Saturday, March 30, 2019

Us (film review; Jordan Peele, 2019)

This is where I am basically collecting the material I wrote on facebook after seeing Us by Jordan Peele, his second film, following his debut as writer/director/producer, 2017's Get Out.

Us: Really strong second feature-length film by Jordan Peele as writer/director/producer (warning: *SPOILERS*).
I thought he upped the content beyond Get Out, which was a strong film on its own. When Shyamalan did Unbreakable, it was a strong follow-up to Sixth Sense, but he mainly did the same level but in an new arena (super heroes) other than the first (thriller/horror), and so it was a good second film but he mainly avoided stagnation by going with a completely new arena (a perfectly fine move, in my opinion, showing he could adapt his style in more than one arena, so that is in no way meant as a criticism). Peele managed to stay in the same arena (a sci-fi underpinning for a race-critical horror/thriller story) but took it to a new level within that arena: not just race-critical but now broadened to include culture-critical (best random thing I have heard in a while: some girl walking out of theater a little back from me saying to her friend, "Well, there's Trump's wall," meaning the untethered hands-across-America at the end ... the culture critical is evident in her answer "who are we? we are Americans" and maybe, but very latently, in the title being "Us," with the "United" part of "United States" mirroring "tethered," but as I said, very latently ... and a nice little tidbit maybe of criticism of the culture of technical manipulation), and the resolution involving a revelation of something that happened in the central opening scenes in the past (at least I think, the topside woman would not be able to pull it off if she had not originally been a tethered, and the tethered her would not have been able to orchestrate the rising if she had not begun in the world above; notice that, while she talks creepy and hoarse, she is the only one of the tethered who has the power of speech, which I think is an early clue to the final revelation ... I maybe had some "I wonder ... that would be possible" inklings before the reveal, but only brief and fleeting and only because of thinking "ok, there is always a final hook"), incorporating an established interpretive model like Jung (the shadow), and that dancing scene near the end (a three-part choreography of the young girl doing ballet in the world above and the tethered girl doing it in the world below spliced with the two grown-woman versions dancing around the desks in the classroom fighting) was a definite advancement in style by using such a highly stylized choreographed sequence (I also think there was a nice chess motif at the one point with a little Alice spin: notice that the topside woman is dressed in white and the tethered woman in red, so they are the white and red queens, respectively, and then the topside son as white knight pulls his tethering move that saves the white queen while at the same time, unintentionally, sacrificing himself by being taken by the red queen, so white knight sacrifices capture by red queen in order to save white queen from red knight ... so, a nicely done choreography there too), all while keeping the race-critical element up (it is only the African American family that is able to handle the attack; the white people all fall to their dopplegangers immediately, just as Jamie Foxx's African American character in Law Abiding Citizen, while having been partly corrupted by the white mentality, is still the one who survives the story of destruction, or Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury reaching Easter Sunday only with the section focused on Dilsey, the African American matriarchal figure who heads the servants in the Compson home).
And in the end, I don't think the revelation of the original switch is the typical "oh no, we're actually still in the horror and the bad person actually won" thing that is common in some (cheap) horror, but rather some form of Jung's resolution in the shadow's integration into the mature person.
All in all, a really strong follow-up performance by Peele after the critical success of Get Out (and and advancement in his style and film/story-crafting, especially for doing it in the same arena as Get Out, although without race being as up front in the material plot, but that is mostly as a result of moving it up to a broader culture criticism). In short, I liked it a lot and was really impressed.

So further thoughts: On the race-critical and possibly gender-critical: only an African American girl has a doppleganger that have enough indepence of thought to initiate and accomplish the switch. She is also the only one with enough sole to power thought and speech and self determination in both the uplander and the tethered versions of herself. Somebody noticed even just from the trailer that she can't get the rhythm in the car (can't snap her fingers in correct rhythm when she tells her son to) and guessed early that she might be the one without "soul," and I would say that that works on the level of the a hidden clue to the basic material, but that it doesn't onto the material level of the story in the form of saying topside Addie has absolutely no soul: they share the soul, and when Red dies, topside Addie gets it all.

Culture/Class-Critical: Of all the people, and whatever one thinks of Rick Santorum in other regards, he said something interesting when he spoke at my college commencement. He said that it is those with the advantages in a society who bear the great responsibility and culpability. I don't know if this is what he subjectively meant, but it is objectively a meaning in the words he said: The rich set a standard of acceptable escapism, and they get to follow it "respectably" because they are the ones who can afford weekends at resorts and jet skis on the Hudson and all the allowed and "respectable" methods, whereas somebody in a housing project may have to do their escapism in a less legal and more physically precarious and damaging way; rich men can afford to club there women over the head with fancy clothes and jewelry, but the man in the hood, if he is to follow that lead, has to do it more literally or with more directly brutal psychological manipulation. I think that that is part of what is symbolized in the structure of the tethered down below mimicking the those above.

Alice: Another possible Alice reference is when Red is pressing Adelaide's face into the glass surface of the table to point where it is cracking, so she is, in other words, about to be violently forced through the looking glass. And of course, the house of mirrors fits that image set, where she literally goes through the looking glass, being dragged to the interior by what she thinks at first is her reflection (and the way he worked that scene of her looking at herself from behind reminds me of Tiffany Aching's "see me" spell, but I would guess that as more of a simple borrowing of a material concept without carrying over theme etc.if it is even that ... the way C.S. Lewis borrowed the idea of grass that won't bend from a sci-fi book but used it for something completely different in The Great Divorce ... although, here, there is the possible connection of the things that kids do without knowing they're dangerous, as Tiffany's use of "see me" opens her to invasion by the hiver in Hat Full of Sky, and maybe a critique of preoccupied parents in American life).

