2018-04-17

Murder and mayhem and light verse

.

021) M Is for Malice by Sue Grafton, finished March 28

Kinsey's halfway through the alphabet and with a few pages of beautiful writing at the end of this novel, she's changed in what I suspect will be fairly significant ways.

Here's what's interesting about these novels.

As genre fiction, each one's a well constructed detective story. I'm getting a better sense of Grafton's technique and so I start figuring out the solution before the end (not intentionally; I have no desire to outwit my hero), but the pleasure remains.

But if you treat the entire series as a novel, we have something more quote-unquote literary as Kinsey undergoes, here, a major catharsis, and over the course of the series is dealing with larger issues of family and meaning and belonging and etc etc. This stuff is barely visible within any individual novel. But as the books proceed, if you step back fifty feet, all those flurries of theft and murder fade away into the larger, human tale of one Kinsey Millhone.

Be careful or you might accidentally read some art.

. . . . .

Incidentally, more than any other reason, this is what bums me out that she died before writing Z. I'm pretty sure she was going somewhere. Imagine missing the last volume of Middlemarch. Sucks, doesn't it?
couple weeks


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022) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany; finished March 31

Uneven. Some parts were dull. Some parts were moving. It must have been hella expensive to put on. And holy crap but this is a long play. Do they serve lunch halfway through?

I can see why diehards had issue with it---it's often attempting something much different than the novels; or, rather, it emphasizes themes that were merely supplemental in the novels. Some themes are superfluous which works better in a novel than in a play. Harry Potter himself recognizes that book five was a crap year. The magic, honestly, was the least interesting thing about this book though I imagine it was cool onstage. This is described as the rehearsal script but given the fact that stage directions are more poetical than practical, I wonder.

Anyway. I liked it fine.
under two weeks


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023) It All Started with Hippocrates: A Mercifully Brief History of Medicine by Richard Armour, finished April 6

I only knew about his poetry so when this book popped up in a library search when I was looking for something entirely different, I put it on hold immediately. His poetry, after all, is hilarious.

This book was also enjoyable. Did I laugh? Yes. Like, actually? outloud? with sounds? Yes. I did.

I also learned a lot. Assuming I can successfully distinguish between the facts and the jokes. Which I think I can. But maybe not. Don't invite me to trivia night.

But the important thing is this: Armour's prose is also very funny. The closest comparison I think I can make is Will Cuppy, but I'm probably just revealing more of my geeky humorist interests than being helpful with that comparison. I am not sorry.
perhaps three weeks


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024) Don't Bump the Glump by Shel Silverstein, finished April 14


His first book of poetry!

It's okay.

You can see where he's headed (some later poems are straight-up reworkings of some appearing here) and he's pretty much there, though the variety of feeling is what's lacking. The jokes hit, but they don't matter as much without the accompanying sincere feelings.
sitting on the porch


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025) Coriolanus by Wm Shakespeare, finished April 16

It's exotic to read a play I know nothing about. This one is extremely troubling. In part because of the neverending violence, in part because of the no-one-to-like character list, in part because of its unsettling echos in modern politics.

I can see why the play has both lovers and dismissers. I can't tell you what opinion to have of it. After another two weeks grappling with it in the classroom, however, I hope to have a more settled opinion of my own.
three or four days




===========================================================



The other books of 2018


1 – 4
001) Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates &‎ Brian Stelfreeze & al., finished January
002) The Complete Peanuts 1950-2000 by Charles M. Schulz & al., finished January
003) The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, finished January 10
004) El Deafo by Cece Bell, finished January 12

5 – 9
005) Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack, finished January 13
006) Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben Blatt, finished January 15
007) Glister by Andi Watson, finished January 18
008) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 20
009) The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien, finished January 21

10 – 11
010) The Vision by Tom King et al., finished January 23
011) Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds, finished January 24

16 – 16
012) Anthem by Ayn Rand, finished February 8
013) The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee, finished February 14
014) Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle, finished February 21
015) It Needs to Look Like We Tried by Todd Robert Petersen, finished March 7
016, 017) Fences by August Wilson, finished March 8

18 – 20
018) The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, finished March 13
019) Star Wars Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away by Tim Leong, finished March 22
020) Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen, finished March 25

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

* the most recent post in this series *
_____________________


final booky posts of
2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013 = 2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017


2018-03-31

March 2018’s Feature Filmery

.

