Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Year-Ending Blurp

I have at least three topics on which to blog, potentially, though I find myself periodically forgetting either what they were or what in particular I had to say about them. I will likely either not mention them again or do several posts in one day to make up for months of silence.

The Owl Service became the 100th full book I read this year. After New Year's I will post a full review of my book list, for all the people who will be soooo interested (read: no one). In the meantime, I have mapped a play that I'm not sure I like, and have read an average of about 3/4s of a book per day since semester ended. Three cheers for vacation.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Party in the USA

The young man walked into his wing’s bathroom, toothbrush inserted into his mouth, scrubbing vigorously. The radio on the sink counter—a dilapidated thing older than many of the inhabitants of this wing of the dorm—was blaring the vehement inanity that was the pop station. Four songs a day, repeated ad nauseam. Currently playing for the umpteen millionth time was Miley Cyrus and her “Party in the U.S.A.” It was a song the indignity of which the young man had been bearing repeatedly for well over three months now; it was a song he had taken an immediate dislike to, for its synthetic trickery, its obvious lack of authenticity, its complete disregard of good taste and of musical complexity and tradition.

But, standing above the sink scrubbing his teeth and too lazy to expend the effort needed to reach out and turn the dial to a bearable station, the young man found himself for the first time ever listening to the lyrics. And, despite himself, he found that he was sympathetic. Maybe it really was just a song about a girl coming to a new place, lost and lonely and scared, for whom the musical tradition of her childhood provided a link to her past and her tradition…

The young man stopped and stared at himself in the mirror, frozen mid scrub. His eyes widened and he looked at himself as though he were an alien, a sub human, someone who had escaped from the circus. Miley Cyrus? A lost little girl? Jay-Z and Britney Spears her musical forebears, a legitimate part of her tradition? What was pop music doing to him?

He spat in disgust into the sink, rinsed his mouth, rinsed his toothbrush and stomped out of the bathroom with a thunder cloud above his head. A few minutes later he returned bearing a small screw driver. He turned the dial on the clock radio to another station, then bent down and did some close work with the screw driver. The plate on the side of the radio came off, and a few sparks leapt from the old man’s interior. The young man walked away, a smile on his face, followed by his own personal ray of sunlight.

The radio, meanwhile, was wafting classical music. Its dial appeared to have been removed, so that never again could it be changed to Pop Nausea. The young man slept well that night.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Another Thought, Or, What I Do Instead of Paying Attention in Class

I find solicitude in lonely places:
Cathedrals, graveyards, night time fog that traces
Edgewise spreading through the streets
Layering our old retreats with one-night
Dripping oyster-stands, yellow clatt'ring
Grace which never seeks my face
Nor seek I it; yet somehow morning's
Golden rays break the gloom of afternoon
Rising from the grave, our resurrection soon--
Too soon, maybe: running, crying, terrifying
The sea, the land, the Man o' the Moon.
And maybe with the roaring surf,
The caged lions torn from earth,
Maybe with the lion's roar, and the sand
Of lost sea tides, maybe from the roaring skies,
All our running, all our lies
Will create a stunning specious
Tapestry, flowing trickling quality
Of lions, monsters, pounding surf
And finally the great red turf
Springs fertile with shiv'ring towers
Made of crystal flaring panes
Of bloodlines pumping crystal
Through our stagnant veins.
Retreating steps on sunny streets
No longer our muttering retreats;
So forward, courage, raise your head
In your death be raised from dead
Retreat merely into war
Dive into the surf, the lion's mouth,
Usurp him, take him o'er, become the roar.
And My solicitude will stay as
The sun breaks bright on a bleeding aged day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Question on a Sleepless Night

"In a murderous time
the heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
through dark and deeper dark
and not to turn."

These lines are some of my favorites from one of my favorite poems, "The Testing-Tree" by Stanley Kunitz.

My question is this: when you've gone through dark and deeper dark, and have not turned, and have got to the end and it's still dark and you're at a dead end--what do you do? Get a shovel and start digging?

Does this question even make sense?

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Thought

O you stars, resonate with
Cold, sparkling scarlet light
Reflect my thoughts on this starlit
Moonless tragic night; wish
On me that I might crush
Life from the heavens,
Love from the dust;
There is, in the dew-spangled scarlet
Wilting lilting rose-petal, beauty--
And in the simpering rose's dew-
Drops are stars again, warm,
Resonating with the strength of earth,
The love of turf, the beauty
Of family. Why then turn we
Our thoughts on high? Where
In the cold nameless heavens--
Silver-sparkled blaring blinking staring
Dripping dewdrops drafted of ice--
Thrice thrown burning home, where
Find we benediction? When in the night
The stars come raining down
Burning holes through holy ground
Suddenly they're warm, and the
Rose-petal dew-drops flare into ice
As all we held sacred
Shows itself false, stares at us
With shadowed eyes and the
Backdrop falls away revealing
All we thought were lies.
And I cry dewdrops from my
Shadowed eyes.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Grace in Movies

I'm trying to compile a list of movies that are very grace-filled, or have grace as a central theme--grace used here in at least close to a Christian understanding of the word. So far I've got:

Babette's Feast
Lars and the Real Girl
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Gran Torino
In Bruges
Stranger Than Fiction
Children of Men
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Tender Mercies*
The Brothers Bloom
Groundhog Day
Saving Private Ryan
The Sixth Sense*
Dead Man Walking*
The Enchanted Cottage
Les Miserables
Forrest Gump
Brideshead Revisited*
The Lives of Others*
The Man Who Would Be King*
The Pianist*
Man on Fire*
It's a Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
Scrooge (the Alistair Sim version is best)
A Christmas Story
Phantom of the Opera
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923 and 1939 versions especially)
Sense and Sensibility*
To Kill a Mockingbird

*=Ethan hasn't seen.

Also, I can't guarantee that these are family viewing. If you ask me I will be happy to comment on the appropriateness of any particular entry.

