Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Deathly Hallows" Trailer

OMG. Can't wait.

Harryhausen's Greatest Hits

A slide show of Ray Harryhausen's best scenes.

Time-Lapse Again

I continue to gather embedded time-lapse video here.

Here's the latest.

Thought for the Day

This is from "Prince Matchabelli"--as Tony Soprano once called him:

This is the tragedy of man. Circumstances change, and he does not.
--Nicolo Machievelli

Leaving "The Office"

The Daily Beast weighs in on Steve Carrell's departure from the sitcom. Jace Lacob thinks it's time to stick a fork in it.

I have not watched a single episode of Season Six (waiting for the DVD), but I already thought it was in steep decline at the end of S5.

For those keeping score: Total number of UK Office episodes: 14; total number of US episodes (if it runs seven seasons): 150.

Quote of the Day (6/30/10) (Dylan Thomas Week)

Oh, let me midlife mourn by the shrined
And druid herons' vows
The voyage to ruin I must run,
Dawn ships clouted aground,
Yet, though I cry with tumbledown tongue,
Count my blessings aloud:

Four elements and five
Senses, and man a spirit in love
Thangling through this spun slime
To his nimbus bell cool kingdom come
And the lost, moonshine domes,
And the sea that hides his secret selves
Deep in its black, base bones,
Lulling of spheres in the seashell flesh,
And this last blessing most,

That the closer I move
To death, one man through his sundered hulks,
The louder the sun blooms
And the tusked, ramshackling sea exults;
And every wave of the way
And gale I tackle, the whole world then,
With more triumphant faith
That ever was since the world was said,
Spins its morning of praise,

I hear the bouncing hills
Grow larked and greener at berry brown
Fall and the dew larks sing
Taller this thunderclap spring, and how
More spanned with angles ride
The mansouled fiery islands! Oh,
Holier then their eyes,
And my shining men no more alone
As I sail out to die.
--Dylan Thomas, “Poem on His Birthday”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jesus Hit by Lightning

The news last week that Monroe, Ohio's "Touchdown Jesus" was destroyed by a lightning strike, led me to recall one of the great puns of all time.

You may remember that Jim Caviezel was hit by lightning on the cross while filming The Passion of the Christ, which led Paula Poundstone (pictured) to exclaim (on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!):

Pop goes Caviezel!

Dingos, Babies

Since we have these dog chews in our house and yesterday were babysitting Addy Belle, and since this is how my mind works, it occurred to me that if our granddaughter were to get ahold of one of the dogs' treats, the result would be:

Our baby ate the Dingos.

Quote of the Day (6/29/10) (Dylan Thomas Week)

She has come possessed
Who admits the delusive light through the bouncing wall,
Possessed by the skies

She sleeps in the narrow trough yet she walks the dust
Yet raves at her will
On the madhouse boards worn thin by my walking tears.

And taken by light in her arms at long and dear last
I may without fail
Suffer the first vision that set fire to the stars.
--Dylan Thomas, “Love in the Asylum”

Monday, June 28, 2010

Popular Culture Objects

One of the first books I ever read about popular culture, Melly's Revolt into Style, argued that one of PC's defining characteristics was impermanence, transience.

What then are we to say of such monumental art objects as The Sopranos: The Complete Series, which I acquired today? It made me think of one of my most prized possessions, The Complete Far Side. Both beautifully designed, both breathtaking in their oh-so-satisfying comprehensiveness.

Landry, Jumping the Shark, and the Recap Line of the Week

Recalling that unfortunate Friday Night Lights (Season Two) story line in which Landry killed someone to protect Tyra, Keith Phipps (OnionTVClub) writes:

[A] sub-plot began by revving up the engines for a jump over some of nature’s deadliest aquatic predators but ended by revealing Jesse Plemons’ amazing versatility and opening up that character for new possibilities.

He's right about Plemons as Landry, one of the greatest secondary characters television has ever given us.

The Wit and Wisdom of Jason Stackhouse

I’ve heard every breakup excuse from you’re a sum’bitch, Stackhouse, to you’re an asshole, Jason.
--"It Hurts Me Too," True Blood, Season Three

Quote of the Day (6/28/10) (Dylan Thomas Week)

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.
--Dylan Thomas, “The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower”

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Heard on "Says You!"

I learned from this week's Says You!--a round involving obscure laws in the state of New York--that a certain Empire State town has made wearing a shirt and slacks that don't match illegal.

WhedonFest 2010

It's official: I will be presenting at WhedonFest 2 (Barefoot Republic Park, Scottsville, Kentucky, August 7, 2010).

