|. . . Buffy|
|. . . 1999-07-17|
Things that don't scare me, a very special episode: Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs. As Hotsy-Totsyite Juliet Clark commented while watching the inexplicably controversial season finale of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "I can picture the Mayor guy ruling the world. I can't picture a computer-generated lizard ruling the world."
|. . . 1999-11-01|
You know you'll never write anything for GettingIt when... you realize that you watch "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" for the sake of its script.
|. . . 2000-05-12|
|. . . 2000-05-30|
Another poor shmuck discovers that doing a good job only protects you from office politics so long as you stay out of office politics, 'cause once that happens you've made office politics part of your job and it's probably not a part you'll be good at. The difference if you were doing a good job on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that you get to spill backstage gossip after you're fired, like these quotes:
The thing I do like about her [Eliza Dushku] is that she came over to my place and practiced "action acting" with me. That means putting extra body movement and facial expressions into your shots. It edits with the stunt double better that way and adds to the illusion. It's hard for Sarah to do that though because it feels like overacting to a lot of actors. Some pick it up right away.Which reasonably explains why I didn't start watching the show till Eliza Dushku showed up....
|. . . 2001-02-02|
TV Comment: "The Replacement" - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
There's a type of male bonding that begins with Calibanism and ends in narcissism: The sheer blatancy of the overlap between our faults brings on mutual hostility (possibly due to a mutual fear of disclosure), whereas continued exposure reassures us that these faults are often found not only forgivable but charming. Which is a delightful thing to learn. For a while, anyway; in my experience, this particular type of friendship doesn't have much staying power.
|. . . 2001-02-16|
From Synthetic Zero:
"I recall reading a story about a foreigner who was in Tokyo during one of the firebombings, and these Japanese women were watching the fires and explosions from the window of their paper house. And so they exclaimed, 'kirei-na!' (how pretty!) It's not that they were airheads who didn't know what was happening to them, but the Japanese attitude about such things is that one should accept even the worst disaster as what it is --- because there's no point in pretending or hoping it isn't happening when it manifestly is."I remember when I was a holier-than-thou kid struggling with my reaction to aestheticized horror (which holier-than-thou Christianity offers in plenty but with monopolistic intent) -- like a dog cringing because it imagined killing a sheep. And I guess I still sometimes find myself having to consciously work out these distinctions....
The consequences of aesthetic/ethical confusion aren't always so passive. Like when working or semi-pro artists get into the habit of producing new real-life horrors just so's to have another opportunity to represent them. Mainstream American poetry might think it's redeeming horrific experience; to me it looks more like it's rhetoricizing self-righteousness and a rather toothless remorse, both of 'em easily replenishable resources.
So I gotta disagree with Geegaw's saying William Logan's latest hissy fit "is all wrong": it's right that the hissed-at poets are overrated (insofar as poets get any ratings) and that the quoted poetry stinks. But explaining why it stinks, that's where things fall apart. When a currency's so debased that the only people who care about it are forgers and numismatists, critical judgment comes down to stuff like "It's heavy and shiny!" or "This doesn't match the rest of my collection!" And when Logan wants to balance antagonism with some grudging praise, he proffers the Sax-Rohmeresque:
... In the town centerI agree with Logan that these are "memorable lines": "Did you hear me? BABY DUCKS!" But he also calls them "direct and discomforting" instead of "hilarious bathos," so I don't think I'll be going on a shopping spree any time soon....
of Kwangju, there was a late October market fair.
Some guy was barbecuing halfs of baby chicks on a long, sooty contraption
of a grill, slathering them with soy sauce.
|. . . 2001-10-02|
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Alternate Season Episode Guide, 2000-2001
|. . . 2001-12-29|
Eagle-eyed Juliet Clark plucks this juicy hank o' middlebrow from Lewis Lapham's column in the September 2001 Harper's:
"Because the schools serve a spiritual and political purpose instead of an intellectual idea, they cannot afford to make invidious comparisons between the smart kids and the dumb kids, between the kids who read Shakespeare's plays and those who watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer."Elsewhere, another professional pundit does his dirty job of turning a short paragraph into a full column. (And I regret to say that my weblog compeers, those gay betrayers, are not linking to the original....)
|. . . 2002-06-19|
Is there one who understands me?
Thanks to Aaron for becoming the second person to notice that I'm Cordelia.
