Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Goodnight" Jindal

After a week of caustic comments about Bobby Jindal's awful coming out Tuesday, Peter Sagal has the last word (on Wait, Wait): "He spoke to the American people as if he were reading Goodnight Moon to them."

March Comes In . . .

In Murfreesboro this 3/1/09, we have our biggest snow of the year.

This had me thinking, as all baby boomers are required to do, about John Belushi's famous rant on SNL. Couldn't find a video, but here's the transcript:

Chevy Chase:
Last week we made the comment that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Now here to reply is our chief meteorologist, John Belushi, with a seasonal report.

John Belushi:
Thank you Chevy. Well, another winter is almost over and March true to form has come in like a lion, and hopefully will go out like a lamb. At least that's how March works here in the United States.

But did you know that March behaves differently in other countries? In Norway, for example, March comes in like a polar bear and goes out like a walrus. Or, take the case of Honduras where March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a salt marsh harvest mouse.

Let's compare this to the Maldive Islands where March comes in like a wildebeest and goes out like an ant. A tiny, little ant about this big.

[holds thumb and index fingers a small distance apart]

Unlike the Malay Peninsula where March comes in like a worm-eating fernbird and goes out like a worm-eating fernbird. In fact, their whole year is like a worm-eating fernbird.

Or consider the Republic of South Africa where March comes in like a lion and goes out like a different lion. Like one has a mane, and one doesn't have a mane. Or in certain parts of South America where March swims in like a sea otter, and then it slithers out like a giant anaconda.

There you can buy land real cheap, you know? And there's a country where March hops in like a kangaroo, and stays a kangaroo for a while, and then it becomes a slightly smaller kangaroo. Then, then, then for a couple of days it's sort of a cross between a, a frilled lizard and a common house cat.

[Chevy Chase tries to interrupt him]

Wait wait wait wait. Then it changes back into a smaller kangaroo, and then it goes out like a, like a wild dingo. Now, now, and it's not Australia! Now, now, you'd think it would be Australia, but it's not!

[Chevy Chase tries to interrupt him]

Now look, pal! I know a country where March comes in like an emu and goes out like a tapir. And they don't even know what it means! All right? Now listen, there are nine different countries, where March comes in like a frog, and goes out like a golden retriever. But that- that's not the weird part! No, no, the weird part is, is the frog. The frog- The weird part is-

[has seizure and falls off chair]

Painting of the Week (3/1/09)

Chagall, I and the Village

Quote of the Day (3/1/09)

Perhaps there is a degree of perception at which what is real and what is imagined are one: a state of clairvoyant observation, accessible or possibly accessible to the poet or, say, the acutest poet.
--Wallace Stevens, "Adagia"

Something I Wrote (March)

"The Mind of Benjamin Whorf" (unpublished essay)


It was a very bad night for TV. Dollhouse was lame enough to convince even the most supportive that this show is going nowhere. T: SCC was confusing, boring, and useless. (Have the writers forgotten about Cameron? She has had nothing to do--and no ass to kick--since it moved to Friday and not much before.) Even Battlestar Galactica was a mess, anything but a homestretch episode. After being so sure handed since Season Four, Part 2 began, last night's episode lost its way big time.

Only good TGIFer of the night was, appropriately, Friday Night Lights. Warm and wonderful as usual.

Byrd Twitter

Much was made this week about members of Congress Twittering during Obama's speech, but only The Colbert Report managed to get access to 91 year old Robert Byrd's:

Friday, February 27, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/28/09)

Learn to obey. Only he who obeys a rhythm superior to his own is free.
--Nikos Kazantzakis, The Saviors of God

"Stage Fright"

Still 20 minutes to go in tonight's Dollhouse, and I want to register my verdict: this one completely sucks. The worse episode of a Joss Whedon show since "Beer Bad." A horrid knockoff of The Bodyguard (with Jaime Lee Kirchner as Whitney; Dushku as Costner).

Is this where Dollhouse is headed?

"ECTVR" Cover

Got to see the cover of The Essential Cult TV Reader today. Very pleased.

Steele vs. Colbert in a Rap Off

OMG. Steele has taken up Colbert's challenge and will face him in a rap off. This will not end well I suspect.

Heard on "The Colbert Report"

If they give you lemons, make scrambled eggs. I make the worst scrambled eggs.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/27/09)

One of [Wilhelm] Dilthey's main achievements was that he called attention to the fact that all life is intrinsically hermeneutic. It always has an interpretation of itself at hand. This is not an extrinsic and secondary trait but a very property of life, and this reflectivity that accompanies life seemed to Dilthey even richer and wiser than the abstractions of conceptual thought. As every man, consciously or subconsciously, has a Weltanschauung, or world view, he also has, prior to all philosophy, a view of man. Every cultural product, even the earliest religion and art, contains an image of man.
--Michael Landmann, Philosophical Anthropology

Punishing the Bankers and Evil Financiers

Bill Maher suggests drastic measures for rewarding the Bernie Madoffs (from the HBO website):

And, finally, New Rule: Stop pretending that other governments have nothing to teach us. From those socialists in Sweden, we can learn how to fix a banking crisis. And from our friends in China, we can learn how to punish the jerks who caused it.

You know, the ones who took bailout money and bought private jets made out of rubies and veal. This is Dick Fuld of Lehman Brothers. [slide of Fuld] What a "dick" Fuld. He personally made $500 million in sub-prime mortgages, and he gets to keep it while you and I pay off his bad bets. [slide of Madoff] This is Bernie Madoff. Bernie stole $50 billion, mostly from other Jews. For Jews, this was the worst pyramid scheme since the actual pyramids.

Which brings me back to China. Now, a couple months ago, some greedy businessmen in China were caught spiking the milk they sold to children with melamine, a plastic-derivative which boosted the protein levels and, thus, their profits. Well, you know what the Chinese are doing to the businessmen behind their milk scandal? They're putting them to death.

Talk about lactose intolerant.

Now, am I saying we should treat the bankers who poisoned our financial markets with tainted investments the way China treated its poisoners? Please, we're not China. We're just owned by China. So, no, I don't think we should put all the bankers to death.

Just two. I mean, maybe it's not technically legal, but, let's look at the upside. If we killed two random, rich, greedy pigs. I mean, killed. Like, blew them up at halftime at next year's Super Bowl. Or left them hanging on the big board at the New York Stock Exchange. You know, as a warning, with their balls in their mouth. I think it would really make everyone else sit up and take notice.

This crisis is rooted in greed. And if two deaths shocked a society of 300 million into acting decently enough to avoid this in the future, well, they'd die as heroes. And, you know, it's not like collateral damage isn't built into our assessment of things.

Cars kill almost 50,000 people a year, but we accept that as a fair price for being able to get around without riding on top of an animal.

