Archive for August, 2012

Plausible deniability rant

August 26, 2012

I discovered the game Who loves Gary Oldman the most? in a secret society known for strict rules and loyalty to a good cause.

But I didn’t like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – how could any of those people be pleased with themselves for catching a mole after paying that price?

I don’t like spy stories much anyways, because the level of violence involved in political torture is extreme to the point of being an absurd version of the grotesque, consistently pointless and disgusting in its outcomes. No political agenda could justify any of it, and oddly enough, the spies in this story seem to be aware of that problem. They seem willing to trade on it by way of being into the game, aficionados of game theory for its own sake.

That’s believable, sadly. But for me not really an enjoyable suspense genre when done with realism. The Living Daylights is more my idea of a good time.

Still. You can’t say no to this trench coat.

But I do like the argument one character makes, that fanaticism is a sign of struggle with a secret doubt. I just question the prevalence of fanaticism among professional liars. Except, perhaps, as an aesthetic choice arrived at through terror of the moral alternative – private ambiguity about where one’s own loyalties lie at heart.

Insulting the CIA’s intelligence is also an American tradition, one that implies spy novels can be classy by way of fictionalization, but that the entertainment value of espionage work as a subject lies largely in satire rather than in drama.

The CIA has been the butt of esoteric jokes about buffoonish attempts at evildoing on the part of our own government for as long as it’s been around. A typical CIA story good for dinner table conversation among international affairs professionals amounts to COINTELPRO-by-accident ending in a military coup instigated by the exact people who were sent to investigate whether or not there was a risk of it being attempted by the people they directed too many leading questions at while “under cover” as far as they could tell, and evidently far enough to create confusion about what they were trying to accomplish at the time.

This is not considered risqué, but for perspective, the military intelligence community distributes pins to retirees saying things like “military intelligence is an oxymoron” that appear to be displayed proudly for evidence of the wit to know it.

True Colors

August 25, 2012

The Black Stallion was the penultimate feature-length tribute to the camera’s affinity for horse action, and introduced me to the legend of Bucephalus first.

The performances given by horses in the Carroll Ballard film, including Cass Ole (with the bright star concealed), are easily a better reason to have a curiosity about the Alexander myth than that the boy king’s caravan “conquered the known world” even though he died in his youth.

In the Orient, some traditional art depicts Bucephalus like a unicorn with a peacock’s tail. But there are two horns, and Bucephalus is not described in profile for a reason.

Wings? They don’t even need bells on their feet.

I’m not the best at facial recognition in general. And I should know better than to look out for horse acting in the movies.

I can’t tell horses apart easily on a flat screen, even if their colors are barely similar. Maybe because I enjoy watching horses go about their business, not wishing all the time I were sharing the glory like a knowledgeable rider. I don’t even take sides on debates about the advantages English vs. Western tack, because I can’t lift a Western saddle or post at the trot.

But I find it a little alarming that Hidalgo reportedly had a stunt double. The paint horse can be as shameless as a beagle when it comes to hamming it up.

Made possible because of horse make-up?

One thinks twice about watching closely, convinced there is going to be an obvious wink. Steven Spielberg, on the other hand, likes to complain the horse acting was not theatrical enough when he filmed War Horse.

Mules like switchback jokes (“on the other hand, or the other foot?”), but mules are easily amused. In the pictures, for horses a scene is too easy a steal to overthink most days.

Tree sitting

August 18, 2012

I’ve never heard anyone describe being in a forest this vividly.


About this blog

August 10, 2012

I’m going for the fake FAQ format here and answering questions I assume readers might wonder about other than the autobiographical. Like all other post-dated entries here that disappear and reappear, this one was retrieved from the waste bin for revision.

What about the quotation under the blog title?

It’s from a poem by Robert Browning called Fifine at the Fair.

Why ravens4rooks?

One obscure King Arthur legend, transcribed from a Welsh oral tradition by a monk or aristocrat long before The Once and Future King became a standard, includes a battle in which King Arthur and one of his enemies marshaled their armies, but chose to do battle on a chessboard between themselves instead, to decide the day without sacrificing their men. Magically, their game board moves were acted out above by armies of crows.

Also, Charlemagne is in the best punchline of the Indiana Jones franchise. Umbrella on the beach beats chase sequence by cheating at the chase sequence and ending it.


Why “Many fandoms, one love?”

You don’t choose the fandom, the fandom chooses you. And while it’s commonplace to obsess more over one than the others at any given time, you don’t really leave a fandom behind once you’ve figured out how to think in fan references. My most recent fandom is The Legend of the Seeker, known for the One True Pairing with the epithet: “To know Richard, is to know Kahlan.”

What are your writing goals?

Prose instead of poetry is a relief, from several years of practicing film commentary in meter and rhyme and trying to use the characters played by some of my favorite screen actors as narrators to experiment with perspective taking in the imagination. It’s just easier, even if some of the pressures of description on one’s sense of integrity still apply.

Writing in the realm of observation seems more dangerous than it probably is when you’ve had encouragement at it.

On the kitchen table under the harsh light
.. as if it still wished
To hide beneath soft down that gross entrance which
Your pellets made, the stiff wing lies folded.

.. I must try in words to catch
That something .. missed
As wild and shy, the squawking mallard rose
Abruptly up from the shore grass – to a grand, majestic
Flapping into twilight, its graceful neck outstretched
Its webbed feet flush with ..

Tom O’Malley’s poem comparing himself to a hunter talking up the proof of experience where a “wild-duck lies, a green sheen on its stiff neck” reveals how strangely self-conscious writers get looking over their own accomplishments, using the metaphor of a mallard on a table top.

And the science and public health curios?

Information handling theory and health research practice are still interesting to me, but I’m getting far more tentative about the contributions I can consider myself qualified to make.

Quality of health services research is even more daunting, coming out of a wild goose chase for signs of embarrassment or eagerness for explicit attempts at problem-solving within the health professions, when it comes to injection safety lapses and HIV in Africa.

I should not have looked so far from home for disappointments. A hospital poem like “In the Land of Wince and Whinny” lands one credible moment in “a vanilla slice” encountered between shifts nearer “a copier on speed” making “computed-tomography-scan snaps poems I have written” feel subjective in attitude but not committed, more like “poems I have yet to write.”

The intellectual privilege and self-absorption attributed to research professionals by those who haven’t ruled out joining their ranks someday by going back to school likewise seems a foolhardy level of social tolerance for the retreat of the otherwise unemployable into intellectual nooks and crannies where errata production can escape oversight more easily.