Monday, February 25, 2008


Another fellow who appears to see his function as agreeably adjusting to the will and designs of women around him is Dr. Joseph Knippenberg of Ashland University, the moderator of the blog No Left Turns. I have had occasion of late to offer an assessment of the manners and moral reasoning of his distaff blogger. Neither she nor her defenders mounted much of a response. Dr. Knippenberg's response was to ban me. Easy come, easy go.

Nevertheless, I shall offer several assertions:

1. It is often said that correllation does not establish causality. It is also true that spatial or temporal juxtapostion do not establish it either.

2. When a man has lost three fingers in an industrial accident, it is sickly bad form to appear in the emergency room and berate him for failing to shower and shave that morning.

3. A municipal government which refuses to inquire into (much less punish) wrongdoing by its officers cannot legitimately complain the aggrieved seek to have the truth laid bare in discovery proceedings.

4. People are educated in correct conduct incrementally in the course of their daily interactions; principles of correct conduct may be fairly stable and discernable through reflection; enforcement of correct conduct may be mitigated in degree but seldom will compreshensive dispensations be offered; an assessment of performance in the realm of correct conduct is properly undertaken with reference to the education the subject has had up to this point; the severity of sanctions are properly proportionate to performance; education in good conduct begins at the point of departure of what the student has learned thus far; education may incorporate rebukes, but it does not commence with them.

5. The essence of a person can be understood as a gemstone: its attributes are what emerges from the acts and dispositions undertaken or entertained throughout each moment of a person's life. Each facet is an act, and whether it be (for all time) transparent or opaque is indicative of the state of grace (or its absence). Because we live in time and those we observe live in time (and living in time means always changing), a person's essence is necessarily obscure. We seldom if ever need allude to it.



I have seen fragments of discussion of this film in recent weeks. I hadn't much interest but was offered up without my consent to take an elderly relation to a Sunday matinee. (Commercial transactions on Sunday are usually matters for the confessional).

The last movie I was compelled to watch (by a host whom I like quite a lot and whose hospitality is extended far beyond what I might merit) was a kid-flick called Night at the Museum, which left me checking my watch throughout. Not so Juno, which is at least engaging and not a waste of one's time. Much of the teen dialogue in the first third is grating, but this problem dissipates as the story advances. I gather the score and the fictional protagonist's disposition toward contemporary music are a cause of irritation to some, go figure. There has been much discussion of how it treats certain contemporary issues with a salutary ambiguity or fails to treat them in a manner which advances the critic's social thought (if that is what it can be called). Well, works of imaginative literature are not tracts. There is nothing wrong with tracts, but they are not art.

That having been said, for all that various characters could be affecting, I have to say I came away with a mild irritation about the degree to which the characterization is congruent with a certain sort of social imagination. The author creates three male characters (the father of the protagonist, the friend who inadvertantly sired the protagonist's unborn child, and the husband of the couple who aspire to adopt the child). All three in the first instance, and two of the three throughout, are manifestations of a feminist conception of the masculine vocation: their business is agreeably adjusting to the will and designs of the women around them. The protagonist's father earns half the household's living as an independent contractor installing HVAC systems, assures his daughter of his 'support', and cedes the guidance of his daugther and the governance of his home to his wife, who is a rude and argumentative sage to her stepdaughter but is not truly the girl's mistress. The youth who fathers the bastard child (while appealing) is ethereal and lost and nearly speechless throughout, emerging toward the close of the film to provide tender affection (more 'support'). The aspirant adoptive father supplements his wife's ample earnings (her occupation is evidently steady and lucrative but unstated) by composing commercial advertising jingles on his home computer. (He allows to the main character that the missus dislikes discovering that he has sat around all day not 'contributing'). He is along for the ride on his wife's quest for motherhood. Or rather, he is along until such time as he declares to his wife that he is leaving her and is unready for fatherhood. His dishonor, his puerile character, and his declaration of independence from his wife's will are all incorporated into one tapestry.

The main character is initially devastated by this last turn of events, but fortified with a pep talk from her father (more 'support') on the making of durable relationships, delivers the child on birth to the arms of the aspirant adoptive mother. The film concludes with the protagonist and the baby's father, once second-drawer friends and now lovers, seated on the steps of his family's home and with each singing, playing the guitar, and gazing into the eyes of the other. (The advent an growth of whatever it is between these two is never depicted). Flannery O'Connor said that literature trafficks in the possible, not the probable, and the possibilities most prominent in the screenwriter's mind are those in which mothers and step-mothers are interchangeable parts, husbands and fathers are ultimately dispensable, and heroes and patriarchs are nowhere to be seen. (Women are industrious and savvy without fail and have no need of such things in any case).

You have to wonder if our creative types can imagine any other world, or could bring themselves to put it to paper if they did so imagine.