Thursday, September 30, 2010

What Does a Showrunner Do? (III)

The typical day at the office for me is really triage from start to finish. You have to be able to focus on seven different episodes at any given time and keep every detail of every single one totally straight in your head. . . . I’m diving from one room to the other. You can’t imagine the amount of crap that comes on top of it, and what’s amazing, you’ll be on a phone call yelling, being like some Hollywood cliché of a producer--$#%&*@. You tell them they’re going to get $#%&*@. You hang up the phone and you walk into the room and go “OK now let’s get creative.”--Eric Kripke, Creator and Showrunner of Supernatural, "Kripke's Guide to the Apocalypse," extra on Season Five DVD set

See also here and here.

"The Ephebe of Television"

My new Telegenic is up. Read it here.

Quote of the Day (9/30/10) ("30 Rock" Week)

Kenneth: Oh no Sir, I don't vote Republican or Democrat. Choosing is a sin, so I always just write in the Lord's name.
Jack: That's Republican. We count those.
--30 Rock, Season Two

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Heard on "How I Met Your Mother"

Barney: Ted, that thing you're packing is way too big to fit in that box.
Ted: That's what your mom said.
Barney: How dare you!
Ted: No, she actually said that.
--Conversation in "Cleaning House" as the gang helps Barney pack up his childhood possessions.

Noam Chomsky

Tom Ashbrook talks to the great iconoclast on On Point. Interesting to hear his take on such subjects as the Tea Party.

Heard on "The Colbert Report"

On the one hand you have Carl Palladino, who sends out bestiality e-mails. On the other you have Christine O'Donnell, who's opposed to masturbation. It's [the Republic Party] a huge tent.

Quote of the Day (9/29/10) ("30 Rock" Week)

Mother, there are terrorist cells that are more nurturing than you are.
--Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock, Season Two

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Heard on "The Colbert Report"

It's banned books week. Why not redact a book with your child tonight?

Quote of the Day (9/28/10) ("30 Rock" Week)

I truly don't like you as a person. [inspirational music starts playing] Can't one human being not like another human being? Can't we all just not get along?
--Liz Lemon, 30Rock, Season One

Monday, September 27, 2010

Quote of the Day (9/27/10) ("30 Rock" Week)

Dress every day like you're going to get murdered in those clothes.
--Tracy Jordan. 30Rock, Season One

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quote of the Day (9/26/10) ("Mad Men" Week)

Technology is a glittering lure. But there is a rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash – if they have a sentimental bond with the product. My first job I was in house at a fur company, with this old pro of a copywriter, a Greek, named Teddy. Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is “new.” It creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of calamine lotion. He also talked about a deeper bond with a product: nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent. Sweetheart. [starts slide show featuring photos of Draper's family.] Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a space ship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called a wheel, it’s called a carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Round and a round, and back home again. To a place where we know we are loved.
--“The Wheel,” Mad Men Season 1

Saturday, September 25, 2010



with deepest apologies to T.S. Eliot

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a laptop, put in sleep mode on a table
Let us go through certain half-deserted streets
The blinking-light retreats
Of restless nights in free-wifi cafes
And public libraries with internet
Streets that follow like messageboard argument
of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming blog post
Oh, do not ask, "What, yaoi?"
Let us go and post an entry.

In the room the players come and go
Talking of their scores on Halo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the Windows PC
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the Macintosh
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the trackpads in their case
Let fall upon its back the crumbs that fall to keyboards,
Slipped by the flashdrive, made a sudden leap
and seeing that it was a soft October night
Curled once about the mouse, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the desk,
Rubbing its back upon the Windows PC;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the icons that you meet;
There will be time to murder and respawn
And time for all the Chrome and Firefox
That drag and drop a website on your plate;
Time for .doc and time for .ppt
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred fanfics and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the players come and go
Talking of their scores on Halo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Is this wanky?" "Is this fair?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair
With a comment on the level of your player
[They will say: "How his server's lagging slow!"]
My morning cosplay, collar mounting firmly to the chin
My website rich and modest, but accessed by a simple login
[They will say: "But how his content's growing thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the interwebs?
In a minute there is time
For fanfictions and revisions which Google Docs may reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the RPs, archives, messageboards
I have measured out my life with usernames.
I know the voices dying with a 404
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the mods already, known them all --
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase
And when I am banhammered, sprawling on a pin,
When I am banned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the fragments of my browser cache?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the sites already, known them all —-
Sites that are Web two-oh, white and bare
[But on my cellphone, still given to fail!]
It is the javascript impress
That makes them so digress?
Sites that stretch out like a table, or word-wrap like a shawl
And should I then presume?
And how should I log in?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through archived files
And watched the dialup sequences that blink
No more from AOL in lonely Windows?

