Saltburn, by Emerald Fennell

Another outsourced review of The Times by Wesley Morris gave this a terrible rating, and boring. It is anything but.

As I wrote about when doing my own review of Promising Young Woman, the question the writer is asking (of herself and of us, as watchers) is whether or not the main character is in love with a secondary character. In Promising Young Woman, if you look closely, you can see that she wasn’t just devastated by the suicide of her friend after her friend had been group raped, she was devastated by the loss of her love.

In this, Oliver (Barry Keoghan) appears to be in love with an upper class college student named Felix (Jacob Elordi). He gets himself invited to spend the summer at his family’s estate which is called Saltburn. And then he starts to get a little weird. It’s riveting and not at all boring. By the time you understand what is actually going on it becomes a little like the end of PYW when they find the locket. It all comes together in a kind of tied up package. Oh… he’s a clever psychopath. But the question still remains, did he love Felix? He even asks this question over and over at the beginning of the movie and then the camera cuts away suddenly, as if he finally realized the answer but the director decided not to let us hear him. Later, when we return to that room, we find out. The uber rich live like they have no predators… except one.

Anyway, the reviewer this time has (I’m quoting) has written about the moral force of civilian cellphone videos, Hollywood’s addiction to racial reconciliation fantasies, and the endangerment of romantic comedies. I don’t think he was the right person to review this very entertaining movie. Stick to articles about cellphones.

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I don’t think it’s necessary to add who wrote this.

This version was very helpful in that half of the book is the Oxford World’s Classics essay about the play. The play itself only takes up about less than half of the book, and a lot of that is footnotes.

What I was curious about with regard to this play — the last of his tragedies, presumably — is that people have said it is one of the “gayest” characters Shakespeare wrote, yet he is basically nothing but an extremely fierce and brutal warrior. I wanted to see what was so “gay” about him and, of course, there isn’t anything gay about him.

Except for the fact that Shakespeare, throughout, constantly equates battle with sexuality. One character even goes so far as to say that nothing could excite him more than going head to head with Coriolanus, even more than standing on the threshold of his bedroom with his new wife waiting for him. There’s a homoerotic feeling that pervades the entire play, but it is not explicit.

Anyway, I’m not qualified to write about Shakespeare, even though I tried at University.

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The Mandate

The issues of Gaza, The West Bank, Israel, Bethlehem and Jordan go back hundreds if not thousands of years. Unfortunately, there is so much ignorance in this country and countries that are typically Jew hating countries, like Russia, people appear to me as small little squabbling birds. But lethal in their misplaced anger. The area in question was once called The British Mandate of Palestine and it included Lebanon. The modern border of Israel stretches down from Lebanon, just above the Sea of Galilee, follows the Jordan River through The Dead Sea and South to The Gulf of Acaba.

The area was created a mandate by The League of Nations in 1922 and it was given to the British to administer.

When Israel was created in 1948 the British ceased their administration of the region. It had already been agreed that a state of Israel would not exist east of the Jordan River so all of that became The Hashemite of Jordan. (A kingdom.)

But if you go back in time prior to the formation of Islam, the area had been filled with Christians, Jews and Anamists or Idolators. There is no derogatory meaning in that. It was true of Rome before Christians came in and Constantine turned the empire into a Christian one. Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, was where Islam was formed in about 610 CE. And that’s when the Animists and Idolators faded out. The Kaaba (the big black square Moslems circle on their pilgrimages) was initially filled with about 134 idols, Gods and even a statue of Jesus Christ and The Virgin Mary. With the ascendance of Islam, the region was now fully dominated by 3 monotheocracies. And there is very little multi-theism left. (I’m not sure if there’s any religion, other than Hindu, that still have many Gods.) They are all branches of Judaism but have different ideas about the single God. But the fact is the adherents of all these religions have all been found in this area for thousands of years, the oldest religion being Judaism.

There’s no question that Israel treats the west bank, which it is occupying, as an apartheid type entity. But it’s also not a question that Israelis have existed in the area for ages and ages and is not a “colonizer” as some really stupid students over here think. To colonize you have to be from somewhere else.

