]he heart changes; and that is our greatest misfortune; but we learn of it only by reading or by imagination… — Proust
I just finished reading Swann’s Way, the first volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (a.k.a. Remembrance of Things Past), giving it five out of five stars, after reading it closely, slowly all day on a day when government offices, schools, and not a few businesses were closed in anticipation of a snow storm that began before dawn as flakes nearly as large as postage stamps, but, by noon, was birdshot flying almost perpendicular to the Oaks that line the street of the house in which I sat, suffused in the cozy smell of burning logs and hot chocolate, reading an author whom I doubt I ever would have gotten around to reading but for a day like this, a day that says read because the roads are impassible, read because there’s nothing worth watching on daytime TV, read because you and that dog curled up at your feet have been banned from the kitchen until after dinner when you will wash dishes unless you’d rather eat baloney tomorrow and sleep on the couch with that dog tonight; and so I read, winding through Proust’s intricate, musical, vivid prose as if rambling down some meandering lane of a hilly country long ago and far away. (Please excuse my sad little attempt to write a Proustain sentence.)
On most other days, I might well have abandoned this book early on as just another shaggy dog story, for nothing much seemed to happen until late in the book when Charles Swann and Odette de Crécy take center stage in the section “Swann In Love.” Before their story of obsessive, disastrously inappropriate, and jealous love begins, both characters have been introduced; and, more importantly, the disaster that befalls Swann as a result of their relationship has already been disclosed—mainly as a collateral matter of portraying other members of their social world.
Circling back in time, then, “Swann in Love” examines the process of Swann’s fall. A meme of male-female relations, this story would not have been well served by delaying the end until the end, as the focus of such an often told tale could not be what happened so much as why it happen, which favors a backwards gaze. For its penetrating and profound insights, “Swann’s Way” compares favorably with that other masterpiece of a story of jealous love, Othello; and Proust achieve that height without the villainous Iago to drive the tragedy along.
Will it take another snow storm to continue reading the remaining six volumes of this 3,000-page novel? Let’s see; check back here this time in February.
In case you missed A Tribe Called Red mentioned in the November ELLE Canada Magazine …
A Tribe Called Red has a little something-something for your ears: an electronica-hip-hop pow-wow http://tmblr.co/ZSAa8xVsakx-
A blogger is entitled to the same free speech protections as a traditional journalist and cannot be liable for defamation unless she acted negligently, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.
Crystal Cox lost a defamation trial in 2011 over a blog post she wrote accusing a bankruptcy trustee and Obsidian Finance Group of tax fraud. A lower court judge had found that Obsidian did not have to prove that Cox acted negligently because Cox failed to submit evidence of her status as a journalist.
But in the ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Cox deserved a new trial, regardless of the fact that she is not a traditional reporter.
» via Reuters
Blogger gets same speech protections as traditional press: U.S. court
|—||William Shakespeare (via vatnjotnr)|
It is precisely facts that do not exist, only interpretations — Nietzsche
Shall I project a world? — Oedipa Maas
Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, rich in allusion, multilayered, and bristling with scintillating gems of simile and metaphor drawn from thermodynamics, mathematics, and information theory, is an example of an increasingly prominent school of imaginative literature in which the novel decidedly is constructed as a problem of semiotics or meaning that is more like a puzzle than a story.
As such, it marks a point in the development of the novel analogous to the period soon after the perfection of the camera when painters all but abandoned representational art for the “abstract” art of the mind’s eye. Early in the 20th Century, E. M. Forster speculated that film might trigger a similar reaction among novelists. By the last half of the century, however, a more fundamental challenge would be posed by a radical new model of reality drawn from science.
Based on popular interpolations of Einstein’s theory of relativity, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and the related abandonment of causality for probability and statistical correlation, the new model had implications for the traditional novel—for its time signatures, its causal threads, its ordered unity of form, etc—that could not be ignored.
As a result, Kurt Vonnegut, in Breakfast of Champions, seems to have spoken for a new era of the novel: “I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life… Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, instead…”
The first suggestion that CL49 takes a similar stance comes by way of its protagonist’s very name, Oedipa Maas. Fatuous and Improbable, Oedipa is not so much a name as a signifier that directs readers to other texts, bringing to mind Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, and perhaps even Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
So extensively does the text prompt such sleuthing for cross-references that diligent readers soon find themselves immersed in something much like the mind-bending discovery phase of Oedipa’s effort to execute the will of a former lover, California tycoon Pierce Inverarity.
"As things developed, she was to have all manner of revelations. Hardly about Pierce Inverarity, or herself; but about what remained yet had somehow before this stayed away." A northern California housewife holdup in the suburbs at the novel’s outset, during the 1960s, Oedipa, educated, childless, and very much a ward of the 1950s, sees herself as being like Rapunzel, imprisoned in a tower and waiting for someone or something to free her.
