Archive for May, 2008

welcome back cyndi!

I’m really taken with the new album. Maybe I’ll write more later. Right now I’m too busy dancing! The youtube vid above is the first single “Into the Nightlife.” An actual video for the song is forthcoming.

May 28, 2008 at 8:47 am Leave a comment

a quibble

Here’s a young dapper Nathaniel Hawthorne:

Hawthorne

Good looking guy, right? Here’s the picture for Hawthorne at Wikipedia:

Hawthorne

Why choose this picture from the 1860s? Hawthorne dies in 1864, his last novel The Marble Faun is published in 1860. By the time this picture is taken, his corpus is behind him. Maybe there are house rules at Wikipedia about needing an actual photograph? I’m not trying to be ageist, here. It’s just that for an author as concerned with youth and beauty as Hawthorne frequently is to be made a period piece strikes me as inimical.

I could be wrong. In “The Artist of the Beautiful,” Hawthorne writes “when the artist rose high enough to achieve the beautiful, the symbol by which he made it perceptible to mortal senses became of little value in his eyes…” I realize I’m conflating Hawthorne’s opinion about his image with his fiction, and taking the narrator of his story at his word. These are problems. Nina Baym goes so far as to suggest that “At the core of ‘The Artist of the Beautiful’ is Hawthorne’s recognition of how inadequate a figure Owen [the protagonist of the story] is for the vocation he has chosen [watchmaker], how timid and shrunken his conception of art. The narrative belies the narrator’s claim for Owen’s artistic stature and calls for another kind of artistry than his” (Norton Critical Edition 431).

Baym argues as follows:

When the narrator brings the tale to a close with the assurance that ‘when the artist rose high enough to achieve the Beautiful, the symbol by which he made it perceptible to mortal senses became of little value in his eyes, while his spirit possessed itself in the enjoyment of the Reality,’ he claims a dignity for Owen Warland that the story will not support. The conflict here is directly related to Hawthorne’s own literary dilemma, for if Owen’s audience is faulted for its indifference to his art, so is he faulted for devoting himself to the realization of ideas that have so little connection to the life around him. (430)

I find the use of passive voice in the the last sentence suspicious. Exactly who, other than Nina Baym, is faulting Owen for the realization of ideas that have so little connection to the life around him? Baym blames Owen because his “impulse to attain the beautiful springs not from a desire to enrich life but from the need to escape it.” Again, enrich life for whom? The suggestion, I guess, is that the Beautiful only counts if other people’s lives are enriched by it. This move cancels the Beautiful as transcendent and personal. I’m unconvinced that Hawthorne recognizes Owen as inadequate to his vocation, and further that there is a contradiction present between the narrative and the narrator.

The bottom line, vulgar though it may be, is that Hawthorne, if we take Owen as his type, might not care a twit about what picture Wikipedia uses. But I do, and want the beautiful.

May 27, 2008 at 6:49 pm Leave a comment

Real Estates

beetlejuice

Ghost stories are typically about contested real estate. In film, the estate must visually represent what is at stake in the narrative’s conflict. Thus a particularly heavy burden falls to the production designer who must show the quality and character of the terrain at issue. The film’s credibility and coherence rest on visual foundations.

In Beetlejuice, Bo Welch admirably presents thesis-antithesis models for the contested home.

We begin with a nice Connecticut house upon a hill

beetlejuice

and its model equivalent,

beetlejuice

replete with a nice, if somewhat stylized couple

beetlejuice

who quickly die.

beetlejuice

Adam and Barbara’s vacation at home has thus turned into an eternity. This could be heaven, as Adam muses, except that the bourgies are moving in

beetlejuice

and quickly take to home improvement.

beetlejuice

beetlejuice

beetlejuice

beetlejuice

Adam and Barbara can’t really leave, lest they contend with these guys:

beetlejuice

beetlejuice

So they try to take things into their own hands:

beetlejuice

beetlejuice

with no success, though they do befriend their adversaries daughter Lydia, whom Welch has done up as a perfect graveyard girl, or Robert Smith knockoff:

beetlejuice

beetlejuice

beetlejuice

Unfortunately getting institutional help in the afterlife is much like seeking institutional help in this life, difficult or impossible. Welch washes the dead bureaucracy in a gaseous green:

beetlejuice

beetlejuice

beetlejuice

No help. So Adam and Barbara turn to this guy:

Beetlejuice

beetlejuice

Beetlejuice

beetlejuice

Beetlejuice has an ulterior motive. He’s looking to get married.

Beetlejuice

The wedding is fortuitously interrupted and the families learn to live with each other. Barbara and Adam, who were possibly infertile in life, gain a surrogate daughter

beetlejuice

who is clearly happier than formerly.

beetlejuice

Death, it turns out, is just as human as life. Beetlejuice is a weird delight, to which, in large measure, we can thank Bo Welch for his credible textures.

This post is a contribution to the production design blog-a-thon.

May 20, 2008 at 7:02 pm 4 comments

just a quick reminder

The production design blog-a-thon begins Monday!

May 17, 2008 at 4:05 pm 2 comments

Mcsame

May 16, 2008 at 4:43 pm Leave a comment

A Democratic Ticket? Edwards Endorses Obama

Edwards and Obama

Today John Edwards endorsed Senator Obama for President. They look good together. Is this the beginning of a populist-progressive one-two?

Here’s the endorsement in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

May 15, 2008 at 12:08 am Leave a comment

warcatz

petraeus

I can’t strongly enough recommend the “best of the left” podcast, from whom I take the above image. The music is fantastic, the radio clips great, and the mixing of music and dry congressional testimony regularly rousing. Give them your love, your clips, or at least an ear.

May 14, 2008 at 4:28 am Leave a comment

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