Any suggestions?

(EDIT: I will be adding to the list as people suggest things. Keep suggesting.)

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Skewl Wurk

I just want to say that for homework this semester I do things like:

1. Write plays.

2. Read Shakespeare.

3. Read other Elizabethan and Enlightenment era works--Defoe, Scott, Swift, Jonson, etc.

4. Read literary criticism, which is just as good as philosophy (and sometimes, as in my reading for Wednesday, IS philosophy--Plato's Republic).


5. Read about the English language and its development.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Quote of the Week

Which, yes, is my cop-out for not actually posting.

Jessica. I am never merry when I hear sweet music.

Lorenzo. The reason is, your spirits are attentive:
For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,
Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
Which is the hot condition of their blood;
If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
Or any air of music touch their ears,
You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
Their savage eyes turn'd to a modest gaze
By the sweet power of music: therefore the poet
Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods;
Since nought so stockish, hard and full of rage,
But music for the time doth change his nature.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

-Shakespeare, "The Merchant of Venice," Act V, Scene 1.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Random Thought

Many years ago, when I was in grade school, I was watching The Swiss Family Robinson with a family of half a dozen or so friends of ours, homeschoolers. We reached the bit where the girl who you're still meant to think is a guy at that point is invited to sleep between the two brothers. S/he says s/he'd rather not. The oldest sister, who was four or five years older than I (and on whom I apparently had a crush--I was young enough that I remember very little) said, "Well, I wouldn't want to sleep between two boys."

To which I, thinking myself clever, responded, "Well I wouldn't want to sleep between two girls."

There was a rather mystifying complete silence.

As I grow older, I realize in more and more dimensions what I actually said.

It makes me laugh at night.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quote of the Week

"Mercy and truth, my friends, have met together," said the General. "Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another."

..."Man, my friends," said General Lowenhielm, "is frail and foolish. We have all of us been told that grace is to be found in the universe. But in our human foolishness and short-sightedness we imagine divine grace to be finite. For this reason we tremble..." Never till now had the General stated that he trembled; he was genuinely surprised and even shocked at hearing his own voice proclaim the fact. "We tremble before making our choice in life, and after having made it again tremble in fear of having chosen wrong. But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite. Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude. Grace, brothers, makes no condition and singles out none ofus in particular; grace takes us all to its bosom and proclaims general amnesty. See! that which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another."

-"Babette's Feast," Isak Dinesen

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Five Great Mysteries: Towards a Personal Aesthetic

That's a rather high-falutin' title, but all it means is that I'm trying to figure out some basic principles and guidelines as to what kind of writer I want to be. As such, this will be even moreso notes-to-self than most of my blog posts; but like always, I welcome questions, comments, and all other kinds of input.

John Updike said famously that he wrote about the three great mysteries: Religion, Art, and Sex. For my purposes here I'm going to add two more: Violence and Love.


I'm not actually sure that this is as great a Mystery as the other four, but it does share a lot of qualities with them. It is something everyone will experience, in some form or other. It is easy to become obsessed with (as our popular culture seems to have done). There is much classical precedent for this, of course: the Bible, the Greek Epics, in fact most epic stories and most mythology from all cultures--all of these are very violent.

As a culture we are, as mentioned, obsessed with it, to the point that our video games and movies and TV shows and (to a somewhat lesser extent) our literature are saturated with killings, death, murder--and fighting and abuse of all kinds. To quote a cliche that is nevertheless true, we are increasingly desensitized to it, to the point that we are allowing violence in movies to a degree that would have been unthinkable even a couple of decades ago, while taking the opposite approach to sex (but more on that in a bit).

Flannery O'Connor, a great Catholic writer and one of my literary heroes, once said that violence was a way to wake her characters up: "I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace." We see simulated violence all the time, but when it happens to us, we never expect it, and it becomes real, and the world becomes a much scarier place, and sometimes a place much more filled with grace. My challenge--the challenge of my generation of writers--is to make violence real once again, to use it not to exploit or titillate, but to wake up the sleeping reader and guide them to see the big, scary world around them. Quoting O'Connor again:

The novelist with Christian concerns will find modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.


As a culture, we have two reactions to the topic of Sex, that seem to be polar opposites.

First, of course, we are obsessed with it. TV shows, movies, literature, even comic books seem to have ubiquitious sex scenes. It sells everything from sunglasses to medicine to politicians. Since the sixties, even the fifties, movies have been pushing the envelope as far as just what they're allowed to show, to the point that these days you can show pretty much anything (provided you don't mind an R or NC-17 rating, though usually just R). Literature seems bent on exploring the areas the movies don't get to. TV is sort of the last battlement, though it's a crumbling and poorly defended one.

This obsession, I think, is unhealthy.

The other reaction, which may simply be the physically lawful equal and opposite one, is summarily that of hiding. Certain segments of our culture--including the groups of conservatives, Lutherans, homeschoolers, and conservative Lutheran homeschoolers I tend to hang out with--have gone positively Victorian regarding sex. That is, you don't talk about it, you don't mention it (unless it's in a condemning voice regarding any kind of deviance), you don't refer to anything referring to it. You can talk about pregnancy, as long as no mention is made as to how it occurs; you can talk about giving birth, as long as no technical terms are used.

Strangely enough, the board of censors known as the MPAA (the people who determine movie ratings) seem to go along with this line of thought, to a certain extent. They'll allow extreme violence and torture, such as people are highly unlikely to ever see or experience, in a movie that very young children are allowed to see. However sex, which is something that the vast, vast majority of human beings will experience at some point in their lives, is something whose mere mention gets a movie a higher rating.

This Puritanism, I think, is also unhealthy, and just as dishonoring as the obsession.

