Hitler’s Baby Pictures

Joel’s selection for February’s book group is Maus by Art Spiegelman.

From the book jacket:

Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his father’s terrifying story, and History itself. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), succeeds perfectly in shocking us out of any lingering sense of familiarity with the events described…

Spiegelman became the first — and still only — comics creator to win the Pulitzer Prize, which he was awarded for Maus, a two-volume graphic novel. (“Graphic novel” is a term substituted for “comic book” to make them more palatable to non-comic readers.)

Maus will be challenging for many members, but for different reasons. It’s challenging for Mac and Jennifer because they don’t like comic books, and they’re both skeptical that this one might have achieved some level of greatness. It’s challenging for Lisa because Holocaust literature gives her nightmares, seriously messes with her mind. It’s challenging for me because I’m tired of Holocaust tales to the point that I avoid them (for example, I didn’t see last year’s Oscar-nominated The Pianist because it’s a Holocaust film). It’s not that I’m an anti-semite or don’t care about what happened; it’s just that I get the point by now, and I’m tired of having it hearing it over and over again.

(There are various web resources available to enhance your reading of Maus.)

Aimee’s book selection for March is a nice complement to Joel’s selection. We’ll be reading Explaining Hitler by Ron Rosenbaum.

I’m excited to read both of these books individually, but more especially as a pair. I’ve read Maus before, and it’s excellent. I’ve only read a few pages of the introduction to Explaining Hitler so far, but it too looks great, too:

Is it possible to find in the thinly distributed, heatedly disputed facts of Hitler’s life before he came to power some single transformative moment, some dramatic trauma, or some life-changing encounter with a Svengali-like figure — a moment of metamorphosis that made Hitler Hitler? It’s a search impelled by the absence of a coherent and convincing evolutionary account of Hitler’s psychological development, one that would explain his transformation from a shy, artistically minded youth, the dispirited denizen of a Viennese homeless shelter, from the dutiful but determinedly obscure army corporal, to the figure who, not long after his return to Munich from the war, suddenly leapt onto the stage of history as a terrifyingly incendiary, spellbinding street orator. One who proceeded to take a party whose members numbered in the dozens and used it to seize power over a nation of millions; made that nation and instrument of his will, a will that convulsed the world and left forty million corpses in its wake. Missing, metaphorically then, is something that will help us explain Hitler’s baby pictures.

Those baby pictures: If I had to choose a single defining moment in the course of researching and thinking about the search for Hitler, it might have to be that evening in Paris when I witnessed — when I was on the receiving end of — French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann‘s angry tirade over Hitler’s baby pictures. When I witnessed the way the acclaimed director of Shoah, the nine-and-a-half hour Holocaust documentary, metaphorically brandished the baby pictures, brandished the scandalizing idea of the baby pictures in my face as weapons in his personal, obsessive war against the question Why. It was a moment that exposed both the passion behind the controversy over the problem of explaining Hitler — and the question at its core.

It might come as a surprise to many that the very notion of attempting to explain Hitler should seem not merely difficult in itself but dangerous, forbidden, a transgression of near-biblical proportions to some. And, in fact, Lanzmann does represent an extreme position, the end point of a continuum, what I would call third-level despair over explaining Hitler. The point at which the despair turns to outright hostility to the process of explanation itself. The point at which the search for Hitler doubles back on its searchers.

I don’t know where Rosenbaum plans to lead me as he explores Hitler’s origins. I’m curious. I often wonder if his motives might have no more explanation than a Citizen Kane-like “Rosebud” moment. Perhaps when he was a young man he suffered some sort of teasing or torment at the hands of a Jewish boy. Perhaps this small event, or one similar, planted a seed of bitterness that grew into full-fledged forest of destruction that embroiled the entire world and killed forty million people. Who knows? Rosenbaum’s book should be a fascinating read.


It seems to me that there are three great defining moments in the American cultural mythos: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II. As World War II is the most recent, it plays the largest role in shaping our society. Of these three defining events, World War II is the setting we most commonly use to explain ourselves and the world around us. (The destruction of the World Trade Center certainly has the possibility to become a fourth defining moment in our mythos, and it is without question the event that dominates our current cultural mindset.)

Comments


On 25 January 2004 (02:28 PM),
Dana said:

I think there are at least a couple other events with equal amounts of impact, one of which isn’t largely acknowledged.

First, you left out Vietnam, which really kicked the baby-boomer generation into a very particular set of attitudes, actions, and behaviors. In many ways, it’s still at the heart of the split between Liberal and Conservative here in the US today, a split which has only become more entrenched over time.

The unacknowledged event, I think, is the Indian Wars and the coupled idea of Manifest Destiny. They both had an enormous impact on the nature of our culture, and the shape and composition of both the nation and the population. And we largely ignore it. It’s a 500 lb gorilla in the corner that nobody talks about. My grandfather was born in southern Minnesota in 1918, and the Indian Uprising over in South Dakota was still fresh in people’s minds when he was a kid.

