Monday, August 31, 2009

"The Museum of Animal Perspectives"

As The Daily Beast notes (tip of the hat to them), prepare to waste your entire day. The world seen by cameras attached to animals, from armadillos to moles.


Print offers possible ways of selling weed if it becomes legal.

The Footnotes of "Mad Men"

An illuminating companion blog for the smartest show on television.

Refrigerator Magnets

One of the gifts I received at a birthday celebration brunch yesterday was a selection of fridge magnets bearing the covers of my books. Wonderful! Thank you Lisa.

Painting of the Week (8/31/09)

Hieronymous Bosch, Christ Carrying the Cross

Quote of the Day (8/31/09) (Words Week)

The Kabbalah, in which the problem of Babel and of the nature of language is so intensively examined, knows of a day of redemption on which translation will no longer be necessary. All human tongues will have re-entered the translucent immediacy of that primal lost speech shared by God and Adam. . . . But the Kabbalah also knows of a more esoteric possibility. It records the conjecture, no doubt heretical, that there shall come a day when translation is not only unnecessary but inconceivable. Words will rebel against man. They will shake off the servitude of meaning. They will "become only themselves, and as dead stones in our mouths." In either case, men and women will have been freed forever from the burden and the splendor of the ruin at Babel. But which, one wonders, will be the greater silence?
--George Steiner, After Babel

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Quote of the Day (8/30/09) (Words Week)

One senses that Hegel was possible only in German, and finds it natural that Locke in a language where large and red precede apple should have arrived at the thing after sorting out its sensory qualities, whereas Descartes in a language where grosse et rouge [large and red] follows pomme should have come to the attribute after the distinct idea.
--Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Quote of the Day (8/29/09) (Words Week)

In an author's lexicon, will there not always be a word-as-manna, a word whose ardent, complex, ineffable, and somehow sacred signification gives the illusion that by this word one might answer for everything. Such a word is neither eccentric nor central; it is motionless and carried, floating, never pigeonholed, always signifier taking up the place of every signified. This word has gradually appeared in his work; at first it was masked by the instance of Truth (that of history), then by that of Validity (that of systems and structures); now it blossoms, it flourishes. . . .
--Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Myth of Torture

The Onion takes the word "myth" to a new (original) place:

Is Using A Minotaur To Gore Detainees A Form Of Torture?

Quote of the Day (8/28/09) (Words Week)

Words, I often imagine this, are little houses, each with its cellar and garret. Common-sense lives on the ground floor, always ready to engage in "foreign commerce," on the same level as the other, as the passers-by, who are never dreamers. To go upstairs in the word house is to withdraw, step by step; while to go down to the cellar is to dream, it is losing oneself in the distant corridors of an obscure etymology, looking for treasures that cannot be found in words. To mount and descend in the words themselves—this is a poet's life. To mount too high or descend too low, is allowed in the case of poets, who bring earth and sky together. Must the philosopher alone be condemned by his peers always to live on the ground floor?
--Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Zone" One

As a birthday gift (to myself) I bought the definitive Twlight Zone and am embarked on a viewing of the complete series.

I remember--sometimes vaguely, sometimes vividly—many of these episodes (I was 10 when TZ debuted).

The Zone is at once more realistic than I recalled (many an episode has a naturalistic/Ashcan feel), more postmodern than I ever recognized (many a Pirandelloish touch), more political (by far the most thematically daring TV of its day), more sentimental (numerous tearjerkers), and more repetitive (36 episodes in its first season necessitate recycling gimmicks).

Here are the the Season-Oners I especially liked:

“One for the Angels”—Ed Wynn bargains with death (The Graduate’s Mr. Robinson) without resorting to chess.

“The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine"—Sunset Boulevard meets Purple Rose of Cairo meets Sherlock, Jr.

“Walking Distance”—Gig Young’s shoes are made for time travel.

“Escape Clause”—A nasty hypochondriac sells his soul for immortality and then ends up imprisoned for life for his wife’s death.

“Time Enough at Last”—Burgess Meredith (channeling Mr. Magoo) and the public library survive a nuclear blast but then he breaks his specs.

“Third from the Sun”—The Atomic Age meets the Space Age as two scientists seek to flee Armageddon by commandeering a rocket ship.

“The Hitch-Hiker”—A woman driving cross-country finally realizes she was killed in a car accident.

“The Last Flight”—A Great War British pilot time jumps to the present and is given an opportunity to redeem an act of cowardice.

“I Shot an Arrow into the Air”—Crash-landed astronauts mistake the Mojave for a distant asteroid.

“The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”—A masterful episode about suburban paranoia.

“A World of Difference”—A businessman is really an actor—or is he?

“Long Live Walter Jameson”—A professor (Kevin McCarthy) has been around for a very long, long time and doesn’t even have a painting that ages for him.

“Execution”—A modern scientist’s time machine inadvertently snatches a vicious criminal about to be hanged in the Old West.

“Nightmare as a Child”—A woman’s childhood self saves her from the killer who murdered their mother.

“A Stop at Willoughby”—A “mad man” just can’t take it on Madison Avenue anymore and leaps from a train into a Currier and Ives world.

“The After Hours”—Anne Francis turns out to be a mannequin, and mannequins turn out to have their own world (on the the 9th floor).

“The Mighty Casey”—A scientist builds a robot pitcher, who is unhitable until he gets a heart.

