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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Machine Gun Preacher

This movie looks interesting on a couple of levels, but it hints at a couple of things I've been considering lately.

The first, of course, is the just application of violence. I'm as conditioned as anyone in the modern world to prefer the non-violent approach, but I'm reluctant to cite non-violence as a founding principle in my personal philosophy. In the jungle, the trail to the top of the food chain is marked in blood. Sometimes you just might have to reach for the rocket launcher...

The second is the nature of religion. Though no less atheist, I think I've softened a bit on the Hitchens view that "religion poisons everything." It certainly poisons politics, but it's enriched other areas of our culture --art, architecture, music, literature, philosophy-- and has provided just as much inspiration for the good as the bad.

So it's kind of nice to see a movie touch on these things, the inspirational aspects of religion as well as the just applications of violence.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Industrial Revolutions with Danny Macaskill

This puts my bike video to shame.

First, I'm curious about the camera they used. I suspect it might be an HD video capable DSLR, but whatever it is, I want one. Check that soft focus. Check the depth of field.

And then, of course, check the riding skills.

Stole My Check

I downloaded an album by R.L. Burnside from eMusic this month --A Bothered Mind-- and it's full of all kinds of bluesy awesomeness. There's a pretty good rendition of the old standard Rollin and Tumblin, and then there's this:

I know what to think, R.L. I think we need to go find that lazy motherfucker, get our check back.

Monday, August 15, 2011

On the Chastened and the Toothless

Dave Weigel hasn't been the same since his brush with the Journolist scandal. He's very careful not to get too critical these days. The latest example:
One of the last people I talked to on Saturday, after Michele Bachmann won the straw poll, was a Bachmann supporter from Nebraska named Jules Ostrander.

"Two weeks ago I had no idea who Michele Bachmann really was," he told me. "Then I had a dream about Michele Bachmann. I saw she was a born again Christian. I'm a born again Christian. I knew I had to be here."

It was truly difficult to imagine anyone saying that about Pawlenty.
I get the point, Dave. Pawlenty is unlikely to inspire such devotion, but really, isn't what Mr. Ostrander said kind of, I don't know, batshit crazy?

A dream told him to go to Iowa? And he supports Bachmann because they share the same religion?

No one should be surprised that such low expectations incur such poor results.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Consider Shorter Books

Remember when Stephen King was going to retire? Yeah, I'm glad that didn't happen, too...but WTF, Steve?
Hitting store this November, the book's protagonist is an English teacher who travels through time to stop the fated assassination. Following in the fashion of his other work, this 1000-page book will not only be in print, it is making its way to the big screen.
Another 1000-pager?

I'm not against big books. There have been many --one or two written by King-- that I've thoroughly enjoyed.

But I think we're in a kind of cultural crisis where reading for pleasure has become the province of a smaller and smaller demographic. Bookworms I'm not worried about. We'll take pretty much anything writers will throw at us, from Cormac McCarthy to David Foster Wallace to Stephen King's latest 1000-page stinker.

It's the non-readers that I worry about. It seems to me that they should be reading, that if they spent a little time and effort seeking out written work that speaks to them, they will find it. They might even decide reading a book is a better use of time than video games or movies or American Idol. It might even change their lives.

But if all they see before them are these unreadable (due to size, not style) 1000-page books by sacred cow writers whose editors refuse to say "Hey, can you cut, like, 500 pages?" how are you even going to form the habit?

Yes, publishers have been long convinced that BIG books justify the BIG prices they charge. That's why when you buy a Tony Hillerman reprint, the margins are an inch wide on both sides of the page and the font is practically large print. Hillerman writes in long paragraphs that, absurdly, take up whole pages in this layout. Check out an older edition and you'll see that if they break 200 pages, it's just barely. In other words, you can start and finish this book in the same week.

It may be no better than a Stephen King or Tom Clancy tree-killer, but it's much less daunting. And if it sucks...you can read four more books by four different authors and still get the same page count.

What's better for literature? What's better for publishing?

The Fighter

Despite the critical acclaim, I didn't have high hopes for David O. Russell's The Fighter. The premise seemed too much like The Wrestler, Russell's output has been uneven, and then it won a couple of Oscars, which --hate to say it-- is kind of a reason NOT to see it.

But despite these low expectations, or because of them, this was the best movie I've seen in a while.

There was a scene towards the end that got me a little misty-eyed, and this was despite the Whitesnake song playing in the background. If you've seen the film, you'll know what I'm talking about.

And if you haven't seen the film...watch it.