Saturday, April 13, 2013

action movie villains seem to share a disease of the tongue

Namely, a disease of the tongue that only has any effect on how they perceive the flavor of damsels in distress.

Always strawberry.

Always, right?

"She tastes like strawberries", for instance. 

Why not have the villain say something like, "She tastes like kiwi with a hint of lemon"?  What about, "I'm sensing a mixture of pomegranate and lime"?  Or "She tastes like cinnamon"?  Or, if we're getting into vampiric territory, garlic and trace minerals. 

Nah, it's always strawberries in so many cases.

Of course nobody would have the villain say "She tastes like ... chicken."

Although I'm sure a couple of characters in Red Dwarf would actually suggest as much, there was that old man they found, after all. 

Grant Morrison on Wonder Woman's difficulty integrating into the modern age (?)
It feels like that’s a character where it almost seems like it’s been difficult for her to integrate into the modern age. Is there a reason for that? Is it just because her history is more wrapped up in sociopolitical stuff than the other heroes?

 Basically, the early Wonder Woman comics were based on her creator William Moulton Marston’s ideas about men and women, which were quiet bizarre [emphasis mine, WMW's views seemed kinda crazy and that's putting it mildly on Wenatchee's part]. He was a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a really smart guy. He saw mild S&M as a healthy thing, as long as smart women were in charge. [Laughs] Wonder Woman came out of this alternative sexuality, and that’s why they were so popular. Once the editors realized, “There’s a lot of tying up in these stories, we should tell him to slow down on this” — as soon as they stopped all that stuff, Wonder Woman sales declined, unsurprisingly. When Marston died, the sales never quite recovered.

A lot of great writers and artists have worked on Wonder Woman. Brian Azzarello’s doing a great Greek Myth-flavored take right now. But something of what [Marston] brought to it was never there again. Especially when the TV series came along: Linda Carter did such a brilliant job of doing Wonder Woman for TV, but she was kind of Mary Tyler Moore, you know? She wasn’t a sexual creature, really. Wonder Woman’s had to represent women without really having much of a sex life. [emphasis added] It’s ridiculous! Superman’s got Lois, and Batman’s got all these fetish girls he runs around with. Wonder Woman’s kind of suffered, because that aspect of her, a sense of her humanity, has been taken from her.

We kind of want to get back to that, and do that in what I hope is a much healthier, 21st Century way, but at least give Wonder Woman her Va-Va-Voom back. Among many other things, because obviously she has to represent a lot more than just that. But I think that was something that’s really been lost. She became a feminist icon in the ’70s, as well, and I think a lot of people didn’t want to make her seem particularly sexual. She became kind of like the Statue of Liberty. It’s not right. Because she should represent women, in the way that Superman’s very dynamic and represents men the way we wish they were.

There's quite a bit about Wonder Woman I've been meaning to write because I think there have been a couple of versions of the character that work brilliantly, particularly Diana as she appears in the show Justice League.  But precisely why she works there could be precisely why fans and what fans want from Wonder Woman may be the greatest obstacle to the character having an interesting set of challenges.  And Moulton's ideas of love and gender ... there could be some stuff said about that, such as whether or not his idea of feminine virtues couldn't have had some sexism in it, too.  It's not only possible for the most progressive mind in one realm to be remarkably regressive in another, it's something we almost expect sometimes.

There’s no shortage of historical figures whose private actions failed to live up to their public moralizing. (Thomas Jefferson, anyone?) But few embraced that hypocrisy as jaw-droppingly as Thomas Day, the subject of Wendy Moore’s How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain’s Most Ineligible Bachelor and His Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate. The Pygmalion-gone-wrong story of a man who adopted two orphans in hopes of making one his wife is bizarre, true, and thoroughly compelling, touching on the folly of uncritically embracing extreme parenting methods, the futility of trying to force someone to be who you want, and the danger of philosophy when wielded by young men who don’t understand it.

An intellectual who lived in the 18th century, Day held many views that were impressively progressive and egalitarian for his time. He campaigned to end slavery and supported the American revolutionaries. Though wealthy, he lived simply and gave much of his fortune to charitable causes. He preferred plain clothes, once requesting that his tailor make his new suits “as free from tawdriness, & Frippery as possible.” He was one of the first to write a book specifically for children, and he didn’t even like to eat meat or kill spiders. Though his manners were lacking (“unsuitable to his rank in life,” one suitor’s father apparently complained) and his personality off-putting and dour, several influential writers and scientists embraced him, considering his eccentricities as mere side effects of his exceptional morality.