I should have been a line of ragged code,
Scuttling through the compiler, breaking apps.

And the messageboard, the website, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep...tired...or it malingers
Returning 404, here in front of me.
Should I, after iPhone apps and prices,
Have the strength to force AT&T to crisis?
But though I have wept and emailed, wept and played,
Though I have seen my avatar brought in upon a platter,
I am no hacker -- and here's no great matter;
I have seen the screen of my laptop flicker,
And I have seen the eternal bluescreen hold my eye, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the games, social media, the blogs,
Among the twitters, among some talk of IRC logs,
Would it have been worth while
To have bitten off the fandom with a smile,
To have squeezed the internet into a ball
To roll it toward some ass on Yahoo Questions
To say, "I am Babbage, come from the dead,
Come back to ban you all, I shall ban you all" --
If one, sending a textmessage, autocorrected
Should say: "That is not what I typed at all.
That is not it. LOL."

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would have been worth while
After the LOLcats and the macros and the youtube clips,
After the spambots, after the blog space, after LiveJournal trailing on the floor --
And Digg, and so much more? --
It is impossible to type just what I mean!
But as if a new .avi threw the nerves in patterns on the screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, texting or throwing back Red Bull,
And turning towards the PC, should say,
"That is not what I typed at all.
That is not it. OH LOL."

No! I am not Lovelace,
nor was meant to be,
Am on some messageboard, one that will do
To send things viral, start a meme or two,
Edit the wiki, no doubt an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Pwning, sometimes, but anonymous,
Filled with citations, all a bit obtuse;
These edits, indeed, almost ridiculous --
Can you not work Google?

I grow old... I grow old...
I shall add some links to my blog roll.

Shall I change my default pic? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall play some World of Warcraft, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the servers singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen cats talking in capslock on the web,
All up in ur fridge, eatin' ur food
When my laptop lights the darkness white and black.

We have lingered in the tubes of internet,
By URLS wreathed with info, loaded-down
Till cellphones ringing wake us, and we drown.

"Modern Family," "30Rock"

This week I have watched on DVD all of Season One of Modern Family and Season Four of 30Rock. Both are delightful sitcoms, both irreverent, both sometimes a bit crude, both very, very funny.

On one of the Seinfeld DVDs, Larry David explains that genius sitcom's modus operandi: at all points, when a decision had to be made, they asked themselves how typical TV would do it, and they did it the other way (sort of like opposite George!)

The people making Family and 30Rock I suspect follow a similar method.

Quote of the Day (9/25/10) ("Mad Men" Week)

Roger Sterling: [to Don, about making a pass at Betty] At some point, we've all parked in the wrong garage.
“Red in the Face,” Mad Men Season One

Friday, September 24, 2010

1960 Pirates

The high point of my life--found in Bing Crosby's basement.

"Postcards from the Pledge": A "Shot by Shot Remake"

The Daily Show reviews how far The Republicans have not come in two years. Another unique piece of journalism from Jon Stewart and company.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

"What Was LOST?"

Date now set for my MTSU talk on Lost: October 28th at 7 in the State Farm Room in the Business-Aerospace Building.

A Dying Harlan Ellison Says Goodbye

The story is here.

In the early 1980s I was point man for an Ellison visit to the University of Alabama, Huntsville. He was irascible, opinionated, and fun. A clause in his contract stipulated that no one could call him a science fiction writer without paying a hefty fine.

Tip of the hat to James Francis.

Quote of the Day (9/24/10) ("Mad Men" Week)

Don Draper: No. Because there are people out there who buy things, people like you and me. And something happened. Something terrible. And the way that they saw themselves is gone. And nobody understands that. But you do. And that’s very valuable.
Peggy Olson: Is it?
Don: With you or without you I’m moving on. And I don’t know if I can do it alone. Will you help me?
Peggy: What if I say no? You’ll never speak to me again.
Don: No. I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you.
--“Shut the Door, Have a Seat,” Mad Men Season Three

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"30'Mad Men'Rock"

I am already on record as loving moments where television series slyly acknowledge the existence of other TVverses.

