What is Past or Present or to Come : a Review of No Country for Old Men

The Coen Brothers’ film No Country for Old Men, based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, is a seamless exercise in the strangulation of hope. Unlike their previous films set in the dark world of murder (Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo) No Country has no glimmer of escape, no place of refuge, and no chance at mercy. Not only is this place no country for old men, it is no place for anyone at all.

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The theme of the movie is the inexorable march of violence, like its fatalistic antagonist, wryly named Anton Chigurh, whose clockwork killing punctuates the movie. In this world, where God is only noted as an absence, people are chewed up and spit out, victim and victimizer alike, with such casual determinism that only horror is at home. No film since Chinatown delineates the Christian virtue of Hope from its secular counterpart pessimism.

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The Only Hope in Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men

“Where you went out the back door of that house there was a stone water trough in the weeds by the side of the house. A galvanized pipe come off the roof and the trough stayed pretty much full and I remember stopping there one time and squattin down and looking at it and I got to thinking about it. I don’t know how long it had been there. A hundred years. Two hundred. You could see the chisel marks in the stone. It was hewed out of solid rock and it was about six foot long and maybe a foot and a half wide and about that deep. Just chiseled out of the rock. And I got to thinking about the man that done that. That country had not had a time of peace much of any length at all that I knew of. I’ve read a little of the history of it since and I aint sure it ever had one. But his man had set down with a hammer and chisel and carved out a stone water trough to last ten thousand years. Why was that? What was it that he had faith in? It wasn’t that nothing would change. Which is what you might think, I suppose. He had to know better than that. I’ve thought about it a good deal. I thought about it after I left there with that house blown to pieces. I’m goin to say that water trough is there yet. It would of took something to move it, I can tell you that. So I think about him settin there with his hammer and his chisel, maybe just a hour or two after supper, I don’t know. And I have to say that the only thing I can think is that there was some sort of promise in his heart. And I don’t have no intentions of carvin a stone water trough. But I would like to be able to make that kind of promise. I think that’s what I would like most of all.”

-Sheriff Bell, from “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy

Hell to the Thief : Radiohead

Thom Yorke, caving to pressure from fans that it was too long, trimmed their sixth album, Hail to the Thief, and reordered the songs. What follows is the revised album that I call Hell to the Thief.

  1. There There (The Boney King of Nowhere)
  2. The Gloaming (Softly Open Our Mouths in the Cold)
  3. Sail To The Moon (Brush the Cobwebs Out of the Sky)
  4. Sit Down, Stand Up (Snakes and Ladders)
  5. Go To Sleep (Little Man Being Erased)
  6. Where I End And You Begin (The Sky is Falling In)
  7. Scatterbrain (As Dead As Leaves)
  8. 2 + 2 = 5 (The Lukewarm)
  9. Myxomatosis (Judge, Jury & Executioner)
  10. A Wolf At The Door  (It Girl. Rag Doll.)

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Oneida Community : Bring Life to the Table

The Oneida Community was a religious commune founded by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848 in Oneida, New York. The community believed that Jesus had already returned in AD 70, making it possible for them to bring about Jesus’s millennial kingdom themselves, and be free of sin and perfect in this world, not just Heaven (a belief called Perfectionism). The Oneida Community practiced Communalism (in the sense of communal property and possessions), Complex Marriage (a polyamorous group marriage wherein all partners live together, share finances, children, and household responsibilities)Male Continence (or coitus reservatus, wherein the penetrative partner does not attempt to ejaculate),and Ascending Fellowship (whereby community elders, considered especially godly, led younger believers heavenward by introducing them to what they saw as the holy pleasures of sex. Shortly after puberty, boys and girls were assigned a succession of older love partners). The community also experimented with eugenics, a deliberate mating strategy in order to produce ideal human specimens. The founder John Humphrey Noyes, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, thought that his “superior” genes should be heavily represented in this effort.

The Oneida Community dissolved in 1881, and eventually became the giant silverware company Oneida Limited.   

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How Superman Movies Should Be

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Superman is the greatest American mythological character and it isn’t even close. After six films, all but one can be considered a blockbuster, but none have topped the original 1978 film starring Christopher Reeves. Yet while it is indisputably the best it is nonetheless flawed.

Superman has a nice three part story arc if any hotshot Hollywood writer wants to use it.

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The first movie would not deal with his origin. This is one of the flaws of the recent Man of Steel, overburdening a movie with a bunch of hastily scribbled nonsense does nothing to advance the character. The first movie is about a super man, emphasis on the man. It is his humanity that should be the focus.

Begin with Kal-El crawling out of a strange looking meteor (swaddled in a unique material that in certain angles reveals the S Shield). Jonathan and Martha Kent find him and eventually adopt him, raising them as his own. He comes into his powers slowly and Pa Kent imbues him with a sense of honor, sacrifice and other such noble sentiments. Paired with Superman’s childhood is the upbringing of Lex Luthor, whose hard life motivates him to gain riches and domination. At the brink of adulthood they both experience an enormous personal loss Luther loses someone/something (Hey, I can’t do all the work here, I’m not getting paid) and Superman loses his father. Keep in mind that Clark, as he is known, just knows that he is “special” and his entrance into the lives of the Kents was “miraculous”. Continue reading

A Brave New World

Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World gets its title from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The line is uttered by the sheltered Miranda. She is astonished to see other men, the coarse and drunken sailors that crashlanded on the island cause her to cry out:

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.

The irony is carried over in Brave New World when John the Savage remarks: “O brave new world that has such people in it.”

The civilized Bernard Marx responds: “You have a most peculiar way of talking sometimes,” said Bernard, staring at the young man in perplexed astonishment. “And, anyhow, hadn’t you better wait till you actually see the new world?”

The French edition was titled Le Meilleur des mondes (The Best of all Worlds) an allusion to the phrase coined by the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz in his theodicy.

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“About 99.5 per cent of the entire population of the planet are as stupid and philistine as the great masses of the English . . . The important thing, it seems to me, is not to attack the 99.5 per cent – except for exercise – but to try to see that the 0.5 per cent survives, keeps its quality up to the highest possible level and, if possible, dominates the rest.”
-Aldous Huxley