Saturday, April 30, 2011

Heard at the White House Correspondents' Dinner

Jon Hamm is here. He looks like all Republicans think they look.

Tim Pawlenty makes Al Gore seem like Ru Paul.
--Seth Greenberg

Mr. President, if your hair gets any whiter, the Tea Party will endorse it. (I'm going to get a nasty phone message from Ginny Thomas in 19 years.)

Hell or Texas

Thanks, Ensley Guffey, for sending me a post card, with the lovely sentiment from my fellow Tennessean (and Disneyized childhood hero), from San Antonio.

Breitbart at It Again

Breitbart the Despicable has now trumped up charges against a University of Missouri-Kansas City labor studies professor (selectively editing video to suggest she supports violence), and the whole kerfuffle involves a clip from my old friend Allison Graham's award-winning At the River I Stand. (That's Allison on the right.)

Read all about it here and here and here.

"The Monster at the End of This Book"

One of my doctoral students gave me this Sesame Street book as a gift. We watched the Supernatural episode that took its name from it earlier in the term.

Thank you Lisa.


Heard on "Supernatural"

Dean: Cas, get out of my ass!
Castiel: I was never in your. . .
--"Mommy Dearest" (Supernatural, 6.19)

Quote of the Day (4/30/11)

Something in us wants to get back every memory, every thing we have lost, every thing that was put together ever and once to make us. It is a sickness, but it is a wonder and a gift too. And though nothing in this century has worked out, we still expect to survive intact and to deliver the torch to those who will revive us in some other place in some other way. That is the garden of childhood we come from and return to beyond the stars, and beyond the figments and mirages of space and time.
Richard Grossinger, The Night Sky

Friday, April 29, 2011

"The Last Sam Weiss"

OMG. Just watched "The Last Sam Weiss" (Fringe).

What happened at the end? And next week is the season finale?

Movie Car Chases

The 10 best--Salon has a slide show.

"Black Swan"

Just saw, finally, the much-acclaimed Black Swan, and I must say I was not impressed. I thought it was hokey, histrionic, overwrought. In fact, I found it close to unwatchable.

Dick Cavett Interviews Jean-Luc Godard

Tip of the hat to Nelson Maddaloni.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2"

Well . . .

A Conference Coming to MTSU

Thanks to PhD student Mick Howard, MTSU will play host to this conference next year.

Read more about it (and see the program) here.

The Fate of Whedon/Goddard's "Cabin in the Woods"

Now known. Finally.

Quote of the Day (4/29/11)

Human beings are in the process of being radically redesigned. It would be unfair to apply old European standards to the new creatures we are becoming. I do not lament the passing of the unconscious. It had already been trivialized out of existence by the mid-sixties. Psychedelics dealt it further blows. Self-improvement techniques bypassed it altogether. Television finished it off. We are new beings now. We don't need an unconscious. We are unconscious.
--Andrei Codrescu, "The Death of the Unconscious"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bellisario vs. CBS

This should be interesting.

Quote of the Day (4/28/11)

Oaks abide. And abiding they are revered, for they reveal that which abides within us. What frequenter of oak groves at dusk has not felt the abysmal power of their stillness and borne it secretly away into the night? Oaks abide, and oaks are prayers—their dark hearts leafing outward into the light as surely as human hearts flower inward, following the grain of an even fuller illumination.

Like oaks, words that embody the abiding endure through vast reaches of space and time. In fact, our words "truth," "trust," and "tree" can all be traced back four thousand years to an ancient Proto-Indo-European word for the tree that to them was the Truth. That tree was the oak. They called the oak dorw, which also meant "firm," "strong," "enduring."
--James N. Powell, The Tao of Symbols

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Quote of the Day (4/27/11)

I should not in the least be surprised to learn one day, that some kinds of involuntary thought are simply the swiftest modes of human reasoning through processes of connection evident in the slower modes. I suspect that they are, and their very swiftness helps them from going astray, as deliberate thought so readily can do, by weighing alternative courses.
--Stanley Burnshaw, The Seamless Web

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"The 'Television is Better Than the Movies' Meme"

My new Telegenic is up. Read it here.

End of Term

Today is my last day teaching for the semester--a term that began with me in the hospital.

Incoherence to the Max

The following received a Michelle Malkin Award nomination from Andrew Sullivan--justly so. It's one of the most incoherent rants I have ever seen.