So I was delighted when, during my 30Rock Season Four DVD marathon, I learned that Liz Lemon's mother had worked in the 1960s at Sterling Cooper! ("The Moms," 4.22).

"13 awesome (and 7 not-so-awesome) episodes of the new Doctor Who"

A Sci Fi Wire slide show.

Liberal Arts, TV

Tyler Cowen defends the value of a liberal arts education:

Liberal arts education forces us to decode systems of symbols. We learn how complex systems of symbols can be and what is required to decode them and why that can be a pleasurable process. That skill will come in handy for a large number of future career paths. It will even help you enjoy TV shows more.

Tip of the hat to Andrew Sullivan.

"The Monsters are Due on Maple Street"

The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and the thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own: for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.--Rod Serling's Closing Narration on "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" (The Twlight Zone, March 4, 1960)

I recently showed my Science Fiction class this famous TZ episode about a typical American neighbor devolving into "monsters" when manipulative aliens release all their prejudices and hatred.

It's a mark of Serling's ability to concoct universal allegories that "Monsters" immediately became a commentary on all the recent Islamaphobia over mosque building here in Murfreesboro and in New York.

Quote of the Day (9/23/10) ("Mad Men" Week)

Doctor: So, Mr. Draper, you haven't had a physical in quite some time.
Don Draper: Yeah. I eat a lot of apples.
--“For Those Who Think Young,” Mad Men Season Two

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spike in Hawaii

So the baddy in the Hawaii Five-0 pilot was James Marsters.

In the final confrontation two former vampires (Marsters--Spike in Buffy; Alex O'Loughlin--Mick St. John in Moonlight) do battle. McGarrett (O'Loughlin) of course triumphs.

On the First Day of Fall: Summer

Sci Fi Wire has an appreciation of the Glauster, from Angel to The Cape.

One they forgot: her appearance as herself on Big Bang Theory.

Diocletian's Palace - the Old Roman City in Split, Croatia

This wonderful photo of Diocletian's Palace is from our daughter's honeymoon in Croatia. That's Neel front and center.

Heard on "The Colbert Report"

If rich people have to pay taxes, why would the poor ever want to be rich? . . . The rich have really suffered. (choking up) In fact I know many people who are now summer homeless. Some of them don't even know what catering service their next meal is coming from. Besides, giving money to rich people drives the economy. What do poor people do with their money? They blow it on the first heating bill that comes along. It's always Me! Me! Me! How am I going to feed my family? How am I going to pay my rent? Somebody alert my next of kin. If you ask me, this poverty report is much ado about people who have nothing.
--Stephen, responding to the alarming new report on poverty in America and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's insistence that it is those who make more than $250,000 a year who have been hit hardest in this recession.

"The Raw and the Cooked" and the Granddaughter

So according to Levi-Strauss, the supreme example of the raw into the cooked, the transformation of the raw material given us by nature into the distinctly, uniquely human, is what we do with sound, converting the rough noises uttered by our animal brethern into the infinite complexity of human language.

I give you Adelyn Belle Porterfield, really cooking.

Quote of the Day (9/22/10) ("Mad Men" Week)

Joan Holloway: Roger, if you had your way, I would be stranded in some paperweight with my legs stuck in the air.
--“Babylon,” Mad Men, Season 1

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Doctor Who," Christmas Special 2011

Today I turned in a proposal for a course that might be offered for the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad in its London Winter term, 2011 (meets the last week in September and the first week in January 2012). Spread the word.

Get to know the Doctor! Become “the companion,” on location in his favorite country, of an ageless, extraterrestrial time-lord, the last of his race, who travels the universe in his spaceship/time machine The TARDIS. “The Doctor” has always exhibited a profound interest in the UK, in need of frequent rescue from a wide variety of cosmic threats, and we will follow his very British adventures, tracking the series’ themes, visiting locations, translating Who’s Englishness into an American idiom. Become a scholar/fan of the 21st Century reboot of the longest-running cult television series in history (BBC, 1963—present).

"Lord of the Rings," "Atlas Shrugged"

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
--John Rogers

Tip of the Hat to Beth Rambo

Quote of the Day (9/21/10) ("Mad Men" Week)

Don Draper: Sterling Cooper has more failed artists and intellectuals than the Third Reich.
--“New Amstersdam,” Mad Men Season 1

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wittgenstein's Television Debut?

