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Shorts 3: Bear, Tiger & Sanctuary, Service / Servitude, &c

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — gotta serve somebody, but best not Richard III ]

Bear vs Tiger:

Watch a bear pick a fight with a tiger to try to save her cub

Only a few dozen tigers roam this 30,000-acre reserve in central India, according to the Hindustan Times. Yet they dominate the coveted water holes, where barking deer and hyena packs must come to drink. Even humans have to respect the laws of nature in this park. [ .. ]

And Matkasur ran from the bear; this time not turning back. She chased him all the way to the water hole. He splashed straight into it, as if it were sanctuary. Maybe it was, because the bear stopped at the water’s edge.

Projecting sanctuary back to the animal realm — semi-joking, srsly? And water, holy water, as the sanctuary? Or would the boundary (limen, in Victor Turner‘s terms) between earth and water might be enough? Obvs, the tiger doesn’t think, “Ah, Victor Turner time!” — but what might be the sensibilities of tiger and bear cognition? Seriously?

Paleo-religion? Time to rethink sanctuary cities?

Tyger! Bear!


It Can’t Happen Here, i:

It Can’t Happen Here is a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis, and a 1936 play adapted from the novel by Lewis and John C. Moffitt.

Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a politician who defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and is elected President of the United States, after fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and “traditional” values.

And so on..


It Can’t Happen Here, ii:

Inspired by the book, director–producer Kenneth Johnson wrote an adaptation titled Storm Warnings in 1982. The script was presented to NBC for production as a television miniseries, but NBC executives rejected the initial version, claiming it was too cerebral for the average American viewer. To make the script more marketable, the American fascists were re-cast as man-eating extraterrestrials, taking the story into the realm of science fiction. The revised story became the miniseries V, which premiered May 3, 1983

And so forth..


It can’t happen here, [Richard] iii::

Wachet auf!


Serve somebody, i:

Why I regret being in the pocket of the NRA: Marc Dann

The mass murder of 17 students and staff at a high school in Parkland, Florida, has reignited the national debate about the availability of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that began nearly 30 years ago. Since the Parkland massacre, I’ve been asked repeatedly why politicians steadfastly oppose banning firearms that serve no other purpose than to efficiently kill innocent human beings.

I know the answer because, as an Ohio state senator and attorney general, I was in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. [ .. ]

I made a devil’s bargain with myself: To stay in office, I adopted pro-gun positions that made me uncomfortable.

The bargain paid off.

Amazing to see how (a) how he quite casually invokes theology by way of explanation, and/or (b) how the Faustian bargain “myth” works out in real life:

I soon learned however, that in making a deal with the devil to advance my political career, I had abandoned my principles and sold my soul.

D’oh! That’s what the Bargain is! You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody:


Serve somebody, ii:

Yom may be the heavyweight champion of the world..

I’ll end on this note.

The not very evenly distributed future

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — feeling a little more Bladerunner, are we? ]

Here are a couple of tweeted news stories with relevant quotes below each of them, from one day’s mid-morning twitter feed — with thanks to fine scholars Stephen O’Leary, master of apocalyptic rhetoric, and Thomas Hegghammer, master of Jihadist culture and folkways:


One: Nature

After Hurricane Maria, 300,000 Puerto Ricans fled to Florida, and disaster experts estimate that climate and weather events displaced more than 1 million Americans from their homes last year. These statistics don’t begin to capture the emotional and financial toll on survivors who have to dig through ashes and flooded debris to rebuild their lives. [ .. ]

Climate change is going to remap our world, changing not just how we live but where we live. As scientist Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute, puts it, “There is a shocking, unreported, fundamental change coming to the habitability of many parts of the planet, including the U.S.A.”

In the not-so-distant future, places like Phoenix and Tucson will become so hot that just walking across the street will be a life-threatening event.


