Monday, December 3, 2018

Some Crimes of Grindglewald Thoughts and 1-4-7 Chiastic Ties in Harry Potter

Crimes of Grindlewald  Thoughts
So, I should be writing about Crimes of Grindlwald, and having seen it twice and bought the published screenplay, I do have some thoughts, although nowhere near as vigorous as the really active online pundit community (e.g., Credence has Ariana Dumbledore's obscurus; Credence actually is Percival Dumbledore's late-life, lonesome-in/from-prison lovechild; the HogPro crowd's "everything is narrative misdirection and everyone is on a secret mission for one of the ministries" take on Queenie being really on a mission). For one, the one-screen theater in my home town has been shut down since some time in June for repairs of parts of the ceiling that crumbled in, and it's never been a huge-profit game for the guy who owns and runs it, so who knows if/ when it will reopen, so that means a viewing has gone from being a five-minute walk to a half-hour drive, which means no viewing it five times in two weeks like I did the first Fantastic Beasts film (I am going to be majorly depressed if they can't reopen, and not just because of the pain in the ass of driving a half hour: my dad took me to see War Games at the Guthrie when I was twelve and I went to see a lot of Marvel stuff up through Infinity War there ... and five viewings each of Force Awakens and Last Jedi ... the Matrix, Wonder Woman, Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade  ... five viewings of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ... and the clincher on my interest in HP: after watching a VHS of of Sorcerer's Stone somebody had left in the home theater at the group boarding situation I was in, I went to see Chamber at the Guthrie when it came out, and that convinced me to read the books).

So, a brief version of my thoughts: (in order to get any of what is being talked of here, you will have to already know about the chiasm/ring structure and reading, which can be found in various pieces of mine across the past couple years, including some basic intro ones, which you can find by scrolling through the list of posts on the right side):In looking at the screenplay only quickly, I've noticed the differences between writing and viewing in that I think I even checked the time (showing booked at 8:15, with previews, you're looking at 8:25 start, I looked at the beginning of this scene and it was 9:20) and the scene in the middle of the film was the scene down into the ministry of France to find the Lestrange tree and Leta finding Newt and Tina and the escape on the back of the big Chinese Zouwu. But going by scene-count from the published screen play, it's the sewers hideout of Yusuf Kama. Some of that may be film producers cutting actual scenes in the second half (meaning after the ministry escape) and beefing out the pyrotechnics of the ones kept (so, with a different spacing because if some scenes were added back in in the material after the ministry, the screenplay could have reflected a feel in the film of the exposition in the sewers matching the exposition in the tomb, with the trip into the ministry and the escape in the middle of the film between them).

I do think there is meant to be something in that escape scene as central because there is such a concentration of obviously intentional matches with the central scene of the first film, which was the ministry and escape: an escape from a ministry aided by a magical beast (swooping evil in the first film and the Zouwu in this one ... and nice way to keep distinctive for this film series, keeping the beasts in the action, and therefore Newt as an apt main character, so it doesn't seem like they just chose Fantastic Beasts as a random title from HP to make some more money on their copyrights, which Warner did, but JKR is too much of an artist to settle for it); some members of the escape party are carried out in Newt's case by one of the members; key characters connect in the process (in film 1, Tina's "I love it" is her first real warming to Newt and entering into his mental world of wonder at exotic creatures, and in this film, Leta and Tina, who you would think are competitive for Newt, because Leta definitely still has emotions involving Newt, wind up being thrown onto the same side and accepting each other, or at least definitely being in the tension you would expect ... for one competition for Newt as the connection between them is replaced by sympathy for Credence once in the tomb: Tina wants him to be able to know who he is and to be safe and Leta wants to save him from being killed by Yusuf, wants it enough to admit her role in her brother's death).

 But I can't pin down more than that EXCEPT to say that: whether the sewer or the ministry is at the center, it's all about the Lestranges. And that brings me to my one and only even possible "prediction": I would not be surprised at all if movie 4 (the chiastic pairing with this one) has some big reveal about the Lestrange family's involvement. John Granger and company at HogPro are all abuzz with comments on narrative misdirection, especially John himself with his excellent exposition all the way back between books 4 and 5 of the original HP series of Rowling borrowing the third-person-limited-omniscient narratival perspective from Jane Austen for narrative misdirection in the original series (can't really do that in a film though, which may be why, in my opinion, the film series became so horrendous after movie 2 or 3). Some of what they get into, I'm like "hmmm, that could be interesting" and some it I go "I dunno, sounds like it would be narrative misdirection distracting from literary quality, where in order to figure out the mystery, you have to step away from the literary encounter with theme and character, and even structure within each work as singular works, or at least from what those structures can convey or reveal, which is usually thematic rather than mechanical" ... it's one of the dangers in certain approaches: you can get too caught up in trying to pin down material plot predictions and lose literary quality, or you can get so focused on developing or uncovering the physics of the magic that you lose site of what magic is meant to symbolize or the thematic meaning the story is meant to convey through it and the connection with character as having moral quality [excitement over some statement that DD says because it means Ariana's obscurus could have been transferred and neglecting to ask "if that is the case, what does he mean when he says Credence "could be saved" ... put it in another host, a kid whom you could expect to die within years because the usual is death by 10? Does that sound like the Dumbledore we know?If anything is possible on that line, I think it is his mention of "brother" and the possibility of him taking it in and that's how be beats GG, but that's a stretch at this point ... in the end, I at least, have to wait]).

Anyway, the only main thing to say with that little digression on narrative misdirection is that, John has done some good work on it in the HP series, and I don't doubt he's right in the film series: she did it with Charity Barebones in film 1 and she did it with "Credence is Corvus" in this one. What I wonder is if the "fooled you; Credence isn't Corvus" is ALSO misdirection, but misdirection concerning the Lestrange family itself, with or without Credence in it. The viewer tends to think, "Corvus is a dead-end as far as explaining what happened as far as Credence and predicting what will happen, therefore the Lestrange family is a dead end in those regards, therefore they won't be important in these films; JKR just used them as a ruse to set us up in this film to drop the real bomb at the end: either Credence is Arelius or GG has some really devious plan in telling him that he is." I think that could be a case of narrative misdirection and that that family could wind up having revelations about it being more central; Yusuf could play a big role in that.

All this comes from thinking, "if the center is either the ministry or the sewers, and either way the tomb scene is a big element, that seems like an awful lot of time to spend on something that will go false in the end ... it feels kind of like a dud to me, especially for something as enigmatic as GG's statement at the end (with narrative misdirection, when it does pay off, it needs to pay off clearly, like Harry thinking Snape is trying kill him at the match in book 1 pays off in Snape was actively trying to save his life, not Snape was interested in what was going on in some way but we're not quite sure exactly how) ... but maybe it's not such a dud; maybe it's narrative misdirection on the Lestranges in the larger context of the chiasm/ring and some big reveal about them will happen in movie 4." There is definitely a lot of pay off that could happen with Lestrange thematically, with things like the tree recording only the men, which explains Corvus Lestrange Sr. as a real patriarch of elitist thinking, but sexist and pureblood (that whole thing, with Yusuf on a quest, and his ethnicity, gives me a strong feeling of Thomas Sutpen leaving Eulalia Bon and their son Charles when he finds out that Eulalia is mixed race in Faulkner's Absalom Absalom ... it doesn't tie out directly, in that Yusuf is not the son of Corvus Sr. and Corvus Sr. does not reject a "candidate" on ethnicity, although in this literature, magic-versus-non is what stands in for race, but it just has that feel of what purebloods do in begetting their "heirs," especially the feel of Paris that can feel a lot like what plantation decor in the antebellum South tried to style itself as ... Corvus Lastrange Sr. wasn't a philanderer; the bastard was effing Henry VIII).

 Beyond that, I'll just say that I really like the characterization of Dumbledore and Grindlewald. Everybody else too, but especially them. I also found the WWII prediction interesting on a couple counts. The first is Jacob's horror at the idea of another war. I think that people forget the impact of WW I, but JKR is more likely than most to realize it, since she has stated being a fan of Dorothy Sayers, and particularly her detective fiction, which mostly means Lord Peter Wimsey(Montague Egg is very fun, but small material, just eleven short stories ... if you want to do a whole novel with potential for theme, it's Wimsey). For Sayers as a member of that generation in England, Wimsey symbolized the nation after the war: scarred (Wimsey has PTS) but learning from mistakes and moving on (Wimsey sleuthing and eventually marrying Harriet Vane). England and Europe were hopeful that, while that hurt like hell, we have learned something from it and won't let it happen again. ... And then it did. Reportedly, Sayers couldn't write Wimsey much at all after WWII broke out. To a certain extent, a hope had died, a hope for which she had used him as a literary symbol. And the possibility of that hope dying could be a powerful motivator for somebody who had been in that muggle war ... like Jacob Kowalski. It would be a very interesting twist on the thematic level if a muggle decided to go over to GG's wizards-dominate-muggles side because, in addition to the ache to be with Queenie, he succumbs to a logic of "better this than another world war." And that's more of a possibility for an author who is a fan of an author who is known to have grappled literarily with the fallout of WWI.

