All But Dissertation No dissertation--none of the time!
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Taking a moment to look at this blog written so long ago, it seems. I finished the dissertation 2004-2005 and am now up for tenure. The dissertation (now book) will be published this year, God willing. So far, so good. Much hard work and many answered prayers.
Watched it tonight. Amazing. A good priest who both advises a wife to talk to her husband and who can quote Kierkegaard. A popular prime-time television show quoting Kierkegaard??! Sustained reflections on death. A teenage girl assuring a dying little boy that there is a God and that God is with him.
Now, the parts where God talks to Joan sometimes are a little lame, to be sure. ("I can't tell you why there is evil because you wouldn't understand.") But you really can't blame anyone for that. The problem of reconciling a single all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving deity with the existence of evil hasn't been solved for a good three thousand years now, and it's not going to be solved in a CBS TV show. (An aside: the question of evil is not my area of study, but I think that Augustine in City of God takes as good a crack at it as anyone.)
But good show! CBS. You have given us honest dramatizations of serious human emotions in a package that the whole family can watch. That in itself seems almost a miracle.
A break from blogging has been good in more ways than one. The most important way is that my dissertation is well on its way to completion. Such a project takes sustained concentration, and it hurts. Blogging is way more fun because it's so much easier just to throw out words into the ether and know that my future and my family's future isn't riding on them.
So here are some words thrown to the wind. No one's reading this anymore, probably, not even friends. But that way the pressure is off to update every day, certainly.
Sorry, readers, that I haven't posted for weeks. Responsibilities have been overwhelming (though not in a bad way) and have prevented me from taking up the keyboard and having fun here. So I won't be blogging for a while (can't say when I'll pick it up again). My writing energies do indeed need to go to the dissertation and other matters. But I hope to be back at some point in the future.
Sorry it's been such a long time, but at least it hasn't been as long as Salem Pax went AWOL. Why bring up Salem Pax? Because he has been identified, at least according to Slate. The whole thing is a pretty amazing read, if true. And it looks as if it's true.
A funny and apt article about the panics and perils of blogging. There are advantages to blogging anonymously, even though I understand charges of "chick e ...e ...e ...n!", to phrase it inelegantly. But even if I'm anonymous, I'm careful not to write anything (much, at least at first blush) that I wouldn't want the person talked about to see. Nothing about fights with husband, disappointments with parents or family-of-origin "issues", as people called them in the '80s. Won't go there, can't do that. Doubts, yes, whining, yes, maybe even a little profanity here and there, rarely, discretely, but on the whole one should keep the private journal for the intimate stuff.
Dale Buss laments the gratuitous sex scene in "The Matrix Reloaded."
The Dionysian vignette from "The Matrix Reloaded"--a version of what the Israelites were doing in "The Ten Commandments" before Moses came down from Mount Sinai--is bad enough in itself, but it's even more affrontive for being kicked off with a quasi-prayer, part of the alleged spiritual depth of the movie. (Alas, there is not space to ponder this movie's metaphysical profundities, such as, "We're all here to do what we're all here to do" and "Choice is an illusion.")
The point is that the sex scene isn't the least bit necessary to tell this story. The whole "Matrix" series is supposed to become this decade's "Star Wars" trilogy. But did those epics suffer from the lack of a scene in which Hans Solo and Princess Leia couple in the back of a spaceship while Wookies cavort lasciviously outside?
Realistically, what can we as parents do about this situation (that is, objectionable scenes in movies that are not, on the whole, otherwise terminally objectionable)? What should we do? We can't turn off the culture, and we can't isolate our children from it. Saying "No" is always an option, and one that my husband and I use regularly. But soon our young teen will go to college, and our "Just say No" methodology, if left only to that, will not have taught him a thing.
This is our solution for now: As he grows older, increasingly we watch objectionable things with him and then talk them out. For instance, we watched "About a Boy" a few weeks ago. The overarching theme of the movie was laudable: lonely, isolated people breaking out of their various pathologies and finding community. It was funny; it was clever; it was touching and well-acted. It also contained a few instances of bad language and very bad morals. But it was a superlative opportunity to verbalize all of those things. We discussed
*how to find a theme in a movie and evaluate it
*the fact that something that is otherwise good can hide poison
*and the chronic dilemma of whether that poison negates the goodness of the thing as a whole. In the specific case of "About a Boy," we came to the conclusion that it did not. The good overrode the bad. For "The Matrix Reloaded," on the other hand, such is not the case. The sex scene + the violence + the general lameness = thumbs down.
