The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Monday, December 19, 2005

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Mormonsploitation: it is a word we didn't know we needed until we invented it. Is this a recent example of mormonsploitation? If so, it's heartily recommended! It's the kind of book i wish someone would now write about Scientologists.

P.S.
I was going to suggest Red River as an example of Hollywood's eventual demormonsploitation ... but Google is not yielding any evidence that my memory of mormons tagging along on the cattle drive is correct. Can any of MacLamity's loyal ones of readers confirm or deny that there's a black-and-white Western that pretty much starts with a mormon asking hearty cowboys to be take his fellow mormons down the trail and exploding some polygamy myths in an excellent mini-monologue.

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Is it even necessary to see Brokeback Mountain at this point? I was very excited to see it a month ago. My fandom of Ang Lee is rabid and absurd. "Ang Lee does gay cowboys," sounded as exciting as "Ang Lee does Austen," "Ang Lee does Rick Moody," "Ang Lee does Marvel," and "Ang Lee does Wire Fu." Any movie Ang Lee does seems to be another proof that Ang Lee can do any movie. The sheer badness that "Hulk" and "Ride With the Devil" had in common didn't seem to me to warrant criticism. It was more that the badness was a test of my faith. But I'm weary of Brokeback Mountain already. I'm weary of how it's a gay story, or not a gay story. Of how it's the right movie for gays of our age or not the right movie for gays of our age. I'm tired of hearing how short the actual sex scene is, of how everything in Brokeback Mountain was already in the air. I'm tired of debating whether Mickey Kaus is too into girls to like it. I'm tired of the silence of the mountain and the silence of Ennis. I'm tired of the hymn it sings to immortal love. It's the movie equivalent of reading a book without reading it

There's a story told from time to time about reading. I'm not sure of the name of the original character involved; it's one of those bits of bastard wit that get fathered on whoever has a reputation for comedy, the way half the funny lines ever composed are magically ascribed to Mark Twain, Yogi Berra, or Winston Churchill.
But in this story, a public figure--oh, all right, it's Pat Moynihan, maybe--is standing around at a cocktail party, filling in fellow guests on the details of the latest book everyone seems to be reading. And he stumbles over some plot turn, leading one skeptical listener to ask if he's actually read the book. "Not personally," he replies.
The joke here is in the truth. For people who follow books, there's an inexorable chain. Whenever a major new volume appears, it begins with the prepublication journals Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. Michiko Kakutani chimes in with a snippy notice in the New York Times, and book editor Erich Eichman sweet-talks someone into writing 800 words for the Wall Street Journal.
Then the bloggers start linking to reviews in other newspapers--the Guardian and the Telegraph from England, the great book sections that Frank Wilson runs for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Carol Herman puts together for the Washington Times. The Times Literary Supplement, the New York Review of Books, The Weekly Standard, the New Republic, and Books & Culture all come along with longer essays, and by the time you've worked your way through seven or eight of these reviews, you really have read the book. Just not personally.

As I say, I used to be excited about Brokeback. I liked the silence of Ennis and the silence of the mountain, especially. But when I actually see it, it will have effectively been the fourth I've seen it, having seen it -- just not personally -- the equivalent of three times .
The only thing that is keeping me interested is that I don't understand how Hollywood has broken so much ground with Brokeback. Didn't My Own Private Idaho break the ground that Brokeback currently treads? Wasn't Philadelphia also the first to do this? And wasn't Ang Lee beaten to this topic 12 years ago by Ang Lee? Isn't that what Hollywood told us at the time? Is every movie that Hollywood does about people of the same gender having sex breaking ground? I'm not saying that that is impossible. But I am also saying that Hollywood does have a tendency to get over excited about the tiny exhibits of its moral courage it can submit for the record, especially when moral courage will provoke free publicity in the form of enormous debate. The motion of the debate that Hollywood sets is usually laughably dull. In this case the motion seems to be "This house believes that straight people can and should enjoy this gay movie as much as gay people." Boring!