Except for “The Last Flight” and “A World of Difference” (both by the great Richard Matheson), and “Long Live Water Jameson (penned by frequent collaborator Charles Beaumont), each of these was written by Rod Serling. Take that David Kelley.

Ignorant University Presidents

After the country survived (I hope) the most idiotic fool of a POTUS in my lifetime, it shouldn't surprise me that university presidents might be on a par with W, but I remain shocked that someone who has risen through the ranks to run a major university might likewise be dumb as a stump.

Twice--at the University of North Florida and then again at Memphis State (isn't this forbidden by The Constitution?)--I had to suffer through the imbecility of President Tom Carpenter, a man who once read a quote (in a speech written for him) from "the great French writer Al Came-us," and who, during Elvis week, spoke of The King's "contributions to every jenree of rock and roll music."

And now we learn that, at a recent conclave, MTSU's Sidney McPhee, discussing Tennessee's budget crisis, reminded us that “we are not out of the woodwork” yet and cautioned that his alarmist approach was “not just whistling in the rose garden.”

For the record, he never promised us one either (though he has often, delusionally, claimed we are one of America's foremost universities).

A "Who-ish" Call Center

A Dalek reaches a call center "manned" by Cybermen. (Tip of the hat to Gregor Cameron.)

"I Love You Man"

Finally saw I Love You Man and I loved it, man.

I am so like Peter Klaven. Yes, my impressions, too, sometimes sound like a leprechaun.

Pulp Weather

Quentin Tarantino on The Weather Channel?

For further evidence of Weather's postmodernist street cred (from Teleparody), go here.

Fay Weldon

My former Brunel colleague is drawing flak.

Quote of the Day (8/27/09) (Words Week)

As pines keep the shape of the wind
even when the wind has fled and
is no longer there
so words
guard the shape of man
even when man had fled and
is no longer there
--George Seferis, "On Stage"

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quote of the Day (8/26/09) (Words Week)

In the white man's world, language, too—and the way in which the white man thinks of it—has undergone a process of change. The white man takes such things as words and literature for granted, as indeed he must, for nothing in his world is so commonplace. On every side of him there are words by the millions, an unending succession of pamphlets and papers, letters and books, bills and bulletins, commentaries and conversations. He has diluted and multiplied the Word, and words have begun to close in upon him. He is sated and insensitive; his regard for language--for the Word itself --as an instrument of creation has diminished nearly to the point of no return. It may be that he will perish by the word.
--N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Repeal of the Law of Contradiction

Republicans tossed out the constitution under Bush/Cheney, now they seem determined to repeal the law of contradiction.

Yesterday in an op-ed the ludicrous Michael Steele praised Medicare to the hilt and decried the Democrats' plans for health care reform for endangering it. Today, on FOX and Friends he declared Medicare as a perfect example of something that must be eliminated.

Heard on "The Tonight Show"

Conan commenting on the news that Clorox had dropped Glenn Beck as a sponsor after calling Obama a racxist:

That's amazing. Even a company whose sole purpose is to make things whiter thinks Glenn Beck has gone too far!


My Kindle arrives today--my package tracking tells me so. If I should buy another one, that will be its next-of-Kindle.

Scopes II (The Sequel)

So the Chamber of Commerce wants a Scopes trial for global warming.

As a resident of Tennessee, home of the original monkey trial, I find this extraordinary news. The Chamber consciously seeks to play the William Jennings Bryan role (Frederic March/Matthew Harrison Brady in Stanley Kramer's Inherit the Wind [1960]--see the embedded clip)--as defender of the irrational, unscientific, biblical position? Seriously?

Climate change needs to find its Clarence Darrow (Spencer Tracy/Henry Drummond). Al Gore has carried the ball this far, but another advocate is needed. Or do we just skip to the Jor-el "Krypton is doomed" stage?

How "District 9" Will Change Things

Sci-Fi Wire counts the ways.

"Dog Humiliated in Front of Entire Park"

The Onion, per usual, has the exclusive, mundane story.


Wired offers a thorough and insightful guide to the hoax, from Welles' "War of the Worlds" to Bart Simpson telephone punking.

Quote of the Day (8/25/09) (Søren Kierkegaard Week)

That I know, and I know too what it has cost, what I have suffered, which can be expressed, however, in a single word: I was never like others. Oh, in the days of youth it is of all torments the most frightful, the most intense, not to be like others, never to live a single day without being painfully reminded that one is not like others, never to be able to run with the herd, which is the delight and the joy of youth, never to be able to give oneself out expansively, always, so soon as one would make the venture, to be reminded of the fetters, the isolating peculiarity which, isolatingly to the border of despair, separates one from everything which is called human life and merriment and joy. True, one can, by a frightful effort, strive to hide what at that age one understands as one's dishonor, that one is not like the others; to a certain degree this may succeed, but all the same the agony is still in the heart, and after all it succeeds only to a certain degree, so that a single incautious movement may revenge itself frightfully.

