31 December 2005

Veronica Mars

Truly: 'Best. Show. Ever.'

We just completed an intensive two week viewing of the first season of Veronica Mars. When the show originally aired in Fall of 2004, it was the only show of the season that we were honestly excited about watching. Unfortunately, State College, PA simply does not carry a UPN station. We had the everything digital cable package, but it did not include UPN. Thus, we spent the past 18 months hearing echoes from both critics and friends about how brilliant the show is, including the Joss Whedon quote above (and previously referenced here, though I'm too lazy to post the link).

All I can say now is that the show is brilliant. It's written so taughtly, the characters have such depth, and the season's story arc is astonishing. If that weren't enough, the character of Veronica rivals Buffy in terms of high school girl heroine.

I can't wait to watch the first season through again, and I'm crossing my fingers that Steve Jobs will announce UPN shows availability on the iTunes Store at next week's MacWorld.

30 December 2005

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

I mentioned to L when we were in Seattle the other week that Snow is either very bad or high literature. It walks that line, and I think most of the time it leans toward the latter. It's a story set in a snowed-in town called Kars, in eastern Turkey, and focuses on the main character, Ka, a poet, who has come to town ostensibly to write a story on a rash of suicides by local girls but in fact has come because he is in love with a local beauty. The novel is fairly masculine, which in itself isn't usually a problem for me (exception: Catcher in the Rye) but here just becomes kind of stifling after awhile.

The prose is solid, and very occasionally even brilliant, and the depiction of the characters, from Ka himself to the first-person narrator that inserts himself in odd places throughout, to Ipek, the focus of Ka's love, or even Blue, the rebel Islamist, is very well done, particularly as you simultaneously find yourself not really knowing the characters and knowing them quite well. The novel has a very Eastern European/Russian feel to it as a result: it reminded me of Gogol, with the main character going to visit all of these other characters and asking them things, describing them, but always from the narrator's fairly narrow perspective, so we end up chuckling sometimes at the descriptions but never quite fully trusting anyone in the book, from Ka on down.

the political backdrop for the novel involves an anti-secularist movement within Turkey, with overtones of Kurdish separatism/nationalism and a range of different Islamist groups. Theater also figures prominently, which has an interesting layering effect for the book: it is a novel about a poet who often watches TV broadcasts of plays which sometimes bleed into way-too-realistic "performances."

So if you like Russian novels, and can embrace the masculinity, I think this could be a good read. Or, if you're up for a bit of a hard slog to expand your reading horizons a bit, but not necessarily with a huge payoff, then I'd go for it. Others really liked the book—Salon put it on their best books of 2004. I'm not so sure.

29 December 2005

King Kong: worst movie of the year

okay, maybe not worst. But definitely worst out of the films I've seen this year, and I saw War of the Worlds. Which was bad. so in my first post back in a while, I just need to vent and rail against this unrepentantly primitivist—strike that, it's plain racist—boring, waaay too long (sageblue suggests half an hour, I suggest at least an hour and a half), and way too proud of itself. Yes, it's beautiful (to steal the only line of the film), and it shows that the director, cinematographer, and editor love the widescreen shape and composing things within it. so we get to pause on the ape's face for about 15 minutes of the total, and poor Naomi Watts gets to scream, cry, moon at the camera for another 20 or so, giving them some time to cut right there! see, it's not hard!

And yes, it's a remake, so we can forgive some of the Orientalizing/Primitivism/racism, but could he have played it a bit differently for the 2005 context? Oh, no, instead let's play it up, making the "natives" a cross between the infected people in 28 Days Later, images from 19th century freak shows, and Linda Blair in the excorcist, only very very black? I know Orientalism is cool these days, what with Peter's earlier use of the turban-wearer-riding-large-elephant-as-evildoer motif in the Rings trilogy, but this is way way over the top. And where do these folks go after the initial hour? a bit of a narrative hole there, no?

the writing could not have been worse, wasting the excellent acting ability of Naomi Watts (yes! beauty! beauty!), Adrian Brody, and even Jack Black, whom I enjoy and respect—comedy is hard, and he's good at it.

