Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Herakles

My other favorite part of Herakles starts at line 819. Herakles has returned from Hades, rescued his family, killed the evil tyrant who was threatening to kill them, and generally proved himself the true champion that he is. Everything looks set for a chorus-filled, they-all-lived-happily-ever-after ending. Then this happens:


EA! EA! (cry)
What kind of apparition is that above the house?
Run! Run! Lift your feet!
Lord Apollo protect me!


Calm down, old men.
This is Madness, daughter of the Night.
I am Iris, servant of the gods.
We do not come to harm your city.
Against one man we have a war to wage -
the so-called son of Zeus and Alkmene.
Until he finished with his bitter labors,
his destiny protected Herakles
and Zeus did not let me or Hera harm him.
But now he is done with the tasks of Eurystheus,
Hera wants to stain him in the blood
of his own children.
So do I.
Come then,
unmarriageable daughter of black Night,
make your heart hard.
Drive insanity into this man - throw
childkilling chaos into his mind and his jumping feet!
Pay out the rope of blood
by which he'll pull his children into Hades
with his own hand.
So he may come to know the rage of Hera,
my rage too!
Either gods are nothing and mortals prevail,
or this man has to pay a price.

- Euripides (trans. by Anne Carson)

And there you have it, girls and boys, a deus ex machina - literally - except one that comes, not to save the hero in his hour of need, but to punish him in his hour of triumph. And why must Herakles suffer? Not because he has done something wrong, not because it is his 'fate' - on the contrary, it is his destiny, ironically enough, that has been protecting him - but because Hera (and Iris!) doesn't like him, because "either gods are nothing and mortals prevail / or this man has to pay a price". The gods inflict pain not out of sport, which would be bad enough (remember "as flies to wanton boys"?), but because they are insecure. From this moment on, Herakles is doomed - he must kill his wife and children, pull down his house and emerge from the ruin of himself a broken man, limping reluctantly into immortality. And all so Hera can feel a little more important.

Has there ever been a playwright more pessimistic than Euripides?

The first time I read this episode, nearly a decade ago, I was disappointed in Euripides [1]. The whole thing struck me as being fairly clumsy. This, I thought, is not how tragedy works - true tragedy is an engine without mercy, that moves smoothly but surely towards its horrifying yet inevitable conclusion. And yet here was Euripides tacking on this arbitrary plot device, just to make the story come out right.

Reading the play again yesterday, and going over Carson's essays on this play and the three others that accompany it, it seems to me that what Euripides is doing here is actually rather brilliant. Subversive, but brilliant. Because arbitrary as the doom Iris pronounces may seem, is anything in classical tragedy really less contrived? Why, for instance, if the gods can cleanse mortals of bloodguilt, do they wait till the final act of the Oresteia before they call off the furies? By showing us the malice of the gods in all its pettiness, by making the interjection of fate seem gratuitious and cruel, Euripides strips tragedy of its lyric mask, makes suffering stand before us naked, shorn of all consolation, stripped to the bare lineaments of anger, humiliation and pain.

Carson, in her preface to Hekabe, cites Beckett (whom she compares Euripides to, aptly) on language, expressing his intention "To bore hole after hole in it,until what cowers behind it seeps through". This, it seems to me, is exactly what Euripides is doing: by placing a scene so dramatically transparent at the centre of his play, he is enabling us to see through the veneer of tragedy, to the corruption that lies growling behind.

(Tomorrow: Alkestis, and the notion of heroic sacrifice)

[1] My favorite Euripides play then, as now, is Hekabe. If, that is, a word like favorite can be applied to something so savage, so gloriously visceral.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Madness of Herakles

"Then in his mind he saw a chariot,
mounted it, rode off,
lashing with an imaginary whip.
The servants were caught between laughter and panic -
glancing at one another -
"Is the master playing or has he gone mad?"
Up and down the rooms he ranged
and though he had come to the city of Nisos,
though he was in fact in the midst of his own house.
He lay on the floor and imagined he was feasting.
This went on awhile, then he claimed he was
approaching the Isthmos.
There he stripped himself naked
and engaged in a wrestling match with no one,
proclaiming himself victor over no one,
bowing to an audience of no one.
The roaring out curses at Eurystheus
he declared he'd come to Mykenai.
His father touched his hand and said,
"O child what's happening to you? What is this strangeness?"
Has the blood of your killings made you mad?"
But taking him for the father of Eurystheus
Herakles thrust him off
and got out his bow to use against the children -
thought they were Eurystheus' children -
darting in terror this way and that,
one to his mother's robes, one to the shade of a pillar,
on hunched under the altar like a little bird.
The mother screamed, "You are their father!
Do you kill your own sons?"
Then the old man screamed. The servants screamed.
But he circled the pillar to get at this son
and with a dreadful pivoting move
shot him right through the liver.
The child fell back
and stained the stones red.
Herakles let out a war cry:
"That's the first one dead of Eurystheus' litter -
to repay me for his father's abuse!"