With the years, it is true, this pain diminishes more and more; for as more and more one becomes spirit, it causes no pain that one is not like others. Spirit precisely is this: not to be like others.
--Søren Kierkegaard, "Attack Upon 'Christendom'"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Quote of the Day (8/24/09) (Søren Kierkegaard Week)

Just as a skilled cook says of a dish which already has a good many ingredients mixed into it, "It has to have a little dash of cinnamon" (the rest of us probably could scarcely taste that this little dash of cinnamon was added, but she knows for sure why and how it tastefully blends in with the whole mixture); just as the artist says of the whole painting's color-tone, which is composed of many, many colors, "A little bit of red has to be introduced here and there, at this little point" (and the rest of is probably could scarcely discover the red, the artist having shaded it so well, whereas he knows exactly why it should be introduced): just as with the cook and the artist, so also with providence.

The administration of the world is an enormous household, an immense painting. Yet is the same for him, the Master, God in heaven, as it is for the cook and the artist. He says: "There must be a little dash of cinnamon now; a little bit of red must be introduced." We have no idea why, we can hardly detect it once the little smidge vanishes in the whole, but God knows why.

A little dash of cinnamon! This means: here a man must be sacrificed; he must be added to give the rest a specific taste. . . .

A little dash of cinnamon! Humanly speaking, how painful to be sacrificed in this manner to be a little dash of cinnamon! But on the other hand God knows very well whom he chooses to be used in this manner. . . .
--Søren Kierkegaard

Painting of the Week (8/24/09)

Van Gogh, L'eglise d'Auvers-sur-Oise

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Read on the Google

From Google Calendar's "Labs" page:

Jump to date
by Google

Quickly navigate to dates in the distant future or past (actual time travel not yet supported).

Not yet.

Quote of the Day (8/23/09) (Søren Kierkegaard Week)

An individuality full of longings, hopes, wishes can never be ironical. Irony (as constituting a whole life) lies in the very reverse, in having one's pain just where others have their longings. Not to be able to possess the beloved is not irony. But to be able to possess her all too easily, so that she herself begs and prays to belong to one, and then not to be able to get her; that is irony. Not to be able to win the splendors of the world is never irony; but to have them, and in profusion, within one's reach, so that power and authority are almost forced upon one, and then to be unable to accept them: that is irony. In such cases the individuality must have a secret, a melancholy or the secret of a melancholy wisdom. That is why an ironical individuality cannot be understood by one who is full of longing.

Irony is an abnormal growth; like the abnormally enlarged liver of the Strassburg goose it ends by killing the individual.
--Søren Kierkegaard

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Quote of the Day (8/22/09) (Søren Kierkegaard Week)

With the daguerreotype everyone will be able to have their portrait taken, while formerly it was only the prominent; and at the same time everything is being done to make us all look exactly the same so that we shall only need one portrait.
--Søren Kierkegaard

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Anyone Can Happen": "Dollhouse" S2 Poster

"Staking a Claim"

WILLOW: Yeah. (smiles) The First is scrunched, so... what do you think we should do, Buffy?
FAITH: Yeah, you're not the one and only chosen anymore. Just gotta live like a person. How's that feel?
DAWN: Yeah, Buffy. What are we gonna do now?
As the others chatter around her, Buffy just stares straight ahead at the hole formerly known as Sunnydale. As she contemplates what's next, she smiles.

Happy to report that the abstracts (scanned, in PDFs) for the University of South Australia's "Staking a Claim" conference (2003) are again available online. Gerry Bloustien's wonderful efforts still merit applause.

My memories of "Staking" are fond indeed. Watching members of the audience flee the lecture hall in terror when Rhonda Wilcox and I would declare a "spoiler warning." Screening the last few episodes of Buffy Season Seven--including "Chosen"--with all the conference-goers in an auditorium when David Franken, the man who had programmed Buffy for Oz television, arranged for everyone to see them (the series had ended in the US but still had four or five episodes to go Down Under). What a wonderful communal experience.

"Owen Barfield: Man and Meaning" Available Online

Thanks to the help of Barry Cantrell of MTSU's Academic and Instructional Technology Services, Owen Barfield: Man and Meaning can now be streamed or downloaded from the Barfield website:

You will need RealPlayer or the VLC player in order to view it.

The film was co-written and co-produced by the late Georg Tennyson and myself (on the right in photo), shot by Wayne Derrick, and directed by Ben Levin, University of North Texas (on the left in photo).

Good Vibrations

Out shopping for a special breakfast in bed for Joyce the birthday girl (tomorrow), listened to the Beach Boys as I tooled around the 'boro.

It seems like just yesterday that Bruce insisted, in his apartment in Newberry, Florida (that day when the munchies led us to the convenience store to buy fig newtons, until we discovered the package was soaked in motor oil from a leaky can of Quaker State on the shelf above), that Brian Wilson had attained godhead. Bruce was a Meher Baba disciple, so he knew divine realization when he saw it/heard it.

Today, cruising in my 409 (well, my Nissan Altima), I was ready again to believe it--without the aid of cannabis. What wonderful music.

Prawn and Quartered

Tip of the hat to Mark Barrett.

The "Mad Men" Book Club

Wish I had thought of this. Nicely done (from The Daily Beast).

Quote of the Day (8/21/09) (Søren Kierkegaard Week)

Hypocrisy is quite as inseparable from being a man as sliminess is from being a fish.
--Søren Kierkegaard

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lennon (on "Lost")

Ausiello had already reported this description of what Darlton was looking for in casting the new character Lenon for Lost's final season:

The first official piece of new casting for Lost’s sixth and final season has arrived — and it’s surprisingly detailed. Team Darlton is looking for an actor in his mid 30s to late 50s to play . . .

