Wednesday, July 27, 2011

BOOK TO FILM: Can We, Should We, Improve Henry James?

Ben Chaplin as Morris Townsend 1997

How to make a movie from the work of a brilliant writer, how intimidating is it to alter even a single sentence of the great Henry James? And if we do, how can we live up to his high standard?

Henry's brother William was a pioneer in psychology, and Henry himself is famous for creating characters and situations which hinge on psychology.

However in his novella Washington Square, though the characters are quite carefully and fully drawn with the interiority of psychology, nonetheless James created his villain with his motives black and white with scarcely gray. So often, the power of a tale rests on how well the villain is drawn. Dare I say that the entire novella fails because the villain needed more ambiguity.*

Henry James
Intimidation from a man
dead a century?

How could the Old Master of psychology make such a grave psychological mistake? Or am I judging by modern standards? Dare we alter his story to our taste? And how?

It was produced for Broadway and twice for Hollywood. The black and white nature deeply bothered all three of those writers/directors (four actually), and they all did something about it, yet keeping fairly faithful.

James is a bit difficult to dramatize as so much of the "action" happens inside people's heads. To dramatize him requires made-up scenes. But even the made-up scenes remain faithful to the original. Is this reverence? Is it intimidation from a man dead a century? James does look fierce in his older photos, and I can imagine moviemakers tip-toeing around, hoping not to rouse the giant asleep.

Further down is a beautiful song video from the 1997 movie

Henry James young, if he ever was

Saturday, July 9, 2011

No No It Was I Who Discovered Stephen Fry

I know a good thing when I see it

It was I, it was I who discovered Stephen Fry. It was me.

What is our relationship to celebrities?

You know how it is, you stumble across something, something no one ever told you about, and you figure out all by yourself that it's something really special. You're so proud of yourself, you're going to tell the world about your discovery, everyone will look to you for what's newest and best.

And what's more- he's yours, all yours. You can tell people about him-- but he will never be theirs, he'll always be yours-- Right?


For example I am the sole discoverer of many other such stars. A search for "BBC comedy" on a download site, brings up many wonderful acts that I discovered all by myself. Have you ever heard of The Two Ronnies? Probably not- I discovered them. Have you ever heard of Mark Steel? Probably not- I discovered him, too. Of "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again"? No, you haven't, they're all mine. The Goon Show? No, mine. Victor Borge? Probably not. Mine, mine, mine. You may never have heard of them, yet they are all simply brilliant. Heard of Stephen Fry? Probably not. . . because he's mine. . . Oops! I guess you have. . . And where does that leave ME?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

let me see the colts


Bill Callahan
formerly known as Smog
(photo fr music-illuninati)

Bill Callahan is an unusual singer/songwriter, a product of Austin (well not originally)- he is not just talented but peculiar, not just sensitive but, as he appears from the video (below), also a little cocky (in a good way); a little awkward and standoffish, even dismissive- but embraces his star power- my assumptions just going by that video.

I suspect he takes his fame ironically, he's a name you imagine written all lower case; nevertheless, he takes it. He's loyal to his first label; he used to live with Joanna Newsom; you can tell he's awesome. He's clearly an underground star but I think he will stay one. I do not know if he is "old news," but then, how can Bill Callahan ever be old news.

This first song is not just my favorite song by Callahan, it's one of my favorite songs by anyone.

But lyrics first!


I Have Been Faithful to Thee. . . in my fashion.. Two LOST POEMS

The Stolen Kiss

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1787-1789
(The Hermitage, St. Petersburg)

I used to spend hours at a time as a girl in my bed luxuriating in poetry books like a long lazy boat ride, especially when I was sick, woozily lost in a world I have missed for a long time.

I never knew whether the poet I was reading was famous or "lost" or altogether terrible, so I formed my own mind and favorites.

It turns out my natural taste was pretty true to canon. Two I am thinking of now, however, are genuinely "lost," or at least two of their poems are; once beloved and now virtually unknown.

And yet, one of them coined two spectacularly famous phrases that all of us still know- and use! I guarantee that at some time, you have used them both.

 chaste obsession, the Muse
Photo by Joanna Thomas, flckr
The young Ernest Dowson- who was to remain forever young (1867-1900)- was a Decadence movement poet who hobnobbed with the likes of Yeats, and presumably addressed his poetry to an 11-year-old waitress at the restaurant he frequented. 

Oscar Wilde's biographer discovered him in a bar dying of absinthe, to which he was addicted, and took him home to mend but, age 32, Dowson never recovered.

Dowson has two phrases we've eternalized- and yet few know his name. His work is full of phrases begging to be eternalized. The poem he is known for (if at all), remains one of my favorites** that I find truly delightful (if decadence can be delightful)- and full of quotable phrases.

Dowson is a poet lost but not forgotten. His name is what's lost. This poem might appear on any list of lost poems. I discovered this terrific literary article that analyzes that poem.* Here we learn of Dowson's skill as a French translator of Verlaine- from whom he borrowed the 12-syllable French line called the Alexandrine, to powerful effect.