We need you to come in and lock shields, and strengthen up the men who are going to the fight for you. To let these other women know on the other side — these planned Parenthood women, the Code Pink women, and all of these women that have been neutering American men and bringing us to the point of this incredible weakness — to let them know that we are not going to have our men become subservient. That’s what we need you to do. Because if you don’t, then the debt will continue to grow.
- Congressman Allen West (R-FL), addressing the members of Women Impacting Nation (WIN).

Quote of the Day (4/26/11)

Without the assistance of cultural patterns [man] would be functionally incomplete, not merely a talented ape who had, like some under-privileged child, unfortunately been prevented from realizing his full potentialities, but a kind of formless monster with neither sense of direction nor power of self-control, a chaos of spasmodic impulses and vague emotions. Man depends upon symbols and symbol systems with a dependence so great as to be decisive for his creatural viability and, as a result, his sensitivity to even the remotest indication that they may prove unable to cope with one or another aspect of experience raises within him the greatest sort of anxiety.
--Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System"

Monday, April 25, 2011

John Noble Talks "Fringe"

A delightful interview with Dr. Bishop.

"The Avengers," Day One

The first day of shooting for The Avengers. Here's what Joss Whedon had to say.

"Harold Bloom by the Numbers"

A not-entirely-flattering portrait of the Bloomster in The Chronicle.

Gleick on Memes

An article in The Smithsonian.

Money quote:

Like genes, memes have effects on the wide world beyond themselves. In some cases (the meme for making fire; for wearing clothes; for the resurrection of Jesus) the effects can be powerful indeed. As they broadcast their influence on the world, memes thus influence the conditions affecting their own chances of survival.

Tip of the hat to Andrew Sullivan.

A "Supernatural" Dream

Last night I dreamed a new episode of Supernatural. If I recall correctly, it unfolded as a kind of elaborate montage, one scene after another with no clear connection to what came before or after (dream-like, in other words). Many cameos by long-dead characters (from John Wincester to the demon Crowley, the latter perhaps on my mind from Mark Sheppard's role in this week's Doctor Who).

During the dream "I" found myself interpreting the meaning of it all and did not realize till I awoke that I was watching an oneiric ep, not an official Supernatural broadcast.

Quote of the Day (4/25/11)

Men maintain [the] illusion of emotionless (which we might call the Vulcan Illusion, after Mr. Spock) with the aid of language and technology. When we examine their content, for example, foreign-policy paper—so imposingly "rational" on the surface—all reduce to something like: "If I can't play in your sandbox, you can't play in mine!" or "You hit me first!" And are we sending purely technical messages with our roaring motors, shrieking tires, and rasping appliances. Would we have to impress each other so noisily with our machines if we didn't feel small and weren't ashamed to admit it? Could nuclear weapons have been developed without the emotional fuel of despair and self hatred?
--Philip Slater

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Odd "Guardian" Story

This Guardian (UK) story bears a startling resemblance to Thomas Sebeok's classic "Pandora's Box," does it not? At first glance, it doesn't seem to even recognize the existence of Sebeok's much earlier work.

Must investigate.

Chair Memories

The MTSU centennial committee is gathering memories from all living department chairs. Since I was one and am still breathing, I contributed the following:

When I became chair of MTSU’s largest department in the Fall of 1993, I was the first outsider ever to occupy such a position and found myself, not surprisingly, battling with history and tradition. (The building housing the English Department, after all, is named after the departmental patriarch and longest-serving chair, Dr. Richard Peck.) Needless to say, I was constantly asking faculty and staff to explain “Why exactly do we do it this way?” In my very first semester as chair, President Walker’s decision to award a one-time only bonus to 25% of the faculty, gave me a singular opportunity as a newcomer to alienate/infuriate 75% of my colleagues.

I like to think I was the chair who brought English into the computer era. When I arrived, not a single department form and little of its history were digital, nor did we have a computer classroom (though former chair Dr. Frank Ginanni, advised by Dr. Larry Mapp, had already secured the equipment for one). I found a way to make the room a reality.

Later, when SACS told us we could no longer use first year graduate assistants in the classroom, I saw the available new work force as an opportunity and established the University Writing Center.

Looking back, I am most proud that (1) peer-mentoring was established for adjunct and full-time temporary faculty; (2) the eventual conversion of English’s D.A. degree into a Ph.D. gained momentum; and (3) substantial progress was made toward reduction of the teaching load of English’s productive scholars.
—Dr. David Lavery, Chair of the English Department, 1993-1997

Easter Island and The Doctor

River Song hints in "The Impossible Astronaut" that the sculptures on Easter Island may be of the Doctor. ("They worshiped you.")

What do you think?