And the other angle from which I find it interesting is the angle from which I thought Wonder Woman was so brilliant (well, one of the reasons; there were several, and I have a post on all that somewhere down the archives on the right, including a chiastic reading): the villain was re-world WWI to a much greater extent than there is any real-world villain in any of the other super hero films. The closest it comes is Captain America starting in WWII, and even there, when the villain arises, Red Skull is still from the super-human realm, not the real-world human; in Wonder Woman  (also "WW" ... have to watch causing confusion by using it), the final boss fight is won by blowing up a plane of real-world bombs; even in the fight with Ares, that sacrifice by Steve Trevor is what makes Diana's peace with believing in humanity enough to fight Ares, and it looks like the heartbreak losing him in that noble act in the real WWI is what powers her blinding-light defeat of the god of war. In Fantastic Beasts, with that vision playing so large in the end of film 2, there could very well be some more intense interplay with real world elements than we have been used to seeing in the material from the wizarding world (also "WW"... freaky), which could be really interesting. I definitely think it possibly she had an interest in doing a wizarding story set in the context of real-world European history, as evidenced in the blatant connection of putting the original famous duel in 1945 in the HP series.

Anyway, as I am seeing that, in spite of the other reason for a dearth of posting on this blog in recent months, which is hopefully high revenues and high performance in the task of paying rent and utilities because of a spate of editing projects recently (as opposed to the dearth of work last year at this time that resulted in the spate of blog posts), there has been a steady large (for my blog) number of hits, so that little intro is my attempt to provide at least something interesting on the new film because I know people are interested, including myself

1-4-7 Chiastic connections in the original Harry Potter series

 So, one of the other effects Crimes of Grindlewald coming out is that there is a lot more discussion of JKR's wizarding world in general, like me talking to a college senior who works at the Y where I work out who is really a delightful person to know (I'll miss talking to her when she leaves for in internship in central FL and then graduates; she says she plans to visit all the Universal stuff while in FL), and a Hufflpuff by the test on whatever the big site it, probably mugglenet, and thus obviously a huge fan of Harry Potter and of Newt (I told her I was offended for her sake and the lame money-grubbing sales promo for whatever it was that was up before the CoG movie that said "don't be a Hufflepuff"). So we wind up talking a lot about that (and Marvel films too) while I procrastinate in getting on with the next set or next exercise. And I try to mention/explain chiasm without getting totally boring.

So I wind up thinking more about the original series. And one thing that has always nagged me in my chiastic readings is lack in the area of 1-4-7 connections, especially heavy connections, since you would expect the opening and closing to be big thematically. You do have a material plot connection of direct "fights" with Harry facing Voldy alone in 1, 4, and 7, and the horcrux connections in those books (they saved him in 1, enabling him to regenerate in 4, but are destroyed in 7, making him killable). You also have some opening and closing connections that are part of the chiasm because they open and close the work but they don't have as prevalent a presence in book 4: a ride with Hagrid on the motorbike at the beginning of both, Hagrid bringing Harry to Hogwarts across the lake in 1 and bringing his body back to Hogwarts from the forest in 7, and Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville being the ones to gain Griffyndor the winning points in 1 and then each of the, killing a horcrux in 7 (well, Harry does it in 2, but it's in 7 that it fits  in the context of the project of killing horcruxes).

But I have felt the exposition to be a bit thin on my part. So, I have finally thought of two that satisfy my desires for full and meaning chiastic connections ... tow that are nice and solid and that don't leave me feeling like I am grasping at straws and trying to make them look like tree trunks. The first is on the level of the material physics of magic in the WW but one with connection to theme, and the second is more strictly thematic and character-driven. The first is the connection of the twin cores in Harry's and Voldy's wands: in book 1 we have Olivander say "strange that this wand should choose you, when it's brother gave you that scar" ... and the line about expecting great things; in book 4 we have that conversation remembered in the weighing of the wands chapter, I think with mention of it still striking him as a bit off, and then in 7 we have the connection play a central role, AND we have the conversation with Olivander in which Harry remembers being wary of Olivander's slight fascination with the "great" things Voldy did. I have always followed John Granger's reading of magic as symbolic of the imagination, especially in that wonderful bit of exposition of "Diagon Alley" as looking at the world "diagonally" (imaginatively rather then strictly scientifically). And I have added to that my own idea of the wand as symbolizing language, the language through which imagination is expressed. Along those lines, some interesting things happen in 4 and 7 after the revelation of the connection in 1. The wands do battle and one conquers the other and makes it make revelations (the spells it has performed, the people it has murdered): language can be a tool of conquest (a theme done well in the Book of Eli), and  it's often done in one language game (to use Wittgenstein's term) overcoming another, dominating the conversation and dictating what terminology will be used (terminology that comes laden with presupposition choices and assumptions)  ... and making it communicate things other than what the person might want who originally developed it, just as Voldy doesn't want, and suffers from, his wand putting forth those shades. Then in 7 we see the wand be able to recognize the personality that formed the other wand/language/language game without having to concretely have that wand/language actually even present (in the fight in the flight to the Burrow), and if DD is right in King's Cross when he says Harry's wand recognized l and then in book 7, we see the two battle with borrowed or won wands ... in other words, taking up and using the language of others, language that is similar because those others are human, but different too because they are individuals. Nothing is written on the page about it, but one wonders if there is a bit of the "wizard learning from the wand" here ... the elder and hawthorn wands (which know each other from when the hawthorn disarmed Dumbledore of the elder on top of the tower) recognizing that the spell casters have a feel of connection to them, even though that connection was forged through the holly and yew wands  .. the elder and hawthorn wands couldn't "know" about the holly and yew wands, but still, the wizards imbibed something of the connected wands (holly and yew sharing the cor) and the fact that they had met (the wizards met through the wands meeting), and the hawthorn and yew could sort of feel it, sort of feel that their casters had met before and that one beat the other, even though the beating was done through other wands ... it had left a mark of "these two met before with certain results"  ... only a very latent feel that matches the very latent material path, ... but still ...

The one that excites me thematically is interacting with family. Something like the photos Hagrid gives Harry or Madeye's photo of the order are only images of the past. Even though they move, the eyes of those people are directed at the person who originally took the picture. Because they move, they may be able to have some sense of other people looking at them down the years, but you get no impression that they can recognize that as anything other than some more "people" out there looking at us. But the images of Harry's parents in the mirror ... they look into Harry's eyes and smile at him AS Harry, as their son whom they love. Whatever state they are as far as whether the mirror can see actual souls, they interact with him as who he is and as the people of whom they are whatever kind of echoes ... it's an actual encounter, not just an observation of a photograph with the occupants of the photo realizing they're being observed by new people (but not really making interaction). We'll leave aside the issues of Phineus and the other headmaster portraits being able to recognize who people are and interact with them in speech, as we're not trying to pin down a logic that explains the rules of a whole material system in the WW, but rather to look at one literary element (actual interaction with his family) as connected with chiastic structuring (I've always been a little worried when I hear of the search for a "unified theory of everything" in HP in the sense of figuring out all the details of all stories consistently and especially of finding a unified physics in the WW that accounts for all known occurrences of any magical action whatsoever ... I must state up front that I in no way accuse any commentators of anything devious, but "unified theory of everything" is a very, very, very apt way to describe an ideology ... ideologies are the basic nature and definition of things like Marxism and Fascism, systems of thought and political rule that never let art flourish on its own and discover meaning by its own proper path, because EVERTYHING must fit tightly into the logic, everything must be oriented to the state or whatever wields the power, and nothing can be left to chance [the wrecker of all but the best laid plans, to quote Voldy], the chance that art might find something that is out of step with rigid interpretation according to our state's logic ... but I also have to say that, while predictions aren't my forte [but I do admire it: when whoever predicted that it would be revealed that Snape had been keeping DD alive in book 6 because of the "stopper in death" comment from the first potions lesson, and then it was indeed revealed in book 7, my first though was, "damn, I wish I was that smart"], I can see how the making of them can be other people's way of actually looking for theme, the language that they speak for doing so, and not just trying pin out everything material in the series and ignoring theme ... I'm not saying I think any particular pundit does either looking for theme or ignoring theme when they are predicting or working on theories of how the material physics of the magic, just that these are the possibilities ... as with all things human, including my own expositions, I think it's always a mixed bag).

Then in book 4, we meet echoes that again directly interact with Harry (here's a funky idea: the echoes in the wand are a little bit of horcrux ... not even something as big as a "piece" of soul from the victim, but still something really from them, not in the way we think of "recordings" ... the can do what DD notes as peculiar of the diary Riddle, they can think and act for themselves .. but I'm sure somebody has thought of that one before in all of HP fandom and academia), and this time they speak and directly contribute to his safety and getting away alive. And then in book 7 we meet them even more real. It's through the stone and so it's not them as in life, but it is still them, the real them, not merely the residual horcux-like shades in Voldy's wand  (not to mention that the book 7 versions are cleaner for not being through the [by now] plague-ridden element of Voldy's wand ... if Bellatrix's wand felt fouls to Hermione, imagine living in Voldy's wand). It can only happen in the context of his possible death and them being coming to fetch him. Dumbledore warns against even the light form of the mirror's interaction as a potential for getting lost in it if you seek to have it as an ongoing thing in this life. But still, within a seven-book progression to being a loving person who will sacrifice self for others, a person willing to die and in the act of making a choice to go to death, there is a progression in levels of interaction with dearly departed family. And it happens in a chiastic development, in books 1, 4, and 7

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Hearing Your Name in Lights: The Deluminator in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

"Put out the light, and then put out the light"
--Othello, Othello act 5, scene 2
(when snuffing the candle before killing Desdemona)

 Put Out the Light, and Then Put ON the Light

I use the Othello line as an epigraph not only because it introduces the element of "two lights" I want to examine in Deathly Hallows, but also because I want to use its negative, tragic setting as a little intro foil to what I will be describing. In Othello, the light imagery is used for murder, while with Dumbledore's deluminator, it is used for the good event of reunion between estranged persons, Ron and Harry and Hermione. It's the reason DD left it to Ron: "'no,' Harry corrected him, 'he must have known you'd always want to come back'" (Deathly Hallows 391).

