Why do I have a tumblr? I’m not sure yet. But I’ll never find out if I don’t post anything there.
So I wrote some reflections on John Barnes novel The Sense of An Ending. Instead of putting them here, I’ve put them there.
We’ll see how this goes.
EDIT: here is the link.
What I really wanted to post here was a link to an NPR interview I heard years ago with an evangelical involved in the creation of the Moral Majority.
I wanted to post this because I don’t have anything original to say about the recent controversy’s regarding marriage equality, but I felt the need to say something.
I felt the need to comment, because despite the fact I should be inoculated against it by now, I am shocked and dismayed that this is a legal controversy.
Not because I don’t understand how someone could be against it. I just don’t understand how such large numbers of people can feel as if it’s acceptable to give that dislike voice in the law.
The interview I wanted to link to was with a sincere evangelical who believed that homosexuality was a sin. He talked about the calculations required to raise it up over other sins such as money lending.
I despair over our ability to handle complex problems if we cannot agree on minority rights. If we can’t say, “I don’t like it but it’s not really my call.”
If we cannot agree that if marriage is a big enough term to legally encompass all the non-christian weddings, the loveless marriages, the sexless marriages…
If it includes the people who don’t have ceremonies,
If it’s a concept that (legally speaking at least) really just involves two people declaring that they want to bind there lives together in some amorphous way….
then it is also big enough to include people irregardless of their gender.
If the libertarians can’t show up in force for this issue…
If slippery slope fallacy is able to stand uncontested…
If we can’t acknowledge that in the “culture wars” same sex marriage is the next logical step now that we’ve made marriage about romance…
If a hundred other things I’m forgetting to mention. Then how are we ever going to solve the complicated problems. The policy problems.
So, I couldn’t link to the NPR article, and I didn’t have anything new to add to the issue. But apparently I felt the need to say something anyways.
Also, the last link, the “made marriage about romance…” one. Is worth reading if nothing else.
Q: What is your favorite film?
A: An unhelpful question. “Favorite” is vague enough to be meaningless and my answer is likely to change based on a variety of social contexts – none of which come into play when questioning myself.
Q: What’s a film that reveals something about you that you value?
A: Slightly better. Although my answer will still be random, at least we’ve eliminated Braveheart.
Q: Fine. What’s the movie you’ve had the most radical change of heart about?
A: Well now see Bravehearts back in the mix…
In this way we eventually approach Elizabethtown. The linked trailer does justice to my first viewing. I almost walked out of the theater, casually dismissing the film as an unremarkable pat romance with some uninteresting family drama and a too long scavenger hunt at the end.
History has not been kind, and the general consensus seems agree with that interpretation.
Then I read Roger Ebert’s 3-star review, and I found an extra detail that caused me to reconsider. You see, at the start of the film, the protagonist is fired from the shoe company. This is the great professional failure that sets everything into motion (oh yeah- spoilers ahead for Elizabethtown & Almost Famous). Ebert writes:
“In the first cut of the film, there was a great deal more of the journey, followed by a pointless epilogue in which the Spasmodica shoe turns out to be a hit after all, because with every step you take, it whistles.” (emphasis mine).
It was this absurd detail – the idea that his great failure had been turned into success through some Jiminy Cricket like insane optimism.
Upon reading that I was suddenly able to see the movie not just as a long dirge with some manic pixie girl thrown in, but as a metaphor. Once I stepped back an inch everything else fell into place.
The scenes worked on there own just fine, but their power came from wielding larger concepts around with them.
Concepts about death. About love. About the meaning of life and parenthood and optimism and truly knowing someone else.
This highlights a few things:
1) I’m not so bright.
2) Context is everything. I could have gotten this context from knowing Crowe’s work.
Or from the opening of the film which signals it like a bat signal if you’re looking for it. Or maybe if I’d had a better breakfast that morning – who knows.
I do not mean to imply that detail about the whistling shoes should have been left in. Rather that viewing the film requires that we bring something of ourselves to the experience and what I bring can be unpredictable and may say more about me than the film.
Once I saw the film with these larger themes in mind – it became a masterpiece.
The love plot became a layered balancing act of meaningful dialogue that commented both on the history of “meet cutes” as well as counter-balancing the foreboding sense of death, failure, suicide and regret.
Her manic pixie girl status wasn’t just a cheat or lazy writing, it was a conceit that opened doors.
Once I wasn’t watching just another romantic comedy, but engaging it as a something of substance it opened up and rewarded me for it.
Allow me to use an example from a better regarded Cameron Crowe film (since it has a youtube clip available – and because I’m slightly intimidated by Elizabethtown).
Sample Scene: Here
Here the “talent” of the band is getting back on the tour bus after a night of ill-advised partying. When they last left, it was unclear if he would return, or if the band was done for.