Sure, special effects, blah blah blah. really? do we have to be impressed by this anymore? didn't Lucas prove that special effects do not a decent movie make? or a bad movie save? the dinasour chase through the canyon was fun, for the first age and a half, until it turned into the endless Agent Smith fight from Matrix 2 and became utterly ludicrous. the bug/snake/centipede etc. thing was way way better in the Indiana Jones series, and they could write back then (snakes, why does it always have to be snakes?)

I'll close with this: the moral of the movie is that if you are a manly man you protect your womanly woman by fighting other manly men for her. So if anything redeems the film it's its support of patriarchy, which as my readers know, I'm so completely behind.

27 December 2005


When it comes to knowledge of history, I usually feel confident laying bold claim to being one of the more ignorant folks you will encounter, especially for someone with a bunch of worthless degrees. I never studied European or World History of any sort in high school (it just wasn't in the curriculum) and I never took a single History class in College. Simply put, I know very little history.

This was made quite clear to me in a lengthy discussion a few weeks back with the son of one of my colleagues, called Luke. Luke was discussing British history in depth, making arguments about English nationalism, colonialism, and monarchical rule. I couldn't challenge any of his arguments, because I hardly knew any of the history he was covering. Luke is 10 years old.

Thus, it frustrates me even more – and would lead me to rant in detail if I knew any details too rant about – that there seems to be such shockingly little regard for history in the world around me of late. Two banal cases should suffice to capture my rather vexed state:

  • The AP article from this morning's 'newspaper' (local Vancouver press), describing the proposal in Congress to do away with 'Birth Citizenship' for illegal immigrants. In true 'objective' fasion, the article tried to present 'both sides' to this issue, but failed to mention in any place that coming to America so that your kids will be American is nothing new but rather has a long and interesting history. Some might even argue that knowledge of that history shows us that this practice is quintessentially American - part of the very fibre and fabric of the country.

  • The vast commentary on Brokeback Mountain. Almost no one among the cacophony of voices seems to understand that the movie is set in the early 1960s, in Wyoming. Stonewall is 1969 folks! These guys aren't gay, because 'gay identity' does not yet exist in the world. They cannot act and talk and think and make choices the way we might wish them to in 2005 (that is, if 'we' live in so-called blue states), because there simply is no subject position available to them in which they might express a so-called gay identity. And that's not the same as saying their 'true nature' is closeted, repressed, or whatever else, because in the time and place and context that these two grew up, they had no gay identity to express. This isn't medieval European history, it's just a few decades ago, but it's history nonetheless.

holiday cheer

I wish I could report that I have been lolling around in my pajamas, eating copious amounts of carb-filled dressing and generally wallowing in loot, but while that has taken up part of my last few days, I have in fact been working to finish the unending index and copyediting for the Asian Art anthology. Two words: not fun. So apologies for the unexpected hiatus. I will provide review of King Kong (D-), recommendations on who should read Pamuk's Snow, and other enlightening tidbits once I surface.

21 December 2005

bullet point life

  • U2 is the best live band ever and we lurv them. Bono is on both of our "lists" for those whom the other is allowed to sleep with if given the opportunity. I believe The Edge is also on that list for both. Sadly both of them are married, which is of course the primary barrier for this to happen...

  • I second Sam's assessment of Brokeback, and am frustrated that the critics seem not to be able to employ the word "queer" in an intelligent way, insisting on reading the film as one about "gay identity" when in fact it is utterly not gay and completely and utterly queer. I imagine there will be more on this as we will see the film again very soon.

  • a Washington Post article printed in the local Vancouver paper in the back of the Life section (don't ask. of course one shouldn't read these things) on the important seasonal toy safety warnings mentioned that some of these toys that have been recalled are "made-in-China cheap." really? the Post can get away with this kind of racist language? I suppose so. sad and horrifying.

  • we're in Seattle. good coffee, and they have half-and-half in this country, which is a Good Thing. Mmmm Milky goodness.

  • the home of OaO (physical, literal home) is fabulous and thus we hate them and surge with jealousy.

Brokeback Mountain

Dan was insistent we see this movie asap, and since we owed him for his devotion to Serenity (and Joss), we have complied. Thus, both secondamericano and Odds Are One have now viewed the movie.

My initial opinion? Movie of the year. Hands down. Seriously.