At the outset, I am going to establish that as a base. Ron recounts that, after he heard his name come out of the deluminator on Christmas, he clicked it and when the light of the room went out, the light appeared outside the window that later entered him behind the garden and the led him to Harry and Hermione (DH 384). There are two lights, and the second (unlike Othello's second instance) leads back to reunion.

Let There Be Light: Scientific Light and the Other Kind of Light

This point may be a bit esoteric for some. I have written on this at other points long ago in another work, but it would take me a while to find the essay, and it may not even be findable anymore, so I will just begin with recounting that instance and move into the theoretical backing. That instance was the "compass that doesn't point north" in Pirates of the Carribean, and what I wrote about it is that its point is that it is not scientifically accurate (doesn't point north) so that it can be accurate in a way other than scientifically, meaning in pointing to one's deepest desire (for Jack, the Pearl). The point I would make here is the same. There is a purely material light (the lamp in the room), and it must go out so that the other light may appear, the light that leads to reunion. Just as the compass must not point north (be scientifically accurate) if it is to point to the heart's desire, so the purely material light must be extinguished in order for the other light to appear. The narratives convey that the scientific or material must yield to something else, something with a meaning beyond the "objective description" of science and beyond material concerns.

The theoretical side that I mentioned is probably most clearly presented by somebody else in Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry, in which he goes into great depth on the radical shift in thought in and since the scientific revolution. But that is a very dense exposition, so in my own writing it is perhaps most prominent in my post on literal-six-day creationism as having unfortunately bought into the underlying principles of scientism without realizing it, resulting from the former's desperate desire to beat the latter on its own grounds, in the process thoroughly imbibing its presuppositions. But I know I have probably also written on those presuppositions in other places addressing the role of Renee Descartes, the father of modern philosophy. The core of scientism (not meaning scientology) is the assumption that scientific discourse is the base mode to which all modes of discourse are reducible, the most fundamental discourse, and that scientific fact is the base mode of truth. The role of Descartes is that he formulated in a unique and monumental way a radical redefinition of the meaning of physicality or materiality (he was not the first to think anything like it, but he did present it most succinctly, and that presentation is a major moment in the progression, and therefore his designation as the "father" of modern though). He broke "reality" down into two categories: res cogitens, or "thinking reality," and res extensa, or "extended reality." The latter is his radical redefinition of materiality, defining it by it's quantifiable extension in three dimensions. It's not that nobody knew of extension in three dimensions before him; they did: height, breadth, and width. But they didn't define physical reality by that; they didn't make it the core defining aspect. For the ancient and medieval mind, the definition was not quantitative, but qualitative. There was a hierarchy, and at the top was the human body, which gave orientation for all other bodies. And human body was first and foremost a mode of relation: one relates to God or the gods by cultic acts done with the body; spouses relate to each other through the bodily conjugal act; one relates to nature by bodily tilling of the soil or shepherding of flocks or herds; and so on. Of course, Descartes's move took physical reality out of a hierachical relationship with that which is above it: the classic argument against Descartes is that he creates a "ghost in the machine" by neglecting the soul; he gives no satisfactory answer for how res cogitens connects with and governs res extensa; it's just a ghost in the machine. The material world, now unmoored from its orientation to the higher, to persons, and now defined only by what it had in itself, its extension in three dimensions, became a law unto itself and spawned the "laws" of nature as we now know them and as scientism takes them to be the absolute ground of all reality.

My main interest here is simply to provide Rowling's use of the two lights, alongside the compass that doesn't point north in Pirates of the Caribbean, as evidence that artists can see beyond the false myth of scientism (and, yes, the full smacking irony of applying the term "myth" to scientism is intended). There are meanings in life other than scientific accuracy and material pragmatism, and they are higher meanings. It's not that we should reject scientific fact or scientific discourse altogether, but we should reject scientism's radical enshrining of them as both base and pinnacle of all reality.


Hearing Your Name in Lights

It's demonstrable that JKR has some very pointed stuff going on here just by the fact that there is such a concentrated presentation of certain elements, and I think the main one of those connects meaningfully. That main one is the issue of names, and my main point is that naming (1) is the way the reunion happens and (2) has the same potential for a bad use (presence for the sake of material control ... I would argue, the same type of control that unguided science and technology seek) and a good use (the relational/communal aspect as hierachically above the material). The short version of this is that, in this section of DH, we have two elements of naming side by side, and both of them have names doing more than simple material labeling for material identification (which is the basic scientific role of names). The first is the taboo placed on Voldemort's name. Here the name can bring the presence. This is straight up traditional "taboo." Before it came to mean stuff we don't talk about because of good manners or whatever (especially the sexually taboo), it meant entities we don't name because using their name might bring them to us, and we don't want them here. In older, superstitious cultures, you wouldn't say the name of a demon because that might bring the demon.

[The theme of the importance of names is too well-established to really justify going into it here. I heard a good paper at Lumos in 2006 on Jewish name magic as the source of the taboo feeling about Voldy's name, and that presenter used the exact word long before Rowling revealed it in DH ... which was a cool confirmation for that author's insight when JKR did use the word. It's all over Ursula K. Le Guin's Wizard of Earth Sea, Patrick Rothfuss's Name of the Wind, and Jim Butcher's Dresden files books. As a child of the 80s, Terence Trent Darby's "sign your name across my heart" comes to mind, and as an English major, the irony of Romeo's "what is in a name" arises in my mind. And of course, the most seminal instance of them all: the Tetragrammaton, the four-consonant name of God that those in Judaism do not pronounce because it is too holy; in modern siddurs (prayer books), they don't even write it anymore, they just have two yods or the Hebrew "Ha Shem,"  "The Name."]

I think that the more important instance of name "tabooing," the one that she is really aiming at as a positive meaning, is the one she doesn't call a taboo, even though it basically is. The deluminator is pretty much a straight up taboo device in that original sense of making the one named appear. Ron carries the deluminator and is its rightful owner, since Dumbledore left it to him in a binding will. When Hermione uses the name of the carrier and owner, it notifies him and then provides him a way (the very same second light I was speaking of above) to come to them (it goes inside him and guides his apparition). Here, name taboo is used not for catching and harm, and it doesn't break protective enchantments; it respects those who used the name and their need for reunion to be fully intentional and knowing on their part. But its role as facilitating re-union of comm-union is clear. That is what knowing people's names is supposed to do, to build or rebuild community. "He must have known you'd always want to come back."

JKR is careful here in setting up the taboo. There may be a material discrepancy, but it is probably more that she simply did not include a logical explanation, but since one can be so easily construed, I think it is sufficient. The taboo was in place when the Burrow was invaded at the wedding, as Ron explains that that is how the Death Eaterss found them on Tottenham Court Road (DH 389). They use the name at least once that I saw in a quick perusal of the #12 Grimmauld Place material, but the plausible explanation for why they are not found through the taboo there is the fact that the house had already been made unplotable by the Black's, and that type of thing may be of another class than the usual "protective enchantments" the taboo breaks. It's still a possible material inconsistency, but it's a gray area. It would be a material inconsistency if they had used it in the tent after escaping the ministry and Yaxley and not been revealed, that would have been a clear inconsistency ... but they don't ... I checked (if there had been such an inconsistency, it would have been a nice case supporting my idea in my post on narrative as a kairotic chronolgy that kairos always breaks chronos, as evidenced in the instance I discuss in  my post on method, where I use the primary example of the magically appearing fourteen feet in the graveyard in Little Hangleton in Goblet of Fire, the idea that their will always be breakdowns in material consistency ... this would have been a nice example and added, along the lines of that argument, weight for saying that what I am discussing here is an important theme for her, as it would have yielded an inconsistency, kairos breaking chronos, but alas, JKR was very thorough here, although, as I will say, her thoroughness in setting up the taboo this securely so far in advance also indicates importance for her, just along different argumentation lines). Ron's irritation at saying the name begins the moment they are clear of the ministry and in the open. I checked all the instances, and neither Harry nor Hermione ever makes it further than the first syllable of the name before Ron cuts across them.

So, JKR seems to have cared a good deal for the taboo element to have set it up so securely this far in advance (if we accept the arguments for why the use at Grimmauld place not revealing them not being a clear inconsistency). While they never get past the first syllable, there are a good three or four times they try and are cut off by Ron. JKR is accenting the taboo structure, especially having Ron say it feels like a jinx (reinforced by Ron's revelation of the taboo on DH 389 using the same word, "jinx"), and right after they left the ministry, where a taboo is more likely to have been set up, as it is probably equipped for monitoring the whole country, especially regarding the trace (which is the alternate explanation they keep wondering about for the DEs finding them). She also accents the issue of Ron's name by having the issue of saying his name be a sensitive thing once he is gone. Harry reminds Hermione who Muriel is by saying "Ginny's great-aunt," and it is noted that he senses that Hermione could sense Ron's name in the offing. Then, when she finally does name Ron, there is a bit of hesitation ("Remember ... remember Ron? When he broke his wand, crashing he car?" ... DH 349), and when that is mentioned later (DH 384), the language is all pointed: Ron's point is he heard his name and Harry remembers that it was the first time they had said Ron's name since he left.

It may be that there is a more direct relation between the taboo and the deluminator than it simply being that the taboo trope simply signals the importance of names as a signpost to the importance of the communal use of names as more than material labels, as agents of community, a relation or connection that is literal as well as literary. It seems odd that Ron is so sensitive to a feeling of jinx ... but then, Ron has the deluminator, which is a positive taboo device, and maybe it is precisely having that taboo device that makes him more sensitive to taboos.