- Euripides (translated by Anne Carson)

It's Euripides day here in Falstaff-land, as I read my way through not one but two new (well, relatively new) books of the man's work by two poets whose work I like - Medea by Robin Robertson and Grief Lessons (including Herakles, Hekuba, Hippolytos and Alkestis) by Anne Carson - the latter particularly valuable for the short essays that accompany the plays in which Carson, in her inimitable style, muses on Tragedy, war, Euripides and theater.

I particularly love this scene from Herakles - it's so vivid, so haunting, so perfectly balanced between laughter and horror, such a perfect microcosm of classical tragedy but also such a strikingly modern act of the imagination.


And speaking of translations, easily the most stunning translation I've read this year is A.E. Stallings' version of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura. To render a classic text in fluent translation is an achievement in itself, to do it all in heptameter is astonishing, but to put it in rhyming couplets and still make it sound natural is just plain unbelievable.


And finally, speaking of discoveries, I stumbled upon this thing called bigthink today - a sort of YouTube for ideas. I have my doubts about the whole thing (I don't get why you would want to take a group of people whose key expertise is expressing ideas and arguments in writing, and put up videos of them), but while it's up there you can go see Billy Collins talking about inspiration and how the great teachers of poetry are not in the classrooms but in the library.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Q: What's common to this blog and Mt. Rushmore?

A: Four figures.

That's right, folks, today (which just happens to be 2x3x7's third blog birthday as well [1]) marks the 1,000th post on this blog.

*Pause while author considers his wasted life*


[1] I lie. It doesn't just happen to be - it's all part of a carefully planned Satanic ritual [2] having to do with the numbers 999 and the Trinity.

[2] For the record, I hate Satanic rituals. You spend years jockeying for alone time with a young virgin and when the moment finally comes you have to slaughter her for her blood. Talk about anti-climax.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ponytail officially declared Hairpiece

Friend CSM points me to an official recognition by the UGC of what we bloggers have known all along (see no. 8 on the list).

Poor ponytail. With the way oil prices are going he probably won't even be able to go back to selling snake oil.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Beam in His Eye

He was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to get something out of his eye, when he first noticed it. There was no reflection in the image of his eyes in the mirror. He was looking directly at the mirror, so the image of the mirror had to be reflecting in his eyes. But in the eyes of the face in the mirror there was no such reflection - they were blank and completely clear.

At first he thought it was just a trick of the light - an effect of the angle he was at. But no. No matter where he positioned himself, no matter how he tried to move his head, the image in the mirror never contained the reflection of itself. Everything else about his image was perfectly correct - the mirror faithfully copied every move he made, when he moved his eyes from side to side the eyes in the mirror moved to. But unlike his own eyes, where the image of the mirror must, he knew, be clearly inscribed, the eyes in the mirror showed no hint of a reflection, remained a steady, patient brown.

How could that happen? he wondered. Could it be some sort of scientific phenomenon, some detail of physics that he, who had never much cared for the subject, had now forgotten. He spent an hour searching for some mention of it on the Internet but found nothing. Did it only happen to other people? He called a friend, asked her to go look in the mirror and see if she could see the reflection of the mirror in her eyes reflected in the mirror. It took a minute or two to explain this to her, and then she wanted (naturally) to know why, but he gave her some vague explanation and convinced her to go check. Yes, she could see the reflection of the mirror in her mirror eyes. Right.

Was it something to do with him then? First thing next morning he went into the men's room in office stared into his eyes in the mirror there. Yes, there it was, a faint but clearly visible double reflection. For the whole of the next week he repeated the experiment every opportunity he got. In public rest rooms, in friend's houses, in store mirrors and changing rooms - and always the reflection in his eyes was there.

