Check out the animated show Bat out of Hell on Kickstarter!

Lionel Shriver on Fiction and Identity Politics

An excerpt from Lionel Shriver’s recent address to the Brisbane Writer’s Festival:

What stories are “implicitly ours to tell,” and what boundaries around our own lives are we mandated to remain within? I would argue that any story you can make yours is yours to tell, and trying to push the boundaries of the author’s personal experience is part of a fiction writer’s job.

I’m hoping that crime writers, for example, don’t all have personal experience of committing murder. Me, I’ve depicted a high school killing spree, and I hate to break it to you: I’ve never shot fatal arrows through seven kids, a teacher, and a cafeteria worker, either. We make things up, we chance our arms, sometimes we do a little research, but in the end it’s still about what we can get away with – what we can put over on our readers.

Because the ultimate endpoint of keeping out mitts off experience that doesn’t belong to us is that there is no fiction. Someone like me only permits herself to write from the perspective of a straight white female born in North Carolina, closing on sixty, able-bodied but with bad knees, skint for years but finally able to buy the odd new shirt. All that’s left is memoir.

And here’s the bugbear, here’s where we really can’t win. At the same time that we’re to write about only the few toys that landed in our playpen, we’re also upbraided for failing to portray in our fiction a population that is sufficiently various.

Pärtapalooza

By the way, I am listening to an Arvo Pärtapalooza on WQXR right now (it’s his birthday), appropriately sober given that other event fifteen years ago, Hattin 2.0.

Might be good while you’re grilling up some brisket, or even with the sound of the game turned down.

Tetralogy, people. Tetralogy!

From this story at the Dark Horizons website, it looks like we’re finally going to get that run of Tetris movies everybody’s been clamoring for.

But a trilogy?

For TETRIS?!? Am I the only one who see how big an aesthetic blunder this is?!?!?!

And of course such a whopping aesthetic blunder means many, many missed marketing opportunities.

We obviously need FOUR of these movies.

Tetralogy, people. Tetralogy.

Yeesh.

I ask again: why am I not running a major studio?

Another Poem about a Painter

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Young Bacchus, Bitten By A Lizard
It wasn’t just bad PR plus zero
support from Cesari—Amerighi lacked
self-control and a sense of tact
from the start. But, oh, the chiaroscuro!

Vatican Digitizes a 1,600-Year-Old Illuminated Manuscript of the ‘Aeneid’

Vatican Aeneid

Here is a link some of you—JOB(e)s in particular—might find of interest: The Vatican digitizing a manuscript of Vergil’s Aeneid from the year 400 (or thereabouts).

In Rome, around the year 400, a scribe and three painters created an illuminated manuscript of Virgil’s Aeneid, illustrating the ancient hero Aeneas’ journey from Troy to Italy. 1,600 years later, the Vatican has digitized the surviving fragments of this manuscript. Known as the Vergilius Vaticanus, it’s one of the world’s oldest versions of the Latin epic poem, and you can browse it for free online.

The digitization project is part of a years-long effort by Digita Vaticana, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Vatican Library, to convert the library’s manuscripts into digital format. Founded in 1451, the library is home to some 80,000 manuscripts and texts, including drawings and notes by the likes of Michelangelo and Galileo. Digita Vaticana’s goal is to convert these “40 million pages into 45 quadrillion bytes,” according to its website.

That’s old. That’s ancient, to distinguish it from medieval, and specifically those manuscripts transmitted to us by medieval monks.

Quin Finnegan on Rediscovering Pokémon

Yikes! It’s tough reading all that Heidegger when nefarious creatures like this show up in your living room …
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But having ably disposed of “Gastly”, he’s now taking the offensive—hunting for more of these hobgoblins born of technology and our ever-shrinking minds. IMG_0896

And taking in an architecture lesson or two along the way.
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Jonathan Sacks on Rediscovering Our Moral Purpose

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, this year’s winner of Great Britain’s distinguished Templeton Prize, delivered an exceptional acceptance speech on “Rediscovering Our Moral Purpose”. He begins with the concept of outsourcing, of all things, tracing its development in history and in the progress of the West in particular. And then contrasts this outsourcing with a necessary spiritual Korrektiv, insourcing.

