Friday, July 29, 2005

Monthly Summary

How we did this month[1]:

Books Completed:
'On Bullshit' (Harry G. Frankfurt)
'The Magician's Nephew' (C. S. Lewis)
'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe' (C. S. Lewis)
'Prince Caspian' (C. S. Lewis)
'Voyage of the Dawn Treader' (C. S. Lewis)
'The Silver Chair' (C. S. Lewis)
'A Horse and his Boy' (C. S. Lewis)
'The Last Battle' (C. S. Lewis)

Book's Started:
'The Big Sea' (Langston Hughes)
'Foucault: A Very Short Introduction' (Gary Gutting)

Movies Seen for the First Time:
'Bringing Up Baby' (Howard Hawks)
'To be or not to be' (Ernst Lubitsch)
'Crash' (Paul Haggis)
'JSA' (Chan-wook Park) [2]
'A Very Long Engagement' (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

Okay, so a lot more books this month, but they were all short so it would reduce down to a couple properly sized books. Still, it was better than last month.

I recommend 'On Bullshit.' It is funny and interesting and you can knock it back in a couple hours. I realized from reading the book that my blog is very similar to Bullshit! I'm okay with that...

I enjoyed the Narnia series a great deal. It has been something like 20 years since they were read to me as a child and I'd forgotten a lot. A few thoughts:

1) I would be amazed if a similar set of children's books could be published today and still receive the same acclaim among Evangelicals. The Narnia series benefits from being old, written by Lewis, and having overt Christian allusions. However, the series also has a lot of swearing, drinking, smoking, and violence. Further, there is just as much Platonist and Pagan imagery as Christian (probably more Pagan imagery). It also has kind words to say about magic and astrology.[3] Still, you won't see anyone protesting the upcoming Narnia movies as you would of the Harry Potter books.

2) What I admire about C. S. Lewis is that he has internalized his ideas (about morality, philosophy, literature, and Christianity) so well that the seem to arise in his fiction, not out of some agenda, but naturally.

I already wrote about most of the movies. 'A Very Long Engagement' was good.

Cheers.

----------------

[1] A little early as I'm going on vacation tomorrow (see you in a week).

[2] Awful name, right? It's Korean, so let's hope something was lost in translation. The original: Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok

[3] Not that there is anything wrong with that. Still, it is sad to see people so quickly reduce the books to religious allegory. It goes to show you how little adults use their imagination.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Now It Can Be Told

'"Harry," said Dwayne. "I have some news for you: modern science has given us a whole lot of wonderful new colors, with strange, exciting names like red!, orange!, green!, and pink!, Harry. We're not stuck any more with just black and gray and white! Isn't that good news, Harry?"'
- Kurt Vonnegut (Breakfast of Champions)

I just saw the movie "8 Women" this week and, aside from becoming my favorite Ozon movie so far [1], it made me realize how nice it is to see a movie take advantage of Color. It doesn't happen much and I can think of a few reasons:

1) We've had it for decades and the novelty has begun to where off.
2) Realism is the fashion these days and reality (or the kind of reality that is in fashion) is fairly drab. [2]
3) Thinking back, though, I don't think that American directors since the decline and fall of the Musical have been very good at colors.

Some of the Best Movies To Use Color Which I Can Think of Off the Top of my Head
Hero
The Red Shoes
Raise the Red Lantern
Pierrot le fou

Are there others?



-----------------------------------

[1] And speaking of 8 Women, it stars Virginie Ledoyen who has suddenly become my favorite French actress. She was also in Bon Voyage (go rent this movie) and, I just learned, was the girl from The Beach.

[2] Does anyone know why everyone, faced with reality 24-7, seems to want to be entertained by "reality" in film and TV, also? Hardly makes sense.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Of Time and the River

And you thought Congress was doing nothing about Global Warming? On the contrary, they have recently proposed an amendment to their recent energy bill to add more time to daylight savings time. Gee, thanks, Congress.

By the way, here is a funny website of a group trying to stop 'this madness of changing the time twice a year.'

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Lost and Found in Translation Part II

'It may be that there are fundamental limitations in the structure of any particular language that make it simply incapable of certain sorts of expression. Indeed, it seems likely that this is so -- that, for example, there are things in Goethe's or Rilke's German that simply cannot be adequately put into English. Heidegger maintained -- though it is hard to see how he could know -- that only ancient Greek and German were adequate for the discussion of Philosophy.'

