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Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe: a classic I’m finally actually reading

I’ve read an enormous amount, far more than most others I meet these days, far less than my friends in college: except I keep chugging away at it, I could well have passed most of those friends by now: don’t know, can’t know, don’t want to know.

Professor Nobbe’s 18th-century English lit class assigned Crusoe. I cut an awful lot of the classes, didn’t know what was going on whether I was there or not, but in one such class I came into temporary focus. I remember clearly what Nobbe was saying, and reading from the text. It’s only now, old and half-blind, that I’m catching up on this particular classic: enjoying the hell out of it.

Nobbe read us a passage, I jot my memory of it: Crusoe finds the wreck of his ship breaking up on a reef, swimming distance from shore. He strips off his clothes and swims to the wreck. There he finds the ship’s treasure in gold and silver. Crusoe soliloquizes on the uselessness of gold to a lone survivor of a shipwreck. Then Crusoe fills his pockets with the gold. He further loads himself up with tools and dry goods and swims, thus laden, back to shore. Nobbe wanted to know if we had noticed the total absence of realism in the narrative: if he stripped naked then how did he get pockets to hoard the gold he’d commented on the uselessness of? No, I hadn’t noticed: I hadn’t read it! Did I object? No. I didn’t see anyone in the class objecting. (By the way that class contained such notables and future notables as Arthur MacArthur, his father was General Douglas Mac; Terence McNally, future dramatist; Michael Peter Khan, soon to direct the US’s first performance of Shakespeare’s Pericles, and, following that, Shakespeare in the Park …)

I recall that class today because I’m at least a third of the way through. Crusoe has seen Friday’s footprint in the sand but has yet to meet Friday: or any native. But in my reading Crusoe walks to the wreck, no need to swim: storms have washed the wreck into the shore. He writes about where he stores his goats, his grain, his tools … his desert isle homes are provisioned adequate for the Titanic. But I don’t see no gold, yet. How can I remember Nobbe’s passage so clearly but not yet recognize anything of the details? 2015 10 09 I’m about half way through now. I came upon a passage that I thought would turn out to be the passage of my memory, but it’s not his wrecked ship, it’s another shipwreck: and he sails and rows to it, doesn’t strip and swim. He takes the gold, but doesn’t put it in his pockets, doesn’t swim carrying an added several hundred pounds; but it does soliloquise on the subjective value of coins: no market, no prospective trade partner, no value.

I’m remembering what a one-time teaching office mate, Bruce Spigelberg, told me his doctoral thesis on the subject: not yet completed then (1967), no more than mine on Shakespeare. Bruce said that Robinson Crusoe lands on a desert island and there recreates 18th-century England. Sounded right to me even when I didn’t know the novel any better than any kid with a classic comic. Profound. I hope Bruce finally did write it. I hope more than two people paid attention.

Robinson Crusoe is also reminding me of some hilarious associations: Mark Twain’s satire of James Fennimore Cooper, for one: Twain illustrates the frontier simplicity of his judge’s houseboat on Lake Glimmerglass on which he lives with his two daughters. He humbly has only one Tintoretto over the couch! (You recognize of course that Tintoretto executed huge paintings: huge.)

thanx obestpaintings

You can see, this Tintoretto has to be big.

Crusoe in the same way is also reminding me of Samuel Beckett’s absurd specificity, where the math is accurate but the logic, the sense, insane.

2015 10 06 I just read a passage that delights me: Crusoe observes natives visiting his island by boat, and executing and devouring captives on the beach: ritual execution, cannibalism: and who knows what other, to Crusoe, blasphemies. But then he considers that he doesn’t really know what the judgment of God himself would be in the circumstance! He reflects that the natives are not committing a crime in their own minds. I’m impressed.

This evening I watched the Pierce Brosnan movie. I’d forgotten I’d seen it several years ago. Wonderful. In the movie Robin and Friday go to war against the natives who’d been in the midst of sacrificing Friday. Robin and Friday boobytrap their fortress. Each device is a Rube Goldberg machine: the intruder steps on rigging A, a gear turns, a cock is opened, water flows, turning a wheel, the mouse eats the cheese, and forty pounds of powder blows up thirty invaders. Leonardo could have learned from Robin.

