From Leigh Brackett to Rian Johnson

David Breitenbeck:

I don’t want to make a generalization, but it really does seem like the quality of film and filmmakers has steeply declined even in the thirty-odd years since Return of the Jedi. Even absent George Lucas’s quixotic attempt to write and direct the entire prequel trilogy himself after decades of comparative idleness, we have a huge, multi-billion dollar company like Disney staking a massive investment in these films and the best they can come up with is the uneven Rogue One. The quality of writing and storytelling in these later films is nothing short of an embarrassment, at times offensively so, and now we don’t even have the excuse of George Lucas trying to make it a personal project. This is a branch of the top entertainment media company in the world throwing enormous amounts of money and promotion at a project with The Last Jedi as the result. Meanwhile, some forty years ago, that same ‘branch’ made The Empire Strikes Back.

Something certainly changed in the meantime, whatever it might have been. Somehow we went from Leigh Brackett to Rian Johnson.

Armando Simón:

This invisible crisis in literature becomes self-evident if we list all of the great fiction writers in fifty year increments….
In fact, the evidence practically shouts out at you. The pattern that emerges is surprisingly that of a bell shaped curve!

1800-1850
Washington Irving, Fenimore James Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne.

1851-1900
Edward Hale, Harriet B. Stowe, Henry Longfellow, Walt Whitman, Joel Harris, Mark Twain, Mary dodge, Louisa Alcott, Bret Harte, Henry James, Horatio Alger, William D. Howells, Kate Chopin, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville.

1901-1950
Upton Sinclair, Booth Tarkington, Owen Wister, Sarah O. Jewett, Edith Wharton, O. Henry, T. S. Eliot, Zora Hurston, Richard Wright, Christopher Isherwood, B. Traven, Margaret Mitchell, John Steinbeck, Walter Clark, Walter Edmons, Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, Willa Cather, Sherwood Anderson, Thornton Wilder, Sinclair Lewis, Cronell Woolrich, John Marquand, William Saroyan, Ezra Pound, William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, Carl Sandburg, Sara Teasdale, John Dos Passos, Clarence Day, Thorne Smith, Pearl Buck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Robert Penn Warren, H. P. Lovecraft, Jack Schaefer, Marjorie K. Rawlings.

1951-2000
Anais Nin, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Robert Frost, Mario Puzo, Shirley Jackson, Charles Jackson, James Thurber, James McCain, Leon Uris, Robert Ruark, James Michener, Ayn Rand, Joyce Carol Oats, John Toole, Robert Heinlein, Saul Bellow, Isaac Asimov, Raymond Chandler, Taylor Caldwell, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Tom Wolfe.

2001-2018
*no entry

What is most alarming is that there is no new generation of high quality writers in sight to take up the torch. All of the writers that came into prominence in the last period are already dead, or like I said, have one foot in the grave.1

Are these observations accurate? It’s easy to believe that western civilization is in rapid decline, but I’m too disconnected from contemporary American culture to say if that’s actually the case.

Not Lady Whiskey …

… but Queen Beer. Specifically, Doritaenopsis Queen Beer, a cross of Doritis [or Phalaenopsis] pulcherrima and Phalaenopsis Meteor, which I picked up at a raffle last month.

For Lady Whiskey, see A. Powell, T. Turner et al.

A useful site for those interested in orchids: a list of orchid abbreviations. Of particular note are the man-made intergenerics. Some orchids have eight or more different genera in their parentage, e.g., “Sya. = Sallyyeeara = [Brassavola x Broughtonia x Cattleya x Cattleyopsis x Diacrium x Epidendrum x Laelia x Schomburgkia x Sophronitis].”1

Not an orchid: Pleiospilos nelii at about five months.

Today’s quotes: straws and charity

Joe in Indiana:

Seriously, of all the plastic waste in the world, why straws? Little plastic tubes must be a fraction of nothing in the giant landfill we call Earth. How about getting rid of the plastic packaging that surrounds just about everything as an anti-theft measure these days? You can’t cut it, tear it, pry it apart, or even bite it open. We bought a new toy for the granddaughter and by the time we got it open she was too old for it.

Ken the Brickmuppet:

… there’s no greater expression of charity than forcing other people to sacrifice.

By the book

The Maximum Leader, by way of Robbo:

I was recently challenged….to post the covers of 7 books I love. These photos are to be without reviews, explanation, or other comments. Like [my challenger], I will post my covers in one go. Also, like [my challenger], I will break the rules in a number of ways. I am going to post 8 covers rather than 7.

I’ll play, too. Here are seven, plus one more, of my favorites. Make of them what you will.

Continue reading “By the book”

Make me laugh

I’ve been sampling the new offerings on Crunchroll. As usual, most don’t pass the five-minute test.1 The few that I didn’t immediately abandon are mostly comedies of various sorts.

The best new offering is Cells at Work, which deserves a post of its own. Until I get around to that, see Wonderduck. There are more screencaps below the fold.

Mr. Tonegawa: Middle Management Blues is the mock-heroic tale of an upper-level executive in an organized crime syndicate. Through the first three episodes we see Tonegawa conduct grueling meetings, deal with his deranged, perhaps demonic boss, and broil Kobe beef for his underlings at a picnic. It’s laboriously funny, but enough of it works that I will probably continue watching. I’d probably get more out of it if I had seen Kaiji and Akagi.

