Monday, May 31, 2010

Addy and Her Dad, End of May 2010


That's what Sarah called her post about this photo.

Heard on "Abiquiu" ("Breaking Bad")

This exchange takes place in "Abiquiu" during a physical therapy session for an in-pain Hank:

Marie Schrader: It's supposed to hurt. Pain is weakness leaving the body.
Hank Schrader: Pain is going to fuck your ass first.

Quote of the Day (5/31/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

Now, in order that nature may be peopled with spirits, nature must first be devoid of spirits; but this caused [19th century] scholars no difficulty, because they never supposed the possibility of any other kind of nature. The development of human consciousness was thus presented as a history of alpha-thinking beginning from zero and applied always to the same phenomena, at first in the form of erroneous beliefs about them, and as time went on, in the form of more and more correct and scientific beliefs. In short, the evolution of human consciousness was reduced to a bare history of ideas.
—Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances 66

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years"

These lists are always fun--and always arbitrary. But who can contest the top 5?

1. Homer Simpson
2. Harry Potter
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
4. Tony Soprano
5. The Joker (Heath Ledger's)

Stephen Colbert made the list--as a fictional character. Nice.

Quote of the Day (5/30/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

You may go on gabbling . . . words like supernaturalism, dualism, psychosomatic (and I have no quarrel with that word, properly used), input, feedback, output and the rest of it, till you are black in the face. You may, for all I know, succeed in detecting a physical or electrical charge in the brain for the airiest fragment of a frolic of a half-thought that ever hovered for an instant in the fancy of Mercutio. But you can never, without talking nonsense, obliterate the ultimate cleavage between (a) consciousness itself and (b) that of which it is conscious.
—Owen Barfield, Worlds Apart 38-39; Hunter is speaking

Saturday, May 29, 2010

RIP, Dennis Hopper

He's gone. Here is the first paragraph from the IMDB bio:

Dennis Hopper, best known as the director and star of Easy Rider and for his roles in Hoosiers, Blue Velvet and Apocalypse Now, died Saturday in Venice, California of prostate cancer. He turned 74 two weeks ago.

Here's a Catherine Graham tribute to Hopper (from Daily Beast).

I will remember him best as one of the creepiest movie villains of all time: Frank Booth in David Lynch's Blue Velvet.

Why I Love "Friday Night Lights" (Season Four)

The oh-so-flawed Buddy (in 4.3) telling off the Panther boosters and cutting his ties.

The barbecue for the 1983 East Dillon High state champs (and Landry kissing his African American not girlfriend.

Such a purely American, and still universal, drama.

Quote of the Day (5/29/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

We had come at last [Barfield concludes in Saving the Appearances] to the point of realizing that art can no longer be content with imitating the collective representations, now these are themselves turning into idols. But instead of setting out to smash the idols, we have tamely concluded that nothing can now be art which in any way reminds us of nature—and that practically anything may be art, which does not. We have learned that art can represent nothing but Man himself, and we have interpreted this as meaning that art exists for the purpose of enabling Mr. Smith to "express his personality." And all because we have not learnt—though our very physics shouts it at us—that nature herself is the representation of man.
—Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances 131

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sullivan Takes Down Noonan

Praise be Andrew Sullivan.

Blog posts like this help give me a backbone.

"Was Meister"

Was just given these magical words from Facebook as my blurry security check.

Must check my Wallace Stevens concordance. Sounds Stevensian.

Sarah's Wedding Program

Recommended Reading on "The End"

A recommendation by Marc Dolan is high praise indeed.

"The Good Wife"

I am immersed in a Good Wife marathon and liking what I see. Reminds me somewhat of Life: a procedural (legal instead of police) with an ongoing serial narrative to keep us hooked.

But I am confused: the LOST's Man in Black did leave The Island and became a possibly sinister States Attorney for Chicago?

The Non-End of "FlashForward"

Todd VanDerWerf has the last word on FlashForward.

But still. This show was nuts and gonzo and kind of lovable, in spite of the fact that it was also completely awful. There have been a lot of great books written about movies that absolutely and utterly fell apart in the production process, but FlashForward is the first TV series where I've felt the same might be true. A lot of talented people gave their all to make this show. A network staked much of its future on it. And instead, it completely fell apart and was canceled, a really boring show about aliens being picked up instead. I won't miss FlashForward, but, man, I want to know what happened in everybody's second blackout.

He's right, I think: FlashForward is television's Heaven's Gate or Bonfire of the Vanities.

From Relativity Theory to Climate Change

So the opposition to climate change has a predecessor.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

"24": The Real Legacy

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers just posted the following cogent observation:

Having never missed an episode of 24, I agree with the earlier writer that the normalization of more and more extreme acts of violence is part of the show's legacy. But what really struck me about the show was an outgrowth of a world, created by the 24 writers, where extreme institutional incompetence was the norm.

