Friday, November 30, 2012
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Here's a memorable line from the novel Anne of Green Gables, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942): "I've done my best, and I begin to see what is meant by the 'joy of the strife'. Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing."
p.s.- I'm still having space problems with Blogger. For some reason deleting old pictures is not creating more space. So, no pictures (including, sadly, Toonerville strips). I can still post videos, so look for a Top Five List next week, but until then probably nothing unless I get this figured out.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
I heartily agree with this comment from the noted anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (1908-2009):
"Since music is the only language with the contradictory attributes of being at once intelligible and untranslatable, the musical creator is a being comparable to the gods, and music itself the supreme mystery of the science of man."
Monday, November 26, 2012
Yesterday on Dr. John's Record Shelf we did the annual guilty pleasures show where I play a lot of music of admittedly questionable quality (at least in rock and roll terms), but for which I harbor some nostalgic enjoyment. Here's one fo the songs I played (anyone else remember this?):
Here's some insight from the mind of inventor, engineer, and architect Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983):
"Every time man makes a new experiment he always learns more. He cannot learn less. He may learn that what he thought was true was not true. By the elimination of a false premise, his basic capital wealth which in his given lifetime is disembarrassed of further preoccupation with considerations of how to employ a worthless time-consuming hypothesis. Freeing his time for its more effective exploratory investment is to give man increased wealth."
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Much to my surprise, I've just received a message from Blogger (the program through which I post this blog) that I have used up all my allotted space. This seems mostly due to the photos I've posted over the years. It appears that I will be able to free up some space by deleting old stored photos, so I'll try dumping the portraits that went along with the first couple of years of quotes. However, the deleted pictures apparently remain in reserve for 24 hours so it may be a couple of days before I have anything up again (at least anything with pictures). Sorry to those looking for family snapshots yesterday (or today). In the meantime, no one yet correctly identified where the picture I posted last week of Natalie was taken, so feel free to scroll back and take another shot at that quiz.
This line from Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) should be pounded into the brain of every politician in the country:
"There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the
earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of
letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth
receives the slightest consideration."
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Keen insight from the mind of Denis Diderot (1713-1784), one of the leading lights of the Enlightenment:
"To attempt the destruction of our passions is the height of folly. What a noble aim is that of the zealot who tortures himself like a madman in order to desire nothing, love nothing, feel nothing, and who, if he succeeded, would end up a complete monster!"
Monday, November 19, 2012
my favorite movie of the summer was Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, but Beasts of the Southern Wild was pretty close (the picture above is from that film).
Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow)- I was won over by this movie almost immediately. Low key and somewhat meandering, the story turns on a great hook: a guy advertises for a companion to join him in time travel. The reporters who pursue the story behind the ad start out cynical and even somewhat predatory, but the sincerity of their target slowly erodes their disbelief in various ways. The cast is filled with TV stars (Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation, Jake Johnson of The New Girl and Mark Duplass of The League), which is not often a good sign. But in this case, I think their small-screen skills keep this on an easily relatable level. I'll be looking forward to what the guys who made this come up with next.
The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan)- I've been something less-than enthusiastic about the spate of super-hero movies in recent years. Many are entertaining, but few are memorable. I think this one maybe breaks that mold. There are elements of its plot that I find disturbing, especially it's lack of faith in democratic institutions, or the subtly fascistic obeisance to corporate might. But I have to admit that it treats such themes seriously and not just as a pretext for pyrotechnics. Nolan seems to recognize that the whole concept of a superhero raises disturbing questions about power and how its wielded, and I'd say I felt disturbed leaving the theater, which counts for a lot in making sure a work or art sticks with you.
Carlos (Olivier Assayas)- Okay, technically this was a made for TV miniseries which I saw on DVD. But it was released theatrically, I just never had a chance to catch it. This tale of terror and politics in the 1970s was immensely gripping and the charisma of Carlos (famously known as The Jackal) sure comes across in Assayas' account of his career. It's actually an interesting counterpoint to The Dark Knight, with the politics much more in evidence and the violence more often deferred, lending considerably to the suspense. Carlos begins as a somewhat misguided but sympathetic character but evolves over the three plus hours into an obvious monster. This is the perhaps inevitable result of vigilante-type justice-- no matter how noble the cause. When you set yourself up as judge and jury it becomes impossible to continue exercising such power in the interests of others (despite one's rhetoric), in real life anyway if not in comic books. Assayas is masterful in bringing his audience along to draw just such a conclusion.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)- This was a truly one-of-a-kind movie, in terms of both narrative and style. It recounts the adventures of a youngster growing up in a remote (physically and psychologically) part of the Mississippi delta, where the inhabitants are so deeply embedded in their environment that the consequences of natural disaster are taken to be almost entirely the fault of human error (in this case, the construction of a levy). On one hand, it's a bit hard to generate much sympathy for most of the characters in this story; but in the end there's something ennobling about how fiercely they protect their prerogative to live life their chosen way. It was difficult not to view this as a political allegory, given its election year appearance, but I doubt that was foremost in the filmmaker's mind. Instead, the young protagonist's sense of herself as a part of something much bigger while nonetheless battling to protect her own independence has much broader implications than any narrow current events link would suggest. Overall, a magical, thought provoking movie-- and that combination does not come along very often.
