Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quote of the Day (7/1/09) (Wendell Berry Week)

In the Western tradition of individualism there is the assumption that art can grow out of a personal or a cultural disease, and triumph over it. I no longer believe that. It is related to the idea that a man achieves personal immortality in a work of art, which I also no longer believe. Though I believe that the liveliest art is suffused with the energy of the creation, and in that sense participates in immortality. I do not believe that any work of art is immortal any more than I believe that a grove of trees or a nation is immortal. A man cannot be immortal except by saving his soul, and he cannot save his soul except by freeing his body and mind from the destructive forces of his history. A work of art that grows out of a diseased culture has not only the limits of art but the limits of the disease; if it is not an affirmation of the disease, it is a reaction against it. The art of a man divided within himself and against his neighbors, no matter how sophisticated its techniques or how beautiful its form and textures, will never have the communal power of the simplest tribal song.
Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound


Keith Olbermann cautions that Al Franken is not the first comedian elected to Congress but rather the first professional comedian.

Getting Away with It (in the Wake of Michael Jackson's Death)

Commenting on how unlucky Mark Sanford was--confessing to his Argentinian tryst the day before Jackson died, Stephen Colbert decides the time time has come to do the unconscionable and get away with it. (Love the wig.)

The Palin Pregnancy

Reading Andrew Sullivan reading Purdum, and reviewing his continued doubts about the bizarre facts of Palin's Trig pregnancy, was a trip down memory lane.

I am not normally conspiratorial, but let me go on the record here on Sullivan's side in this debate. I have not read or heard a word to persuade me that her version of the birth makes one iota of sense.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/30/09) ("Art" Week)

Works of art always spring from those who have faced the danger, gone to the very end of an experience, to the point beyond which no human being can go.
--Rainer Maria Rilke

To All My E-mail Correspondents . . .

SomeEcards says it better than I ever could.

"It Came from Wasilla"

Todd Purdum's exhaustive examination of the Palin in Vanity Fair.

One of my favorite lines:

Palin’s life has sometimes played out like an unholy amalgam of Desperate Housewives and Northern Exposure.

Center Court

So beauty gets center court treatment at Wimbledon?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Painting of the Week (6/29/09)

Brueghel, Peasant Wedding

Quote of the Day (6/29/09) ("Art" Week)

Art explains; entertainment exploits. Art is freedom from the conditions of memory; entertainment is conditional on a present that is conditioned by the past. Entertainment gives us what we want. Art gives us what we don't know we want.
--Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema

Billy Mays!

First Ed McMahon. Then Farrah. Then Michael. Now Billy Mays! How are we to endure such losses?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/28/09) ("Art" Week)

Art grows out of culture and is fed by culture. If art has to feed upon itself for mythology, it will die; like a stomach with nothing in it, it will soon digest itself.
--William Irwin Thompson, Evil and World Order

Heard on "Wait, Wait"

Michael Bay is to filmmaking what Hurricane Katrina was to urban planning.
--Peter Sagal

A "Button" Lost

Finally saw Benjamin Button, and, like most of the critics, was left oddly unmoved. Looks great, wonderful acting, unbearably long, ultimately boring.

By pure coincidence, I watched (DVR'd) Forrest Gump again recently, a film also written by Eric Roth, and likewise an adaptation that severely distorts the original text. (For Roth's Gump distortions, read my essay "'No Box of Chocolates'"; for his Button waywardness, see Roger Ebert's review).

Yet Gump invites repeated viewing; I've seen it a half dozen times (and hated myself for it), while I will never, ever, watch Button again.

MJ/Orpheus/Peter Pan

An interesting reflection on the departed King of Pop by Germaine Greer (from The Guardian).

Crueler, but no less true, is The Onion's take:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/27/09) ("Art" Week)

Art is based on second love, not first love. In it we make a return to something which we had willfully alienated. The child is occupied mostly with things, but it is because he is still unfurnished with systematic ideas, not because he is a ripe citizen by nature and comes already trailing clouds of glory. Images are clouds of glory for the man who has discovered that ideas are a sort of darkness.
--John Crowe Ransom

Unable to Moonwalk and Chew Gum at the Same Time

Every time I checked, all day, MSNBC, CNN, NBC, CBS . . . could cover nothing--nothing--but the passing of Michael Jackson.

The MSM is a sad joke. They are as incapable of multi-tasking as . . . George Bush.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/26/09) ("Art" Week)

It is neither the mind of savages nor that of primitive or archaic humanity, but rather mind in its untamed state as distinct from mind cultivated or domesticated for yielding a return. . . . We are better able to understand today that it is possible for the two to co-exist and interpenetrate in the same way that (in theory at least) it is possible for natural species, of which some are in their savage state and others transformed by agriculture and domestication to co-exist and cross. . . . whether one deplores or rejoices in the fact, there are still zones in which savage thought, like savage species, is relatively protected. This is the case of art, to which our civilization accords the status of a national park.
--Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind


Never much a fan myself, I can nevertheless appreciate the truth of this remembrance.

In retrospect, this Onion piece seems especially dark.

Pop Ragnarök

The death of the gods, twilight of the idols. It is perhaps too grandiose to speak of today in those terms, but a single day in which Farrah Fawcett AND Michael Jackson die does seem like a Pop Culture Ragnarök.

