Tuesday, January 23, 2007

could you repeat that?

Recurring themes in the January 22 issue. On properly and improperly slaughtered animals, note:

Phil worked as a handyman, and every year he sold about thirty or forty goats at local markets, including some run by Muslims. (Occasionally, Muslims declined to buy the goats, considering them insufficiently halal.) He refused to sell animals to people who he thought would slaughter them inhumanely. (53)

That's Raffi Khatchadourian, "A Reporter at Large, Azzam the American, The making of an Al Qaeda homegrown."

Thomas Barlow, a future bishop of Lincoln, noted that God had specifically proscribed blood eating among the Hebrews, whose laws of kashruth mandated the slaughtering and handling of food animals so as to drain them, as far as possible, of residual blood. Genesis 9:4 said, “Flesh with the life thereof, which is the Blood thereof, shall ye not eat,” and Leviticus 17:10 underlined the prohibition: “Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.” Barlow pointed out that the New Testament had never rescinded this law, despite the relief from various other Jewish dietary prohibitions offered by both Jesus and Paul; furthermore, the ban on eating blood and the flesh of strangled animals was repeated in the Acts of the Apostles. God, Barlow asserted, “would not have Men eat the life and the soul of Beasts, a thing barbarous and unnaturall.” No meat was unclean in itself, but that bit of black pudding in the Great British Breakfast was a violation of both Jewish law and the Christian dispensation. (80)

And that's Steven Shapin, in "Books, Vegetable Love, The history of vegetarianism," a review of The Bloodless Revolution by Tristram Stuart.

Is this a theme? Unless, of course, the theme is one of those, you know, critiques of modernity, again, Shapin,

A major source of the sympathy with animal suffering that developed so strongly from the Enlightenment may well be the pattern of urbanization that removed so many of us from daily experience of how our food is produced. (84)

Bearing, perhaps on the Jan 8 installment of the running joke Kundera contributes. I mean that in a good way. It's a joke I find funny; the punchline,

Today, the only modernism worthy of its name is antimodern modernism. (35)

Kolbert on Lovins makes an interesting contribution to the problems/solutions of modernity, too. Of course sometimes that joke isn't so funny, as in the case of Mr. Spinoza Ray Prozak, "We're people who don't like modern society. We think it's a path to death, doom, destruction, horror" etc. In Khatchadourian's investigation.

The other odd thing I noticed that recurred in the Jan 22 issue was the first person in Friend's TV review,

(That's how I do it, but then I'm a seasoned professional.) (86)

And again, Khatchadourian,

I played the tape. The Casio's drum machine, set to a racing speed, is the foundation for a repetitive cycle of notes that in turn serve as a base for samples of death metal, classical music, and bleating goats. (55)

Yes, goats. Also again. As for the first person, well, I don't want to say its gratuitous, but its a choice both writers made and it doesn't have to be that way. Khatchadourian has an amazing style, though, like he's a very dry mystery writer of some kind. Check out these informative nuggets,

Death metal is a sever offshoot of heavy metal, a reaction to the superficiality of eighties popular culture. (53)

There was also a videotape of a movie, "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." (60)

The whole death metal thing becomes significant, the film, however, is never mentioned again. Is it a red herring . . . ? Here, he's included an extended quote from a source. I like that he's not only included such a long quote, but he's made sure to include Ryan's bizarre metaphor,

"My mom closed and locked the door. It was like the bullfights in Spain - like one of those bulls charged right through the door, and it collapsed right in front of him. And he just came right through and grabbed my mom and I don't remember what happened next . . . "(60)

I also like the way he qualifies another source, the mom in question, "Although her memory is colored by her divorce . . ." (60)

Zubaydah, who had a closely cropped beard and wore large glasses, was a commanding manager, but he also exhibited odd behavior. Omar Nasiri, a former spy for European intelligence agencies who met Zubaydah in the nineties on his way to Khaldan, told me that Zubaydah shuffled around his home in near-total darkness, carrying a gas lantern from room to room. He barely spoke and would often communicate by pointing.(61)

Odd, yes. But what does it all mean? K's not saying.