HOME
Inside Out (2015):

It's hard to express how important this movie is to me. And when a kid wants to watch it, I say yes. Because I think watching this film can make you a better person.

This time through I was thinking about representation, so let's admit this is white, heteronormative, and cis. At least on the surface. When I started thinking about it, I realized the various looks inside people's heads are a bit more complicated. But honestly, I'll save these questions for other movies. Inside Out is doing too much important work in other parts of my psyche. I really believe that regular viewings of this film will keep us healthy and in communication with one another. Plus, it lets me cry in front of my children. So there's that.

ELSEWHERE
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016):

This seems to be a film that will always be enjoyable, every time viewed---not just funny and entertaining, but warm and heartfelt.






HOME
Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993):

First, what a cast. The new cover Amazon's providing shows this better than the original, which though Joe Montegna was the biggest deal, but deigned to mention Ben Kingsley and Lawrence Fishburne. It also includes, in smaller roles, William H. Macy, Laura Linney, and Tony Shalhoub. That's not it but, I mean, Macy's credited as Tunafish Father. Heh.

The movie holds up,* and the scenes I remembered are still the highlights. But it also has a certain poignancy it didn't have before. The main kid we now know would drop out of college. The antagonist kid was abused as a child. Bobby Fischer came in and out of hiding and was basically insane all the way through death of renal failure. Not a lot of happy endings after the credits rolled.

* Unfortunately, our viewing experience was far from ideal so I don't know how trustworthy my thoughts are. The HDMI cord kept losing video and some weird glitch with the dvd made audio disappear; then I would have to reset the movie to just after that moment of loss so we wouldn't lose sound again but also miss out on as little as possible. The movie ended up taking us two nights to watch. Absurd.

Also, what is Ben Kingsley's accent here? And what's his real accent?

Whatever. It was good. That's enough.

ELSEWHERE
Fences (2016)x2:

This movie gets better each time I see it. Choices I disagreed with on early viewings or didn't understand (including camera work which I originally thought drew too much attention and now find invisible in its support of the story) I have come around on.

Although! If I ever have the chance to ask Denzel Washington one question, I'm going to ask what's the deal with those windows Troy keeps looking at.

Two scenes are guaranteed to make me weep. The first is Viola Davis's Oscar clip and the second is Cory breaking down as he and Raynell sing together. But there are plenty of other highlights. Troy's inability to keep a proud face after Rose takes the baby. The montages, notably the shot of Gabe's bed. Gabe's pain when the horn won't blow and his matter-of-fact pleasure when it does. Terrific writing supported by terrific acting and solid direction.

HOME
Colossal (2016):

Here's an interesting thing:

Given the cast and the trailer, I expected a comedy. And, sure, it is a comedy. At least Aristotle would likely say so. But it's not a comedy as you and I instinctively define comedy.

This is a pretty serious movie. Depression, alcoholism, abuse. The fact that a silly monster-movie conceit does not collapse under this weight is impressive, frankly. But it does not.

I have a couple nitpicks: the paper suddenly coming loose at the right moment, the length of a certain airplane flight, the suspension-of-disbelief-damaging stupidity of Koreans. That's really it. Only the third one got in the way of the experience, and when dumb people are the least believable part of a monster movie, you're definitely in a proper monster movie.

I didn't know I wanted a cozy kaiju movie. This is why it's best to make the movie you want and not guess what the world wants.