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Something wrong with The Times

Ever since A.O. Scott left, the Times’ reviews of movies has become extremely erratic. They didn’t like “Foe.” Said it was unintentionally laughable. And the review of “Cat Person” was similarly strange. “Foe” was reviewed by Ben Kenigsberg who has written for many publications but is on the young side, as I suspected. “Cat Person” was written by Claire Shaffer, who writes about a lot of things – is not strictly a movie critic or a movie analyst. Her biggest complaint was that Cat Person was based on a short story in the New Yorker and padded to make a full “popcorn” movie, I think she called it. Both of these idiots are wrong and I suspect The Times is purchasing these reviews from freelancers because they don’t have the resources to have their own reporters — who maybe may have studied film in college. When I took film studies at NYU it was with a guy named Jonathan Rosenbaum who had experience working with Jacques Tati and was initially an English major at Bard, intending to become a writer. Classes with him were eye opening. His lectures usually preceded the movie we were going to watch and then we had a second class later in the week with his partner which was in much smaller groups. One just doesn’t get the sense that any of these young people ever had an education like that. Shaffer, in fact, wrote a political review of what was an interesting and somewhat scary movie. Not having read the story or having the need for it to be left alone, I didn’t find it padded. Both should have been NYTimes picks.

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Anatomy of a Fall by Justine Triet

I wasn’t going to write about this or “Foe” either, but after thinking about it and reading the Times’s review, I think it deserves a mention. I think it deserved to be a Times “Pick” at the very least. But the reviewer did not like the fact that it wasn’t revealed at the end whether or not the main character did, in fact, kill her husband by pushing him off their balcony. And now I’ve just revealed the ending to anyone reading this.

But at the opening of the movie there is flashed, briefly, a link and so I knew right away that we weren’t going to get an answer. And whenever a movie or story ends without a resolution, which is sometimes called ambiguity, you have to ask why is the author leaving this unanswered? What does she mean by this? And I think we get told enough, and repeatedly, that sometimes there are no neat answers, it didn’t have to end this way. It’s kind of like being on the receiving end of a lecture from a parent about growing up. And in fact, there is a young boy in the movie (their son) who was in an accident in which he lost most of his vision, who is lectured by an adult on that very fact. Does the author know whether or not the character murdered her husband or that he fell. Yes. I think she definitely does. And the reason is because in one very important and dramatic fight they have, which is only recorded on some sort of voice app on the iphone the husband carries, we see almost the entire fight take place. Then she cuts back to the courtroom and we’re back to only hearing the remainder of the fight and the character’s testimony about what all those sounds were. There was no need to cut away from the filmed fight (and the only time we get to see the husband alive) except for the filmmaker’s need to ram home the notion that things can be hard to understand.

Still it has a lot of skill and the lead actors are superb. I think it deserved better from the Times.

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I’m weirdly upset that Netflix discontinued its Blu Ray and DVD business. It was inevitable of course. When I looked up their two businesses, which had been separated when streaming because so much bigger than the physical branch, the difference was something like 36,000,000 in streaming sales to 500,000 in rentals.

Funny that Blockbuster once had a chance to buy them but declined. Netflix put every local video rental

store out of business, including Blockbuster. Miss Kim’s used to be one of the best on Bleecker Street but that also succumbed after Netflix took over. But there are several other reasons that this is a sad day. I just sent my two last rentals back, even though they said we needn’t bother. Then I downloaded my entire rental history which goes back to 2009 I believe. I rented over 670 dvds. And the first one was The Mudge Boy with Emile Hirsch. I vaguely remember it but I have no idea why it was my first rental. But the Blu Ray unit had over 120,000 movies to choose from and I’m going to go through that list and see some of the stranger ones I rented. The streaming service has about 20,000 titles and because of the problems with the streaming business that haven’t been worked out in the capitalistic way we do thing, they’re always losing titles.