The fact that the decimation of the Native Americans happened, and happened in ways we would now consider as bad or worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews, AND that we don’t discuss it at all, says a lot about the kind of nation we have, too. Just because we choose not to acknowledge it’s effects doesn’t mean it’s important. It suggests it’s important in a negative way, that we’d rather not focus on.

That’s just my opinion, obviously. I think the Labor movements of the early 20th century were nearly as important as WWII, too. Again, that’s just me.



On 25 January 2004 (03:32 PM),
mart said:

the wife and i are in complete agreement with your no-holocaust-tales-thing. ’round here we avoid them like the plague. i did let one slip last year: alain resnais’ “night and fog”. and at some point in my life i’ll be tempted by “shoah”, if only because of the joke in “annie hall”(?) where woody keeps taking dates to see it.

as a younger man i visited dachau. perhaps that frees me from having to watch these films anymore?



On 25 January 2004 (06:34 PM),
Dana said:

I bring this up whenever holocaust stuff comes up.

When the Allies went in to liberate Germany, there was a BBC documentary crew that went into Dachau with the troops.

After the documentary was completed, the Beeb decided it was too graphic, and shelved it. At some point in the 70s or 80s, it was located, they rerecorded the sound, and made it available.

I watched it in Social Studies in 9th grade. Holy Cow. It was worth seeing, but once is enough.



On 25 January 2004 (07:25 PM),
Nikchick said:

Maus was my first comic book. I’d never read comics, unless you count strips in the paper or Bazooka Joe, but Maus really opened my mind to the experience.

I’m still no regular comic reader, but I’ve enjoyed my fair share since then.

The Decemberists (Live in Concert)

I leave work at noon and swing by the high school to see Mac. There’s raucous laughter pouring from his room. Inside, Mac and Joe Ruwitch and Matt Sprague and three other teachers are seated around a table, eating lunch and playing dominoes. They’re loud and having fun. Mac makes a copy of the photography class handout for me, and we chat for a bit.

I head to the barber shop. Howard, the shop owner, is cutting Neal Martin’s hair. Neal’s family owns Martin’s Town and Country Furniture, which is just down the road from Custom Box Service. He and I were in the same class. Howard and Neal are talking about San Francisco. When his haircut’s finished, I take my place in the chair while Neal and I spend ten or fifteen minutes reminiscing about high school, discussing classmates seen and unseen. I mention that I’m having dinner with Paul Carlile and Tom Stewart tonight. After he’s gone, I regret not having asked him to join us.

When Paul arrives, we drive to Portland in the rainy dusk, oblivious to the stop-and-go traffic. We’re talking. We have time before dinner, so we stop at Powell’s where I pick up the next book group book. Paul bumps into a woman he knows and begins to chat with her while I continue to browse. When I return to them, he introduces me: “This is my friend, J.D.”

I wait for him to introduce her, but he seems to have forgotten, so I say, “And this is…”

“Exactly,” Paul says. But no more.

I shake the woman’s hand and say, “Nice to meet you, Exactly.” I figure that Paul’s just being goofy.

The conversation ends abruptly. The woman is walking in the same direction that we need to go, so I figure we’ll just walk with her, but she quickens her pace, leaving us behind. I am puzzled.

“Oh my god,” Paul says. “I can’t believe you didn’t pick up on my hint. I once dated her for a couple of weeks, but I just couldn’t remember her name. Oh god.”

I feel bad, but not nearly as bad as Paul feels!

We drive to the India Grill. The ten minute drive takes half an hour in rush hour traffic. While we wait for Tom, we share an appetizer of beef samosas and assorted pieces of chicken and lamb. It’s delicious, as usual.

Tom arrives. I haven’t seen him in several years. He used to be a skinny kid, but he’s filled out some now. His voice is much deeper than I remember. He has the same cheerful good-nature and fun personality as always, though. He talks about being married, about having a two-year-old son (Quinn), and a fifteen-year-old stepson. He talks about his new job. The conversation turns to friends from high school and what they’re doing now. Paul and Tom observe that in high school, Tom had the widest social circle of the three of us, and I had the smallest, but that now the roles seem to have been reversed. “I like to keep contact with people,” I say. And I do. It’s a nice chat and good food.

After dinner, we drive the ten blocks to Nocturnal. There’s already a line of young hipsters standing in the rain: sideburns, thick-framed glasses, thrift-store clothing. We feel old. We should have brought an umbrella. The doors open and the line move a little, but then it just stops. After several minutes in the cold rain, Paul figures out that they’re only letting in those over 21, so we’re able to get inside where it’s warm and dry. We head downstairs to the hip little bar where we stand in the corner, drinking beer and wine.

We stand in the back corner, next to a door marked “employees only”, and we continue to talk about old friends: Jonathan McDowell, Mitch Sherrard, David Sumpter, Matt English, Clint Latimer, Danny Mala, etc. We have to step aside to let a guy into the closet. “What are you, the janitor?” asks Paul.

The guy sighs, “Yeah. I’m the janitor.” But when he comes out again later, he’s drinking a beer.