2015 10 09 Almost half-way I come upon another native-savage-cannibal passage: Defoe’s Crusoe’s experience on this island, now twenty-some years in duration has been mostly benign, the danger that torments him seems exclusively to issue from the savagery of cannibal natives. He hasn’t been stung by a jelly fish, no crocodile has lain in ambush for him, he hasn’t been swallowed by an anaconda, bitten by a black mambo … Defoe was imagining narrative about what he knew; not about what others would come to discover. His novel is revealing in the juvenility of his experience. Dig it, eighteenth century, European transocean venturing dating from the fifteenth century, English experience from the sixteenth century, English dominance really just getting extablished.

I reflect further that “boy”‘s lit from Crusoe to Treasure Island mostly concerns dangers and adventures imaginable from the society’s classrooms, not from trekking through the Congo. From my own experience I add Bomba and Tarzan.
An hour later I’m still thinking of that last. England at the beginning of the Eighteenth Century was as benign to humans as land got: a little cool, a little wet, but great for sheep, for agriculture: the snakes had been killed, the people tamed … By the end of the Eighteenth Century England had turned as toxic as land got. Blake’s green and pleasant land had come to serve Lucifer with its dark satanic mills. And Scots Robin lives in plenty, without taxation, without the state of Britain telling him when to breathe, except for the a-Christian cannibals.
Ponder, England, Britain, is an island, a couple of islands, temperate, well-watered. History brought agriculture and animal husbandry to its shore, read Jared Diamond, history is geography. I also recommend Rene Dubose on how civilized humans mistake developed land, pacified land, customized land, for “nature”. But realize also that if the land weren’t relatively safe and benign we couldn’t have evolved into ourselves on it. Transforming things for our supposed advantage is seldom safe, for long, and seldom wise.

Defoe wrote a hell of a story even though he’s got thing after thing wrong. I’m so glad I’m finally reading it. But greatest finally-getting-around-to-it of my old age has been Don Quixote. (And I still have Book II to go!)

Ever closer to half-way, thank you, Zeno, Robin has a dream. (He’s seen Friday’s footprint, but has yet to meet Friday.) He dreams that he attacks a troop of natives commencing their cannibal ritual, he rescues their intended victim, the rescued native, bowns down to him, behaves as his servant: now Crusoe can have an assistant to help escape from his benign island and get back to the one becoming satanic in his own time. Robin has the most wonderful reflections on the morality of a Christian killing nine men because he’s afraid of them. How come I can’t argue before the Supreme Court and before the Pope and Dear Abby that I’m entitled to kill everyone else in the world because they might be a danger to me? States use that logic, why can’t I?

Btw it now occurs to me: we talk of Robin seeing “Friday’s” footprint in the sand on the beach. But decades pass between Robin seeing a human foot print and Robin meeting the native he calls Friday. Not at all likely to be an identity. Robin himself tallies his time between wreck and rescuing Friday as twenty-five years!

Literature Literature (Chat)
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Modern Oedipus

/ Kleptocracy /

Civilization commits its thefts in the dark: the dark of itself.

The senator sends Custer to do the rape, then Clem and Floyd quell the victim family. The right hand is ignorant, innocent, of what the left hand has done: and the left, the right.
That’s why, indignant, our righteousness a rage, we cry Black magic is afoot: the nigger must be the devil, when we find our fingerprints on his neck.

The Greek gods made sure that Oedipus really didn’t know that he was the motherfucker. But we have no need for gods. Man alone suffices.

2009 01 20 Oedipus references abound at K. and I’d been making them for half a century earlier. Only this week did I discover though that Milan Kundera’s fable The Unbearable Lightness of Being the protagonist makes some of the same points. In his case he says that the Communists, once they saw that they had fucked up, should, like Oedipus, have put out their own eyes. But they don’t, they entrench their bureaucracies. Kundera’s character’s later fate also parallels mine, the US revealing itself to be not much different from Czechoslovakia’s Soviet managers.


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Civilized Man as Thief

/ Kleptocracy /
@ K. 1999

The definitions which originally opened this module on kleptocracy now head the kleptocracy menu. The original file is now broken up into that, this, and other files.