More importantly, the lead singer of the band, has made it clear that the rest of the band simply does not like him. The core of the tension is unresolved. This theme is hammered home throughout the movie. Time and time again when crisis hits – when you’d expect them to pull together and find a deep love for each other – they come up dry. They come up with selfishness and bitterness.
So why does the band stay together? Is it money/fame (partially yes). But then why do we care about them?
Sure they are all failures as human beings and friends.
But then there is the music. A theme (one of many) echoed throughout the film, from the rock critic to the too-wise band-aid. It is the heart of the film. It’s where the film begins, and ends.
Or maybe the movie is about a rock critic trying to maintain his distance so he can write about the music. Or maybe it’s about his love of the girl who puts her head on his shoulder, but is not with him.
It’s all there. The whole film is in that scene.
It also gets him out of the party, back on the bus and keeps things moving along pretty quick.
Or maybe it’s all in that song choice. It has the right kind of fame and feel to be sung on a bus. Not a bus I might be on, but a bus full of rock stars reaching for a way to show some appropriate manly sensitivity.
Not just a song that was famous around this time, but like the film, a song of this time. All enchanced if you bring certain cultural knowledge to bear on the moment, but works well on it’s own.
And of course it says a lot about the band-aid as well.
What I’m saying is, if you think Almost Famous has layers, give Elizabethtown a second viewing.
Or maybe it’s that I’m usually a lazy viewer and I woke up this one time.
More on this when I get the courage to break down Elizabethtown in detail. And if you beg, I’ll talk your ear off about Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
A thought too long for twitter.
This is such a stunningly good line it deserves notice beyond those who want to know if Marie Antoinette is a good film:
“1. This is Sofia Coppola’s third film centering on the loneliness of being female and surrounded by a world that knows how to use you but not how to value and understand you” – Roger Ebert
I had another line I wanted to add. Something about how we all take turns playing hero’s and villans for each other, but deep down all we want is that fleeting moment of connectedness … compassion… a hug.
If I could say it well myself I wouldn’t have needed the now-missing quote. But it can be seen as fitting that the quote itself has also floated past. Leaving only a vague and unsatisfying memory.
I don’t have any special expertise in politics and even less in medical ethics, but thankfully some issues don’t require it.
“Arizona and Kansas are considering bills that would ban lawsuits in cases where doctors fail to warn their patients about birth defects… the Kansas provision, part of a sweeping, 69-page anti-abortion bill, would allow physicians to lie to women who might otherwise terminate their pregnancies.” Full article here.
They are attempting to make it consequence-free (read: legal) for doctors to lie to their patients about their health without oversight or fear of consequence.
This law is beyond problematic for many reasons (it decimates the patient-client relationship in ways that fall along gender lines; in practice it will have class implications; even people who are extremely anti-choice probably don’t want there doctors to deceive them), but here is one of the less intuitive ones:
It literally prioritizes the fetus over the baby. Many anti-abortion efforts have this effect, but here it is particularly stark. Imagine a fetus that will be born with a defect that will only allow it live outside the womb for a brief period of time in extreme pain.
This provision is aimed at making it possible for that fetus to be born at all costs, irregardless of what that means for the actual baby (let alone the uterus-possessing person who will then be responsible for it).
Plus there is this: Cobbs v. Grant, “The patient, being unlearned in medical sciences, has an abject dependence upon and trust in his physician for the information upon which he relies during the decisional process, thus raising an obligation in the doctor that transcends arms-length transactions.”
Courts, gender issues and legislators aside here is an article that thinks more deeply about the issue of lying to patients from a medical perceptive: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2673833/
I was considering changing my status message in my chat client to “My heart is in the highlands”.
Most of the people who would see it would ignore it. Some of my friends would either look it up, or know instantly that it is an allusion to a sprawling song epic by Bob Dylan.
But the selfish, grasping part of me thought “I like my old status message – I am creating story-telling arc through my messages and the old one has not been up long enough yet. How sad it will all just disappear. How can I share this arc with the world?”
Being a good tweeter is a marketing act. That does not invalidate it. It simply is a selection of all the possible things one might do – and choosing the ones that fit into the norm and goals of that medium.
If you care deeply about me already, then you may find the allusion to the song interesting.
If you don’t, the inevitable onslaught of nonsense from my default take on twitter would be a cacophony of noise and song lyrics.
All social interactions are presentations of self, and my preferred mode of self presentation is through narratives that allow me to pretend that I’m not talking about myself.
So what to do with twitter. Be smart? Pretend like only real life friends are reading it? Use it as a promotional vehicle for my brand?
Time will tell.
