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Everything posted by tenpenny

  1. tenpenny

    Dirty Wars

    AMC's Sundance Selects acquires the North American rights to the documentary film Dirty Wars: http://www.deadline....abs-dirty-wars/ A lengthy segment on Democracy Now about the film: http://www.democracy...cahill_and_rick From the announcement by Sundance Selects:
  2. I'm watching Mirror again, for at least the tenth time, in about as many years. More and more I've come to see the wisdom of those who say, when it comes to Tarkovsky, it really begins and ends with Mirror. I used to think Andrei Rublev was that film, or perhaps Stalker. But as great as those films are, Mirror, I now realize, affects me the most. Tarkovsky is here tapping into the deepest of wells: childhood, the bond between mother and child, the bond one has with the land of one's birth. And he's doing so in a (mostly) nondiscursive, nontraditionally-narrated way. Images, yes. Of course. Stunning images. But ultimately it's what the images mean, and how they narrate the story, that matters most, I think; it's not simply that there are "great images." And so I can't quite agree with those people who tell first-time viewers, "Don't try to understand what the film means - just let the images wash over you." Or, at least, I would have to add, don't let your appreciation of the film stay at this level. On a first viewing, few of us can hope to take in all that there is to take in: one needs multiple viewings, and even then... But a first viewing can still be an intensely rewarding experience. Mine left me breathless. I knew - sensed - that Mirror was a masterpiece. But I also knew I'd have to watch it more or less for the rest of my life - that it was the sort of film that inspires this level of devotion. In fact, I don't know of another film, by any other director, that provokes the depth of feeling that Mirror does. Just read through some of the "fan" reviews of it on IMDB or Amazon, if you doubt this. In one of my favorite scenes in Mirror, along with amazing images, we get to hear the following voice-over narration: I think many of us have had some variation of this same dream. I know I have.
  3. Here is a demo, with a vocal, of one of our songs, "Is This A Great Country, Or What?" http://soundcloud.com/michael-s-mcintyre/is-this-a-great-country-or-4 - Mike
  4. I haven't been active much on A&F for awhile, but I'm hoping to spend more time here now. Most recently, I've been collaborating with a friend of mine to write songs. We've known each some 35 years, and I have occasionally, over the years, collaborated with him on songs. His interest in writing music has always been deeper and much more continuous than mine. When he recently asked me to work with him again, I said "Sure." Neither of us is a professional songwriter, and none of our songs have been published or recorded. We'd like to be published and recorded - who wouldn't be? - but mostly we do it because we simply enjoy it. Anyway, if anyone here would like to take a listen to our three latest songs, I'd be delighted. But I have to forewarn you that the tracks we have for you to play at this point, with one exception, are not live recordings - they're just software-generated. As such, they lack vocals (neither my friend nor I sing, even a little bit). But, we will soon have studio-recorded demos of these songs, with vocal tracks. In fact, instrumental tracks for two of the songs (Midsummer Blues and Another Time) were recorded in a studio tonight, with vocal tracks to be added in about two weeks. Here is a link to my Soundcloud account. Lyrics are posted there and, to help compensate for the lack of vocals, I have also posted links to lead sheets for the songs. So if you read music, you can follow along by reading the lead sheets, while listening to the instrumentals. Any feedback - positive or negative - is much appreciated! - Mike
  5. FWIW, a "reading" of Zerkalo (The Mirror) that Tarkovsky seemed quite satisfied with was the one by a Russian cleaning woman (the bold highlighting is mine), as he related once in an interview:
  6. "Great art rearranges people forever." -- Glenn Close, last month, at an Oscars press conference. Short video clip, here. I've been thinking about what Glenn Close said. Tarkovsky's films have certainly affected me, in a deep and permanent way. But Close's use of the word rearranges caused me to reflect: Which one of Tarkovsky's films has rearranged me the most? This is not the same question as: Which one of Tarkovsky's films do I like best, or do I think is best? I find it impossible to consistently answer the latter question – it depends on my general frame of mind at the time – yet it is always one of three: Andrei Rublev, Zerkalo (Mirror), or Stalker. But which film has rearranged me the most? That's easy. Zerkalo. To some extent, I discovered (and rediscover) in the other two films precious things that have always naturally attracted me; but in Zerkalo, I found (and continue to find) things I hadn't been predisposed to look for, but things that I have begun – in large part because of this film – to realize are just as precious. What are these precious things? It's hard to put them into words, but I'll try: first and foremost, the maternal-child bond that is both practically and mystically necessary; the bond between us and the land, especially the forest; the bond