SEEN: Apocalypse Now Redux

Let me preface this by saying that I am a cinematic dunce.

At least, when I was a kid, Bill Collins was still presenting pre-1950 Hollywood films every Saturday night on Australian television. That was the 80s, of course. I think I got a lot more depth in my cinematic education then than the young kids today to, with the hair and the iPods and the not getting off of my lawn.

But still. Dunce. I didn’t even get who had died at the end of The Sixth Sense.

This was endlessly frustrating to my colleague in the States Nishad, who was a cinephile. He forced me to watch films, to make up for my duncehood. I thank him for making me watch The Seven Samurai.

OTOH: he also made me watch Blade Runner, and my reaction to that was, “Yeah, it’s Noir with Robots. So?”

On Mary C. Gignilliat’s mention, I’ve watched Apocalypse Now Redux. I had never watched either the original, or this edit.

Is the original Apocalypse Now, 49 minutes shorter, significantly tighter? This is a director’s cut, and it may have suffered from it. Do let me know if it has.

Thank you Mez, for reminding me I should have watched it a long time ago.

Of course, I suffer for having watched it 35 years after Nam was a live issue. (But then again, the film really isn’t about Nam at all, of course; so maybe that’s a good thing.)

I also suffer for being a cinematic dunce.

I got it. I was unsettled by it. And I’m happy I was able to put the cultural touchstones to a movie, all the quotables from Kilgore (Duvall) in particular.

I’ve got to admit: I didn’t enjoy it. Tamar kept seeing my brow furrowing.

I’m OK with it not having that much of a narrative, and with it being self-consciously trippy, even if the self-indulgence of Jimbo and the Doors gets very old very quickly. But I prefer discipline in my art, I’m more Apollo than Dionysus. I think 2001 was much more successful there than Apocalypse Now.

I’m OK with shows of cinematographic inventiveness; but again, the merge edits seem to me to have been handled more elegantly elsewhere. In fact, that was what struck me about the filming of it: it was artistic alright, but it was inelegant. Fairly obvious in its use of imagery. Unsubtle in some of its juxtapositions, such as the tape from home playing while the gunner was killed.

And it was dated. That surprised me. The mumbling narrator; the cross fades; the poring through closeups of letters; the extreme closeups of faces. Those were fads, it turned out, not building elements of film for all time.

The other surprise, for such a spawner of memes and cultural memories, was how less… monumental it was than I’d imagined. I thought there’d be a bellow or a shout behind “taste of victory” or “the horror, the horror”, I fancied that the Wagnerian choppers were going to jump out of my laptop. In actual experience, it was… subtle where I was hoping for it not to be.

The trip down through degradation of Martin Sheen was clear, once I got over my first half hour of confusion; in fact, it was pretty obvious that the actual Mistah Kurtz was going to prove a MacGuffin, and that Brando and Sheen were supposed to be the same heart of darkness ultimately, long before the Cambodian tribesmen bowed down before him. And much of it was well handled. The border bridge, the Playboy weirdness at the PABX, the shooting up of the boat with the puppy.

I think the whole Surfing Chopper thing was unbalanced though. Duvall was chewing a lot of scenery, making Sheen a bewildered bystander, in a way that really didn’t fit in with the rest of the film: his antics really were a strange entr’acte, and the parody of the military seemed forced. (Perhaps Nam really was like that, and it just seems unbelievable now. After all, I thought Nixon meeting the protesters in Oliver Stone’s film was a fabrication too.)

A grand ambitious ramshackle film. I’m glad it exists; but I thought it was let down by its ambition.

And that judgement, I guess, is why I’m a cinematic dunce. (Or why I should try again with the original edit.)

PARTLY READ: George Herbert

I got a fifth of the way through the Temple on holiday (his complete works), before deciding that I needed to go back and get a listing of what the good stuff was.

A couple of the short poems I read were good. Not transcendentally good, but good enough that I looked forward to finding even better ones.

But most of the longer poems were dreadful. Sermonising in rhyme that did not have any real fervour to it. And I’ve come to accept that the rhyme glory/story is his equivalent to McGonagall’s signature without delay/without dismay.

Yes, I went there. And McGonagall at least is inadvertently funny. Although the intro said that on occasion so is Herbert.