My talk: “’We do the weird stuff’: Joss Whedon’s Naughty Side."

"Act like you've been there before"

An old maxim in American football holds that excessive celebration in the end zone after a touchdown should be avoided. The scorer should instead "act like you've been there before."

Obviously no one at the World Cup, perhaps no athlete playing what the rest of the world calls football (and no "Gooooooooal" proclaiming announcer), pays any attention to the sage advice. Every goal is celebrated as if it's momentous, one of a kind.

Of course, given the lack of scoring in the game, the fútbol hero might not have been there before, at least not all that often (unless you are a Maradona, or a Beckham, or a Messy).

Vince Gilligan on the "Greatest Job in the World"

This is from Noel Murray's recent Onion AV Club interview with Breaking Bad's creator/showrunner Vince Gilligan. (The "greatest job" is being a showrunner.)

AVC: There’s obviously a difference between kicking ideas around in the writers’ room and then seeing a final cut of an episode where the camera moves in on Walt after he’s shot somebody and he tells Jesse to run, and the performance is great and the cinematography is dynamic. What’s it like to go from, “Hey, you know what would be neat…?” to seeing the results on the screen?

VG: This is the greatest job in the world. Yeah, it’s exhausting, and there’s not enough time, and you can get hung up very easily on all the things that are wrong and all the things that didn’t work out quite like you’d hoped they would. I’ve fallen victim to that before and I’ll probably do it again. But if you’re being honest about it you have to say to yourself, “I’m the luckiest son of a bitch in the world.” It’s amazing. Television is a great job for a writer in the way that movies used to be, way before my time. Back when writers in Hollywood were on staff or under contract at any given studio and you’d write movie scripts and then the movies would get made within a few weeks, such that you could be a working writer in the movie business back in the '30s and '40s and '50s and have a hand in writing five or six movies a year that actually got produced. The only thing remotely like that in the 21st century here in Hollywood is working in the TV business.

My writers and I sit around and dream this stuff up and then we see it executed a week or even days later, and it’s a wonderful feeling and it’s magical. Especially in moments like that one, which was a great example, because I had high hopes for that scene and then seeing what Adam Bernstein the director did with it… He exceeded my expectations. That moment was thrilling to watch in the editing room for me. I’ve never had children but it must be akin to the pride you feel watching your children grow or be born or something. I don’t know. I don’t have that background in my real life. But it’s an intense pride. And it’s not a pride of “I did this,” it’s a pride of “we did this,” because it really is a group effort. There’s no one person doing it all in television or in the movies. It’s always a collaborative effort and anyone who tells you otherwise is awfully pumped about their own contributions to the endeavor. But it’s a great feeling, a great collaborative feeling, and it’s wonderful.

Quote of the Day (6/27/10) (Dylan Thomas Week)

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
--Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill”

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Quote of the Day (6/26/10) (Dylan Thomas Week)

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.
--Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill”

Friday, June 25, 2010

"The Ick Factor" and the Anti-Intellectualism of the Right

Mike Huckabee got himself in deep shit this week by insisting that one of the best arguments against gay marriage is the "Ick Factor," disgust--god-given evidently--at the very idea of homosexual sex. He attributed the phrase to U. Chicago philosopher Martha Nussbaum, who has now taken the former Arkansas gov to school:

I use the term "projective disgust" to characterize the disgust that many people feel when they imagine gay sex acts. What does that term mean, and to whom does it apply? The view I develop, on the basis of recent psychological research, is that projective disgust has its origin in a discomfort with one's own body and its messier animal aspects, including sexuality, and that, in a defense mechanism, disgust is then projected outward onto vulnerable groups who are characterized as hyperphysical and hypersexual. In this way, the uncomfortable people displace their discomfort onto others, who are then targeted for various forms of social discrimination.

Thus the people to whom the term "projective disgust" applies are the insecure and emotionally stunted people who campaign against equal rights for gays and lesbians, not gays and lesbians themselves.

So Huckabee's embrace of "projective disgust" as his argument is self-incriminating. Leaving aside my wife's observation that imagining Huckabee himself having sex would likewise produce ickiness x 10, we should note that Huckabee's error is yet another example of the blunt instrument minds of so many on the right. His use of Nussbaum's term is not unlike Reagan using Bruce Springsteen's anti-Vietnam war anthem "Born in the USA" as his raw-raw-America entrance music as if it were something schlocky by Lee Greenwood.

"The Five Minute University"

The good father's appearance on Colbert this week had me thinking about this bit, which I often talk about in class. Tip of the hat to L.A. Black for the link.