Take a Hike

Andrew Sullivan, after recalling that the British satirical magazine Private Eye used to euphemize a political affair with the phrase "discussing Ugandan relations," now suggest a natural successor: "hiking the Appalachian trail."

For example:

Initially Bill Clinton denied "hiking the Appalachian trail" with "that woman."

I like it.

Later--Matthew Iglesias notes:

Nobody will ever be able to tell friends he’s hiking on the Appalachian Trail again:

Why Wasn't I in Vietnam?

I was talking about this with Sarah's fiancee recently. I was in the very first Vietnam Draft Lottery (see results below) and my birthday, August 27th, was the 352nd drawn, which basically meant I would never be drafted.

War resisting was on my mind. As an undergraduate I would serve as a ghost-writer/editor for a Clarion State College librarian who had written a book War Resisters Canada.

Plan A was to flunk the physical. Since one whiff of moth balls would cause me to sneeze vociferously a dozen time, I intended to immerse myself in them for a week before the phsyical, causing me to fail. I felt certain they would never draft a puddle of mucous into the army.

Why I Love Conan

After calling attention to the 12 ft. high doors to his set that Conan insisted be built because it would open up new, bigger possibilities for The Tonight Show, he was, of course, visited by two 12 ft. tall Jehovah's Witnesses.

After being told "This is a Jewish house" (with a nod to Max Weinberg and the Tonight Show Band), they were dismissed by Conan.

"LoTR" in Tehran

A fascinating piece on Salon on the role of Lord of the Rings in suppressing the vote protest in Iran. The first paragraph reads:

In Tehran, state television's Channel Two is putting on a "Lord of the Rings" marathon, part of a bigger push to keep us busy. Movie mad and immunized from international copyright laws, Iranians are normally treated to one or two Hollywood or European movie nights a week. Now it's two or three films a day. The message is "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Let's watch, forget about what's happened, never mind. Stop dwelling in the past. Look ahead.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/25/09) ("Art" Week)

In the great works of art a vision is set free from its creator, the poet, the artist, or the writer, and we step into a realm where deception by the expressor ends. No truly great work of art can try to mirror a reality foreign to the inner content of its author. Indeed it does not wish to say anything at all about its author. True in itself, it stands there fixed, visible, enduring. . .
--Wilhelm Dilthey

Proof of Mark Sanford's Weirdness

Gawker reports:

Then there's the one about Sanford's going to the movies with a couple of his fellow congressmen. He offered to buy them drinks at the concession stand—and came back to their seats with a big cup of Coke and three straws.

The Movies Get Better and Better!

So the Academy has upped the Best Picture number to 10? (10??) I guess this is to allow room to honor more Transformers and The Love Gurus.

John Ridley contemplates the next wave in Hollywood creativity: making board games into movies on NPR.

Demographic Suicide

Matthew Yglesias's graph based on DailyKos/Research 2000 polling. (Tip of the hat to Andrew Sullivan.)

I am starting to feel sorry for . . . No I'm not. I will forever hate the GOPSOBs.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/24/09) ("Art" Week)

Art is not to express personality, but to overcome it.
--T. S. Eliot

Bay Strikes Again

I am a huge fan of Michael Bay reamings, and Stephanie Zacharek's review of Revenge of the Fallen is first rate, though relatively kind.

Much snarkier is Tom Charity's uncharitable review on CNN.com.

From Nixon to Obama

Andrew Sullivan quotes from and comments on the newly disclosed Nixon tapes:

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” - Richard M Nixon. So the 37th president would have aborted the 44th.

Johnny and Ed

Well Ed McMahon is gone. I have nothing to say about him, but if you want to read something about Johnny Carson, White Clown to Ed's Auguste, go here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

"'Buffy' fans: read this The spirit of the Vampire Slayer lives on in the kickass young heroines of urban fantasy fiction"

Laura Miller considers the afterlife of Buffy in Salon.

Quote of the Day (6/23/09) ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Week)

Cordelia: Senior boys are the only way to go. Guys from our grade, forget about it, they're children. Y'know? (they sit) Like Jesse. Did you see him last night, following me around like a little puppy dog. (they all giggle) You just wanna put him to sleep. But senior boys, hmm, they have mystery. They have... What's the word I'm searching for? Cars! I just am not the type to settle. Y'know? It's like when I go shopping. I have to have the most expensive thing. Not because it's expensive, but because it costs more.
"The Harvest" (Season 1)

My Horrible Remote

For Father's Day I got an IPod Touch. (Thanks Joyce!)

Today I downloaded The Horrible Remote (pictured), with which I will now be able to commandeer any van carrying Wonderflonium.

John Hodgman Says

Heard at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Dinner:

"Even now in some states evolution is being decriminalized.
--John Hodgman

"Out of Pocket"

A spokesman for missing South Carolina governor Sanford said today that it was not unusual for him to go "out of pocket" like this for a few days.

I used to quibble with my wife over her similar use of this phrase, which she used (as did the guv's spokesperson) to mean "unable to be reached," incommunicado.

"Out of pocket," of course, makes no sense when used thus, as the Urban Dictionary takes note (although in its third definition UD does acknowledge the existence of the phrase's aberrant use).

I fully understand that popular usage has a mind of its own, but I am old-fashioned enough to expect a modicum of logic in such phraseology. For example, I found myself similarly irritated when students began to say of fellow students "Oh, I had him in class last semester," when only teachers can "have" students.

Bryan Fuller Moving On

Ausiello has the news--that Fuller won't be staying on with Heroes.