To sum up: the two lights of the deluminator are evidence of an artist sensing that there is a light that is higher than the light of the scientific/material light, and in the instance here, with the deluminator, it is the light that leads to reunion and it works through names. I think the name "deluminator" means more than just the literal referent of putting out physical lights; I think it means the literary referent of having to put out the material light so that another kind of light can appear (Voldy is nothing if not a materialist), a light that leads to real community (which Voldy hates). Voldy's taboo is like material light as radicalized in pure materialism; the taboo in DD's deluminator gives light that leads to communal relationship based in something higher than materialism, based in love.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Language and Topography

In The Discarded Image, C. S. Lewis talked about medieval maps as not useful for navigation, which is something I used for the post I did on Patema Inverted. His point there is that the medieval map was meant to show ideas about the physical world other than pragmatic material accuracy. He notes that mariner's would never criticize such maps because they would never have a frustration with them because they would never try to use them in the first place because they know that that was not what they were made for. Mariners had other means by which to sail, like passed down verbal descriptions of landmarks. While modern map makers do strive for pragmatic accuracy, I would argue that some of the same thing of lack of accuracy at least pertains to usefulness as a problem in modern maps, (at least that is my experience from times of relying to heavily on Google maps when biking or driving). But what I want to focus on here is that language can have the same tension between map attempts at accuracy and other methods.

I think the tension between grammar and performance in language can be the same thing sometimes. A sentence diagram (the structure of subject and verb, with outline of how adverbial modifying phrases and clauses connect to that and all that good stuff) is like a top-view map. Logical sense is also like the map: "logical sense" (for example, the way we usually take "all that glitters is not gold" is actually a case of lack of logical sense because it technically says that gold does not glitter ... ever: for every X, if X glitters then X is gold; as opposed to what we mean: not all that glitters is gold = ~[all that glitters is gold] = there exists an X such that X glitters and X is not gold) strives for mapping the elements in a way that can have its plotting transferred right over to something like symbolic logic notation.

The other guides mariner's would use would be like the organic flow of a speech act as performed. It involves a lot more tone of voice. Sometimes you can get a description of these kinds of things to adapt to the map model, just as you can with Mariner methods (locating on a map the landmarks described in some bit of knowledge of such landmarks passed from sailor to sailor) ... but not always. When you can, though, it's actually an adapting of the linguistic "cartography" to the concretely existing examples, rather than the other way round, which (the map-method being dominant) ultimately winds up in something like computer code. And it is important to note that the concrete examples, like the Mariner's other methods, are the things that have worked (and believe me, as a copy editor, this is a hard admission to make ... but I'm also a huge fan of J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien and Terry Pratchett, so I have marinated my brain in good, interesting writing and know its worth ... even if I at times have trouble reproducing it in my own ramblings here :).

Here is an example of one that can fit in. An example sentence is "He purchased the land, and thus the well that is on the land." This is the way many people would write this, and in a rigid reading of the rules (the map), it is incorrect. Technically it is a compound direct object and should take no separating comma between the two direct objects. Rather, the "thus" should be offset with commas as an adverbial because it does not modify the action directly (as in "he bought the land with cash"), but rather through a further ramification. So, by a rigid reading of grammar, it should be "he purchased the land and, thus, the well on the land." This case is a little bit easier because the nature of the material content helps to see the intended communication (if the well is on the land, then of course he bought the well, so we wouldn't see it as an extra thing in the way that compound constructions usually convey added things [e.g., "I'll have a hamburger and fries"]), but this illustrates the point: the flows of language as performed often adapt to the contours of the subject, just as I am trying here to adapt the grammatical rules to fit the really existing sentence. Everybody naturally hears the first version performed in their head. It works to express the idea of consequentiality much better than the "correct" version.

The adaptation (of the rules/map-method to the actually performed sentence) I am about to give comes from actual experience in editing. I had so many people using the first version that I wound up sitting and thinking one night that I should change them to the "correct" way except that I could hear the first version in my head so well and felt like it did better justice to the intended meaning, and so I tried to see if there was a manner in which I could apply the rules to make it OK.

So, my discovery was that there is a whole lot of elision that goes on in our use of language that we don't realize, and elision is a poetic devise, so this brings us back to the observation that the poetic is the more original and scientific language is always trying to catch up to it: explanation is always chasing after understanding, to use Ricoeur's terms. Here, my "rules" justification of the first version ("He purchased the land, and thus the well that is on the land.") is that it is ACTUALLY a compound sentence (or at least that that is a legitimate reading that justifies the punctuation in the first version), which DOES take a comma to separate its two independent clauses, but there has been considerable elision in the second independent clause in the compound sentence.

Elision is when part of a clause is dropped out with the understanding that it is filled in from a previous clause, repeating that material in a new setting with different other parts. So, what is really there is "He bought the land, and thus [he bought] the well that is on the land," with the bracketed material being what is carried over from the first clause of the compound sentence and then elided.

Two further things can be noted here in support of the claim that the first version is not only allowed, but preferable as being more accurate to the intended sense. Both of these have to do with emphasis, and this point is important in and of itself because it points to the idea that language communicates more than simply the raw data of brute material facts, in this case, emphasis (if you want to put emphasis into factual proposition, you have to introduce new language statements, such as "I want to emphasize that buying the well is a ramification of buying the land"). Even the more rigid version includes some some emphasis with the offsetting of "thus," so the emphasis (something that is not a brute "fact") is so strongly intended that it can't be kept out, but I think the first version does it even more effectively.

The first of those two aspects is simply the elision itself. As a poetic, out of the ordinary practice (at least of the ordinary for the way we think of factual predication), it has a natural rhetorical force. It's like John Irving's missing finger being more effective for pointing in A Prayer for Owen Meany: the fact that something is missing that you would expect to be there gets your attention more (in this case, you would expect a full clause after what is obviously set up as a comma + conjunction for a compound sentence). The second thing is that, with the first version, the idea of the consequentiality has a whole clause dedicated to it, rather than one offset word, making it weightier in grabbing attention.

So, there is all this going on in the statement that makes the more rigid/formal "map" version (all that is on the page is the compound direct object, so it should be punctuated as that) less adequately, and thus less accurately, convey the intended sense (this is a very hard admission to make for a copy editor who loved the symbolic logic course in college, but then, I also am editing academic material, and I don't think you can pull that off with poetry, and so what I edit is fun for me as an exercise in balancing the map with the flow, or maybe better to say that I try to manage the interplay between them ... as G.K. Chesterton noted in Orthodoxy when discussing the romance of orthodoxy versus the stability of the Greek column, stable balance can be a very boring thing ... but I also have to note that many of my edits wind up being precisely enforcing prosaic grammar logic because poetic style is a skill that takes developing [Dr Donnelly, the advanced writing prof in college brought in an article from The New Yorker on bat boxes and said "if you're to write about bat boxes and get it published in The New Yorker ... you have to be good], and you can tell that many of academic authors don't have it honed the way journalists, so they are hearing a certain performance in their head but how they are translating it onto the page has so many possible other renderings when you can't rely on tone of voice being heard that it winds up in a muddle and it's better to go with the prosaic grammar).

Not all situations are going to be this adaptable to a "rules" explanation, but it helps to understand the terrain (the lay of the land in mapping versus other describing/method) to look at one that is.

Addendum
Now that I have gone and written this, I realize that the tension is felt much more with compound predicates, which also do not take a comma separating ([subject][predicate 1] comma + conjunction [predicate 2]), the tension being felt more because so little is elided (only the subject), making it harder to notice that it is elision. So here it would be something like "He bought the land, and so has the use of the well on it." The "rules map" way would be "He bought the land and, so, has the use of the well on it" (because the compound predicate takes no comma, and thus the word "so" has to be set off with commas) whereas many authors would do it the first way because the intended sense of emphasis is better served by reading it as "He bought the land, and so [he] has the use of the well on it."
[Extra note, the reason that the commas disappear that would offset "so" or "thus" is that, with a comma preceding a conjunction, if what follows the conjunction is an introductory adverbial, the opening comma of the offsetting pair always subsumes back into the comma before the conjunction ("he thinks the law is unjust, and in this case, I tend to agree"), and my practice, which I think is fairly widely done, is that, with words as short as "thus" and "so," both comas subsume back into the comma before the conjunction. The reason the opening subsumes back is a universally accepted allowance of performance aspects into formal written grammar: everybody so naturally performs it without the performative pause of the opening comma in this situation (introductory adverbial in the second independent clause of a compound sentence) that is has been accepted as part of the written "rules" even though it has no "grammatical" base. Commas were originally to preserve performative pauses in writing, and many of those performative pauses had grammatical functions, and those became codified in the grammar rules for comma usage. But you still get some tendency to insert commas for performative pauses that are not grammatical in nature, which, in addition to being unreliable because it depends on accompanying tone of voice that cannot be represented on the page,  then starts to generate confusion sometimes with the grammatical function of commas, and so it is best to use only those that have the grammar function. But in some cases, with dropping them for easier flow in performance, since it is so common, as here, some aspects of performance adaptations get set into the formal/logical grammar rules. Although, many writers don't realize that it is only for commas: when the conjunction is after a period or semicolon, the opening comma of an introductory adverbial stays in because those harder stops do not make it natural for the comma to subsume back the way the softer stop of the comma, which is the same performance level as the opening comma of the introductory adverbial. And it also only really works with conjunctions, "and" and "but," because of the expected performative flow in the conjunction of the predications ... when you have a non-restrictive clause opening with "which" and there is an introductory adverbial, the parenthetical nature of the non-restrictive makes the stop harder and the flow more stilted, such that the opening comma will not subsume back. All of this is very much more the organic side of speech/writing, rather than the logical.]

