Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Breaking Bad" Season 5 Cast Photos

AMC has them.

"Moby-Dick" Diploma

In the past I have given graduate students in summer courses on Wallace Stevens and The Sopranos/Deadwood diplomas.

Now my Moby-Dickers have one as well.

Essay of the Day, 6/30/12: "The Strange Text of 'My Left Foot'"

“The Strange Text of My Left Foot.”
Literature/Film Quarterly 21.3 (1993): 194-99.

Originally given as an invited lecture at Salisbury State University in Maryland, this rather snarky examination of a very strange and decidedly "bad faith" film adaptation would eventually be published in SSU's Literature/Film Quarterly.

If you find this interesting you may also want to read "No Box of Chocolate: The Adaptation of Forrest Gump."

Now available in The Ventriloquist.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Essay of the Day, 6/29/12: "Creative Work: On the Method of Howard Gruber"

Creative Work: On the Method of Howard Gruber.” The Journal of Humanistic Psychology 33 (1993): 101-21.

I began reading Howard Gruber's investigations into the creative processes of historically great individuals back in Huntsville (1981-83), and a decade later I wrote this essay which attempted to systematically explain his phenomenological method.

It would be impossible to overstated Gruber's influence on me. My forthcoming study of Joss Whedon, for example, is grounded in Gruber's ideas.

Though Howard I never met, we did speak on the phone, and I would attend a memorial service for him in 2005 and contribute to a Gruber festschrift.

Now available in The Ventriloquist.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Best SCOTUS Decision Tweet

Essay of the Day, 6/28/12: "Functional and Dysfunctional Autobiography: 'Hope and Glory' and 'Distant Voices, Still Lives'"

“Functional and Dysfunctional Autobiography: Hope and Glory and Distant Voices, Still Lives.” Film Criticism 15.1 (1990): 39-48.

Remember when I was going to do a book on film and autobiography? I barely do. This was going to be in it. The book still needs to be done.

Hope and Glory still one of my favorites films.

You can read it here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Essay of the Day, 6/27/12: "News from Africa: Mythic Reflections"

“"News from Africa': Fellini/Grotesque.”
Post Script 9.1 & 2 (1990): 82-98.

Virtually all of this was in my 1978 dissertation.

The grotesque, of course, has been one of my preoccupations since a graduate course at St. Cloud State in 1972.

The title is from a Wallace Stevens' poem.

Now available in The Ventriloquist.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

RIP, Nora Ephron

Huffington Post says goodbye to the writer/director.

Essay of the Day, 6/26/12: "Remote Control: Mythic Reflections"

“Remote Control: Mythic Reflections.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 18 (1990): 65-71.

Remote Control: Mythic Reflections.” The Remote Control Device in the New Age of Television. Ed. James R. Walker and Rob Bellamy. New York: Praeger, 1993: 223-34.

This Barthesian "mythological" reading of the RCD--one of the last products of my "(TV)antipathy" period--was first published in the Journal of Popular Film and Television. It would later be republished in somewhat different form in the first book on the RCD, co-edited by my then Memphis State colleague Jim Walker.

You can read the book version by following the link above.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Most Interesting Man in the World

The latest:

His small talk has altered foreign policy.

He once ran a marathon because it was on his way.

Sasquatch has taken photos of him.

"A Good Man is Hard to Find"

A rare recording of O'Connor reading her own story.

A New Declaration of Independence Inspired By the Ridiculous Ouster of the UVA President

Read it here.

Read about the controversy here.

Essay of the Day, 6/25/12: "How to Gut a Book"

“How To Gut a Book.” Georgia Review 43 (1989): 731-44.

The second of my Georgia Review essays, this was originally given as a talk at the Kentucky Philological Association.

One of my own all-time favorites, I would learn only many years after its publication that at least one colleague at another university had for years made it required reading by all his undergraduate students.

One of my few essays without a colon.

Now available in The Ventriloquist, a collection I originally considered calling How to Gut a Book.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Call me . . . Larry?"

The Far Side revisits Herman Melville's writer's block.

Tip of the Hat to "Warren" Tormey.

The Onion: "Johnny Depp's Indentured Servitude To Tim Burton Ends"

That explains it.