Within minutes, a police officer named Bill Allison had arrived and arrested Gadahn.(61)

Is Bill Allison he going be a major character? No, not really, it seems. But, wouldn't you know, this all leads to, a "'halal theory of terrorism.'" (61)

I like the inclusion of lots of detail and dead-ends and red herrings and things. It makes it feel like something is being explored and not just reported and tidied up into a neat little theory, though, there's one of those thrown in there too. The whole thing is structured as if there's an answer to the question, "How?" But then written as if there is not quite.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

How to Stay Gorgeous Forever, by Adele Bloch-Bauer

I didn't find the Lauder thing entirely swooning, but I didn't find it inaccurate either, so obviously I'm out of my league. Lee Rosenbaum calls it like she sees it.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

mixed metaphors, odd maxims and mediums

ever so slightly funnier than usual

The Jan 15 issue.

Paul Rudnick's "Shouts and Murmers, First Love" on the literal mindedness of the Bush girls was a little funnier than usual. And, in the dialog, The President and Mrs. Bush really did sound like the clueless parents of two trashy and privileged darlings.

Strangely enough, my thoughts on Sarah's perfect cashew brittle - "Light and crisp and full of tiny bubbles but so rich it tastes like bacon, if you know what I mean." - at Food and Paper inspired her to, quite literally, make Peanut Bacon Brittle! With bacon in it, if you know what I mean. Sarah, however is nothing like the Bush girls; she is, rather, wickedly elegant and thoughtful.

I also read Katherine Boo on Manual High School, who, I thought, managed to be quite critical by showing not telling (or rather, by dropping hints now and then and letting the reader put it all together) - a very light touch, but meticulous. The New Yorker is following Denver's Hickenlooper administration rather closely?

Shalom Auslander had lovely comic timing in "Playoffs."

Rebecca Mead, with the help of Ronald Lauder, managed to construct a latter day overpriced Viennese-Freudian Disneyland. Now that I think of it, is there any other kind? This too was a kind of follow-up . . . I think, even earlier, Dana Goodyear covered the paintings travels from Austria to LA.

Oh, and "The Starting Game" on the Democratic Party front-runners was tidy.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

View of the World From Behind Your Nose

The Electric Warrior drew my attention to this, an exhibit of Saul Steinberg's work at the Morgan Museum and Library in New York. I've said as much already, but I do love Steinberg's ability to imagine our bodies and senses and abilities as more than human.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania

Given that crazy WASP-a-thon in the Dec 18 issue, I think Tad Friend is probably not the kid who grew up in Torrance, CA, dissed two wheelchair-bound hotties in a seedy hotel lobby and then wrote about it for Details.

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"Tough shit, Bill"

That's Ms. Kael to William Shawn regarding one Terrence Malick, director of Badlands, translator of Heidegger, commemorator of Martin Luther King, Jr's assassination, etc.

What am I babbling about? Emdashes and the Librarians explain everything. Well, maybe not everything. I've always been baffled because I love Badlands madly but can't even sit through any of Malick's other films. Kael, on the other hand, apparently wasn't taken in to begin with, “The movie can be summed up: mass-culture banality is killing our souls and making everybody affectless. ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ said the same thing without all this draggy art.”

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

korean film posters (sigh)

It's kind of hard to describe, but in the foyer of Pitt's Hillman Library right now are some really cool Korean film posters from the 1950s-1960s, with informative panels explaining a bit about the production history, a synopsis of the film narrative, this and that.

The posters themselves are in amazing condition, with soft, glowing colors.

The exhibit comes via The Korea Society (the link reveals the merest glimpse of the posters' beauty) in New York, where they will be showing some of the films (and, it looks like, others from the same era) starting Jan 18 and running through June.

There's some useful info in this flyer, including whom to contact if you want to host the exhibit. But before you click, please note that this flyer does not at all do justice to the breathtaking posters themselves.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

when time is like a map of new jersey

Adam Gopnik's "Talk of the Town, Comment, Gothamitis" in the Jan 8 issue caught my attention and held it. Although I've been hearing this particular corporate gentrification sob story from New Yorkers for awhile, Gopnik takes a specific rhetorical event, this Bloomberg speech, and expands on the sort of sad fear it both invokes and attempts to address.

But I don't think I would have read it all the way through - the depressing cliches involving a (cringe) "Greenwich Village bard" and (groan) "Baghdad-on-the-Hudson" - would have scared me off. Except that I had, in the course of my travels to the dark corners and bustling thoroughfares (and concrete bunkers and soul-less main streets) of New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC read Luc Sante's "My Lost City" in The Best American Essays volume (2004) that (of course) Louis Menand edited. Which provides a kind of picturesque backdrop for Gopnik's argument. Weirdly nostalgic, but, then, not entirely. Anyway, they make a nice pair.