Monday, March 5, 2018

Logic of Contiguity of Form: Inception and Inside Out.

This post started with the question of what type of link I would say there is between Inside Out and Inception when I use the former in the course of explaining the latter in my post on the latter.

I'm pretty sure that, if hearing me use Inside Out in the context of my claim that Inception can be read as portraying motherhood as bringing about a core psychological shift (recall: I use Inside Out to bring in the idea that motherhood so strongly impacts psychological makeup through normal-level postpartum depression by way of having the mother's lead emotion having shifted from Joy, as Riley still has as her lead emotion [center position of the five at the console], to sadness, and I use this to explain the idea that, in Inception, the really deep violation that Cobb did was to incept in his wife the experience of growing old with him without it involving the progressing lives of the children ... the idea that the dream world was not real, incepted with the spinning top inside the safe, is only the surface as far as what can really be said in the movie ... the real crime was, by incepting the experience of growing old without the kids, to incept the idea that the world with the kids is not real, which causes an extreme psychological rift with the core shift that has already happened in becoming a mother. resulting in her suicide), some would say that this can work only if it can be demonstrated that Nolan was directly influenced, consciously, by Inside Out ... which is impossible, since it didn't exist at the time. 

That would be material/efficient causality: The makers of one film intentionally drawing on the specifics of the other. It is possible this happened in the other direction (Inside Out drawing on Inception, rather than taking something from Inside Out and applying it in Inception on the assumption that the latter drew on the former), but it is not what I am talking about, but rather in addition to what I am talking about. It is possible that the makers of Inside Out could have gotten their idea (again, if I am right about there being a significance to the mother's lead emotion being sadness) from a reading of Inception similar to my own, and this would be, indeed, very helpful to my own reading of Inception because there would be somebody who has some street cred in film agreeing with me, but that is largely an unproductive avenue of inquiry, since I am never going to get that conversation in which I ask the people who made Inside Out about it, and even if I could, the fact that they read Inception the same way as do I does not demonstrate either that Nolan had it in mind not that it is an accurate reading even if he didn't intend it (and again, for the record, conscious intention is not necessarily the deciding factor for whether a reading is valid). Pixar's people could be on the same page as me but with us both on the loony page.

I need to note that the use of the term "explanation" is central in discussing this in Inception. As I have done some with Star Wars: Last Jedi, I am here bringing in a little bit "causality" from the Aristotelian/classic doctrine of four causes, which I used to tell undergrad students could best be understood by substituting the word "explanation" for the word "cause," as in the example of a table: the formal cause/explanation of the table is the form of a table (horizontal surface supported up off the ground by vertical legs); the material cause/explanation is the material of which the table is made (wood, metal, stone, Walmart/Target-furniture glue and sawdust crap); the efficient causality is the carpenter or laborer who built it; and the final cause, the telos or the aim, is to set stuff on during use (food for eating or reports for working on or model airplanes for assembling or whatever). When I begin by talking about "explaining" Inception, it's in the current usual sense of the word: putting forth some theory of how the film works and constructs meaning. But when I come to the relationship with Inside Out, it helps to bring in consideration of the use of "explanation" in the "cause" sense, and especially the "formal cause" sense.

The relationship is not causality, even formal causality, at least not in the way of which I spoke in regard to Last Jedi, because there, the image of Yoda fading, for example, is the formal cause of the image of Luke fading precisely because Last Jedi is a continuation of the same story as Empire Strikes Back. Even if they were not the same story line, even just their being in the same genre and in a certain order would be enough to establish formal causality, depending on how closely the forms correspond (e.g., the post-credits Easter egg for Spiderman Homecoming with Captain America giving the "sometimes patience might not seem like it pays off" school PSA can be argued to be a hat trip to the first ever post-credits clip, way back in the way back of the mid 80s, with Ferris Beuller coming out of the shower again with his hair in a towel after the credits of Ferris Beuller's Day Off saying "why are you still here? it's over ... go home!" while others might argue that it's too much of a stretch to read the Spiderman scene as a hat tip, but when you notice that during the movie itself, while Spidey is running through back yards, a TV in one of the houses is playing the scene in Ferris Beuller in which Ferris is running through back yards to get back home and in bed before being discovered, that increases the correspondence and puts the nature of the Captain America "patience" post-credits scene as a hat tip to the FB Easter Egg as without doubt ... there can be varying degrees of similitude in such instances that strengthen or weaken cases for formal causality in literature). With using Inside Out in an interpretation of Inception, there is none of that. And, as stated, the influence/causality would have to be in the other direction than that which is historically viable: Inside Out would have to influence Inception, which is not possible because Inception came out in 2010 and Inside Out in 2015.

But the reason it is helpful to bring in the four "causes" idea of "explanation" is that the relationship here, meaning my using Inside Out as a lens for interpreting something in Inception, does have to do with what "formal causality" is about, which is the similarity of form. Basically, my argument is that if two things are similar in form, it can be helpful to examine one (Inside Out) for insights that can be fruitful in examining the other (Inception) even if there is no actual causal relation.

In the case of these two films, the similarity in form is the shared structure, or at least very similar structure, of the several layers getting deeper (In Inception it is the layers of "dream within a dream within a dream," with the unconstructed dream world at the bottom, and Inside Out has the three layers of "control tower," "Islands/long-term-memory-storage," and "deep forgotten"). The forms of the topographies of actions (dreamscapes and the infrastructure of the psyche as where action plays out) would be at least contiguous in a taxonomy of forms of such narrative topographies. And so the logic being discussed is contiguity, rather than "causality" in the "cause and effect" way in which we usually think of it. It moves away from materialist ideas of "causality" as modes of exploration. Insights from Inside Out could really be spoken of as connected to those in in Inception, but not by our usual way we think of such connections in literature when we are thinking purely materialistically, which is the fetish of authorial intention. It's not just an instance of causality from an ephemeral situation-based completely subjective string of associations only inside the head of one person (translation: the fact that it is not our usual modern "objective" "causality" or "connection" does not mean that it is completely imaginary to one person, me). That explanation would fit only a radical reduction of all causality to to efficient material causality.

The reason that it's difficult to speak of it in terms of causality is that "cause" explanations are usually taken as one of them being the cause of the other, but the situation is actually more that they both look back to some common cause of them both on the formal level. But as long as one is careful to avoid forms of saying that one of the two (Inception or Inside Out) is a formal cause for the other (which is impossible to say in the one direction, and in the other, difficult to substantiate at best and ultimately unproductive), one can safely see a connection of the forms. From there, I would say that the logic fits that, if they have that kind of connection on the form level, maybe they have some kind of connection on other levels, like a reading of mothering as a core psychological shift.

And that is the final question/element in this post. I have already spoken of the two films as being at least contiguous or abutting or adjacent in a taxonomy of forms/structures with respect to the layers of psychological action, but can that contiguity fact involve it's neighbors, so to speak? What I mean is that doing a comparison between the concept of the impact of motherhood on female psychology is very different from doing a comparison between the structures of layering. It could be argued that the contiguity or adjacency of the structures in a taxonomy of structures, the two films being neighbors in that taxonomy of structure-form, does not yield a "neighborly" relationship between the two conceptions of female psychology in the two films that would make comparison and support possible. The basic form of this question would be a critic saying, "ok, so you have demonstrated that the two have similar structures and that might get you the ability to use what is in one concerning that particular structure and apply it to the other concerning that structure even if it is not direct 'influence' ... but that doesn't get you a basis for being able to use anything other than that specific structure in that way." The argument would be that the structures (call them B and C) being neighbors in the taxonomy and each structure being a neighbor with the portrayal of female/mother psychology in its own respective film (call them A and D, such that layer-structure B and layer-structure C are adjacent within the taxonomy of narrative topographies, and layer-structure B is adjacent to female-pyche-reading A within film 1, and layer-structure C is adjacent to female-psyche-reading D within film 2) does not necessarily make the two psychological concepts neighbors in a productive way (does not make A in film 1 a neighbor with D in film 2 in a way that can yield productive comparison, particularly using one to fill out the other where it s a bit more latent).

My argument is that neighbors of neighbors do have a distinct neighborly relationship. First of all, any film in the world could be used as an an aid for explaining, even if it did not have the similar structure, as long as it had the same subject, and such comparison would proceed by way of analogy. The question here is whether the analogy between the two presentations of female/mother psychology has a little bit of added weight by the fact that the two films have another comparison, the comparison of the structures that are at least neighbors, if not living in the same house, in the taxonomy neighborhood. And I would say they do.

I need to be clear on the question at had and what is at stake. The concept of motherhood being so definitive in female psychology, at least once it happens, is MUCH clearer in Inside Out by the fact that the mother's lead emotion is sadness, whereas the girl's is joy, implying a fundamental shift, and given that the result is is sadness at the top of the hierarchy and that some level of PPD is ubiquitous, the conclusion becomes clear that the experience of becoming a mother results in core shifts in psychology. It's not anywhere near this clear on the Inception end. And so, what is at stake is whether the clear similarity of topographies of psyche can bolster claims for a similarity in other psychologically centered concepts, such as those of mother-psychology, such that, while  "motherhood as fundamental psychological shift" us MUCH more latent in Inception, the fact that it had contiguity of forms of psyche-scape (layered) does increase the probability of and justification for reading the "motherhood as fundamental shift" in Inception because it is there in Inside Out.

