Thursday, November 10, 2005

I Normally Don't Do This Kind of Thing . . .

but I do so enjoy the posts at Here's a sample:

November 7, 2005

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The Cruiser hoping to convert Oprah to Scientology. Operation "Evil Celebrity World Domination" enters Phase 2 [insert evil laugh here].

From Bodog : "Tom Cruise plans to lay out $15 million to buy a place in Montecito, Calif., just two doors away from Oprah's $50 million estate! Are these two A-listers just really, really good friends -- or is something else going on? Is it chemistry -- or Scientology? According to a source, Tom, 43, wants to covert Oprah "I think he really thinks he can convert her. Tom seems really eager to lure Oprah into the church because he feels she would be a fantastic spokesperson and attract a whole new set of followers."

So it's finally here, the End of Days. Once they have Oprah, there will be no stopping them. We tried to warn you. So as there seems to be nothing we can do to stop this coming apocalypse, we've done the next best thing and found a way to profit from it! Check out the current odds at on Oprah's conversion. We plan to make some serious money on this... at least then we'll have enough funds to tithe to our future Scientology masters to avoid "re-education" at an "Oprah Camp".

November 3, 2005

"Eww! A girl is touching me! Get it off, get it off!"
Kidman "devastated" about the Cruiser's "baby"

From MSNBC : "Nicole Kidman is said to be “devastated” by the news that her ex-hubby, Tom Cruise, is about to have his first biological [cough, cough] child [spawn] with fiancĂ©e Holmes [CSCV] . And, although Cruise and Kidman are said to be in regular contact with one another, the buzz is that Kidman found out that he was an expecting dad from television. “Nic learned about Tom and Katie’s baby [spawn] the same way as everyone else — from the TV,” a friend of Kidman’s told Britain’s Grazia magazine. “She went shopping immediately after hearing the news to try and take her mind off it, but that just made things worse. She says people pointed at her, and everyone was whispering as soon as she turned her back. She’s taking it very hard.”

Of course, with the Cruiser's newly discovered "Remote Spawning" capability, she should be very careful what she wishes for, he could probably impregnate her cold, barren womb from Toledo. Oh, and Bewitched? Not funny.

November 2, 2005

Ex-Montreal Expos' mascot Youppi loses job. Vows bloody revenge on Martin Holmes.

The prenup saga continues. The Cruiser Spawn Carrying Vehicle (the CSCV) shakes up legal team. Youppi out, her father in. Youppi "devastated".

From MSNBC : "Holmes’s father, Martin, is a lawyer and is representing his daughter in the negotiations, reports the upcoming issue of The Star. Martin Holmes “is playing hardball with the prenup negotiations,” according to the tab, which quotes a source as saying that Holmes wants to make sure that his daughter will receive “a lump sum payment in the millions if the marriage should dissolve before the five-year mark.” Such terms are unusual for a prenup, which usually awards a spouse more money for a longer marriage, but, the source tells the mag: “The Holmes family would never tell Katie if they thought her marriage was doomed from the get-go, but they are pressuring her to hold out not only to protect her interests, but those of her child.”

Wow, have we just found the only sane people in this entire fiasco of a disaster of a train wreck of an Armageddon? Way to go Holmes family! Now if only you hadn't raised your daughter to be a complete moron who allowed herself to be impregnated by an alien space spawn, you guys would really be the best parents EVER! But, hey, 1 out of 2 ain't bad... at least you're getting a prenup! Mazel tov!

November 1, 2005

The Cruiser asks the Cruiser Spawn Carrying Vehicle (the CSCV) to sign a prenup. The CSCV displays brilliant legal mind and "Freaks out"

Katie's crack legal team, led by ex-Montreal Expos' mascot Youppi, comments on prenup. Thumbs up!
From upcoming Star: "Holmes was recently shocked when love-of-her-life Tom Cruise asked her to sign a prenup. "She's freaked out," the source says. "I think she thought it meant that he wasn't sure their relationship would last." [NO! well that thought certainly never crossed our minds] The source says that the idea of a prenup had never occurred to Katie. [but converting to his alien parasite religion was just fine] "She is head over heels in love with him and couldn't bear the thought that he might not be equally as in love," the source said. He told Katie that the prenup was for "her protection." [hey, wait a second... this sounds suspicious..] "He explained that at 43, he's more than 16 years older than she is," [okay...] said the source, "and although he's healthy, who knows what life has in store?" [uh-oh, we can see where this is going... here it comes, Katie...] Worried that he might die young like his dad, Tom told Katie, "he wanted to create a prenup so that she will always be taken care of, no matter what." [And, BINGO! Nice one Cruiser, very subtle. But, um, isn't that what the will is for? Not that we're lawyers or anything... Just wondering....]

