Sunday, December 16, 2012

Incomplete: Reading log: David Mitchell's _Cloud Atlas_

I am proud to say that, despite my failure to make headway in Heilbron's biography of Galileo (the first 50-some pages of so I've found quite interesting in fact), I am 47% of the way through David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (according to Kindle's wonky pagination--that is a total peeve of mine, but don't get me started).

I read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet earlier this year and enjoyed it, yet I wouldn't say it was a transformative experience, of the like of The Kindly Ones (and yes, I know that I am a broken record about it ... I just really was impressed by that book). Mitchell's characters are always quite interesting, quite real. To use a poor analogy, frequently when I read books the characters I imagine are cartoons, and this to me speaks of a lack of realism in the book. But that is not so with Mitchell's books.   In fact, they seem quite real. These are real persons. And I think that is important.

I do not think that all fiction or all narrative must comply or even should comply with the demand to be "real", and I am not sure what make them real. Certainly it should not be that photographs appear when I read, for then I would be submitting fiction to a visual demand. Or worse, some kind of cinematic demand, but this book would especially deny this.  So realism in this case would require some excess beyond the photographic or cinematic. 

Cloud Atlas is a collection of interweaving narratives, as far as I can tell, in which each new narrative includes references to the previous, as the character or narrator mentions reading the former. I have read to the center narrative, which is apparently the farthest into the future, in some post-apocalyptic time, whereas the others are from the 18th century, the 1930s, the 1970s, present day, and sometime in the 21st century.  After this post-apocalyptic narrative (the phrase used by the Aleksander Hemon in an article in the New Yorker on the Wachowskis' film production of the same), the book returns to each of the previous narratives in counter-chronological order.  And each of the narratives ended, with only a couple of exceptions, at a critical, fatal point.

So this might prove difficult for a film version. In fact, I dread the idea of the Wachowskis' making this film.

And that is all there was of this post.  I offer it for my reader's voracious wants. Not out of completedness.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Problems with "Prometheus"