So it was only the mirror in his bathroom then. How could he not have noticed it all these years? And what could it mean? The more he thought about it, the more the whole thing began to strike him as sinister. If the mirror in his bathroom wasn't an ordinary mirror, what was it? What happened to the reflection that should have been in his eyes? Did it get sucked into some kind of alternate darkness, absorbed by the mirror in some way? Was the image in the mirror even really his? Or was it some kind of counterfeit, a mock-reflection made up to look like a real one?

As the days passed the discovery, confirmed every night, came to frighten him more and more. Yet he couldn't decide what to do about it. He considered getting the mirror changed, then decided against it. If there really was some malign force at work against him, it was better not to provoke it. The important thing was not to let the mirror suspect anything. To act in front of it as though everything were entirely normal, as though he hadn't noticed the tiny flaw in an otherwise perfect impersonation. Yes, that's what he had to do. Go on using the mirror, pretend that nothing had happened.

And yet be always on his guard, ensuring that he gave nothing away.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


It is here at last. The longest evening, light's swan song and the season's, the highest pitch of the singing year.

As the sun goes down, the sky is slick and translucent, like the film of water at the edge of the tide, at the furthest point that the sea reaches, nuzzling the earth with its lips, then retreating in a kowtow of waves.

The long-lived day dies.

The night is revealed, moist and glistening, night of mystery and mistaken loves, Shakespeare's night, who knew that young lovers sleep little and dream shallow, that poetry is spun from cobwebs and moonshine, that the mischief of shadows cannot offend. And that there is always, somewhere, the man who sleeps alone and dreams of beauty, and who will wake in the morning feeling like an ass.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

By way of explanation

Life is broken. It must be. How else to explain that the glass never changes, that the reading on my face is always the same?

Seasons come and go like gas-inspectors. Do they not sense that something is wrong? Or have they deduced that no one lives here, that the line has been disconnected?

And could they be right?

I leaf through the Collected Works looking for a number to call, but there is nothing. What meanings there were seek the camouflage of pages, disguise themselves as words. I try to smoke them out, but they would rather die than be revealed.

I shut my eyes in panic, obliterate the text. But the colors of these sentences scream like ghosts behind my retina. Language is a wildfire that spreads through my brain.

Must I put out my own eyes then? In my dream the goddess atones for her silence by sending us a library. But the thieves come in the night and steal it. The books disappear into the darkness like crumbs into an anthill. When the dawn comes the shelves are a second crucifix, a skeleton picked clean.

We have come to this land by way of Explanation. That is all I can tell you. You must not ask me what it means.

A little Nina Simone....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I'll have a bream

Back when one was still young and immature (and no, I'm not talking about yesterday, thank you - I'll have you know that I'm positively middle-aged now, what with twenty-somethings wanting me to adopt them) one had a penchant for long, complicated narratives all building up to an elaborate multi-part pun.

Nothing one pulled off in those days, however, came close to the complexity / desperation of this Sunday's Pearls Before Swine:

See also this and this.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Train Catching

River sleek the rail-
road runs, under the trellis
and into the trees.

A slow breeze ripples
the shadows. Under the leaves
the track flows swift, sure -

a steel current, glanced
with light. The man on the bridge
dangles his line. Waits.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Some songs

Some songs demand to be part of a soundtrack.

You turn on the stereo, turn down the lights, sit in the darkness watching the scenes unfold before you, your eyes tightly shut.

Images without a plot. Episodes from a movie that hasn't been made.

Other songs sound as though they exist for the instant. No matter how often you play the disc, you will never hear them again.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

After the party

Mirth's waters recede.

I stand in the doorway, a Noah newly sobered, surveying the damage - the scene at once alien and familiar, a landscape of disarray.

Or perhaps I am Aeneas, rereading the history of my day in the echo of these objects. Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt. The melancholy of things abandoned in mid-use.

The seep of the winestain is a bloody vernicle. Infantries of crumbs march among deserted plates. In the corner a napkin comes slowly uncrushed.

And high above me the chandelier floats in reverie, a festival of tinklings, a fading hubbub of light. Its bulbs vacant but brilliant, bon mots that flood the room with laughter, bubbles of he said and she said that evaporate into silence, leaving the air flat.

You come up behind me. "We'd better clear up", you say, "I'll go change."

