Inertial Frame

“Adherence to legend at the expense of facts will ruin America…”

Posted in Uncategorized by GL on May 20, 2015


This from David Thomson’s article on John Ford in his Biographical Dictionary…The whole article is of great interest, but this bit strikes me most powerfully:

…to take Ford properly to task may be to begin to be dissatisfied with cinema.

Adherence to legend at the expense of facts will ruin America—the work is well under way. And lovers of the movies should consider how far film has helped the undermining.

Reading that today, in May of 2015, evokes the legend-mongering, the betrayal of history and experience in Kathryn Bigelow’s & Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty–but the betrayal isn’t timely or modish, not connected to any particular film, it’s evergreen and truly American…


How the Hunt Went In Ferguson, MO

Posted in Uncategorized by GL on December 25, 2014


On August 9, 2014, Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department encountered a dark fate – a grim, unrelenting, vigorous Fate – in the person of Michael Brown, aged 18. Brown wasn’t yet a man, really, at that age. But he possessed a physical strength capable of emasculating even big men like Wilson; and he had in him an evil vast enough to blot out his own humanity, a murderous shadow over all the human qualities people in his life thought they saw in him. Wilson stumbled under that shadow, almost found his death there…

This is all more or less as Wilson described it in his potboiler pitch to the grand jury.

“You know in Africa…no white man ever bolts.”

“I bolted like a rabbit,” Macomber said.

Ernest Hemingway published his short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” in 1936. The story’s yet another précis of Hemingway’s bullshit pursuit of blood spoor and virtu, with the Macomber of the title pinched, on his African safari, between the ruddy pro white hunter he’s retained (Wilson’s the name) and his own hard, cruel wife.

Mrs. Macomber wears the hard and cruel virtues of the“Memsahib” well, on their trip. But Mr. Macomber is armed primarily in the bush with his cowardice–no matter whether the gun-bearer loads him with the Springfield or the big gun.

But of course Macomber can’t stay the man who was punked by a lion on his Vacation of Shame: he needs a redemption from cowardice, to enter the shadow and to be tried.

“How far is he?” asked Macomber, raising his rifle.

“About seventy-five. Get out and take him.”

“Why not shoot from where I am?”

“You don’t shoot them from cars,” he heard Wilson saying in his ear.

Macomber fires on the lion with “muscles fluttering,” and he hits him a few times. The mighty beast stalks off into the tall grass:

All of [the lion], pain, sickness, hatred and all of his remaining strength, was tightening into an absolute concentration for a rush. He could hear the men talking and he waited, gathering all of himself into this preparation for a charge as soon as the men would come into the grass.

Macomber hauls ass, when the grass stirs; and white hunter Wilson kills the beast. In the refractory period between the shooting, Hemingway makes a little fetish of the way a shot beast keeps coming:

That was the story of the lion. Macomber did not know how the lion had felt before he started his rush, nor during it when the unbelievable smash of the .505 with a muzzle velocity of two tons had hit him in the mouth, nor what kept him coming after that, when the second ripping crash had smashed his hind quarters and he had come crawling on toward the crashing, blasting thing that had destroyed him…

Then the white hunter cuckolds Macomber.

And finally they fall in pursuit of buffalo:

…Macomber fell forward onto his feet, slammed his bolt forward and fired as far forward as he could aim into the galloping, rounded black back, aimed and shot again, then again, then again, then again, and the bullets, all of them hitting, had not effect on the buffalo that he could see. Then Wilson shot, the roar deafening him, and he could see the bull stagger. Macomber shot again, aiming carefully, and down he came, onto his knees.

…and so on. Entering the shadow, the trial of hard experience, involves firing weapons at creatures whose vital murderous energy won’t let them drop–which even draws them to the source of the attack. Bloodthirstiness of the shooter is offset by his limp humanity, when compared with the preternatural, armored drive of the beast/prey. These murderers weigh fear and courage in the act, and thus are truly human.

The narrative of Darren Wilson’s brush with “a demon” in Michael Brown is one for the history books, now. It’s a twice-told tale that is tedious and dehumanizing for many of us, and yet seems compelling for the bodies in culled juries and for folks in white-flight bedroom communities all across America.

The probity of fiction – and not of sworn testimony regarding a fatal shooting as offered to a grand jury – lies in its having been told before: its rehearsal, development, elaboration; the ways in which it has sprung and meandered from its source. A tale springs, meanders, develops…and in this way becomes a better tale. Certain details of common experience proliferate in the tale, come unmoored from time and our senses as true experience never allows, to become timeless objects of contemplation. And the fisullae of true experience, the bits we’ve missed (how do we even know we’ve missed them?), widen to become poetic enigmas evoking awe, fear, regret, etc.