Then again, it lost money. At least considering box office only. But most of my favorite movies land that way. And I'm not saying this is my favorite movie, but it will be for a lot of people. It will find its audience. Wait and see.

ELSEWHERE
What We Do in the Shadows (2014):

This is the third time I've seen this movie and it's gone from less than I hoped to more than I remembered to a comfortable favorite. Would happily watch again! Invite me over!





ELSEWHERE
Chinatown (2006):

This documentary doesn't exactly give one optimism for our abilities to cross cultural boundaries. Here we have people---all of whom have good intentions and assume the best intentions in others---who are constantly and utterly flummoxed by differences in expectations and understandings that they simply could not imagine and cannot understand.

What's most frustrating, maybe, is that it's what has attracted the Swedes to the Chinese that causes the Swedes problems, and it's what attracted the Chinese to the Swedes that causes theirs.

The world is complicated place, largely, thank you, to the people it carries.

ELSEWHERE
Frankenstein (1931)

The more I see it, the better it gets.








ELSEWHERE
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Same with this one. Although, those homunculi never get less weird....





Previous films watched


2018
jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2018-03-25

Dig into genre

.

018) The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, finished March 13

Although not a propulsive as the blurbs claimed, this is still a fun book. But part of its fun in 2018 is trying to figure out what,
in 1969, was cool new science and what was imagined science. And how well the novel predicts our world today. Crichton's no dummy---he was off by some decades at times, but he had a fairly good sense of where computers were going, and medical tests.

The novel is, in conceit, a work of nonfiction drawing on formerly classified texts to recreated the five days in which Earth was invaded by an alien microorganism. The primary characters are reasonably well drawn and the use of background info and science feels very honest and real. It reads, in other words, like a work of popular nonfiction. The Hot Zone would be an obvious parallel.

The book even has a references section! And while some of the articles cited are by the fictional characters, others look quite legit.
But articles published in Nature sixty years ago are hard to Google---especially when the results are flooded by Andromeda Strain bootlegs....

One thing that built suspense was the authorial editorializing on errors the scientists make in their hurried studies. But that suspense is largely deflated when the novel ends in a deus ex machina that deflates any issues that had once seemed terrifying.

If I had written this post immediately after finishing the book instead of waiting a couple hours, I might not have realized that the ending was so deus-y, but it totally is. Just suddenly the problems gone! Woot! It's a relief in the moment so it takes a moment to realize it's a bit of a rip-off. In Crichton's defense, however, Jurassic Park's entire raison d'être, arguably, is to redeem the overly simplified conclusion of this his first science-fiction novel. So good on ya, Crichton.

This book has been on my shortlist since high school, but it never quite became the book I spent my money on. I picked up a free copy a few years ago, but it wasn't until the Big O read Jurassic Park and Lost World and wanted more Crichton that this book got read. And then he pushed it on me. I'm so glad to have finally knocked it out.

I don't intend to read more Crichton outside, I hope, someday rereading Jurassic Park and then, perhaps, following it up with Lost World, myself.
under two weeks


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019) Star Wars Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away by Tim Leong, finished March 22


This was a pretty disappointing book. I was expecting more actual facts like comparing the number of words per opening crawl or whether light-side or dark-side characters talk more about the force. (And those, few, pages were great.) But a lot of these charts merely chart Tim Leong's opinion (for example, he considers walking carpet to be the harshest zinger in the Star Wars universe [tied with slimy, double-crossing, no-good swindler], but no random bar graph can prove that), or are poorly designed jokes.

Plus, frankly, I just don't care about the tv shows. I'm never going to watch them.
two or three days


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020) Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen, finished March 25

I picked this up on the recommendation of a friend, who thinks it would make a better template for a Supes movie/show than the schlock of late. The basic concept is this:

In a world that is essentially our own, this poor kid growing up in smalltown Kansas is always getting razzed because his name is Clark Kent.
His relatives always give him Superman-themed gifts and the kids at school never tire of pushing him over. Then, one day in adolescence,
suddenly, holy crap, he has superpowers. Roughly Superman's.

