Monday, June 26, 2023

EV Grieve: Ink on A can use some help

EV Grieve: Ink on A can use some help: Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy  On a recent weekday afternoon in June, Ink on A is its usual bustling self.  People are coming into the ...


Friday, June 22, 2012

Stay tuned

Believe it or not, Grad Student Madness may well have a new home in the near future. Stay tuned for details, whoever you are...


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Today in French

Bouquiner: (n) To hunt after or collect old books; (informal) to read.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1950s comedy

(I just noticed he's carrying prison clothes, which makes the joke a bit more clear.)


Note on The Day After

In November, 1983, the ABC network aired the television movie The Day After, depicting the effects of a nuclear war on the Midwestern United States. Viewed by an estimated 100 million people, the film was considered deeply affecting, not to mention horrifying, and may have inspired President Reagan to sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in Reykjavik three years later. Prior to the broadcast, ABC distributed half a million viewer’s guides and classrooms around the country worked to help traumatized children deal with their feelings of terror afterwards. (Here is the attack sequence.)

I was a nine-year-old boy, however. So my views on nuclear war were probably not as somber as they should have been. Me and my friends had been raised on a steady diet of post-apocalyptic action movies in the Mad Max mold, and our understanding of the Russians was that, after they bombed and invaded the country, we would be forced to fight them to the death using our cunning, preadolescent physical prowess, and lawn darts. Like all little boys, we believed in the Peter Pan myth: being removed from civilization would set the stage for untold adventures. The nuclear bomb would be the world’s loudest school bell.

Looking back, I’m not remotely ashamed that we manipulated other people’s apocalyptic nightmares. There’s something egotistical about all apocalypse scenarios, appealing as they do to our resentment towards the existing reality and our deeply subconscious feeling that it’s a bit unfair and unimaginable that the world should outlast us, carrying on after our death. The existentialists understood the truth- every death is the end of a created world. The apocalypse is a fantasy that our death will be epic and transfiguring and deeply meaningful; all of us will die alone and the apocalypse is a fantasy of dying together. Nine-year-old boys have no interest in such things, busy as they are with being alive.

(X-posted at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen)


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Let's all go Insane at the Movies

Over at Forbes, E.D. Kain shares Roger Ebert’s suggestions as to why movie theatregoing is declining. As avid cinephiles, one might expect me and the missus to go to the movies more frequently, and yet our attempts to do so this holiday season reminded us once again that, for adults, moviegoing is not all beer and skittles.

Here follows a chronicle of our holiday moviegoing crusades: the first was a children’s movie we saw with our friend and her kids. Unfortunately, the multiplex went suddenly and unexpectedly “offline” that evening, forcing us to pay cash; also, me to frantically scour the neighboring mall for an ATM machine and dash back to the ticket line, which snaked around the block as the pitiable teen cashier had to write out “tickets” for everyone paying. Luckily, your heroic narrator arrived ridiculously early and saved the day for the others, allowing us to make our way to the theatre for a pleasant evening of children crying and kicking our seats like they were filled with candy and needed only to be cracked open to spill their delicious sweets.

Undaunted, our hero returned a week later for a friend’s birthday outing. We were all fairly sauced after a brewery tour, which made the blaring children comfortably tolerable as we waited for the theatre staff to figure out how to get the movie to project- a puzzler that lasted until well over an hour after the movie was scheduled to begin. In apology, the theatre manager gave everyone free passes to a multiplex film of their choice. And lo, the second crusade ended in a draw.

The next week, the knight and his lady returned for a third time to cash in that free pass. Alas, we were thwarted by an officious 16 year old martinet who insisted we return to the meandering box office line to verify that my free movie pass was authentic. The line delayed us further and when we got to the front we opted against attending the movie (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) for which we were now thirty minutes late or any of the other films at the multiplex, all of which were made for and aimed at teenage boys and their girlfriends, perhaps explaining the self-importance of the teen usher. A bit sauced this night as well (she drove) I blared to the manager, “That kid should be fired!”, which my wife has laughed about for days since because I am usually a mild milquetoast. The third crusade ending in failure, thus ends the chronicles of pain and struggle.