Quote of the Day (6/25/10) (Dylan Thomas Week)

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art
--Dylan Thomas, “In My Craft or Sullen Art”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"The Fellowship of Vuvuzela"

At Last, An Honest Politician

Father Guido on Glenn Beck

So good to see Father Guido again. Turns out he was the one at the Vatican who spoke with Glenn Beck . . .

As usual "Colbert Nation's embed code does not work, but you can watch it here.

Rachel the Lawyer

Our daughter is involved, pro bono, in this case.

Heard on "The Colbert Report" (Canadian Earthquakes)

A 5.5 earthquake hit Canada. Even their earthquakes are bland.

Quote of the Day (6/24/10) (Dylan Thomas Week)

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.
--Dylan Thomas, “Death Shall Have No Dominion”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"My Bad"

Did Manute Bol, Sudanese basketball giant who passed away this week, coin the phrase "my bad"? Not sure.

But because I watch Curb Your Enthusiasm I am certain that Richard Lewis coined the phrase "from hell" (as in "the mother-in-law from hell").


In the 1970s--during my LSD period--I was a major fan of the music of the German electronic composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Compositions such as Kurzwellen--the spontaneous response of a group of musicians (pictured above--that's Karlheinz himself third from left in a white shirt) to the maestro's sampling of the shortwave spectrum (kurzwellen)--was my idea of easy psychedelic listening. The back cover of the album (just unearthed in a closet and scanned here) was hallucinogenic enough to keep the mind and eye occupied for the duration of a trip.

But it was Ylem--a soundscape of the entire history of the universe from one Big Bang to the next--that had me most mesmerized.

Here's what I said about Ylem in my essay "Dreaming Nothing":

A few years later, for example, I heard something like the music of Erich Zann: Karlheinz Stockhausen's Ylem. Based on the Oriental conception of an oscillating universe that "explodes, unfolds, and draws together again" every eighty billion years in a periodic breath called an ylem, Stockhausen's music, best performed, he explains, through "telepathic communication" between the nineteen performers and the conductor, begins with the original moment of an ylem—what contemporary cosmologists call the "Big Bang"—and then goes on to record, by various intuitive and often discordant modulations of sound, the intervening eighty billion years. In the last quarter of the piece, the next explosion of energy begins to mount with slow but gradually increasing intensity and climaxes in an overpowering crescendo, another Big Bang. (See the album cover of Stop-Ylem.) In the final minutes of the piece—its denouement—a return to normalcy is evident, as the pace slackens to a slow, methodical drone of noise—a sound like that which had haunted my dream, and perhaps akin to that to which the music of Erich Zann was the reply.

When I first listened to Ylem, I was, at its close, nearly unable to move: the music seemed almost to have disintegrated my ordinary molecular structure, replacing it with its own aleatory form, and I needed to wait a few moments before I attempted to move, as if I felt the need to reassemble my body. Yet the experience seemed to me a kind of déjà vu, and I soon realized that the physical sensation I experienced was almost identical to that which I had felt repeatedly on awakening from my childhood dream of nothing.

In his interviews with Jonathan Cott, Stockhausen seeks to explain the structure of his music, especially the relationship of one particular sound to the next—what he calls "moment form"—by an analogy. "Imagine," he suggests, "a man sitting alone in a dark prison cell who hears a door slam; then a year later another door. The first sound would last a year" (31). Such is "moment form" in Stockhausen's music: "a moment lasts not just an instant—it can last forever if it isn't changed." Such moment form shapes the musical space of Ylem: it is music made out of nothing, one of Stockhausen's most effective attempts to create a "sequence of silences."

Given its subject, the "breath of the universe," such a form for Ylem, the strangest piece of program music ever composed, seems only fitting. As the marvelous "cosmic calendar" in Carl Sagan's Dragons of Eden shows, the history of the universe is shot through and through with nothingness, a void rivaled in magnitude only by that within the atom itself in its cathedral-like interior (14-17). If all time until the present is graphed onto a single calendar year, with the Big Bang coming on January 1 and the present moment falling in the first second of the ensuing new year, it is necessary to wait until 1 May for the origin of the Milky Way, or one-third of the estimated fifteen billion years of the universe's entire existence. After another four months of waiting, on 9 September, our own solar system appears. This means that for more two-thirds of its history, the universe has been a virtual nothing, without events, at least as we understand them: a vast sleep of space and time. Was it not a glimpse of this nothingness that brought Paul Valery to pen the line, "In the beginning there will be sleep" (quoted in Poulet 280). This nothingness provides the basis for Stockhausen's moment form in Ylem: a modern music of the spheres. Or, to put it more exactly, it is what ancient Hindu thought called a Nadam, the "orchestration of all sounds, of every electron in its orbit and every planet in its orb" (Thompson, Passages 100).

