Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Goodnight Davvvvvis!

I'll play around with the layout another day. Or maybe later tonight if I get really bored.


Because granting sweeping authoritarian powers to populist leaders has a good historical track record.

But is it better than Gimme Shelter?

The Best Stones Film You've Never Seen

I read that most it was staged anyway.

No such thing as negative publicity?

Suspicious devices part of marketing plan
Promotion of 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force' cartoon closes Boston bridges

Lou Reed Outdoes Himself

Trancendental meditation music or Metal Machine Music vol.2? You be the judge.

An Additional 10 Favorite Albums*

*Excluding any artists already represented on the first list

Definitely Maybe (Oasis)
The Doors (The Doors)
Figure 8 (Elliott Smith)
For Your Pleasure (Roxy Music)
London Calling (The Clash)
McCartney (Paul McCartney)
Modern Life Is Rubbish (Blur)
Music From Big Pink (The Band)
Rain Dogs (Tom Waits)
The Velvet Underground and Nico (The Velvet Underground)

In Praise of Yoggoth's Favorite Albums List

I really like this list. It captures Yoggoth's musical taste with economy, and yet it suggests a larger, grander aesthetic at work. It's much more of a "rock critic's" list than mine; it's more eclectic and idiosyncratic, and it spans a lot more years. If I were trying to hire a rock critic, I'd look at Yoggoth's list and say "Yeah, you're hired," and I'd look at my list and say, "Gimme a break kid, go DJ at a classic rock station and call me when you discover punk." But I thought it would be dishonest and unproductive of me to alter my "real" favorite albums list to make it more edgy and varied; those really are, deep down, my ten favorite albums. Nevertheless, my list does seem to make my musical taste look narrower than it actually is. I guess I have a very specific idea of what an "all-time great" album is, and if stuck on that proverbial desert island...I'd probably smash those albums to pieces and wonder why the fuck I couldn't have been provided with anything useful.

But seriously, I'd say at least five of the albums on Yoggoth's list would make my own top 50, and only a couple of them are albums I don't really like, but even those that I don't like I respect. Well done, Yoggoth, well done.

Yoggoth's 10 Favorite Albums

The Velvet Underground & Nico (The Velvet Underground)
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (Pavement)
Exile on Mainstreet (Rolling Stones)
London Calling (The Clash)
Vs. (Mission of Burma)
Here Come the Warm Jets (Brian Eno)
Double Nickels on the Dime (The Minutemen)
Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan)
'77 (The Talking Heads)
Loveless (My Bloody Valentine) Rain Dogs (Tom Waits)

Okay, I couldn't resist.

Edit: Fixed the Pavement album and put Rain Dogs up there. It was late.

Goodnight Dixxxxxon!

I'm hungry and only have 25 cents in my pocket. Time to call it a night.

Little Earl's 10 Favorite Albums

Abbey Road (The Beatles)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
Innervisions (Stevie Wonder)
Led Zeppelin II (Led Zeppelin)
Let It Bleed (Rolling Stones)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles)
Tommy (The Who)
The Wall (Pink Floyd)
The White Album (The Beatles)
Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Re: Global Warming

While I would agree that there's no particular reason to expect human life to continue without interruption, there is another moral issue at stake. Global warming will reduce the productivity of crop land in many areas. The United States has more than enough food but other areas are just getting by. While we enjoy the material comforts that come along with fossil fuel use, others will have to endure the harshest consequences. We've got plenty of land to move to if sea levels rise. Can you say the same about Indonesia?

None of the effects of global warming sound good to me. If you know something is going to be bad it makes sense to try to avoid it. It does make you curious though, doesn't it? Someone should write a graduate thesis on the positive effects of global warming.

Turning off your computer would help a little bit I suppose, but the real solution is to start with businesses and work down the chain of consumption. Systems that require people to choose to be good rarely work well.