If you haven't seen this and are one of those people bugged by spoilers, don't read the following.
  1. If I hear one more person talk about 'answering the ultimate questions' I will personally gouge out their eyes, as happened in one scene. It first occurs during Shaw's dream sequence when she's in hibernation, when she and Holloway are giving their insipid, stupid presentation to the rest of the crew, and then later several times. See 8.
  2. How does David know so much about the "little" things that killed the Engineers? First, he knows to bring one of the containers back with him. Then he opens one up like it's a coffee can.  Then, he puts it in Holloway's drink.  Then he tried to hibernate Shaw after she's been impregnated. 
  3. Why must everyone treat David like a fucking asshole? Seriously, if I had a walking computer that could do amazing things, I think I'd be taking his comments and questions very seriously.  I would find them fascinating.  Instead, everyone in the film is like, get out of my way, robot.  It was only 2093, not 2400, a date when, perhaps, robots might be totally old hat. But Vickers says something demeaning to him early, and there is the pointless tete-a-tete with Holloway in which he again demeans him.  Even Weyland mentions how poor David lacks a soul.
  4. Since when do scientists completely ignore all contamination procedures dealing with potentially alien organic life forms? Only after the second expedition does Vickers stop Holloway from re-boarding after he is infected.  Before this, she had no problem when they brought the Engineer head on board.
  5. Is Vickers a robot? I hope so.  Because that could explain how uninteresting her character really was.  She wasn't even that threatening. See 23.
  6. Why did Holloway get so depressed when he found out the Engineers were--or at least appeared to be--dead? I mean, he's ready to abort the mission after a several hour expedition?  He realizes "It's a tomb" (which didn't really follow anyway, since there were no dead bodies in that room) and then he acts like his dog just died for the rest of his very short life. See 21. But this is a script problem. Not an actor problem.
  7. Did they have to impregnate Shaw? I mean, really.  That was just stupid and pointless, given we'd already seen two other ways that these creatures infiltrated the bodies of other organisms. Obviously pregnancy is the cineme, if there is a cineme, consistent through the entire "Aliens" series. It is never really thematized until "Alien Resurrection", which is one reason why I like the latter (perhaps "Aliens", although there it is motherhood, fundamentally) regardless of Brian and Karl, but it never really gets a thoughtful treatment. But there was no basis for this in "Prometheus".  It seemed tacked on.
  8. If I hear one more person say 'that is my belief', like it is a license to disbelieve the given, I will personally gouge out their eyes, as happened in that one scene when Frankenstein-biologist showed up.
  9. Pacing? Must everything be edited like a music-fucking-video these days? This was a movie that was three hours long and cut down to two.  At least I hope it was.  Things happened much, much, much too quickly. Ever watch some Ozu, Ridley?  He could teach you a few things.  
  10. Ridley Scott had his day. He's done. "Bladerunner", fucking amazing. Beautiful. Though, it was Rutger Hauer who made the film so wonderful.  But since then, nothing that great. And "Alien" was not really as good as "Aliens". Yes, "Thelma and Louise" was good, but that was based on a good script and good actors … well, at least Susan Sarandan and a young Brad Pitt and Michael Madsen … I also liked "Black Hawk Down" as an excellent action film, although it was unequivocally racist.  Yo, skinnies are people too.  People.  Human beings. They have human motivations as well. See 23.
  11. If you are landing on a planet, wouldn't it be a good idea first to survey it first, aerially or by some late 21st century means, before landing, so that you know the best site to land? As far as we know, they just happened to find these temples.  Based on the narrative, it could have just as easily happened that they landed elsewhere and found nothing and went home. In "Alien", a beacon drew them to the ship.  That makes sense.  You don't just land a ship anywhere, after spending traveling for two years ...
  12. If earlier you were told there may be life in a portion of an alien dwelling distant from you, you decide to go the opposite direction, when a reptilian creature suddenly appears before you why do you then become playful and friendly?  Especially if you are a biologist?!?
  13. "Invitation"? Just because there are pictures of giants with primitive humans in cave dwellings?
  14. Must we really pose doubt about evolution again? If, say, the Engineers were our genetic predecessors, how does this imply that they designed us? And why would than imply that evolution might be false? Are these people remedial high school students, or supposedly, well-trained scientists?
  15. If David has repeatedly betrayed you, to the point of almost making you into a meat vessel for an interesting alien life form, a la Paul Reiser's Carter Burke in "Aliens", are you going to then trust him to pilot you to the Engineers' home, rather than again betray you and take you and some of these aliens back to Earth?
  16. If the Engineers tried to kill you, why would you then want to go to their home?
  17. Why would you assume that the Engineers meant to "abort" their children or kill their robots, if a few Engineers killed a few humans?
  18. Where did that crazy fucking octopus come from? Yes, it was the aborted thing having been taken out of Shaw's abdomen, but what I don't know is how it grew some 10 to 15 times its original size in a matter of a few hours.  This is a problem I have with the entire "Alien" series. How, within a very small period of time, does a small creature (the hatchling) manage to become an adult, some 10 times its original size? Isn't the law of the conservation of matter involved here? Must there not be a significant amount of feeding to assist the transformation in size? But that did not obtain …
  19. How many alien life forms were there? Were they related? How did the exploding head relate to them?  Why didn't the biologist's head explode?  Why was the biologist crouched like a spider when he showed up outside the ship?
  20. Is there any reason to believe, at the end, that the alien that emerged from the dead, previously impregnated Engineer, is linked to the other alien life forms?  
  21. Why would anyone cast Logan Marshall-Green … in anything? He must be a really awesome guy. But he is a horrible actor.  
  22. Why Guy Pearce as a very, very old man? Why not just a very, very old man playing that role? Seriously, what is the point of casting Guy Pearce for that role? Guy Pearce has done good work, but not consistently enough to be someone that a director must have. And he's not known for his impressions of old-timers. 
  23. "Ridley Scott instructed Charlize Theron to stand in corners and move in lurking movements, in order to accentuate Vickers's distant, enigmatic nature." IMDB Trivia. Again I say, if this is how he instructs actors, quit now. Quit hogging the opportunities and the money … 
  24. Since when are state-of-the-art surgery devices only programmed for men?  And if they can be quickly reprogrammed, again, why are they only programmed for men …
  25. Is it easy to walk around--can you walk at all, when you have a ten inch incision through all of your abdominal muscles, that has been quickly stapled shut? That was a rhetorical question. 
  26. Okay, a couple people on board have tried to make you into a meat vessel for an alien species, but you've overcome them.  After that, everything is more or less copacetic, such that you'll accompany them to meet the apparently living Engineer?
  27. A suggestion: never allow Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof to write a script for any other film.  Also, read it before you begin filming. Allow for revisions.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Struggles with Literacy

This is actually the title of the memoirs I am penning for my sister, who is a frequent reader of very bad books (i.e., penned by Dan Brown and Mary Higgins Clark). But it might also describe one of the developments of our contemporary media technologies, including Twitter and Facebook, but especially the political domain forged in these instruments, in which single phrases, excerpted from any larger context--by the force of the necessity of the medium, not out of mere mendacity--are "unlearning" us.