Recently I read Frank Capra's autobiography, The Name Above the Title. Capra was a brilliant film director, his most famous movies being It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Meet John Doe, among others. He was a Sicilian immigrant, by birth a salt-of-the-earth Catholic. Of course, most of his films were made under the Hays Code, strongly restricting sexual content among other things. His book was under no such restriction. He talks about sex, when it comes up, frankly and openly. He does not obsess about it, but he does not avoid it or talk around it, either. He jokes about it occasionally. But he is almost never crude, and never disrespectful. He gives sex its due, which I think is all that should be asked.

He says, and Peter Bogdanovich says similar things, and I agree with both of them, that explicit sex scens in movies (and, I add, in literature) are one of the stupidest choices a director (or writer) can make. Unless your work is, like Updike's Couples, entirely about sex, there is no reason to show it. In fact, I find that sexual tension builds better the less sex is talked about. Tasteful fade-outs, people, tasteful fade-outs.


I anticipate being a writer in what many are calling a Post-Christian age. This is not to say that Christianity will go away, or even that it will cease to be a huge force in the world. But we will no longer have the cultural common ground of the Bible--it has been quarantined from secular discourse. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does change the rules somewhat.

Religion has not gone away. This is one thing I am and will be adamant about. Contemporary writers tend to ignore religion, because to introduce it in their text is to introduce an Issue that they then have to Address. The underlying assumption seems to be that we're all happy little Secular Humanists, which is a convenient one for telling a story. But with the amount of Christians still stubbornly clinging to their backward beliefs, and the amount of other non-atheists in the world--which is, in fact, the vast, vast, vast majority of people, surely it would be more authentic to assume some form of underlying religious belief, even if it is merely touched on.

Probably I should research other religions, learn enough so that everyone isn't Protestant in my fictional worlds. But at this point, that's my experience, so that's what they tend to be.

As far as being a religious writer, I don't think I could be as brilliantly overtly religious as Tolkien or Lewis. I tend more towards burying my symbolism--not so it's not there, just so that it's not exactly where it's expected, or what is expected. I model myself after Flannery O'Connor, Gene Wolfe, and Sufjan Stevens in this regard. (See O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find," or Stevens' song "Casimir Pulaski Day.")


As for Art, I am firmly in the Oscar Wilde camp: "The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is quite useless." Art should not have to have a moral, an instructional value, a use, or even a point. All art should be true, a perfect (often mythical in the true sense of the word) reflection of the human experience, or it should be beautiful. The best art is both. See the Preface to Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" for more. I consider that my manifesto.

To go theological for a moment, God created humans for one purpose: to love them. He made a useless thing, and His only excuse was that he admired it intensely. That is, he loved it. The human artist is merely a shattered reflection of the Divine.

One example of this type of art is the cultural phenomenon-fad Napoleon Dynamite. It was in at least one way a perfect film, a perfect expression of art: its only intention was to make people laugh, and it succeeded millions of times over. It had some poignant moments, indeed almost some beautiful ones; but they served, eventually and sometimes simultaneously, to further the laughter. Few times have I come across as perfect an expression of the Divine in art. (Though I have a feeling the filmmakers would laugh if they read this.)


Along with Violence and Sex, Love seems to complete the trinity of things with which our culture is obsessed. It's an interesting antidote to the other two: violence and sex, at least the way our culture thinks of them, are selfishly motivated. Love is by definition unselfish.

I find there is very little I can say that has not been said already, and better. I believe in true love; it is love that is true. (I can't link to it here because Nat has made his blog private, but subscribers should look at his post "Wuke Skywawker (geddit?)" from forever ago, which addresses this at length.)

I find myself not opposed to love at first sight, even if I am skeptical whenever it is mentioned. I used to smirk and say I believed rather in "lust at first sight," but having matured somewhat I can no longer do that. Who am I to put limits on when and how and where love is engendered?

Love is irritating and aggravating and mysterious, but I think Updike may have left it out of his Great Mysteries because really it is mainly Hard. It's hard to love; it's hard to love unconditionally. We know what we should do, and we don't do it. (Biblical reference here.)

My motus operandi so far seems to have been not to take the easy, trite, romantic comedy version of love, or even to take it and expand it so it's less trite and more actually true, though that would be a worthy endeavor. I seem to take it from the most unexpected angles, and look at how it tries, how it fails, how it works out anyway as the expression of a perfect thing expressed imperfectly by fallen creatures.


Certainly not one of the great mysteries, but we are living in a profane age, and the topic is worth addressing briefly. I've been told a couple times that cussing in fiction is always unnecessary, which I found wrong and almost offensive. We live in a profane age, and to address certain aspects of life, indeed nearly any contemporary one, swearing and cursing are going to have to be dealt with. Even with Christians.

But I find it less and less tasteful in my own writing, to the point where unless it is absolutely necessary, I tend to leave it out. Maybe this is a sign of maturity. I dunno.

Monday, July 13, 2009


The other day a friend of mine said he read an article about How To Make Money. Number 11, apparently, was Don't Be An English Or Art Major.

So I said that I read an article called How To Give A Rat's Rear End Whether You Make Money or Not, and Number 1 was Don't Be An English Or Art Major.

I further said I read an Article called How To Be Fulfilled and Happy With Your Station in Life Almost No Matter Where You Are, and Number 1 was BE an English or Art Major.

In all of these, Music and Theater majors should have been included, but we can assume they fall under the general heading of Art.

The two articles I claimed I had read were not real articles. They were lies. But they were lies that were perfectly true, which is a concept an English or Art or Music or Theater Major would Understand.

Hey Look, I Can Write About My Dreams

This one I had while in Door County, and it took place in Door County. I knew this, even though none of the actual locations are there. First I was at a restaurant that was I Love Funky's combined with various small restaurants I've been to combined with every used bookstore. But there weren't many books--you had to climb a step ladder to get to a shelf in a closet to get at them.

Then I was walking up the back steps at BLC, and the FedEx guy was there, with a package, trying to get someone to sign for it. This, I think, was a leftover from my work-study job this past year, for which I (among other things) signed for a lot of packages. The FedEx guy seemed to recognize me, and he said, "The only difference is, you're a civilian now," but he let me sign anyway.