Lennon: Scruffy, edgy, charismatic, and slightly stir-crazy, Lennon can be deferential when it’s called for. He’s the spokesperson/translator for the president of a foreign corporation. He’s a wily negotiator, and far more powerful than his lowly position would seem to indicate. Recurring.

And now comes word that they have found their man: John Hawkes (pictured), Deadwood's Sol Star.

Yet another Lost actor Carlton Cuse knew from Brisco County, Jr. days.

Annie and Me

In 1980, The Massachusetts Review published my Geneva School essay “Noticer: The Visionary Art of Annie Dillard." It was one of my first three publications.

I sent my subject a copy. I assumed that the Pulitzer Prize winner would find the first scholarly piece on her work (the essay focused primarily on Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and Holy the Firm) of interest.

A few paragraphs into "Noticer" I wrote:

Nor can ["the pearl of great price"] be discovered in the ecstasy of a Dionysian frenzy. As May Sarton sagaciously observes in Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, there can be no such thing as a Dionysian woman, a female Dylan Thomas, for such a woman would be mad. As a woman writer, Dillard likewise senses that her art must be in keeping with natural process and earthly rhythms. The woman writer, Anais Nin once observed in her diaries, must never forget

that everything that is born of her is planted in her . . . she was born to represent union, communion, communication, she was born to give birth to life, and not to insanity. . . . The art of woman must be born in the womb-cells of the mind. She must be the link between the synthetic products of man's mind and the elements.
(My italics.)

Because Annie Dillard knows this, she understands that "although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought" (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 34). It will be discovered, she intuits, only by not trying to secure it.

I quote this passage here because when I heard back from Dillard she singled it out--with disdain. I was excited to get a letter from a writer I admired so much and with whom I had a two-degrees-of-separation connection (my dissertation director, W. R. Robinson, had taught with Dillard's ex, R. H. W. Dillard, and knew her well) but I was shocked when I read it and learned she was angry at my suggestion her voice was distinctly female. That her missive arrived on the day I had root canal surgery didn't make her rebuke any more palatable.

I wrote back in anger. I had praised her genius, and this was all she had to say?--that was the gist of my response. I might have said, borrowing a line from Robert Klein, that I "felt like a baseball fan who learns that his favorite player is a drunk."

To her credit, she wrote me again and apologized, admitting that, when she wrote the first time, she hadn't read past the passage quoted above and that she now realized she should have been honored by "Noticer" and now was.


With the revelation today--from no less a figure that the first Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge--that the Bushies (Bush, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld) wanted to manipulate the security level warnings prior to the 2004 election, we now know for certain what many of us have long suspected: that 9/11 was the best thing that ever happened to the Bush administration, that our government's response to terrorism was to engage in fearmongering as politics.

The Republicans are still using terror--death panels anyone?--in place of ideas, or policy. Goddamn motherfuckers.

Quote of the Day (8/20/09) (Søren Kierkegaard Week)

If the natural sciences had been developed in Socrates' day as they are now, all the sophists would have been scientists. One would have hung a microscope outside his shop in order to attract customers, and then would have had a sign painted saying: Learn and see through a giant microscope how a man thinks (and on reading the advertisement Socrates would have said: that is how men who do not think behave).
--Søren Kierkegaard

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Covering Whedon

"TV Addict" reimagines the cover of Entertainment Weekly, getting rid of Twilight and replacing it with . . .

Tip of the hat to Cindy O'Malley.

Separated at Birth?

Remember the wonderful Spy feature last century (from the 1980s)? The book just surfaced and I spent an hour laughing. Here's one of my favorites: A winged monkey (from Wizard of Oz) and Oliver North.

Heard on "The Colbert Report"

Congratulations to Brett Favre for setting the NFL record for incomplete retirements.

Quote of the Day (8/19/09) (Søren Kierkegaard Week)

The majority of men are subjective toward themselves and objective towards all others, terribly objective sometimes—but the real task is in fact to be objective towards oneself and subjective towards all others.
--Søren Kierkegaard

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Froshpeople Know

Beloit College's annual assessment.

Spike Goes to "Caprica"

So James Marsters will be on the BSG spin-off (being showrun by Whedonite Jane Espenson).

"District 9"

Just came back from the film of the summer. A masterful movie, demanding a sequel.

Ding Dong, the Prince of Darkness is Dead

Many remember Robert Novak fondly (in Salon's compendium), but I am delighted the son of a bitch is gone.

I will let Jon Stewart, the departed's biggest fan (he once called him "the Douche Bag of Liberty"), have the last word.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Headlines - Novak's Hit-and-Run
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

Quote of the Day (8/18/09) (Childhood Week)

Without thinking about it [the adult] assumes that his child lives in the same house as he does, not realizing that while every nook and cranny is familiar to him, to the child it is foreign territory, even if the child has his own room to play in, and his own swing, and even his own cupboard. When he takes his child for a walk along the streets of the town, he assumes that the child is treading the same streets, seeing the same houses, and observing the same traffic. The distance which divides maturity from childhood makes it hard to remember how he himself experienced his home and the things around it when he was a child.
--J. H. van den Berg, The Changing Nature of Man

Monday, August 17, 2009

Not So Smiley Face

A deeply troubling piece by Jane Smiley on Obama so far.

"BSG" the Movie: WTF?