But for all his talk about liberty, Day was, frankly, a hypocritical misogynist—even for his time. “If the whole female Sex cannot furnish one single rational Woman,” he whined, “I must make use of them in that Manner for which alone Nature has perhaps intended.” Yet he very much wanted a wife, and his requirements for her make Julia Allison—she of the 88-point checklist—look laid back. Mrs. Day was to be pretty—he was particularly insistent that she possess plump, white arms—but not vain or fashionable; smart but not above her station; psychologically and physically constituted for housekeeping (he wanted few if any servants); and receptive to his criticism, which by Day’s design would be constant. He could occasionally convince a woman to consider him romantically—he was engaged several times—but these entanglements fell apart once the women realized exactly how dreary their married lives would be. So in his early 20s, he set forth on his life-defining scheme to raise his own wife.

There's quite a bit more but here it may simply suffice that Dostoevsky mentioned that it's fairly normal for people who profess an undying love for the whole of humanity to hate everyone they actually know.  The gap between high-minded ideals and personal conduct may always have weirdly jaw-dropping contrasts but that may be another matter for some other time.  In our time we have armies of people who anticipate that the next anti-gay activist will be caught buying cocaine with a rent boy incident will hit newspapers next week (at least among a steady set of readers at The Stranger, if you dare to read comments sections).  Peaceniks during the Bush 2 years who put up with the same sorts of war on terror enterprises when a Democrat is in office may be much like those hawks in the war on terror who were only gung-ho about those things before a Democratic administration had access to the same level of power. 

It can lead a person to wonder if self-serving hypocrisy is simply the natural state of the human heart and that idealism itself is even more dangerous as a path to repression and destruction.

Grant Morrison's proposal that superheroes thrive because they imagine that, despite all the bad in the world, the human race still has a future, could conceivably be on to something.  But there's a lot of people who think they're above that stuff.  It was a quote from Eve Tushnet that stated that "realism" is for those whose view of the world is considered realistic and the rest of us must settle for "genre".  The people most determined that literature be realistic seem to be the people, often, who have the most to gain from literature reflecting the sort of life and options they can already take advantage of.   But that, too, may be another topic for ruminating upon in some other post, maybe.

There's some stuff to be written about Justice League as we go.  But there's other stuff to write about that's not necessarily for here and to that we'll be turning over the weekend.  So don't mind the short hiatus here and there.

Reboot Christianity rants about "radical Jesus" preachers and telling Christians to serve for a quid pro quo

I am tired of the "radical Jesus" movement among Christian megachurch pastors today. You know the type I am talking about: the highly polished, cool, edgy youth pastory guy who gets teenagers and twenty-something Christians fired up with talks about being radical missionaries, until they reach a fever pitch which is both unsustainable and leads to no fruit.

Why? Because I'm tired of hearing a pastor who pulls down $300,000 a year as an author and speaker telling me that I'm not giving radically enough. I'm tired of a pastor who spends half the year on the road teaching leadership--instead of leading his flock--telling me how I need to love God's church. I'm tired of hearing people brag about the great impact 'seeker' megachurches are having on the unchurched and lost, only to find out they drop $125,000 per year on parking lot attendants (as one large, famous church does). I'm tired of people telling me to be "on mission" when they spend half their church's tithes and offerings on A/V equipment that would make a rock star jealous. ...

There's more but the fiery introduction suffices for here.

Then there's this rant

... So beware, preachers and parents: if you teach your flocks that they should serve others because of how God will bless them, then you have reduced His glory and grace to a financial transaction--give and get. And at that very moment, the service ceases to be Christian at all.
Ever hear a preacher say that you single guys should totally serve in childrens' ministry because a guy working with little kids is an aphrodisiac?  No?  Well it's a big wide world out there and you need to hear more podcasts.  ;) There are preachers who sell the idea of service and participation precisely for what rewards "may" come if they participate.  I've suggested in the past that the appeal of neo-Calvinism is often less about doctrinal considerations than about an appeal that young people (particularly young guys) can drink, smoke and get laid (in matrimony) to the glory of God.  Amen!?  [everybody's supposed to say "Amen" here, particularly guys].