And then he engages in crazy talk:

Fuller returned to Heroes last December, shortly after ABC dropped the ax on Daisies. Many (yours truly included) credited him with the show's end-of-season creative rebirth.

That must have been the alternate reality version of Heroes because the season I watched was woefully bad, beginning to end, with and without Fuller.

Loophole Man/Smokezilla

Have just finished watching Season Five of Lost back to back.

There has been quite a bit of speculation that The Loophole Man--Jacob's adversary--is linked to the Monster/Smokezilla.

More evidence? When faux-Locke (the Loophole Man) asks Ben why he is now doing as he is told, Ben replies that he was ordered to follow Locke's order by Alex--when she appeared out of the smoke during his judgment. If Smokey does Loophole Man's bidding, or if it is some kind of manifestation of him, then of course it would, via Alex, give Ben such an order, thus making him pliant and ready to kill Jacob.

A Ballsy Cartoon

From Joep Bertrams. (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan's blog.)

"Twilight" of the "Buffy"

First the t-shirt. Now the fanvid--one of the best ever.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/22/09) ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Week)

Mayor: Mmm. My god, what a feeling. The power of these creatures. It suffuses my being. I can feel the changes begin. My organs are shifting, changing, making ready for the Ascension. Plus these babies are high in fiber. And what's the fun in becoming an immortal demon if you're not regular, am I right?
A second vampire bursts into the room.
Mayor: We don't knock during dark rituals?
"Graduation Day," Part II (Season 3)

Painting of the Week (6/22/09)

Chagall, The Woman and the Roses

Heard on "True Blood"

Luke (to Jason Stackhouse):

What the hell is with you snapping the American flag in half like some Muslim Buffy with a dick?

Heard on "Says You!"

Odd Man Out. Which of the following does not belong?

Steve McNair

Scroll down to find the answer.

Poseidon, Greek god of the ocean, is the odd man out. All the others are Titans, including Steve McNair who played quarterback for The Tennessee Titans.

Obscene Words

In my last post I used the word "marginalia," a term which I have been known to quip in class sounds quasi-obscene. (No doubt because of its resemblance to "genitalia.")

It is to Robert Klein, of course, that I owe that kind of observation. On Child of the 50's he names the most obscene words in the English language: "Guam," "mucilage," and "flautist."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Straight Man"

Back in the 1990s I was one of the first in the MTSU English Department to read (and love) Richard Russo's satiric novel about an English Department. I read it avidly and annotated it prolifically. Having just finished a stint as department chair myself, Russo's characters all seemed terribly familiar. How was it that the novelist was so familiar with the cast of characters at MTSU? West Central Pennsylvania State University's administrators, its sexist pig, its feminist--I knew them all, and my marginalia identified my campus's equivalent: "Prof. xxxx!"

I loaned the book to a close friend, who then loaned it to someone else, who loaned it to someone else. I never saw it again. How many times my book with friendship-threatening revelations of my secret opinions of colleagues scrawled in the margins was passed around among English Department faculty, who now knew what I really thought of them . . . I will probably never know.

Quote of the Day (6/21/09) ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Week)

Willow: It's just in High School, knowledge was pretty much frowned upon. You really had to work to learn anything. But here, the energy, the collective intelligence, it's like this force, this penetrating force, and I can just feel my mind opening up--you know?-- and letting this place thrust into and spurt knowledge into... That sentence ended up in a different place than it started out in.
"The Freshman" (Season 4)

"Buffy" in Paris

I only just learned about this. Tip of the hat to Diane Langlumé.


Résidence Lucien Paye
Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris
47, bd Jourdan 75014 PARIS

Accès : RER Station Cité universitaire; Métro, ligne 4, Porte d'Orléans De l'un ou l'autre de ces points, prendre le tram T3 pour une station et descendre à l'arrêt "Montsouris".


9h Marc Cerisuelo, Sandra Laugier, Barbara Olszewska
Présentation de la journée

9h15 Barbara Olszewska (Université Technologique de Compiègne, Costech)
Les adolescents meurent à 18 ans: Buffy et le rite de passage à l’âge

10h Thierry Jandrok (ULP Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg)
Buffy, une relecture de la mythologie adolescente

10h45 pause

11h Jocelyn Benoist (Université Paris I, Archives-Husserl, IUF)
Trouver sa voix: Buffy et les Gentlemen

11h45 Tristan Garcia (Université de Picardie Jules Verne, CURAPP)
Buffy: un fait adolescent total

14h-16h30 Table ronde: Les valeurs de Buffy
Présidence Sandra Laugier

Elsa Dorlin (Université Paris I)
Buffy et la violence: pour une nouvelle mythologie féministe

Guy Astic
« Death is my gift ». Mort et tuerie dans *Buffy the Vampire Slayer*

Jeroen Gerrits (Université Johns Hopkins)
Ici-bas et encore plus bas

Pascale Molinier (CNAM)
Sexualités de Buffy

Paola Marrati (Université Johns Hopkins)
La vie ordinaire de Buffy

17h-18h30 Table ronde: Buffy, les raisons d'une série culte
Présidence Ariel Kyrou

Anne Besson (Université d'Artois, Arras)
Buffy, carrefour dans l'évolution des genres et des pratiques
--une perspective comparatiste

Marika Moisseeff (CNRS, Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale)
Métamorphose et rapports entre générations dans Buffy
--une perspective anthropologique