White Water Rapids: Joss Whedon on Long-Running Television Series

With all the debate this past week over whether or not the ending of LOST was planned, these words--from Laura Miller's Salon interview ("The Man Behind the Slayer")--jumped out at me.

WHEDON: The master plan does not have a master plan. Television ultimately finds itself, and after it finds itself, it finds itself changing. I'd have a year plotted out, maybe two years in advance. And I had the major points that I knew I needed to hit and they would serve as anchors and we'd get from one to the next, and that was great. But the rest you deliberately don't have a master plan for, because you don't know what's going to happen. Apparently people seem to be responding to this Boreanaz fellow [David, the actor who plays Angel]. Apparently Seth [Green, who plays Oz] is gone. Apparently this villain isn't working out and this one's popping like crazy. You need to improvise, you always need to.

TV's like whitewater rafting: Without rocks, there wouldn't be rapids, and it wouldn't be as much fun. Rolling with it gave us Tara and Willow coming out. It gave us Spike falling in love with Buffy. Rolling with it found out that Anya and Andrew were comic geniuses. You plan your ideas and themes, and then you let the rest form naturally, and then it feels real. It doesn't feel like you're imposing something on everybody. Ultimately, the staff—who are the biggest fan-geeks in the world, and I'm including myself—when they watch an episode have to feel the way the audience does, and more importantly the characters have to feel the way the audience does. If the audience doesn't buy that Buffy's brought back from the dead, then Buffy can't buy it. They've got to go, "I can't believe this has happened. It's horrible." If the audience is feeling the loss of Angel and feeling that she can't have a relationship with Riley, she's got to feel the same way. You feel that out.

Most of the critics of LOST's ending seem unaware of the perils of serial creativity.

"Watcher Junior" 5

The fifth issue of Watcher Junior is now up.

Thank you David Kociemba!

More Wedding Photos

These were taken by a friend of Sarah's.

Quote of the Day (5/28/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

It seems to me (Barfield explains—again through his mouthpiece Burgeon, this time in Worlds Apart] that the paradise—imago—or myth, or story—is in a way the symbol par excellence. I imagine this is why it is so universal and why it has so many ramifying significances. It is the symbol of symbols; because it symbolizes, not so much any single, non-physical archetype, but non-physical existence in general—non-physical existence as such. You will never understand symbols until you have grasped that pre-historic man in his unconscious goes back, not to the animal kingdom, as the nineteenth century fondly imagined, but to a paradisal state when there was no death, because there was no matter.
—Owen Barfield, Worlds Apart 124, Burgeon is speaking

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Sex and the City 2"

The reports are not good. Andrew O'Hehir is appalled. My daughter Sarah, a huge S&TC fan, went to a midnight screening and suggests it has taken badness to a whole new level.

Why, oh why, do we continue to think that a great TV show is not complete until it has become a movie? Will there be a Sopranos movie? Will LOST migrate to the big screen? No! No! No!

What's Wrong with "Field of Dreams"

Charley Pierce eviscerates a movie I once cried at.

Quote of the Day (5/27/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

Modern Physics assumes for its purposes that Nature unperceived consists of some kind of network of waves or particles. What does Anthroposophy assume? That Nature unperceived is the unconscious, sleeping being of humanity; just as Nature perceived is the self-reflection of waking humanity.
—Owen Barfield, Romanticism Comes of Age 211

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"The End" of LOST

There is no now here.
Christian Shephard

The most surprising thing about LOST's finale was how many people were prepared to hate it. Salon's Heather Havrilesky, a TV critic I have praised and admired over the years, gave us "How can the "Lost" finale not suck?" before "The End" even aired. A despicable online poster, quoted by Nikki Stafford, had a message for Darlton that seemed ripped-off from boiler-plate Obama-hatred: “I hope you rot in hell and your house burns down.” Have American television fans and political wing-nuts mind-melded?

I loved "The End." Since it aired simultaneously with the wedding of our daughter Sarah, I was not able to see a second of it until close to midnight. I would last only through Desmond's descent into The Source that night and finished my DVR screening early the next morning, finding myself quite satisfied.

Later that evening, though, I watched it again with my wife and was blown away. But for a few lapses (noted already by Jensen, Stafford, and others)--a too-rushed scene here (Penny and Desmond in the church), a misstep there (Sayid with Shannon?)--"The End" seemed close to perfect.

I hate didacticism ("We must distrust a work of art that has a palpable design upon us," Keats insisted), but "The End" was anything but didactic. A few weeks ago, Darlton warned us that the ending would require interpretation (though not in Sopranos fashion--not that there was anything wrong with that). The light that flooded into the church, bathing every character in its illumination, was as much the "C" of Einstein's E=MC x 2 as it was religious allegory.