While you're away I circle the room, collect the empty glasses, hold them by their long, cool stems. Like a man plucking the last flowers from a garden he cannot save.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

All Dick and no Moby

Today's Groan!-I-should-have-seen-that-coming award goes to Adam Gopnik, writing about the new Orion 'abridged' version of Moby Dick:

The subtraction does not turn good work into hackwork; it turns a hysterical, half-mad masterpiece into a sound, sane book. It still has its phallic reach and point, but lacks its flaccid, anxious self-consciousness: it is all Dick and no Moby.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

All this talk about heat waves sweeping the East Coast and people not being able to go out (imagine that!) in summer - and all because the temperature touched some 36 C - made me think of this.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Cigarette Stub

He's walking home from the subway stop when he sees it. Just lying there on the pavement. Four puffs to it at least! He looks around quickly, then stoops to pick it up. Should he light up directly? No, better wait. He slips the stub into his suit pocket, walks on.

Appalled, the writer watches him go. Why would someone like that, someone obviously well off, with an expensive-looking suit and a laptop bag slung across his shoulder, go about scavenging for cigarette butts? And that look of joy on his face! As if he'd made a real find!

The writer shudders, then opens his notebook to a new page, scribbles a few notes. This could be useful. Two minutes later he closes the notebook, slips the pen back into his pocket. Carrying this notebook around is the best idea he's ever had. Just three weeks since he started and already it's brimming with promising material - scenes, images, descriptions - for his next book.

It's amazing the things you can pick up on the street.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Before he left he carved his name in the bath soap - whether as an act of vandalism or as a souvenir I couldn't tell. I only discovered it after he was gone, stepping into the shower the next morning, the four offending letters gouged deep into the ivory colored bar. Startled, I turned the soap over. The bastard had carved the other side as well.

I considered throwing the soap away, of course. But it seemed too easy, too much of a capitulation. So I decided to use it, thinking, what harm could it do? It was just a schoolboy prank after all, this soap-dish graffiti, this anti-bacterial voodoo. Big fucking deal.

It was sickening at first, having to shower with that thing: the knowledge of his name on the bar a slick presence, polluting this most basic of sacraments, the memory of his touch sticking to me until my own fingers turned alien. Those first few days I emerged from the shower feeling dirtier than I'd been going in.

After a while it began to amuse me, though, getting him into a lather each morning, knowing that none of this froth and fury would rub off, that his blustering would pour from me like water, leave me refreshed. It was as though by scrubbing away at his name I was washing myself free, not only of the night's disappointments, but also of him, shedding dead skins of sensation like invisible layers of the past. And he too was being worn out, erased, the offending letters of his name fading as the bar waned in my hand. Soon there would be nothing left of him, only a sliver barely worth holding on to, the surface of the soap polished smooth.

A clean start, I thought to myself, watching the last of the lettering dissolve in the shower. After all, what could be cleaner than soap?

P.S. Yes, I've already thought of the (obvious) soap opera joke.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Paul Taylor Dance Company

And speaking of Violas, I caught a performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company this afternoon, the highlight of which (well, for me at least) was a revival of Taylor's 1975 Esplanade - a spry, swirling piece that brings Bach's Violin Concerto in E Major and Concerto for Two Violins in D minor vividly to life. It's an exceptional work, that pays tribute to the leaping, tumbling energy of Bach's allegros even as it captures the exquisite harmony of his slow movements, his mastery of counterpoint. And watching Ms. Lisa Viola dance her lithe way through Bach's skipping passages was a real joy.

The real star of the show, though, was Ms. Annmaria Mazzini, who (sadly) didn't appear in Esplanade, but who featured in the two other pieces the company performed - Changes (2008) and Lines of Loss (2007) - and totally stole the show in both. In a review of the Company last year, Gia Kourlas compared Ms. Mazzini to "the big guitar solo at a rock concert", and it's not hard to see why. Her performance of 'California Earthquake' was the best thing about Taylor's new Changes - an otherwise predictable and lackluster piece - the sheer energy she radiated made the whole stage seem to vibrate, and her electric, in your face presence was the only fragment of genuine attitude in the whole show. And when she returned in Lines of Loss to perform an intense, heartbreaking solo to a mournful Schnittke slow movement, her dancing, though mirroring Ms. Viola's opening solo for the piece, deepened and transcended it, bringing to the repeated gestures a passion and urgency they hadn't had before.