I don't know this to be a fact, but it certainly seems likely, that Andy's discovery (on Rubicon) in Will's bag of, not just a gun and a rabbit's foot, but Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, might just be the great Austrian philosopher's small screen debut.

What do you suppose Will thought when he read these words from the Tractatus?

The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of this problem. (Is not this the reason why men to whom after long doubting the sense of life became clear, could not then say wherein this sense consisted?)

Quote of the Day (9/20/10) ("Mad Men" Week)

Don Draper: The reason you haven't felt it is because it doesn't exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons. You're born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I'm living like there's no tomorrow, because there isn't one.
--“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Mad Men Season 1

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Burka vs. Snuggie

I hate Jay Leno, but I ended up watching a few minutes Friday night and got a kick out of his remark that now that the French have banned the wearing of burkas, perhaps the US should consider banning Snuggies.

Quote of the Day (9/19/10) ("Supernatural," Season 5 Week)

On April 21, 1967, the 100 millionth GM vehicle rolled off the line at the plant in Janesville--a blue two-door Caprice. There was a big ceremony, speeches, the lieutenant governor even showed up. Three days later, another car rolled off that same line. No one gave two craps about her. But they should have. because that 1967 Chevrolet Impala would turn out to be the most important car--no, the most important object--in pretty much the whole universe. . . .

The Impala, of course, has all the things other cars have... and a few things they don't. But none of that stuff's important. This is the stuff that's important. The army man that Sam crammed in the ashtray--it's still stuck there. The legos that Dean shoved into the vents. To this day, heat comes on, and you can hear 'em rattle. These are the things that make the car theirs. Really theirs. Even when Dean rebuilt it from the ground up, he made sure all these little things stayed. 'Cause it's the blemishes that made her beautiful. . . .

In between jobs, Sam and Dean would sometimes get a day--sometimes a week, if they were lucky. They'd pass the time lining their pockets. Sam used to insist on honest work, but now he hustles pool, like his brother. They could go anywhere and do anything. They drove a thousand miles for an Ozzy show. Two days for a Jayhawks game. And when it was clear, they'd park her in the middle of nowhere, sit on the hood, and watch the stars... for hours... without saying a word. It never occurred to them that, sure, maybe they never really had a roof and four walls but they were never, in fact, homeless.
--Chuck, “Swan Song” (Supernatural, Season Five)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Risk of Suicide May Occur"

Just watched an ad for a sleep aid that came with this "Happy Fun Ball" style warning:

Blah Blah acts quickly, so take it right before bed, and only if you have 8 hours to devote to sleep. Until you know how you will react to Blah Blah, you should not drive or operate machinery. Call your healthcare professional if your insomnia worsens or is not better within 7 to 10 days. This may mean that there is another condition causing your sleep problems. Walking, eating, driving, or engaging in other activities while asleep without remembering it the next day have been reported. Other abnormal behaviors include aggressiveness, agitation, hallucinations, and confusion. In depressed patients, worsening of depression including risk of suicide may occur. These risks may increase if you drink alcohol. Severe allergic reactions such as swelling of the tongue and throat occur rarely and may be fatal. Call your healthcare professional if you experience these or any effects or reactions that concern you. Blah Blah, like most sleep medicines, carries some risk of dependency. Side effects may include unpleasant taste, headache, morning drowsiness, and dizziness.

Who would risk this?

"The Closer"

Two thirds of the way through Netflixing Season 1 of The Closer.

I like it quite a lot. Very good cast (Kyra Sedgwick, J. K. Simmons), interesting office politics, a rich central character, some intriguing investigations.

Still, I am not sure yet if I will add this to my catch-up list. It's a very good television series, but I only have so much time.

Too Much TV

Programming my DVR.

Over the next two weeks I will be watching the debuts or returning season premieres of:

Boardwalk Empire
Hawaii 5-0
The Event
How I Met Your Mother
Modern Family
Big Bang Theory
No Ordinary Family
The Good Wife


Quote of the Day (9/18/10) ("Supernatural," Season 5 Week)

Death: 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 how insignificant I find you.
Dean: Well I gotta ask: How old are you?
Death: As old as God. Maybe older. Neither of us can remember anymore. Life, death, chicken, egg – regardless, at the end, I’ll reap Him too.
Dean: God? You’ll reap God?
Death: Oh yes. God will die too, Dean.
Dean: This is way above my pay grade.
Death: Just a bit.
--“Two Minutes to Midnight” (Supernatural, Season Five)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Addy and Her Shadow

While perambulating Addy in her Jeep (Jeep stroller, that is) today, I noticed that she seemed mesmerized with something to her right and down, and then I realized: she's fascinated with her shadow, actually a combo shade: me/the stroller/addy, following alongside.

