Friday, July 30, 2010

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #46

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Be right over, promise

Always imagine new places. Notes on Inception [part two, kinda]

by Ryland Walker Knight

Turns out we don't care enough to write a sequel post. Turns out we both feel (Jen and I) that you can't really write anything that shatteringly brilliant about the film because the film's just not all that shatteringly brilliant. It's simply effective entertainment, however overlong, and I (for one) would probably just wind up talking about Shutter Island again and how different the direction of Leo (of all the actors) is in either movie, and how much better at it Scorsese is; that is, how much more about performance the first film is and how that appeals to me, how that works better; and nobody needs (much less wants) to read that again. Instead, I'll give you some other stay options: (1) you could/should watch Louie on FX, a wry over-40 observational show about how ignoble life is and how absurd most social interaction can be; the fourth episode was great, the best so far. Or (2) give Valhalla Rising a rent On Demand if it's not playing near you. (3) I still "need" to see Toy Story 3 and (4) can't wait to see Lourdes again (SFIFF capsule) when it opens at the Roxie in a couple weeks. Lourdes, after all, is about ambiguity in the way that Inception is about how to tailor a suit. (Those numbers are unnecessary, sure, but I found them funny.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Viewing Log #52: A Snoot's Pterygium [7/19/10 - 7/27/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Not going to agree out loud

Spent last week in Vail, Colorado visiting family and generally getting zero alone time, either to read or to write, let alone movie time. However, I did manage to get my mom to watch A Christmas Tale. It took us about four sittings but we got through it all. Not sure the sharing accomplished what I wanted it to accomplish but we did wind up talking about me plenty afterwards. I don't really have much to say here about me (or that part of me), nor do I have much "critical" to offer on the subject of Desplechin that you can't read elsewhere on this blog. Some of this is bound to be projection, but it just seems like we've (A.D. and I have) got a pretty similar take on things and for that I feel grateful, flattered, confirmed and challenged, sometimes broken but even more often built up past myself towards the kind of posture with the world I always want: to want the world and to want to be in it. However, it was seeing home videos (and taking a gondola up the mountain) that really got things going upwards.

I often bristle when a camcorder's turned on me, but I also know the impulse to document, as evidenced by my Found Facts series. Readers of this blog have got to know my affinity for the documentary aspect of the image. But it's one thing to record your friend dancing with fire and then play with the images a month later; it's another altogether to see your mom 16 years in the past skiing with her sister and the two of them laughing their butts off (and, consequently, laughing your own butt off with the images). Put otherwise, you often lose the affective weight of time with most home videos. For instance, you can lose them. Or, you can watch them a week later and only a certain kind of joke (the immediate kind) hits. The power of seeing "Feb. 24, 1994" in ghost white over snow is easily bullseyed as nostalgia but there's something else at play besides a banal, wistful mnemonic moment: there's excitement. The video was hilarious, adorable. I was excited to see a different time, to see so much joy from that moment. But this is probably banal, too, and important only to me. Let me put my nostalgia and affection this way and then let's put it behind us for the time being: youth isn't (shouldn't be) restricted to the under-30 crowd.

To test your patience just a little more, I'd like to say that there are certain editing rhythms in home videos, too, that the videographer may not even realize when choosing when to hit that red button. The best running gag in the best twenty minutes of that '94 tape was seeing my mom come down hill after hill after my aunt and uncle (Dana and Guy)—who, as residents of a ski resort town, are obviously much better skiers than my mom—and hearing my mom, out of breath, say, "Guy, will you please shut that camera off?!" She says it at least eight times in those twenty minutes. Every time, "Guy, please will you turn that thing off!" Every time the question becomes less polite, more a demand, until it's a fatigued and frail (naked) little entreaty. And that section ends for good with her, ever harried and embarrassed, just able to get out, "Guy, will you—" before the screen goes blank black for a few minutes before more grainy images begin. I fell out of the couch.