Sylvie Allouche (Université Paris I, IHPST)
Philosopher avec les séries, l'exemple de Buffy
--une perspec

Friday, June 19, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/20/09) ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Week)

Snyder: I mean, it's incredible. One day the campus is completely bare. Empty. The next, there are children everywhere. Like locusts. Crawling around, mindlessly bent on feeding and mating. Destroying everything in sight in their relentless, pointless desire to exist.
They stop. Snyder looks around, observing the students.
Giles: I do enjoy these pep talks. Have you ever considered, given your abhorrence of children, school's principal was not, perhaps, your true vocation?
Snyder: Somebody's got to keep an eye on them. They're just a bunch of hormonal time bombs. (takes two steps away from Giles) Every time a pretty girl walks by every boy turns into a gibbering fool.
--"When She was Bad" (Season 2)


His first official portrait.

A Portuguese Water Dog who can't swim?


Brilliant observation (with Iran in mind) from Matt Steinglass (via Andrew Sullivan):

When you make people accept a plausible fiction, you’re just winning that one issue. But when you make them accept a lie which everyone knows is a lie, you’re destroying their integrity, destroying their will to describe the world as they see it, rather than as you tell them it is. It’s the bully on the playground holding the weaker kid’s arm and slapping his cheek with it, saying “Why are you hitting yourself?” Like Vaclav Havel’s grocer hanging “Workers of the world, unite!” in his shop window, once a person has acquiesced to something they do not believe, and which everyone knows they do not believe, they become complicit in their own oppression.

What's Happening in Iran

A video produced in Iran by Mousavi supporters.

Conan Casts the Middle East

On Wednesday Conan O'Brien offered some interesting casting for a new NBC movie about recent events in the Middle East. Five highlights:

Ringo Starr will play President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Former President Carter will be played by Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars.

Dobby (from Harry Potter will play Vladimir Putin.

Who will play Ayatollah Ali Khamenei? Pappa Smurf (of course).

And cast as special envoy George Mitchell is the man from Grant Wood's American Gothic

Future Books

A thought-provoking piece in Wired by Clive Thompson.

"Who Hates Who in Iran"

Salon's Gabriel Winant offers a very useful guide.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/19/09) ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Week)

Spike: You know why I really hate you, Summers?
Buffy: 'Cause I'm a stuck-up tight-ass with no sense of fun?
Spike: Well, yeah, that covers a lot of it.
Buffy: Cause I could do anything I want, and instead, I choose to pout and whine and feel the burden of slayerness? I mean, I could be rich, I could be famous, I could have anything. Anyone. [Buffy moves closer and puts her hands on Spike's chest.] Even you, Spike. I could ride you at a gallop until your legs buckled and your eyes rolled up. I've got muscles you've never even dreamed of. I could squeeze you until you popped like warm champagne, and you'd beg me to hurt you just a little bit more. And you know why I don't? [She moves closer and looks up at him pursing her lips.] Because it's wrong. Humh humh. [She moves off.]
"Who are You" (Season 4)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Wouldn't hurt a fly" (ctd 2)

Only Colbert would interview the family of the fly Obama killed.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Murder in the White House - Fly Widow Interview
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorStephen Colbert in Iraq

Quote of the Day (6/18/09) ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Week)

GILES: That's the flora kua alaya. A native of Paraguay, if my botany serves.
WILLOW: Is there anything you don't know everything about?
GILES: Synchronized swimming. Complete mystery to me.
--"Lessons" (Season 7)

"Wouldn't hurt a fly" (ctd)

OMG. Just heard on Brian Williams that PETA has criticized Obama for killing the fly.

I remember a philosopher friend of mine, a specialist in animal ethics, telling me about the emerging notion of "Spinal Chord Chauvinism"--the idea, advocated by some defenders of the rights of the animal kingdom, that most people, wrongly, are only willing to show concern for creatures with spines. I am a bit of a SCC. I intend to kill every fly I can.

"Wouldn't hurt a fly"

The right paints Obama, as they paint almost all Democrats, as a wimp, but they can never, never claim "he wouldn't hurt a fly."

Love the Air: "Dr. Horrible" and Zyrtec

Mere coincidence?

Dr. Horrible: Love your hair
Penny: What?
Dr. Horrible: No . . . I . . .I . . . I love the air . . .
--Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog

Say It Ain't So, Chicken!

Reports today that The [San Diego] Chicken (aka Ted Giannoulas), the greatest mascot of all time, is going to retire.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/17/09) ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Week)

BUFFY: Nothing's ever simple anymore. I'm constantly trying to work it out. Who to love or hate. Who to trust. It's just, like, the more I know, the more confused I get.
GILES: I believe that's called growing up.
BUFFY: I'd like to stop then, okay?
GILES: I know the feeling.
BUFFY: Does it ever get easy?
(casually stakes Ford who rises from a grave behind her)
GILES: You mean life?
BUFFY: Yeah. Does it get easy?
GILES: What do you want me to say?
BUFFY: Lie to me.
GILES: Yes, it's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true, the bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after.
BUFFY: Liar.
--"Lie to Me" (Season 2)


Today was Bloomsday. The account below is from Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac."

In 1996 I was actually in Dublin for Bloomsday, teaching a course on Irish film.

