Not that long ago, one of the local micro-rags (not the main newspaper) invited me — based on my [expired] reputation as a movie buff — to write reviews.  I did decline without hesitation, knowing that whereas I do have a thing or two to say about movies, my depth and breadth beyond technique is shallow and narrow.

Stephen and I watched ‘Never Let Me Go’ the other evening.  For essentially a non-reader, I had read three of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, including this one, and decided the movie managed as matter of factly as possible a pretty hard-sell dystopia.  This was my second viewing; I’m crazy about Carey Mulligan.

We also watched ‘A Ghost Story’ recently.  I suppose when you use the word ‘peculiar’ rather than ‘unconventional’, there is a drift to the negative, so I’ll just say ‘A Ghost Story’ is somewhere in-between.

Starring Rooney Mara and nominally Casey Affleck, it provides an oasis of a movie where the camera is almost exclusively locked down with action confined within the frame.  Also provided: very long takes, which in this case work well, with the exception of a marathon one involving a pie; desperation sets in for it to end.

I say ‘nominally’ starring Casey Affleck, because after his character’s demise early on, he sports the getup shown in the poster below (except for one shot) for the remainder of the running time of the picture.  Though the classic sheet with two holes seems like a really goofy idea, turns out the gamble is very, very effective.

The apparition haunts his house through a number of residents after Rooney Mara has left, never speaking throughout his haunting but for one scene where he sees in the window of the next house over an identical sheet with two holes.  With subtitles rather than sound, their brief exchange ends with:

‘I’m waiting for someone.’

‘Who?’

‘I can’t remember.’

Sounds funny here, actually quite heartbreaking.

I pity the poor fool, so to speak, who sees the poster and expects a thrillfest.  One review I read calls the movie ‘a meditation’, and it does take some dedication to watch.

Do I recommend it for your October viewing?  That’s a very good question.

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I sent the email message below to two friends this morning, and got back one reply: ‘An astonishing, even if microscopic, find … would make a dandy tattoo’.

Curiously enough, I have been mulling over a post on tattoos for a long while.  Warning: I will not be kind to them.  Having found the apparently perfect (!) candidate will not change my mind.  Keep watching the skies.

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‘This notebook emerged from somewhere the other day, I asked Stephen about it, and he said I’d thrown it out a long time ago and he’d retrieved it.  Always a dangerous action for a mate, IMO.  Turns out it was for History 112 at UGA, Spring Quarter 1971, which I guess was my first quarter back in school after the Air Force.  In the process of revisiting my stellarly pathetic note taking style prior to re-throwing it out, I found this microscopic drawing in the margin of a page.  WTF…’

[Images clickable]

Today is our Anniversary, two years of legal wedded bliss.

Though I consider our couple-hood to date from April 1, 1977, Stephen argues that it would be one day in September of that year, when we moved in together.  April first was our first official date, so what if I am being a little premature.

I’ve confessed that over forty years I’ve had a number of brief episodes of ‘What am I doing with this person?’.  Stephen says he’s had not a single one.  All this proves is that I have no problem with living with a big fat liar.

I think I’ve not been able to depart his company (yet…) because he smells so good; apparently there is some basis in scientific fact for this notion.

Here we are when we were still young and beautiful.  As I said the first time I posted one of these photos, we remain leagues away from hideous.

You are all perfect dearies for allowing me to crow about our longevity.  Again.


Apparently incapable of corralling his lust, Stephen found this video today.

The ‘person of interest’ is on the left, for those who might need direction…

There was a post a long time ago, now gone from my blog post-pruning, about my history with Edward Gorey.  I was introduced to Edward Gorey in 1963 and collected him for years, then stopped.  And blah, blah, blah.

The subject of his The Gashlycrumb Tinies, or After the Outing came up briefly last week in Savannah, and when I got home that set me to thumbing through several of his little books, including that one.

Everybody loves Neville, myself included, but Prue may be my favorite.

There’s something wrong about saying that, isn’t there.

First things first, putting last post’s subject to bed, so to speak.

(It was about the eclipse.  Oh, go ahead and read it…)

For our experiencing The Eclipse, instead of that stern looking pier we scoped-out three weeks ago now, we opted for a very pleasant lakeside public park in the same vicinity, which we had also previously scoped.

Stephen had the very sweet notion that everyone on the East Coast was as eager to see a total eclipse as he, and those people would be flocking to South Carolina for the sight.

Having arrived at our park early to avoid his envisioned but not materializing one bit traffic gridlock, we decided to travel fifteen miles further into the ‘perfect viewing zone’ to Abbeville SC just for a look.

Abbeville (established in 1764) has the distinction of bookending the existence of the Confederate States of America, as it is the location of both the launch of South Carolina’s secession from the Union, and Confederacy President Jefferson Davis’ official dissolution of the Confederacy at it’s last official cabinet meeting there.  Hefty credentials, no?