When we changed direction, the shadow disappeared and her attention redirected to the street ahead.

Geocentricism: The Conference

Andrew Sullivan wasn't sure this was a parody (though he hoped it is).

I'm 99% certain it's a brilliant spoof, though these days it could actually happen.

Quote of the Day (9/17/10) ("Supernatural," Season 5 Week)

Chuck: Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There's always gonna be holes. And since it's the ending, it's all supposed to add up to something. I'm telling you, they're a raging pain in the ass.
--“Swan Song” (Supernatural, Season Five)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Addy Crawls

Today. For the first time.

The Venn-diagram vs. Islamaphobia

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

"FInding Lost," Season Six

I love the cover of the final volume of Nikki's brilliant series.

Read my blurb of the book here.

Tea Cylons

From one of Andrew Sullivan's readers:

The Tea Partiers were created by Republicans.

They devolved.
They rebelled.
They look and feel like Republicans.
There are many copies.
And they have a plan. (Maybe)

Heard on "The Colbert Report"

It was a male horse and a female lady. Nothing sick.
--Stephen, defending New York Governor Candidate Carl Paladino (R) against charges he had sent out photos depicting bestiality.

Quote of the Day (9/16/10) ("Supernatural," Season 5 Week)

Raphael: But there's no other explanation. [God]'s gone for good.
Castiel: You're lying.
Raphael: Am I? Do you remember the twentieth century? Do you think the twenty-first is going any better? Do you think God would've let any of that happen if He were alive?
--“Free to Be You and Me” (Supernatural, Season Five)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

David Fury Has Creative Differences

Terra Nova.

Former "School of Whedon" charter member David Fury has left.

Remember when he left, due to CD, that other much-hyped series, Lost, after Season One (for which he wrote "Walkabout")?

Brian Williams on Jon Stewart; Andrew Sullivan on Brian Williams

Brian Williams:
Jon has chronicled the death of shame in politics and journalism,” says Brian Williams, the NBC Nightly News anchor who is a frequent Daily Show guest. “Many of us on this side of the journalism tracks often wish we were on Jon’s side. I envy his platform to shout from the mountaintop. He’s a necessary branch of government.

Andrew on Williams and the MSM:

That's why the country is screwed, on a fundamental level. A "journalist" (attractive man with nice hair) with one of the biggest platforms to report the truth in the country complaining about how he lacks the platform a cable talk show comedian has. NBC Nightly News averaged 7.8 million viewers this past week. The Daily Show averages about 1.8 million. You have a platform, Brian Williams, you just refuse to actually do anything with your platform, in favor of "Well, the Republicans say that Barack Obama is an evil socialist, fascist menace; the White House disagrees." I exaggerate, but not by much.

Colbert Goes "Strange"

Last night Stephen did an amazing Dr. Strangelove imitation. (It comes at about 4:48 into the clip.)

Grad Students

Quote of the Day (9/15/10) ("Supernatural," Season 5 Week)

Sam as Lucifer: Oh. Hello, Dean. Aren't you a surprise? You've come a long way to see this, haven't you?
Dean: Well go ahead. Kill me.
Sam as Lucifer: Kill you? Don't you think that will be a little... redundant? [Sighs] I'm sorry. It must be painful, speaking to me in this... shape. But it had to be your brother. It had to be. [Tries to touch Dean but Dean flinches back] You don't have to be afraid of me, Dean. What do you think I'm going to do?
Dean: I don't know, maybe deep-fry the planet?
Sam as Lucifer: Why? Why would I want to destroy this stunning thing? Beautiful, in a trillion different ways. The last perfect handiwork of God. You ever hear the story of how I fell from Grace?
Dean: Oh, good God, you're not gonna tell me a bedtime story, are ya? My stomach's almost outta bile.
Sam as Lucifer: You know why God cast me down? Because I loved Him. More than anything. And then God created... [smirks] you. The little... hairless apes. And then he asked all of us to bow down before you. To love you more than Him. And I said, "Father... I can't." I said, "These human beings are flawed. Murderous." And for that, God had Michael cast me into Hell. Now tell me, does the punishment fit the crime? Especially when I was right. Look what six billion of you have done to this thing. And how many of you blame me for it.
Dean: [voice wavering] You're not fooling me, you know that? With this 'sympathy for the devil' crap. I know what you are.
Sam as Lucifer: What am I?
Dean: You're the same thing, only bigger. The same brand of cockroach I've been squashing my whole life. An ugly, evil, belly-to-the-ground supernatural piece of crap. The only difference between them and you, is the size of your ego.
--“The End” (Supernatural, Season Five)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cover for "On the Verge of Tears"

