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The Definite Vampire Hunter. The only “stakeholder” I’ll ever acknowledge. Happy Birthday Peter Cushing.

stake

Apparently Peter Cushing was always rather perturbed and a little irritated (as irritated as any such polite man could be) by the fact that people in the street feigned fear of him.  “But I always play the hero – never the monster!” he would accurately point out.  He was also famous for being in one of the longest running sketch jokes ever – the “I’ve not been paid yet” Morecambe and Wise sketch – which ran for more than a decade.

For sure, he played an authentic villain in the most famous film he was ever involved in – Star Wars a New Hope.  Apparently Carrie Fisher found it difficult to apply the term “foul stench” to Peter Cushing, a man with exquisite manners who gave off a faint whiff of lavender.

So he would.  Apart from Dr Frankenstein, his signature role was typically Van Helsing.  When he wasn’t playing Van Helsing, we was playing a Van Helsing type.   Whatever the nature of the supernatural threat (usually Christopher Lee), it would be the task of Peter Cushing to be the first to have a well informed “bad feeling” about things.  Now Hammer films did not have huge special effects budgets.  The monster’s screen time had to be carefully rationed and strategically lit.  And now that I think about it, just about the scariest things that happened in a classic era Hammer movie, made between 1957 and 1972, were the scenes where Peter Cushing gathered a group of young people around a table and explained to them precisely why they need to all be very afraid.  Because when Peter Cushing tells you that you need to be afraid, he does so with such utter conviction and integrity that you are afraid.  These scenes are the scariest in the movies and therefore, in a sense, despite being an agent of light rather than darkness, Peter Cushing really is the scariest Hammer actor.  His is a terror born of tough love.  He is scary because of his essential goodness, a goodness that is determined to confront us (for our own good) with the reality of evil.  As a consequence, he communicates the nature of evil far better than whatever special effect belatedly lumbers into view.

It is to be noted that while Peter Cushing, the definitive Van Helsing,  grew old and died like a normal person, his nemesis Christopher Lee, the definitive Dracula, lived on and on and on and on.

ALTHOUGH – Peter Cushing returned from the dead to appear in Rogue One, now didn’t he?  Which is more than Christopher Lee has done. Yet.

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Putting Bob Dylan and Donald Trump in the same sentence? Why do that? Really?

Old blog about Tim Stanley’s attack on the Dylan Laureateship. Happy Birthday Bob.

conradbrunstrom

bob

Tim Stanley did this a few days ago in The Telegraph entitled “A World that gives Bob Dylan a Nobel Prize for Literature is a World that nominates Trump for President”.  Here’s the piece.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/13/a-world-that-gives-bob-dylan-a-nobel-prize-is-a-world-that-nomin/

Now in a narrow technical sense, he is of course quite right.  These two events have in fact taken place on the same planet – a place called Earth.  It’s true in the same sense that Paul McCartney and Adolf Hitler are two examples of vegetarians.  It’s true in the same sense that a butterfly flaps its wings in Indonesia while share prices crash on Wall Street.  Yes, the nomination of Donald Trump as US President and the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan are two events involving Earthlings.

Stanley is suggesting, of course,  that a degree of synchronicity (though only a degree – Trump’s nomination was last year, not this…

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A little light opera. A little gallows humour. Laurel and Hardy in “The Devil’s Brother” aka “Fra Diavolo” (1933).

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When certain people try to praise Laurel and Hardy, they for some reason stress the “innocence” of their comedy.  Well, the characters of Stan and Ollie are certainly innocent in some respects, though the world around them is never innocent.  Furthermore, there’s an authentic darkness to many of their films that twenty-first century mainstream comedy rarely ventures into.  Most twenty-first century movie comedies feature a redemptive happy ending.  Most Laurel and Hardy films do not.  Most twenty-first century movie comedies assume a world in which well-intentioned idiocy will eventually be rewarded within by the moral economy of a benign and indulgent cosmos.  Most Laurel and Hardy movies do not.

The Devil’s Brother (1933), meanwhile showcases the second most disturbing scene in the whole Laurel and Hardy oeuvre (wait for The Flying Deuces for the most disturbing).   Stan (Stanlio) is ordered at gunpoint (or musketpoint) to hang Ollie (Ollio) or face the noose himself.  The scene remains funny, not least as a physics problem of strength to weigh ratios.  But the pair of them are understandably in tears.

Stanlio:  You know, this is gonna hurt you more than it does me. Put yourself in my place.
Ollio:  I wish I could.

Hanging would remain an inexact science until the late nineteenth-century so Stan’s inability to hang Ollie in the early eighteenth-century is wholly understandable.

For this is an incursion into light opera (Daniel Auber, 1830), into the same world of central European valleys and villagers and sudden arias we revisit in The Bohemian Girl and Swiss Miss.  The titular Devil’s Brother is played by Dennis King – a dashing but very ruthless Italian bandit who swans about in high society in the guise of the Marquis de San Marco.  Our old friends James Finlayson and Thelma Todd are also in the cast as an ill-matched aristocratic couple.  Finlayson is understandably if hilariously jealous and protective regarding his very young wife, who at one point is seen drooling over herself in the mirror wearing elaborate eighteenth-century underwear trilling an aria the gist of which is “I’d do me.”  Diavolo himself is known by the repeated aria “On Yonder Rock Reclining…” -which sends villagers flying for cover as soon as they hear it.

Diavolo has two weaknesses – an inordinate if understandable fondness for his own singing voice – which does tend to give the game away – and a bizarre decision to make Stanlio and Ollio his most trusted servants (despite their obvious ineptitude and the fact that they’ve already tried to betray him once).

The Devil’s Brother inaugurates a new kind of Laurel and Hardy film – the kind of story which unfortunately would dominate in the sorry films of the 1940s – where Stan and Ollie offer comic relief supporting more obvious romantic leads.  That said, they are still allowed plenty of room this film, and to incorporate some very effective routines.

This film also develops the growing notion (developed further in later films) that Stan is not as other men.  He can do things with his body that others cannot.  These powers are not yet supernatural, but merely feats of dexterity.  “Kneesy-Earsy-Nosey” and “Finger Wiggle” infuriate Ollie and enrage the local innkeeper.

Stan spends much of the end of the film drunk – simply because he has no other means of disposing of surplus wine once a pitcher is full.

And then Stanlio and Ollio laugh.  Stanlio laughs because he is drunk and Ollie laughs because Stanlio’s laugh is infectious.  And we laugh because they laugh – and for no other explicable reason at all.

As it happens, laughing uproariously at nothing in particular is a staggeringly difficult acting challenge.

Try it at home.  Just try it.   You’ll give up and start playing “Kneesy-Earsy-Nosey” instead.

 

I’ve a few thoughts about some other Laurel and Hardy movies.

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Me and my Pal

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/19/how-to-wreck-a-high-profile-wedding-easier-than-you-think-laurel-and-hardy-in-me-and-my-pal-1933/

Twice Two:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/15/the-cakeman-always-rings-twice-laurel-and-hardy-in-twice-two-1933/

Towed in a Hole:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/22/perhaps-as-good-as-it-gets-laurel-and-hardy-in-towed-in-a-hole-1932/

Their First Mistake:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/oliver-she-says-i-think-more-of-you-than-i-do-of-her-stanley-well-you-do-dont-you-oliver-well-we-wont-go-into-that-laurel-and-hardy-in-their-first-mistake-1932/

Pack Up Your Troubles

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/labour-of-love-laurel-and-hardy-in-pack-up-your-troubles-1932/

Scram:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/see-what-a-little-kindness-will-do-laurel-and-hardy-in-scram-1932/

County Hospital:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/30/hasnt-he-suffered-enough-stan-visits-ollie-in-county-hospital-1932/

The Chimp:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/is-there-a-primatologist-in-the-house-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-chimp-1932/

The Music Box:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/stairway-to-heaven-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-music-box-1932/

Any Old Port:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/33082

Helpmates:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/ollies-worst-and-finest-twenty-minutes-laurel-and-hardy-in-helpmates-1932/

“On the Loose”:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/on-the-loose-41-seconds-of-laurel-and-hardy-2/

Beau Hunks:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/no-time-for-levity-its-laurel-and-hardy-in-beau-hunks-1931/

One Good Turn:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/we-havent-eaten-for-three-whole-days-yesterday-today-and-tomorrow-laurel-and-hardy-in-one-good-turn-1931/

Come Clean:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/well-tell-the-truth-about-this-woman-well-come-clean-now-you-go-in-and-tell-em-laurel-and-hardy-in-come-clean-1931/

Pardon Us:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/they-fought-the-law-and-the-law-won-laurel-and-hardy-in-pardon-us-1931/

