Tuesday, March 30, 2010

So Bad You Can't Stop Watching (or Reading)

My latest favorite bad movie: Obsessed. I will keep my favorite bad novels secret (at least for now). I wrote about my favorite bad books a few posts ago: I can read Chmielewska at her worst, unfortunately, even when she stoops so low she has her protagonists praise "human nature" that makes men cheat and women do all the housework, while said protagonists lose money in a casino, inebriated, and lovelorn. It's camp without knowing it's camp (well, the kind of camp that hasn't read Susan Sontag's definition of itself).

Now, I've never read or been tempted to read Nicholas Sparks. I also don't know if I could watch any of the movies without feeling weak from all the sugary sweetness of romanticized cancer. This thread captures the potential and expressive force of the melodrama that Sparks resists (contrary to what he believes, he resists it solely in his defense of his books). And this interview shows just how melodramatic Sparks is in his self-presentation:

"I write in a genre that was not defined by me. The examples were not set out by me. They were set out 2,000 years ago by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. They were called the Greek tragedies. A thriller is supposed to thrill. A horror novel is supposed to scare you. A mystery is supposed to keep you turning the pages, guessing 'whodunit?'

"A romance novel is supposed to make you escape into a fantasy of romance. What is the purpose of what I do? These are love stories. They went from (Greek tragedies), to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, then Jane Austen did it, put a new human twist on it. Hemingway did it with A Farewell to Arms."

That's one of his favorites, and he points it out as he walks the aisles of the bookstore.

"Hemingway. See, they're recommending The Garden of Eden, and I read that. It was published after he was dead. It's a weird story about this honeymoon couple, and a third woman gets involved. Uh, it's not my cup of tea." Sparks pulls the one beside it off the shelf. "A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway. Good stuff. That's what I write," he says, putting it back. "That's what I write."

I could see myself surreptitiously reshelving Hemingway's novels as "high-brow" romance (whatever that would mean), so Sparks does not convince me. Hemingway's stories, that's a different cup of tea. But self-aggrandizing comparisons aside, Sparks writes romance.

PS: What are your favorite bad books and/or movies?

Two Thoughts Together

Is it possible to feel passionate about something that you find slightly boring?

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Classics

Why didn't I find this earlier?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Almanac of the Dead

The people had been free to go traveling north and south for a thousand years, traveling as they pleased, then suddenly white priests had announced smuggling as a mortal sin because smuggling was stealing from the government.
Zeta wondered if the priests who told the people smuggling was stealing had also told them how they were to feed themselves now that all the fertile land along the rivers had been stolen by white men. Where were the priest and his Catholic Church when the federal soldiers used Yaqui babies for target practice? Stealing from the "government"? What "government" was that? Mexico City? Zeta laughed out loud. Washington, D.C.? How could one steal if the government itself was the worst thief?
There was not, and never had been, a legal government by Europeans anywhere in the Americas. Not by any definition, not even by the Europeans' own definitions and laws. Because no legal government could be established on stolen land. (133)

* * * * *

Guzman's people had always hated her anyway. Because she was an Indian. "We know," Lecha said. "We know that. But what about the trees?"
Oh, yes, those trees! How terrible what they did with the trees. Because the cottonwood suckles like a baby. Suckles on the mother water running under the ground. A cottonwood will talk to the mother water and tell her what human beings are doing. But then these white men came and and they began digging up the cottonwoods and moving them here and there for a terrible purpose.

* * * * *

He thought about what the ancestors had called Europeans: their God had created them but soon was furious with them, throwing them out of their birthplace, driving them away. The ancestors had called Europeans "the orphan people" and had noted that as with orphans taken in by selfish or coldhearted clanspeople, few Europeans had remained whole. They failed to recognize the earth was their mother. Europeans were like their first parents, Adam and Eve, wandering aimlessly because the insane God who had sired them had abandoned them. (258)

Congo and Conflict Minerals

Let me clarify that I have been aware of the wars in the Congo for a long time. But I think that if my ability to feel shocked and want to tear the hair from my skull were exhausted, it would mean that I'm either dead or cynical to the bone.

I'm neither of the above yet I am one of the millions of people who reap benefits of these wars: I do have appliances that contain minerals stolen from the Congo. And I do feel stupid, wrong, and at the same time cheated because of that.

And so what?

I think we're in a situation where none of this can carry any weight. It's hard to even make it sound genuine, since my outrage is only a drop in a sea of outrage and mere outrage can't do anything. And where does the exploitation stop if we're increasingly oblivious of the way our pretty toys are produced? It's "invisible hands" and "fairy material" and only if you really bother to ask yourself about the path each part of your laptop or cell phone has traveled will you--perhaps--realize that the trip began in one of those areas of the world that have rare natural resources: stuff necessary for your laptop to work, stuff necessary for your stupid cell phone to vibrate...

I hope some day (soon!) this will stop happening.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I Adore Kate Beaton

Kind of like Verne adored Poe (probably my favorite strip, this one). More balloons for everybody!

This one, which I found today, is very close to my current research.

Very true: Kościuszko's Insurrection was "crazy shit"--lots of upturned scythes (unfortunately, Wikipedia won't tell you about that in English).

Jan Matejko, Bitwa pod Racławicami [The Battle of Racławice], 1888 - image from Wikipedia