Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The CJR headline that is an Egalitarian Bookworm Dream Come True

"Elizabeth Bennet, Meet Elizabeth Edwards"

The article, which discusses Edwards' use of irony and third-person narration (I believe the author meant free-indirect discourse by that), isn't bad either.

[Ht, Tommy and Greenlight's Google Readers]

Monday Morning Poem: "Truth," by Gwendolyn Brooks


And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?

Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years --
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?

Shall we not shudder?
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Propitious haze?

Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.

The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.
-- Gwendolyn Brooks

Well, this poem may have religious overtones, but I picked it because it feels relevant to everything I've been thinking and feeling about how our society is reacting to this election year and how irresponsibly the media has been keeping us in the dark, literally, as Elizabeth Edwards so brilliantly described it this weekend. How hard it is for people to wake up to their own oppression, how we "cling", yep "cling" to scapegoats rather than facing the truth.

And now, to cling to the propitious darkness of this rainy day.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jane Eyre Comix!

A graphic adaptation of an appropriate title, Jane Eyre.
click here to see enlarged version of the "red room" scene, which one of my English profs brilliantly linked to "redrum" in The Shining.

Via Bronteblog, &c. This looks pretty freaking cool. Other titles in the Classical Comics ouvre inckude adaptations of Macbeth and Jane Eyre.

(This strikes me as an awesome awesome tool for getting kids to read classics, says the ex-teacher in me.)

Jon Krakauer's New Book Will Kick Some Powersthatbe Ass

My posse and I , while watching a censored version of The Big Lebowski for the second time in 24 hours, got to wondering what uber-amazing journalist and chronicler of lives on the edge Jon Krakauer is up to now, besides general badassery. It turns out he's turning more and more leftist and investigative by the book.

Here is the description of his new project, via Wikipedia:

It has since been announced that Krakauer's new book, The Hero, will be released by publisher Doubleday on October 14, 2008. The Hero will be about former NFL football player Pat Tillman, who enlisted in the US Army after 9/11 to become an Army Ranger and was eventually killed in action under suspicious circumstances in Afghanistan. In addition to performing research in Afghanistan, Krakauer was able to interview members of Tillman's family and read Tillman's diaries and letters, to prepare for writing the book. Doubleday's David Drake says Krakauer's interest in Tillman reflects "the fascination he has with extreme people, who push themselves to the very limits of their capabilities".

So what were those suspicious circumstances?

Well, for those who don't remember, Tillman was a soldier in Afghanistan, who happened to hold atheistic and anti-Iraq-War and anti-Republican beliefs. He also happened to be killed by "friendly fire" (likely murder), which was presented to his family for weeks as enemy fire, even though army higher-ups knew the truth.

I fully expect Jon Krakauer to do justice to this fascinating guy who died far too young, and also to do a different kind of justice to the insidious forces that kept the truth from Americans. And not only are JK's books well-done and thoughtful, he's the basically most gripping nonfiction writer I've ever read, besides Capote. I can't wait to read more of his words.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


That's what AO Scott said about the original Harold and Kumar in his review of its just-released sequel.

And he was right. Oh, he was right.

Long after we have abandoned our world to cockroaches and nuclear fallout,

Harold and Kumar will live on.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thoughts on Sean Bell--We're Not Innocent, Either

This is a little off-topic for the blog, but as a former Bronx schoolteacher, and a New Yorker, and a feminist, I had to comment, briefly.

Above all, I blame the Sean Bell killing on a bunch of trigger-happy, racist cops, and a horribly racist judge, and unfair laws, and a fascist police state, and a white supremacist society.

But I also can't deflect blame from most Americans--yep, even us well-meaning bourgeois liberals, and our presidential candidates--for not calling any attention to our ghettos, our inner-cities, our youth of color, except when somebody gets shot. It's a huge injustice, but it builds off of smaller injustices that happen every day, injustices that we let slide.

And I ask these questions of those who are comfortable in our skins, literally:

*Would we be willing to see our suburban and prep schools lose fancy trimmings in order to have true educational parity? Really?

*Would we be willing to stop blaming violence on hip=hop and confront the deep, deep history of violence our country was built on? I'm talking about slavery and genocide, and how those violences, and the violence of our foreign policy and our leaders, has just as much if not more effect than a video which 99% of kids are smart enough to understand is just art?

*Would we ever be willing to accept the premise that drunken white fratboys at strip clubs engaging in violence-tinged braggadaccio deserve be shot because their behavior was uncouth? Or it's unfortunate that they were shot but look at what they were doing!

*If it's okay for cops to shoot young people of color, whom will it be okay for them to shoot next?

I include myself in this challenge.

The Sean Bells of this city are brought into a world that has no place for them but prison or death. I will never forget the looks on the faces of the young men in my class--even the ones who were always trying to convince me they were "hard"--when I said they were "nice" or "good" kids. Over and over again, those two words brought the most genuine smiles, the most unaffected reaction, I saw throughout those long months. To be told they were good when society tells them they are bad, bad, all the time, was the most positive thing they could hear. I'm not trying to paint myself as some sort of crusading white saint. I fled my teaching post because I felt that the authoritarian-ness required to be effective would crush my soul, but also because it was too depressing.

I'm just saying what I learned from those small interactions profoundly touched me. Sean Bell lived in a society where people did not accept that he could be "good" because of the color of his skin and where he was born. And now he's dead, and he's still being demonized.

How much of our own comfortable lives will we be willing to change to make sure this doesn't happen again? Because we're going to have to tip our society upside down to really change things. No more band-aids.