So, two dead bankers really starts to look like a bargain. And isn't that what they love? Bargains?

From SomeEcards

"Hit Me Baby"

Just watched the most recent episode of Life on Hulu (and discovered it could be embedded in a blog--voila).

Splendid piece (written by series creator Rand Ravich) with Crews tracking down a female hit woman. Damian Crews is one of the most watchable actors on TV.

Mr. Jindal's Neighborhood

The Daily Show makes the comparison.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/26/09)

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.
Art is endless, like a river flowing,
passing yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.
--Jorge Luis Borges, "The Art of Poetry"

"The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" (First Thoughts)

As Ben pleaded with John Locke not to kill himself, I could not have been alone in thinking: "Finally, now we know whether Ben is one of the good guys." And then he brutally murdered his rival (or is he?).

Of course at that point we already knew, thanks to the episode's frame tale (post-Ajura crash/landing), that all turned out "well." Locke's necessary death (made possible by Ben, who enacted it 1) in order to further fate; 2) further his own, not-yet-understood purposes; 3) because he had just learned of John's intention to go see Mrs. Hawking) brought him (and Jack, Kate, Sun, Hurley, Sayid--and Ben) back to The Island. Where they lived happily ever after (not!).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/25/09)

[The Cabalists] thought that a work dictated by the Holy Spirit was an absolute text: in other words, a text in which the collaboration of chance was calculable as zero. This portentous premise of a book impenetrable to contingency, of a book which is a mechanism of infinite purposes, moved them to dispute the scriptural words, add up the numerical value of the letters, consider their form, observe the small letters and the capitals, seek acrostics and anagrams, and perform other exegetical rigors which it is not difficult to ridicule. Their excuse is that nothing can be contingent in the work of an infinite mind. Leon Bloy postulates this hieroglyphical character, this character of a divine writing this character of a divine mystery, of an angelic cryptography at all moments and in all beings on earth.
--Jorge Luis Borges

TV Viewing at an All-Time High

A rather surprising report from Nielsen.

Republican Misquotation

I am so fucking sick of Republican misquotation of Democratic positions, especially Obama's. Salon reports that Governor Jindal will end his response to Obama's Not A State of the Union tonight by saying:

A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said "we may not be able to reverse." Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover -- or that America's best days are behind her.

As Salon's Alex Koppelman notes, those words, intended to brand the President as a non-believer in America, are ripped, bleeding, from what Obama actually said:

[I]f nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

The Republicans have disqualified themselves to govern us because of this sort of simplistic, ignoring-the-introductory-adverbial-clause--the qualifier--thinking.

Heard on "Chuck"

Chuck: I've been thinking.
Casey: Stop that.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/24/09)

You could not discover the limits of the self, even by traveling along every path: so deep a locus does it have.

Hell Hath No Fury

Finally watched last week's "24" (2/16/09) and lo and behold who do I see in a minor role but the Mustard Man, David Fury, an executive producer on the show.

Assessing the "Damages"

A sale on ITunes spurred me to embark on Season Two of Damages, and I am just about caught up. It's certainly on a par with last year's taut and enthralling season. Great additions to the cast: Timothy Olyphant, William Hurt, and SNL's all purpose mimic Darrell Hammond as a creepy hit man.

Damages has some of the oddest episode titles around: take for example "Hey, Mr. Pibb!" (2.4), the title from a moment where Tom Shayes (Tate Donovan) announces his excited discovery of his favorite soft drink at a vending machine in West Virginia.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/23/09)

Where is your authentic body? You are the only one who can never see yourself except as an image; you never use your eyes unless they are dulled by the gaze they rest upon in the mirror or the lens (I am interested in seeing my eyes only when they look at you): even and especially for your own body, you are condemned to the repertoire of its images.
--Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes

Painting of the Week (2/23/09)

Goya, Saturn Devouring His Children

From "Australia" to "New Zealand" (During the Oscars)

I liked Hugh Jackman's joke that, because of the economic downturn, next year he will have to settle for making New Zealand instead of Australia.

Roland Burris (Heard on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me")

Talking about Roland Burris' defense this week that he had done nothing wrong in raising money for his benefactor Gov. Rod B because he had not succeeded, Peter Sagal came up with the slogan for his 2010 run for the Senate (should he survive): Roland Burris: Too Incompetent to be Corrupt!

Whither Conan

Ben Mathis-Lilley explains why we needn't worry about Conan's move to The Tonight Show in Slate.

I for one can't wait. After being a strong Leno fan prior to his taking over the reigns from Johnny Carson, I have come to pretty much loathe his crude humor. "Crude," you ask? The Oxford American Dictionary tells us that one of the meanings of the word is of course:

(of language, behavior, or a person) offensively coarse or rude, esp. in relation to sexual matters: a crude joke. See note at rude.

But when I call Leno "crude" this is the meaning I intend:

constructed in a rudimentary or makeshift way : a relatively crude nuclear weapon.
• (of an action) showing little finesse or subtlety and as a result unlikely to succeed : the measure was condemned by economists as crude and ill-conceived.

Conan is ingenious. Leno is crude.

"ST: TNG" (In Your Dreams)

I awoke this morning from a dream in which I was watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (of course I didn't know it was my mindscreen until I was conscious).

It was a compilation episode in which Dr. Crusher is reviewing previous medical cases on The Enterprise, with clips of each examinee (I can recall Wharf, Deanna Troi, Riker, Spock, Chekhov, Kirk) making up the bulk of the show (with Crusher's "present day" commentary).

Extremely odd, particularly since I was never even a fan of the series and have only seen maybe a dozen episodes.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/22/09)

In time, only those things last
which have not been in time.
--Jorge Luis Borges, "Quince Monedas"

The Dollhouseverse within the Whedonverses

TWoP offers a suggestive slide show establishing the ancestors/homologues of the characters on Dollhouse.

"Home is Where You Hang Your Holster"

I just finished writing an essay to be included in a forthcoming University of Wales Press book (edited by Stephen Lacey and Ruth McElroy) on the British version of Life on Mars. My assignment was to assess the American version, and I was not especially kind to it, nor should I have been. Despite its early promise, it has failed to live up to its potential and pretty much pales by comparison to the BBC original.

But this week's episode, "Home is Where You Hang Your Holster," was one of the best of the season. The Annie/Ray gender clash (with the introduction of Ray's wife) was exceptional. But most interesting of all was the revelation--in the teaser no less--that someone else in NY, a quite progressive city councilman, claims to be from the present--from Barack Obama's America ("He won!" Sam responds to the news from 2009 [his time trip began in 2008 of course])--and that he has no idea how, after a blow to the head, he ended up in 1973. Before Sam can find out what Councilman Prince meant when he claimed he had figured out how to return home, he is, of course, murdered.

