Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cinema's Greatest Boethius

?                          ?                                ?

Whenever people ask me as a filmmaker,
"Hurt, whose portrayal of Boethius do
you consider the greatest in the history
of cinema?"

I always answer:

"Christopher Eccleston in 24 Hour Party People"

For those of you who love Carmina Burana
by Carl Orf, it is largely a Boethian Text:

Hey there, Fortune,
Like the moon,
You are changeable!
_                                        _

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Death of Declan Sullivan

Graham Greene once wrote that the sign of a
Christian Society is not one without sin, but
one with a divided conscience.

So far Notre Dame's response to Declan Sullivan's death
from its football coach's obvious negligence shows
the same depressing united-front-refusal-to take-responsibility
mentality you would expect from any secular institution.

Fr. Tom Doyle in his homily at Sullivan's memorial
mass went for uplift when repentance was called for.
Fr. John Jenkins, the President of Notre Dame had
passed the unpleasant task to him.
Notre Dame no doubt is worried about itself as an institution,
but it's a depressing spectacle none the less to see football
become so important at a Christian institution that a boy
dies, and no one will step forward and say, "This should
never have happened.  I am so sorry.  Lord, forgive me.

Forgive us all.  Amen."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

World Enough And Time

*                *                 *

The World is forgiveness:
it keeps ticking on,
no matter what you do.

Time is justice:
it spins you out finally
for your failures.

*               *                 *

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Athens, America & The Power of Success

One of the most difficult writing assignments I have
ever undertaken was to render Aristophanes' BIRDS
into English for the TUTA Theatre Company and
its visionary director, Zeljko Djukic.  (I also met
Natasha Bogojevich, the divine composer for
whose Bajalica I provided video stream, on this

I was at first taken aback by the many similarities
between Athens at the time of its war with Sparta
and America at war in Iraq, but the ending of
Aristophanes' portrait of Athens seemed at first
very alien to the contemporary world, because
BIRDS ends with the apotheosis of a new god
in Cloudcukopolis.

I got to thinking about the ending of BIRDS and
the revelation I had about it, because I heard Charles
Ferguson interviewed about his new film INSIDE
JOB over the weekend.  It's a very precise portrait -
Balzacian really - of the world which produced the
Greenspan-Paulson Financial Crisis.

Perhaps Zola would be a better comparison, because
there's a real "J'accuse" feel to it.  Ferguson
has no doubt who is guilty.  I have to agree with
him about the financial players, but more deeply
we have to ask what creates a world in which these
guys can thrive without being questioned:  it's
America's love affair with success.

From Aristophanes' portrait of Athens after Pericles,
we see the same unquestioning bowing and scraping
to success.  This was my revelation about the ending
of BIRDS.  Aristophanes was talking about a love
of success bordering on worship.

The play ends:
All hail bless├ęd success,
Of all the gods the greatest.

It's this unquestioning love of success which leads to
a world in which the successful can basically do what
they want until the success blows up in all our faces,
and our heroes become our villains once it's too late to matter.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dignity Lost: John Roberts' Supreme Court

   -                        -                            -

One may have thought the Supreme Court
could sink no lower than it already had
under petulant child Chief Justice Roberts,
and his smirking schoolboy companion,
pulling faces during the State of the Union Address.

(You would have thought they would just
 pity those who lack their Augustan job security, 
and would let a little politics slip under their notice; 
but since baby boomers need constant affirmation,
our own Child in Chief felt called upon to throw
the dignity of his office and the court into a hissy
fit.  What would his hero Roger Taney say?)

Still the waking of the Clarence Thomas scandal
has sunk the Court even further.  The strangest
aspect to these recent events is that the worms,
though very much alive it turns out, were certainly
buried deep until Mrs. Clarence Thomas of all people
decided to go digging for them in her own garden.

For those who wonder why at this time she
would reawaken doubts about this conservative
hero's morality, the answer may be that her
concern has more to do with quieting her own
doubts than advocating for her husband.

A new study covered here in the on-line blogs
of Discover Magazine shows that when a person's
faith in a belief is shaken, he or she is likely
to grow aggressive in advocacy of that belief.

So when we see someone out the blue trying to
convince others on an issue that isn't even on
their horizon, there's a good chance, something
has shaken her own faith and left her needing
to convince herself.

Or maybe it was just good politics - a deft manuever
to distract attention from the far more pressing
question of whether it is right for the wife of a
Supreme Court Justice to take large sums of money
for her political group Liberty Central, while her
husband holds such a powerful position within
what used to be a venerated democratic insitution,
but which now seems to be more the
vanguard of the coming oligarchy*.