Then he started to run away and I asked why he was running. Then I realized the package I had signed for and was still holding was emitting a ticking sound. The FedEx guy called back, "A ticking package? In a building full of illegals?"

So then I dropped the package and started running but he stopped and stared back at the building and said, "Wait... it's not a bomb." I tackled him just as the place exploded. "It's always a bomb," I said. "Yeah, don't get smart," he said, as we both picked ourselves up. Then instead of the FedEx guy he was a half-Native American woman, and I was either Matt Damon or Ben Afleck, and we were both cops and this whole thing was actually the beginning of a movie about two wise-cracking cops who investigate attacks on illegal immigrants, which sounds like a pretty marketable concept these days, if you ask me. The only person to die in the bomb blast was either Will Smith or Matt Damon, perhaps depending on who I actually was.

The second dream is from the night before last. Heidi and Tarja were moving out of their parents' house and into a tree house which had several levels. They were happily showing a camera crew around. But the camera crew, rather than being inside the house, was hovering outside its windows.

There was a commentary track running over the dream as well, like on a DVD. I kept being confused as to whether to pay attention to what Heidi and Tarja were saying or to the commentary track, which I was finding very interesting because it was all about how they got the camera shots and stuff. The only line I actually remember is, "We got this shot by hanging from the bellies of spider-monkeys."

Psychoanalyze away.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Personal Library

Since this is apparently a thing now, and because I have too much time on my hands not working, I have counted up my personal library. I have counted by volume, rather than by title. These are only the books that are currently in my room--Zeke has at least a dozen on semi-permanent loan, there are a couple dozen or so loaned farther afield, and I have at least a couple dozen (mostly literature) stored at school.

Current total: 556

Contemporary Fantasy/SF: 145
Literature/Classics: 133
Old (Pre-Tolkien) Fantasy: 40
Contemporary/Genre Fiction: 26
Philosophy: 16
History: 75
Writing/Lit. Crit.: 14
Foreign Language: 10
Irish: 13
Film: 3
Miscellaneous: 9
Psychology: 5
Mad Magazine Books: 27
Biographies: 5
Mark Twain (by and about): 35

Of these, I've read perhaps 150, maybe closer to 200.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

New Plan

And I'm back in Madison, looking (rather unsuccessfully) for another job. The story isn't that exciting. Invitation to visit remains open, however.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Well, the end of this school year seems considerably less climactic than the end of the last one. Though, I didn't let myself get rushed into a relationship I didn't ultimately want this year, so I suppose there are always trade-offs.

The main point of this post is to talk about my summer plans. That is, it is a pre-emptive excuse post for not blogging all summer.

I got a job as a cook at a restaurant up in Door County, WI, which for those who don't know is the "thumb" of Wisconsin, the bit of a peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan. It's a beautiful place, and I'm happy to be going there. I will miss people around Madison, by which I largely mean my family and the Book Klub.

I may also miss the internet, for what with my own sad computer situation (having a crappy old laptop which in theory has internet capabilities but in practice is a piece of crap), I will probably end up using a lot of library computers, and librarians watch you like hawks to make sure you don't overstay your time.

Which means, peoples, for all of you to email me and Facebook me! Random messages, at random times, whenever you feel like it! Seriously! You know how bad I am at keeping in touch when I have regular computer access; well, think of me without it.

Also, you can call me on my cell phone. If you don't have my number and want it, tell me.

That's about it. Have a good summer, all. If anyone makes it up toward Door County, look me up. Seriously.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Absurdism And Other Things

These are a lot of random, semi-connected thoughts I've been having lately, that I'm trying to connect. Hold on tight.

Jazz and Absurdism are my first thoughts.

I began reading the book Blue Like Jazz the other day. It's a questing, poetic book about Christian spirituality in the postmodern world. The opening Author's Note reads like this:

I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxaphone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.

After that I liked jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.

I used to not like God because God didn't resolve. But that was before any of this happened.

I'm going to leave that there, hanging a bit awkwardly, for a bit before I return to it.

Absurdism. It's on my mind because here at Bethany we recently had our Director's Showcase. Everyone in the (Theatre) Directing class takes a scene from a play, recruits actors, and directs said scene, putting it on at this Showcase. This time the theme was unrealism, which mainly translated into Absurdism. I was in three different scenes, two from plays by Eugene Ionesco, who perhaps most famously wrote Rhinocerous. One of these scenes was from The Bald Soprano, which is subtitled an "Anti-play." It is basically full of nonsense dialogue:

"I can buy an egg for my brother, but you can't buy Ireland for your grandfather."
"One walks on his feet, but one heats with electricity or coal."
"One can sit on a chair, when the chair doesn't have any."
"One must always think of everything."

And so forth. This is typical absurdism. It is very existential, often; it reflects on a modern world and a modern experience that is, well, absurd. I'm sure that, were I younger, I would fail to like absurdism, perhaps because it doesn't resolve.

There is a type of person I have encountered often. They dislike jazz, absurdism, stories or movies that don't have an Aristotelian climactic structure. They almost always dislike Napoleon Dynamite. Usually they object to experimental art of any kind. The objection is often along these lines:

"It doesn't make sense."
"It doesn't have a point."
"It's ridiculous."

I don't mean to stereotype, but it's true when I say I've met many people whose opinions and expressions in these matters can fit exactly over one another, like a one-size-fits-all pair of spandex pants. And maybe what I'm describing is simply people who are "normal," although I object to the idea of there being a truly, deeply "normal" person in existence.

But wait. While it's implied in their judgments, the above-typified "normal" people have said nothing about a crucial topic: Truth. These people seem to be saying that all this lack of resolution is wrong, which implies a moral judgment as to their truth. But, perhaps because they don't think of it, our amateur critics don't say it.

In the second chapter of Reading Like A Writer, Francine Prose quotes Hemingway's method of writing fiction:

Sometimes when I was started on a new story and I could not get going... I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, "Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know." So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there.

She expressed confusion over his use of the word "truth" as regards obviously fictional writing, saying that perhaps he has made the common mistake of confusing truth with beauty. I could not object more. There is all kinds of truth to be found in fiction, frequently more and deeper truth than can be found in non-fiction or in "real life." Dreams are only rarely beautiful, but they are always on some level true.

Another thing that "normal" people, even "normal" literary-minded people, often shun and run from is that oft-derided branch of literature known as Fantasy. Before its ascent in popularity beginning in the 30s Pulp magazines, the Victorians (who in literary taste if not in morality are the analogues of our currently-defined "normal" person) shunned fantasy and relegated it to the nursery, the children's book, and the seamy shops which the sort of person who has never outgrown his crutches of infantilism and substance abuse might frequent.

Perhaps not coincidentally, something that has often struck me about old fantasy (that is, fantasy before and up to Tolkien) is its often searing truth. A perfect example comes from Cabell's Jurgen:

For now had come toward them, walking together in the dawn, a handsome boy and girl. And the girl was incredibly beautiful, because everybody in the garden saw her with the vision of the boy who was with her.

This is not only beautiful, but also, in a poetic-device-riddled way, very true.

Or, in a further passage from the same book. The Centuar is speaking to Jurgen about the garden they are in, The Garden Between Dawn and Sunrise:

"For in this garden," said the Centaur, "each man that ever lived has sojourned for a little while, with no company save his illusions. I must tell you again that in this garden are encountered none but imaginary creatures. And stalwart persons take their hour of recreation here, and go hence unaccompanied, to become aldermen and respected merchants and bishops, and to be admired as captains upon prancing horses, or even as kings upon tall thrones; each in his station thinking not at all of the garden ever any more. But now and then come timid persons, Jurgen, who fear to leave this garden without an escort: so these must need go hence with one or another imaginary creature, to guide them about alleys and by-paths, because imaginary creatures find little nourishment in the public highways, and shun them..."

This passage, though beautifully written, is emphatically not beautiful. It is sad, it is tearful, it is depressing, perhaps somewhat cynical. It is also very, very true. Again, this is truth in the way a poem is true, or a dream.

Lud-in-the-Mist, another forgotten and shunned fantasy classic, contains statements even less poetic and even more bald in their truth.

...though, indeed, it is never safe to classify the souls of one's neighbors; one is apt, in the long run, to be proved a fool. You should regard each meeting with a friend as a sitting he is unwittingly giving you for a portrait--a portrait that, probably, when you or he die, will still be unfinished. And, though this is an absorbing pursuit, nevertheless, the painters are apt to end pessimists. For however handsome and merry may be the face, however rich may be the background, in the first rough sketch of each portrait, yet with every added stroke of the brush, with every tiny readjustment of the "values," with every modification of the chiaroscuro, the eyes looking out at you grow more disquieting. And, finally, it is your own face that you are staring at in terror, as in a mirror by candle-light, when all the house is still.

What is my point here? Is it that jazz is true, that Absurdism, with all its postmodern despair, is true too?

Well, what if, as our increasingly theoretical amateur critic implies, the opposite is so? What if all music should resolve, all stories should makes sense, dialogue following itself like a pack of wolves on a scent or a regiment of soldiers marching in step? If this is a reflection of truth, it seems to me, then life should make perfect sense. Economic and political systems that make sense should work. Theories that seem airtight should always prove to be true. Drawing should be as simple as tracing the lines one sees. People should be nice to one another. Relationships should be tit-for-tat, easy to screw up, but easy to succeed at. Life should be simple and easy to figure out.

Is any of this the case? Of course not. The world is not simple. The world doesn't make sense. So why should art have to make sense? Why should art have to resolve? Why should we even expect it to? I can come up with smug platitudes to answer these, but they taste to me of the bitterest kind of sophistry and closed thinking.

Perhaps art should be an escape, and often it is. Often it takes the stuff of real life, and creates a miniature world which looks very much like real life, but which makes sense, which resolves, in which everything that is begun ends, and everything that is started finishes in one way or another. But this seems to me a cheap cop-out; good art, even good popular escapist art, should be true; for art is one of the deepest mysteries. Even an escape from real life should contain in it truth about that life. And it is possible to unite the two.

Take, for example, Lord of the Rings. I wish I had my very beat-up paperback copy of the Trilogy with me; for nostalgic purposes, and because I could find one of the many, many very true passages within it and quote it here. Many of my readers will have their own copies. I challenge you to open any volume and read for twenty pages without encountering some profound truth about life, the universe, and everything.

The movies are this way, too, to an extent. They don't always have the grandeur of Tolkien's language or quite the profundity of his thought, but they capture the spirit of the books extremely well.

And this is a trilogy of books and especially of movies that my theoretical amateur critic would distinctly love, for many and probably most of the people I've experienced to make this theoretical straw man do love the books and/or the movies.

There are a lot of ways, it seems to me, that these thoughts could relate to God. But it is getting late, and I have been blathering on for far too long anyway. I will leave the reader to make the reader's own connections.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Oh, Love.

Sometimes I wish I could just withdraw from everything, and not have to love anyone, and not have to be hurt when they are; and not have anyone love me, and therefore not have them miss me or worry about me or be hurt if I am. I wish the second clause much more than the first.

But it is impossible and, in the truth of things, undesirable: a withdrawn heart, to paraphrase Lewis, is one that will become a cold and empty and lifeless place. But oh, sometimes it hurts to love.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Roaring 20's

I've been doing research on silent films lately, for various projects and personal interest. I ran across some old movie magazines, and I was struck by how down-to-earth both the stars and the writing were. Of course there's some sensationalism and hyperbole, but it's nothing compared to the splashy sensationalism of movie magazines these days. Here's an example from an interview with Kathlyn Williams, who starred in adventure serials in which she often escaped from wild animals.

