God’s Unexpected Smile

Nov 23 2014 @ 7:35am

Recently we featured a survey of the Colombian writer Nicolás Gómez Dávila’s acerbic aphorisms. Matthew Walther considers a translation of his Scholia to an Implicit Text, noticing his idiosyncratic theological positions:

Though traditional Catholics will doubtless enjoy his digs at progressive clergymen and agree with his aesthetic objections to the Mass of Pope Paul VI, Gómez-Dávila’s orthodoxy, especially by the standards of the preconciliar Church, is very much an open question. He was almost certainly a fideist of the Kierkegaardian variety, starkly declaring that “if God were a conclusion of reasoning, I would not feel it necessary to worship Him.” He insisted that “Scholasticism sinned by trying to turn Christians into know-alls” and that it encouraged the higher criticism (“Christ did not leave documents but disciples”). There are also hints in his work, if not of outright universalism, then certainly of hope for the salvation of all, also expressed by Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and the founder of this magazine: “I rather believe in God’s smile than in his wrath.”

If Gómez-Dávila is ever declared a saint, admittedly a very remote possibility, he should be taken up as the patron of nihilists—which is to say, of most of us on our worst days. His work is a complement to, if not a substitute for, gin, tobacco, and constant prayer. The fact that his tone is caustic and his political views incompatible with even a limited faith in liberal democracy should caution readers against complacence and placing ultimate trust in anything but the articles of the Creed. “I do not belong to a perishing world,” he wrote. “I prolong and transmit a deathless truth.”

A Short Film For Saturday

Nov 22 2014 @ 9:03pm

A portrait of Richard Thompson, the “cartoonist’s cartoonist”:

In an interview with Michael Cavna, filmmaker Andy Hemmendinger explains what motivated his tribute:

MICHAEL CAVNA: Congratulations on the beautiful documentary, guys. When did you first discover Richard’s work, and what inspired you to make this film?

ANDY HEMMENDINGER: Richard has been a friend and neighbor of mine for the last 15-plus years. I enjoyed his sense of humor from the beginning, and while I knew he did illustrations and cartoons, I’d never seen any of his work. One day, a friend of mine called up and said that he’d made fun of my last name in a cartoon that he’d done. After that, I started paying attention to his work.

I loved his sense of humor and began to read him regularly, especially when “Cul De Sac” started. It did surprise me that not everyone knew who he was, though. This past spring, I was visiting Richard and saw a self-portrait he’d drawn in which he was a chick that had just hatched. That image really struck me. It made me think of the endless hours he’d spent staring at a blank piece of paper, waiting for ideas to strike. Like staring at the inside of the egg. And now it wasn’t the lack of ideas that constrained him, but the Parkinson’s. [Ed. note: Thompson retired "Cul de Sac" in 2012 to battle his Parkinson's disease.]

Between the combination of this mental image and wanting … other people to enjoy his work as much as we did, we decided to make a film.

Responding to a book by Jeffrey Kluger, Brooke Lea Foster defends today’s young adults from accusations of narcissism:

[A]re Millennials any more narcissistic than, say, the Baby Boomers, who were once considered the most self-obsessed cohort of their time? Consider the 1976 cover story of New York Magazine, in which Tom Wolfe declared the ‘70s “The Me Decade.” One could argue that every generation seems a little more narcissistic than the last, puffing out its chest and going out into the world with an overabundance of self-confidence, swagger, even a bit of arrogance. These traits are simply hallmarks of early adulthood—it’s often the first time people are putting themselves out there, applying for first jobs and meeting potential life partners. Overconfidence is how people muscle through the big changes. …

[S]tudies have directly contradicted the idea that Millennials are the most narcissistic of previous generations.

Read On

Start-Up Of The Day

Nov 22 2014 @ 7:28pm

Smart Pipe, the latest in the Adult Swim Infomercial series of recent viral fame, gives a new meaning to disruptive innovation:

Recent Dish on technology and excrement here.

Fangs And Farsi On Film

Nov 22 2014 @ 6:44pm

Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night features a vampire heroine who claims her victims in a chador:

Performed entirely in Farsi, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is set in Bad City, a fictional Iranian ghost town (played by Taft, California, situated in the San Joaquin Valley) where oil rigs pump continuously and corpses are dumped in ditches. Plot is subordinate to mood and atmosphere … aspects enhanced by the film’s high-def black-and-white imagery. Yet punctuating the film’s pleasingly languid rhythm are jolts of fear and desire.

The girl of the title (Sheila Vand), never identified by name, slinks through Bad City long after sunset cloaked in a chador. She coolly observes the evil that men do before bearing her fangs and exsanguinating them, the fate that befalls her first victim, a heavily neck-tattooed pimp and drug lord (Dominic Rains). Those not guilty of any crime—besides possessing the XY chromosome—are still not above suspicion; in a demonic growl, our undead heroine warns a wide-eyed seven-year-old tyke wearing a tatty sport coat, “Till the end of your life, I’ll watch you.” This vigilante upholds a gender-inverted Sharia law.