An eclipse-viewing festival was in fact forming-up there, but we decided to return to our park, which collected only a mere four other couples as the eclipse drew near.

SO, the eclipse.

Voluminous clouds which forebodingly formed prior the eclipse getting underway had parted with the exception, during the very final stages, of one discreet puff which blocked the sun.  Like the cheapest little tease, it lingered there until just before the eclipse popped.

‘Popped’?  Because the approach to totality is so protracted, one finally assumes ever so briefly ‘Is that all there is?’ the instant before the black disk of the photographs you see materializes within the space of about a second.

I gasped.  Audibly.  Worth every bit of our effort to witness it.

Now, on to another event which, let’s face it, was probably less likely to have happened than witnessing a total solar eclipse in my lifetime.  Day before yesterday, I drove to Savannah GA to meet the elusive Harper’s Other Dad, and the illustrious Ur-Spo, with whom I’ve been blog pals for eight years.

I must tell you that in spite of having seen both move and speak online, in the flesh, in the crisp light of day, they were very briefly kind of holographic.

I did not gasp, but perhaps sensing my dumbfoundment(!), we hied ourselves to lunch just down the street, during which I tried (unsuccessfully) to behave myself: I am in point of fact incapable of answering a question without a story.

THE loveliest gentlemen, I departed their company four hours later.  At risk of sounding this way or that, I confess that I was more than a bit ‘postpartum’ yesterday.

Life is very screwy.

Here we are, all sqwoze into a selfie.  [Clickable]

Ever witnessed a total solar eclipse?

I’ve witnessed a ‘partial’, which was impressive enough, but not so much for seeing the sun with a blind over it, rather for the bizarre quality of light on familiar terrain, best described (but far more unsettling) as looking through a photographic neutral density filter.

The upcoming total eclipse on August 21, which begins its path through the ‘lower forty-eight’ in Oregon, and exits from South Carolina, is going to pass through the very north-east tip of our state of Georgia.

If we just walked out into our back yard, we’ve discovered we could witness a 99.08% eclipse.  Good enough for me.  However, we spent last Sunday afternoon scouting locations in neighboring South Carolina.

We visited the man-made Lake Russell, situated between the two states, a product of the Richard B. Russell hydroelectric dam, named for the person with the longest running term in the U. S. Senate, segregationist Richard B. Russell.

A severe and massive structure (the dam), to give some scale, that figure in orange in the picture is my beau peering through the window of the now abandoned ‘Visitors Center’.  (Photos clickable to enlarge.)

Why view the eclipse at a lake?  Stephen’s research found that should there be a cloud cover on the 21st, it would be thinner over bodies of water.  Who knew.

While at the lake, a park ranger at the relocated ‘Visitors Center’ (exhibits not at all badly done) directed us to a remote, thus seldom used concrete pier to check out.

Also a trifle severe.  While there we ‘selfied’, Stephen quite animated for the camera, me cleaving to the notion (debunked) that sucking in the cheeks makes one pretty.

I think I hope this excursion takes place.  I’m almost certain that it’s good to leave the house once in a while.

My best friend of fifty years flew down from Potomac MD the last week of June to visit us for a couple of days.

June is actually the anniversary of our having met, that incident having occurred in line waiting to get into a movie theatre.  We were standing together, he talking to his companion ahead and me talking to my companion behind.  Overhearing bits of each other’s conversations, we introduced ourselves.

We talked on the phone for about an hour and a half yesterday, and this piece of the movie ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ came up.  The infinite ‘incidents out of anyone’s control’ are invisible, of course, but the ones we can pinpoint in hindsight as having steered us from catastrophe?  [brief quiver]

And this has to do with you how?  Well, for starters, a dead Dave would not be posting for your delight.  So, there.

I must have things spoon-fed to me, I’m just that lazy.

This David Brooks piece in today’s New York Times is fascinating to me, and not at all because of the Donald Trump ‘point’.  As a matter of fact, I reached my limit on Donald Trump ‘points’ some time ago.  He is not a fit subject for parsing.  There is nothing there to parse, only something to be gotten past.

Our nightmare can draw to a close when, on live television, in an orange-tinted, sulphur-scented cloud of smoke, winged minions drag him live to Hell, like the end of Don Giovanni.  A boy can dream.

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Getting Radical About Inequality

David Brooks

JULY 18, 2017

I’m not in the habit of recommending left-wing French intellectuals, but I’m beginning to think that Pierre Bourdieu is helpful reading in the age of Trump. He was born in 1930, the son of a small-town postal worker. By the time he died in 2002, he had become perhaps the world’s most influential sociologist within the academy, and largely unknown outside of it.