The much more ominous and pernicious and some would even say corruption of the entertainment industry is that they have always hated the fact that the law treats physical property as your own property. You may not show it for profit. You may not copy it for profitable reasons. But you can give it to someone. Loan it to someone. And you can play it over and over as many times as you want. The law does not treat “streaming” or whatever Itunes is as property. It is now their property and theirs alone. When I looked up the user agreements for music on both Amazon and Itunes, it was clear that you were allowed to play the music you bought on up to 4 devices for Itunes and 9 devices for Amazon. If you needed to change your computer or device, you had to get the new machine reauthorized by Apple. So now they’ve done the same to movies. And it’s like Disney’s “vault.” There are movies that are never going to be released ever again by Disney because they are embarrassed of the racism that was pervasive in their earlier works. Mickey Mouse, in fact, is a caricature of the black faced minstrel — especially with the gloves and shoes. Song of the South has never been released on any platform and won’t be. This is how the entertainment corporations have taken away people’s right to own entertainment and retained it for themselves — giving us permission to see it. Or hear it.

It angered me so much back when I used to buy Blu Rays that they would put on the box “Download your digital version,” when in fact, all you were allowed to do with “your” digital version is watch it on an app — one of the worst ever made — called Ultraviolet. I went along for awhile, until one of the studios deleted all the movies that were in my library and refused to put them back. That’s when I started copying the dvds I ordered from Netflix. Burning them to my hard drive. I have more than 450 movies on my passport drive (it’s a 4 terabyte drive I think, or maybe 8). But I’ll miss The DVDs and Blu Rays. The ones I bought are all going into storage because I’ve burned them to my computer library and can watch them from there. I imagine some day, well into the future, I’ll throw them out.

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Studies in Classic American Literature, by D.H. Lawrence

I almost always tire of Lawrence when I dare to read him, and this wasn’t an exception. Although I had wanted to read him for along time because of his interpretation of Moby Dick which I had read about somewhere. But what tires me about his writing is his sarcasm, I guess you could say. This is from a section on Walt Whitman


What do you make of that? I AM He That ACHES. First generalization. First uncomfortable universalization. WITH AMOROUS LOVE.! Oh, God! Better a bellyache. A bellyache is at least specific. But the ACHE OF AMOROUS LOVE!

Think of having that under your skin. All that!


Walter, leave off. You are not HE. You are just a limited Walter. And your ache doesn’t include all Amorous Love, by any means….


…. Reminds one of steam-engine. A locomotive. They’re the only things that seem to me to ache with amorous love. All that steam inside them. Forty million foot-pounds pressure.”


He comes off like one of those Amazon critics (I forgot their names — I think it’s the Vines) which make it a point of denigrating writers and insulting them as personally as possible. I have no idea why this phenomenon exists, but it has always seemed to me that writers in particular are subjected to vicious and exaggerated attacks because it is such an intellectually challenging art. People want to bring writers down a notch just because they are, generally, better thinkers than their critics. Certain writers, like Will Self, deserve to be brought low. But I’m reminded of the joke about Jackie Kennedy Onassis editing Gravity’s Rainbow and writing a note to “Tom” Pynchon, “Love the first line.” How do you edit Pynchon? And with Lawrence I find him to be protesting too much. Because he himself is guilty of idiosyncratic descriptions like “Blood-knowledge” and “upper” and “under consciousness;” “mind knowledge,” to name a few.

But he is most adamant about the fact that Americans believe themselves to be masterless, while he believes everyone serves some master or another. I really don’t know if I agree with that. I’ve heard it said many times before, but I’ve also heard it said that “everyone believes in a higher power,” and I don’t, unless you’re talking about the sun that makes every day possible.

Anyway, the main essay I wanted to read was about Moby Dick and I found that one to be enlightening. When he notes that the three main bowmen are a Pacific Islander, a large black man and a native American, he correctly points out that they (and the entire crew) are the symbolic representations of the crushed natives that Europeans suppressed. And Ahab is the white madman — making his own obsession into the obsession of everyone else on the ship. Lawrence sees Ahab’s desire as the death wish: the need to destroy his own whiteness and take everyone down with him. But I think Lawrence was or is a little too quick to judge America as a suicide and I think people in general are a little too quick to invoke Thanatos when judging other people’s behavior. I don’t think that people who cliff dive have a death wish. I think it’s possible they don’t see death in the way others do. And it’s not like most people go up Mt. Everest in order to jump off.

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I’m getting more ideas for a story. This one just involved a nightmare I just had. I went to a restaurant that was on the first floor of my old building. I had an appetizer and dinner, but weirdly, at least 3 different couples sat down next to me and had dinner and with each one, the man looked in a bag and yelled, “These tickets are for a musical!” And then the woman would say, “Yes but…” and then go into an explanation of how it was so good, etc.