What is commonly referred to as “history” is the record of kleptocracy written by kleptocrats for kleptocrats (whitewashing their laundry). Until recently we didn’t know beans about the cultures that did fine for tens of thousands of years before agriculture, cities, kings, wars, conquest … were ever invented. Depending on how you date the “species,” that period could be stated in hundreds of thousands to millions of years.

Some of us know how we came by our fortune,
and some of us don’t,
but we wear it all the same.
The Poisonwood Bible

2002 06 25

… through all historic times, wherever any people have advanced beyond the savage state, and have learned to increase their means of subsistence by the cultivation of soil, a greater or less number of them have associated and organized themselves as robbers, to plunder and enslave all others, … who had either accumulated any property that could be seized, or had shown, by their labor, that they could be made to contribute to the support or pleasure of those who should enslave them.
Lysander Spooner

( had lots of such Spooner quotes.)

Notice: In the United States for example (a society routinely dropping bombs on people while making speeches about freedom, self-determination, law, rights, order …), those who opposed slavery prior to the Civil War had their morality judged by the slavers. (You didn’t have own or trade in slaves to be a slaver: just author or support laws that said it was OK: right, Godly, Christian, biblical …)
Kleptocratic society is set up so that those who commit the greatest crimes sit in judgment on those who didn’t.

In recent decades, those who exercised their theoretical “right” to free speech and conscience in opposing US support of a Vietnamese government that locked its own citizens in concentration camps, were terrorized by hard hats (New York’s mayor proudly sporting a hard hat himself in the next parade), had to flee the country, were fired from their teaching posts. Now we know what “free speech” means. Their morality was judged by the bomb droppers.
Kleptocracies are full of “experts.” Experts are the intellectuals who didn’t get relativity, still don’t get evolution … but teach it, decide what may be published, what should be read … Don’t forget: Einstein’s own physics teacher did everything in his power to prevent the publication of Relativity. Don’t forget that prior to Einstein’s making a suggestion to Roosevelt that benefited the US war effort (getting Einstein his picture in Life Magazine), Einstein was on international hit lists: a condemned “thought criminal.”
If you think that genocide was wrong when the loser of a war did it but is just dandy having been committed wholesale (previously) by the winners of the war, then you should be well at home in what you have: kleptocracy.

Wake up, Wake up Darlin’ Corey
What makes you sleep so sound?
Those highway robbers are comin’:
Go’n tear your still house down.
folk song

1999 12 03 All governments are kleptocracies. Thus, all government officials, yes, even the bureaucrats, are kleptocrats. We may vilify Stalin and deify Lincoln, but they’re both kleptocrats. The Caesars stole from some senators, but even if they hadn’t, they still stole nature. And they can’t give it back.
(I’ll be illustrating other types of kleptocratic theft soon.)
(2015 10 04 Just rereading Albert Jay Nock’s Our Enemy the State: Nock mentions an Indian tribe or two that were not kleptocracies but that had an institution or two that could have been called “government”.)

Well, the last time I saw Darlin’ Corey,
She was sitting on the banks of the sea
With a .45 strapped around her bosom
And a banjo on her knee.

About here the original module began singing the praises of Jared Diamond. I move that material to a file in his honor.


Darlin’ Corey:
A day or two after reading some Rothbard passages on the subject of government as money pirates, in a games trance, a Pete Seeger version of the old Appalachian folk song kept cycling through my head: decades since I last listened to it. A word or two may be different from versions you’ve heard but I bet if I did refit the studio to play an old 10″ LP, I’d be dead on accurate. But it’s folk music. I’ve heard Seeger alone sing it a half dozen different ways: her gun is bound around her waist, her gun is strapped on her bosom …

Researchers have gone into oral cultures with epic as a living art and recorded recitations of the culture’s epics: then asked for a repeat. The epic was different each time: to a digital society! the same each time — “exactly” — to the oral listeners. Remember the variants in Shakespeare’s quarto editions. Some may be mistakes of memory, others may be variants penned by Shakespeare himself. I doubt that he worried overly about them during a performance of “his” work.


