Friday, October 31, 2008

Quote of the Day (11/1/08)

I am in an enormous ornate white gorgeous hotel which is on fire, doomed, but the fire is burning so slowly that people are still allowed to come and go freely. I can't see the fire but smoke hangs thinly everywhere especially around the lights. It is terribly pretty. I am in a hurry and I want to photograph most awfully. I go to our rooms to get what I must save and I cannot find it whatever it is. My grandmother is around, perhaps in the next room. I do not know what I am looking for, what I must save, how soon the building will collapse, what I must do, how long I may photograph. Maybe I don't even have film or can't find my camera. I am constantly interrupted. Everyone is busy and wandering around but it's quiet and a little slowed. The elevators are golden. It's like the sinking Titanic . . . I am filled with delight but anxious and confused and cannot get to the photographing. My whole life is there. It is a sort of calm but painfully blocked ecstasy like when a baby is coming and the attendants ask you to hold back because they aren't ready. I am almost overcome with delight but plagued by the interruptions of it. There are cupids carved in the ceilings. Perhaps I will be unable to photograph if I save anything including the camera and myself. I am strangely alone although people are all around. They keep disappearing. No one tells me what to do but I worry lest I am neglecting them or not doing something I am supposed to do. It is like an emergency in slow motion. I am in the eye of the storm.
--Diane Arbus, A Dream from a 1959 Notebook

Tom Tomorrow Nails It

In four days we find out if the country will be led by the thoughtful intelligent guy who might possibly be able to begin repairing the complete disaster of the past eight years, or by the guy who will continue on the same path, with the help of his dimwitted reactionary sidekick, until there is no hope of ever finding our way back. [Italics mine]

The Turning Point in the Election

Many theories from many pundits, but there's a case to be made that, in sports-mad America, this was the pivotal moment.

Here's hoping Tuesday is another "nothing but net" moment.

Is Halloween Becoming Overcommercialized?

The Onion hilariously belabors the obvious.

Community Organizers aren't What They are "Cracked Up to Be"

John Oliver has the last word on community organizers.

Obama's Pop Culture IQ

Obama muffs a PC reference:

As Colbert observed last night, McCain will never make such a mistake because the only two programs on the air when he was young were "test pattern" and "static."

Brand, Ross Kerfuffle

A huge brouhaha in the UK over a Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross prank.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/31/08)

I don't see why cholera . . . or cancer should not be heavenly modes of locomotion like ships, buses and trains here below, while if we die peacefully of old age we make the journey on foot.
--Vincent Van Gogh

Crazy Talk

"You are getting very sleepy . . .
"A "scholarly" piece arguing that Obama is practicing mind control/hypnosis, especially on Jewish voters!

The X-Factor
Barack Obama is the son of Malcolm X!

Going to Hell . . .

A columnist warns that those voting for Obama will be damned to perdition.

Well, as Mark Twain quipped, "Heaven for climate, hell for society." I look forward to joining my fellow supporters in the bottomless pit, especially if Sarah Palin goes the other direction. Unfortunately, John McCain has already sold his soul so . . .

Advice for Obama

National Public Radio ("ATC") improbably/ingeniuosly seeks advice for Obama's infomercial from Ron Popeil?

Heard on the Daily Show

He did everything but fight Kimbo Slice.
--Jon Stewart on Barack Obama's dominance of television the evening of October 29 (including an infomercial and an appearance on The Daily Show)

Ted Stevens Makes Stephen Cry, John McCain Cracks Him Up

Steven Colbert is never funnier than when he cries:

or laughs:


An important new wiki.

"Women of the Nightly News"

Rebecca Traister considers Campbell Brown, Katie Couric, and Rachel Maddow in Salon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/30/08)

"A planet doesn't explode of itself," said dryly
The Martian astronomer, gazing off into the air.
That they were able to do it is proof that highly
Intelligent beings must have been living there.
--John Hall Wheelock

Colbert Goes Native

Stephen pushes the envelope on racial stereotypes in an hilarious sitdown with Sherman Alexie.

Puns (I) --by Jay Ward

Anyone who knows me, knows I love the puns. I want to record here some of my all- time favorites.

Let's start with two--both from Jay Ward's brilliant Rocky and Bullwinkle. (That's Jay on the left.)

A company that demolishes buildings (in a "Rocky" episode) called "Edifice Wrecks."

On "Mister Peabody's Improbable Adventures," Sherman and Peabody journey in the "way-back machine" to visit the inventor of the hot-air balloon. At the end of the episode Peabody asks his protege if he knew that once the entire nation of England traveled across the Atlantic in a hot air balloon. Sherman had not. "You've never heard of one nation in dirigible?" Peabody inquires.

McCain's "Air" (aka "Dick") Quotes

Jon Stewart and Samantha Bee dismantle McCain's ironic mode.


Linguist Geoff Nunberg offers a discerning look at the rebirth of the word "socialism" in the US presidential campaign. From NPR's "Fresh Air."

"Obama's Candidacy Angers, Excites Hate Groups"

A disconcerting story on "All Things Considered."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/29/08)

I have a commonplace-book for facts and another for poetry, but I find it difficult always to preserve the vague distinction I had in my mind, for the most interesting and beautiful facts are so much the more poetry and that is their success. They are translated from earth to heaven. I see that if my facts were sufficiently vital and significant, perhaps transmuted more into the substance of the human mind, I should need but one book of poetry to contain them all.
--Henry David Thoreau

Fish, Paradise Lost, McCain & Obama

Stanley Fish's "Power of Passive Campaigning" in the New York Times.

Tip of the hat to Doug Howard.


On last night's "Word"--"It's Alive!"--Stephen considered those on the right (Frum, Brooks, Noonan, etc.) criticizing McCain's campaign and the choice of Palin as VP.

As the title suggests, an extended Frankenstein metaphor is involved, which lead to two memorable images.

Television Creators

First gleaning from a major project on television creativity, this PowerPoint offers a tour of some of the major figures who have contributed to the astonishing development of television as a home (at home) for the human imagination.

The Obama Horror Narrative

Not only can Republicans not do comedy, or handle a metaphor; they are inept at horror as well, as Andrew Sullivan (and others [The Toot) show: "They Can't Even Do Fear Right."