A great observation from American author Clarence Day (1874-1935):
Friday, November 16, 2012
Today's quote comes courtesy of the longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer (1902-1983):
"The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause. A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business."
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Something to think about from the pen of the colorful physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988)
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Monday, November 12, 2012
Hysteria (Tanya Wexler)- This is an oddball kind of movie, with a provocative theme about doctors treating women for the titular malady in the nineteenth century, but the tone is almost that of a screwball comedy. Maggie Gyllenhall, who is usually pretty good, goes over the top with the stereotypical elements of her role as the crusading feminist, but the rest of the cast strike just the right tone (Rupert Everett, as the main character's dissolute best friend is the best). I wouldn't go out of my way to see this again, but it was a pleasant enough way to spend one evening.
The Amazing Spider-Man (Marc Webb)- This franchise has developed to the point that it requires little more than strong actors and top of the line special effects to maintain its entertainment value (or maybe that's just inherent to the character?). But now, a little while after seeing it, I can't remember any particular points that made it special, and certainly nothing to justify a retelling of the origin story so shortly after the Tobey McGuire version (was that even ten years ago?).
Bernie (Richard Linklater)- I could rank this higher just on style alone, but in the end the story is just a bit too slight to stand with Linklater's best work (though, now that I think of it, the plots to Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, and School of Rock aren't exactly Tolstoian in conception either). Jack Black plays a beloved small town mortician who murders Shirley MacLaine playing a small town harridan, and the rest of the community wants him to get away with it. I have a feeling that this is a movie that will grow in my estimation when I see it again, which is almost a sure thing.
God Bless America (Bobcat Goldthwait)- I was always a fan of Bobcat Goldthwait's stand-up comedy, and he's brought his peculiarly warped sensibility to the movies he's directed (check out World's Greatest Dad as well-- quite possibly the best Robin Williams movie ever). This is truly black comedy, as an ordinary schlub, mistakenly believing that he is dying, goes on a murderous spree targeting all the idiots who diminish our collective humanity (you know, like reality TV stars and high school bullies). The humor is extremely dry as well as dark, so this won't be for everyone, but I found it among the most original movies I've seen in years. The picture above features the stars Joel Murray (Bill's little brother) and Tara Lynn Barr, both of whom are excellent.
Next time, I'll list out my favorites from last summer.
Activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) called it as she saw it, and I think she nailed it:
"That only a few, under any circumstances, protest against the injustice of long-established laws and customs, does not disprove the fact of the oppressions, while the satisfaction of the many, if real only proves their apathy and deeper degradation."
Friday, November 9, 2012
I second this notion expressed by the Anglo-Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774):
"The first time I read an excellent book, it is to
me just as if I had gained a new friend. When I
read a book over I have perused before, it
resembles the meeting with an old one."
Thursday, November 8, 2012
This is a little dark, but then it does come from a Russian, namely novelist Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883):
"Nature cares nothing for our logic, our human logic;
she has her own, which we do not recognize and do not
acknowledge until we are crunched under its wheel."
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
I don't know but that I agree with this idea from Leon Trotsky (1879-1940):
"Life is not an easy matter.... You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness."
Monday, November 5, 2012
To Rome With Love (Woody Allen)- Very lame, mostly half-developed silly stories about a bunch of folks in the Eternal City for one reason or another. The only memorable element of this movie is all the great location shots, and the realization that Woody copied a camera movement that I too used when I found myself in the Piazza del Popolo several years back, though I sincerely doubt it was original with me.
Your Sister's Sister (Lynn Shelton)- This was better than To Rome With Love, if only because of the presence of Emily Blunt, who has recently risen to the top of my list of favorite actresses. But the plot is a bit too obvious, and offers little in the way of suspense or surprises. It's easy enough to hang out with the three main characters for ninety minutes, but that's hardly enough to make this worth seeing.
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden)- Very disappointing given the stellar cast, which is about all that saves this from being a complete dud. Once the interesting concept is set up, it becomes a totally by-the-numbers kind of story.
Lawless (John Hillcoat)- This was the biggest disappointment for me among recent releases, as the previews made this look like an exciting historical action film. Instead it was a pretty but overwrought lead balloon of a movie. I can't recall the last time I saw something so full of itself (probably Avatar), while delivering so little in the way of intellectual or visceral entertainment. Maybe I was victimized by high expectations, but regardless I really did feel like I'd wasted my time going to this one.
Next time, some movies I liked (it's actually a much longer list than this one).
Saturday, November 3, 2012
An interesting observation from the pen of Thomas Merton (1915-1968):
"The fruitfulness of our lives depends in large measure in our ability to doubt our own words and to question the value of our own work. The man who completely trusts his own estimate of himself is doomed to sterility."
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Hard to believe this goes all the way back to 1951. Billy Ward and the Dominoes was one of the most influential rhythm & blues groups in the era just before rock and roll broke, which is another way of saying that they need to be considered among the originators of the latter style. You can hear it in this song:
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) was a pretty astute observer of human affairs. Here's a good example of that:
"Human life is basically a comedy. Even its tragedies often seem comic to the spectator, and not infrequently they actually have comic touches to the victim. Happiness probably consists largely in the capacity to detect and relish them. A man who can laugh, if only at himself, is never really miserable."