"The Atomic Cafe"

Nooo talking. Take these tags home. They’re to be used in the event you’re burnt beyond recognition in a nuclear holocaust….and nooo talking during a nuclear holocaust…I shall be taking names.
—Robert Klein, impersonating a teacher in 1950s air-raid drills, quoted in Phil Berger, The Last Laugh: The World of Stand-Up Comics, Updated Edition (2000)

Have just finished watching, for the first time in well over a decade, The Atomic Cafe.

What a great documentary. It truly captures the spirit of the Atomic Age.

I plan to be ducking and covering all day.

BTW: Watching the closing credits I was surprised to see that my late, great colleague Charles Wolfe was a music consultant on the film.

An Atheist on Easter

On my way to my usual Sunday morning visit to my office, i ran into a huge, multi-state Easter morning gathering for a service at MTSU's Murphy Center. Thousands in their Easter bonnets made their way to celebrate Christ's return from the dead. On the campus of a public university. Jesus!

It's a strange thing to live as an atheist, as one of the irreligulous, among these people.

Quote of the Day (4/24/11)

The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet. Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Stetsons are cool. I wear a Stetson now.

Whale Songs Go Viral

An amazing discovery: that humpback whale songs spread throughout the globe.

"The Onion" Hits the Mitt


Mitt Romney Haunted By Past Of Trying To Help Uninsured Sick People

Read it here.

Everything You Wanted to Know about "Wait, Wait"

As a huge Wait, Wait fan, I was delighted to learn (and a wee bit frightened) that someone has been keeping complete stats about the NPR show.

I learned this because the man who maintains the site, "the Bill James of Wait, Wait, as Peter Sagal deemed him, was a contestant this week.

"The Office"

Matt Zoller Seitz picks the top Office episodes from the Steve Carell era.

Sam Egan

“Deconstruction at Bat: Baseball vs. Critical Theory in Northern Exposure’s ’The Graduate.’” Critical Studies in Television 1.2 (Autumn 2006): 33-38. Republished in Baseball/Literature/Culture: Essays. Ed. Ronald E. Kates and Warren Tormey. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008: 98-104.

When I wrote the above, I said the following:

I know next-to-nothing about Sam Egan, ["The Graduate's"] author, which doesn’t seem quite fair, since he seems to know a lot about me—about us. But I do know this: like me he believes that deconstruction has had its turn at bat, its innings even, and has now struck out.

Now I know a bit more, for Egan wrote and executive produced for Sanctuary in its first season.

You can read a brief bio of him here.

Quote of the Day (4/23/11)

For the world is silent to us; the silence is merely forever broken. Poems and music incorporate that silence when they speak the world.
--Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed

Friday, April 22, 2011

Andrew Breitbart

He's on the top of my list of people I despise.

So I enjoyed watching Martin Bashir take him on (especially after Dylan Ratigan kissed his ass--also on MSNBC).


I am working my way through Season 1 of Sanctuary. Lots to like. Especial fond of Christopher Heyerdahl (who I knew previously as the evil demon Alastair on Supernatural) as Bigfoot/Jack the Ripper/John Druitt.

Quote of the Day (4/22/11)

Once vision may have been give— that which seems inherent in the infant's eye, an eye which reflects the loss of innocence more eloquently than any other human feature, an eye which soon learns to classify sights, an eye which mirrors the movement of the individual toward death by its increasing inability to see.

But one can never go back, not even in imagination. After the loss of innocence, only the ultimate of knowledge can balance the wobbling pivot. Yet I suggest that there is a pursuit of knowledge foreign to language and founded upon visual communication, demanding a development of the optical mind and dependent upon perception in the original and deepest sense of the word.
--Stan Brakhage, "The Camera Eye, My Eye

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Owen Barfield: Man and Meaning"

I have now posted on Vimeo the film about Owen Barfield I co-wrote and co-produced.

Owen Barfield: Man and Meaning from David Lavery on Vimeo.

Quote of the Day (4/21/11)

Consider the question of serendipity: It may well be the case that the seemingly random juxtaposition of ideas produces something new. But this juxtaposition arises in one person's mind. It is he who activates the structures giving rise to the ideas in question. It is he who recognizes the fruit of the encounter and assimilates it into a newly forming structure. And it was he in the first place who assembled all these constituents in the close proximity of one person's mind, his own, so that all this might happen.
--Howard E. Gruber

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Martin, the Finale Hater

So George R. R. Martin hated the Battlestar finale as well as the LOST finale?

The Most Interesting Man in the World

New ad airing--new to me at least.

His words would break the jaw of a lesser man.

He’s won trophies for his game face alone.