There's something about that era and quality of video that degrades the world enough to create an aura. There's also the psychology involved in sitting in the same room as the subjects of the video, which involves a lot a sussing out of relationships and histories tacitly understood or not. Then, when you're confronted with yourself from another era, the whole arena shifts. Accounting for or grappling with a false mirror is kind of terrifying, though not completely if you allow yourself to see the value in that difference (see the leaps made in the interim). Yes: I saw a lot of myself on another tape, a tape labeled "Ry's 10th birthday party!" I started out embarrassed—at my high-pitched voice, at my clothes, at my chubby cheeks, etc.—but it was just as instructive as it was mortifying. In 1992, I was surprisingly devoid of neuroses. In 1992, I enjoyed the spotlight some. And, as it happens, that 1992 birthday party built to a magic show.

Magic's always appealed to me. Too clumsy to be any good at sleight of hand tricks, and too in love with mystery to let the surprise get spoiled by explanations, I still get a kick out of something I can often "out guess." Call it my openness, call it my generosity. Hell, call it my love of spectacle. I desire to be wowed. (Who doesn't?) As much as I yearn to and aim to believe in this world, I know I seek something else all too often. I rail against metaphysics, as some kind of inheritor or acolyte of Nietzsche's pledge of allegiance to immanence, but I also know that, like plenty, the metaphysical's magic is quite a magnet for my imagination. So, to see a magic show/trick is to tempt or tickle that fascination. I enjoy the "trick" element. And, this being a film blog primarily, though this viewing log isn't much of a viewing log, I'll use all that above to lead into how I think The Prestige, which I also watched in Vail, is a great film.

Now, all this lead-in is also set up for just how the film appeals to me. But I don't think I'm alone in my adoration for the apparent miracle, the making of something out of a nothing. The climax trick at my birthday was my getting cut in half. Except, of course, Magic Steve forgot his saws. Instead, he decided to slice me with ropes. That is, he lead me and 20 other people to believe that he'd get two ropes to cut through my middle after tying me in between them. I can see, now, how he staged the event to let me believe that—and I appreciate that showmanship—but I could also see the doubt in my face as much as the delight on the tape. It seemed to be a choice for me to just go with it and enjoy the catharsis. Earning that, of course, is a real art. Earning that while talking about how you are earning that is an even greater art. That's why I like the Nolan picture.

As I said in the Inception back and forth (I think there'll be a second part) from last week, The Prestige is almost a mea culpa. Nolan's almost tipping his hand, saying, here, take a look at how I play with you. It's also a proud thing, so self-assured of its skill. Most great showmen are proud. Which, of course, is the other dominant trope/topic in The Prestige: how pride eats souls. Nothing new, of course, but the lengths/depths these men go to in order to satisfy their pride is, yes, alarming. Stakes are raised and met and driven into tender places. They call this hubris, and it's often boring, but when it's tied to competition it gets interesting. Then there's Nolan's obsession with symmetry, with doubling things and people, and that's where we get into spoiler territory. Not that the big "surprise" of the film is that big of a surprise. It's the exact kind of "twist" as Shutter Island, in fact, that doesn't slap you awake but rather places a final jigsaw piece with class. As the film says, I enjoy being fooled a little bit. In a way, this is why I like the Desplechin films, too: they confirm just enough of me while leaving other parts up for analysis. What sets Desplechin apart from Nolan, however, isn't just his dialogue or his images but that he doesn't reduce things to that dialog or to one visual style. In fact, he's often (rightly) called a maximalist; he desires the world in all its capacity and sings such a song as loud and long as possible. Nolan, on the other hand, seems to take the "make order of chaos" maxim as an absolute. And any good philosopher, any good Christian, even, knows nothing's absolute. Except dying. That's an event you don't escape. But even that event's undecided, really, when you think empirically. I'd like to think there's wiggle room in a coffin for a reason.

Click through why don't you; I saw this in Harper's, which I read on the plane home
—Sure hope I didn't bore ya!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Convergence for your internal industries (7/21/10)

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Forge, receive; acquire, establish

Monday, July 19, 2010

Always imagine new places. Notes on Inception [part one]

by Jennifer Stewart and Ryland Walker Knight

—Whare'd everybody go?

