Ten week notes

One. Completely random sentences taken out of context can be beautiful. Where do you think contemporary poetry comes from?

Two. Speaking of poetry, X. J. Kennedy knows how to write it.

Now changing sides, each withered pitcher moves
As his considered dignity behooves
Down the worn path of earth where August flies
And sheaves of air in warm distortions rise,
To stand ground, fling, kick dust with all the force
Of shoes still hammered to a living horse.

(from Old Men Pitching Horseshoes)

Three. I took extensions on all my papers this semester, so I'm still reading and typing away. The first (stapled and submitted, thankfully) was on Augustine and E. A. Poe. The one I'm working on now is about Thomas Kyd's revenge play, The Spanish Tragedy. And at some point in the (fingers crossed) near future, I'll be writing a paper that I'm tentatively calling "What We Talk About When We Talk About 'Content.'"

Four. Today is the 139th anniversary of the first performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore.

Five. It's also the fortieth anniversary of Star Wars.

Six. Tara and I started a summer book group. Our first meeting is this Sunday, and we'll be talking about Graham Greene's The End of the Affair. In lieu of a review, I posted this excerpt on Goodreads:

Always I find when I begin to write there is one character who obstinately will not come alive. There is nothing psychologically false about him, but he sticks, he has to be pushed around, words have to be found for him, all the technical skill I have acquired through the laborious years has to be employed in making him appear alive to my readers. Sometimes I get a sour satisfaction when a reviewer praises him as the best-drawn character in the story: if he has not been drawn he has certainly been dragged. He lies heavily on my mind whenever I start to work like an ill-digested meal on the stomach, robbing me of the pleasure of creation in any scene where he is present. He never does the unexpected thing, he never surprises me, he never takes charge. Every other character helps, he only hinders.

And yet one cannot do without him. I can imagine a God feeling in just that way about some of us. The saints, one would suppose, in a sense create themselves. They come alive. They are capable of the surprising act or word. They stand outside the plot, unconditioned by it. But we have to be pushed around. We have the obstinacy of nonexistence. We are inextricably bound to the plot, and wearily God forces us, here and there, according to his intention, characters without poetry, without free will, whose only importance is that somewhere, at some time, we help to furnish the scene in which a living character moves and speaks, providing perhaps the saints with the opportunities for their free will.

Seven. My brother's latest feature film has an IMDb page. Park here to watch the trailer.

Eight. Steve Yedlin is a cinematographer who often works with Rian Johnson (who has made Brick, Looper, The Brothers Bloom, and is finishing up another small film right now). Yedlin is known, and sometimes chided, for his very scientific approach to filmmaking techniques, but his reasoning is this:

This document isn't a call to filmmakers to do lots of (or any!) color science tinkering while making a movie -- not on set and not in post, but to avoid doing so merely by getting some ducks in a row before shooting. I personally use these techniques just to have everything set up the way I like it in advance, so that by the time I'm shooting I just use a light meter and traditional film lighting ratios -- I don't even use a calibrated monitor, let alone a cumbersome tent full of rack-mounted engineering equipment tethered to the camera. And then in post, color grading is focused and doesn't spiral because much of the intent is already there in the starting point -- in the core transformation -- so it doesn't have to be built from scratch shot by shot. In both production and post, I can be nimble and concentrate on the creative aspects of making a movie rather than on engineering.

Nine. In WWII, the Nazis fired V-1 "robot" missiles (a.k.a., buzz bombs, a.k.a., doodlebugs) from the coast of France into England. The bombs flew too fast and at the wrong height for anti-aircraft guns. Their casing was too strong for the standard machine guns that the RAF fighter planes were equipped with, and air-to-air cannon fire could make the warhead explode in the air, putting the RAF pilot at risk.

The solution that the pilots came up with was to match the speed of the V-1 and fly close enough to touch wingtips. The ripple in the airstream made the gyroscope in the missile malfunction, and it would crash to the ground, exploding harmlessly. Here's a photo.


Both World Wars were so crazy partly because technology advanced so rapidly during that time on both sides. In some ways, they were wars of industry, of invention. And yet, sometimes, the fighters just had to do one skillful thing very, very well.

It would be great if there were a scene like this in Rian Johnson's next little movie.

Ten. Be a little underemployed.