between us and our childhood home; the bond between us and our country (and its history), even when our country happens to be so ridiculously authoritarian that it could imprison us for a proofreading mistake. Zerkalo is not as overtly "spiritual" (in monotheistic terms) as the other two Tarkovsky films I mentioned, and this may explain why it doesn't rank higher in this site's Top 100 list. It has a subtler, more "pagan" aspect to its spirituality, to my mind. Not that the other two films don't also have similar elements: think of the pagan scene in Andrei Rublev; think of the "animist" references – "every house [in the Middle Ages] had its house spirit," the objects that move telekinetically or just on their own – in Stalker. On my blog, I once commented on the importance of the pagan scene in Andrei Rublev for the title character's Christian understanding of love. I have by no means changed my mind about that, but I did make a summary statement back then to the effect that such a pagan ritual, in Russia of the era depicted in the film, would have been an anachronism, i.e. that it could not have occurred. I now know that the situation was, and is, more complicated than that. I now know that pre-Christian, animist religious beliefs have never entirely gone away in Russia (consider the present-day Mari Traditional Religion) and likely will not. Not only that. In spite of continuing disapproval from the Orthodox (Christian) Church, many of those who still hold to their animist beliefs also consider themselves to be Christians. I now know that this ability to hold "dual beliefs" is just one of many things that seem peculiar about Russia – peculiar, I mean, to our Westernized, rationalized way of thinking which has, of course, long since overrun Russia too without, however, entirely extirpating Russia's peculiar, residual nature. One sees a "difference" about Russia in other areas too. Think of Russian scientists, and how they think a little differently (and more holistically, I would say) than Western scientists, even today. I have personally observed this difference in my admittedly very limited dealings with them. I see their difference as a plus, but I think mine is the minority viewpoint in the West. Still, things may be changing. I recall reading an article recently which stated that Russian mathematicians are now in great demand within the academic world. Due to Soviet isolationism, for so many decades, mathematics there developed in separate ways that are only now beginning to be appreciated in the West. I'm sorry for straying off topic! In short, Tarkovsky's films have rearranged me forever, and none more so than Zerkalo. Perhaps more than any other of his films, I think Zerkalo rewards repeat viewings (spaced out in time, of course). The film is like a well that one can always draw from – one that never runs dry. P.S. No one should let the limitations (subtitles and whatnot) of some of the extant versions of the film deter them from seeing it for the first time. Trust me: the greatness of Zerkalo shines through the limitations.
  7. Thank you for opening this thread. This one doesn't seem to have gotten much love here, over the years, and I'm not sure why. Underneath its grim realism, its topicality (especially for its time), and its general overall excellence, this film is also a great work of spiritual art, in my opinion. Although it has few overtly religious references, there are at least a couple that I noticed in my re-viewing last night. There may be others. Chime in if I've missed some. The first occurred when Dith Pran and Sydney Schanberg were reporting in the town of Neak Leung, which had been accidentally bombed by an American B-52. The two of them had just arrived and were rushing to try to get the story, amidst the chaos and carnage, when they happened to pass near a Buddha statue. Sydney didn't even notice, whizzed right on by it, but Pran did, and he briefly bowed to it, which caused him to lag behind Sydney, who couldn't immediately figure out where or why Pran had stopped. As brief as this incident was (a couple of seconds?), it bespoke Pran's spiritual nature, which would endure trial by fire soon enough. The second occurred very near the end of the film, when Pran was trying to escape Cambodia, along with the very young son of his Khmer Rouge overload-turned-martyr, a man named Phat (who had placed his son's life in Pran's hands just before his death). It involves a simple Buddhist ceremony. To say more would spoil it for those who haven't seen the film – those who have seen it will surely know what I am talking about. From about the point where Phat first suspected, and then trusted, Pran, until the end, is filmmaking of the highest order. As with the end of Bresson's Au hasard Balthazar, I am simply unable to make it through this extended sequence without dissolving into tears, no matter how many times I see it. Perhaps equally as good, though, is the earlier sequence, where Pran's journalist friends attempted to move heaven and earth to create a fake British passport for him, so that he could be evacuated from Cambodia along with them. The film unflinchingly depicts the worst – but also the best – that man is capable of doing, to and for his fellow man. More than this, a film can not do. P.S. Since the link in the post above, about Dith Pran's death, is now dead, here is a live link to one in the New York Times.