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Invictus Mandela

/ Movies /

How wonderful to see a string of good movies about Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s all-too-recent history: Winnie, Invictus

draft, gotta edit

2015 09 26 Invictus is a movie directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Morgan Freeman. There are layers of stacks of things to say about that, dramatic quality, casting excellence, story values … And I’ll get to as much of that as I can: but, before “Invictus” was an impressive movie, it was a famous poem, from long ago, the Victorian age: a poem by William Ernest Henley, written after he’d had one leg amputated and was in danger of losing the other.

I must start with the poem.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit From pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul

In one word, I hate it. I have long hated it.
My first year teaching college, back in 1967, my first assignment in English composition class was for the students to prove they were familiar with the business letter form by writing me a personal letter introducing themselves but using the business form. One gal quoted Invictus and declared it her favorite poem! Poor girl, she probably assumed she’d be blowing my socks off. It wasn’t all her fault that I seethed.

The poem was published in 1888, had been written in 1875. The title was added by a later publisher, for an anthology. I’ve known the poem since high school, hated it by college. Well before high school I committed myself to a seeming acceptance of the tenets of Christianity. I was an adult, thirty-something before I realized that the position was not just fraught with difficulties but was in whole and in part impossible.

Whatever gods may be, indeed.
a second draft will help

Moses told the Jews that God had Ten Commandments for them. The Jews were told that their fate was not up to them but up to God. God wanted the Jews to take the Canaanites land, God wanted the Jews to do the heavy lifting, the killing, but it was up to God, not the Jews, what the Jews got. In fact wit was up to God what the Jews wanted. Free will became in issue under the Christians.

It’s a different world that Henley was dreaming in, in 1875. But I’m writing about the Eastwood movie. For now just note that Victorian faith (in naval power, the a mercantile state) is strict blasphemy in every detail compared to any of the major Christian dogmas: if you believe you have a “soul”, and your soul has a “captain”, then that captain is not you, it’s God!

Should Hollywood care what’s blasphemy and what isn’t? No, no, I certainly don’t think so: though Hollywood should know before it fictionalizes, before it dramatizes, what will get planes flown into the WTC: what will get Jesus crucified, what will get Hypatia stoned and flayed.

Now: as movie:
Who could have guessed that Clint, Clint of Dirty Harry, Clint of spaghetti westers, the Clint of trigger-happt maleness would make great profound morally challenging films, ever? He even wound up making great stone-killer films: Unforgiven!

But never mind that: focus just on Morgan Freeman. Morgan Freeman has always been good, sometimes very good: certainly from Driving Miss Daisy and on, the more so as he and Clint learned that the two actors go together like ham and eggs. But even when we’re singling Freeman out, celebrating him, he’s still flying under the normal radar of ordinary greatness.
Here he reflects Mandela’s qualities, a double whammy. Jesus, what a job. And he’s simply gorgeous. Morgan Freeman is even more gorgeous as Nelson Mandela than he ever was in a wide world of roles, partly because Nelson Mandela was so gorgeous.

Mandela was a Xhosa. He was under no cultural obligation to be a Christian. “Whatever gods may be” may not offend him. What’s crazy is that in his behavior Mandela was a Christian, the only one in South Africa, nearly the only one in the world! He was forgiving, compassionate, yielding: loving. He turned the other cheek. He got his people to turn the other cheek. They wanted revenge, they wanted the shoe on the other foot, they wanted to jail the jailers, and who can blame them? But he talked his people into coexisting with the racists, many of whom thereafter ceased to be quite such racists.

Speaking of casting, Mat Damon provides some marvelous beefcake, and an amazing Afrikans accent!

more comin
But: what’s wrong here, isn’t that we’re sons of bitches, we all know that; it’s that we still live in nations! South Africa, the United States, England … Germany. Spain, the Netherlands, for God’s sake. I had mixed feelings about cheering along with Mandela for his nation’s redolent of apartheid rugby team.

When my son and a friend and I saw The Killing Fields, back in the 1980s, at the end, I just wanted everybody dead: the Cambodians, the Thais, the Communists, the Vietnamese, the Americans, the French … Everybody!