Crazy black guy on Market St. dancing to James Brown

Just when you thought you've seen it all in San Francisco, somebody goes and takes it to a whole new level. I was walking down Market St. heading for the bus stop when I detected a low, funky sound from across the street. Could it be...could it really be...The Godfather of Soul, James Brown? Was somebody playing James Brown on a stereo? Was somebody singing James Brown live? Little did I know that the ordinary categories did not apply in this situation. I looked across the street, and lo and behold, there was a man was playing James Brown and singing James Brown! He had a crazy-looking stereo with wires coming out in every direction, a microphone set up in front of him, and he was singing along to James Brown's "The Payback." And this guy was old! He must have been at least 65. But he was singing his guts out, and he was even doing a little bit of dancing, in his own, 65-year-old man sort of way. And he had a buddy sitting there in a chair next to him the whole time, not doing anything. Maybe the buddy was providing the moral support, I don't know. And then the CD was skipping occasionally, so the guy would hit the button to re-start the song, and he would get all into his groove and such, and then suddenly the song would stop, and he had to reach over and push the button again. But he was pretty into it.

Now I don't know if he had the city's permission, or if he was just some crazy guy with a stereo and a microphone, or what the story was exactly, but I thought it was pretty awesome myself. People were walking by trying to cover up their smiles, but I just tapped my feet and waited for the bus. I mean, maybe this guy had the secret to life. Maybe this guy had achieved a whole new plane of spiritual existence that only a blessed few ever get to taste. Or maybe he needed some medical attention. I couldn't say. But I can say that it's guys like that that make you the power of Market St.

Monday, January 29, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth (Guggenheim)

I'm starting the series with a movie that's hardly even a movie, but I thought I'd try to be sneaky. Indeed, in light of my discussion of movies as "product," this kind of movie is almost like "movie as news bulletin." I didn't go see An Inconvient Truth for the cinematography, if you know what I'm saying. But this raises the question about what makes a movie "important." It's possible that if the human race manages to outmaneuver its own idiocy and survive global warming, this movie will be looked back upon as the most important film of its time. Certainly after seeing it, I realized how puny most movie subjects really are. But that doesn't necessarily make An Inconvenient Truth a great "film." In short, documentaries are weird.

Having said that, I think there are certain ways to judge the effectiveness of a documentary (where the usual standards of film criteria do not apply), mainly: Did the film persuade me of its argument? The answer is yes and no. I think the film essentially has two arguments, and I agree with one and not the other.

The first (and more overt) argument is that global warming is really happening, and that scientists agree on this already, and that companies have tried to stall by pretending that the issue is still up for debate. The movie basically convinced me of this. I think they should have left out the scenes about Al Gore's "personal post-election journey," not because they bothered me, but because they might have bothered someone else. The absense of those scenes wouldn't have diluted the potency of the argument, and as they stand now they could potentially alienate less open-minded viewers. One of those scenes, however, was very effective: Gore explains how his family used to farm tobacco, but when his relatives started dying of lung cancer from cigarettes, they sold the land and changed their ways. Metaphor to the rescue!

So yeah, Al pretty much had me (even though I was already inclined to agree with him anyway). He brought up every counter-argument you could think of, and he carefully explained why each one was complete, moronic bullshit. So hey, it's good to be informed.

But the film had a second argument, and it's with the second argument that I'd like to pick a bone. It was not a blatant argument, so I wouldn't blame anyone for missing it, but to me it seemed unnecessary. That second argument went something like this: We should be really, really afraid of global warming, and we're all gonna die, and humans have done something incredibly wrong.

Well wait a minute buster.

The film's tagline is: "By far the most terrifying film that you will ever see." I'm not sure fear is the appropriate reaction to global warming. Here's what I'm thinking: OK, so humans are altering the weather patterns of the earth. So what? “Well, that will be really bad for mankind.” Why? “Because people will have to move from the coastlines, and storms and droughts will get worse, and it's just going to be a big fat hassle for everybody.” Yeah, but what are humans in the course of the whole universe? It's just one planet out of an apparently endless number.