  8. Martin A. Hansen (1909-55) was a prominent Danish writer (Holberg Medal, 1952), primarily of fiction. Several months ago I read the English translation of his novel, Løgneren (The Liar), and I liked it so well I am now starting to read Orm og Tyr (Serpent and Bull), which many in Denmark think of as his greatest work. Because there is no English translation for it I am reading it in Danish. I can read Danish, but it makes for the slowest of slow reading as I have so little natural talent for other languages. At 390 pages it may take me years to finish it. Orm og Tyr is a nonfictional book but is said to be otherwise unclassifiable. At its root it attempts to fathom the long, slow transformation of the Danish people from paganism to Christianity, which occurred roughly between the years 800 and 1200, by taking the reader on a tour of the Danish countryside to examine the traces of this long-ago change that are still discoverable. But it is also said to be a wide-ranging and even metaphysical book. On my blog site, I have posted my English translation of the book's preface. I have posted here the second section of the preface, because I find it moving and beautiful, and I wanted to share it here. Are there any other Danish or Scandinavian readers hereabouts, who might know of this book? A photo of Strøby Church, Hansen's boyhood church:
  9. My entire contribution to this thread seems to be throwing out isolated scripture passage, so forgive me if I seem obnoxious in doing so. However... how do you square this with Romans 8:18-23? Pardon me, but I think you may have mistaken me for an inerrantist. I am not attempting to "square" anything, much less everything – that is the burden of the inerrantist camp. And a heavy burden it is. Actually, I am not trying to deny the cosmic importance of humanity, but many Christians so take this for granted that a "stealth" sense of entitlement takes root, and a consequent hubris and noblesse oblige towards the rest of creation has built up, over time, to the point that it is completely out of all proportion to our true physical punyness. God is not only spiritually mighty, he is physically mighty as well – besides being God, he is God-of-the-cosmos – and we need to be reminded of this, lest we become too ant-like in our breadth of vision. Regarding Romans 8:19, N.F.S. Grundtvig delivered a terrific sermon on this verse in 1838, which I have translated from the Danish (expanding on A. M. Allchin's translation of some short passages from the same sermon) in this post on my blog site (where my current post translates some additional material about Løgstrup, in case anyone else is intrigued by his thought).
  10. How does human responsibility for sin make humans "practically equal co-authors of the universe with God"? To use the example you used earlier, if a vandal slashes a Matisse painting, thus altering it forever, does make the vandal a "co-artist" of the work? There's more in your post I'd like to respond to, but time is against me. Pardon me, but the phrase "human responsibility for sin" could give the appearance of being carefully worded to avoid any cosmic implications. As an inerrantist, do you deny the cosmic implications of human sin? In cosmic-space terms, if God's universe is analogized to a Matisse painting, and the entire earth is defaced by human sin (which it is not, yet, but let's exaggerate for the sake of the analogy), an "outside" observer of the painting would not be able to detect the effects of human sin even with an electron-microscopic examination of the canvas. And this analogy entirely neglects cosmic-time, on which scale man's life-span as a species is not even as long as one beat-cycle of an "outside" hummingbird's wings.
  11. I apologize for caricaturing inerrantism. That was not my intent, and I should have shown more respect for its many subtleties, gradations and frameworks. I do have a couple of questions though. On the subject of theodicy, and Genesis 2 (rather than 1), wouldn't an inerrantist, of whatever stripe, pretty much have to believe that all suffering and death, creation-wide, is ultimately a result of Adam's disobedience to God, i.e. human sin? I mean, wouldn't one's allegiance to inerrantism require this or, at the very least, make it difficult to "interpret" one's way around it? In fact, I've done a little checking on my own, on the internets, as George W. Bush used to say. And I did find a blog post, by a professor of Biblical Studies named Kenton Sparks, who evocatively described the usual causal nexus, ironically enough, in the context of an essay that argued against inerrantism! My guess, however, is that most inerrantists wouldn't be persuaded by his argument, even though they likely would endorse, wholeheartedly, this premise and analogy of his: Over against this line of thought, there is Knud E. Løgstrup (1905-81), Danish philosopher, theologian and contrarian, about whom I've written previously on this forum, in the context of the Bresson film, A Man Escaped. Here is something Løgstrup wrote in his book Skabelse og tilintetgørelse (Creation and Annihilation), substantial portions of which were translated into English in Metaphyics, vol. I, by Russell L. Dees (the passage cited here begins on p. 271, and the emphasis is mine): I am reminded of the Book of Job: We ought not to minimize human sinfulness – which is grievous, and grievous to be borne – but to insist as we do that "Creation is good and beautiful because it is God's creation, but warped and broken because of human influence," as though we would or could shield God from being implicated in his own creation, for both "the good" and "the bad" of it, according to our own, paltry, moral assignations – is there not a hidden element of considerable hubris here? Shall we imagine that because we have sinned, and brought our own race low, that we are practically co-equal authors of the universe with God? that we can make a sword to approach unto behemoth and draw out leviathian with an hook? or douse supernova and outweigh black hole?