It's not likely that Reboot Christianity is specifically thinking of, say, Red cameras, though.  :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

More from JS Bangs' A Writer's Lent
... Why do so many writers go ballistic when they get rejected? Why do writers occasionally lash out against critics? Why do the self-published writers condemn the traditional publishers for cowardice? Why do the traditionally published folks condemn the self-published for unprofessionalism? I’m not talking here about legitimate criticisms or disagreement, I’m talking about the over-the-top nutty-butter insane things that litter the inboxes of agents and editors and spill out on the internet with depressing regularity. I propose that what’s going wrong with these people is the lust for power. These are writers who believe that they deserve success for having published good books before, or having gotten an MFA, or merely having completed a story. So when anyone, whether it be a publisher or an editor or a reader, comes along and refuses to give them what they deserve, they simply lose it.
... When I speak this way, I have to quickly disavow two common misconceptions. The first is the notion that stories must have a Message. This is a terrible mistake. Stories which are deliberately written with a Message tend to be terrible, and even when they’re good they often succeed in spite of their Message, and not because of it. The writer has a responsibility to avoid vain, empty talk, but she does not have any duty to give a sermon. On the contrary, sermonizing usually undermines the writer’s real efforts.

The other misconception is to think that writing must be Serious, and must absolutely not be Fun. After all, if writing is a serious business, then surely we have to write about serious things. But come on: I’m a genre writer, so I will take a story about dragons and spaceships and explosions over a self-serious, “literary” work any day. Let us banish all shame in writing a pulpy adventure story or a steamy romance. However, we must recognize that even the most gonzo space opera contains within it a vision of goodness. You have a hero: what are his heroic qualities, and what will your readers learn to imitate from him? Or maybe you have merely a collection of antiheroes: what does this choice say about the world?

a couple of pieces on the SCOTUS right of first sale decision in a recent case

Dan, over at City of God, these are for you.  :)

Malick's new film and jewelry advertisements

Some people at Slate wonder if there's any difference between the voice-over dialogue in Terrance Malick's new film and ads for jewelry.  Here.  Dana Stevens expresses some respectful frustration at long shots of twirling wheat over here.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

a linkathon-sausage of sorts

If you're going to plagarize anyway ... .

But you should keep in mind that these days the internet has made plagiarism even easier to discover.
It can cost you your career once it's found out.

Anyone remember the Mozart effect?  How about Baby Einstein?  Class action suit.  Apparently instead of playing Mozart for your baby and showing the baby Baby Einstein DVDs it may actually be better to play a game of putting the baby in an office chair and spinning `em around 20 times a few times a week.  It has something to do with vestibular stimulation but Wenatchee The Hatchet's in that demographic that certain people claim know nothing about those things so take the spinning game with a grain of salt.  ;)  Or maybe anything about the values Americans have in parenting, which is something the author also writes about in the same venue.

Eve Tushnet has written something about pre-Raphaelite painters for The Weekly StandardIt's in two parts, both relatively short.

Justin over at the Boar's Head Tavern has some suggestions for Discernment 101 as applies to blogging.  "Might" have some thoughts about that later but not now.

In case, somehow, you didn't read their obituaries somewhere on the internet both Roger Ebert and Margaret Thatcher have died. 

Sunday, April 07, 2013

soteriology and theodicy are not the same thing and it's not helpful to conflate them

Long ago I was Arminian and I happen to be a Calvinist now.  Or, to be even more pedantic, I am a convinced proponent of monergistic soteriology rather than a synergist.  That's to say I think the role you can play in your own salvation is zip.

But I have much better things to do with my time than attempt to argue with Arminians that their semi-Pelagian soteriology means they don't really believe the Gospel. I have better things to do with my time than to get into fights with trinitarians about something that's not something I need to be officially concerned about.  It's not that I have no convictions on these subjects or don't care about them, it's that this blog is more likely to be a place where I'll get into why I enjoy Wenzaslaus Matiegka's grand sonatas for solo guitar more than those of Fernando Sor.  I promise I will eventually get to that and I'll make sure to plug for some recordings of Matiegka I've been enjoying when I get to that.  Just be aware Wenatchee The Hatchet can take time and here's hoping that the time spent will actually be worth it.

No, the centuries old debate between Arminians and Calvinists doesn't interest me enough to become a topic of steady blogging here.  However, there is something I would like to discuss because it seems to be popular among partisans on both sides to do this thing that is a bad idea, which is to conflate soteriology with theodicy as a way to argue against the other team.  Calvinists can be tempted to claim that Arminians are so bent on free will they deny God's sovreignty and Arminians claim that Calvinists are hard determinists who think nobody has free choice and all evil things are willed by God.

This is the sort of stupidity that can happen when you insist on conflating soteriology with theodicy.  Look, Arminians, I get the anxiety and dismay about the possibilty that you have no moral agency in your life.  But you know what?  The idea that Calvinists place doctrine over people is nonsense.  The idea that providence can guide you to a decision you wouldn't make unless providence pushed you can show up in any doctrinal system.  Let's take Satan entering into Judas.  Judas made his decision but was he impelled by Satan?  That betrayal was predicted so somebody was going to do it, right? 

