Monthly Archives: May 2006

the weapon

“I want you to get all that Basic Training shit… all that ‘Now put your rifle in the v-notch stake’ shit… I want you to put it out of your head. I want you all to get it in your head that this is a fucking two-way range. There’s some motherfucker down at the other end shooting at you.”

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the opposite of stage fright (or, who the hell is zhong ping?)

The result of these strategies — which make rhetorical sense in a film about the struggle of the individual to break out of collectivism — is unfortunately that we are entirely distanced from the characters, to the point that at the end of the film, I didn’t know who these characters were. And I don’t mean, “I didn’t know who these characters were” in the sense of “Kevin Spacey’s performance is full of fireworks, but ultimately shallow — at the end, we never really get a sense of who he is.” I mean I literally didn’t know who was who.
At first I was trying to connect names to people (I did eventually nail down “Zhang Jun”), but after a while I gave up and started assigning them long titles: “Angular Jaw Long-Faced Moptop,” “Guy with Glasses #1,” “Fat Bearded Man” (who may or may not have been “Guy with Glasses #2” earlier in the movie). And the women were so nondescript that I couldn’t even distinguish between them. Even Jia seems to acknowledge this; near the end, the only two female characters we spend much time with are a couple of twins, whom he also dresses alike. They are distinguishable only by hairstyle. (And are they really new characters? Are they really twins? Or are they the same as the two — or three — girls from the beginning of the film?) Frankly, Rosenbaum’s assertion that the film is about “five actors” seems like either a cheat from the press kit or a presumptuous guess; I put the number at somewhere between ten and twenty.
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this wondrous System

The upshot of all these threads of Bahá’í law, coupled with the realities mentioned above, seems to be that in a future society which is largely or entirely Bahá’í, and in which people are spiritually educated to such a degree that they will find disobeying or rejecting Bahá’u’lláh’s laws abhorrent, this law will be enforced primarily on a voluntary basis. That is, people might, of their own accord, approach the Local House of Justice, admit their transgression, and pay a fixed amount as punishment.

This surely a radical concept in the development of human law, but perhaps no more radical than voluntary taxation, which after all is what the Húqúqu’lláh amounts to in a practical sense. These ideas rest on an awareness of the spiritual nature of, on the one hand, justice, and on the other, wealth, and a radical re-alignment of values wherein believers would come to see, for example, the spiritual wealth to be gained from an act of sacrifice as being of greater personal value than the material wealth being sacrificed. Likewise, they would come to accept a certain amount of embarrassment before society (or its representative, in the House of Justice) and a material fine as a small price for the spiritual cleansing they afford.

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I wonder… if you can handle my car

I’m frankly deeply worried about Richard Linklater’s forthcoming adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. Linklater’s experience charting the stoners and brown-bag philosophers of the UT Austin scene means the comic scenes of burnout rambling will probably play just … Continue reading

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tuf skin

At the same time, I felt a little uncertainty about the way the girls are shot — well, ogled, really. When Haley’s male friends, who hadn’t known she was a gymnast, come to see her at a competition, one of them gapes respectfully and wonders, “How did we not know about this sport before?” One can’t help feeling Ms. Bendinger might be trying to get boys in the audience (probably dragged there by their girlfriends) to feel the same way. Or perhaps she’s just trying for a fetishization of the athletic body beyond sexuality, along the lines of Riefenstahl’s Olympia. It’s a hard call (though I think I know how my 15-year-old self would have seen it)….
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looking for authorship in the Christian world, pt. 4

From the texts themselves, then, it is hard to see how some of the more extravagant claims of Christian orthodoxy can be sustained. The idea, for example, that the New Testament is nothing but divinely inspired text from stem to stern hardly seems supported. Where are the affirmations that these are the words of God, received by a specific person (or Person) in a specific place, as we find in Deuteronomy and Isaiah and Ezekiel and Jeremiah and Daniel and Hosea and Joel and Amos and Micah and, not least of all, the Revelation? The Gospels (let alone the epistles) are a different type of beast, and it’s no good pretending they aren’t.
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removing the dross

Scripture, if appearing in a stack of books, will rise to the top. Mundane books will not be stacked on top of it. Moreover, there is a mental order of precedence, so the the Kitab-i-Aqdas cannot be placed under any other book (it is, as its name states outright, the “Most Holy Book”); other books of Baha’u’llah and the Bab are next, followed by Scriptures of other religions, followed by books of Abdu’l-Baha. Books of Shoghi Effendi and compilations of letters from the House of Justice need not be on top of a stack of secular books, but should be treated deferentially. Obviously, this system creates quandaries — is a prayer book, full of Scripture by several Authors, more holy than a Ruhi Institute workbook, which quotes liberally from the same Authors but also has many passages of ordinary man-made analysis? (Yes, by a kind of “percentage-holy” ranking.) What about Lights of Guidance, which is a compilation of quotes from the Writings as well as letters from the Guardian and the House of Justice, both authoritative but neither considered the Creative Word? (Tricky, but I say it goes below the prayer book — 100% Creative Word — but above the Ruhi book, which after all has many non-authoritative sections.)
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