Annie discovers, BTW, that the victim has a blackboard with a list almost identical to Sam's: Coma, Drug-Trip, Time Travel, Different Planet, Extra-Terrestrial, Mind Experiment, Heaven, Insanity, Brain Tumor, Virtual Reality, Multi-Dimensional Travel, ?--which stands for everything he hasn’t thought of yet.

Was this a hint of the totally different mythos LoMUSA's makers claimed to be governed by?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/21/09)

How did people live in the old days, how did they eat, how did they drink, how did they sleep? . . . We have no idea how our parents lived. When they tell us about it, when they take us with them into the past, we are amazed; we hear of a world in which everything was different. . . . What our grandparents tell us is even stranger, at least if we try to understand what their story contains. "There were no cars"; that is all right; but let us not have the idea that we understand what this simple information, this fact, implies. A city without cars is radically foreign to us, as foreign as a wagon rumbling on the main street with the driver asleep in the back . . . . the past cannot come to us because there are no points of contact, no similarities. Discontinuity permits no communication.
--J. H. van Den Berg, The Changing Nature of Man

"Lost" Questions Without Answers Yet

Lost Questions Without Answers Yet

I invite your additions, corrections, subtractions. I will update this list here (part of the website for my Lost course at MTSU).

What did Kate do with Aaron prior to boarding Ajira 316?

Abaddon, Matthew
Who is Matthew Abaddon? Who does he work for?

Adam and Eve
Who are Adam and Eve?

Is anyone else (in addition to Richard Alpert) ageless?

Ajira Airways 316
Did Ajira 316 crash?

Ajira Airways 316 Passengers
How did Hurley know to be on the Ajira flight?
Why was Sayid under arrest on the Ajira flight?
How did Jack, Kate, and Hurley get from Ajira 316 to The Island?

Alpert, Richard
Why is Richard Alpert ageless?

What became of Annie at the time of the purge?

Black Rock, The
What happened to the crew of The Black Rock?
Why did Widmore purchase the log of The Black Rock?

Cabin, The
What is the cabin?
How does the cabin move?

Campbell, Brother
How does Brother Campbell know Mrs. Hawking?

Christian Shephard
Why does Christian Shephard serve as Jacob’s mouthpiece?

Is Claire alive?

What did Desmond do that landed him in an army prison?
Was Desmond’s stranding on The Island somehow purposeful?

DHARMA Initiative, The
Who ordered the extermination of The DHARMA Initiative?

Ethan Rom
Why was Ethan Rom visiting Juliet’s sister in Miami?

Explosion of Oceanic 815’s Engine
Was Smokezilla involved in the explosion of the engine on the beach in the pilot?

Fake Wreckage
Was the fake wreckage of Oceanic 815 created by Ben or Widmore?

Faraday, Daniel
Why was Widmore funding Daniel Faraday’s research?
Why was Daniel Faraday at The Orchid the day the Frozen Donkey Wheel was discovered?
Why does Daniel Faraday cry when he first learns of the discovery of the Oceanic 815 wreckage?

Four-Toed Statue
What was the significance of the four-toed statue?

Four-Toed Footprint
Is a four-toed footprint visible at the end of "This Place is Death"

Frozen Donkey Wheel, The
How does the Frozen Donkey Wheel “move” The Island?

Gale, Henry
Who was (was there a real) Henry Gale?

H-Bomb, The
Was The H-Bomb buried under the Swan Hatch?

Hawking, Mrs. Eloise
Why (how) was Mrs. Hawking in the jewelry store when Desmond came to buy Penny’s ring?
Was Mrs. Hawking on The Island as a young girl (Ellie in “Jughead”)?
How does Mrs. Hawking know Brother Campbell?

Hostiles, The
What is the origin of The Hostiles?

Hurley Bird
What is the Hurley Bird? Is it connected in any way with Smokezilla?

What causes the infertility of The Island’s residents?

Island 6, The (Sawyer, Daniel, Charlotte (later Jin), Miles, Juliet, Locke)
Who is shooting at The Island 6 from a pursuing canoe?

Jack’s Grandfather
Is Jack’s Grandfather really Jack?

Who/what is he?
Why does Jacob need John Locke’s help?

Jarrah, Sayid
Who were the individuals Sayid was assassinating at Ben’s command?

How did Jin become part of the DHARMA Initiative?

Juliet’s Husband’s Death
Was the death of Juliet’s husband—hit by a bus—arranged?

Lapidus, Frank
Was Frank Lapidus piloting Ajira 316 on purpose?

Lewis, Charlotte Staples
How/when/why did Charlotte leave The Island?
Was Charlotte Ben’s childhood friend Annie?

Why was Libby in the same mental hospital with Hurley?

Linus, Benjamin
What business did Benjamin Linus have in Tunisia?
Why did Ben have so many passports?
Can Ben (how can Ben) control Smokezilla?
How does Ben know Mrs. Hawking?

Locke’s Father
How did Ben bring The Man from Tallahassee (Locke’s father) to The Island?

Malkin, Charlotte
Was Charlotte Malkin’s “resurrection” really a miracle?

What is the mind-control technique being used on a reluctant Carl in Room 23?

Oceanic 815
Were the original passengers of Oceanic 815 somehow purposely selected?

Others, The
How are they (Richard Alpert, Ben, Tom, Ethan) able to come and go from The Island so easily and frequently?

Polar Bears
Why was a polar bear with a DHARMA tag in Tunisia

Rousseau’s Expedition
Was Rousseau’s expedition involved with DHARMA?
What was the nature of the “infection” plaguing Rousseau’s expedition?
What happened when Rousseau’s expedition (minus Rousseau) descended into the well to rescue Montand from Smokezilla?

Why are The Others building a runway?

Simon’s Butcher Shop
Who are the people running the butcher shop in LA where Locke’s body is stored?

Why is Smokezilla’s home in the well near The Temple?
Why does Smokezilla make a mechanical sound—like a roller coaster?
How can Smokezilla “read” people’s memories and incorporate them holographically into its substance?

Spencer, Theresa
What caused Theresa Spencer’s comatose state?

Strohm, Miles
Was Miles on The Island before? Is he the son of Pierre Chang?
Why was Miles recruited for the Kahana team?
What is the origin/cause of Miles’ ability to communicate with the dead?

Why is Sun proficient with weapons?

Surveillance of Ben and Jack
Who is supplying Sun with the surveillance of Ben and Jack?

Temple, The
What exactly is The Temple? Why is it located adjacent to the The Orchid Hatch and Frozen Donkey Wheel?
Why does Ben believe The Temple is the only safe place on The Island when the attack on The Island commences?

The Island
How can The Island control people off The Island?

The Others’ Lists
What was the basis for the lists The Others kept of individuals they wished to take?