Look, Arminians, much as I get your dislike of Calvinism and a temptation to see Calvinist soteriology as the same as hard determinism on all points, Arminian as a theodicy is also a failure because soteriology and theodicy are not the same fields of thought.  You need to appreciate that the author who wrote "The Grand Inquisitor", Fyodor Dostoevsky, was some fashion of Russian Orthodox.  The Orthodox subscribe to synergistic soteriology.  Yet Dostoevsky pointed out that the tears of a tortured, dying child don't really make an end-of-time cosmic harmony worth that price, does it?  The point of "The Grand Inquisitor" is that if God permits the emergence of a universe in which one desparate, dying child is the price to be paid for a universe of perfection that price is still too high for Ivan.  So God gave people free will, so what?  What good is it to preserve that level of free will in a world in which parents can have their own child devoured by hounds?  Or in which a soldier amuses himself by shooting off a baby's head just as he's coaxed it into laughing and reaching out to a pistol he's been brandishing at the baby the whole time?

I've grown impatient as I enter middle age with partisans who pretend that they have a trump card in which they make an emotional appeal.  That other person's view, that other side's ideas, those condone child abuse.  That's the trump card, a type of identity politics in which people use straw men and reductio ad absurdums on the other side to say that all these people have ideas that condone child abuse.  An Arminian who would say a Calvinist condones child abuse for believing in monergistic soteriology has to account for a Lutheran variation of monergism.  And the Arminian has to account for the fact that if free will is so very important that God won't violate a person's free will that this means free will is so important God won't violate the free will of a man who for some terrible reason decides to rape his own child.  Can an Arminian really be that certain that in defending whatever free will is that this isn't the same problem the Calvinist is said to have, defending a doctrine over a person?  It can end up being the same problem from the opposite side.  Surely we must all have enough atheist friends to be around us they can point out that this ends up being a distinction without a difference attempting to apply determinism and free will to human suffering.  The problem of evil is a philosophical and ethical dillema whether people believe in deities or not. 

I've seen people on the internet use phrases that I'm not always sure they think through.  One of the ones that has stuck with me is a claim that "X idea fails the love test".  What the love test even is never gets explained and is used as a cudgel to beat a set of ideas in effigy associated with evil people.  This is not much different from "All Republicans are idiots and evil bigots" or "All Democrats are crazy tax-and-spend liberals who love queers"  Even if you think those bromides are based on reality exemplifying those biases doesn't make you come across like a better person for that.  Even the blanket condemnation "X fails the love test" or "people into X love dogma over people" may be true but it is a paradoxical dogma against dogma.  It's possible to meet people who hold ideas and dogmas you disagree with who are actually healthy, well-adjusted kind people. 

Let's return axiom for axiom, dogmas are ideas and they can't fail any kind of love test.  People can fail a "love test" all sorts of ways.  Doctrines like Arminianism and Calvinism don't fail "the love test", people do, and people can and will fail whatever the love test is any time their having to make their point is considered so important they will sacrifice or belittle the dignity and humanity of whomever they disagree with to prove their point.  Arminians and Calvinists exist who love people regardless of doctrinal differences and Arminians and Calvinists exist who are so dedicated to their pet dogmas they will demonize people who differ with them.  One of my goals in life is to not be one of those second types of people.  Yes, as I've said a few times here I advocate a monergistic soteriology but I'm not going to say synergists are terrible nasty people who have no regard for the sovreignty of God.  Who came up with the free-will theodicy?  Wasn't that some guy named Augustine?  Augustine punted on the origin of the evil will, stating in City of God that he could not find a natural or efficient explanation of the origin of the evil will that led to the lapsarian state. 

If you look in the history of any group of people long enough you'll find something appalling, something atrocious, something indefensible.  That's how people are.  If you can look at the whole history of movement and, somehow, find nothing impeachable about it then, congratulations, you're part of the problem.  Every hero in one tradition will likely to be a monster in another.  That's how we humans are.  That kinda gets at the Christian profession that we all need divine rescue, that none of us is so above reproach or so unstained by the capacity to be terrible we have no need of redemption from the frailties of body and soul that can often be the inspiration for the most terrible things we say and do.  Who will deliver us from this body of death is how it gets put in Romans 7, yes?

My friend J.S. Bangs wrote about how we live in an age that enjoys abjection of the past.

One of the more interesting ideas of critical theory is the concept of abjection, which is the attitude by which the mainstream rejects and symbolically casts out its antithesis, defining itself by what it excludes. Racial whiteness is defined by the abjection of blackness. Literary fiction is defined by the abjection of genre. And modernity is defined by the abjection of the past.