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The streets emptying for a TV adaptation of a Bulgakov novel is the kind of sick fantasy that occurs to me when I contemplate what the world would be like if I had God-like powers. And yet, it's happening in Putin's Russia. Two possible conclusions: 1. Putin's Russia has a few things going for it after all. 2. I have god-like powers. They're not incompatible!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

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It's been a long time since I felt like saying anything on big political debates. But I think the debate over torture is too fascinating to stay quiet, especially when the debate sustains a lot of the drama in the two U.S. TV shows I love the most -- "Lost" and "24." According to what we might call the Jack Bauer doctrine (which Charles Krauthammer is just copying) when someone won't tell you what you need to prevent a thousand deaths in 3 hours, you get the chords from the hotel lamp and use them to run some serious voltage through your girlfriend's estranged husbands head, or convince someone that you have shot half his family in the back of their little heads, or get a tall man to administer apparently agonizing injections to the head. The Sayid doctrine from Lost is similar. But -- and this is without knowing what the whole point of "Lost" is -- as Sayid saifd inm the latest episode I saw, you a torture a man simply because he apparently knows where the antibiotics are. "I tortured a man because I have tortured many men," Sayid said. Torture is the first solution that occurs to the torturer. And besides, it ends with you in a kind of hell ("Nathan was a bad man. If he wasn't he wouldn't have been taken.") -- and not just the hell that Jack Bauer inhabits where he is unable to relate to any human, but also the hell where you're stuck on a desert island with polar bears and Others. MacLamity says that the U.S. should make torture illegal and punish anyone who does it and make any official associated with it resign. This is more of a compromise than it seems, since under the Jack Bauer doctrine, when you have no choice but to torture you still do it. You hope no one finds out. Drugs are still a choice even when they're illegal. In some ways, the illegality of drugs provdes just the right amount of disincentive to stop the whole planet getting addicted to them. And so it is with torture. Let's torture foreigners without due process when necessary, but do so in the knowledge that there could be institutional hell to pay. Even if Bush passes the McCain amendment and prosecutes it fully, treacherously scapegoating the torturers if word gets out, then he automatically and efficiently, I imagine orders to torture will still be given. But the orders will only be given as the last resort, as opposed to the somewhere-between-the-fifth-and-second-to-last resort, which is what it seems to be now.

Friday, December 09, 2005

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As Samuel Johnson said, "among [such] unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries; whom mankind have considered, not as the pupil, but the slave of science, the pionier of literature, doomed only to remove rubbish and clear obstructions from the paths of Learning and Genius, who press forward to conquest and glory, without bestowing a smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress. Every other authour may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach, and even this negative recompence has been yet granted to very few"... even when discussing whether squick is onomatapaeically derived from skull fucking.

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I usually find it horribly cheap to make such remarks, but... it is probably a tiny bit more than a coincidene that the Bush team, when they need to get some lying done for the benefit of foreigners, send the blacks to do the seriously dirty work.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

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When Martin Amis wrote a foreword to Lolita, they saved space by removing psychologist John Ray Jr. PhD's forward. It's good to see that Amazon's giving John Ray due acknowledgement for his efforts.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

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Here, here: "Whatever great name of modern British history one may mention, Eton has a knockdown answer, except for religion. Eton has no obvious equivalent to John Wesley, who went to Charterhouse school."

Monday, December 05, 2005

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Hitchens writes a blinder of a piece.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

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Have the Sherlock Holmes stories from The Strand delivered to the door. Now you can simulate the feelings of Betteridge in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, as he begs Blimp to ask him Conan Doyle what's going to happen next in Hound of the Baskervilles.

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Ezra Pound would dig Benedict: all together now: "'With usura hath no man a house of good stone..."

P.S. Canada actually has a Social Credit party viable enough for a web site. Here's their version of it.

P.P.S. What Keynes was to the Depression in the 1930s, CH Douglas was to Ezra Pound's depressive Spenglerianism in the 1930s. His Keynes vs. the actual Keynes.

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Can't the plucky Chinese thief of auto designs Chery actually come up with any ideas of its own?