Showing posts from September, 2013

You're Doing It Wrong in the Mirror

via Wikimedia Commons We can argue about whether Hamlet is right or not when he claims that art holds a mirror up to nature. But let’s just say he is. Here’s what Hamlet doesn’t say: that art is a mirror you choose to pick up to see yourself. Art shows you a mirror. That thing you see in there isn’t supposed to be your pre-conceived self-image. It’s something strange, and alien, and scary, or ridiculous, or dull. But it’s something that demands engagement. And sometimes, it becomes something that you realize is in fact you — but that’s not meant to be a happy realization. If the thing you see when you look into a book looks exactly like what you think you look like, you’re doing it wrong. —Holger Syme, "The Loneliness of the Old White Male"

Gun Culture, USA

Another mass shooting. And what comes then comes from my friends who love their guns? This, now making the rounds of the gun nut Facebook page nearest you: Welcome to the world the NRA has created. Sure, some people demand that we do something! , but it's theatre. Nothing gets done.  True, most of the proposals for what to do are hasty and only vaguely more informed than the above graphic. (I've long been skeptical that we can do much of anything about gun violence in the US, given the realities. Still, practical, reasonable measures could help — treat guns like cars, for instance. But such ideas are politically impossible.) The general lack of quality to our national conversation on guns is not some fluke. It was created and is sustained by wealthy interests. The NRA fundraises and fundraises, lobbies and lobbies. Their leaders will do their best to look sad and concerned and serious, but don't miss the dollar signs in their eyes. They've spent decades training

For a Trans-Inclusive Feminism & Womanism

We are committed to recognizing and respecting the complex construction of sexual/gender identity; to recognizing trans* women as women and including them in all women’s spaces; to recognizing trans* men as men and rejecting accounts of manhood that exclude them; to recognizing the existence of genderqueer, non-binary identifying people and accepting their humanity; to rigorous, thoughtful, nuanced research and analysis of gender, sex, and sexuality that accept trans* people as authorities on their own experiences and understands that the legitimacy of their lives is not up for debate; and to fighting the twin ideologies of transphobia and patriarchy in all their guises.  [read more] I agree with everything in the new "Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism" , and so just sent my name in to be added to the list of signers. The statement is well-written and thoughtful, a nice counter to the reckless, hateful statements and actions of certain people who have taken

"Everything is contingent, of course, on what you take yourself to be."

From "James Baldwin, The Art of Fiction No. 78" at The Paris Review: INTERVIEWER You read contemporary novels out of a sense of responsibility? BALDWIN In a way. At any rate, few novelists interest me—which has nothing to do with their values. I find most of them too remote for me. The world of John Updike, for instance, does not impinge on my world. On the other hand, the world of John Cheever  did  engage me. Obviously, I’m not making a very significant judgment about Updike. It’s entirely subjective, what I’m saying. In the main, the concerns of most white Americans (to use  that  phrase) are boring, and terribly, terribly self-centered. In the worst sense. Everything is contingent, of course, on what you take yourself to be. INTERVIEWER Are you suggesting they are less concerned, somehow, with social injustice? BALDWIN No, no, you see, I don’t want to make that kind of dichotomy. I’m not asking that anybody get on picket lines or take positions.

The Popular and the Good and the Doomed

As I was writing a comment over at Adam Roberts's blog (about which more in a moment), I realized I had various items of the last few days swirling through my head, and it all needed a bit of an outlet that wasn't a muddled comment on Adam's blog, but rather a potentially-even-more-muddled post here. I don't have a whole lot to say about these things, and I certainly have no coherent argument to make, but they've congealed together in my mind, so here they are, with a few lines of annotation from me. Most of these things have gotten a lot of notice, but they haven't gotten a lot of notice together .

Jerry Garcia Reads...

A friend sent me the above photo this morning. "You probably know more about Sci Fi and Fantasy publications than anyone I know," he wrote, "so can you possibly identify the book that Jerry Garcia is reading in the attached photo. It would mean a lot to thousands of Deadheads." I like a challenge. The picture is of such low resolution I almost couldn't make out anything helpful about the book, but I was determined. The title seemed long and the more I stared at it, the more it looked like some sort of anthology title ... The Best something? ... maybe a best of the year collection? ... no, best of fantasy and science -- The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction , I bet. I've got a few copies of that longrunning series of stories from the venerable magazine , but all mine are old hardcovers picked up at library sales. I'm not sure I've ever even seen one of the paperbacks, or knew that there were  paperbacks of the series. But God invented ISFDB

First Fassbinder

First Fassbinder from Matthew Cheney on Vimeo Over at Press Play, I have a video essay and accompanying text essay on the first films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder [dead link: see video above, text below], the best of which were recently released in the US by Criterion as part of the Eclipse series . EARLY FASSBINDER: A ROMANTIC ANARCHIST FROM THE FIRST by Matthew Cheney The German actor and filmmaker Frank Ripploh interviewed Rainer Werner Fassbinder in March 1982, only a few months before Fassbinder's death at age 37. Ripploh's last question was: "How do you describe yourself?" "I'm a romantic anarchist," Fassbinder said. And so he had been from the beginning. It can be difficult to know what to make of Fassbinder, how to enter his extraordinary body of work, how to assess and appreciate his achievement. Romantic anarchists don't sum up well. First, there is the simple problem of scale. Though his career was relatively short,

The Potential Doctor Is In

Posting has been nonexistent here for a bit because not only is it the start of a new school year (a time when posting is always light here), but, as I've mentioned before, I'm also now beginning the PhD in Literature program at the University of New Hampshire . This not only involves lots of time in classes, time teaching First-Year Writing , and time doing homework and class prep, but I'm also driving over 300 miles a week commuting to and from campus. And of course there are also the inevitable writing projects — currently, I'm writing an introduction for a new translation from the Japanese of a very interesting novel (more on that later, I'm sure), a couple of book reviews and review-essays and essay-essays, a couple of short stories, and the always very slowly progressing book manuscript on 1980s action movies. And I've got a couple video essays I want to make in the next month or so. And I'm editing a short film I shot this summer. And, well, natura

New Design

In honor of the blog's 10th anniversary , I thought it might be nice to spruce things up around here a bit. Thus, a new design. Some of the design details will be in flux for a bit while I try it all out in different browsers and on different computers. Please pardon any mess!