This abjection is absolutely necessary for modernity to function. We have to be ashamed and disgusted by our ancestors, for how else would we justify the vandalism of our inheritance and our pollution of the natural and social environments? By making the past abject, we reassure ourselves that we have lost nothing in the transition to modernity, that our forefathers have nothing to teach us, that we were right to leave all of that behind. Daniel “The Past Sucked” Polansky is merely participating in this ongoing project of abjection.

Polansky says that he doesn’t understand fantasy, in particular its fascination with the past. But there is really an obvious alliance between the genre of fantasy, which abjected both by mainstream literary fiction and by its older sister science fiction, and the abjected past. The outcast genre and the outcast history have to make an alliance together. It is no coincidence that fantasy literature emerges as a distinct genre at the same time that the modern world starts onto its feet and begins to persecute history.

Or like my banner quote says: Realism is for those whose worldviews are already accepted as realistic. The rest of us must make do with genre.

Now if a recent or inattentive reader plans to object that defending Calvinism is defending a position held by some evil man who had Servetus killed, remember The Grand Inquisitor.  And keep in mind that Wenatchee The Hatchet being a Calvinist doesn't mean Wenatchee wouldn't have published a  musical/litarary satire of super-Calvinist homeschooling types who think that culture war means outbreeding the Muslims and repudiating semi-Pelagians. For folks who don't read music the allusions to Dixieland are intentional. Wenatchee has satirized smug or paranoid Calvinists more than once, for that matter.

We do have to be ashamed of those who came before us because that is part of a narrative of "repentance" in some circles.  Baby Boomers have been selling a line of how we can right wrongs done by earlier generations for a while.  Yet it is also hardly a surprise that once Baby Boomers reached the same geezery age as their own parents were approaching a few generations ago The Greatest Generation suddenly didn't seem so bad.  How many decades ago did Phil Collins write this sentiment:

I won't be coming home tonight
My generation will make it right
We're not just making promises
We know we'll never keep

Thanks, Phil, it's really obvious those promises could and were promises that anyone could keep.

When Christians attempt to conflate soteriology and theodicy it's understandable but soteriology is a set of doctrines discussing how a person is saved.  Theodicy is the study of the existence of God and evil and how the two seem to exist.  Neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian can really say their respective soteriologies "work" as theodicy.  The straw man, reductio ad absurdum the Arminian can come up with is "God's perfect will controlled all circumstances so this child got abused."  The straw man, reductio ad absurdum the Calvinist can provide in reply is "Free will is so important that God won't violate a single person's free will even if it means a parent rapes his own child."  Clearly neither soteriology as a theodicy makes any sense because an actually Christian theodicy is not about the soteriology, about which there will never be agreement.  The theodicy both camps have in common is known as Christ on the cross, voluntarily sharing in the misery and death Jesus, make of heaven and earth, let creation suffer by foreseeing our decline. 

Now if this seems a bit goofy to Christians think of how absurd it will seem to unbelievers of various stripes.  Atheists don't see the Arminian soteriology as any more plausible a theodicy than the Calvinist version.  God is ultimately responsible for all evil in the cosmos simply by having made all things and knowing all things, even if we'd agree momentarily to an open theistic deity who can't possibly know the future because said deity exists within time.  It doesn't matter.  It still gets back to The Grand Inquisitor.  A synergist still runs into Dostoevsky's blunt question of whether cosmic harmony is worth the death of a single innocent child just as a monergist does.  That too many monergists try to get around the question by saying there can't really be any truly innocent children doesn't work any better than claiming that free will is so important we needed it because without evil there couldn't be good.  Arguments of that sort were what tipped me from Arminian to Calvinist.  I used to be an Arminian but Arminianism fails as theodicy and Calvinism may seem terrible for conceding that God lets a lot of terrible things happen the theodicy is the Cross and on that, you'd think, Arminians and Calvinists could at least partly agree.  Among the men and women who have taught me many wonderful things are Arminians, Calvinists, Lutherans, and even some Catholics and Orthodox.  We can learn from each other, can't we?

But, no, they're going to argue about the TULIP forever and ever.  The saddest part is that these arguments are espoused by too many people who think that saying that so-and-so fails the love test for espousing certain doctrines makes any difference to a child who's been abused.  I've met people who were abused by Arminian parents and I don't think that the first thought that was going through their mind was, "The reason my parent is doing this to me is because of errant, semi-Pelagian doctrines!"  Alternatively, the kid of a Calvinist child-abuser isn't thinking "My dad is an abusive drunk because he values double-imputation more than me. If only he would hold to merely natural headship rather than federal headship!  Does he not know that postmillenialist millenarian theonomistic views are a pseudo-Papist abomination with some medieval roots!?"   Trust me, not even the smartest ten-year old kids are thinking that and most adults who are professing Christians don't even know or care what these concepts are. 