19 December 2005


So we are now in the (good ol') US of A, well, at least in the northwesterly portion thereof. Still about 2 inches to the left due to soul lag (see earlier post on this). we are prepping for the U2 concert by listening to nothing but U2 all day, thereby taking the gluttonous route to enlightenment rather than the ascetic, of which I heartily approve. We have been reunited with the doggy, which is a good thing, and other than that we are lying low, recovering and prepping for U2. Oh, and there seems to be some sort of "holiday" thing. In the UK we call it "Christmas" but here there seems to be some sort of "war" on this. The etymologist in me wishes to remind the American public of the root of the word "holiday" but that would be too erudite, wouldn't it? Ah well. More reports from the front over the couple of days...

16 December 2005

'Sorry, mate. The house is full'.

That was the Inn Keeper's response when Mary and Joseph came calling for a room in the story of Christmas, as told by the play put on by the local school last night. We went to watch our friends' kids perform, and it was quite a sight. Afterwards, we went back to theirs for mulled wine and mince pies.

As you can see, we're on the precipice of going native. But in a few hours we return to the land of the 'free'. Should be quite an experience.

15 December 2005

Joining in at Emery's place, again

I was going to comment on Emery's post, but I was afraid I'd carry on too long. And besides, I think the discussion over there bleeds into discussions at Paul's place. So perhaps I can serve as a bridge. Here's the bit from Emery that interests me:
is it true that it's impossible to cognize (not sure what work "cogniz[e]" is doing) the experience of (again, not sure what work "experience of" is doing here) death rationally? Or is it just the case that the thought of our personal extinction is, well, unpleasant? It seems to me that it's easy to conceptualize death. Go to the wall and flick the light switch. One second the light is on, the next, it's off. The off position is death.

First off, as a heathen myself, I find the matter-of-fact nature of Emery's metaphor quite appealing; I'm somewhat drawn to the idea that death is fairly simply. However, I think Emery is cheating here. He dismisses the work done by 'cognize' and 'experience' so that he can then go on to 'conceptualize' death by offering us this very nice metaphor. But conceptualizing death is not cognizing its experience. The work cognize is doing is to make the link to epistemology. This means we're not just saying what death is like (as Emery's quote does), but saying something about knowing death.

How can we know our own death, or know an experience of it? This is the question that TMcD says leads us to religion. I see how the question drives us to religion, but I don't see how it really answers the question. That is, here I side with Emery, because I think religion is more like a metaphor or a conceptualization; it tells us what death is like, or how it's going to be, but it doesn't allow us to cognize it. And, in that sense, Emery's light switch response is spot-on.

On the other hand, I'm probably missing something about the religious experience; of course I am, since I don't have the religious experience. But the question about cognizing death doesn't have to lead to religion. It could lead to Heidegger. It could lead to an awareness of our own finitude in the world. It could lead to a realization of the limits if epistemology, which means that in asking about 'cognizing death' we're asking the wrong question.

14 December 2005


I'm not feeling very settled ontologically right now, and perhaps that explains the dearth of recent posts from me. The term ends in less than 48 hours, and the marking for December will be wrapped up tomorrow. Thus, there are no major, impending deadlines, but there are a huge number of projects waiting in the queue. None of which I feel I can start, as first we must fly for just shy of 24 hours to get back to my parents for Christmas (sorry, over here everyone says xmas instead of happy holidays, and I'm starting to get used to it).

But really, the work to get done, or waiting to be done, is just a (lame) metaphor for life, as we're sort of waiting for that to start as well. Thus, we've been internet home shopping (and I've been planning the next hot tub installation - there are exciting new developments on this front, let me tell you), but none of these projects are ready to take off either - that is, until we are more settled.

And there's the paradox: to 'get settled' we really need to do some settling (e.g. bring our dog over, our books, our belongings, etc.), but we have to hold off on doing the settling until we're more settled. And I think that this likely points up a general condition of life: we wait around for it to get started, and thereby don't do much living of it. Sometimes.

In the meantime, work will serve as a proxy, as I already have 3 books to complete and yet I somehow find myself in dicussions with a publisher about writing am intro textbooky type thing on 'gender'.

12 December 2005

academic generosity

so not such a hot morning, as the Oxford Art Journal sent me a rather terse e-mail rejecting my submission (of July 2005) without any comments, feedback, or readers' reports. for those outside of academia, this is fairly normal, although I find it ethically reprehensible, and thus my post.