Like I said. I believe there is brilliance there; and I saw some flashes of it in the first fifth of the Temple. (I don’t think any of his most famous pieces are in that first fifth.) But I will need to come back to it with a cicerone.

Why do Australians say fuck off all the time to everything even birds?

I wish to register my mockery of Quora deciding that (a) a question about the use of the word fuck is automatically an Adult Question; and (b) much more importantly, that there shall be No Request From Suggestions available for any Adult Question. What would an Australian Quora term that, I wonder? Infantilising horseshit, I imagine.

Why people are so self centered and swear like that like everyone is for their own. Is it because I live in the suburb areas?

You know, I am a tolerant, latte-sipping, multiculti and gentle soul (irenic, in fact), and I repudiate my fellow nationals when they say shit like “Australia. If you don’t love it, fuck off”.

But part of the social contract when you live here is that you accept the culture of the majority, and make an effort to understand it rather than judging it. You will also find, if you investigate further, that there is nothing suburban about this. The Australian inner city likes to denigrate the Australian outer suburbs as bogans, which is an accusation of uncouthness; but any difference in swearing is only a matter of degree. There’s plenty of profanity in hipsterville too.

Australians enjoy profanity, like many societies do, as an expression of strong emotion. There are some added components to the Australian predilection, though I doubt they are unique to Australia; ask a Serb, for example. (In fact, I think I will: Lara Novakov?)

  • The Australian popular strain of culture has defined itself in opposition to the British establishment. (Don’t forget the “convict stain”.) Profanity is its British working class/underclass inheritance.
  • Australians enjoy profanity as a performance piece. Hence profanity directed towards birds. (And have you ever been swooped on by one of those bastards?)
  • Australians swear to express positive as well as negative sentiments. It is an expression of strong emotion in either case, from a stereotypically taciturn people.
  • Critically: this is not solipsistic, individualistic arrogance. This is a community norm. Not the entire community, but a critical mass of enough of the community accept it and revel in it. The premiss that “people are so self centered and swear like that like everyone is for their own” is one I have to reject.

Trace, back me up here; don’t restrict your reactions to Facebook! 🙂

Who’s your favorite banned Quoran?

Jimmy Liu.

On strike in support of Jay Liu by Nick Nicholas on Opɯdʒɯlɯklɑr In Exile

My first experience of a popular (massively popular) Quora user banned. One that has coloured all my interaction with Quora since.

The Question Details solicit information as to why people were banned. Quora bans all such discourse, and I’m tempted to remove that detail.

I continue to find that practice counterproductive, and perpetuating an atmosphere of capriciousness and unaccountability. But it’s fair to link to Tatiana Estévez’ recent articulation of why Quora does so: Tatiana Estévez’s answer to Why does Quora delete all questions pertaining to the ban of Quora users?

The question on why Jimmy was banned was deleted. Of course. And even before it was, the one answer that was well informed was deleted. It was a screenshot from the Top Writers’ Facebook Group, of a Quora employee saying that whatever the reason was, it was not to do with his recent name change, as we’d all assumed.

(The fact that such a discussion could be had on the Top Writers’ Facebook Group and not here on Quora is another cause of rage to me, btw.)

What’s the whole thing about the widow in Zorba the Greek?

Depends what whole thing you’re asking about.

The village widow comes up again in Kazantzakis’ Christ Recrucified, as the stand-in for Mary Magdalen: in traditional Greek society, a young widow was the only available sexual outlet for men—unmarried women were guarded by their fathers, married women by their husbands. So lots of barely repressed stuff there with the author.

The figure of Madam Hortense in Zorba is portrayed with indulgence and sympathy, as a sexual figure (as women often are in the novels), but also as a misfit, a stranger stuck in Greek traditional society. Certainly with a lot more sympathy than others. Captain Michael has a standin for Kazantzakis bring his Jewish wife back home to Crete, and the ghost of the grandfather tormenting her to her death. I think of Kazantzakis himself, flirting with Jewish women in Berlin in his 40s (“liebe Genossin”), and feel like retching.

That’s two “what’s the whole thing”s, but I’ll add if you get more specific, OP, and if I remember.

What might future languages look like?