Quote of the Day (6/22/10) (Wallace Stevens' "Adagia" Week)

The exquisite environment of fact. The final poem will be the poem of fact in the language of fact. But it will be the poem of fact not realized before.
--Wallace Stevens, "Adagia"

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Mad Men" Season Four Poster

Thanks Doug.

"Babble Party"

Go here to read Sarah's post.

Don Draper on "Breaking Bad"

Draper (well, actually Jon Hamm) really likes his fellow AMC show Breaking Bad.

Watch it here.

TV vs. the Movies

In a recent Entertainment Weekly, Mark Harris offers the latest in the TV vs. the Movies debate:

It's not a coincidence that this explosion of critical disgust — and honestly, SATC 2 is paying for the sins of a multitude of bad movies that preceded it — arrives right at the end of a TV season during which shows as varied in content, tone, and audience as Glee, Breaking Bad, Modern Family, Lost, Dexter, The Good Wife, and Mad Men gave viewers characters and plots worthy of spirited and enthusiastic discussion whether you liked them or not. Four or five years ago, it was a jaunty provocation to claim that ''TV is better than the movies'' (a phrase that headed articles in TIME, Newsweek, and EW). Today, it's just a fact. TV can be programmed for niche audiences; these days, studios only know how to spend too much money in order to lunge after too many eyeballs. TV actually tests its ideas before they air with pilots; studios just try to imagine what the poster will look like. Most significantly, TV can react quickly to a changing zeitgeist, whereas movies now take ridiculously long to respond to anything, if they even try. (my emphasis)

Botticelli, Psychedelics, Imaginal Reductionism

I missed this last week but am now running into it everywhere.

Recently, art historian David Bellingham came to a different conclusion. He noticed that Botticelli painted a fruit in the bottom right-hand corner of his canvas that looks a lot like datura stramonium, a plant that's also known as "poor man's acid."

In short: Mars might be stoned.

I have always had a fondness for these kind of imaginally reductionistic explanations of art. The ophthalmologist Patrick Trevor-Roper's book was very influential on me early in my career, and he too had something to say about hallucinogens and imagination:

Mescaline and other hallucinogenic drugs seem to cause an interruption of the "association fibres" in the posterior lobe of the brain, which mould the unconscious cerebral image of the seen world into the conscious percept, altering it, in the light of our experience and needs, so that it falls into line with our established schemas, with all the attributes that we think proper for the object we now recognize. Mescaline thus allows us to see a far truer image than the ordered stereotype that our association-fibres normally permit us to apprehend. It lets us see the true shadow-colours—the blue shadow in the snow, the green beneath the red object, and so on, that we normally discountenance; for we can cope with the flux of our complex external world only if objects remain what we expect them to be, if snow is always white and houses are always vertical, irrespective of the tilt of the eye and the slope of the retinal image.

Quote of the Day (6/21/10) (Wallace Stevens' "Adagia" Week)

In the presence of extraordinary actuality, consciousness takes the place of imagination.
--Wallace Stevens, "Adagia"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Entertaining Addy

Joyce and I grandparented the wonderful Addy last night while Sarah and Jason went to a wedding.

As we had our dinner, my hand in a mirror over the table had her laughing, and later, while we read to her (Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon), she was entranced, her eyes dilating as the pages opened before her.

"The Doctors Will See You Now"

When I woke up this morning I was dreaming about a husband and wife doctor team.

Oddly, the dream was in the form of a TV series (think McMillan and Wife). The twist? They were both invisible.

And it even came with its own tag line:
The doctors will see you now, but you can't see them.

Quote of the Day (6/20/10) (Wallace Stevens' "Adagia" Week)

The final belief is to believe in a fiction, which you know to be a fiction, there being nothing else. The exquisite truth of belief is to know that it is a fiction and that you believe in it willingly.
--Wallace Stevens, "Adagia"

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Sentimental Education"

Sentimental Education

by Tony Hoagland

And when we were eight, or nine,
our father took us back into the Alabama woods,
found a rotten log, and with his hunting knife

pried off a slab of bark
to show the hundred kinds of bugs and grubs
that we would have to eat in a time of war.

"The ones who will survive," he told us,
looking at us hard,
"are the ones who are willing to do anything."
Then he popped one of those pale slugs
into his mouth and started chewing.