Several bloggers/recappers have noted how the final scene suggested a wrap party for the show, but unlike the finale scene of Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man! (which I write about here), which is a staged wrap party taking place outside the diegesis [the world of the story itself], the gathering in the church takes place in the LOST storyworld. We are witness to a "narrative wrap party."

LOST has always been about storytelling (as all great stories are). The Island exists in a "sea of stories" (as that Rushdie book Desmond was reading was meant to signify). Take note of the heady conversation Jack and his father have before he can join his mates. Where are they, the dead Jack asks his dead father, and Christian answers:

This is the place you all made together so that you could find one another. The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people. You needed all of them and they needed you.
Jack: For what?
Christian: To remember and to . . . let go.

LOST --the narrative, the series, the cultural phenomenon--was as well a place to find one another. The LOST-haters, who have much more still to work on than Ben, can remain the fuck outside.

Anyone not moved by the splendidly edited cross-cutting of Jack's staggering journey to his place of death and his reunion in the church with the other LOSTies (whether or not you buy into Jeff Jensen's highly probable suggestion that, like Desmond in "Flashes Before Your Eyes" and "The Constant," he is moving simultaneously back and forth between the two)--please just go away. You have disqualified yourself as a commentator.

Allow me to quote, if you will, from an essay I once wrote about the finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In The Sense of an Ending the great literary critic Frank Kermode observes that there are really only two sorts of fictions: those "which seal off the long perspectives" and those which "move through time to an end, an end," Kermode explains, that "we must sense, even if we cannot know it." Now the "sense" with which we come to experience such ends, as Kermode makes clear, is nothing else but the generation of fictions. The fate of the former is to end up, "When the drug wears off," in "the dump with the other empty bottles" (170). Most fictions, including, of course, most television programs, are, regrettably, frequently just such empty bottles. But those fictions which continue to interest us, which through their very subject matter and form give to us a "sense of an ending" and facilitate our imaginative deconstruction and construction of our world, include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a fiction which will “continue to interest us” because it “move[d] through time to an end, an end which we must sense even if we cannot know it.”

LOST is no empty bottle--and no simple message in a bottle. It will never, never end up on the dump. We will not let it go anytime soon.

Quote of the Day (5/26/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

One thing at least is made very clear from what [psychologists and anthropologists] are fond of telling us about primitive man and that is that, whatever else he was doing, he was always projecting his insides unto something or other. It was his principal occupation. He must presumably have had one or two other things to do as well, but that was what he majored in.
—Owen Barfield, Rediscovery of Meaning 74

South Parking Saddam

Remember South Park: Bgger, Longer, and Uncut? Remember Satan's bedmate?

Parker and Stone must have been a powerful influence
on the spooks in Langley.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bart Spoils "LOST"

Addy at Our House the Night of Sarah and Jason's Wedding

Sarah's Wonderful Wedding

The Final Tick

A thoughtful piece on the now done 24.

Wrong about LOST, though.

Another piece worth reading here.

An interview with 24's showrunner Howard Gordon in EW reveals that, in Season Eight, as in Season One, the series' masterminds were pretty much making it up as they went along.

Quote of the Day (5/25/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

With [the] ability to experience phenomena as objects independent of human consciousness, there has grown up our enormously improved power of grasping them in exact and quantitative detail. (Indeed, it was by shifting our attention to this detail that we gained that ability.) With this has come the progressive elimination of those errors and confusions in which alpha-thinking is inevitably entangled while, in its initial stages, it is still overshadowed by participation; that is, the vague but immediate awareness of "meaning". . . . And with this again, has come the power of effective manipulation on which our civilization, with its many works of mercy, is based. Surgery, for example, presupposes acquaintance with the human anatomy exact in the same mode that our knowledge of a machine is exact.
—Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances 143

Monday, May 24, 2010

"The End" (What Nikki Saw)

Nikki Stafford's take on the LOST finale. As always, brilliant.

I will comment tomorrow.

My Toast to Jason and Sarah

My toast to Jason and Sarah at their wedding reception, May 23rd, 2010. (The father of the bride and the father of the groom both offered toasts.)

In his final great poem, “Asphodel That Greeny Flower,” William Carlos Williams sits with his wife Flossie by the Atlantic Ocean and contemplates their marriage, a relationship—as all are—of infinite complexity. and their wedding day is vivid in their memories and imaginations. “As I think of it now,/after a lifetime” Williams writes, “it is as if/a sweet-scented flower/were poised/and for me did open.”

We have all just witnessed—been blessed enough to witness—the flower of Jason and Sarah’s marriage open. Of course this wonderful flowering had a prelude that many of us have been privileged to watch as well.

A young man, kind, gentle, and generous, who makes me retroactively embarrassed at my own early attempts at fatherhood and who has shown himself capable of great love for a young woman Joyce and I hold most dear, a nurturer and protector a father could only dream of.