One of the foundational assumptions of Historical Linguistics is Uniformitarianism. We assume that, after the initial period of the evolution of language, Language is going to look the same as a structure, no matter if it’s 5000 years ago or 5000 years from now—because language is determined as a human faculty, and humans have not essentially changed biologically. So long as human brains are the same, and the human vocal tract is the same, language will be more of the same.

In fact, even if you take the human vocal tract out of the equation, language is still pretty much the same. One of the more gratifying conclusions from the study of sign languages is that Cherology is not essentially different to phonology. Which is in fact why we no longer use the term cherology.

Now, if the robots take over, the singularity hits and we get plugged into the Matrix, we all drown, or we all nuke each other, all bets are off. But so long as humans remain identifiably human, and live in recognisably human societies, there’s no reason to think that future languages will look substantially different to our current languages, any more than preliterate languages look substantially different to literary languages.

There’ll be bits that are different, sure. Different fads in discourse organisation. Different semantic fields in vocabulary. Different metaphors. Different extents of linguistic diversity, maybe (though dialects are certainly far from dead; they’re just organised along different distributions now). But there will still be anaphors, and word orders, and sandhi, and coarticulation, and synonyms, and presuppositions, and inflections, and tenses. The core of language as a system will remain recognisable.

Answered 2016-12-06 · Upvoted by

Logan R. Kearsley, MA in Linguistics from BYU, 8 years working in research for language pedagogy. and

Steve Rapaport, Linguistics PhD candidate at Edinburgh. Has lived in USA, Sweden, Italy, UK.

What did Cormac Mccarthy mean by: “There is no God and we are his prophets.”?

Don’t even know who the chap is, but don’t need to, it’s pretty obvious.

This is a parody of the Islamic profession of faith, There is no God but Allah, but Muhammad is His Prophet. As His Prophet, Muhammad systematised and presented to the community the understanding of the divine that is Islam. Muhammad conveyed from Allah an understanding of the divine, through the Quran.

Mccarthy’s statement is:

  • There is no God [at all]: i.e., Atheism
  • We are his prophets: instead of Muhammad, each of us constructs our own understanding of the divine (acts as a Prophet), because that understanding is ultimately a response to human concerns, and not a revelation from beyond.

What are some aspects of famous Quorans that you dislike?

Ahah! An opportunity to complain about Quora Celebrities! Which I’m not! I’m, what, tier #3 out of #4?

Surprised I haven’t found this already asked elsewhere. Though, of course, Quora Search.

There are frequent recurring complaints about Tier #1 writers, those with follower counts in the tens or hundreds of thousands. They are why I make a point of not following them, and have limited interaction with them. They are not intrinsic personality flaws: they are partly Quora Celebrities being the victims of their success (overloaded in Quora traffic), and partly Quora Celebrities being the victims of being the kinds of personalities that end up being followed by hundreds of thousands.

Just a list in no particular order, and with no particular referents. (OK, some of them I have some people in mind, but this is not meant for character assassination.)

  • Soapboxing
  • Superciliousness
  • Superficiality
  • Surfeit of Upvotes
  • Instablocking
  • Ignoring Interaction
  • Intransigence
  • Irascibility
  • and: Cliquishness
    • Yes, we Tier #2 and #3 people do it too. But we don’t have an official Facebook forum for it.

EDIT: I am hereby adopting Eric Villines’ taxonomy, which is nicely refined: Eric Villines’ answer to What are the different “tiers” of Quora writers (related to number of views)? I am talking about his Tier #6.

To summarise (with my descriptors):

  • Tier 1: lurkers. 0 followers.
  • Tier 2: occasional users. <10 followers. 10–1k views/month.
  • Tier 3: regular users. 10–20 followers. 1–10k views/month.
  • Tier 4: serious users. 20–1k followers. 10k–100k views/month.
  • Tier 5: popular/addicted users. 1k–10k followers. 100k–1M views/month.
  • Tier 6: superstars. 10k+ followers, 1M+ views.

Under this taxonomy, everyone I choose to associate with is #3–#5, and my big change in Quora behaviour was when I started to associate with #5, fairly recently. The famous people described in this answer are #6. I am #4, and will hit #5 on current trends next year.