And that was Lesson Number 4
in The Green Beret Book of Childrearing.

I looked at my pale, scrawny, knock-kneed, bug-eyed brother,
who was identical to me,
and saw that, in a world that ate the weak,
we didn't have a prayer,

and next thing I remember, I'm working for a living
at a boring job
that I'm afraid of losing,

with a wife whose lack of love for me
is like a lack of oxygen,
and this dead thing in my chest
that used to be my heart.

Oh, if he were alive, I would tell him, "Dad,
you were right! I ate a lot of stuff
far worse than bugs."

And I was eaten, I was eaten,
I was picked up
and chewed
and swallowed

down into the belly of the world.

I came to know this powerful poem thanks to Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" and Ryan Brosche, who sent me the link.

Comic Sans

A font that was one of my own early favorites give us a piece of its mind.

From McSweeney's via Andrew Sullivan.

"Getting Shit Done"

For those losing faith in Obama, you would do well to read this post from Andrew Sullivan. His thesis:

[Y]ou see the same pattern of emotionally unsatisfying but structurally deep changes in the orientation of the ship of state. This is very gradual change we can believe in

"When have vast mineral resources ever been a bad thing for a developing country?"

The "Word" mind had a long list (only the final few shown) in answer to Stephen's rhetorical question regarding Afghanistan's trillion dollar natural resource discovery.

West Virginia?

Addy This Week

Time Capsules

With the American attention span being what it is, time capsules are now retrieved 45 minutes after they are buried.--Mark Halperin in The Wall Street Journal

Tip of the Hat to Andrew Sullivan

Quote of the Day (6/17/10) (Wallace Stevens' "Adagia" Week)

After one has abandoned a belief in god, poetry is that essence which takes its place as life's redemption.
--Wallace Stevens, "Adagia"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Heard on "Breaking Bad"

That's like Thomas Magnum threatening the little prissy guy with the mustache [Higgins--pictured]. I am seriously rethinking my pricing, and that goes double for you, hip-hop.--Saul Goodman

Obama/"Starship Troopers"

So I am watching Starship Troopers on my computer's DVD player. Over and behind documentary commentary on the Bug Threat, I seem to be hearind President Obama talking--about the Gulf oil spill. What the . . .

And then I realize that HuffPo, open behind the movie in Firefox, is broadcasting POTUS live from the Oval Office.

"Would you like to know more?" (inside ST joke). Should we send the Mobile Infantry to the Gulf?

Stephen's in the Dictionary

Look Who's Honoring Him Now? "Truthiness" is in the new Oxford American Dictionary--which names him as the originator.

Clueless as ever, Stephen can't wait for the royalties to start pouring in.

Quote of the Day (6/15/10) (Wallace Stevens' "Adagia" Week)

Each age is a pigeon-hole.
--Wallace Stevens, "Adagia"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Stay Thirsty My Friend

A new ad for Dos Equis:

He is the life of parties he never attended.
Sharks have a week named after him.
If he were to punch you in the face you would have to repress the urge to thank him.


Andrew Sullivan quotes Courtney Knapp in a blog post today:

With more than 80 percent of the world's population expected to watch the World Cup, the month long tournament is a(nother) distraction to workers, an excuse for soccer-related absenteeism, and a strain on office resources as fans use network bandwidth to live-stream the matches at work.

In Divided Existence and Complex Society the great historical psychologist (metabletician) J. H. Van Den Berg (pictured) argued (if memory serves) that WWCS (What We Call Soccer) was an allegory of the repression of labor in a capitalist society in modern Europe. Workers are alienated from the fruits of their labor | futball players are unable to make use of their hands.

Now WWCS's World Cup isn't good for business (work ethics)--worldwide. Except for TV networks, and Nike, and South African tourism, and . . .

On last week's "Wait, Wait" (on NPR), even radio legend Carl Kasel was shouting the title of this post (with world class prolongation). (It's the name of this week's quiz for celebrity guest Robert Klein).

"LBT": To Russia with Love

Received word from my agent today that a Russian publisher wants to bring out Lost's Buried Treasures in Russian.

"Iron Man II"

Finally saw Iron Man Deux. Meh. I should have just waited for the DVD.

Really, I thought it was practically devoid of imagination. Mickey Rourke's Russian villain was a snooze. Only some nice FX made it close to a worthy sequel, but then I didn't much like the original either.

Interesting to speculate what I and II might have been like in the hands of Joss Whedon, who turned down a chance to helm Iron Man, then not greenlit, in order to take on Wonder Woman. Whedon/Favreau? Tough call!