RY, et al:
When WB encouraged Nolan to produce Inception in 3D, he opted instead for IMAX. Nolan argued that IMAX allowed a more submersive experience than the disjointed, unfocused composition of 3D. Absurd as 3D usually is, Inception's conceit to portray permeable, multivalent dreamworlds might've been the best candidate for it. There is something eerie and wrong about clear edges and sharp detail; where putting a dream on screen reveals the same contingencies and boundaries we know from waking life. Wouldn't the stark relief of foreground and blurred background of 3D better capture the tenuous, indistinct phenomenology of dreams? As Dom (DiCaprio) is at pains to emphasize to Ariadne (Page), it is not the details of the dream that matter, but the feel.

My theatre experience of Inception was hence an appreciative, but partial submersion. The best things to say about it bespeak Nolan's strengths: it looks fantastic, and Nolan is not afraid of challenging the audience to keep up, frame by frame, or risk losing the thread that tracks how we got here. In Momento, we followed the thread backwards to see where Leonard (Guy Pearce) started, and his body bears the inscriptions to trace back our steps. Her name suggests Ariadne herself is Inception's spindle of threat, anchored securely outside before unwinding as we progress deeper and deeper into the labyrinth.

Why these heavy-handed cues, though, Nolan? Given the film's refreshing willingness to dispense with almost any Basil Exposition of how the technology in Inception's world works, I guess Nolan wanted blunt mythos more than techno-speculative theoreticals. Which is great, but so then what's the film about? Part cautionary tale (careful what you manipulate in the dreams of another, lest it come true), part Jungian safari (look, Fischer's P2 subconscious is set on Hoth!), Inception is mostly a chance to give the movie screen a sorta (not really) new kind of depth, inspired by Nolan's idea of how characters in this fictional world might manage and manipulate multilevelled dream reality. In other words, Nolan takes the idea of layers of dream reality (dreams within dreams, where time and resistance slow down exponentially as we descend), and processes it through an onscreen analogy. The analogy is that reality is always checked by the body's morphology: we're assured of coming back up through the layers, so long as we can synchronize the body's kinetic interpretation of its true environment. The body can figure out where it is, even if the mind has lost itself.

It does make for an interesting way of tethering the characters to their various avatars, fragmented through multiple virtualities. Moreover, it lets Nolan design and realize those impressive set pieces (literally) turned upside-down by what's happening in the first dream (and only sometimes by what's happening in waking life, as when Dom is plunged into the bathtub in the opening sequence). It also lets Nolan play around a little with the consequences, in psychological espionage terms, of how 2-dimensional mediums (paper or any flat surface; like, say, a movie screen) can represent 3-dimensionality, but not without accruing paradoxes. And so Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) tips his surprised pursuer off one platform of the Escher-esque staircase, revealed by a camera move to be - hey! - severed from its next segment. These tactics remind us that Inception's frames are all heist genre, right down to the usual dramatic tragedy of the lead character's superlative penchant for deceiving and stealing from others explained by - that's right - his own experience of guilt, loss, and betrayal. Ry is right on that this is geometry morseso than architecture, for we're dealing with the aporias of using 2-dimensional vantage points on 3-dimensional worlds. The problem of what's concealed and revealed how the subconscious interprets and exploits this unstable world, is Nolan's own infectious idea.

That he used this idea to stage a heist genre film is kinda interesting, but unless you find these picture/dreamwork puzzles engaging enough, the film is unsurprisingly generic. The dramatic structure follows Nolan's 2008 blockbuster The Dark Knight, in terms of when and how the real film's peril and threat dawn. In TDK, Nolan designed a gothic urban landscape, reaching a boiling point with the affects of entropic forces. The Joker's maniacal psychopathology twisted Harvey Dent's commitment to procedural justice, producing Two-Face's appetite for impartial, brutal chance. That film got to me, because I felt the peril of its threat to undermine - for real - the faith in the coherency of justice and political right (already shaky, but we avoid worrying about it). I loved that Nolan gave me that experience, and missed it in Inception. Dom (maybe more Wantanabe's Saito) losing himself forever on the shores of P3 dreamworld just didn't have the same urgency and affect, as Joker blowing up our fragile dependence on the legitimacy of political right. Even Dom imperiling the team wasn't enough, because his emotional vulnerability was too cliche. I know it was corny, but TDK scared me and convinced me that those civilians were going to blow up their inmate counterparts. Again, Nolan got me there. Whereas Inception got me to Hoth. Meh.