Laughing Gravy:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/and-now-a-choice-of-endings-laurel-and-hardy-in-laughing-gravy-1931/

The Stolen Jools:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/the-stolen-jools-all-of-1931-hollywood-in-2-reels-part-of-why-laurel-and-hardy-is-great-2/

Chickens Come Home:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/everybody-has-a-past-laurel-and-hardy-in-chickens-come-home-1931/

Be Big:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/these-boots-arent-made-for-walking-laurel-and-hardy-in-be-big-1931/

Another Fine Mess:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/the-most-famous-misquoted-catchphrase-of-them-all-laurel-and-hardy-in-another-fine-mess-1930/

The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/oh-the-grimacing-butler-the-laurel-and-hardy-murder-case-1930/

Hog Wild

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/what-price-decent-reception-laurel-and-hardy-in-hog-wild-1930/

Below Zero:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/what-have-they-done-to-deserve-this-laurel-and-hardy-in-below-zero-1930/

Brats:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/child-is-the-father-to-the-man-laurel-and-hardy-in-brats-1930/

Blotto:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/they-should-never-have-ended-prohibition-laurel-and-hardy-in-blotto-1930/

Here is Night Owls:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpres

Angora Love:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/angora-love-laurel-and-hardys-last-silent-comedy-the-one-with-the-goat/

The Hoose Gow:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/a-hard-time-had-by-all-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-hoose-gow-1929-reviewed/

They Go Boom:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/they-go-boom-1929-they-really-do-this-laurel-and-hardy-title-does-what-it-says-on-the-tin/

Perfect Day:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/perfect-day-laurel-and-hardys-not-lou-reeds/

Men O’ War:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/men-owar-and-the-dawn-of-doh-laurel-and-hardy-in-1929/

Berthmarks:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/berth-marks-1929-laurel-and-hardy-and-the-comedy-of-confined-spaces/

Unaccustomed as We are Are:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/unaccustomed-as-we-are-laurel-and-hardys-first-sound-film-in-1929/

Bacon Grabbers:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/repo-men-original-and-best-laurel-and-hardy-in-bacon-grabbers-1929/

Double Whoopee:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/double-whoopee-the-laurel-and-hardy-film-set-entirely-in-a-hotel-lobby-and-in-the-street-just-outside-it/

Big Business:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/27/retributive-perfection-laurel-and-hardy-in-big-business-1929/

That’s My Wife:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/25/the-marriage-of-true-minds-laurel-and-hardys-thats-my-wife-1929/

Wrong Again:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/rich-people-are-different-laurel-and-hardy-in-wrong-again/

Liberty:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/laurel-and-hardy-nearly-plummeting-to-their-deaths-over-and-over-again-liberty-1929/

We Faw Down:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/secrets-and-lies-laurel-and-hardy-in-we-faw-down-1928/

Habeas Corpus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/knowing-where-the-bodies-are-buried-laurel-and-hardy-in-habeas-corpus-1928/

Two Tars:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/appetite-for-autodestruction-two-tars-1928-reviewed/

Early to Bed:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/will-success-spoil-oliver-hardy-oh-you-betcha-early-to-bed-1928/

Should Married Men Go Home?:
https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/the-golfing-one-laurel-and-hardy-in-should-married-men-go-home-1928/

Their Purple Moment:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/their-purple-moment-1928-dont-you-just-love-it-when-stan-and-ollie-are-all-shy-and-flirty/

You’re Darn Tootin’:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/the-descent-to-trouser-fighting-youre-darn-tootin-1928/

From Soup to Nuts:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/laurel-and-hardy-embarrassing-rich-folk-satisfaction-guaranteed-from-soup-to-nuts-1928/

Leave em Laughing:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/leave-em-laughing-1928-gas-attack-in-culver-city/

Battle of the Century:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/battle-of-the-century-1927-the-pie-fight-is-sublimely-vindicated/

Putting Pants on Philip:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/putting-pants-on-philip-laurel-and-hardy-and-coming-to-america/

Hats Off:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/indiana-jones-why-dont-you-try-to-find-hats-off-the-lost-laurel-and-hardy-film/

Call of the Cuckoo:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/16/call-of-the-cuckoo-1927-laurel-and-hardy-are-bit-players-again-and-their-hair-hasnt-grown-back-yet/

The Second Hundred Years:
https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/laurel-and-hardy-in-the-second-hundred-years-1927-it-begins/

Flying Elephants:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/flying-elephants-laurel-and-hardy-were-never-faster-or-crazier/

Sugar Daddies:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/sugar-daddies-1927-laurel-and-hardy-and-finlayson-go-to-venice-beach/

Do Detectives Think?

