This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Archive for the category “culture”

What Does This Movie Mean? Ancient Greece in 1980’s Texas: The Coens’ “Blood Simple”

MV5BOWQwZTFhNTYtN2I5Ny00MDVlLTkwMDgtMzBhZGU5NTFlOTMzL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTk1NTMyNzM@._V1_SY500_CR0,0,354,500_AL_Lets begin by dispelling a common misconception among the movie’s following:  Julian Marty is not Greek — at least not literally.  He merely references Greece in conversation parallel to how Loren Visser references Russia.  Thus, the subtext of the movie immediately sets up this juxtaposition:  Greece, the land of civilization, versus Russia, the land of bears.  But then, the Coens immediately complicate it by assigning each symbol the other’s qualities:  Greece is where “they cut off the head of the messenger” if he brings bad news, and Russia is  an ordered society where everyone pulls for everyone else (“that’s the theory, anyway”, as Visser qualifies it).  The line between civilization and nature, order and chaos, refinement and barbarity, reason and impulse, can never be presumed — and nowhere is this more true than in a watering hole.

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Well, I Guess Kellyanne Conway Never Did Attend Charm And Beauty School

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Sitting on the floor when you had guests was at the time a gesture signifying simplicity, informality, liberal politics, hospitality, and a Parisian way of life. The passion with which Marie-Claude sat on all floors was such that Franz began to worry she would take to sitting on the floor of the shop where she bought her cigarettes.

~ Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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Sympathy For The Trump Voter, Part 3: After the Election

954a15a0d1b9d5db8b07ec57db402414Popular (official?) historiography of the 2016 Election has coagulated around the idea that Trump’s win represented a rebuke to the elites, liberals, “social justice warriors”, college professors, college students, Hollywood, feminists, scientists, artists, immigrants and basically anyone who doesn’t fit the increasingly narrow definition of a Real American — rural or small-town, white, Christian, poorly educated and poor or middle-class.

Over the ensuing months, think pieces multiplied calling on liberals to be more willing to “learn” and “listen”, and be more cognizant of the pain and anger of the the good people who populate America’s “heartland,” simple folk who have long been left behind and forgotten by the jet-set.  Trump, we are told, is the result of “elites” ignoring the concerns of “ordinary Americans” who rot away in their ghost towns, devastated by the departure of sweet, sweet manufacturing jobs for China, India and Mexico, or else small businesses groaning under onerous regulations that won’t let an Honest Job Creater cut baby formula with melamine, like they do in China.  Here is a good example , which talks about the resentment that the country has towards the city, the working class towards the professional class, those experiencing “economic anxiety” towards those who worry about police shootings.  (It’s an early piece, but it’s a very good representation of the Liberal Remorse that we’ve been seeing.)  Even Rawstory, a commie rag if there ever was one, republished one of those off of Quora via Newsweek.  (“If the progressive movement in the United States does not learn to engage and speak to the people that disagree with its tenets without making them feel like backwards simpletons, it will never move forward without then having to take two steps back,” says the author after describing his father — his example of a Trump Voter — as a muscle-headed backward simpleton who decidedly isn’t interested in a dialogue with someone who embraces ideas different from his.  “If progressives do not learn to create fresh common ground and alliances with those whom they are told hate them and all they represent,” continues the author, after describing how much his father utterly hates anyone who is a liberal, gay, person of color or immigrant.)

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Lenin’s Tomb (A Halloween Post)

lenin-mausoleum_1Here is a perfect story for Halloween: the story of how I got to see Lenin’s mummy on the occasion of being inducted into the Young Pioneers.

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Steven Avery’s Prosecutor Fights Back, Proving He Was Portrayed Fairly

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Not Ken Kratz

If you haven’t seen Netflix’s ten-part documentary, Making a Murderer, about a man who spent eighteen years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit, and was later very likely framed for another crime, go see it now.  Have plenty of liquor and cute bunny pictures on hand; you are going to need both.  It is one of the most affecting documentaries of all time and a wholly infuriating look at the American criminal justice system.

If you have seen it, then you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the prosecutor in Steven Avery’s and Brendan Dassey’s trials for the murder of Teresa Halbach, Ken Kratz, has come to know the wrath of the Internet (the usual: furious Yelp reviews, harassing e-mails, death threats, and so forth).  And so, The Kratz is fighting back.   Read more…

Cimetière des Saints-Innocents: A Post in Honor of Halloween

Caspar Friedrich,

Caspar Friedrich, “Abbey Ruins” (1809)

If you go to Paris today, you will see a nineteenth-century city.  That is because — I’m saving you the tedium of reading that guidebook — the medieval city that Victor Hugo described so longingly in The Hunchback of Notre Dame was almost entirely razed beginning in the 1850’s and replaced by a new, unrecognizable one.  New Paris is, of course, much more elegant (and also cleaner) than its predecessor; but, speaking as a medieval history buff and someone writing on Halloween, I have to say New Paris is also a lot less cool.  Old Paris, of which virtually nothing remains today, was, as kids would put it, hardcore.  Nowhere was this more apparent than at the city’s very center, at Europe’s most notorious cemetery, the Cemetery of the Holy Innocents. Read more…

How To Be A Real Great Poet

A PROPER poet

A PROPER poet

In nerd news: fragments of smoking pipes with traces of cannabis have been found in a location that was once William Shakespeare’s garden. Although it is not at all clear that any of these pipes belonged to the Bard (or indeed if they even date to his lifetime) scholars are excited: after all, here is a chance, however slim, of demonstrating that the boring stuffed shirt that was Bill Shakespeare really did write all that nice poetry. Maybe he was high as a kite. Read more…

Myths And Illusions: The Myth of Paracelsus’ Scientific Contributions

A page from "Rosarium Philosophorum", an anonymous 16-century alchemical treatiseI want to begin this post beating up on Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim, better known as Paracelsus, with a brief digression. As a student of the Middle Ages and Renaissance during my undergraduate days (as well as an Ancient History buff), I noticed an interesting phenomenon. When we talk about the store of knowledge humanity has acquired over the course of its existence, something is deemed to have been “discovered” only when (1) it’s explicitly attested to in writing (2) by a man (3) who has a name. Knowledge possessed and applied by women, or by illiterate societies, or by anonymous people is deemed to not exist; and women themselves, as well as “natives”, are matter-of-factly treated as passive objects of study, rather than human beings capable of possessing and using information. Thus, you might hear Hippocrates credited with “discovering” the early symptoms of pregnancy – even though midwifery existed as a recognized profession for at least 1,500 years before him, and papyri with instructions on how to calculate gestational age date to about that far back. (Sometimes the credit is given to Imhotep, instead.) Read more…

What Does This Movie Mean? — The Godfather’s Oranges

I’ve been meaning for some time to write something about all those oranges in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather trilogy. It’s a topic that’s been copiously discussed by viewers and critics, but I still feel that there is something left to say about it. Specifically, it’s the question of “why oranges” that really fascinates me.

So let us begin. Read more…

Nine Stupidest Things People Like to Say in Defense of Hateful “Humor”

Lighten up, it's only art.

Relax, it’s only art.

I continue my frustrated “Stupid Things People Like to Say” series. Today’s entry: stupid things people like to say in defense of bigotry, especially bigoted “humor”. My post focuses on anti-Semitism, but I think a lot of what I say here is applicable to other forms of bigotry as well. Read more…

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