Then I realized that I had tickets for a show, “Hairspray,” (though I couldn’t remember the name.) So since my bill still wasn’t there, I walked up to the waitress in the front room and asked her for my check. She looked at me strangely but I went back to my table. When she didn’t come again, it started to dawn on me that I might now have actually eaten there. So I much more cautiously walked up front and found her, interrupted her conversation, and said, “Did I actually have anything to eat.” “No,” she said. So I yelled at her, “Why didn’t you say so? Why did you let me sit there and sleep?” And she was just as angry and yelled back, “You didn’t.” I was confused, but because I had the theatre to get to, I left. I had my two dogs with me and I was trying to get uptown to get to the theatre, but there were no cabs to be had anywhere. I looked at my watch and all the numbers and dots were missing, but the hands sort of indicated 20 minutes after 6 or 7 — it was hard to tell. And I couldn’t remember if this show started at 7 or 8. So I decided to take the subway. With my dogs in tow I went down three levels to the very bottom level. (This is a recurring dream I have.) where I was on the wrong side of the train and had to jump through a very narrow opening and then scramble up onto the platform in order to get on the side where the doors open. Even then, the doors open and close so quickly that you have to jump during the tiny gap when they’re open in order to get in.

I managed to do that, but then the train only made it to about 34th street and construction on the tracks forced us to the top. Above ground, everything was a mess with construction. It was impossible to get around and then I couldn’t remember what street the theatre was on, or what name it was. And I could only remember the finale of the show, “You can’t stop the beat.” I pulled out an Ipad to try to look it up, but it only had an unresponsive set of pictures or icons and I couldn’t get it to go back to the main screen. So I finally decided to go over to 8th Avenue and about 43rd Street where there was an acting studio or acting classes. This building roughly corresponds to one where musicals hire spaces for the actors and dancers, especially, to work. I can’t remember the name of it but it’s real. It might be further over and higher. I went to the pitch conference there.

So I’m running all through the building trying to find someone to help. I couldn’t.I still had my dogs so I put them down. I kept looking at my watch and the dots and numbers were still missing but it looked like it was about a quarter to the hour. I finally found some people in a room and I begged them, “Please, I’m trying to get to that show with that song ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat,’ but I can’t remember the name of the theatre or the street it’s on. I left my dogs in the other room.” Well these guys were theatre lovers and they were both like, “Oh that show sucks, you’ll hate it.” And I said, “I know but I still have tickets,” so one went to look and then I remembered the theatre had been renamed recently and that’s why I couldn’t remember its name. I said to the guy who had stayed behind while the other went to look up the information, “Oh I think the theatre’s been renamed.” He smiled but was otherwise gay bitchy to me. Then finally the phone rang, and the bitchy gay guy picked it up and said, “Yes. Uh huh.” Then he put the phone to his shoulder and he said, “They can’t find your dogs.”

And then everything dawned on me. I said, “They don’t exist. In fact, I don’t think I have tickets for anything. If you look in my bag, I don’t have tickets.” He came over to me and looked in my bag — a kind of old and filthy New Yorker cloth bag — and there was nothing in it but crumpled up paper. He looked at what I called my “Ipad,” and it was just the screen of an ipad with a piece of paper taped to the front. He looked at my watch and the watch hands had been drawn onto the back of my wrist. And then I started to say aloud, “I don’t have dogs. My dogs died many years ago. I don’t walk them every day.” (An image came into my mind of me walking around my old neighborhood with a leash dragging behind me.) I don’t feed them every day,” (Another image set in where I had put down fifty or sixty cups of food — flies buzzing everywhere. And then a flood of images of my real life — me sitting in the restaurant pretending to eat while the staff looked at me, not certain of what to do. Those couples who had been seated next to me, staring warily.) And in an instant I realized I had lost my mind and that I had been living in a fantasy world for many months — perhaps six. And although I was lucid and reality had re-asserted itself, I could not think of what precipitated this — when this schizophrenia had begun. And then I thought, maybe it was New York City that did it.


