Still Reading Paul Fussell: A Chapter About Poppies

On this Fourth of July, self is still reading Paul Fussell.

Oh, she did a little writing, of course (added a paragraph to putative novel-in-progress which, if she can only finish it will, self hopes, be grreat!  Or, if not great, at least make her a ton of money!)

She also watched a little of the Redwood City Parade:  beautiful chestnut horses with the stars and stripes painted on their rumps!  Awful stink of horse manure!  The Leland Stanford, Jr. University Marching Band (Crazy as always!  Luuved the guy with the floppy pink bunny ears!  Just loved him!).  New this year:  The Sheriff of Redwood City got to ride on his own float.  Or, at least, self doesn’t remember him doing that last year.  Then, hubby and self walked to City Pub and had excellent cold pints of Hefeweizen and plates of fried calamari and crab cakes.  Everything was so excellent and self got a little sleepy.

On the walk back to the car, we passed an exhibit of antique cars.  Next to one of the cars was a donation box for the Wounded Warriors Project.  Self was happy to plunk down a couple of dollars.  In fact, she wishes she could have plunked down a $20, but all she had in her wallet at that moment was $5.

After getting home, self still had to water (for it is very veeery hot!).  And then she took a break from watering to continue reading Paul Fussell.  She doesn’t know yet if he is genius or just eccentric (OK, maybe he is genius), but now she’s on a chapter where he talks about flowers and the importance of flower imagery to all (good) war literature.

For instance, the rose, especially the red rose, is terribly iconic in English literature.  But poppies are, too, as witness their proliferation in writings about Flanders fields.  But the poppies cannot be California poppies —  that is, they cannot be “orange or yellow.”  For a poppy to be considered a true “Flanders poppy,” its flowers have to be a “bright scarlet.”  Or something to that effect.

So now self is trying to remember “Restrepo” (great war documentary she saw with hubby yesterday) and trying to re-capture the imagery.  Well, granted, there are not too many flowers in the cinematography for that movie.  There are a lot of shots of dry brown hills, and later, there is snow.  So perhaps snow is emblematic of something.  In fact, if self remembers correctly, one of the platoon gets killed in the snow?

But, back to the flowers of World War I.  In a book about World War I, The Challenge of the Dead (Fussell describes it as “sentimental, elegiac”), the author, Stephen Graham, “produces a book of 176 pages without once noticing a poppy, although he chooses to notice plenty of other indigenous flowers, including roses and cornflowers.  We can guess that he omits poppies because their tradition is not one he wants to evoke in his book, the point of which is that survivors should now imitate the sacrifice of the soldiers, who in turn were imitating the sacrifice of Christ.  There is something about poppies that is too pagan, ironic, and hedonistic for his purposes.”


Hoooly hot-popcorn analysis!  Care to run that by self again?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

More on “Restrepo”

It is the Fourth of July, but self is not thinking about that right at this moment.  Instead, she’s thinking about “Restrepo,” the movie she saw yesterday at Palo Alto Square.

First of all, it was amazing, the angles at which the cameraman shot.  You could see bullets whizzing overhead (or, rather, you could hear them), and you had the impression the cameraman was Read the rest of this entry »

The Next “Must Watch”

“Battlestar Galactica” went bye-bye.

Self was sooo depressed.

It took her a long time to find another show that she waited for every week. But she found it with “Justified.” Now, it’s a looong wait for Season 2!

In the meantime, self finds herself watching “The Good Wife.” Self loves, just loves Julianna Margulies! And she loves to hate Mr. Big — oops, she means, that no-good two-timing husband of The Good Wife! She missed a lot of episodes because it was on at exactly the same time as “Justified.” But, “Justified” Season 1 ended weeks ago, so lately self has been giving “The Good Wife” her un-divided attention.

That is, until next week, when “Warehouse 13”, Season 2, airs! (Why is everything on Tuesday nights?)  Producers have already earned self’s undying gratitude by re-teaming (from “Firefly”) Sean Maher and Jewel Staite.  Only now, the situation is reversed, and Sean’s character is in love with Jewel’s character.  Or something to that effect.  Just watch Episode 2 of Season 2, dear blog readers.  (Of course, self understands that unless dear blog readers have either:  a.  watched the movie “Serenity” or b.  seen  episodes of “Firefly” they will have no idea what self is going on about!)

On side note: Now that Stephanie Zacharek is no longer on, self finds herself reading more of Heather Havrilesky, the TV critic. And — holy cow! — this woman is good!

In fact, self used to read Heather Havrilesky, then about a year ago she got side-tracked by Stephanie. And she just had no time to read two critics regularly — Self just doesn’t know how anyone can live a regular life (i.e., read eminently worthy sites like, watch TV, and so forth) and write a book! It’s just crazy-making! Unless, of course, one were like Jorge Luis Borges, who lived with his Mom his entire life and declined to start a family (He must have known he was destined for “greather things” — BWAH HA HAAA!)

Anyhoo, to go back to the Stephanie Zacharek/ Heather Havrilesky thing: self is now back to reading Heather Havrilesky. And she’s realized that she should never have stopped reading Heather Havrilesky.

Don’t believe self? Here’s Heather on F/X’s new comedy, “Louie” (whose launch was kinda hard to miss, since the previews aired during “Justified” — HA HA HA!):

It takes a long, long time to grow up. Just when you start to sort things out and make some progress toward maturity, inevitably someone wanders up and offers you a jello shot or a sexy control freak of a boyfriend or a couch to nap on, and before you know it you’re back at square one.

Which feels, at least to self, absolutely true.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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