Here's some more Bruce, cause he's always right for the occasion.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thursday Link-O-Rama, "Ben Stein Can Kiss My Lapsed-Reform-Jewy Butt" edition

All expelled, all the time, folks. That LOLStein never gets old.

So my life-partner et moi spent too much of our sunny Monday watching this piece of hackneyed right-wing propaganda. But what we both got out of it was an opportunity, an opportunity to sharpen our literary claws, so to speak. It's rare that an entertainment writer specializing in the hip-hop world and a feminist writer who loves womb-autonomy get to tackle the same topic.

So far, ironically enough, it's his post that has attracted the batshit-insane wingnuts like bees to honey, while mine remains rather un-challenged.

Still, check 'em both out. As [greenlight] and I said over gchat after I shamelessly-self-promoted:

10:53 AM [Greenlight]: the one-two punch
[Fellow-ette]: yeah exactly
10:54 AM [Greenlight]: ID has never met a foe like this
[Fellow-ette]: the wrath of the culturally jewish atheists!
10:56 AM [Greenlight]: [tommy] & [fellow-ette] = marx & engels
10:57 AM [Fellow-ette] bringin' you a dictatorship of the proletariat, and the TRUTH

The end.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Brooklyn Literary Sczzzzeeene...

So the New York Observer and a bunch of its sisters in bourgeois pseudo-intelligent snark are all up and writing about talented, famous trendy over-wrought wordsmiths with the exception of Jhumpa Lahiri who is a goddess among mortals literary folks who live in Brooklyn. Which is a pretty big borough!

As an Egalitarian Bookworm Chick, I feel it incumbent upon me to say something about this flurry of excitement over Teh Writerz.

All I can muster is, in the immortal words of Sacha Baron Cohen's alter ego Ali G at Harvard commencement, "wot, who cares?"

Seriously. Good literature, even occasional pretentious variations thereof, is interesting to this EBC. Real estate, on the other hand, is most definitely not. Unless my landlord kicks me out. Then it may be.

(And yes, part of me is just just jealous, and I wish there was, on this map, a satellite of the Brooklyn writerland up here in Morningside Heights just 'specially for ME, but maybe someday there will be and then I'll be a total hypocrite, so there!)

South Pacific @Lincoln Center

My absolutely disgustingly intense adoration for the golden age of Broadway musicals is somewhat out of keeping with my other, at least somewhat hipper tastes. My life-partner recently marveled at a particular early-90s pop culture phenomena of which I was ignorant . I explained that while all the other kids were getting their first taste of MTV, I was still putting kerchiefs on my Barbie Dolls and having them dance around and sing "Matchmaker" from Fiddler on the Roof.

Anyway, no other musical has meant more to me than South Pacific, Rodgers and Hammerstein's best (imo) collaboration, about culture clash and love on an island during World War II. The way the show confronts racial prejudice so head on in the pre-Civil Rights era, as well as its unforgettable music, just vault it into the top tier of its genre (waayy better than the overrated Sound of Music, which was probably pretty good before it became a shmaltzified kiddie film). An old scratchy and wonderful South Pacific cast record with Mary Martin and Ezio Pina was literally the soundtrack to my youth. Just hearing the notes makes me tear up. Here the two stars are singing 'Some Enchanted Evening." His voice obviously rocks--he was an opera star--but hers is so compelling and gorgeous. If you recognize it, it's cause she's Peter Pan!

Of course, these unbelievably talented singers weren't cast in the film cause they weren't "pretty enough" so the decent-to-good movie version featured Mitzi Gaynor instead. She's aight I 'spose, but her voice doesn't have the warmth of Martin's. Still, aren't Hammerstein's lyrics, particularly in the intro, amazingly clever?

I saw the remarkable revival last night at Lincoln Center. It's been getting total raves all over the NY press. Ben Brantley called it "perfect" and the audience last night was just totally enraptured for all three hours. The female lead, Kelli O'Hara, was last seen sexing up the stage in the Pajama Game with Harry Connick Jr (yes, the last musical I saw/blogged on Broadway.) She is a complete wonder, a real old-school, spunky, physical, honey-toned bombshell of an actress. Last night's show was one of the best three hours of non-Springsteen entertainment ever. I was so absorbed in it I forgot about the shitty shitty election.

Here is the final video of the day: O'Hara giving Connick a serious run for his money at the Tony's:

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My thoughts on the American party system

The best lack all conviction
while the worst are full of passionate intensity


and yes it's a cliche to quote "The Second Coming" but it's a cliche cause it's true.

(although at this very moment, as I hear Obama's supporters chanting "yes we can!" I think that at least some of the best have passionate intensity. But is it enough?)

Monday, April 21, 2008

This Needs Little Explanation

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

I guess Victorian/Shakespearean curses don't count for this, eh? 'Zounds! 'Sblood! Bloomin, Blimey, Boody 'ell!

Hts, Cara and the Shakespearean insult generator.

Monday Morning Poem: When We Look Up

When We Look Up
by Denise Levertov

He had not looked,
pitiful man whom none

pity, whom all
must pity if they look

into their own face (given
only by glass, steel, water
barely known) all
who look up

to see-how many
faces? How many

seen in a lifetime? (Not those that flash by, but those

into which the gaze wanders
and is lost

and returns to tell
Here is a mystery,

a person, an
other, an I?

"When We Look Up" by Denise Levertov, from Poems: 1960-1967, copyright © 1966 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.