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/watching-the-detectives-laurel-and-hardy-do-detectives-think-1927-this-one-is-the-real-thing/

Sailors Beware!:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/laurel-and-hardy-in-sailors-beware-1927-the-worlds-first-eisenstein-parody/

With Love and Hisses:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/with-love-and-hisses-1927-laurel-hardy-and-the-archaeology-of-kickdownism/

Love ‘Em and Weep:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/love-em-and-weep-still-not-a-laurel-and-hardy-film-but-say-hello-to-james-finlayson-and-mae-busch/

Slipping Wives:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/slipping-wives-1927-and-yes-i-am-going-to-blog-a-review-of-every-single-laurel-and-hardy-movie-i-genuinely-think-its-a-good-use-of-my-time/

45 Minutes from Hollywood:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/45-minutes-from-hollywood-some-context-for-laurel-and-hardy/

Duck Soup:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/duck-soup-the-laurel-and-hardy-film-the-first-laurel-and-hardy-film-arguably/

The Lucky Dog:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/03/the-lucky-dog-laurel-and-hardy-first-meet-on-film/

The Plot Against America

Plot

I’m not a Roth specialist.  When the proper heavyweight discussion of Roth commences and continues, I need to get out of the way and let the Roth specialists speak.  I do, however, have a particular memory of reading The Plot Against America (2004).

It was a present for my wife – given to her by a friend and colleague of ours while she was laid up in hospital in Dublin.  Her pregnancy had been complicated by a condition known as placenta previa.   This had resulted in a series of frantic drives to the hospital over the course of a few weeks before the powers that be finally decided not to let her out again until she gave birth. As we like to joke – we had a frantic blood-drenched drive to hospital, arriving in the nick of time with just five weeks to spare.

Incidentally, the child was born and is twelve, happy and healthy.  Different story.

The weeks of vigil consisted of daily visits in the course of which herself would sometimes be asleep while I was there.  These things happen. As a consequence – we both read Philip Roth’s Plot Against America – she while I was away, and I when I was there and she was asleep.  So when I think of the book, I think  hospital sounds and smells and the peculiar sense of temporal displacement you can only get from a completely controlled and self-sufficient environment.

Since much of the book is about how quickly history can change, it’s striking to think how different the world of 2005-6 feels just twelve or thirteen years on.  Politics felt very “centrist” and consensual – almost suffocatingly so at times.  The politics of 2016-2018 are assuredly far more interesting and wouldn’t so many of us give many of our back teeth and a variety of non-essential organs just to have our politics dull again.

And much of my sense of the book is about this well-grounded fear that everything solid and reassuring and plausible could be swept away virtually overnight.  There’s a long tradition on the left that is ideologically devoted to long traditions.  George Lukacs is perhaps the supreme articulator of the slow dialectic and the refusal to admit the possibility of accelerated radicalism.  Lenin himself was theoretically bewildered by the transformation of national consciousness forged by the First World War, and the sudden arrival of a vast feudal agrarian country like Russia at a state of revolutionary preparedness having somehow skipped ahead of the necessary gradations of bourgeois capitalist pseudo-democracy first.  Ever the opportunitist, he managed to squeeze his historical dialectic into a far more compressed framework in the course of the year 1917.

The Plot Against America is the story of a boy called Philip growing up in a more or less happy Jewish family in Newark in 1940.  If we see the world through Philip’s eyes, what we see above all is Philip’s father – a flawed and flustered and impolitic man who is nonetheless unquestionably heroic.  Philip’s father is the very best kind of American patriot, with an informed and urgent regard for the rule of law and for freedom of opportunity and expression.  Perhaps the whole novel is a sort of love letter to the character.  In this hideous alternative 1940, the “America First” presidency of Charles Lindbergh – aviator and isolationist anti-semite – creates an America of zero-sum ethnicised Americanism – where being Jewish is considered a dilution of being American rather than a proud tradition of being one.

