Monday, September 29, 2003

Chekhov is not that Russian Dude on Star Trek...

I've begun "How to Read and Why" by Harold Bloom and I'll admit it's fascinating. I do feel that he makes some quantitative statements that sound like fact but are really opinion. On the other hand, his treatise seems focused on the reader's mortality and the idea of pursuing quality with one's limited time.

The book is broken into 5 sections: Short Stories, Poems, Novels, Plays, and Novels II. In each he surveys selected works of particular authors and displays the quality he perceives therein in the hopes of giving the reader the ability to discern quality in their reading.

My process has been to read the author's works selected prior to reading Bloom's essay in order to be able to directly relate to his interpretation, and also to be able to form my own ideas and contrast them to Bloom's before my perception becomes filtered by his input.

One of the little joys I experienced this weekend was finally cracking that book of Chekhov short stories that's been languishing on my shelf for nearly a year. Just like Boyle and Theroux, I've been meaning to get to it. Heck, it's even edited by one of my favorites, Richard Ford. Just lazy, I guess.

So to keep up with Bloom, I read "The Kiss" and "The Lady with the Dog."

These stories (confirmed by Bloom) seem tragic and hopeless, in a sense that the emotional, momentary decisions of human frailty ultimately turn the soul from pathway to pathway, rather than the idealism and morality that rules the outer person on display to others. Ryabovitch has learned to hope in himself for a short while, that he could find a pleasing woman, seemingly unaware that this hope is based on a fantasy created from an accident. It isn't truth, he's taken a temporal accident and has imbued it with his repressed wishes and found hope. When he returns, he touches the wet hanging sheet and encounters his fear that he will discover the truth about his fantasy. He decides it is easier to repress his hopes and desires inside, while they are still formless and internal rather than face his fear and risk having them dashed in reality, proving that what little hope he had didn't exist in the first place. In his fear he gets to hold on to the tiny hope to which he was accustomed.

And Gurov, well, I haven't completely decided whether he was actually in love with Anna or if his affair with her was different due to his epiphany regarding his mortality. I need to ruminate further. I will say that his relationship with Anna was more about his changing view of himself than it was about her. He was selfish throughout, even in going out of his way to restore their contact, it had little to do with her. That he was willing to face the difficulty that he recognized was just beginning is a glimmer of hope, and yet even it is misplaced as he seeks a normality denied to him by an unhappy marriage and impossible in a relationship based on subterfuge. More on this later, perhaps.

There is great pleasure in these pages. I will have to spend more time there soon.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

AFL Grand Final 2003

Well, Waltzing Matilda was still ringing through the MCG when the game started shaping up. Brisbane killing Collingwood in the ruck and Keating taking all the bounces, despite courageous work by Fraser. The Maggies were finished early and I spent the entire second half in a deep maroon funk.

Gawd, I hate the Lions!

When I had arrived home from work, ready to get dinner out of the way and watch the GF live, I came home to a yard full of Magpies. Wow, I thought, a great omen, no?


What is it about Lynch, Black, Pike, Voss, and, of course, Akermanis, that makes them come out the way they do when the whole shebang's on the line? Why do the 'Pies suddenly close up and run scared when they've been smothering and hammering opponents all season long, including these selfsame Lions only 3 weeks earlier.

Did Rocca make the difference? Did his vagrant elbow on Lade in the Prelim cost the 'Pies the Grand Final? Conceivable. With Rocca in at Half-Forward the 'Pies have size and a huge boot from 60. He isn't afraid to manhandle and get into the ruck and he is no respecter of persons.

Walker was ineffective in replacement, Buckley couldn't do it all on his own, and Fraser was outmatched. Didak booted three majors and played some hard footy. Tarrant took some good marks, but miffed two important ones, and missed two critical goals. Hell, all of their attempts were critical. Opening the fourth quarter, they took 4 straight behinds, two on inaccurate kicks and two on balls that were handed through by Lions defenders. Had they been made, the margin would have been only 3 goals with nearly 20 minutes left in the game. They didn't get back into their forward 50 until junk time.

In the end, the Lions had their eye on the ball, while the 'Pies had their eye on the Lions. The Maggies were mauled, and mercilessly so. Much as I hate to say it, and I do, the Lions were the best team out there, and can rightly lay claim to being the greatest team of the modern era with their Premiership hat trick.

Word is that Joffa is hanging up the golden coat for good. I wish he'd been able to bring it out one last time. Guess it's time I do like the Aussies, put that jumbuck in my tucker-bag and go a-Waltzing Matilda until next year.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Harold Bloom and Stephen King

Harold Bloom. Is he really a pompous windbag? Well, he is pompous and egotistical, that much is undisputed. He has, over the years, shown a particular disdain and viciousness toward Stephen King. He has shown a similar attitude toward J.K. Rowling, which begs the question: Does he castigate them for their works or their success?

Here's an example of his particular viewpoint on King, specifically, his reaction to King's Medal from the NBF (originally appearing in the New York Times):
"That they could believe that there is any literary value there or any aesthetic accomplishment or signs of an inventive human intelligence is simply a testimony to their own idiocy."

Well, now, isn't that just cheeky?

Here also is a page of collective quotes from other literary figures, all of them a little more supportive of King.
King Sized Up

So, nobody really agrees on anything. However, not having reached a conclusion myself, and thinking that both King's diehard fans and Harold Bloom are the vocal extremes, I think I need to get more in touch with both sides of the issue.