The Real tragedy: There is kind of a dark moment toward the end that sort of signals the coming revelation. When Adelaide kills Red, she pants and growls in an animal way you haven't seen her do yet, even when trying to flip herself up over onto the bed to protect her daughter from the white woman's tether. And I think you can see that it worries her. Whether it is a worry that she has allowed a consciously constructed facade to crack some or because she simply worries that she has become like Red in order to defeat Red with that being unfolded in the revelation that she is a subconsciously constructed faced and the revelation worries her (but then smile a natural and good smile because there is hope of her having normalized), one way or the other, whether she thinks of it as possible CONversion or possible REversion, she worries that she has become like Red. At the end of the day, while I say there is a happy ending to the film (and not the cheap horror thing of "oh no ... the evil one actually wone; the demon made it out of the containment circle, etc."), there is stiall a tragedy in the the original human girl Adelaide has to die. It has to be done; as topside Addie says, Red Addie will keep coming otherwise, and simply hiding out isn't an option. But it is materially a tragedy nonetheless that the human girl has to die. And the critical aspect is the idea that the real villains are those who made the situation in the first place in which that had to happen, the scientists who created the clones for manipulation. They are the white greasy men who set up the battle royal in Ellison's Invisible Man. The other part here is the son, Jason. I don't buy the speculation of some at this point; think it would simply require to much rigging to have him actually also be a tethered living above (and I really hope that Peele doesn't make a sequel unless he has a really good idea that works without the kind of rigging it would take to make Jason also a switched person), but I think his actions at the end are significant. I think he realizes what has gone on and is now in on the secret of somebody who was originally a doppleganger trying to do the best she can at being the whole now and being truly human etc after having had to kill the other because, beyond her control, the other had gone feral and turned malignant from the psychological duress, and also at dealing with possibly the guilt feeling of realizing that she was the one who initiated that duress (although, can you blame somebody for wanting out of that life below?). And Jason pulling the mask down over his face is symbolic of his willingness to keep the secret, but I think it is also a double-edged sword in that it hides his face from her too, but that is just how it has to be in this situation that is the fallout of what evil people like the original scientist power-players and government do.

And one more thing on the rabbits: Gollum?

Here is a comment I wrote in the "reaction" posting area at : Has anybody else noticed Alice? Going through the looking glass and down to underland (to borrow Burton's name for it) in the hall of mirrors, then her face pushed into the glass table top to the point it cracks, so Red is almost paying back a violent through-the-looking-glass experience, and Addie wears white (maybe a nice race-critical-tradition hat tip to the dot of black in Liberty paint's "whitest white" paint in Ellison's Invisible Man), so she and Red are white queen and red queen so that, in the burning car scene, white knight (Jason) protects white queen (Addie; and actually he protects white king, Gabe, who is actually next to the car that would explode) from red knight (Pluto) with his walking-backward tether move but gets taken by red queen (Red).

Saturday, March 16, 2019

More Crimes of Grindlewald observations

So, we have the home video release of CoG.

I got it. I watched it again. I still have no further chiasm/ring analysis. I don't doubt it's there, but I think there are some things that make it take a more subtle role in the meaning than the ring element did in the first movie. Some of that is what I am going to go into, but I'm also working on a thought that John Granger and others may be right in saying that the removal of the ball scene impacted the final film in a big way, which I will try to flesh out below. It could be that the deletion of the ballroom scene throws an original ring all off; I simply can't tell without seeing a structure of the film with it in there where it would originally have been.

But first I am going to give one sideline idea of artistry that connects with literary alchemy, and then a couple observations that hopefully segue into the question of the impact of the removal of the ball scene, but we'll see how that goes.

Gold and Alchemy:

One would have to go back to John Granger's book The Hidden Key to Harry Potter that he put out after book 4 or 5 of the original seven-book Harry Potter series to get the real background on literary alchemy because I can really only put the salient points in here and really only in broad outline form. Everybody knows that the legendary magical practice of alchemy is turning lead into gold. But, as Granger discusses, for real alchemical thought, this is only symbolic. What alchemy really is is a personalist discipline: it's really about the transformation of the common person (symbolized by lead) into the "golden soul." As I said, you have to go to Granger's book to get a more detailed description of literary alchemy itself and how it plays in the original books, but it has to do with things like the four elements being: White on top for pure spirit = Albus Dumbledore; black on the bottom for pure matter being Voldy as a materialist (thinks nothing is worse than material death); red sulfur on the right for animal soul = Ron; quicksilver/mecury on the right for the rational soul = Hermione (named for Hermes, the Greek god who became Mercury in the Roman pantheon); the golden soul produced in the center in the crucible = Harry. A supporting bit of data for this reading of alchemy as being about personal transformation is that Karl Jung has a work called Psychology and Alchemy: people think of alchemy as mainly the forerunner of chemistry, but really it's more the forerunner of psychology; alchemy produces the golden soul, and psychology produces the healed soul (psyche literally means "soul" in Greek, the animating life force of a living being).