The first person was Christina La Sala, who tried to get me to watch Buffy back in 1997 by playing up that Thalia Menninger angle. But in those early days I was very shallow and thought the show was simply not presentable. I only really became part of the gang in the third season -- which is still my favorite, although the most recent one might've supplanted it in my affection if they hadn't transplanted the ridiculous Magic-Is-My-Anti-Drug plotline from some hell-dimension version of Buffy onto the shoulders of the Real Life show -- and only very recently and while losing all my viewers have I started getting migraines and pregnant and mature and stuff.
Errata: One who should know assures us that, despite our evident admiration for Cordelia, we are not in fact ourselves Cordelia.
We are instead 50% Anya, 20% Willow, 15% Imperfectly-Supressed-Bad-Willow-Confronting-Giles, and 15% Xander-Driving-the-Dream-Van-with-Willow-and-Tara-in-Back.
We regret any inconvenience.
|. . . 2002-07-30|
Juliet Clark corrects my latest attempt at tech cred:
Actually, I wouldn't call "predictable results on a laser printer" a reason; it just happens to be the most common excuse I've heard. In reality the insistence on huge bitmaps as "archival" files probably has more to do with the reason why certain academics are still trying to deconstruct Madonna: because they heard a decade or more ago that it was the thing to do, and haven't been listening since.Certainly, it's hard to believe that all ugly digital archives have laser printers as their principal audience, and certainly, any really cool academic will be trying to deconstruct Buffy instead.
But a rewarding exchange with pierre-martin's infinitely patient Olaf Simons has taught me a bit (I don't often make jokes!) more tolerance. Simons scans for paper publication, and therefore has a big old bitpile of bitmaps available. Once they're made, he generously attempts to repurpose them for the web -- but paper, in his case, is paramount. And, unfortunately, even though shrinking a 600dpi bitmapped image to computer monitor size will look better in grayscale, it'll never look quite as good as shrinking an originally grayscale image would.
I also didn't account for pierre-marteau's use of another mostly-academic technique: by setting image tags to widths such as "50%," the site relies on the web browser to dynamically resize graphics to different resolutions and window sizes. So, in fact, the bitmapped pierre-martin image I linked to is -- if saved to a local file and then viewed at its original size -- much better looking than I thought it was.
One benefit of this technique is that it saves on labor. Another is that the web pages will print out nicely on a laser printer. There are some problems, though:
|. . . 2002-10-14|
Only a void in a guilty cage
The Gospel According to Buffy (via AKMA) rightly points to the revelation of Buffy's post-resurrection nostalgia as one of the most affecting moments of last season. Rightly, but misleadingly, since its "heaven" was more a leap off the wheel of suffering, and Buffy returned less as comicbook Christ than as comicbook bodhisattva.
Oddly, another effective episode-closer much more evocative of Christianity goes unmentioned: the confession. Although not exactly endorsed by canonical law, hysterical refusal of atonement is common enough in Christian melodrama from the ascetics through Graham Greene.*
TARA: Do you love him? I-It's okay if you do. He's done a lot of good, and, and he does love you. A-and Buffy, it's okay if you don't. You're going through a really hard time, and you're...Could be, though, that the emotional power of both scenes has less to do with deep-rooted theological instincts than with the narrative medium.
BUFFY: What? Using him? What's okay about that?
TARA: It's not that simple.
BUFFY: It is! It's wrong. I'm wrong. Tell me that I'm wrong, please... Please don't forgive me, please... (sobbing) Please don't... Please don't forgive me...
In a television series, we can be sure that the regulars will return, no matter how much crap they're dragged through, and we can be sure that they'll stay together, no matter how dreadfully they may have behaved towards each other.
Previously on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," our hero suffered death, betrayal by her first love immediately upon her loss of virginity, killing her first love, betrayal by a fellow slayer, betrayal by the second guy she ever slept with, being left by the third guy she ever slept with, the death of her mother, at least six apocalypses, and death again. Frankly, she was in a rut. Life hadn't much new to offer -- as is being proved redundantly by the current season -- and the only possible reason to be strapped into another cycle of pain was contractual obligation. Given Sarah Michelle Geller's movie-star ambitions, she could really put her heart into lines like "I was finished. Complete."