Example: EPA official Al Armendariz was forced to resign from his office after Republicans seized on a comment of his about how his employer should make examples out of polluters, in a fashion similar to that of the Romans crucifying threats to frighten others. If you look at comments on the Washington Post version of this story, you'll see at least one person complaining about those zealots in the EPA. But of course, Armendariz was not planning on actually crucifying anyone. Certainly he is aware that his powers do not extend this far. But I presume the Republicans were upset because of the reference to crucifixion and the insensitivity to the horrible deaths of many Christians and Jews. Or rather, of course, that is not really the case. The real issue is that this pubic servant is threatening corporations, and as we know thanks to Citizens United, they are people …

The issue is about language losing its capacity for subtlety, such that passages like the following would be impossible:
I live in the Jewish quarter or what was so called until our Hitlerian brethren made room. What a cleanup! That's seventy-five thousand Jews deported or assassinated; that's real vacuum-cleaning! I admire that diligence, that methodical patience. When one has no character one has to apply a method.
This passage may be very offensive if you are Jewish or related to any of those who lost their lives or livelihoods to the Nazi purges. But it is also a passage from a work of literature, from Albert Camus' The Fall. The narrator, from this passage, clearly is not truly sympathetic to the Nazis and their deeds, although he says as much. And if he were, say, like the narrator of The Kindly Ones, he would still be the narrator of a fictional work, and therefore given wide latitude because of his status as a fictional character.

A less clever person may interject at this point, but isn't it clear that no such "unlearning" has taken place, Instead you are blurring the boundaries between different forms of speech: namely, literature, and public address. No, because my point is the less we are capable of appreciating the metaphorical uses of languages, even if for a cheap political gain, the more we have forced others to police their own speech, for the sake of avoiding confrontation. In so doing we also reinforce the sense that there is something to be avoided, and so allow witch hunts to continue, and so deny ourselves more sophisticated means of expression.

Optimistically, we might say that this is a good thing as it gives greater powers to the domain of literature. But the boundaries of that domain are falling. If we cannot appreciate or allow metaphorical language outside of literature, it is only a matter of time before we condemn it in literature, especially insofar as we become less and less capable of determining what literature is (because we are reading books by authors like Dan Brown and Mary Higgins Clark).

Metaphorical speech must be defended. First amendment rights, of actual people, must be defended not only by the law but by the institutions that employ these people. Therefore, like the Republicans, but for different reasons, I condemn the EPA leadership, that asked for Armendariz to step down.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"The King's Speech" (2010): good acting, bad movie

You'd have to be a fool to have troubles with the performances of Colin Firth or Geoffrey Rush, although I must say the latter is getting perhaps too comfortable with these oddball roles.  But really, dumb movie.  Yes, overcoming something like a stutter is a tremendous achievement. And it does make you think about the life of solitude someone lives who suffers a stutter.

But this film was so incredibly formulaic.  To distinguish itself, the DP used very short lenses, which produced a claustrophobic-immensity effect that was very appropriate, given the fear of the King in approaching the world. But it could hardly work well outside of that POV, where it was also used with free hand.

Yana really wanted to see it. That's my mea culpa. She's part British, you know. I thought I should see it, but I didn't really want to see it. I suspected what I got.

