Gray Flannel Dwarf


Getting Mother’s Body: Review

Getting Mother’s Body (pub. May, 2003; ISBN 1400060222) is the title of a novel by 2002 Pulitzer Prize winning author Suzan-Lori Parks, a terrific piece of literature in which Parks weaves one family’s greed, desparation and general distrust into a vivid patchwork quilt of fiction.
The story finds its setting in Ector County, Texas, during middle twentieth century America. Enter Billy Beede knocked-up and unmarried, she’s just one facet of a down-on-its-luck, cynical, and perhaps downright dysfunctional “negro” family, which includes, amongst a cast of others, Billy’s one-legged Aunt June, disillusioned minister Uncle Teddy, and Dill, the apparent “bulldagger, dyke, lezzy, what-have-you” one-time lover of her momma Willa Mae, a former blues and lounge singer.

With little time and money to her name, Billy attempts to save up money to get an abortion. Try as she might, however, the time begins to disappear far quicker than the money appears. Everything changes, though, when a letter arrives from a distant relative in La Junta, Arizona, announcing that the plot of land where Willa Mae, is buried is about to be plowed over to build a shopping center. If she isn’t retrieved, she’ll simply be paved over.

Meanwhile, in the years following Willa Mae’s death, unsubstantiated rumours that she was buried with a veritable collection of jewels had been fairly well-known but rarely discussed. It isn’t long before the wheels start to turn in Billy’s head, however, and soon thereafter, unspoken deeds from the past and an all-around malaise of rapaciousness set in, resulting in a “winner-take-all” rally across the wastelands of the midwest to claim the bounty.

Getting Mother’s Body is a fantastically written book full of dry, quirky humour and sardonic wit amidst the vague canvases of racist west Texas. Each chapter is titled after a specific character from the book, whereupon the reader sees the adventure through said character’s perspective in a way that is not choppy, and does not detract from the storyline. Willa Mae herself has chapters from beyond the grave which consist of haunting, soulful lyrics.

In the end, Ms. Parks’ Getting Mother’s Body is a highly-recommended change of pace for any reader, regardless of race or persuasion. If this, her first novel, is any indication, however, it won’t be the last time we are treated to such an adventure.

cswiii @ 8:09 am


Review: Shattered Glass

Shattered Glass is the title of the 2003 film written by Billy Ray and based upon a Vanity Fair article by Buzz Bissinger, concerning the rise and fall of disgraced journalist and former associate editor of The New Republic, Stephen Glass.

Shattered Glass is an all-encompassing account of how, over a three-year period, Glass (played by Hayden Christensen), under two different editors — the late Michael Kelly (Hank Azaria) and Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard) — managed to partially or completely falsify twenty-seven of forty-one articles written for The New Republic, often referred to in the movie as “The in-flight reading material for Air Force One”. The Republic was not the only publication fooled by Glass, however, as a variety of other magazines, including Rolling Stone, George and Policy Review all published Glass’ fabricated bits.

In this film, much (due) credit is given to Forbes writer Adam Penenberg (Steve Zahn) in discovering this perpetrated fraud, when asked by his editor, “Why didn’t we get this story?”, with regards to a Glass piece entitled “Hack Heaven”. In researching Glass’ names, places and accounts, Penenberg is able to discover nary a shred of evidence, which leads to a seemingly implausible trail of deceit constructed by Glass, in a desparate attempt to cover his tracks.

The film itself does a fairly good job of illustrating the manipulative nature of Glass, who managed to turn much of the Republic‘s staff against its new editor, Lane. Actress Chloë Sevigny convincingly plays the role of “Caitlin Avey” (based upon real-life staffer Hanna Rosin), perhaps the most loyal and misled of any staffer in the film.

In this day and age, while watching this film, it is somewhat hard to suspend disbelief that Glass was able to “override” the fact checking system the way he did — searching the Internet, as Penenberg did, no longer seems to be as “novel” an approach now, as might might have been in 1998. Furthermore, from the beginning, the film’s rendition of Glass’ enthusiastic (and faked) account of his “hacker story” prior to publication will most likely be viewed with cynicism in the eyes of just about any technologically-oriented person. However, it must be realised that this is a true case of hindsight being 20/20, and that nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of journalists and readers were fooled time and time again by Glass’ actions.

The film does seem to drag on a bit near the end and Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of an ever-increasingly desparate Glass does seem a bit contrived. Furthermore the repetitive nature of some of Glass’ statements throughout the film — not to mention staffer reactions — sometimes get tiresome, but overall, this film is is pretty fascinating in exposing how one writer managed to fool well-read and well-trained readers, over and over again.

The DVD version of this film includes a 60 Minutes interview with Glass, concerning the events that unfolded. It should be noted, however, that Glass did not contribute to, nor have any comment, on the film itself.