I have done writing myself, back in the Muggle Matters days, on the use of gold in HP fitting with ancient uses of gold as a religiously significant metal, such as the fact that, in the Old Testament, silver is the metal of commerce but gold has religious significance: all of the sacred furnishings in the desert tabernacle and the Jerusalem temple (the menorah, the table of showbread, etc) were to be plated in gold, and the streets of the New Jerusalem in Revelations are paved with gold, and so on. But I don't think Rowling is going that far back into the Judeo-Christian tradition; I think she stays more focused on the other classical and medieval uses of gold as a symbol in alchemy.

The main thing is, though, that gold has a significance beyond material value. But the elsson in alchemy is also that the material value functions as a symbol for the higher significance; it mirrors it and functions as a signpost for it. The personalist dimension of gold in alchemy is conveyed through legends of the practice of turning literal lead into literal gold. The artistry point that I want to make in CoG, which came to me on this viewing, is that JKR has a nice little embodiment of this fact, and one that ties in the fantastic beasts element as something more than simply the vehicle chosen to get this other story out there by hooking it to an element from the original series (the scuttle that I could pick up at the time the first film was announced being that JKR decided to write the story because she did not want somebody else writing her world but Warner owns rights and said they planned to make another movie on some of the rights no matter what and she could write if she wanted to, and it was Fantastic Beasts simply because that seemed like a concept they might be able to sell).

She incorporated the beasts well in the first film, and here again, the niffler functions centrally. In film 1, the niffler running amok in the bank symbolizes the funny chaos (and sometimes painful) that ensues when magic enters the muggle world.  Here it is the niffler tracking through the gold dust Newt spreads around in the street in the Paris version of Diagon Alley. I personally think it unlikely that JKR has a well-developed "physics of magic" explanation for that scene (why do footprints appear in gold dust? how does a niffler seeking the gold dust make the traces of the persons appear?). I think the point is simply to have the niffler's desire for the shiny physical gold be the pathway for finding the person Newt wants to find for more than material reasons (meaning that he is in love with Tina), and that that functions as a sort of symbol of the alchemical structure of the legends of making physical gold being the vehicle for concepts of personal transformation. I don't know how conscious it is on her part as an author, but I definitely think it is objectively there as an organic connection with alchemical theme from the original series. At least that is my personal pet theory. It's at least a hat-tip or salute to the literary alchemy element of the original series, and a wonderful little artistic touch.

"I Hate Paris" Part I:

That is Grindlewald's line near the end, "I hate Paris." It struck me as odd. It can be just throw away as in "things went bust here; here is Paris; ergo Paris sucks," except that they didn't really totally go bust: he got a killing by an auror he can use for his line "we are not the ones who are violent; go tell people this," and he got Credence. But he does seem to say it with a bit of vehemence, and it is a bit distinct that Flamel says that if they don't contain him with the wands-in-the-earth thing, specifically Paris will be lost. So this got me thinking along some cultural and philosophical lines.

The cultural line is that a structure occurred to me this time, particularly in the relationship between Newt and Theseus and their respective interests. I think that, especially for JKR as English, the brothers represent the English, and particularly in a tension between newer American influence and older European influence. Newt is drawn by an American woman and Theseus by a woman of old pureblood French lineage who lives in England. There is no doubt that, this time (the five-film Fantastic Beasts project), JKR is painting on a larger canvas. In the original HP series, the main meaning was carried by Voldy's corrupt mentality and choice and Harry's choice of love over that kind of mentality, and Voldy himself is not pureblood; he mainly uses it as his vehicle for his personal mission. Really, he defines "pure" as devotion to himself. Grindlewald defines in that way too, but we are also dealing here with real pureblood prejudice from an actual, older European pureblood. HP stayed on the sized canvas that fit an individual maniac and those he hurt and an individual hero's choice of love. The size of canvas here is beginning to encompass cultures. And I think that the Scamander brothers may, for JKR, represent England in a tension between influence from old deep roots in Europe and newer individualism in American culture (with an odd twist that it is the younger American culture that has the more drastic official laws concerning intermarriage). It's definitely on a lot of English brains with the whole Brexit controversy, but it is also in JKR's literary lineage to have a central character (in this case the pair, the brothers) be symbolic of English identity in a current phase: she's actually mentioned Dorothy Sayers as a model, and Sayers's Peter Wimsey character is well-known to have been for her a symbol of England after WWI, scarred (PW has PTS) but surviving and, having learned from the past, moving on with life (his sleuthing and marrying Harriet ... the rumor is that Sayers had trouble writing any more PW after WWII started because he was was symbol of having learned from the Great War and being resolved, though bruised and battered, not to let it happen again ... but then it did, and the rumor is that that is when Wimsey as a project of writing a character really died).

Interlude on Culture and America: William Faulkner's Absalom Absalom

I have to be careful in how I phrase this part when speaking in the milieu of the frenzy that goes in in the online world of either (1) tying out literary sources in such a way as to view the present work as an updated or thinly masked simple reproduction of an original work (much the same issue as trying to discuss Tolkien's use of biblical imagery and narratives without falling into the trap of seeing him as simply doing an allegory of the biblical story) or (2) trying to make predictions based in material from literary models or allusions (Which predictions happen from other sleuthing methods too... all of which I appreciate and think some of it is very clever, not to mention helpful in providing raw data for my type of exposition, but it's simply not the kind of exposition I am doing here).