We only just saw it this morning.

Quote of the Day (9/14/10) ("Supernatural," Season 5 Week)

Dean: What if we win? I'm serious. I mean, screw the angels and the demons and their crap Apocalypse. Hell, they want to fight a war? They can find their own planet. This one's ours, and I say they get the hell off of it. We take 'em all on, we kill the Devil, hell, we even kill Michael if we have to, but we do it our own damn selves.
Bobby: And how are we supposed to do all this, genius?
Dean: [shrugs] I got no idea. But what I got is a G.E.D., and a "give 'em hell" attitude and I'll figure it out.
Bobby: You are nine kinds of crazy, boy.
Dean: It's been said.
--“Sympathy for the Devil” (Supernatural, Season Five)

Monday, September 13, 2010


I have been watching (for the first time) Wilde (the movie with Stephen Fry). Wonderful.

A favorite Wildeism from the movie.

I find that alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, can bring about all the effects of drunkenness.

Quote of the Day (9/13/10) ("Supernatural," Season 5 Week)

Gabriel: Lucifer... you are my brother, and I love you. But you are a great big bag of dicks.
Lucifer: What did you say to me?
Gabriel: Look at yourself... Boo hoo, Daddy was mean to me, so I'm gonna smash up all his toys.
Lucifer: Watch your tone.
Gabriel: Play the victim all you want, but you and me, we know the truth. Dad loved you best, more than Michael, more than me. Then he brought the new baby home and you couldn't handle it. So all of this is just a great big temper tantrum. Time to grow up.
Lucifer: Gabriel, if you're doing this for Michael...
Gabriel: Screw him. If he were standing here, I'd shiv his ass, too
--“Hammer of the Gods,” Supernatural Season Five

Sunday, September 12, 2010

More Addy (Photographed by Her Mom)

Addy Overnight

We had the pleasure of hosting Adelyn Belle Porterfield last night. Here she is (1) eating solid food in the evening; (2) playing with us in bed this morning.

Quote of the Day (9/12/10) (Walter Benjamin Week)

Of all the ways of acquiring books, writing them oneself is regarded as the most praiseworthy method. At this point many of you will remember with pleasure the large library which Jean-Paul's poor little schoolmaster Wurtz gradually acquired by writing, himself, all the works whose titles interested him in bookfair catalogues; after all, he could not afford to buy them. Writers are really people who write books not because they are poor, but because they are dissatisfied with the books which they could buy but did not like.
--Walter Benjamin, "Unpacking My Library"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Best SF TV Episodes

Sci-Fi Wire picks the ten best.

I know I have become a pain about enforcing logical applications of the designation, but two of these are NOT science fiction.

How, exactly, is "Hush" (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) SF? Fairy tale monsters invade Sunnydale and are defeated by a scream. What is science fiction about that?

And while The X-Files was SF most of the time, the creepy episode "Home" was not. How is an in-bred family of cretins science fiction?

Quote of the Day (9/11/10) (Walter Benjamin Week)

"In relation to the history of organic life on earth," writes a modern biologist, "the paltry fifty millennia of homo sapiens constitute something like two seconds at the close of a twenty-four hour day. On this scale, the history of civilized mankind would fill one fifth of the last second of the last hour." The present, which as a model of Messianic time, comprises the entire history of mankind in an enormous abridgment, coincides with the stature which the history of mankind has in the universe.
--Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History"

Friday, September 10, 2010

"The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America"

I found this interview with Timothy Egan on Fresh Air about his book absolutely fascinating.

Made me realize I know nothing about Teddy Roosevelt or Gifford Pinchot or early 20th Century Republicans.