The opening act starts, so we head upstairs to an intimate room no bigger than a grade school cafeteria. Corrina Repp has a strong voice, but I’m unimpressed by her spare guitar work. Paul and Tom head back downstairs midway through her set. We’ve been standing for two hours, and their legs are tired. Mine are tired, too, but I’d like to hear Repp’s act. I think she’d sound great in a band, but on her own she sounds a little lost. Her songs are all lethargic.

Tom has never heard The Decemberists; Paul only heard a few songs on the our drive to Portland; I’ve only been listening to them for a week. But from the opening of their first song, “Shanty for the Arethusa”, we’re hooked.

The Decemberists feature Colin Meloy — in a t-shirt which reads “Dorothy is Running” — on vocals and guitar; Chris Funk (the guy we thought was the janitor) on lead guitar (often with a country twang); Jesse Emerson on upright bass (which sounds awesome); Jenny Conlee on accordion (and occasional keyboards); and Rachel Blumberg on drums (with occasional vocals). It’s an eclectic mix of instruments, but the group is so tightly orchestrated that they’re able to produce a powerful, unified — and unique — sound. Meloy’s voice is distinctive, but in a good way.

A lot of The Decemberists’ charm is found in their clever lyrics. Fortunately, the lyrics are fairly recognizable during their performance. In fact, the songs sound much the same as they did on record, but not enough for me to feel cheated. Too, the members of the band branch off into improvisation on many of the songs, providing an added bonus to those familiar with their work.

The band gives a great performance, well worth the $8 we each spent to see the show. I’m glad to have gone.

When we get home, Paul and I spend some time at the computer, listening to songs by The Decemberists, and looking up information about the group.

Later, as I walk through the house, turning off the lights. I pass Paul, who is already spread out on the couch. “J.D.,” he says.

“What, Paul?”

“I remember now: Ione. Her name is Ione.”

Comments

On 25 January 2004 (07:46 AM),
Amy Jo said:

I like this entry very much. The Powell’s scene evokes a uniquely Portland experience for me–unexpectantly running into someone I known from a different time in my life.

On 25 January 2004 (08:43 AM),
Tammy said:

I like this entry too. It’s much more people friendly than those geeky ones. 🙂

When the bullet hits the bone!

I find your lack of faith disturbing. I find your lack of faith disturbing. I find your lack of faith disturbing. I find your lack of faith disturbing. I find your lack of faith disturbing.

[Radar Men From the Moon]
Commando Cody will save the day!

From “Hills of Death”, episode six of the 1951 Republic Serial Radar Men From the Moon:

Graber and his henchman return to Krog’s cave hideout after escaping from Commando Cody. They’ve spent the past three episodes (unsuccessfully) trying to get money so that their employers, prospective invaders from the moon, can continue to finance their campaign of terror. As they give Krog the stolen payroll, a message comes over the radio.

Redik: Redik calling Krog. Redik calling Krog.
Krog: Yes, your excellency. I was about to call you to report that we’re just about to put our ray gun into operation again.
Redik: I have another mission for you first. Do you have an atomic bomb strong enough to start a volcanic eruption in the Mount Alta crater?
Krog: Yes, but an eruption in that mountainous area would do very little damage.
Redik: On the contrary! It will do a great deal of damage. The present atmospheric conditions on Earth indicate that an eruption would cause torrential rains, and the resulting floods should seriously disrupt transportation and defense measures.
Krog: Excellent idea. We shall carry it out at once.
Redik: Very well. Then start an intensified campaign with the ray gun. Earth’s defenses must be completely broken down before we can risk an invasion from the moon.
Krog: Yes, your excellency. [to Graber:] You heard the orders: charter a plane and drop one of our atomic bombs into the Alta crater. Nature will do the rest.
Graber: Okay. When do we do it?
Krog: At once! I will get you the bomb. [He gets a box from beneath his workbench, and pulls out an atomic bomb. He hands it to Graber.]

[photo of psychotic-looking Paul]
Would you share curry with this man?

[Bmidji!]

[the famous Limecat]

YOU are the lowest form.

YOU can’t procreate alone.

YOU destroyed the village.

YOU destroyedchildhood.

YOU don’t know the Truth.

YOU are educated stupid.

YOU are your own poison.

YOU worship cubeless word.

YOU ARE ALL DUMBYS!

[Jesus Quintana tongues his bowling ball]

[photo of man kissing a dolphin]

I find your lack of faith disturbing. I find your lack of faith disturbing. I find your lack of faith disturbing. I find your lack of faith disturbing. I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Comments


On 22 January 2004 (11:30 PM),
Dana said:



On 23 January 2004 (08:23 AM),
Denise said:

Who sang that song “When the bullet hits the bone?” I know, I could look it up, but it will give you something to do.



On 23 January 2004 (08:27 AM),
Amanda said:

Denise, it’s Golden Earring.



