short thoughts (not cuts)

February 1, 2007

i caught Altman’s “Nashville” at the Brattle tonight. it’s the second time i’ve seen the movie in the past six weeks, and I’m once again floored by the movie. i probably liked it even more this time. it’s definitely a movie that bears repeat viewings, but even more than that there’s just something magical about the theater experience. i’m pretty sure it’s the captivity. we have to watch, and so we do. we can experience characters’ silence as a true sensory deprivation, and not as an excuse to check our email or eat sunflower seeds (rightfully not sold at cinemas). but it’s also group captivity. the whole theater is forced into the experience together, and we feed off of each other. laughter breeds more laughter. i didn’t realize how funny “Nashville” was until tonight when the crowd clued me in. movies used to be more languid, which can be a real problem for modern viewers who expect constant action, yet this relaxed nature isn’t a problem in the theater. seeing everything larger than life, simultaneously alone and with your peers, focuses you. you adjust to the movie’s pace rather than force it to adjust to yours.

i was going to make a point about a certain word used in the film, but I don’t want to tag this post **Spoiler Alert**, so instead i’m going to look at the word “hobnob,” which is used (emphatically) in “Nashville.” “hobnob” means to associate on friendly terms. the word comes to us from drinking. there was a popular toast “hob or nob,” meaning “to have or have not.”

hobnob frequently has the idea of associating with someone of a higher status. here are two quotes from dictionary.com which made hobnob the word of the day in September of 2002 (bested again!): “Mr. Pinsky recited poetry to kids, schmoozed with literati, hobnobbed with Washington pols and put his bully pulpit of poetry to work in the service of verse.”; and “Charlie joined the elite Tanana Men’s Club, and he hobnobbed with lawyers and bankers.” Pinsky schmoozes with the literati because their his equals (and maybe all jews), but hobnobs with his betters in washington. likewise, one joins private clubs to be graced by their social betters, and not for a silly thing like tennis.

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Frolic is an Important Book – potentially important enough to earn the scorn of students for years to come. Themes of Import include the obvious call for tort reform, but also the role of the artist in society, the role of a man as an artist, parent-child relationships, copyright law and the use of the public domain, the nuisance of television, the pervasiveness of television, greed, money as the sole metric by which we evaluate worth, and of course justice. The book makes use of all of its 500+ pages and even where words seem wasted they can be written off as an author’s statement about our society’s signal to noise ratio.

Written almost entirely in dialogue, the book revolves around Oscar Crease, a failed old curmudgeon who initiates two seemingly frivolous lawsuits, one against the director of a Civil War movie whom he claims stole ideas from his unproduced play Once at Antietam, and another against himself for being hit by his own car as he hotwired it. In the first lawsuit he seeks some justification for his life – a concrete identity as an artist and intellect. In the second he is scammed by lawyers he found on a matchbook cover. The author follows the first lawsuit to its finish as Oscar denies a $200,000 offer to settle, loses in court, and then appeals, all while legal bills grow absurd on both sides and the protagonist ignores his girlfriend and irritates his step-sister and her husband (himself a lawyer and eventually the subject of a lawsuit).

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Previously on 2008 Watch…

“And, From all appearances, it seems that Biden as set his sights on a South Carolina strategy. Like a true politician, Biden has been pandering hard, attempting to woo Southerners with his off-the-cuff racism.”

–L.P. Mandrake, 1/30/07

And now, the thrilling continuation

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

–Joe Biden on Barack Obama, 1/31/07