On a somewhat unrelated note, what I'd love to see, just once, is a dance performance that really inverted gender roles - where the women lifted the men onto their shoulders / tossed them into the air / caught them as they leaped into their arms, etc. Okay, so I realize there are differences in weight and strength and all that, but still, it can't be that hard to do.

Viola! or Mrs. Malaprop strikes again

In today's NY Times Jeff Danziger has the following cartoon:

Just one problem - a viola (with or without an exclamation mark) is either a. a somewhat obscure name for a violet b. a four stringed musical instrument slightly larger than a violin c. someone who plays said instrument or d. a Shakespearean heroine.

The word Mr. Danziger is looking for, I suspect, is voila!, unless there's some extremely subtle joke about either a. American cars being held together by four strings or b. people who drive eco-friendly cars being shrinking violets that I'm not getting.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Abandoned Temple

Day after day, the faithful make their way to the abandoned temple, hoping the goddess has returned.

But the oracle is silent, and their cries echo unanswered.

Soon their numbers shall dwindle. One by one, they shall grow disillusioned, shall let enter the doubt that now knocks at their hearts.

They shall decide that the prophecy was true after all, that the goddess is gone forever.

They shall start to pretend that they never believed in her, that they were never fooled. They shall make fun of those who still go up to her threshold, though it is a journey they themselves were once proud to make.

And the goddess, who never left, shall watch secretly from the wings, knowing she cannot leave until the last pilgrim loses hope, until the last believer turns away.

She wonders how long that will take.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Prisoner

There is no freedom.

There is only the trembling difference between the slavery we are forced into and the service we choose.

When the barbarians arrive in the city he locks himself into a bare cell, renounces all his former happiness, denies the enemy by denying himself.

"So they will not envy me", he says, "so they will leave me alone."

This is how he lives for years - in a prison of his own devising, in a paradox of triumph achieved through self-defeat.

Until he is no longer sure whether he is a free man pretending to be a prisoner, or a prisoner imagining that he is free.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Painting of the Day # 2

Bronzino An Allegory with Venus and Cupid

A maelstrom of tortured forms dances around the central figures - Time, that old lecher, exposes and censors, is both outraged and envious, clutching his thin fabric; Decay looks on in hollow, speechless horror, Frustration howls in her corner and Folly, feigning innocence, watches with blank, basilisk eyes. A rubbish of doves and lions, of masks and snake skins strews the canvas. And in the midst of all this frenzy the two lovers rise, oblivious, rapt in each other, a statuary of flesh.

Am I the only one who thinks of Oedipus? Of Tragedy shrieking in the background as the two incestuous lovers, Mother and Son, embrace, watched over by a fatal innocence and lured on by the sly, child-faced Sphinx with her tail of a serpent and her lion's paw? And is the figure in the top left, that mask without substance, that face invented for the sake of its cry, not perhaps the Chorus, and the other figure, the balding, hoary old man who unveils this scene not Sophocles himself, appalled by what he has revealed?


I had ambitious plans for this blog today, I really did. I was going to review the new Coetzee novel, or tell you about all the other new Indian fiction I read over the weekend; I was going to talk about the poetry of Antjie Krog, who I'm just discovering, or describe the glorious weather here in Philly or the accident I saw from my window the other day. I was going to do all that, except then Amazon went and delivered my copy of The Enchantress of Florence, so I plan to spend the next few days drowning in Rushdie. Meanwhile, you can check out two gifts from the Guardian - the first, a Tsvetaeva poem translated by Elaine Feinstein, the second, a new collaborative fiction project featuring Ali Smith and Jeanette Winterson.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Indenial Jones

[warning: spoilers]

The best scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (henceforth called Indy IV) is the one it opens with. Four teenagers are out on a joyride through the New Mexico desert and come across as military convoy on an otherwise deserted highway. Elvis blaring from their car radio, the teenagers challenge the lead car of the convoy to a race, and so infectious is their exuberance that the driver of the car, a young lad barely out of his teens himself, cannot resist. So the two cars - a drab military vehicle and a shiny hot-rod, go careening down the highway, locked neck and neck. It's an incredible moment, at once hilarious and touching (its thrill enhanced by the knowledge that this a race between the Americans and the Russians [1], fought almost literally in the shadow of the nuclear bomb); the kind of gloriously cinematic moment one would expect from the Spielberg of old - the one who made Empire of the Sun and Jaws.

