Tuesday, February 10, 2009


did you know that benedict anderson (of imagined communities fame) was responsible for the mass suicide at the time of the hale-bopp comet?

me neither.

but, according to tom garvin's mythical thinking in political life: reflections on nationalism and social science, such is the case. apparently anderson -- and some others including, tangentially, eric hobsbawm -- are responsible for the survival and support of a "murderous" (not my word) system of ideas which led to the cultist suicide.


i've been reading through garvin's work because he kept coming up in footnotes of other people i was reading -- i can't remember where the first one i saw was; i just made a note of the title after i saw it for the third or fourth time. i've come across the name before but this is the first time i've had the time/desire/need to read through the stuff. now, in relation to my thesis work, it seemed relevant and who really needs sleep, right? 

i just finished his nationalist revolutionaries in ireland 1823-1928 which was very good except for the fact that it dismissed most of the things i find most interesting at the minute including the 1890s and what arthur griffith did before he founded sinn fein. (some really interesting things, take my word for it -- including, in all fairness, the dissemination of some depressingly anti-semitic rhetoric. *sigh* feet of clay after all.)

anyway, back to garvin: nationalist revolutionaries verged on the angry-sounding at times; mythical thinking is verging on the outright histrionic! garvin seems to be teetering on the edge of calling hobsbawm a closet stalinist and describes anderson's work as "overrated." well. okay, the last bit might be kind of true, but it elides, i think, how important anderson's book seems to have been when it first came out. it seems old hat now but everyone subsequent to him has used his stuff; admittedly, sometimes it gets used to say "there's a hole in his logic" or "gosh, he missed this thing" or "gee, this is really cool but--" garvin has written a preface to mythical thinking mentioning that he wrote it specifically for use in a class he teaches so maybe the point is to get his students arguing. i think it would work very well!

anyway, it struck me as odd at 7.30 this morning when i was drinking my coffee and eating my fig bar before work.

the only other really interesting thing i've got to pass on is my little thumbnail review of coraline.

i was really a little nervous when i first heard about the coraline film adaptation -- it seemed like so many things could go wrong and it's such a marvellous book, i would have hated to see an awful film version. but it's all okay, because henry selick -- not tim burton as several people, including film critics, seem to think -- did a lovely job. even dakota fanning was, i have to say it, really good. 

and it's completely ludicrous, by the way, that even one film critic -- let alone several! -- have credited tim burton with this film. i hope they're apologizing.

i did picture the story differently -- i had a much more british setting in mind: something like a london townhouse with attached garden or backing onto a larger strip of woods...something like the house in torchwood's "small worlds" episode (if you haven't seen it, stop reading this, go join netflix or find the discs at your local library, and watch them). the voices of the characters were all british and coraline particularly so -- sort of like wendy with an attitude. and since my only other connection with dakota fanning was the egregious adaptation of war of the worlds where it seemed like she screamed nonstop for two hours and i had to put up with tom cruise... it seemed like bad things could happen.

that being said, selick's vision of how the world looks is solid enough that i'm willing to go with it and fanning's stock has inched up. keith david as the cat is great and what's not to love about ian mcshane as the strange russian guy training a jumping mouse circus? al swerengen in spangles!

i still like the book better, i have to say -- the "other mother" will always be more terrifying that way although she's pretty damned scary on film, too -- but the movie is really, really good.

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