Why (apparently) is one of Thomas’ paintings hanging on the wall of Widmore’s office.
Why (apparently) does The Swan Hatch mural resemble Thomas’ paintings?

Who is susceptible to the Time-Sickness?

Why was there a polar bear in Tunisia?
Why was Charlotte Staples Lewis in Tunisia?
What was Benjamin Linus’ business in Tunisia?

What is the nature of Walt’s specialness? Why are The Others interested in him?

What causes the whispers heard on the island?

Widmore, Charles
Why does Widmore consider The Island to be his?
Can Widmore be killed? (Ben implies that he cannot).
Who was Widmore’s wife (Penny’s mother)?
Why did Widmore’s leave The Island?
Why does Widmore have a painting of a polar bear on the wall of his office?
Why does Widmore have a painting of Thomas’ (Aaron’s father) on the wall of his office?
What is Widmore’s connection with Mr. Paik?
Why does Widmore hate Ben Linus?
How does Widmore know Ben Linus?

Widmore, Penelope
Was Penny’s meeting of Desmond at the Eddington Monastery arranged?
How did Penny know Desmond would be found where an electromagnetic anomaly was detected?

"How I Met Your Mother" Music Videos

Here are both of the Robin Sparkles music videos from HIMYM.

"Let's Go to the Mall":

"Sandcastles in the Sand":


I like this word, garnered from a Season Three episode ("Sandcastles in the Sand") of How I Met Your Mother.

It means the tendency to return to outdated modes of behavior from one's past when in the presence of an old friend/boy friend/girl friend.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/20/09)

The common end of all narrative, nay, of all, Poems is . . . to make those events which in real or imagined History move on in a strait Line, assume to our Understanding a circular motion the snake with its Tail in its Mouth.
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Jack: How can you read?
Ben: My mother taught me.

In thinking about last night's latest mind-boggling installment, it's important to remember what Darlton told us earlier in regard to the title (which everyone seems to think is only a reference to John 3:16).

Ben's in-air reading material is, of course, James Joyce's masterpiece. (Recall, too, that Fionnula Flanigan starred in James Joyce's Women.)

No doubt about it: the Christian themes are strong in this one (Locke = Christ; Jack = Doubting Thomas), but so, too, is the Odyssean/Ulysses thread as the Oceanic 6 (- Aaron) try to find their way back home, and Odysseus himself, Desmond, is told by Mrs. H. that The Island isn't through with him yet. (For more on Lost and Homer's Odyssey, see Lost's Buried Treasures.) Is that Penny's blood on Ben?--the result of keeping that promise (to kill his daughter) to an old friend (Charles Widmore).

Two more screen captures: Locke's suicide letter to Jack:

And the cover of Hurley's comic book (Y: The Last Man--in Spanish--by Lost's own Brian K. Vaughan).

BTW: Another Ben lie: his mother died in childbirth.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/19/09)

We have not ended rainfall or sunlight; in fact, rainfall and sunlight may become more important forces in our lives. . . . But the meaning of the wind, the sun, the rain—of nature—has already changed. yes, the wind still blows,—but no longer from some other sphere, some inhuman place.
--Bill McKibben, The End of Nature

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/18/09)

Our age is characterized by a variety of generalizing theories, each of which is applied to everything in the universe except itself, and each of which would fall to the ground if it were so applied since it at once becomes apparent that it has been busy sawing off the only possible branch on which it could have been sitting.
--Owen Barfield

Burger King Kong

Preparing to teach the original King Kong today in my film history class, this creepy BK ad came to mind:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/17/09)

After I returned from my survival test, the two old people trained me in dragon ways, which took another eight years. Copying the tigers, their stalking kill and their anger, had been a wild, bloodthirsty joy. Tigers are easy to find, but I needed adult wisdom to know dragons. "You have to infer the whole dragon from the parts you can see and touch," the old people would say. Unlike tigers, dragons are so immense, I would never see one in its entirety. But I could explore the mountains, which are the top of its head. "These mountains are also like the tops of other dragons' heads," the old people would tell me. When climbing the slopes, I could understand that I was a bug riding on a dragon's forehead as it roams through space, its speed so different from my speed that I feel the dragon solid and immobile. In quarries I could see its strata, the dragon's veins and muscles; the minerals, its teeth and bone. I could touch the stones the old woman wore its bone marrow. I had worked the soil, which is its flesh, and harvested the plants and climbed the trees, which are its hairs. I could listen to its voice in the thunder and feel its breathing in the winds, see its breathing in the clouds. Its tongue is the lightning. And the red that the lightning gives to the world is strong and lucky in blood, poppies, roses, rubies, the red feathers of birds, the red carp, the cherry tree, the peony, the line alongside the turtle's eyes and the mallard's. In the spring when the dragon awakes, I watched its turnings in the rivers.

The closest I came to seeing a dragon whole was when the old people cut away a small strip of bark on a pine that was over three thousand years old. The resin underneath flows in the swirling shapes of dragons.
--Maxine Hong Kingston, Woman Warrior

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Stupid Republicans!

The wonderful SNL piece everybody is talking about (can't find the embed code).

Moments like this recall SNL's golden years.

Painting of the Week (2/16/09)

Franz Marc, The Fate of the Animals

Quote of the Day (2/16/09)

What will be the physiognomy of painting, of poetry, of music, in a hundred years? No one can tell. As after the fall of Athens, of Rome, a long pause will intervene, caused by the exhaustion of consciousness itself. Humanity, to rejoin the past, must invent a second naiveté, without which the arts can never begin again.
--E. M. Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born

Accepting Darwin

Andrew Sullivan presents a fascinating chart (from Pew) showing acceptance of Darwinism by religious affiliation.

As a long-time follower of Owen Barfield, my own view is complex. Here's the entry on Darwinism from my Encyclopedia Barfieldiana.

Clean Slate

Adelle DeWitt: We can offer you a clean slate.
Echo: Did you ever try to clean an actual slate? You always see what was on it before.
--"Ghost," Dollhouse 1.1

Having now watched the series premier for a 2nd time, I find the most striking thing about it the relative lack of Whedonian signatures. Perhaps Heather Havrilesky is right in suspecting that FOX is scrubbing Whedon's series of all his usual cult-engendering eccentricity.

But the slate cannot be wiped entirely clean. "You can always see what was on it before," as Dushku/Echo insists in the opening scene: the most Whedonian line in the entire script and a meta-commentary on Whedon's pact with the devil in making this show.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/15/09)

Rabbi Mendel once boasted to his teacher Rabbi Elimelekh that evenings he saw the angel who rolls away the light before the darkness, and mornings the angel who rolls away the darkness before the light. "Yes," said Rabbi Elimelekh, "in my youth I saw that too. Later on you don't see these things any more."
--Martin Buber

Cameron and Echo

A FOX promo selling T:SCC and Dollhouse by promoting their babes:

Another Read of "No Exit"

Marc Bernardin offers his take on last night's pivotal BSG episode.

