Dec 15, 2011

Conan the Barbarian, Mark II

Spoiler Alert -- tongue in cheek, because for reasons I will soon set out, what I'll inevitably reveal about the plot and events of the new Conan movie are unlikely to ruin anyone's movie-going or -watching experience.  But on the off-chance that someone hasn't yet seen the movie who has been hankering to do so, and would be shocked or disappointed to learn what occurs in the face of dangers braved by Conan and his compatriots. . . well, they'll want to stop reading here, or at the break just below.  Or, if of easily offended sensibilities about our times and the inferiority of their cinematic products, right about now.

For the new Conan remake suffers under many of the same defects that typically plague relatively recent epic action, adventure, and combat movies -- when they are remakes or retellings, for then the comparisons to previous incarnations become inescapable.  These are not defects of choreography, special effects, costume, staging, casting, even acting -- all of those tend towards greater and greater triumphs.  The deficiencies, the decline, appear on a less glitzy and more fundamental level of storytelling, for they concern the all-important elements of plot and character.

Dec 8, 2011

Self-Promotion: How Much is Too Much? (part 2 of 3)

Several weeks ago, in an earlier piece, I brought Aristotle to bear on a question which arose in a Chronicle of Higher Education piece, The Art and Science of Academic Self-Promotion. There are some real issues there -- not just matters of etiquette or prudential career moves, but genuine moral issues, comprising matters wider in scope than just the decidedly not (for anyone who has actually worked there) ivory-clean towers of academia.  We inhabit a society in which we routinely have to compete for recognition within the organizations to which we contribute, often in ways that can easily be overlooked. Oftentimes, promotions, raises, even the possibility of small perks depend on how much value we bring -- or rather, are perceived to add -- to the projects, concerns, functions of the institutions.

In addition to the demands imposed by the kind of workplaces we typically inhabit for large portions of our days, weeks, years, even lives -- a situation differing radically  not only from Aristotle's own time but even from workplaces just a few generations ago -- there's also a factor that runs as a constant across societies and cultures, down the paths of time and into any foreseeable future, since it stems from human nature -- the natural human tendency to want to talk about, to publicize in some way, our accomplishments, our qualities, our successes -- or at least what we perceive or would like ourselves or others to think of as such -- precisely why the first Aristotelian set of ideas germane to this topic, discussed in the previous post, were the virtue of truthfulness about self, and its opposed vices of boastfulness and self-deprecation.  Is there any further light Aristotle can shed on the subject, though?  Any other discussions of interest, any virtues or vices particularly relevant here?

Dec 5, 2011

Diamonds, Rust, and Nostalgia

judas priest reading pennsylvania heavy metal music diamonds rust nostalgia aging henri bergson memory time emotion
A little over a week ago, my wife-to-be and I roadtripped out to Reading, Pennsylvania for the second concert we have made it to together so far.  My rather decidedly unacademic, surprising (to my colleagues and students) love for Heavy Metal -- I've written a bit about this previously on Orexis Dianoētikē -- for the straight-out hard-edged metal I grew up with and in during the late 70s and all the 80s -- overdriven bass, melodic but achingly distorted riffs, drum and bass fills, guitar solos (preferably in tandem), larger-than-life frontmen (or in the cases of Wendy O'Williams or Girlschool, frontwomen) -- metal that laid down its roots, and was communicated about in enthusiastic fan magazines before it was esoterically and eruditely distinguished into genres, discussed in dissertations.

We traveled out to see one of the last shows on the last tour of a band who earned their status as giants, as innovators and influencers back when we were listening to them on albums and cassettes:  Judas Priest -- lacking only one original member, K.K. Downing -- played an intense two-and-a-half hour set, preceded by Zack Wilde's vehicle Black Label Society, but more importantly (at least for us -- and probably more than half of the audience) by another seminal, hard-hitting, though sadly  attritioned-away (only two members from their heyday remain, and their original singer died a long time back) band: Thin Lizzy.