Why Colonel Sartoris?

Allow me to explain the puzzling title. Colonel Sartoris is William Faulkner's greatest character. He exemplifies those values that his society cherishes, namely tradition, patriarchy, courtliness, and courage. Though modernity's slow march tries to strip him of these things, Sartoris continues to live as he always has, knowing that "the past is never dead. It's not even past." He seeks order in the honorable folkways and mores of his forbears. Let us not forget his example.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Penny & the Quarters

Blue Valentine doesn't haunt me, but it should.

The movie has no seams, no joints, no faults in its workmanship that can be seen.  Part of that is a function of the movie itself.  Its jumps back and forth between the current, dire distress of a marriage and its youthful, hopeful, ebullient beginning could easily derail it; it has to be perfect to pull this off.  But it is.  The movie shuttles between an emotionally turbulent day in the present and past scenes of a couple's romance.  It sounds like cinematic whiplash, but the past and present tightly dovetail to form a textured, poignant picture of their love story.  We don't know what happens at the end.  The couple may divorce, they may reconcile, we just don't know, but it's a very real, very gritty love story.

Quentin Tarantino gets it--a soundtrack doesn't make a movie, but a good one can really drive home the themes and emotions being acted out on the screen.  And this song emerged as the MVP of the soundtrack of Blue Valentine.  It's by some group called "Penny & the Quarters," and it has become a serious hit.  Strangely, though, no one, except perhaps the singers of this song, have any idea who sung it.  The unknown group recorded it, as well as two others songs, as a demo in Columbus, Ohio, some time between 1970 and 1975 for Harmonic Sounds Studio.  It was never released until 2004 by Numero Group, long after soul music's peak in popularity.  The song's popularity is just too weird to explain--part of me thinks this whole story is a hoax: "Long lost soul record becomes hit song in romantic drama."  But stranger, much stranger, things have happened.  But the song is perfect for the movie.  It is simple, poignant, and spare.  And real.  It's one female vocal lead, three or four male background vocals, and one accompanying electric guitar.  That's it.  The crackle of the vintage equipment gives it texture and authenticity, while the obvious youthfulness of its singers give it a hopeful, yearning quality.  The song wraps up all the movies themes--love, hurt, hope, uncertainty, inexperience, youth, expectation (and a ton of others, I'm sure)--and delivers them in about two and a half minutes.  It's incredible, and the movie, which is masterfully written, shot, and produced, absolutely benefits from its presence.

Yeah, Blue Valentine could be a tad depressing.  But the fact that the audience, coming out of the movie, cannot predict the fate of two people in a bad situation gives me, for one, considerable hope.  The two leads certainly could divorce (they both carry onerously heavy baggage of their own dysfunctional families), but they could just as easily forge ahead and grow stronger with each other.  It details an accidental marriage in a brutally realistic way, and for that, it is worth seeing.  And while the picture is not rosy, it is not bleak, either.  And that, for me, certainly makes it worth watching.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Live blogging the State of the Union

9:38 - ditto on the infrastructure.  Fully paid for?  Yeah right.  How does road-building attract private investment, though?  High-speed rail?  "Without the pat down" . . . wah wah.

9:40 -- don't really care about faster Internet.

9:41--tax reform will never happen.  Lobbyists are too powerful.  Still, 1986 Tax Reform Act gives a little hope . . .

9:43--reduction of red tape.  Is this Reagan giving the speech?  Ah, common sense safeguards = blank check to EPA.  No one's a fan of exploitation.  Wow -- all 9 Supreme Court Justices!

9:45--sweet deadpan "healthcare."  Good dual applause for bookkeeping burdens on small business.  Pre-existing condition, egh.  Oh gosh -- the personal appeals.  CNN cuts to presumed victim.

9:47--legacy of deficit spending, a true conservative's beef with Bush.  Nice thought, but goodness, what are the tactics that will implement this pipe dream?  Here it comes -- freeze annual domestic spending???  This is a Democratic idea?  Holy crap -- never thought I'd hear cuts . . . and Dennis Kucinich and his family claps for the "tens of billions in military spending" cuts.

9:49--Did the teleprompter break when he gave his plane analogy?  Hmmm.  Oh yeah, John Cornyn.

9:50--big on this tax loophole reduction.  Who is that woman?  Repealing health care law will add $250 trillion to deficit?  Huh?  Rare applause from Republicans on the med-mal lawsuits.

9:51--can't put at risk current retirees, but how do we not slash benefits for future generations? Whims of stock market . . . yeah, privatization might not have been the way to go . . . (although regulation presumably wouldn't have allowed investment in CDOs).  And AGAIN, tax code simplification.  Third time I've heard it.  Did Steve Forbes get ahold of this draft?  Oh yeah -- Tom Coburn and Schumer!!!!!

"Can't win the future with a government of the past!"  12 different agencies that deal with exports, 5 different ones that deal with housing policy.   My favorite example -- Interior Dept for freshwater salmon, Commerce Department when in freshwater.  Gosh, that was a bad joke about smoked salmon.  This is a conservative theme.

9:56--"open and competent."  Is this Wilsonian gov't accountability?

9:57--"no one rival superpower is aligned against us."  HELLO--China????  "America's moral example must always shine for those who yearn for freedom, and justice, and dignity."  Great line.  Obligatory standing ovation for troops, as it should be.  Iraq war coming to an end -- all agree it's a good thing. 

10:01--"We will not relent, we will not waiver, and we WILL defeat YOU."  Almost Bush-ean.

START Treaty.  Not a terrible idea.  China's nuclear arsenal is much smaller, though they're allegedly modernizing it.  "US is the only nuclear power that does not have a modernization program."  Dean Cheng, China's Nuclear Capabilties, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION, http://blog.heritage.org/?p=50387

10:06--RED MEAT FOR RED STATES.  "I call on our college campuses to open our doors to armed services recruiters."

Is that Kay Bailey Hutchison and Byron Dorgan?  Oh yeah.  Dorgan--you are clearly the winner in that seating arrangement.

10:09--Joe Biden fist pump (was wondering when it would happen).  And homage to Boehner . . . cue the tears . . . YES.  Definitely crying.

10:11--"Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things."  This is what drives our economy--small business.

Darn good speech, Mr. Prez.