Here is an excerpt; read the whole thing here.

Our computers and smartphones have developed larger and larger memories, from kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes, while our memories, and those of our children have got smaller and smaller. In fact, why bother to remember anything these days if you can look it up in a microsecond on Google or Wikipedia?

But here, I think, we made a mistake. We confused history and memory, which are not the same thing at all. History is an answer to the question, “What happened?” Memory is an answer to the question, “Who am I?” History is about facts, memory is about identity. History is his-story. It happened to someone else, not me. Memory is my story, the past that made me who I am, of whose legacy I am the guardian for the sake of generations yet to come. Without memory, there is no identity. And without identity, we are mere dust on the surface of infinity.

Lacking memory we have forgotten one of the most important lessons to have emerged from the wars of religion in the 16th and 17th century and the new birth of freedom that followed. Even to say it sounds antiquarian but it is this: a free society is a moral achievement. Without self-restraint, without the capacity to defer the gratification of instinct, and without the habits of heart and deed that we call virtues, we will eventually lose our freedom.

That is what Locke meant when he contrasted liberty, the freedom to do what we ought, with licence, the freedom to do what we want. It’s what Adam Smith signalled when, before he wrote The Wealth of Nations, he wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments. It’s what Washington meant when he said, “Human rights can only be assured among a virtuous people.” And Benjamin Franklin when he said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” And Jefferson when he said, “A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.”

Two Poems about 4th of July Picnics

At the Very First 4th of July Picnic
The host announced to those about to eat,
“BBQ is served. Don’t dally! Napkins
are in short supply. Latecomers will need
to use their petticoats and galligaskins!”

At the Two Hundredth 4th of July Picnic
The host couldn’t drink enough to slake
his thirst after so much Shake ’n Bake.

Two Poems about Animals and their Proprietors

Land of the Free: the Story of Stalking Cat
After talking it over with his Tribal Chief,
Dennis decided to follow the Way of the Tiger.
A psychiatrist might diagnose zoanthropy,
but this new kitten decided he was no man. So he
had surgeons do some work a la feline motif:
implanted whiskers, a bifurcated lip, pointed ears,
a lot of tattooed stripes (he didn’t buy fur),
and the final touch – teeth filed sharp as shears.

Vicious and Superstitious
An auger watching the flight paths of birds
might as well look at turds,
a haruspex can’t really see the future quiver
in bird guts or a sheep liver,
and determining guilt seems awfully chancy
in resorting to alphitomancy.

Would-be director of The Moviegoer set to release The Voyage of Time


It’s ridiculous to say there are amazing visuals here – of course there are – most of them familiar, or as it now needs to be said, “Malickian”. I’m looking forward to seeing both versions, the IMAX narrated by Brad Pitt and the feature narrated by Cate Blanchett. I have to admit, I’m somewhat more excited about the latter, as I’m looking forward to knowing more about the content. To say nothing of Blanchett’s voice.

Regarding the content, we know Malick was/is fairly interested in Heidegger (which may well have been what drew him to Percy, if not versa-vice), author, of course of Being and Time. He has an early book called “The History of the Concept of Time”, and it’ll be interesting to see if Malick draws on this at all, or deals with the chicken-and-egg question of whether it is Time or Being that is primordial (Heidegger’s big question in B&T).

If we speak of Time (as primordial), do we not assume that Time “is”? If we speak of Being as primordial, does Time then become illusory (or perhaps even non-being)? In short, why the voyage “of” time, rather than “through” time? If time itself is the Voyager, through or by what does it actualize itself (or become actualized)? Well, Being, perhaps. I would like to see if/how Malick will reveal these questions visually.

As I’ve noted here before, film and music are mediums uniquely fit for exploring these ideas, as they themselves exist (rather than simply being represented, à la Dali in The Persistence of Memory) in time.

And of course Augustine. What a treat to hear Cate Blanchett read from chapter 11 of Confessions!