He bowls overhand.

Here's a great collection.

"My Heart Will Go On"

On the most recent Supernatural divine forces (actually the rogue Angel Balthazar) rewrite history by preventing the sinking of the Titanic.

Turns out Bathazar so despised Celine Dion that he intended to preempt the hugely successful James Cameron movie and thus condemn Dion to a more acceptable fate as an obscure Canadian lounge singer.

The Nicolas Cage Terror Alert System

I ran into a former student recently who insisted "I bet you're happy these days." Why, I asked. "Because Nicolas Cage was arrested."

My hatred for Nicolas Cage has become legend with my students. So I have really been enjoying Conan's new terror alert system based on Nicolas Cage movies. Below you will find (1) one from back in February; and (2) an update he aired last night.

Remember when Conan had the Chuck Norris lever which, when pulled, aired an absurdly hilarious Chuck Norris clip? These Cage terror alerts serve somewhat the same function.

Quote of the Day (4/20/11)

I hate to be near the sea, and to hear it raging and roaring like a wild beast in its den. It puts me in mind of the everlasting efforts of the human mind, struggling to be free and ending just where it began.
--William Hazlitt

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Shakespearean Language

Andrew Sullivan has an interesting post about the Bard's linguistic inventiveness as seen by a researcher.

Quote of the Day (4/19/11)

School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.
Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

Monday, April 18, 2011

Quote of the Day (4/18/11)

Dreams of the far-flung future destiny of man were dragging up from its shallow and unquiet grave the old dream of Man as God. The very experience of the dissecting room and the pathological laboratory were breeding a conviction that the stifling of all deep-set repugnances was the first essential for progress.
--C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Colt

So Sam and Dean (Supernatural) are heading back in time to the Old West in order to secure Samuel Colt's demon-killing pistol.

This should be fun.

Quote of the Day (4/16/11) (Steven Wright Weeks 2)

Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film.
--Steven Wright

Friday, April 15, 2011

"John from Cincinnati"

I fear that television at the top-quality end may be moping into a gaudy glacial phase. This time it isn’t the directors who are sprouting magic mushrooms in their heads but series creators, screenwriters who aspire to the popular acclaim and papal authority of David Chase, the brain behind The Sopranos. And who can blame them? Writers skim so little show-business glory that it’s understandable they’d want to spread their firebird wings and dive deep within, given the opportunity. But beware the “self-deceiving chic snobgod of genius,” to quote the late critic Seymour Krim. When David Milch followed up the frontier Aeschylus of Deadwood with a new series for HBO that promised to ride the wild surf into the realm of magic realism, the result was a cult show without a cult called John from Cincinnati, a mélange of toneless non sequiturs, coy evasions, cryptic repetitions, tattooed goons with empty coconut heads, feats of levitation and psychic healing, family discord conducted at full screech (turning Rebecca De Mornay into a shrew—now there’s a negative accomplishment)—a post-millennial Last Year at Marienbad with sand fleas.
--James Wolcott. “Little Big Screen.” Vanity Fair

Quote of the Day (4/15/11) (Steven Wright Weeks 2)

Whenever I think of the past, it brings back so many memories.
--Steven Wright

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"A Man for . . ."

The title for an episode of Conan earlier in the week was "A Man for Three Out of Four Seasons."

Just not as powerful as the original.

"Let America Be America Again"

Reagan used Springsteen ("Born in the USA"), but that sacrilege was nothing compared to the repugnant Rick Santorum's new motto for his Presidential run.

Blasphemy pure and simple. Read the deeply moving Langston Hughes poem here.

Follow up: Santorum was clueless of course.

Tip of the hat to Lawrence O'Donnell's Last Word.

Heard on "Modern Family"

One thing's for certain. These kids will be Sondheimized.
--Cam (Eric Stonestreet) directing a grade school musical

Quote of the Day (4/14/11) (Steven Wright Weeks 2)

I'm writing an unauthorized autobiography.
--Steven Wright

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Quote of the Day (4/11/11) (Steven Wright Weeks 2)

My friend has a baby. I'm recording all the noises he makes so later I can ask him what he meant.
--Steven Wright

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Score of Books

Once The Essential Sopranos Reader is published in June, I can with perfect humility claim twenty books authored/co-authored/edited/co-edited published.

I could never have done this without all my collaborators and co-authors.

Martin, Lindelof Feud

"Game of Thrones'" Martin, "Lost's" Lindelof feud. Apparently Martin thought everyone had been dead all along, which disqualifies him as a commentator.