Roth does not push his counter-factualism too far.  What he offers is a glimpse.  There are deaths – there are lynchings and there is one actual pogrom which involves the Jewish population of South East Michigan being driven over the border to Windsor Ontario (where my in laws all live).  Eventually, following Lindberg’s disappearance and an emergency snap election, Roosevelt is restored to power – Pearl Harbor occurs on schedule – and history resumes its wonted course.  The counter-counterfactualism of the book has the effect of not making the story seem less threatening but rather more proximate – even closer to “actual” history.

In many ways, the whole book is about competing patriotisms of love and of fear.  It’s also a very revolutionary book in that it’s emphatically about revolutions, and their persistence.  The book describes what it’s like to live among nice people, good people, who are complacent in their gradualist ameliorationism and who are thereby rendered mute and impotent – paralyzed by how suddenly and how widely violent passions can control and define what they thought was “civil” society.

Roth’s alternate Newark New Jersey in 1940 was not so very different from Berlin a decade earlier.  I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by describing the contemporary relevance of The Plot Against America.

When the fire rages – do you fight fire with fire or with small amounts of lukewarm water?  Genuine question.

 

Tomorrow’s Equal Marriage referendum is both Politically urgent and Philosophically Irrelevant at one and the same time.

Ireland voted for equal marriage exactly 3 years ago.
I pondered this the day before…

conradbrunstrom

yes

Vote Yes.  Oh please vote Yes.  It’s really important.  Indeed, if reading this blog is delaying you from voting yes (assuming the polls have opened) then stop reading it and go and vote Yes.  Then come back and finish it.

But there’s an important sense in which the vote tomorrow “means” nothing, an important sense in which the human rights it’s talking about are in no way affected by the voting process.  I’m confident that the vote will be won by the “Yes” campaign but there are some things that ultimately shouldn’t be down to a majority vote.

Here is John Stuart Mill on majoritarianism and personal liberty.

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively…

View original post 967 more words

One of the most influential people in history… Bishop Thomas Sprat – died OTD in 1713

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Bishop Sprat was not what you’d call a great theologian.  Nor did he invent anything that directly saved lives or swing to anybody’s rescue in time of need.  He wrote a poem claiming to sincerely mourn Oliver Cromwell but soon because part of the Restoration ecclesiastical establishment.  He only abandoned James II at the last moment and was accused of plotting to restore him in what appears to have been an elaborate stitch up.  He slowly ascended the ladder of ecclesiastical preferment to become Bishop of Rochester in 1684.

He may have been nearly 80 when he died.  So well done him.

He was, crucially, a member of the Royal Society.  And in 1667 when he was still just a prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral and a fellow of Wadham College Oxford, he wrote a History of the Royal Society – young as that Royal Society was.

The truths is, Sprat, is a pioneer in the field of academic style guides – in the development of prose that insists on making a certain truth claims.  He was an aesthetician of empiricism – the man who more than anyone else – established what “science” should sound like.  As Michael McKeon also argues, Sprat was someone who established the critical anti-aesthetic that would be key to the evolution of the early novel.  How do you tell a story in such a way as to indicate the organised mind of someone who is not telling you stories?   Because nothing is more compelling that listening to a story from somone you don’t think of as a storyteller.  How do you organise language so as to make it sound like the transparent vehicle of authentic and truthful sense impressions.

royal society

It’s a Baconian book of course, and in many ways Sprat deserves to be yoked to “empiricism” in the same way Bacon has been.  Neither Bacon nor Sprat could be called “scientists” of note, but they were certainly powerful methodologists.  Long, long, long before any Arts/Science divide, when “the sciences” merely meant things that can be known (“scio – I know”) – the word “natural” meant that which the world offers up to the senses.   When I was a student and maybe still for all I know – undergraduates who studied science were called “natscis”.

Here’s a famous scrap of Sprat:

[In the Royal Society, there] has been, a constant Resolution, to reject all the amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style: to return back to the primitive purity, and shortness, when men deliver’d so many things, almost in an equal number of words. They have exacted from all their members, a close, naked, natural way of speaking; positive expressions; clear senses; a native easiness: bringing all things as near the Mathematical plainness, as they can: and preferring the language of Artizans, Countrymen, and Merchants, before that, of Wits, or Scholars.

Of course, spareness of rhetoric is still rhetoric and “plainness” can be an affectation all of its own.  Just ask Hemingway.  But style guides are important and the history of ars celare artem is similarly important.  In an odd way, Sprat was as influential on the arts as he was on the sciences, since not only does he help define “what sounds sciency” but he sumultaneously and necessarily helped define “what isn’t sciency” while simultaneously helping to inform the imaginations of artists who want to sound sciency.