This poem, from a very good poet I recall from my Norton Po-mo anthology, is about empathy: the circular thought pattern we encounter when we face others and try to understand that they are the same as we are, that s/he feels the same feelings, reacts the same ways. But as hard as we try, we are stuck in our own perspective, and ultimately though we may accept the premise that s/he is "another I" it's hard, nay impossible for us to do that without referencing ourselvess, and therefore the other remain as "mystery" (thus the open parentheses?)

But it's not an entirely pessimistic poem, because IMO it celebrates the struggle to reach another person's perspective, (even if ultimately fruitless, always going back to the final "I"), which is ultimately all we can hope to achieve, and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing in and of itself.

She uses some nice imagery when she talks about reflections--amazing her ability to conjure up strong visuals with so few words.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Maureen Dowd is SO BITTER (and other stuff too)

From Kathy at the G-Spot, there's a long and excellent post about Mo'Do's elitism/bitterness and general psychological problems.

The salient little gossipy tidbit follows below (ellipses, emphases mine):

Now we come, at last, to my little Modo story. Eight or nine or ten years ago, someone fixed up Modo with a friend of mine (whom I'll call "X.").


So how did it go? X. told me that, the whole night, all Maureen could talk about was which women Bill Clinton was sleeping with. Literally. "Do you think he's having an affair with B.? I think he is. But maybe they did and it's over now and he's moved onto someone else. Ya think? Maybe he's messing around with C. -- she seems more his type. I'd bet he'd love to have an affair with D., but I'm not sure she'd fool around with a married man." And on and on and on and on and ON in this vein. The whole night long. X tried to engage her on other topics. The world, after all, is full of a number of things: Books. Movies. Theater. Travel. Music. Food. And how about, not what Bill Clinton was doing with his penis, but what he was doing with his policies?

But alas, in spite of my friend's ministrations, he could not get the lady off Topic A.

Suffice it to say, it was a long night.


Please go read the rest. I did, and loved it. She compares MoDo to Miss Havisham, which is a wonderfully egalitarian bookwormy thing to do.

In Memory of Danny Federici, and In Honor of The Warm Weather

... and all the girls flitting around Morningside Heights in long skirts and sundresses.

Thanks for the music, Phantom.

John Edwards Snuck Onto the Colbert Report...

To do the EdWords (instead of the Word, hehe). It was hilarious. Seeing him up there made me realize how much I miss his presence in this race: his anger, his enthusiasm, his refusal to turn away from economic injustice, and yes, his handsome mug and coif, in the past months. He totally outshone Clinton's extremely brief appearance, and tied Obama for charming grin. Obama, btw, got to put "pointless political distractions" on notice, and said that Grizzly bears were the single greatest threat to America. It was awesome.

I will embed a clip in the morning, for sure....

and here it is, just 'afore noon:

Gnight bookwormy blogland.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Link-O-Rama: Everyone thought that debate sucked, edition

So last night's presidential debate in PA, on ABC, has already been officially labelled the WORST. DEBATE. EVER. The moderators were booed, the ABC page is inundated with comments, it's a free-for-all of, erm, I'd say bitterness. Bitter, bitter, bitterness.

The whole thing was a sham--two wealthy, white media-men asking inane, catty, questions, posing themselves as "friends of the people" concerned about "elitist" candidates and willing to Take them to Task over important stuff like Flag Pins and Weathermen Bittergate, and ugh, all sort of ridiculousness. See clips here.

It wasn't just upsetting, it was depressing. My favorite response out of many, many, many awesome responses has got to be Digby's description of Charlie Gibson and George Snuffalopoulus as "a couple of drunken gazelles." Indeed, gazelles they were.

In other, less political-cum-nausea-inducing news, umm, erm, there's gotta be some..Okay, here.
  • Salon's vagina talks about the 10th anniverrary of the monologues and the combination of ickiness and goodness they bring out.
  • Feministing gives us a mediocre parody-video mocking the wondrous Fergie and extolling women to take pride in the junk food they eat. I kinda like it. And I doo love my junk food.
  • USA today talks about Alexander McCall Smith, longtime fave of fellow-ette's fam.
  • My article today at RH reality check (aha, now you're catching on to why I do this link thang on Thursdays) talks about women in Hollywood, and how the narrative on the Death of Chick Flicks has got it all wrong.
A taste:
The fact that these movies have been hits, while films like "The Holiday," "Music and Lyrics," and "27 Dresses" have failed to reap huge profits, should be a wakeup call to producers. These high-budget flops all feature white, ultra-skinny heroines prancing against the backdrop of suburban mansions or windowed penthouses. I know they take place in cities, or towns, but I'm not sure which ones. The heroines dress fabulously and have nary a wrinkle, or an accent of any kind, and usually lack back-stories or families -- or even much personality besides a frenetic cutesiness.
You know you want more. Digg it, too, if you have a chance (and a heart).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

So much to say, blogarinis,

but instead I shall be frolicking 'neath the blossoms*, with my copy of Cranford.
A ce soir.

*and hitting up bloomingdale's with my mama to get her some new work threads.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Exposing Expelled : What Tommy Said...

you got it…


In case you're wondering, this is an effort to expose the ridiculous, awful, dogmatic anti-science agenda behind Ben Stein's heinous new anti-evolution, anti-science and anti-truth Movie, Expelled.
I'm going to have more to say about this film, at some point, over at RH reality check.
But till then, pass it on. H/t, thov.

