Monday, December 19, 2011
I'm currently on the last little bit of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. This incomparable tome is vast and full of glistening bits of information that I never knew, or knew I knew; such as the infamous evil of Dr. August Hirt, who was much more sadistic and cunning than Dr. Mengele (who doesn't even merit a mention by name in the book). The book has opened my eyes about many things; but two remain a mystery. 1. How Hitler seized absolute power. It seemed that the coverage of this period was not as deep as it could have been (1928 - 1933). Possibly because the documents concerning this period of the dictator's rise either don't exist or the witnesses are all dead. 2. Why the German people followed this guy to utter ruin and destruction. Of course, after a certain point (1934) they no longer had a choice. After that, only the army could have deposed the dictator. Shirer spends a great deal of time discussing von Stauffenberg's conspiracy (Operation Valkyrie) and while reading it one cringes with angst at the near misses, and missed opportunities. Shirer spends some time on the Holocaust, but I'm sure he counted upon others to get the specifics down. He does manage to prove that the Holocaust really did happen, using accounting and statistics kept by the Third Reich itself. All in all, I feel better for having read this book. I've known much of this in an off-handed way, but now I know better. I cannot improve on the words of the ADL: Hitler's evil and destructive influence has no parallel in the annals of history.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
But he couldn't perservere in the status quo. He began having death fantasies, of strangling himself or of eating himself to death. These were warning signals that he noticed and to some degree ignored because of his doubts. For doubt circled him like a flock of ravens. How would he live? Would he be able to pay his bills? How would he receive healthcare if he got sick? What would he do with all his stuff?
At last realized that it was his stuff that was holding him back: a vast collection of books, cds, dvds, media of all kinds; comic books, graphic novels, paper, paper, paper...
Paper enough to forge a warm cocoon of inaction, of repose, indolence and solitude. What he thought he always wanted--but which had worn very thin in practice. Like a little butter spread across too much bread. He woke up one day to find that his spirit had turned into Gollum.
So he began to divest, to toss and discard the detritus of paper and media that he had spent 30 years collecting. The pieces he couldn't bear to part with, he digitized, with his camera, his scanner and his videocapture software, so that he could reduce his burden of stuff to a more manageable level. He began a process of whittling away the superfluous: books he had never read, or would never read, the computer games he would never play, the dvds and CDs he would never watch or listen to again. And if it was ever in question, he could just render them into pixels and take them with him, no more than airy nothing.
And he found as he cleared away the coagulation of crap that plugged his living stream, his spirit begin to flow and grow again.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Nina Sayers is a repressed young woman of 28 who lives with her mother in a NYC flat (obviously rent-controlled). Nina's mother is cloying, possessive and obviously has transferred her own ambitions onto Nina. Nina's bedroom is pepto-bismol pink, and full of toys and stuffed animals; the room of a 12-year-old. When Tomas, the artistic director, asks Nina if she's a virgin, we believe that yes, Nina is probably a virgin. Nina's sole obsession is to be perfect, to have perfect technique. Tomas tries to "loosen her up" in order for her true artistic spirit to shine through. That is the essential narrative. Juxtaposed against this story of artistic growth is a hint of mental unbalance as Nina begins to experience haunting, provocative and terrifying visions.
But Black Swan works on more than just the level of narrative. Nina's pursuit of perfection is played out as psychodrama, with her desire for perfect technique emblematic of her EGO-based desire for total control, juxtaposed with her subconscious repressed urges, her Shadow-Self, yearning to be set free, to be expressed, symbolized by the Black Swan. Nina sees doppelgangers of herself on the train, on the street, these are visions of her own Shadow, which is alluring to her on a deeply emotional and sexual level.
It also works on the level of pure symbol. Everyone experiences the sometimes painful, always confusing, often fearful, transition from adolescence into adulthood. Often that means sacrificing the treasured innocence of childhood in favor of the experience of the world as it is, including one's sexuality, one's ambition, one's innate ability to be satisfied with the self without external validation from others. The movement from innocence, in which the personality is formed by the parent and the parent's values, to an individual with values chosen and won by experience is difficult and I've known many people personally whose lives pitiously ended prior to success. For Nina, fully integrating her Ego and her Shadow selves is a symbolic death.
Finally, Black Swan does work on the level of pure narrative. In order for this to work completely, however, one must believe that Nina, at 28, is experiencing adult onset schizophrenia, which progressively worsens through the course of the film. But that interpretation alone would make this a movie-of-the-week, and Black Swan is as far from that mode as it is from romantic comedy.
No, Black Swan is a genius alchemy between narrative, symbol and psychodrama, and by far the best film using the world of the dance as its milieu since The Red Shoes.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Fantasy: stories about power and how it’s found, lost, and used.
In Low fantasy, characters have no struggles with power (Conan the Barbarian) they are always confident of their powers (like superheroes) and rarely question themselves or their powers. Sword & Sorcery. Their struggles are against more powerful beings, not themselves or their own weaknesses. Frodo, being half the height of a man, and thus a much less powerful being than the Men or Elves he hangs around with, gains ultimate power over Sauron. Though the necessity of Gollum there in the Cracks of Doom, is an ironic flourish.
Horror is a subgenre of Fantasy. Thus it also is concerned with power. But the most prevalent theme in horror is fear. What scares us, to some extent is also what renders us powerless. Acrophobia, is the fear of giving into a sudden and overpowering impulse to jump making us doubt our power over our own actions. Claustrophobia, is fear of being in a tight, confined space, where the power to move is greatly incapacitated, making us doubt our ability to function to breathe on a physiological level.
The New American Gothic (S. King, Danse Macabre) is a story in which the character's morbid introspection drives the plot. Rooted in narcissism and anxiety (the self-centered fear of Alcoholics Anonymous), the new American Gothic concerns the inability to see beyond the horizon of the self. This closed minded, compartmentalized, blinkered, bracketed cognition on the part of the protagonist is the impetus for horror. Constantin Stanislavski's "Circles of Attention" reduced to a fierce, laser like dot of light in the center of the self. These characters have axes to grind, fierce prejudices to overcome, preconceived notions to abandon, malevolent childhoods to rise above, addictions to accept.
Also, the New American Gothic protagonist is different from the noir protagonist because their fears are existential rather than actual. The perfect example of a New American Gothic protagonist is Jack Torrance from The Shining.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Certainly speech didn't put a bullet through Congresswoman Giffords' head, that was a young man with "a head full of bad juice," as one of my favorite characters would put it. So, in a fundamentally uncivil society what is the rational response--forget civility, that's tres passe.
We are left with the "Chicago Way" from Brian DePalma's film, the Untouchables:
You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife,And so, we wring our hands and come to the conclusion that being forearmed is the only way to negotiate a society in which the police cannot be counted upon to maintain law, order and peace, we must arm ourselves.
you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his
to the morgue.
That's the Chicago way...
In a society in which guns are prized above the lives of 9 year old girls, federal judges, ladies of small consequence, and political aides, the only rational response is to murder in return. Therefore, I announce that my 25 year principle against the death penalty officially ended. If summoned to serve on a jury in a capital case, I will unhesitatingly be able and willing to vote to put to death a person capable of this kind of violence. Especially, ESPECIALLY! if he uses a handgun to do it.