Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Complete List of "Car Talk's" Hilariously Named Fictional Staff

Staff credits | Car Talk

Does anybody know the name of this sort of thing?

Bail Bond Provider: Freida Gogh
Bean Counter: Ed Amame
Staff Urologist: Willa Catheter

Friday, September 28, 2012

"Breaking Bad"

Our "Breaking Bad" session at PCAS is today: Jeff Frame, Dale Guffey, Ensley F. Guffey, moi.

Should be fun. Will be wearing my Heisenberg t-shirt. "I am the danger."

Below, Colbert's timely interview with Gilligan.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Essay of the Day: 9/27/12: "Cancelled: 'Terriers' and Extinct Television Life Forms"

"Cancelled: Terriers and Extinct Television Life Forms." Telegenic, August 2012: .

This recent piece was my first Telegenic all summer. It brings together my "binge viewing" of the "brilliant but cancelled" Terriers and Andrew Weiner's SF story "Distant Signals."

Read it here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't": Colbert's New Book

Obama Hatred

As usual, The Onion has the latest.

Essay of the Day: 9/26/12: "'Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'"

David Lavery and Nancy Roche. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Modern American Drama on Screen, ed. Robert Bray and R. Barton Palmer, forthcoming from Cambridge U P, 2012).

Colleague Robert Bray and Barton Palmer (who edited the book that published my Moby-Dick essay--see Essay of the Day for 9/4/12) developed this book, and it was a no-brainer that I should write on Mike Nichols' adaptation of Albee's great play. After all, I teach it virtually every semester.

I ended up collaborating with recent MTSU PhD Nancy Roche, who had written about the play in her dissertation.

At this date, still forthcoming.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Gee Man

The former Vanderbilt President now at Ohio State, in whose luxury box Joyce and I once watched the Vanderbilt women's basketball team play, sure has an expensive lifestyle--and a serious bow tie problem.

Essay of the Day: 9/24/12: "How Barfield Thought: The Creative Life of Owen Barfield"

“How Barfield Thought: The Creative Life of Owen Barfield.” Re-Weaving the Rainbow: The Thought of Owen Barfield. Kindle Direct Publishing, 2012. Locations 244-622.

I gave this as a talk at the Owen Barfield Centenary at Columbia University and published it here for the first time in this Kindle collections of essays on Barfield's work.

It's another of my Howard Gruber-influenced studies of creative individuals.

Buy the book here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Essay of the Day: 9/23/12: "Introduction” to "Re-Weaving the Rainbow"

“Introduction.” Re-Weaving the Rainbow: The Thought of Owen Barfield. Kindle Direct Publishing, 2012. Locations 57-240.

This was my intro to a long-in-development collection of essays (published as a Kindle book) by a wide variety of Barfieldians on the neglected, great British thinker.

Buy it here.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Essay of the Day: 9/22/12: "Now: The Road Ahead, or the Chapter at the End of This Book"

 “Now: The Road Ahead, or the Chapter at the End of This Book.” Epilogue to TV Goes to Hell: An Unofficial Road Map of Supernatural 245-52.

This was my scaled-back contribution to a book on Supernatural I did with Stacey Abbott for Jen Hale at ECW Press.

For more from me on Supernatural go here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Beginning of the End of "Fringe"

Charlie Anders' report makes it sound like it will be a helluva ride.

Essay of the Day: 9/21/12: "Introduction” and “From Made Men to Mad Men: What Matthew Weiner Learned from David Chase"

“Introduction” and “From Made Men to Mad Men: What Matthew Weiner Learned from David Chase.” The Essential Sopranos Reader 1-4; 17-22.

I contributed these two pieces to the Essential Sopranos Reader--the published culmination of the Sopranos Wake I convened (with Doug Howard and Paul Levinson) at Fordham.

The essay on Weiner can also be found in Television Creativity.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Wikipedia Page (A Self-Serving Request)

I was a bit shocked to discover today that someone has created a Wikipedia page for me.