Except maybe on the internet ... .

Evil Dead--a struggle against personal and family demons

I'm pleasantly surprised to report the remake of Sam Raimi's horror classic Evil Dead is, at the very least, worth a matinee.  It's not necessarily a classic in the way people would use the term but this is a horror remake that makes sense.  I don't normally go out of my way to watch horror and there have been some horror standards I've seen I consider to be junk (such as the original Friday the 13th, which is a tedious slog).  But this new remake of Raimi's original has a rationale.

Where horror remakes often seem to err in providing backstories for characters who are going to die anyway or for monsters who kill (which may have been a trend popularized by the underwhelming Hannibal Lecter) Evil Dead, as a remake, provides back story for the characters we're given any reason to care about.  Whereas the original film had no backstory for any of the characters the remake gives us a sister and brother (Mia and David) who are going to a remote cabin in the woods so that Mia can go cold turkey from heroin use. 

Along for the trip are Olivia, Natalie, and Eric, friends of the siblings who were around for Mia's previous and obviously unsuccessful attempt to go cold-turkey.  Olivia is trained as a nurse and is on hand to diagnose Mia's progress through withdrawal.  Olivia gets to be the rationalist who is willing to explain the supernatural occurences as probably just being signs of heroin withdrawal.  Eric is the cranky, bespectacled hippie sort who's teaching high school students and seems faintly resentful of his lot in life.  Natalie is the blonde elfin girlfriend of David, who wasn't around for Mia's first cold-turkey effort because he was in another city when their mother died, mentally broken, and who addressed Mia as though she were David.  As Dana Stevens noted over at Slate the mission of helping Mia go cold turkey from heroin means we get a plot point that explains why these five hapless youngsters are going to convince themselves to stick together when all hell literally breaks loose around them as Mia seems to fail to handle going cold turkey.

What has happened, though, is Eric, out of some boredom, has fished up none other than the old Book of the Dead, which, alas, gets no real backstory except in an end credits call-back to the Raimi original. What we do get, however, is some explanation of what the book outlines, different funerary rites and treatments in case by some terrible mistake one reads an incantation that gives a demon permission to enter the body of a living person.  Eric reads the incantation after he's uncovered it by trying to figure out what text had been inked over by a previous reader of the book.  It's a trope in horror stories that if someone says "don't read this book" in red ink on the page of a book, with the warning "don't say it, don't write it" that's what will happen.  Sure enough, a demon appears.

The demon appears to Mia as she's freaking out and fleeing the cabin in withdrawal.  The demon appears to her in the form of herself and, well, if you saw the original Raimi film "violated by the woods" is still in the film.  Mia ends up being possessed by the demon that bears her image and the demon returns to the cabin and announces that everyone will die.  Carnage and mayhem ensue.  Olivia attempts to explain these things as heroin withdrawal but quickly becomes infected by the demonic toxin herself and begins to cut at her face and becomes what fans of the old Raimi films would recognize as a Dead-ite. 

Something that may be easy to miss is that once Mia discovers she's been invaded by a demon she attempts to douse herself in boiling water.  In the pacing of the film it could be missed that Eric finds pages in the Book of the Dead advising how to banish demons when they infest a hapless host.  One of them is to pour boiling water on the victim in the earlier stages.  What may seem inexplicable initially is an indication that Mia is serious about being free of her demons, the figurative as well as literal ones. 

But as the buckets of gore in the movie will show, it's impossible for her to break free of these figurative or literal demons by herself.  What she didn't have access to in her earlier cold-turkey effort was her brother.  He doesn't really believe in magical stuff or will-power boosts but he believes in her and knows she believes those things are possible, so he shows up.  As the viscera and entrails inevitably splatter across the cabin in the woods we get to see a sister and brother deal with personal and family demons.  At one point David confesses he was afraid of the specter of mental illness and drug abuse in his family and thought he could hide from it.  For being a splatter film there's some interesting high-concept stuff here about how we can't hide from the demons of personal weakness or family history.  By the climax of the film Eric has advised David on the various terrible options for freeing Mia of the demon that possesses her.  The involve bodily dismemberment, burning, or burying alive.  Realizing he can't and won't kill or dismember his sister through dismemberment or burning, and realizing that he'd let his family down by fleeing the family history he says, "$@^& it, the only right way to do this is the hard way."