Since I have already read nearly all of King's works, a mostly enjoyable experience, I want to contrast that with the Harold Bloom vision of literature. I have purchased and begun reading "How to Read and Why" by Mr. Bloom and will compare his criteria and examples with the writing I've experience by Mr. King. Perhaps then I'll be able to decide who's blowing smoke and who's got the inside track on the truth.

Of course, we all know that I'll still feel as conflicted about it as I do now, but I can dream, can't I?

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Arsenal vs. Manchester United and Other Football Madness

It's good to know that our brothers on the other side of the pond have their own measure of base, uncivilised (sic) sporting madness.

If I hear one more Arsenal fan tell me how unjust everyone is for picking on poor Vieira and the lot, I do think I'll paint the walls the color of vomit.

If you missed it (note to most Americans - you did) the Arsenal vs. Man U. showdown disintegrated at the end into a 3rd grade schoolyard brawl. After Vieira undercut Ruud Van Nistelrooy (and he did, Wenger, you schmuck) as he leaped up to attempt a header, Vieira struck out at RVN with his spikes, earning him a second yellow and his eighth red as a gunner. In the 93rd minute, RVN missed a penalty shot, and after the final whistle, was taunted and struck by Martin Keown, and shoved nearly off his feet by Lauren. Reports are that Vieira also went after RVN in the tunnel after the match.

Vieira's comments were pure comedy. "I feel the referee got it wrong because of the reaction of Van Nistelrooy. Maybe the referee did not see that I did not touch him, or something like that. But Van Nistelrooy gave the impression that I touched him, so that is why he gave me the second yellow card."

No, Vieira, you moron. You got the second card because you went after his family jewels, spikes out. And Keown, gawd, what a childish brat. Such nonsense does nothing to help the image of the top players as crybabies.

In the end, Arsenal was charged with not enforcing discipline and may see a point reduction. Six Arsenal players were charged with a total of 11 offenses and will probably see a collective ban of close to 20 games. Two Man U. players were charged with improper conduct as well for their part in the post-match scuffle. RVN did receive a yellow for his foul on Vieira going after the header. Sounds about right to this viewer.

The only thing missed was Arsene Wenger's diatribe about RVN being a "cheat." Childish sour grapes. The managers are supposed to be above their players' schoolyard antics, but I'm thinking that the Arsenal side learned theirs from the boss.

As bad as all that is, it doesn't compare to Italy's problems. Riots, fires, fan deaths. Ah, football, gotta love it. Next time some Euro tells me how uncivilised (sic) Americans are, I'll just have to tell them to shove it in their Avellino. Or I could just say "England vs. Turkey" and leave it at that. The closest thing America has seen in terms of sporting event violence that would even come close to that description is the Cleveland Referee Water Bottle Assault. Regrettable, certainly, but at least they weren't setting the stadium on fire, assaulting rescue crews trying to reach a mortally injured fan, and injuring a couple dozen police officers.

Civilised my arse...

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Stephen King to get National Book Foundation Medal?

Now don't get me wrong. I'm a Stephen King fan. Love his writing. Very little missed over the years.

That said, I'm not sure I understand this decision. Previous winners of this award include Eudora Welty, Phillip Roth, John Updike, Toni Morrison, Studs Terkel, and Ray Bradbury. Perhaps in that last entry we find some common ground. I haven't firmly decided he doesn't deserve it, but I can't go gung-ho on the attaboys for him either.

Non-committal, that's me.

In my next post on this subject, I'll explore the info available on previous selections on the National Book Foundation site and see where that leads.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

U.S. Chess in disarray

Go ahead, hang out around any of the chess newsgroups or mailing lists. One thing soon becomes clear. US Chess is a mess.

It doesn't have to be that way. Nearly everyone involved blames the previous management teams and their financial mismanagement.

I have another theory. It wouldn't be popular among the denizens of the major chess forums, many of whom are movers and shakers in the chess world.

The problem? Personality. Many of the people involved act like world-class, childish boobs. There is very little trust between individuals. Everyone thinks their idea is the best and cross-pollenation is spare at best. Those who try to be a little more mature are usually sucked into unpleasant exchanges and into a mode of defensiveness that quells open idea exchange. A couple of the worst of these are Sam Sloan and Larry Parr.

The pettiness, immaturity, mean-spiritedness, and downright perniciousness of many of the characters creates an atmosphere where all new ideas are immediately derided as pipe dreams or unworkable without any serious consideration, where conversations immediately descend into unpleasant exchanges, and where those exchanges that do have any positive direction to them are hijacked by selfish instigators such as the above-named who thrive on dissension and conflict.

One of the saddest distractions appears whenever two antagonists end up in the same thread. The conversation shifts from the topic at hand to an old hurt, real or imagined, suffered by one party at the hand of the other.

If chess is ever going to thrive again, and specifically the US Chess Federation, the instigators are going to have to hammer their swords into ploughshares. People are going to have to be bold and try new concepts. The US Chess Federation is going to have to adopt a policy of transparency and openness.

Unfortunately, some old dogs will never learn new tricks. Here's hoping that they find a way to fade out of the chess world and leave the job to a generation that looks out for the chess community as a whole and not just their own little corner.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I'm only doing this because everyone else is doing it. I don't even know what the heck I want to talk about, but I'm glad you're reading this far. Please come back for more inanity. Thank you, oh, thank you, good and gentle reader.


It's about me, dummy!!!


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