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Since You Asked
I think the classic definitions of the uncanny differentiate it from horror (and terror) as these are defined by one's physical responses to the object (whatever theories people have about the psychological sources of those feelings). The uncanny is both supernatural and disturbing or eerie--that is, one the one hand, it's defined by being inexplicable according to the ordinary operations of nature (thus, a rotting corpse is not uncanny though it may be an object of horror); on the other, by not being very nice (therefore miracles and God are not uncanny).
Freud's way of looking at the uncanny is interesting and very influential: It makes the familiar strange through some transformation that is generally to be explained as a psychological mechanism of defense, denial, alienation, and thus undermines our sense of the reality of reality, or ability to discern the real from the imagined, illusory, or subjective. Thus, typical uncanny themes are ghosts (much better when they are the ghosts of someone known); vampires (ditto, as they generally are in classic folklore); zombies (which confuse the categories or life and death); doppelgaengers (isn't that me? But I'm me!! Aaaaaagh!!!!). That's why my list tends to things like The Turn of the Screw, which are very decidedly ghost stories without necessarily being in the horror genre. Bartleby is interesting because, like Kafka and Borges, it skirts the issue of the supernatural. I am especially interested in situations where the uncanny effect is created not primarily by the device of a ghost, etc., but by a literary technique such as multiple points of view (as in Dracula or Rashomon), nesting of stories (as in The Manuscript Found at Saragossa), or weird narrative puzzles (as in Ubik). Personally, I think Stephen King is a very good writer of horror novels but only occasionally really interested in the uncanny, and then the effect is forced; Phillip K. Dick and Peter Straub are just deeply attracted to the uncanny. The title of Emmanuel Carrere's biography of Dick is pretty uncanny itself; at least it's extremely eerie: I Am Alive and You are Dead.
Unlike the basic category of the horror novel or film, the category of the uncanny fits pretty well with other things I teach, try to read up on, and hope to write more about: the nature of dreams; the theme of cannibalism in psychodynamics, esp. of childhood; and the identity issues posed by artificial persons in novels and film. On the latter, I think there's a lot in genuine philosophy and cultural theory lately, but very little that's psychodynamically oriented, so recognizing the continuity between , say, Blade Runner and Edgar Allan Poe on the living dead, automata, and doubles could be kind of interesting.
Dreyer, Vampyr

The Uncanny

I've been considering proposing a course on The Uncanny in Film and Lit. Unfortunately, I don't have time right now to go into why I'm feeling "The Uncanny" helps me to get at something I couldn't do with a course on Horror or The Gothic, but it basically comes down to seeing The Uncanny as an issue in representation rather than underlying beliefs--that is, the supernatural premise or incident is treated as defining subject matter and context for conventions in an analysis of the Gothic novel or the horror film, but I want to get instead at the creation of the sensation of the uncanny (and the conventions and premises, etc.) through the limitations and possibilities of representation, in narrative fiction and film. (Admittedly, this what a lot of theory-heads would do anyway, but I would be happier starting things out rightside-up by turning the conventional assumptions about the relation between reality and representation in art upside-down to begin with--that is, to admit, that supernatural belief is a function of narrative rather than assuming that narrative conveys supernatural belief.)
One reason I know this would be interesting for me to do is that the list of texts comes so easily:

E. T. A. Hoffman
Keats - the gothic poerms
Poe (M. Valdemar, The Black Cat, The Tale-Tale Heart, Ligeia, William Wilson, a lot of others, really)
Washington Irving - The Stranger with a Bag, maybe Sleepy Hollow
Hogg - Private Memoirs and Confessions
Eliot - The Lifted Veil
Potocki - The Manuscript Found at Saragossa
Dostoevsky - The Double
Melville - Bartleby?
James - The Turn of the Screw, The Friends of the Friends
Dracula (esp. the uncanniness created by multiple and partial views)
Stevenson - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
M. R. James, E. F. Benson
Six Characters in Search of an Author
Kafka - In the Penal Colony
Borges, Calvino
Shirley Jackson, Muriel Spark
Dick - Ubik, The Man in the High Castle
Peter Straub - Ghost Story
This leaves out, among other things, excerpting Montaigne, Thomas Browne, Robert Burton on considering the uncanny; and probably some orientation to the influence of Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet on the Romantics' sense of the Uncanny. It'd be nice to find something in Hazlitt and DeQuincey.