- Gary Gutting (Foucault: A Very Short Introduction)

This is part of the reason that diversity is so important, and not just in language. Can you imagine a more terrible world than one with only one language, one culture, et cetera?

More about Linguistic Diversity:

Foundation for Endangered Languages

Terralingua (which is more ambitious: 'Terralingua supports the integrated protection, maintenance and restoration of biocultural diversity of life -- the world's biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity...')

Some relevant quotes:

'All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.'
- Hopkins

'If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.'
- Donne

Monday, July 18, 2005

Lost and Found in Translation

This weekend I found a Rilke poem displayed on some friends' bathroom wall. Called 'Autumn Day' I liked it very much and so I couldn't wait until Autumn to post it here.

Here is a page with several English translations and the original German.

I am partial to the Stephen Mitchell version, partly because it was the first version I read and partly because I think it is the most effective.

Anyway, here's Rilke's original:

'Herbsttag'

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr gross.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren lass die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Fruchten voll zu sein;
gieb innen noch zwei sudlichere Tage,
drange sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Susse in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blatter treiben.

If you have a few minutes try to sound it out as best you can. (With my tiny knowledge of German, I could only get the first line, but the important thing is the sound).

A couple thoughts:

1) Notice the free verse translations are very different in form than original. We get the sense but not the sound, which is too bad but unavoidable I guess. It is funny though: I'm sure a few poetry snobs would love the English version but wouldn't stand the original's structure and rhyme.

2) Perhaps we should treat poetry more like music and package all English translations with audio of the original?

3) For some reason when I read the English version, I see it from my own perspective, as if I am saying or thinking it, while with the German version it seems as if someone else is saying or thinking it. The German version seems to me to be more melancholy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Optimism

Does anyone else think that it is odd that every year the droughts and forest fires get worse in the West, and every year the Hurricanes get worse in the Southeast, and yet those are the fastest growing areas of the United States?

And yet last year I vacationed in the West and this year I am vacationing in the Southeast…

Monday, July 11, 2005

File under what I've been watching of late

1) I expect Paul Weitz might end up making some good movies. The reason I think so is because there was a lot I didn't like about 'About a Boy' and most of it had to do with the direction. Certain scenes were shot inexplicably in one take. There were random camera effects done and they only seemed to be done because they could be done. There was a lot interesting film work that was out of place and unhelpful. Then 'In Good Company' he used much the same style (longer than usual takes, unexpected odd shots), but put the style to good use.

Oh, one more thing about 'About a Boy': the problem with most romantic comedy isn't that it is romantic comedy, there is actually a good bit of great romantic comedy out there. The problem is that so much of the romantic comedy that Hollywood puts out is so bad that it is hard for anyone to bother watching it anymore. But, that does have the affect of making the good ones more satisfying when it comes along.

2) The thing about old movies is that they tend to be good only because most of the bad ones didn't survive long enough to be available anymore. That's why I think we should give the old movies we see the benifit of the doubt (and not cut and run when we see the boring opening credits). Consider Howard Hawkes' 'Bringing Up, Baby' staring Cary Grant and Kate Hepburn. I was fully prepared to like this movie: 1) It was a screwball comedy and I am a fan of 'The Lady Eve', 'My Man Godfry' and 'Sullivan's Travels'; 2) It was a Howard Hawkes comedy and I am a big fan of 'His Girl Friday'; 3) It has been on several top comedy lists; and 4) it is popular enough to be avialable at my local library. On the other hand, I find both actors hit or miss. And this movie definitely missed me. With 'His Girl Friday' when it wasn't extremely funny it was at least clever and intelligent. Nothing much was funny in 'Bringing Up, Baby' and the rest was pointless and annoying. The best I can say about it is I can kind of see why some people might have found it funny fifty years ago. And that isn't saying much.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

June Report

1) How we did in June:

Books Completed:
The Lonely Guy. Bruce Jay Friedman.
Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. (1.5 times)

Books Started:
The Wind in the Willows.

Movies Seen for the first time:
"About a Boy"
"In Good Company"
That Star Wars Movie

We can do better.

2) I admire Judith Miller a great deal. Regardless of your feeling about the media, journalists, their so-called rights, and the so-call Bush Administration, it's hard not to admire someone who would go to jail for her principals. That the dirt bag(s) in the White House don't deserve her protection makes her imprisonment even more poignant.

Who knows? Maybe this will help the New York Times a small piece of their credibility back. Well, they have a long way to go.