"No Exit"

Welcome to the last act of the last season of the very best TV show of all time, and here's your Dramamine.
--Jacob (TWoP)

Last night's "return of Ellen Tigh" Battlestar was much anticipated, so the possibility of being disappointed was strong indeed.

That it turned out to be so extraordinary, revealing as it did so much of the backstory of the Cylons, so much about the hows and whys of resurrection in parallel dialogues between Anders (the bullet in his brain causing disgorgement of his, and his kind's, memory) and the other Final Fivers on board and Cavil and a resurrected-just-for-his-sadistic-needs Ellen; that it probed, as only SF can, into philosophical anthropology--these would have distinguished it from all that came before--on BSG and/or TV.

But that it was directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton. directing her first ever BSG and written by Battlestar's script coordinator Ryan Mottesheard, authoring his first (first!) television episode . . . it's a miracle! Does Ron Moore know how to delegate or what?

Chris Dahlen's discerning take on The Onion TV Club can be found here. Jacob's (TWoP) is here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/14/09)

If fire is lighted in water
How is it to be extinguished?
If the fear comes from the protector
Who is there to protect you from this fear?

"Slate" Raves Over "Dollhouse"

Troy Patterson liked it a lot.

Entering the "Dollhouse"

Have just seen the first episode, and I thought it was terrific. So many of the early reviewers characterized it as promising but "imperfect." Only Heather Havrilesky got it right by pinpointing its biggest problem as its FOX-driven, atypically-Whedonesque perfection:

[I]t would also be nice if Dollhouse proved to be a mega-hit, enabling Whedon to pick and choose his projects (and his network collaborators) henceforth. The show may already have more than its share of fan sites (Watching Dollhouse and Dollverse, to name just a few), but then, if nerdy fans ruled the earth, the current TV lineup would include Cop Rock, Wonderfalls, Deadwood, Lando Calrissian's Nuage Lounge and Buffy XXV: Spawn of Xander. Maybe a sprinkling of Fox's sensibility is just what Whedon needs to reach the Twilight-suckling mainstream.

So if you Buffy fans feel slightly disappointed on Friday night, remember Paul's words: "Nobody has everything they want. If you have everything, you want something else. Something more extreme. Something more specific. Something perfect." If the fates cooperate, Dollhouse will be on the air long enough to evolve from something shiny and extreme to what Whedon and an unwieldy gaggle of fans want it to be: something more specific. Something clever and layered. Something perfect.

Four-Toed Footprint on "Lost"?

Somewhere online I read a post claiming to have seen a large footprint near the temple in "This Place is Death." Is this it? (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

David Axelrod Tells the Bushies to Fuck Off (More Politely)

You know, the last thing that I think we're looking for at this juncture is advice on fiscal integrity or ethics from Karl Rove. I've never seen anything really like it . . . [former White House chief of staff] Andy Card saying that we were somehow denigrating the presidency because people were wearing short sleeves in the Oval Office. We're wearing short sleeves because we have to roll up our sleeves and clean up the mess that we inherited.

Watch the video here.

"It Could Be Worse"

Colbert talks about the crisis in Iceland and reveals that the Canadian PM is a lesbian:

Whedon Talks "Dollhouse"

The day before his new series debuts, Joss talks to Fresh Air on NPR.

A terrifically insightful review of Dollhouse by Heather Havrilesky (on Salon). And David Bianculli (who did the Fresh Air interview) is optimistic as well.

A Worried Daniel Faraday

Rewatching Season Five of Lost up to this point this AM, and I noticed (for the first time) that when, at the end of "Because You Left" the I6 stand outside the Swan Hatch and Juliet simplistically explains its function (108 minutes, save the world, yada yada), director Stephen Williams cuts to Daniel Faraday's very worried face. The look has, I now think, special significance.

In "Jughead" we learn that Daniel had suggested to the hostiles--to the woman who is most likely his future mother, Ellie/Eloise--that the inconvenient, leaking radiation H-Bomb will need to be buried in concrete and lead, under, say, the Dharma Swan Station, as others Lostphiles have already noted.

"Lost" Continuity

In my Lost class yesterday we watched "The Other 48 Days" from Season Two. I found the showdown between Ana-Lucia and Goodwin especially gripping. (I had not seen the episode since Goodwin had been fleshed out a bit more in Season Four's "The Other Woman.")

Ana-L and Goodwin talk about the knife she carries, found in The Arrow Station. It's US Army issue, perhaps 20 years old, she explains.

It didn't mean a lot to me at the time (11/16/2005), but now, after the recent revelation in "Jughead" (1/28/09) that the US Army had been on the island--in 1954--to conduct an H Bomb test, we realize just how sharp Ana-L had been (well, she was off by thirty years on the age of the blade, but . . .).

And how meticulous Darlton and company are in their pipe laying. They must have known "Jughead" was on the horizon. Just how far ahead not yet determined in 2005--back when Lost's duration was TBA.

TV's Next Trend

According to Michael Hirschorn in The Atlantic, it will be "cheesy."

Movies I've Seen

Since I returned from London, I have seen the following movies via mail-order DVD rental:

Angels in America
Bank Job, The
Batman: Gotham Knight
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The
Cottage, The
Darwin Awards, The
Death Race
Deja Vu
Diary of the Dead
District B13
Eye, The
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Funny Games
Futurama: Beast with a Billion Backs
Get Smart
Gone Baby Gone
Happening, The
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo
Horton Hears a Who
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Joan of Arcadia: The First Season
John Adams
Journey to the Center of Earth 2D and 3D
Kung Fu Panda
Little Children
Lost Room, The
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Mist, The
Mother of Tears
Mr. Brooks
No End in Sight
Onion Movie, The
Orphanage, The
Perfect Creature
Pineapple Express, The
Ruins, The
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Strangers, The
Talk to Me
Taxi to the Dark Side
Visitor, The
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Darwin at 200

Recommended reading on Darwin's 200th: Howard Gruber's great study of his creative process.

And then there's this--from The Onion:

Evolutionists Flock To Darwin-Shaped Wall Stain

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bill Forsyth

I found myself thinking recently about the Scottish director Bill Forsyth, who for a brief time in the 1980s seemed to be well on his way to becoming one of the great directors. Gregory's Girl, Local Hero, Housekeeping--these were all great films. His decline--after coming to America to work--and eventual disappearance from the scene is one of movie art's saddest stories.

I gave a paper about him twenty years ago. Senses of Cinema has a good piece on him here.

