Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Matt's Top 5 All Time Favorite Poets

Matt's Top 5 All Time (English Language) Favorite Poets [1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

Emily Dickinson
T. S. Eliot
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Denise Levertov
William Carlos Williams

The suggested criteria for making a similar list if you choose to post your own: poets you keep coming back to over and over even though there other perfectly good poems or books or television programs you could be entertained by, whose poems seem to pop up all the time in your mind inexplicably[8]. Of course, you can use your own criteria. Perhaps you like people whose first name and last name are the same? Or maybe you only go for epics? You know best.

Cheers.

[1] I am trying out a new way of initiating side notes. Parentheticals get annoying after a while.

[2] 5 because I'd probably have a hard time coming up with 10 and remaining honest. For numbers 9 and 10, I would have to resort to flipping randomly through the Norton Anthology ("And who can forget John Milmot, Earl of Rochester!"). Still, I should probably give honorable mentions to Robert Frost and A. R. Ammons.

[3] Yeah, I know: very 20th Cent. But honestly, if I had said Shakespeare or Donne or Shelley no one would believe me. And rightly so: you should be happy I even read poetry.

[4] Yeah, I also know these are pretty much all safe ones. So it goes.

[5] These are ordered by Alphabet only.

[6] Notice the adjective "Favorite" is used over "Best": No value judgments are intended or implied.

[7] Confined to English sadly, because I am an American, and English is the only language I speak, and translation is cheap. Even, say, Basho just isn't the same.

[8] At this point you might take into account quantity. For instance, I am always humming Elizabeth Bishop's One Art, Amiri Baraka's Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, and who hasn't seen fit to mumble lines from Howl when one is feeling particularly down and out? But these are isolated incidents (due to ignorance on my part perhaps) and so these fine poets don't make the cut.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Silent Films

[Editor's Note: this is a post from months ago which I was planning to expound upon and edit. I never will, but I think you might be interested in the subject. Just imagine some pretentious crap at the end about film being a primarily visual medium. Cheers.]

Even though it is annoying, it shouldn't be surprising that so many good young directors started out in the music video racket (I'm thinking of Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze. Are there others?). Of course, this is all anecdotal and admittedly there have been some awful movies from music video directors, but I think the reason is that music videos, the good ones anyway, are essentially short silent films. The Beastie Boys are just organists. That's the reason I think Gondry and Jonze are so good (well, that and an insane writer named Charlie).

All this is as a way to introduce two great movies I saw over the weekend (thank's to my friends at the C. Burr Artz Public Library, which has an amazingly well-stocked DVD section): Tati's "Mon Oncle" and Jules Dassin's "Rififi." Both are French, from various parts of the 1950's, have held up extremely well over the past fifty years, and have very long parts with no dialog. Both of them put into practice what everyone knows about movies: if you show us something interesting, you don't have to tell us also.

"Mon Oncle" is one of those charming French comedies that some of can't get enough of. Basically, it is about the clash of modern and traditional society, with hilarious results, but no plot: mostly a series of vignettes about a boy whose parents are gadget-crazy philistine bores, and whose uncle is an eccentric character always smoking a pipe and never keeping a steady job. It's basically Charlie Chaplin if Chaplin was French and made movies in the post war era.

The story behind "Rififi" is the old Local Boy Makes Good. More precisely: Local B-Movie Director Gets Blacklisted And Moves To Europe Where, Down On His Luck, On The Cheap, And Without Pesky Studio Executives To Mess With His Film, Creates The Greatest Heist Movie Ever Made. And I'm not kidding: it really is the greatest heist film ever made. The most interesting part is the half hour with no dialog and no score when the robbery takes place. Brilliant? Yes. Do you care that no one is talking? Nope. Do you care that there isn't any music? Not at all. If you're local library or Netflix has this movie, I suggest you see it (It's a Criterion DVD so it probably would be expensive otherwise).

Friday, May 27, 2005

Places to go on the Internet...

1) For those of you who own PCs, you may want to participate in the World Community Grid. Most of the time our computers sit around doing nothing. This program let's you donate your computers idle time for (humanitarian) scientific research. There are other programs like this out there, but I think this one is good because it has the United Way and the ACM behind it. Sadly, they have no plans to add Mac support anytime soon.