—Off the rack, really?

I'm at a disadvantage to start this thing because I simply don't value Nolan as you do. I'm afraid my replies may veer towards simple petulance without a lot of words about what it is I do like in movies as opposed to what it is I don't like in his movies in particular. So I'll just get this out of the way: Nolan's style bugs me, as it did with TDK, because it's mostly a reliance on the volume levels of Hans Zimmer's score and Final Cut's dexterity. Put otherwise, it's loud and choppy. The best shot in the entire film is the one where the camera stays rooted to a dolly track pulling back down a hallway that's getting gimbaled around to fling its action—Joseph Gordon Levitt's the only graceful actor in the piece, too, fwiw, though Tom Hardy charmed me silly—against different surfaces. Which I hope gets us to your initial query: why not 3D?

I'm with you: part of the fun of Avatar was precisely because the 3D helped the immersive feeling, and played into the conceit of putting your mind into another body. Cameron directs the eye plenty, but the depth of field in and around that neon jungle felt great. Inception, as it is, only immerses you by never stopping the soundtrack except to punctuate, making silence a clarity. Sure, the bedroom's often empty when I wake up. But, good grief, this isn't Lynch; Nolan's obsessed with score, not sound, and score's like a pointer; Lynch just drops the dread on you in bass tones; Nolan wants to control you. Yet every single one of Nolan's movies is vague enough that anybody with a hint of imagination can project just enough to fill in the picture. At least Cameron's honest about his authority/autocrat aim. Nolan's a smoke and mirrors man. He already made his thesis statement with The Prestige and it's largely successful because it's about his own methods and tactics, as close to auto-criticism as we'll get from him. That is, it's almost a mea culpa for "playing games" with his audience/s.

You'd think a movie about dreams, not magic, would be the one to offer analysis but if it does hold a mirror all it tells me is that Nolan likes guns, suits, symmetry, action movies, slow motion, the little particles (of glass or liquid, like rain) visible in slow motion, video games, 2001, Raiders, Empire (yes), talking, Michael Caine, being a dad, obvious metaphors and jejune psychology, home, being rich, and handheld cameras at all the wrong times. Can't really blame him. I like almost all those things. Hell, I enjoyed my time with Inception, which I saw in IMAX at 9:30am when I could still swallow. I didn't find it confusing, but I did find it fun to see certain stunts (all the zero-g stuff in the hotel) and I'd feel compromised if I didn't tell you that stories about guilt get at me. But effective (or overpowering) filmmaking/scoring doesn't necessarily ring synonymous with exceptional. Especially when you've got Leo doing his best to sell all of that other kind of exposition.

The most intriguing way into Inception for me is through the other Leo film from earlier this year, Shutter Island. I hadn't read the book (in part because I can't stand Lehane's idea of drama) so it was all a "surprise" (though it wasn't, either) and it all looked great in a way that no Nolan picture ever has, or will. That is, its images are better—and the images feed the other formal elements—and the score's better, too, while we're at it—and so is Leo. All of which is to say that Scorsese is a better director: he actually sets up spaces, limits, characters, and his dream sequences feel like dreams because they blend senses and burn into water through technicolor plasticity. They what? They work like dreams. They confuse but they make sense. They're part of a point of view. (The whole movie adopts Leo's fracturing, actually, which is another feather in its formal, bravura cap.) When that point of view is revealed as compromised it makes sense how it operated and the consequent scene in the lighthouse holds much more movie-movie weight (Kingsley as director/producer, movies as opportunities for emotional catharsis, movies as therapy) than anything in the dive-deep "ideas" behind/inside Inception's take on the movies. —They're all action all the time? Violence everywhere always? A trap? Even idyll? Put otherwise, what's new here? It's a film of its sources exclusively. Anonymous cityscapes still look like cityscapes and an army of snowbound soldiers just looks like a level from Goldeneye. Yet another angle, though Cairns already said it: nothing that follows tops folding Paris into a circuit of no clouds.