Let it rip.

I enjoyed the story, but at first I thought it was too meta to work as a film. And that's sort of true of the first percentage of the book.
But eventually it outgrows its meta beginnings and grows into something new and exciting and pretty remarkable.

Clark grows up, falls in love, shares his secrets, gets married, has children, grapples with being a father, grapples with old age.

Sure, there's superheroing going on in the background, but this Clark Kent values his privacy far more than his fictional namesake---hardly anyone knows he exists.

And so this is a book that using superheroing as more than a metaphor for adolescence (I'm stealing from Busiek's intro here), but explores how that metaphor works at other stages of life as well. And with aplomb.

It's not totally unique in this respect of course---Dark Knight Returns and Kingdom Come explored ages far from adolescence, and I'm hopeful the Incredibles are going to continue looking at life writ broad. But this is one life from near-beginning to near-end, and that patience of scope made for a good read.

But I don't see a film here. I see a LIMITED TELEVISION EVENT of, say, five or so hourlong episodes. That's how I would want it done.
three days


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The other books of 2018

1 – 4
001) Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates &‎ Brian Stelfreeze & al., finished January
002) The Complete Peanuts 1950-2000 by Charles M. Schulz & al., finished January
003) The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, finished January 10
004) El Deafo by Cece Bell, finished January 12

5 – 9
005) Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack, finished January 13
006) Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben Blatt, finished January 15
007) Glister by Andi Watson, finished January 18
008) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 20
009) The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien, finished January 21

10 – 11
010) The Vision by Tom King et al., finished January 23
011) Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds, finished January 24

16 – 16
012) Anthem by Ayn Rand, finished February 8
013) The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee, finished February 14
014) Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle, finished February 21
015) It Needs to Look Like We Tried by Todd Robert Petersen, finished March 7
016, 017) Fences by August Wilson, finished March 8

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

* the most recent post in this series *
_____________________


final booky posts of
2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013 = 2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017


2018-03-08

Boy, at this rate, the pile of books I read this year may make it all the way to the bottom of the bedspread.

.

011) Anthem by Ayn Rand, finished February 8

I'm so done with this book. But then I heard from the sophomore teachers that a bunch of their students listed it as the best book they've read in school.
So. Here we go again.
a week


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012) The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee, finished February 14

I found this 1990 collection, Lee's second, because I'm a fan of the poem "A Story." The collection follows the poem's lead---it's largely about parental relationships, memory, the past bleeding into the present. I found it a bit repetitive, but it also had some killer, killer lines.
this week


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013) Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle, finished February 21

My march continues. A Wrinkle in Time is beautiful and moving. A Wind in the Door is overly philosophical and drags.
Many Waters is the best read, so far. I didn't start with high hopes; Sandy and Dennys start the book still in Frank and Joe Hardy mode, and, to be frank,
they never quite distinguish from one another, but the world they fall into and the characters they interact with are interesting and real in a way most of the characters in those previous two volumes were not. Which isn't to say this book too isn't rife with poetry and philosophy and reachings toward meaning, but story is king here. Which isn't to say this book is some sort of boilerplate thriller or fantasy novel---far from it. In the largest aspects, our protags have very little agency available to them. But in the day-to-day of their adventure, they do have agency and they use it well. And there's something very honest about that.

Anyway, here's the set-up: Sandy and Dennys come home from a hockey practice and fool with an on-going experiment by their father, sending them back in time to antediluvian desert where they meet Noah and his family and neighbors. The reality of God (El) and angels is clear and unquestioned by the text, and our rational,
practical brothers have to come to grips with their new reality. Which they do. They live there most of a year.

This is a much more grown-up book than AWIT or AWITD. Sandy and Dennys become adults. Have to make adultlike decisions. Sex and childbirth are important to the story.