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Crime of Passion" (1957)

   You didn't know Kathy Ferguson (Barbara Stanwyck) was a lesbian? Don't be daft. Or rather, what did you expect from an advice columnist for a San Francisco newspaper, who is preternaturally disposed against marriage because it will imprison her?
The peculiar boudoir.
   The film begins at Kathy's desk, where her colleague is reading the letter from a 17-year-old girl who is in love with a married man. Kathy's advice: run away with the wife. But before Kathy can get very far with that line, her editor interrupts her and sends her to police headquarters to cover the story of an L.A. woman who has murdered her husband and fled to San Francisco. When Kathy tries to get information from L.A. detectives Captain Alidos (Royal Dano, impassive and skinny as a rail in his suit, but with steely ice blue eyes) and his partner Doyle (Sterling Hayden, the heavy), she is snowballed and told that her place is to be at home making supper for her husband.
   So Kathy turns to her own column's forum to draw the suspect forth, with a plea to a woman who--as read by a series of shots of some (one at home in bed next to her sleeping deadbeat, one sitting next to her friend in a bar before a bored, half-attentive bartender, one in a sleeping gown reading to another sitting by her also prepared for bed (frame included), and finally, la pièce de résistance, two women employed in a parking garage whose sexuality is undeniable (frame included))--having been forsaken by the man she trusted can only turn to another woman. Kathy writes to her "heart to heart" …
The innocuous parking lot attendants.
   In the next scene Alidos and Doyle again visit Kathy because they understand the murderess has contacted her. Kathy gives a fake address to Alidos when he tells Doyle to stay with her. After he's gone she reveals that she has saved the real address for Doyle, who she hopes to help get ahead.  Dutiful Doyle calls his partner and tells him to return, explaining to Kathy that he and Alidos are partners and hinting to  the meaning of the fraternal order and that he feels no need to compete with Alidos. As they talk it becomes clear that both are single and he asks her out for dinner that night. At dinner, their conversation interrupted in media res, Kathy confesses she will probably never get married. Doyle asks what "greater ambition could she have other than to get married", to which Kathy responds that marriage sounds like a "life sentence." She gives every appearance of being resolute, but she goes with Doyle to the airport as he and Alidos leave with their woman.
   As a result of her having drawn forth the murderess, before the public eye no less, Kathy is no longer beholden to her job at the newspaper and prepares to leave for New York. While she is collecting her things from the office, Doyle calls and invites her to to stop in L.A. on her way. She seems very taken with him. When he meets her at the airport, he asks if she loves him and she says he does. In the next shot they stand in front of the justice of the peace.

   Okay, so you can see already why this is a B movie, given that all of the preceding happens within the first 15 minutes of the film. This woman, who is not only uninterested in marriage, but more so the male sex, meets Hayden's quiet unambitious Doyle and abandons these basic doctrines of her faith …?
Pope offers to show Kathy his file
 on "strange offenses committed
by seemingly normal people."
  As you might have guessed, this marriage is not going to end well. Kathy's conversion both is and is not complete. She claims she wants nothing more than to darn his socks, but she also wants him to succeed and is disappointed by his apathy toward the social ladder. Behind the scenes, she accidentally meets the wife of Inspector Pope (Alidos and Doyle's boss, played by a svelte and melting Raymond Burr, before he was Raymond Buuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrr) and not only gets her husband within the Inspector's coveted social circle (a scene of the wives of Doyle's colleagues chatting while the men play poker, during which the sycophany for Pope and wife is only bested by the compliments on the olive loaf), but even seduces the boss.  Although the latter is a gesture made for the sake, diegetically, of Doyle's replacing Pope upon an early retirement, rather than Alidos, there is every indication that it may have been undertaken merely to sate Kathy's lust for a man in power.
  But Pope backs out on his deal and explains to an exasperated Kathy that it was only "pillow talk" and that he will not give over his department to a less capable man because of her sex. Then Kathy channels the woman that she had seduced with her written word and, in the middle of the night, kills Pope in his living room (the wife is in the hospital).
   In Alidos' absence, Doyle spearheads the investigation and eventually realizes, on examining certain evidence, that it was his wife. From their home he drives her to the station, telling the night sergeant that she is there for questioning.

  It's a B movie, but it is also elegant in its organization, hilarious in its presentation, and smoldering with sexual pathos. So why is the conversion both complete and not complete? Because although Doyle is the object of her total love, it is a love that demands an ambition from him that he never gives the slightest indication of manifesting (or even admiring). She wants him to be a man. Whereas he is happy as a lowly Lt., developing his nest egg and slowly accumulating a middling seniority. He wants only to love her.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


It says they are only drafts, but there are comments …? And I recall publishing them.  But I couldn't find the published versions.