"108 Answers to LOST's Supposedly Unanswered Questions"

Thanks to Shiloh Carroll for calling this to my attention.

Essay of the Day, 6/24/12: "Poetry as Time-Lapse Photography"

“Poetry as Time-Lapse Photography.” Essays in the Arts and Sciences 17 (1988): 1-27.

I submitted this for consideration by EAS and had never heard back from them until offprints of the already published essay arrived in the mail.

Grr! My name was misspelled as "David Laveny."

Despite that, one of my favorites, the first of two essays on a subject I had sort of planned to turn into a book one day but never did, though I have made available most of the project that I did complete in a blog you can find here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"A Ping Pong"

At the NALEO conference this week Senator Marco Rubio proclaimed (I heard the clip on NPR and quote if from a HuffPo story):

As long as this issue of immigration is a political ping pong that each side uses to win elections and influence votes, I'm telling you, it won't get solved. [emphasis mine]

Good grief. I constantly hear politicians and journalists butchering the English language, so it is perhaps unfair to single out the Tea Party's golden boy, but what on earth is this supposed to mean? There is no such construction. He might have said "politcal ping pong" or "a game of political ping pong" or even "a political football," but he cannot say "a political ping pong." What in god's name is "a ping pong"?

Remember when the late-in-WWII  headline "The fascist octopus has song its swan song" convinced George Orwell (in "Politics in the English Language") that the end of civilization was nigh? Rubio's garbling isn't on that order, of course, but taken together with all of today's politician/commentariat misconstruction, it does depress the mindful.

Happy Birthday Joss!

It's the birthday of Joss Whedon (1964- ), and Iron Man is bringing the party to us . . .

How is that a party?

"From 'Toy Story' to 'Brave': Your Essential Guide to Pixar's Movies"

Hollywood Reporter has the slide show.

R.I.P., Andrew Sarris

Pantheon film critic Andrew Sarris, the man most responsible for bringing the auteur theory to the US, died this week.

Jeff Pinkner Leaving "Fringe"

I only just learned about this. I am sure Fringe will miss him going into its final season.

Separated at Birth: "Brave's" Merida and Rupert Murdoch's Rebekkah Brooks?

Rebekkah Brooks

New Video Games

Conan introduced us to some new video games this week, including a diabetes version of Mario and Grand Theft Auto: Texting Edition.

Essay of the Day, 6/23/12: "Detached Retinas: 'Camera Man' and the Private-Eye Film"

“Detached Retinas: ‘Camera Man’ and the Private Eye Movie.” To-Wards 3.1 (Fall 1987): 26-31.

This essay uses some key ideas of Owen Barfield to read three films: Rear Window, Blade Runner, and Death Watch becoming more of a piece on the evolution of consciousness that movie criticism.

It was published in Clifford Monks' Barfield/Anthroposophy journal To-Wards.

Read it here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Lisa Connor, MA

Lisa Connor, a student of mine I first taught as an undergraduate back in the 1990s, successfully defended her M.A. thesis today: We Can Build You: Science Fiction, Textism and the Making of a Literary Identity—Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Philip K. Dick.”

Congratulations Lisa! 

"LOST" Politics

Here's a report on that repugnant Indiana US Senate candidate (for Richard Lugar's old seat).

The headline:
Mourdock Accidentally Releases Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Reaction To ‘Obamacare’
The Mourdock campaign apparently released accidentally different possible video responses to the pending SCOTUS decision on the ACA.

Here's the line that caught my attention:

Like some weird message from the fictional future found in a Lost DVD Easter Egg, here are the videos his campaign has prepared for potential outcome from the Supreme Court.

"Dallas" in the Shower

In last night's Conan, both host Coco and guest Jordana Brewster (4th from left) one of the stars of the TNT's Dallas continuation) seemed absolutely clueless about the reason for this promo shoot.

Did neither of them watch the old Dallas, in which Bobby (Patrick Duffy, 4th from the right) was written back into the show after supposedly being killed in a flaming car crash?

The entire previous season, we were supposed to believe, it has been his wife's bad day dream while he was in the shower.

Essay of the Day, 6/22/12: "'Everything is Trying to Hide Us': Rilke's Poetics of Mimicry"

“Everything is Trying to Hide Us: Rilke’s Poetics of Mimicry.”
The Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 5.1 (1987): 63-78.