Movies Menu A — L Movies Menu M — Z
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Terminal Promise

/ Stories / Non-Conviviality / Neighbors /

I’ve lived in a trailer park on Brunns Road in Sebring for two and a half decades now. Brunns Road as I’ve said elsewhere looks rural, trees, cows, woods, farmed land, but is actually more crowded than some areas of the Bronx: there’s no telling from a speeding car, doing 55 to 85 where 25 is posted, how many trailer residents are in the trailer parks. I don’t believe that the misrepresentation is an accident: the locals like to jam the land with Yankees so they the locals don’t have to pay their own taxes.

Anyway since 1989 I ride my mountain bike around the neighborhoods cruising the parks. I’ve chatted with a passerby or two, actually made an acquaintance or two. The other week I paused to say Hi to a woman I recognized from way back, walking her schnauzers: Mary. Not long thereafter I saw another woman, a stranger to me, walking her dachshund / mut, Becky. She reminded me of my late beloved Catherine: she didn’t look like Catherine, wasn’t within forty years of Catherine’s age, but she reminded me of her: emaciated, handicapped, unsteady of foot. (Catherine had been crippled since age two, polio, and blind since age seventy-something: handicapped and a half, and utterly sweet, helpful, loving. So I talk with Becky, tell her about Catherine, have an urge to pat her on the rump. (I’d learned to be completely loving of Catherine despite our thirty-year age difference.

Cut to the chase, or at least toward it:

Becky and I became friendly. I was taken aback when I saw her trailer: a pig stye, a hoarder. All the furniture was filled with plastic bags from the supermarket, no place to sit down. She told me she was terminal with lime disease, contracted once upon a time in New Jersey. The bandages all over her shoulder seeped pain killers into her body. She had no car, no money. I offered to take her to the store when I went: she asked if I could also take her to the WalkIn Clinic to see her doctor. I do so: it turns out she has to carry oxygen, wear a germ mask …

Now if my girl weren’t up in Nova Scotia from July to October I wouldn’t have time to meet any Becky. Jan phones a few times a week, sometimes more often. I tell her everything, or almost everything. I tell Jan what “we” have met a new friend, a woman with problems and then some. Jan smells a rat, hits the roof, forbids me to have any contact with Becky. Oh, but, I explain, I’ve already promised to do this, and that.

OK. One more word of background and I can tell the story: I report in detail to Jan on the condition of her property here in Sebring: and this entire September her lawn has not been cut. She’s left message after message with the neighbor’s son, Please cut the grass, she’s afraid burglars will see the place as abandoned. Oh, and finally: as readers here would know, if I had any regular readers:

Friday, Jan asks me on the phone to check her property again, see if the grass has been cut. I tell her I just checked. Without a drivers license I minimize the frequency with which I defy the law. (The law defies me, I defy the law. I have yet to correspond with a bureaucrat who understands my point: no, they pretend to understand till it’s their turn again to ignore what you said, and demand again that you pay the fine. I don’t owe a fine, I can’t pay, I won’t pay: so: I risk imprisonment, again, again not guilty of anything but intelligence and virtue, fully believing that they’ll imprison me for life rather than hear the first word I’ve said or check its veracity. So I beg Jan not to push me to drive to her house too much. But then I said I had to drive Becky to her doctor.

Jan really hit the roof. But I promised, I protest. Well, break that poromise, she insists.

Now: I don’t believe Jan is behaving properly. But, I’m dependent on Jan, not on Becky. I have to listen to Jan whether I mistake her Republicanism for Christianity or not. (I beg her to tell me no more about Donald Trump (or the Pope) but she just keeps filling me in on both!)

Well, by golly. Yesterday I do go to Jan’s house, my neighbor Manny driving, Manny armed to cut the grass. Lo and behold, Brian had finhally done his job, the grass was cut. But I’d told Manny that if that proved the case, there was still plenty to be done, and that he could charge Jan for his estimate. Manny and I did loads of work there, place looks great: Brian had cut but Manny and I trimmed and weeded: weeds in the drive, on the walks, clearing the entrance court yard …
Jan calls last night. I fill her in on everything: Brian cut, I consulted with Mary to ask her husband’s lawn service for an emergency cut, I’d also consulted with Manny. Everything was done, Manny even fixed Jan’s mower in the shed: wouldn’t start, now it does, and Manny had trimmed all the azaleas …
I beg Jan to let me drive Becky to her doctor, she’s adamant. No, break the promise.