Today is Bloomsday. It is the day on which James Joyce's Ulysses takes place, in 1904. It's named after the main character, Leopold Bloom, and Joyce chose this day for the action of the novel to commemorate the first date he had with his future wife, Nora Barnacle, an uneducated chambermaid from Galway whom he met for a stroll around Dublin. A few days earlier, Nora had stood him up for their scheduled date.

Today, Joyceans all over the world celebrate with staged readings of Ulysses. Dublin has a long tradition of hosting celebrities, politicians, and international diplomats to do these dramatized readings. In fact, in Dublin, Bloomsday is not just celebrated for a day — it's a weeklong extravaganza. There are Ulysses walking tours, where a person can retrace the steps of the fictional Leopold Bloom, as well as literary-themed pub crawls, musical acts, and museum exhibits. There's also an annual Messenger Biker Rally, where people dressed in Joyce-era clothing ride old bicycles along the route that Leopold Bloom would have walked, and there are large-scale Irish breakfasts and afternoon teas devoted to Ulysses devotees.

Wolfram Alpha

After hearing about Wolfram Alpha on NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday, I have been experimenting with the site

the first step in an ambitious, long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone.

Quite fascinating.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/16/09) (Maurice Merleau-Ponty Week)

The Earth . . . which is not in motion like objective bodies, but not at rest either, since we cannot see what it could be "tacked on" to . . . is the "soil" or "stem" of our thought as it is of life. We shall certainly be able to move it or carry it back when we inhabit other planets, but the reason we shall is that then we shall have enlarged our native soil. We cannot do away with it. As the Earth is by definition one, all soil we tread upon becoming simultaneously a province of it, the living beings with whom the sons of the Earth will be able to communicate will simultaneously become meaner if you prefer, terrestrial men will become variants of a more general human community which will remain one. The Earth is the matrix of our time as it is of our space. Every constructed notion of time presupposes our proto-history as carnal being co-present to a single world. Every evocation of possible worlds refers to a way of seeing our own world. Every possibility is a variant of our reality, an effective possibility of reality. . . .
--Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Toby v. Ahmadinejad

An Onion story from 2006 seems more relevant than ever.

McCain's America

In Salon Michael Lind speculates on what the US would look like if McCain had won.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Painting of the Week (6/15/09)

Chagall, Paris Through My Window

Quote of the Day (6/15/09) (Maurice Merleau-Ponty Week)

One earthquake does more to demonstrate our vulnerability and mortality than the whole history of philosophy.
--Maurice Merleau-Ponty

LOST Conference Steering Committee

David Lavery, Middle Tennessee State University
Lynnette Porter, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Sean O’Sullivan, Ohio State University and Project Narrative
Joyce Millman, American Television Critic
Nikki Stafford, Writer and Editor (Canada)
Roberta Pearson, University of Nottingham (UK)
Paul Levinson, Fordham University
Angela Ndalianis, University of Melbourne (Australia)
Trisha Dunleavy, University of Victoria, Wellington (New Zealand)

Go here to learn more about the conference.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/14/09) (Maurice Merleau-Ponty Week)

Science is and always has been that admirable, active, ingenious, and bold way of thinking whose fundamental bias is to treat everything as though it were an object-in-general . . . as though it meant nothing to us and yet was predetermined for our use.
--Maurice Merleau-Ponty

"The Dark Knight"

Just watched Dark Knight again on HBO, and I still don't like it. Heath Ledger is great, but almost everything else disappoints. A greatly overrated film.

BTW: Didn't much like Batman Begins either.


With earth-shaking developments in Iran, here is CNN'S website at 9:27 PM, June 13th. Priorities?


This is a UK trailer for BBC's Merlin, debuting on NBC June 21.

OMG: Giles (Tony Head) as Arthur!

"TV Guide's" Top 100 Episodes of All Time

TV Guide has its most recent version of this ranking in the June 15-28th issue.

As always, completely arbitary but interesting. Here are the first 25 (I will complete the list in subsequent posts):

1. "The Contest (Seinfeld).
2. "College" (The Sopranos)
3. "Chuckles Bites the Dust" (The Mary Tyler Moore Show)
4. "Lucy Does a TV Commercial" (I Love Lucy)
5. "Pilot" (Lost)
6. "Love's Labor Lost" (ER)
7. "Better Living Through TV" (The Honeymooners)
8. "Nixon vs. Kennedy" (Mad Men)
9. "Cousin Maude's Visit" (All in the Family)
10. "Season 1: 11PM-12AM" (24)
11. "Time Enough at Last" (The Twilight Zone)
12. 4/22/1978 (Saturday Night Live)
13. "It May Look Like a Walnut" (The Dick Van Dyke Show)
14. "Once More with Feeling" (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
15. "Goodbye Mr. Fish" (The Cosby Show)
16. "The Judgment" (The Fugitive)
17. "Trapped in the Closet" (South Park)
18. "Opie the Birdman" (The Andy Griffith Show)
19. "Diversity Day" (The Office)
20. "Abyssinia, Henry" (Mash)
21. "The One with the Embryos" (Friends)
22. "Everyone's Waiting" (Six Feet Under)
23. "Time Heals" (St. Elsewhere)
24. "Krusty Gets Kancelled" (The Simpsons)
25. "Subway" (Homicide: Life on the Street)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/13/09) (Maurice Merleau-Ponty)

Thinking "operationally" has become a sort of absolute artificialism, such as we see in the ideology of cybernetics, where human creations are derived from a natural information process, itself conceived on the model of human machines. If this kind of thinking were to extend its reign to man and history; if, pretending to ignore what we know of them through our own situations, it were to set out to construct man and history on the basis of a few abstract indices (as a decadent psychoanalysis and a decadent culturalism have done in the United States)then, since man really becomes the manipulandum he takes himself to be, we enter into a cultural regimen where there is neither truth nor falsity concerning man and history, into a sleep, or a nightmare, from which there is no awakening.
--Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "Eye and Mind"


Here I sit, watching Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. My first hockey game of the year. Better late than never?