Two: Culture

In large cities, hospitals report armed confrontations in emergency rooms, and school administrators say threats and weapons have become commonplace. Last week two men from Uppsala, both in their 20s, were arrested on charges of throwing grenades at the home of a bank employee who investigates fraud cases. [ .. ]

Illegal weapons often enter Sweden over the Oresund Bridge, a 10-mile span that links the southern city of Malmo to Denmark. When it opened, in 2000, the bridge symbolized the unfurling of a vibrant, borderless Europe, but in recent years it has been more closely associated with smuggling, of people, weapons and drugs.


Are these two tweets, taken together, the encerroaching wave-front of William Gibson‘s “future already here — just not very evenly distributed” beginning to distribute itself a little more evenly?

Let’s backtrack forty years, with benefit of hindsight:

Shorts 01: Holi festivities, omertà, and so forth

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — an olla podrida or highly spiced Spanish-style stew ]

Holi Festival:

Today is Holi Festival for those who celebrate it, the day on which we color each other in dyes in honor of Prahlad, a child devotee of the Supreme Beloved:

Accordingly, I wish that all may be drenched in the colors of devotion this Holi, most joyful of festivals!



For a taste of something very different — there has been considerable discussion recently of Paul Manafort‘s seemingly obstinate refusal to plead to Mueller’s charges and save (salvage) at least some of his skin by becoming a cooperating witness rather than an overwhelmingly indicted criminal in the Russian influence affair.

What I haven’t seen suggested is that the man may be following a code: specifically omerta:

a code of silence about criminal activity and a refusal to give evidence to authorities.

Particularly if his Mafia bosses happen to be rough and Russian.


Hope Hicks:

There’s an intense Vox piece on the sexism to be found in a plethora of press reports on Hope Hicks. The provocative title: When does Hope Hicks get to be a “wunderkind” instead of a “former model”? And the provocative fact:

None of this coverage mentioned the salient fact that Hicks’s modeling career spanned ages 10 to 16. She landed the Ralph Lauren deal at age 11. By 16 she had quit her part-time modeling job to focus on her true passion, lacrosse.

I nwon’t get into the sexism issue, but that “salient fact” does seem to put much of the “former model” language in its place.

Hick is, however, still model-style gorgeous at 29 — as seen in this photo in which she’s on her way to testify to the House Intelligence Committee:

Given Donald Trump‘s known eye for beautiful women, isn’t Hope Hicks‘ beauty too a “salient fact”?


Language lesson

Under the title McMaster Gives a Belated Russian Lesson, Foreign Policy introduces us to the words maskirovka — military arts by deception — and vranyo. The latter is best explained by the verbal spiral I commented on yesterday:

A Russian friend explained vranyo this way: ‘You know I’m lying, and I know that you know, and you know that I know that you know, but I go ahead with a straight face, and you nod seriously and take notes.’


Bluff or threat?

That’s the question Putin’s recent claims sets before us, and an item in Australian BC’s Is Vladimir Putin bluffing or should we be worried about his new ‘miracle weapons’? caught my eye — a quote from our own Nuclear Posture Review:

its [Russia’s] “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine implies it might respond with nuclear weapons in any conventional war.

You know my preoccupation with pattern? Okay, “escalate to de-escalate” has ann exact opposite in French:

Now almost as familiar in English as in French, “reculer pour mieux sauter” — which I imagine is originally an equestrian show-jumping expression — means to step backwards, the better to leap (forwards).

A Pattern Language for Strategy, check!


Trump, Guns, and Golf

The entire text of Kevin Drum‘s Mother Jones article under that title reads:

Hey, did Donald Trump ever sign that executive order allowing guns at all his golf resorts, like he promised to do? Just wondering.

Well, did he?