I am so bored with the notion that no television show is truly fulfilled until it becomes a movie. Shame on you Bryan Singer.

This is as preposterous as the idea of a Buffy film without Whedon.

"Mad Men" Gets the Audience It Deserves

Mad Men 3.1 draws 2.8 millions viewers--a 34% jump from 2.1. I'm so happy for Weiner and company.

John Berger/Sterling-Cooper

Last night's Mad Men 3.1 ("Out of Town") was, of course, stellar as usual. Has there ever been a television series more consistently superb? Every episode meets the same high standard on every level.

Reading Onion TV Club's recap this morning lead me to think about the following observation from the great British Marxist art critic John Berger (Ways of Seeing (pictured):

Publicity is never a celebration of a pleasure-in-itself. Publicity is always about the future buyer. It offers him an image of himself made glamorous by the product or opportunity it is trying to sell. The image then makes him envious of himself as he might be. . . . The happiness of being envied is glamour. . . .

The spectator-buyer is meant to envy herself as she will become if she buys the product. She is meant to imagine herself transformed by the product into an object of envy for others, an envy which will then justify her loving herself. One could put this another way: the publicity image steals her love of herself as she is, and offers it back to her for the price of the product.

Mad Men takes place in a world where this economy is being established as America's (as the world's) ruling principle, and Berger, in turn, identifies the source of the Mad Menverse's pervasive sense of dissatisfaction.

The Borowitz Solution to Health Care Reform

In Move to Appease Critics, Obama Promises to Extend Health Care Coverage to Morons--Appeal to Key Demographic

Painting of the Week (8/17/09)

Paul Klee, Red Bridge

Quote of the Day (8/17/09) (Childhood Week)

Do you remember, when you were first a child
Nothing in the world seemed strange to you?
You perceived, for the first time, shapes already familiar,
And seeing, you knew that you had always known
The lichen on the rock, fern-leaves, the flowers of thyme,
As if the elements newly met in your body
Caught up into the momentary vortex of your living
Still kept the knowledge of a former state,
In you retained recollection of cloud and ocean,
The branching tree, the dancing flame.
--Kathleen Raine, "Message from Home"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Cops: You're Bob Dylan? Never Heard Of You"

This piece about Dylan's run-in with the cops last week is a delight.

The sampling from relevant Dylan songs is not to be missed. Kudos to David Green.

Too Much Quantum Flux

The Onion has the story.

Preview of "Slayage" 28 (7.4)

To be released later this month. Two of the contributors are Swedish, again demonstrating "Buffy's Global Reach."

--Kevin K. Durand (Henderson State University), "Are You Ready to Finish This?": The Battle against the Patriarchal Forces of Darkness [From Buffy Meets the Academy: Essays on the Episodes and Scripts as Texts © 2009, Edited by Kevin K. Durand by permission of McFarland & Co., Inc. Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640

--J. Douglas Rabb and J. Michael Richardson (Lakehead University), Myth, Metaphor, Morality and Monsters: The Espenson Factor and Cognitive Science in Joss Whedon's Narrative Love Ethic

--Sören Nylin (Stockholm University), Mad, Bad Scientists and Cute, Curious Magicians: The Quest for Knowledge in Buffyand the Whedonverse

--Malin Isaksson (Umeå University), Buffy/Faith Adult Femslash: Queer Porn with a Plot

A Barge Full of Poetry

A delightful trip downriver on a vessel bearing Garrison Keillor, Billy Collins (pictured), and, in tow, a barge loaded with poetry. A voyage of allusions.

Listen to it (from Prairie Home Companion) here.

Quote of the Day (8/16/09) (Childhood Week)

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

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Fringe" S2

An interesting, and puzzling, poster for the second season of Fringe.

Quote of the Day (8/15/09) (Childhood Week)

My fear went about with me, never leaving me: I would turn corners to get away from it, or shut myself in a little closet with one window, where there seemed to be no room except for myself; but the closet was big enough to hold my fear too. . . . I had actually gone away into a world where every object was touched with fear, yet a world of the same size as the ordinary world and corresponding to it in every detail: a sort of parallel world divided by an endless, unbreakable sheet of glass from the actual world. For though my world was exactly the same in appearance as that world, I knew that I could not break through my fear to it, that I was invisibly cut off, and this terrified and bewildered me. The sense that I was in a blind place was always with me, yet that place was only a clear cloud or bubble surrounding me, from which I could escape at any moment by doing something; but what that was I did not know. My sister, playing in the sun a few feet away, was in that other world; . . . I could not reach it by getting close to it, though I often tried; for when my mother took me in her arms and laid my head on her shoulder, she, so close to me, was in that world, and yet I was outside. . . .

It was as if I could grasp what was before my eyes only by an enormous effort, and even then an invisible barrier, a wall of distance, separated me from it. I moved in a crystalline globe or bubble, insulated from the life around me, and yet filled with desire to reach it, to be at the very heart of it and lose myself there.
--Edwin Muir, The Story and the Fable

Friday, August 14, 2009

"The Daily Show" Exposes Glenn Beck

Once again, Comedy Central does the journalism none of the other MSM bother to, showing that Glenn Beck, whose "ideas" undergird much of health care reform craziness, has gone from harshly criticizing American health care (on CNN) to praising it as the best in the world (on FOX)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Glenn Beck's Operation
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

"Who" Rant

Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me's host Peter Sagal tells off the film of Horton Hears a Who.

