The Sublime and Beautiful

sublimeFrom antiquity to the Enlightenment, one of the great aesthetic dichotomies involved the sublime and the beautiful. If the contrast of those terms is any indication of meaning in Blake Robbins’s movie of the above-referenced title, the intention is extremely subtle. The film deals with unspeakable tragedy, and one would be hard-pressed to find any conventional definition of either term as fitting for what transpires.

However, if they are taken not as terms to be distinguished, but as terms that inform a third object—due to an important excision of the second article “the”—there is more of an argument. That is, if the terms are taken as adjectives modifying a particular person or state—“that which is sublime and beautiful”—then you can see what he is after. Still, it takes some convincing.

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Hitch Your Wagon to a Want Ad

Harmon photoThe year has turned, and I have yet another chapter in the annals of things I’ve learned from farming in the quasi-way that I do it—on breaks in my teaching schedule and long weekends away from work.

Last summer, I found an old wagon off the side of the road on the back of our place. It had been abandoned there around twenty or thirty years ago, forged together by a man who was once a metalworker, long gone now. It seems he used the axle from an old car, then built a metal box frame around it. He then installed a ply board floor, and fashioned some kind of a tongue that would allow the wagon to be secured to the back of a tractor with a linchpin.

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Certain Poor Shepherds

4170806345_e0f381d5e2_zLong ago, when there were only three television stations, you had to wait for what you wanted. That feature had the benefit of making things exceptional, which is the perplexing irony of our times. Able to have all so quickly—with high speed downloads and internet superhighways—things don’t hold their value as long. Our taste buds are sanded clean from a glut of widely available sugar, a torrent of rainbows has blasted us colorblind, and iTunes has stunned us tone-deaf and tin-eared.

In the past, anticipation—having to wait—raised the worth of the arrival. We learn this lesson at Lent every year, and promptly forget it on Easter Monday. But hardheaded as we are, that’s the true way of things. Nuns and monks often tell the disbelieving that without privation, you cannot know joy; without sacrifice, you cannot marvel at abundance. St. Theresa slept on straw; St. Theresa walked barefoot; and yet, St. Theresa achieved her ecstasy. How about you? [Read more...]

The Infinite Sincerity of Bill Murray

Bill Murray  Resimleri 4In Bill Murray’s long movie career, I don’t think he’s ever played a flat out bad guy. Neither to my knowledge has he ever been a geek. He’s been crazy from time to time, and he’s been on the wrong side of the law, but without fail he’s supremely likeable. Most importantly, he’s never been uncool (I am on record as saying he’s the coolest man on earth).

Fine directors have used him to great effect, Sophia Coppola, Lost in Translation; Jim Jarmusch, Broken Flowers; Harold Ramis, Groundhog Day; though none have capitalized on his talents as much as Wes Anderson.

Anderson, one of the most original, imaginative, and delightful of today’s directors has showcased Murray in Rushmore, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, and offered him plum vignettes in The Darjeeling Limited and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

He’s always had his own way of going, lived within his own enigmatic code, and never ever disappointed. It’s difficult to isolate exactly what’s made him so distinctive, but I’m of the opinion that it has to do with sincerity.

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The Subtle Traitor

Back-stabbingI’m about to describe a character. He doesn’t exist everywhere, nor is he a threat to everyone. But it’s important to sketch out his profile, because he’s hardly ever seen for what he is, and because his brotherly embraces can end with a knife between your ribs.

To be even halfway familiar with him, you have to be from a place, or of a group, that has a “checkered past”—a group whose forebears transgressed against the modern orthodoxies in a big time way. I’m talking “Mark of Cain” stuff that gets you centuries of bad PR. These forebears are often losers in the wars, both military and cultural, so their sins get chiseled into marble.

Being a white (rumor of a Choctaw somewhere won’t cut it), Christian, Southern, heterosexual male, in good health and with no certifiable mental deficits (damn it), I’m in pretty bad standing. My immediate family didn’t even have the decency to be poor. So I’m everybody’s worst nightmare—on the wrong side of all government quotas. Worse, if you dig around in my family magnolia tree, you’ll find the reason those quotas got instituted in the first place.

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