What a place to be in is an old library! It seems as though all the souls of all the writers, that have bequeathed their labours to these Bodleians, were reposing here, as in some dormitory, or middle state. I do not want to handle, to profane the leaves, their winding-sheets. I could as soon dislodge a shade. I seem to inhale learning, walking amid their foliage; and the odour of their old moth-scented coverings is fragrant as the first bloom of those sciential apples which grew amid the happy orchard.

— Charles Lamb, from Oxford in the Vacation

An essay about wandering around a campus when all the students have gone home. I remember this feeling.

Our Greatest Living Film Critic, IV

Vol. IV, December 2018

Notorious (1946)

Watched Notorious (1946), wherein Ingrid Bergman is the disgraced daughter of a convicted nazi agent, pressed into service to spy on her father’s co-conspirators, and treated rather shabbily by everyone, including her handler, Cary Grant. The influence of the Hayes codes is felt throughout the movie, as everything was smolderingly romantic but completely asexual. This is the only performance by Claude Rains I’ve ever seen that was good. When they were making the movie in 1945, nobody outside the military knew how to make an atomic bomb, but Hitchcock’s pseudoscientific version was not actually any dumber than the ones in movies today. If you like insert shots of peoples legs kicking things, this is the movie for you. Very tense. Good payoff for how the bad guy gets his just deserts, which allows the movie to end without really any denouement. I give it 4 foreshortened cups of coffee out of a possible 5 foreshortened cups of coffee.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Watched The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), a Coen brothers western anthology. Of the six stories, the titular one is the least interesting and most disturbing, with Tim Blake Nelson playing a murderous cowboy version of Bugs Bunny. It doesn’t actually fit very well with the rest of them, come to think of it. The best is “The Gal Who Got Rattled”. A very Coen brothers thing is to sprinkle in thematic elements we can feel smart for noticing, but which do not necessarily add up to a complete message. Congratulations on losing the weight, Dudley! I give it 4 dog holes out of a possible 5 dog holes.

Aquaman (2018)

I watched Aquaman (2018), a DCEU movie in which Prince Namor the Submariner (Jason Momoa) fights to save Atlanta. Prince Namor (Aquaman) is a parseltongue — but with fish — and he’s very strong. It’s funny that though they were cast side by side in the same movie, I was happy for Dolph Lundgren and sad for Willem Defoe. There are no fewer than three scenes in this movie in which someone finishes saying their exposition, then the wall behind them explodes so that a fight scene can start. If a technologically advanced civilization has mastered fusion, why do they go to war by having thousands of people line up in ranks and run to the other side of a field while screaming? Honestly, I think a trident would beat a sword anyway. I give it 2 octopus drumkits out of a possible 5 octopus drumkits.

Krull (1983)

Watched Krull (1983), a fantasy movie that feels influenced by Flash Gordon (1980) and Barbarella (1968). In it, hammer-wielding polygamist Liam Neeson uses a very particular set of skills to help Colwyn (Ken Marshall) rescue a female protagonist whom I believe he knew for like 6 minutes before she was kidnapped. Line readings were stilted and delivered like the actors couldn’t see each other. Best sequence is The Widow of the Web: had both a translucent stop motion spider and actual stakes. They definitely shot that tiger up with real tranquilizers! I give it 2.5 flamethrower hands out of a possible 5 flamethrower hands.

Munich (2005)

Watched Munich (2005). Very good movie, not the best. Mossad agents retaliate to the Munich attacks by assassinating PLO leaders in a series of increasingly messy and morally compromised home invasions. Hard to miss the symbolism about homes in this movie, there sure is a lot of it. Eric Bana did fine, but for some reason I can’t care about whatever emotions he’s feeling. Oh look, Ciarán Hinds’ wang. At first, it looked like the movie was going to have an interesting episodic structure, but like the mission itself, it sort of drifted at the end. I give it 4 hunks of unpasteurized cheese out of a possible 5 hunks of unpasteurized cheese.

The Plague

The doctor was still looking out of the window. Beyond it lay the tranquil radiance of a cool spring sky; inside the room a word was echoing still, the word “plague.” A word that conjured up in the doctor’s mind not only what science chose to put into it, but a whole series of fantastic possibilities utterly out of keeping with that gray and yellow town under his eyes, from which were rising the sounds of mild activity characteristic of the hour; a drone rather than a bustling, the noises of a happy town, in short, if it’s possible to be at once so dull and happy. A tranquility so casual and thoughtless seemed almost effortlessly to give the lie to those old pictures of the plague: Athens, a charnel-house reeking to heaven and deserted even by the birds; Chinese towns cluttered up with victims silent in their agony; the convicts at Marseille piling rotting corpses into pits; the building of the Great Wall in Provence to fend off the furious plague- wind; the damp, putrefying pallets stuck to the mud floor at the Constantinople lazar-house, where the patients were hauled up from their beds with hooks; the carnival of masked doctors at the Black Death; men and women copulating in the cemeteries of Milan; cartloads of dead bodies rumbling through London’s ghoul-haunted darkness — nights and days filled always, everywhere, with the eternal cry of human pain. No, all those horrors were not near enough as yet even to ruffle the equanimity of that spring afternoon. The clang of an unseen streetcar came through the window, briskly refuting cruelty and pain. Only the sea, murmurous behind the dingy checkerboard of houses, told of the unrest, the precariousness, of all things in this world. And, gazing in the direction of the bay, Dr. Rieux called to mind the plague-fires of which Lucretius tells, which the Athenians kindled on the seashore. The dead were brought there after nightfall, but there was not room enough, and the living fought one another with torches for a space where to lay those who had been dear to them; for they had rather engage in bloody conflicts than abandon their dead to the waves. A picture rose before him of the red glow of the pyres mir- rored on a wine-dark, slumbrous sea, battling torches whirling sparks across the darkness, and thick, fetid smoke rising toward the watchful sky. Yes, it was not beyond the bounds of possibility…



Now there is no more magic or witchcraft. This is because the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses cannot be used any longer. It was these books that meticulously inscribed and recorded all witchcraft, magic and incantations. These two books are sealed in Wittenberg and they are exhibited as curiosities, but cannot be borrowed.

— Kuhn and Schwartz

The Law of Triviality

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump.
I said, “Don’t do it!”
He said, “Nobody loves me.”
I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”
He said, “A Christian.”
I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”
He said, “Protestant.”
I said, “Me, too! What franchise?”
He said, “Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

— Emo Philips