On 23 January 2004 (08:28 AM),
Dana said:

Golden Earrings (or something like that) — follow the link in my first post for the lyrics =)

Oh, and JD? The Paul Bunyan picture is not Brainerd, it’s Bemidji…



On 23 January 2004 (08:38 AM),
Tiffany said:

Somehow this is geekier then the computer talk.



On 23 January 2004 (08:55 AM),
Lynn said:

WAY geekier.



On 23 January 2004 (09:09 AM),
J.D. said:

Dana, my love:

  • Of course it’s Bemidji. The link isn’t Bemidji, though. Doo-dooh-doo-dooh.
  • The song is “Twilight Zone” by Golden Earring. Not Golden Earrings. Not “Bullet Hits the Bone”.

Lyrics:
(Somewhere in a lonely hotel room there’s a guy starting to realize that eternal fate has turned its back on him.)

“It’s 2 a.m., the fear has gone. I’m sitting here waiting with the gun still warm. Maybe my connection is tired of taking chances. Yeah, there’s a storm on the loose: sirens in my head. Wrapped up in silence, all circuits are dead. I cannot decode. My whole life spins into a frenzy.

“Help! I’m slipping into the Twilight Zone. The place is a madhouse; it feels like being cloned. My beacon’s been moved under moon and star. Where am I to go now that I’ve gone too far?”

Soon you are gonna know — when the bullet hits the bone.

“I’m falling down a spiral, destination unknown: a double-crossed messenger, all alone. I can’t get no connection, can’t get through. Where are you?”

Well, the night weighs heavy on his guilty mind. This far from from the border line. And when the hitman comes, he knows damn well he has been cheated. And he says:

“Help! I’m slipping into the Twilight Zone. The place is a madhouse; it feels like being cloned. My beacon’s been moved under moon and star. Where am I to go now that I’ve gone too far?”

Soon you are gonna know — when the bullet hits the bone.

Trivia:
When Kris and I were on our honeymoon in Victoria, B.C., we went to see a movie (The Fugitive with Harrison Ford). There was music playing in the theater before the film started, including this song, and now I always associate the song with that moment. (Well, that and the time me and Jeff danced around in the living room when we first heard the song.)



On 23 January 2004 (09:31 AM),
tammy said:

Yikes, this is scarey! Where’s JD? Somebody has taken over his blog. Oh, for the days when we could come here and read all that boring stuff about his latest geeky gadgets!



On 23 January 2004 (09:40 AM),
Dana said:

Dana, my love:

Shhhhh! Don’t tell Kris! 😉

Ming the Merciless



On 23 January 2004 (10:26 AM),
Denise said:

Golden Earring? Then who sang Radar Love? Did they sing that, too?



On 23 January 2004 (10:27 AM),
Denise said:

…and I must add, “When the Bullet Hits the Bone” is a GREAT choice to be playing in the back of my head as I look at your entry!



On 23 January 2004 (10:43 AM),
Kris said:

Did Jd really say “me & Jeff”?



On 23 January 2004 (11:03 AM),
Lynn said:

Even with the egregious grammatical error, the mental picture of JD & Jeff dancing about the living room to that song is hilarious. So, was it Tom Cruise in his underwear in Risky Business kind of dancing? Or Patrick Dempsey doing a Discovery Channel dance in Can’t Buy Me Love kind of dancing? I just want the appropriate scenery to go along with the song in my head.



On 23 January 2004 (11:13 AM),
Tiffany said:

Golden Earring sang both ‘Radar Love’ and ‘Twilight Zone’ that had the line “When the Bullet hits the Bone”.



On 23 January 2004 (11:32 AM),
Dana said:

So, does anybody think JD will get around to explaining what exactly brought on this wave of surreality?



On 23 January 2004 (11:49 AM),
Amanda said:

Yikes, this is scarey! Where’s JD? Somebody has taken over his blog. Oh, for the days when we could come here and read all that boring stuff about his latest geeky gadgets!

*laughs at Tammy*



On 23 January 2004 (02:53 PM),
mart said:

prime example of why you shouldn’t blog when drunk



On 23 January 2004 (04:42 PM),
Joel said:

And hypoglycemic.

Only I Have the Power to Absorb All Data

I guess that title only makes sense if you’ve been hanging around here a while (and maybe not even then)…

My new G5 has turned me anal-retentive with my data.

Ever since my first computer (an Apple Macintosh SE) in 1989, I’ve simply dumped all of my old data onto a new hard drive without regard for organization. Over the past fifteen years, I’ve accumulated a lot of data, and it takes more and more time to transfer it to a new machine. And when it’s transferred using the Dump Method, it becomes very difficult to sort through it.

With this new machine, I’ve decided to be more methodical. I am slowly transferring the data, making certain that every file is in its proper place.