  12. Ha – I love it. I too find it remarkable the lengths that inerrantists seem willing to go. To me, their best (worst) arguments have an air of "Alice in Wonderland" about them. To the degree that historical-critical analysis functions like a solvent to remove the dross of overworked exegesis that is wedded to inerrancy, more power to it. Christians ought to welcome historical-critical analysis for the light that it does shed on the Bible. Why should we remain in ignorance (about the Bible, and how it came to be)? Surely God does not want that for us. The tricky thing with historical-critical analysis is to know when it's done all it can reasonably do, so we can move beyond it (while not forgetting what we learn from it). Because when we overuse it, it can turn even those biblical passages that resemble hard rock candy jawbreakers into pea soup (solvents just keep dissolving, indiscriminately – it's up to us to know when to stop applying them). I think a similar process is in play with creationists, who literally believe that the earth is about 6,000 years old. Christians ought to welcome science for the light that it does shed on nature. Why should we remain in ignorance (about nature)? Surely God does not want that for us. The tricky thing with science, once again, is to know when it's done all it can reasonably do, so we can move beyond it (while not forgetting what we learn from it). What do I mean when I say that we should "move beyond" historical-critical analysis (and science, for that matter)? Perhaps something akin to what Hans Urs von Balthasar meant when, in his great interpretive study of Maximus the Confessor, he wrote (on pp. 308-9) about Scripture in this way (and quoted Maximus): Or, again, as when Maximus wrote in his Centuries on Theology (second century, from sections 74 and 75): "... it reveals itself as though in the sound of a delicate breeze." The greatest film directors, such as Tarkovsky and Ozu, have understood this mode of revealing very well. But if words like these sound altogether too "mystical" to control, and the first thing that leaps to your mind is the danger of theological speculation, then perhaps nothing I might say would assuage your fears (which I acknowledge are not without basis). Still, I wonder where this spiritual timidity in so many of us Christians comes from, and if it is truly necessary. It's as though we imagine that "the way" is like a one-inch wide board fence, the top of which we must tread with the strictest possible adherence (to orthodoxy), leaving no room for deviation – the slightest of which would send us tumbling headlong into perdition. I guess that's one way to try to "control" people. In a different spiritual tradition from Christianity, Shunryu Suzuki took a wider view of the matter, and we all might learn something – and to be less controlling, spiritually – from him: And a few centuries before Jesus of Nazareth was born, Chuang Tzu was not afraid to address his hearers this way: If we tried listening to the word of God a little more recklessly, perhaps we might actually come nearer to that "inner principle of Holy Scripture" which Maximus had in mind when he wrote about "the intellect which through the total abandonment of its natural activities [i.e. recklessly?] is able to attain a glimpse of the simplicity that in some measure discloses this principle."
  13. tenpenny

    Ponette (1996)

    Thanks -- what a wonderful discussion! I saw this film in 2004 and was captivated by it. At that time, I wrote the following about it. Now, I'm going to have to watch it again, and see whether I have any different impressions of it.
  14. It'll be interesting to see what comes of this long-delayed project. I'm a big Three Stooges fan myself. But the idea of making a movie about the Stooges? I never could see it. Were their private lives really that interesting? Their best work is iconic (much to the horror of many), but that's as far as it goes. Even as a fan, I have only very limited interest in the off-camera stuff. Maybe I'm not a typical fan, but if you can't attract me, the film's prospects would seem pretty thin. Certainly the non-fans (basically, all women and a decent percentage of men) will already be staying away in droves. I just posted a long post about Curly Howard on my blog today, here, which may provide even non-fans a chuckle or two (fans will definitely want to check it out, if I do say so myself).