The final possibility – negatively delineating a style guide for scientists who want to sound artsy – has never fully manifested itself – and there are good reasons for that.

 

WHO were they now?

Reposting this view of a Who concert on the Happy yet Solemn occasion of Pete Townshend’s birthday…

conradbrunstrom

thewho

Yes I was there in Dublin last night to see The Who.  So. Who and What are they?  Well, they are Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend.  They are assisted, discretely by Pete’s little brother Simon, the very tall and very gifted Pino Palladino  and on drums Zak Starkey.

(Ringo Starr was, of course, a good friend of Keith Moon, to the extent that Keith was “Uncle Keith” to Zak growing up. I suppose we’re all supposed to have  at least one disreputable uncle as a child – but there are disreputable uncles and disreputable uncles.  Zak Starkey must be about 50 himself now.  Where does the time go? Oh where?!)

It was to be a long evening.  Initially I was concerned by how slowly the venue was filling up and in my head I was doing this very lecturery thing about cursing the empty seats – berating the people who…

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How to wreck a high profile wedding. Easier than you think. Laurel and Hardy in “Me and my Pal” (1933)

This is a rather elegant and chilling little film that reminds me of a classroom poem we used to chant about the kingdom being lost all for the want of a horseshoe nail.  We first meet Oliver Norville Hardy in a luxurious looking living room with a butler in attendance while a very supercilious radio announcer gives us his entire “onwards and upwards” back story.  He’s about to be married (today) to the only daughter of a wealthy Cucumber (James Finlayson) thereby becoming one of the most powerful oil magnates in all the land.

What could possibly go wrong?

Now normally in this situation, Stan would wreck Ollie’s marriage (and life) as a consequence of complex sequence of mistakes and mishaps.  Everything would go wrong with everything.  Clothes, house, transport would all be successively destroyed.  But in this film, the wedding is ruined by one simple and innocent looking circumstance – Stan brings Ollie a jigsaw puzzle.

One unusual feature of this film is that Stan and Ollie are not especially stupid in it – insofar as the jigsaw exerts the same malign influence over everyone who gets within a few feet of it.  Stan and Ollie are too fixated by the puzzle to get into the taxi.  The taxi driver is too absorbed by it to get into the taxi either.  The cop who arrives to give a ticket to the cab driver for parking too close to a fire hydrant is similarly afflicted.  There is something about this puzzle that is more debilitating than any known drug.

As someone who hates being late for anything for any reason, I do find this film a little difficult to watch.  Not only does Ollie lose his bride and his oil-magnate promotion – but his refusal to read a very relevant telegram in time results in his inability to sell all his stock in time to avoid a big crash.   More money is lost in this film than in any other.

Stan does eventually find the last missing piece – which of course makes everything worth while from his point of view.   Stan and Ollie’s clowning is as superb as ever, when the rigidity of the plot gives them lee-way.  There’s something about Stan being asked what’s under his arm – simple and silly as this joke is – that never fails to make me smile.  But as the demented jigsaw players pile up in the house, and once Cucumber arrives (the only person immune to the deadly siren song of the puzzle), Stan and Ollie are part of an ensemble cast of idiots rather than a classic double act.

Ollie’s calmness in despair is of course always delicious to watch.  As he sits in the fireplace, having been painfully blipped on the head by a falling bust of William Shakespeare, he is able to survey the extent of his ruination with something like admirable detachment.  Helpmates (1932) demonstrates this kind of tragic nobility better yet, however.

 

I have some thoughts about other Laurel and Hardy films:

Like

Twice Two:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/05/15/the-cakeman-always-rings-twice-laurel-and-hardy-in-twice-two-1933/

Towed in a Hole:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/22/perhaps-as-good-as-it-gets-laurel-and-hardy-in-towed-in-a-hole-1932/

Their First Mistake:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/oliver-she-says-i-think-more-of-you-than-i-do-of-her-stanley-well-you-do-dont-you-oliver-well-we-wont-go-into-that-laurel-and-hardy-in-their-first-mistake-1932/

Pack Up Your Troubles

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/labour-of-love-laurel-and-hardy-in-pack-up-your-troubles-1932/

