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ARCHIVED ENTRIES FOR APRIL 2013

April  30,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

In my experience there really is only one thing worse than falling out of love, and that is being fallen out of love with - being fallen out of love with fills you with all the horrors of abandonment, you are contemptible to yourself and therefore, you assume, contemptible to others and consequently even more contemptible to yourself, and really you have no choice but to go away and commit some form of temporary suicide.  Well, falling out of love is an altogether grubbier affair, there are no blinding rages or weeping breakdowns to obliterate what is really one long act of procrastination - you look at the only recently adored face, so sweet, so trusting, so vulnerable, and you think to yourself, how could I bring pain to that?  And what you also think is, why can't I hurry up and get it over with, get her over with?

--The Last Cigarette by Simon Gray

April  29,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The trouble with the dead is not that they are lost, and therefore might be found, but that they are beyond finding and are not therefore lost, they are absent to this world, in all the places that they were accustomed to be present in, and that you were accustomed to their being present in, the space at your side, the opposite seat at your usual table, the other half of the bed, the neighbouring pillow - nothing can be more finally absent than a dead person, and yet the dead persist in being almost present in traces and glimpses, whisking around the corner of your memory to drive you mad, like the incompletely forgotten name of a film start from many years ago - there was one I was trying to remember the other evening, a man in the restaurant reminded me of him, a slim, middle-aged man eating by himself, not out in the open part of the restaurant but in a cramped bit by the bar - he minds, me I said to Victoria, of that actor, in that film - I could see the actor's face quite clearly, though in the film it was usually half in shadow, a neat little moustache, opaque eyes, and he had a cleft in his chin, more dimple than cleft, shiny black hair pasted back, and there was the voice, drawling but toneless, I knew him so well in my teens, but who was he? 

--The Last Cigarette by Simon Gray

[N.B.:  That's all one sentence, folks.  When you can write like that, consider yourself a writer.  And the forgotten actor?  Well, he can be found here.]

April  28,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

[H]ere is a sentence: 'Once I saw them in a party, when she thought herself unobserved: she looked at him with a glance that was heavy, brooding, possessive, consumed with the need to be sure of him.'  All [C. P. Snow's] adjectives come in threes and fours as if he has to fill a quota, it's like reading P. G. Wodehouse without the jokes.

--The Last Cigarette by Simon Gray

[N.B.:  That's a killer stiletto thrust--simultaneously revealing the craft of a great writer and the crassness of another.  Or, in the immortal words of David St. Hubbins, with an assist from Nigel Tufnel, "It's such a fine line between stupid and, uh . . .  clever."]

April  27,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The Light and the Dark - how can a novel with a title like that conceivably be any good?  It's almost a parody, The Light and the Dark, by C. P. Snow, Charles Percival Snow.  Percival?  You're just guessing, why not Philip?  Or Patrick?  Why not Clive, come to that?  Clive Patrick (or Paddy) Snow's The Light and the Dark, The Wet and the Dry, The Hot and the Cold, The Pie and the Sky - are you sure that retiling the novel and fiddling about with the author's name is more interesting than actually reading?

--The Last Cigarette by Simon Gray

[N.B.:  This was the fourth novel in C. P. Snow's Strangers and Brothers series--soon followed by Dancers and Plumbers, Demons and Snowmen and Puppeteers and Puppets (featuring his masterpiece, The Blind and the Distracted).]

April  26,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Really it doesn't matter whether a state becomes an omelette for reasons that sound virtuous, if imbecilic, or for reasons that sound nasty, the sounds are irrelevant, the intentions are identical - to control all its members through terror.  The state of terror is the state itself.  And the state itself is the man himself.  Hitler, Mao, Stalin were the state and the terror, and in the end you can only decide morally between them in quantitative terms - Which of them killed most?  The one who had most to kill.  And after him, Stalin.  Or the other way around.  And after them, Hitler.  Once the debate takes this form, it isn't worth having, even on a radio phone-in.  They were foul states, created by foul people by foul means for a foul purpose, they spoke different languages, used a different vocabulary, but the experience of living in them would have been pretty well identical--unless, as I said, you were an Aryan in Hitler's Germany, but that's scarcely a moral distinction.

--The Last Cigarette by Simon Gray

April  25,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

So what was Osip Mandelstam thinking when he recited the famous but unpublished, indeed vanished, poem that evening in Moscow?  Supposing you were there, pleased to be numbered among his friends and colleagues, your excitement as he takes the paper out of his pocket, unfolds it, begins to declaim it - you relish his mischievous smile, the sparkle of his eye, the familiar, expressive voice, old Osip with a new poem!  And then you hear the words 'Stalin', 'murderer' - but for a second or two you don't grasp their meaning, and you hope that you're not going to, but when you look away from Osip's face in all its merriness and mischief you see in the other faces what they're probably now seeing in yours, and you know that you all know what you've just heard - a suicide note, a collective suicide note because all your names are on it, you signed it with your ears - so if you value your life, and the lives of your loved ones, you'd better hurry to the authorities, describe the poem, provide a list of everybody in the room, and hope that you are the first to inform, because is you aren't it will seem that you've only informed because you're afraid that you've already been informed on.  But whether you're first or last it is unlikely that you will survive, in fact not even the officials to whom you've informed will survive, the time will come when they will be swept away with all the muck and eggshells from 'those days', that's how the historical process works, after all, these days become 'those days', the subjective becomes the objective, the executors the executed, more and more and more eggs get broken, the omelette gets bigger and bigger and bigger, it has a face with a moustache and a pipe, and Joe's your uncle!  Yes, dear old Uncle Joe, the human omelette. 