A young woman, brilliant from day one, the finest young writer I know with the most precious soul it is possible to imagine. One day, not too far away, it will be my honor to be known as her father. To be that man more than fulfills my own life’s ambitions.

May Jason and Sarah’s love and life bloom. May their marriage be a perfect flowering of two special human beings.

Quote of the Day (5/24/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Quote of the Day (5/23/10) (Octavio Paz Week)

If we are a metaphor of the universe, the human couple is the metaphor par excellence, the point of intersection of all forces and the seed of all forms. The couple is time recaptured, the return to the time before time.
--Octavio Paz

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Quote of the Day (5/22/10) (Octavio Paz Week)

Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone.
--Octavio Paz

Friday, May 21, 2010

"LOST" v. "Fringe"

In his recap of the season finale of Fringe, Noel Murray offered some fascinating LOST-rich ruminations on the success and failure of long-running series:

Thought for the future…

With Lost ending, there’s been a lot of talk about whether network television will ever see another show of similar ambition, either in terms of the show’s sprawling narrative or its spare-no-expense approach to casting and location-shooting. On the latter count, I’d say the answer is probably no; the returns just aren’t great enough anymore to justify spending what ABC/Disney spent on Lost each week. (Then again, with digital effects, it’s possible to make shows look more expensive than they are, so I could see another studio/network launching a series with a globe-hopping bent.) On the former count, I’d say… maybe? The problem in the years since Lost debuted is that too many creators have taken the wrong lessons from Lost’s success. They think it’s all about freaky reveals and teasing out a mystery, and too many head writers start their shows thinking that they’re going to improve on Lost, by having a clearer idea from the start where they’re headed. The end result are shows that have five-year-plans but don’t last ten episodes, because they’re too dull and/or confusing in the early going.

Lost, by contrast, nearly always tried to deliver an entertaining hour of TV, first and foremost. And perhaps to the show’s ultimate detriment. It could be argued, persuasively, that in the effort to make every episode dramatic and haunting, Lost left its fans expecting more from its endgame than its creators have been able to provide. But if Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse hadn’t gone in that direction, it’s doubtful that Lost would’ve lasted six seasons—or even two. And it definitely wouldn’t have left behind so many hours of television that fans remember just from their titles alone. Lost’s greatest weakness—a lack of clear, unwavering focus—has also been the source of its greatest strength. The writers did what they had to from hour to hour to keep viewers guessing—and, more importantly, interested in guessing.

Can Fringe be the next Lost? Probably not. Unless it shows a marked ratings improvement next season, Fringe is probably only to going to have one more year on television, or maybe two, but not enough to expand the story as it currently exists to anything like Lost’s epic scale. Fringe has fewer characters and fewer mysteries, and a premise that’s more limiting. Lost could be a romance novel one week and a science-fiction story the next. Fringe, by-and-large, is just cops-and-monsters.

But I think there’s a lesson for future TV writers and producers in the way Fringe has developed. J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci had a bigger story in mind, but they were willing to let it simmer while they delivered stand-alone episodes to build audience interest. And then they were willing to expedite the mythology a little when the hardcore fans and critics complained that that the monster-of-the-week episodes were getting stale. Something similar happened with Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse, which started out too goofy and then deepened magnificently by the end of its second (and final) season. Neither of these shows has gotten the balance exactly right, but they’ve lit the pathway for others to follow. If you want to make the next Lost, you can’t start out planning to make a show like Lost. You’re better off planning to make something like—oh, I don’t know—Castle, or The Mentalist. And then just see where you end up.

Quote of the Day (5/21/10) (Octavio Paz Week)

The West teaches us that being is dissolved into meaning, and the East that meaning is dissolved into something which is neither being nor nonbeing: in a The Same which no language except the language of silence names. For men are made in such a way that silence is also a language for us.
--Octavio Paz, Claude Levi-Strauss

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Dissertation

The University of Florida libraries have been been working to put all dissertations completed at U of F online, and today I received word that mine is now up (and downloadable as a pdf).

I completed To Discover That There Is Nothing to Discover: Imagination, the Open, and the Movies of Federico Fellini in 1978 under the direction of W. R. Robinson. I was chosen for Phi Beta Kappa on the strength of it.

The site makes the dissertation available in a .mobi file as well, and I have just loaded it onto my Kindle!


It's now a running joke with my classes how much I hate Nicolas Cage.

This won't mitigate how much I despise him (quoted by Andrew Sullivan).

I love all animals. I have a fascination with fish, birds, whales—sentient life—insects, reptiles. I actually choose the way I eat according to the way animals have sex. I think fish are very dignified with sex. So are birds. But pigs, not so much. So I don’t eat pig meat or things like that. I eat fish and fowl.--Nicolas Cage.

Spoiling for a Fight

Spoiler alert! In a fine piece in Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams denounces the "spoiler police."


This Sunday is our daughter Sarah's wedding. I will be posting infrequently, or perhaps not at all, until Monday, May 24th.