I imagine that few people end up kvetching about this sort of thing because, well, you have to admit that you have been rejected, which as is now clear, I have no problem with. It sucks, but at least I sent something out, right? what angers me is the lack of care amongst the academic community for the "greater good." Perhaps it's a side effect of living in this slightly more generous culture over here, and perhaps it's a side effect of not having a job and having more time to give to colleagues, more space in my heart/brain to be generous and help others get better, succeed, do well rather than resenting others for doing those things. over the last three years since I left St. Mary's, I have decided that both positive and negative energy come back to you; it merely depends on what you put out there. Not to say I'm some saint now and exude the glow of Enlightenment (in the under-the-Bodhi-tree sense, not the Cartesian one), but I just like helping other people do well in their chosen path, and I find that when I do that, my chosen path becomes easier. I am helped by helping and by those whom I help.

So, when I had to write rejection letters to hopefuls for the panel I co-organized for CAA (art history's MLA, for those lit folks following), I made a point of writing individual letters and offering substantive feedback on their proposals, taking their intellectual projects seriously and trying to help them succeed in their next proposal. I invited them all to come to the panel and participate, and several e-mailed back indicating that they would and that they appreciated my comments, which was gratifying, but also the first step to building a real community with these other scholars, who clearly do something interesting to me (or else they wouldn't have been interested in my panel).

Yes, this process took some time. A bit more time than generating a single stock letter and e-mailing it, or a lot more time than generating a one-line e-mail (yes, we've gotten those too). But the investment there will come back to me somehow. And I'd rather invest there than in an endless meeting divvying up $10K for technology spending across a campus of 250 faculty (shout out to Ruth and Sam there). It seems, now that I'm on the outside and sometimes looking in, that academics should be smarter about this. They should come together in support of one another and the sometimes isolating project of intellectual writing and thinking, helping to hone that process, valuing it rather than dismissing it or tearing it down.

to put it another way (quoting my Mom here): how hard is it to be nice? so I will stubbornly continue to be academically generous (and I hope in other ways as well) and see what happens. Fie on one-line e-mails and blanket rejections! May the work of the editors of Oxford Art Journal receive greater care and generosity than they have given mine.

11 December 2005

Woog's Hockey Wisdom

of course, most readers of this blog will be familiar with the top two Minnesota pearls of wisdom, handed down over the broadcasts by the former coach of the Golden Gophers' men's hockey team. For review, they are:
  • always hold hands when crossing the street
  • a shot on goal is never a bad play

of course. this much is obvious. today, we are honored to announce rule number three:

skate first, play later.

amazing. it seems like my earlier post encapsulated in one bumper-sticker-/t-shirt- worthy pithy phrase. we love woog.

10 December 2005

procrastination tools

it seems that everyone in the blog-o-sphere is posting "light posting warnings" (perhaps that's why I'm posting a bit more, just to make up for it, be a bit different. oh, and I'm unemployed...) so I thought I'd post a few links for those working too hard to make up for the imminent "vacation" which will be less so because one is working too hard now and will then again do so afterwards...

Ruth has alerted me to this awesome site, which one must check out to experience its coolness. why is it mesmerizing? I don't know. just go there.

and as I have a new phone now (see pic) of course (it's been almost three months! of course I have a new phone! plus look how thin and small!) I was looking for ringtones (the phone's stock ones ranged from obnoxious "classical" music takeoffs to backbeat nightmares) I found this site, which is, like the one above, fascinating.

Have fun!

09 December 2005

Mangal Pandey 2005

I'm sure those of you reading this were waiting on tenterhooks for the review of Mangal Pandey: The Rising, the Hindi film starring the hunky Aamir Khan as the purported hero of the 1857 Uprising (that's the Sepoy Mutiny for those hard-core Brit-o-philes keeping track; for those Indian nationalists in the audience, it's the First War of Indian Independence; for those educated in the US secondary school system don't worry, you won't have had to know this for the exam). Aamir was the hero in Bollywood's hit film Lagaan and he was the anti-hero in Deepa Mehta's brilliant and extremely harrowing Earth, about the bloody Partition of British India into India and Pakistan.