I love father feminism.

"TV Lowdown"

The most brilliant of my UK students, and now collaborator (I was second author with him of the Battlestar entry for The Essential Cult TV Reader), has started a TV blog.

Read Ian Maull's "TV Lowdown" here.


In a segment of "Cheating Death with Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA" Stephen offered the usual disclaimer that he has a DFA, not an MD, and then added "which means that when I deliver a baby it comes out of a Georgia O'Keefe painting."

Heard on "The Colbert Report"

Glenn Beck is losing his sponsors! First his mind, now his sponsors!

Quote of the Day (8/14/09) (Childhood Week)

I have often fancied . . . that in a child's mind there is at moments a divination of a hidden tragedy taking place around him, that tragedy being the life which he will not live for some years still, though it is there, invisible to him already. And a child has also a picture of human existence peculiar to himself, which he probably never remembers after he has lost it: the original vision of the world. I think of this picture or vision as that of a state in which the earth, the houses on the earth, and the life of every human being are related to the sky overarching them; as if the sky fitted to the earth and the earth the sky. Certain dreams convince me that a child has this vision, in which there is a completer harmony of all things with each other than he will ever know again.
--Herbert Read, "The Innocent Eye"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Mad Men" 3.1

Alan Sepinwall reviews the first episode of the new season.

The "County" Line

Finished watching the entire Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. last night. A great, great "brilliant but canceled" series.

When, at the end, President Cleveland tells Brisco and Lord Bowler "I hope to see you two in action again soon," and Bowler replies "It might be awhile," after which they ride off into the sunset, I shed a tear at the realization that this great hero and sidekick pair (and of course the great wonder horse Comet) would never be in action again.

Quote of the Day (8/13/09) (Childhood Week)

Consider, if men alone had always raised infants, how monumental, how privileged a task it would be! We would have tons of conceptual literature on infant-father interaction, technical journals, research establishments devoted to it, a huge esoteric vocabulary. It would be sacred as the Stock Exchange or football, and we would spend hours hearing of it.

But because women do it, it is invisible and embarrassing.
--James Tiptree, Jr.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Rob Thomas and Television Creativity"

Just finished and sent to Rhonda Wilcox "Rob Thomas and Television Creativity," to be included in Investgating Veronica Mars, the collection she and Sue Turnbull are doing for McFarland.

I have now done or will soon complete the following television auteur studies:

--Joss: A Creative Portrait of the Maker of the Whedonverses (forthcoming from Tauris/St. Martin’s [2009]).

--"'Impossible Girl': Amy Sherman-Palladino and Television Creativity” (forthcoming in Screwball Television: Critical Perspectives on Gilmore Girls, Syracuse U P, 2010).

--"From Made Men to Mad Men: What Matt Weiner Learned from David Chase” (forthcoming in The Essential Sopranos Reader, ed. David Lavery, Douglas Howard, and Paul Levinson, University Press of Kentucky, 2010).

--"Introduction: David Milch, Deadwood, and Television Creativity." Reading Deadwood: A Western to Swear By. Ed. David Lavery. London: I. B. Tauris, 2006. 1-7.

--(with Robert J. Thompson). “David Chase, The Sopranos, and Television Creativity.” This Thing of Ours: Investigating The Sopranos. London and New York: Columbia U P/Wallflower, 2002. 18-25.

Quote of the Day (8/12/09) (Childhood Week)

It is not the irreversible I discover in my childhood, it is the irreducible: everything which is still in me, by fits and starts; in the child, I read quite openly the dark underside of myself boredom, vulnerability, disposition to despairs (in the plural, unfortunately), inward excitement, cut off (unfortunately) from all expression.
--Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Debating Obamacare

A distinguished (yeah, right) panel on The Daily Show debates health care reform.

Only slightly less crazy that some of these town hall meetings or any installment of FOX and Friends.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Healther Skelter - Obama Death Panel Debate
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

Quote of the Day (8/11/09) (Walker Percy Week)

Why is it almost impossible to gaze directly at the Grand Canyon under these circumstances [as a sightseer] and see it for what it is—as one picks up a strange object from one's back yard and gazes directly at it? It is almost impossible because the Grand Canyon, the thing as it is, has been appropriated by the symbolic complex which has already been formed in the sightseer's mind. Seeing the canyon under approved circumstances is seeing the symbolic complex head on. The thing is no longer the thing as it confronted the Spaniard; it is rather that which has already been formulated by picture postcard, geography book, tourist folders, and the words Grand Canyon. As a result of this preformulation, the source of the sightseer's pleasure undergoes a shift. Where the wonder and delight of the Spaniard arose from his penetration of the thing itself, from a progressive discovery of depths, patterns, colors, shadows, etc., now the sightseer measures his satisfaction by the degree to which the canyon conforms to the preformed complex. If it does so, if it looks just like the postcard, he is pleased; he might even say, "Why it is every bit as beautiful as a picture postcard!" He feels he has not been cheated. . . .
--Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle

Monday, August 10, 2009

Stephen Hawking Must Die

Josh Marshall (via Jay Bookman) reveals that Investor's Business Daily is certain that the great physicist would be put to death under Obamacare, and god help him if he had born in the UK!!!!