Quote of the Day (4/10/11) (Steven Wright Weeks 2)

When I die, I'm leaving my body to science fiction.
--Steven Wright

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Last "FNL"

I got my Season Five set two days ago and watched every spare moment.

Just finished "Always." What a satisfying finale. Every commitment (often five years in duration) to every single character we cared about--paid off. Marriages--and marriages one day to be--all around. Coach and Tami still the best, most faithful husband and wife in television ever.

No American television series was ever more heartwarming without ever, ever being smaltzy or sentimental. This was long-term narrative at its most authentic, its most real.

How I will miss it. That it got five seasons was a miracle. What Jason Katims and company did with those 76 episodes even more miraculous.

Glenn Beck Moves to Sci Fi Channel « Borowitz Report

Glenn Beck Moves to Sci Fi Channel « Borowitz Report

Volunteering to Be Ignorant

Ah the Volunteer state! We've come so far since the Scopes Monkey Trial! Clearly, Tennessee is not evolving.

"Brother's Keeper"

Another terrific episode of Justified last night.

Coover is gone, but Margo Martindale's Mags Bennett remains. She's one of the most fascinating "villains" recent television has given us. A great example of the sort of roles only television makes available for actresses.

Quote of the Day (4/7/11) (Steven Wright Weeks 2)

I stayed in a really old hotel last night. They sent me a wake-up letter.
--Steven Wright

Sunday, April 03, 2011

April is the Cruelest Month (Not)

From our front yard, Murfreesboro, TN, April 3, 2011.

Quote of the Day (4/3/11)

Rule #5: Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery—celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”
--Jim Jarmusch's Rules for Filmmakers

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Quote of the Day (4/2/11)

Man meets what exists and becomes as what is over against him, always simply a single being and each thing simply as being. . . . Nothing is present for him except this one being, but it implicates the whole world. Measure and comparison have disappeared; it lies with yourself how much of the immeasurable becomes reality for you. These meetings are not organized to make the world, but each is a sign of the world-order. They are not linked up with one another, but each assures you of your solidarity with the world. The world which appears to you in this way is unreliable, for it takes on a continually new appearance; you cannot hold it to its word. It has no density, for everything in it penetrates everything else; no duration, for it comes even when it is not summoned, and vanishes even when it is tightly held. It cannot be surveyed, and if you wish to make it capable of survey you lose it. . . . It is not outside you, it stirs in the depth of you. . . .

There are moments of silent depth in which you look on the world-order fully present. Then in its very flight the note will be heard; but the ordered world is its indistinguishable score. These moments are immortal, and most transitory of all; no content may be secured from them, but their power invades creation and the knowledge of man, beams of their power stream into the ordered world and dissolve it again and again. This happens in the history of both the individual and the race.
--Martin Buber, I and Thou

Friday, April 01, 2011

Best Musical TV Episodes

Daily Beast has a slide show.

Dates for Slayage 5

Dates have been set for the Fifth Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses: July 12-15, 2012 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Go here to see the UBC proposal.


Shocking (shocking) news that Phyllis Schlafly is a damned hypocrite.

When I was at the University of Memphis, I was asked by the Student Activities Board to moderate a debate on abortion between Schlafly and the Roe-v-Wade lawyer Sarah Weddington. I needed to take a shower afterward, but they were both hypocrites. Both got big paychecks for their appearances, which were part of a speaking tour. I was let in on their agreement, which held that neither had to come within fifty feet of the other before or after their "debate." Once on stage, each set up the other like two comics doing a pre-written routine. Each took her paycheck after doing her shtick and went on to the next stop on the tour. Hello Atlanta!

"The Kennedys"

David Talbot (in Salon) on The Kennedys miniseries:

"The Kennedys" is a hatchet job pure and simple. The saga is produced by Joel Surnow, which is sort of like Mel Gibson making "The Anne Frank Story." Surnow is the right-wing, Dick Cheney fluff boy who brought us "24," the show that told America not to adjust its dials, that the Constitution was now obsolete. The Camelot noir miniseries, which wallows in mobsters, mistresses and self-medication, is basically the Kennedys as Sopranos, minus the good writing and direction. The early reviews have not been kind, even in the normally charitable Hollywood trade press. "The whole thing," Variety gagged, "plays like a bad telenovela filtered through a 'History for Dummies' text."

Quote of the Day (4/1/11) (William Irwin Thompson Week 2)

With the emergence of civilization, the rate of change shifted from hundreds of thousands of years to millennia. With the emergence of science as a way of knowing the universe, the rate of change shifted to centuries.
--William Irwin Thompson