Monday, April 14, 2008

OMG Chris Matthews did NOT just blow up Stephen Colbert's spot

on live television,*

Not cool, Tweety. Not cool at all.

*by prematurely announcing that Hillary Clinton may be appearing on the Report.

The Gathering

by Anne Enright, winner of the Man-Booker Prize.

I'm catching up on book reviews from the last three months, and this is the first one I feel obligated to discuss.

I can only review the first half of this book,which is about the tragic past, and also tragic present, of a large Irish-catholic family. I can only review the first half of it because I put it down about 100 pages though. It was a huge disappointment.

Don't get me wrong. I love Ireland. In fact, I lived there. I love Irish literature, poetry, and art. And I love contemporary female novelists who write about Family and Tragedy, as a rule. But this was just too much for me. Too depressing, too formally written, with a narrator I didn't much care for. I admit to some vague curiosity about what happened in the protagonist's childhood that scarred her brother Liam and made him turn to the bottle... but not enough, alas.

This reminds me of two recent reading snafus in my young life.
One was my disasterous run at The Emperor's Children. Ick. The other was my slog through the marshes of the other Man-Booker winner, The Inheritance of Loss.
Is the conclusion to be drawn that the above prize committee should check themselves before they wreck themselves? Perhaps.

But at least they're pickin wimmins! You hear that, Pulitzers?

I am on myspace.

Be my friend.

Or not.

Monday Morning Poem: The White House, by Claude McKay

This one's dedicated to the Clinton and McCain campaigns.

The White House

by Claude McKay

Your door is shut against my tightened face,
And I am sharp as steel with discontent;
But I possess the courage and the grace
To bear my anger proudly and unbent.
The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet,
A chafing savage, down the decent street;
And passion rends my vitals as I pass,
Where boldly shines your shuttered door of glass.
Oh, I must search for wisdom every hour,
Deep in my wrathful bosom sore and raw,
And find in it the superhuman power
To hold me to the letter of your law!
Oh, I must keep my heart inviolate
Against the potent poison of your hate.
I love me a nice sonnet.

Claude McKay is one of the handful of awesome Harlem Renaissnce poets who don't get the same fame and fortune of others--the white male rule-makers (see my previous post) likely felt they only had room to "canonize" a few of these amazing writers, so people like McKay and the brilliant Nella Larsen get sidelined.

But this poem is an example of why McKay is so deserving of attention: he uses the tight, constricting sonnet form to mirror its content. The furious narrator trying to use courage and grace to stay within the letter of the white man's law is like his deep expressions trying to fit itself into the white man's form.

Some themes that McKay touches on that are relevant to the stunning Obama candidacy and the ugly side of America it has revealed: the idea of the black man having to contain his anger to stay respectable, the hate emanating from silent monuments like the White House that are meant to celebrate freedom, the white house both symboling the power of the presidency and the power of privilege in general.

I think it's a good point of comparison to both Langston Hughes' "I Too, Sing America" and Emma Lazarus' "The New Colossus," the latter expressing Jewish immigrants' rose-tinted view of her new home and highlighting a bit of the difference between the black and Jewish experiences in America.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Half-heartedly live-blogging A Room With a View

Andrew Davies takes his hatchet to EM Forster AND the Merchant/Ivory team, a combo I've blogged about before, upon my return from Firenze. Methinks nudity and a lack of subtlety is in store.

So to start with some 6 degress of period drama: Mr. Beebe is Arthur Weasley, Sophie Thompson aka Mary Eliot is Mrs. Charlotte Bartlett, and Peter Pettigrew is Mr. Emerson.

9;10 pm So far, so good. Definitely, a darker tone that the Merchant-Ivory version (AND the book). The fact that it's told by the widowed, and bob-haired Lucy after George has been killed in WWI, does cast a pal over things.

9:16--"If Ms. Honeychurch takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting for us."
Said to the backdrop of rain. Mr. Beebe says he hasn't the courage to live his life to the fullest. And by that he means he doesn't have the guts bone other men. We get it it.

9:18-- Lucy stares at bare buttocks of statues, mouth agape. Oh, the dark, sensual, Italian landscape. Erotic transference wherever you go! Still, would it be a BBC production without women starting at portraits or statues to symbolize sexual repression?

9:21--The murder-fight scene on the piazza is vastly inferior to the Merchant-Ivory one. Why the slow-mo blood spitting? That's just gross.

9:26--I just realized--Miss Lavish is played by Mrs. Thornton from North and South. What totally different role, steel vs. feathers, and she's awesome at both of them.

9:27--Oh, the italian countryside, part due. At least the Italian driver and his "sister" actually look Italian. His poor sorella, she has to walk back.

9:30--Yo, WHERE"S THE PUCCINI? Here it is.

9:34--Smooches in the poppy-and golden Florentine Hills! And more smooches.

9:37--This half-naked, near the toilet, smooching in the Pensione hallway business seems a bit unnecessary, no?

9:41--Cecil Vyse is the weird Mr. Wizely or whatever, who was the best part of Becoming Jane. Not bad casting, eh? but still, no Daniel-Day Lewis.

And now they're engaged.

9:47, redux: Mr. Beebe to Cecil: "You asked her to marry you? But...but... you don't like the vagina!"

9:50--Ah, the nude bathing scene. My personal fave. Even better: Channel 13 is BLURRING THE BUTTOCKS. Too risque for the baby boomers!