My apologies for old news, republished.

Old poem, unpublished: To Orlando (The Love Song of Alfred J. Shitlips)

Oh fair skies, then overcast, then fair again,
all the while hot and sweaty like the balls
of a Mafioso.
(Pauly Walnuts, anyone?)

All the pastel colors in the world
are here.

Thunder crashes. Lightning rips
across the sky--travelling faster
than any neural network
remotely near.

My brains, aspirations
have turned to mush in this hot, humid Wonderland.

The microcosm of Disney, separated by tall fences
from the suburban wasteland.

If fences make good neighbors, then the nameless people
next door
and I
must be good neighbors.

The feet of the robot scuttle
over the deep bottom
of this chlorinated pool.

The pool boy came today. I called him
"cabana boy" by mistake. He smiled,
paying me no mind.
Once I was good enough to eat.

Now I am just old.
I haunt the aisle of prunes and dare to eat a peach.

Old post, unpublished: Superstition, Luck

At the beginning of the Theologico-Political Treatise (1670), Spinoza writes that if humans could control the conditions of their lives, they would not perceive the vicissitudes and triumphs as the result of merit or penalty. I have found this comment, along with others by the same author, to bear a deeply therapeutic force in my own life, especially when I am given, by the proximity of several misfortunes to reflect and wonder what I've done wrong.

For example, the day of the move from Yana's apartment in Brooklyn to our new place in Inwood, I managed to get two traffic tickets. The first was for talking on the cellphone while driving (I had to call Yana to tell her that I was going to be late arriving in the Uhaul truck because commercial vehicles were forbidden from the Harlem River Drive); the second was for double parking outside our apartment to bring a few things in (I depart from the car for less than a minute to give the dogs a chance to miterate and turn around and the man in blue is already writing me up). Later Yana would say of these things, "today was not an auspicious day for moving."

My capacity for reflection and my profound irritation at the second ticket ($150) made me start to wonder what these things meant. On this point, this post intersects, at least obliquely, with the concerns that Dr. J raises in a recent entry. I have to say, as an autobiographical aside, that this question about what things meant turned me to philosophy after literature. To be more precise, I think throughout high school (where I fondly recall writing several drafts of an interpretation of W.H. Auden's "As I Walked Out One Evening") to college (interpreting Ellison's Invisible Man, Rushdie's Satanic Verses and Genet's (auto)biographical novels) to graduate school (explicating Schelling's Freiheitsschrift), all of my thinking has been engaged in or probing into interpretation. In the capacity of reading these texts which themselves demand interpretation, I think I have had more than a little bit of luck (haha) or perhaps even some aptitude thereto.

But what really perplexes me is reading experience. Experience presents a unique problem for interpretation, because unlike the work of art, it does not demand interpretation. Or does it? Maybe the real question is, what does demand interpretation?

Old post, unpublished: Blogtastic!!!

I shall not disclose how originally I came upon this set of sites, but I strongly encourage you to skim through some of the many blogs of this person "Happeh," which is apparently pronounced happy.

I think this may be an original thinker. This person may be a genius. The proof that Happeh adduces for his/her claims comes almost wholly from photographs, but what is unique is the way that s/he draws on those photographs to bring out the energy, pyramid or Cyclopean eye.

Reading, or rather, briefly perusing these blogs, gives me a profound joy, that I can only call "energy," in honor of my new model Happeh.

The primary reason, I suppose, is because I am trying to discover the motivation behind this person. Clearly Happeh is concerned with masturbation. S/he also has some significant knowledge about the world and, in particular, about medicine. But Happeh is also a philosopher. Consider the following quotation, from a post entitled, "Episode 82 - Don't try to help people." The blog from which this post is taken concerns a cartoon called Dragonball Z.

"If you are ever in a situation where you are counting on people to be smart and to understand what is going on, don't do it. Just as this cartoon shows, people will usually do the stupidest thing possible, and that stupid thing will almost always cause you grief."

The second reason is because this person continually refers to his/her own theory, with the following rhetorical gesture: "According to Happeh theory, ..."

Also, see the first post from the venerable "Secret's of Life Blog." Amazing insight!

Keep an eye on this one. We haven't seen the last of Happeh (s/he's already published a book!).

Rant: Is "La Jetée" the inspiration for "12 Monkeys"?