A Thoreau Night

The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well? You may say the wisest thing you can, old man — you who have lived seventy years, not without honor of a kind — I hear an irresistible voice which invites me away from all that.
--Henry David Thoreau, Walden

A story this morning on NPR on Thoreau induced flashbacks . . .

In 1968, a college sophomore for whom Walden had become my Bible (I could quote large chunks word for word), I read a story in the paper about a Massachusetts archaeologist (his name was Robbins) who had recently discovered the long-misplaced site of the cabin HDT had built and had constructed an exact replica of it in his own backyard. On a whim, I wrote to him, asking if I might stay the night in Thoreau's little house. To my amazement, he said yes.

With BFs Larry Cummings and Ed Dobosh, I flew to Boston (my first-ever plane flight, BTW) and, thanks to Robbins' hospitality, enjoyed a night in Thoreau's world. (We barely slept, of course.)

To Really Break Free from Bush . . .

But the problem isn't Bush, it's American conservatism itself -- or at least the debased, intellectually bankrupt and utterly failed thing that American conservatism has become. For McCain to truly renounce Bush, he'd have to renounce the tax-cut ideologues who have bankrupted the country. He'd have to renounce the neoconservatives who led us into a catastrophic war. He'd have to renounce the culture-war attack dogs like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin who have coarsened conservatism's soul.
--Gary Kamiya, "The Republican Shipwreck" (in Salon)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/28/08)

The so-called "number one killers" cannot be restricted to heart disease and cancer. Death lurks in things: asbestos and food-additives, acid rain and tampons, insecticides and pharmaceuticals, car exhausts and sweeteners, TVs and ions. Matter is more demonized than ever it was in the plague. We read labels of warning, feel invisible evils descend through the air, infiltrate the water, and permeate our vegetable sustenance. The material world is inhabited again; the repressed returns from the matter declared dead by Aquinas and Descartes, now as Death itself, and because of this resurrecting ghost in matter we are aware at last again of the anima mundi. Psychology always advances its consciousness by means of pathologized revelations, through the Underworld of anxiety. Our ecological fears announce that things are where the soul now claims psychological attention.
--James Hillman, "Anima Mundi: The Return of the Soul to the World"

"Meditations in an Emergency" (Mad Men 2.13)

Season Two's finale, co-written (with Kater Gordon) and directed by series creator Matthew Weiner.

With the Cuban Missle Crisis establishing the ground tone, Don returns, learns he's half-a million richer [$3,392,840 in todays $'s), pens a love letter as poetic as his ads, and outsmarts Duck's power grab (not having a contract can be a good thing--who knew?); Betty engages in revenge sex; Pete professes his love for Peggy, who rejects him and tells him about their baby; Peggy rebuffs Father Gill's idea of god (and her damnation); Pete sits alone with that rifle from Season One contemplating killing himself; and Betty tells Don she is pregnant.

Andrew Sullivan's "Why I Blog"

A fascinating meditation on this new form of writing that tracks it back to Montaigne (pictured).

"Palin's Nightmare"

A must read by Scott Horton in Harper's.

"J. J. Abrams' TV Check List"

Oriana Schwindt notes the quite unoriginal similarities in Abrams' TV work in Entertainment Weekly.

Pessimist Porn

James Wolcott takes a look at some of the worst of the frightening craziness out there. (Not sure if "pessimist porn" is his term or not, but he uses it.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/27/08)

A more loveless, and at the same time more sentimentally cynical, culture than that of modern Europe and America it would be impossible to imagine. "Seeing through," as it supposes, everything, it cares for nothing but itself. The passionless reason of its "objective" scholarship, applied to the study of "what men have believed," is only a sort of frivolity, in which the real problem, that of knowing what should be believed, is evaded. Values are to such an extent inverted that action, properly means to an end, has been made an end in itself, and contemplation, prerequisite to action, has come to be disparaged as an "escape" from the responsibilities of activity. . . .

There is more than political and economic interest behind the proselytizing fury; behind all this there is a fanaticism that cannot abide any sort of wisdom that is not of its own date and kind and the product of its own pragmatic conclusions: "there is a rancor," as Hermes Trismegistus said, "that is contemptuous of immortality, and will not let us recognize what is divine in us."
--Ananda Coomaraswamy, The Bugbear of Literacy


An EW photo gallery, complete with an interview with Joss Whedon.

Obama in Denver, October 26, 2008

"Pauline Kael and Trash Cinema"

My colleague Will Brantley shared this piece with me recently (from Canada's ultra-conservative National Post).

It takes a brief shot at Buffy Studies, so it is of interest to me. Its author, Robert Fulford, also trashed the brilliant young Canadian media/queer studies scholar Jes Battis.

On Deck

I will have essays in several forthcoming contracted books (in case you wanted to know):

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (commissioned for Modern American Drama on Screen, ed. Robert Bray and R. Barton Palmer, forthcoming from Cambridge U P, 2009).

“From Made Men to Mad Men: What Matt Weiner Learned from David Chase" (in The Essential Sopranos Reader, ed. David Lavery, Douglas Howard, and Paul Levinson, forthcoming from University Press of Kentucky, 2009).

“Serial’ Killer: Dexter’s Narrative Strategies” (in Investigating Dexter, ed. Douglas Howard, forthcoming in the Investigating Cult Television Series, I. B. Tauris, 2009).

“The Emigration of Life on Mars: Sam and Gene Do America” (in “It’s the Freakiest Show”: Interrogating Life on Mars, ed. Angelina Karpovich, Steve Lacey, and Ruth McElroy, forthcoming from the University of Wales Press, 2009).

“How Cult Television Became Mainstream” (forthcoming in The Essential Cult Television Reader, forthcoming from University Press of Kentucky, 2009).

Lost and Long Term Television Narrative” (commissioned for Third Person, edited by Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, forthcoming from Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2009).

“Foreword” to Buffy Goes Dark: Essays on the Final Two Seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Television, ed. James South, Elizabeth Rambo, and Lynne Edwards. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2008: 1-3.


