Book Review: Stephen Burt, Close Calls with Nonsense

A few years ago nearly everyone thought that poetry was finally dead, that the few remaining poets were living solitary lives as poetry presses shut down and poetry readers diminished. Then along comes  technology to the rescue: new printing technologies, vast social networking sites, poetry blogs, online publishers, and inexpensive personal web sites. Now new publishers and virtual communities of poets or other special interest groups bring more poems to more readers than could ever have been imagined. Much of the new poetry is wretched, but some is not. Poetry good and bad thrives. No

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Theatre: David Ives on Self-Knowledge

The playwright David Ives appeared Feb. 24, 2010 at a Barnes & Noble in New York City, on a panel (promoting the new book The Play That Changed My Life) and made an interesting observation. Ives said that he had thought a lot about what David Mamet wrote in an article in The New York Times: “All drama is about lies. When the lie is exposed, the play is over.” Mamet went on to argue that ordinary plays might ask what is true, but that the best plays deal instead with the lies that we

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Film Review: The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon reminds us of the enormous power of black and white films. This film is visually wonderful, with its painterly compositions, interesting faces, and occasional frames in which the subject is partially obscured. B&W adds a subtle layer of artifice and historic distance to our experience as viewers. The story and characters are interesting, too, and the ending is open-ended in a pleasing way that helps keep its rich thematic potentials from lapsing into didacticism or a single, oversimplified observation. The story is enough to keep our interest, but I also liked its

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Wars and Tea Party Anti-Tax Demonstrations

The peace movement has proven completely ineffectual in the eight years of war in Afghanistan and seven years of war in Iraq. Public demonstrations and vigils attract no interest and change no minds. How annoying then that Tea Party demonstrations draw vast crowds and are now considered a serious influence over the decisions of elected officials. Yes, I know, unlike the peace movement the Tea Party movement gets enormous news coverage and overt encouragement from popular news media, but so what. Tea Party demonstrations might indeed be a stealth marketing campaign for the Republican Party

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Film Review: The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is a very well made action film, but I am surprised at how well received it has been. What it does, it does well, but how hard is it to generate tension and excitement when your characters are armed with automatic weapons and explosives, and are intent on killing each other at close range? The ticking time bomb is the classic cinematic suspense device. It’s no wonder audiences prefer the wonderfully filmed visceral action of The Hurt Locker to Iraq War films like The Valley of Elah that involve troublesome issues of

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Film Review: I Served the King of England

This film has a lot going for it. I like its complexity, I like its use of visuals, and I like its ambition. It has the feeling of a complex novel without trying to be a novel (it’s adapted from a novel). I like its admixture of political satire and gentle humor, and its Charlie Chaplin homages. I like its European feel, its understated suggestion of violence rather than overt violence, its antihero’s lack of heroism. Oh, and the frolicsome, happy, beautiful, naked young women. The film operates at two levels that I can discern,

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Why bipartisan is a dirty word

This week the president appealed for bipartisan cooperation. Politicians frequently call for or pledge bipartisan cooperation as if it’s a good thing, but it’s usually a good thing only for the two political parties. The average American citizen should be frightened at the very idea of bipartisan cooperation, and not because one party is always right and so should not compromise with the other. Considering that bi means two, and partisan means loyal to a party or cause, bipartisan just means we have two self-interested groups conspiring. Let’s try nonpartisan, putting the national interest ahead

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Civilian War Casualties Day

Why the American jury system is endangered

No, Brian M. Welke, the Iraq War was not worth it.

The myth of the missing welcome