And if you've seen any number of Sam Raimi films this culminating theme will not surprise you, it's fitting that it shows up in a remake of the horror film that put Raimi on the cinematic map.  David buries his sister alive and this rids her of the demon, and then he digs her up and revives her but when he returns to the cabin to prepare for the trip home he discovers their friends are Dead-ites and David dies in a battle to stop them and to keep his sister safe.  At this point the demon, furious that its plans have been thwarted emerges in bodily form to kill Mia as solace.  So the final battle is between Mia and the literal demon that happens to bear her image.  Subtle?  No, obviously not but the horror genre doesn't exactly traffic in subtle.  In the climactic battle Mia defeats the demon who looks like her both for herself and out of regard for her deceased brother. 

Unsubtle though the point inevitably is Mia and David aren't able to prevail against the evil dead as individuals.  They have to confront their own personal character flaws (demons, natch) and the demons of their shared family history.  In contrast to the original film where, as Bruce Campbell so succintly puts it, "everything dies" Mia survives and is purged of her literal and figurative demon through the help of her brother who comes to sacrifice himself after years of fleeing the demons of the family he was afraid would claim him. 

The movie is, of course, not for the squeamish.  The tree rape scene is no more pleasant or less awkward in the remake than in the original.  What Stevens has said at Slate is worth repeating, as violent and brutal as the film is this is not really torture porn and it does not come across as exploitive where ghastly harm to women is concerned.  A significant reason for this is that the film is about people who deny evil until and even at times after they have become consumed by it.  There's a lot more self-dismemberment in this film than in earlier incarnations of Evil Dead.  Natalie, for instance, is so desperate to avoid being taken over by the demon infecting her she cuts off most of her left arm and, sadly, ends up becoming a Dead-ite anyway because she began to be infected a bit earlier.  David only survives longer because, as previously mentioned, he resolved that the only right way to do things is the hard way.  Apart from the siblings the friends of the sister and brother at different points choose what they believe is the easier path that turns out to be the path to every sort of death.  The brother and sister embrace the miserable path that leads to death for both of them but are the only two whose souls aren't devoured by evil.

What I wrote earlier about the slow trajectory of having a cautious and occasional appreciation of horror stories was building up to writing about the Evil Dead remake. There's some other stuff I could write about the trajectory of being able to appreciate some (not most) horror stories but to that I must wait until I can better formulate what I want to write about a book.  You can probably guess which one and if you can't, well, the write-up will take shape eventually!

a small chorus warning--don't go to grad school in the humanities

I deeply regret going to graduate school, but not, Ron Rosenbaum, because my doctorate ruined books and made me obnoxious. (Granted, maybe it did: My dissertation involved subjecting the work of Franz Kafka to first-order logic.) No, I now realize graduate school was a terrible idea because the full-time, tenure-track literature professorship is extinct. After four years of trying, I’ve finally gotten it through my thick head that I will not get a job—and if you go to graduate school, neither will you.

It's fascinating to read these sorts of pieces because six and seven years ago I was considering graduate school.  Friends told me my talents were being wasted in the non-profit sector and that I should think of going back to school.  Maybe graduate school in music or teaching or library science?  I considered library science for a time.  I even considered continuing education in accounting but I decided against pursuing more education in the end both because it seemed to hold no promise whatever of landing me any job and because I came to realize there was nothing I wanted to do that would necessarily benefit from graduate school.

I considered seminary more than a decade ago but I didn't feel any call or interest in being a pastor.  I was interested in maybe teaching and scholarly work but I realized that without a denominational affiliation I was willing to go with scholarships would be essentially non-existent.  And how badly did I really want to teach, anyway?  I had my answer, not very badly.  Teaching isn't for those who can't do, as I see it, it's for those who can do and also care enough about keeping track of how people learn to impart knowledge to people.

What I've observed in my professional life is that teaching is an actual profession and that pedagogy is something most people don't really, honestly care about.  In professional settings that are not academia nobody gives a damn about modes of learning or cognitive styles as even having a bearing on learning.  What often passes for training is someone does something in front of you and assumes that from that you  have been taught how to do stuff.  That's not even true for people who don't have disabilities, let alone for people who have them. 

For as many odes pining for mentorship as I have heard in the end there aren't that many older guys mentoring younger guys in this or that art.  Apprenticeships don't seem that common outside particular trades.  This should not shock, surprise or even alarm us, however, because the United States educational culture for generations has championed self-selecting vocation to the point where it's on you.  We would probably bristle at the idea of being told we should go into accounting when we might want to get some degree in literature specializing in Edwardian era poetics.  Or if you fail badly enough at math you might get told you didn't test well enough to get into accounting depending on how grading got done.  How grading has happened in the last thirty years is something I'm not sure I even want to know about yet.  When I was in elementary school D's and F's were still around. 