In some ways this is the sort of argument that you either see or you don't. Gravity either makes sense or it doesn't. But the psyche, which is what does the reading of stories, is much more about contiguity than we like to think. And the psyche is more determining . "Meaning" is a bit like breaking the seal when you've been drinking: once a connection happens, it is easier for it to happen again, just as once you break the seal and have the sensation of much-needed evacuation enter the mix of present experiences, it happens more easily (needing to go again and again) because the psyche now has the "going .... going .... aaaaahhhhhhh" in the surface apparatus for processing experience data (and if you think it's a bit odd to bring that sort of thing in here, I would just offer that I am not the only one to dwell on "breaking the seal" type situations; Pratchett does it with Greebo the cat in one of the Witches books). And the same is true of meaning: once you see one similarity, having others is easier ... more apt, more likely, more justified.

But I would offer one piece of final evidence, and that is a narrative consideration. Outside of the type of thing I have been talking about, outside of the "growing old without it involving the kids" being problematic in some way, I find it difficult to conceive of a way in which the fact that they did grow old together down there is significant as a revelation ... it becomes just "but you promised? ... yeah, yeah, I promised, and I delivered, remember?" BUT it can't be that low-level of a revelation, because it occupies prime narrative real estate: it's pretty much smack dab in the middle of the main denouement crescendo. The revelation of "I incepted the idea 'your world [=dream down here] isn't real' by putting the spinning top in the safe" is earlier. The revelation of growing old comes in the actual key moment of him letting his phantasm of Moll go, which is a core psychological event for the film. To quote Paul Simon, "love songs and negotiations are often one and the same": The two arcs that run side-by-side are the son's letting go of his construct of his father's expectations so that the world can be safer without power monopolies going on and Cobb's letting go of his construct of Moll so that his kids can have a father (although his burden to carry in punishment is that he can't know whether it is real or just a dream, but he has to keep being a father to his kids in case it is real; he has to undergo the same uncertainty he foisted on his wife and keep doing it so that, if the kids he interacts with are the real kids, they have a loving father growing up ... that is the point of not finding out at the end whether the top eventually falls over ... he foisted on his wife the experience of growing old without the kids, so now he must be there for all those moments of the kids lives even though he's not sure they are real, just in case they ARE real).



Afterthoughts
I have to admit that some of this method, for me, goes back to ideas encountered in grad school from a scholar at Jewish Theological Seminary and is involved in challenging at least the monolithic simplicity of the modern Western notion of causality. This particular scholar was giving a class on 8th century (BC/BCE) prophecy, and he was saying that it is often more to do with contiguity than with "cause and effect." But this connection would take more to flesh out.

This theoretical part of lessening the idea of material/efficient causality gets really complicated because it can sound a lot like David Hume, the famous English skeptic, who said that we never really perceive cause and effect, just constant contiguity in temporal sequentiality ... not actual material consequentiality. We see B follow A so many times that we start to think that the relation is "causal." Part of my interest that has developed actually in the writing of this post (as Fr. Lienhard likes/d to say to his undergrad classes, "we write to think" ... not the other way round) is wondering whether Hume's skepticism about causality to a decline in understanding and emphasis on the four-causes system in Western thought. But that too would take more to hash out than I have room for here.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Of Wands and Worlds: Recent Scuttle on Harry Potter and the Elder Wand

This is mainly a response on some things that have been coming out recently I guess in  J. K. Rowling's tweet about the elder wand as sentient. From what I can tell, the speculation is all surrounding whether the wand that Newt takes from Grindlewald in Fantastic Beasts 1 is the elder wand and who then actually owns it. Some have a theory that Jacob Kowalksi will become made the "owner" as a way to hide it, which would be an awesome neat little redemption of Peter Petigrew as a trop: short, rotund, and made the keep of a secret/power, but Jacob is virtuous and in love with magic simply for its beauty and will do honorably with what has been entrusted to him, whereas Peter was always trying to suck up to the most powerful bully in the room for saving his own skin and betrayed what was given him. And we know the wand has to be an issue based in the material in Deathly Hallows, and I an guessing she might do some things with it in the coming Fantastic Beasts movies that really impress me (same as I was really impressed with the potential for fluidity and wand-as-language interpretations in the material in Deathly Hallows on the "mutual quest for knowledge and experience ... the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand").

But now to the real content of this post. The tweet in question runs: "The secret of the elder wand is that it's more sentient than any other. It can identify the caster of any spell that touches it and keeps tally of which wizard has beaten which, giving its allegiance to the one it judges the victor. Physical possession is irrelevant."

I'll get it out of the way ... *yawn*.

I have to state out front that that yawn is playful and not meant to diss anybody. I honestly mean no ill will or derision on any of it. But I also really do have no real vested interest, and if she writes good stories for the remaining four movies of the Fantastic Beasts series, I'll like them and say I like them and analyze them for what I like in them. And if it seems like the remainder of them get all wrapped up in obsessive physics-of-magic mongering to the detriment of a good story, I'll probably say I think that and then move on. But, for the record, both this tweet and the sort of frenzy surrounding its content seem to me to be best described with a term very fitting for the original medium ... twitterpated. It's all aflutter, but I don't think about anything really substantial to interpreting the canonical Harry Potter story of the seven books.

Maybe it has value in conjecturing what she will do in the future, and as I said, if I think what she does in the future is a good human story and think it's interesting how she constructs that using, among other things, a physics-of-magic she's created in the world, then I'll write that. But as far as determining meaning in the closed canon of the seven-book HP series, I simply think it's a lot of needless twitterpation, probably in response to a lot of, well, to be honest, crankiness from a materialist perspective. As I have said on this blog and back in the Muggle Matters blog days, I have found some really valuable stuff in the work of Red Hen (Joyce Odelle). But I do also think she has been focused on the physics to a level of making it the defining thing of Harry Potter, and I think that that is a mistake in how to think about literature.

(By "crankiness," I mean that, in what I have read of Red Hen's material, particularly in John Granger's Who Killed Albus Dumbledore collection from 2006, she can be somewhat acerbic in making complaints against JKR of being inconsistent and so on ... and I hope that "cranky pants" is not too harsh of a characterization ... it really comes simply from always looking for a way to work the term into any and all conversations because the place where I heard it at the end of this video makes me laugh every time I hear it, just the way the girl says it ... I say it to myself at least several times a day about myself when I'm getting frustrated with something I am editing; "somebody's got his cranky pants on").

And I think that Rowling is a bit under the sway of it a bit (just as I think she is a bit under the sway of those who talk about writing "adult" fiction when she turns out what I thought to be very thin characters in Cuckoo's Calling, to the extant that I've had no motivation to read any of the books following it) and that it is leading her to do retrojection, toying with the world needlessly to try to get something "right." I think it's needless as far as the workings of the original story. I think the original story is fine as stands. There are explanations for all the material details within the already-published canon itself, explanations that are both adequate and internally consistent.

So, here is where I will give my basic explanation of what I think the question is that all these theories are twitterpated to answer and how I think it is already answered within the scope of the original closed-canon story. The question is: So, the elder wand just knows that Harry beat Draco, maybe through some, what, magic version of the cloud and big data mining?  Or the edler wand just knows who Harry is and the whole story of Harry and Voldy and is some sort of force of justice in the world that decides Harry should win over Voldy? The wand is sort of an NSA of the magical world, successfully tapping the deep-sea cables? ... And so, we get language from the author about the elder wand being "sentient" (and I am really hoping that this sort of thing doesn't lead to obsessive reworking of the remaining four movies that drags energy away from writing actually good stories, and that it doesn't shift from being good human literature to being the Wizarding World version of Dan Brown).

So, here is my answer to that riddle. The wand does not even really need to know who is on the other end of the hawthorn wand. I think that we can take the spells cast by the wands to be sort of an extension of the wands themselves in their power, and thus can take the meeting of the spells in the air to be a meeting of the wands themselves, just as we had in the graveyard duel in Goblet of Fire. In order for the elder wand to acquiesce to the hawthorn wand, it needs to know only a few facts, and none of them are who Harry is or who Voldy is or who Draco is etc.:

1. The hawthorn wand beat the elder wand when it's rightful master, which was Draco at the time, used it to disarm the rightful owner of the elder wand itself, which was on top of the tower in Halfblood Prince. If we take "sentient" in the way of this fact being "readable" by the elder wand in such a way that it can be held in "memory" and be decisive in further interactions, I don't really have a problem with it.

2. When the wand meets another in this way (the spells meeting in midair), the elder wans can sense that this spell is being cast by the wand in "affinity," or "union," or "cooperation," or "obedience," or choose what term you like, with one who is it's rightful master, at this time (which is now Harry, but that is not decisive here).

(I'm going to take it for granted that a reader is observant enough on their own to remember that, for instance, Harry's wand recognizes even Voldy himself, who was the wielder of the yew wand, and so would even more so recognize the yew wand, and would not ask questions like "where is it established that wands can recognize each other individually at all?" ... that's built into the story by the author as a basic parameter: wands can recognize each other as distinct).