Khan's performance as Mangal Pandey, an historical figure whose role in the events of 1857 is, well, exaggerated, as any search for a singular hero of an event as complex as a fight against colonial rule would be. (For those thinking: where have I heard this name before? If you've read Zadie Smith's White Teeth he figures as the esteemed ancestor of one of the characters.) The film comes out at a time in India's history at the tail end of over a decade of Hindu nationalist/fundamentalist politics, marked by a rise of the VHP and BJP in the late 80s and their rule in the 90s until the re-taking of India's government by the Congress party in 2004. At least we hope it's the tail end. Perhaps the doomsday argument might also fail to say anything about this problem. So it's an interesting time to focus a film on a Hindu hero whose religion dictates that he may not consume beef, and when the bite-off ammunition cartridges the British demand that their Indian soldiers use are found to be coated with beef fat, this becomes the catalyst for the revolution. It seems they are also coated with pig fat, thus including the Muslims in the army in the offended group, something that seems a bit far fetched, but this is how myths work. (not that the Brits didn't coat the cartridges with animal fat, I imagine they did. it's just doesn't it seem odd they'd use both animals? isn't that less cost-efficient?) The politics of the timing of this film are underlined by its release date: August 15, the date of India's independence from the British.

Others I'm sure will and have discussed the historical accuracy of Pandey's role, the over-glorification of his figure, the actuality of the Brits killing peasants for growing opium illegally (ie not for the British East India Company, who had a monopoly on opium, oh, and on everything else pretty much), the plausibility of the women in the "harem" going out and doing some dirty dancing in the village with the locals, and on and on and on. So, it's a Bollywood film. accuracy not quite its strong suit and the disclaimer at the beginning hedges its bets. The disclaimer says something like: well, some of the characters are real, others are amalgams, others are made up and the events are, well, what we decided likely must have happened, based on a general idea of the history, with some liberties taken. Okay, so that's not a direct quote. But it's the gist.

The film tries to fit in every aspect of colonial rule in India. So we have:
  • white woman inadvertently touched by innocent Indian servant, who is then beaten in reprisal by ogre British officer in defense of her womanhood (see: Jenny Sharpe, Allegories of Empire)
  • selling of women in the market, witnessed by said white woman who is suitably horrified and runs away
  • "nautch" girls (nautch refers to a courtly practice of maintaining a group of dancers for the entertainment of the court, so hence the quotes) who are prostitutes for the use of the white officers, supported by the East India Company. The last part is accurate, by the way: in early Company rule the rate of death from VD was so high that they started a program of keeping their own prostitutes so that they could keep them "healthy." See Veena Oldenburg's fabulous book on Lucknow for this.
  • representation of untouchability as bad, a lesson our hero learns the hard way (also a theme in Lagaan)
  • Hindu-Muslim amity (this is a must for contemporary bollywood film, they tend to include this somewhat too obviously)
  • slimy Parsi businessman, repeating at least one ethnic stereotype that is unbelievably insulting (the Parsis figure in Mehta's film Earth as the central family, in a balanced portrayal)
  • the friendly Company officer painting along the banks of the river, in an approximation of actual amateur painting from the period, nice little nod to art historians in the house
  • said friendly Company officer is, of course, Scottish, as many in the officer corps were.
  • and, finally, we not only have a sati (widow immolation on the pyre of her dead husband) but the subsequent saving of the woman by the heroic Brit and our hero Pandey. no, that's not enough, as then, having nowhere to go, she becomes the lover of the heroic white officer....

In addition to the traditional Hindu-Muslim amity moments, several stock-standard elements for Bollywood:
  • they manage to fit in a courtroom scene, a must-have for any self-respecting Bollywood film
  • they fit in a scene of Holi, the spring celebration of the upturning of societal norms, which I suppose is a nice metaphor, but it appears with no narrative couching whatsoever
  • the whiteys speak easy-to-understand Hindi, which is nice for me and likely hilarious for native Hindi speakers; I will say it's better white-Hindi than in Lagaan, which was clearly painful for all involved.