2) Here is an interesting column my brother sent me about terror alerts. I am not sure how reputable the source is, but I wouldn't put it past the Bush administration. Other than the two "uses" of the alert system mentioned in the column (to protect the administration's ass if another attack happens, and to keep people afraid and voting republican), I'll add one more: it gives something for the alarmist graphic designers at the cable news chanels to put on their marquees.


3) Time Magazine has dreamt up a top 100 Movie list. It is interesting the choices they made. It was strange that they pick the Purple Rose of Cairo over Annie Hall or Manhattan, and Psycho over Vertigo or Rear Window. I was pleasantly surprised that they included the Decalogue (not the Three Colors though), City of God, The Lady Eve, and Day for Night. Good Grief, though, The Lord of the Rings? Drunken Master II? And no Spike Lee? What were they thinking?

Also worth reading are the email comments (someone was mad because "the Lion King" wasn't on the list! Well, I guess it takes all kinds...)

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Big Sea

Regardless of where you stand in the political spectrum, it is always nice to see a Senator be publicly put in his place. Congress, these days, seems to be becoming increasingly self-righteous and arrogant. So, this past week Norm Coleman, in an investigation with regards to Oil-for-food scandal, called UK MP George Galloway before his committee. Senator Coleman came out looking like a prize fool.

Here is a transcript of Galloway's prepared remarks

My favorite parts:

'As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns. I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his.'

And:

'I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

'Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.'

If John Kerry had spoken half as well or shown half the convictions as this, he have been president.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

In Praise of Criticism

I have been looking forward to the reviews of the new Star Wars much more than the movie itself, but so far the reviews have been uninteresting. Luckily we have the New Yorker, and Anthony Lane doesn't disappoint.

Here are my favorite bits:

'The general opinion of “Revenge of the Sith” seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes, “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones.” True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion.'

'what’s with the screwy syntax? Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. “I hope right you are.” Break me a fucking give.'

'it takes a vulgarian genius such as Lucas to create a landscape in which actions can carry vast importance but no discernible meaning, in which style is strangled at birth by design, and in which the intimate and the ironic, not the Sith, are the principal foes to be suppressed. It is a vision at once gargantuan and murderously limited, and the profits that await it are unfit for contemplation.'

And yet, I will go see it eventually. Hey: every once in a while we all want to indulge in a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Don't you think?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Medium is the... uh next slide please

1) Ahh. The NPR pledge drive starts tomorrow. What am going to do with myself?

2) Although I am not a prolific public speaker, I've done my share of presentations and talks, and I've seen my share of them also. Almost without exception I've found that the best talks are done without PowerPoint and the worst talks are done with it. The only way I am able to give a speech with PowerPoint (in situations where there is no way out of it) is to fill the slides with jokes and references to literature and then speak on other matters.

Here is a good article by Peter Norvig on why PowerPoint is so bad. This article is right on, and also has the advantage of being brief.

Referenced in that article is an other aptly title article: Is PowerPoint the devil? from the Chicago Tribune.

'What sort of world is reflected in PowerPoint? A world stripped down to briefly summarized essences, a world snipped clean of the annoying underbrush of ambiguity and complication. But is that the world in which we want to live?'

PowerPoint is getting harder and harder to avoid, but for those of you have been able to avoid it: consider yourselves lucky.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Possible Mathematical Definition of Poetry?

(Sound > Sight > Trope > Metaphor > Subject)

AND

(Sound = Sight = Trope = Metaphor = Subject)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

This is how the Giveaway ends...

This is how the Great Matt's Blog War and Peace Giveaway ends not with a bang, but with a wimper. I was about to give the final book away to my old friend Rew (I had gleaned the books from all the used book stores in town), before I realized to my shock and amazment that the final book had a section missing and, indeed, started on page 56. Oh, Lost! And by the wind greived ghost come back again!

What can one do? No more books to give away. The Count Bezukhov society is on hold until next year. Dear reader, don't worry. I will make this giveaway a yearly event. And even though only four people were winners, they did win big. Thank you to everyone who participated.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Unasked Questions (UAQ) -or- Right ho, Truffaut!

Q: Have you heard any good quotes of late?

A: How about:

'I begin a film believing it will be amusing -- and along the way I notice that only sadness can save it.'
-Truffaut

'People say, "I dislike rhyme. It won't let me say what I want
to say." I answer, "Yes! You've got it! That's what's great about it!"'
- X. J. Kennedy

Q: Say, isn't there a Criterion version of Jules et Jim now?