So that was my nightmare. I woke and felt very frightened. But mostly I was aware of how fragile this world is and, as the Buddhists like to say, “Everything is perception.” I think that’s why Jung was so adamant that you have no right to say that someone’s predilections or peccadilloes are “wrong” or “immoral.” (Did Jung say that? I don’t know. But I know that if someone walked into a Jungian therapist’s office and said, “I am the greatest piano player in the world,” a proper Jungian therapist would not discount the possibility that it might be true.)

I will write about D.H. Lawrence and eventually Barbie next time, because I have a few thoughts that may not have been written about thousands of times over already.

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Union Square Riot

So there was a quasi-riot in Union Square, when thousands of fans of some Twitch streamer showed up because he promised he was going to be handing out free playstations and game consoles, etc. They were all pretty much under the age of 20 or 18 and the police had to mobilize at Level 4 (which kind of means at their highest level of control — they will arrest anybody who doesn’t disperse, that kind of thing. Act, arrest and let the judges sort it out.)

But what really stood out for me was the fact that so many decisions now are being driven by technology. Twitch is a gamer’s and young people’s television. I have a twitch account but I don’t watch it very often. I find it tedious and impossibly strange and I simply don’t understand why people want to watch other people play games. (My nephew is one of these people, but he plays games that almost no one wants to watch.)

But if you look at what caused this, it’s not so much the gamer’s lies about handing out free gaming consoles, it’s about how technology is influencing behavior. It’s the Marshall McLuhan thing all over, but in a different way. The medium is still the message. While people like Alexander Novotny are being jailed for decades by Putin for “disrespecting the Republic,” “Influencers,” as they’re called, are making millions posing for their phones and streams. Wanna be influencers are trying, but failing, to achieve millions of followers. One I just found is named Brian Christopher and somehow he has amassed 1 million followers by playing slot machines in various casinos. He has a staff of 10. For people to watch slot machines. Someone passed him and asked him how he was able to make a living off this “sport,” and he said, “Having a million followers helps.”

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are a scourge on all of us. Musk and Zuck are evil.

I simply can’t stomach what’s going on in society.

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The Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray

There’s a very interesting history behind this classic book, which was published about a year before Oscar Wilde’s trial and imprisonment. It was even used as evidence against him, although some of the more obvious passages were removed by Wilde and the publisher. They’ve been put back in and although the “vice” is never mentioned by name, it’s alluded to with terms like “abomination,” and references to “filthy places where sailors can be found along the docks.”

I’m pretty sure it was Wilde who came up with the phrase, during his trial, “The love that dare not speak its name.” It’s not mentioned, ever, in this uncensored book.

In Maurice, I think it was, they are reading something from ancient Greece and when one of the boys gets to a certain passage the teacher says, “Please skip the section about the abominable practice of the Greeks.” (Maybe they were reading The Satyricon.)

Anyway what I found interesting about this book — I don’t think there can be “spoilers” at this point — is how widely misinterpreted the book is. Everyone says, if you stay young looking well into adulthood, “You must have a painting in the attic.” They’re referencing Dorian Gray, thinking that the painting of himself that was hidden in the attic aged while Dorian did not. No, the painting did not absorb the ravages of Dorian aging into an older man, what the painting absorbed was his sins. And much of that sin included sleeping with men (or sailors — is about as close as they come to saying it outright). I think this could only be Wilde’s awareness of his Id trying to express itself, with Wilde’s Superego being the judge, jury and executioner. In my copy of The Ballad of Reading Gaol the person who wrote the introduction said that nothing is more boring than Wilde writing about Jesus or religion. And I think there’s a lot of truth to that. This book has a great deal of rattling on about the soul and the devastation of the soul through immoral acts — all of which wind up in the painting. But really it is about class. And in England, probably because of the monarchy and accents, you really can’t get away from class. Julian’s sin is actually that he is shaming himself in front of his peers — and they are shunning him because of what he’s doing shamelessly down at the docks. In fact, it is in some respects because of the fact that the hidden painting absorbs all his sins that Dorian is able to go wild with his basic desires.

I don’t think Wilde was ready to understand this. He may have come to understand it at some point, but when you’re in the middle of a system — a society — it is rather hard to see it. It’s like water to fish, or air to us hoomans.

Anyway, I enjoyed it. I could have done without the footnotes, but the introduction is well worth reading.

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