"And there are always little accidents that bring unexpected crises. One day a leopard went 'bad' and started for me. There was plenty of room for me to run--but just before I reached the safety cage, I tripped and fell. In my scalp today are ten claw marks where the leopard 'got home' before I was dragged to safety, and in my mind the thought of what might have happened had the attendant keepers been less adept at my rescue.

"Now I know you're sure to ask the question--so let me say right now that I'm deathly afraid of a mouse! I've never been afraid of big animals because I have always liked them--and when you like them they return your friendship--but little crawling things--ugh!"

Certainly Kathlyn Williams in appearance is truly feminine. Modishly slender and with a grace of movement that has long been a characteristic of her stage and screen work, Miss Williams today presides graciously over a beautiful hill-top home that overlooks all of Los Angeles, and as one wanders through rooms decorated in perfect taste and abounding in those alluring touches which are so truly feminine--it is hard to believe that the fair mistress of this "home" home has perhaps faced death more often than any other living woman; or at any rate, that she has gone through such experiences and remained just the same sweet representative of the gentler sex.

(MOVIE WEEKLY, July 9, 1921; accessed at: http://www.public.asu.edu/~ialong/Taylor48.txt)

EDIT 4/24: Another sentence I just had to share, regarding something said by an expert movie investor:
This statement is cryptogrammatic to the most informed of us; to the man just casually interested in the business side of motion pictures it is absolutely befogging.

(Paul H. Davis, "Investing in the Movies," Part One, Photoplay Magazine, August 1915, pages 55-58. Accessed at: http://www.cinemaweb.com/silentfilm/bookshelf/32_inv_1.htm)

I just love the word choice. I'm not saying it's good writing, but it's definitely more sparkly than modern journalism will give us.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Is Pro-Choice Coercive?

[For lack of anything better, I have fallen back on my old habit of prostituting class writing for blog material. This was an event story for Journalism class. This is the expanded version, that didn't have to limit itself to 750 words.]

Is pro-choice rhetoric coercive? Does the viewpoint that claims to protect an individual’s right to choose actually limit choice and freedom?

These were the questions asked by Dr. Ryan MacPherson, professor of history and science at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, MN. His lecture on Thursday night was entitled, “The Coercive Reality Behind Pro-Choice Rhetoric: Identifying what “Popular Sovereignty,” “Reproductive Freedom,” “Death With Dignity,” and “Marriage Equality” Demand from Persons Who Disagree.”

The event drew a crowd of college students and professors, with a few outsiders present.

Dr. MacPherson began by announcing that his lecture would last 75 minutes, and requesting that the audience stay for the whole event. “There is a happy ending,” he said. “And I want you to be here for that.”

As his prologue, MacPherson presented the case of the “Popular Sovereignty” argument, used by pro-slave factions before the Civil War. The argument was that territories should be free to choose for themselves whether they would be slave territories or free.

In practice, the “popular sovereignty” laws ended up coercing abolitionists into supporting the very practice they found wrong and morally repugnant.

To sum up the situation, MacPherson quoted Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address of 1860. “What will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow convince them that we do let them alone… We must cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right… We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.”

Dr. MacPherson then set out to argue that homosexuality, abortion and physician-assisted suicide cannot exist in American society unless many liberties are restricted.

He started with abortion. Pro-abortion rhetoric originally claimed, according to him, that laws legalizing abortion were not asking anyone to endorse abortion, but to uphold a woman’s right to freedom of choice.

However, these laws quickly turned into doctors being coerced into offering and even strongly supporting the option of having an abortion to their patients. In 2007 a Florida couple successfully sued their doctor for a “wrongful birth,” claiming that if they had known they could get an abortion, they would have.

MacPherson cited other examples, including the removal of the Conscience Clause from the Freedom of Choice Act. This removal would force health care workers against their objections to participate in abortions.

“What started as one woman’s right to choose turned into a coercive reality for everyone.”

He concluded by quoting the Cooper’s Union Address, changing “slavery” to “abortion.”

Parts 2 and 3 of the lecture made similar arguments about physician-assisted suicide and homosexual rights. He similarly quoted the Cooper’s Union Address to conclude each of these arguments.

The physician-assisted suicide laws that have been passed have been coercive in several ways, MacPherson said. The law in Oregon requires physicians to be dishonest, claiming on death certificates that the death was from natural causes. It also coerces doctors who have moral objections into helping administer lethal drugs.

“The law has so exalted a patient’s right to die that doctors are forbidden from their goal of promoting life.”

The Homosexual Rights agenda is similarly coercive, MacPherson claimed. He cited examples of college clubs that were not allowed to have policies excluding members on the basis of their sexuality.

“[The clubs’] idea of equal rights was that the school would allow groups on both sides of an issue to be exclusive. The school’s idea was that everyone had to allow anyone to become a member, even those who disagreed.”

But ultimately, MacPherson said, it is not a matter of force against coercion. The arguments against the pro-choice position are just as coercive.

“It’s a matter of which values ought the coercive force of government to promote and support?”

He reiterated the idea that the values behind abortion, assisted suicide, and homosexuality were unnatural. He said they could not exist without laws in place forcing them on society.

Governments, MacPherson said, should promote those things that are natural to mankind.

He further encouraged those who rejected the “pro-choice” agenda to embrace the “pro-life” agenda—and more, to embrace the compassion that comes with it.

“This means not only encouraging a woman not to have an abortion, but taking her in, clothing her, feeding her, comforting her, no matter who she is.”

After the lecture, MacPherson answered questions. One student asked whether someone who was pro-life could use the Pro-Choice rhetoric to his or her own advantage. For example, "choosing" not to participate in an abortion despite being a healthcare worker.

Dr. MacPherson said that the counterargument would be to bring up "equal distribution," the idea that services MUST be available to everyone, no matter their social class or position. (The idea being that our health care worker in this case would be coerced into helping with the abortion because the equal distribution laws would require it.)