Rilke is the single greatest influence in my life, but I knew I would never find a major journal willing to publish an essay on the German poet by a scholar who cannot even read the language.

I was delighted that JEP brought it out.

Another one of my best. There's nothing I have ever done I am prouder of.

Now available in The Ventriloquist.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Moby" Meets The Supremes

In the summer in which I am teaching a seminar on Moby-Dick this sort of headline (from Huffington Post--re. the imminent SOCTUS ruling on the Affordable Care Act--takes on a kind of synchronicity.

Essay of the Day, 6/21/12: "Major Man: Fellini as an Autobiographer"

“Major Man: Fellini as an Autobiorapher.” Post Script 6.2 (1987): 14-28.

Though it owed a lot to my dissertation (1978) on Fellini and my life-long fascination with Wallace Stevens (the term "major man" is his--from "Paisant Chronicle"), my participation in a 1983 NEH Summer Seminar, "The Forms of Autobiography," with James Olney at the UNC-Chapel Hill, was also a mjaor influence.

This appeared in a special issue of Post Script I guest-edited on film and autobiography.

Read it here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Essay of the Day, 6/20/12: "Departure of the Body Snatchers, or the Confessions of a Carbon Chauvinist"

“Departure of the Body Snatchers, or the Confessions of a Carbon
Chauvinist.” The Hudson Review 39 (1986): 383-404. (Nominated for a
Pushcart Prize in Non-fiction.)

Inspired by an incident years before (in Huntsville) when an AI expert called me a "carbon chauvinist," this is one of the best things I have ever written.

It's publication in Hudson Review lead to an interesting correspondance with the great ecologist/writer David Ehrenfeld, a Pushcart Prize nomination, and an interview (with Noah Adams) on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.

This would, of course, eventually end up in my first book: Late for the Sky: The Mentality of the Space Age. Read it here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mike Wallace Reads "My Last Duchess"

Yes, that Mike Wallace . . .

Essay of the Day, 6/19/12: "Epigraphs: Notes Toward a Theory"

“Epigraphs: Notes Toward a Theory.” Kentucky Philological Review. Bulletin of the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Kentucky Philological Association, March 7 and 8, 1986, Western Kentucky University: 12-18.

Like "How to Gut a Book," this was originally a KPA talk. It's a personal favorite, now available in The Ventriloquist.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Quote of the Day

“Life hands you lemons, you blow its freaking head off!”
--Pope on Falling Skies

Essay of the Day, 6/18/12: "The Audition of History and the Vocation of Man"

“The Audition of History and the Vocation of Man: Reflections on Extinction and Destiny.” Michigan Quarterly Review 24 (1985): 345-67.

I wrote this after seeing a CFP for a special issue of Michigan Quarterly on "Science and the Human Image." It's an astonishingly wide ranging essay (if I don't say so myself) and probably the best example of my interest in "philosophical anthropology."

It would end up in a somewhat different form in Late for the Sky.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Essay of the Day, 6/17/12: "Space Boosters: Reflections on the Marketing of Unearthliness"

“Space Boosters: Reflections on the Marketing of Unearthliness.”
ETC.: A Journal of General Semantics 41 (1984): 388-97.

At the University of Alabama in Huntsville, in the city where Werner von Braun took his extraterrestrial ambitions after the fall of the Third Reich, I developed a major interest in the  Space Program, but the real seed crystal of this obsession was R. Taylor Scott's "Music, Eroticism, and Madness" course at the University of Florida.

In this essay, I considered the role of the unearthly in a wide variety of contemporary advertising.

This would, of course, eventually end up in my first book: Late for the Sky: The Mentality of the Space Age.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Marvel and Disney Rumored to Release The Avengers: Director's Cut in Theaters to Land No. 1 All-Time Spot?"

Superhero Authority has the details.

"A Letter from Mitt Romney to his Former Gardener About the New Immigration Rules"

Andy Borowitz has acquired a copy.


Happy Bloomsday everyone!

