||Best Bleat graphic ever. Sorry, I’m just proud of it. But I credit my software and machine, magical tools that let people who don’t really know what they’re doing come up with stuff that isn’t all that bad. (My favorite part is the gold-leaf on the glass.) It’s an abandoned storefront by Franklin Avenue & 35W; the freeway came through many years ago and carved off this block from the rest of the commercial strip. Blight and changing demographics didn’t help. It’s been empty for a while.
Back to normal. The snow has started up again; Gnat is back to school on Monday, and January begins in earnest. But right now I’m at the suburban coffee shop – full house, not a spare table, everyone bent over quiet clacking laptops. I’m in a comfy chair by the fireplace, which would be nice if I was reading a book, and there was a fire in the fireplace, but the arms of the chair are so high I have to type with my arms squeezed at my side. Yuri Gagarin was more comfortable.
Ah. Someone left. Got a table. But as Galileo might have said, yet it wobbles. In the old days we’d use a couple of matchbooks as a makeshift shim, but no one gives out matchbooks anymore.
I use the old NBC chime as my mail alert signal. Spam. Spam carefully worked to slip through my filters. They’re all for mortgages. Yes, nothing cements my confidence in an online mortgage provider like a letter whose misspellings are intentional attempts to defeat my filters.
Which reminds me: change of email. Now it’s all my first name at my last name dot com. It used to be the secret box I used when I needed a mailbox that wasn’t overgrown with spam like the other five, but I give up. Everybody into the pool! Abusive e-mail will be cheerfully ignored in favor of flattering e-mail that reinforces my fragile sense of worth.
God, I hate spammers. I hate them like I hate spray-paint vandals. Somewhere in the afterlife they will be repeatedly pounded in the nuts with Thor’s hammer, if there’s any justice.
The weekend? Thanks for asking; it was fine. The usual. Shopping for staples, working on the book and the site, old radio, movies. I watched “Batman Begins,” which was just as good as I remembered. My wife liked it too, a lot. My favorite movie of 05, I think, and I repeat: damn, what a soundtrack. I caught something that I hadn’t noticed before – when Our Hero reveals his identity to Mrs. Tom Cruise, he says something that goes against every movie-cliché since 1963. He repeats something she told him when she accused Bruce Wayne of being a playboy wastrel. It’s not who I am underneath, he says, but what I do that defines me.
And then he jumps off a building, wearing pointy ears, which is rather defining. But this is an idea contrary to the flabby precepts of Boomerism, the idea that the goodness of one’s intentions is sufficient. Faith is not enough! Works are important! If you own a private jet and call yourself an environmentalist, you ought not content yourself with the thought that you encouraged your gardener to buy a Prius.
Don’t know why, exactly, but the scenes with Young Master Wayne and his father make me blubber. (And I was a Marvel guy.) Again, credit the score, which is pitiless, and of course it’s the idea of Doomed Goodness that always gets you. But still.
For my weekly old-movie B&W feature I watched “Inherit the Wind,” which for some reason I believed was about the Scopes trial, not based on it. The IMDB comments give it the usual raves, and yes, Spencer Tracy is great, if that’s not a tautology. But for once I actually had sympathy for the prosecution. Not because I believed in their case, Lord no. I accept evolution; never questioned it, although I always felt it was the means by which a Great and Mysterious force gave us complex eyes, self-awareness, dogs, etc. The whole happened-by-accident thing never had much pull with me, intellectually or emotionally. Anyway. The movie is so self-righteous,, so self-impressed, it ends up equating belief with thoughtless dogma and intellectual rigidity. While I don’t doubt that there were, and of course are, people who regard any sort of intellectual curiosity towards Biblical literacy as prima facie evidence of some wicked desire to topple God, there wasn’t a single smart theist in the room. Ev’buddy fulla that ole time religion – defined, in this case, as being a sexless thin old lady with a hate-filled face clutching a Bible to her washboard bosom. “Judgment at Nuremburg” gave the bad guys more intellectual credibility. (Same producer, too.)
The climax, in which the heroic attorney pretty much proves the Old Testament is bunkum – mostly by yelling questions at an old man - could have been handled with greater subtlety, in other words. But it wouldn’t have provided audiences with the same sort of smug satisfaction.
It’s also dishonest: at the end, Spencer Tracy is packing up his stuff in the courtroom, picks up a Bible; he picks up a law book in the other hand, and seems to weigh them. With a wry Spencer Tracy smile he puts the Bible on top of the law book and walks out. The End. It goes against everything the movie’s said before: the Bible is not on top of the law book, and it seems unlikely the fiery agnostic would think so. But it reassures the audience that the movie isn’t really anti-Bible, which it obviously is. The movie wants to have its manna and eat it too.
Wasn’t a commercial success, it seems; the trailer takes great pains to tell you what an important movie it is, mostly by showing how well it was received in Europe. Here’s 3-D nudie photo enthusiast Harold Lloyd giving it an award in Berlin!
I’m not saying it’s doesn’t have some fine performances; it does. And I’m not personally offended by this sort of thing – I don’t have a Prager in this simile, to make an obscure reference. But it’s not particularly hard to make the less self-reflective elements of the intelligentsia feel good about being irreligious. It’s like making teenagers depressed. Not hard work. The movie’s appeal with its most popular defenders rests in their satisfaction in seeing certain things said in a big Hollywood movie, I think. If the movie had the same actors and same passionate displays and same utterly manipulative script for the other side, i.e., some brilliant old fire-brand lawyer chewing up a scientist on the stand about Augustinian theology, it wouldn’t be much loved. It’s like Ayn Rand books: people don’t like them because they’re brilliant literature, they like the ideas, and the artistic content is secondary. Don’t write me letters about this. Please. It’s what she says, not how she says it. Once, long ago when I was stupid enough to post to the Usenet, I wrote some parodies of Ayn Rand that used the same words to make the opposite point – just changed a few key ideas, left in the rest. Blood came out of my inbox. But I was right. Ha ha! I am right! I win! !!111!!
According to the Netflix sleeve, Gene Kelly plays “reporter H. L. Mencken,” which might be why I thought this was based on the actual trial; turns out he plays a Menckenesque character. And not very well. For one thing, he’s too graceful; the way he sways and shrugs and grins you expect him to break into a dance routine at any moment.
It was a long week, mostly because Gnat had no school and we just hung out all day; by Friday I was ready for the delights of the weekend, such as they are. My new mike arrived Friday – it’s the Blue Snowball, which all the cool kids have, I guess. Heavy sucker. I have a mike stand, but it’s also quite weighty, and given how much I prefer to move around while broadcasting, I need something that weighs less than sixty-eight pounds – I need a flexible boom, but that really is taking this too far, perhaps. On the other hand, I have great hopes for the podcast this year. I have great hopes for the year, period. I may be Bleating less if I have to write a novel quickly – more so if I have to write two, which might be the case – but it’s going to work like this for the next four months. Matchbook on Monday, Motels on Tuesday, maybe something extra on Wednesdays, Podcast on Fridays, Screedblog throughout the week (it's new today), and of course the Quirk column M-Sat.
The spring will be the site’s tenth anniversary. Not a bad run so far. Here's to twenty more.
Remember the new email, if you wish - firstname at lastname dot com. Unless you want to offer me the b3st r@te on a new m0rtgage, in which case: say hello to my little friend.
(Thor by Jack Kirby and c.Marvel comics, of course)