3. Therefore, in the "mind" of the elder wand: "the master of the hawthorn wand" now = "master of the elder wand."

4. The Expelliarmus cast by the hawthorn wand in the great hall is cast by the rightful master of the hawthorn wand. With "sentience" being accurate for connections and things in HP if it means things like "vibe," which is, as I have said, the way in which the term is accurate for that world, then the elder wand can get a vibe from the hawthorn wand that the person who cast the spell through the hawthorn wand is its rightful owner, much in the same was as the spider in the woods can "sense" a vibe from the blackthorn wand that the engorgio spell is not being cast by the true master of that wand because Harry was not the one to win it from the snatcher, Ron was. The elder wand can sense obedience, as it were. It may be "more sentient" than others in being able to "discern" finer shades of that, but it really doesn't need to be able to for the mechanics of the story to work, because even basic material can recognize basic affinity versus antipathy between wand and wizard in the form of the spider recognizing that Harry is not the rightful owner of the blackthorn wand, and that's definitely not a case of some special "intelligence" on the part of a wand being the source of the "sentience, not given the blackthorn wand's original owner, because that wand must be on the end of the spectrum better described as "stupid," if Olivander's description is accurate, "the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand" (not much that that wand could learn from the snatcher whom Ron describes as "part troll").

5. Ergo: the elder wand knows that the spell it is meeting is cast by its own true master, the master to whom the hawthorn wand is being obedient, the hawthorn wand that was being obedient in stripping the elder wand from its own master. It doesn't need to know the identity of any of these people, or even necessarily that they are different persons (Harry and Draco) between the two meetings. It just needs to be able to recognize the identity of the hawthorn wand as the wand that beat its (the elder wand) master (DD on top of the tower) and to sense the vibe of right obedience to the present spell caster.

There is this "question" being put forward of the duel in 1945 and how DD won the wand, and it sounds like the "the one it judges the victor ... physical possession is irrelevant" is maybe meant to be an answer to the question of how you beat somebody with an unbeatable wand. But if the wand is what DD himself surmises in Deathly Hallows, a very awesome creation by somebody very gifted and skilled, but still a creation by a human, then it has its limitations. And maybe DD himself really was quite simply pretty bad ass and could outmaneuver and outthink even somebody with that powerful of a weapon, at least when that person was a megalomaniac and with a weakness for monologuing (to borrow that wonderful term from The Incredibles) or other weaknesses; maybe DD really was a Sundance Kid who could nail the can three times in a row while moving (the old witch at OWLs said she saw him to things with a wand she had never seen before); maybe he really could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Maybe "your beatin' Grindlewald don't need explainin.'"

(I'm a fan of "talk nerdy to me" ... cracks me up ... fun fact: the sax line, from the original rap song, is really originally from the song "Hermetico" on Balkan Beat Box's album Nu Med, and I saw BBB 4 of 5 times in NYC while I lived there, one time on the outdoor stage at Lincoln Center and the rest of the times at Webster hall on 11th between 3rd and 4th, just down from Union Sq. ... AWESOME live.)

So, in some of what is out there, a theory by Red Hen was  brought up that involved Harry's path to ownership of the elder wand being by way of Death being the only true master and Harry "beating" death by submitting to death in the forbidden forest. I'm not sure if this is a recent writing in response to the new tweet or from back in the way back of the analysis frenzy immediately after Deathly Hallows hit in 2007. It has some potential in a thematic direction, but while I haven't read this particular piece by RH, I did read a fair bit by her back in those days, and I kind of doubt that she goes in that direction with it.

I can say that, in the very least, I don't favor a reading that says that Harry could not have beaten the elder wand with the hawthorn wand prior to submitting to death in the forest. One could, I suppose, argue that the elder wand does beat him in the forest when it kills him and that even the fact that he is not casting with the hawthorn wand is not a reason the elder wand could have missed his identity, since the holly wand recognizes Voldy without the yew wand. But then, the question would be that: if the wand is able to act as judge between characters connected to it, why did it kill Harry? Of course, maybe it was respecting a wish that it could read Harry as having, a wish to yield to death in the form of not raising the hawthorn wand to defend himself, and the elder wand could read this as a sort of transmission from the hawthorn wand simply by it being in close proximity. Or maybe the elder wand knowingly did not kill Harry; maybe it could read the horcrux situation and also that Harry was submitting to death and so it intentionally didn't kill him and did kill the portion of Voldy's soul ... OR MAYBE ... maybe a lot of things. There are simply a lot of very speculative questions here that really all point, for me, to one thing, which is that you're not going to be able to get "complete" material consistency any more in a fictional world than you are in the real world (we think that that should changed things, being one author and having more "control" ... but after years of editing even research writing and seeing the ways authors will change between plans of expression even mid-sentence ... I don't think so). And, at the end of the day, I don't think that the author going back in with the magic wand of "authorial intent" really solves anything. As I said, I think that the consistency is at a satisfactory enough level in the original as far as why Harry can beat the elder wand with the hawthorn wand in the great hall finale, and I think the going back in just mucks things up.

[Note: as far as the elder wand not being binding on Harry because he did not defend himself, an argument might be made that he brings up this very point of "meaning to die" in relation to the wand's power. BUT, remember that, when he brings it up, he is talking about the wand's lack of power to hold the Hogwarts fighters in silence and that his explanation is that his willingness to die provided them protection ... not that it provided him protection from the wand. It's not that this is evidence for saying that Harry COULD be killed by the wand; it's just saying that the instance doesn't provide any real evidence one way or  the other on whether or not Harry's willingness to die in the woods was a factor in his own protection from the wand in the final showdown in the hall. All that's been stated is that his willingness to die in the woods afforded a protection of the Hogwarts fighters similar to that which his mother's death provided him].

On the most basic level, I think the "death as master" theory is reaching and inventing things needlessly. What's invented here is Death as a distinct character, as a singularity with interactive power (able to recognize willing submission and communicate it to a singular entity like the elder wand, able to be "master" of the wand, the stone, and the cloak, and so on). We've never had this before in Harry Potter; we've never had any anthropomorphic manifestations of universals etc. the way we do in Terry Pratchett's Death and Hogfather. What we do have is Dumbledore, who often functions as JKR's mouthpiece, saying that what is likely the case is that the three brothers were highly gifted and invented these three powerful things and that the death part (the tale) is the type of legend that naturally grows up around those types of happenings and powerful objects.

I suppose one could try to argue that, because DD says he doesn't think they are death's gifts without explaining that he doesn't think death is a personal entity, this means death IS a real person/anthropomorphic manifestation because, otherwise, DD would have clarified that death actually is not a person at all before discussing whether or not certain things personally belong to death ... but that's REALLY grasping at straws ... as if DD always sets out to establish metaphysical parameters or teach a course in ontology every time he said something.

In effect, the "death as the true master" theory is going into making one's own world out of raw Harry Potter material to meet the needs of one's own theories (even if it is the author constructing beyond what they already constructed in the closed canon). I suppose that one could say that they're not saying there is a concrete "personification," but rather just the universal death, or death "in general" ... but it seems really thin to me to talk of a "thing in general" or anything along those lines as being the "master" of specific objects. I think that the core way of putting it is that there is no evidence of a singularity of "death" in Harry Potter that is anywhere near concrete enough to take singular action, including "being" the master of unique physical objects like these. There are just individual deaths: the only singularity is the fact that everybody dies. From what I can remember, the only places we get talk of "death" in this way comes from sources, and only two instances even of that: the tale of the three brothers and the New Testament ("the last enemy to be conquered will be death" on the tombstone in Godric's Hollow).

I'm not trying to be negative on the theorists, I just decidedly disagree. And thus, it's a conversation to which I don't have really much to add except for this post.

The real thing is that the world is overtaking the human story. Red Hen has always been, as far as I can tell, about pinning out what I would call a "physics" of the magical world. That's all fine and good in and of itself, and I actually do think that the physics of magic can be a locus of meaning. I think, for instance, that there is a slight extension of soul through the wand that I think symbolizes extension of the self into the world of another person through language, an extension that can be communion or it can be invasion (and that the AK curse is the soul invading another so radically that [1] it kills the other soul and that [2] it renders the killing soul so unstable that, when the part of the soul that was extended in the invasion comes back through the wand, it can break off, making a horcrux possible). But I think the present frenzy of theory over the "sentience" of the wand is a matter of the world, the physics-of-magic-in-the-wziarding-world, overtaking the human telos of the story.

I think it is fine to be doing this kind of physics and concern with and work in material accuracy. As I have said before, I think that concern for it is an important part of an incarnational aspect of human literature. But there is also the possibility of going from being incarnational to being materialist, which is what I think happens here. And when the author herself buys the preoccupation and starts nervously pandering to it to try to win its approval (hope she's not reading this, because I probably deserve a right royal slap in the face for playing all Dr Freud on this, but it does seem to me that very probably there is some truth in it), you get revisionism that messes with a story that didn't need to be messed with because the cranky-pantsness was just simply that.

The thing is, I don't think any author is going to be able to come up with an alternate universe, or in this case, an alternate aspect (magic) of the real universe, that meets all criticism and analysis on the level of material consistency. I mean ... we can't even completely do it with REAL physics/science, where we have the ability to coordinate the findings of many objective experiments carried on by many parties, so I think it's a bit demanding to require it of a single author with only one subjective vantage point from which to do various tests of models and only limited time to do what can be done if they want to satisfy the hordes screaming for the next book.

I realize that, in hitting on the "human" meaning of the story, I am out of step with a lot that is going on in theory these days, with the last two books I have edited for one university press having a lot to say about the possibility of "machine identity" as "other-than-human agency" arising from the evolution of self-adapting algorithms in the computation of big data and breaking down the dichotomies between human and nonhuman, even between organic and inorganic (and I personally think that a lot of such theorization of "other-tan-human" comes from the painful experience of what humans can do to each other). But there will always be for me a core creedal commitment to a belief in the uniqueness of the human being as the image of God. It's a matter of faith, by its very nature (as based in the supernatural, in God) beyond the realm of verification as fact (beyond the tests in the system of determined causality we call "nature"). And coming out of Genesis 1, I believe that there is a hierarchy that has humans as the crown jewel and pinnacle of creation. I also believe that we have a responsibility to respect the rest of creation and work for its health in addition to our own, and that we have done a piss poor job of it at best. But that doesn't change the reality of the dichotomies and the hierarchy. I'm for human above "other-than-human agency" (although hopefully not despotically or to the detriment of it), and I am for human story above the independent "physics" of the wizarding world. I love that physics and love that she's able to construe meaning in it ... but the meaning still always has to be applicable in some way for a human theme embodied in a narrative.