In the summer of 2003 I was invited to present a seminar on Buffy as part of the Imaginarium, a Chautauqua of sorts held at the annual Cornerstone Festival, a Woodstockish Christian music festival in Illinois—like Woodstock it meets in a farmer’s field in the middle of summer.

The imaginarium’s organizer, Mike Hertenstein, from Jesus-People USA, had wanted to offer seminars on two seemingly unrelated topics that year, the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon’s WB and UPN series which that spring had come to the end after seven seasons and 144 episodes AND Owen Barfield, C.S. Lewis’s best friend and fellow Inkling, who, before dying in 1997 had authored fourteen books on the evolution of consciousness. A Google search of “Buffy” and “Barfield” lead, to the searcher’s amazement, to the realization that two birds might be slain with one stone, or two seminars with one lecturer, namely me.

And so in 100 degree Illinois heat a fallen Catholic English professor turned television scholar did Buffy and Barfield, morning and afternoon, for Christians in an open air tent. Joining me on stage were Todd Hertz, who had recently written an article for Christianity Today entitled "Don't Let Your Kids Watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer But you can tape it and watch after they go to bed" and Jana Riess, author of the soon-to-be-published What Would Buffy Do, the essentially Buddhist reading of BtVS written by the Columbia University PhD and recent convert to Mormonism and religion editor of Publishers Weekly.

Cornerstone also allowed me to screen Owen Barfield: Man and Meaning to the largest single audience that has ever seen it: over 500 people.

In the Daily News Journal

I was a source for this article in the Murfreesboro paper.

Full of Secrets Sales to Date

Recently received a royalty statement for my Twin Peaks book and learned that it has sold 12,338 copies to date. The original projection of one university press was that it would not sell more than 500.

Review of Action TV

I was asked to review this book several years ago and, for some reason, the review was never published. So I thought I would post it here. Update: I have only just discovered that this was published--here: Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly (79.2) 2003: 467-468.


Bill Osgerby and Anna Gough-Yates, eds. Action TV: Tough Guys, Smooth Operator and Foxy Chicks. London and New York: Routledge, 2001. 260 pages.

Reviewed by David Lavery, Middle Tennessee State University

In a soon-to-be-published book, subtitled “Predicting/Preventing the TV Discourse of Tomorrow,” a group of like-minded academics offers parodies of non-existent (or at least not yet existent) television criticism: a critique of a make-believe serious study of Baywatch, an appraisal of the new book Beavis, Butt-head, and Bakhtin, assessment of “the year’s work” in Teletubbies studies.

At first glance Osgerby and Gough-Yates’s collection of essays on the action television genre would appear to have escaped from the pages of that book. With essays bearing titles like “’Who loves ya, baby’: Kojak, action and the great society” (Paul Cobley), “’A lone crusader in the dangerous world’: heroics of science and technology in Knight Rider” (Nickianne Moody), and “Angels in chains? Feminism, feminity and consumer culture in Charlie’s Angels” (Gough-Yates), Action TV could itself be mistaken as parodic in intent. "Criticisms of Television Studies,” Geraghty and Lusted accurately observe in The Television Studies Book, “are often based on a confusion between what is studied and the act of studying, and so it is assumed that because some television is sloppy, badly researched and offensive so too is its study." No doubt such a confusion might well be at work in my response to this study of a television genre that gets no respect, but the book’s intentionally garish, orange cover, with its photo of Farrah Fawcett in mid-kick, certainly reinforces such a first impression, as does its contributors page, on which the author of “’Who’s the cat that won’t cop out?’: Black masculinity in American action series of the sixties and seventies” is said to have “just slapped her husband for reminding her that she sported an afro and a stripy beige tanktop in the 1970s.”

To actually read the essays assembled in Action TV, however, confirms the serious intent of its contributors, even though many of the essays exhibit a certain playfulness. Many, in fact, are labored exercises in cultural studies. Dedicated to the proposition that action television is “a genre that is not only constituent in wider patterns of social, economic and political change, but which provides audiences with an avenue through which to articulate meaningful cultural responses to these patterns of change” (3). Some utilize over half of their length to set-up contexts (historical, media, popular culture, economic) for examination of a series and then spend little time the series in question. John Storey’s “The sixties in the nineties: pastiche or hyperconsciousness,” the book’s closing essay, to cite but one example, has virtually nothing to say about television, though it is a first-rate examination of the complexities of the PoMo. (The relevance of Martin Pumphrey’s “The games we play(ed): TV Westerns, memory and masculinity” is of a different kind: though a readable and discerning essay on a distinctive film and television genre, the essay fails to make explicit the rationale for its inclusion in a book on the action genre.)

The quality of writing in Action TV is, as is often the case in collections such as this, uneven. The reader must slog through mud like the following:

Yet the television production, Kojak, in spite of its many episodes, could not have built up such a complex site of investment—especially so quickly—without considerable work by readers. These readers would, of course, themselves, be caught up in the relations of history and the specific reading formation. One major constituent of this latter is the concept of genre and the fact that Kojak was part of the genre which concerns itself with the police (56).

The book, is, indeed the “site” of much such wearisome siting. It is the sort of book in which the worst abuses of contemporary critical discourse (“Knight Rider can be seen as one of the first popular texts to visualize and narrativize [sic] effectively the potential of these technologies to transform daily life” [my italics 71]) co-exist with British archaisms (“Whilst the vehicles featured in Knight Rider’s contemporary rivals were foregrounded as almost magical agents of justice . . . “[my italics; 73]).

Some of the subjects of individual essays are likely to be of little interest to American readers. All of Action TV’s contributors are British, and, not surprisingly a good number of pages are devoted to British television series never seen here: the short-lived The Persuaders! and Jason King (both 1971-1972), and The Professionals (1977-83). And it might well have enhanced the book’s credibility to have had at least a token US television scholar or two examine quintessentially American series.

Still, some of the essays assembled in Action TV are indeed valuable. Co-editor Gough-Yates’ reading of Charlie’s Angels, for example, is nicely done, and Elizabeth Withey’s “TV gets jazzed: the evolution of action TV theme music” is a worthy contribution to the meager bibliography on television music. Considered as a whole, the book at least provides an historical scaffolding for future examination of a neglected, critically snubbed television form, and for that the book is and probably will remain of some value.