Quote of the Day (5/20/10) (Octavio Paz Week)

The North American system only wants to consider the positive aspects of reality. Men and women are subjected from childhood to an inexorable process of adaptation; certain principles, contained in brief formulas are endlessly repeated by the Press, the radio, the churches, and the schools, and by those kindly, sinister beings, the North American mothers and wives. A person imprisoned by these schemes is like a plant in a flowerpot too small for it: he cannot grow or mature.
--Octavio Paz

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

LOST: Redistributing the Source (or May the Source be With You)

Recaping "What the Died For," Jeff Jensen makes the following brilliant comment (all parenthetical):

All this said, I do find myself wondering if the current conflict on The Island can and will be resolved by a paradigm shift in thinking about The Source. The Island needs The Source — but does The Source really need The Island? We've been told that a little bit of the light exists in everyone. Well, why not take a cue from Hurley's Parable of the Hatch Pantry and just divide the rest of The Source equally among all people? Why not make humanity itself the exclusive dwelling place of The Source? It's time to decentralize! It's time for Mystic Reformation! That's my theory of Desmond. I think super-Buddha is going to get dropped into the Holy Wormhole and will absorb all the energy into himself and then redistribute it throughout all of mankind. The Source needs a guardian. But what it needs even more is for all of us to guard it.

And as I finish the preceding parenthetical, another one hit me. What if once upon a time, The Source did reside within all of humanity? What if we stopped believing in The Source, or we convinced ourselves that The Source stopped believing in us, so much so that now The Source exists as an anomaly that's hidden away from us — as something lost that must be found. The Truth Is Out There — but once, The Truth Was In Here.

Quote of the Day (5/19/10) (Octavio Paz Week)

The history of Western thought has been the history of the relations between being and meaning, the subject and the object, man and nature. After Descartes, the dialogue was altered by a sort of exaggeration of the subject. This exaggeration culminated in Husserl's phenomenology and Wittgenstein's logic. The dialogue of philosophy with the world became the interminable monologue of the subject. The world was silent. . . . Levi-Strauss breaks brutally with this situation and inverts the terms. Now it is nature which speaks with itself, through man and without his being aware. It is not man but the world which cannot come out of itself.
--Octavio Paz, Claude Levi-Strauss

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quote of the Day (5/18/10) (Octavio Paz Week)

What sets worlds in motion is the interplay of differences, their attractions and repulsions. Life is plurality, death is uniformity. By suppressing differences and peculiarities, by eliminating different civilizations and cultures, progress weakens life and favors death. The ideal of a single civilization for everyone, implicit in the cult of progress and technique, impoverishes and mutilates us. Every view of the world that becomes extinct, every culture that disappears, diminishes a possibility of life.
--Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lucas Praises Darlton

Although I have lost most of my respect for the man who gave us Jar Jar Binks and made Guido the Bounty Hunter shoot first, that the creator of Star Wars has sent his praise to Lindelof and Cuse is kinda cool and must mean much to the recipients. According to The Hollywood Reporter this is what he said:

Congratulations on pulling off an amazing show. Don’t tell anyone … but when ‘Star Wars’ first came out, I didn’t know where it was going either. The trick is to pretend you’ve planned the whole thing out in advance. Throw in some father issues and references to other stories — let’s call them homages — and you’ve got a series.

In six seasons, you’ve managed to span both time and space, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I never saw what was around the corner. Now that it’s all coming to an end, it’s impressive to see how much was planned out in advance and how neatly you’ve wrapped up everything. You’ve created something really special. I’m sad that the series is ending, but I look forward to seeing what you two are going to do next.

"Whatever Happened, Happened"

My LOST marathon has reached 5.11, and I just want to say that for me this is the best Kate episode, genuinely moving, with a solid performance from Evangeline Lilly.

Next up, Ben is judged by the Smoke Monster in "Dead is Dead."

My marathon so far has convinced me that LOST, a show I already considered one of the four or five greatest in the history of television, is two or three times better than I remembered.

Talking with Darlton in the Week of the "LOST" Finale

Two new interviews with Lindelof and Cuse:

The New York Times speaks with Darlton.

And Alan Sepinwall talks to the showrunners.

Pop Culture Differences in Alternative Realities

Fringe began distinguishing the alternative reality that menaces our world in the final episode of Season One when we were shown a New York skyline with the World Trade Center still standing and a Washington in which the White House has been destroyed in a terrorist attack. Then, in the superlative "Peter" episode a few weeks back, we saw a billboard for an alterna-Back to the Future starring Eric Stoltz (instead of Michael J. Fox).

In last week's "Over There" we once again saw that the differences between realities may be pop cultural as well as historical or metaphysical. In addition to Richard Nixon being on a 50¢ coin and Martin Luther King on a $20, a certain doll is still popular "over there."

And The West Wing is still running (it left the air over here in 2006).