Of course, this plan won't work with, say, an eight year old. It seems to be working fairly well for us, but the scary part is that we won't know until it's too late to change anything.
Note 5/26: one more thing--prayer. It's part of the air we breathe, so I forgot to mention it. But praying for the child, for the child's protection from the culture, and for the culture itself, is response #1.
An article in the NYT about Cornel West's cameo in "The Matrix". I don't know much about West other than his flouncy departure from Harvard last summer (?) over a conflict with the university president about race. And his sole speaking line that has "already been spotted on T-shirts in Los Angeles" I have no memory of. The line is a little creepy: "Comprehension is not requisite for cooperation." But it sounds as if in West the Wachowski brothers have found a kindred spirit:
While in Sydney for the movie shoot, Dr. West said he and the Wachowskis had bonded over "wrestling with the meaning of life and the purpose of human existence." They share an affinity for plucking ideas from religion, philosophy, pop music, television and movies, and synthesizing them into a prophetic, liberating message. They want to make the world a more philosophical place.
Guess it depends on your definition of "philosophical."
The UK Independent interviews a number of authors and author-types on the most highly-rated-respected-famous books they love to hate. It's fun to read in its snarkiness. It's often fun to read snarkiness as long as it's not directed at you. (The link is from the Bookslut.)
We went to see the movie "The Matrix Reloaded" on Friday night. Yes, all of us, even the son. We own "The Matrix" (also rated R); he has seen it a number of times, and he has demonstrated in many situations that he knows the difference between fantasy violence and real violence (that is, violence that is staged on a screen and pictures of true violent acts). I was concerned a few years ago that the pseudo-gnostic themes of the movie would mess with his mind, but they haven't. So after reading a number of reviews, we took him to his first R-rated movie in a theater. He agreed in advance to put his head down and close his eyes during the orgiastic sex scene. This scene, which was gratuitous in every sense of the word, ended up being only one of my grievances with the movie. I was longing to love it; I think the first movie did what it did really well, and I have been anticipating the second one for over a year. But it was a huge disappointment. It was pretentious in its muddled, incomprehensible philosophy; it was derivative of itself; it had no charm, no warmth, and little humor. The biggest laugh from the audience came at the end of the sex scene at the sight of the plugs down the back of one of the characters.
It's difficult for sequels to match the level of originals. Part of the appeal of "The Matrix" was the element of surprise, and it would be really hard to recapture that. But there were also a number of allusions in the first movie that made it fun to watch, such as all the references to Alice: from the white rabbit tattoo to going through the mirror to the bunnies on television in the Oracle's apartment to the reflections on doorknobs and sunglasses. The only literary allusion I noticed in this movie was the prominent "101" in a building. Perhaps there are more, and I need to see the movie again. But I don't want to see the movie again. In the theater in which we watched it, the film was almost a physical assault. The noise level, the almost constant action--it was overwhelming, like being in a rock concert, and my head buzzed for hours after we left the theater, like it does after a rock concert or a long flight.
My son, of course, loved every minute of it, but he will be allowed neither to see it again nor to purchase the DVD.
A few good things about the movie: the car chase was incredible. The choreography of the fighting was pretty cool. But again, it had no warmth and no charm, like, say, the fight between Morpheus and Neo in the first one. Darn. I really wanted to like the sequel.
Who is the Lady of Shalott?Click here and find out. Why do I call myself the Lady of Shalott?
In addition to being a blogger, I'm a wife, mother, and Ph.D. student specializing in scripture and the Graeco-Roman world, and I'm just a little bit pregnant with a dissertation (but we're not going to talk about the dissertation, are we? No!). In hopes of receiving tenure someday at a university as wonderful as the one I now attend, this blogger will remain resolutely anonymous. Nothing like yards of politically incorrect off-the-cuff statements to derail the tenure track. But we'll have lots of fun anyway.