pseudopodium
. . . Earl Jackson

. . .

Spoken, this is a very short story: The nicest father-and-son event I can remember was during my 1981 visit from college when we drove together to see Sam Fuller's war movie The Big Red One. When we got back home, my mother asked us, "So how was 'The Big Red One'?"

In print, it needs some explanation. Fuller's title refers to the numeral on the insignia of the First Infantry Division, and so each word carries equal weight: "the BIG, RED, ONE," like "the hootchie kootchie man" or "the solid gold Cadillac." Whereas my mother rendered its "one" more generically, swallowing it, as in "they're all very nice but I think I'll take the big red one."

When I told this story to Earl Jackson, I figured he'd say something about the Phallus, and then I'd say something about not talking that way about my mama, and so on. Instead he said, "That's evidence that English is a tonal language."

Juliet Clark has since pointed out another tonal moment in movie history: RKO's making Nicholas Ray change the title of his adapation of the novel Thieves Like Us (as in "all those judges and politicians are just thieves like us") because the audience might misread it as "The law-abiding public can't stand to watch this thing, but thieves LIKE us."

. . .

Earl Jackson, Jr., sends these addenda to our notes on English as a tonal language:

I like the link to tone languages a lot but they are misleading when they turn to Japanese. They should be making a clear consistent distinction between tone and pitch. Japanese has relative pitch contours. Chinese and other actual tone languages have absolute pitch. So in Japanese the difference between hasi desu "it's chopsticks" and hasi desu "it's a bridge" is clear because of the different relative pitch between the first and second word. If you were to walk into a room and say an unaccented Japanese word and walk out, there would be no way of determining whether you meant the fully unaccented word or a homonym that has its accent fall on the last syllable. Without a following word, they would sound identical. But if a Chinese person walked into a room, said "ma," and walked out, native speakers would instantly know whether it meant "horse," "hemp," or "mother."

I used to do the following test to my classes. I would write something on the board but cover it up and then say when I reveal the line on the board I will call on people at random and I want that person to read it aloud without thinking about it. I always called one woman and one boy. What was written on the board was the following line:

boys like me

This is a Gary Newman song. I deliberately write without a period or caps so that there is nothing determining the choice. I found that generally speaking women read this line as a sentence and boys as a noun phrase.

. . .

Personal to Earl Jackson, Jr. - The Nairobi Trio's signature tune was "Solfeggio."

. . .

Speak nothing and lack a big stick Bang

After his classmates ratted on an eleven year old boy who'd made some drawings of weapons, he was expelled from Oldsmar Elementary School in handcuffs. (via Obscure Store) The principal explained "We just need to get it through kids' heads that there are certain things you don't say and there are certain things you don't draw."

"... although you should continue to buy them," adds consumer advocate Juliet Clark.

+ + +

In other Obscure educational news, Norwich High School for some reason thought it would be a good idea to maintain a course on "feminist literature" (no elucidating link available) in a community whose standards don't allow explaining the term "phallic" to a 17-year-old. Teacher Richard Bernstein gets a $3000 fine and a formal reprimand, courtesy of the school's principal and the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court. (If he'd been a loyal Kokonino reader, he'd've known that the only correct answer to such queries is "Ask your mama.")

Hate the sinner, love the sin. As much as I dislike obscenity laws, I like the idea that exposure to Lacan can (who can? Lacan can!) be indefinitely postponed -- the guy bugs me, you know? If Lacan's "Phallus" [The proper page from Earl Jackson, Jr., has been purloined; the Google cache momentarily stops the gap] isn't to be construed as a weirdly and unnecessarily exclusionary and hierarchicizing penis, why didn't he just call it "the Object of Desire"? It's like turn-of-the-previous-century intellectuals who talked about "the Eternal Jew," always ready to point out (if, and only if, challenged) that they weren't referring to particular Jews; they were just using "Jew" as a convenient image.... Kids, images that seem to fit into an existing discourse that you don't trust and that require constant policing and clarification to prevent misuse are no convenience in the long run. (Except as branding, of course!)

I guess I should confess, though, that I wouldn't feel compelled to climb so high on my horse if he'd called the center of the symbolic order "Poontang" instead.

. . .

One step forward, two steps back

Earl Jackson, Jr. writes:

Memento, Fight Club and Usual Suspects seem to resonate in ways that I fear might be terribly obvious after the work I might do to discover that.... I think the producers of Memento should re-release it next year but retitle it Memento II.
Those were the two movies that Juliet Clark immediately associated with Memento, as well. My guess is all three (and many other recent "challenging" successes from Hollywood) share some mutually-supportive traits: But that's probably what Earl meant by terribly obvious.

His Memento II proposal makes sense -- reckon I'll have to wait for Memento III? or Is It IV? before I finally get to see those PalmPilot scenes....

. . .

Movie Comment:
(for Earl Jackson, Jr.)
Another Day, Another Man shower lovers
dialog woman shoe gam
walk suitcase man moral

. . .

Movie Comment: My Brother's Wedding

Forget hanging off a cliff. Even with the aid of rear projection or CGI, you can only hang so long -- and then pfffbt! to suspense.

But a decent person trying to live a decent life? Now that's suspenseful. Soon as they get 'round one obstacle, there's another. Sometimes success is the next obstacle. Even giving up doesn't necessarily stanch the adventure.