Quote of the Day (5/17/10) (Octavio Paz Week)

Modern man likes to pretend that his thinking is wide-awake. But that wide-awake thinking has led us into the images of a nightmare in which the torture chambers are endlessly repeated in the mirrors of reason. When we emerge, perhaps we will realize that we have been dreaming with our eyes wide open, and that the dreams of reason are intolerable. And then, perhaps, we will begin to dream once more with our eyes closed.
--Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Watching LOST again--from the beginning--is yielding many new insights. But none greater than this, discovered just this morning.

I don't remember what I thought when I first watched "Cabin Fever" in Season Four and saw this drawing of the smoke monster by the young John Locke, remarked upon by Richard Alpert when he showed up to administer an admission test to the boy-who-would-be-Smokey. How could boy Locke have known of Jacob's brother's post-thrown-in-The Source being?

Badass English Majors

I already discussed this in the preface I wrote for Stacey Abbott and Simon Brown's Investigating Alias . . .
Fascinating, is it not, that contemporary American television's two most badass secret agents, Alias' Sydney and 24's Jack Bauer (see Cerasini 2003: 7), were both English majors? English majors!

Quote of the Day (5/16/10) (Jackson Browne Week)

Some of them were angry
At the way the earth was abused
By the men who learned how to forge her beauty into power
And they struggled to protect her from them
Only to be confused
By the magnitude of her fury in the final hour
And when the sand was gone and the time arrived
In the naked dawn only a few survived
And in attempts to understand a thing so simple and so huge
Believed that they were meant to live after the deluge
--Jackson Browne, BEFORE THE DELUGE

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Addy in Her Wedding Dress

Her mother's wedding, of course--May 23rd.

An Unforgiveable Lie

"Heroes" Put out of Its Misery

Really a mercy cancellation. Should have happened two years ago.

Quote of the Day (5/15/10) (Jackson Browne Week)

I don't know what happens when people die
Can't seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It's like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can't sing
I can't help listening
And I can't help feeling stupid standing 'round
Crying as they ease you down
'Cause I know that you'd rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(Right on dancing)
No matter what fate chooses to play
(There's nothing you can do about it anyway)

Just do the steps that you've been shown
By everyone you've ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours
Another's steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you'll do alone

Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don't let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you'll never know
--Jackson Browne, For a Dancer

Friday, May 14, 2010

Zombie v. "LOST"

Darlton have long joked about the possibility of a "Zombie Season" of LOST, but I don't think this is what they meant.

"LOST" Finale Preview

"Swan Song" Reconsidered

I just watched it again and liked it much more. I am now giving it a B+/A-.

I initially loved the finale of Season One of Heroes, but by the time I came to "debate" it in Saving the World with Nikki Stafford (who had famously despised it I had come to find it indefensible. (With perfect hindsight we can now see "How to Stop" as the first indication of Heroes unprecedented deterioration into a truly unwatchable series.)

Now we have the reverse. I immediately blogged (here and here) my terrible disappointment. Now I think I was unfair, and I will try to explain why in a future post.

So if Chuck is god (is this some indication of Kripke's ego?), he is a being who spends some of his royalties on Mistress Madga, and you gotta like that. In an earlier episode Dean described god as a "dead beat dad." In "Swan Song" the older Winchester boy ponders Chuck's "virgin/hooker thing." Leave it to Supernatural to give us such a marvellously fallible supreme being.

The Method Meets Science Fiction in "Over There"

When we are on stage, we are in the here and now.
--Konstantine Stanislavski

Watching Joshua Jackson's tender performance as a returned-to-the other-side Peter Bishop, on last night's Fringe, I couldn't help but think, how do you prepare, as an actor, for something like that? What instructions could a director give?

Peter, you should know, is seeing his now-graying mother for the first time since he was a child. You wouldn't need years of training at the Actors Studio to know how to play such an emotionally-rich encounter. Jackson cut his acting teeth on Dawson's Creek after all. The task at hand could not have seemed radically new.

Except that Peter had come back home, not from a long sojourn abroad or as the result of a divorce. His prodigality is a science fiction. He had grown up in an alternate America, stolen from the other side by a grieving father/mad-scientist who had lost his Peter to a childhood disease and crossed-over, thanks to his brilliant mind and "fringe" science, to steal an alterna-Peter to replace his own.

So, Joshua, here's your assignment: play that Peter. The emotion you need to show when you are in close-up with your biological mother--it's an emotion (and a situation) no human being has ever felt, an emotion that no human may ever feel. You can do it Joshua.

And he did.

"Supernatural," LeBron

So Zach Handlen gave "Swan Song" an A? Grade inflation if you ask me. I would give it a "C." I like to imagine it might have been very different if the episode had been both a season and series finale (if Supernatural were not continuing post-Kripke), but we will never know.