It seems to be a given that humans fucking up the earth is an absolutely negative thing. But in a sense, it's basically neutral. Humans are on this planet, after all. This is obviously the natural course of our development, because hey, it's what happened. If humans really fuck up their existence, who cares? I mean, I understand why that might be a bad thing for humans, but as far as the universe is concerned, it's just a little splotch on the windshield. There's this idea that nature is (and always was) a static thing, and that if global warming were true, it would be like we somehow altered the “natural” course of everything ever. Obviously if it's happening, then it's “natural.” There never was any fixed “natural.” We haven't really altered the matter of the universe. What about the birth of the planet, huh? Humans couldn't live on hot lava, could they? Catch my drift? The truth is that nature is always changing. Obviously it's impressive how rapidly we've managed to alter the ice caps and the seasons and everything. But it's not inherently negative. It's not written in stone somewhere that the human race must survive and reproduce and do its thing until the end of time. A lot of this environmental panic is driven by the fear of “preservation”: we must preserve our current way of life – the way that's always been. But it hasn't always been that way. And there's no way it can stay that way.

Basically, it's up to us. Do we want to stick around, or do we want to fry on the BBQ? I'm pretty ambivalent about these sorts of things. So maybe I wasn't really the target audience for this movie. Still, I'll help out while I'm around, I guess. I mean, if it won't take that much effort to slow down this ridiculous process, then we might as well make the effort. Otherwise, it's just laziness and greed. Even if Al Gore's wrong, what do we have to lose? So some CEO has to find a different job. Boo freakin' hoo, you know what I'm sayin'?

Personally, I don't think there's too much that I can do differently. I don't own a car. If I ever have to get one, though, I guess I'll try to get a hybrid. Maybe I should turn my computer off more often. I'm not sure if that really does anything. And I'll vote, of course. But voting in San Francisco is kind of like pissing in a bucket. I'll just try to go on about living my normal life. I think the important thing is awareness, anyway.

If anything, the "scariest" part of the movie was all those satellite pictures of the Earth. Those always creep me out. It's like looking at the satellite photos on Google. There's something about it that makes me think, “This photo isn't something I should naturally be seeing.” And then to see all these photos change so's somewhat disconcerting.

Actually, now I know what the scariest part was: it was that Melissa Etheridge song at the end! Holy Mother of God! If global warming at least destroys Melissa Etheridge, then maybe it won't be so bad after all.

Scorsese's Movies (as ranked by Little Earl)

1. Taxi Driver
2. Mean Streets
3. The King Of Comedy
4. The Last Temptation Of Christ
5. Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
6. Goodfellas
7. The Departed
8. Raging Bull
9. Casino
10. After Hours
11. Gangs Of New York
12. New York, New York
13. The Last Waltz
14. The Aviator
15. Bringing Out The Dead

Unseen by Little Earl:

The Color Of Money
Cape Fear
The Age Of Innocence

The Departed

Unfortunately it looks like this movie is on it's way to becoming the Goodfellas of the 00's, a decent movie that's actually worse because so many people take it too seriously. It's well made and entertaining but it has absolutely no moral or message other then, 'don't work for the Boston PD, ever.' The actors are too good looking to actually be cops. In his favor though, this is the first time I haven't wanted to hit Leonardo DiCaprio in the face after watching him in a movie. I think Goodfellas is the superiour movie. Those scenes in towards the end where they are all strung out on coke, including the nice Jewish wife, are excellent. I'm sorry but hyping every movie that Scorsesi makes is not the same thing as going back in time and giving him an oscar for his good movies.

2006 - The Year In Movies According To Little Earl

Having sat on my ass for the whole year reading other people's reviews of movies and complaining, I've decided to finally chip in with my 48 cents and explain why all those other people are either completely wrong, or exactly right, or utterly irrelevant, or just plain daft. I will be doing so on a loose, eight-week installment plan.

