Monthly Archives: June 2009

Michael Jackson and the Suspension of World History

Okay. I have to confess that Michael Jackson wasn’t an especially important figure to me, and in that respect it’s theoretically possible that I belong to some cranky minority that isn’t mourning his death around the clock. But even if he were as important to the history of music and art as Charlie Parker or Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra or Igor Stravinsky, I’d still find the sudden cable news blackout of everything currently happening in the world apart from his death a bit excessive and disturbing, and more than just a little infantile. It’s the same thing that happened in TV-Land when Sinatra and Reagan (two other revered entertainers) croaked, and one can sense a rather sickening feeling of happiness and excitement in the airways, uniting CNN, MSNBC, and, yes, even Fox News on the same euphoric wavelength that declares, in effect, and at long last, Iran doesn’t matter, the whole Middle East doesn’t matter, national health care doesn’t matter,  Governor Mark Sanford (who had everyone totally obsessed yesterday) doesn’t matter, Sonia Sotomayor doesn’t matter, global warming doesn’t matter, even Farah Fawcett doesn’t matter, because Michael is dead. What a blessed sense of release is to be found in this seeming collective grief, suddenly recognizing that we no longer have to worry or even think about the rest — or so, at least, assume CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News….… Read more »

The Online William K. Everson Collection (with updated links)

Thanks to a passing reference by Andy Rector on Girish’s excellent blog, I’ve just stumbled upon an invaluable online reference tool — the William K. Everson Collection, which has been set up by New York University’s Cinema Studies, where Everson taught from 1972 to 1996. As someone who used to attend some of the memorable screenings of The Theodore Huff Memorial Film Society that were organized by Everson, at two or three of its separate locations, I’m especially delighted to recover some of the program notes he wrote for those events, such as those for F.W. Murnau’s rediscovered City Girl (a screening I attended) on March 2, 1970. In fact, the two most impressive individual archives to be found at this site are Everson’s voluminous program notes, beautifully cross-referenced and reproduced for easy access, and his collection of press kits. (There are also some other things here as well — including the photograph reproduced above, of Everson imitating Cesare in the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari set that was rebuilt inside the Cinémathèque Française’s Musée du Cinéma at the Palais de Chaillot.)

Everson’s immense value when he was alive was more his extraordinary generosity, the breadth of his knowledge as a film scholar, and his enthusiasm than his critical acumen, so there are times when one wants to quibble with some of the own opinions in his notes (such as his own quibbles about Jacques Tourneur’s masterpiece Stars in My Crown, for example).… Read more »

Rhetoric about Iran: Americans Learning from Their Mistakes

The most gratifying aspect of Peggy Noonan’s eloquent article last Friday in the Wall Street Journal isn’t merely the belated sign that sane and grown-up conservative thought is finally being heard on the subject of the Middle East, in contrast to the obtuse bellicosity and stupid posturing of John McCain and others. Even more, it’s a sign that some Americans are finally beginning to learn something from American mistakes — above all, from the peculiar conviction that American self-aborption is the only thing urgently needed in the world outside the U.S., and that any sign of tact, calm, and/or reticence automatically translates into weakness. (I hasten to add that Noonan’s voice hasn’t been the only sensible one recently coming from the right; I’m emphasizing it only because it seems the loudest and clearest of these voices.)

I would love to see this dawning wisdom take one crucial further step — the recognition that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 weren’t simply, exclusively, and unproblematically “attacks on America”, whatever that means. They were attacks on people, many of whom weren’t American. Assuming otherwise, as so many chest-beaters did and still do, means playing into the hands of the fanatics who committed these murders and perversely honoring their supposed wisdom and one-dimensional view of the world for the sake of throwing out every other possible reading of what happened.… Read more »