Vince Gilligan Interview

Noel Murray talks to the Breaking Bad creator.

Donna Bowman on the Television Climate

This is from her (as always) splendid recap of "Full Measure" (Breaking Bad's S3 finale:

It's easy to look at television, with its 500 channels worth of endless crappy versions of the same empty ideas, and conclude that everything's gone to shit. I have plenty of friends who are proud to proclaim the dreary, inevitable decline of entertainment, and answer my protests to the contrary with assertions that searching for the few worthwhile nuggets in that morass is a pointless waste of their time. Ironically, this pronouncement coincides with the greatest flowering of televised drama and comedy in the medium's history. Freed by the proliferation of basic cable channels with a yen for signature programming, emboldened by the example of HBO, bolstered by fanatic followings and critical praise, the best television ever is on the air right now, in this decade. Throw in the DVR, the essential cure for the channel-surfing that hollows out the soul with its endless evidence of the wasteland, and suddenly your eyes are refocused above muck-level, where a profusion of flowers blooms.

Quote of the Day (6/14/10) (Ventriloquism Week)

In a sense, language is everything, since it is the voice of no one, since it is the very voice of the things, the waves, and the forests. . . .
--Paul Valéry

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Breaking Bad" (S3) Ends, "True Blood" (S3) Begins

I still have issues with True Blood--the writing is often laughingly bad--but it's good to have it back.

Breaking Bad's exit--that brings sadness and leaves a hole the equivalent of the end of a Mad Men season.

World Cup and "District 9"

I have been watching a bit of the WC--US/UK of course (if Bill Buckner was a goalie . . .) and, as I write, Australia/Germany.

I found myself thinking: what would the real South African government have done with a real District 9--and with the giant, alien spaceship hovering over Johannesburg?

"Starship Troopers"

At Slayage someone (who, oh failing memory?) insisted Verhoeven's Starship Troopers was really a good film (I have long hated it).

Now Matthew Yglesias argues on its behalf as a post-9/11 satire (made in 1997).

I guess I need to watch it again.

Futurama X

The folks from Futurama X-ed.

Tip-of-the-hat to SciFiWire.

Quote of the Day (6/13/10) (Ventriloquism Week)

It is not you who call. It is not your voice calling from within your ephemeral breast. It is not only white, yellow, black generations of man calling in your heart. The Earth, with her trees and her waters, with her animals, with her men and her gods, calls from within your breast.
--Nikos Kazantzakis, The Saviors of God

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Movies I Have Seen Since February

Alice Adams
All About Steve
American Psycho
Astro Boy
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
Bright Star
Capitalism: A Love Story
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Cold Souls
Couples Retreat
Crazy Heart
Curse of the Demon / Night of the Demon
Downloading Nancy
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Friday Night
Generation Kill: Disc 3
Halloween II
In Cold Blood
In the Loop
Into Temptation
Jennifer's Body
Kind Hearts and Coronets
L'Age D'Or
Law Abiding Citizen
More Than a Game
Paranormal Activity
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire
Rental Activity
Reported damaged on 12/09/09
Sherlock Holmes
The American Friend
The Awful Truth
The Battle of Algiers
The Big Sleep
The Blind Side
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
The Invention of Lying
The King of Marvin Gardens
The Lovely Bones
The Men Who Stare at Goats
The Road
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
The Young Victoria
Val Lewton: Isle of the Dead / Bedlam
Written on the Wind

Quote of the Day (6/12/10) (Ventriloquism Week)

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

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Critical Studies in Television" Book Reviews Now Available Online

CST has now made its must-read book reviews available on its website.

Quote of the Day (6/11/10) (Ventriloquism Week)

Once the idealist argument is accepted, I understand that it is possible—even inevitable —to go even further. . . . The Cartesian "I think, therefore I am" is thus invalidated: to say I think is to postulate the I, and is a petito principii. In the eighteenth century, Lichtenberg proposed that in place of I think, we should say, impersonally it thinks, just as one could say it thunders or it flashes (lightning).
--Jorge Luis Borges, "A New Refutation of Time"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Addy in 'da House

Our portion of the honeymoon Adelyn Belle watch ends tonight.