9;51--Andrew Davies is milking Forster's "piano as an outlet for sexual and emotional frustration" metaphor to the extreeeeme. Everytime anything happens, Lucy dashes to the piano.

9:55--Cecil Vyse reads Miss Lavish's sexy novel-passages out loud whilst his fiancee gets frisky neath the shrubbery with George Emerson. What a cuckold.

9:57--Miss Bartlett talks about "thrashing" and "horse-whipping" and elicits my first hearty laugh of the production.

10:00--George professes his amore to Lucy. This is a good speech. I like the fact that Davies gives George Emerson so many words.

...And he's rejected. Charlotte Bartlett shows her less spinstery side by shedding a tear on behalf of True Romance.

10:03--Lucy gets ready to dump Cecil. Instead of talking about how Cecil thinks women are like Leonardos, possessions, she talks about all he cares about are books and music, which is less convincing. Also, the scenes with his mother where she says they'll "take the Honeychurch" out of her are gone.

10:09--Mrs. Honeychurch and Lucy are shouting at each other. I'm bored. Lucy goes off to the woods. wouldn't it be awesome if this production ended up with a co-ed skinny-dipping scene?

10:12--Sophie Thompson rocks, but this Miss Bartlett-is0really nice meme is taken a bit to far.

10:17--Taking one last SWIM. Andrew Davies will do anything to show more nudity. And they are both in the water! Yo, I CALLED IT at 10:09.

And we flash from a water-logged make-out session to a full-on sex scene.

10:19--Finally, some opera. And the war comes. George Emerson lies dead in the trenches. That's pretty graphic. And sad. I can't get too mad at Davies for tacking this on--I mean the Great War pretty much killed an entire generation of young men.

10:22--She's picnicking with the Italian, and they're going to have sex. Are those fascists marching by them in the hills? Is is already Mussolini time?
Suddenly I think I'm seeing Lady Brett Ashley and the Toreador in The Sun Also Rises.

10:27--Andrew Davies, taking us from EM Forster to Ernest Hemmingway in 90 minutes.

While this is not as groundbreakingly fantasmic as the 1985 production, it was interesting and had good moments and the War stuff added a good dimension. Classics can withstand a battering, I always say ;) But still, he would have done better to adapt a book that hadn't already been turned in to one of the defining movies in recent history.
Just sayin'.

Signing out, til Cranford.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"I will not say do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."

It's been a long time since a commercially oriented film with the scale of ''King'' ended with such an enduring and heartbreaking coda: ''You can't go back. Some wounds don't heal.'' It's an epic about the price of triumph, a subversive victory itself in a large-scale pop action film.

-Elvis Mitchell's Review of The Return of the King, December 2003.

Just caught the last hour or so of ROTK, and bawled my eyes out from the moment Sam and Frodo get to the slope of Mt. Doom until the last credits. How does Peter Jackson manage to infuse such a grand-scale epic with so many minute moments of humanity? These films are such a goddamn triumph* and so re-watchable.

*(Was the "price" of that triumph, to borrow Elvis M's words, King Kong?)

Bonus: the Rohan theme mp3.

The Pulitzers; Kinda Testosteroney

This week, the Pulitzers were announced. As expected. the number of women and people of color getting the award was somewhat tokenish. All in all, I counted two ladies and two non-white folks, although I could be off slightly cause some of the names were ambiguous gender and ethnicity-wise. Attention, Pulitzer Commmittee: Giving my idol-poet Bob Dylan a special citation, which is admittedly awesome, does not make up for the lack of recognition given to women and minorities.

But check out the board. Yeah it's diverse-ish. But by my visual accounting, even if the non-white people and all the women banded together, they would STILL be outvoted by the white men.

That's patriarchy for ya.

(thanks to Meg for encouraging me to blog this :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dear God, No, no no nooooo. NO!

Via the wonderful Bronte blog, we learn the latest in a series of seriously TRAGIC events for the lovers of egaitarian bookworm heroines and their onscreen embodiments.

They started with Kiera Knightley.

Then they sicked Anne Hathaway on our shocked selves.

And now they are casting f-ing Natalie Portman as CATHY from Wuthering Heights. SHE is going to have to say "i am Heathcliff" and give birth and die while he gashes his forehead against a tree and call out all ghost-like from the moors and abandon her wild, feminine self to submit to a life of propriety and holy crap.
This is so wrong on so many levels. I don't even know where to begin. And yes, I am a bit hysterical, but come on people, this is Wuthering Heights.

(Oh, and apparently Evan Rachel Wood is starring in a possibly-not-happening Bronte biopic.
Just great.)

So what are my quibbles, you ask?

First of all, these actresses, especially Portman are all WAY TOO SKINNY and tiny.
Second of all, they do not have the period "look" (except for knightley, who fits into a flapper era thingy in Atonement).

Third of all, THESE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT FEMALE CHARACTERS IN LITERATURE. Cathy-Earnshaw-Linton-Heathcliff is full of rage, and sex, and wildness, and anger. She is not to be played by a pixie who has already desecrated Anne Boleyn and the Star Wars trilogy.

The greatest female characters in literature are NOT the same as hot-right-now starlets. They need TALENT and HEFT and GRAVITAS.

Let me tell you whom they might have cast: ANYONE who doesn't simper and giggle and bring smallness to the role. Look at the brilliant actresses the BBC has found: Jodhi May, Daniela Denby-Ashe, Romola Garai, Jennifer Ehle, Hattie Morahan, Ruth Wilson who all could have pulled off a Cathy to die for.

