Rumination & Reverie

A Copybook of Culture, A Miscellany of Life.

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A farmer embraces his dog in his stonewalled field on Inishmore Island in Ireland, March 1971.Photograph by Winfield Parks, National Geographic Creative


A farmer embraces his dog in his stonewalled field on Inishmore Island in Ireland, March 1971.Photograph by Winfield Parks, National Geographic Creative

(via ayjay)

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On Boyhood


I can think of few feature films in the history of the medium that have explored the power, and the melancholy, of film’s intimate enmeshment with time in the way Richard Linklater’s Boyhood does….Condensing a dozen years of growth and change into a two-hour-and-40-minute-long narrative, Boyhood reimagines the coming-of-age film as family album, longitudinal character study, and collaborative artistic experiment—a mad risk that paid off in a movie that’s as transcendent as it is ordinary, just like life.

Dana Stevens

André Bazin wrote that art emerged from our desire to counter the passage of time and the inevitable decay it brings. But in “Boyhood,” Mr. Linklater’s masterpiece, he both captures moments in time and relinquishes them as he moves from year to year. He isn’t fighting time but embracing it in all its glorious and agonizingly fleeting beauty.

Manohla Dargis

I’m not saying Boyhood is the greatest film I’ve ever seen, but I’m thinking there’s my life before I saw it and my life now, and it’s different; I know movies can do something that just last week I didn’t. They can make time visible.

David Edelstein

Time, and our interaction with time, and the way in which we are all ultimately overmatched and worn down by time, and the notion of cinema as a means of sculpting with time: these and other aspects of temporality are at the heart of “Boyhood.” Time is the core around which all of this movie’s musings on childhood and parenthood are woven. It’s the river down which the scenes and characters travel without consciously realizing that they are on individual journeys that all have the same ending. If life is “about” anything, it’s about realizing and accepting that fact: that everything is fleeting. Time gives birth and nourishes and then obliterates as it moves ahead, like the family which, in an early scene, prepares to move out of a house by covering murals and hand-lettered height charts with white paint. The film ends and the credits come up and you ask the same question that you ask at the end of an evening spent with old, dear friends: where did the time go?

Matt Zoller Seitz

Photo: “Boyhood film”. Via Wikipedia

Filed under richard linklater boyhood

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Children of the World

File:Bee Gees 1977.JPG

"None of this makes any sense until you remember their upbringing: cocooned, with extreme arrested development, they had no instincts for cool pop moves. With ill grace, they’d always point the finger when things went wrong, always be the first to build themselves up (on 1973’s Life in a Tin Can—“the best thing we’ve ever done, we think, and everyone who’s heard it agrees.” No, it was entirely unmemorable), or chide a fellow act in decline (Maurice on John and Yoko: “They say ‘power to the people’ but charge enormous prices for seats at their concerts”). Blaming anyone but themselves. Blaming it all on the nights on Broadway. They would walk out of interviews on a regular basis and, until the end, found it hard to understand their place in history after the almighty eighties backlash. So they were childish and childlike. Forgive them. They wrote a dozen of the finest songs of the twentieth century. The Bee Gees were children of the world."

Bob Stanley, “Islands in the Stream,” excerpted in Paris Review from Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyoncé

Photo: Bee Gees, 1977 (Public Domain)

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The Meaning of Cool

"Linguists have a term for insisting that a word must always mean what it once meant. It’s called the etymological fallacy. It’s a fallacy because meanings change over time, just as cool has gone from referring to a certain temperature to a word my eight-year-old son uses to describe his new BMX bike. And yet words also come bearing history, emitting scents picked up on the roads they’ve traveled. Cool in its slang form is certainly an example of this, carrying an invisible statement of origins, reminding us of the treasures of jazz, black culture generally, and the difficult history of integration."

—David Skinner, “How Did Cool Become Such a Big Deal?

(h/t Prufrock News)

Filed under cool coolness miles davis

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The Purest and the Loveliest of Mirrors

"The true hero, the true subject, the center of the Iliad is force. Force employed by man, force that enslaves man, force before which man’s flesh shrinks away. In this work, at all times, the human spirit is shown as modified by its relations with force as swept away, blinded by the very force it imagined it could handle, as deformed by the weight of the force it submits to. For those dreamers who considered that force, thanks to progress, would soon be a thing of the past, the Iliad could appear as an historical document; for others, whose powers of recognition are more acute and who perceive force, today as yesterday, at the very center of human history, the Iliad is the purest and loveliest of mirrors.”

—Simone Weil, “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force" (1940)

Picture: Simone Weil, “Permit of organisation ‘France Combattante’ (Fighting France) in London.” Public Domain.

Filed under simone weil homer iliad

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Which is one of the powers that books have; the way that they solidify viewpoints other than our own, emotional and mental traveling into the far unknown and the near unknown, both in fiction and in nonfiction. There is a connection between The Child That Books Built and Unapologetic. I tend to be interested in things in practice, and there is surprisingly little written about the experience of reading when it is the stuff of most bookish people’s lives. We fast-forward through the discussion of what reading itself is like, and just treat it as this transparent portal that opens out in the book, and then we just talk about the book. The shared experience, which is the reading, goes unsaid. In the same way with Unapologetic, it was a bridge of experience I wanted to construct. I’m interested in the way faith is experienced in life. The way it lives in daily experience, and metamorphoses there, and manifests itself in forms that are not always polite or tidy, but that are nevertheless the stuff of real commitment.

It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to try and talk about the experience of belief rather than belief itself. Again, not fast-forwarding through how we feel it and where we feel it, straight to the thing felt, but to try and talk seriously about where it lives in a life, and on what terms. Which is also, I hope, where you get common ground with people whose lives are very different.

Francis Spufford, from a conversation with Books & Culture editor John Wilson

Filed under francis spufford john wilson unapologetic belief

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Faulkner in Hollywood

File:William Faulkner 1954 (2) (photo by Carl van Vechten).jpg

“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” The quotation from Dante is what Faulkner considered a fitting road sign for drivers to see as they crossed the border into California. (For Arizona, his thought was “Science Fiction Country.”) It was a telling description of how he viewed his new home away from home. For good reason, it’s often said that when people move to Hollywood, they’re likely to lose their true identity, heritage, and sense of purpose—this is La-La Land, after all. But Faulkner didn’t. He had his pipe and tobacco, and his bourbon, and he could still hunt.

John Meroney, "William Faulkner’s Hollywood Odyssey"

Carl van Vechten photo of William Faulkner, 1954 (Public Domain).

Filed under william faulkner hollywood

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Although It is the Night



A wise man said that a classic is a book that refuses to stay out of print. Along the same lines, a classic writer is one who keeps producing new work even from beyond the grave – or such is the effect as unpublished, occasional, incidental work comes to light.

This weekend I was struck…

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Love in the Ruins

For the world is broken, sundered, busted down the middle, self ripped from self and man pasted back together as mythical monster, half angel, half beast, but no man. Even now I can diagnose and shall one day cure: cure the new plague, the modern Black Death, the current hermaphroditism of the spirit, namely: More’s syndrome, or: chronic angelism-bestialism that rives soul from body and sets it orbiting the great world as the spirit of abstraction whence it takes the form of beasts, swans and bulls, werewolves, blood-suckers, Mr. Hydes, or just poor lonesome ghost locked in its own machinery.

If you want and work and wait, you can have. Every man a king. What I want is no longer the Nobel, screw prizes, but just to figure out what I’ve hit on. Some day a man will walk into my office as ghost or beast or ghost-beast and walk out as a man, which is to say sovereign wanderer, lordly exile, worker and waiter and watcher.”

Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins

Painting based on Love in the Ruins by Austin artist William B. Montgomery.  Discovered here. Learn more about the artist here.

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The Bright Sadness

File:The Ladder of Divine Ascent Monastery of St Catherine Sinai 12th century.jpg

The general impression, I said, is that of “bright sadness.” Even a man having only a limited knowledge of worship who enters a church during a Lenten service would understand almost immediately, I am sure, what is meant by this somewhat contradictory expression. On the one hand, a certain quiet sadness permeates the service: vestments are dark, the services are longer than usual and more monotonous, there is almost no movement. Readings and chants alternate yet nothing seems to “happen.” At regular intervals the priest comes out of the sanctuary and reads always the same short prayer, and the whole congregation punctuates every petition of that prayer with prostrations. Thus, for a long time we stand in this monotony — in this quiet sadness.

But then we begin to realize that this very length and monotony are needed if we are to experience the secret and at first unnoticeable “action” of the service in us. Little by little we begin to understand, or rather to feel, that this sadness is indeed “bright,” that a mysterious transformation is about to take place in us. It is as if we were reaching a place to which the noises and the fuss of life, of the street, of all that which usually fills our days and even nights, have no access — a place where they have no power.

All that which seemed so tremendously important to us as to fill our mind, that state of anxiety which has virtually become our second nature, disappear somewhere and we begin to feel free, light and happy. It is not the noisy and superficial happiness which comes and goes twenty times a day and is so fragile and fugitive; it is a deep happiness which comes not from a single and particular reason but from our soul having, in the words of Dostoevsky, touched “another world.” And that which it has touched is made up of light and peace and joy, of an inexpressible trust. We understand then why the services had to be long and seemingly monotonous. We understand that it is simply impossible to pass from our normal state of mind made up almost entirely of fuss, rush, and care, into this new one without first “quieting down,” without restoring in ourselves a measure of inner stability.

—Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent

Picture: “The Ladder of Divine Ascent,” St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai (Public Domain)

Filed under lent alexander schmemann