Go Penguins!

Brown, Boyle

Separated at birth? The Daily Show has the evidence.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/12/09) (Maurice Merleau-Ponty Week)

[Painting] gives visible existence to what profane vision believes to be invisible; thanks to it we do not need a "muscular sense" in order to possess the voluminosity of the world. This voracious vision, reaching beyond the "visual givens," opens upon a texture of Being of which the discrete sensorial messages are only the punctuations or the caesurae. The eye lives in this texture as a man lives in his house.
--Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "Eye and Mind"

"Advise and Consent"

I have been cleaning and organizing--and moving--closets all day, with much dust inhaled and very runny eyes, On a high shelf in one closet Alan Drury's Advise and Conent materialized.

This political novel--about the intertwined fates of a Secretary of State nominee and a US Senator from Utah with skeletons in their closets (communism and homosexuality respectively)--was the first book I ever really fell in love with. I read it five or six times, committed major passages to memory, before it dawned on me that I might be able to find other books to read.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/11/09) (Maurice Merleau-Ponty Week)

One day, once and for all, something was set in motion which, even during sleep, can no longer cease to see or not to see, to feel or not to feel, to suffer or be happy, to think or rest from thinking, in a word to "have it out" with the world. There then arose, not a new set of sensations or state of consciousness, not even a new monad or a new perspective, since I am not tied to any one perspective, my point of view, being under compulsion only in that I must always have only one at once let us say, therefore, that there arose a fresh possibility of situations. The event of my birth has not passed completely away, it has not fallen into nothingness in the way that an event of the objective world does, for it committed a whole future, not as a cause determines its effect, but as a situation, once created, inevitably leads on to some outcome. . . . In the home into which a child is born, all objects change their significance; they begin to await some as yet indeterminate treatment at his hands; another and different person is there, a new personal history, short or long, has just been initiated, another account has been opened. My first perception, along with the horizons which surrounded it, is an ever-present event, an unforgettable tradition; even as a thinking subject, I still am that first perception, the continuation of that same life inaugurated by it.
--Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception

Michelle Bachman Overdrive

We are in the process of watching free market economists destroyed right before our eyes.
--heard on Keith Olbermann

Bruce and My Wife

Guess who will be using my wife' NPO's vans this weekend in order to get to Bonnaroo?

That's right: the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/10/09) (Maurice Merleau-Ponty Week)

Everything comes to pass . . . as though the physiology of vision did not succeed in closing the nervous functioning in upon itself, since movements of fixation, or convergence, are suspended upon the advent of the body of a visible world for which they were supposed to furnish the explanation, as though, through all these channels, all those prepared but unemployed circuits, the current that will traverse them was rendered probable, in the long run inevitable; the current making of the embryo a newborn infant, of a visible a seer, and of a body a mind, or at least a flesh.
--Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible

Food Deserts

I had never heard this term before. Nashville's excellent NPR station, WPLN did a story on it, which can be listened to here.


So the unwatchable Morning Joe show on MSNBC was unhappy with The Daily Show's satirical look at its execrable Starbuck's product placement and feigned disbelief that Jon Stewart and Co. didn't understand they were being sarcastic!

As experts in "irony irony" and "sarcasm sarcasm," The Daily Show had a response.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/9/09) (Loren Eiseley Week)

Sometimes I wonder whether we are only endlessly repeating in our heads an argument that is going on in the world's foundations among crashing stones and recalcitrant roots.
--Loren Eiseley, The Firmament of Time


Exactly 30 years ago I was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Florida, selected on the strength of my doctoral dissertation: "To Discover That There is Nothing to Discover": The Imagination, the Open, and the Movies of Federico Fellini.

"Nurse Jackie"

I have now spent 30 minutes with Nurse Jackie and look forward to returning to her hospital regularly, even if the pilot did rip off Mad Men a bit.

A Reason for Jack Bauer to Live

OMG: Starbuck at the new CTU.


It has been years since I read Robert Coover's masterful baseball novel (originally published in 1971), but it was sometime in the 1970s. The baseball game J. Henry Waugh (Yahweh) plays in the book, sometimes interfering with the roll of the dice in such a way as to alter fate, took me back to my own teens, spent, hours on end, spinning a wheel as I played Negamco board games--baseball, basketball, football--games which must have inspired Coover.

Like Waugh, I, too, rigged the games, but not to get revenge against a certain batter who had killed baseball's potential savior with a line drive. I manipulated the Negamcoverses by inserting myself into the games, giving myself statistic cards with impossible numbers, guaranteeing I would outhit Roberto Clemente, outscore Oscar Robertson.

