Thursday, August 25, 2005

Alive? Yes.

It is has been weeks since I last posted. Luckily I am with my parents in the Adirondacks, so approximately 2/3 of this blog's readership are able to hear my commentary and witticisms in real life.

There are many things I would like to post about, but the internet here drips down the phone line at 26400 bps, and I therefore rarely have the motivation to do so. There is much to report about though: a surreal wedding in New Haven, a short but pleasant visit to the old stomping grounds in Middletown, a very nice week and half in the Adirondacks, enlivened by a visit from Ms. ENM, several sailboat races, one mountain climbed, and a few more 50-item books read.

Pehaps another time.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Wedding Bells

As one might not be surprised to find out, I have very complex and ambivalent feelings about the subject of marriage, especially in its current incarnation--heteronormativity imbued with the power of state regulation. Long-term relationships, often good. Mine specifically, very good. The desire to have said relationships sanctified by our government, so as to deny other people financial and social benefits? Not so good. And I don't think allowing same-sex marriages solves the problem. I don't think we should discriminate against single people any more than we should anyone else.

If you can't tell, I went to a wedding this weekend.

Mid-Journey

So much craziness. I can't possibly recap the last few days, or describe the next few, in one post. So I must resort to telegraphic description:

1. The ladies are all moved into their new home. It's a lovely home, much nicer than the old one. The moving was incredibly stressfully, as all moves are, despite having hired movers. Packing on Tuesday, moving on Wednesday, Setting up on Thursday, leaving the country on Friday.

2. We were not flying British Airways, thank god. But because of the strikes, our Virgin flight was overbooked, and we almost got a chance to arrive a few hours later in return for a free international ticket each. But alas, they ended up not needing us.

3. Virgin has the best in-flight entertainment in the world. They have a selection of like thirty movies, and you can pause, rewind, and fast-forward at will.

4. We successfully made it to West Philly by ten o'clock in the evening, after some unfortunate detours in unsavoury parts of north philadelphia. We just spent the night with my sister and her five housemates in this gigantic victorian house on Spruce street. My sister and her friends are all living together in this house and working at various community non-profits. Katy is doing well, having been working at an after-school arts program/job training thing for about six weeks now. It's a tough job, though.

5. Today we drive my sister's car up to New Haven for my friend's wedding. Then on Sunday we drive to the Adirondacks. Then on Monday Mary starts work again, and I drive to Burlington to pick up my mother.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Moving Part 2

As our internet is about to be disconnected, this shall be last communication until Sunday. Anyone needs to reach me, try the phone instead--after Friday, I shall switch from mobile to cell, and my LA number will work again.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Moving

How hard could it be, you ask, to move five blocks across town?

The moving process has begun. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Peter Jennings

Is anybody else strangely saddened by the death of Peter Jennings? I mean, I had no real attachment to the man, and I haven't watched the evening news in ages. At the same time, however, the big evening news shows, on CBS, NBC, and ABC have always fascinated me. I can't think of any other cultural institutions which try so hard to represent America to itself. Obviously, anybody who has interest in making money tries to appeal to as many people as possible. But the mainstream evening news broadcasts had the strange combination of mass market appeal, but also a small, vestigial, attachment to an mythology of responsibility and balance.

Clearly, both sides of that equation are hugely problematic. The idea of appealing to a mass market is always troubling. Not because there is something wrong with being popular, but because so often that appeal is actually only a rhetorical tool, and in reality is carefully constructed to include certain demographics, and exclude other demographics--usually on lines of race and class, but along other lines as well. And the myth of "responsibility" is ridiculous, not because it is a myth, but because the pleasant-sounding word "responsibility" conceals within an ideology that privileges comfort and the status quo. It wouldn't be "responsible" to discuss certain things that might cause trouble, after all. To achieve "balance" doesn't mean you are including every side of a story, it means you are including only two.

But at the same time, that makes the evening news a forum where we get to watch an image of a mythical America painted for us every night. The evening news is what the powers-that-be want us to look like, and how they want us to think. That's actually very valuable information.

Anyways, Jennings. The reason I liked him so much was that his idea of America could be rather lovely. Tom Brokaw was rural conservatism, using his Midwestern twang to promote a vision that valorized war heroes and the common volk. Dan Rather was Hollywood, trying hard to sound Texan, and therefore authentically American (obviously he has never been to Texas!), rushing around the world to provide a light-and-picture show that is either pleasantly or annoyingly distracting.

