Commonplace

What I’m saying is that when you try to set yourself apart from other people IN GENERAL, in your own mind, in order to soothe yourself and tell yourself that things will work out just fine for you, in order to reassure yourself that you’re sexier and better than the desperate cookie-cutter girls you see out at bars, it doesn’t actually make things any easier for you. It makes things harder. When you choose to love yourself for superficial reasons, you teach other people to love you for superficial reasons. And when you reject yourself and scold yourself for things that are beyond your control, you degrade your own ability to show up and enjoy your life. You hate your own humanity. You reject yourself for being a fucking mortal.

If you have to be shiny and superior to matter, then eventually you won’t matter at all, even to yourself.

—Heather Havrilesky, advice column (3 February 2016)

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Five for five, 2015 edition

New Year's Eve champagne

As in previous years, and in accordance to a longstanding tradition begun—with two close friendsin the wee early hours of 2002, here are my five favorite moments of 2015. Happy New Year, everyone. Please don’t do anything stupid.
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Buster Keaton #18: The Love Nest (1923)

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The Love Nest was the last of Buster Keaton’s two-reelers, before his studio switched over to making features for the next decade. So, there’s an unintentional elegiac quality about the movie, even though it’s rollicking. It has crackerjack comic timing between Buster Keaton and his old antagonist Big Joe Roberts. Roberts, a mainstay of Keaton’s short films, would be dead of a stroke by the end of that year, only appearing further in Three Ages and the masterful Our Hospitality. Continue reading

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Buster Keaton #17: The Balloonatic (1923)

Balloonatic 31 (hanging on #2)

This one’s a photo essay, because I can’t properly put the movie’s beauty into words. Enjoy these glimpses of wonder.

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Buster Keaton #16: Day Dreams (1922)

Day Dreams (4)

Day Dreams ended Keaton’s 1922 on a high note.

I say that knowing that, here, he probably sang just an octave higher, enough to shatter some wine glasses, beyond what we’re now able to hear. As with Hard Luck and The Electric House, considerable chunks of this two-reeler are lost forever. The bits that are missing, primarily, are the lovely Renée Adorée’s daydreams about what her suitor (Buster Keaton) is up to, as he tries to become successful enough to earn her hand in marriage. Adorée’s dad (Joe Keaton) basically wants her boyfriend to shape up or ship out, asking if he can make something of himself. Buster replies in the only way he knows how.
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Commonplace (on pigeon-holing)

When I first started writing, I was anxious that I would be pigeon-holed into the “race-beat.” Eventually I realized that the “race beat” was actually the “humanity beat,” and that questions about “racism” are really questions about the exercise of power. Perhaps more importantly I realized that “race” was an essential thread of American society, and questions about race were questions about the very nature of the Western world. I wasn’t pigeon-holed, I’d fallen into a gold-mine. America is the most powerful country in the world. You simply can’t understand how it got that way without understanding “race.”

—Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Wakanda and the Black Imagination,” The Atlantic Online (12/16/15)

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Buster Keaton #15: The Electric House (1922)

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At first, The Electric House looks like a rehash of The Haunted House, from just a year before. A fully automated, “modern” house goes haywire—its time-saving contraptions become booby traps, ensnaring the very people whose time they’re meant to spare. From The Scarecrow’s Rube Goldberg-like kitchen to the “efficient” build-it-yourself house of One Week, Keaton’s oeuvre is full of modern “conveniences” that turns hilariously inconvenient. Electric seems another variation of those Buster trope.

That’s true, as far as it goes. But I found Electric funnier than Haunted, and watching the two back-to-back helped me to understand why.
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