Of course it's terrible. I did not, for example, co author Conversations with Joss Whedon (it's an edited collection), and I have no idea why I am cited as an expert on Godfather II.

And there's so much more to say. I encourage others to revise it. Have at it.

My website is here. My full C.V. is here. I much prefer this photo.

This Power Point will tell you pretty much everything you would need to know.

And here's a brief bio:

Dr. David Lavery is Professor of English at MTSU (1993- ). The author / co-author / editor / co-editor of over twenty books, including Joss Whedon: Conversations and the forthcoming Joss Whedon, A Creative Portrait: From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Avengers, and published books on the Space Age, Lost (2), Twin Peaks, X-Files, The Sopranos (a trilogy), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teleparody, Seinfeld, Deadwood, My So-Called Life, Gilmore Girls, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, Cult TV, and Supernatural. A founding co-editor of the journals Slayage, Critical Studies in Television, and Series/Season/Show and co-founder of The Whedon Studies Association, he has lectured around the world on the subject of television. He will be one of the keynote speakers at “Doctor Who: Walking in Eternity: An Interdisciplinary Conference Celebrating 50 Years of Adventures in Time and Space” at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK, September 2013.

Romney Spoilers?

In last night's "Word," Colbert forgives Romney for not giving us any specifics about his plans.

Hauling "Who"

Tip of the hat to Nikki Stafford.

Essay of the Day: 9/20/12: "'Rob Thomas and Television Creativity"

“Rob Thomas and Television Creativity.” Investigating Veronica Mars: Essays on the Teen Detective Series. Ed. Rhonda V. Wilcox and Sue Turnbull. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2011. 23-34.

Rhonda and Sue had been putting this book together for some time, and this essay, on Veronica mastermind Rob Thomas, was my contribution.

It can now be found as well in my Kindle book Television Creativity.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"'Moby Dick' Project Brings Book Into 21st Century"

Essay of the Day: 9/19/12: "'Introduction": "Joss Whedon: Conversations"

David Lavery and Cynthia Burkhead, “Introduction.” Joss Whedon: Conversations vii-xii.

This was, of course, the intro to the collection of Whedon interviews I did with Cynthia Burkhead for the U P of Mississippi Press.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jesus/Condeleeza Rice

So the NY Times (and other outlets) reported today:

"A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: Jesus said to them, 'My wife ...'  ... The finding was made public in Rome on Tuesday at an international meeting of Coptic scholars...."

Was I the only one who thought of the unmarried former Sec. of State supposedly referring to POTUS (W.) as her husband?

"Conservatives Rethink Middle Eastern Democracy"

One of the Daily Show's most brilliant "To the tape!" takedowns.

As someone who hates Dan Senor intensely, I found this delightful.

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Romney as an Alcoholic

Tip of the hat to Andrew Sullivan.
To drink the way that I did required dishonesty. I lied about where I was going. Who I was with. Why I wasn’t coming in for work. Whether or not I was hung over. Whether I was drunk at any given moment. I lied to myself about my fitness for getting behind the wheel of a car. Individual friends, family members and acquaintances knew pieces of the picture, but never the whole picture. If they had, they’d have known I was in real trouble. So I told one thing to one audience and another to another audience. I’d recalibrate depending on where I was or who I was with. It was selfish. It was lying. So when I lay on the hospital gurney with two broken arms, looking down the barrel of a court date, jail time, surgeries without health insurance, rehab, fines and fees into the tens of thousands, and a reckoning with those who cared about me and those who didn’t, I felt RELIEF. I could tell them the truth: I’m a drunk, I’m responsible for all of this, and I don’t want to do it anymore. It felt really good, like sunlight. 
I was reminded of all of this today when a political candidate had a speech he’d meant for a small, select audience get heard by a much larger audience. It made my stomach turn. I remember that behavior well. It didn’t get me anywhere that I wanted to go.--Rob Delaney

Essay of the Day: 9/18/12: "'Impossible Girl: Amy Sherman-Palladino and Television Creativity"

“Impossible Girl: Amy Sherman-Palladino and Television Creativity.” Screwball Television 3-18.

