Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I want to take a break from EL for a short time; I've actually been thinking and writing a lot lately but it is necessary that I channel that energy into particular academic projects. My blog, for all its benefits, has sometimes hindered my will to do other writing--writing that requires more time, concentration, and discipline than I practice here.

This hiatus will be measurable in weeks, not months, and maybe I'll even stockpile a few posts in the meantime. Of course I'll still be reachable via email. Until then,

Friday, April 11, 2008


The airy, slapdash, and politically angry Tinto Brass film L'Urlo ('70) proved worthwhile if not especially special. The only other Brass film I've yet seen is Caligula and I'm glad I tried out one of his "radical" works before sampling the softcore porn that's made his reputation. It will help put the later ones, whenever I get around to any of them, in a certain context ... if I'm lucky. What L'Urlo has, in addition to a narrative content that would not be out of place in a repertory program among Themroc, late Buñuel, the Panic movement, maybe an Ivan Cardoso film, and some Makavejev and Chytilova, is a loose charm and the lovely, late Tina Aumont (pictured).

(By the way, I saw the film on video without English subtitles, so really this is just a tentative impression, certainly not an actual critical evaluation. Cult Epics has or will put out a DVD of the film to which I look forward.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


"For years, Johnson & Johnson obscured evidence that its popular Ortho Evra birth control patch delivered much more estrogen than standard birth control pills, potentially increasing the risk of blood clots and strokes, according to internal company documents.

"But because the Food and Drug Administration approved the patch, the company is arguing in court that it cannot be sued by women who claim that they were injured by the product — even though its old label inaccurately described the amount of estrogen it released.

"This legal argument is called pre-emption. After decades of being dismissed by courts, the tactic now appears to be on the verge of success, lawyers for plaintiffs and drug companies say.

"The Bush administration has argued strongly in favor of the doctrine, which holds that the F.D.A. is the only agency with enough expertise to regulate drug makers and that its decisions should not be second-guessed by courts. The Supreme Court is to rule on a case next term that could make pre-emption a legal standard for drug cases. The court already ruled in February that many suits against the makers of medical devices like pacemakers are pre-empted."

-- NYTimes.

One of many disturbing things one can read about in the news lately ...

Monday, April 07, 2008

More Grids

"In the valley of the Indus, I wandered among the austere remains of the oldest Oriental culture, which have managed to withstand the passing of the centuries, sand, floods, saltpetre and Aryan invasions: Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, hardened outcrops of bricks and shards. These ancient settlements present a disconcerting spectacle. The streets are all perfectly straight and intersect each other at right-angles; there are workers' districts, in which all the dwellings are identical, industrial workshops for the grinding of grain, the casting and engraving of metals and the manufacture of clay goblets, fragments of which lie strewn on the ground; municipal granaries which occupy several blocks (as we might be tempted to say, making a transposition in time and space); public baths, water-pipes and sewers; and solid but unattractive residential districts. No monuments or large pieces of sculpture, but, at a depth of between ten and twenty yards, flimsy trinkets and precious jewels, indicative of an art devoid of mystery and uninspired by any deep faith, and intended merely to satisfy the ostentatiousness and sensuality of the rich. The complex as a whole reminds the visitor of the advantages and defects of a large modern city; it foreshadows those more advanced forms of Western civilization, of which the United States of America provides a model, even for Europe."

-- Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques (trans. John and Doreen Weightman, p. 130)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Compromised Space

"Educated people--who are never entirely absent--have taken offense at the emergence of the Tiller Girls and the stadium images. They judge anything that entertains the crowd to be a distraction of that crowd. But despite what they think, the aesthetic pleasure gained from ornamental mass movements is legitimate. Such movements are in fact among the rare creations of the age that bestow form upon a given material. The masses organized in these movements come from offices and factories; the formal principle according to which they are molded determines them in reality as well. When significant components of reality become invisible in our world, art must make do with what is left, for an aesthetic presentation is all the more real the less it dispenses with the reality outside the aesthetic sphere. No matter how low one gauges the value of the mass ornament, its degree of reality is still higher than that of artistic productions which cultivate outdated noble sentiments in obsolete forms--even if it means nothing more than that."

--Siegfried Kracauer, "The Mass Ornament"

"In this material world run on injustice and terror, where "popular" is confused with "industrial," any cultural expression that does not hurl an angry cry or wail a song of mad love (often one and the same) merely collaborates in the regulation and preservation of this world."

-- Nicole Brenez, pp. 1-2, Abel Ferrara