But if Brokaw and Rather were kultur, Jennings was civilisation. In his broadcasts, it was okay for an American to be urban and cosmopolitan. You didn't need to put on a rural schtick to condescend to urban sophisticates. You could be good-looking, marry well and often, live in the city, and enjoy life. Heck, you didn't even have to be American. Jennings didn't become an American citizen until 2003, and despite the obituaries that portray his citizenship ceremony as a lifetime in coming, it was clearly something that Jennings had put off as long as he could.

With Jennings gone, the story is that the tradition of authoritative evening news broadcasts is gone. I think that is a good thing. But I miss Peter Jennings.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

LA in London

Today we went down into central London, for probably the last time--on Wednesday we are moving into a new flat, and then on Friday Mary and I fly back to the States. The main purpose of our expedition into the city was to go see a George Stubbs exhibit at the National Gallery. It was nice enough, for an exhibit that contains approximately 300 identical paintings of horses.

The real excitement, though, is that afterwards we stumbled across a movie premiere in Leicester Square--the London premiere of the new Michael Bay movie The Island. These things happen all the time in Los Angeles, of course, especially in all of the nice old movie theaters in Westwood. Usually, though, you wait around for a long time, get bored, and never see anybody cool. This time, however, just as we were peering over the crowd to see what was up, a limo pulled up and deposited Michael Bay himself. Then a few minutes later Ewan MacGregor arrived, followed in short order by Scarlett Johannsson. Pretty darn cool, I have to say. I got closeup pictures of them all, but I am too lazy to deal with uploading them right now.

Michael Bay anecdote: Mr. Bay is a graduate of Wesleyan's illustrious film studies program, which gave him the critical acumen necessary for such thoughtful mots du cinema as Pearl Harbor and Armageddon. Bay came back to campus to give a talk while I was there, and was practically scorned out of the lecture hall. One black-clad film studies student asked him point blank, "How does it feel to sell out?" I wish I could say that Bay had a snappy comeback to that, but he didn't.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Modernism

Just finished Max Paddison's Adorno, Modernism and Mass Culture. Brilliant and a bit obtuse, in the way that European academics who read way more than you are. I highly recommend the first chapter if you want a concise and fairly readable summary of critical theory in the twentieth-century. He makes me think, however, that I should really read Peter B├╝rger's Theory of the Avant-Garde. Have any of you smart people out there read it?

In other academic news/thinking aloud, I have decided the Cage paper I wrote last fall, and which I am revising as an article this summer, is complete rubbish. Luckily, I think I have come up with a new organizational scheme that should make its re-writing go more smoothly than it has been. Plus, I have decided to fold into this essay another paper I wrote on Cage a year ago. That will beef up the second half of the paper a good deal, and make the whole thing a bit more literate. That's the plan at least.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bloomsbury

I attempted to go down and have lunch with a friend today who is doing research at the British Library. We ended up never meeting up, but I enjoyed a pleasant stroll around Bloomsbury. It is such a lovely neighborhood, really just perfect in so many ways. Tons of bookstores, universities galore, rows of townhouses surrounding adorable Georgian grassy squares, and walking distance from both Camden to the north and the busy West End neighborhoods to the south. Way too posh for normal human beings to ever actually live there, I imagine, but one can dream.

I spent a happy hour walking around the British Museum. I'd been there once before, but I just wanted to poke my head in and see the Elgin Marbles to remind myself that the United States didn't invent imperialism. Also wandered around the Roman Britain collection, which is quite nice, and the Asian and American collection, both of which were predictably poor.

And as it always seems to do in London these days, world politics found a way to intrude. On my way back up to Mornington Crescent to catch the tube home, I found myself on a street that seemed both strangely familar, but also strangely eerie--it was hard to put a finger on it, but people just seemed to have strange expressions on their faces. I looked for a street sign, and realized that I was in Tavistock Square, right where the bus blew up on July 7. No trace of the blast or anything on the street or the adjacent building, but there was a definite air of unease circulating around.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Oh, Doris

How am I supposed to get any work done when Channel Four decides to broadcast not one, but two early Doris Day musicals in a row this afternoon? Right now it is By the Light of the Silvery Moon, the 1953 sequel to On Moonlight Bay. It's not very good, but I really like the male lead, Gordon MacRae. He was Curly in the film version of Oklahoma!, and is much fun. Much preferable to that dour Howard Keel in Calamity Jane.

----
update:

The second one was Caprice, from 1967, starring Doris and Richard Harrison as dueling spies for major cosmetic companies, in a race to find a special hair spray that keeps one's hair dry even underwater. I didn't watch the whole thing, but I tuned in briefly to an exciting gun battle between Doris and a mysterious man in black while both were skiing down a mountain in Switzerland. Luckily, Rex rescued Doris in a helicopter before she plunged off a cliff.