"Jack McBrayer & Triumph Visit Chicago's 'Weiner's Circle'"

Essay of the Day, 6/16/12: "Delicious Progress: Whiteness as an Atavisim in Conrad Aiken's 'Silent Snow, Secret Snow'"

“Delicious Progress: Whiteness as an Atavism in Conrad Aiken’s ‘Silent
Snow, Secret Snow.’" Psychoanalytic Review 70 (1983): 235-39.

Early in my career--at the University of North Florida for example--I was teaching a good deal of literature and psychology.

This piece--a consideration of a brilliant Aiken short story--was ground in R. D. Laing's understanding of madness in The Politics of Experience.

Read it here.

Friday, June 15, 2012


The name of Joss Whedon's new micro-studio.

I find the choice of name most interesting. According to a bellwether is:


  [bel-weth-er]  Show IPA
a wether  or other male sheep that leads the flock, usuallybearing a bell.
a person or thing that assumes the leadership or forefront, as of a profession or industry: Paris is a bellwether of the fashion industry.
a person or thing that shows the existence or direction of atrend; index.
a person who leads a mob, mutiny, conspiracy, or the like;ringleader.

But from The World English Dictionary, we also get this:

a leader, esp one followed unquestioningly

Good word, is it not, for a Joss Whedon enterprise?


These ads for Athenos Feta (on YiaTube) are hilarious.

Yia Yia--Greek word for grandmother--is, of course, our in-family designation for my wife Joyce as Addy's grandma.

Essay of the Day, 6/15/12: "The Eye of Longing"

“The Eye of Longing.” Re-Vision 6.1 (1983): 22-33.

Heidegger, Owen Barfield, Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance--all were powerful influences on this wide-ranging meditation published in a rather esoteric journal.

I still think of this as one of the best essays I've ever done. I wish I had written more like this.

Now available in The Ventriloquist.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mr. Pointy Nomination

Delighted to learn this week that Joss Whedon: Conversations, the book I edited with Cynthia Burkhead, has been nominated for a Long Mr. Pointy award.

Go here to see the other nominees, both long and short.

Essay of the Day, 6/14/12: "The Horror Film and the Horror of Film"

“The Horror Film and the Horror of Film.” Film Criticism 7 (1983): 47-55.

This is essentially an essay about one of my favorite films, Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now, but that discussion takes place in the context of Roger Munier's "The Fascinating Image" and the inherent horrors of film as a medium.

Read it here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Obama Misspoke

Andy Borowitz reports:

Elsewhere on the political scene, President Obama today said he “misspoke” when he said last week that the private sector of the economy was fine: “What I meant to say was that Mitt Romney is a dick.”

Essay of the Day, 6/12/12: "The Tenth Symphony"

“The Tenth Symphony.” Georgia Review 35 (1981): 583-93. Finalist for the 1982 Pushcart Prize in Non-fiction. (Translated into Portuguese and republished in Brazil as “Decima Sinfonia” in Cultura, 1 August 1982.)

Another one of my favorites, this 2nd Georgia Review essay was an outgrowth of the "discovery that there is nothing to discover" theme that drove my dissertation. Its subjects--Vonnegut, Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, Zen Buddhism--were and have remained obsessions.

Now available in The Ventriloquist.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Essay of the Day, 6/11/2012: "Dissertations as Fictions"

“Dissertations as Fictions.” College English 31 (1980): 675-79.

The immediate impetus for this brief essay in College English was the ludicrously inadequate doctoral dissertation the late Jim Goldsmith wrote to earn his Ph.D. at the University of Florida. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and the movie The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) all played roles as well.

You can read it here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Addy's Linguistic Utterances

Two interesting things said by the 2.5 year old Adelyn during a stay at our house this weekend:

That's my this! [In reference to one of our things she was attempting to transform into her toy.]

I need my arms! [Proclaimed while we were trying to get her appendages under a car seat harness.]

"27 Popular Network Shows That Premiered In The Summer"

Another good BuzzFeed.

"25 Things You Didn't Know About 'Mad Men' That Will Blow Your Mind"

Well, my mind is still intact, but this BuzzFeed post is a lot of fun.

Essay of the Day, 6/10/2012: ""The Genius of the Sea"

“The Genius of the Sea: Wallace Stevens’ ‘The Idea of Order at Key West,’ Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, and the Earth as Muse.” Extrapolation 21 (1980): 101-105.