Scram:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/see-what-a-little-kindness-will-do-laurel-and-hardy-in-scram-1932/

County Hospital:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/30/hasnt-he-suffered-enough-stan-visits-ollie-in-county-hospital-1932/

The Chimp:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/is-there-a-primatologist-in-the-house-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-chimp-1932/

The Music Box:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/18/stairway-to-heaven-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-music-box-1932/

Any Old Port:

https://wordpress.com/post/conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/33082

Helpmates:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/ollies-worst-and-finest-twenty-minutes-laurel-and-hardy-in-helpmates-1932/

“On the Loose”:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/on-the-loose-41-seconds-of-laurel-and-hardy-2/

Beau Hunks:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/no-time-for-levity-its-laurel-and-hardy-in-beau-hunks-1931/

One Good Turn:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/we-havent-eaten-for-three-whole-days-yesterday-today-and-tomorrow-laurel-and-hardy-in-one-good-turn-1931/

Come Clean:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/well-tell-the-truth-about-this-woman-well-come-clean-now-you-go-in-and-tell-em-laurel-and-hardy-in-come-clean-1931/

Pardon Us:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/they-fought-the-law-and-the-law-won-laurel-and-hardy-in-pardon-us-1931/

Laughing Gravy:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/and-now-a-choice-of-endings-laurel-and-hardy-in-laughing-gravy-1931/

The Stolen Jools:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/the-stolen-jools-all-of-1931-hollywood-in-2-reels-part-of-why-laurel-and-hardy-is-great-2/

Chickens Come Home:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/16/everybody-has-a-past-laurel-and-hardy-in-chickens-come-home-1931/

Be Big:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/these-boots-arent-made-for-walking-laurel-and-hardy-in-be-big-1931/

Another Fine Mess:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/the-most-famous-misquoted-catchphrase-of-them-all-laurel-and-hardy-in-another-fine-mess-1930/

The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/oh-the-grimacing-butler-the-laurel-and-hardy-murder-case-1930/

Hog Wild

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/what-price-decent-reception-laurel-and-hardy-in-hog-wild-1930/

Below Zero:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/what-have-they-done-to-deserve-this-laurel-and-hardy-in-below-zero-1930/

Brats:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/child-is-the-father-to-the-man-laurel-and-hardy-in-brats-1930/

Blotto:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/they-should-never-have-ended-prohibition-laurel-and-hardy-in-blotto-1930/

Here is Night Owls:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpres

Angora Love:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/angora-love-laurel-and-hardys-last-silent-comedy-the-one-with-the-goat/

The Hoose Gow:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/a-hard-time-had-by-all-laurel-and-hardy-in-the-hoose-gow-1929-reviewed/

They Go Boom:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/they-go-boom-1929-they-really-do-this-laurel-and-hardy-title-does-what-it-says-on-the-tin/

Perfect Day:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/perfect-day-laurel-and-hardys-not-lou-reeds/

Men O’ War:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/men-owar-and-the-dawn-of-doh-laurel-and-hardy-in-1929/

Berthmarks:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/berth-marks-1929-laurel-and-hardy-and-the-comedy-of-confined-spaces/

Unaccustomed as We are Are:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/unaccustomed-as-we-are-laurel-and-hardys-first-sound-film-in-1929/

Bacon Grabbers:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/repo-men-original-and-best-laurel-and-hardy-in-bacon-grabbers-1929/

Double Whoopee:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/double-whoopee-the-laurel-and-hardy-film-set-entirely-in-a-hotel-lobby-and-in-the-street-just-outside-it/

Big Business:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/27/retributive-perfection-laurel-and-hardy-in-big-business-1929/

That’s My Wife:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/25/the-marriage-of-true-minds-laurel-and-hardys-thats-my-wife-1929/

Wrong Again:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/rich-people-are-different-laurel-and-hardy-in-wrong-again/

Liberty:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/laurel-and-hardy-nearly-plummeting-to-their-deaths-over-and-over-again-liberty-1929/

We Faw Down:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/secrets-and-lies-laurel-and-hardy-in-we-faw-down-1928/

Habeas Corpus:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/knowing-where-the-bodies-are-buried-laurel-and-hardy-in-habeas-corpus-1928/

Two Tars:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/appetite-for-autodestruction-two-tars-1928-reviewed/

Early to Bed:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/will-success-spoil-oliver-hardy-oh-you-betcha-early-to-bed-1928/