But I've strayed from an actual, considerate response. I've just gabbed about me. The point being, I liked this one more than the Batman movies in large part because I like the tropes more. But it still doesn't "excuse" spatial incoherence (I know that it's a dream, but this movie's not interested in representing dreams, as you pointed out) or bad writing (Nolan's brother's not the problem after all) or a propensity to drag things out well past necessary (150 minutes again?).

Tell me I'm missing something.

—But I'm from you...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Viewing Log #51: Vanilla and skunk [7/13/10 - 7/18/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

Here's another quick narrative for you. Spent a lot of this last week running around town, which seems to be a common theme as I continue to move my life more and more offline, but this was just tiring. I also started a couple new books and saw my sister perform in a play (that she wrote) at Berkeley Rep (in a summer school program); she's 13, if you need to know. I also saw just the one film, the opening night film (John Ford's The Iron Horse from 1924), at the SF Silent Film Festival. This bums me out. I missed Friday because of work and the sister, and was fine with that, but Saturday got away from me and today I couldn't move I was so tired and my throat was so closed. Somewhere in there I made time for a nerdsville 9:30am matinee of Inception, but I'm going to have more to say about that in conversation with my old friend Jen Stewart shortly. (You may remember she and I traded some ideas on The Dark Knight a couple years ago here and here.) The short of it: I enjoyed myself but I don't think it's good or actually smart and, again, I don't think Nolan can direct action at all, which is surprising given his eye for symmetry (and geometry in general; though not "architecture"). In any case, stay tuned.

Earlier today, instead of seeing awesome silent movies in the best theatre I know, I drank a lot of tea and grapefruit juice while watching The Hangover a year after the fact. Zach Galifianakis is great, clearly doing his own thing, but everything else is everything I hate about dudes; what's more, everything comes from fear and/or hate. No wonder it was a hit, eh? The conceit's great, of course, but the movie has no interest in what's interesting about a hangover's lacunae. Like Nolan, actually, Todd Phillips seems to prey on those fears we harbor; except he's a literalist of a different stripe. Nolan's got a thing for writing bad dialogue the way Phillips has a thing for making women intolerable or invisible or, well, whores. Lad mags haven't failed, they've simply been turned into movies. (For that matter, as I txt'd with Danny, Inception's a GQ subscriber's wet—you guessed it—dream; that's the advertisement film, not I Am Love; but I'll table that for now).

Later, I watched The Invention of Lying and, though it's simple, I liked its fantasy. I wish there were more comedies of morals that live in the realm of the concept. You can always count on Ricky Gervais for some teetering-near-mawkish-territory sentimentality, but you can also count on him for honesty. It's not exactly great filmmaking but, as with a lot of comedies I appreciate, its spirit (its philosophy, if you must) is something I respect and admire. That is, the film's moral position (cough) is one I can get behind. However, it's pretty sad that such a thing as thoughtfulness is a rarity; I take it for granted that most thoughtfulness is stuff of stuff like, say, a book (or a "puzzle film") and not a joke. Which brings me back to Nolan, again, and one last gripe before I go to bed: dude's got no funny bone. I have no idea how to imagine how Nolan has fun. Does he play a lot of video games? Seems likely? Ad hominem what!?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Viewing Log #50: Deformed by pleonasm [7/6/10 - 7/12/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