Once, years before her feckless marriage to Wendell “Mucho” Maas, she had seen Inverarity as the agent of her liberation, but “all that had gone on between them had really never escaped the confinement of that tower.” Her effort to uncover and settle Inverarity’s vast, shadowy, and complicated holdings launches her into what might be called an epistemological mysteries trip in which every revelation begets a riddle and ever riddle becomes a clue to some deeper mystery leading her to wonder whether she had lost her mind, stumbled on a global conspiracy, or fallen for a cruel hoax.
As hyperbolic as her situation may seem, it presaged a real-world case in point. Three years after the book’s 1966 publication, it was rumor that The Beatles’ Paul McCarney had been killed in a 1966 car crash. Evidence of both his death and his replacement by a look-alike, it was said, could be found when certain Beatles songs were played backwards and when various Beatles album covers were examined closely.
In the mass mania that followed, the turntables and styluses destroyed by playing records backwards were innumerable, as were the hours spent pouring over album covers. For some, as with Oedipa, everything, even the slightest coincidence, got immeshed in the conspiracy; and the weight of it all was more than they seemed able to bear.
Whether madness, hoax, uncanny coincidence, or conspiracy, Oedipa’s trip permits this conclusion: Such meaning as one finds in life springs from the same human tendency as that which makes the Big Dipper and Orion, the hunter, appear in the night sky: that 20-watt apparatus between ones ears connects the dots even when no such connections actually exist.
Nor does restricting the mind’s operation to the norms of science offer an escape from uncertainty and the prospect of illusion. Instead, such efforts confine the self to a realm that admits nothing that can not be objectified. Yet those other things—such as love, community, and hope—would always remain at the twilight edges of awareness where, under the circumstances, they could only induce dread and some occult longing for something to believe in.
Oh my god, they’ve gentrified the Lone Ranger and painted Tonto white.
Gore Verbinski’s re-imagining of the Lone Ranger’s origin story is an almost good movie that might have been a blockbuster of a great movie, a telling of the story exploring those recesses of the American psyche that have made the Lone Ranger an icon of popular culture over the 80 years since it premiered on Detroit’s WXYZ-radio in January, 1933.
The film occasionally exhibits enough narrative virtuosity and verve to have reached those heights, but the moment it seems bound for high ground, it recoils, resorting to corny jokes, slapstick, or some other disconcerting narrative device that brings the story back to the low road of least resistance. It is as though the movie’s three scriptwriters never reached a consensus on an overarching artistic vision or a even a controlling tone.
The first misstep comes at the outset. By convention, the would be cowboy-hero must be a member of the hoi polloi, an Everyman, ordinary in his social standing, experience, and outlook; someone like any one of us, except for his capacity to act as we hope, but often doubt, we would if we dared do as we think we ought.
In contrast, the man who becomes the Lone Ranger, John Reid, played by Armie Hammer in this version of the story, is a recent law school graduate heading home to Texas on a train from back East shortly after the Civil War. Dressed in a lawyerly pinstriped suit and clutching a copy of John Locke’s “Second Treatise on Government” Reid returns home a dude and an egghead.
In the semiotics of Westerns, dudes and eggheads are figures of comic relief, if not scorn. Thus, within the first minutes of the movie, the heroic vision of the Lone Ranger is completely overturned. In its place, emerges a naive, priggish, antic Lone Ranger more akin to Dudley Do-Right than the original character.
Undoubtedly, Verbinski’s diminishment of that character figures in his much publicized intention of giving top billing to Tonto, played by Johnny Depp. The problem is that Depp’s Tonto, like the movie’s Reid character, does not inspire audiences to identify with him. A man with a “broken mind, this Tonto is too strange for that. He would be less strange and off-putting if he were not in whiteface throughout most of the movie.
Except for a few brief scenes of the story’s framing device in which Tonto is presented as its very unreliable narrator, Tonto is artificially white, the whiteness of his thick, cracking white face paint intensified by two black streaks bisecting each side of his face from scalp to chin at the eyes.
Did Tonto have to become white to rate top billing? To be fair, the face paint may be seen as emblematic of a peculiar form of estrangement about which Algerian psychiatrist Franz Fanon wrote in Black Skin, White Mask.
In that groundbreaking study of the psychological impact of colonization, Fanon observed that one survival strategy of the oppressed is to seek accommodation by recasting themselves in the image of their oppressors. In that light, those bars bisecting Tonto’s face may be interpreted as representing the psychological misprision of his authentic self.
Although that may be a permissible interpretation, it seems inconsistent with all the pre-release buzz about elevating Tonto. Moreover, that new image of Tonto, would invite consideration of whether the chief problem of this very problematic character relates not to appearances, but to his inability to articulate complex thoughts. His speech is only a slight improvement on the pigeon English of the original character and is markedly less proficient than that of other Native Americans who figure significantly in the movie.
If only Tonto had been made as articulate as the other Native Americans, he could have spoken truth to power. He could have presented the story as what is sometimes called a buffer tale, a folkloric story form in which the powerless—too wily ever to be broken—triumph over oppression, usually by amusing fetes of cunning and chicanery.