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Thomas à Becket, Jim Comey, Vladimir Putin, Stormy Daniels ]

Okay, let’s start with the movie version of “Who will rid me..?” Here’s the set up, the breaking of the long and deep friendship between King Henry II, his will driven by the power of the State, and his Archbishop, Thomas à Becket, driven to opposition by the honor of Mother Church

When the King determines at last to have his Archbishop removed, he utters those words which ring down the centuries — “will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” — shown here in Anouilh‘s version of Becket at 3.32 in this clip or thereabouts:


Becket meanwhile offers his resignation unto death in surrender to the will of his God:

In Eliot‘s Murder in the Cathedral, a passage with which one must wrestle lays out the conflict and its resolution:

They know and do not know, what it is to act or suffer.
They know and do not know, that acting is suffering
And suffering is action. Neither does the actor suffer
Nor the patient act. But both are fixed
In an eternal action, an eternal patience
To which all must consent that it may be willed
And which all must suffer that they may will it,
That the pattern may subsist, for the pattern is the action
And the suffering, that the wheel may turn and still
Be forever still.

Becket was killed in his cathedral on 29 December 1170, by four knights acting on the spur of the moment utterance of their king, and their own certainty as to the wish their king intended to express.

Becket was canonized — named a saint and martyr — in 1173. And the King? Wiki summarizes:

The king performed a public act of penance on 12 July 1174 at Canterbury, when he publicly confessed his sins, and then allowed each bishop present, including Foliot, to give him five blows from a rod, then each of the 80 monks of Canterbury Cathedral gave the king three blows. The king then offered gifts to Becket’s shrine and spent a vigil at Becket’s tomb.


So much for Becket.

President Trump, who had somewhat reluctantly fired Flynn, suggests to Jim Comey, head of the FBI, that he might want to close down the further investigation of the Russia business:

I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.

Comey was later questioned by Sen. Angus King in an intelligence committee hearing:

KING: In terms of his comments to you — I think in response to Mr. Risch — to Senator Risch, you said he said, “I hope you will hold back on that.” But when you get a — when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like “I hope” or “I suggest” or — or “would you,” do you take that as a — as a — as a directive?

COMEY: Yes. Yes, it rings in my ear as kind of, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

KING: I was just going to quote that. In 1170, December 29, Henry II said, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” and then, the next day, he was killed — Thomas Becket. That’s exactly the same situation. You’re — we’re thinking along the same lines.


That’s the direct use of the Becket theme turned to a contemporary purpose. But there’s more..

Julia Ioffe on All In with Chris Hayes, speaking of Putin‘s plausible deniability using the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin as a cut-out:

IOFFE:It`s a very, very close relationship. In Russia, he`s known as Putin`s chef. And this is very much in keeping with how the Russians do things, right? There`s never going to be or probably not going to be any finger – any of Putin`s fingerprints on this, right? Probably what it looked like was Putin essentially saying, you know, who will rid me of this you know troublesome Hillary and everybody else kind of gets what that means and swings into action.


You might think the Becket story was enough. You might take delight in its contemporary echo by Comey and King. Julia Ioffe using the same example of Vladimir Putin was an unexpected bonus — but there’s (sadly) more..

Consider this:

Who Will Rid Me of This Meddlesome Stormy? The Michael Cohen Story:

Doing conspicuous favors and fixing things is in the nature of this bizarrely public toady-chieftain relationship. Read through Cohen’s interviews. You’ll find it’s replete with mixes of mafia tough guy talk and zany levels of conspicuous self-abnegation. It’s all theater at some level. But I think to a great degree it’s genuine. It’s the guy’s identity, like the way a top captain thinks about the mob boss he serves. Who will rid me of this meddlesome Stormy? Did I mention that Cohen and Trump’s mafia business partner Felix Sater were childhood friends long before they both ended up as top Trump business partners right around the same time? Well, that’s true too. In the scale of money both Trump and Cohen operate at, covering the $130,000 payment himself seems entirely plausible as something Cohen would do as part of the larger relationship. He probably did get paid back some way or another. But I think it’s totally plausible he didn’t. He’d love to be that guy who made the problem go away. Doing Trump a solid like that would be something he’d happily do. It’s the basis of their relationship. He’d get paid back in other ways.”

