As usual, Hyperallergic is ahead of the curve. Check out their review of Chasin’s new novel, Brief, which is construed as an iPad app.
Continuing in the new technologies vein, Slate has an interesting piece on the prosecution of Matthew Keys for a tiny little Onion-like hack of the LA Times website by Anonymous, reminding us why we need to care about internet freedom, the justice department’s overreach and the legacy of Aaron Swartz.
Upon hearing the guilty verdict this week, one of the boys convicted of the infamous Steubenville rape turned to his lawyer and said “My life is over.” The narcissism of perpetrators never fails to surprise me. To their credit, both boys convicted of the assault then faced the survivor and her family and made a brief, emotional apology. Like that of the young Indian student brutally assaulted on a bus who later died of her injuries, this case is a hallmark of the power of global connectedness to bring justice–the irony in the Steubenville case being that it was the perpetrators themselves who made the story graphically public.
You could say a lot of other things about the pattern of social media outrage viralizing acts which in another time would have gone unremarked, in some cases even in the community where they were perpetrated. On balance it is a good development, like the use of twitter and other social media for democracy uprisings.
What I liked about Denzel Washington’s movie, Flight, was the ending. (This isn’t as much of a non sequitor as it sounds. Or maybe it is.) There were a lot of other things I thought were pretty great about that movie too, and I can only assume that politics were behind its total lack of recognition in the awards festivals. I mean, Argo was a good movie, but what makes it so much better? Flight is a brilliant old fashioned action movie during the in-air scene. But the core theme is about addiction, moreover, about high-functioning addicts, and in the end it arrives in the zone of 12 Step philosophy, recognizing the bottom line moral questions spawned by the addict’s bad behavior and its ripples out into the community. Sometimes I think the awareness of addiction and the real hope of recovery offers us the most powerful metaphor of our times, a lens through which we could profitably examine every level of personal, and governmental bad behavior. My very favorite book on this topic was Gerald May’s 1988 Addiciton and Grace: Love and Sprituality in the Healing of Addictions.
Redemption is a tricky subject for the contemporary artist, but when we disallow the possibility, we paint a desperately dark picture of our possible collective futures.
Soup is on at the wompus today. The last wisps of winter have us chilled. Our soup always turns out more like stew. It says something about the cook, that an overenthusiasm for adding solid ingredients leads to this, and we’re never sorry. We’re looking at an early seder here because of who’s home and who won’t be anymore, come the actual advent of Passover next week. I don’t personally cotton much to organized religion, but this is one holiday I celebrate, and if you’re not familiar here’s a heads up: Passover, and specifically the seder (a ritual reading and meal on the eve of the holiday) concerns itself with the enormous topic of slavery and freedom. It’s about the ways in which we are all connected, and how none of us is truly free until we all are.
As such it strikes me as the perfectly ecumenical holiday, and for me the Hagaddah, which tells the traditional Passover story, constitutes the metaphorical framing of this point of view. There’s a moment during the seder when we open the front door and invite a mythological figure (whose glass of wine sits on the table) to join us. There are some other pretty wild elements in the ritual–for instance, it’s considered obligatory that each participant drink 4 glasses of wine during the course of the evening (I don’t have the liver for it, but plenty of people are happy to comply). We’ve invited friends this year who are not Jewish and have never attended a seder, as well as some who do this every spring. A solemn side of the night for me is the way it inevitably turns my focus back to the mess of Israeli policy on Palestine, with all its inherent, disturbing, deeply embedded contradictions.
My hope for that situation lies in the progressive movement epitomized by J Street and the existence of progressives united for justice evident even in this NY Times story on the Intifada. But also, signified by a young woman close to my heart who after many years in the Israeli military has changed her mind about Palestine, and about her government’s policy.
If we pay attention, we get these reminders that people can change, in deeply meaningful, even life-altering ways. That our hearts can open, our minds can open, the evidence of suffering and injustice can penetrate our dearly held prejudices. Denzel’s character in Flight discovers that the need to do right dwells deeper than anything else, and that redemption can start with the simple act of speaking the truth–even knowing that you will suffer for that act. Spring’s approach, with its spiritual resonance of rebirth, offers us a moment to pause and affirm our membership in, and our compassion for the collective community.
p.s. stay tuned for a review of the newest iteration of that cake, incorporating chick peas [collective gasp] and beets (nope, they don’t turn it red)