Such tales’ trickster heroes are practitioners of the mental equivalent of jujitsu. Dodging and deflecting the blows of oppression, they serve as exhortations to personal agency, situational awareness, and dissimulation.
Some such figure probably would have realized Depp’s wish that his Tonto would “give some hope to kids on the reservations.”
• Empire of the Summer Sun: Manifest Destiny and the Fate of the Comanche http://tmblr.co/ZIl0ByMYpy5P
• The Lady At O.K. Corral: The True Story of Wyatt Earp’s Wife of Nearly 50 Years http://tmblr.co/ZIl0Bypx7Jtw
Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/PotomacWill
I gave this fascinating, fast-pace biography four out of five stars. One reason the book rates such high marks is that it points up a very large and telling blind spot in both the received history of the Old West and in the American myth of the cowboy hero.
Who, other than devotees of the Old West, knew that Wyatt Earp had a wife, a voluptuous little woman of Jewish ancestry from New York City, who was his constant companion for nearly 50 years?
In the usual telling of history and legend, the cowboy hero will have his dalliances, but the narrative usually ends with the hero riding off into the sunset, leaving behind the little woman and the settled, quotidian world she is given to represent.
Mrs. Josephine Earp, née Marcus, amends that narrative, correcting its myopia, and making it more consonant with life. Somewhat swarthy, doe-eyed, and a little over 5 feet tall, Josephine had a figure that prompted a family friend to remark: “Her bosoms came in the front door before her body did.”
Yet she was as much an adept of the frontier and high-stakes adventurer as her man. Indeed, she seems to have been an early instantiation of Walt Whitman’s prophecy that America would engender “a new race of hardy and well-defined women” as free, dauntless, and capable as its men.
Believing as ardently as Wyatt Earp that anyone with enough drive, grit, and guile could strike it rich on the frontier, Josephine “Sadie” Earp tramped along with him from boom town to boom town, a trail winding from Tombstone, Arizona, north to Nome, Alaska and points in between, back to the lower 48, and on to Hollywood, boom town of the then burgeoning industry of the “talkies.”
For them, life was a gamble that favored big bets. More than once, they actually did strike it rich, rich enough to have been set for life, but they acted as if an even bigger jackpot awaited them just over the horizon. That is the way they lived until old age and the closing of the frontier fenced them in.
Remarkably, her relative obscurity is not entirely attributable to male chauvinism. Both she and Wyatt had secrets that would have come tumbling out of the past if ever she permitted herself to step into the limelight of his life.
Her reaction was to falsify or negate her own existence and every other perceived threat to the “nice clean story” she wanted told. In that regard, Josephine recalls F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fictional character, Jay Gatsby, who, like her, was unpersuaded that the past could not be changed.Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/PotomacWill
Manifest Destiny and the Fate of the Comanche
Stranger and more riveting than popular myth, Empire of the Summer Moon provides a corrective lens for our vision of how the West was won.
Ingeniously, this well-researched and imminently readable history develops the saga from the blood-curdling mid-19th century backstory of the birth of a “half breed” who becomes history’s most powerful Comanche War Chief to the last days of the frontier in which the once fierce warrior, Quanah Parker, becomes a movie actor, rancher, school board chairman, and friend of Teddy Roosevelt.
In the interim the reader learns how it happened that what had been a stone-age level hunter-gather society became a force able not only to prevent Spain and later Mexico from ever establishing more than a toehold north of the Rio Grande, but also to stave off—even roll back—for many years U.S. efforts to settle lands beyond the 98th meridian, the eastern flank of the Camoncheria, where what we think of as the Old West begins.
in the wild ride to the book’s denouement at the dawn of the 20th century, readers encounter an amazing variety of fascinating characters such as Quanah’s mother, Cynthia Anne Parker, the “White Squaw,” and Isa-tai, a magician/shaman whose claim of possessing a medicine that would make the Comanche impervious to bullets occasions a heart-renting tragedy of wishful thinking.
Another of the book’s fascinating story lines involves Ranald (Bad Hand) Mackenzie, the iconic Indian fighter and commander of a renowned regiment of Buffalo or Black Soldiers who eventually befriends War Chief Parker. Moreover, Civil War Generals. William Tecumseh Sherman and Philp Henry Sheridan figure in the narrative, as do Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland.
Remarkably, Chief Parker lived so close to our own timed that he came to own a car and had one of the first residential telephones in Oklahoma. My one quibble with the author is his occasional resort to such highly charged and imprecise terms as “low barbarians,” “pre-moral” and “civilized,” as they undermine his obviously concerted effort to present the unvarnished truth.
One Nation Rally—My best shot of the day: Rev. Jesse Jackson putting final touches on speech as Rainbow Coalition field director looks on. The Reverend, at about 7 a.m., was first platform speaker on the scene. He was not slated to speak until well after noon. The gathering crowd: http://j.mp/cTIaBL (vid)