—It's clever, like you

Watched plenty of movies over the weekend with Haz but I didn't take any notes because I didn't have my laptop and I didn't have standard brain powers. Furthermore: we watched a lot of garbage. However, City of Ember was kind of good, or worth a look all tired and glossy; as predicted, Bill Murray's a big part of that. Diane Lane, too, is a big reason Unfaithful's worth watching, and not solely because of her body, her sexiness or the rather frank sex scenes—some of the best, most adult this side of the 2000s, along with In The Cut, though Adrian Lyne basically wants to turn you on and Jane Campion wants you to think about what's at stake between the sheets. We watched Home Alone for some memories and giggles, Death Race for the stunts I suppose, E.T. for some Steve's-got-dad-issues jokes, Fatal Attraction's first twenty minutes and the second half of Flashdance (on different days) because HBO Signature seemed to be running an unofficial Adrian Lyne marathon/retrospective, and both the World Cup games. (The less said about the final, though the more said about Diego Forlán, the better.) We did a lot of stuff outside on Friday—Jones Beach, dinner with Danny*, bridge walking, roof sitting, pissing, patio drinking in some "woods" with these beauties—and we did a lot of escape-the-heat vegetating the other days but we also ate bagels in the park and papusas at the flea and peaches at the farmer's market and salads on the street and that first night we immediately rode bikes over to a roof in Bushwick. We also went dancing until 5 at the Mr. Saturday Night party, which was fun though exhausting. So I don't feel too bad about being inside a lot. New York's not like San Francisco: you don't have to rush out as soon as it's sunny because it'll stay sunny, and hot, and when you've burned yourself lobster red on day one, you need more aloe than natural vitamin D.

* Maybe after work I'll jot some notes about the food we ate, from this place, which was even better than I'd expected and worth every red cent, every big greenback.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Viewing Log #49: Your fingers feel young [6/28/10 - 7/5/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

  • The Women [George Cukor, 1939] Phelps is right about Roz: she's the woman to watch in this hissy fit of a movie. Wall to wall chatter at bird call speed, with pauses only for some sentiment; naturally, the speed's the thing. Makes language itself into an affective weapon. Again: a film/story/play about rich people who do nothing but chop each other like wood, into kindling, for the sport of it, while life complicates on by.
  • Angel Face [Otto Preminger, 1952] This is a warped picture. Jean Simmons is pretty perfect as that sinister little miss thing, which means she sells all her crazy as something close to sexy by wearing a constantly demure mask. Mitchum, too, does his thing all chest-out and chin-in. But what makes all the Freud-in-neon stuff go over so well is that camera, and the ending (talk about a finish line!), and all that talk of money. Love it when money matters like that, when class is a subject without calling attention to itself, though it's pretty obvious from the get-go given that ludicrous set/home atop Los Angeles and that heights/strata figure so prominently into the interpretive circle.

  • Anchorman [Adam McKay, 2004] # Maybe this is the best one they've done. So left-field. Clearly these dudes are just goofing and having a blast. No rules but the rule to be as wacky as possible. Also, Luke Wilson was in shape and Chris Parnell continues to be a secret weapon.
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince [David Yates, 2009] # Still not so great, but I was tired and the trailer for the new one/s got me excited in that predictable (stupid) way and there really are a lot of good images in this one, despite its dumb script. So, in short, like this but a little nicer.

  • A Perfect Getaway [David Twohy, 2009] Thoroughly entertaining. Nuff sed. Believe: Timothy Olyphant is a man in full.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

A conjunction of quotations #10

— edited by Ryland Walker Knight

Jacob Langvad


The attitude that nature is chaotic and that the artist puts order into it is a very absurd point of view, I think. All that we can hope for is to put some order into ourselves.
Willem de Kooning


Nature's above art in that respect. There's your press money. That fellow handles his bow like a crow-keeper. Draw me a clothier's yard. Look, look, a mouse! Peace, peace, this piece of toasted cheese will do't. There's my gauntlet. I'll prove it on a giant. Bring up the brown bills. O, well flown, bird; i' th' clout, i' th' clout — whew! Give the word.
They flattered me like a dog, and told me I had the white hairs in my beard ere the black ones were there. To say "ay" and "no" to everything that I said "ay" and "no" to was no good divinity. When the rain came to wet me once, and the wind to make me chatter, when the thunder would not peace at my bidding, there I found 'em, there I smelt 'em out. Go to, they are not men o' their words. They told me I was everything; 'this a lie, I am not ague-proof.


