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Archive for September, 2011


with 2 comments

I actually only have a minute or two here–this is supposed to be my office hours, but nobody is here, and I’ve got time on my hands before I have to go and explain to a class that, the textbook notwithstanding, advertising is not the font of all evil and “public funding” does not guarantee a balanced presentation of the news–

Anyway, I have a minute.

So I thought I’d say this–I’ve just been rereading Mary Stewart’s The Moonspinners for the first time in many years.  I read it the first time because it was the book on which a Disney movie starring Hayley Mills was based–

Sometimes, my syntax is atrocious.

Anyway, when I was fourteen, Hayley Mills seemed to me to be the most perfect human being on earth, and I saw all her movies.  And after I saw The Moonspinners, I went right out and got the paperback copy of the book, a copy I still own today.  I know it’s the same one, because it’s the one with pictures from the movie all over the cover.

In the years since, I’ve rarely done more than glance at that cover, but I have seen the movie many times.  It was one of the first VHS tapes I ever bought–the very first was The Nun’s Story and the second was Gone With The Wind–and when we went over entirely to DVDs, my sons bought me a copy one year for Christmas.

It’s not a great movie, but it’s unobjectionable, and a lot of it was shot on location in Greece, and I like looking at it, so I’ve seen it several times a year in the last ten or so.

And now I’ve reread the book, and I’m struck by the fact that the book and the movie have virtually nothing in common but the title.

Well, the names of the hero and the heroine are the same–Nicola (NIcki in the movie) and Mark.  And Nicola has a cousin named Frances in the book, and an aunt by that name inf the movie.  And there is a guy named Lambdis, but he’s on the side of the good guys in the book and of the bad guys in the movie.  And there’s a guy named Stratos who is the major villain–but it’s his first name in the book and his last in the movie.  And then there’s Mr. Gamble, otherwise known as Tony, who plays the fence in the movie, complete with wife, while he’s a thinly disguised guy guy in the book.

Okay, I could do lists like this forever, but the larger point is that the plots have little or nothing to do with each other. It’s as if the studio liked the title and the idea of giving Hayley Mills her first ever screen kiss, so they paid a bunch of money for the book and then largely ignored it.

Why do people do these things?

Stewart sold very well, but she was hardly the kind of mega-bestselling Stephen King/J.K. Rowling sort of author whose very name would be a draw for movie audience–and, in fact, her name wasn’t used all that prominently in the movie publicity.

In a way, that’s what makes me feel less annoyed at this instance than I have been of some others, such as the hash made of Appointment with Death in the A&E Poirot series.  The movie is not bad.  The writer is not, like Christie, someone whose work is so closely interwoven with a view of life that deviating from it insults her. 

Even so, I’m left wondering what exactly is going on here and why it’s going on.  Why bother to do this?  Why not just write an original screenplay.  Stewart didn’t have the copyright on romantic suspense set in Greece, after all.  And the plot in the movie is so very different from that of the book that, without the use of the character names, it would never have occurred to anyone to connect them.

I do, by the way, like the movie more than I am liking the book, but that’s another issue altogether. 

And these office hours will come to an end, and I have that advertising thing to cover.

I’ll go into that at a later date, because it concerns The Textbook, and that’s an egregious issue no matter what else is going on.

Written by janeh

September 8th, 2011 at 10:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Good News Is The Bad News Is–Never Mind, That’s Too Confusing

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So, what can I say?  I’ve been having a very unusual week.

Some of it has been very good, really, in spite of Irene–but then, I was one of the luckier people with Irene, because we didn’t lose power.  I did have to go without a phone for about three days, but that’s back now too.  As of yesterday, there were still lots of people without power, and lots of people without phone or cell phone service.  So that’s been okay.

But school has started, sort of–the bad stuff doesn’t kick in until next week.   This week.  You know what I mean.  I’ve got lots of adults this time, and they’re always a good time.  I’ve also got an upper level course, which is a crap shoot.   It depends on why students signed up for it and what they expect out of it. 

On the other hand, it’s something that I really love to blather about–mass media and society–so I’ve been having a good time putting together they syllabus.

