Sunday, May 19, 2013
Thursday, May 16, 2013
"What do we know about what we put into anything? Though people may read more into Ulysses than I ever intended, who is to say that they are wrong? Do any of us know what we are creating?" - James JoyceI've been remiss not to have mentioned Room 237 on this blog yet. I first learned of this film last October when Chuck Klosterman wrote a review for it at Grantland and began: "I just saw a documentary that obliterated my cranium. It's the best nonfiction film I've seen all year." From there I was compelled to read every Room 237 review out there, then searched desperately for a way to see it (unsuccessfully until just a few weeks ago), and have frequently been bringing up the film as a conversation piece with friends.
Room 237 quickly turned into a mini obsession for me because the premise of the film spoke exactly to what I've been pursuing in my own writings for a couple years now. It's a documentary by Rodney Ascher exploring alternate interpretations of Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining through the voices of five people outlining their own unique theories. Their analysis, through which they verify a specific subjective interpretation by pointing out numerous correspondences throughout The Shining, is exactly what Salvador Dali referred to as "paranoiac critical analysis," a critical approach I've written about here and in my monograph on Dali and James Joyce.
As the ultimate auteur who carefully pieced together every single element that appears on screen, Kubrick's artistic style lends itself perfectly to this type of deep analysis. Hence the cans of Calumet baking powder displayed in some kitchen scenes hints at an underlying theme of Native American genocide, or so argues Bill Blakemore. Frequent occurrences of the number 42 allude to the Jewish Holocaust since Auschwitz opened in 1942 says Geoffrey Cocks, a noted scholar on Nazi Germany who sees the film through those goggles.
Juli Kearns (whose voice sounds a lot like Doris Kearns Goodwin, making me wonder if they're related) graphically outlines inconsistencies in the architectural arrangement of the film's Overlook Hotel, indicating a spooky morphology in the building itself. John Fell Ryan chuckles through his discussion of continuity errors that only an obsessed viewer would catch but which are, he argues, edited that way intentionally to add a further element of eeriness and subtly shock the viewer's unconscious. The most compelling (and initially ridiculous) argument is made by Jay Weidner who posits that The Shining is Kubrick's confession that he helped the American government fake the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The entire documentary is presented through a cut-up of scenes from The Shining and various other film clips with voiceovers of the analysts detailing their stories and ideas. We don't see any of the usual documentary-style scenes of sedentary people talking and there's no narration aside from the interviewees telling their stories and theories. This immersion into the worlds of the obsessed observers actually brings the film some humor as the speakers occasionally go off the edge in their theories (most memorably when it is asserted that the face of Kubrick appears airbrushed into the clouds during the opening sequence).
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
"Each of us has within us a secretly potent pantheon. The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, deluding images up into the mind–whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unexpected Aladdin caves. There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. And they may remain unsuspected, or, on the other hand, some chance word, the smell of a landscape, the taste of a cup of tea, or the glance of an eye may touch a magic spring, and then dangerous messengers begin to appear in the brain. These are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they carry keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self. Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it; but then a wonderful reconstruction, of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life–that is the lure, the promise and the terror, of these disturbing night visitations from the mythological realm that we carry within.”
- Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Saturday, April 13, 2013
For the last ten years, each February has brought a new edition of the Baseball Prospectus annual book to my doorstep. Covering every team and every player with essays, statistics, and commentaries, it's always a treasured new arrival which I somehow manage to devour entirely, all 500+ pages of it, within a few weeks.
While it has the physical appearance of a college accounting textbook, the BP annuals have always been known to be densely stuffed with great writing. The statistics serve as the structural spine of the book but the essays and player commentaries are always the highlight, making it so addictive to read for a baseball nut.
This year's edition made some unwelcome changes to the formula, though, and as a big-time baseball obsessive and Prospectus geek, it's a major disappointment. The BP venture has seen lots of turnover in its writerly ranks over the last 5 or 6 years with the style and content they produce gradually evolving away from what made them so successful in the first place.
Monday, April 8, 2013
|The expected ascent of Harper into the Trout-ian stratosphere at age 20 figures to be one of the game's biggest stories this year. (Getty Images.)|
PECOTA: 87 wins
My pick: Over
This 87-win projection is one of the oddest numbers spit out by PECOTA as the consensus among fans and experts is that this is the best all-around team in baseball this year. I'm inclined to agree with the latter as no other team is so well-stocked with talent in every area of the roster (manager included) as this year's Nationals. They won 98 games last year with a good Pythagorean record to back it up (in other words, they weren't especially lucky) and look to have greatly improved in the offseason.
Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, back-to-back #1 picks and two of the planet's true phenoms in any sport, are only now just starting to hit their stride. Harper is an early (and seemingly easy) MVP candidate as he enters just his second season at age 20. Those two are surrounded by an infield of power-hitters who are notably great defensive players, the rotation behind Strasburg is stacked, the bullpen's deep enough to withstand inevitable injuries and/or regression, and oh yeah Bryce Harper could go all Mike Trout on us this year. 90 wins easily, possibly somewhere closer to a 100.