Maybe I should just chalk it up to Hollywood--I mean Brad Pitt played Achilles and Colin Farell played Alexander and so on, but...we have so few heroines who were not written by men. It'd be nice to do 'em justice.

Also, major HT to Mags for the LOLBronte idea, of course.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday Link-O-Rama, Spring! edition

Hi readers. It's finally really spring weather in New york. Having spent the morning (or ten minutes of it) blister-proofing my feet with baby powder, blister-band aids, and blister-block stick, I'm about to up and exit this hot apartment in search of the intoxicating combo of sunshine and cherry blossoms.

Here is some mandatory reading:

Over at racialicious, an excellent post about the way ethnic cover girls are whitewashed in the magazine industry, part of the evils of photoshopping which I've talked about before.
Shakespeare's Sister (those Woolf references are everywhere) has documented it far more thoroughly aussi.

Austenblog has a hopping discussion about moments in the Austen ouvre when characters act better or worse than we expect them to--part of JA's genius at describing humanity, imo.

If you, like, me, have a sick , must-know-more obsession with the FLDS church (the fundamentalist polygamist sect that just got raided), read this. Trigger warning; it's about inbreeding and genetic deficiencies.

My piece today at RH Reality Check on the way rape scenes are portrayed onscreen. Trigger warning II: it describes rape scenes.

In case you haven't noticed the blog has gotten a bit of a re-vamping thanks to my finally moving everything to the new blogger layout model. That means when you click on a label and there are too many posts to fit on the screen, you can click on "older posts" at the bottom of the page and actually see all the book reviews or posts on Austen or whatever, which is pretty nice. Also there's a new "sharethis" button at the bottom of every post, so if you dig me, you can digg me, ya dig?

And with that, je dis: "bon apres-midi! a plus tard!"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Terror Dream and Jessica Lynch

One thick volume I've been perusin now for months, whenever I have a moment to spare, is the brilliant Susan Faludi's "The Terror Dream." I have to say, it's given me and lots of others I imagine, a really good grounding for this vague sense we've had in the "post-911 era" about the shrinking role and visibility of women. Faludi assiduously documents that period's diminishing op-ed representation, TV show appearances, etc. for women, as well as the vicious backlash against women who dared speak out against the Bush administration's jingoistic response to our attack. It's depressing stuff, for sure, when it's all connected. But i makes a good point. This emasculation-from-both sides (terrorists on the outside and uppity bitches at home) seemed to be too much to handle for the manly men of the mainstream media and the Bush administration.

Most importantly, Faludi also grounds it in history of the "frontier captivity" paranoia. She reminds us of two important American trends: the obsession with Native American "violation" of puritan/American women captives a la The Searchers, and the ugly history of obsession with the, Birth-of-a-Nation induced lies and myths about black men's sexual encroachment on white women. In both cases, the supposed targeting of women by "outsiders" was the symbol of white men's emasculation, their panic over a supposed lack of dignity. Faludi brings up lots of examples of women who stood up for themselve,, or identified with their captors. and were hushed by the community.

Perhaps the most disturbing single narrative in the book is the story of Jessica Lynch.
This week is the fifth anniversary of her rescue and all the hoopla that accompanied it. There is no way to sum up all on the nuances which Faludi sheds light, because it's such a detailed, thorough explanation of each of the lies and misrepresentations that went into the media coverage of Lynch's ordeal, and how much of it was based on conceptions of femininity and worry about American troops' inability to Protect the Wimmins from the Enemy.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Jennifer Weiner

I've never read her books, but I've been meaning to. Maybe I will pick one up tomorrow!

Anyway, her new novel is coming out April 8th, and she's in the news because of it. Weiner's blog is totally brilliant. She is brilliant. She has clever things to say about all things writerly and womanly, she's anti-elitist but extremely intelligent, and also quite witty. She's at the center of the chick-lit vs "regular lit" debate and has sassy, smart observations on this push-pull, very tongue-in-cheek.

Kind of like a Northeastern Intellectual Jewish version of Helen Fielding. I can't say how much I think you all should check out the blog. That is all.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Je T'Aime, France.

The AP sez:

PARIS — Security officials extinguished the Olympic torch three times Monday as protests against China's human rights record turned a relay through Paris into a chaotic series of stops and starts.

Despite massive security, at least two activists got within almost an arm's length of the flame before they were grabbed by police. Officers tackled many protesters and carried off some of them. A protester threw water at the torch but failed to extinguish it and was also taken away.

If only les Francaises got this testy when the Nazis were hauling my brethren to Auschwitz. Oh, well, nobody's perfect. But still, remember that expat in SICKO who reminded us that “the people in France get all this because here the government is afraid of the people while in the States the people are afraid of the government.” etc etc? Yeah. Me too.

Monday Morning Poem: I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

William Wordsworth...

   I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay: 10
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood, 20
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

So starting my new Monday morning poem feature with Wordsowrth seems a little hokey, nmostly because Wordsworth, bless his heart, was so unbelievably maudlin at times. He's far from my favorite poet, and not even my favorite Romantic (Keats and Coleridge claim that spot). But reader, the DAFFODILS are blooming, at least in New York, which is the true harbinger of spring here. And how can one look at daffoldils without thinking of this poem?

Wordsworth's philosophy of nature and poetry means a lot to me , because for this cynic, it's the closest to a guiding principle I have found: savor life's rare moments of beauty and remember them during the more frequent moments of darkness. For whatever reason, we human beings, despicable, lowly creatures that we are, were put on a gorgeous planet. And that random gorgeousness is one of the few things capable of elevating us, if we allow it to "flash" upon our "inward eye." Too bad we're destroying the earth and soon we're going to have to rely pretty heavily on our inward eyes.

