Monthly Archives January 2013

Rolling Toward Super Sunday: A Fresh Look At “Rollerball”

I want to assure returning readers that no, this will not be a blog devoted solely to discussions of violence—it just appears to have insinuated itself as the theme of the week. After all, we’ve got other more uplifting topics to move onto: the devil, the persistence of evil, the unremitting cruelty of nature, and various offshoots therefrom. (Detours into bondage and degradation, perhaps? Naw, no detours into bondage and degradation…)

Joking aside, yes, we will return again here to rhapsodizing on sublime beauty and human goodness—but not before at least a bit more reflection on this rich thread of commentary regarding media violence. Pondering the varied and thoughtful comments on previous posts brought to mind the director Norman Jewison’s 1975 movie, Rollerball, which he adapted from a short story by William Harrison, who also wrote the screenplay.

The storyline depicts a violent gladiatorial...

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Violence Revisited

I’ve been thinking about young men and violence. And now, in the wake of the Pentagon’s announcement earlier this week that women are henceforth approved to engage in front-line combat, young women and violence, too. And this matter of how much violence some of us can stomach—and how much violence others of us seem to need (and even celebrate).

As Layne astutely pointed out in her comments to my previous post on movie violence, such films tend to attract huge audiences, and ergo, must be filling some need. The fact that fellow commenters Fred and Dennis, along with myself, are revolted rather than fed by such violence suggests how wide is the gap between different people’s temperaments and sensibilities. One person’s intolerable and gratuitous gore is another’s ecstatic celebration...

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Violence and the Moral Responsibility of the Artist

My movie-watching habits changed some 18 years ago when, having seen and laughed through much of Quentin Tarantino’s comic-violent second movie, Pulp Fiction (1994), I backtracked to his debut film, the less comical, more violent Reservoir Dogs (1992). Alas, so nonchalantly, relentlessly violent was the latter that I found myself in the movie’s aftermath wishing I could hit the reverse button in my brain and thus wipe clean all the imagery from my consciousness. Those thoughts occurred because I knew the opposite would actually happen: the images of brutality and casual carnage would stay with me forever.

And so they have, with the only consolation being that I haven’t seen a Tarantino movie since...

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Seeing Stairs

A Google world is a humbling world. One of the consolations, I suppose, is that the humbling can be nearly instantaneous, and after your conceit that you may be having something vaguely resembling an original thought is quickly dispatched (in 0.16 seconds!), you can get back to your dullard’s life of cliched thinking and self-delusion, no delay involved.

This line of thought (no doubt unoriginal, but I’m going to be defiant and not even Google it) occurred to me recently when staring again at the ever-intriguing “stairs photography” of Larry Rose (self-portrait to the left). “Stairs!” I found myself thinking. “I’ll never look at them the same way again. I wonder how much has been written about them.” Turns out, quite a lot.

One could start with The Staircase: History and Theories, by John Templer, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1992. “Theories” of stairs—who knew?

What else mi...

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Praying, or “Holding a Good Thought?”

The cultural divide between the sacred and secular plays out on many fronts, and as revealing as any of them is the simple matter of how we wish each other well when someone is ill or enduring some personal trial. “I’ll pray for you,” say the traditionally religious, who may even tack on a pledge to fire up a “prayer chain” via their Facebook friends or church and thus multiply the purported power of prayer to affect human events.

“I’ll be holding a good thought for you,” say the secular, studiedly avoiding any reference to the divine.

Now: the essence here is quite similar, yes? We care, we sympathize, we want to offer the person whatever comfort we can in riding out the storm he or she is facing. The different phrases bespeak deep differences, though.

The secularist’s “good thought” does not generally reflect belief in a divine power who listens to human utterances and perhaps takes them ...

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