This question is honestly a rhetorical question, prompted by a post on Gizmodo that I have until recently read fairly faithfully, that is, until I read this post entitled: "La Jetée: The Inspiration for 12 Monkeys (and probably the Terminator)[sic]".

Of course, at least for the former, this is true: "12 Monkeys" was inspired by "La Jetée".  But "The Terminator"?  Everyone knows the latter was inspired by the Pro-Life movement, as I have inveighed upon numerous times.

But to make "La Jetée" into merely the inspiration for "12 Monkeys"? That is an insult to "La Jetée"!  And don't get me wrong, I'm not a Chris Marker fanatic. I think the cat graffiti all over Paris is stupid, despite what my wife says. "12 Monkeys" is crap, like everything that Terry Gilliam has done.  In fact, Terry Gilliam is crap.  Crap! I mean, yeah, entertaining stuff.  "Brazil", etc. But really, I'd rather spend time watching "Last Year at Marienbad" or "Metropolis" than anything by Terry Gilliam.  I know that people are crazy about "Time Bandits" and about "Adventures of Baron von Munchhausen", and I admit that I have not seen these films, or only seen parts of them. But honestly, having seen other Gilliam films is enough proof to me that I should be watching pre-Code films or Korean horror, but not anymore Gilliam.  There is simply not enough time.  It's like reading Dan Brown. Yes, it may be entertaining (although it may also be rotting my brain), but there is too much good stuff to be wasting my time on crap.


Did I mention: crap!

Of course, I'd be a fool if I didn't give "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" its due.  It is a great film.  But not really to be credited to Gilliam.

I could be wrong about Gilliam.  But I really really think that I'm right.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A very objective review of Cindy Meehl's "Buck"

   The film is about a real "horse whisperer" named Buck Brannaman (he apparently served as an assistant to the movie "The Horse Whisperer", although I do not think the novel was based on him). He comes from a line of horse trainers that have adopted an essentially nonviolent, empathetic approach to their art, in which no longer need a horse be broken. But the film is mainly about this guy and his life, or rather, his childhood suffering from paternal physical abuse, how he escaped that and how it served as a perfect backdrop for his own work.
   In one of the first voiceovers, Buck says something to the effect of, I'm a guy who appears to work with people that have horse problems, but actually with horses that have people problems.  The point of this being like the wisdom that Caesar Millan, the "Dog Whisperer", demonstrates (although I do not think ever really articulates), which is that the animal's problem is usually the owner.
   This kind of thing really interests me because I'm a believer in the wisdom of Aristotle's maxim that the friend is another self, and in the mirroring nature of the master-slave relationship in Hegel, and the notion of transference in psychoanalysis … in general. I am interested in the way that humans find reflected in those around them, and the kinds of things we can learn about ourselves by studying those closest to us. Of course, those ideas may still seem better suited for topics apart from human-animal relations.  But I went ahead and made the transition a long time ago and never looked back.
   So let me say why I liked it and what it made me think about:
   People like Buck make me imagine a different culture, one not dissimilar from the one I thought I grew up in--a rural culture where people worked with animals and lived on farms and had simple lives and were morally uncomplicated. It was an illusion, but one that I still cling to in some respect. When you meet Buck he reaffirms that being morally uncomplicated, that treating others well and treating oneself well, is within your power. He is an image of the culture that is mocked in "Hud" (1963), according to Pauline Kael (more on that in another post).
   The relation to animals is really important, I think, because how you treat animals says a lot about the kind of person that you are. For example, one of the reasons I fell for Y was because of her two dogs (and the fucking cat, Nigel, who was a furry bastard). If we cannot feel empathy for those less powerful or even dependent on us, but instead only resentment or irritation if not indifference, what can the rest of the world be for us except an occasion.
   Now the case of "Buck" is different, because horses are not less powerful or even necessarily dependent. In fact, they are dangerous creatures, as you see in one brilliant scene in the film where Buck tries and fails to train a horse which has grown up, not mistreated, but indulged. While he directs the rider most of the time, at one point the rider simply goes inside the fence with the animal and after a moment of tension, it attacks him and bites his head. He is okay, although required to go to the hospital for stitches (there was blood), but this incident determines that the animal cannot be saved and must be put down (I do not think this was a legal requirement, but merely the judgment of the owner of what must be done). It is sad, because it is a beautiful horse and it is a horse, being a sentient creature which clearly has regard for its own life and its desires.
   This scene is important, particularly as it follows a series of others in which Buck almost effortlessly tames colts that have never before had a rider, and dazzles onlookers who corroborate the viewer's desire for Buck to be amazing. Which he is. But Buck has his limits and this errant horse was one of them. As indicated, the horse reflects the indulgence of the owner who had lovingly raised the horse, nursing it after its mother had passed away during the birthing and then even "potty" training the horse (unclear). The owner had not gelded the horse (I hope that's the right term) and in fact had 18 other studs on her farm. Buck chastises her, gently but firmly, for allowing this, since it is neither in the best interest of the horses or the owner.
   The owner reminds me of an ex-girlfriend I had who had three cats (when we were together) and later on, after we separated, acquired many more animals. These adoptions were a gesture of charity, she thought, except that she could not keep some 10 cats and several dogs living together harmoniously (or even in good health) in her house. This kind of charity is an ignorance of her own limits, since she gave up her own needs for those of another. But she could not take care of those animals, and therefore her charity was not what it intended. It was in fact mistreatment. She could not accept that she had limits to her charity, because she could not accept her own limits … because no one had offered her that charity? I was stupid enough to think I was doing that while we were together, but eventually it became plain that was false.
   Only a few clips show Buck's wife and sketch that relationship. His traveling horse clinics are the basis of his livelihood, and he is on the road for a large portion of the year running them. It clear that this is the source of much of his happiness. He speaks occasionally about how nice it is to be with his family, yet he stays on the road nonetheless. He says in a voiceover that she does not like to travel. But then shortly later, when the camera is just on her, not necessarily in response to the earlier clip, she says she likes to travel. But she also likes to stay home, and smiles. 
   Those are the kinds of movements that demonstrate some directional and editing intelligence, showing without thematizing, without telling, you might say. The film moves continually in this manner, introducing topics through unprovoked comments and then supplying a narrative to follow them. This movement is not unlike how, in another scene, Buck describes learning how to direct the horse by pulling the its rope bridle, which even when firmly directly, becomes firm gradually and without a violent, painful pull. Would that other filmmakers understood such discretion. This is what makes this film so beautiful, that it documents the formation of an art and the "wisdom" resulting from it, how that wisdom spills into other practices and other relationships and other objects, transforming all it touches.