Ultimately, Dr. MacPherson said, what will win people and help people and save people is not our rhetoric. It is our love. The pro-life lifestyle affirms the sanctity of marriage, the sacred nature of life, and the blessedness of parenthood. But ultimately, it is the love of Christ that wins souls.

Students were challenged and impressed by the lecture.

"I'm just impressed every time I hear him talk," said Heidi M.

"I was glad he mentioned that Pro-Life is also coercive," said Sarah R. "I was trying to find a way to bring that up, but then he did."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

OCD Broken?

I just read "The Lies of Locke Lamora," which was a fun book, sort of an urban epic fantasy with elements of Ocean's 11. I have the sequel, however, and I have not yet read it. I have, in fact, read other things since finishing the first. I mentioned a while ago that I seem to have this recent OCD about finishing series when I start them. I wonder if it's broken now. Of course, it could just be that while Lynch tells an excellent story, he uses the fairly generic modern epic fantasy style, and 800 pages of that is enough for a while. Probably once I start "The Book of the Long Sun" I'll have to read all of it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Ritual Notes

I recently completed writing a cycle of short stories, which for now is simply called "The Ritual Cycle." It is essentially a novel in the form of a collection of short stories; that is, most or all of these stories could, with little or no tweaking, stand on their own, but taken together there is enough continuity, development, and story arc to make a coherent novel. The thing is 80,900 words long, and took me almost three years to write. I finished it a couple weekends ago, writing the last 23,000 words in a five-day blitz prompted by the fact that 1. I was sick of writing the bloody thing and B. the characters and I were starting to have long in-depth conversations and arguments, something which is at least lessened with this ending.

The Cycle begins at the end: the opening story, "The Ritual," is about the reunion of nine off-beat teenagers (five are seniors in high school, two are juniors, one a sophomore, one a college freshman). They had gone through three years of high school together, but split up because their families moved away in different directions. The story is about their reunion, and about all the rituals that both lighten and darken their lives.

The second story goes back to the beginning, the start of the majority of the characters' ninth grade, in which some of them get into several fights. The rest of the novel leap-frogs its way through the years up until the same reunion which opens it.

Such is the bare outline; the spirit of the cycle itself is hard to explain. It's written rather impressionistically, nine solid characters in a world that shifts ever so slightly-it doesn't contradict itself, usually, but it feels like it does. The characters, to quote a cliche, march to the beat of their own drummer; except the drummer is actually a bagpiper, and he's drunk, and he quotes T.S. Eliot.

Terry Pratchett says not to base characters on people you know, but on types of people you know, and this is what I've done here--these living, breathing, unique, extremely idiosyncratic characters are all types of people I've known. I know they're all real, because I've met them all; though about 15 or 20 people were blent to make up these nine.

As a further note, one of the stories contains some of my favorite just-for-the-hell-of-it writing I've ever done: a sentence that's 573 words long, one that's 563 words (both grammatically correct), and one that's 407 words long WITHOUT PUNCTUATION (except the ending period).

I think this is the most publishable thing I've written so far, and I intend to send it off to... someone. Well, probably a lot of someones. Currently my self-appointed editor-in-residence (my roommate) is going through it with a red pen, and once I have thoroughly argued with all of his edits I will be requesting readers. There are a few people I have specifically in mind, but if you, gentle reader, want to be on the list, contact me in whatever way you like and I will sign you up. If you can't wait and want to see the earlier less pretty draft, let me know about that and I'll send you one.

I'm going to leave with a few quotes randomly selected from my recently finished work, just for fun.

And there she was.
He thought it would be over by now, a buried throb, but at the sight of the girl in the blue dress, her hair done up and her face split with a smile like a ray of sunlight—the hurricane formed again in his soul. Goddesses don’t die that easily.

“Thing I noticed about pirates,” Joseph said. “They don’t have great love lives. Oh, sure, all the girls want them. But as for finding one and sticking with her—it just doesn’t work.”
Owen shrugged. “You always make sacrifices.”
“Not virgins, I hope.” Lily came around the corner of the building.
Owen laughed. “Not this time.”

He had hit the Snooze button on his alarm clock, apparently, and apparently gone back to sleep. The insistent klaxon was enough to get him up, this time. He sat up. He lurched across the room, and a sudden urge took him to shout “Brains!” and tear someone's head open and eat the gray matter inside it. He resisted, however, as no victims presented themselves.

The four of them sauntered down Main Street. A car full of older girls drove past, and they whistled at Owen and Lars and Lars raised his cane in salute and they thought that was just so cute. Lars didn't let them see him roll his eyes. The four boys turned the corner, passing more old wooden buildings whose fronts made them look boxy when in fact their roofs were sloped like anybody's. Joseph imagined they would have cringed if they knew he knew their secret. Another turn and they were behind Main Street. The back, the behind-the-scenes, as always told the truth and the truth was shocking. There were garbage containers back here, entire garbage bins filled with trash bags. Behind the mini-mini-mall was a garbage container filled with bags of old unsold gift items, which acted as foreshadowing to the ultimate fate of the items in the gift shop that did sell.

“What were you guys doing out there?” Lily said.
“Out there?” Owen said.
“Out where?” Lars said.
Lily glared at them. “Out there, outside, running around like maniacs.”
Owen looked at Lars. “Were we doing that?”
“I don't think so,” said Lars.
Lily glared witheringly at both of them.
“Nope,” said Lars, as if coming out of great reflection. “Definitely weren't out there.”
“That's right,” Owen said.
“Definitely not saving the world and all existence from inane creatures out of the deepest pits of Hell.”
They both laughed nervously and Owen gave his brother a look like You're an idiot.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The weather today seems to speak of the fall of empires, the ancientness and newness of all things. It puts me in mind of Shelley's "Ozymandias."

