Saturday, December 31, 2011

Teacher Nora Christmas Album

Toasting marshmallows...

...for the first s'mores in Bangmei.

More here.


Waiting for a newspaper smart enough.....

Roger Ebert, in an otherwise unsurprising essay about the decline in moviegoing, says this:

Netflix alone accounts for 30% of all internet traffic in the evening. That represents millions of moviegoers. They're simply not in a theater. This could be seen as an argument about why newspapers and their readers need movie critics more than ever; the number of choices can be baffling.
How about a weekly column, with capsule reviews, on the best movies and television series (Did YOU know that "The Misfits" was available for streaming on Hulu Plus?) premiering on the streams?

The cozy elitism of the screening room is ill-suited to the modern movie-going experience.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Always last to the party...

This has been the "Breaking Bad" holiday chez Tulkinghorn. Only four seasons too late. (Anna Gunn! From Deadwood to this....) Enjoying it more than Killing II, which feels like homework. I'll try the DVDs. Dropped "Homeland" after four episodes because the same thing kept happening over and over -- a virtue in comedy, not so much in a thriller. As I understand it, though, it actually developed a plot soon after I quit. Another missed boat.

In the meantime, there's the Doctor Who Christmas Special, and a new production of "Great Expectations" with Ray Winstone (!) as Magwich and Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham. (Since there's a G.E. movie coming this year as well -- Dickens bicentennial in 2012 -- we'll get to match Anderson against the rather too eccentric Helena Bonham Carter.)

It's a good life, but real work will return in a week.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Live by the buzz, die by the buzz

Larsson and Herge/Spielberg/Moffatt/Jackson underwhelm at Christmas...

May be the audience's fault, of course, especially these days, but I can't help but wonder if overfamiliarity killed the desire to leave the house.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Season's Greetings From Poland, ME

Click to enlarge.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why you should never read the Guardian political stuff

Amusingly unimaginable:

Yet the question which needs to be asked is whether his political campaigning made his country, and the world, a better place.

Havel's anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women's rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.


Monday, December 19, 2011

The Chinese word for mud...

Annie, Molly, Jenny, Samantha and Emma with ND firstgrader.


Kim Jong Il: Ronery no more

A late entry for tweet of the year, according to Glenn Reynolds, from conservative blogger and political consultant Josh Trevino:

I’d like to think God let Havel and Hitchens pick the third....


Saturday, December 17, 2011

How to be a writer

Hell... how to be a person. From one of dozens of moving reminisces of Christopher Hitchens, this one by Ian McEwan:

....this was a man in constant pain. Denied drinking or eating, he sucked on tiny ice chips. Where others might have beguiled themselves with thoughts of divine purpose (why me?) and dreams of an afterlife, Christopher had all of literature. Over the three days of my final visit I took a note of his subjects. Not long after he stole my Ackroyd, he was talking to me of a Slovakian novelist; whether Dreiser in his novels about finance was a guide to the current crisis; Chesterton's Catholicism; Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese, which I had brought for him on a previous visit; Mann's The Magic Mountain – he'd reread it for reflections on German imperial ambitions towards Turkey; and because we had started to talk about old times in Manhattan, he wanted to quote and celebrate James Fenton's A German Requiem: "How comforting it is, once or twice a year,/To get together and forget the old times."

The next morning, at Christopher's request, Alexander and I set up a desk for him under a window. We helped him and his pole with its feed-lines across the room, arranged pillows on his chair, adjusted the height of his laptop. Talking and dozing were all very well, but Christopher had only a few days to produce 3,000 words on Ian Ker's biography of Chesterton. Whenever people talk of Christopher's journalism, I will always think of this moment.