It's also a very feminist book. And very Christian. And thoroughly provocative. If you like L'Engle and have missed this one, highly recommended. Maybe just get one without the cover mine has.

three-plus months


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014) It Needs to Look Like We Tried by Todd Robert Petersen, finished March 7

Great book. Coming out in May. I'll have more to say, but I need to find a venue....

maybe a month


===========================================================



015, 016) Fences by August Wilson, finished March 8

Unlike Anthem, I am so not done with this book. Every read a kid points out something I haven't seen before and every time the class reacts so deliciously to certain lines. (E.g., spoiler alert, "You a womanless man.")

Great, great play. Even the stage directions are poetry.
four days


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The other books of 2018


1 – 4
001) Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates &‎ Brian Stelfreeze & al., finished January
002) The Complete Peanuts 1950-2000 by Charles M. Schulz & al., finished January
003) The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, finished January 10
004) El Deafo by Cece Bell, finished January 12

5 – 9
005) Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack, finished January 13
006) Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben Blatt, finished January 15
007) Glister by Andi Watson, finished January 18
008) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 20
009) The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien, finished January 21

10 – 11
010) The Vision by Tom King et al., finished January 23
011) Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds, finished January 24

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

* the most recent post in this series *
_____________________


final booky posts of
2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013 = 2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017


2018-02-28

2018 February Feature Filmery

.

ELSEWHERE
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

I was enthralled with the trailer when it came out---largely because of the Woody Harrelson's character (who was my single favorite part of the film; I would watch his movie twice)---then forgot all about it. This is, the words of a seventeen-year-old student of mind, too real. It's too much real about being seventeen. It's a lot of real. And while it's not my real, I felt more connected to it than, say Boyhood or Dazed and Confused. So I guess I like Kelly Fremon Craig more than Linkletter? Maybe. At least when it comes to kids. Or I just empathize more with this hero's failures. Who knows.

HOME
Help! (1965)

My kids had this one when I got home. I didn't intend to watch it with them but ... it's really good. The more I see it, the more convinced I am its satirical critique of late-stage British colonialism is ... just great. Some of the race stuff is embraced but enough of it is undercut--- I'm about ready to write a paper about how ahead of its time it is in terms of such things. I think it's using the tools of, for instance, what we now call whitewashing to mock it. Not the words they would have used at the time, of course, but I have evidence. In other news, the movie is filled with great shots (especially in the musical sequences), and, I just noticed for the first time that much of the score is orchestrations of older Beatles song. Too bad that stuff's not on a cd somewhere. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

HOME
The Incredibles (2004)

Unquestionably one of the greatest s-uperhero movies. Sam Raimi's first two Spider-Man moveis came first (both of which are good and one of which is excellent) and the okay X-Men movies had started, but Batman Begins was a year away and Iron Man was four years off still. This, imho, is still the standard. There have been excellent entries to the genre since 2004, but nothing inarguably superior. Long live the Incredibles.

ELSEWHERE
Love & Friendship (2016) x2

This movie is brilliant. It shines with bright humor and charm and even the wicked characters are delightful. I don't know what percentage of the sentences were lifted from Lady Susan, but they are all exquisitely Austenian. If you need a laugh, watch this. If you want a bigger laugh, watch it twice.




HOME
Wonderstruck (2017)

Todd Haynes, methinks, should not direct children. Also, there are a goodly number of dumb flaws (doors left unlocked, contact left unmade) that could have been explained without clunk. If it had just been me and my wife watching this, I would have called it a waste of time. But we watched it with our 14yrold and I think it was a great push toward artistic film for him. He thought it was pretty great. And I don't mean to knock the film, but it really felt like Haynes spent the entire process congratulating himself for making a masterpiece. It was good and it was ambitious, but it would have done well to loosen up a bit, take itself a bit less seriously. And it was slooowwww until the leads finally met. Cut twenty-plus minutes and breathe a bit more and you've got quite the movie on your hands.