Today, they'd be considered starving.
Roger Ebert speaks for us. Living in the boonies, our theatre choices are limited to multiplexes, “cineplexes”, and sataniplexes. At some point, theatre owners opted to put all of their eggs in the basket reserved for teenage males of middling intelligence and bulimics who prefer to binge on elephantine popcorn tubs, since these groups buy the mostest, and lo they arrived in hordes with cell phones blazing in the night, ready to chat loudly throughout even the most bombastic and insipid Hollywood product. Film distributors, meanwhile, charge so dearly for distribution rights that theatre owners are probably shrewd in not exhibiting too many films that would be only popular with groups as inconsequential as adults or women. Finally, they have mutually discovered that teens will pay twice as much to see one dimensional plots in three dimensions. The business model is apparently to focus all of their attention on demographic groups with the largest market share and the rest of the consumers can go hang it. In the homogeneoplex, the kiddie matinee reigns supreme.

So why are huge swaths of the filmgoing public staying home and watching a lot more movies on Netflix than are being viewed in the theatres? Goodness me, I couldn’t say!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Two types

A woman at the bar said to me last night: "There are two kinds of people in this town: the ones who will talk about you and the ones who will talk to you." It's a perfect description of the small town where we live. Also, it's a pretty good description of most places.


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

How would you historicize sexual repression?

This question came to mind recently when discussing the subject with a friend who is trying to reduce her feelings of shame around sex and sexuality. I’d discussed similar topics with other friends recently; it probably says something that they were all females; and I’ve gotten the feeling that it’s not at all abnormal. In fact, there seems to be a consistent discourse of sexual repression running as a thread throughout history. The common theme seems to be that sex is healthy, even good, but only in small doses. A high sex drive is associated with some sort of intemperance or selfishness. There is something offensive or repulsive about a female voluptuary. The problem is that “too much” lust is roughly the normal level for human beings.

As a history geek, I wonder how you would historicize what likely amounts to an oral discourse. There are manuals on sex from the Renaissance that warn about overindulging. Rudolph M. Bell wrote a delightful study of these manuals, where we learn that sexual “overindulgence” can lead to: “headaches, nervousness, chest pains, kidney problems, backaches and sore legs; facial paleness ensues, along with rapid aging and even death”. If that wasn’t bad enough, it “damages the eyes and all of the five senses” and causes, “loss of memory, tremors, aches in the extremities, especially the legs, along with kidney and bladder problems,” “causes loss of appetite, shortens life span, destroys natural virtue, makes bones brittle, and brings on senility”. Unfortunately, the manuals agreed that married people should be having sex regularly and did not actually specify how much was too much. Apparently, you’d know by the facial paleness.

I’ve never met anyone who worried about an early death, but the fear of sexual overindulgence still seems to be common. There’s something irresponsible and self-indulgent about non-procreative sex that rubs against our need to be “productive” at all times. I’ve had female partners ask me if I thought they were “abnormal” in their sexual desires. The answer was always no.

But the official story, if you were to judge by our books, movies, and marriage manuals, is that we’re none of us sexually timid. This is one area in which I agree with the college chastity movement: the mass media gives the impression that every young person is indulging in largely meaningless sexual experiences with whoever comes along (not to say that meaningless sex isn’t its own form of repression). You watch these programs especially and nobody ever seems to suffer from sexual hang-ups or insecurities and you would have the impression that ours is an age of Sex and the City style freedom, as opposed to one of the most fearful, conservative, and repressed cultural eras since the 1950s.

People talk about the “pornification” of society with widespread access to hardcore pornography on computers. And yet, this is not sexual behaviour, which requires the interaction of two people. Logging on and jacking off is a salve for sexual repression that makes it easier to endure. It’s not an indication of sexual freedom; much the opposite. What seems to have happened is that sexual behaviour was once private and scorned in public, leaving a nice, neat historical record behind; now, it’s much the opposite: sexual behaviour of all sorts is publically celebrated and repression is something shameful and private. In other words, the “historical record” should be expected to lie.


I'm back

In the sense of living with my wife since the late summer and doing well at that. Probably going to post here a bit more frequently than every half-year too. Maybe back to normal, whatever that might mean.