Consider the mix. Chronic pain, weak as a kitten, morphine dragging him down, then the tangle of Reformation theology and politics, Chesterton's romantic, imagined England suffused with the kind of Catholicism that mediated his brush with fascism, and his taste for paradox, which Christopher wanted to debunk. At intervals, his head would droop, his eyes close, then with superhuman effort he would drag himself awake to type another line. His long memory served him well, for he didn't have the usual books on hand for this kind of thing. When it's available, read the review.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Hitchens on Wodehouse and Wilde

Since I don't think of myself as sentimental about such things, I surprise myself at how upsetting it is to read the many many remembrances of Christopher Hitchens that appeared this morning after last night's death, from Salman Rushdie's simple tweet "Goodbye, my beloved friend" to a wonderful piece on the New Yorker blog from Christopher Buckley. Those who thought that atheism must have left a gap in his spirit never understood how fiercely he loved the English language (and cigarettes, and drinking, and women, and his friends, and argument, and eating). I loved this note from Buckley:

When we made a date for a meal over the phone, he’d say, “It will be a feast of reason and a flow of soul.” I never doubted that this rococo phraseology was an original coinage, until I chanced on it, one day, in the pages of P. G. Wodehouse, the writer Christopher perhaps esteemed above all others. Wodehouse was the Master. When we met for another lunch, one that lasted only five hours, he was all a-grin with pride as he handed me a newly minted paperback reissue of Wodehouse with “Introduction by Christopher Hitchens.” “Doesn’t get much better than that,” he said, and who could not agree?

The other author that he and I seemed to spend most time discussing was Oscar Wilde. I remember Christopher’s thrill at having adduced a key connection between Wilde and Wodehouse. It struck me as a breakthrough insight; namely, that the first two lines of “The Importance of Being Earnest” contain within them the entire universe of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves.

Algernon plays the piano while his butler arranges flowers. Algy asks, “Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?” Lane replies, “I didn’t think it polite to listen, sir.” And there you have it.


During the last hour I spent with Christopher, in the Critical Care Unit at M. D. Anderson, he struggled to read a thick volume of P. G. Wodehouse letters. He scribbled some notes on a blank page in spidery handwriting. He wrote “Pelham Grenville” and asked me, in a faint, raspy voice, “Name. What was the name?” At first I didn’t quite understand, but then, recalling P.G.’s nickname, suggested “Plum?” Christopher nodded yes, and wrote it down.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Spielberg Face

Film criticism that would have been impossible fifteen years ago -- also a trip into your own movie-going past... Caution: may make you aware of manipulative sense of wonder in an unhelpful way..... (On my machine the audio is very weak. Probably just as well.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Going green 1949 style, bitch....

Ice Cube talks about LA and Charles and Ray Eames. Brilliant. Love it or leave it.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Honoring Harvey Pekar

Alan Moore, and others, including Pekar's widow Joyce Brabner, have just completed a Kickstarter project for a memorial statue to be placed at a Cleveland Heights public library.

The goal has been met (with almost 800 funders), but the project is still open through the weekend. There are a number of interesting goodies to be had at various levels of involvement. $99 gets you a seat at a video conference with Moore at which 'impertinent questions' may be asked. The statue is described:

A way to celebrate comics as art and literature at a Cleveland Heights public library. A literary landmark, a desk that's always filled with paper and pencils for people to sit and write or draw comics at the same place where Harvey Pekar liked to work.

Mounted on the desk, a sculpted bronze comic book “page.” Stepping out from a panel, Harvey-- using his semi celebrity to focus on the creative possibilities of the art form he opened up to so many people. On the reverse, gridded into bronze ruled "panels," a giant slate storyboard that looks very much the way Harvey always started his own scripts. (He wrote and drew stick figures, just like Paul Giamatti in that movie.) Plenty of chalk and plenty of encouragement from a library that cherishes comics. At different times each year, a librarian can unlock the middle drawer of the desk and pull out copies of books that Harvey read as a kid that inspired him to write, AMERICAN SPLENDOR scripts, memorabilia and anything else that could inspire library patrons to be creative with comics.


Things that make you go 'hmmm..'

From Peggy Noonan's column in the Wall Street Journal:

John Gaddis, in his biography of George Kennan, quotes him saying of himself: "I have the habit of seeing two opposing sides of a question, both of them wrong, and then overstating myself."