The Golem
The Student of Prague
The Dybbuk
Cat People
The Uninvited
The Innocents
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Les diaboliques
Rosemary's Baby
Total Recall
And in art generally, there'd be Goya, Fuseli, the Pre-Raphaelites, Surrealism, the Chapmans, Tony Oursler . . .

Key issues: This'd let me go into:
Anomalous psychological experience
Threats to identity
Mulitiplicity of view, subjectivity, transcendentalism
Metaphysical paradox
Self-reference and Romantic irony
Gender and sexuality
I wouldn't base it on Freud, but a psychoanalytic view especially with a lot of Klein (reparation as haunting) would be good. Todorov. Mary Douglas probably has something relevant, too; structuralism is a very good approach for establishing the Uncanny.
I'd be very happy to have the chance to go into this while thinking about some of the films (I've never written up my talk on The Dybbuk for an article) and working on the Double novel.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I'm very glad that my work--maybe that should read "work"--gives me the opportunity to read Divine Hunger: Cannibalism as a Cultural System, by Peggy Reeves Sanday. Normally, I don't have any interest in getting started on polemics in the classroom. And normally, I don't want to push psychoanalytically-inflected theories of behavior too hard. But I'm hoping some of the students in my Humanities course, as we discuss the Friday sections of Robinson Crusoe, Heart of Darkness, and some excerpts from Reeves' book and the cannibalism section in Gustav Jahoda's Images of Savages, will notice the connections between the rationales for cannibalism in some of the societies that practice it, as well as the fury directed at purported cannibals, and the justifications offered by the government of the United States for reserving the right to practice torture.
You can feel like something of a nutcase taking an interest in cannibalism at all, even when anyone who's considered it is aware of the deep relation between cannibalism and the roots of aggression, sadism, and violence (as well as the imagery of the nightmare, which is an area I'm primarily interested in)--and still more so when you are noting a connection in the psychology of Jeffrey Dahmer and George W. Bush. But it's there--not a whole lot more than in the rest of us, but then most of us don't, whether intentionally or incidentally, kill a whole lot of people.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I had been telling him how the Devil was God's enemy in the Hearts of Men, and used all his Malice and Skill to defeat the good Designs of Providence, and to ruine the Kingdom of Christ in the World; and the like. Well, says Friday; but you say, God is so strong, so great, is he not much strong, much might as the Devil? Yes, yes, says I , Friday, God is stronger than the Devil, and therefore we pray to God to tread him down under our Feet, and enable us to resist his Temptations and quench his fiery Darts. But, he says again, if God much strong, much might as the Devil, why God no kill the Devil, so make him do no more wicked?
I was strangely surpriz'd at his Question, and after all, tho' I was now an old Man, yet I was but a young Doctor, and ill enough quallified for a Casuist, or a Solver of Difficulties: And at first I could not tell what to say, so I pretended not to hear him, and ask'd him what he said. But he was too earnest for an Answer to forget his Question; so that he repeated it in the very same broken Words, as above. By this time I had recovered my self a little, and I said, God will at last punish him severely; he is reserv'd for the Judgement, and is to be cast into the Bottomless-Pit, to dwell with everlasting Fire: This did not satisfie Friday, but he returns upon me, repeating my Words, RESERVE, AT LAST, me no understand; but, why not kill the Devil now, not kill great ago?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

And Then There's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
which has a weird sort of hidden relationship to The Threepenny Opera, which, when you think of it, is kind of inevitable--how many models are there for a really interesting 20th-century opera, self-consciously aware of its relation to the past? The relationship is coded into the musical score by Michel Legrand, which, I've always thought, has several moments that are precise transformations of The Threepenny Opera (which is also true of the American film version of Pennies from Heaven and of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd). But in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the irony swings the other way. The Threepenny Opera seems like a black-and-white film even when it's performed live on stage; The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is more "about" color than maybe any film outside of Paradjanov. The Threepenny Opera is one of the few entirely successful examples of political art in the twentieth century; The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a self-consuming artifact of the growth of cinematic connoisseurship. It goes to the other extreme, but it works. I never quite understand people who say they don't get it. Maybe they expect it to be something other than it is. I wouldn't trade a good Douglas Sirk movie for it, but it's still great in the same way.