Below are some articles of interest concerning the story of Stephen Glass:

  • Penenberg’s exposé of Glass’ deception, entitled “Lies, Damn Lies, and Fiction”:
  • A screenshot of the faked “corporate website” that Glass created as an attempt to cover his tracks:
  • A website illustrating the articles falsified by Stephen Glass:

cswiii @ 10:10 am


E2 Writeup: Goofus and Gallant

Long before parents could blame their kids’ bad behaviour on ADD/ADHD, and before morals were taught on TV in the form of after-school specials that revolved around students and drug addiction, the magazine Highlights For Children presented kids with a far more benign viewing option that attempted to illustrate the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. Augustine would have recognised the inherent dualism immediately.

“Goofus and Gallant” is not so much a comic as it is an illustrated series of contrasting “A versus B” life decisions. Goofus, always illustrated cowlicked and with bangs and tending to have a scowl or impish look on his face, is the temperamental, misbehaved one who neglected his chores, friends, or manners; he is the antithesis to Gallant, the perfect-haired, clean-cut, well-behaved lad.

An example strip would tend to have each of the boys segregated in separate frames, but in otherwise similar scenarios or environments. Below each pane would be a sentence of text regarding how both Goofus and Gallant would behave in the situation, perhaps playing out something like this:

Frame A: “Goofus reaches across the table to grab the basket of dinner rolls.”

Frame B: “Gallant waits for Grandma to get her dinner roll, before politely asking her to pass him the basket.”

As the two always tend(ed) to look very similar in the various illustrative iterations, sometimes it has sometimes been pondered whether Goofus and Gallant are identical twin brothers, or, since they never appeared in the same frame, whether they were are perhaps different personas of the same protagonist.

Whatever the situation, Highlights is still in publication, and over the years, the behaviours and ages of neither Goofus nor Gallant have changed. This is probably a good thing, however — if they’d both grown up, Goofus would probably be smoking crack and living in an alleyway, whereas overachieving Gallant would have probably killed himself halfway through grad school, due to the intense pressure that he was under from both himself and his overbearing parents.

…and what kind of lesson would that teach your seven year-old?

cswiii @ 4:15 pm


Angie the Bartender

Gypsy gal, the hands of Harlem

Cannot hold you to its heat.

Your temperature’s too hot for taming,

Your flaming feet burn up the street.

I still drive by the place, every once in a while; I gave it a quick
glance the other evening, like I always do, when I passed it on the way
to Jimmy’s tavern. We went there a few weeks ago. It’s now a
Bolivian joint, and we were the only English speakers in the place.

Donde tu–where would you like to sit?”

How things change.

Yes, it was overpriced — anyone who requested one of their $6 cans of
Guinness would tell you the same thing. The food was good, but the
bands were terrible, and the atmosphere variable. Really, I was
surprised to see the place stay open as long as it did, and everytime I
went there, I half-expected it find it closed.

One day, Revolution finally did just that. For all of its
idiosyncracies and questionable business plans, though, I still miss
it. Most of all, however, I miss Angie.

I am homeless, come and take me
Into reach of your rattling drums.

Let me know, babe, about my fortune

Down along my restless palms.

While I no longer remember her surname, birthday, or any of the little
details that used to be so clear, I can still recall her finer features.
Part Italian, part Cherokee, she had a Jersey attitude and a
bohemian spirit. Maybe that’s why she disappeared the way she did.

Now, we all know the Cardinal Rule of barhopping, of
course…Thou shalt not covet thy bartender nor thy
. Generally, I never had any problem with this; when it
came to Angie, however, all those rules flew out the window.

Gypsy gal, you got me swallowed,

I have fallen far beneath
Your pearly eyes, so fast an’ slashing,
An’ your flashing diamond teeth.

I started going for java, but it wasn’t long before I gave up my coffee
cup for a pint glass. Shortly thereafter, Angie joined the staff. My
first interaction with her was when I ordered a Bass, along with my
Guinness… she brought me my beverages, and a crooked
little spoon.

“Will this help?,” she asked, and, for the first time, I caught a glance
of those eyes, that grin… traits that became so
familar, in the months to come.

The night is pitch black, come an’ make my

Pale face fit into place, ah, please!

Let me know, babe, I got to know, babe,

If it’s you my lifelines trace.

Now, I feel it’s necessary to clarify something: I freely admit that, from the beginning, my desires to know Angie were anything but pure; It was unrequited eros, plain and simple. I wasn’t the only one, either… there were plenty of guys that passed through that bar who, after catching a glimpse of those leather pants bent over the ice chest, had similar thoughts.

Regardless, the longer I knew her, the more I enjoyed our conversation, despite the fact that, in retrospect, it would be ridiculous to have entertained any consideration that I’d ever be with her. I still have no regrets about the money spent, time wasted — or time spent wasted — in that dimly-lit, copper-tinged bar, under her watch. Angie was a great conversationalist, and despite my introversion, I found it easy to talk with her.

I been wond’rin’ all about me
Ever since I seen you there.

On the cliffs of your wildcat charms I’m riding,
I know I’m ’round you but I don’t know where.

