Sunday, September 27, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
As the 2009 season comes to a close, the Giants Wild Card chances have evaporated over a two week period during which they lost a key series against the Dodgers, and their lead starters each had poor performances. It seems time, now, to summarize their season, and measure it against the expectations going in this year.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
John Huston [1906-1987] belongs among the top 10 American movie directors of all time. Aside from his cinematic instincts--which often seemed infallible--he had a deep interest in literary narrative, and sought to adapt a number of what he regarded as classic texts to the screen, especially towards the end of his career, when he had the authority and cred to pull them off.
One of his late successes was the adaptation of Malcolm Lowry's masterpiece, Under the Volcano . Set in Mexico, it's a profoundly autobiographical account of a severe alcoholic Englishman. Lowry makes him a minor British diplomat, but that's simply a convenience: His real interest is the graphic contrast he gets by placing Geoffrey Firmin (played by Albert Finney) in a "primitive" culture in which suffering and death are celebrated and embraced, rather than avoided and ignored. In a verbal narrative, Firmin's mental torments can be described from the inside out, in the usual way. In cinema, these psychological aspects have either to be fantasized or obliquely dramatized. Firmin's alcoholic delusions and acting-out serve as an ironic vehicle for Lowry's metaphysical ruminations, which then sets up melodramatic and comic asides.
Friday, September 18, 2009
with its baby rivers and little towns, each with its abbey or its cathedral;
Paul Caponigro [1932- ] has been for several decades one of America's premier landscape photographers. Originally a disciple of Minor White, Caponigro has continued to refine the spiritual or mystical side of black and white imaging, well within the tradition of clear focus, which has dominated serious art photography since the 1930's. Caponigro's work hasn't been limited strictly to landscape as subject, as he has carried on a parallel investigation into arranged still-life, though, again, well within the naturalistic tradition of flowers, rocks, leaves, screens, etc., unlike the artificial applications of some post-Modern practitioners, like John Pfahl, for instance.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Louis Zukofsky's collected short poems were first gathered in the consolidated paperback original All: The Collected Short Poems: Series One (1923-1948); and Series Two (1956-1964). The earlier volume began with "Poem beginning 'The'" (a work which seems to me to be a take-off on Eliot's The Waste Land, published just a couple of years earlier), and concluded with Song #29 ("Mantis"). The chonology of the poems written in the 1940's and '50's is a little vague, there's some overlap and shifting of arrangement in LZ's collection in those decades, but it's pretty clear that the second volume demonstrates a growing interest in short poems, with less reliance on a rhetorical prosody, and more emphasis on alphabetical and even visual qualities.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Disclaimer: Readers should be aware that I have no military service in my background. My Stepfather never served (he was born in 1901), and my real Father was a conscientious objector in WWII. Nevertheless, my interest in war movies is not colored by a lack of sympathy for, or a naive rejection of the necessity for, the military life-style in general.
Military narratives often focus on the problems of command. Like traditional theater, which is frequently devoted to the problems of royalty, these stories follow the brass through its private journeys and official duties, revealing telling detail, contradictions and weaknesses in character, and the challenges and responsibilities of directing the energies and campaigns of bodies of men and materiel.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Linda Butler's career presents as a seamless record of continuously evolving success, as she has moved from triumph to triumph, her progress marked by a series of themed monographs--four to date--each of which has represented not just an expanding unique vision, but ground-breaking approaches to documentary photography.
Her last book was published by Stanford University Press, and is a literal elegy to a part of the world that we are soon to lose completely, as China completes its gigantic dam project which will bury hundreds of miles of territory and culture under a huge engineered lake along the great Yangtze River.
Butler's choice of black and white, as opposed to color imagery, was clear from the beginning--her vision is decisively within the tradition of magic shading--long straight-line scales, without losing the intensities of rich blacks and evanescently luminous shoulders.
With the Yangtze River book, her attention moves out into a broader sphere, giving us panoramic views of the world, within which settled traditions and vernacular identity exists. Do we have the right and privilege to wreak awesome change upon a landscape which supported and sustained so many people in relative harmony with nature?
I'm always a sucker for interesting dune shots, and these two are among my favorites. Alongside her "project" books, Butler also obviously is building her inventory of classic traditional photographic subjects.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Of all the things I'm certain of at this moment, one of the most certain is that America can accomplish nothing in its military campaigns in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, like a number of other countries in the Near and Far East, is not really a nation at all, but a loose federation of tribal or regional precincts. These regional divisions are hundreds of years old. These places have no history of representative government, are usually fiercely independent, and have a familiarity with, and willingness to engage in, constant warfare. It's virtually a way of life in the "tribal areas" of Northeast Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan. In order to maintain the kind of ordered society in which a central rule of law prevails, in which "terrorism" or "feuds" are not constantly being waged in broad daylight, there has to be a strong central government. Afghanistan and Pakistan, by all accounts, are not federalized nations as we define them in the West. They are nations in name only.