And I have to be doubly careful because I have no backing evidence or material to suggest that JKR ever works in American literature. American history in the form of 1920s eugenics societies, yes ... but that's not the same thing as drawing on specific works of American literature in  he way she has drawn on English and European. But I am going to throw it out there anyway. And who knows, if the resonance is as strong as I think it is, maybe  it is an instance of Rowling herself mixing the newer American with the older European in her British series.

One will have to go look on Wikipedia to get a better description and plot details, but I'll include here what I can. I simply can't shake the feel of William Faulkner's Absalom Absalom. I even went and looked it up on Wikipedia last night after watching CoG, since it has been a while since I actually read AA, and found the similarity even more striking. There is the obvious connection of "sins of the father visited upon the son," meaning the children suffering the fallout of the parents' prejudices, but I had forgotten that Thomas Sutpen has exactly the same behavior as old man Lestrange: going through a series of women trying to have a male heir on whom to build a dynasty. The other thing that rings so much is the French and exotic thing. Sutpen's first wife is the exotic, sort of like the Senegalese wife/mother in CoG, and Sutpen marries her in the French West Indies. The race aspect doesn't carry over, since LeStrange chooses a Senegalese woman but Sutpen leaves his first wife and son when he finds they are of mixed race, but there is a certain exoticness in common in the history of the two men going through a number of women trying to get a male heir and at least one of the women being from non-WASP/Euro decent. And there is a lot of French resonance in Faulkner's AA: In addition to the French West Indies, the first son's last name is Bon and he lives in New Orleans, and Sutpen brings with him to Mississippi a French accountant/teacher (who at one point runs away, and Sutpen goes out by himself into the swamps into which the Frenchman ran and drags him back to his employ). I simply can't shake the feeling of a resonance of tone (like Faulkner's symbol of wistaria vine that creeps everywhere and invades and saturates everything, like the honeysuckle smell in his Sound and the Fury) that seems to go along with some remarkable similarities in some thematic elements. If JKR is making a point, as she seems to be, about the twisted mentality of the parents and ancestors ruining the lives of the children and the descendants, and if she is familiar with Faulkner's AA, it is not a stretch of the imagination to think she might borrow tone and some elements from it for that project.

"I Hate Paris" Part II

The other thing that come to my mind from that line is the philosophical. I thought it was a neat concept when I first heard/realized that the series would probably be based around a major city for each film, but now having heard GG say he hates one of them (as well as his specific mention and phrasing of movie 1 as loosely "what they did do me in New York"), I think I can hear something that can resonate, even if only latently, on a philosophical level. Ever since Plato and Aristotle, the polis, literally the "city," has been a symbol of human society and societal structure (Pratchett has a wonderful tidbit by Captain Carrot in the discworld series, noting that the name "police man" originally literally means "man of the city" ... and there was only ever one woman for Lord Vetinari, and that is the city of Ank Morpork herself). I don't think it is a stretch to say that GG wants a society based in his own plans for domination to challenge and overcome all other structures of human society. As I say, it's latent, but I do think that that vehemence in the line "I hate Paris" and the fact that Flamel sees a danger to the city, rather than simply GG running off once he got what he wanted, does concretely lend to it.

A metro-polis is a sort of unique instantiation of human contact on a societal level. I don't know if one can really get it unless one has both lived in a metropolis like London, or in my case New York (living there for eight years: seven in grad school and one working construction), and lived in other forms of social organization against which to contrast the urban experience like suburbia. The city has a heartbeat of its own in which you can't escape the texture of other human personalities. It's why I go back a couple times a year if I can to bike in the adventure of that amazing, vast urban landscape call the five boroughs (well, not Staten Island; you can't actually bike onto there legally outside of one time a year, which the 5 Boro bike tour, when one level of one side of the Verrazano Narrows bridge is closed off for the tour ... but I never count SI in the boroughs anyway, it was only because of mob money in the first place, from what I have heard).

The rural and micro-urban (small town) will always be endearing in exactly the way that Tolkien loved it. But I think that the phenomenon of suburbia is a very major challenge to the polis. A couple of examples connect here in an eerie way. Henry Adams, at the turn of the twentieth century, contrasted the precursor of the internal combustion engine, the dynamo, against the medieval church, meaning specifically small "c" church as the church building in any given town (not capital "C" for the one, universal, Catholic), as contrasting symbols of social arrangement and interaction (this is in the "The Dynamo and the Virgin" section of his The Education of Henry Adams, written after seeing the early dynamos at the World Fair in Paris in 1900). A medieval city or town gravitated to a center, the church. From there, things radiated in levels such as the mercantile district with lower-cost temporary housing (the apartment above a storefront kind of thing), out to the more affluent property still in the city, and then out to estates of land holders and their bases of tenant farmers who rent from them. The dynamo, said Adams, is the opposite: it is about things being thrown outward. And he said that this would be the new model along which societal infrastructure develops. Things will go outward into segregation. And is you look at the arrangement of suburbam housing developments in relation to suburban shopping areas, that type of comparmentalization is exactly what has happened in suburbia (I remember noticing it as a kid visiting relatives in Greenville S. Carolina, that that place is miles and mile of traffic lights and shopping malls and cul de sac neighborhoods with no downtown I ever heard of; a friend told me that they have since manufactured a trendy little downtown area in an old industrial zone revitalization).

Then, interestingly, the place where I have seen what I think is a very unfortunate conquest of the urban by the suburban is precisely in the major fruit of the dynamo, which is the automobile and it's internal combustion engine (Cake has a song called "Satan is My Motor" that is insightful on this score). The automobile is single-handedly responsible for the facilitation of precisely the compartmentalized societal model Adams predicted in the form of the suburb. The place that has saddened me recently is that Uber is having a very negative impact in NYC: traffic is getting worse and worse, particularly as a result of Uber's selectionist operations (you can choose the driver bease on personality-type matching ... interesting coincidence that the name Uber comes form the same language as Grindlewald's first name, Gellert, which is the German for "elite") that means that more cars are idling in the streets until not just any rider calls, but a rider matched to their personality/social/whatever type; and public transport like the subway is becoming worse (my friend's wife has specifics of the increase in time of her subwat commute from the Pelham neighborhood of the Bronx to the financial district to work at a non-profit for much less that she was making before getting a PhD and having a family) because of lower revenues, so track repairs etc take longer. Public transport is, in a way, a sort of symbol of accepting other humans: I have been packed in like sardines on the 4 train in rush hour five days a week before, and not really had any rubs, but you have to be accepting of other people's foibles, just as they have to be accepting of yours, and you both have to work on trying to curb things that might annoy others. Unfortunately, in the form of Uber (which has also lead to some cabby deaths by suicide: guys put up their house as collateral for a loan to get the medallion and then Uber comes along), the suburban model is invading the urban ... and unfortunately winning.

So, what is my point? That if you live in a suburban housing development or drive for or use Uber, you're an evil person worthy of employ by Grindlewald incorporated? No. We are all born where we are born and have access to the resources to which we have access, and we can't entirely, or even maybe mostly, control that. . I may think that England has a long history of empric evil, but I admire Churchill for standing up for his fellow humans in England and doing what needed to be done to protect them, and a single mother working to provide for her child/ren does not deserved to be bombed just because England as a country unjustly expanded it's empire and murdered people (I'm not in favor of visiting the sins of the parents on the children). And I definitely don't think of people who live in suburbia and are simply trying to raise their kids to be good people in the best way they can find to do so are evil. And I don't think that people eating all fast food and convenient store food (a particular struggle of my own) are evil gluttons ... but I also think that the fast food and convenient store food are hurting them. And I also think that the suburban model has some detrimental effects in making isolationism more likely.

For this post and CoG, I just think it interesting that there may be something in the villain, a component of his villainry (the "crimes of Grindlewald") that is at least latently an attack on the polis, which is actually to some degree under attack in the real world.

Grindlewald versus Leta

I'm hoping that that discussion of cultural and philosophical dimensions segues at least a little into the issue of the Lestranges, in the form of Grindlewald's narrative being in tension with another narrative. And this is the place where there is the issue of whether dropping the ballroom scene made a significant change, more of a change than any regular dropping of a scene (even of scenes that make a chiasm/ring tie out better on simply the mechanical level). I think we have had a big refresher in the past two years of how central a role is played by explanatory narratives (sort of larger versions of the "legends" John LeCarre's spies create) and choices between them, particularly in the narratives peddled in American politics. But here, the competing narratives would be Grindlewald's explanation of Credence as a Dumbledore and the theory that he was Corvus Lestrange Jr. We of course do still have those two stories as competing explanations in the final version of the film. But I think what we lose in losing the ballroom scene is seeing the grip that the Corvus narrative has for the pureblood world, which we see in all those whispered congratulations. I think we may have lost some tension that was meant to be there between the actual pureblood world's preferred narrative of Corvus returned to champion the pureblood cause and Grindlewald's lost Dumbledore narrative as he . Leta's turning on Grindlewald to let Newt and Theseus and co. escape would have then been a nice symbol of that tension complicating things for Grindlewald.

 I try not to get political in what I write on this blog, but the past two years in America have been hard to watch. And one of the most notable elements is the tension between the group and the hero they have chosen. There can be hardly any greater disparity than that between Trump's gold-plated life in Trump Tower and the rural poor lives of the base on whose votes he relies (I take Trump's gold to be like Solomon's, and for Solomon, I take the biblical text as using a cipher-symbol, which is having his throne plated in gold, having his political furniture be treated the same as the religious furniture in the temple, as symbolic of the reason the kingdom was split, symbolizing the political taking over the religious, as was the case with the political marriages to wives and concubines being the pathway for worship of foreign gods), or between the disparity between McConnell as possibly the richest senator being voted into office for three decades in what is possibly the poorest state in the union. I would have found it interesting in CoG to see a more clearly drawn tension between GG's aim and those of the purebloods whose sentiment he manipulates to achieve his own ends, to see it in a tension between competing narratives of how Credence may be the weapon. GG is more of an actual pureblood than Voldy (well, with a Muggle father, Voldy is not pureblood at all, and his use of the pureblood concern is purely a lie), but he also I think has some contempt for those he uses, other purebloods. His narrative for who Credence is and why that may be important is about himself as an elite even within the elites: Credence could be the weapon based in the narrative of him being the long lost brother of the only wizard GG ever felt to be his own equal, Albus Dumbledore.  The larger pureblood world's narrative is different: he is the long lost heir of a pureblood line (the male heir that old man Lestrange did so much to get and then lost at the hands of one of his discarded female children).

The removal of the ballroom scene may even be part of why it is so hard fore me to get traction on a chiastic reading of the film. If the scene played the kind of role for which I think it has potential, it could have been a major hook element in a chiasm (maybe even the crux, if was in the center, who knows). It has no real purpose in the mechanical plot, BUT it is very highly stylized, with all the whispers building up to the clearest statement of triumphalism in the man's close-quarters "congratulations," and the imagery of the dancer with the ascending and flowing thing. Whenever something is that stylized and ethereal and  also serves no mechanical plot service, my ears prick up and I look at it from theme AND from potential for chiasm. The fact that a scene doesn't play a role in advancing the "main" plot does not mean that it does not play a role in a ring structure. The recapture of the the erumpant and the occamy in movie 1 don't advance the Credence/Graves/Grindlewald plot at all, but they are big hook pairing for the chiasm/ring, and they relate to the thematic element of beasts representing magic (is it dangerous or wonderful, or both?) and the theme of treatment of creation and treatment of other humans going hand in hand.


Anyway, those are my things I have picked out in, I guess, now three viewings. I really enjoy the film. I think it is cool that JKR and Yates are giving each film so far a distinctive flare of the city in which it is set too. I like cities. Someday I want to bike Paris, and London, and Taipei, and Hong Kong, and Prague, and Berlin, and Vienna, and Chicago, and Quebec, and everywhere. There is no better way to get the lay of the land of a city than on bike. Automobile now lays a new structure of limited access highways over the actual historical layout of the city (except maybe in Pittsrburgh, where the mills more dictate that even the newer limited access structure follows the same contours that those hills and Mount Washington dictated for the pre-auto development), but you simply can't cover the kind of ground on foot that you can cover on a bike. If you want the layout, bike a city multiple times using different routes each time.

I'll also say, in closing, that I think the ability of the films to carry this type of meaning through onto the screen is greatly aided by some masterful performances by all. Law is an excellent DD (please, please, PLEASE ... if you do a "later in DD's life scene," age Law and DON'T bring freaking Gambon in, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES) and Depp has so much texture as GG, and your heart breaks for Leta and Yusuf and Credence and Nagini, and you love Tina and Newt ... and that scene with Queenie and Jacob in the street in London was so well-done in its tension.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Tolkien's Middle Earth and C. S. Lewis's Merlin Magic`

So, sometimes while I am being lazy and not getting on with the next set while doing weights at the Y (when your job is sitting on your ass at a computer, it's good to schedule in exercise), things pop into my head. This will be just the brief outline of details to have it down, not really much cataloging of text instances, page numbers, verbatim quotes etc.

The structure that came into my head is that the relation between the silmarils and the ring in Tolkien is analogous to the relationship between magic in  Merlin's day and magic in Ransom's day in Lewis's That Hideous Strength. When Ransom is shutting the druid down from using his old methods, Ransom says that the things are not licit now and, even in Merlin's day, while allowed, they were sill kind of shady. And then you have Mr Dimble talking to Mother Dimble about things coming to a finer and finer point all the time, such that things that weren't exactly what we call "good" or "evil" yet from our perspective, just neutral or other, are now decidedly on one side of that line or the other, are now either "good" or "evil" even from our perspective.

I think the silmarils are like that older form, and I think the thing that is shifting from not bad but still maybe unwise in the silmarils to definitively evil in the ring is incarnation or embodiment outside of that specifically set done by Iluvatar (which is possibly fitting with Tolkien's comments that if there is a "time" of our world that befits his Middle Earth, it is before the Incarnation), in a vein similar to Aule's creation of the dwarf bodies in his impatience for the children to appear. The silmarils trapped the light of the two trees in a world in which the trees no longer existed, it kept them embodied. It's done with the approval of the Valar, but as time goes on, it becomes more and more obvious, with the lust of Melkor and Beren's lost hand and Maedhros throwing himself and his silmaril into a fiery chasm, that it's not healthy, In descriptions of the ring, we have Gandalf or others saying that Sauron poured much of his own power into the ring, which I think can be interpreted as Sauron, in a sense, "incarnating" in a way that is out of bounds. Gandalf takes on physical form ... in which form he divests himself of much of his power as a maia, taking the role of counselor. Sauron, on the contrary, poured his maia power into the power of the ring ... he sort of incarnated it.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Harry Potter Chiasms catalog.

This is a dump-all post. Sometimes I worry that I forget some of the material I have noticed and written on in the HP series as far as chiasm goes. There is quite a bit of stuff spread across a decent range of writing, so this is simply a culling into one place of the bare details grouped together as 1-4-7 chiasms, 2-4-6 chiasms, and 3-4-5 chiasms. If I ever noticed more, this is where I will catalog them

1–4–7  (some are only 1 and 7, which are noted as such)

Live Family shades (mirror, wand, stone)
Dragons (Norbert, Horntail, Gringotts)
Hagrid on the bike carrying Harry to and from the Dursleys (only 1 and 7)
Harry/Ron/Hermione Neville  (House points in 1 and horcruxes in 7)
Twin cores of wands
Time: desire for a watch in 1 (when sentenced under the stairs), watch breaks in the lake in 4, wizard’s watch received in 7

2–4–6  (some are only 2 and 6, which situation is noted)

Seekers (4 = house of seekers, 4 elements when bringing in Cho as seeker for Fleur)
Draco, Bourgin, Cabinet, cursed necklace (2–6)
Slugs (2–6)
First DADA lesson riddle: Bottle Fame (2), Brew Glory(4), Stopper Death (6)
Mention of 50 years ago (diary, killing Riddles, HBP book date)
Beginning at the Borrow (3 begins at Leaky Cauldron and 5 at #12 Grimauld place)
Aragog (2–6, but also the spider and riddle in the maze)
Memory viewing (diary and pensieve)
Potions Intel gathering (2–6: polyjuice and felix)
Ginny (2–6)
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: Fudge (2) and Scrim (6)
Unorthodox entries and Snape’s criticism (2–6)
Hover charms (4 and 6 = levicorpus)
Books (2–6 diary and prince’s potion book)
Magical Invasion of the Dursley House (Dobby, Weasleys, DD … you have the area invaded by dementors in book 5, but this is specifically the domicile)
Magical transport other than brooms that Harry doesn’t like (2= flu powder, 4 = portkey, 6 = apparition)
Phoenix song (2 = in the chamber, 4 = the light cage, 6 = the lament)


Curriculum (increases year 3, decreases after 5)
Hagrid’s CoMC classes
Divination/prophecy (fits with both curriculum an narrative arc)
Dementors (materially and symbolically, mental health: Lockhart and the Longbottoms)
Cho (presence in 4 intersects house of the seekers)
Time (time turners used in 3, destroyed in 5, comments on time and watch breaking in 4)

Inside book 4: World Cup pairs with Graveyard, then first and third tasks pair, then task 2 at center with descent into lake, where is found myth, time-breaking, and love relationships.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Bird Box (Netflix original released December 21, 2018)

This is another one of those posts that started as a few small comments on Face Book when sharing a link to a review article of Bird Box.

The review article is here, and it basically has the monsters being social media. My few comments that turned into lengthy post basically wind up, by the end, comparing and contrasting that with a reading of the monsters as racism, including addressing a monsters-as-racism reading to which this article links.

So, the following is my unedited comments (I don't really have time to break things down into shorter paragraphs or tighten down and polish up the language and presentation).:

Interesting take on it. I definitely agree up to a point. There is definitely a strong point made about the conversation about the painting in the beginning and the death through the security monitor (thinking social media is only words on a screen, just like they assumed Riddle's diary was just words in a book). The "fake news" and "over there" and "invasion" thing with the news cast is also definitely a strong piece of evidence in favor of the social media reading.

This author and I might disagree on how prevalent race is or is not in the film (I think it's in the mix for both of us, it's just a question of at what level in comparison to the social media theme). I don't think it is the whole of the film but I do think it is central (although I read the piece mentioned on the Root and thought the person was a bit of an ass ... and I think that painting Bullock *only* as a privileged white and so starkly as such and the blindfold *only* as sticking one's head in the sand turns out a bit naive, for one by leaving you with no real place from which to agree or disagree; when Get Out ends with a black man saying "consider this shit handled," we can take the film makers to be saying that it is a good thing that the whites who have been taking over black bodies are all dead, we can safely assume a stage-affirmative stance toward "this shit being handled"; if Bird Box is about only Bullock as privileged and the blindfold as willing denial, where does that leave the resolution of the film as far as a stage-affirmative or stage-pejorative stance, which impact whether you think the film is good or bad. I think the author of the Root piece could find it good only if it could be said that the movie is really completely critical of Malorie and Tom and the people in the sanctuary, no sympathy for them at all based in any other type of meaning as characters ... What I mean when I say it is naive is that that author uses rhetoric that implies that you COULD have a story in which people thoroughly get beyond racism, but with that view of even the white people who AREN'T the ever-rabids, it basically means the white people dying, which really isn't getting beyond racism ... It would be like Get Out having not only the white body snatchers killed, but all white people who are complicit even unwillingly, which in our culture is every white adult, including myself ... I agree with a lot of points the Root author makes, but I don't think anybody is getting beyond racism in the way he tries to portray as possible, not even in art ... once race became so organically interwoven with other socio-economic factors like labor competition, it's not going away simply by "opening your eyes to it" ... opening your eyes to the reality of how pervasively it is woven into American structure really can lead you to the despair of suicide ... and I don't agree that other characteristics of humanity cannot function meaningfully in a world in which racism has not yet been fully vanquished, which is where the Root author seems to me to wind up).

In the end, I think that if Bird Box is about social media it is about social media as emblematic of something further back than social media itself, a negative potential in human behavior/nature that social media distinctly exacerbates (or a neutral one that social media distinctly helps to go in a negative direction), and I would say that racism is the older effect of that potentional (or the older versino of it being taken in a negative direction). I think the "family tree" is probably more like there is an original coin with two sides, xenophobia and "friend"-o-philia. While the latter is the conceptually more original drive based in insecurity (once we develop a concept of good-vs-bad and a concept of self, and one's own group by extension, we begin to worry about whether we are "good"), racism is the historically older sibling who emphasizes the xenophobic side as a first line of defense of identity ("of course we are good, look at how we are not them," which of course, requires a them; while the Augustine and other medievals conceived of good as having a positive existence beyond the opposition to evil, which has no positive existence, just perverting good, when it comes to racism, the white race NEEDS a black race to be over against) and social media is the younger sibling who helps the older through facilitating the "friend"-o-philia as the positive side that actually lets in newer forms of xenophobic violence and actual conquest (cyber-bullying is a real thing).

 The core connective tissue thematically between the racism and the social media themes is "construction of identity." Racism takes a few sparse facts like skin pigment and geo-origin and constructs this thing called your "race" (as I have said elsewhere, race and ethnicity are not the same thing; race is what you get when you apply a capitalist social hierarchy to ethnicity). Social Media is the construction of digital identity, like the residual digital self image in the Matrix. There is a sage piece of advice that those who have tried online dating sites pass on to others: meet face-to-face sooner rather than later. The issue is that, in digital formats like email and profiles, the construction of identity presentation controls a lot more of the perception of the other person. We always construct and put together an identity as a front face, even in face-to-face conversations. But the difference is that, in fact-to-face, you can't hide your foibles; they slip through the cracks. And maybe some of what slips through the cracks is something the other person has too big of a problem with (although it might show up as "just not clicking" with your real face the way they thought the clicked with your digital face) and better to know sooner, because the person on the other end of the digital construction is also constructing a picture of you out of what you have selected to put on the page and the kind of person they are hoping to meet. Nobody is "lying" in the simplistic definitions offered by so many self-proclaimed moral experts on both sides of the conservative-liberal divide; both are trying to meet somebody and genuinely interact. But we simply construct; it's our epistemological MO. To borrow John LeCarre's language, building legends is what we do. We can't stop doing that, nor should we try; what we should do, whether in face-to-face or in digital, is allow the legends to be challenged and modified by real interaction with the other. But the challenging is easier in person and more difficult in digital (I remember seeing an FB add in front of some movie while I was in NYC that scared me because it seemed to actually advocate the digital construction as a completely safe and trustworthy, completely unproblematic, place from which to start a real-world friendship, with all the assumptions that what was seen online is accurate and adequate).

I disagree with this writer about the place of Malkovich's Douglas character, and particularly because of this reviewer's portrayal assuming basically just one basic type of "Trumper." In addition to the ever-rabids (those like Gary forcing people to look and either kill themselves or reveal themselves to be among the ever-rabids), who are the truly malignant, there are also the merely sickly, those who know there is something wrong going on, and they will speak against it if it comes out in big bold letters, but if not, they actually have a kind of morbid fascination with the minor forms, the kinds who were not "fans" of The Apprentice, but did find it interesting in some "wry" sort of way. They won't get sucked in by full-blown Trumperism (the most recent example I heard of is from a third party about a second party whom I stopped following on FB over 5 years ago because I found it simply pointless, a party 2 who voted against Trump in the primary, but joined the Trump bandwagon once he won the nomination, becoming one of those "let bygones be bygones" supporters who sees any criticism of the GOP candidate as pragmatically dangerous, and the recent example party 3 told me about was party 2 posting on FB of people on the left being inconsistent in criticizing Trump for not calling Mattis personally to fire him, since Obama did the same kind of proxy-fire, which is basically a straw man argument when taken in the scope of the whole never-Trump debate, picking up little minor inconsistencies and claiming to have given the never-Trumpers a good dose of humility, when in fact all they did was divert attention from the real issue, which is whether we should be scared shitless now that the adults have left Trump's room). But they are xenphobic and isolationist: Malkovich wants his wife not to try to help, and he is willing to leave pregnant Olympia in the house to starve. He's not the overt racist, the guys like Gary forcing things, but he also won't help others if he can help it. The middle Trumpers will be sure to let you know they voted against him in the primary, but that is really about all they have ever done to combat it (other than that, like party 3 above, they have been known to find Trump's "you're fired" show interesting back before his candidacy, even though, of course, they weren't, like, a "fan" who made sure to tune in every week or something like that ... they have a bit more "sophistication" than that, of course).
While Malkovich/Douglas is not a hardcore Trumplodyte, he winds up in the garage (and then ...) for a reason, which is that he was acting like a crazy xenophobic asshole. His *caution* was actually a good thing, and had he not been being a crazy xenophobic asshole, he might have thought of a way to discern the situation: "ok, we want to be charitable and help, but you have to show us EVERYTHING you are bringing in with you; you say there are crazies who can look, how do we know you're not one, let us see what you have in the case"; and then they would have seen what was in the case, and that would have been pretty suspicious. But he had to be one of these stupid "apostolate of the asshole" shits who realizes direct racism is wrong (although they're quite too stupid to be able to even begin to get their head around a concept like systemic racism) but they still have this drive to be an asshole and so they try to make it into some "virtue" that can actually be helpful in the good fight, yada yada yada, so they're tolerant of Trump and "forgiving" of the ways his supporters actively combat peace while (the middle Trumpers) being careful never to actually put a confederate flag on their own lawn. That's Douglas (Malkovich).

There are other things that can cross over or be shared by the two themes: what is mentioned here as the entities appealing to sound through mimicking the voices of people we know can be social media's reproduction of FB friends, but it can also be, at the same time, a confederacy-sympathizer's claim to speak for the "heritage" of America etc., the voices of those gone by, those whom we should respect ("if you challenge this, you're saying your dearly departed father was evil" etc.). That was one of the things that actually caught my attention most in the first viewing: manipulation of knowledge/experience of the "past" in the form of appeals to things like "heritage."

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