Things on the writing front are good, although they would have been better if it had been possible to get in touch with people last week.   Irene flooded lower Manhattan and everybody just seemed to go crazy for a while.  I think they’ve come out of it, knock wood.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading my way through Hemingway’s short stories again, going t hrough them systematically for the first time in decades.  I used to read them over and over again when I was in high school and college.

And I still see what it was that caught me about them.  For what it’s worth, I recommend “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,”  a story about become a man (not just an adult male) and what a woman will do to stop that from happening.

Eck.  That was really a bad way to put it, and it makes the story sound like something it’s not.

But I’ve had a long-term interest in what usually is called the “feminization” of the culture–I put the word in scare quotes because I’m not sure “feminine” is the right word for what I’m thinking of.  Hemingway did think it was the right word, so there’s that.

I’m back to the Nurse Ratchett/Delores Umbrage thing again–the drive in some people to control everybody around them by undermining their wills, their minds, their emotions, everything.  

And I do think there’s a lot of it in contemporary life–a lot of the system around us operates on the principle that what we need to do is not simply to set rules and punish people if they violate them, but to convince people that those rules are right and true. 

And the convincing is not to be done honorable, by presenting arguments and persuading a rational mind, but manipulatively.

And, in the end, no outcome is acceptable except that the rulebreaker should become completely convinced of the rightness of the rules and the wrongness of ever challenging them.

No wonder I can’t write a Nurse Ratchett character.  I can’t even articulate what she is.

And yet I can see it, and I have met it face to face. And I’ll give Hemingway this–every example of it I have ever met has in fact been female.  I think, though, that that’s a sampling error.  I have found these people in schools, and schools in America are overwhelming run by women.

You see what I’m talking about, however, in other places besides schools. There is the Amriault case in Massachusetts, where a woman and her son and daughter ran a day care center where parents brought charges of sexual abuse.

It was the middle of the sex abuse hysteria of the Eighties and the charges were literally ludicrous–claims that people had committed acts on days when they weren’t even in the state, claims of bizarre rituals (murdered babies in Satanic sacrifices, for instance) uncorroberated by any physical evidence), the whole schlemiel.

The Amriaults were convicted and sent away for decades, and over time it became more and more obvious that not only were they innocent of all charges, but that no crimes had ever been committed in the first place. The children had all been seen by a specific psychotherapist who had kept them away from their parents and in closed rooms for hours at a time, refusing to allow them to go to the bathroom or see their families until they “disclosed.”  These were three and four year olds.  After a while, they said whatever the woman wanted to hear.

But when the injustice of the charges became too apparent for anybody to deny, the State of Massachusetts said they’d let the Amriaults go–once they had admitted their guilt.  The mother, who was dying of cancer, caved in and did it.  The daughter also did it, in order to be able to take care of her mother.   One of the conditions the state insisted on was that neither was allowed to claim they were really innocent and had been forced to “confess” in order to get out–in other words, they were not allowed to tell the truth about what had happened, on pain of being sent right back to prison.

The son, Gerald Amriault, adamantly refused.  And he stayed in jail for many more years.  He may even be there now.

The scary thing about this case is that the approach is not particularly unusual any more.  The underlying technique has become the backbone of the parole system, where prisoners who are honestly innocent and insist on saying so stay in jail for years longer than actual criminals rightly convicted. 

The stated rationale of all this is that by “taking responsibility” for the crime, the criminal is less likely to reoffend–but the reoffense rate is huge, even with people on parole, and I keep getting the feeling that the real point is to force utter and complete capitualtion, to get people to give up their status as human beings.  Human beings have minds of their own.

This is, I think, what K-12 education, public and private, has largely come to be–the point is not to educate, or even to teach skills, but to mold creatures who are always dependent and always conform to what the people they are dependent on think is “healthy.” 

Boys fail more than girls at school because boys seem to have less patience with all of this, and less willingness to be pulled along.

Ack agian.

I don’t even know what I’m talking about any more.

Well, I do, but you know what I mean.

I’m going to go off and do something.

Written by janeh

September 4th, 2011 at 10:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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