Not knowing your own ignorance

If these hard days of 2010-12 (career wise speaking … or lack thereof speaking …) have taught me anything, it is that humility should be traded on the stock market, because then someone would be profiting from the rejections I (and scores of others) continually suffer.

I wish others knew that. For instead, it seems that the internet has empowered many to offer opinions where they should not. As an example, I will recount how I have just finished all but the last chapter of an "interesting" book called El Narco.  I use the work interesting in the sense that it has when asked to judge a piece of artwork produced by one's friends, that one cannot possibly affirm, but also cannot criticize.

El Narco is an informational book, if you know nothing about the history of the drug industry in Mexico.  Which I freely admit that I do not.  So I think I learned a lot from that. But it is written by a newspaper journalist who was not ready to make the transition to non-journalistic writing.  His writing is really awful.  For a Brit, his English sucks.  Maybe he's spent too much time speaking Spanish, as it is not impossible that  such an immersion in the language and culture of another would adversely affect one's own.  For example: he uses the word "nut job" many times.  Too many times.  A word to be used in informal speech, but not a serious book.  I was really interested from reading the introduction, which I suspect is the portion of the book that he spent the most time on.  It suggests that the book will show that the increase of the violence and extent of the drug trade over the last few years is a result of the accession of a less corrupt federal government (i.e., not PRI).  I think he even went so far as to say that it was a result of the movement to a more meaningful democracy in Mexico.  But this was never really shown.

At any rate, I was preparing to write some comments on, which normally I save for books that I really like (I've only reviewed two, in fact).  But as I looked through the comments, particularly to find one's that shared my own sense of the faults of this book, I found the following.

And I was flabbergasted.  And I wonder how people like this come to think that their opinions about whatever might actually be of interest to others.  As you might imagine, this literary genius has even published his/her reviews on a blog.  Most are of cheap romance novels and the like.  Which, hell, someone has to review so why not "KY bunnies"!