  15. Not quite my point - instead, it was that (1) physically painful interrogation tactics can result in useful information, and (2) psychological (non-torture) interrogation tactics generally work better. Does admitting these two presuppositions lead one to conclude that technique #1 is always morally wrong under every single conceivable circumstance? Not necessarily. But that doesn't mean we can't have a policy preference towards technique #2. Given that there is no evidence that we have killed hundreds of suspects during interrogation, I see no reason to speculate on the possibility that we have. I also, unlike others on the right, have zero interest in proving that water-boarding was used to give us the location of bin Laden, since that still doesn't prove it was necessary. The paucity of evidence regarding the true number of detainee deaths in custody is due to the very active suppression of it by the U.S. government, supposedly on the grounds of national security, but probably on the grounds of ass-covering. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I can't remember any time when water-boarding was actually a secret. When I was in the army, a couple of my friends and I decided to "water-board" each other just to see which of us could last the longest without tapping out. So we tried it, of our own accord, without any authority telling us to. So, having experienced the sensation of drowning that it gives you, and having lasted for a much shorter time than I thought I'd be able to last, I can say it is a form of "torture." What I don't understand is the huge controversy about it. We can and have frowned upon questionable methods of interrogation for years - and we ought to be able to do so without forcing men like Lieutenant Colonel Allen West into retirement. You're right, of course, about waterboarding not being a secret. What I should have said, then, is that while everybody knows that waterboarding was done, it may very well be that the only thing that keeps the people who participated in it safe from war crimes prosecution, is the fact that the tape of it never got out (if you doubt this, then explain why direct orders to preserve the tape were flagrantly disobeyed). Because if they were ever presented with the visual and audio record of what actually happened in that session of torture, the public might actually believe their own "lying eyes," instead of the bland bureaucratic reassurances of the government press minders, and demand some actual accountability for a war crime. As it stands, there's been zero accountability for our torturing. I confess that your reasoning on this topic is baffling to me. You say waterboarding is torture, but then you act like it's no big deal, because we've always frowned upon it, so why the huge controversy? It's like the fraudulent post-9/11 legal reasoning used to justify torture never happened. News flash: Torture wasn't frowned upon during a sizable chunk of the years of Bush's presidency. Then Obama came into office and (so he says) he rescinded torture as national policy. Hadn't you heard? It was in all the papers. It's not relativizing to say that there is still a moral difference between us and them. We are striving for completely different goals. These sorts of comparisons still remind me of news media comparisons between the CIA and the KGB during the Cold War, arguing that both used the same barbarous conduct and thus both were morally equivalent ... or the old hat "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" schtick. I think it was Buckley who said that making these sorts of comparisons is on the level of saying that the thug who knocked down an old lady in order to steal her purse was no worse than the boyscout, who knocked down an old lady in order to save her from an incoming speeding car, on the simplistic grounds that both the thug and the boyscout knocked down old ladies. If you can't see that by equivocating on our use of torture you are undermining the very thing, the very moral difference, that separates "us" and "them" - then far be it from me to be a candle to your darkness. Your argument, with references to schticks, boy scouts and old ladies, is a non sequitur in terms of my position.
  16. I know it's probably unfair to single out the sentence above, out of a fairly long and thoughtful post - much of which I agreed with. But I'd like to make three points in response to it: 1) Although one can surely try to elide it out of existence with a chain of false equivalencies – "torture" -> "harsh interrogation" -> "interrogation" – torture remains, stubbornly, torture. I understand the point you're attempting to make, i.e. that we tortured not because we're sadists or because we want to terrorize, but in order to extract actionable intelligence. You apparently think that because we were dispassionate about it, rather than depraved, that made it alright. I couldn't disagree more, but I suspect we'll have to agree to disagree about that. Also, just how dispassionate we always were when we tortured is contested. Details are understandably hard to confirm, but it appears that more than a few detainees – possibly hundreds – died as a result of our "interrogations." 2) We actually did film at least one of the waterboarding sessions we conducted. Of course, this recording was never intended to "get out." The purpose for filming seems to have been so that if investigators missed or misunderstood anything that was said by the detainee during the session, there would be a way to review things later. It may also have been thought that the recording had value as a "training aid." Only later, after it dawned on some people who knew of its existence that the recording might well represent prosecutable evidence of a war crime, and only after express orders were given that the recording not be destroyed, was the recording destroyed. 3) I'm guessing that the phrase "putting them on video camera and sawing their heads off" is a reference to the Daniel Pearl video, or others like it. Al-Qaeda has certainly tortured many people, in worse ways than we have. But is it right for us to relativize our own use of torture in this way? Is it right to allow the most barbarous conduct imaginable to be any sort of moral barometer for our wartime conduct? It's understood that we may not always be able to live up to our ideals under the exigencies of war, but shouldn't we always strive to do so? If the harsh realities of war often inhibit our asking "What would Jesus do?" – are we not at least required to ask "What would Ike do?" I may be wrong, but I don't think Eisenhower would have ever condoned torture. [i fear that last part may get me in trouble. It probably won't be fifteen minutes before someone replies (with embedded links) to the effect that Ike wasn't as noble in wartime as all that.]