Brag, Brag

I received this just before leaving for London in August 2006.

"Mad Magazine All-Occasion, Non-Slanderous Political Smear Speech"

I have used this masterpiece with great success in the classroom for over thirty years. I have put the possible vocabulary words in bold.

Guaranteed Effective All-Occasion Non-Slanderous Political Smear Speech
By Bill Garvin
MAD #139, December 1970

My fellow citizens, it is an honor and a pleasure to be here today. My opponent has openly admitted he feels an affinity toward your city, but I happen to like this area. It might be a salubrious place to him, but to me it is one of the nation's most delightful garden spots.

When I embarked upon this political campaign I hoped that it could be conducted on a high level and that my opponent would be willing to stick to the issues. Unfortunately, he has decided to be tractable instead -- to indulge in unequivocal language, to eschew the use of outright lies in his speeches, and even to make repeated veracious statements about me.

At first, I tried to ignore these scrupulous, unvarnished fidelities. Now I do so no longer. If my opponent wants a fight, he's going to get one!

It might be instructive to start with his background. My friends, have you ever accidentally dislodged a rock on the ground and seen what was underneath ? Well, exploring my opponent's background is dissimilar. All the slime and filth and corruption you could possibly imagine, even in your wildest dreams, are glaringly nonexistent in this man's life. And even during his childhood!

Let us take a very quick look at that childhood: It is a known fact that, on a number of occasions, he emulated older boys at a certain playground. It is also known that his parents not only permitted him to masticate excessively in their presence, but even urged him to do so. Most explicable of all, this man who poses as a paragon of virtue exacerbated his own sister while they were both teenagers!

I ask you, my fellow Americans: is this the kind of person we want in public office to set an example for our youth ? Of course, it's not surprising that he should have such a typically pristine background -- no, not when you consider the other members of his family:

* His female relatives put on a constant pose of purity and innocence, and claim they are inscrutable, yet every one of them has taken part in hortatory activities
* The men in the family are likewise completely amenable to moral suasion
* My opponent's second cousin is a Mormon
* His uncle was a flagrant heterosexual
* His sister, who has always been obsessed by sects, once worked as a proselyte outside a church
* His father was secretly chagrined at least a dozen times by matters of a pecuniary nature
* His youngest brother wrote an essay extolling the virtues of being a homo sapien
* His great-aunt expired from a degenerative disease
* His nephew subscribes to a phonographic magazine
* His wife was a thespian before their marriage and even performed the act in front of paying customers
* And his own mother had to resign from a women's organization in her later years because she was an admitted sexagenarian

Now what shall we say of the man himself?

I can tell you in solemn truth that he is the very antithesis of political radicalism, economic irresponsibility, and personal depravity. His own record proves that he has frequently discountenanced treasonable, un-American philosophies and has perpetrated many overt acts as well.

* He perambulated his infant son on the street
* He practiced nepotism with his uncle and first cousin
* He attempted to interest a 13-year-old girl in philately
* He participated in a seance at a private residence where, among other odd goings-on, there was incense
* He has declared himself in favor of more homogeneity on college campuses
* He has advocated social intercourse in mixed company -- and has taken part in such gatherings himself
* He has been deliberately averse to crime in our streets
* He has urged our Protestant and Jewish citizens to develop more catholic tastes
* Last summer he committed a piscatorial act on a boat that was flying the American flag
* Finally, at a time when we must be on our guard against all foreign "isms", he has coolly announced his belief in altruism -- and his fervent hope that some day this entire nation will be altruistic!

I beg you, my friends, to oppose this man whose life and work and ideas are so openly and avowedly compatible with our American way of life. A vote for him would be a vote for the perpetuation of everything we hold dear.

The facts are clear; the record speaks for itself.

Do your duty.

Spell Checker

Well known already, but worth posting again.

A Little Poem Regarding Computer Spell Checkers...

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

The Middle Tennessee State University Fainting Goats

The following was once posted on my MTSU website. I re-post it here.

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
--Oscar Wilde

A few years ago Middle Tennessee State University explored the possibility of changing its mascot. Although. when all was said and done, MTSU's sports teams remained "Blue Raiders" and "Lady Blue Raiders," a new "mascot," "Lightning," a Pegasusish horse, was added.

I believe we missed an opportunity. As a school seeking a reputation, we should have adopted the Fainting Goat, a breed sometimes claimed to be native to the Volunteer State, as our new mascot.

If we had become the Middle Tennessee State University Fainting Goats--and Lady Fainting Goats, national and perhaps even international media outlets would not have been able to resist doing stories about us. We could have gone from never being heard of to being the subject of nationwide (worldwide?) buzz. MTSU would have been talked about at every water cooler. We would have been laughed at, true, but we would have been known. We could have become the new Slippery Rock. Our mascot could have become the new Banana Slug, the official mascot of the University of California at Santa Cruz. We could have sold loads of Fainting Goat stuff--t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads.

And our new name might have struck fear into our opponents on the playing field. Just imagine a Sunbelt foe cowering as the Fighting Fainting Goats storm onto the field!

It's not too late to come to our senses.

Thanks to Larry Mapp for introducing me to the Fainting Goat.

The House of Whorf

For some time I contemplated writing a book that would involve a chapter on the amateur linguist Benjamin Whorf. (I published some of the results here.)

This lead me to make two trips to Hartford. The photos to the right (taken by me in June 2002) are of the Home of Benjamin Lee Whorf and Celia Whorf, 320 Wolcott Hill Rd., Wethersfield, CT (a suburb of Hartford).

A Two Minute Moby

David Ives tells the story of Moby-Dick in 2 minutes flat (from Studio 360).

Charlie Kaufman Interview

Kurt Anderson's interview with the enigmatic writer/director.

And a video (with dogs):

A Yogi Berraism I Never Heard Before

On this week's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, Christopher Buckley quoted one from Yogi I was not familiar with:

As Yogi Berra said when he heard that a Jew had been elected mayor of Dublin, Ireland: 'Only in America.'