Of course, all I’ve really focused on so far is music: I’ve been ripping all of our CDs into iTunes. Didn’t I already rip them all onto the PC? Aren’t all of our songs already in mp3 format? Yes, they are. But when I did that first rip, several years ago, I had no concept of ID3 tags (the header information in an mp3 file). I made sure the file names were consistent (“U2 – I Will Follow.mp3”), but I didn’t do anything with the ID3 tags.

iTunes bases its entire organizational system on ID3 tags. It’s a wonderful organizational system: very flexible, easy to search, highly customizable, and, best of all, capable of creating amazingly complex “smart” playlists. (“Make a new playlist with all of the jazz songs between 1960 and 1970 but don’t include Dave Brubeck or any song with the word Love in the title.”) Without solid ID3 tags, this is impossible.

So, I’m being anal-retentive about my ID3 tags, especially the Genre tag. Sometimes it’s tough. Into which genre does Rickie Lee Jones fall? Are Wham! pop or synthpop? Is Elvis rock, pop, or, as I finally decided, oldies? I had to create some genres to match my collection. I have a lot of old-time radio shows, so Radio is a new genre. Kris and I think of an entire subclass of music (Natalie Merchant, Alanis Morrissette (whose name I can never spell correctly), Suzanne Vega) as “Chickrock” or “Bitchrock”. I have a huge collection of pre-1930s music, and despite its actual genre, I’ve classified it all as Vintage.

Over the past several days, I’ve managed to rip 5397 songs into iTunes. That’s 21.70gb of music, which would play for 16.4 days from start to finish. And I’m only to Hank Williams. I still have all of the compilations left, and all of the classical music, and all of the electronica, and the 101 CDs that are in our CD player.


After I finish absorbing all my music, I’ll absorb all my photographs.

Initially I feared that process would be long and arduous. I intend to re-scan many of my photographs, touching them up in Photoshop Elements before transferring them to iPhoto. Apparently the newest version of iPhoto (which I have not actually looked at yet) has several new iTunes-like features that help sort photographs.

Jeff came over yesterday and we scanned in some more recent photographs of Noah (the new photographs, when I’ve processed them, will be found here). I was shocked at how quickly we were able to scan them. On my iBook, it would have taken more than a minute for each photo, but on the G5 each took about ten to twelve seconds. Holy cats! This will certainly take the drudgery out of absorbing photographic data.

When I’m finished with the photos, it’ll be time to absorb all of my textual data: college essays, old web sites, e-mail I’ve saved since 1993, poems, stories, weblog entries. It would be nice if I could find an iTunes-like application for text documents, but I’m not holding my breath. I have fewer text files than music files anyhow, so sorting everything by hand ought to be okay.


Only I have the power to absorb all data!

Comments


On 18 January 2004 (11:08 AM),
Dana said:

What, you mean something like this (which wouldn’t work for you, as it runs in emacs), or this (which is a gnome tool, but should be useable under OS X)?



On 18 January 2004 (11:26 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

Hm. Thanks for the suggestions, Dana, but neither of those are anything like what I’m looking for.

What I want is an application to organize and group text documents, much as iTunes does for music.

The main view would comprise a “library” of all of the documents, which could be easily filtered, as in iTunes, based on document title, author, creation date, type, etc. “Playlists” of documents could be created so that it would be possible to, say, group all documents about money or about music.

I really doubt there’s anything like this available. (The closest I’ve seen is xPad, but it’s only got the germ of what I’m after.) I’m half-way tempted to write something myself. It’d be a good experience…



On 18 January 2004 (11:30 AM),
J.D. Roth said:

Like this but for text.



On 18 January 2004 (01:23 PM),
Dana said:

Hmmmm. By ‘playlist’, I assume what you *really* mean is what amounts to a folder, or perhaps ‘view’, right?

That sounds a *little* like piles, which is a rumored upcoming MacOS feature. I gather piles are primarily chronological, and organized less by type than by time (although perhaps I’m wrong on the details).

It also sounds a lot like the mystery “database filesystem” which is coming Real Soon Now in some version of Windows.

Of course, you could get a similar effect by storing all your text documents in a database with appropriate meta-data (which is all that iTunes is doing, really)…



On 20 January 2004 (07:45 AM),
Joel said:

My colleague Andy is currently scrolling through one of the many humorous photoshop contests on FARK, which made me suddenly want to photoshop a version of that wonderful Fantastic Four panel that this blog references. Dana could be Reed, JD could be J. Storm, but who would be the Thing, strapped onto that terrible melty thing?



On 20 January 2004 (09:20 AM),
Dana said:

Intertwingle – An old proposal of Jamie Zawinski that never came to anything, but also sounds rather related to what you are looking for…

(And Joel, I’d much rather be Sue than Reed… =) )



On 20 January 2004 (02:25 PM),
Joel said:

Of course, thoughtless of me. And I’m very glad you didn’t want to be Felicia- the whole superhero dating a handicapped person freaks me out.

Mystic River

I spent half of Saturday working on Sabino’s computers. I spent the other half of the day lying on the couch, suffering from a low-grade fever of unknown origin. I played Nintendo half-heartedly. I watched home improvement shows. Mainly, I stared into space.

Today, mysterious fever mysteriously gone, I was ready for an outing: Trader Joe’s! Powell’s! A movie! Dinner at a fancy restaurant!