Of course, if Mr. Sante really loves burned out buildings to huddle in, he can move to North Philly.

But I guess what I liked about both pieces was the emphasis on how incredibly myopic citizens (of anywhere, really) can be, and the dangers of that. And how, it would seem, no one would have predicted New York in the 1970s decades before, and how no one can explain, exactly, the recovery and how, unless one seizes control of the planning and plotting of these things, no one will be able to account for New York 2030, among other things.

On a maybe related note, about that smell, did they all totally forget that they are RIGHT NEXT TO NEW JERSEY? I wish Mike Davis would write a New York book. Or has he?

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

incoherant and idiosyncratic thoughts on the dec 11 issue

Did I mention that I liked William Finnegan's "Letter from Maine, New in Town, Somali refugees find a home." I think I did. I liked how small the topic was and I don't mean that in a bad way. Do I mean local? Specific? I don't know. It gave more texture to the voices and perspectives used in the piece and kept the folks from becoming too Representative, if you know what I mean.

I also read Tad Friend on the US The Office. And then I watched about 5 minutes of the show myself, what with the hotel room cable TV I had access to. But frankly it didn't do it for me. I know the show isn't actually on cable, but here at home we don't get any kind of TV reception at all. Seriously. I can't even watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is about the only time it's come up. Maybe there was a World Series I wanted to see too, somewhere in the last 5 years.

Speaking of television viewing, you know how I was watching all that well-meaning middle-brow TV? It was all leading up to one event, that is, watching The Constant Gardener. Or, Friends with Money go to Africa and Lose the Irony.

The Constant Gardener
came at a bad time too, because I'd been recently getting all antsy about how restricted the color palettes and textures are of big arty movies. It's like every movie now is an over-designed period film in which no stray nothing - face, hand, surface, space, sound - can jar us aesthetically out of a kind of absolute OCD dream. Is all of Kenya really organized into orange and blue-green? It's like everyone has taken Martha Stewart too much to heart.

While this kind of control isn't new (at all, I mean) it's present manifestations are getting on my nerves.

So it was quite refreshing to see, also via cable TV, the intentional opulent-matchy-match-ugliness of War of the Roses and Laura Dern, in Jurassic Park, wearing a pair of long shorts made hideous by the passing of time. I'd never seen Jurassic Park before and I was impressed by the amount of danger the kids were in while inside an SUV. Prescient.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

a lick and a promise

I'm quite busy right now and happy that way so I don't know if I'll get around to giving old Denby the attention he deserves on distribution issues, new media, the end of cinema, etc. But Chutry Experiment is pretty thorough and with lots of updated links, etc.

Suffice it to say that Denby is never far from my thoughts - actually agree with him on Chicago, was musing his thoughts on the song and/or dance musical (do we have to choose?) from review of Dreamgirls - and I like him, as a, well, senior film critic, taking the bull by the horns and talking about new media which I think, honestly, anyone who's studied cinema history, its technology, its audiences, its uses, can and should do.

Another party heard from: some high-falutin' media scholar at zigzigger.

And Chutry Experiment reconsiders.

Emdashes follows up at the NYT.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

items from the nov 27 issue

I liked the more serious Sedaris in "Reflections, Road Trips, Vehicular Propositions."

I liked the "Guide to City Birds" and the "Cartoon IQ Test." I also liked the gift from my little brother, The New Yorker Book of Cartoon Puzzles and Games. I think they are getting progressively more challenging. I like seeing the older cartoons playing so nicely with the more recent ones.

I thought Menand on Against the Day was just bitter that he has to write history about America at the turn of the last century while TP gets to write flights of fiction. And I'm reading Against the Day, hope against hope, that it will have, somewhere deep in its heart, a tidy little mystery plot. Maybe Menand just missed it? I guess that's not very likely.

The thing about Pynchon, for me, is not just that he doesn't have real narrative structure, it's that he uses all the little lingusitic turns of phrase and so on that would imply a tight narrative structure. Like, it's just one "meanwhile" after the next. Tease. If I wanted to read plotless ramblings across the American mid-West 1890-1930 I'd read Marguerite Young's Miss MacIntosh, My Darling. Geez, now that I think of it, she probably does have an actual mystery buried in that novel, if I can ever read far enough to find it.

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