My doctoral dissertation--on the films of Federico Fellini--was also in many ways concerned with Wallace Stevens, and this essay, which weirdly juxtaposes one of Stevens' most famous poems with the great Lem's astonishing SF novel about a planet-ocean that is also a sentient being was a by-product.

You can read it here.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Essay of the Day, 6/9/2012: "The Eye as Inspiration in Modern Poetry"

“The Eye as Inspiration in Modern Poetry.” New Orleans Review 8 (1981): 10-13.

Like "Photo-graphy-sythesis," this essay about the visionary nature of such modern poets as Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, and Wendell Berry was written "under the influence" (I don't mean that literally) of LSD and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

It should also be considered another of my "organ inferiority" piece.

Now available in The Ventriloquist.

Friday, June 08, 2012

From Jodorowsky's "Dune" to "Prometheus"

A fascinating little video history on Blastr.

Essay of the Day, 6/8/2012: "Noticer: The Visionary Art of Annie Dillard"

“Noticer: The Visionary Art of Annie Dillard.” Massachusetts Review 21 (1980): 255-70.

I have written before about the aftermath of this essay's publication in Massachusetts Review.

Like my doctoral dissertation and my only-recently published study of Loren Eiseley, this was an exercise in Geneva School criticism.

Thursday, June 07, 2012


OK (OKC?): I have to admit it now. I really like, and am now rooting for, the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are tremendous fun to watch. What a contrast to the painful-to-watch, easily detestable, Miami Heat.

If only they were still in Seattle! It's hard to root for anything from Oklahoma.

Essay of the Day, 6/7/2012: "'O Lucky Man!' and the Movie as Koan""

O Lucky Man! and the Movie as Koan.” Literature/Film Quarterly 8 (1980): 35-40

My friend Allison Graham had written her doctoral dissertation on the British director Lindsay Anderson (eventually published in the Twayne directors series), and her interest inspired my own in Anderson, in particular his epic O Lucky Man! (1973).

I had been reading a lot of literary critic J. Hillis Miller, and his work factors in the essay, as does a continuing interest in Zen Buddhism.

I remember being very satisfied with this brief piece, which was published in Literature/Film Quarterly, the first of several in the journal.

Available in The Ventriloquist.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

35 Terrible Puns To Brighten Your Day

BuzzFeed has them. My favorites below.

"Ray Bradbury, Tea Party Icon"

An eye-opener in Slate.

Essay of the Day, 6/6/2012: "Dreaming Nothing"

“Dreaming Nothing.” Parabola 5.2 (1980): 18-23.

"Dreaming Nothing" was an unusual personal essay which began as an attempt to write about a strange, recurring childhood dream. The product (as was so much of my early stuff) of diverse reading--H. P. Lovecraft, Italo Calvino, jonathan Cott's biography of Karlheinz Stockhausen, R. Murray Schafer's The Tuning of the World, Steven Weinberg's The First Three Minutes--it ended up being part autobiography, part cosmology.

A version of it appeared in Late for the Sky. It can now be found in The Ventriloquist.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Essay of the Day, 6/5/2012: "Photo-graphy-synthesis"

Beginning today, my Painter of the Week feature will take the summer off. Replacing it will be a series of daily blog entries: "Essay of the Day." In each, I will offer a brief history (in reverse chronological order, from 1980 to the present) of something I wrote for a periodical or for a book. Whenever available, I will also provide a link to an online version.

First up, "Photo-graphy-sythesis." The first of three essays that appeared in Georgia Review, this was a spin-off of themes pursued in my dissertation (1978) that was also very much a product of mid-1970s LSD period. Using Owen Barfield's brilliant essay "The Harp and the Camera," it essentially argued that the eye, the physical eye, is the genetrix of poetry--that imagination has a biological basis.

Photo-graphy-synthesis is now available in a Kindle book, The Ventriloquist and Other Essays on Imagination and the Evolution of Consciousness.

Saturday, June 02, 2012


The inventor of the television remote control device, Eugene Polley, died last week at 91. To read my early essay "Remote Control: Mythic Reflections," go here.

According to Conan, Polley's will asked that he be buried between the sofa cushions.

Image above from 

Painter of the Week, 6/2/12: Arnold Böcklin Week


Böcklin, Self-Portrait