Tracking Shots

Sometime back Andrew Sullivan offered a number of posts on famous movie tracking shots. Here are the links:

Russian Ark (Alexander Sokurov)
Lucas with the Lid Off (Michel Gondry)
"Sugar Water" (Gondry music video)
GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese)
The Player (Robert Altman)
Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón)

Terrible TV Characters

The 24 worst--according to Entertainment Weekly.

Watching Television (II)

Robert Frank's "Restaurant--U.S. 1, Leaving Columbia, South Carolina, 1955"

That is, I believe, Oral Roberts on the television.

Watching Television (I)

This wonderful early television era photo was on the cover of Jeremy Butler's Television text book.

Rachel in Israel (2002)

My Daugher Rachel with Elie Wiesel, Prague, December 2001

Lard Happy

I first saw this in a store in Edinburgh, Scotland. From a 1950s ad.

Why Damon Lindelof Writes

I write because I can't help but make things up.
I write because I love to tell stories.
I write because my imagination compels me to do so.
I write because if I didn't, I'd be branded a pathological liar.
Oh, and also because I'm still trying to make my dead father proud of me.
But that's none of your goddamn business.

Read the whole thing here.

Top Television Episodes of the Year (from The Futon Critic)

The Futon Critic offers (2001 to 2007) its catalog of the 50 best television episodes of each year.


The Making and Unmaking of John McCain

The article everybody is talking about.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/26/08)

The sound of music is not, like the sound of words, opposed, but rather parallel to silence.

It is as though the sounds of music were being driven over the surface of silence.

Music is silence, which in dreaming begins to sound.

Silence is never more audible than when the last sound of music has died away.
--Max Picard, The World of Silence

Whedon Studies Association

Today, the Whedon Studies Association, future sponsor/home of Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies and of the biennial Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses, became a legal entity.

More information later.

Thanks to Rhonda Wilcox for making this happen.

John Hodgman

Another great Onion AV Club interview with John Hodgman. Important insights into the production of The Daily Show and Hodgman's support for Obama.

Real Americans

Time's brilliant TV critic Jamie Poniewozik contemplates the implication of the Joe the Plumber phenomenon.

Thanks to Jorge.

The Backwards "B" Incident

The McCain campaign insists that they had no hand in spreading the word about the make-believe Pennsylvania incident.

Talking Points explains why we should not believe them.

Ygradsil (Darwinian Version)

This image was on a poster for an exhibit on (as I recall) "Three Thousand Years of the Human Adventure" at the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris. (Joyce and I were on our honeymoon there in 1979.)

I like to think of it as a rendering of a version of Igrdrasil for the age of Darwin.

Cartoon Me

This cartoon was done by Northern Kentucky University student Sandy Steele soon after the birth of Sarah Caitlin Lavery in April 1986.

Robert Klein

My wife and I have often joked about creating a guide book for visitors to our house that would provide brief explanations of Lavery Family inside jokes. (We are perhaps a bit more idiolectic than most, speaking our own private language drawn from film, television, and personal experience.)

One entry in our lexicon, for example, might be:

take my fishcakes. The proper response to a peculiar/crazy person met in a public place as a way of exiting the locale. Derivation: Robert Klein's 1973 album Child of the 50's, in which, in a bit about the strange people who once frequented automats, the comedian uses the words as an exit strategy for edging away from a "nutter" (as the British call them).

Looking over the tracks on Child a quarter century since I last listened to the album (I still have the 33 disc but no record player), I am amazed that I can recall, almost from memory, virtually every bit.

It is impossible to overestimate the influence of Robert Klein on my way of thinking, my sense of humor, even my teaching style.

Here are the tracks on the album (thanks to Amazon):

1. Civil Defense (No Talking)
2. Public School
3. School Lunch
4. The Sex Impulse
5. "Fabulous 50's"
6. Substitute School Teacher
7. Starting Your Car
8. F.M. Disc Jockey
9. New York City Animals
10. All Night Groceries
11. The Panhandler
12. Public Service Commercials
13. My Little Margie
14. Commercials
15. Our Gang
16. Musical Instruments
17. Athletics
18. Words
19. Childhood Myth
20. "Middle Class Educated Blues"
21. School Assembly
22. James Abram Garfield

And here is what he looks like today.

"Wait Until Dark" Meets "The Monkey's Uncle"

A piece in Ain't It Cool News on the the classic suspense film Wait Until Dark (Terence Young, 1967) brought back memories just now.

At Clarion State College in 1970, Wait was shown on campus one Friday night. Since it was then one of my all-time favorite films (right up there with, as I recall, with due shame, Viva Las Vegas, I of course attended.

Something must have gone wrong at the film rental company, however, because about a third of the way into the film Audrey Hepburn, Richard Crenna, Alan Arkin, et al were suddenly replaced by Tommy Kirk and Annette Funicello! The rental company had shipped two reels of Wait and one reel of The Monkey's Uncle (Robert Stevenson, 1965)!

After over thirty minutes of Disney wackiness, we were once again incoherently plunged into a valiant blind woman's life and death struggle with a psychopathic drug dealer. It made for a surreal film-going experience: a shipping mistake had resulted in a kind of cinematic exquisite corpse.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/25/08)

Is it not curious that so vast a being as the whale should see through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is smaller than a hare's? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel's great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of mind? Not at all. Why then do you try to "enlarge" your mind? Subtilize it.
--Ishmael in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick

"Mad" Questions

TWoP lists 10 questions about Mad Men (a show that "leaves us with more questions than Lost") they wish they had answers to.

Saving "Heroes"

Jeff Jensen makes some excellent suggestions in Entertainment Weekly.

Qualified to be an Astronaut

Re. Palin's preposterous insistence that being able to see Russia from Alaska makes her qualified to deal with foreign policy issues, D. L. Hughley observes (on CNN):

I can see the moon from my backyard, but that doesn't make me an astronaut.

Jensen Ackles' "Eye of the Tiger"

This music video came at the end of last night's "Yellow Fever" episode of Supernatural. Adorable.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

McCain and the New Media

Read The Onion story here.