The film's strengths are that it does not try to make things easy for its heroes or the audience. The tension of cultures and power between the white officer and Pandey is much like that depicted in A Passage to India [book | film], where the two protagonists realize they can never truly be friends because of their relative positions in this colonial drama. Points for the film. But the need to fit everything possible into the movie that took place during colonial rule is a bit much and distracts from the central narrative. Generally Hindi films tend to ramble a bit, but the better ones link everything together, giving you reasons for the asides, making the songs a driving part of the narrative (rather than interruptions from the chorus, as they seem to be here), and weaving complexities together so that they become one tapestry. What ties this film together is the character of Pandey, and indeed, Khan's performance is wonderful and he does anchor the film. As does the acting of Toby Stephens, who plays the Scottish officer William Gordon, with a rock solid performance. I came out of the movie thinking it would be an interesting end-of-term film after teaching a course on Indian colonial history, as it touches on everything at once and would spur good discussions. But as a film it's not the best example of the genre. Go with Lagaan or my fave, 1965's Waqt.

08 December 2005

"Religion" vs. Religion

Over at Emery's place, they're having a comment war worthy of a high-profile blog; it's mainly here but perhaps also here.

I think some of the invective develops out of a confusion over the difference between religion and "religion." Emery is concerned to talk about the former, in the terms of how we might define it, by just looking at the content of various religions and trying to come up with its minimal content. TenaciousMcD, in the comments, offers a political response, that I think is focused on the latter: the discursive and therefore political use of the term, what it means in context. The evidence for my hypothesis can be found within the flame war between TMcD and CuratLex, where the latter does in fact assume that the former is not religious precisely because TMcD supports the democrats.

I'm thereby reframing TMcD's original argument, but basically I buy what he says:
what exactly are the minimal requirements to qualify as "religious" in today's non-creedal America? I think there are really two: 1)you profess to believe in God; and 2)you at least lean Republican on cultural issues (abortion, gay rights, etc.). The sign of being VERY religious is that you strongly support the GOP on BOTH cultural and economic issues.

Now this may not make much logical sense since the major criterion (the second) is not religious at all. But what I would suggest is that, precisely due to the lack of natural common ground among believers of disparate faiths, politics has filled the gap, and the GOP has rushed to offer a unifying political content to vouch for "religious" credibility.

My sense of things after a few months in the UK, is that this political construction of "religion" ("filling the gap") has not occurred here, and for that reason religion doesn't matter much at all (which is not to say there are no believers here). This creates a context in which it would be easier to have the discussion that Emery initially aimed to have. I think that in the US it's almost impossible to talk about religion without invoking the politics that TMcD describes, and that's because of the success of the radical right's effort to tie religious symbols to political affiliation, and vice versa.

I wonder if it doesn't also have something to do with faith. I don't know many folks who have genuine faith, but the one's that do (one sometimes reads this blog, and one is TMcD himself) don't seem to have any interest whatsoever in politicizing that faith. When those on the right in US politics politicize theirs, I tend to assume, then, that they don't really have much faith at all.

07 December 2005

Who Would you Vote for?

Here's The Guardian's Description of the new leader of the Tory party, David Cameron.
This afternoon he will visit east London to talk about social justice; a speech on the environment will follow within days. The coming weeks will bring an announcement on measures to increase the number of women MPs, a theme he stressed in his victory speech yesterday. ...he intends to abandon such things as education vouchers and support for private healthcare. As a leader who describes himself as a small-l liberal he will calm the party's obsession with issues such as asylum and immigration, and not just for symbolic reasons.

Yes, folks, the Tories are the party on the right in this country. So if you thought of yourself as being somewhere on the left of the so-called political spectrum, and you had to choose, hypothetically, between...oh, I don't know, say, John Kerry, and this guy, who would you pick?

06 December 2005

Giant 1956

I recorded Giant, that mid-50s sublime, sweeping, elegant, and I would even say expressionist film starring Rock, Liz, and James. What a trio. I had seen it years ago in my teenage James Dean phase, which only later I realized very few girls in the 1980s went through. I blame/thank Mom for this one. Giant is an amazing film, and only in seeing it again this past week (and yes, it was seen over the course of a week in small chunks. the thing is hours long!) did I recognize its brilliance. It has everything: class warfare (nouveaux riche meets rancher/Texan rich meets Maryland aristocracy), gender (boy howdy Liz's character is a firecracker, and Luz? one of the most poignant portrayals of queerness from the 50s, if I may be so bold), race (the fight in the diner is still one of the most horrifying scenes on film), nationalism/Texas separatism/patriotism (eg said fight with the Yellow Rose of Texas blaring from the jukebox), and modernity in all its glory (the rise of the oil rich and the entry of technology, from phones to planes, alongside the o-so-fabulous interior design choices at the mansion. sigh.)