Should Married Men Go Home?:
https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/the-golfing-one-laurel-and-hardy-in-should-married-men-go-home-1928/

Their Purple Moment:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/their-purple-moment-1928-dont-you-just-love-it-when-stan-and-ollie-are-all-shy-and-flirty/

You’re Darn Tootin’:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/the-descent-to-trouser-fighting-youre-darn-tootin-1928/

From Soup to Nuts:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/laurel-and-hardy-embarrassing-rich-folk-satisfaction-guaranteed-from-soup-to-nuts-1928/

Leave em Laughing:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/leave-em-laughing-1928-gas-attack-in-culver-city/

Battle of the Century:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/battle-of-the-century-1927-the-pie-fight-is-sublimely-vindicated/

Putting Pants on Philip:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/putting-pants-on-philip-laurel-and-hardy-and-coming-to-america/

Hats Off:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/indiana-jones-why-dont-you-try-to-find-hats-off-the-lost-laurel-and-hardy-film/

Call of the Cuckoo:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/16/call-of-the-cuckoo-1927-laurel-and-hardy-are-bit-players-again-and-their-hair-hasnt-grown-back-yet/

The Second Hundred Years:
https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/laurel-and-hardy-in-the-second-hundred-years-1927-it-begins/

Flying Elephants:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/flying-elephants-laurel-and-hardy-were-never-faster-or-crazier/

Sugar Daddies:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/sugar-daddies-1927-laurel-and-hardy-and-finlayson-go-to-venice-beach/

Do Detectives Think?

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/watching-the-detectives-laurel-and-hardy-do-detectives-think-1927-this-one-is-the-real-thing/

Sailors Beware!:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/laurel-and-hardy-in-sailors-beware-1927-the-worlds-first-eisenstein-parody/

With Love and Hisses:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/with-love-and-hisses-1927-laurel-hardy-and-the-archaeology-of-kickdownism/

Love ‘Em and Weep:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/19/love-em-and-weep-still-not-a-laurel-and-hardy-film-but-say-hello-to-james-finlayson-and-mae-busch/

Slipping Wives:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/slipping-wives-1927-and-yes-i-am-going-to-blog-a-review-of-every-single-laurel-and-hardy-movie-i-genuinely-think-its-a-good-use-of-my-time/

45 Minutes from Hollywood:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/45-minutes-from-hollywood-some-context-for-laurel-and-hardy/

Duck Soup:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/duck-soup-the-laurel-and-hardy-film-the-first-laurel-and-hardy-film-arguably/

The Lucky Dog:

https://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2017/01/03/the-lucky-dog-laurel-and-hardy-first-meet-on-film/

 

Who I am

Today is Peter Townshend’s Birthday. Rejoice! Rejoice!

conradbrunstrom

English: 1967 - The Who - Pete Townshend (and ... English: 1967 – The Who – Pete Townshend (and Keith Moon in the rear). The boys backstage before their gig in Ludwigshafen, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I finally got round to reading Pete Townshend’s lengthy autobiography.

It is of course, very annoying and pretentious in places – which is as much to say – it is completely authentic and could not have been ghosted.

Pete Townshend’s contribution to The Who is analogous to that of Ray Davies in The Kinks.  It’s not that the rest of the band aren’t brilliant, it’s just that if Ray or Pete doesn’t come up with the ideas, the band grinds to a halt.  There’s a discernible loneliness and desperation that seems to come with this level of responsibility.  Who I Am will not make you love Pete Townshend, but it will give an insight into the sense of strain involved.

I found…

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Gun Control and Europe and Canada. And Evil. Lots of Evil.

Tragically, I feel minded to reblog this.

conradbrunstrom

florida

We can forget about facts and evidence of course.  The notion that the debate about how to legislate against mass killings in the USA can be informed by statistical data is beyond delusional.   And the idea that someone from Europe or Canada might convince an NRA member to reconsider their views is utter folly.

Not a thing will be done by the present crop of legislators in the wake of this mass shooting, or the next shooting, or the one after that.   It’s apparently disgusting to politicize a mass shooting in its immediate aftermath by discussing political solutions to the issue.   Given the frequency of these shootings, people will be living in a state of “aftermath” pretty much all the time, meaning that discussing legislative action will always be “disgusting”.

I have actually engaged in online arguments on this topic.  It is tricky because hardcore NRA members find it difficult…

View original post 637 more words