Similarly, it's not all that hard in real life to achieve non-forgiveness: people refuse to forgive each other all the time. Only on a TV show would Murray Slaughter and Ted Baxter survive in the same office for seven years. Only on a TV show would a character murder, torture, attempt to destroy the universe, and then work his way back into the gang by dint of heavy squinting. Trapped in such an obvious facade, one can understand straining against genre constraints toward some sense of reality.
In both cases, a narrative construct attempts to escape her defining narrative. For viewers who have willingly surrendered their empathy to the fiction while maintaining knowledge of its absurdity, this technique intensifies our identification with (and investment in) the character while reinforcing our own (shared) doubts. Simultaneously threatened and reassured, it's no wonder we feel our chains yanked.
As support for that secular explanation, I offer the third most affecting episode of last season,** in which the show's wobbly plotline was explained as the junk-culture-sodden megalomaniacal fantasy of a nearly catatonic young woman who'd been institutionalized since 1996: as direct an attack on suspension of disbelief as one could imagine.
Of course, it's possible that "deep-rooted theological instincts" are also a matter of "a narrative construct attempting to escape her defining narrative" -- but investigating such a synthesis might well lead us outside "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" proper.
* Adolescent panic when facing the moral relativism of adult life may be less culturally specific.
|. . . 2003-06-11|
Jake Wilson resolves one old issue:
|I considered writing to you a couple of months ago when you were looking for sources of the Rotwang/Dr Strangelove archetype. I was going to suggest that one source might be the Poe tale The Man That Was Used Up, but then from your phrasing I wasn't sure if you'd already made that connection.|
|That was, in fact, the grotesque that I vaguely thought might be Poe or (if post-Civil-War) Twain or even Crane. (When I browsed through Poe collections, I became distracted by "Maelzel's Chess-Player".)|
And to balance things out, Jake Wilson introduces one new issue: Senses of Cinema No. 26, with excellent background on the Hong Kong woman warrior, a Stan Brakhage tribute appropriately split between formal and personal concerns, enticing overviews of Ned Kelly stories and Italian movies that I'd probably hate, a pointer to the near-future sf film None Shall Escape, and the usual much much more.
My other favorite web-based movie periodical, Bright Lights Film Journal, has also served up a fresh batch of fine reporting, reviews, and meditations. But would you think badly of me if I admitted that my favorite part was the Holly Woodlawn interview? 'Cause if you would, I admit nothing.
Elsewhere on the web, Dr. Justine Larbalestier has provided a preview of "A Buffy Confession," her spirited defense against (and equally spirited surrender to) nattering nay-Slayers. "For those who haven't seen the finale yet don't read the coda at the end."
And another of our favorite doctors, Josh Lukin, brings us the welcome news that paper-based periodical Paradoxa is finally unleashing FIFTIES FICTIONS: Chester Himes! Patricia Highsmith! E.C.! Richard Matheson! Samuel R. Delany! Judith Merril! People I don't even know! Get your order in early; you know how ephemeral paper-based periodicals are, and this looks like the best issue of Paradoxa yet. (I'd say "the best issue yet of any magazine ever," but I can't be sure till I track down a copy of that Vanity Fair with the picture of Tuesday Weld in the back. [Update: That Vanity Fair issue stunk.])
Yeah, I kid the academy (those nuts!), but when its component parts are given half a chance, the combination of publishing venues, deadlines, and job reviews can be mighty productive. Out here in the boonies, I've been blowing hot air about "doing something" on Highsmith for more than a dozen years; with sharp and decent folk like Lukin and Earl Jackson Jr. on the case, the world might live long enough to see some results.
|. . . 2005-11-27|
Fenitschka and Deviations by Lou Andreas-Salomé, tr. Dorothee Einstein Krahn
The Human Family (Menschenkinder) by Lou Andreas-Salomé, tr. Raleigh Whitinger
Looking Back by Lou Andreas-Salomé, ed. Ernst Pfeiffer, tr. Breon Mitchell
Two-and-a-half stories into Menschenkinder (timidly Englished as "The Human Family") and I'm pleasantly surprised by their oblique viewpoints, the suggestive opacity of their sweeping gestures. By eight-and-a-half, my cracked fingernails are pawing the door while I whimper for air, air....