HOME
Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)

I missed the middle of the film when I was out picking up a kid from baseball practice, but I saw enough to stand by my decade-and-a-half-old assessment: it's funny. We were going through old dvds and wondered why we even bought this one doubting it could be all that great, but the kids saw it and wanted to watch it and we finally let them. Lady Steed, I assumed, skipped a couple bits in the middle, but this is a pretty funny movie. Dumb? Yes. Ridiculous? Yes. Absurd? Yep. Stupid? Sure, but funny. Not a movie any right-minded critic could promote, but it's funny with bits of hilarity. And even when it's merely stupid, it's an inspired stupidity. I'm not ashamed.

HOME
Lady Bird (2017)

Saoirse Ronan is amazing in this film. She's so great. She's 100% American and absolutely a high-school student. Next, Greta Gerwig. I've been a fan for a while, but watching a show that is entirely hers? Well, I can't wait for the next one. Anyway, this is one of the finest lifeslices I've seen in a while. The kids, the parents, the connections. And hey---2002 was pretty much still the '90s, wasn't it? Without 9/11 would we even be able to tell the difference? Sorry, I let the screener start over and so I'm watching instead of analyzing or anything intelligent like that. Also, I don't feel like risking getting too personal. Now and then I realize I have some ghosts from high school still haunting me. But it's nice to see them turned into art.

HOME
Sylvio (2017)

Twenty minutes into Lady Bird, we switched over to watching the last half of Sylvio, begun the night before. And:

Post-irony. If you're looking for it, here it is. A guy in a gorilla suit. That's the whole movie. But it finds an honest and beautiful sincerity. By the end of the movie, all the irony is washed away.

I thought the mask was just a plastic mold, but I'm wondering if it wasn't actually clay. Sylvio's stoic demeanor seemed to take on real pathos at the end, but maybe that was just lighting ... or making me believe.

I know it didn't start with Napoleon Dynamite (exhibit a), but I think Napoleon's success made it possible to see a home for these outsider, offbeat characters living in a world slightly out-of-sync with our own, behind chronologically and yet entirely now, to be the protagonists of great movies. You know. Although it looks more like something in the Oscar-bait tradition, I think Lady Bird just might qualify as one of these characters as well. She's much closer to reality-reality, but that's a bit misleading. Sylvio may seem farther from our world, but his fictionality is the roadway through our defenses. The same is true of Lady Bird. Her angle of attack is just a little less absurd. Anyway. Coupla good movies here....

HOME
Iron Man (2008)

Haven't seen it since theaters ten years ago. It holds up pretty well. All the Marvel DNA is there. Some things (post-credits bits) have been finetuned, and it's surprising how much the effects have already aged---at moments I felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie---but it's still a good ride. Amazing how much this film has spawned in just ten years....


HOME
Toy Story (1995)

The younger boys claimed not to remember this film. And they didn't. So instead of some other classic film, tonight we watched this one. It's a great film. Buddy movie, yes, but at times horror, heist---it does it all. I'm still sad I missed it in theaters. (It came out when I was in the MTC.) Even though the animation has aged, this is a film for the ages.


HOME
Chan Is Missing (1982)

This is cinema verite to the max. These sets are clearly not sets---they're real homes and offices. And that reality makes it possible to forget, for long stretches, that this is fiction. It feels so real. This is Chinatown, circa 1980. I don't think I've seen a Wayne Wang film before, and I don't know if this is typical of his work, but the best comparison I can make is to Robert Altman. Natural, flowing dialogue, folks talking over each other, etc etc. I also like the noir effects---voiceover, chiaroscuro, paranoia. And I like the pure mystery. Like City of Glass or Mr. White's Confession or The Colorado Kid, mystery in Chan Is Missing isn't something to be defeated. Mystery is its own reason. And, done well, I find that very satisfying.