Quote of the Day (2/13/09)

To destroy a city, a state, an empire even, is an essentially finite act; but to attempt the total annihilation, the liquidation of so ubiquitous but theoretically or ideologically defined an entity as a social class or racial abstraction is quite another, and one impossible even in conception to a mind not conditioned to Western habits of thought. Here is a truly Faustian ambition to transform by physical action not merely the earth, but the qualities of the creatures who dwell upon it, an ambition related to the modern quest for the breaking down of mountains, the escape from the bounds of the earth, the control and reform of human genetics, the manipulation of life itself all of them ambitions which, before this century, were the dark matter of myth and necromancy.
--Stillman and Pfaff, The Politics of Hysteria

Fionnula Flanagan

With Mrs. Hawking's not-all-that-surprising return to Lost last night, I found myself thinking about Fionnula Flanagan. I met her once--at a conference at the University of Virginia on Irish film, back in the mid 1990s (just before I went to Dublin to teach a class on Irish film for CCSA). Before Lost, she was perhaps best known for a memorable role (with Nikole Kidman) in The Others.

But my real introduction to FF was in James Joyce's Women (1985), where she played six different real and imaginary Joycian females, including Ulysses' Molly Bloom. It was FF (that's her on the video's cover) who did the famous Bloom soliloquy; FF who did perhaps the most memorable masturbation scene in cinema. Here's what the sole online review in the IMDB says about Flangian's role in the film:

She wrote and produced this film about six women in James Joyce's life: three fictional characters plus his wife, his benefactress and his publisher. Her involvement didn't stop there. Fionnula wanted to represent the Joycean universe correctly, so she played all six characters herself, and delivered close to 90% of the spoken words in this film. It is more or less one of those "one woman shows".

Fionnula did not shy away from the controversial parts of Ulysses. Quite to the contrary, she went right after the juiciest in-your-face material. The centerpiece of the film is Molly's masturbation, the filmed version of which must occupy about 20 uninterrupted minutes of screen time. The entire scene, including finger-to-genital contact, is pictured on camera. This is an extraordinary moment in cinema, because the naked woman playing with her privates in front of you is not a B-movie starlet, a stripper, a porno star, or a fading movie queen making a final grasp for attention, but a legitimate classical actress, ala Dame Edith Evans or Meryl Streep. Since she is an excellent actress and a natural looking woman, the scene creates the impression that we are actually watching a woman masturbate, and that she is unaware of our presence.

BTW, when we met in Charlottesville I told her that, in the middle of the first decade of the new century, she would be offered a role in an American television series and strongly encouraged her to take it. Time has a way of self-correcting.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Formula 40-Woof, for Bitches

Appalled that he did not win the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and especially pissed that a poodle engendered from frozen sperm had won its division, Stephen Colbert announced last night that he was extending the availability of his man-seed to the canine population.

Quote of the Day (2/12/09)

Where does Nixon’s fictional self-creation end and the historical figure begin? Can such a distinction be made about a man who watches the movies Patton for the third or fourth time and then orders an invasion of Cambodia meant to destroy the Vietcong Pentagon, which he told us was there, but which has never been found?

No wonder anyone who cares about politics now finds the claims made for literature by most critics ridiculously presumptuous. Why should literature be considered the primary source of fictions, when fictions are produced at every press conference; why should novelists or dramatists be called "creative" when we have Rusk and NcNamara and Kissinger, the mothers of invention, "reporting" on the war in Vietnam?
--Richard Poirier, The Performing Self

The Muzak Ends

The Muzak Corporation announced today that it is filing for bankruptcy.

"Moozak,""the audio-analgesia," the "embalming fluid" of "earthly boredom"--as R. Murray Schafter unforgettably deemed it in The Tuning of the World . . . how will we live without it?


For three seasons, the flashback was a staple of Lost narrativity. Then, in the misleading final episode of Season Three, the flashforward was introduced (hinted at, anagramatically, in the name of that funeral home [pictured], as the hyper-attentive discerned before Jack proclaimed "We have to go back!").

Now, on Entertainment Weekly's "Totally Lost," we hear a call (facetious--I think) for the show to implement "flashpresents." Well, if any work of imagination could come up with such a "narrative special effect" (Jason Mittel) it would be Lost.

Heard on "The Colbert Report"

Last night's "Word" made mention of the Republican Party's possible addiction to "Bill Kristol Meth."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Frak (Frack?) the Mirror

I heard about this when I was in the UK: Adama's shaving mirror on Battlestar Galactica (shown) was purchased at a Vancouver IKEA.

The name of the mirror, of course: FRÄCK.

The "Mother" of All Sitcoms

Have watched, now, two seasons of How I Met Your Mother, and this just might be my all-time favorite sitcom. The writing is consistently superb, the performances stellar, the sitcosmos (David Marc's term) rich and inviting, the directing--almost all (73 of 77 episodes to date) by Pamela Fryman (television's most prolific woman director?)--consistent and accomplished. Neil Patrick Harris' Barney Stinson is one of the great comic creations.

ON the DVD box, HIMYM is described (by The LA Times) as "like Seinfeld with feeling." That captures it precisely. Seinfeld's motto, recall, was "no hugging, no learning." There's lots of hugging on HIMYM and some learning, and it's often very sweet and romantic, but it's "dark and disturbed" too, and more than a little raunchy (I continue to marvel at the risque business of contemporary American television!).

Quote of the Day (2/11/09)

The hero whose attachment to ego is already annihilated passes back and forth across the horizons of the world, in and out of the dragon, as readily as a king through all the rooms of his house. And therein lies his power to save; for his passing and returning demonstrate that through all the contraries of phenomenality the Uncreate-Imperishable remains and there is nothing to fear.
--Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

"Television's Most 'Incredible' Series"

At the end of tonight's episode of Fringe we were told (a surprise to me) that "television's most incredible series will be back in April."

Bad Robot has a history with that word "incredible" and might want to use it more cautiously. Here's what I said about Alias in Stacey Abbott and Simon Brown's completely credible book.

Complete Sopranity (All "The Sopranos" Profanity End to End)

We owe Victor Solomon a fucking goddamn huge debt. Next challenge for the cocksucker: Deadwood.

the sopranos, uncensored. from victor solomon on Vimeo.

Tip of the hat to Mark Barrett and Huffington Post.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/10/09)

Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.
--Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logicus Philosophicus

Hurley Explains It All

I was never really clear on that.

In “The Lie,” the second episode of Season Five of Lost, Hurley, the fan-favorite, obese, perpetually “Dude”-ing lottery millionaire and Oceanic 815 survivor, tries to tell his mother the true story of the series so far:

Okay… See, we did crash. But it was on this crazy island. I mean, we waited for rescue, and there wasn’t a rescue. And there was a smoke monster. And then there were other people on the island—we called them the Others, and they started attacking us. And we found some hatches and there was a button you had to push every 108 minutes or—well, I was never really clear on that—but the Others didn’t have anything to do with the hatches, that was the Dharma Initiative. They were all dead—the Others killed them. And now they’re trying to kill us. And then we teamed up with the Others because some worse people were coming on a freighter. Desmond’s girlfriend’s father sent them to kill us. So we stole their helicopter and we flew it to their freighter, but it blew up. And we couldn’t go back to the island because it disappeared. So then we crashed into the ocean, and we floated there for a while, until a boat came and picked us up. And by then there were six of us. That part was true. But the rest of the people who were on the plane . . they’re still on that island.