  17. Voluntarily undergoing waterboarding, for training or demonstration purposes, at the hands of friendlies, where the "victims" are free to opt out at any time, where the "torturers" are alert and careful to ensure the safety of the "victims" at all times, and, most importantly, where the "victims" know all of this... is entirely different than undergoing waterboarding at the hands of unfriendlies - where both the gloves and the scare quotes come off. Malice makes a world of difference. Never mind that historical precedent says, unequivocally, that waterboarding is torture. How do you feel about extreme sleep deprivation? Extended stress positions? Is it not torture unless, for example, limbs and/or digits are removed, power drills are applied, or electric shocks are administered? I hear we did threaten to use power drills on detainees, up to the point of showing them the drills. But I guess that's okay because we didn't actually use the drills on them, and the detainees knew we wouldn't use them - although just how they'd know this, given all the other excruciating things we did to them, isn't clear to me. I'm just trying to figure out where the boundaries are... Oops, I see Steven beat me to it.
  18. Source? Admittedly, I've been out of the loop on this thing. I haven't watched any TV coverage of Bin Laden's death. I heard an NPR report this morning and that's the extent of it. But it was my understanding that the Obama administration had ordered the end of waterboarding. Nothing definitive, but here's what a friend wrote on Facebook: I just heard for the 2nd time today U.S. Congressman Peter King (NY) explain that we obtained the "courier information" (leading to Obama via a multi year investigation) initially from Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed and then it was subsequently confirmed by Al Libby both under "strong interrogation" but clearly stated "water boarding" in Guantanamo in context of Mohammed. FWIW, on my ride home from work, NPR had a report that suggested that reports that any information leading to Bin Laden's arrest came from waterboarding may be erroneous. All details are not clearly known yet, but it seems there's no reason to think this is the case at this time, and that the five-year ban on waterboarding is still very much in place. Dianne Feinstein and Donald Rumsfeld (!) are both on the record (I just heard each of them say it) that the actionable intelligence leading to our knowing OBL's whereabouts did not come through any enhanced interrogation techniques (being pols, of course they won't call it what it really is). In my opinion torture cannot be condoned under any circumstances. Torture is morally indefensible, even if it "works." End of discussion, full stop. Okay, just one sentence more, and then I'm done. I'm as opposed to torture as Michael is opposed to violence - torture is evil no matter how creatively one tries to justify it, so spare me (not directed at anyone here) the ticking-time-bomb arguments and Saw-like scenarios - and not only because of what it does to the tortured, but as much because of how utterly corrosive it is to the torturers - it's sulfuric acid applied directly to the souls of the people who participate in it, and it spreads out from there, albeit in a diluted form, to the rest of the society that tortures.
  19. From what I can tell, the notion of plagiarism is historically recent. Authors once borrowed and stole from each other with hardly a second thought. I have read that once the printing press was invented, authors and their publishers would get perturbed when other publishers would steal the contents of entire books, and the aggrieved parties would then go to the authorities to get such wholesale thievery stopped. But lesser literary theft was once pretty much ignored. What's changed, I think, is that modern man is hyper-individualistic compared to his historical predecessors. Cities, nations, cultures - all pale now compared to the almighty Individual, who must receive His or Her just due. No idea, no meme, however commonplace it may become, however far it might spread, or however much it may grow by accretion from contact with other thinkers, is anything but the intellectual property of its originator, who must be assiduously traced and ferreted out for proper attribution. Lest ye be accused of the intellectual sin of plagiarism. At least in academic writing, that's how it seems. In "popular" writing it looks like it may or may not matter that much. Doris Kearns Goodwin - who straddles the line between academic and popular writing - certainly paid a price for plagiarism, but she appears to have done penance and rehabilitated herself (it probably helps that she seems so thoroughly likable, at least on TV - she could be a raving maniac off-camera, for all I know). Of course, if you're a politician or a famous person, and you want to put out a book under your own name, you can pay some actual writer to ghostwrite it for you, and that's perfectly okay. It's even expected. Ghostwriting is not the same as plagiarism, but if students do it, and get caught - by thunder! - we expel them, just as though they'd plagiarized, or at least we rap their knuckles hard or something. But after students graduate and enter the "real" world, if they become a celebrity or a politician, or enter upper management in a corporation, then using a ghostwriter is quite alright. It's all so damned confusing. Sometimes I wonder what we're really teaching students, other than our hypocrisy.