As I sat there on the sofa at 112 E. 6th Street, Oil City, Pennsylvania, watching The Patty Duke Show, or Lost in Space, I was busy as well constructing imaginary scenarios in which my Negamco self might star. On Saturday mornings I would try to play basketball in an intramural league at school but quit after being called "homo" one too many times, but spinning away in the Lavery family living room, my father taking an after-dinner nap in his Lazy-Boy (from which we would wake him so he could go to bed), I was leading the Earth's basketball team in an epic battle against the Martian team for supremacy in the solar system, my 78 points and 25 rebounds saving the world!

Happy People (Not)

As someone who is fascinated with the grotesque, I love this site.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Painting of the Week (6/8/09)

Max Ernst, The Eye of Silence

Quote of the Day (6/8/09) (Loren Eiseley Week)

I know the sort of watch birds keep on us. I've listened to sparrows tapping tentatively on the outside of air conditioners when they thought no one was listening, and I know how other birds test the vibrations that come up to them through the television aerials.

"Is he gone?" they ask, and the vibrations come up from below, "Not yet, not yet."
Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey

Federer and Nadal read Rudyard Kipling's "If"

"At the Movies"

Just saw my first At the Movies in years. I had read a bit about the controversy surrounding new co-host Ben Lyons, but had not seen Mr. Vapid for myself till now.

OMG: what an awful show! Gene Siskel must be turning over in his grave. Mankiewicz isn't all that much better. A disaster--and a sad commentary on the decline of film criticism.

"Revolutionary Road"

Finally saw Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road last night, a film adaption of a novel by Richard Yates that had a huge impact on the late teen me a century ago. A superbly depressing film, with fine performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

With this film Mendes has now laid bare suburbia in both the Fifties AND the Nineties (American Beauty). Cinema's John Cheever?

The "Fourth Tray"

This is from Owen Barfield's Worlds Apart--spoken by Barfield's alter ego Burgeon. Anyone who has wrestled with paper work or set out to tackle a "things to do" list will recognize the phenomenon.

A Civil Servant used to keep four trays on his desk to put his papers in. The first was marked Incoming, the second Outgoing, the third Pending, and the fourth Too Difficult. (43-44)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/7/09) (Loren Eiseley Week)

So relative is the cosmos we inhabit that, as we gaze upon the outer galaxies available to the reach of our telescopes, we are placed in about the position that a single white blood cell in our bodies would occupy, if it were intelligently capable of seeking to understand the nature of its own universe, the body it inhabits. The cell would encounter rivers ramifying into miles of distance seemingly leading nowhere. It would pass through gigantic structures whose meaning it would never grasp—the brain, for example. It would never know there was an outside, a vast being on a scale it could not conceive of and of which it formed an infinitesimal part. It would know only the pouring tumult of the creation it inhabited, but of the nature of that great beast, or even indeed that it was a beast, it could have no conception whatever. It might examine the liquid in which it floated and decide, as in the case of the fall of Lucretius's atoms, that the pouring of obscure torrents had created its world.

It might discover that creatures other than itself swam in the torrent. But that its universe was alive, had been born and was destined to perish, its own ephemeral existence would never allow it to perceive. It would never know the sun: it would explore only through dim tactile sensations and react to chemical stimuli that were borne to it along the mysterious conduits of the arteries and veins. Its universe would be centered upon a great arborescent tree of spouting blood. This, at best, generations of white blood cells by enormous labor and continuity might succeed, like astronomers, in charting.

They could never, by any conceivable stretch of the imagination, be aware that their so-called universe was, in actuality, the prowling body of a cat or the more time-enduring body of a philosopher, himself engaged upon the same quest in a more gigantic world and perhaps deceived proportionately by greater vistas. What if, for example, the far galaxies man observes make up, across void spaces of which even we are atomically composed, some kind of enormous creature or cosmic snowflake whose exterior we will never see? We will know more than the phagocyte in our bodies, but no more than that limited creature can we climb out of our universe, or successfully enhance our size or longevity sufficiently to thrust our heads through the confines of the universe that terminates our vision.
Loren Eiseley, The Invisible Pyramid

Heard on "The Tonight Show" (Celebrity Survey)

As a kid, I was always picked on by . . .

Daniel Baldwin: My brothers.
Jeff Goldblum: Bullies
Larry King: Velociraptors

BTW: Now loving the new Tonight Show with Conan.

Franz Kranz

Just watched The TV Set on STARZ, a sometimes interesting satire, starring David Duchovny, about the compromises involved in making a television series.

I found it interesting that Kranz, Dollhouse's weakest link (in my estimation), Topher, plays a badly miscast actor who does not at all capture the series' creator's vision of the character.

Does this mean Kranz is in danger of being typecast as miscast?

BTW, the Duchovny character's first choice for the role was played by Simon Helberg, Dr. Horrible's Moist.

Harry Crews to James Dickey

I heard this in a Big Daddy's in Gainesville, Florida in (I think) 1974. Both writers (Crews to the left; Dickey below) were teaching at the U of F when I was a doctoral student. Both were, of course, drunk.

It takes you one night to write a bad poem. It takes me a whole year to write a bad novel.

A Reverse Barbie

The Onion reports the latest news from the dollhouse.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/6/09) (Loren Eiseley Week)

All along the evolutionary road it could have been said: "This is man," if there had then been such a magical self-delineating and mind-freezing word. It could have immobilized us at any step of our journey. It could have held us hanging to the bough from which we actually dropped; it could have kept us cowering, small-brained and helpless, whenever the great cats came through the reeds. It could have stricken us with . At any step of the way, terror before the fire. . the word "man, in retrospect, could be said to have Each time the barrier has been surmounted. Man is not man. He is elsewhere.
--Loren Eiseley, The Night Country

Barack Obama, Elie Wiesel, Rachel Lavery

Buchenwald (June 2009) | Prague (Fall 2001)

Let's Keep Our Stereotypes Straight, Please

National Review's idiotic cover is beyond explanation. Obama's SCOTUS nominee is a Buddhist? With slanted eyes? Good grief. Read Salon's take here.