I was rooting for the Cavaliers last night as well, but LeBron failed miserably, too, in his possible Cleveland finale.

In my fanboy unconscious, Supernatural and The King have merged.

FF, V, Chuck

So FlashForward has been cancelled. (A deserved fate.) And V has been renewed? (Meh.) As has Chuck. (Yeah!)

Quote of the Day (5/14/10) (Jackson Browne Week)

And the years that I spent lost in the mystery
Fall away leaving only the sound of the drum
Like a part of me
It speaks to the heart of me
Forget what life used to be
You are what you choose to be
It's whatever it is you see
That life will become
--Jackson Browne, THE FUSE

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Little Tongue

Addy Goes Verbal

Go here to read Sarah's comments.

"Swan Song" First Reaction

Terribly disappointing. Completely uninspired.

"LOST" Redux

In preparation for the finale, I am trying to watch all of LOST in quick order.

Seasons Five and Six have made all that came before more resonant, more profound. I have just been watching "The Cost of Living," and after seeing Ben "judged" by the Smoke Monster beneath The Temple ("Dead is Dead," 5.12) we can't help but see Eko's fatal judgment in a new light. (Back in Africa, Eko was already being told a verdict on his soul would be rendered.)

Early in LOST's narrative, I said the following in a PCA talk:

For each time a new LOST text opens for perusal, the fans go wild and speculation runs rampant as the LOST-fixated begin to read backward and forward, recapitulating AND extrapolating the “repertoire,” as Wolfgang Iser (pictured) called it, of an extraordinarily complex, still unfolding, still entangling narrative skein. The threads of a text, a “kind of halfway house between past and future,” Iser would write, always exist in “a state of suspended validity” (370), and such threads are particularly well-suited (if you will) for today’s avidly conjecturing, anxious-to-conspire “fan-scholar.”

We will be recapitulating and extrapolating right up to the final minute--and no doubt beyond--of "The End" on May 23rd.

Nor had I realized back in October 2006 ("Further Instructions") that Jessie Pinkman (Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul) was the DEA infiltrator who targeted Locke as an easy mark in his quest to break up a pot farm.

"Swan Song"

With the show (and the Winchesters) back for another year, even though Supernatural mastermind Eric Kripke apparently is not, tonight's Season Five finale will not quite be the last music of said-large, white bird.

Nevertheless, I am looking forward to tonight's final showdown with Lucifer with an anticipation I have not felt since "Chosen" ended Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 2003.

Quote of the Day (5/13/10) (Jackson Browne Week)

I'm going to rent myself a house
In the shade of the freeway
I'm going to pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day
And when the evening rolls around
I'll go on home and lay my body down
And when the morning light comes streaming in
I'll get up and do it again
Say it again
--Jackson Browne, THE PRETENDER

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Loved the title for The Daily Show's story on Obama's SCOTUS nominee:

Release the Kagan

Heard on "The Colbert Report"

Things are so dire [in Greece], they even laid off the Oracle of Delphi. She never saw it coming.

"TV Guide" Snubs "LOST"?

My new TV Guide came today, May 17-23, 2010.

This is the Guide for the week of LOST's final episodes.

But no feature story. Nothing on the cover. Minimal coverage within.

Odd. Does this have anything to do with rival Entertainment Weekly's obsessive coverage and "11 Collector Covers"?

Quote of the Day (5/11/10) (Jackson Browne Week)

Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
I was taken by a photograph of you
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
But they didn't show your spirit quite as true

You were turning 'round to see who was behind you
And I took your childish laughter by surprise
And at the moment that my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes
--Jackson Browne, FOUNTAIN OF SORROW

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Buffy" the Unaired Pilot

"Buffy vs. Edward"

Fanvid as wish fulfillment.

Quote of the Day (5/10/10) (Jackson Browne Week)

In my early years I hid my tears
And passed my days alone
Adrift on an ocean of loneliness
My dreams like nets were thrown
To catch the love that I'd heard of
In books and films and songs
Now there's a world of illusion and fantasy
In the place where the real world belongs
--Jackson Browne, FARTHER ON

Sunday, May 09, 2010

How Does Rekha Sharma Live with Herself?

First she was revealed to be a secret Cylon (and murderer of the beloved Cally) on Battlestar Galactica.

Then she was the evil kidnapping Hindu deity Kali on Supernatural ("Hammer of the Gods").

And this week on V, her Sarita Malik turned out to be not an FBI agent but a V.

When she looks in the mirror does she see two faces?

Quote of the Day (5/9/10) (Jackson Browne Week)

Now to see things clear it's hard enough I know
While you're waiting for reality to show
Without dreaming of the perfect love
And holding it so far above
That if you stumbled onto someone real, you'd never know
(You'd never know)
You could be with somebody who is lonely too
(Sometimes it doesn't show)
He might be trying to get across to you
(Words can be so slow)
When your own emptiness is all that's getting through
There comes a point when you're not sure why you're still talking
I passed that point long ago
(Long ago)
--Jackson Browne, THE LATE SHOW

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A Conversation for the Ages ("Two Minutes to Midnight")

I am willing to wager that in the history of television, no conversation as profound as this one has ever taken place. It made me think of Beckett.

