At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, July 16, 2004

This afternoon my brother and I drove from Knoxville to my parents' house in Madison, AL.  A librarian on holiday has to go book shopping, of course, so my brother and I stopped along the way at McKay in Chattanooga.  For those of you keeping score, I picked up cheapo copies of:

  • Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies (I liked Brideshead Revisited and A Handful of Dust, so I was happy to find this in a $3 hardback)
  • Dom Aelred Graham, Zen Catholicism (I read this years ago at Notre Dame; Graham makes a good argument that the best elements of Zen are part of the Catholic mystical tradition)
  • Mark Twain, Recollections of Joan of Arc
  • Sr. Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P., St. Dominic (published by TAN, that bastion of ultramontane Catholic literature)
  • Monica Furlong, Merton: A Biography
  • Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

I was hoping to find some good sci-fi, but no luck so far.  Hope remains, though, since there are some good used bookstores in Huntsville. 

Thursday, July 15, 2004

I'm back in the Southland.  Flying out, we skirted a multicell thunderstorm--a spectacular sight.  Today my brother and I ate out (Indian buffet for lunch and Mellow Mushroom pizza for dinner) and shopped.  I managed to spend only $65 at Disc Exchange; the haul includes:

  • Stereolab, Aluminum Tunes ("One Note Samba"!)
  • Stereolab, Last of the Microbe Hunters
  • Stereolab, Wow and Flutter
  • B-52s
  • Jenny Toomey, Tempting

Apparently I spent enough to merit some free samplers, the most interesting of which is a 4-song EP of covers by the Cowboy Junkies.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Tomorrow afternoon I'm flying to the southeast to visit family. I might blog, I might not. I'll return on the following Wednesday. See ya!


Galassi, Peter, et al. Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Man, The Image and the World—A Retrospective. Thames, $75.

Library Journal: “the most complete study available of photographic reproductions…the best general introduction to the photographer’s work…recommended for academic and larger public libraries.” Choice: "The definitive source for future studies. Highly recommended." Publishers Weekly: “a comprehensive and stunning retrospective.” Afterimage: “Includes some images which have never been published before. The features that totally differentiate this book from Henri Cartier-Bresson Photographer, the other HCB ‘bible’ in size and content, are chapters dedicated to Cartier-Bresson’s drawings and films, a very extensive bibliography including articles and reviews, a list of his shows, even a family album including photographs of he who would not let people photography him. All this makes the book a must in any public or personal library.”

Monday, July 12, 2004

A couple of news items to confirm my prejudice that Japan is the weirdest nation on earth:

Photo Gallery: The Wacky World of Japanese Ice Cream. Flavors include Squid, Corn, and Wasabe.

Update: The Wackier World of Japanese Ice Cream, including Horseflesh, Lettuce, and Silk flavors. (The Red Wine ice cream sounds pretty good, actually.)

Yokohama Curry Museum to serve curry cocktail. It makes one grieve to think of perfectly good gin ruined with curry powder and red pepper.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

A salutary warning for culture gluttons like myself:

    The belief that one is obliged to read all the books of every author, hear all the music of every great composer, and see all the films of every great director is surely a kind of neurosis, and a neurosis whose origin can usually be traced to one's university career. A compulsion toward over-informedness is most apt to occur in individuals who have been arrested at a graduate school level of development; it is an intellectual infirmity, rather than a sign of health, and it is so common now that is perhaps deserves to be elevated to the status of a syndrome: the Star-Pupil Syndrome...The weight of the academic experience is such, for most of us, that it sometimes takes about ten years to realize that we have, after all, graduated. There comes a time when one no longer has teacher to please; thus it is not really necessary to read everything, see everything, and hear everything in order to remain respectable. One eventually begins to notice that the cellars of all the arts are filled with the over informed, and finally one is forced to admit that there is just too much art--far more, at least, than I can use, either as a writer or as a person. With that recognition the nature of the search changes, and instead of trying, perhaps unconsciously, to please one's teachers one begins to seek out sources of response for oneself--people and books and films that one can hearken to, and perhaps be heartened by."--Larry McMurtry, "Movie-Tripping: My Own Rotten Film Festival."

Point taken, but I'm still interested in sampling the French New Wave directors. I got Jacques Rivette's Jean La Pucelle from Greencine without too much delay, probably only a day or two later than I would have received them from NetFlix. (The main problem with GC, I've discovered, is not the delivery time, but the long waiting lists.) Rivette's is the best cinematic version of the Joan story I've seen. Admittedly, the minimalist New Wave aesthetic doesn't lend itself perfectly to epic material. The battle scenes in particular are underproduced; to believe Rivette, the siege of Orléans was lifted by Joan and about 8 other guys. And the lack of a soundtrack, though perhaps appropriate for the typically loquacious New Wave film, leaves an action movie without an important source of emotional resonance. For the general effect, imagine Eric Rohmer directing Troy.

I wasn't entirely pleased with the lead casting either. Sandrine Bonnaire, twenty-six at the time of filming, is a good actress but too old for the title role, since part of the perennial appeal of the story is its Old Testament aspect, God in His grace choosing the implausibly young (e.g. David) to be the savior of the people. Bonnaire also plays in a too introverted register, whereas the Joan one meets in the history books is nothing if not expressive. (Although I'll take Bonnaire's quietly intense Joan over Milla Jovovich's shrill hysteric any day.)

Being a fan of the Maid of Lorraine, though, I appreciate Rivette's version for its historical accuracy. In The Messenger Luc Besson distorted the source material to make it fit his skeptical agenda, and the CBS version, though not anti-Christian, took many liberties in the interest of dramatic license. Rivette's film trusts in the power of the real events to inspire, and includes plenty of small but verifiable details, from Joan's typical meal (dried bread dipped in wine) to the humourous prayer that the soldier La Hire says just before battle ("May you do for La Hire what you would like La Hire to do for you, if you were La Hire and La Hire was God.") It's also nice that Rivette accepts Joan's religious motivations at face value, and doesn't try to debunk the supposed miracles that she performed.

The ideal Joan film would combine the CBS version's excellent casting (Leelee!), Besson's exciting battle sequences, and Rivette's firm grounding in the facts. Maybe Ron Maxwell, of Gods and Generals fame, can pull it off.