“Absolute Bearing”

The pastness of all films is implicit in in the retrospection of their frames, a property of the medium demonstrated by polished “Hollywood” features and by our out-of-focus, badly lighted, uncentered home movies. The embarrassed and graceless movements of dead relatives and friends overwhelm us with a poignancy that most still photographs of the same faces and bodies do not produce.

The cinematic frame, by dint of its serial projections, has a precarious grasp on the presence and activities of life. Whether in the artfully composed 35 millimeter close-up of a movie star or in the super-8 grimacing countenances of once young parents, the frame makes us pay dearly in affect for beholding its vacillating modes of present and past.

Affron, Charles. Cinema and Sentiment. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1982. 47. Print.


the great catastrophe of the human family

The author is drawing upon Freud’s hypothesis of atrocities committed by our primitive ancestors—incest, parricide and cannibalism—and their psychological effects to explain the origin of the Fall depicted in the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament.

The result of our search for clues, concealed in the biblical tale of the Fall, led us to conclusions similar to those at which Freud arrived. He developed in 1912 a hypothesis about the state of the early human family and about the events that must have taken place within it, evens whose repercussions led many thousands of years later to the beginnings of primitive religion and social organization.

Following remarks by Charles Darwin and suggestions of Atkinson as well as making use of analytical material, Freud attempted a reconstruction of those prehistoric events in his book Totem and Taboo.

The main features are the following: in primeval times men lived in small, unorganized hordes, under the domination of a strong and despotic father. The expelled sons, living together in small hordes themselves, were all consumed by the passionate wish to overcome the father, to take his place, and to possess the women.

They killed the tyrant and ate his body by which primitive method they, according to primeval belief, took part of his superior force and power. Freud assumes that this grab crime in which the sons got rid of the tyrant was not a single act, but one that was committed in all the hordes and repeated through the centuries.

The succession of parricides had tremendous direct effects and repercussions, which determined the whole development of mankind. Those events beyond all memory are the most important that happened to mankind and their significance cannot be compared to any of the things that happened to men in the following millennia. Their impact surpasses and eclipses that of the events in history records.

The reactions to that atrocious deed led to the first social ties, to the basic moral inhibitions, and to the oldest forms of primitive religion, to totemism.

Reik, Theodor. Myth and Guilt: The Crime and Punishment of Mankind. New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1957. 152–153. Print.


Why did I stop?

Scott Simon, a radio host for NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” gave his mother, Patricia Simon Newman Gilband, a very public farewell.

For the last few days, Simon, who has more than a million followers on Twitter, has been tweeting odes and observations from his mother’s bedside in an intensive-care unit in a Chicago hospital, where she was dying.

Pearce, Matt. “NPR’s Scott Simon: A vigil for his dying mother, tweeted with love.” Los Angeles Times. 29 Jul. 2013.


The Barren Aunt

The Barren Aunt is someone who, when they send you a book as a present, it’s from a museum. And if they send you a sweater, it’s a cashmere sweater wrapped by the department store. When the Barren Aunt asks you how old you are, they look you in the eye and listen to every word. They inquire about school meaningfully. When you are a teenager, the Barren Aunt is someone you can ask, “That family that I’m from… they’re crazy… right?” And the Barren Aunt says, “Yes. Yes, they are.”

Sweeney, Julia. If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.