The divide between Heaven and Hell isn't a gulf of intellect but of sensibility. Detractors balk at the obstacles to comprehension; defenders prize the challenge and excitement of this same intractability. With the recent passing of Stan Brakhage, no other living film maker has so ceaselessly lived up to Pound's great battle cry: Make it new! That's the simple secret to the passion of those of us who love him.
Nathan Lee


    Fix. Colloquial in America for arrange, prepare, mend. The usage is well established. But bear in mind that this verb is from figere: "to make firm," "to place definitely." These are the preferred meanings of the word.
Strunk & White


Since the Photograph is pure contingency and can be nothing else (it is always something that is represented)—contrary to the text which, by the sudden action of a single word, can shift a sentence from description to reflection—it immediately yields up those "details" which constitute the very raw material of ethnological knowledge. When William Klein photographs "Mayday, 1959" in Moscow, he teaches me how Russians dress (which after all I don't know): I note a boy's big cloth cap, another's necktie, an old woman's scarf around her head, a youth's haircut, etc. I can enter still further into such details, observing that many of the men photographed by Nadar have long fingernails: an ethnographical question: how long were nails worn in a certain period? Photography can tell me this much better than painted portraits. It allows me to accede to an infra-knowledge; it supplies me with a collection of partial objects and can flatter a certain fetishism of mine: for this "me" which likes knowledge, which nourishes a kind of amorous preference for it. In the same way, I like certain biographical features which, in a writer's life, delight me as much as certain photographs; I have called these features "biographemes"; Photography has the same relation to History that the biographeme has to biography.
Roland Barthes


I may not cook the best tripe and onions in England, but whoever gets me won't have to worry about his plumbing.
Cluny Brown


And yet the fact remains that in the broad cultural mainstream of millennial America, men do not wear skirts. If you, the reader, are a US male, and even if you share my personal objections to pants and ream as I do of a cool and genitally unsquishy American Tomorrow, the odds are still 99.9 percent that in 100 percent of public situations you wear pants/slacks/shorts/trunks. More to the point, if you are a US male and also have a US male child, and if that child might happen to come to you one evening and announce his desire/intention to wear a skirt rather than pants to school the next day, I am 100 percent confident that you are going to discourage him from doing so. Strongly discourage him. You could be a Molotov-tossing anti-pants radical or a kilt manufacturer or Dr. Steven Pinker himself—you're going to stand over your kid and be prescriptive about an arbitrary, archaic, uncomfortable, and inconsequentially decorative piece of clothing. Why? Well, because in modern America any little bot who comes to school in a skirt (even, say, a modest all-season midi) is going to get stared at and shunned and beaten up and called a total geekoid by a whole lot of people whose approval and acceptance are important to him.* In our present culture, in other words, a boy who wears a skirt is "making a statement" that is going to have all kinds of gruesome social and emotional consequences for him.
* In the case of little Steve Pinker Jr., these people are the boy's peers and teachers and crossing guards. In the case of adult cross-dressers and drag queens who have jobs in the straight world and wear pants to those jobs, it's bosses and coworkers and customers and people on the subway. For the die-hard slob who nevertheless wears a coat and tie to work, it's mostly his boss, who doesn't want his employees' clothes to send clients "the wrong message." But it's all basically the same thing.
David Foster Wallace


Most women I know are reluctant to say, 'I am better than her, and her, and her - OK, I'll keep going.' And most men I know rely, when necessary, on some formulation of exactly that. Plus women have not only each other to compete against (in devious and exhausting ways, requiring much track-covering and nice-making as they go) but men to envy; because it's still the case that women writers are compared to each other, and the big (as opposed to, say, lyrical) literary novel persists as an essentially male category. Women's books are still not talked about in the same way men's books are, and women are still sensitive to that.
Kathryn Chetkovich


Go, dumb-born book,
Tell her that sang me once that song of Lawes:
Hadst thou but song
As thou hast subjects known,
Then were there cause in thee that should condone
Even my faults that heavy upon me lie,
And build her glories their longevity.

Tell her that sheds
Such treasure in the air,
Recking naught else but that her graces give
Life to the moment,
I would bid them live
As roses might, in magic amber laid,
Red overwrought with orange and all made
One substance and one colour
Braving time.