So Saturday I was too upset to phone Becky to apologize, to explain, to beg her to let me off the hook. Today I do call her. No. Becky doesn’t care about me or Jan, she wants her new dose of painkillers.

And I reflect: I take her shopping, she comes home with gallons of canned cocktails by Bud Light. I realize: Becky is a junkie, Becky is a drunk. Becky hasn’t understood a word I’ve said: she just want her donkey to bring her to her drugs.

Mary warned me about Becky, after I’d already made “friends” with her. So I phone Mary, tell her what I’d learned, what I thought.
Turns out Mary and her lawn care husband had driven to Jan’s checked the place out, found it to be an enormous undertaking, didn’t want to contract for all that work. I told Mary about Manny, she knew Manny, Oh, good, it’s taken care of then. And I tell Mary about subsequent experience with Becky the spaced out hoarder addict.

Watch out, Mary had warned me: Becky attacks people who’ve helped her. Mary also told me that Becky has been telling people that she’s terminal “for a very long time”. Mary further told me that Becky’s neighbors have been trying to help her all along but find that they get bitten. “Don’t trust her stories about her neighbors.”

You know, I promised. I let Jan twist my arm into breaking the promise. I see Becky’s reaction. Boy, am I glad I’m breaking that promise. Promises to junkies who’ve disconnected themselves from sentience shouldn’t be kept.

PS Becky says she had been a nurse. It wouldn’t surprises me if she’d become addicted to pain medication working in that evil industry. Anyway, if the medical industry addicted her to pain meds, the medical industry should take care of her transportation, and related problems. But of course that would be like expecting the Nazis to make good to the Jews. No, no: destroy, don’t make good, don’t even try.

leftovers to be merged:
Becky needed to go to WalMart. I’d just been, for myself, but I took her, for her. I do have one thing to do there: I visit Customer Service while Becky shops. I say, I’ll meet you by the north exit. No, wait: I’ll be in the center of the front of the store, at Books. Sure enough, I browse the sports mags, the Sudoku puzzles. Time passes, more time. I search the store. I search her pet treats section, I search the food section. Oh, there she is: by the north exit, not anywhere near Books: she did’t listen! I bet she never listens: totally selfish. No, I shouldn’t risk driving her no matter what I promised: in my former ignorance.

Hierarchy vs. Conviviality Stories

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Pip, Pip, Hurrah

/ Movies /
extracted from my Movie Scrapbook, will edit

2015 09 21 I scribble movie stuff here in a long string, Karouac-like (you know he typed not on pages but on a continuous roll). Sections of the string may graduate to their own post, other string gets moved to a couple of archive files: I haven’t yet learned how long the string can be before everything crashes, but long strings, too many pix, slow everything down: I try to avoid them.
I’m now emptying the archive files but don’t delete the reduced files: they’re linked in the many menus.

2015 09 21 Once upon a time if I started watching a movie, I finished watching that movie: I’d paid 75¢, I’d bought a ticket, of course I was going to watch all of it. I didn’t like it? So what? I was still going to watch all of it. And then 75¢ became $2, $2 became $5 …
Oh, it’s so different now: I can stream 30 seconds of of something and quick, bail out.
Still a glimpse isn’t necessarily wasted. Looking at Marilyn Monroe for ten seconds may or may not be better than dating her once, being married to her for three years, or for twenty years … (I don’t know: did she live long enough for that?)

Yesterday I watched ten minutes of Cowspiracy. A subject I already know a lot about, have strong feelings about, have sacrificed my life to first- and second-cousins of, been a martyr to … In fact it was so relevant I couldn’t stand it! had to bail. (But I’ll sneak back and lick more such vomit anytime, if civilization lasts that long.)