Marty's Favorite Gangster Films

I would have found this interesting even if I wasn't teaching Gangster Film in the Spring.

Quote of the Day (9/10/10) (Walter Benjamin Week)

"Fiat ars pereat mundus," says Fascism, and as Marinetti admits, expects to supply the artistic gratification of a sense perception that has been changed by technology. This is evidently the consummation of "l'art pour l'art." Mankind, which in Homer's time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. . . .
--Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Blair's Kleptonesia?

So Peter Morgan, who wrote The Queen, thinks Tony Blair may have confused his script with history. The Telegraph reports:

In A Journey, Blair claims that the Queen said to him: "You are my 10th prime minister. The first was Winston. That was before you were born." In Morgan's script to the 2006 film The Queen, Mirren, in the title role, tells Michael Sheen's Blair: "You are my 10th prime minister, Mr Blair. My first was Winston Churchill." Morgan tells me: "I wish I could pretend that I had inside knowledge, but I made up those lines. No minutes are taken of meetings between prime ministers and monarchs and the convention is that no one ever speaks about them, so I didn't even attempt to find out what had been said.

"There are three possibilities. The first is I guessed absolutely perfectly, which is highly unlikely; the second is Blair decided to endorse what I imagined as the official line; and the third is that he had one gin and tonic too many and confused the scene in the film with what had actually happened, and this I find amusing because he always insisted he had never even seen it."

Is this a case of “kleptonesia”—unconscious/forgotten borrowing/pinching, especially of creative products,


First True Blood, now Mad Men.

Penn Jillette Talks Sense

No one has an idea really of where we should draw the line. What about the Bible? Every nut who kills people has a Bible lying around. If you're looking for violent rape imagery, the Bible's right there in your hotel room. If you just want to look up ways to screw people up, there it is, and you're justified because God told you to. You have Shakespeare and you have Sophocles—what are we going to do, lose Oedipus Rex if someone pokes an eye out?
[Penn Jillette, from Reason magazine, on censorship of violent TV shows]

Monty Python's "Summarize Proust" Competition


Tip of the hat to Andrew Sullivan

"Foyle's War"

Three episodes into Foyle's War.

I don't remember enjoying a traditional (non-cultic) BBC drama this much since Masterpiece Theatre/Upstairs, Downstairs days.

Nobody does this sort of thing better than the British.

Quote of the Day (9/9/10) (Walter Benjamin Week)

If style is the power to move freely in the length and breadth of linguistic thinking without falling into banality, it is attained chiefly by the cardiac strength of great thoughts, which drive the blood language through the capillaries of syntax into the remotest limbs.
--Walter Benjamin

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Addy's Reach

When I visited Sarah today, Addy grabbed my pen and pulled it out of my pocket. A first. And then this . . .

"Mad" Hands

I cannot put in words how moving this moment in "The Suitcase"' -- when Don Draper reaches out to gently, lovingly, non-sexually touch the person (Peggy Olson) who has touched him in a time of need. Don and Peggy are two of the great television creations.

I can, however, say this: it is a moment that could happen only in a television narrative. The movies could never pull it off, nor could literature. For it took 46 hours of storytelling to establish the necessary context to make this so poignant, so resonant.

Quote of the Day (9/8/10) (Walter Benjamin Week)

Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which dead cities lie interred.
--Walter Benjamin

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

New Telegenic on "Breaking Bad"

My new Telegenic--on Breaking Bad--is up and almost ready for public consumption.

I love doing these.

Thanks Kim Akass for the great job you do with them.

"The Suitcase" ("Mad Men," 4.7)

I cannot praise highly enough Todd VanDerWerff's recap of last night's Mad Men. It's a beautifully written meditation on television storytelling in general and "The Suitcase" in particular, which "TV" (what great initials!) calls:

one of the best episodes the show has ever done. Even its weird, off-format elements feel of a piece with its melancholy tone. This is the kind of episode that, years from now, we'll think of when we try to remember just what it was we loved about Mad Men, an episode that uses virtually every weapon in the show's arsenal, yet leaves almost all of its moments and scenes unexpected. It's so good that I want to call off the rest of the TV season and say this is as good as it's going to get.