  20. First, fate (I'll refrain from calling it justice, that word's denotation being so vexed on A&F) catches up with the Suggs brothers and Jake in Lonesome Dove (the hangings themselves aren't realistically gruesome - nor should they be - but the scene is quite powerful nonetheless) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E44VYR3tTE8 * * * * * * * Next, fate catches up with Blue Duck (who may be the better parallel to Osama bin Laden anyway, in terms of Lonesome Dove villains, in that Blue Duck's killings had a quasi-terroristic component to them, i.e. they could conceivably be viewed as a tit-for-tat response by native Americans against the white man's violent usurpation). Note the public jubilation in anticipation of Blue Duck's hanging. Is the celebratory applause in the U.S. after the news about OBL the modern-day equivalent? Is the current desire, on the part of many, to see photos of OBL's corpse a regression back to days when public acts of vengeance, seen with one's own eyes, were accepted? There does seem to be something primitive at work here, and it's troubling, even if it may be understandable. One thing's for sure. Woodrow F. Call doesn't know how to be jubilant, about anything, as we learned early on: Call stays to see justice done... oh, I mean, Call stays to see fate catch up with Blue Duck, but he ain't gloatin' about it. And neither should we, about killing OBL. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9a1QcWDpdNw
  21. Justice must be about the most scalable concept that there is. Michael is no doubt right to say that the resurrection of Jesus is the purest example of it. All human attempts to implement justice are flawed, because we are flawed, but we mustn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, or think that we shouldn't try to be as just as we possibly can. And then there's the Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry style of justice. Who among us has not at least sometimes, secretly, against the wishes of our better angels, enjoyed the illicit thrill of watching Clint/Harry mete out justice directly? Or, if we (mostly) manage to resist such morally coarse and simplistic fare as Dirty Harry, how about the miniseries/novel Lonesome Dove, in which Augustus "Gus" McCrae and Woodrow F. Call mantrack those killers in the Kansas Territory who'd slaughtered innocent sodbusters (and then find, to their dismay, that their old friend Jake Spoon has passively gone along with the murders)? McCrae and Call aren't Texas Rangers anymore, and even if they still were, it's not their jurisdiction. Yet, they track, capture and hang the whole bunch of them (including Jake) from the most convenient trees. Is this justice? Remember, there's probably not a bonafide lawman within a hundred miles of where they're at. If they don't bring the killers to account, it's likely no one else will, and that's just a fact. I know - mob rule, and all that. But McCrae and Call aren't ruffians, or men who lose their heads in the heat of the moment. They're good men with sound judgment. I think neither of them even wants this unpleasant task. But it's been handed to them. And they will not shirk it (think of Call's tribute to Deets after the latter's death, "Never shirked a task - splendid behavior"). Moral trepidations aside, I have to say, this feels like justice to me. It's not perfect justice like Michael's talking about, or even jurisprudential justice with black robes and powdered wigs, but I would call it good enough justice. So, yesterday, what we basically had was this: "Osama bin Laden? Meet Gus McCrae and Woodrow F. Call." I would call that good enough justice too.