People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

Quote of the Day (8/10/09) (Walker Percy Week)

Is looking like sucking: the more lookers, the less there is to see?
--Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Writers Unhappy with NBC "Leno"

Not surprising at all.

Quote of the Day (8/9/09) (Walker Percy Week)

My idea was simply that: if the encephalograph works, why not devise a gadget without wires that will measure the electrical activity of the separate centers of the brain? Hardly a radical idea. But here was the problem: given such a machine, given such readings, could the readings then be correlated with the manifold woes of the Western world, its terrors and rages and murderous impulses? And if so, could the latter be treated by treating the former? . . .

If you measure the pineal activity of a monkey or any other subhuman animal with my lapsometer, you will invariably record identical readings at Layers I and II. Its self, that is to say, coincides with itself. Only in man do you find a discrepancy: Layer I, the outer social self, ticking over, say, at a sprightly 5.4 mmv., while Layer II just lies there, barely alive at 0.7 mmv., or even zero! a naught, a gap, an aching wound. Only in man does the self miss itself, fall from itself (hence lapsometer!). Suppose ! Suppose I could hit on the right dosage and weld the broken self whole! What if man could reenter paradise, so to speak, and live there both as man and spirit, whole and intact man-spirit, as solid flesh as speckled trout, a dappled thing, yet aware of itself as a self.
--Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Quote of the Day (8/8/09) (Walker Percy Week)

Consider to what extent an "antique" is prized because it is excellently made and beautiful and to what extent it is prized because it is an antique and as such is saturated with another time and another place and is therefore resistant to absorption by the self just as a pine piling saturated in creosote resists corrosion by the sea and thus possesses a higher coefficient of informing power for the naught of self.

If you say that a writing table made by Thomas Sheraton is of value because it is excellently made and beautiful, how would you go about making a writing table now that would be similarly prized as an antique two hundred years from now?

The real question of course is whether the twentieth-century self is different from the eighteenth-century self, both in its reliance on "antiques" to inform itself and in its ability to make a writing table which is graceful and useful and for no other reason. Was a well-to-do eighteenth-century Englishman content to buy a Sheraton writing table, or would he have preferred a fifteenth-century "antique"?
--Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book

Friday, August 07, 2009

Top 20 Bloodsuckers

Entertainment Weekly has the slide show of a score of eminent vampires.

Quote of the Day (8/7/09) (Walker Percy Week)

The Self since the time of Descartes has been stranded, split off from everything else in the Cosmos, a mind which professes to understand bodies and galaxies but is by the very act of understanding marooned in the Cosmos, with which it has no connection. It therefore needs to exercise every option in order to reassure itself that it is not a ghost but is rather a self among other selves. One such option is a sexual encounter. Another is war. The pleasure of a sexual encounter derives not only from physical gratification but also from the demonstration to oneself that, despite one's own ghostliness, one is, for a moment at least, a sexual being. Amazing! Indeed, the most amazing of all the creatures of the Cosmos: a ghost with an erection! Yet not really amazing, for only if the abstracted ghost has an erection can it, like Jove spying Europa on the beach, enter the human condition.
--Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book

Thursday, August 06, 2009


So the Birthers were punked by the Kenyan birth certificate. How cool is that?

Heard on "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr,": The Futility of Being an English Major

Bowler (to a gut-shot Brisco County): Do something. Didn’t you study medicine at Howard?
Brisco: Harvard. To tell the truth I was an English major.

Finally bought the DVD set, and I am loving it.

And by the way, Jack Bauer was an English major too.

Quote of the Day (8/6/09) (Walker Percy Week)

We love those who know the worst of us and don't turn their faces away.
--Walker Percy

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Your Very Own Kenyan Birth Certificate Generator

Go here to make your own. Mine is below. Below that is my wife's.

On The Daily Show, last night, when Jon Stewart insisted to John Oliver that for Obama the Presidency was a marathon, not a sprint, Oliver replied: "Well, being Kenyan, Obama should be good at that."

A "Sopranos" Movie?

This is from the New York Daily News. Tip of the Hat to Doug Howard

'Sopranos' cast members say big-screen version has a shot
Tuesday, August 4th 2009, 4:00 AM

'Sopranos" producer David Chase remains coy about the possibility of a big-screen followup to the hit HBO show,but loose-lipped cast members are suggesting a script is already on the page.

It's been speculated that a major holdup to the big-screen version is a strong reluctance on the part of James Gandolfini to sign on to the project.

But, according to a chatty Lorraine Bracco, that rumor is way off the mark.

"I don't think it's that at all," says Bracco about Gandolfini's supposed cold feet. "I think it's really trying to get the right script. Without the right script, it's really not worth doing."

Bracco isn't shy about making her concerns heard. "We've all talked to David to give him a kick in the booty to get it right," she says pointedly.

While HBO mouthpieces yesterday shot down any talk about the existence of a script, claiming it is "just rumor," Steve Van Zandt recently added to the buzz.

The "Sopranos" alum and Bruce Springsteen bandmate let slip to a Belfast newspaper that his character, Sil - who was struggling for his life in the show's abrupt ending - "is still alive."

Go figure.

And Bracco doesn't sound like she's planning to stop at just one movie.

"I want us to be like 'Sex and the City' or 'The Bourne Identity,'" she gushed. "I want to make a million of them."