Can James Dean act? I don't know. It seemed as though the director was more interested in fun noir lighting whenever we had a closeup of him, and thus it's unclear. But the range of emotion/age he is asked to portray, and the line he walks between sweet and lecherous is just too precise to really be an accident. I'm going with yes, good acting, and boy did Brad Pitt steal everything from this guy.

Rock Hudson's opening moment, with the camera sweeping across the Maryland landscape to the train and then to the window and his chiseled face--how striking. The hat! the look! His portrayal of the well-meaning but ultimately backward-looking patriarch was touching, humorous, and a perfect match for Liz...

who, let's face it, as my mother and I used to say, aged much better in real life than she did in the film. a few too many surgeries, darling, but ya look great.

05 December 2005

life, with less reflection

blogging is about reflecting on the world around us and our participation in that world, or at least our movement through it. over the past few days I've reached the conclusion that perhaps a "less-reflected upon life" might be a better life, or at least a balance between the whole "living" thing and the "thinking" thing might be good. (see Tarn's rumination on "fallow" periods and cycles of being in the world...this has had me thinking since she posted it ages ago.)

tough for someone who ostensibly "thinks" for a career, hence the problem, but I think that I'm trying to articulate different kinds of action: action/work that involves thinking versus thinking constantly about actions one is failing, entirely, to pursue. so I'm looking to immerse myself a bit less in the minutiae of the web, planning for a nebulous future, and reflection and a bit more in, well, doing what I do and living.

sounds good from here.

PS apologies for using the phrase "being in the world" in this post. those who are now inadvertently, against their will, "thrown into" a discussion about Being, being, and ontology will please absolve me of any blame...

04 December 2005


Here's the 'top stories' listing from the main CNN.com homepage this morning. Is there absolutely no quality control whatsoever?

Last week they had a story about the snow and cold temperatures in Europe; they reported that temperatures fell to minus 10 Celsius, and then they said '(minus 23 Fahrenheit)'. Of course, minus 10 Celsius is actually plus 14 Fahrenheit, so they were off by almost forty degrees. I emailed them (yes, I'm that pathetic) and informed them (not necessarily politely, but not utterly rudely either) of their error. I never saw the story changed (yes, I checked).

But this thing this morning seems beyond the pale. They cannot even get the short phrase headlines correct: instead we have a major in New Orleans, and France biting people Africans. I like to check the CNN headlines, just to know what's making the agenda in somethign near the center of American journalism. Perhaps I should give up and just stick to European press.

02 December 2005


Can you sense my relief and exhaustion? That's right: this week brought to a close a full four weeks of teaching. It was gruelling, let me tell you. Even worse is the knowledge that I'll have to start up teaching again a mere 2 months from now!

But seriously, while there's less teaching here, it's made up for in many other ways. For example? How about my 90 minute 'admissions committee' meeting today, or the 3 hours of candidate interviews I conducted earlier in the week. All of those things that US University administrations do, we do here through the department - including the entire admissions process. Next week begins the 'marking' period, where ALL of the assesment materials will have to be read by the department as a whole, with 2 markers assigned for every piece of work. Each of us gets a number assigned for the centralized distribution of marking. Mine is 300 and some change, and I've no real idea what that means. I do know that there are 3 to 4 weeks of the year where the entire department is marking full time.

Also, keep in mind that a 68 would be an outstanding mark, a 50 is not too bad, and anything above about a 76 is unheard of.

01 December 2005

My Restraint

I wanted to post a ranting response to this rant, itelf a response to this article on, roughly, the state of feminism and gender relations today.

Instead, I fooled around with the blogroll thingy that Paul set up. I now seem to have it working, but the layout is missing the cool little blogspot bullets. I'm hoping that Rebecca will figure out how to fix that, since on blogroll it looked like it involved css or some other technology that's not my friend.

But I will say two quick things: 1. go read the first article, but 2. please do so with this in mind, a point missed by the ranter: it's not about YOU. It's about the broad ambit of gender relations in society today, it's about an effort to shift and change those norms, and a worry that today they resemble 1955 more than 1985. And, if anything it really ought to be, in this particular case, more about men than women.