We stopped at Trader Joe’s first. I loathe Trader Joe’s on weekends; it’s crowded and I get frustrated with all of the traffic.

On a whim, I sampled some cheese: raclette. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I knew instantly that I’d made a terrible mistake.

It was as if I had just eaten fresh fecal matter. Ugh. The stench! The taste! After one chew, the lump of cheese sat in my mouth, a gritty, slimy ball of crap. I looked in vain for someplace to spit it out. I decided to swallow the thing, but that only exacerbated the trouble; I gagged, could not get it down. My stomach heaved. I felt certain I was about to vomit all over the $2.99 bottles of Charles Shaw chardonnay (against which I was leaning).

At last I spied a stack of napkins on a sample table. I literally shoved a woman aside to grab a napkin. She glared at me — and rightfully so — but I didn’t care. I spat the hunk of cheese into the napkin and prayed the foul taste would leave my mouth quickly.

Later Kris told me that raclette isn’t designed to be eaten like that. “It’s a fondue cheese,” she said. Right. Everyone wants fondue that tastes like shit.


At Powell’s I spent money compulsively, picking up a Modern Library edition of Proust’s The Past Recaptured, a compilation of Dick Tracy comic strips, another Flash Gordon comic strip compilation (this one in color!) and volumes one, two, three, and eight of a Terry and the Pirates compilation. Oh — I also bought a librarian action figure to go with my Shakespeare action figure.

As we were driving away, Kris sighed. “I’m having one of those days where everyone looks familiar to me, even though I know they’re not,” she said. “Does that ever happen to you.”

“Yeah,” I said, nodding in agreement.

“Like them,” she said, pointing to a couple waiting to cross the street. Then she did a double-take. “Oh! It’s Lance and Miriam.”

Lance Shipley and his wife, Miriam, whom we had not seen in fifteen years, and now we’ve seen twice in two months (though they’ve only seen us once). We were seated behind them at the David Sedaris lecture.


I understand that many, many people love the Lord of the Rings films, especially The Return of the King. That’s fine. They’re fun films.

I have trouble, though, when people start trying to pitch them as deserving of Best Picture. I want to ask them, “Have you seen all of the other nominees? If so, what makes you think this year’s Rings film is better than this year’s other films? If you haven’t seen the other nominees, how can you argue your point?” Last year, for example, Jen at the Very Big Blog was adamant that Peter Jackson’s Helms Deep should win, but I’m not sure she ever saw any of the other nominees (although, in retrospect, last year’s crop looks pretty week except for the winner, Chicago).

This year, there’s a good chance that The Return of the King will win as some sort of reward for the entire trilogy. If some other, better, film loses because of this, that’d be a shame. I realize that film preferences, like all preferences, are subjective, but I find it difficult to believe that many people could consider The Return of the King superior to Mystic River.

Mystic River is a fine film. It has a wonderful story, a wonderful script. It is well directed (by Clint Eastwood, who also wrote the music!?!?!?!). The acting is superlative (Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, Laurence Fishburne — some cast, huh?). It’s a great film. (It’s only real flaws are some patches of flubbed editing and, like The Return of the King, an over-long ending.)

For my part, I still prefer Lost in Translation, though I think Mystic River is probably, in an objective sense, a better film.

Kris suggested a great solution: award The Lord of the Rings trilogy an unprecendented honorary award of merit, recognizing the achievement. Reward the accomplishment without taking away from other potentiall more deserving single films. What do you think?

Comments

On 12 January 2004 (07:26 AM),
J.D. said:

I just read Ebert’s review; it’s very good. In particular, I like what he has to say about the acting and directing:

To see strong acting like this is exhilarating. In a time of flashy directors who slice and dice their films in a dizzy editing rhythm, it is important to remember that films can look and listen and attentively sympathize with their characters. Directors grow great by subtracting, not adding, and Eastwood does nothing for show, everything for effect.

Over the past three months I have gained a profound respect for Eastwood as a director, and have even begun to admire his acting abilities.

On 12 January 2004 (08:38 AM),
Tiffany said:

I often hunt out an award-winning movie, and I find that I am often disappointed. I am better off know very little of what others thing so that I am not �expecting� a great movie. I enjoyed �Lost� but never got to see �Mystic River�. I have always been confused how you can compare a movie like �Lost� to �Rings�. They have nothing in common, so all you can say is which one you liked better.

On 12 January 2004 (08:44 AM),
Denise said:

Having watched many a Spaghetti Western with my father when I was young, Clint Eastwood has always been one of my favorite actors. The one thing I like about Eastwood is he doesn’t try to take on roles that he cannot be convincing in.

As a director, I think he has improved and continues to do so.

I look at Eastwood as the John Wayne of our generation (and not just because they both made a lot of westerns), and will miss him when he is gone.

On 12 January 2004 (09:58 AM),
Dana said:

My taste is so eclectic that I don’t bother to pay much attention to awards or critics. And, as Tiffany says, movies can be so dissimilar, and yet in the same category, that it becomes like comparing apples and hot dogs. Just too different to be very useful of a comparison.