Star Wars: Last Jedi

I think the same thing is happening with The Last Jedi: in the criticisms and disgruntled feelings of some, the world of "Star Wars" is taking over the human story. I think that it is more important for Luke to work as a character in a story (and I do think that he works as a tension character who shows the tension in human existence, now slightly crazy but still cogent, disillusioned with the possessive formality of the Jedi but not disillusioned with goodness, but also carrying wounds from when he momentarily lost his perspective on how to achieve the good, suffering from the world of fallout that
can come in a split second from a faltering like that) than it is for him to be "what a Skywalker is supposed to be" in the "Star Wars universe. "


Terry Pratchett

Thoughts about Terry Pratchett came to me while thinking about all this. I was mulling over the term "human meaning" and thinking what all that can mean: "symbolic" or "emblematic" etc. And I returned to the question of the imps in the cameras as animism, but in the service of human theme (in this case maybe human epistemology and the fact that any concept we have of any inanimate object is still a bit animated because it is a concept in the minds of us, who are animate) rather than actual animism.  The imps aren't truly "symbolic" or metaphorical. They're really kind of emblematic. They're not symbolic of a trait within humanity or a particular type of person; they are what humans make when looking at nature. And they are quite literal ... there have been real human beings who ascribe real events to real demons. And that started me thinking of the book I am just finishing editing on internet "daemons," the legion of small programs on routers and gateways that regulate flow in the internet. The early version of the internet, called ARPANET, had what were called "Interface Message Processors," of IMPs, for short. I Wonder if Pratchett knew of IMPs in ARPANET. It would totally not surprise me at all. Of course, that may drag interpretation of him away from my "human epistemology" reading of the camera imps, since IMPs in ARPANET are the beginning of new "other-than-human agency" theory, but I wonder if we would ever be able to have any idea that "other-than-human" "agency" is there if it is so completely other-than-human. They speak of the possibility that, at some point, daemons could, on their own, as the step into being true AI, develop communication protocols that humans cannot understand at all, but I wonder, if this does happen, how we would know. Wouldn't the fact that we can't understand what they communicate mean that we can't understand that they are communicative language at all? Lewis can talk about Ransom (in Out of the Silent Planet) being able to recognize something as language without knowing the content, but there is admittedly and undeniably anthropomorphication going on in the  story, and any language we have been able to recognize in the real world has been human language, something passing between humans and interpreted by humans as "communicative" in nature even if the content is unknown; if the divide between organic and inorganic were truly broached or the line between human and nonhuman, and if a machine developed a truly nonhuman language, would theorists in favor of such an evolutionary event even be able to discover it as such?

(I just watched Ex Machina: not my favorite kind of film, very depressing in the end [don't worry, I know the critics are raving about it, and it has some really strong points, but it also has pessimism-for-pessimism's sake points, and I choose to interpret my own way, and while there is some value in some things the critical establishment has to say, and while I know it may be a bit arrogant of me to challenge (or not?), it's not a magisterium for me] maybe along the same lines in tone and content as 2001, but not completely whacked out depressing like The Man Who Fell to Earth ... ANYWAY, there was this interesting thought for me: the AI passes the final TRUE Turing test of the film itself ... the ability to deceive and betray.)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Horror Films and Meaning in Stories`

So, this is the kind of thing that runs through my head at the gym (quarter after 6 this morning ... first time that early in years) while I'm listening to Imagine Dragons or Lacey Sturm and trying not to drop a bar on my throat before I've even really woken up.

As soon as I get off editing a book on internet daemons (a legion of background programs involved in packet routing in the internet, the internet as a possessed place, and the implications of the level of flow control assigned to daemons independently for net neutrality), maybe I will get around to finishing the first book and then reading the second by the author I playfully dub "Captain Anglo-but-Catholic," the first on Shakespeare's life as evidence he was Catholic (in a time when that was a bad idea in England) and the second on the plays as evidence. And even from the one instance of  material from the plays he has had in the first fifty pages of the biography book, I can see the point he is making and think there will probably be a decent level of validity in some of the individual observations, maybe even a majority of them (but I've already said that I think that his stated underpinning "authorialism" philosophy and his version of "incarnational literature" are dangerous bunk).

So, I'm at a point of seeing the serious criticism of Shakespeare from a Tolkien perspective but also thinking that there are some other things possibly of value in Shakespeare. So, as I have mentioned in some other posts, this has gotten me started on a string of thoughts of different ways in which meaning happens in stories. It's an ongoing project to think about different kinds of meaning and their instantiations in stories, such as Tolkien's "narrative art" as based in enplotment or Shakespeare's possible use of mouthpieces (which I don't mean pejoratively) or Rowling's use of literary alchemy and Dumbledore as a mouthpiece or As Above So Below using Dante and Alchemy in a found-footage horror piece.

[ASIDE: Admittedly, there are some stories that might take a little bit more work to fit into any model even though I think they are good and I love them: I can fit Snatch into a "value of underdog" and Way of the Gun into "exposition of the natural order and the idea of not stepping out of it" (small time hoods reaching above their station and the Chiddicks using a surrogate rather than the natural way), but I'd probably be pressed to give a good exposition of how "proper f*ck*d?" (the coursing scene in Snatch) or "we're not asking for forgiveness, we're not asking for absolution ... but isn't that the way it is, every g*dd*mn time?" (closing line of Way of the Gun) fit into all that meaning finding method in the way that I love the lines and think they encapsulate something in the film (or how, even though Resident Evil: Apocalypse is mainly pumped up adrenaline and a predilection for noir on fire and appreciation that Jovovich has great form and persona for all these acrobatic kick-ass sequences like running down a building or jumping a Harley through a Gothic church window and killing the big bad with a double-barreled shotgun firing stacks of quarters, even though it's mainly that [which is why I have watched all six RE franchise movies, in addition to all five of the Underworld franchise, so often on my elliptical machine at home], I think that it also does capture something primal in human experience when Jill Valentine coughs out cigarette smoke and says "f*ck me" when she hears the yield of the nuke after having asked as a way to keep up her "we might still be able to last this situation out" tough spirit ... but I don't think I am getting that through the door as "meaning" for some types, types with whom I share some habits of thought, habits of thought for the sake of which I do these mental experiments of wondering how different types of meaning get into stories and how they are read there ... but I still try to see how they might fit together). END ASIDE]

So, one person I know has said they don't think there is really anything productive or positive added to the world by generating the emotional experience of fright or terror for its own sake, which is what this person mainly conceives the genre as being, in all instances. Admittedly, there is a lot of it that is that, especially slashers (and then you have the "sophisticated" stuff that the critics wet themselves over like Josh Whedon's Cabin in the Woods because it goes meta, to which my response is a bit the same as Robert Downy Jr's advice to Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder, "never go full retard" (for the most part I had no use for that movie, and I apologize for any offense in the terminology, but the "never go full" does have transposition value here) ... I say "never go full meta"; when everything was meta, they had no place to go to do something with a metaphorical or symbolic or emblematic or any other type of referent outside the story without using some overblown image like these nebulous gods, and then the gods win because, well, they're gods, and you just got two protagonists sitting there going "I guess we lost" ... boring at best, but the critics all trip over each other to wet themselves because it's "sophisticated" ... it's what I call the "sophisticati," an adaption of all the conspiracy-theory connotations of the illuminati trope).

But I think there can be a point to horror and the emotional experience it gives rise to when done well. That's basically just saying that I think it has a particular type of meaning that can be put into it and brought back out of it in a way proper to the way it works, by the feelings of horror and fright. In As Above So Below, it's the heaviness and grit and fear of reconciliation, the way in which "digging in the dirt, find the place we got hurt [or did the hurting]," to quote Peter Gabriel, is horrific like digging into thousands of bones in a grave world under the ground and being attacked by them, and in Insidious: The Last Key, it is being aware of the horror of the realization of the times when violence was actually still going on right around one and not realizing and the social criticism of manipulation of abusers.

That's the main point of this post. Just a thought that occurred to me at the gym this morning of connecting the "types of meaning" thing I've been contemplating in regard to Tolkien and Shakespeare and my interest in horror of a certain kind. I've already written on As Above So Below and Insidious 4 individually; this is just a succinct statement of fitting that interest into my larger thought system about literature (or at least an attempt to fit it in).

P.S. If you're reading this from checking out my blog from hearing of it in the podcast on Mugglenet's "Reading, Writing, Rowling" and you've ever wondered what the Wyrd Sisters sound like ... I have always thought that Tom Waits is the secret model or epitome, so you should check out his whole body of work (except maybe Small Change and Heart Attack and Vine, I've never gotten hugely into them ... actually, the ones to which to listen especially are Closing Time and Nighthawks at the Diner and then the albums from 1983 on: Swordfish Trombones, Franks Wild Years, Rain Dogs, Bone Machine, Mule Variations [greatest line maybe ever about human experience: "I know you can't speak, and I know you can't sign, so just cry right here on the dotted line"], and Real Gone ... I haven't had a chance to check out Bad as Me yet ... well, with it being seven years, yes I have had the chance, but I haven't gotten around to it yet) ... that's what I'm listening to as I write this.