Quote of the Day (6/10/10) (Ventriloquism Week)

"For Descartes, truth is determined and validated by certainty. Certainty, in turn, is located in the ego. The self becomes the hub of reality and relates to the world outside itself in an exploratory, necessarily exploitative way. As knower and user, the ego is predator. For Heidegger, on the contrary, the human person and self-consciousness are not the center, the assessors of existence. Man is only a privileged listener and respondent to existence. The vital relation to otherness is not, as for Cartesian and positivist rationalism, one of "grasping" and pragmatic use. It is a relation of audition. We are trying "to listen to the voice of Being." It is, or ought to be, a relation of extreme responsibility, custodianship, answerability to and for. Of this answerability, the thinker and the poet, der Denker und der Dichter, are at once the carriers and the trustees."
--George Steiner, Martin Heidegger

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

My friend Nikki Stafford (post-Slayage) "got into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter today!!!!!! I drank Butterbeer, played Quidditch (like, with gutwrenching drops and the whole bit), and went into Honeymeade's. It was glorious."

"The Blind Side"

I finally saw this. I expected it to be schmaltzy and sentimental. I did not anticipate it being boring. It was snooze inducing. A quite awful film--for which Bullock won an Oscar? Nothing about this film is deserving of praise of any kind.

Quote of the Day (6/9/10) (Ventriloquism Week)

The New Testament Bible still gives the Gospels "according to" its various writers. We have lost this humble attitude toward language. Whatever we say seems to us to be our own; we do not feel like speaking "according to" thought processes conveyed to us through our verbal heritage. We do not believe anymore that sometimes not we are speaking our language, but our language is speaking through us as if it were a post-hypnotic suggestion implanted into us.
--Theodore Thass-Theinemann, The Subconscious Language

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

"Do No Harm"

I listened with interest to this story on NPR's "Marketplace" about a new MBA oath. Its first premise, borrowed from the Hippocratic Oath MDs take: "Do no harm."

Is it too much to ask for teachers to likewise embrace the "first do no harm" pledge? So many of my own teachers, my daughters', my colleagues have not been true to that most basic classroom stipulation.

"Half Measures"

Getting caught up on TV watching post-Slayage.

Another powerful episode of "Breaking Bad." At the beginning of the season I never expected Season Three would top the first two powerful years, but it has--and then some.

No show on TV is as visually innovative.

BP Smackdown

Stephen shows Obama how to get angry.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Oil's Well That Never Ends
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

Quote of the Day (6/8/10) (Ventriloquism Week)

The act of turning to imagination is not an act of introspection: it is a negative capability, a willful suspension of disbelief in the [daimones] and of belief in oneself as their author. The relativization of the author—who is making up whom, who is writing whom—goes along with the fictional mode; in the course of active imagination one waivers between losing control and putting words in their mouths. But introspection will not solve even this problem, only the act of fictioning further. Introspection simply returns one to the literalism of subjectivity. We have taken the notion of subjectivity so literally that we now believe in an imaginary subject at the beginning of each sentence who does the work, a subject pre-fixing each verb. But the work is done by the verbs themselves; they are fictioning, actively imagining, not I. The action is in the plot, inaccessible to introspection, and only the characters know what's going on. As Philemon taught Jung: you are not the author of the play of the psyche.
--James Hillman, Healing Fiction

Monday, June 07, 2010

"Torchwood" to Return

This is surprising news--at least to me.

Quote of the Day (6/7/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

Whatever sins of omission alpha-thinking may be guilty of, our debt to it is immense. We owe to it, up to now, our independence, much of our security, our psychological integrity and perhaps our very existence as individuals. When Prospero renounced his last enchantments and set sail for civilization, Ariel, it is true, remained with Caliban—but so did Setebos.
—Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances 57

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Quote of the Day (6/6/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

If civilization is to be saved, people must come more and more to realize that our consciousness is not something spatially enclosed in the skin or in the skull or in the brain; that it is not only our inside, but the inside of the world as a whole. That people should not merely be able to propound as a theory . . . but that it should become more and more their actual experience. . . . That, and also the overcoming of the total obsession there is today, with the Darwinian view of evolution—of consciousness or mind having emerged from a material, but entirely unconscious universe. Putting it very shortly, to realize, not simply as a theory but as a conviction of common sense, that in the history of the world, matter has emerged from mind and not mind from matter.
—Owen Barfield, Towards Interview 10

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Quote of the Day (6/5/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

When we speak . . . about consciousness, about the point at which consciousness arose and so forth, we are speaking not merely about human nature, as we call it, but also about nature itself. When we study consciousness historically, contrasting perhaps what men perceive and think now with what they perceived and thought at the same period in the past, when we study long-term changes in consciousness, we are studying changes in the world itself, and not simply changes in the human brain. We are not studying some so-called "inner" world, divided off, by a skin or a skull, from a so-called "outer" world; we are trying to study the world itself from its inner aspect.
—Owen Barfield, History, Guilt, and Habit 18

Friday, June 04, 2010

Mr. Pointy Winners, 2009

At tonight's Slayage Conference 4 banquet we awarded the Mr. Pointy Awards for work published in 2009.