I think giving the LotR a collective award would be quite nice. At the same time, I think the third film also shows a certain deftness of composition that the other two were still struggling to find. I think Jackson sort of hit his stride with the material and everything in the third film. And I didn’t find the ending to be overlong at all. If anything, I thought it a bit too short…

On 12 January 2004 (10:18 AM),
mart said:

i think NO on giving them a special award. why reward such incredible mediocrity? it only encourages them to make more crap like that. i know this is horribly naive of me, but shouldn’t GREAT movies be given awards? or is an oscar just another stop on the hollywood publicity train now? oh yeah… it is and has been for a long long time.

me? i tend to cast my lot with cannes and the palme d’or, which is a real sign of filmmaking talent.

ok, ok, let peter jackson and his whole pathetic trilogy have all the oscars they want. that just means fewer people in imamura movies irritating me.

On 12 January 2004 (10:52 AM),
Kris said:

http://www.raclette-fondue.com/html/fondue.html

On 12 January 2004 (11:22 AM),
J.D. said:

Mart said: shouldn’t GREAT movies be given awards? or is an oscar just another stop on the hollywood publicity train now? oh yeah… it is and has been for a long long time.

Mart, you’re a good man. While I’m not quite as down on the film version of LOTR as you are, it’s no secret that I’m disappointed by it. Mostly, I weep at the amount of money that was put into these films and how little there is to actually show for that money. Yes, there are a lot of digitally animated battle scenes, but so what? I wish more of the series was like Fellowship (the extended version).

I became disenchanted wtih the Oscars when Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture. And Titanic over L.A. Confidential? Gladiator? The woefully mediocre A Beautiful Mind?

Still, the naive idealistic J.D. holds out hope that truly great films can win Best Picture…

On 12 January 2004 (01:34 PM),
Lynn said:

Aren’t the Oscars really just about ripping on the ugly dresses and hair that people have the gall to think are attractive?

Mart hit it on the head when he stated that it is impossible to compare and judge two or more dissimilar movies. It’s all a matter of taste.

On 12 January 2004 (03:33 PM),
Lisa said:

Excellent! Craig and I have days like yours too–where everyone looks familiar. It’s a strange thing, and we feel it more in Oregon than anywhere else.

On 12 January 2004 (04:27 PM),
Paul said:

J.D.,

LOTR vs. Cold Mountain.

I like LOTR better than you. I am hesitant to admit that I never read the trilogy. I think that might be the crux of the matter: familiarity with the raw material(the books). Because you read the trilogy you have your own opinion as to what would have made the movies better. You probably also have your own idea of how you would have filmed them (or portions of them); which scenes to delete, which to amplify etc. What I don’t think you’ve been able to do is try to imagine them as if experiencing them for the first time (as I did). I guess you have a need to critique the films.

[Now to talk out of the other side of my mouth.]

Having read Cold Mountain I have a deep fear that it will disappoint me. A movie can never duplicate the feel of language, it can of course tell a story but it can’t be the words themselves. I remember when I first read Cold Mountain, it took me an hour for the first 20 pages! I am a painfully slow reader but I was savoring the writing, the words he chose.

Ice World

We woke to a world encased in ice. Here in Canby it was twenty-seven degrees with a light freezing rain. A quick check of the television and the web revealed that most of the Portland metropolitan area would remain closed today.

 

As we drowsed through the next couple of hours we could, from time-to-time, hear the crunch crunch crunch of tires on ice. Traffic was infrequent.

At eight I called Jeff and we decided to cancel work at Custom Box Service. That done, I grabbed my camera and ventured outside.

It was like walking on a sheet of ice. What had been a thin rime yesterday was now nearly an inch thick. In some places the ice was thick enough that my steps did not break through the crust, but in most spots my footsteps created small craters with cracks that spiderwebbed outward.

The layer of ice on the magnolia caught my eye, and on the arborvitae. The daphne, too, was coated in ice (and may not survive), and the rosemary, and the rhododendrons, and the dogwood, and the maple. When I broke a piece of ice off a fern, a large piece of the plant broke off with it.

 

Our neighbor came outside and began to shovel his walk. Why? (He has been shoveling his walk for an hour-and-a-half now.) His dog sat with him, watching patiently.

I walked around the house, photographing icicles and frozen plants. Then I walked down the street, photographing the ice. The temperature increased perceptibly. A thin layer of water melted on top of the ice, and the footing became even more treacherous.

Some of the neighbors’ trees had been destroyed by the storm; the weight of the ice had become too much, and limbs had been ripped from tree trunks. I was admiring an tall hedge which, coated in ice, had dipped to the ground without breaking, when a man with a cigarette and a cup of coffee wandered down the street to join me.

“I ain’t seen nothing like this,” he said. I mentioned the storm of 1996. “Yeah, but that wasn’t nothing like this. I was in Lewiston, Idaho, for that storm. I was picking up paper at the potlach mill. My load was delayed, though. The floodwaters had swept away a herd of cattle and one of the damn things had got stuck in an intake someplace. Burned out a piece of equipment worth a hundred grand. Killed the cow. I had to wait at the mill an extra day, and the flood waters rose.

