Oct 172013

I have since often observed, how incongruous and irrational the common temper of mankind is, especially of youth, to that reason which ought to guide them in such cases—viz. that they are not ashamed to sin, and yet are ashamed to repent; not ashamed of the action for which they ought justly to be esteemed fools, but are ashamed of the returning, which only can make them be esteemed wise men.

–Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

 Defoe on Shame  October 17, 2013  Tagged with:
Oct 162013

At the end of the afternoon, Thanksgiving weekend, the Beav and I wanted to have a drink somewhere outside on a terrace to take advantage of one of the most beautiful Indian summers in years. But no had tables out anywhere, and so we went home, pulled this bottle off the rack and popped it in the freezer to chill.

It was one of the cheapest whites we’d bought on our last trip to Ottawa, so expectations were low. We also left it in the freezer too long so the first glasses were too cold. But once it warmed up, this was a completely nice wine to have on its own or before a meal. Tasty without being crazy–no litchi or passion fruit here–and easy to enjoy.

Front Label

Back Label

  •  October 16, 2013
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Oct 152013

as reason is the substance and origin of the mathematics, so by stating and squaring everything by reason, and by making the most rational judgment of things, every man may be, in time, master of every mechanic art.

–Daniel Defoe, Robinson Cruoe

 Defoe on Reason  October 15, 2013  Tagged with:
Oct 152013

I am swinging around to thinking that the polarization comes from the fact that a great many Republican officeholders believe that their base thinks it elected them to demonstrate that not the Black Man but rather real Americans were still the boss–and that not a small number of Republican officeholders believe that that is their job: to demonstrate that not the Black Man but rather real Americans were still the boss, and thus that anything the press will not cover as a catastrophic defeat for Obama is, instead, a loss for them.

Given the rest of the post, I suppose it’s possible that he’s summarizing and endorsing Alice Rivlin’s comments. Not that that changes anything at all.

  •  October 15, 2013
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Oct 152013

In the next few days, the first entries in my wine log are going to appear. Like my other logs, these posts are ways for me to take note of and remember things that interest me.

The wine log is different from the others though. With books, films, TV, even theatre, I have training and can speak, when I want to, with a fair amount of precision and sophistication. I also have enough experience with the materials to make judgments with a fair amount of confidence. What I say may seem silly or offhand, you might disagree, but I know my reactions are informed. However, odd or off-kilter, they are the raw materials of my developing thoughts about literature and film. The logs are a way to notice and keep track of them

With wine, I know nothing and even lack a vocabulary for speaking. But I have tried to pay attention over the years and have begun to develop some raw, unexamined experience. The log is the place where I’m going to try to begin capturing this experience in broad strokes and discover how to talk about what I’m figuring out.

(A few years ago, I’d considered doing this in a notebook. My plan was to avoid all the typical metaphors used to discuss wines (flowers, foods, etc.) and to talk about each bottle as if it were a man. I still like this idea.)

The main goal initially is just be to keep keep track of bottles I could buy again so that I’m less often caught making random purchases or trusting random clerks’ suggestions blindly.

It will be what it will be.



  •  October 15, 2013
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Oct 142013

A movie night with friends at the Cinéma du Parc to see Michael Douglas kiss Matt Damon. It was worth it. Douglas was great, Damon too, and the over and over near-monty during the long episode of pillow talk early on was hilarious. So many knees, so little penis.

And Rob Lowe was just super great as a stretch-faced, drug-addled plastic surgeon.

That said, the movie felt made-for-TV, and it’s treatment of the subject matter was awkward. After awhile it just became obvious that this was a straight man’s idea of a gay film. Normally this would have been a fatal flaw, but this movie managed to stumble into an authenticity it hadn’t created. Liberace was a gay man living as a straight man. Despite–or perhaps because of–all their stumbling, the straight men making this movie awkwardly but accurately hit the tone of his life spot on.

It was a fun evening.

  •  October 14, 2013
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Oct 132013

The face of the web is changing. All kinds of blogs are updating their themes with some variation of wordpress’s new default. The point seems to be to make everything play nice with your phone but these “responsive” designs mostly just make full sites feel like mobile sites writ large. Everything looks pretty–big pictures, plenty of white space and the font is a wide round san serif that looks good the first time you see it–but everything also looks padded and puffed up. Rich sites are suddenly empty. Info is strung out across chains of links with little spatial density or complexity. It’s like reading through a straw.

I’m sure this kind of wide-spread coordinated change has happened before, but I’ve never noticed it so clearly or disliked it so much. I’m ready for the web designers to cash in already and move on so useful complexity can come back into style.


I’ve been thinking about this issue some more.

  •  October 13, 2013
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  •   Reflections
Oct 122013

The Beav hated this movie, and I get it. There is darkness here. And yet, I really liked it.

Like To Rome with Love, this movie has more going on than appears on its surface: in this case, a running allusion and update of A Streetcar Named Desire by way of Cate Blanchett’s recent turn as Blanche on Broadway. There is also the final revelation that remakes what had come before in interesting ways.

Is it high art? No. Is it among the best movies I’ve seen this year? No. But Blanchett is incredible as Jasmine and the script is generally strong. So I enjoyed it.

Oct 102013

Another Belgian film. Two boys growing up together, one now 18, then 20, the other a few years younger. The younger boy is outed as queer early on and he’s our narrative focus. Yet, it is the older boy who initiates the sex in their youth and later calls it off when he leaves the small coastal village for the big city and a new girlfriend.

Like the other Flemish films I’ve seen with the Beav, this movie is quirky and odd in ways that resonate initially with American indie cinema à la Wes Anderson, but the point of view is off and the plot, characters, cinematography, and editing all have strong links to European art cinema. The peculiarity of protagonist–he does not talk, he does not display emotion, he is an outsider–seem of a piece with these two traditions simultaneously. It also annoyed me for most of the film: why, I thought, must queer kids always be so fucked up?

But by the end, I realized that this film was much more interesting than I had realized. This movie is a coming out tale. But the point of view is completely atypical. In this case, it is the older boy–off-screen, pursuing a straight romance–who will come out. And we watch him doing this not from the point of view of a concerned parent or a supportive straight friend but from a queer kid who simply waits for him to get it together. It’s a subtle shift but makes a big difference.

On a separate note, the soundtrack songs were written specifically for the film and they are extraordinary.

  •  October 10, 2013
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