Sitting across the kitchen table, his mother looks on incredulously, and then assures her son that even though she does not understand him she does believe him. It is often noted that Hurley is a kind of audience surrogate, and here he speaks for many when he admits "I was never really clear on that" [the button pushing in the Swan Hatch].

Any one who has tried to describe to a novice one of the “hyperdiegetic” (Matt Hills' term in Fan Cultures) television series now so common on the small screen, including, of course, Lost, will identify with the challenge facing Hurley.

Here I am at the beginning of the introduction to my book on Twin Peaks (Full of Secrets):

The End
On February 15, 1991, the American Broadcasting Corporation announced that Twin Peaks would be placed on "indefinite hiatus," a move ordinarily resulting in eventual cancellation. That week's episode had ended with the soul of Josie Packard (Joan Chen) entrapped in the knob of a bedside table in the Great Northern Hotel room where she had just shot Thomas Eckhardt (David Warner), the mysterious Hong Kong businessman who had rescued her from a life of prostitution so she might become his love slave, and then died herself, of no apparent cause, while engaged in a gun-to-gun standoff with Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), her secret lover, and Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), the FBI man she had tried to kill in the first season's cliff-hanger finale. The episode--recall, recall 1--that had seen the reappearance of both The Man from Another Place (Michael Anderson), a strange lounge-lizard-dwarf who in a memorable dream sequence in the third episode had, through dance, backward speech, and prediction of resurgent gum sales, invoked unknown powers to help Cooper's unorthodox sleuthing, and BOB (Frank Silva), the mysterious psychopathic being who, while parasitizing since childhood a prominent local lawyer, Leland Palmer (Ray Wise), had raped and murdered Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), the beautiful coke-sniffing, high school homecoming queen whose "first note" dead body, "wrapped in plastic," had generated, in Shoenbergian atonal style, the whole seriatim music of this nighttime soap opera, murder mystery, comedy. . . . )

I am not sure I am any more articulate than Hurley (even with my bigger vocabulary).

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Painting of the Week (2/9/09)

Thomas Eakins, The Agnew Clinic

Quote of the Day (2/9/09)

Levi-Strauss has said that "myth is an act of faith in a science yet unborn," but that point of view is still too close to Frazer; it sees myth as a foreshadowing of something which will be truly known through science. You could just as well say that science is an act of faith in a mythology yet unborn, and that when we truly know the universe of which we are a part, we will see that the way DNA spirals in our cells and the way nebulae turn in space are all related to a particular dance of idea and pattern.
--William Irwin Thompson, Darkness and Scattered Light

Saturday, February 07, 2009

"How I Met Your Mother"

Continuing my sitcom binge, I am two thirds of the way through S1 of HIMYM.

As a huge Alyson Hannigan fan, it's really surprising that I have not been watching this all along. It's tremendous fun. I love the set-up--that each episode, each chapter in a perpetual search for the right one, is being narrated in 2030 by Ted (Josh Radnor) to his put-upon son and daughter.

The episode "Game Night," which fleshes out the backstories of Ted, Marshall, Lilly, Robin, and especially the delightfully obnoxious Barney, is a bit of a masterpiece.

Quote of the Day (2/8/09)

A suggestive analogy is to be seen in the case of the grayling moth, which prefers darker mates to those actually offered by its present species. For if human art can offer to a moth the supernormal sign stimulus to which it responds more eagerly than to the normal offerings of life, it can surely supply supernormal stimuli, also to the IRMs [Innate Releasing Mechanisms] of man and not only spontaneously, in dream and nightmare, but even more brilliantly in the contrived folktales, fairy tales, mythological landscapes, over- and underworlds, temples and cathedrals, pagodas and gardens, dragons, angels, gods, and guardians of popular and religious art. It is true, of course, that the culturally developed formulations of these wonders have required in many cases centuries, even milleniums, to complete. But it is true also . . . that there is a kind of support for the reception of such images in the deja vu of the partially self-shaped and self-shaping mind. In other words, whereas in the animal world the "isomorphs," or inherited stereotypes of the central nervous structure, which for the most part match the natural environment, may occasionally contain possibilities of response unmatched by nature, the world of man, which is now largely the product of our own artifice, represents to a considerable extent, at least an opposite order of dynamics; namely, those of a living nervous structure and controlled response systems fashioning its habitat, and not vice versa; but fashioning it not always consciously, by any means; indeed, for the most part, or at least for a considerable part, fashioning it impetuously, out of its own self-produced images of rage and fear.
Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology

Zombied Austen

I suppose it was inevitable.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/7/09)

It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
--Oscar Wilde

Ellen Tigh, the Swirl, "Seinfeld," and the Final Cylon

I meant to do this post weeks ago, when we learned who the final Cylon was on Battlestar Galactica.

In Finding Battlestar, we wrote the following (in a chapter on intertextuality):

Early in “Precipice,” the back end of Season Three’s two-part premiere, we find Brother Cavil telling Ellen Tigh, post coitus, “That was really something.” “I thought you might like that,” she replies. This time, the notoriously nymphomaniacal Ms. Tigh is not going to the mattresses for her own gratification. Her bedding by the sleazy monotheist is intended to get her husband out of prison, where Saul has already lost an eye to his Cylon torturers. Her sacrifice will soon prove fatal when the XO poisons her in an agonizingly touching scene for betraying the Resistance.

Cavil has a question for his coerced partner, though:

You didn't do the twist this time. What do you call . . . What's that deal you did right at the end? What do you call that?
Ellen: You mean the swirl.

If the well-established Cylon knowledge concerning everything human extended to “terrestrial” television, Cavil might have recognized Ellen’s allusion to a certain sexual technique perfected by the eponymous star of NBC’s megahit Seinfeld (1990-1998). In the Season Six episode “The Fusilli Jerry,” Jerry’s old girlfriend Elaine, who has been sleeping with his mechanic David Putty, reports on their sexual activity:

Elaine: He did the move.
Jerry: What move?
Elaine: You know...the move.
Jerry: Wait a second. My move?
Jerry: David Putty used my move?
Elaine: Yes, yes.

Angry that his move has been stolen, he vows to put an end to the rip-off, but Elaine, hedonistically anxious for her new lover to retain the satisfying technique, seeks to convince Jerry that it is not outright plagiarism:

Elaine: Well, he doesn't even do it exactly the same. He—he—he uses a pinch at the end instead of the swirl!