A: Yes.

Q: I have a lot of time on my hands and I wish read the works of Chesterton. Unfortunately, I have no cash. What can I do?

A: Hey, Presto:
http://www.dur.ac.uk/martin.ward/gkc/books/index.html

Q: Where did you get that Kennedy quote and where can I read more about his excellent collection of Poetry "The Lords of Misrule"??

A: Answer.

Q: Have you heard any interesting news about theater?

A: Yes, actually. August Wilson has completed his 20th Century cycle and the final play opened last week. I wonder what he'll be working on next? Here is a review from the New York Times. Here's one from the New Yorker.

Q: So, I isn't funny how our Big Brothers in the senate will vote for anything that even remotely relates to terrorism.

A: Yes, (sarcasticly) thanks congress for spending 300 billion on Bush's war and de facto national identity cards thrown in! And no debate. Amazing what they are calling democracy these days.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Five May Aught Five

Today is an important day:

The Feast of the Ascension

Holocaust Rememberance Day

Cinco de mayo

Bevrijdingsdag (The Netherlands' Liberation Day)

I guess these cover the best and worst of humanity.

It's also the Liberation day for Denmark and Ethiopia, Europe Day, and Japan's Children's Day. Plus, it's election day in the UK.

That's a lot for one day.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Accounting for Everything

1) How did we do this past month?

Books Read in April
"Very Good, Jeeves", P. G. Wodehouse
"Right Ho, Jeeves", P. G. Wodehouse
"Code of the Woosters", P. G. Wodehouse
"Mulliner Nights", P. G. Wodehouse
"Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves", P. G. Wodehouse
"Art History: A Very Short Introduction", ??

Books Started in April
"Blink", Malcolm Gladwell
"War and Peace", Lev

Notes: Ever read anything by Wodehouse? Why not? Also, the only reason I am reading Blink (which is currently out in Hardback), is because I found an advanced proof copy in paperback at the used bookstore. We've already gone over Tolstoy a lot, so no need to get into it here.

2) I found out ipod/itunes keeps a running total of "Top 25 Most Played." So file this under what i've been listening to:
1. "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)", The Arcade Fire
2. "Wake Up", The Arcade Fire
3. "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)", The Arcade Fire
4. "A Summer Wasting", Belle & Sebastian
5. "Une Annee Sans Lumiere", The Arcade Fire
6. "Happy New Year", Camera Obscura
7. "Homesick", Kings Of Convenience
8. "Crown Of Love", The Arcade Fire
9. "Slung-lo", Erin McKeown
10. "Eighties Fan", Camera Obscura
11. "Passing Afternoon", Iron & Wine
12. "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)", The Arcade Fire
13. "Do You Realize??", The Flaming Lips
14. "Haiti", The Arcade Fire
15. "Rebellion (Lies)", The Arcade Fire
16. "Such Great Heights", The Postal Service
17. "Portions For Foxes", Rilo Kiley
18. "Vincent O'Brien", M. Ward
19. "The Group Who Couldn't Say", Grandaddy
20. "Bird Stealing Bread", Iron & Wine
21. "We Are Nowhere And It's Now", Bright Eyes
22. "Houseboat", Camera Obscura
23. "Decent Days And Nights", The Futureheads
24. "The Book of Right-On", Joanna Newsom
25. "It's A Hit", Rilo Kiley

Monday, May 02, 2005

An idea for a short idea

From Williams: 'only one man--like a city." The city: a railroad town, in the days when railroads meant something, and there was room for growth. The man: a beggar, blind from birth, who sits in the railroad station. He gets money for travelers, enough to get by, but mostly he receives stories, because for some reason people tend to confess things to him.

Now: it is impossible to trust our own memories. Haven't you ever realized while restlessly flipping through some old books that a cherished childhood memory was actually lifted from a novel? And towns forget also. So, as the years go by the man forgets that he has lived his life as a poor beggar and annexes so many of the traveler's memories as his own, both the most shameful regrets and the stunning redemptive successes. And the town, which has grown into a small city, generations come and gone, has also forgotten and has grown to see him as its most worldly and wise, most revered and respected citizen.

Some possibilities:

1) As an allegory for the life of the mind.
2) As the framing story for a novel, the main narrative being the man's urgent confessions as he nears the end of his life.