Quote of the Day (10/24/08)

We are judged by the sincerity with which we live up to our masks.
Frederick Turner, "Garden Aphorisms"

Quote of the Day (10/24/08

Before the soul enters the air of this world, it is conducted through all the worlds. Last of all, it is shown the first light which once when the world was created illuminated all things, and which God removed when mankind grew corrupt. Why is the soul shown this light? So that from that hour on, it may yearn to attain the light, and approach it rung by rung in its life on earth. And those who reach it, the zaddikim, into them the light enters, and out of them it shines into the world again. That is the reason why it was hidden.
--Martin Buber, Ten Rungs

Larry David Can't Take Much More of This

Larry is anxiously awaiting November 4th.

Who the F@#k Is That Guy? - Political Experts

The Daily Show examines the qualifications of those talking heads.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/23/08)

If I had been able to see Erasmus in other days, it would have been hard for me not to take for adages and apothegms everything he said to his valet and his hostess. We imagine much more appropriately an artisan on the toilet seat or on his wife than a great president, venerable by his demeanor and his ability. It seems to us that they do not stoop from their lofty thrones even to live.
--Michel de Montaigne

Television Blasphemy

The two supreme instances.

From The Sopranos ("Down Neck," Season One). After an about-to-be-confirmed A.J. tells Tony that god doesn't exist, Tony responds
I don't care if he doesn't exist, you are still going to kiss his ass.

From last night's Colbert Report. After playing a clip of an Iowa minister's invocation calling out the Christian deity to defeat the deities of those supporting John McCain's opponent, Stephen asks
Did he just call god a pussy?

Colbert's God-Off

Heard on Colbert

Remember to tell your vulture friends to stay away from John McCain. He is still alive.
--Stephen, talking to his adopted eagle son, Stephen, Jr.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/22/08)

We are only that amphibious piece between a corporal and spiritual essence, that middle form that links those two together and makes good the method of God and nature, that jumps not from extremes but unites the incompatible distances by some middle and participating natures. . . . Thus is man that great and true amphibium whose nature is disposed to live not only like other creatures in diverse elements but in divided and distinguished worlds. For though there be but one to sense, there are two to reason: the one visible, the other invisible. . . .
--Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici

Salon's Buffy Award

In 2004, Salon magazine (and television critic Heather Havrilesky) instituted the Buffy Award, given annually to an underappreciated television series. Here are the links to the first 5 awards

2004 (The Wire)
2005 (Veronica Mars)
2006 (Battlestar Galactica)
2007 (Friday Night Lights)
2008 (The Shield)

Is Drudge in Decline?

Gawker thinks so.

Boris for Barack

The "conservative" Mayor of my recent home city, London, endorses the American democrat.

Jon Stewart to Sarah Palin: "Fuck You"

The Daily Show host responds to Palin's suggestion that New Yorkers (and big city folk) are not real Americans in a bootleg tape of a concert at Boston University. (The sound is bad, but worth it to see Jon unplugged.)


An observant piece in The Daily Beast on Thandie Newton's Condi Rice in W.

Jason Jones Visits the "Math Capitol" of Alaska

Monday, October 20, 2008

Heard on the Colbert Report

If your actions speak louder than words, you're not shouting loudly enough.

Quote of the Day (10/21/08)

In the vacuum arising after he has left behind his animal life he devotes himself to a series of non-biological occupations which are not imposed by nature but invented by himself. This invented life, invented as a novel or a play is invented, man calls "human life," well being. Human life transcends the reality of nature. It is not given to man as its fall is given to a stone or the stock of its organic acts, eating, flying, nesting, xxx to an animal. He makes it himself, beginning by inventing it. Have we heard right? Is human life in its most human dimension, a work of fiction? Is man a sort of novelist of himself who conceived the fanciful figure of a personage with its unreal occupations and then, for the sake of converting it into reality, does all the things he does and becomes an engineer?
--Jose Ortega y Gasset, History as a System

Mike Murphy on Powell's Endorsement

I am not normally of the view that endorsements mean much in Presidential politics. But Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama today is a real sledgehammer blow to the already staggering McCain campaign. Not just because a Powell endorsement shores up Obama's shaky foreign policy bona fides, but even more because of the content of Powell's remarks on Meet the Press. The General showed he still knows how to launch a brutal offense. Powell's remarks were an across the board indictment of the McCain campaign. He threw a subtly delivered but perfectly targeted series of chops at each of the the major fractures of the shaky McCain campaign; the Palin choice, the dark tone of the campaign, the Helter Skelter antics at the onset of the economic crisis. As a great McCain admirer, I am sad to say it, but the truth is the video of Powell's endorsement will boil across You Tube and do great damage in these closing days of the campaign.--from Swampland

The Palin-McCain Ticket

Joe Klein notes:

A few minutes ago, John McCain was giving a speech in Missouri--and both CNN and MSNBC switched over to his running mate, Sarah Palin, in Colorado. I don't think I've ever seen this happen before. But then, this is a business...and Palin has been delivering bigger ratings and crowds than the top of the ticket. Still, weird.

Palin on SNL

Robert Kubey (Huffington Post) assesses Palin's appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Jane Mayer on the Palin Choice

The New Yorker's ace investigative journalist offers the fullest account yet.

David Sedaris on the Undecided

From The New Yorker. Best line:

I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

Obama in St. Louis, 10/19/08


The young pitcher who closed out Tampa Bay's World Series ticket-punching victory over the Red Sox last night, David Price, was a Blackman High School classmate of my daughter Sarah right here in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Go here to see it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/20/08)

Married couples are not saints, and sin is not some error which we may renounce one of these days in order to adopt a more accurate truth. We are unendingly and incessantly in the thick of the struggle between nature and grace; unendingly and incessantly unhappy and then happy. But the horizon has not remained the same. A fidelity maintained in the Name of what does not change as we change will gradually disclose some of its mystery: beyond tragedy another happiness waits. A happiness resembling the old, but no longer belonging to the form of the world, for this new happiness transforms the world.
--Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World

Sarah Palin Wallace

In Slate, Diane McWhorter teases out the similarities between the Alabama segregationist and McCain's VP, who he admitted today (to Chris Wallace) was "a cold political calculation."

A True American Hero

With his appearance on Meet the Press this morning and the conversation below after the show, Powell goes a long way toward making up for his role in the horrors of the Bush administration.