--The Last Cigarette by Simon Gray

[N.B.:  One can get a small taste of what this vanished poem must have been like.]

April  24,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

There is a rumoured to be a law pending, or perhaps it is already secretly passed, that will make it a criminal offence - treason, I suppose - to slander or to libel the European Union.  I suppose that by making it into a potential victim of a crime - the victim of a crime of utterance; the next step the victim of a crime of thought - they hope to convince us that it actually and specifically exists, as a person exists, and that we can feel its pain when unkind and disbelieving things are said and thought about it.

When I ponder such matters, I consider it astonishing that I have decided to attempt to give up smoking.

--The Last Cigarette by Simon Gray

April  23,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

The generally accepted idea is that if it's rough, it must be more real, more authentic.  Yet the poor outsiders, whose marks are very often every bit as unpolished, can't help how they draw--they couldn't make a clean line if they had to.  So they are left out of the art "club."  They are doing the very best they can but because their lack of exhibited drafting skill is, we believe, not their choice, they are often viewed as lesser artists.

--Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

[N.B.:  We live in an age of conceptual art so what matters is not the "rough" but the concept behind the "rough."  Frank Stella once made the remark that he (or anyone else) could spend 20 years learning to draw but why bother.  There are plenty of well-respected artists such as Stella "who couldn't make a clean line if they had to" but are still in the art "club" because of the concepts behind their work.  Now you might object and say that art concerns aesthetics not rhetoric but that's an argument for another day.]

April  22,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

If you obsessively scribble on bits of paper, as hugely successful artist Louise Bourgeois does some of the time (to pick an obvious example), is your work better than some very similar work by one of the folks at Creative Growth because you have more objectivity about your own work?  Is scribbling better art when it has a conscious intention?  Is it better work when you're aware that you're scribbling and could do other kinds of drawing if you really wanted to?  I don't think there is any way one could objectively say that of the two works one is better or worse than the other.

--Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

[N.B.:  Objectively, one is signed "Louise Bourgeois" and the other is not--that's how you determine which is better.  A doodled napkin signed "Pablo Picasso" is worth infinitely more than one signed by you or I.  In art, the signature is a kind of sympathetic magic that transforms dross into gold.]

April  21,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

I sense the world might be more dreamlike, metaphorical, and poetic than we currently believe--but just as irrational as sympathetic magic when looked at in a typically scientific way.  I wouldn't be surprised if poetry--poetry in the broadest sense, in the sense of a world filled with metaphor, rhyme, and recurring patterns, shapes, and designs--is how the world works.  The world isn't logical, it's a song.

--Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

April  20,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Singers (and possibly listeners of music too) when they write or perform a song don't so much bring to the work already formed emotions, ideas, and feelings as much as they use the act of singing as a device that reproduces and dredges them up.  The song remakes the emotion--the emotion doesn't produce the song.  Well, the emotion has to have been there at some time in one's life for there to be something from which to draw.  But it seems to me that a creative device--if a work can be considered a device--evokes that passion, melancholy, loneliness, or euphoria but is not itself an expression, an example, a fruit of that passion.  Creative work is more accurately a machine that digs down and finds stuff, emotional stuff that will someday be raw material that can be used to produce more stuff, stuff like itself--clay to be available for future use.

--Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

April  19,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Filipinos are hopeful that Japan, for example, might employ some of their highly trained medical personnel, but the Japanese are notoriously uncomfortable dealing physically with foreigners, and the idea of being touched by one, God forbid!  The Japanese instead prefer to develop robots to take care of their own mundane housekeeping and medical needs.  Racism as a spur to technical innovation.

--Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

April  18,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Maybe the intent was actually not to hide this surveillance gear too well.  Maybe it was deemed more important to make people aware that they were being looked at and listened to rather than having the public just suspect that the spying was going on.  A camera this blatant would confirm the rumors.  If you're not aware you're being observed, if there isn't occasional proof, then you won't live in fear, so then what's the point?  The best surveillance is when everyone suspects that they're being watched all the time.  The government then doesn't even have to watch the cameras--they need only let people believe someone might be watching.

--Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

April  17,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

In War of the Worlds, for example, Tom Cruise has the only car that works, after he and a friend peer under the hood and say, "It's the solenoid!"  And so it is.  This moment took me back to my youth, when cars could still be repaired without computers.  They just had gas lines and spark plugs and things like that.  I never understood anything about engines, but there were always kids in high school who would look under my hood, and solemnly explain, "It's the solenoid."  The solenoid, always the solenoid.  You could impress girls with a line like that.  "It's the solenoid."  Works every time.

--review of Undead collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  16,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

One element of Sorority Boys is undeniably good, and that is the tile.  Pause by the poster on the way into the theater.  That will be your high point.  It has all you need for a brainless, autopilot, sitcom ripoff: a high concept that is right there in the title, easily grasped at the pitch meeting..  The title suggests the poster art, the poster art gives you the movie, and story details can be sketched in by study of Bosom Buddies, National Lampoon's Animal House, and the shower scenes in any movie involving girls' dorms or sports teams.

--review of Sorority Boys collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  15,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Chevy Chase has been in what can charitably be called more than his share of bad movies, but at least he knows how to deliver a laugh when he's given one.  (When his career-driven wife makes a rare appearance at dinner, he asks his son to "call security.")  After the screening of Snow Day, I overheard another critic saying she couldn't believe she wished there had been more Chevy Chase, and I knew how she felt.

--review of Snow Day collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  14,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Years pass--two or three in the movie, more in the theater.

--review of Serendipity collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  13,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

One rule all comedians should know, and some have to learn the hard way, is that they aren't funny--it's the material that get the laughs.  Another rule is that if you're the top dog on a movie set, everybody is going to pretend to laugh at everything you do, so anyone who tells you it's not that funny is trying to do you a favor.

--review of Rush Hour 2 collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  12,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

You recall the Idiot Plot.  That's the plot that would be solved in an instant if anyone on the screen said what was obvious to the audience.  A movie like this isn't entertainment.  It's more like a party game that you lose if you say the secret word.

--review of Princess Diaries collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  11,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Pearl Harbor is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on December 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle.  Its centerpiece is forty minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality.  The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialogue, it will not be because you admire them.

--review of Pearl Harbor collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  10,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

This titanic closing fight, by the way, may use cutting-edge effects, but has been written with slavish respect for ancient clichés.  It begins with the venerable It's Only a Cat Scene, in which a cat startles a character (but not the audience) by leaping at the lens.  Then the characters retire to a Steam and Flame Factory, one of those Identikit movie sets filled with machines that produce copious quantities of steam, flames, and sparks.  Where do they have their fight?  On a catwalk, of course.  Does anyone end up clinging by his fingertips?  Don't make me laugh.

--review of The One collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  9,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Seagal's great contribution to the movie is to look very serious, even menacing, in close-ups carefully framed to hide his double chin.  I do not object to the fact that he's put on weight.  Look who's talking.  I object to the fact that he thinks he can conceal it from us with knee-length coats and tricky camera angles.  I would rather see a moved about a pudgy karate fighter than a movie about a guy you never get a good look at.

--review of Half Past Dead collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  8,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Various cops and social workers enter the house, some never to emerge, but the news of its malevolence doesn't get around.  You'd think that after a house has been associated with gruesome calamities on a daily basis, the neighbors could at least post an old-timer outside to opine that some mighty strange things have been a-happening in there.

--review of The Grudge collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  5,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel.  This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel.  This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel.  This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.

--review of Freddy Got Fingered collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

[N.B.:  On a whim, I decided a couple of days ago to start quoting some humorous bits from Roger Ebert--and now I find that he has passed on to the great silver cinema in the sky.  I'm sure he'd appreciate a few of these finely wrought witticisms. Rest in Peace.]

April  4,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"As the decade progressed, so did snowboarding," we learn at one point, leading me to reflect that as the decade progressed, so did time itself.

--review of First Descent collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  3,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

Black-and-white is better suited to many kinds of comedy because it underlines the dialogue and movement while diminishing the importance of fashions and eliminating the emotional content of various colors.  Billy Wilder fought for black-and-white on Some Like It Hot because he thought his drag queens would never be accepted by the audience in color, and he was right.

--review of All the Queen's Men collected in Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert

April  2,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

"You come among us from a country we don't know, and can't imagine, a country you care for so little that before you've been a day in ours you've forgotten the very house you were born in--if it wasn't torn down before you knew it!  You come among us speaking our language and not knowing what we mean' wanting the things we want, and not knowing why we want them; aping our weaknesses, exaggerating our follies, ignoring or ridiculing all we care about--you come from hotels as big as towns, and from towns as flimsy as paper, where the streets haven't had time to be named, and the buildings are demolished before they're dry, and the people are as proud of changing as we are of holding to what we have--and we're fools enough to imagine that because you copy our ways and pick up our slang you understand anything about the things that make life decent and honorable for us!"

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

April  1,  2013

Patrick: Lagniappe

But it is comparatively easy to behave beautifully when one is getting what one wants, and when some one else, who has not always been altogether kind, is not.

--The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton