A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Plain Sense of Things

The Plain Sense of Things: In the Sunday New York Times Book Review, Helen Vendler reviews the first edition of Wallace Stevens’s work in 20 years, edited by John N. Serio. Stevens has always been one of my favorite poets, and Vendler's review inspired me to re-read a poem from which I have always managed to derive a strange sustenance:

Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour

Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly around us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous,

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one ...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.

The Guns of August

Frank Rich's Sunday column, The Guns of August, deals with the violent talk and action on the right, an elaboration on what he said on Rachel Maddow's show, i.e.: "The simmering undertone of violence in our politics seems to be getting darker."

The prevailing fear of the government that Rich touches on in this column is disturbing. During conservative regimes -- Reagan, the Bushes -- liberals seem to be able to handle their lack of power better than conservatives do when the Democrats (not to call them liberals) are in charge. I recently saw this at work when an old high school friend, with whom I had got in touch in connection with my class's reunion last year, commented on one of my Facebook posts that she was appalled at the liberalism in the link (to a Daily Kos item, I think) it contained. I responded that I appreciated her point of view, but that I naturally disagreed with hers.

It turned out that she had been participating in tea party and town hall protests, and she seemed to be terrified that the White House would find out and somehow punish her for it. (Evidently, she and her husband had once been audited by the IRS.) She wrote that she was discontinuing our Facebook connection -- "defriending" me -- and that she would prefer that I not contact her again.

I'm certain that she would never do anything violent, but it's clear that the merchants of fear had found in her a ready customer. I only wonder what other customers they have sold their brands to.

It's About Time

I don't usually count on Time magazine (which we get because someone once gave us a gift subscription) for anything but conventional wisdom skewed to the right. But this short review of T.R. Reid's book about American health care put in a very few words what's wrong with it, and why reform is so damn essential. Boldface is mine:

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care By T.R. Reid; Penguin; 288 pages

The U.S. health-care system is in a remedial class by itself. In no other industrialized country do 20,000 people die each year because they can't afford to see a doctor; nowhere else do 700,000 a year go bankrupt because of their medical bills. When it comes to health-care policy, an economist tells T.R. Reid, the U.S. is the "bogeyman of the world." The question Reid poses, however, isn't, What are we doing wrong? It's, What are other countries doing right--and how can the U.S. learn from them? A Washington Post correspondent with a nagging shoulder injury from his Navy days, Reid traveled the world to see how other countries' health-care systems would treat him. From Germany to Canada to Taiwan, he finds several different models for success, all with one thing in common.

When considering whether a government has a moral obligation to provide access to health care for all its citizens, Reid notes, "every developed country except the United States has reached the same conclusion."