Every Day Above Ground (mallorys_camera) wrote,
Every Day Above Ground

Why You Can't Say the N-Word

In keeping with my mood, it rained all day yesterday.

Rain wasn’t in the forecast, so naturally I was very impressed by the power of my mood to influence the weather.

Though not impressed enough to permit my mood to improve.


I started another Remunerative Project. Which means, I also watched a movie since my normal rhythm with these Remunerative Projects—they are very dry—is to write on topic till I am intellectually exhausted and then to refresh my acumen with mental fluff.

The current topic is a comparison of [your egghead profession goes here] Ph.D. salaries across all 50 states.

There is very little publicly available info on this topic, and I am not about to pony up for access to expensive Super SeKrit databases, so connecting the dots into a recognizable picture goes very s-l-o-w-l-y indeed, leaving me plenty of time to watch movies.

Yesterday’s movie was Splendor in the Grass.

Now, it happens that I’m an Elia Kazan fan, and I don’t much care that he ratted out so many of his friends and professional colleagues to the House Un-American Activities Committee.

What can I say? Kazan was a careerist first.

Deeply flawed human beings frequently make good art. While I’m by no means nonjudgmental, I appreciate the paradox.

Plus I believe in redemption, a rather unpopular concept in these days of cancel culture.

Splendor in the Grass was made nine years after Kazan Named Names to HUAC.

On the Waterfront, arguably Kazan’s best film and made just after he testified, is a possibly disingenuous attempt to justify snitching.

But Kazan’s favorite subject matter was psychological damage, though he was at his best when he merely portrayed that damage and did not attempt to explain it.

Splendor in the Grass attempts to explain it, which sinks the film to the level of melodrama plus that Douglas Sirk Technocolor—ugh.


The cause of psychological damage—trumpeters? ready for your fanfare closeup?—is… sexual repression.

Of course, the screenwriter was that creepiest and most repressed of all 20th century playwrights, William Inge, who these days would be leading his very own Incel action group on Reddit.

The film is dreadful but also mesmerizing because Natalie Wood is so damn good in it.

I am not used to thinking of Natalie Wood as a good actress, but she was really superb.

Also, one of the film’s too-many climaxes (ha, ha—she said “climax!”) was filmed at High Falls, a cataract on Roundout Creek in Ulster County, which presumably means I could make a roadtrip there.

Natalie Wood didn’t swim and was deathly afraid of water, which makes it all the weirder that she almost drowns in so many of her movies and, of course, did drown in Real Life.


I also finished reading John McWhorter’s Nine Nasty Words, which is simply the most delightful book. It’s about transgressive language, the linguistic and etymological histories of various transgressive words. McWhorter makes the fascinating point that there’s an evolution to transgressive language: Originally, words one could not say were blasphemy (“damn”, “hell”), then they focused on taboo body functions and the parts that perform them (“fuck”, “shit”, “prick”, “dick” etc.).

Today, verboten language focuses on social groups (“the N-word”—which I still cannot bring myself to write out, “faggot” etc)

And I see that it has finally warmed up to 60° outside, so it is time for me to go and finish digging up my garden. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.
Tags: #i, #the, bad mood, books, elia kazan, movies, nine nasty words, splendor in the grass, weather, work

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