* Oligarchy: rule of the rich, a political system in
which the wealthy hold all power.

Monday, October 18, 2010

End of Democracy

James Madison and others of the Founding Fathers believed that
inevitably our Republic would eventually turn into an oligarchy*.
With the help of the Supreme Court, I think the time is arriving
with alarmingly little alarm.

Republicans are outspending Democrats 9:1.  Most of this spending is
coming from anonymous sources such as corporations who officially
have no party affiliation, but which just all seems to line up against the
Democrats.  How can the two party system survive such lack of parity?

Money rules in America.  Even the Tea Party members want to
keep receiving their Social Security Checks and Medicare Benefits.
I don't see how even the little choice we get from the two party
system can be maintained.

This year is a water shed.  Soon the Democrats will just lead the list
of underfunded non-mainstream parties, such as the Greens and the

* Oligarchy: rule of the rich, a political system in
which the wealthy hold all power.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wistful, a short story

*                  *                *
It was to her everlasting, if rather mild, regret
that she gave her virginity to a man whom she
found rather unattractive.  It was not for money
or career advantage or because she felt
threatened in any serious way that the thing
fell in the way it did.

No:  when asked - by her own irritated
conscience; no one else could care
about such a trivial event so long ago -
how she could let such a  thing happen,
she could only answer,

Because he took control of the situation.
He was a true inside man.
*                  *                *

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What Makes A Mark Gullible?

If N. Nicholas Taleb is looking for confirmatory
evidence for some of his views on human psychology,
he would be interested in this little bit from David Maurer's
classic study, The Big Con,  a technical term meaning
a con in which the sucker, i.e. you or me in the right
circumstances perhaps, not only gets taken for the money
which he has readily available, but he also gets sent home
to raise some more.

Maurer talks about what makes a person a good mark,
ruling out stupidity.  It usually takes intelligence to
follow the con man's scheme.  Here is Maurer's
description of the ideal mark:

Most marks come from the upper strata of society, 
which in America, means that they have made,
married or inherited money.  Because of this, they
acquire status which in time they come to attribute
to some inherent superiority, especially as regards
matters of sound judgment in finance and investment.
Friends and associates... help to maintain this illusion
of superiority.  Eventually the mark.... forgets the 
part which luck and chicanery have played in his 
financial rise: he accepts his mantle of respectability
without question; he naively attributes his success to 
sound business judgment.

-                                            - The Big Con,
-                                              Chapter 4, p.102
-                                              Anchor Books edition

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The 20th Century's Mona Lisa

If you asked what image from the 20th Century comes
closest to capturing the universal sense of female
mysteriousness, that ineffable female mysteriousness,
it might well be the famous production still from
of Greta Garbo as Queen Christina.

Greta Garbo is a great screen icon whose fame and mystique today rests mainly on a still image.  The only film she made that can compare is Ninotchka.

Late in her career she realized it was the quality of the
directors she worked with that mattered, not the DPs.
But earlier she had insisted only on control of the
men who lit and shot her.

Looking at the above shot I can't help thinking of Graham Parker's
line, "The Mona Lisa's sister doesn't smile."

Monday, October 4, 2010

You Tube's raison d'etre

You Tube
is justified by work such as this:

You Tube is inundated by material which should
have never been posted, but that's the price we
pay for magical material like this we'd never get
a chance to see or hear otherwise.

A sublime little piece of time......

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Remembering Kit

Oct. 3 was Kit Carsson's birthday,
and in her memory, I want to recount
something she once told me:

It was a winter night, and Kit had to
run out to the pharmacy to get something
for the pain her life-partner, Leah, was
suffering from that night.  It was very cold,
and Kit wanted to quickly get the medicine
and then get back into their snug bed.

Two steps out the door, and Kit slipped on
the ice, landed on her back in the snow and
hit her elbow especially painfully, but she
got up, ran her errand, brought Leah her
pain medicine and climbed back into bed
with her.  Her elbow was killing her, but
Kit never told Leah what happened.

But she lay awake wishing that somehow
Rachel could know what had happened to
her that night, how she lay in the snow a
few seconds even in the bitter cold, thinking
"If only Rachel could see me now.  If only
she could know what I'm going through."

That night Kit hardly slept, dwelling on how
little Rachel knew of her life, of the small things
like a few moments lying on the frozen ground
on a windy night, wishing that her Rachel of the
Windows, as she always called her to me, were there
see what she was going through and to be seen back.