His great subject was the struggle for power in society, especially cultural and social power. We all possess, he argued, certain forms of social capital. A person might have academic capital (the right degrees from the right schools), linguistic capital (a facility with words), cultural capital (knowledge of cuisine or music or some such) or symbolic capital (awards or markers of prestige). These are all forms of wealth you bring to the social marketplace.

In addition, and more important, we all possess and live within what Bourdieu called a habitus. A habitus is a body of conscious and tacit knowledge of how to travel through the world, which gives rise to mannerisms, tastes, opinions and conversational style. A habitus is an intuitive feel for the social game. It’s the sort of thing you get inculcated with unconsciously, by growing up in a certain sort of family or by sharing a sensibility with a certain group of friends.

For example, in his surveys of French taste, Bourdieu found that manual laborers liked Strauss’s “The Blue Danube” but didn’t like Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” People who lived in academic communities, on the other hand, liked the latter but not the former.

Your habitus is what enables you to decode cultural artifacts, to feel comfortable in one setting but maybe not in another. Taste overlaps with social position; taste classifies the classified.

Every day, Bourdieu argued, we take our stores of social capital and our habitus and we compete in the symbolic marketplace. We vie as individuals and as members of our class for prestige, distinction and, above all, the power of consecration — the power to define for society what is right, what is “natural,” what is “best.”

The symbolic marketplace is like the commercial marketplace; it’s a billion small bids for distinction, prestige, attention and superiority.

Every minute or hour, in ways we’re not even conscious of, we as individuals and members of our class are competing for dominance and respect. We seek to topple those who have higher standing than us and we seek to wall off those who are down below. Or, we seek to take one form of capital, say linguistic ability, and convert it into another kind of capital, a good job.

Most groups conceal their naked power grabs under a veil of intellectual or aesthetic purity. Bourdieu used the phrase “symbolic violence” to suggest how vicious this competition can get, and he didn’t even live long enough to get a load of Twitter and other social media.

Different groups and individuals use different social strategies, depending on their position in the field.

People at the top, he observed, tend to adopt a reserved and understated personal style that shows they are far above the “assertive, attention-seeking strategies which expose the pretensions of the young pretenders.” People at the bottom of any field, on the other hand, don’t have a lot of accomplishment to wave about, but they can use snark and sarcasm to demonstrate the superior sensibilities.

Sometimes, the loser wins: If you’re setting up a fancy clothing or food shop you go down and adopt organic and peasant styles in order to establish the superior moral prestige that you can then use to make gobs of money.

Bourdieu helps you understand what Donald Trump is all about. Trump is not much of a policy maven, but he’s a genius at the symbolic warfare Bourdieu described. He’s a genius at upending the social rules and hierarchies that the establishment classes (of both right and left) have used to maintain dominance.

Bourdieu didn’t argue that cultural inequality creates economic inequality, but that it widens and it legitimizes it.

That’s true, but as the information economy has become more enveloping, cultural capital and economic capital have become ever more intertwined. Individuals and classes that are good at winning the cultural competitions Bourdieu described tend to dominate the places where economic opportunity is richest; they tend to harmonize with affluent networks and do well financially.

Moreover, Bourdieu reminds us that the drive to create inequality is an endemic social sin. Every hour most of us, unconsciously or not, try to win subtle status points, earn cultural affirmation, develop our tastes, promote our lifestyles and advance our class. All of those microbehaviors open up social distances, which then, by the by, open up geographic and economic gaps.

Bourdieu radicalizes, widens and deepens one’s view of inequality. His work suggests that the responses to it are going to have to be more profound, both on a personal level — resisting the competitive, ego-driven aspects of social networking and display — and on a national one.

Quite a few months ago, someone at Stephen’s store recommended a Netflix offering that ran on Turkish television from 2011 to 2014, called ‘Muhteşem Yüzyıl’ (‘The Magnificent Century’).  Grand title aside, it’s a soap opera.

The series fictionalizes palace intrigue during the reign of ‘Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent’.  The recommendation, as it turns out, was based on ‘you must see the costumes’ and not much more.  And yet…

Now, whereas I contend — and can never be persuaded otherwise — that male beauty in every aspect reached its zenith in John F. Kennedy, Jr., there are other extremely attractive men in the world, including the actor portraying Süleyman in this show, Halit Ergenç.

Every so often for the last number of months, we will have watched an episode or two (there are 48, we’re at 37), during which it was de rigueur to say out loud two and three times: ‘Now that’s a good-looking man!’

The show is terrible, and the actress in the female lead, Meryem Uzerli, is so wonderfully terrible that we have taken to imitating her delivery expressing this or that emotion around the house.  Stephen has her down, but the character itself is the ideal of petulance and willfulness, so it’s really not that much of a leap.

I will deny having said that.

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Why am I telling you this?

I started blogging in 2009, but September 2015, I ditched the previous posts in a fit of cyber housecleaning. Some of it was really nice writing, but alas as my old friend Susan once said, 'Compulsion is a cruel master'.

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