Just now I watched 60 or 90 seconds of Mr. Pip. More than enough to know that I was head over heels in love: with the movie, with the idea, with the little island girl holding her Dickens in the Dickens museum.
I was recently reminded of the W. Somerset Maugham novel about reading and rereading A Tale of Two Cities, one of the most successful novels since Dickens! And I know instantly that Mr. Pip is a zillion times greater, more serious: more loveable.

Mr. Pip
thanx IMdb

I’m just beginning but have already paused several times, not to get away, but to insert things, to focus on some things, fix them in longer-term memory …
I paused to look up the writer, the director (same guy), to research him, what else he’s done, see what if any I’ve seen … And I visit Rotten Tomatoes: maybe not such a good idea as it proves, but it’s done now:
The critics were lukewarm to it. Uh uh: will this movie turn on me? Or are the critics morons? Yes, of course, but the movie could still turn on me. One is at risk of one declares love at first meeting: will this even be a good one night stand? Does the pretty girl have the clap?
I’ll venture now: subject to confirmation: they’re morons, they don’t know, don’t understand, what they’ve seen.
It’s work, hard work, one critic complained.

I’ll concede them one thing: this movie is taylor fit for me. To see it I recommend that you have know, known intimately, the David Lean version of Great Expectations since your childhood, mid-1940s. I recommend that you’ve seen that classic a half dozen times since, at least once a decade. I recommend that you’re read the novel in youth, at least by high school, certainly by college, again by graduate school: at the same time I recommend that you have your own literary genius: that you relate to Shakespeare, to Chaucer, to Dickens at least partly as a peer, someone whose work overlaps your own …
And ferinstance I want you to understand that the movie inserts imagined scenes: we see Dickens story through the personalizing imaginations of PopEye the teacher’s immature students: twelve year olds reading about a twelve year old. Of course they experience that narrative as though it were them: Papua New Guinea tribe-children. Yes, and why shouldn’t a little tribe girl be hidden behind the tomb stone when Pip, here a black native boy, is grabbed by the starving Magwich?

Best of all, instantly, from the early film feet, I love the movie’s quoting the Dickens’ sentiment that

It is a most miserable thing to be ashamed of home.

By golly, that’s the tone, the tonal context, in which I read the novel, certainly in college if not in high school. Dickens is a marvel how he makes the readers drool after what Pip idiotically, wrongly, destructively, wastefully drools for: mis-valuing Joe, and Miss Havesham, and Estella. Pip trades a great healthy life with Joe for a cankered dream of great expectations as a Victorian goddam gentleman.
The great movie shoves our noses in how much of this Dickens masterpiece we didn’t get: not in 1860-61, not in 2012, not in 2015 …

One thing I adore: Pip meets Magwich as a prison ship is anchored off the coast. Matilda hears the story as the copper-devouring war nations sabotage each other, sitting on the face of the natives. Yes, they’re surrounded by real rifles, always have been.

Keep your eye on Xzannjah Matsi: most impressive, but we need a body of work, more than one title.
I’ll come back and express disappointment at how the movie mucked with the concent “gentleman”: the film was on the verge of profundity but oozed onto the wishy washy path.

Next day, seen it, slept on it. Here’s what I just wrote to my son and family:
I urge theMarcus to become acquainted with the movie Mr. Pip ASAP if not already so acquainted: and, if you are, why didn’t you tell me?!

English weirdo starts teaching the school in a tribal village in Papua New Guinea, he starts reading them Great Expectations, a chapter a day.
They All respond to it (as who doesn’t?). Soon the school is bursting at the seams, parents are coming.
It reminds me of the immortal week in NYC when WBAI was reading War & Peace aloud over the air for one 24 hours every day week. Glorious.

Well, we see the people seeing themselves as Pip, Joe, Miss Havisham, Estella …

Meantime the society is skewed, no adult males except thugs assisting the kleptocracy, raping murdering at will, protecting civilization: in the form of a copper mine.

Like Christians seeing Jesus etc as “white” they see Pip etc as black.

I loved loved loved it until it destroyed it’s own experience by admiring Pip’s diseased concept of “gentleman”. It’s that disease that causes Pip to become ashamed of his home, that makes him no longer belong there, that makes him want to belong in the hell hole Satis House, that makes him desire the toxic Estella.