When Donald Trump, in one of his furies, makes an offhand comment about Mueller, does that then become an order in the ears of one of his loyal subordinates?

The Becket story has much to teach us.

Poetic or magical phrasings in otherwise realist contexts

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — featuring SWJ, Uma Thurman, and an outbreak of sheer alchemy – !! — on MSNBC ]

Poetry is irrepressible.

Often confused with things people print with broken lines, poetry is a view on things, an angle oblique to reality revealing an archipelago of plausible, interesting deeper meanings, not behind but within the everyday.

Under that definion, poetry is irrepressible, while the broken line stuff is failing, almost dead, precisely because it so oftten lacks authentic poetry.

Here, then, are three examples of the elements of poetry visible emerging from the dense forests of the prosaic, as the Mayan temples emerge from the Guatemalan forest in this National Geographic image:

From Exclusive: Laser Scans Reveal Maya “Megalopolis” Below Guatemalan Jungle.


Small Wars Journal:

vegetation and the night can come to be seen part of the enemy, a similar view can emerge concerning civilians

So: “the night can come to be seen part of the enemy” — true in terms of personal experiences of war (we’re talking Vietnam here) no doubt, but also mythic in its resonance, in a way that’s inseparable from its practical, field reality: night as darkness, the unknown, mystery, terror, all providing a cloak for sudden attack.

From Preventing the Barbarization of Warfare: The USMC CAP Program in Vietnam in the Small Wars Journal, not a source renowned for poetry — or “poetry” for that matter.

New York Times:

There’s divinity, and then there’s celebrity:

Uma Thurman is certainly a star, maybe more —

Her hall features a large golden Buddha from her parents in Woodstock; her father, Robert Thurman, is a Buddhist professor of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia who thinks Uma is a reincarnated goddess.

— a goddess, with a lower-case “g”?

From Maureen Dowd, in This Is Why Uma Thurman Is Angry


MSNBC, The Beat:

This is no doubt the most astonishing.

Bringing the moon and the sun together always makes me happy.

From Ari Melber on The Beat yesterday, at 47.12 almost at the very end of this clip:

Sheer alchemy, out of the Tube, out of nowhere! Bringing the sun and moon together is the conjunctio, subject of Carl Jung‘s last major work, Mysterium Coniunctionis, and symbolized by the union of sun andd moon, king and queen, gold and silver:

The middle image, showing the coniunctio, is from the Rosarium Philosophorum (1550): Jolande Jacobi describes it thus in her book The Psychology of C.G. Jung:

The alchemical conception of one of the stages of the coniunctio. Here the ‘king’ and the ‘queen,’ who may be taken as Sol and his sister Luna, appear as symbols of the primordial psychic opposites, masculine and feminine. Their ‘marriage’ is meant primarily in the spiritual sense, as is clear not only by the words of the middle band spiritus est qui vivificat, but also by the dove as symbol of the spirit, and according to the ancients, amor coniugalis. The primordial opposites confront one another in their naked, unfalsified truth and essence, without conventional covering; the difference between them is evident and ‘essential;’ it can be bridged in fruitful union only through the intermediary of the spirit symbol, the dove, the ‘unifier’ which intervenes from ‘above.’ The branches held to form the cross, the flores mercurii, and the flower hanging down from the dove’s beak—all these symbols of the process of growth illustrate the common effort of man and woman in the living work of the coniunctio.

Borrowed from Yin, Yan, the Tao, and Wholeness.

For Ari Melber, out of the blue, to come up with this expression of his “happiness” at “bringing the moon and the sun together” is a stunning instance of the breaking though of the prime symbol of sheer alchemy into an MSNBC news program — in the midst of the Trump / Mueller controversy!


Had enough?

Rest assured Inside a Bookshelf at This Genius Hotel:

A magical — peacetime — way of nightt..

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