Anyway, I gave up pre-emptively on graduate school after looking into a few programs.  One program wouldn't accept me unless I already had a bachelor's degree in the same field of study.  Another was in a state I couldn't realistically get to and for graduate work in music I came to the realization that other than helping in some networking and credentialing capacities it was simply not going to add to what I was already able to do in my spare time.  There's no reason I couldn't investigate chamber music written for bassoon and guitar outside a graduate school setting, for instance.  It'd be fun if somehow I could do that kind of investigation within an academic setting but thanks to the internet it's no longer necessary to be a music professor of some sort to look into this stuff. 

A friend of mine who got a master's told me that thirty and forty years ago the sales pitch was if you simply got a master's, in anything, really, that a solid high-paying professional life was simply yours for the taking.  He's found out that was bunk and it may be that a lot of people are finding out that it doesn't matter how great you think your work is, this simply doesn't mean there are jobs for you.  It probably doesn't even really matter what your field is at this point, either.  Even my friends who got into the hard sciences like chemistry have not necessarily found lucrative employment.  They've found jobs that pay enough for them to get by and that's about it.  There's still something to be said for loving the nature of the work itself and working for causes you believe in.  Immunology to treat Africal viral diseases, for instance, has a certain reward to it even if you sometimes wish you got paid more. 

Now here's another bit that's fun from the piece and worth quoting for its own sake, a warning that despite warnings people embark on higher education anyway, particularly in humanities.  Why?  Well, simple, because we all like to think we're the exception to the rule.  We all like to think we'll beat the odds

Other well-meaning academics have already attempted to warn you, the best-known screed in this subgenre being William Pannapacker’s “Graduate School in the Humanities? Just Don’t Go.”* But this convinced no one. It certainly didn’t convince me! Why? Because Pannapacker is a tenured professor. He pulled it off, so why can’t you? After all, someone has to get these jobs.
Well, someone also has to not die from small-cell lung cancer to give the disease its 6 percent survival rate, but would you smoke four packs a day with the specific intention of being in that 6 percent? No, because that’s stupid. Well, tenure-track positions in my field have about 150 applicants each. Multiply that 0.6 percent chance of getting any given job by the 10 or so appropriate positions in the entire world, and you have about that same 6 percent chance of “success.” If you wouldn’t bet your life on such ludicrous odds, then why would you bet your livelihood? [emphasis mine]
Don’t misunderstand me. There is unquantifiable intellectual reward from the exploration of scholarly problems and the expansion of every discipline—yes, even the literary ones, and even if that means doing bat-shit analysis like using the rule of “false elimination” to determine that Josef K. is simultaneously guilty and not guilty in The Trial. But there is one sort of reward you will never get: monetary compensation from a stable, non-penurious position at a decent university.

See, I only got an undergraduate degree in communications and I could easily roll with the idea that Josef K is simultaneously guilty and not guilty in The Trial.  I didn't even have to spend the money and years of my life to entertain that idea.  :)  On my side of things I came to realize that if I wanted to, say, write an essay on the use of cyclical development of a four-note motto in Koshkin's Sonata for flute and guitar (which some people may even remember was something I considered doing way back in 2006 when I started this blog) there was absolutely no reason to actually be in any kind of graduate school in music to do it.  Do I have the score?  Yep.  Do I have Koshkin's fantastic Kreuzberg recording of the sonata?  Yep!  That's basically enough. 

Now a friend of mine who was already a music teacher got a master's in piano performance and for her that made sense.  It helped her get into a better pay bracket in her field of work and she's already an excellent pianist.  But as some of the linked-to authors have noted above, she's one of the few people these days for whom graduate work in humanities would make sense.  My friend gave me some wonderful advice on a piano sonata that I'll always treasure so I trust you get the idea I love academic discussions of humanities.  I've just recognized that the economic and job realities of this time and place are such that it'd be a waste of my life at this point (and maybe any other) to attempt grad work in music, for instance. 

So when I read articles of the sort I've linked to I admit it gives me a sense of relief that I don't have to second-guess myself.  I don't have to be haunted by wondering whether or not I could have really been so exceptional as to get graduate work done and beat the odds and land some job with it.  It's better for me, and exponentially cheaper, to be able to interact with scholars and professional musicians on something as arcane as bassoon and guitar literature without getting official credentials.  We live in a world where genuine love for obscure music is something you can demonstrate without having to go through the academic system.