THEATER
Black Panther (2018)

I can't say much about this movie that hasn't been said, and I don't know that anything I can say is that important. So just a few things I haven't heard said just this way. 1) It's nice to see someone paying attention to details. Even the subtitle font was intentional. (And not Papyrus!) 2) I really wanted to see this opening weekend with an appreciative African-American audience. I wish I had. 3) I know this is fantasy and wish-fulfillment, but I felt the desire for this world pouring from the screen. I can't imagine what it's like to either take that dream back into the sunlight---or to watch it dissipate there. 4) Kinda cool to see scenes in both Oakland and Pusan.

HOME
Pom Poko (1994)

Watching a Ghibli film for the first time is always exciting. Although I knew the gist of this one's plot, I didn't expect the documentary feel or the voiceover or runtime (about two hours). What I did expect was to be shown something unexpected. The elements of the unexpected that fit more into my expected unexpecteds include the plurality of protagonists, the whimsy, the generous imagery, the surreality, and weird Japanese stuff you would never see in an American movie like shape-shifting scrota. Fitting into simply expected, put the strong environmental message, though, frankly, it's rather a downer. For all the dancing and fun the film ends on, it's not exactly a Hurrah, humans! sort of conclusion.

The film automatically started with the dub, so that's what we watched. It was fine, but I suspect that much of the film's humor and nuance was lost. I'm not saying the subtitles would be that much better, but a film this grounded in its own culture will always lose something. That so much remains just goes to show how rich the film is.


Previous films watched


2018
jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2018-02-11

Consumption and Creation
#svithe

.

*walk to podium*
*eat one into microphone*

So once upon a time there was a guy named Jonah who didn’t want to be a missionary so he hopped on a boat and then into the ocean where a fish swallowed him up and then spat him back out so he went ahead and did the missionary thing and was a super successful one which irritated him so he went and sat in the sun and complained to God that he is waaaay too merciful and these people should have just been destroyed.

Man. SunChips are really good. I really like them. How in the world do they make something so tasty? Let’s check out the ingredients, shall we?

*read the first couple*

One thing you’ll notice as we go through the list is that SunChips no longer use any pig enzymes. Not that it ever said “pig” on the package—I think it fell under “Natural Flavors.”

*read the rest*

Pretty good list.

*eat another chip*

Now one thing about everything on this list? Dead. Even the cheese, if we’re talking its microorganisms. Dead corn, dead wheat, dead parsley. All dead.

Or look at what I’m wearing. This shirt is a cotton/poly blend. The cotton died a few years ago. Polyester is made of oil, which is just cotton that died a few million years ago. And my pants are dead hemp. Talk to Rob and John if you want to know more about hemp. He’s the expert.

The point is: we can’t live without the dead. There is no life without consuming the dead. And there’s nothing to consume without creation. And everything created will die. Even these larger molecules we’re made of are just the viscera of exploded stars.

Anyway. Jonah.

He’s pouting and says,

C’mon, God. This is why I didn’t want to come. You’re always forgiving people who should be destroyed. What kind of God are you, anyway?

So Jonah goes off to sulk. But the spot he picks is hot and sunny and he’s probably eating whatever awful substitute people had for SunChips 3000 years ago and he is not comfortable.

While he’s sitting there, God grows a tree over him which, depending on the translation, either had nice broad leaves or a giant gourd to block the sun. The gourd’s funnier, so we’re going with that.

The tree’s blocking the sun with this giant gourd, and Jonah starts feeling more comfortable, maybe even happy. Then God sends a worm which kills the tree and shrivels the gourd and there’s Jonah, back in the hot sun and mis er a ble.

Why are you angry about the tree, Jonah?

Why shouldn’t I be angry? I should just die, that’s what I should do.

Jonah. You didn’t plant this tree or water it. It was my tree. And if I can change my mind about a tree, why can’t I change my mind about a hundred twenty thousand people who don’t know right from wrong? To say nothing of all their innocent cattle.