  22. I've done some searching online, and I've discovered that a question as to whether Steyn plagiarized or not has come up once before, with a different piece of his writing. You can read comments about it, here. The commenter, Mark Liberman, cites the following paragraph from a "special report from The Chronicle of Higher Education, posted 12/17/2004, 'What is plagiarism?'": Hunter's review appeared in the Washington Post the same day as the movie's general release in the US and Canada (12/20/2002). The movie had premiered before that in New York on 12/9 and in Japan on 12/14. All of these dates according to IMDb. I've tried to find a date for when Steyn's review first appeared, but haven't been able to. If anyone can nail that date down it would obviously be helpful. Did Steyn's review of the film appear in The Spectator (a weekly magazine)? Down below are the similar ideas, as I see them, paired up. Each of the pairings taken in isolation could be just a coincidental repetition (two people seeing the same thing, and having the same thought about it, independently of one another). But all of them taken together - do they add up to something more than mere coincidence? I don't know, and I'm not accusing anyone of plagiarism, because I don't have all the facts, and even if I did, I'm not qualified to make such an accusation. (Of course, some may say that merely by asking the question, I'm making a veiled accusation, but I have no axe to grind. I wasn't "looking" for plagiarism, on anyone's part, and knew nothing about the previous question, regarding Steyn, when I brought this up, and that's the honest truth.) I will, however, say that the pairing where Hunter refers to "a hurricane... a fog or a squall," and Steyn refers to "a meteorological disaster," is the thing that first caught my eye, raised the question, and that, frankly, doesn't quite pass my "smell" test. Make of that, and all of this, what you will (with credit to Mark Liberman for this phrase ). * * * * * * * Hunter: "the movie itself has nothing to do with the story: Scorsese pretty much forgets about it in the end" Steyn: "By the time Scorsese gets to the riots, he's pretty much given up on his lame-o plot and the background - the riot - is all there is" Hunter: "an ancient holocaust that has all but vanished from memory" Steyn: "a bloody spasm that's long faded from the city's collective memory" Hunter: "He just has nothing to say about it" Steyn: "The trouble is, he has no point of view on the material" Hunter: "more African Americans were slain than in any other single event in American history" Steyn: "more blacks were killed that week in New York than in any other event in American history" Hunter: "it blows into town like a hurricane, presented almost as a natural occurrence... a fog or a squall" Steyn: "The riot just sort of happens, and spreads, like a disease or a meteorological disaster" Hunter: "The movie fails to make the point that even a little research convinces you of" Steyn: "he surely must know after all that research" Hunter: "these folks, who were refusing to go to war to end slavery and save the union, were hardly victims; they were essentially in open, murderous rebellion against, er, America and were committing violent treason. And that's before they started lynching black people." Steyn: "the poor people, the immigrants, the draft dodgers happened to be pro-slavery, pro-lynching, anti-Negro and anti-American" Hunter: "It's clear he wanted to say something about the New York draft riots of 1863... It takes the New York draft riots completely out of a moral context... Considered in that light, the arrival of the Army hardly feels like the neutral tragedy of Scorsese's imagination. You want to rape, burn, pillage and tear down, and murder any black person you can get your hands on? Then say hello to the Fifth Pennsylvania Infantry with its bayonets fixed and fingers on the trigger." Steyn: "Yes, it's a shame the treasonous racists got gunned down by the soldiers, but it's difficult to understand the mindset of a director who yearns to film this incident for his entire adult life and then goes to inordinate lengths to obliterate the context of it."
  23. I just noticed that the indented paragraph above, written by Mark Steyn, is remarkably similar to part of Stephen Hunter's review of the same film, in the Washington Post, published on December 20, 2002 (the complete review can be seen here), and which was one of the reviews for which he was nominated, and won, a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2003. Here is the passage by Hunter: It almost looks to me like Steyn took this part of Hunter's review, just rewrote it a little (and much less eloquently, in my opinion), and compressed it somewhat. Of course, I can't see the date of Steyn's original review. I suppose it's possible that I have it backwards, i.e. that Hunter may have rewritten part of Steyn's review, although that seems less likely to me. In either case, could this be considered plagiarism?
  24. Thanks for the fascinating discussion! I'm enjoying reading it, and not participating in it very much. But I will mention, because I think it's interesting in this context, that in his film Andrei Rublev, Tarkovsky imagines Andrei Rublev as very conflicted over his commission to paint the Last Judgment (I say "imagines" because AFAIK the historical evidence, as to what Rublev thought or believed, is minimal to nonexistent). I blogged about this once:
  25. In reference to a thread-within-this-thread, about the manner and meaning of the ultimate transfiguration of creation (fairly far back in the thread now), I quoted a couple of passages from one of N. F. S. Grundtvig's sermons, as translated from Danish into English by A. M. Allchin, an Anglican priest and theologian (who just recently passed away - an obituary can be read here). What I quoted, from that particular Grundtvig sermon, was virtually all that Allchin had translated of it in his wonderful book about Grundtvig. Since I liked those passages so well, I decided to translate the whole sermon into English, and it can be read here. What impresses me most about the sermon is its amplitude - there is nothing pinched or crabby about Grundtvig's theology. It is as wide open to the wonders (and, yes, the cruelties) of life as the Danish landscape scenes in Dreyer's film Ordet. Fittingly, Grundtvig's portrait hangs prominently on the wall within the Borgen family household, and I maintain that one can't fully understand the theology of that great film without understanding the theology of Grundtvig.
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