Melissa Leon recommends that viewers reserve judgment about the movie’s gender politics:

Read On

Face Of The Day

Nov 22 2014 @ 6:13pm

dish_idealselfimage

Scott Chasserot‘s portrait series Original Ideal explores how people envision their ideal selves:

The experiment is actually fairly straightforward and easy to understand. First, his subjects have their portrait taken in the most unadorned, simplest terms possible. Then, the photos are modified many times over into 50 different versions of the original that are all shown to the subject, one-by-one, while monitoring their brain activity using an Emotiv EEG brain scanner.

Based on the data from the brain scanner, Chasserot can pinpoint the photo that generated the strongest positive reaction. Finally, he posts the original image and the ‘ideal’ image side-by-side so you can see the differences.

See more of Chasserot’s work here, and check out a video about the project below the jump:

Read On

Hot Cookin’

Nov 22 2014 @ 5:32pm

Claire Lower mulls over the links between “food pornography” and the real thing:

Food porn, like pornography, is all about visual stimulation. Food is posed,painted, injected with fillers (chicken legs are made plumper with mashed potatoes), and masterfully lit for maximum appeal. Sometimes, the food you think you are seeing is something else entirely. For illustration, we need look only to the radical differences between promotional photos and the real thing when it comes to fast food. Like a 15-year-old boy whose only view of naked women has been online, we may be less aware of the artifice and may become distraught when real-life food doesn’t live up to the fantasy of food porn.

This was apparent when Martha Stewart – whose magazine is quite well known for its air of effortless perfection – shared some photos of some fancy food she was enjoying. The photos appeared to be taken on a camera phone in very poorly lit places and the results were – to put in mildly – not very attractive. The subsequent uproar was intense, and maybe a little undeserved. Though some of the photos were truly terrible, anyone who has ever Instagrammed a meal could see that this was a case of terrible restaurant lighting plus camera phone flash, two things which one is taught to avoid in Food Photography 101. Though no one should be surprised to find that Martha herself does not take the photos for her magazine and website, people were quite surprised to find that the reality of what Martha eats to be so far removed from the exaggerated representation of what Martha eats that we are so used to seeing in her cookbooks.

A Short Story For Saturday

Nov 22 2014 @ 4:46pm

We haven’t featured any of Raymond Carver’s short stories on the Dish yet – a major oversight, given the writer’s reputation and influence. “Cathedral” generally is considered one of his finer works, and here’s what Carver said about it in an interview:

The story “Cathedral” seemed to me completely different from everything I’d written before. I was in a period of generosity. The character there is full of prejudices against blind people. He changes; he grows. The sighted man changes. He puts himself in the blind man’s place. The story affirms something.

The story begins this way:

This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night. His wife had died. So he was visiting the dead wife’s relatives in Connecticut. He called my wife from his in-laws’. Arrangements were made. He would come by train, a five-hour trip, and my wife would meet him at the station. She hadn’t seen him since she worked for him one summer in Seattle ten years ago. But she and the blind man had kept in touch. They made tapes and mailed them back and forth. I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit. He was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered me. My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they were led by seeing-eye dogs. A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.

That summer in Seattle she had needed a job. She didn’t have any money. The man she was going to marry at the end of the summer was in officers’ training school. He didn’t have any money, either. But she was in love with the guy, and he was in love with her, etc. She’d seen something in the paper: HELP WANTED – Reading to Blind Man, and a telephone number. She phoned and went over, was hired on the spot. She’d worked with this blind man all summer. She read stuff to him, case studies, reports, that sort of thing. She helped him organize his little office in the county social-service department. They’d become good friends, my wife and the blind man. How do I know these things? She told me. And she told me something else. On her last day in the office, the blind man asked if he could touch her face. She agreed to this. She told me he touched his fingers to every part of her face, her nose – even her neck! She never forgot it. She even tried to write a poem about it. She was always trying to write a poem. She wrote a poem or two every year, usually after something really important had happened to her.

Read the rest here. This story also appears in the collection that bears its name, Cathedral. Peruse previous SSFSs here.

Mental Health Break

Nov 22 2014 @ 4:20pm

A beautiful blast-off:

Finding Antigone In Ferguson

Nov 22 2014 @ 3:34pm

In an interview about her book Citizen: An American Lyric, the poet and playwright Claudia Rankine recalls visiting Ferguson, Missouri a week after the protests began this summer. She describes how visiting the memorial reminded her of classical tragedy:

It was a very hot day, and there were a lot of people standing around, waiting for something to happen. Things were happening at night, the police force was coming out at night, but during the day they were just sitting in their cars, watching out the windows. And so there was a kind of odd, steamy, hot August waiting happening.

Really, I just kind of looked at the memorial and stood. And then I found myself being approached by people. A man stood next to me, and saw a picture of Michael Brown at the memorial, and said, “He looks like me.” I didn’t want to say yes, because I didn’t want to align him with a person who had passed away. So I said nothing. And then he said it again, he said, “He looks like me.” So at that point I looked at him and looked at the photo, and he did look like Michael Brown. And I began to think, I wish there was a way to stop him from identifying with somebody who is dead. But the real understanding was that he too could be dead, at any point. He just stood there. He was a teenager. He was still in his pajamas.

Read On