This movie maker flew entirely under my radar by making Shrek and Narnia movies.

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Brave New 1984

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2013 04 04 I’m paused in Divergent: a preposterous distopia. As in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World the population is stratified into specialties. Instead of Greek letters in a Greek order, it’s English names specifying social roles: Either you’re intelligent and know everything; Or you can husband things, grow food; Or … you’re Dauntless: soldiers, cops: you fight each other: for peace. But: like in George Orwell’s 1984 there’s good reason not to believe a single thing the authorities say. We’re told that the population is “lucky” to live in the city; in the great war everything else was destroyed …

Do we falsify this? Do we inspect the whole world? see that all is rubble? How would we know we had seen everything? Wouldn’t we be using maps from the authorities? They all look like a bunch of sadistic Nazis to me, but we’re supposed to suppose that these Nazis “serve” … We’re told that this system keeps the peace, or is supposed to: is there any reason for us to swallow such a claim? Societies don’t keep peace; they swallow permanent war-time economies, just like in Orwell, just like in the US.

I noted this title when it was released. I actively disliked Shailene Woodley in The Descendants (2011); but, there’s something there that’s attractive. The poster for Divergent

thanx hbowatch

centers on her hips. Her bottom looks like a black lantern, her ass shines darkly. Some stud is perched nearby, his face practically nosing her bum. We all have bottom-feeding potential, it’s no accident that we can’t take our eyes off that poster; but the movie is repellant, stupid. Enough of her already.
I’m ready to get off on Huxley, out of Orwell; but this movie doesn’t get off, or get on.

Oh, another thing about this fantasy, this social fiction: two other things:
When my son went to college he hadn’t been a freshman for more than a week or so before he and some others trucked into Philly. The kids in the movie get tattoos: gang behavior. My son got one ear pierced. Wore a single earring thereafter.

When I was teaching college the institution was already unrecognizable to me: it didn’t relate to the society my sister and I had been raised in. Our society agitated to protect girls’ virginity at almost any cost: females to be preserved as property, property to be used by a single ruling male. Virginity is for God to pop, not you nigger slaves. That was the 1950s. In the 1960s girls and boys were in the same dorms, pooped on adjoining toilets. How’d that happen?

Regardless, a big part of Divergent is like going off to college, getting humiliated, getting fucked, get gang-tattood.

When I was at Columbia there was a thing in the school paper fantasizing a vengeful girl sneaking into her friend’s dorm room, screaming rape, getting him expelled. One of my best friends was expelled from Notre Dame for sticking his head out of the air-conditioning vent in the girls’ dorm in nearby St. Mary’s. When I was teaching the students were reading The Harrad Experiment. What happened?

Now kids go to the movies. What do they get? The Harrad Experiment. In 1984.

Teen Dialogue

Sampling further: The writing is real shit-for-brains:
Tris says: “If you ever come near me again I will kill you.”
Then she adds: “Please stay away from me.”
Reminds me of the student protesters in 1969: “We demand” blah, blah … “Please, give us” blah blah. Not a clue how pathetic they look, and sound.

I’m within minutes of the end. Actually, however dumb, I like it. We can add Woodley to those actresses who are good to look at, no matter the plot, the character, the requisite “acting”.

Trouble with watching, pausing, writing, watching some more, pausing and writing some more, everything can turn into a mess, real fast. Now I’ve watched all of it, now I’m a Shailene Woodley fan, now I think she can well justify the camera on her for two hours. But I have something to add:

Unemployed Cast

This is a chick fantasy. We’ve filled theaters with male fantasies, and kleptocracy fantasies, and fantasies of the self-elected Saved since cinema was born, well now the teeny chix are getting a turn. Fine. Trouble is this movie Divergent casts established alpha-male-sacrifice-themselves-for-society types like Ray Stevenson. At the climax chickflick etiquette requires them to just stand there, wait for the females in the script to do the heavy lifting for everybody. Here Kate Winslet, the marvel, is the frozen-blond alpha-male: Shailene Woodley is the soft-tressed alpha-male-in-waiting. All that manifest testosterone: unemployable.

Meantime, throughout, the poster guy who plays Four plays male-on-hand very damn well.

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