"Average Time Spent Composing One E-mail"

Tip of the hat to Kelly Hays.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/5/09) (Loren Eiseley Week)

Earth is the mightiest of the creatures. She contains beneath her furry hide the dark heart of nothingness, from which springs all that lives. She is the wariest and most complete of animals, for she lends herself to no particular form and in the end she soundlessly forsakes them all. She is the one complete island of being.
--Loren Eiseley, The Unexpected Universe

LOST in Brazil

Received this e-mail today:

I'm a freelancer journalist for a brazilian magazine named "Mundo Estranho" ("Strange World"). It's sort of a scientific magazine for young readers (age 12-25), with just a little touch of humor and pop culture.
Check us out at http://mundoestranho.abril.com.br/

For our next issue, we want to draw a map of the island in "Lost". I've just finished reading "Lost's Buried Treasures" and I was wondering if you'd like to help us and be my source. Mostly, you'd be sort of a consultant, since there are so many vague informations and doubts surrounding this TV show.

This will the fifth or sixth time I have been interviewed by Brazilian media, and of course our two books have been published (in Portuguese) in Brazil.

If only one of them would invite me to come to Brazil to talk. As long as I don't have to travel on Air France via Paris.

Randy Johnson

The second greatest pitcher I have seen in a lifetime of watching baseball (Sandy Koufax was #1) just won his 300th game--and in so doing may have been the last to ever do so. He was the first member of the 300 Club to have beaten every MLB team.

"The Daily Show" Finds Its Groove Again

After returning from its Memorial Day break, the first two outings of The Daily Show were pretty lame, but Wednesday night the show roared back.

"Dick (Uncut)" was brilliant, skewering, as only Jon Stewart can, our Dark Side former VP:

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And Wyatt Cenac's commentary on "Imaginary Black on White Crime" was meta-ingenious.

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Jon's interview with Michael Lewis was fun too.

David Carradine, In Memoriam

In memory of David Carradine, Bill of Kill Bill fame, Grasshopper from Kung Fu, one of the favorite TV series of my youth, found dead by his own hand (hanged) in Thailand today, I am posting a link to a previous blog entry on Bill's great speech on Superman/Clark Kent from KB2.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/4/09) (Loren Eiseley Week)

We are rag dolls made out of many ages and skins, changelings, who have slept in wood nests or hissed in the uncouth guise of waddling amphibians. We have played such roles for infinitely longer ages than we have been men. Our identity is a dream. We are process, not reality, for reality is an illusion of the daylight—the light of our particular day. In a fortnight, as eons are measured, we may lie silent in a bed of stone, or, as has happened in the past, be figured in another guise. Two forces struggle perpetually in our bodies: Yam, the old sea dragon of the original Biblical darkness, and, arrayed against him, some wisp of dancing light that would have us linger, wistful in our human form. "Tarry thou, till I come again—an old legend survives among us of the admonition given by Jesus to the Wanderinq Jew. The words are applicable to all of us. Deep hidden in the human psyche there is a similar injunction no loner having to do with the longevity of the body but, rather, a plea to wait upon some transcendent lesson preparing in the mind itself.
--Loren Eiseley, The Unexpected Universe

Anti-Intellectualism in the Senate

With all the intellectual initiative of an MTSU undergraduate, the despicable Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate, said today:

I understand that during her career, [Sotomayor has] written hundreds and hundreds of opinions. I haven’t read a single one of them, and if I’m fortunate before we end this, I won’t have to read one of them.

"Speculation Over: The Statue’s Identity Officially Revealed!" (ctd.)

My daughter Sarah, an admirer of The Red Tent, a novel in which Taweret figures prominently, has turned me on to this website, offering real insight into the Egyptian deity.

"Speculation Over: The Statue’s Identity Officially Revealed!"

This excellent post on DocArzt's Blog brings us up-to-date on Lost's four-toed statue--of the Egyptian diety Taweret.

"True Blood"

Only two episodes from the end of True Blood, Season 1. I had watched a couple of episodes when it originally aired, but lost interest. By the end of its first run, though, many were praising it, and I decided to give it another chance--prior to the start of Season Two this month.

A lot to like, though not that much to love.

The signature opening credits--in keeping with all the other brilliant HBO "not TV" OCs, can be viewed here.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Quote of the Day (6/3/09) (Loren Eiseley Week)

It is a somber reflection upon human nature that so much has been written about the triumph of the fittest and so little about the survival of the failures who have changed, if not deranged, the world.
Loren Eiseley, The Unexpected Universe

Conan Crosses the Continent

From Day 1 of The Tonight Show . . .


I was talking to someone about Sniglets the other day--words that should be in the dictionary but aren't--and just discovered, of course, that they are alive and well on the internet.

The Wikipedia article.
A comprehensive catalog.
IGoogle's Daily Sniglet widget.

If you like Sniglets, be sure to check out Howard Rheingold's They Have A Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words and Phrases (Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, 1988).