Commonplace Book, April: Sensitive Redheads, Richard Pryor, What Wonder Woman Represents and Too Much Twee in Literature

“He had seen society in its three great phases—Obedience, Struggle and Revolt... and he hesitated in his choice. Obedience was dull, Revolt impossible, Struggle hazardous.”
(Balzac, Pere Goriot)

“He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave.”
(William Drummond, some old Scotsman)

“Something nice this way comes. It begins with the awful—whether it’s as enormous as the Holocaust or the World Trade Center or as intimate as family dysfunction or the death of a loved one—and then finds comfort. None of this Anna on the tracks, Emma in the dumps, or depressing Father Zosima’s corpse smells stuff; that’s sooo 19th century. ...
Instead, let’s just book passage on a gentle, healing voyage. Sound trite? It is, but it’s apparently the literature of our time as exemplified by Jonathan Safran Foer, Myla Goldberg, Nicole Krauss, and Dave Eggers, along with everything McSweeney’s, the magazine founded by Eggers.”
(Melvin Jules Bukiet , ”Wonder Bread” in The American Scholar)


“In American popular culture, the private detective is a unique heroic figure: champion of last resort for the vulnerable client, a knight-errant for hire, bringing rough or poetic justice to cases unserved by more official powers that be. [Robert Parker] wrote dialogue that at once informed, amused and gave a sense of character; and he conjured characters a reader wanted to spend more time with—especially Spenser, a fixed point in a footloose world, take him or leave him. A pragmatist whose ethics were situational. A tough and decent type who did what needed to be done in the service of a moral cause, affirming the worth of the individual regardless of race, sexual orientation, social status, age or occupation. He made timeless points that need to be remade every generation, in a society ever able to find ways to betray the public and private trust.”
(Obituary by Tom Nolan in the Wall Street Journal)




“As Juke [on a 1974 Lily Tomlin special], Richard Pryor gave one of his relatively few great performances in a project that he had not written or directed. He made use of the poignancy that marks all of his great comedic and dramatic performances, and of the vulnerability—the pathos cradling his sharp wit—that had seduced people into loving him in the first place.... The concert films are excellent examples of what the Village Voice critic Carrie Rickey once described as Pryor’s ability to “scare us into laughing at his demons—our demons—exorcising them through mass hyperventilation.”... Taken together, the concert films show the full panorama of Pryor’s moods: brilliant, boring, insecure, demanding, misogynist, racist, playful, and utterly empathetic.... Pryor embodied the voice of injured humanity. A satirist of his own experience, he revealed what could be considered family secrets—secrets about his past, and about blacks in general, and about his relationship to the black and white worlds he did and did not belong to.”
(Hilton Als profile of Richard Pryor in The New Yorker



“So Wonder Woman counts among one of the very few superhero genre characters that are legitimately a gift to young women. She is not a character to be marketed to young men. Marston assured the company the boys would read as well, but she's custom designed for young women. For god's sake, she's a princess who talks to animals. Her entire supporting cast, with the exception of one blockheaded love interest, was women. She is a character made with little girls in mind.
The bondage urban legend always struck me as a mean-spirited attempt to rob us of that. To strip her of all innocent and generous beginnings in favor of something uber-sexualized. To say that we weren't worth our own superhero princess, she had to be secretly aimed at young men. That she was really meant for boys. It's a way to steal Wonder Woman, and claim she wasn't ever stolen.
To be honest, that's why I've always felt they had trouble with her. She is a female-oriented character that they keep marketing to a widely male audience.” (Ragnell on her blog Written World”



“I think that's a big part of it — she COULD tear someone's head off, she COULD destroy a country if she chose. But she would consider that a failure as a warrior for peace. The death of an enemy is not victory to her. I love that stuff. I think it's a far better blueprint for the future than most of the action hero stuff out there right now.
But there are a million reasons. I love that she's the DC universe's premiere badass. I love that she was giving messages of the power of womanhood in the 40's, you know, decades before Buffy or Xena or Lara Croft. And there's a part of me that loves the pegasi and the princess-ness of it all, and all the trappings of Paradise Island. She's just brilliantly conceived. And I like her with a dry sense of humor, while we're at it. The sisterhood aspect of the Amazons is tremendously compelling to me. Who wouldn't love to have that many sisters who loved you AND carried bladed weapons?”
(Gail Simone, current writer on Wonder Wonan, in an interview at After Ellen)


“If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men.”
(Saint Francis)

“The largest single survey to date of serial killers found: 36 percent admitted to committing animal cruelty as children; 46 percent admitted to committing animal cruelty as adolescents; 36 percent admitted to committing animal cruelty as adults.”
(Human Society of the United States)

“When John Paul II appointed Cardinal Ratzinger head of the department that watches over theological orthodoxy (the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF), it was in full confidence that he would curb the proliferating dissidents, not least the liberation theologians of South America who argued that sin could often mean not wrongdoing by individual moral agents, but the injustice of social and political structures leading to poverty and oppression. He soon earned himself the sobriquet "the Pope's Rottweiler". Theologians guilty of unorthodoxy were summoned to his inquisitorial office: some were deprived of their teaching licences, and others were excommunicated.
... Benedict... continues to think of the abuse as a spiritual lapse, rather than a psychological, social and criminal problem. Priestly pedophile abuse, in his view, is a failure of priesthood, a failure of holiness, asceticism and piety. ... The cause of the crisis, he said, had been secularism, and the temptations secularism has posed to the holiness of priests. The innocent majority of priests in Ireland... are infuriated by Benedict's implied exculpation of the Vatican and the papacy.”
(John Cornwell in The New Statesman)


“Scientists suspect that small inherited predispositions are either enhanced or suppressed by experience, and computer models show that tiny discrepancies at the start can become enormous over time, through feedback loopings of positive reinforcement. Evidence is also emerging that certain physical setpoints affect temperament globally. Notable among such setpoints is the relative rate at which one’s nervous system processes sensory information.
“There are low information processors who don’t attend much to their environment and bulldoze through life,” said David Sloan Wilson of the State University of New York at Binghamton. “Then there are the sensitive ones who are always taking things in, which can be good because information is valuable, but it can also be overwhelming.”
Studies of highly sensitive people show their delicacy is “domain general,” Dr. Wilson said. Not only are they “exceptionally moved by symphonies” and find graphic depictions of violence “too hard to bear,” but they are also sensitive to drugs like caffeine, and their skin is easily irritated by the wrong soap, sunscreen and fabric. Highly sensitive pigs squeal a lot; highly sensitive people feel a lot. Sure, it’s painful at times. But just switch on some Bach and I’ll squeal my thanks for thin skin.”
(Natalie Angierin The New York Times)



“Most TV comics trade in brand-name jokes or jokes that play off physical stereotypes. They don’t question their culture so much as pander to its insatiable hunger for distraction. But [Bill] Hicks’ mischievous flights of fantasy bring the audience back to reality with a thump. Hicks is a kind of ventriloquist of his contradictory nature, letting voices and sound effects act out both his angst and his appetites.... He started writing and performing his jokes as an alienated thirteen-year-old in Houston in 1975, and, by his own count, for the last five years he has been performing about two hundred and sixty-five days a year, sometimes doing as many as three two-hour gigs a night. Few contemporary comics or actors have such an opportunity to get their education in public.”
(Profile of the late Bill Hicks by John Lahr in The New Yorker)

1 comment:

Jef said...

Bill Hicks and Richard Pryor did some amazing things with their brain. I know that was something Buckaroo Banzai said about Peter Weller (I know, weird, right?), but it definitely applies to them.