From Officer Wilson’s yarns, we know now that Michael Brown was more vital force and armor than he was human; that he was a weapon in himself. (And in this way Brown is disarmed of his having been unarmed.) Brown’s aura of menace hovered higher than his 6’4″ of bone and muscle–How old was he, exactly? Couldn’t tell. How big? No taller than me, you say? Seems impossible–if only you’d been there…How many times did I fire? I dunno – but he just kept coming…

The human quality rests in fallibility, in fear of death, in fumbling with the Sig Sauer .40 on one’s belt…in shuttling between panic and fear and the resolve to kill. That quality rests in Wilson. The shooter is all-too-human–not least because our species is the one that spins stories, like the weird and counterfactual tales of powerful evil Darren Wilson presented to the grand jury. And these stories encase their own special conditions, their own valuations; and urge moral judgments peculiar to what’s come before in the story.

Officer Wilson’s act of murder blossoms into the tale of Officer Wilson’s Survival Against Evil. The narrative spins Wilson’s acts of bullying, stalking, harassment and assault leading to his fatal violent attack on Brown into…a battle with a Very Bad Guy, the ineffable Michael Brown, uncovered in confrontation with Wilson as a menace. In the story, Michael Brown is essence – his physical destruction is the means for the survival of Darren Wilson. Brown is a wraith of bigots’ bad faith. Human fear is thereby reified. This is the source of thrill and satisfaction some get from the story Wilson has told to a grand jury and to media.

The formerly undistinguished former-Officer Wilson, provincial ne’er-do-well and son of a convicted thief, has distinguished himself.

His testimony is hunting lore.

“this big block of machinery that actively…subdues what’s interesting”

Posted in Uncategorized by GL on June 28, 2011

Sweet Smell Of Success - J.J. Hunsecker

Substitute “movie press” for “music press” in this bit from Mary Harron’s 1977 interview with Brian Eno for Punk Magazine, and it’s all  just as apt:

Punk: Can I ask you about the music press? Because I think they’ve been so used to dealing with a particular pattern of success, and what happened in the ’60s, and they tend to use the same standards for what’s happening now. What do you think of the music press?

Eno: I’m not very interested in them, actually.

Punk: Well what do you think is the function of a music press?

Eno: Well it seems to be to annoy artists. The only think I feel if I read the music papers these days is sort of like that [making a gesture of strangulation]. They really make me angry. Because the function should be to look at what’s going on and actually try to see the ideas that are around at the moment. Not what the personalities are. It’s alright, you know, you could have that as a gossip column feature, as a joke, but the personalities really aren’t the interesting thing.

What’s interesting is the flow of ideas and why, for example, suddenly the idea of a four piece band becomes viable again. Why the concept of skill starts to erode in music. Why bands aren’t being formed with flash guitarists anymore but with kids off the streets. Or why, on the other hand, on a purely technical level, reggae is starting to work by subtracting sound rather than adding it, and what differences that makes to the Western tradition of making music.

There’s a million questions that are really very, very interesting, and have – as far as I’m concerned – major sociological implications. Because music doesn’t change with whim or fashion. It changes for good reasons. I’m certain of that.

I think they may be frightened. If they’re aware of any of these questions they might be frightened they’re going to bore their audience. I think you can give the public much more credit than they presently get. They’re probably sick of being treated like fools.

Instead of doing that, they talk about the most insanely… useless transient details of people’s attire and personality conflicts and so on. Absolutely worthless rubbish. I think that on a level of reporting they’re worse than any of the bad daily newspapers in England. You know the papers like The Sun? Well they’re strictly on that level. They take news items to see what kind of visceral sensation can be extracted from them. And that’s why their focus is always on a particular brand of success, as you say. It’s the same way that gossip columns in papers like The Sun always talk about what Lords and Counts do. Not because Lords and Counts do anything particularly interesting, but because it is considered funny by people who write this sort of thing to point out that Lords and Counts actually behave like us. And do stupid things and get divorced and have affairs.

They’re dealing not only with trivial things, but they’re dealing with trivial things badly. You could deal with trivial things very interestingly.

If I do an interview – David Bowie was saying the same thing – if either of us do an interview and we throw out twenty ideas, whichever two are most banal will get the most space in the papers.

The whole attitude of people who work on big papers is “Well, it’s what they want, isn’t it?” Now it interests me that if they find this attitude typifying music they condemn it absolutely out of hand. If they find groups who say “Well, we’re only playing what they want,” they condemn that as the worst kind of charlatanism.

Really, they should simply apply the same standards… they’re in the art business. They’re part of the art business. That’s the problem, they don’t take themselves seriously. They regard themselves as peripheral and of no interest. As long as they do that they’re going to stay there.

Punk: It’s misleading when you’re writing about music now to just concentrate on the artist, because you’re missing a whole other world. You’re missing the record companies’ part in it, and the whole way in which people become successful.

Punk: Less sophisticated? I mean the music business.

Eno: Yeah. Umh. I must think… I’ve lost my train… The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t interest me very much, the music business.

Punk: You don’t have to talk about it.

Eno: No, I just meant that there seems to be this big block of machinery that actively – not intentionally, but by the very nature of its construction – subdues what’s interesting. And what’s interesting either is peripheral to it or accidental.

You know, there’s a vast business involved in music, a vast business. If you not only consider the part we’re involved in, but the classical music business, which is very big, and you consider all the folk and ethnic music businesses, and then you consider a company like Muzak which is supplying music all over the world, there are hundreds of thousands of millions of pounds involved in generating music. Making it a much bigger business than the Space Race. And the number of interesting ideas that are generated by this vast complex is really very small. In fact, if you analyse it on a kind of cost-efficient basis you’d find that you weren’t doing too well.

Punk: As far as production of ideas to size?

Eno: Yes. So it makes me think that this large organism is one whose express intention, or claimed intention, is to generate ideas, but whose mechanism is such that it can’t help subduing them. Its interest is in prolonging itself. By so doing, since its structure militates against the future, it militates for the present and the past. By attempting to prolong itself it does subdue those futures. They come out, sure enough, but they have a hard time.

I don’t feel bitter, I’m not saying this in bitterness. I think it’s the way most other systems work as well – the Civil Service…

Punk: It sounds like politics generally, doesn’t it?

Eno: It is, the implications are quite political.

Punk: What, the hostility to change?

Eno: Yes. Yes. Human beings have two orientations. One is towards the desire to participate in a predictable world, and the other is the knowledge that the world isn’t predictable, and that it constantly changes in a novel fashion…


[the industry] militates for the present and the past“: this is the movie journalist corps, in a nutshell – careerism, making deadlines and paying the bills, issuing overheated and ephemeral proclamations about movie events and innovations (every last one digested from PR releases), dilettantism and so on…

“Uncle Sam’s Nephew vs. Uncle Ho’s Niece,” or “Maoism and climate”

Posted in Uncategorized by GL on July 12, 2009
staging of a Revolution!

staging of a Revolution!

A few choice bits from Colin MacCabe’s only occasionally credulous Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy:

In many interviews that [Godard] is to give to underground leftist journals in the late sixties and early seventies, the linking of his own oppression to the struggle in Vietnam is a constant theme. His solidarity with the Vietnamese is not born from a liberal sympathy for their predicament, but from his own experience of the very same predicament [emphasis mine]. Godard is careful to note that the oppression of a 35-year-old successful film-maker in the West is not as grievous as the Vietnamese  direct experience of imperialist aggression, but he is nonetheless insistent that the oppression is the same [emphasis mine]. And that oppression is understood both as economic and aesthetic. (182)

and also this:

[Claude] Nedjar now persuaded Godard and [wife Anne] Wiazemsky to join him in a trip to the frozen north [i.e., Canada] where they broadcast selections from Mao’s Little Red Book and invited the local population to come and make their revolutionary demands known. But after only three days, when no members of the town had come forward to seize the microphone and Wiazemsky was unable to cope  with the temperature of 25 below zero, their atttempt at Canadian revolution was abandoned. On the drive south, Nedjar and Godard planned a book on the links between Maoism and climate. (214)

“…Pixar Has Gone Too Far”

Posted in Uncategorized by GL on June 26, 2009

A writer named Eileen Jones from the erstwhile (and incorrigible – “God bless ’em!” as Sarah!™ would say) eXile has unleashed her wrath on Pixar; and I couldn’t agree more…

This Time, Pixar Has Gone Too Far

By Eileen Jones, eXiled Online
June 3, 2009

The latest Pixar film Up is being received as if it were better than the Second Coming. It represents the Pixar team’s effort to be even more lugubrious than in their last animated film — more lugubrious than in their last five animated films — hell, more lugubrious than their personal god Walt Disney ever dreamed of being in his thirty years of lugubrious filmmaking. It’s a high-stakes game: we’ll see your Jiminy Cricket and raise you five Pollyannas, says Pixar. We’ll throw in ten-thousand dalmations and the ghost of Old Yeller. We’ll stuff you with sunbeams, choke you with hugs, smother you with the warm chuckles of reformed curmudgeons, waterboard you with the gushing tears of a million pathetic orphans.

The public loves this, it goes without saying. But the critics have gotten so besotted they’re egging Pixar on to dangerously high glucose levels….[more here]