But back to William Wordsworth. My favorite line, by far, "is tossing their heads in a sprightly dance." I love the image of the yellow daffodils dancing side by side with the blue bay, sparkling. It's so vivid. And the first line is underrated too--if you unpack the simile, the idea of a solitary human being like a cloud gives you an idea of his utter remoteness.

In short, this poem is like an early Beatles song, almost embarassingly exuberant, but inescapably hooks you none the less ;)

For more sophisticated Wordsworth, see the Prelude and and Tintern Abbey.

And if you have suggestions for other poems to feature on Monday morn, shoot me a line.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Live-Blogging PBS' "Jane Austen Season" Sense and Sensibility Installment TWO

SO I've been thinking about the idea of the two film versions as "companion" pieces, each picking up on a different aspect of the novel. Ang/Emma's version (S&S95) riffs on Austen's satire of Marianne's out-of-whack romanticism and her infatuation with Willoughby, and also plays up on the differences between the sisters ("I compare my behavior to what it ought have been. I compare it to yours!"). Davies version picks up on the precarious situation of women in the time down to the house perched vulnerably on the edge of cliffs/crashing waves, which is obviously one of Austen's favorite themes, and it's treated particularly strongly in this novel. Even the darker hues and music fit into goes.

9:01 pm-- Why is Gillian "Lily Bart" Anderson talking about Tom LeFroy? What does this fave to do with anything? Enough of this crap, bring on Elinor and Marianne!

9:04--Elinor says there must be "some explanation" for Edward's not visiting. Turns out, she's right, cause she's Elinor and she has so much sense.

9:05--Marianne recites some poem and talks like Cathy in Wuthering Heights. 'He is in me! He is with me all the time...I am Heathcliff!"

9:07--They talk about whether money can buy happiness. Elinor prosaic, Marianne poetic. Edward utterly tortured, dying to speak words unspoken, to utter sentiments un-uttered.

9:09--The famed, oft-discussed Edward WOOD-CHOPPING in the rain scene. Less sexy than sticky. No Darcy in the lake, that's for sure.

9:12--Still, it has affected Elinor; she lies sleepless and troubled.

9:13--BREAK from live-blogging while I devour my Vietnamese noodles and watch the screen uninterrupted.
9:30--And I'm back. Just in time for the misty-morning DUEL?? Huh? Is this a fantasy scene or what? Oh, I get it. They're dueling over Eliza. That's what they did back then.

9:31--In the interim, there have been some wonderful scenes... but a lot of them are just like S&S 95. Stopcomparingstopcomparing.

9:35--Marianne: "Happy Elinor, you have no idea of what I suffer?"
Um, yes she does you selfish, overly "sensible" girl! She just has the "sense" to hide it.

9:37--Brandon tells Eliza's tale of woe to Elinor. Like I said, the theme of the social situation of women is everywhere--but doesn't the duel undercut it a bit? Precarious women, yeah, but who cares when they could be defended by manly men with their swords?

9:40--Margaret delivers an abridged version of Anne's speech at the end of "Persuasion." "Girls must sit around and wait for things to happen. Men ride about the country!"

9:41--Oh sheeet, Brandon visits Eliza's daughter and her infant. Isn't it kind of f'ed up that he's Eliza's "father" figure and she's the same age as Marianne, whom he wants to bone?

Ouch, he tells her about Willoughby's engagement.

9:43--Fanny Ferrars calls Marianne "damaged goods." John Dashwood says Marianne has "lost her bloom" and urges Elinor to "try for Colonel Brandon." Mrs. Ferrars the elder is reincarnated as Lady Catherine de Bourgh from P&P '95 and gets into a staring contest with Marianne.
In short, they suck.
But this dinner party scene is awesome. Virginia Woolf should write a stream-of-consciousness narration detailing everyone's feelings.

9:46-- Oof, oof, oof, the scenes between Elinor and Miss Steele, and Edward and Elior and Miss Steele, are so painful. And so perfect. The longing in his face, and in Elinor's, is beautifully rendered.

9:51--Anne spills the beans. The defendants stand trial at the course of the elder Mrs. Ferrars. So much glaring!

9:53--I just love this portrayal of Edward.. even more than that of H-h-hugh Grant... his pain is so apparent, and he's seen as so much more an upright man than just a doddering fool.

9:55--Elinor's big scene: "Let me assure you, I have been very unhappy."

9:56--This scene is both derivative of S&S '95 AND P&P '95, what with the silhouettes against the windows. But yes, it's really sad. Poor Elinor. Losing your man to Lucy Steele... it doesn't get worse than this.

9:59--Elinor and Marianne talk about the menz. "Perhaps they see us not as people but as playthings, Elinor," says Marianne.

10:01--Marianne fantasizes in the rain about kissing Willoughby. Brandon comes riding up to her rescue, unlike in the book--it does feel like Ang Lee's version has become dogma, like as Mags said, this film is as much a remake of that one as it is of the book.

10:03--Colonel Brandon holds Marianne's hand. Pedophile alert! Naw, jk, it's mad sexy. He's a sweet, stern not-really-old man.

10:07--Willoughby's "confession." He's just a whiny emo-schoolboy here. No Greg Wise, I repeat. And Elinor gives it to him good--no sign of the pity she feels in the novel.