But to summarize at the start, I think cinema is in a very healthy state at the moment. Although it is probably more fragmented than it ever was, this also means that there's something out there for everybody. I look at the box office winners week after week and wonder who in the hell is paying money to see Epic Movie and Stomp The Yard and The Hitcher. It's clearly not me. But as long as I get my Squid and the Whales and my I Heart Huckabeeses and my Rays I don't really care. The truth is that there are two completely different ideas of "movie" out there right now. One is product and the other is art. They are not mutually exclusive, and even the most highbrow movies like Volver are on some level a product that has to make money somehow. But the people going to see Epic Movie and Stomp The Yard and The Hitcher just want to go out with their friends and kill some time, the same way they'd go to a baseball game or get a case of beer. It's a casual source of recreation. Thus it doesn't make sense to blame these movies for being unimaginative and predictable; they serve a function and that's all there is to it. If one of these movies ever tried to be surprising and weird, it would incur the wrath of the mildly sentient customer. This actually happens. Because both types of movies are created by the same Hollywood system, and frequently feature the same sort of actors, often confusion results among the less astute members of the moviegoing populace. They might walk into Spielberg's A.I. expecting a crowd-pleasing science fiction film in the vein of E.T., and then storm out angrily, feeling like they just wasted their time and money on a stupid piece of shit. This is what my friends said when I went and saw A.I. with them. I personally felt that although I didn't necessarily like the choices Spielberg had made with the ending, I found the film as a whole risky, daring, and fascinating, and I felt like I could watch it again. (Of course there were also people who understood artistic cinema and still felt A.I. failed at being successful on the artistic level, but whatever.) My point is that, although occasionally messages become crossed and the two different types of film find themselves in an uneasy collaboration, for the most part people understand that there are two cinemas and that's that and everything's cool. All I'm saying is that I personally choose to reserve my time and energy for the "other" kind of cinema, and that "other" kind of cinema is, in some ways, the only actual cinema right now, even though it shares theater space and box office figures with "moron" cinema. "Moron" cinema isn't even trying to aspire to that kind of scrutiny. Most of those movies are trying to make a quick buck and help people forget about their problems for two hours and then vanish into the cultural ether. No one is making those movies with the notion that anyone would want to watch them in 20 years. And that's fine. I personally do not share the desire for that product, and therefore I have nothing to say about it. But I want to make clear that it's not that big of a deal that most people don't share my interest in "real" movies. It's understandable. Still, when I say that the state of cinema is very healthy, I mean "real" cinema, not all cinema. The blockbuster machine can do its thing in its little corner spin around in perpetuity. I find it neither positive nor negative. But I do wish more people shared my taste in "real" cinema, because nobody wants to be lonely.

And yet there are a shitload of people out there, like Yoggoth, who understand. It is to you that I speak, then, fellow understanders. We currently have a wonderful arena for our hopes, our fears, our wants, our joys. This was not always the case. My pet example is 1980s American cinema. It's my opinion that cinema was in a screaming pile of shit at that time. Things are much better now, for reasons that I'll save for another post, I guess. They're not perfect, either. It's not quite the 1970s - but it's not too far off, either, and that's saying something. Mostly it's hard to say how the 00's will stack up in the long run, and that makes film reviewing a very difficult activity. Paid film critics have to see so many really bad movies that I think they tend to overrate the reasonably decent ones. The truth is that masterpieces are hard to make. But critics see a movie that is at least trying to be a masterpiece - like Children Of Men, for example - and they go all out crazy. Masterpieces are delicate little creatures. Sometimes they are blaringly obvious on first viewing, but more often than not it takes a little time to let a film's true colors show. I don't think it's very important. Everyone was scrambling around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to figure out whether or not The Departed was a "masterpiece" or not. Who cares? Just enjoy it for what it is, and then figure it out later. Since when did we have to be so scientific about the categorization of art?

In that spirit, I will not provide ratings for the films I discuss, because I am taking the coward's way out and just writing a bunch of pretentious nonsense.

Here we go!

The Truth - By Yoggoth

The radical inutility of unreason divides subjectivity and agency, and hence the question of Hamlet's "delay" should be considered in light of the more pervasive antagonism between inwardness and authority.


One question comes to mind though, does the inutility of unreason necessitate utility of reason?

Yoggoth's thoughts on Hamlet

Well I'm supposed to be writing a paper about critical approaches to Hamlet. I guess if you have to compare critical approaches Hamlet's about the easiest subject. I read TS Eliot's essay on Hamlet. He didn't like it much, saying that Hamlet was more disturbed than he should have been considering the events of the play. I' ve always kinda thought this is what makes Hamlet interesting and hey at least it's better than Cats right? Oh, and the Wasteland was so cool...when it was used to much better effect in The Great Gatsby!

Of course, the real reason Hamlet is so popular is that young middle to upper class white men can put themselves in Hamlet's shoes. What would happen if some guy murdered my dad, stole my money, and fucked my mom? Uh, I'd probably fuck around for a while acting nuts, piss off some random girl that I like for no reason, screw over my friends that I didn't really like that much anyway, and then end up completely fucking everything up in the end so some other guy can come in and work things out. I guess what I'm saying is that Hamlet is the most impressively, dramatically, intelligently inept character ever. The John Cusack of Early Modern drama???

Yoggoth's thoughts on Richardson's Pamela

All I can think of while I read it is various Victorian people masturbating privately to the attempted rape scenes and then comforting themselves with its pseudo-morality at the end. Although the antagonist comes across as an asshole, you still kinda feel yourself rooting for him to do the deed so Pamela will stop whining about her 'virtue' which she would rather die than lose. What would Ayn Rand say???

Are these characters "racist" or are they "exposing racism"?

Top ten stereotypes in film history - Radar Online

The Domed One Speaks

Brian Eno Producing New Coldplay Album

He will try to fix them

In an interview with Kristy Lang on BBC Radio 4's Front Row program today, producer/musician/artist/god Brian Eno revealed that he is producing the next Coldplay album. "I think [the album] will be very original and very different from what they've done before," Eno said.

Well, that's good to know.

Lang and Eno had been discussing the Talking Heads' influence on current pop music, so Lang had to ask if the new Coldplay album will sound at all like that band.

Eno laughed and replied, "Funnily enough, I mentioned to David Byrne the other day that we are trying very hard to stay clear of Talking Heads."

Whew. If there's anything worse than Coldplay trying to sound like Coldplay, it's Coldplay trying to sound like the Talking Heads.

To hear the full interview, in which Eno talks about his current art exhibits, his views on spirituality, and his take on the state of the music industry, go here.

(I tried to hear the interview but got confused on the website.)

You Know What We Should Do?

We should have a grand battle of thinkers/writers similar to our old super hero tournament and that thread on Rottentomatoes. Of course, no one else reads our site, but we have to dream big.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

10 more books I remember liking

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (Blume)
The Awakening (Chopin)
The Catcher In The Rye (Salinger)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Dahl)
Old Goriot (Balzac)
The Marrow of Tradition (Chesnutt)
Moby Dick (Melville)
Native Son (Wright)
1984 (Orwell)
Sophie's Choice (Styron)

Yoggoth's 10 Favorite Books

Heart of Darkness (Conrad)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Marquez)
All the King's Men (Warren)
Gravity's Rainbow (Pynchon)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Thompson)
In Cold Blood (Capote)
The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Adams)
Dubliners (Joyce)
Seven Gothic Tales (Dinesen)

Little Earl's 10 Favorite Books (even though I don't really read books)

All The King's Men (Warren)
Cannery Row (Steinbeck)
Cat's Cradle (Vonnegut)
East of Eden (Steinbeck)
The Fountainhead (Rand)
Great Expectations (Dickens)
The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
In Cold Blood (Capote)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Garcia Marquez)
A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)

Little Earl's Alternate 10 Favorite Movies

In alphabetical order, baby

Adaptation. (Jonze, 2002)
Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 1967)
Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
8 1/2 (Fellini, 1963)
Mary Poppins (Stevenson, 1964)
The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)
The Third Man (Reed, 1949)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)

Favorite Albums of 2006

Well it was a crappy year in general, but these are pretty good.

Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case
The Life Pursuit by Belle and Sebastian
Writer's Block by Peter, Bjorn, and John
Destroyer's Rubies by Destroyer
Silent Shout by The Knife
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Nine Times the Same Song by Love is All

Bands w/o Singles

Pitchfork Reviews of Nine Times the Same Song by Love is All and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah s/t.

Some of my favorite contemporary albums are by bands that don't have any songs that could ever get airtime. Does this lack of a single worthy track lower the quality of the album? Personally, I like to listen to at least 8-10 songs by any particular band in order. Sure, there's the odd movie soundtrack or personal compilation that finds time in my stereo, but 99% of my listening is dedicated to entire albums.

There's just something great about listening to one great song by a band you love...followed by a song just as good or better. Listening to an album is like reading a novel as opposed to just short stories. Maybe it's the same part of my personality that makes me prefer novels as well. The drama is increased, the emotion is more varied, and hey, more of your time is taken up with something you love.

So now I've explained why I love albums, but what about albums that have no standout tracks? I can't claim that this isn't a downfall. I know it is, and I know that it limits the audience of this music in a tangible way. But, I don't care. If there was one great single I'd get tired of it and look forward to the album tracks anyway. I can't share this music nearly as easily as I could if there was that one single. I look for the song that seems a bit more distinct than the others, but what I'd really like to do is just hand someone the entire album and tell them to take a drive along Highway 5's golden wastes with no other CDs in arms reach. Really deal with the album and then tell me what you think.

This leads me to something else I've noticed about myself. Even one bad song on an otherwise decent album can really turn me off. It ruins the flow and skipping it seems like cheating in some way. When I put Clap Your Hands Say Yeah I sometimes forget which track I'm listening to. I'm listening to the album, not just the songs it contains. Thirty minutes of music I love beats three minutes of pop glory any day.


Woooo! Yeah!

Just your friendly neighborhood Lynch movie

David Lynch's Inland Empire reviewed - By Dana Stevens

The 10 Greatest Songs by Pavement

Baptist Blacktick (westing by musket and sextant, slanted and enchanted redux)
Zurich is Stained (slanted&enchanted)
Here (slanted&enchanted)
Range Life (crooked rain, crooked rain)
Filmore Jive (crooked rain, crooked rain)
Silence Kit (crooked rain, crooked rain)
Serpentine Pad (wowee zowee)
Stereo (brighten the corners)
Shady Lane (brighten the corners)
Carrot Rope (terror twilight)

Little Earl's 10 favorite Beatles songs

In alphabetical order:

Fixing A Hole
I Saw Her Standing There
I'll Be Back
Let It Be
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
Nowhere Man
Strawberry Fields Forever
Twist And Shout
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
You Never Give Me Your Money

On my next roadtrip...

Cockroach Museum in Texas draws the Curious

10 Superior Movies

1. Apocalypse Now
2. La Dolce Vita
3. The Third Man
4. Bottle Rocket
5. The Last Picture Show
6. Mean Streets
7. Brazil
8. Adaptation
9. Sex, Lies, and Videotape
10. The Wild Bunch

Friday, January 26, 2007

Slate article about Christopher Hitchens and girls

Women can too be funny. -By Laura Kipnis

Little Earl's 10 favorite movies as of this exact moment

In alphabetical order:

All That Jazz (Fosse, 1979)
Barry Lyndon (Kubrick, 1975)
Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942)
Five Easy Pieces (Rafelson, 1970)
Ikiru (Kurosawa, 1952)
Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Altman, 1971)
The Music Man (Da Costa, 1962)
Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994)
The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, 1939)

How about you, yoggoth?