It's also a useful reminder of just why we love Spielberg, because the moment the car carrying the teenagers disappears from the screen, the old Spielberg seems to leave with it [2]. What follows purports to be the fourth movie in the Indiana Jones franchise, but it could just as easily have been a sequel to the Mummy, with Harrison Ford filling in for Rachel Weisz, because, presumably, she has better things to do with her time. My memory of the original Indy films is a little dim (it's been nearly two decades since the last one, after all) but the thing that I remember about them - the thing that made them, for want of a better word, cool - was that they were funny. They epitomized the idea of an adventure as something light-hearted, an idea that found its purest manifestation in a hero who always managed, somehow, to hold himself at an ironic distance from the action, who was able to see even the deadliest of situations for the joke it really was.

Humor, however, is almost entirely absent from Indy IV (well, at least intentional humor) and what remains is a two-dimensional exercise in bare-knuckle bravado and slick special effects, which has all the excitement of a forty year college reunion. Which, of course, is what the movie really is - a chance for Indy to catch up with his old buddies Ox and Mac and Marion - everything else, I'm convinced, being merely an ice-breaker to get over the initial awkwardness. It would explain why the whole film looks as though it were put together by an event planner.

Oh, there's a plot, of course. It involves the Cold War - which, it turns out, was fought between truckloads of crack troops who can't, between them, shoot a man running rather slowly at a distance of, oh, ten yards; and a gaggle of bow-tie wearing archaeologists, accompanied by one James Dean impersonator. No wonder it took Reagan to bring it to an end. It also involves a crystal skull, a nuclear explosion, swarms of killer ants who look a bit like M&Ms with legs, and the comic-book delight of seeing Cate Blanchett playing a character who is half Bond villain and half Ninotchka, complete with a sword [3]. There are also a couple of striking revelations - most notably the fact that T.S. Eliot wrote his poems while under the psychic control of crystal skulled aliens. Oh, and Shia what's his name turns out to be Indy's son, but you can see that one coming a mile away.

It's almost as though, in writing the script, Koepp and company had felt the need to stay true to the Mayan theme of their movie by not including any plot devices that might have been invented after the coming of Columbus. Instead they give you the kind of predictable cliches that the original Indy films were already spoofing two decades ago. Ruined temple, abandoned for centuries and overgrown with cobwebs must be secretly guarded by savage tribe. Check. Dead end inside tomb / ruin must contain secret passageway for Hero to discover. Check. Boat containing hero floating placidly down river must go over waterfall. Check. David Denby, in his review in the New Yorker praises the chase sequence through the jungle, claiming that "Spielberg recreates the spirit of Buster Keaton's most elaborately synchronized gags". I agree with much of Denby's take on Indy IV, but this is nonsense. That sequence has none of the litheness and surprise of a Keaton chase -the genius of Keaton that he makes the most carefully choreographed sequences seem accidental, by comparison the jungle chase scene in Indy IV seems tedious and contrived, with the bit involving Mr. LaBeouf swinging from the trees being particularly nauseating. If anything, I'd say the chase through the University campus scenes are more compelling, though neither of them has either the energy, speed or inventiveness of some of the truly brilliant chase sequences we've seen in recent times (that incredible chase at the start of the Casino Royale, for instance, or the closing sequence of Death Proof).

In the end, one can only hope that this botched sequel spells the end to the Indiana Jones franchise. The fact that the closing scene shows Mr. LaBeouf preparing to try on Indy's hat for size, however, makes me think there may be more of this nonsense still to come. I suppose if Harrison Ford hangs around for another decade or so they'll make a fifth movie - this one featuring, no doubt, his twelve-year old granddaughter and called Indiana Jones and the Attack of the Arthiritic Pinky. Shudder.


[1] Technically, you don't find out that they're Russian till five minutes later, but frankly, you have only to take one look at their faces to know what's coming.

[2] Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little bit. Actually, the first twenty minutes or so aren't bad - it's only after Indy survives the nuclear blast that the movie turns somnambulant.

[3] One of my biggest gripes with the film is the fact that it doesn't do Blanchett's character justice. There's great potential here - a colorful character, a talented actress - but in the end Irina Spalko proves exceedingly tame. I mean, in her one big fight scene she can't even beat some high-school dropout out of Happy Days in a fencing match. Sheesh!