10:11--Marianne talks about how Colonel Brandon is a true Romantic for keeping faith with Eliza throughout the years. "It is not what we say... but what we do." This explaines the connection between Brandon and Marianne, and why Brandon loves her instead of Elinor, who seems to be a better match.

10:12--OK Davies, why follow up that great speech with comparing women to horses who need to be tamed? Or is Elinor just being deeply ironic?

Another break while I watch the end and savor it.


10:31--So the ending was wonderful, I even choked up a bit, but I have to wonder why again Elinor started sobbing convulsively just like Emma Thompson did. The book describes it as Elinor " burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease. " Does it follow that they must be hiccoughing tears? Ah, well. Maybe it does! It does feel wonderful to see Elinor release her feelings. It's so cathartic.

But showing the evolution of the Marianne-Brandon relationship and the talk between the sisters on the beach were all well-done.

Companion pieces. I have to see the two films as companion pieces. Must stop comparing!

Well, it's been a wonderful Jane Austen season. See you next time there are six Jane Austen movies in the same year. Probably in 2012 or even sooner, sigh ;)

Friday, April 04, 2008

What Is Jhumpa Lahiri's Hook?

Asks New York Magazine.

I'm glad to see that people are paying attention to Jhumpa Lahiri's (my favorite contemporary novelist) unabashed love of storytelling and her lack of rhetorical show-off:

Stylistically, she doesn’t have a hook: no genre bending, no comics-inflected supernaturalism, no world-historical ventriloquism, no 9/11 flip books. Just couples and families joining, coming apart, dealing with immigration, death, and estrangement.

But what I wonder about this thesis is why it stops there. It seems a bit simplistic--yes, Lahiri's prose doesn't call out to us as fancy, per se, but THAT IS AN ART IN AND OF ITSELF. She is able to let us slip into the story, with clear, brisk sentences and a lack of ego in her style. This is no easy feat, as Virginia Woolf reminds us in the one part of A Room of One's Own (besides the Judith Shakespeare stuff) that I consistently refer to.
Here was a woman about the year 1800 writing without hate, without bitterness, without fear, without protest, without preaching. That was how Shakespeare wrote, I thought … and when people compare Shakespeare and Jane Austen, they may mean that the minds of both had consumed all impediments; and for that reason we do not know Jane Austen and we do not know Shakespeare, and for that reason Jane Austen pervades every word that she wrote, and so does Shakespeare. 17

Regardless, I'm looking forward to reading Lahiri's short story collection. I know I'll be amazed and moved and horribly envious, as well. But in a good, inspirational way!


A few posts to remember MLK by (today is the 40th anniversary of his assassination), and think about how we can continue his legacy:

Angry Black Bitch

Yeah, Back At You

What Tommy's House of Value Said.

Other desserts on my brain: Pinkberry fro-yo with strawberries, rasperries and mochi bits, and Ben and Jerry's lighten up! Half-baked frozen yogurt and cafe Swish green bubble tea with milk and tapioca.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Feminist Media Criticism In Action, Realtime

Fellow-ette: is this video glorifying rape?

Fellow: yeah probably
it is really old, tho
why u ask?
(it is definitely very misog)
Fellow-ette: oh
i was just talking about it with the rh reality checkers
we were talking about rape images etc
Fellow: wrd
yeah - nicole s's marketing relied pretty heavily in general on creepy sexualized/violent imagery
people were cool with the heavily objectified "pussycat dolls"
but when she went solo, it's like her marketing veered too far into "slut" territory
all her singles flopped
Fellow-ette: yeah i cant watch their videos either
Fellow: her album is indefinitely shelvesd
Fellow-ette: really?
Fellow: neither can i! but they are hugely popular!
Fellow-ette: true
so she crossed some invisible line
Fellow: the difference in how the group was treated vs her solo can't be an accident
i think it's bc people don't want to personalize that sexual image
Fellow-ette: because the pussycat dolls relied on some myth of "girl power" ala Spice Girls?
Fellow: they want it to be a bunch of faceless "dolls" --no one knows the group members' names
Fellow-ette: oooh right
Fellow: her whole solo thing was about her as an individual
her album is called "Her Name is Nicole"
Fellow-ette: you are a brilliant feminist media critic!
Fellow: that creeped people out
Fellow-ette: yeah true
the pussycat dolls videos are all just flashing torsos
and mouths
no personality
Fellow: ironically, i dont think it's the rape imagery that bothered people about her - it's that she went too close to being an actual human being yknow
not a "doll"

Dawn Eden's Parents: "Oy vey."

I learned today that anti-feminist, pro-chastity, desperate for Zoloft cultural irritant Dawn Eden was born to reform Jews and her last name was originally Goldstein. Add that to the fact that her ma and pa named her Dawn Eden and she used to be a journalist who wrote about Rock'n' Roll, and one might deduce that they were Reform Jewish ex-hippies.

So in order to make their every living moment hell, she found Jesus and became a Catholic born-again virgin, ignoring that whole Jewish "sex is good" thing.

It doesn't get more American Pastoral than this, folks. What a shonda. Those poor parents. Vey is mir.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Feminist Classic/Shmeminist Shmassic

Salon's Rebecca Traister on the wommyns and their books and stuff, specifically on one particuarly nutty womyn, Erica Jong and her nutty sex-book, Fear of Flying.

Traister shouts-out all the best EBC tomes though, from Little Women and The Little House on The Prairie books to Jane and Edith. Yay.