That’s really what God says. Innocent people, innocent cows.

But there’s precedent for this concern. When God covenanted with Noah not to flood the earth again, he didn’t just covenant with Noah. He covenanted with every living creature. All flesh he had created, he covenanted with.

As Latter-day Saints, we believe that Jesus was the one who “did” creation. He created this world. And, with our creator’s death, we are recreated.

*point to sacrament*

There, under that cloth, lies our Savior’s body, broken and blessed. We have consumed it. And thus we live.


This world we’ve been given is complex and beautiful. And that complexity and beauty is based on everything that comes before.

*hold up SunChips*

Dead wheat, dead corn, dead parsley.

The snack-science geniuses who invented SunChips had, as raw materials, the dead.

We only live by eating the dead.

We will only live again by eating his body and drinking his blood.

But God made a covenant with all living things that never more will there be a flood to destroy the earth. What can we learn from that?

Hang on.

You know that scripture in the D&C that is sometimes quoted by people who, I assume, are more ignorant than wicked, to prove that we can just destroy everything and it’s cool?

For the earth is full,
and there is enough and to spare;
yea, I prepared all things,
and have given unto the children of men
to be agents unto themselves.

The earth is full and there is enough and to spare.

But: do you know what comes before this verse? After?

I, the Lord … built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.

And it is my purpose to provide for my saints …

But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.

That’s what comes before. And here’s what comes after:

(so there’s enough and to spare and we are agents unto ourselves)

Therefore, if any [of you] shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not … unto the poor and the needy, [you] shall, with the wicked, lift up [your] eyes in hell, being in torment.

That’s pretty serious. I mean—we don’t even believe in hell! and yet God will send you there if the enough and to spare is not taken from the rich and given to the poor. There is enough and to spare only when our consumption is wise.

Remember what the Earth says, in Enoch’s vision?

Wo, wo is me, the mother of men;
I am pained, I am weary,
because of the wickedness of my children.

To consume is to live, and we cannot consume without killing. But there is enough and to spare for us and the poor and the innocent cattle and every living thing, if we use our agency to care for this world as her creator cares for us—if we do not kill more than is necessary for us to live.

Can I talk about Shakespeare for a moment?

This week, it was revealed that Shakespeare lifted topics and even some wording from a guy named George North, a guy who doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Richard III’s famous winter-of-our-discontent soliloquy is a riff on something this North guy wrote.

But this shouldn’t shock us, of course. Shakespeare also stole from Plutarch and Holinshed—both dead. And we all steal from Shakespeare. I mean, c’mon, even Disney eats the dead. The Lion King is Hamlet and even a dummy like Gaston can quote Macbeth.

We create from matter unorganized.

Dead wheat, dead corn, dead parsley.

For most of the two weeks I was preparing this talk, I was just keeping my eyes open, trying to see the relationship between consumption and creation in the world around me.

And this talk is created out of what I’ve consumed.

Which includes the Old Testament,
the New Testament,
the Doctrine and Covenants,
the Pearl of Great Price,
three Shakespeare plays,
two Disney movies,
and this delicious bag of chips that’s been sitting in our car for over a month, presumably just waiting for the opportunity to become an object lesson.

Then I sat down and figured out how to turn what I had consumed into something new ‖ and beautiful.

We create from matter unorganized.

Dead wheat, dead corn, dead parsley.

We only live by eating the dead.

*point to sacrament table*

We only live again by eating his body and drinking his blood.

The body and blood of he who created us.

Worms may destroy this body,
yet in my flesh
                           shall I see God.
O death, where is thy sting?

I believe absolutely that we were put on this earth to recognize our dead with gratitude, and to turn them into something new ‖ and beautiful.

And that we were put on this earth to accept our Savior’s death and thus become, ourselves, something new ‖ and beautiful.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen.




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