April 28, 2006

Short Shameful Confession

I've always had trouble seeing Steely Dan's music as anything other than the epitome of slick smug empty knowingness.

April 25, 2006

No Place On Earth

"There is no place on this earth for Zacarias Moussaoui," David Raskin, a federal prosecutor, told the jurors, saying they should order his execution to "put an end to his hatred and venom." (NYT 24/4/06).

Jeez, I naively thought one the main aims of the War On Terror was to rid the world of the sort of mindset that proclaims there's no place on this earth for people who are beyond the pale in one way or another, whether it's because (like me or like Raskin) we're Western Heathen Scum or, more troublingly, for no reason at all, just because it's Written or it feels right....

April 24, 2006

Future Blog

Ben W., a friend of mine now living in Wellington, has started Future Blog on (in his words) "try[ing] to look at what we are, are not and could be doing to meet the three challenges of Water, Oil and Climate; those are the issues that will shape the future of New Zealand. Everything else is just static." It's still in its embryonic stages (it's got a few wrinkles with links, images, etc.), and isn't entirely ready for mass viewing yet (when are you going to get the author pages up, eh Ben?), but if you ask me it's worth visiting. And so now I know what "Transmission Gully" is….

April 22, 2006


The received wisdom on this film seems to be something along the lines of Peter Bradshaw's comment in The Grauniad that with this film von Trier's "mission is to vex and embarrass the United States. […] He wants to annoy all Americans, black and white — these Yanks think they're so cool; they're just a bunch of racists and Uncle Toms". But this film isn't ever going to annoy all Americans, the vast majority of whom have never heard of von Trier, let alone seen "Manderlay". Surely von Trier's aim is to annoy American film critics, to make them feel impotent or irrelevant, to make them feel reluctant or unwilling participants in von Trier's hypocrisy, his private little joke at the expense of his (few) viewers. "Yes, you get it", he might be saying, "but who out there in the real world cares? Yes, my film is deeply hypocritical, but what are you going to do about it beyond wringing your hands in complicit silence?" After all, the canonical von Trier audience is surely composed almost entirely of critics: Manderlay (like the whole Dogma Thing) is aimed squarely at critics — they're the only audience he seems to have in mind or care about. Manderlay's a provocation, for sure, but not one aimed at America (a place, judging by his films, von Trier seems to know only third-hand).

The film itself? Not bad, a few good moments — better than I've come to expect from von Trier, at any rate.

(Part of Flix).

April 18, 2006

Kicking Against The Pricks

"As a role model, [Beckett's] as hip and cool as can possibly be", said John Kelly, a radio disc jockey who was host of several televised Beckett discussions this week. (from the NYT, 15/4/06). Gawd help us all.

(Beckett's always struck me as a conceptual artist of the first degree, in that for me his plays are better unstaged, or, rather, staged in the mind only. It's enough to read a one-paragraph precis of most of them to let your mind run riot and to get the point; the staged versions have always disappointed me as too obvious, too telegraphed in advance, too much like mime with words, too … stagey. More congenially, perhaps, they always work as radio plays, for obvious reasons. His novels — Murphy, especially — on the other hand, work nicely in the flesh for me).

April 13, 2006

Get Me Rewrite!

"You don't write, you rewrite" (paraphrasing Hofmann paraphrasing Lowell in an old LRB via a bunch of intermediaries...).

(And why haven't I read Lowell before? The start of his "Reading Myself" in Hofmann's review:
Like thousands, I took just pride and more than just,
struck matches that brought my blood to a boil;
I memorised the tricks to set the river on fire –
somehow never wrote something to go back to.
keeps making me dither between the reading "I took just pride and more than just, / struck matches..." and the way I first (carelessly) read it (and would have phrased it): "I took just pride / and more than just struck matches ...". That fine equivocation on "just"... and that phrase "somehow never wrote something to go back to": who's not returning? And this from the rewriter?)

April 09, 2006

Why I Love Berkeley, Part 14

The Hygenic Dog Food Factory

The Hygenic Dog Food Factory. I'm sorry, but if you don't know where this is, you just don't know Berkeley. Or at least you don't know that large part of Berkeley that's beyond the stereotypes...

April 06, 2006

Happy Happy Joy Joy

I can usually cope fairly well with being surrounded by people who think that happiness is a right. But God save me from being surrounded daily by so many Californians who believe (with an often grim and single-minded intensity) that happiness is a duty….

www Tight Sainthood