Already famous for its regendering of Starbuck, Battlestar Galactica has clearly switched sexes in other ways as well, here giving—in an episode written by none other than Ronald D. Moore himself—a woman a move pioneered by a sitcom-man on the far-away, in space and time, home planet both Cylons and humans long to find.

That passage will need to be rewritten if we do another edition of our book. Clearly, the final Cylon, the Colonel's blowsy bride, picked up the move while watching the "too New York, too Jewish" sitcom in her native Big Apple. Presumably, Colonel Tigh, Anders, Tory, and the Chief picked up the "All Along the Watchtower" meme in NY as well.

Schrödinger's Cat Does TV

A famous Gedankenexperiment, the paradox of Schrödinger's cat, was intended to demonstrate that Heisenberg's indeterminancy principle is non-sensical.

In the Coen Brothers' The Man Who Wasn’t There the overbearing lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider explains Heisenberg thus (you can watch the clip after the quote):

They got this guy, in Germany. Fritz something-or-other. Or is it? Maybe it's Werner. Anyway, he's got this theory, you wanna test something, you know, scientifically—how the planets go round the sun, what sunspots are made of, why the water comes out of the tap—well, you gotta look at it. But sometimes, you look at it, your looking “changes” it. Ya can't know the reality of what happened, or what “would've” happened if you hadden a stuck in your goddamn schnozz. So there “is” no “what happened.” Not in any sense that we can grasp with our puny minds. Because our minds . . . our minds get in the way. Looking at something changes it. They call it the “Uncertainty Principle.” Sure, it sounds screwy, but even Einstein says the guy's on to something.

Heisenberg was anxious to show that this made no kind of sense and offered his Is-He-Alive-or-Is-He-Dead? feline as reductio ad absurdum evidence.

That Greg Bear would write "Schrödinger's Plague"--a diabolical SF short story in which a pissed-off mad scientist concocts an experiment using the paradox which may, or may not, wipe out the human race--would probably not have surprised the German physicist. But I doubt he dreamed that his cat would show up on the small screen.

I want to write a whole piece on this one day, but for now I will point out two TV manifestations of Schrödinger's cat:

1. "Perfect Cercles," the first episode of Season Three of Six Feet Under, in which Nate Fisher, either alive or dead after brain surgery, must open his own closed coffin in order to determine his state--this after he looks on, in one of his possible realities, as a redneck version of himself watches a soap opera with a character named Schrödinger! (The episode was directed by the son of Magic Realism's patriarch: Rodrigo Garcia.)

2. And the final episode of The Big Bang Theory has a running Schrödinger's Paradox joke at the core of its first date humor.

"Big Bang Theory"

Have just finished watching, in large chunks, Season one of The Big Bang Theory, inspired after watching a single episode of Season Two a few weeks ago.

A classic sitcom, but one of the smartest shows around. (We learn in the "making of" documentary on the DVD set that they have an actual particle physicist as a consultant to make sure they get all the string theory jokes right.) A conversation between neighbors is a given of the form, from I Love Lucy to Seinfeld, but this must be the first time that one announces "I need your opinion on a matter of semiotics."

The supporting cast, in particular "Moist" from Dr. Horrible (Simon Helberg) is just wonderful.

"The Hero in the Hull"

Last night's Bones was superb. Any Grave Digger episode is always exciting, but the idea of having Booth locked up inside of a decommissioned ship with a young man (or his ghost?) he had seen die in battle years before was ingenious. That the Grave Digger was caught, Bones and Booth embraced, the ghost turned out to be the source for the name of Booth's son, Parker, and Parker-the-spectre talked to the logical positivist Ms. Brennan at the very end--these were all cherries on top of one of the series' finest hour.

Zap2It's reviewer pretty much hated the episode.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/6/09)

The angle of man is necessarily inconducive to the higher thoughts. Walking, as we do, at right angles with the earth, we are prevented from looking, as much as we should, at the legendary sky above us and the only-a-little-bit-more possible ground under us. We can only (without effort) look in front of us and around us; we can look only at things that are between the earth and sky, and are much in the position of a reader of books who can look only at the middles of pages and never without effort the tops and bottoms. We see what we imagine to be a tree, but we see only a part of the tree; what the insects under the earth see when they look upwards at the tree, what the stars see when they look downwards at the tree, is left to our imagination. And perhaps the materialist can be called the man who believes in the part of the tree he sees, & the spiritualist a man who believes in a lot more of the tree than is within his sight. Think how much wiser we would be if it were possible for us to change our angles of perspective as regularly as we change our vests.
--Dylan Thomas

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/5/09)

Aristotle is a skeleton.
--Wallace Stevens, "Adagia"

"Lost" and "LoM"

I was fascinated by an ad ABC ran tonight explicitly linking Lost and its new schedule mate Life on Mars. LoM, too, is about being "lost" on a mysterious island, we are told, and indeed Manhattan is mysterious for Sam Tyler, enigmatically time-displaced there in 1973 from his customary 2008.

As I have noted before, the makers of the BBC original insisted they never wanted to become a series like Lost, nor could they, given their total duration of 16 episodes. But LoMUSA on the other hand could dream of nothing better than to replicate its new lead in, as this new "drafting on its more successful companion text" ad now makes plain.

The ratings, which show LoM losing a sizeable chunk of the Lost-earned audience, would seem to indicate it might not work.

"The Little Prince"

Well well. Initial thoughts . . .

Jin is alive! But back in time like everybody else, washed ashore where he is discovered by, OMG, a pregnant Rousseau! (I guess Ben was telling Keamy the truth: Alex was not his!)

But Ben was manipulating Kate to go on the run again (back to The Island) by ordering blood tests (and using the same lawyer to spring Hurley from jail).

Sun still wants to kill Ben (presumably for bringing about her husband's death), but if she would only watch the show she would know now that he's alive.

Meanwhile, the time-trippers are all bleeding away (all but Ocean 815 survivors like Sawyer and Locke--and incongruously Daniel), and Daniel's suggestion to Miles that psychic-boy may have been on the island before, seems to indicate that the time-illness may only affect those who have a long-standing relationship to the island (except Daniel, who has been doing time-tripping for a long time now--as in his visit during the discovery of the frozen donkey wheel in the S5 debut's pre-credit sequence). But those long-boats the time-trippers used, and were chased in . . . who were those folk?

Christian Bale (Another View)

Salon offers a different, much more sympathetic, take on the man who is Batman and will be John Connor than we have been getting this past week.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Quote of the Day (2/4/09)

An atheist may be simply one whose faith and love are concentrated on the impersonal aspects of God.
--Simone Weil

Colbert Argues Against Equal Pay for Women

And in so going makes the reductio ad absurdum case for it. A masterpiece of twisted logic.