[PS: James Fallows' post "Intersecting arcs: McCain, Powell"]

McCain is Dead(er) to Me

Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales?
Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons

McCain has actually been dead to me for quite some time--for virtually his entire campaign since the ludicrous choice of Sarah Palin.

But with this week's robocalls--run by the same firm that trashed him in South Carolina in 2000--and his despicable defense of them in the conversation with Chris Wallace below, he is now deader than dead to me. How will this deeply delusional man ever live with himself after November 4? How will we survive as a nation if he wins by such means?

Life on Mars ("The Real Adventures of the Unreal Sam Tyler")

The 2nd episode of Life on Mars USA borrowed extensively from LOM UK 1.2: long, on foot chase of a suspect fleeing from a swimming pool; Sam and Gene clashing over evidence (or lack thereof); shooting of a female associate (in LOM USA played by Welcome to the Dollhouse's Heather Matarazzo); Gene's beat-down of Sam for his responsibility in the shooting; Sam cleaning up the blood with his sport coat.

Two decidedly new developments: 1) a female interest for Sam in his apartment building, a young hippie woman whom he first meets as she walks down the hall to the communal bathroom naked; 2) Sam's dialogue with a cracked mirror that somehow reveals his "Real . . .unreal" state.

Not a strong episode. I continue to like Jason O'Meara's Sam, but Harvey Keitel's Gene is a big disappointment. Keitel is smaller than life; Glenister was larger (by two or three sizes at least).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/19/08)

So far as we know, the tiny fragments of the universe embodied in man are the only centres of thought and responsibility in the visible world. If that be so, the appearance of the human mind has been so far the ultimate stage in the awakening of the world; and all that has gone before, the strivings of a myriad of centres that have taken the risk of living and believing, seem to have all been pursuing, along rival lines, the aim now achieved by us up to this point. They are all akin to us. For all these centres—those which led up to our own existence and the far more numerous others which produced different lines of which many are extinct—may be seen engaged in the same endeavor toward ultimate liberation. We may envisage then a cosmic field which called forth all these centres by offering them a short-lived, limited, hazardous opportunity for making some progress of their own towards an unthinkable consummation.
--Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge


Saw W. today, and though the critics are right that it is a bit flat (reports are that Stone reigned in the film's excesses, cutting out, for example, a fantasy sequence in which W. bombs Baghdad on a flying carpet), I thought it was a solid, understated film--one of Stone's best.

The performances were uniformly excellent, especially Brolin as Bush, Cromwell as his "Pappy," and Dreyfuss as Cheney. I was shocked and surprised (but not awed) to see Rob Corddry as Ari Fleischer.

It's a quite sympathetic portrait of our worst-ever POTUS. Stone makes the press conference in which Bush can't think of a single mistake he's made his penultimate scene--and for a reason: the mistake was so pronounced, so huge, W couldn't see it. The mistake, as the film demonstrates, was, quite simply, his life as a whole and his breathtakingly ignorant belief that he was cut out to be President.

For what it's worth, I have written about/in the voice of W myself. See:

"'W' Stands for Women, or is It Wisteria?: Watching Desperate Housewives with Bush 43.” Reading Desperate Housewives: Beyond the White Picket Fence. Edited by Janet McCabe and Kim Akass. London: I. B. Tauris, 2006: 21-36.

The Term Paper Business

Andrew Sullivan provides this link to an eye-opening but distressing article.

We're voting for the . . .

From Andrew Sullivan (via 538):

From Western Pennsylvania

I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a parable or some third hand account of an actual event or a lost sketch from the Dave Chapelle Show, but it still has an air of truth about it in this election:

So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."


Over the last few years, I have become a frequent blurber. Herewith is a selection of my blurbs.

For The CSI Effect: Television, Crime, and Governance, edited by Michele Byers and Val Marie Johnson, Saint Mary's University (Lexington Books, forthcoming)

What the “C.S.I. shot”—the CBS drama’s signature microphotographic probe beneath the skin and into the body—did for television forensics, Michele Byers’ and Val Marie Johnson’s excellent collection does for television studies. This multi-voiced subcutaneous investigation into the world’s most popular small screen franchise discovers significant and new political, sociological, and aesthetic evidence concerning why Anthony Zuicker’s creation remains at the end of the first decade of the 21st Century anything but a corpse.

[added 3/27/09]

For Trisha Dunleavy, Television Drama: Form, Agency, Innovation
Two decades ago the idea of a world television culture seemed unlikely; the medium’s range, influence, and genres were largely local and national. The appearance of a book like Television Drama: Form, Agency, Innovation by Trisha Dunleavy, a preeminent scholar of the small screen in her native New Zealand, stands as an index of a new global unity in its examination of seminal British and American programming. In a careful, discerning, erudite but accessible study of drama in a variety of forms, Dunleavy does more than just bridge boundaries and splice key series and shows; she brings the television she knows so well to life on the page, transforming TV texts into words and ideas, giving us a book as smart and multi-faceted as the contemporary medium itself.
--David Lavery, Co-Founding Editor of Critical Studies in Television: Scholarly Studies for Small Screen Fictions

For David Scott Diffrient, M*A*S*H
As both detractors and extollers of the small screen admit, separating American culture from television culture is not easily done. In offering us a kind of “thick description” (as ethnographer Clifford Geertz might deem it) of M*A*S*H, David Scott Diffrient’s monograph has much to say about both. With wonderful clarity and deep knowledge of both film and TV, he tells us just about everything scholars, students, and fans might want to about this quintessential black comedy while at the same time providing unexpected insights into its historical context.
—David Lavery, Founding editor of Critical Studies in Television

For Rhonda Wilcox and Tanya Cochran, eds. Investigating Firefly and Serenity
Over six years into the development of Buffy Studies, behold: the birth of Firefly Studies! The "failed" television show that gave birth to a fandom that spawned a movie has now inspired some mighty shiny scholarship. Wilcox and Cochran's collection, assembling a chosen family of the best critics in the Whedonverses, is a vessel that will feel to readers every bit as much a home for the imagination as the Serenity itself.—David Lavery, co-editor of Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies

For Cynthia Burkhead and Hillary Robson, eds. Grace Under Pressure
Television has always seduced viewers with guilty pleasures, shows and series never missed but never admitted to. Being only human, television scholars, too, have their embarrassing delights, and one of mine has continued to be Grey’s Anatomy. But now that we have Grace Under Pressure, Cynthia Burkhead and Hillary Robson’s smart and astute collection, it is time to come out of the (medical) closet, get out of the elevator, and accept, guilt-free, Shonda Rimes’ medical melodrama into the quality pantheon.
--David Lavery

For Sharon Yang, ed. The X-Files and Literature
As television becomes more and more literary, with shows like Lost and Gilmore Girls sending us off to the bookstore and the library so we might read them more carefully, a book like The X-Files and Literature is welcome indeed. Sharon R. Yang’s diverse collection on one of Nineties’ TV’s richest texts finds the truth of the gothic and the Arthurian and the folkloric, of the postmodern and the metafictional, of Poe, Pynchon, Cooper, Nabokov, and Tennyson, not just “out there” but in the perhaps too complicated narrative of the perpetually frustrated quests of Mulder and Scully. Valuable-in-itself as an intellectual exercise, its real worth may come when we put the book down and return, smarter, better readers, to the primary text.
--David Lavery, Co-Editor, Deny All Knowledge: Investigating The X-Files

For Matthew Pateman's The Aesthetics of Culture in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

From a complex meditation on its risible yet perfect title, to the most comprehensive examination yet undertaken of the the masterful episode "Restless," Matthew Pateman's nifty musings on Buffy the Vampire's aesthetic dimension stands as one of the richest and most engaging contributions yet to the astonishing field of Buffy Studies.
--David Lavery, Co-Editor, Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies

For Milly Williamson, The Lure of the Vampire
It never ceases to amaze me how the undead have enlived the imaginations of writers, film/television makers and critics. By examining in a smart but always clear style not only a variety of vampire texts but the ways fans have responded to those texts, Milly Williamson has produced a book well worth the attention of the living.
--David Lavery, Co-Editor, Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies

Reclamation Projects

With Keith Perry and Joe Walker's special issue of Post Script on the Coen Brothers now in print, two of my reclamation projects have seen the light of day.

The second issue of Critical Studies in Television, which I co-edited with Jimmie Cain and John Zubizaretta, brought back to life a book John had been working on for years but which had failed to find a publisher.

The Coen Brothers project was likewise begun as a book. I offered to help find it a home and did--in Post Script.

A Diffrient M*A*S*H

Happy to see that David Scott Diffrient's TV Milestones book on M*A*S*H is now available. Scott has contributed to Dear Angela, Reading Deadwood, and The Northern Exposure special issue of CST. I am working together with him on a book on Gilmore Girls.

Larry Charles

Fresh Air interviews Larry Charles, director (Borat, Religulous, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and writer (Entourage, Seinfeld).

On one of the Seinfeld DVDs, someone (David? Seinfeld?) notes that if an episode involved a serial killer, the writer must have been Larry Charles.

"Investigative Humorist"

An interesting piece on The Daily Show's chief "investigative humorist," Adam Chodikoff.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Quote of the Day (10/18/08)

. . children have in the space of a few years to attain the advanced level of shame and revulsion that has developed over many centuries. Their instinctual life must be rapidly subjected to the strict control and specific molding that gives our societies their stamp, and which developed very slowly over centuries. In this the parents are only the (often inadequate) instruments, the primary agents of conditioning; through them and thousands of other instruments it is always society as a whole, the entire figuration of human beings, that exerts its pressure on the new generation, bending them more or less perfectly to its purpose.
--Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process

My Books: Forthcoming in 2009

2009 will be a busy and productive year.

At long last, Joss: A Creative Portrait of the Maker of the Whedonverses will be published in the Spring by I. B. Tauris. (That's Joss to the left--cameoing on Veronica Mars)

University Press of Kentucky will publish two collections in their Essential Readers in Media and Culture: The Essential Cult Television Reader and (with Doug Howard and Paul Levinson) The Essential Sopranos Reader (which will bring together the best papers from last May's The Sopranos: A Wake). Thanks to series editor Gary Edgerton for support of both projects.

Scott Diffrient and I hope that Screwball Television: The Gilmore Girls will see the light of day next year.

And last but not least, with the kind permission and support of the trustees of his estate, my monograph on Owen Barfield (pictured below in a photograph by Clifford Monks) will appear in the Western Esoteric Masters Series of North Atlantic Books. Thanks to Richard Grossinger and Owen Barfield, Jr.

Women for McCain

A superb reductio ad absurdum from Katie Halper and Laughing Liberally:

Heard on The Colbert Report

On McCain's third debate insistence that he would use a hatchet and then a scalpel on the budget:

When it comes to the budget, McCain is like a brain surgeon from the 16th century.

On McCain's insistence that he wouldn't have needed to go 100% negative if Obama had agreed to 10 town-hall meetings:

Exactly. If you do not say yes to town-hall meetings, you force the other candidate to viciously attack you. It's just like when Tina Turner refused to have town-hall meetings with Ike.

It's all in here:

"Monster Movie" (Supernatural 4.5)

This week's Supernatural was written by Ben Edlund (pictured), a writer with "a sensibility that's so left of center" (Joss Whedon, commenting on his Titan AE and Firefly collaborator).

With its shapeshifter "monster" addicted to monster movies of the 1930s (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Mummy), its brilliantly done B/W photography, its wry wit, its closing revelation of the engagingly shallow Dean's favorite movie, the episode is a hoot and a welcome change of pace from the apocalyptic vector of the season to date.

Now forty and anything but prolific, Ben Edlund nevertheless continues to show himself to be one of the most ingenious writers around. Not only is Edlund the creator of The Tick, he wrote the unforgettable Angel as a "bloody puppet man" episode "Smile Time" (see above) and Supernatural Season Three's superbly meta "Ghostfacers"--both likely to be long-remembered.

Edlund's unique, highly intertextual and self-referential genius reminds me a bit of similarly "left of center" Darin Morgan, The X-Files scribe who wrote "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" and "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" (he's now working on Fringe, though he has yet to write an episode).