Tell her that goes
With song upon her lips
But sings not out the song, nor knows
The maker of it, some other mouth,
May be as fair as hers,
Might, in new ages, gain her worshippers,
When our two dusts with Waller's shall be laid,
Siftings on siftings in oblivion,
Till change hath broken down
All things save Beauty alone.

Ezra Pound


In short, representation may well become infinite; it nevertheless does not acquire the power to affirm either divergence or decentering. It requires a convergent and monocentric world: a world in which one is only apparently intoxicated, in which reason acts the drunkard and sings a Dionysian tune while none the less remaining 'pure' reason. The ground or sufficient reason is nothing but a means of allowing the identical to rule over infinity itself, and allowing the continuity of resemblance, the relation of analogy and the opposition of predicates to invade infinity. This is the originality of sufficient reason: better to ensure the subjection of difference to the quadripartite yoke. The damage is done not only by the requirement of finite representation, which consists of fixing a propitious moment for difference, neither too large nor too small, in between excess and default; but also by the apparently contrary requirement of infinite representation, which purports to integrate the infinitely large and the infinitely small of difference, excess and default themselves. The entire alternative between finite and infinite applies very badly to difference, because it constitutes only an antinomy of representation.
Gilles Deleuze


It was rather an opposite frame of mind in which Parmenides found his doctrine of being. On a certain day and in a certain frame of mind he tested his two interactive contradictories, whose mutual desire and hatred constitute the world and all coming-to-be. He tested the existent and the nonexistent, the positive and the negative properties-and suddenly he found that he could not get past the concept of a negative duality, the concept of non-existence. Can some-thing which is not be a quality? Or, more basically, can something which is not, be? For the only single form of knowledge which we trust immediately and absolutely and to deny which amounts to insanity is the tautology A = A. But just this tautological insight proclaims inexorably: What is not, is not. What is, is. And suddently Parmenides felt a monstrous logical sin burdening his whole previous life. Had he not light-heartedly always assumed that there are such things as negative qualities, nonexistent entities, that, in other words, A is not A? But only total perversity of thinking could have done so. To be sure, he reflected, the great mass of people had always made the same perverse judgment; he had merely participated in a universal crime against logic. But the same moment that shows him his crime illuminates him with a glorious discovery. He has found a principle, the key to the cosmic secret, remote from all human illusion. Now, grasping the firm and awful hand of tautological truth about being, he can climb down, into the abyss of all things.


To read is to dream, guided by someone else's hand. To read carelessly and distractedly is to let go of that hand. To be only superficially learned is the best way to read well and be profound.


As the above examples demonstrate, Muriel is cluttered with emblems of itself and its operations. In fact, absolutely everything in the film comes to stand as potential emblem, and Muriel forever runs the risk of seeming utterly overdetermined, an airless and rather literary conceit in which themes and images are forever reflecting back to a central premise. What saves the film from this and sets up its unique tension is its parallel urge to dispersal and expansion—an apparently insatiable and obviously impossible desire to include more and more detail, to record every nook and vantage of the city and to represent the full continuum of the lives of its characters through seemingly random selection, including a fair proportion of the apparently unmarked and "in-between" moments of daily life.
B. Kite


And I been 'fessing double fast
Addressing questions nobody asked
I'll get this joy off of my chest at last
And I will love you 'til the noise has long since passed

And I did not mean to shout, just drive
Just get us out, dead or alive
A road too long to mention, lord, it's something to see!
Laid down by the good intentions paving company

All the way to the thing we've been playing at, darlin'
I can see that you're wearing your staying hat, darlin'
For the time being all is well
Won't you love me a spell?

This is blindness beyond all conceiving
Well, behind us the road is leaving, yeah, leaving
And falling back
Like a rope gone slack

Well, I saw straight away that the lay was steep
But I fell for you, honey, as easy as falling asleep
And that right there is the course I keep...
Joanna Newsom


Love has got to stop somewhere short of suicide.
Sam Dodsworth

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #45

by Ryland Walker Knight

—bangs? in there?

Convergence for sea abuse (7/1/10)

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Absichten sind ein Muss