Insanity is smashing up against my soul
You can say I was on anything but a roll
If I had a conscience, well, I just might blow my top
What would I do with it anyway
Maybe take it to the pawn shop
You hold the power in your hands. You can change the course of a life. Lives. If you walk away, nothing happens. But if you click the thumbs up button… If you share this link…
then others will see it.
And if they do the same. My friends, you might start a movement.
That is, until you crash my servers, because I use cut-rate hosting.
That’s not the end. It’s the beginning. It will force others to act. I will need to decide how dedicated I am to this.
Until I realize it’s not a decision. You will inspire me. How can I, or anyone stand in your way?
I know some of you are thinking: “Well this is kinda fun, and I liked the goat picture. But someone else will surely hit the ‘like’ button.” Someone else will make it happen.
But there is nobody else except for you.
That’s it. All society is, is a collection of you’s. When we band together social structures are formed but without your active participation it all falls apart.
Some of us live in an attention based economy and you are the taste-makers if you choose to stand up and claim your right.
And if you don’t feel like making some random blog a temporary blip on the internet famous scale, consider joining EFF. Or something else all together.
So far I’ve managed to moderate all the comments to my blog posts without resorting to a Captcha service. This gives me access to the full range of spam bots.
Given that my posts so far consist almost entirely of my rants and almost no valuable information they look particularly out of place. For instance:
“Thank you, I have just been searching for info about this topic for ages and yours is the greatest I have discovered so far. But, what about the bottom line? Are you sure about the source?”
I can even see how that might work in a different context.
Below are a few more of my favorites:
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Disclaimer: I’m cheating, or at least playing a different game.
I am using distribution channels (Kindle, Nook, Diesel etc…) to push out something that is not quite what people expect from them.*
When I give my book away in the gift economy feel some guilt because I worry that I might be undermining others. Not just those who charge money, but also those who give away their creations as part of a larger plan.
I wrote some words because it brought me happiness to do so. Avoiding Space Madness was the result of those efforts.
I truly believe that grammar is the etiquette of the written word, and poor grammar is the written equivalent of showing up for a formal dinner party dressed like Radagast the Brown. You look incompetent and nobody knows what your doing. More importantly you make things awkward for everyone else (especially those who want to like you).
So before putting it into the world, I edited it to the best of my ability (to my dismay, I am not a very good copyeditor).
There is no marketing plan around giving away the book. I am not engaging in the same dynamics as most other authors.
I am giving away the book to stop myself from continuing to edit it with diminishing returns and diminishing joy. This enables me to have time to write more and bring myself joy.
It is my hope that it brings entertainment to others. It is amazing to think that other people have read my words.
*To highlight this, the book is labeled thusly:
“non-canonical edition disclaimer:
This is a draft. This is only a draft. If this were a real book, all of the sentences would have both subjects and verbs.”
If I ever have a publisher or access to a copyeditor, I will publish a canonical edition. Until then, I wrote something approximating a book and put it out for the world to take as much pleasure in it as the world would.
Then I wrote this disclaimer to answer some questions I received about what my intentions were.
I hope it helps.
But why I wondered? I want to say that this is about power, about Amazon leveraging it size, distribution chain, and capital reserves to unfairly hurt its competition. And certainly that’s true. That is what this is about.
But that dynamic is also standard operating procedure. It’s why Amazons items are routinely cheap; it’s why they operate at as close to a loss in the short term as they can.
So what makes this a bridge too far?
Well, I don’t know that it is. I think some of the fuss is just old anger at leftover at the above battles.
But if it is too far, here is my stab at why:
1. It’s rubbing the losers nose in it.
By way of analogy: It’s one thing for the tall handsome football star to be elected class president. Sure he had some advantages handed to him, but he also worked hard at football, and he is basically a nice guy.
In this scenario Amazon went from just winning the election against the bookish policy wonk it ran against, to taunting the loser afterwards.
Amazon said in effect: We aren’t content with the hidden ways we have advantages over you, we want to flaunt it too. Then it drove away splashing sales tax and overhead costs at the nerd’s shoes.
2. The whole thing makes explicit the advantages Amazon has long enjoyed.
This bothers me. I want to think of the online retailers I shop at as wonderful and unproblematic. This makes it harder to do so.
3. It’s unsustainable. I’m often willing to accept that sometimes Starbucks going to come in and destroy the local coffee shop. After all I like my Frappuccino’s a certain way.
But the kinds of promotions listed above are clearly aimed at the competition and will not survive them. It’s not sustainable savings. The logical endgame is a monopoly where the discounts all go away once they are done using your local Target as showcase.
You could make the case that the same dynamic is true of big boxes stores in general, but again it’s largely hidden (see #1).
4. I had at least one more point in mind when I started this, but I can’t recall it anymore. Sometimes I think this economic stuff is complicated.