Death: You have an inflated sense of your importance. To a thing like me, a thing like you {Death takes a slurp of his beverage} . . . Think how you'd feel if a bacterium sat at your table and tried to get smart. This is one little planet in one tiny solar system in a galaxy that's barely out of its diapers. I'm old, Dean, very old. So I invite you to contemplate what if any significance I find in you. Eat! {Death gives him a slice of deep-dish pizza.}
Dean: I got to ask, how old are you?
Death: As old as God--maybe older. Neither of us can remember any more. Life, death, chicken, egg, regardless, at the end I'll reap him too.
Dean: God? You will reap God?
Death: Oh yes. God will die too, Dean.
Dean: This is way above my pay-grade.

Quote of the Day (5/8/10) (Jackson Browne Week)

It's like you're standing in the window
Of a house nobody lives in
And I'm sitting in a car across the way
(Let's just say)
It's an early model Chevrolet
(Let's just say)
It's a warm and windy day
You go and pack your sorrow
The trash man comes tomorrow
Leave it at the curb and we'll just roll away
--Jackson Browne, THE LATE SHOW

Friday, May 07, 2010

"Supernatural: TV Goes to Hell" to Be Published

Supernatural: TV Goes to Hell has been accepted for publication by McFarland. The inestimable Stacey Abbott (pictured) and I will be the editors. Website here.

Damning with Faint Praise

Castiel (an Angel): You said no to Michael. I owe you an apology. You are not the burnt and broken shell of a man I believed you to be.
Dean: Thank you. I appreciate that.
--"Two Minutes to Midnight," Supernatural

Deep Dish Death

Dean's "Two Minutes to Midnight" sit-down (on Supernatural) in a Chicago pizza joint with Death itself was one of the most brilliant set-pieces on television ever.

One to go in the Kripke era.

Quote of the Day (5/7/2010) (Leonard Cohen Week)

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Another 30 Minutes of "LOST"

I only learned about this today, though the news broke yesterday.

Remembering John McDaniel

My Dean at MTSU, John N. McDaniel (1941-2010), passed away this week.

When I became Chair of the English Department at Middle Tennessee State University in 1993, John was my first Dean. For four years he taught me the job (he too had held the position before becoming Dean of the College of Liberal Arts). He was a great teacher in everything he did.

Do you remember the classic put-down: “I would challenge you to a battle of wits but I never fight an unarmed man.” Against John McDaniel, we were all unarmed. A Philip Roth scholar (he wrote one of the first books on the great American novelist) who became a Shakespearean, John could outsmart any adversary. I suspect he could have gone toe-to-toe with Oscar Wilde.

When we held the first Slayage Conference on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Nashville in 2004, we asked John to welcome the nearly four hundred people who attended from all over the world. He asked if he could learn more about Buffy before addressing the group, and I gave him a documentary from A&E. He, of course, proved himself to be a quick study, offering clever, pun-filled, Buffy-hip remarks that had the ballroom of scholar-fans howling with laughter.

Another example of McDaniel wit: when my book DENY ALL KNOWLEDGE: INVESTIGATING THE X-FILES was published (1996), I was horribly embarrassed to discover that I had misused the meaning of the words “esoteric” and “exoteric,” in effect reversing the definitions. A wholly unfavorable review of our book in NOTA BENE (which John read), pointed out the error. I really have no idea how such a mistake happened, especially since I had previously used the terms in print correctly--in my first book, for example. When I explained this to John McDaniel, he responded, "So you are telling me that you used to know the meanings of these words and now you don't?" I was left speechless.

John was, however, the kindest of men. Always supportive, never judgmental, a candidate for the listener’s Hall of Fame (traits that must have been key to his excellence as a classroom teacher), he was the least “full-of-himself” administrator I have encountered in a thirty year career.

Those of us who knew him only over the last two decades were a bit surprised to learn that this man who, due to a variety of physical ailments, moved at a deliberate, always unhurried pace, had once been a star athlete—an all-state quarterback if memory serves. As someone who stood across the ping-pong table from him at an administrative retreat and found myself losing at the only sport at which I have ever excelled, I can attest that he hadn’t lost his skills or his competitive nature. (His table-tennis serve was a violation of the rules, by the way, but you could not tell MTSU’s senior dean that.)

Delighted, and a bit surprised, to see John appear at an English Department gathering over a decade ago, I was told by the Dean of MTSU’s largest college “I never turn down an invitation to a gathering.” He will be there yet again on Friday when we gather to mourn his loss and celebrate his life. For once in his presence I expect to be crying instead of laughing.