The last book to dose me like this was No. 111 2.7.93-10.20.96 by Kenneth Goldsmith, three years' worth of noticed utterances ("found texts" understates its inclusiveness), sorted alphabetically and by number of syllables. Against the author's advice, I read it front to back. (Not at one sitting, but still.)
For all I remember, two-thirds of the way through someone in Goldsmith's circle discovered true love and a revitalizing formula for social progressivism. If so, the next two hundred pages of advertising, trash-talk, and D. H. Lawrence warhorse scribbled them away. Goldsmith's big white volume flattens all layers of a life that seems not to have been unduly dull, solitary, or settled into solid shallowness as far as the mechanically-aided eye can reach. No there there, or anywhere else either; no under; no outside. Nothing but an unbreakable but by no means scuff-free surface. The discursive universe as the wrong side of a jigsaw puzzle.
I wouldn't imply any aesthetic affinity between Lou Andreas-Salomé and Kenneth Goldsmith. But the horror conveyed by both is an emergent formal property whereby the self-traced boundaries of a free-range spirit are established as crushingly limited.
Twelve stories by Andreas-Salomé have been translated into English. All were originally published in 1898 and 1899 and probably written in the same two-year burst. About half the stories have a male point-of-view; about half a female; some split down the middle. Although some include long letters or soliloquies, only one is in the first person. Elements and settings and character types and plotlines appear and re-appear — trains, hospitals, mountain walks, hotels; doctors, artists; older men, slightly less older men; seductions, spellbindings, disillusionments, untrustworthy re-affirmations — in never exactly replicated configurations, with just enough variation to convince us that a solution won't be found.
The puzzle is constant: There's a singularly intelligent and beautiful woman. (The traits are inseparable in these stories.) And all human value is placed in slavish idealization of the (almost always) gender-defined Other. Whether it's a case of male worshipping female, female worshipping male, or (rarer, dismissable) female worshipping female, such idealization is shown as irresistable but unmaintainable, thrashing between the fetishized parties —"I must sacrifice all for you!" "No, I must sacrifice all for you!"— and usually snapped by a sexual outburst.
(I confess that two of the twelve stories do offer "solutions", but both are so absurdly inept that the effect's more revolting than reassuring. According to one, a woman [or Woman] finds fulfillment only in childbirth; transparently the appeal of the theorized child is its strictly theoretical state as inseperable Other. Otherwise, the stories show far less interest in children or mothers than in fathers. Mothers aren't bright, or ambitious, or heroic. At most, they're embarrassing. And one such mother embarrassingly points out the egotism of the second "solution" offered: wait until the imperfect Other is safely dead, produce an idealized portrait, and rest content in mutual [but not consensual] redemption.)
As an exercise in spritual discicpline, I'd wanted to avoid gossip while reading Andreas-Salomé's fiction. But these exercises in objective solipsism are so clearly trying to work something out that my resolve crumbled, and I found, in the autobiographical essays she wrote more than thirty years later:
In the dark of night I didn't just tell God what had happened to me that day—I also told him entire stories, in a spirit of generosity, without being asked. These stories had a special point. They were born of the necessity to provide God with the entire world which paralleled our secret one, since my special relationship to him seemed to divert my attention from the real world, rather than making me feel more at home in it. So it was no accident that I chose the material for my stories from my daily encounters with people, animals, or objects. The fairy-tale side of life hardly needed to be emphasized—the fact that God was my audience provided adequately for that. My sole concern was to present a convincing picture of reality. Of course I could hardly tell God something he didn't already know, yet it was precisely this that ensured the factual nature of the story I was telling, which was why I would begin each story, with no small degree of self-satisfaction, with the phrase:
as you know
[After losing faith in God] I continued to tell my stories before I fell asleep. As before, I took them from simple sources, encounters and events in my daily life, although they had suffered a decisive reversal as well, since the listener was gone. No matter how hard I tried to embellish them, to guide their destiny along a better path, they too disappeared among the shadows. [...] For that matter, was I even sure that they were true, since I had ceased to receive them and pass them on with the confident words "as you know"? They became a cause of unconfessed anxiety for me. It was as if I were thrusting them, unprotected, into the uncertainties of the very life from which I had drawn them as impressions in the first place. I recall a nightmare—one which was often retold to me—which occurred during an attack of the measles, when I was in a high fever. In it I saw a multitude of characters from my stories whom I had abandoned without food or shelter. No one else could tell them apart, there was no way to bring them home from wherever they were in their perplexing journey, to return them to that protective custody in which I imagined them all securely resting—all of them, in their thousandfold individuality, constantly remultiplying until there was not a single speck of the world which had not found its way home to God. It was probably this notion which also caused me to relate quite different external impressions to one another. [...] It was as if they belonged together from the first. This remained the case even when the sum total of such impressions gradually began to overload my memory, so that I began to use threads, or knots, or catchwords to orient myself within the ever more densely woven tapestry. (Perhaps something of this habit carried over into later life when I began to write short stories; they were temporary aids in getting at something which was after all a much larger coherent whole, something which could not be expressed in them, so that they remained at best makeshift.)