All the expensively engineered, rehearsed, and (if we're lucky) edited thrill-rides on which we accompany our movie heroes and clowns merely approximate the tension of a decades-long struggle against becoming a worthless creep. That pinball-POV story's such a surefire grabber, the only explanation I can find for its scarcity onscreen is that Hollywood writers don't want to do the research.

In life, if not in movies, the premise of Charles Burnett's second feature, My Brother's Wedding, is familiar edge-of-the-seat stuff: A young man's hard-working church-going lower-middle-class family is as well off as anyone in their neighborhood can expect to be. A lateral move -- from the family laundry business and into a garage, for example -- seems pointless to him. The only ways up -- higher education and a white-collar career, for example -- would take him out of the community1 (and apparently into atrociously robotic acting). All other roads lead downhill with exhilarating speed.

Given choices like that, he's understandably decided not to choose. As the movie starts, his life has gone stagnant, and, over two hours, we watch his further attempts to avoid an irrevocable decision slowly, discursively, drive him into an irrevocable stunning pen.

The slowness and discursiveness are necessary, I think, if one is to feel both the warmth and the claustrophobia of the over-extended homebody: the small and redundant defeats, the victories whose pettiness nags like humiliation. One sequence -- a confrontation between the protagonist's mother and two would-be thieves -- beautifully conveys by structure alone how a "miraculous escape" can also feel like a traumatic demonstration of one's own disposability. Filmic structure and rhythm are the saving graces of Burnett's movie, and they're good graces to depend on.

The post-synch-dubbed acting and sound are less gracious. For most parts, Sunday-best stiffness seems appropriate to the dignity of the occasion. For the remaining parts -- the upperly-mobile caricatures -- the best I can say is what Earl Jackson Jr. said: that Jean-Luc Godard manages to get similar performances even out of big stars.

In a way, Burnett is telling a shaggy dog story; by definition, then, some might see it as overblown and overextended. I understand that makes it not for everyone, and tomorrow I'll present evidence to that ineffect. But for those of us who fully expect the last words we hear, as blooming buzzing confusion drowns all, as we rush toward and are turned away from the light, to be, in patrician saintly tones, "When we said shaggy, we didn't mean that shaggy" -- it's probably fine for us.

+ + +

1[For more on this subject, see Social Class in America, from the collection of Mr. Rick Prelinger.]

. . .

Advertising Supplement

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 damned phrasing stuff trips me up every time! I responded:

  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.

. . .

Science News

Dr. Earl Jackson, Jr., reports from Hawaii:

I'm glad queer theory is forging new territory. Look at this book published by Chicago UP! Interesting managerie, isn't it.
Peacocks, Chameleons, Centaurs
Gay Suburbia and the Grammar of Social Identity
by Wayne H. Brekhus
University of Chicago Press
Due/Published October 2003, 248 pages, paper
...
7 Vegan Peacocks, Christian Chameleons, and Soccer Mom Centaurs: Identity Grammar beyond Gay Identity
8 Duration Disputes: Identity Stability vs. Identity Mobility
9 Density Disputes: Identity Purity vs. Identity Moderation
10 Dominance Disputes: Identity Singularity vs. Identity Balance
11 Conclusion
Appendix: Grounded Theory and Analytic Fieldwork
Ray:
"You are welcome, sir, to Secaucus.--Goats and monkeys!"

Actually, I believe the species most commonly discovered by pop ethnographers is the chimera, usually while on a snipe hunt.

Earl:
i think the questioning bisexual trapped in a transgendered screenname analog would be best represented by the blast-ended skrewt.
phantazoologically,
earl
[a jackson chameleon]

+ + +

Juliet Clark points to another zoological controversy:

If I were a Moomin I'd never stand for being demoominized by your categorical litmus test of queer fashion looks.

. . .

Movie Mop-Up: 2003

Given how much I enjoy early 1930s product, I'm not quite ready to call for a reinstated Production Code, but reviewing my recent first-release experiences, I'm struck by how many of the satisfactory ones were "family-friendly" -- Lilo & Stitch, Holes, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spirited Away, School of Rock.... The best adult-oriented "film" I saw in 2003 was videotaped by Spanish TV reporters. The most tolerable R or NC-17 rater I remember was Y Tu Mama Tambien, and even it was just Beavis-&-Butthead plus Godardian voiceovers and yet another of those scenes which will someday lead historians to conclude that our era enaged in male homosexuality solely as an emetic.

Of course, the early 1930s had a hyperactive studio system and no film schools, whereas contemporary Hollywood careers don't usually allow time to learn about grown-up stuff before production starts. Why fake it? Let overgrown children make overgrown children's films.

From what Earl Jackson Jr. says, I should be attending Korean film instead. I'd only be able to attend it on DVD, which seems like an admission of defeat, but hey, what wouldn't be?

+ + +

Any year starting with a "2" will end with a mucilaginous stack of "If only"s clogging soul's gorge. Here's one small enough to dislodge:

If only Bill Murray wasn't so irritatingly ambivalent about working and Sofia Coppola hadn't so much opportunity to practice her "But I want you to buy me an Oompa-Loompa now!" routine, we might have ended the year with Murray's Bad Santa and Billy Bob Thornton's Lost in Translation.

. . .

1998

Pat defines sociopathy not by acts but by thoughts: labile memory, for example, and temporarily but vehemently held truths.

By which analysis, I'm a sociopath. Benign, I hope. "Casper the Friendly Sociopath," to paraphrase Justine.

. . .

New from the Repress: "Oxydol Poisoning" by Earl Jackson, Jr., originally published 1995. We thank Dr. Jackson for the opportunity.

 

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.