Crit

Examination, analysis, appreciation.

Quick Review: Toy Story 3

2011.02.07
By

ANOTHER GREAT PIXAR ROMP — IMAGINATIVE, colorful, well-rendered, well-written. But I can’t get over what a JERK that stuffed bear is.

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How To Make Your Blog Sound Important

2011.01.26
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1. BEGIN EVERY PARAGRAPH WITH “I.”

2. Repost the same story as other blogs within your target demographic.

3. When commenting in other blogs, slip in the phrase “as I wrote” and flash your URL.

4. Call everyone by their first name whether celebrity, criminal or politician.

5. Make gratuitous jokes equating celebrities, criminals and politicians.

6. Be snarkier.

7. Don’t write from the heart. Ever.

8. When in doubt, link to YouTube.

9. Use lots of “ironic” quotes.

10. Remember: the world won’t run without you. Remind it.

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Writer (noun)

2011.01.25
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A BREED SIMILAR TO ORDINARY humans, but responsible for much of their culture. Occasionally considered too cocky for their own good, until posthumous reevaluation shows they were right all along, the bastards. Some would call them the salvation of humanity; others wouldn’t call them a cab.

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Harlan’s Secret

2011.01.19
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“People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.”

– Author and critic HARLAN ELLISON, my first inspiration and longtime influence, as quoted on http://www.advicetowriters.com, a website worth visiting

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Muse Ich

2011.01.18
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SOME SONGS JUST SOUND BEST on a transistor radio. (You know who you are.)

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Question of Essence

2011.01.17
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DO YOU PRACTICE AN ART form, or a life form?

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David Feldman, Post-Modern Comic Genius

2011.01.13
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PAY ATTENTION, CLASS: TODAY WE learn from David Feldman, American, how to correctly structure a portable visual joke (in this case, a bumpersticker) for maximum satiric and comic effect.

First point: Understand the medium. The human eye travels a line of text, or what the brain immediately assesses as same, from left to right.

Second point: Camouflage. On a black background, the eye first registers a patriotic symbol — an American flag overlaying a proud bald eagle’s profile — followed by a line of white text.

Third point: Reinforcement. A sturdy sans-serif, all caps: “MY COUNTRY RIGHT OR … ”

Fourth point: Misdirection. The brain, conditioned by years of living within the Lower North American political ecosystem, anticipates a conditioned jingoism.

Fifth point: Gotcha. The text finishes: ” … RONG.” The brain is wrenched from its self-woven cocoon by the unexpected monosyllabic truncation, and explodes into laughter. Its owner reaches for a handkerchief or small towel.

REMEMBER THE MONOSYLLABIC TRUNCATION. THERE WILL BE A TEST.

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Apropos Punditry

2011.01.11
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DOESN’T ALL THAT JERKING MAKE the knees hurt?

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Something With Which All Pundits Seem To Agree, Post- “Arizona Tragedy”

2011.01.10
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“WE ALL NEED LESS VITRIOL from those other guys.”

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Sorting Debbie

2011.01.10
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IN THE WAKE OF SINGER and prolific synagogue-music innovator Debbie Friedman, I find myself mourning her death but ambivalent about her legacy.

The mourning: If you worship at most “progressive” (i.e., non-Orthodox) North American synagogues, you’re familiar with her work (particularly the Mishebeirach, a prayer for healing which was recently (some say “at last”) canonized in the new Reform prayerbook). But if you ever saw Ms. Friedman in concert, you really saw her. The woman fairly glowed. Not literally, but in the eyes of the mind: huge radiating love-and-wonder vibes not really all that different from a Grateful Dead show, and from which people depart laughing, woohooing, and singing to themselves for days afterward. She was a great and phenomenal talent who brought a lot of joy to this end of the universe and, as is so often the case, the world seems a bit darker for her absence.

The ambivalence: While introducing folk music to the service makes the service, or rather the joy inherent, more accessible, it can also turn the service into a sing-along. And, even as a happily compulsive singer-along, that’s not why I attend services. At one time or another it has been my pleasure to attend Grateful Dead concerts, coven circles, Mass, church, a Buddhist shrine and various other experiential constructs. I found each of them beautiful and, in a sense, useful. But none of them move me in the way of a book-and-dream-fragrant silence, woven through with wordless murmurings and solemn chanting of the ancient heart-known Hebrew. It is, to me, authentic, which is to say familiar and challenging in a way that singing along not quite is.

“One man’s meat” is a proverb in many tongues and times. But when someone like a Debbie Friedman passes out of the world, it makes many other things feel small. Thank you, Ms. Friedman, for making Earth a bit bigger for a while.

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Huck’s Luck

2011.01.06
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IN ORDER TO WRITE ABOUT “niggers,” I should introduce myself as a “kike.”

Or perhaps, in this context, a “shylock.”

How did you feel reading That Word? I felt soiled writing it, just as I do when I hear it, see it or say it. Which is why I generally don’t.

But Mark Twain did. He did it in a great book called The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in which he tried to show his readers that slavery is both unjust and degrading. Not only to the slave, who is treated as cheap property; also to the slaveholder, because only an idiot would think of humans as “property.” But by one edition, you’ll never know the full effect of that degradation — Twain’s book is being revised to meet contemporary tastes. And contemporary tastes don’t admit of offense.

Given the history of African slavery in this country and the resultant racist prejudice, I cannot hope to adequately understand the Huck Finn issue in the way a sensitive and culturally aware Black person would. Read more »

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Just Off The Block of My Head

2011.01.04
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IF THERE IS ANYTHING SCARIER than writer’s block, I hope I never discover it.

For me, writer’s block is more than just an inability to string together something pretty or useful. It’s like losing half or more of my personality.

Everyone sees the world differently; writers even more so. There’s a sort of constant subconscious framing of experience that we all do just to survive with some sense of perspective. To a writer, that perspective is a little closer to the surface, a touch more accessible, like a good friend who’s constantly mumbling beauty under his breath. When that friend goes away, nothing seems fun anymore. It’s worse than a bad breakup, because at least you can serenade your ex, at least until the cops show up. But the writer’s friend has no spatial location, nothing to grab onto or plead with. It must, like the court order, be merely endured.

See? If I didn’t have writer’s block, that would have been funny.

But eventually the clouds lift, or you plod through them with a shovel, mixing metaphors to beat the band until something just clicks

and the world suddenly makes sense again.

For a while.

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Recent Tales

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THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF any story is the point at which it’s attached to the reader.

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