[...] nothing can affect the significance of any thing, neither murder, nor destruction, unless it be to fail to show this final reverence to the weight of its existence, which it shares with us, for, at the same time, it is us. In saying this I've let slip the word in which one may well be inclined to see the spiritual residue of my early relationship to God. For it is true that throughout my life no desire has been more instinctive in me than that of showing reverence—as if all further relationships to persons or things could come only after this initial act.
It's easy enough to guess why such a person would have felt attracted to Freudian methods.
To return to her fiction, for those who'd prefer not to commit themselves, one Menschenkinder story is online. The books' most representative highlights might be "Maidens' Roundelay" (with a full double cycle of other-idealization and self-disillusion) and "Fenitschka" (which begins with near date-rape and ends years later in an ambiguously liberating act of forced voyeurism).
Having suffered the effects of full committal, I'm inclined to favor the two least representative stories. "On Their Way" is a black comedy of criss-crossed class incomprehension in which a young couple fail at romantic suicide but succeed at idiotic boyslaughter. "At One, Again, with Nature" stares aghast at the iciest of Andreas-Salomé's girl geniuses. Inventing California-style boutique organic produce, mocking country cousin and sugar daddy, romping with colts, kicking poor pregnant servants out in disgust, and anticipating the final solution of Ethan Edwards, Irene von Geyern escorts us out of the sequence into a harsh and welcome winter's wind.
These two don't solve the problem of Andreas-Salomé, but they do solve the problem of Story: an Other given the small mercy of The End.
peli grietzer asks:
How come all these large scale radical textual experiments operating by a linguistic rather than representational principal (No. 11...., Sunset Debris, etc.) end up being lauded for their sense of suffocation, melancholy and quiet hysteria?
I also like them for this very reason, it's just that it seems like all technically referential works guided by a non-mimetic logic end up being prized for the same emotional effect, that doesn't seem to have much to do with the actual specific non-mimetic logic they operate by.
I've noticed a similar trend among reviewers. (It may be just the default establishment mood in which to take any odd and encompassing work: the earliest defenders of James Joyce similarly treated him as a conduit of Waste-Land-ish moping.) But, for me, one of the meta-interesting things about radical textual experimenters, as with twelve-tone composers or free jazz musicians or three-chord garage bands, is that they don't all sound alike. Trying to articulate how that magic's managed may be among the most amusing challenges available to contemporary critics. Can we do any better than "voice"?
For the record, I wanna say that all of Silliman's work (including Sunset Debris) leaves me pretty cheerful, and the same goes for Gertrude Stein and Jackson Mac Low. On the other hand, the carefully crafted movies of Jean Eustache distill the bitterness of human limits into something finer than either Goldsmith (intentionally) or Andreas-Salomé (unintentionally) do by "accident".
For that matter, Goldsmith himself credits the development of his technique (and this message) to the influence of Andy Warhol, whose movies and fine art don't really effect me that way — although maybe the Factory novel a would if I could stand reading it.
What I was really reminded of by your description of "No. 11.... "is the experience of watching season 2 of, let's say, Buffy when you're already a veteran of all seasons + Angel. Know what I mean? Knowing the resolving of the big point of narrative interest which just took place is going to be trivial from the perspective of five seasons later, not by a grand artistic architecture utilizing this trivialization, but just by everything moving on to different narrative interests that negate earlier ones (Oz and Willow being great great greatest love, later Willow and Tara being far more great greater love).
The obvious analogy with life actually devalues the poignancy of this, I think : in art we expect climaxes not to be retconned away meaninglessly, so it hurts more.
Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.