Visualize whirled

Planet With, a tale of absurd planetary menace, reminds me a little of Zvezda, but it makes even less sense. As of the second episode it’s still not clear whether the forces the hero has allied himself with are good guys or bad guys. I’ll probably never know, since I don’t plan to watch more.

Late Night! The Genius Bakabon is a silly gag show. If you liked Osomatsu-san, you might like this, but two episodes were enough for me.

I almost quit Asobi Asobase – workshop of fun – in five minutes, but I stuck it out and watched the entire first episode. I should have trusted my initial reaction. There are three unappealing high-school girls, some mild gross-out humor but nothing really funny, and an opening featuring lots of lilies. No thank you.

Continue reading “Make me laugh”

Today’s quote

George Weigel on Tom Wolfe:

Then there was Wolfe’s first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities. One of its chapters, “The Masque of the Red Death,” takes its title from Edgar Allan Poe and with mordant humor dissects the vacuity of Manhattanites consumed (and in some cases destroyed) by their grotesque, over-the-top consumerism. I recently re-read that stunning set-piece and the thought occurred, as it had before, that here was a far more effective polemic against materialism than anything ever issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Lilies, spines and more

Unlabeled mammillaria

I took a lot of pictures this weekend, which you can view at the following links:

Cactus and succulent show

Botanical garden

Orchid society show and tell

One advantage to taking pictures at Botanica on a wretchedly hot and humid July afternoon: you have the place pretty much to yourself, without swarms of pesky kids running all over and getting in your way.

Unboxing

Back in May I picked up five orchids at an auction. Three are in good shape and doing well, as far as I can judge. However, one turned out to be infested with mealy bug, and another promptly lost most of its roots; i.e., 40% of my purchases had problems. That is not satisfactory. (I think I managed to salvage the ailing pair, but it will probably be a year or more before they’re presentable again.)

Perhaps I might have better luck buying plants online. I recently ordered a few from Orchids by Hausermann. The box arrived this past weekend. Let’s open it up.

Continue reading “Unboxing”

The name game

Belamcanda chinensis. Or is it Iris domestica? Or Pardanthus chinensis? Or Morea chinensis? Or Ixia chinensis, Gemmingia chinensis, Vanilla domestica or Epidendrum domesticum? Taxonomists have too much time on their hands.

There are more pictures from Saturday’s trip to the botanical garden here.

Ad orientem

The big 360° panorama I did yesterday didn’t turn out properly, and I’m not publishing it. I did salvage a piece of it, above. It’s the altar of St. Anthony Church in Wichita, east of the central business district.1

St. Boniface parish was erected in 1886 to serve German-speaking Catholics in the Wichita area, and a wooden church was built the next year. Franciscans took up residence around 1890. When a more permanent church was built during the first decade of the 20th century, it was named for the Franciscan St. Anthony of Padua. Nowadays the best place in the area to find German Catholics is western Sedgwick county, and St. Anthony has become a center of Vietnamese Catholic activity.

Update: Here’s the quick and dirty version of the panorama, using five images taken with a fisheye lens rather than 37 at the wide end of a cheap but sharp zoom. It’s much smaller and less detailed than the large one, but it gives you an idea of what the interior of the church looks like. I hope to return soon to the church, preferably on an overcast day, and make a full-size panorama that meets my standards.


St. Anthony Catholic Church, Wichita

Continue reading “Ad orientem”

Snack time

Most websites give you cookies whether you’re hungry or not, but how many serve coffee cake? Come back next week; there might be brownies.

Update: And here are some brownies with crispy edges, in stereo.

Perfunctory animation round-up

As regular visitors have probably noticed, I don’t often write about anime any more. This is because I don’t watch much these days. My interests run in cycles, and it’s been about 15 years since I discovered Serial Experiments Lain. Although I still sample many shows, I usually abandon each within five minutes. Steven’s gone, too. It’s time for fresh obsessions.

There are a couple of series I did keep up with this spring. What turned out to be just the first season of The Return of the Son of the Bride of Cardcaptor Sakura isn’t terrible, but it’s not in the same class as the original. It’s mostly filler. The makers focused on the incidentals, such as cooking and singing and being pathologically nice, while neglecting to tell a compelling story until the last few episodes. The sequences in which Sakura obtains new cards seem perfunctory, as if the CLAMP ladies themselves are bored with the story. Perhaps the next season will redeem the flaccid mess, but my question is, do they even care anymore?

The third season Nobunaga no Shinobi is hit-and-miss — making bloody battlefield deaths funny can be tricky — but sometimes it works, and the brief episodes don’t overstay their welcome. Knowing what the characters will do later in their careers occasionally makes the nonsense feel a bit off. Monkey-boy Hideyoshi, above, will later order the execution of the 26 Martyrs of Japan. All three seasons are entertaining, though the first is still the funniest.

Elf, dwarf

Crunchyroll continues to add older anime to its library. Record of Lodoss War, which I’ve been meaning to watch for 15 years, is a recent acquisition. I watched the first episode of the 1990 OVA; it really is animated Dungeons and Dragons. The story isn’t promising and the characters are all stereotypes, and I doubt that I’ll watch more. If you are a D&D player, you might get more out of it than I did. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to sample for the pleasures of old-school anime, such as detailed hand-drawn art and characters with noses.

Another recent addition is Masaaki Yuasa’s wildly eccentric movie Mind Game. It’s difficult to encapsulate, and I’m not going to try, beyond noting that it ranges from claustrophobic noir to sheer goofy silliness. Instead, here are some screencaps from the first third of the film.

Continue reading “Perfunctory animation round-up”