"For one employee I received a mismatch letter three years in a row, despite furnishing the correct information each time."
Two Wrongs and a Strict Deadline . . .
Comment on "Fire 'Em All, Let God Sort 'Em Out" by Tori Marlan, January 10
. . . It is often the [Social Security Administration] who fails to correct the problem within 90 days.
I've gotten mismatch letters because I reversed two numbers in an employee's SS# on her W2, because I issued W2s or 1099s with an employee's nickname or without an initial, or because of a name change due to marriage. I or the employee immediately furnished the correct information to the SSA; sometimes it was corrected, sometimes not. For one employee I received a mismatch letter three years in a row, despite furnishing the correct information each time.
People shouldn't be fired because of clerical errors, and the government shouldn't set time limits for correction that they can't meet.
Porn for Thought
Comment on "Pulp Porn" by Noah Berlatsky, January 10
Well, Noah we all now know what material you've used for beating off in the last decade.
Too bad the idea of porn as a bridge between high and low art is not exactly as fresh as you think, especially when it's used as an excuse to describe your favorite stroke scenes in detail.
I suspect you typed this whole thing with one hand.
Noah, what the heck makes you think that there's anything remotely transgressive about Tranceptor? It portrays women in a way that confirms the mainstream (i.e. patriarchal) culture's favorite images of eks eks eks slutttts. There's nothing in the least transgressive about that.
I said Tranceptor violates some sci-fi expectations and tropes around authority. That makes it transgressive in a limited way. I certainly don't think, and didn't argue that, it's overthrowing the patriarchy, certainly. On the other hand, I really don't think it's misogynist either; the women have distinct personalities, and are represented as intelligent, resourceful, and having political power. I know some feminists believe that any portrayal of fetish material, or even porn, is sexist; I just don't agree (though I have a lot of respect for Andrea Dworkin, for example.)
I pointed out in the essay that porn was often used as a bridge between high and low art in certain ways (note the discussion about Delany). I think Tranceptor negotiates that territory in an interesting and memorable way. In a positive review, you of course talk about aspects of the book that you enjoy. I'm not really sure why that's less appropriate in a review of pornography than in a review of a work of literature. If you don't like porn as a genre, that's fine, but if you're interested in it, it seems worthwhile to think about the themes and cultural position of a particular work, just as you would for any other piece of art.
And the Reader assigns these things on deadline. Typing with one hand isn't really an option.
Comment on Savage Love by Dan Savage, January 10
"If a man's loads give me the shits, they always give me the shits; if a man's loads don't give me the shits, they never give me the shits.'' Classy! Just another indicator that the Reader is going nowhere but down.
Mr. Rosenbaum, I've been reading your writings since I was 16 and first became enamoured with cinema. Your writings were like an older wiser counterpoint to my youthful enthusiasms, and I owe much of the maturing of my taste in films to you. They expanded my horizons, furthered my understanding, and provoked a great deal of thought. Now, in my early twenties, I read that you are retiring [January 3]. Congratulations on a job well done.
However, the best is yet to come. You are now a free man who will never again have to waste time reviewing a flaming cow pie of Hollywood garbage. What will you do with this newfound freedom? The answer is clear, Mr. Rosenbaum. I encourage you to do what Orson Welles, Samuel Fuller, Jean-Luc Godard, or any of your heroes would encourage you to do now: MAKE A MOVIE. And why not? I will revoke everything I have said above if you do not have the desire to make a movie. There is nothing to stop you now that you have retired from your column. You are certainly not too old; de Oliveira is pushing 100 and he's cranking movies out like no tomorrow. Would you protest that financing is a problem? This would be absolutely untrue; too many people in the film world know and admire you Mr. Rosenbaum. Last year alone, 2,400 films were made! There is absolutely no doubt that, given time and effort, you can round up the financing to make your picture. We don't care how you make it, Mr. Rosenbaum, but you must. Go out into the streets and shoot in HD, free-form funky style like the Cahiers critics of old. Or, make it lavish and debut it like Welles, and pour everything you've got into one single masterpiece. Paint a paean to your youth in Alabama, or ignite a righteous portrayal of the way things are now. Whatever it is, we don't mind, because we have faith it will be a film worth making. Now is the time for action, Mr. Rosenbaum. Gather your energies and make the most ambitious picture you can make, because nothing is stopping you.
Jonathan Rosenbaum replies:
I appreciate your confidence, but I've always been a writer and I'd like to continue doing that. Writing can be done alone and cheaply; most filmmaking requires other people, money, and skills and connections I don't have.
Sometimes a Film Says Little More Than "Duh"
Comment on "A Novel Treat" by J.R. Jones, December 6, 2007
If Crash proved that there's a sucker born every minute, Atonement proves you can get that sucker's money twice.
When Crash came out and everybody realized for the first time EVER that racism was bad, I was appalled. At least, they handled a huge topic and the film, while heavy-handed, was at least earnest. But this year, with Atonement, I have the same feeling. But this time with an even smaller "issue."
Atonement, like Crash, takes a simple moral and then has the audacity to feed it to us like that was the first time anyone ever though of it. What's the moral? Little girls who lie are bad? Or more succinctly, lying is bad?
Did you hear that? Oh my god. I can't believe that was the point of the whole movie.
Further adding injury to cinematic insult was the use of the wonderful Redgrave (who obviously thought this was a grand part) to essentially say that by writing the book, she had reconnected what she'd broken. Except that WWII happened and she didn't kill them, the tragedy that is war did. And Atonement totally misses that point. And sews it up with an uncommonly selfish denouement.
This was not a good film. It's not the worst thing I saw all year but, please stop saying it's AMAZING. It's not. It just isn't good storytelling or filmmaking and even the wonderful Dunkirk sequence can't make up for it.
The Bully Pulpit Defined
Comment on "Hear Ye, Hear Ye" by Ben Joravsky, January 10
Take a hike, King of Corruption:
The Sun-Times should tell Daley's handlers to piss off the next time they send in an op-ed piece (sorry, Daley wasn't smart enough to have written it). The "Details Mayor" evades all questions about corruption and the Sun-Times rewards him with op-eds. It's already enough that Fran Spielman is an extension of Daley's PR department. No wonder why the Sun-Times is headed down the tubes.
A Matter of Principle
J.R. Jones in his Jan. 3 movie wrap-up writes that Obama "conveniently omitted the fact that he'd blown off the vote himself." He cites this as one more example of "no one wanted to take the rap for anything."
In fact, Obama has a long-standing principle, going back to his time in the legislature, that he will not vote (or will vote present) when the votes are taken not to decide an action but to put legislators on record as for or against some "wedge issue." One could argue that Obama was wrong to apply the principle to this particular vote, one could even argue that he is wrong on the principle. It is ridiculous, however, to argue that applying the principle was avoiding accountability.