Here are a couple more memorable passages (but you must read the whole piece!):

The best thing about individual Mad Men episodes is that you often can't predict just where the storyline is going to go from the individual snippets at episode's beginning. On nearly every other show on television, you can have the storyline narrowed down to a certain range of possibilities in the early going, and on more formulaic shows, you'll probably have everything figured out within the first 15 minutes. Mad Men, however, is fond of taking random left turns into other storylines entirely or tying up loose ends through completely unexpected means or having a bunch of storylines dovetail in a way you wouldn't expect them to. It's not exactly like Don Draper steps out of his office one morning and gets on board a spaceship, but the show is always careful to find a way to do what you least expect it to, but still make it seem completely natural. It's the only show on TV right now that is unpredictable in almost the exact way that life is.

That sense of melancholy, of the world always rushing forward and leaving us behind, is one of the dominant moods of Mad Men. The show's set 45 years ago, for God's sake. It's under no illusions that the world it paints is somehow a good world, entirely, or a better one in any way. The progress we've undergone since then is a good thing, it mostly realizes, but it still longs for reinvention. These are people who long to escape who they actually are and become someone else, but the world carries them ever forward. Over your life, you will become many different people, and the journey from one person to another is one of discovery and excitement. But there are also moments and places where you'll long to return, memories you'll wish to fold up and place in a bag next to each other. And then someday, you'll find yourself no longer who you were, really, and that bag of what you wished to hold on to will be all you have left. And you, too, will head off into the unknown.

Quote of the Day (9/6/10) (Walter Benjamin Week)

A Klee painting named "Angelus Novus" shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
--Walter Benjamin, "Theses on the Philosophy of History"

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Heard on NPR's "Weekend Edition"

The hardest thing you'll ever learn
is what bridge to cross and what bridge to burn.
--from Heart's new song "WTF"

Quote of the Day (9/4/10) (Mind Week)

Nothing is in the mind that was not in the senses, except the mind itself.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Heard on Letterman

New York cemeteries have run out of plots. C.S.I. ran out of plots years ago.

The New Ten Commandments

I had a dream last night in which I was pursuing them--the New Ten Commandments--now housed on, not stone tablets. but an IPad.

Quote of the Day (9/3/10) (Mind Week)

O the mind, mind has mountains, cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there.
--Gerard Manley Hopkins

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Addy, the Adorable Ear-Puller

Sarah's comment on her blog:

Adelyn still hasn't mastered crawling, but she has reached an important milestone. She can now pet her dogs, and more importantly, pull on their ears.

(Sorry, Louie and Sampson. I told you this day would come.)

Top Demoagogues

The Daily Beast picks America's outstanding demagogues.

The End of the Penultimate Episode of "Breaking Bad," Season Three

The end of "Half-Measures."

Go Reds

I became an improbable Cincinnati Reds fan when we lived in Northern Kentucky 1983-1988. (A Pirates fan growing up, I had always hated the Reds.) It has been a long time since there was much to root for. Now, OMG, at the beginning of September, they have an 8 game lead over St. Louis.

Quote of the Day (9/2/10) (Mind Week)

"Oses," said the coachman to Tom Brown, "as to wear blinkers, so's they see only wot's in front of 'em: and that's the safest plan for 'umble folk like you and me." Nature seems to have worked on much the same principle. Our sense organs and our brain operate as an intricate kind of filter which limits and directs the mind's clairvoyant powers, so that under normal conditions attention is concentrated on just those objects or situations that are of biological importance for the survival of the organism and the species. . . . As a rule, it would seem, the mind rejects ideas coming from another mind as the body rejects grafts coming from another body.
--Sir Cyril Burt

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Gangster Film, Spring 2011

I learned today that in the Spring I will not only be teaching a graduate course on Cult Television but a 4000 level special topics course in film.

After thinking about it all day, I have decided to do The Gangster Film.

All Memes Considered

"All Things Considered" considers what has become of Richard Dawkins' idea of "memes" in the internet era.

Danny Strong

Jonathan Levinson (on Buffy), Doyle McMaster on Gilmore Girls, the author, too, of the terrific HBO movie Recount, Danny Strong has joined the cast of Mad Men.

Quote of the Day (9/1/10) (Mind Week)

Man is to himself the greatest prodigy in nature, for he cannot conceive what body is, and still less what mind is, and least of all how a body can be joined to a mind. This is his supreme difficulty, and yet it is his very being. The way in which minds are attached to bodies is beyond man's understanding, and yet this is what man is.
--Blaise Pascal, Pensees