Nota Bene: The New Canon

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The Washington Post‘s Ann Hornaday has just addressed an obvious lacuna in movie criticism by declaring first that not only has the Great Movie Canon remained stubbornly fixed for too long (Vertigo, Citizen Kane) but that there are many movies post-2000 that stand up alongside all the greats of yesteryear.

Hornaday’s article “The New Canon” is an absolute must-read. She also selected a fairly unassailable list, excepting maybe Spike Lee’s adventurous but uneven 25th Hour and Kenneth Lonergan’s solid but somewhat unremarkable You Can Count on Me. Her list is here but it’s best reading her arguments are each of them as well:

  • Children of Men
  • 25th Hour
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Michael Clayton
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • There Will Be Blood
  • Boyhood
  • 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
  • Old Joy
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Hunger
  • You Can Count on Me
  • No Country for Old Men
  • I’m Not There
  • Minority Report
  • Dunkirk
  • Mudbound
  • Spotlight
  • Son of Saul
  • Stories We Tell
  • The Fog of War
  • The Royal Tenenbaums
  • Spirited Away

Quote of the Day: The Bowie Train

As part of the Brooklyn Museum’s blockbuster exhibition “David Bowie is,” an entire New York subway station has been Bowie-fied.

One element of the takeover is special Bowie-branded MetroCards. This was announced by the transit authority, which gloriously tweeted “Rail Control to Major Tom”:

Nota Bene: The St. Louis Accent

In Edward McCleland’s book How to Speak Midwestern, there’s a lot to learn about the intricacies and subdivisions of the American Midwestern accent. Take this article, which McCleland adapted from the book, on the history of how the folks in St. Louis speak:

In 1904, the year it hosted the World’s Fair and the Olympics, St. Louis was the nation’s fourth-largest city, behind New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. It was a center of brewing, milling, and meat packing, and a magnet for Irish and Italian immigrants. That gave St. Louis, and its dialect, a more urban character than most other Midland cities. For example, older St. Louisans still say “youse” and substitute ‘d’ for ‘th.’

That urban characteristic affects not just the vocals of (older, at least) St. Louisans, but everyone’s attitudes:

St. Louis feels more connected to Chicago than it does to the rest of Missouri, which it regards as a hillbilly backwater. A St. Louisan is far more likely to visit Chicago than Kansas City—or Branson, for Pete’s sake.

Note Bene: An ‘Imposter’ in Academia

In Aeon, professor philosophy Amy Olberding writes about being an academic from a working-class rural background:

 I was once congratulated on my ‘bravery’ for not training out my ‘rustic accent’ – never mind that I didn’t know, until then, that I had one. More recently, I was asked to develop a seminar on class bias. I am a philosopher, and since I do not study class bias, the request surprised me. I later discovered that I was chosen for my ‘unique’ life experience, my perceived lower-class origins. Even now, people casually ask me at conferences where I am from, in a way that suggests they are struggling to place the unusual. A student once marvelled that I ‘talk like Faulkner’. Another, prompted by a course evaluation to ‘describe this instructor in one word’, recorded: ‘y’all’.

The polite snobbery of academia, far removed from the stuff of life, rears its head in more comical ways:

When other philosophers learn that I have a farm, they often invoke Henry Thoreau’s Walden (1854). This text seems to be the philosopher’s Rosetta Stone for country life. I am in great sympathy with cultured sorts who long for the agrarian – indeed, in many respects, I am one now. Yet I can tolerate Walden only if I read it fancifully and counterfactually, as deliberate self-satire. Or if I construct a running sub-commentary of what Thoreau’s truly country neighbours must have thought. There might be some who farm who enjoy Thoreau, but I am not one…

Quote of the Day: Moderation vs. Justice

From Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail“:

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate … who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice … Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Nota Bene: Anne Frank’s Family Tried to Escape to America

In 1941, Anne Frank’s had left Germany for the Netherlands and was trying to escape to America. Her father Otto Frank wrote to a college friend living there asking for help and money to cover the deposit for their visas:

I am forced to look out for emigration and as far as I can see U.S.A. is the only country we could go to … Perhaps you remember that we have two girls. It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance.

Because of tightening restrictions on refugees from Europe, pushed in part by hardening anti-foreigner sentiment in America, Otto was unable to secure visas for his family. They went into hiding in 1942.

Anne, her sister, and mother later died in concentration camps.

Nota Bene: The Cat Who Knew When People Would Die

From Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “This Cat Sensed Death. What if Computers Could, Too?”:

Of the many small humiliations heaped on a young oncologist in his final year of fellowship, perhaps this one carried the oddest bite: A 2-year-old black-and-white cat named Oscar was apparently better than most doctors at predicting when a terminally ill patient was about to die … Adopted as a kitten by the medical staff, Oscar reigned over one floor of the Steere House nursing home in Rhode Island. When the cat would sniff the air, crane his neck and curl up next to a man or woman, it was a sure sign of impending demise. The doctors would call the families to come in for their last visit. Over the course of several years, the cat had curled up next to 50 patients. Every one of them died shortly thereafter.