My crappy Hamlet essay from college

Matthew Weinberg


“Better Historicism”

New Historic criticism might be just as effective at deciphering text as psychoanalytic criticism, but one could not tell from Karen Coddon’s essay on Hamlet. Whereas Janet Adelman’s essay is clear, logical, and convincing, Coddon’s is wordy, convoluted, and confusing. Coddon’s point seems easy enough to prove: she tries to decipher the original connotations of the word “madness” in Shakespeare’s time, and how it had political implications that it has lost today. But her historical references are not explained well, and her language is idiomatic and cluttered. By contrast, Adelman proves her point effortlessly, arguing that, because Gertrude does not follow Hamlet’s sexual ideals of herself, she causes him to overly vilify herself and overly idealize his dead father. Although both essays have solid arguments, Coddon loses the reader in poor technique.

Not that Coddon’s critical tools are faulty; she gives us a healthy amount of historical facts and quotes from letters, diaries, and other scholarly books. But her choice of quotes and subsequent analysis of these quotes fails to solidify her ideals about the nature of madness in politics. For instance, she quotes a diary entry from a man named John Harington without bothering to explain who this man is in relation to the Earl of Essex. Also, the actual quote is written in confusing Renaissance English. And after all this confusion, Coddon’s attempt to explain the quote’s relevance to her topic only confuses the reader more: “But in Harington’s discourse the causal relation between overreaching and insanity is ambiguous; ambition may ‘speedilie leade on to madnesse,’ but madness spurs the subjective overthrow of the pales and forts of reason that should constrain the ‘haughtie spirit.’”i This language is unnecessarily verbose and abstract. With phrases like “subjective overthrow” and “pales and forts,” the reader cannot help but ask, “What is she talking about?” Coddon also makes the mistake of putting quotation marks around vague words she tries to emphasize, without making it clear why she emphasizes them.

In contrast, Adelman keeps her analysis simple by sticking solely to the text. Because she does not bring in outside forces, she does not clutter the reader’s mind with obscure information. She also explains, much better than Coddon, how the quotes she chooses are relevant to her points about Hamlet’s ideological simplification of his parents. After she quotes the line “A bloody deed. Almost as bad, good Mother, / As kill a king and marry with his brother,” she elaborates:

Given the parallel with his killing of Polonius, “as kill a king” first seems to describe Claudius’ act; but when the line ends with “brother” rather than “queen” or “wife,” the killing attaches itself irrevocably to Gertrude, playing out in miniature the shift of agency from him to her. For Claudius’s crime is nearly absent here: in Hamlet’s accusation, Claudius becomes the passive victim of Gertrude’s sexual will; she becomes the active murderer.ii

Here Adelman makes it perfectly clear what the quote has to do with her topic: it shows how Hamlet’s choice of language reveals his biases against his mother. Also, her reiteration of “brother” is not extraneous, because it helps to back up her argument. Unlike Coddon, the reader can understand where Adelman is heading with her quote.

Thus, Adelman’s essay is infinitely more effective at proving her argument, even going beyond to suggest that Hamlet’s point of view is a skewed one, which the reader should take with a grain of salt. Coddon’s essay, however, is a mess, and the reader comes away from it hardly convinced of anything. What Coddon probably wanted to say was that Renaissance politicians often used the term “madness” to discredit people who threatened their power. However, this point is lost amid unexplained historical references and a thick vocabulary. Whereas the reader walks away from Adelman’s essay knowing exactly what she had to say, he walks away from Coddon’s thinking about how she could have said it better.

i Karen S. Coddon, “ ‘Such Strange Desygns’: Madness, Subjectivity, and Treason in Hamlet and Elizabethan Culture, (Boston, Bedford/St. Martin’s), p. 381

ii Janet Adelman, “ ‘Man and Wife is One Flesh’: Hamlet and the Confrontation with the Maternal Body,” (Boston, Bedford/St. Martin’s), p. 269

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hamlet Cusack

Is Hamlet the John Cusack of Early Modern drama?

First Post