Quote of the Day (8/5/09) (Walker Percy Week)

She refers to a phenomenon of moviegoing which I have called certification. Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere.
--Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Changing American Electorate

Consider this remarkable statistic. In 1980, 32 percent of the electorate consisted of white Democrats (or at least white Carter voters) -- likewise, in 2008, 32 percent of the electorate consisted of white Obama voters. But whereas, in 1980, just 9 percent of the electorate were nonwhite Carter voters, 21 percent of the electorate were nonwhite Obama voters last year. Thus, Carter went down to a landslide defeat, whereas Obama defeated John McCain by a healthy margin,--Nate Silver

Tip of the hat to Andrew Sullivan

A Birthday Card (Birther Card) BHO


In the next issue of Slayage (#28) we will have two essays from Swedish scholars.

Heard on "The Colbert Report"

If at first you don't succeed, redefine what you did as success.

Quote of the Day (8/4/09) (Writers/Writing Week)

Words are alone in a text, and texts are in countless ways more productive than oral utterance. Moreover, in composing a text, in "writing" something, the one producing the written utterance is also alone. Writing is an eremetical operation. I am writing a book which will be read by hundreds of thousands of people, so I must be alone, isolated from everyone. Besides this, in silent reading, which used to be exceptional but is the norm in our high technology cultures, the reader is also alone. Absence speaks to absence. Often the author with whom the reader is communing is dead.
--Walter J. Ong, "Writing and the Evolution of Consciousness"

Monday, August 03, 2009

Joan Weighs In

Mad Men's Christina Hendricks (Joan Holloway) feels very strongly about her character's Season Two rape.

A Turkey of a Demolition

As a long-time fan of building demolitions, I just have to post this:

Obama Denies Being Kenyan-born, or a Vampire, or a Cylon

Two Different Takes on "Release Me" ("True Blood," 2.7)

Ken Tucker (EW)--thumbs up--and The Onion TV Club (Emily Withrow)--thumbs down--offer starkly different takes on last night's True Blood.

The Onion is definitely right about the episode's exposition: quite terrible.

Painting of the Week (8/3/09)

Jacques-Louis David, Death of Marat

Quote of the Day (8/3/09) (Writers/Writing Week)

But the thing that stands eternally in the way of really good writing is always one: the virtual impossibility of lifting to the imagination those things which lie under the direct scrutiny of the senses, close to the nose. It is this difficulty that sets a value upon all works of art and makes them a necessity. The senses witnessing what is immediately before them in detail see a finality which they cling to in despair, not knowing which way to turn. Thus this so-called or scientific array becomes fixed, the walking devil of modern life. He who even nicks the solidity of this apparition does a piece of work superior to that of Hercules when he cleared the Augean stables.
--William Carlos Williams, "Kora in Hell"

Sunday, August 02, 2009

MSNBC's Shady Dealings

Glenn Greenwald has the story. Disconcerting to say the least for someone who watches a lot of MSNBC.

The Other "Dollhouse" Pilot

I have now watched the Dollhouse pilot Whedon and company originally shot, "Echo," shelved by the suits in favor of "Ghost." Cannibalized here and there throughout Season One, "Echo" went on the DVD set, where it can now be watched in its entirety.

Once more, as with Firefly, FOX shows itself utterly unqualified to run a television series. Character-development and mythology be damned, "Serenity" had been replaced by the more action-filled "The Train Job" as the debut episode of Firefly. Similarly, "Echo," full of rich dialogue and philosophical contemplation," was replaced by the so-so "Ghost," with its by-the-numbers Echo-as-hostage-negotiator plot.

FOX News assumes its viewers are political idiots, utterly lacking in what Hemingway once called "crap detectors." FOX's entertainment division often seems to work from the assumption that its viewers are incapable of following a complex narrative and are seeking T & A and shootouts.

Quote of the Day (8/2/09) (Writers/Writing Week)

As long as there is life on earth, men will not cease to tell each other what they have experienced and communicate that part of their experience which has remained an inner possession. And among these men there will always be some whose experience becomes for them an expression and symbol of age-old cosmic laws, who in the perishable perceive the eternal and in the changing and contingent the imprint of the divine. It will not matter very much whether such writers call their works novels, memoirs, confessions, or something else.
--Hermann Hesse, Reflections

Saturday, August 01, 2009

"Battle-Style Galactica"

I am watching all the extras on the BSG 4.5 DVD set and found this featurette, on Disc 4, especially interesting.

It focuses on (a rarity) directing for TV, with special attention to BSG's go-to helmer, Michael Rymer, and occasional directors Robert Young and Edward James Olmos.

Top 20 Vampires

As picked by EW in the new issue.

"Joss: A Creative Portrait"

My study of Joss is now showing on UK.

Quote of the Day (8/1/09) (Writers/Writing Week)

[Language] is like a beam of light on Venus. There, on Venus, heavy atmospheric gravity bends light around the entire circumference of the planet, enabling a man, in theory, to see the back of his own head. Now, the object of every artist's vision is, in one sense, the back of his own. But the writer, unlike the painter, the sculptor, or composer, cannot form his idea of order directly in his materials; for as soon as he writes the least noun, the whole world starts pouring back onto his page. So fiction, using language like a beam of Venusian light to see the back of his own head, to talk about its own art, makes a very wide tautological loop. It goes all around the world of language's referents before coming back to its own surface.
--Annie Dillard, Living by Fiction