Here are Dowson's two phrases that I promise you, YOU HAVE USED:

A Mathematician makes a very good Hero! The Wild Numbers by Schogt, Review

Philibert Schogt
photo: chris van hout

I discovered this charming and peculiar book in an excellent "remains" bookstore in the Village*- an all-too-slim novel about Isaac Swift, 35-year-old mathematics professor afraid of never doing anything spectacular- when he finds himself in the middle of solving one of mathematic's greatest puzzles.

Over a series of sleepless nights, nearly to drive him insane, Swift finds himself solving the "Beauregard Wild Number Problem," proposed by 19th century mathematics genius Anatole Millechamps de Beauregard. The core of the book is about math, but as accessible as a letter from a best friend.

De Beauregard, a mind too restless to be more than a riveting, large-living and -loving puzzle writer, was murdered by his best friend when found in bed with his wife. Thus de Beauregard died without telling anyone the answer to his latest riddle, and a century of mathematicians have all but despaired of solving it.

What- you've never heard of mathematician Anatole Millechamps de Beauregard?! Or of his "Beauregard Wild Number Problem"?!!


Shakespeare's Manager Requests A SMALL REWRITE


English majors may consider this the funniest video ever.

Rowan Atkinson as Shakespeare's manager, wishes to improve one of Shakespeare's more flawed soliloquies. Shakespeare looks suspiciously like Hugh Laurie.

"I think we should trim. . . some of that stand-up stuff in the middle of the action."
"You mean the soliloquies."
"Exactly. And I think we both know which is the dodgy one."

From Comic Relief, not sure of  year.

Book Review: Special Topics in Calamity Physics

Marisha Pessl
book jacket, as mentioned below
Photo: Deborah Lopez, The New York Times

I found Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics as charming and fun to read, was as impressed by her cleverness, as anyone. It was on the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year (2006). Charming, fun, clever- but its strengths are its weaknesses too.

The book has its own charming, though slow, website:
And a movie is said to be in the works by Scott Rudin, the producer who snagged The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and produced The Social Network, The Queen etc.

I was particularly impressed by Pessl's creation of the character of the father, who came across so three-dimensional that you could assume that it must be Pessl's real father, and the story a memoir. Sometimes we love him and sometimes we are appalled, but always we are fascinated and wish we knew him. The narrator's voice is fairly distinctive also. The Hannah character wasn't too bad either. But no creation here comes even close to the father's character.

charming "photo" (found online) of Blue van Meer,
the heroine/narrator of Special Topics*

A lot of critics were irritated by the style..

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Olive Kitteridge book review: I Trust Elizabeth Strout

One Minute Book Review
Olive Kitteridge
by Elizabeth Strout
In Word for Word productions,
actors read aloud the entire chapter,
including "he said, she said."

Joel Mullennix directed two chapters
from Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Olive Kitteridge."

At Theater Artaud, San Francisco, Sept 2010,
& later at Standord Univ. 2011,
starring Warren David Keith & Patricia Silver.


One of the most important things I look for in a book is: "Do I trust the writer?" 
When the writer reveals characters through what they feel or do, is this really human nature?

I'm not a fan of those family dramas, the "real life" of mature people; for example, I was unable to force myself through Judy Picoult's The Deep End of the Ocean. 
But Olive Kitteridge, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by this woman, Elizabeth Strout:


Physicists Vote on 'Most Beautiful Equations of All Time'

illusion by donguriko

Physics and mathematics periodicals frequently hold polls  for readers to vote on the equation they most admire. The results hold fairly stable from poll to poll. Here are some excerpts about these results:

“Some were nominated for the sheer beauty of their simplicity, some for the breadth of knowledge they capture, others for historical importance.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls Development: Raphael Golb Appeal Brief Filed, March 2011

Latest developments in the Dead Sea Scrolls trial of Raphael Golb:

Raphael Golb's attorney Ron Kuby has filed his Appeal brief, to the First Appellate Division of New York:

from Raphael Golb's Appeal brief: the Tucker Carlson hoax emails: 

Tucker Carlson opened a fake website/email for "Keith Olbermann." "Olbermann" answered a reporter, who believed him, with outrageous emails. "'s amusing as hell," said Carlson.

"The opportunity to acquire arose 
and we felt it was a market niche which we could enter and dominate 
and it would be a public service so we did it. 
Plus it's amusing as hell." -Tucker Carlson

If the court of Appeals does not overturn the Dead Sea Scrolls case, then people like Tucker Carlson stand in danger of being sent to the State Penitentiary for this "amusing" behavior.

The jist of Kuby's argument seems to be that what Raphael Golb did on the internet was simply not a crime.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls: Two Nov. online Articles by Golb, Golb

Raphael Golb was given permission to write.
Judge Berkman, in her November sentencing, gave Raphael permission to write about his case.

Raphael Golb has written his own account of his Dead Sea Scrolls case (link below).

In his essay below, Raphael provides a multitude of details, most of which will be quite new to readers.
Raphael's essay ties together loose ends; shows everyone's part in the case; etc; and it will be clearer how the case was too complicated for a jury.
(A great deal of his account, you will find, my own blog had gotten wrong, or halfway, or not at all)

Raphael Golb: "The Dead Sea Scrolls Scandal: How I Was Convicted of a Crime" Nov. 2010: