Will be working on Spanish and Voice from the second rung of my self improvement category in the “Living Deliberately” experiment (last week I took as a vacation).
The Expendables-According to Susan Sontag in her essay “Notes on Camp” one of the key ingredients for acheiving that ephemeral asethetic is that it must be made sincerely. There is no doubt, having read interiews with Stallone, Crews, and various other members of the cast that they were all very sincere in making it.
The film had all the elements of an 80’s action movie: unnecessary subplots, a preening archvillain, steroid muscles, and even a cameo from the king Commando himself, Governor Schwarzenegger. Sylester Stallone running was an effort of his 60-something joints versus his 20-something muscles, his head straining against his own inertia as if there was a younger, faster Stallone trapped inside this hulking suit. A stupid, silly movie with bad acting, terrible dialogue, dubious logic, and altogether enjoyable because of how pleased everyone making the movie clearly was.
The History Boys-film version of the play by Alan Bennett, it follows the story of a group of students working to take the incredibly tough Oxbridge entrance exams. At first a witty, focused film, delighting in far reaching references and–smartly–making fun of itself for delighting in making far-reaching references, the film eventually begins to wander.
A subplot emerges when one eccentric and (of course) beloved teacher is caught fondling student on his moped. The film then deals with not only the fallout of this teacher’s lonely pedophilia but the latent homosexuality of a younger teacher. This is the focus of the film at the end, and it hits a very wrong note, casting such fondling as the genteel past time of lonely old teachers. It then becomes the story of the students and teachers rallying around the teacher, and what was once a focused, fun film about students dealing with one of the first big tests/questions of their mildly privileged life devolves into a strange, unfocused and boringly broad drama. I found myself impatient for the end.
The True History of Chocolate-Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe. Delivering on the title, the authors offer not only a breakdown of cacao itself, but its history and various roles in cultures from the pre-Mayan up through the modern Hershey empire (and the emergence of today’s haut-chocolatiers). The book is often fascinating and uses chocolate as a jumping off point to talk about the colonisation of the Americas, problems with the mercantile system, and various cultures and their elites.
Unfortunately, much of this is written from the perspective of an overly earnest student taking her/his first anthropology class. For anyone who already has an understanding of the colonization of South America, the history is a bit anemic. The authors are fond of going off into opinionated rants about how the Europeans were bad, which while not at all wrong, is certainly not the tone of a history/anthropology paper. A very entertaining outcome of this is an extensive defense of the Marquis de Sade (and not just his love of chocolate) but of how he really was a very nice guy. Again, while his legend may have been trumped (or truffled up), this sort of pedantry takes away from the book as a whole.
While not as chock full of trivia as I’d hoped, it is still an interesting, relatively quick read, that could provide a good, if somewhat candied introduction into the fascinating and important history of the colonization of South America.
If you don’t love chocolate or trivia, skip it, and read a real history book (I would heartily recommend Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, also, a recent gift from Chávez to Obama).