Angie was no lady. She’d buy and toss back shots of Grand Marnier
with me when the coast was clear, and never once did she have qualms
about giving someone a royal, verbal shellacking if they were
belligerent. When I ended up there, during a weeknight, for one
particularly lonely birthday, she aided me with more than
a few choice words as we together berated the crummy band for wishing a

“Happy Valentines Day” to this bunch of single saps, drinking by

Angie bought my drinks for me that night. She also kissed me.

Happy Birthday, hon,” she whispered. If I don’t remember
much else about that night, this moment was nonetheless etched in stone.

It was also the only time this happened.

You have slayed me, you have made me,
I got to laugh halfways off my heels.
I got to know, babe, will I be touching you

So I can tell if I’m really real.

Things began to go to hell at Revolution, shortly thereafter.
Angie accidentally served a minor on a frenzied night, despite looking
at the girl’s license. One of the waiters got caught smoking weed
outside the bar, by one of the owners. In general, the karma of the
place was getting worse by the day. They tried new menus, new music,
but by then, it was too late. The whole thing even got to me, one of
their most frequent customers. I decided I needed a break.

About two months later, I decided to stop by. I drove down there,
got out of my truck, walked up to the door to discover a sign.


I still kept in touch with some of the others I used to see there, but
never saw Angie again. Jessica went off to college, and we’d talk every
once in a while, whenever she was in town. Sometimes she’d IM me.
That eventually faded with time, too.

Months have sinced passed. I’ve been with my current girlfriend for
well over a year now, and things are very happy. Jessica messaged me
the other day, though. It’d been a while, but it was good to hear from
her. She asked me if I’d ever heard from Angie. I said that I hadn’t;
Neither had she. Seems strange, the two of them used to chat all the

Temporarily, our discussion made all those memories come flooding
back. I have a feeling that no one really knows where Angie went; She
used to talk with me about getting out of this town, and I have a
feeling that she took Revolution’s closing as an opportunity to do so.

They say that amputees sometimes get a phantom itch, where their
arm or leg used to be. Sometimes, when I’m in a dusky bar, drinking a
Guinness, I still feel that if I look up from my drink, I’ll see Angie
there, giving me grin, waiting to make some wise-ass remark.

“Spanish Harlem Incident” lyrics by Bob Dylan,
(c)1964, 1992 Special Rider Music.

cswiii @ 11:32 am


The Social Gospel

The Social Gospel is a
perspective on American Christianity that has its origins in the late
1800s, following the commencement of the industrial revolution.
Not long thereafter, corporate structures emerged that became more
powerful, which of course led to many labour strikes and led many to
consider Socialism as a viable alternative to laissez-faire economics.

As labor strikes became more prevalent, the long-held “protestant work ethic” became a less viable worldview to hold, as churches began to see the social problems that unrestrained Capitalism was unearthing, particularly amongst labourers.

Meanwhile, as the study of both social science
and socialism were increasing in institutes of higher learning, and the
church stayed no stranger to this. Seminaries undertook studies of
both, as efforts to try and alleviate some of the stresses placed on

Further down the road, and taken out of a secular context, some
aspects of socialism (specifically, the good of society, as opposed to individualistic gain) became an important plank in the concept known as the Kingdom of God,
where salvation and well-being of society as a whole was deemed more
important than that of the individual, and provided a vehicle for
Christians to perform ethically for the good of all, as opposed to
doing something simply for their own good. The Kingdom of God does not
try to overthrow existing precepts of Christianity, or throw out existing church doctrines. Instead, it attempts to redefine the focus of the faith on social change as opposed to individual salvation.

Growing out of this movement was the Social Gospel. Just as the
Kingdom of God does not attempt to change long-standing Christian
precepts, the Social Gospel (or “Social Christianity“)
does not aim to overthrow capitalism, but instead focuses on reforming
society and capitalism from the inside, as opposed to revolution from
the outside.

One prominent theologian in particular come to mind when considering the Kingdom of God and the Social Gospel, Walter Rauschenbusch, whose seminal work, A Theology for the Social Gospel, outlines the necessity to focus on the social conciousness within the existing Christian doctrines — in fact, some might argue that he makes social change the main focus of salvation

itself. Rauschenbusch argues that complete salvation, “…would consist
in an attitude of love in which he would freely co-ordinate his life
with the life of his fellows in obedience to the loving impulses of
God…”1 Thus, regarding personal salvation, “When we submit to God, we submit to the supremacy of the common good”2 and “A religious experience is not Christian unless it binds us closer to men and commits us more deeply to the Kingdom of God.”3

Another theologian whose contributions needn’t go unnoticed is Reinhold Niebuhr, whose time spent at a working-class Detroit church, and whose book Moral Man and Immoral Society

both had a great focus on societal change, although Neibuhr recognised
that all groups — including the church — featured imperfections and
tendencies towards excess.

Works Referenced:

* Matthews, Terry: The Social Gospel

* Placher, William C.: A History of Christian Theology

* Rauschenbusch, Walter: A Theology For the Social Gospel

Works Cited:

1 p. 98, A Theology For the Social Gospel: Walter Rauschenbusch, (c) 1945. Abingdon Press: New York, New York.

2 ibid., p. 99

3 ibid., p. 105

cswiii @ 3:25 am