Mr. Pointy Short went to:

McIntosh, Jonathan. “What Would Buffy Do?: Notes on Dusting Edward Cullen.” WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND . . . 1 July 2009. Web.

The winner of the Long Mr. Pointy is:

Edwards, Lynne Y., Elizabeth L. Rambo, and James B. South, eds. Buffy Goes Dark: Essays on the Final Two Seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Television. Foreword by David Lavery. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009. Print.

Quote of the Day (6/4/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

Whatever may be thought about the "unrepresented" background of our perceptions, the familiar world which we see and know around us—the blue sky with white clouds in it, the noise of a waterfall or a motor bus, the shapes of flowers and their scent, the gesture and utterance of animals and the faces of our friends—the world too, which (apart from the special inquiry of physics) experts of all kinds methodically investigate—is a system of collective representations. The time comes when we must either accept this as the truth about the world or reject the theories of physics as an elaborate delusion. We cannot have it both ways.
—Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances 18

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Quote of the Day (6/3/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

In Palestine, Jesus of Nazareth lived and taught and died. As the years passed by, an increasing number of sages and religious teachers began to agree among themselves that recently something had actually occurred which had before only been talked about or erroneously believed to have occurred. Certain of the Jews, for instance, admitted that their Messiah had come and gone. Egyptians and followers of the Egyptian cults were persuaded that a real Horus had been born of a virgin, and had risen again as an Osiris. Some of the more forward-looking among those who had been initiated into the Mysteries felt that what had so often been enacted dramatically within the sacred precincts had now taken place in a peculiar way on the great stage of the world, this time not for a few, but for all to see. A God had himself died in order to rise again to eternal life. Thus, those who had not been initiated—the poorer classes, most of the women, and the slaves—had a joyous feeling that at last the Mysteries had been revealed, that "many things which were hid had been made plain." And some students of Platonic philosophy could admit that this might be true, that henceforth those who could not rise to the contemplation of the eternal in Nature might yet win immortality by contemplating the life and death of Jesus.
—Owen Barfield, History in English Words 115

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

At SC4

I am in Saint Augustine, Florida for the Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses (SC4) at Flagler College. I will be posting irregularly if at all.

Quote of the Day (6/2/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

It is possible—I know because it happened in my case—for a man to have been brought up in the belief, and to have taken it for granted, that the account given in the Gospels of the birth and the resurrection of Christ is a noble fairy story with no more claim to historical accuracy than any other myth; and it is possible for such a man, after studying in depth the history of the literature and tradition that has grown up around it and to accept (if you like, to be obliged to accept) the record as a historical fact, not because of the authority of the Church, nor by any process of ratiocination such as C. S. Lewis has recorded in his own case, but rather because it fitted so inevitably with the other facts as he had already found them. Rather because he felt, in the utmost humility, that if he had never heard of it through the Scriptures, he would have been obliged to try his best to invent something like it as a hypothesis to save the appearances.
—Owen Barfield, Rediscovery of Meaning 236

"New Eco-Friendly Cigarettes Kill Destructive Human Beings Over Time"

The Onion has the news--about "Marlboro Earth."

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


I once watched Béla Tarr's Sátántangó, the legendary, gloomy black-and-white Hungarian film that lasts for seven and a half hours. Compared to the Abu Dhabi section of Sex And The City 2, Sátántangó zips past like an episode of Spongebob Squarepants.
--Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian

Quote of the Day (6/1/10) (Owen Barfield Week)

There is no more striking example than the Darwinian theory of that borrowing from the experimental by the non-experimental sciences. . . . It was found that the appearances on earth so much lack the regularity of the appearances in the sky that no systematic hypothesis will fit them. But astronomy and physics had taught men that the business of science is to find hypotheses to save the appearances. By a hypothesis, then, these earthly appearances must be saved; and saved they were by the hypothesis of—chance variation. Now the concept of chance is precisely what a hypothesis is devised to save us from. Chance, in fact = no hypothesis. Yet so hypnotic, at this moment in history, was the influence of the idols and of the special mode of thought which had begotten them, that only a few—and their voices soon died away—were troubled by the fact that the impressive vocabulary of technological investigation was actually being used to denote its breakdown; as though, because it is something we can do with ourselves in the water, drowning should be included as one of the different ways of swimming.
—Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances 64