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Monday, February 09, 2009


We were talking about MacBeth in American Lit today (because we were talking about Huck Finn, which naturally brought up superstitions, which naturally led to MacBeth), and I was inspired to post a bunch of semi-random stuff about the subject.

As far as the curse itself goes, I read recently that reportedly Shakespeare used real black magic incantations in the play (and it would be just like Shakespeare to have a book of them lying around), and whatever group of occultists he stole from got annoyed and put a curse on the play.

The first counter to the curse I learned about came from a play I did in middle school in downtown Madison: if you say the name, you go out behind the theatre, spin around three times, spit, and swear as loudly as possible. Later versions I've learned about add the necessity of knocking on the theatre door and asking someone to let you in. Another yet replaces the swearing with the Lord's Prayer (this being the preferred Bethany Lutheran version).

Also in that class are Romeo and Juliet, from Bethany's production of that play this past fall (in which I was the Apothec'ry). Romeo mentioned that every night backstage he said "MacBeth" just before the play started, except for one night--the one night on which there was an obvious snafu in the production. Also, I realized that before or during the recent production of the Mikado, in which my roommate and I were chorus members, he had said "MacBeth" at least once before or during each performance--and nothing major went wrong during any of them.

Juliet then remarked that we are MacBethany, and that must be the reason for such reversal. Which seemed perfectly logical to me.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Truth in Fiction

I've been re-reading Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise lately, which is about a young man of college and just post college age about 90 years ago. It continually strikes me that things haven't changed much at all in 90 years, just electronified. Does not the main character's rant late in the book ring true of our current political situation? Try changing "newspaper" to "blog":

"We want to believe. Young students try to believe in older authors, constituents try to believe in the Congressmen, countries try to believe in their states men, but they can't. Too many voices, too much scattered, illogical, ill-considered criticism. It's worse in the case of newspapers. Any... party... can own a paper that is the intellectual meat and drink of thousands of tired, hurried men, men too involved in the business of modern living to swallow anything but predigested food. For two cents the voter buys his politics, prejudices, and philosophy....

"And that is why I have sworn not to put pen to paper until my ideas either clarify or depart entirely; I have quite enough sins on my soul without putting dangerous, shallow epigrams into people's heads..."

This sounds like something a slightly more cynical, well, me might say, in the here and now. (That is, of course, if I were a literary genius like Fitzgerald.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Books Over Vacation

I seem to have fallen into a possibly unfortunate reading pattern lately. It seems that if something I'm reading has a sequel, or a prequel, or is in a sequence of any sort, assuming I do not despise whatever book it is it seems I must read all the other books in the sequence as soon as possible. This may just be a case of me being too lazy to figure out what else to read, but if I'm not careful I might get OCD.

The first thing I read over vacation was Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, which consists of All The Pretty Horses,The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain. Its trilogic structure is very loose--the first book is about one character, the second about another, and the third about both of them. The trilogy contains unity of theme more than story. I may have liked Horses the best: McCarthy's writing is certainly better in it than any of his other works I've read, and at his best McCarthy is very powerful. The Crossing is excellent too, but overlong at times. Cities contains probably the most powerful story, despite the fact that its climactic confrontation is a bit of a cliche. Its epilogue rivals the end of No Country For Old Men in dreaminess, thematic appropriateness, and surpasses it in sheer understated power.

Next I read Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, which was awesome. A few of the awesome things about it:
There is a cult of evil librarians ruling the world.
Monsters made out of old romance novels.
A grandpa figure who has exclamations based on sci-fi authors.
Works Plato's Metaphor of the Cave into a YA Fiction book, a feat which alone deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The author, Brandon Sanderson, has a potted plant named Count Duku.

Then I picked up The Portable Oscar Wilde, intending to merely read The Picture of Dorian Gray, and ending up reading all seven works included in it (see? OCD!). A quick overview:

Dorian Gray is amazing, a Faustian novel as only Oscar Wilde could write it. Also, it has a Preface regarding art and the artist, which is amazing if somewhat incomprehensible. My mom and brother were arguing about what makes good art, so I read it to them, and it effectively ended the argument because they were trying to figure out whose side Wilde supported.

"The Critic as Artist" is a long essay which, having read only once, I can only really review as Interesting. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in art of any kind, especially art criticism.

Salome is a once-act play, which has appropriately been called more of a prose poem, regarding the temptress who had John the Baptist's head on a silver platter. As far as theatre goes, The Importance of Being Earnest is then a nice counter balance (it is, of course, one of the wittiest pieces of literature in the English language).

De Profundis, Wilde's prison memoir, is probably my favorite. If I really talk about it here this post will get prohibitively long, so I'll give the teaser version: Wilde reveals here a greater depth of understanding of Christ's teachings than many of the "great Christian writers," living or dead. He's nothing to a Luther or a Walther, of course, and he professes no interest whatsoever in metaphysics-rather, he understands Christ artistically, and he seems to have hit a lot of nails right or almost right on the head that way. This would be an excellent tool for what Craig Parton calls apologetics for the "soft-minded," that is, apologetics through art, myth, etc.

(I intend, some day, to write an essay or at least a blog post about Wilde's understanding of Christ.)

I didn't think a whole lot of Wilde's poetry, as included in this volume, except for "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," which reads a lot like a poetic version of "De Profundis" (it was written at around the same time). It, too, shows a remarkably Christian influence, in a beautiful and wholly unhypocritical way (or as much so as humans can muster). I recommend reading De Profundis, the Ballad, then De Profundis again. Seriously.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


They're making movies of both Solomon Kane and (a new one of) The Picture of Dorian Gray! I just read the latter, and it is already one of my favorite books. The former is one of the best characters of pulp fiction, created by Robert E. Howard (who also created Conan of Cimmeria). He's a character with a bit more depth than Conan, so a movie about him might be a bit challenging to pull off. Of course, Howard showed character almost exclusively through action, so it may also be perfect for modern movie tastes.

Maybe 2009 isn't looking so bad for movies. We'll see.