“Bunch of us were trapped in Lewiston. Truckdrivers. I wanted out of there, though. I’d had enough of that truckstop shit. We lined up at the only bridge out of town and we watched the river. It was so high that it was sweeping over the bridge. But every once in a while the guy in front would decide he could make it, so he’d take a chance and cross the bridge.

“When it was my turn, they told me not to go. ‘Don’t do it, man,’ they said, but I wanted out of there, so I just went. It was dicey, but I made it.”

Then, as I was walking home, I passed another fellow out walking on the ice. He was having trouble, slipping and sliding all over the place. He wasn’t taking ice-sized baby steps; he was taking abnormally long strides, and it wasn’t working. He nodded at me. “I’m not used to this shit,” he said. “I’m from Arizona.”

I laughed. “We’re not that used to it, either. This is a rare thing around here.”

I came back home and made myself some Abuelita (a brand of Mexican hot chocolate).

Update: It’s eleven. I just took the mail out, and the ice, as it begins to melt, is slick. Yikes. Twice, my right leg (and its bad knee) went shooting out. I’m staying inside the rest of the day, playing Nintendo.

Comments

On 07 January 2004 (11:34 AM),
mac said:

we have a thin layer of ice covering our thick layer of snow here…not nearly as much ice as you guys have down there. be careful

On 07 January 2004 (11:38 AM),
J.D. said:

Ah. I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later. We just had a power surge which was followed by a boom in the distance. I suspect that power is now off in parts of the city. We’re right on the corner of the power grid; when the power is off across the street, it’s on here, and vice versa.

On 07 January 2004 (12:05 PM),
Paul said:

It is a balmy 37 degrees in the tropical south. The University of Oregon has only completely closed twice in its 127 years due to weather conditions. These last two days have not caused a closure of any sort. I guess they anticipate that we will bike to campus regardless of the weather. I don’t have a Nintendo, so I am content to be at work.

On 07 January 2004 (01:25 PM),
Denise said:

I was hoping you would take some pictures. I have a great tree in my backyard that is covered with ice (much like the picture on the right of your second set), but I am not going to venture out just yet. I actually got my garbage and recycling cans out to the curb last night (just in case the garbage trucks were coming this morning) and almost fell on my rear more than once.

Ice is SO fun.

On 07 January 2004 (01:39 PM),
Dana said:

What sort of boom? I wonder if it was a big ice-covered tree collapsing onto some lines, or if it was a transformer actually exploding?

I keep telling you, JD — you need to come out here to Minnesota in January or February to experience actual cold, ice, and snow. Granted, we don’t get that kind of ice often either, but I have seen it before.

Too bad none of you has ice skates. Sounds like a near-perfect environment. Of course, I suppose that assumes you know how to ice skate.

Isn’t weather fun? =) Hope your leg is okay! (And I particularly like the close-up picture of the bare branch encased in ice.)

On 07 January 2004 (02:20 PM),
Mom (Sue) said:

I just looked out a little bit ago to see that I have lost another big limb off the oak tree out back. That must have been a recent occurrence because I didn’t see it when I looked out earlier. Jake VanPelt is probably going to be happy about that, as it will mean more free firewood for him if he wants it. 🙂 I’m not ready to go walking around outside yet — that snow coated with ice looks too dicey, even though it is warmer.

Also, something weird about this site, J.D. — I posted that last entry on the blog page before this one a couple of hours ago and then as usual the comment didn’t show up when I checked foldedspace.org a few minutes ago, although that page was still the home page. Then there was another momentary power shut-off — the second one today — and after that, I had trouble getting back online for a few minutes. Now it is about 10 minutes later and there is a whole new home page and lots of comments! Almost instantaneously, it seems. Very strange! (I suspect it has more to do with AOL than your blog, though; I know to expect the unexpected with this server.)

On 07 January 2004 (08:57 PM),
Rich &Tiff said:

Nice pics. I have seen this once before, in Xenia, Ohio. Sometime in January we had a freezing rain a few days after a warm spell that had melted most of the snow. We had planted a Christmas tree in the front yard, and virtually every pine needle was sheathed in a perfect little ice coating like some kind of glistening echo of the green needle itself. Like you, I walked around taking pictures of everything I could find, though admittedly I slipped far more than I walked. The pine and the neighbor’s silver elm were the most impressive I saw. None of the pictures came out. I had no idea when I was a kid that flash plus shiny ice plus sunlight equaled blank white photo. I’m glad yours came out better. Live and learn.
Incidentally, we had the aurora that year as well.

On 08 January 2004 (10:29 AM),
pril said:

wow those are some nice pictures!

Aw, its just boring ol’ rain here, still. If it was icy like that, i’d be outside. My driveway makes a perfect sled run. There’s a dip as you hit the street, and you catch air going over the crown and land in the across-the-street neighbors parking area.