I agreed to come along for the ride/serve as an advisor on Scott Diffrient's excellent Gilmore Girls collection and wrote this piece on the series' creator for it.

Also available in Television Creativity.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Newborn Despair, Romney and Memphis (THE ONION)

A Dark Secret

If you don't have a dark secret, it's never too late to make one.--The Most Interesting Man in the World in a new spot.

Essay of the Day: 9/17/12: "'The Imagination Will Be Televised: Showrunning and the Re-animation of Authorship in 21st Century American Television"

“The Imagination Will Be Televised: Showrunning and the Re-animation of Authorship in 21st Century American Television.” Autorenserien: die Neuerfindung des Fernsehens (Auteur Series: The Rebirth of Television). Ed. Christoph Dreher. Stuttgart: Merz & Solitude, 2010. 63-112.

This was the published version of a keynote I gave at a conference in Stutgart, Germany in December 2009.

Go here to read it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Essay of the Day: 9/16/12: "'The Catastrophe of My Personality’: Frank O’Hara, Don Draper, and the Poetics of 'Mad Men'"

"’The Catastrophe of My Personality’: Frank O’Hara, Don Draper, and the Poetics of Mad Men." Reading Mad Men, ed. Gary Edgerton, Reading Contemporary Television Series, I. B. Tauris, 2010. 131-44.

After surrendering my original idea to Sean O'Sullivan (who won a major award with his excellent contribution "Space Ships and Time Machines: Mad Men and the Serial Condition"), I wrote this, a rare opportunity to bring together two great intellectual obsessions: poetry and television, for Gary Edgerton's collection on the inestimable Mad Men.

It's now available as well in The Ventriloquist.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Every Doctor Who villain since 1963"

The Guardian has a cool guide.

"The Master"

The reviews are coming in. Anthony Lane (The New Yorker); Andrew O'Hehir (Salon); David Edelstein (Fresh Air).

Lynch on "Louie"

What a surprise to see David Lynch on Louie this week, playing a weird (of course) mentor to future late night talk show hosts.

Lynch has always been quite good at these quirky roles. Remember the hard-of-hearing Gordon Cole in Twin Peaks?

Essay of the Day: 9/15/12: "How Cult Television Became Mainstream"

“How Cult Television Became Mainstream.” The Essential Cult Television Reader 1-6.

This was my intro to The Essential Cult Television reader.

Peruse it here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Is Egypt an Ally?

I almost threw up at S. E. Cupp's insistence on The Cycle this afternoon that Obama's characterization of Egypt was far worse than Romney's despicable, and utterly clueless and premature, denunciation of Obama's stance on the Libyan and Egyptian embassy attacks.

So I was glad to see Juan Cole's explanation of what Obama was up to. [Tip of the hat to Andrew Sullivan.]

Egypt is among about 14 countries designated at “major non-NATO allies” by US presidents. This status recognizes that they do joint military exercises with the US, and gives them special access to advanced US weaponry. However, some of them are not allies in the precise legal sense. That is, there is no obligation of mutual defense. A true ally, as with NATO states, is one that the allied country is pledged to defend from attack. Still, US officials typically have referred to Egypt as an ally, and the State Department made clear that it continues to do so.
So Obama was technically correct that Egypt is not an ally in the sense that Britain or even Turkey is. But unlike what some media outlets wrote, this statement was no gaffe. Rather, Obama was playing hardball with Morsi, trying to impress upon him that the status of ‘major non-NATO ally’ is not automatic now that the Muslim Brotherhood is in control. It will have to be re-earned, at least from Obama’s point of view. And the lack of response on the embassy attack is not consistent with ally status. Non-NATO ally status is bestowed by a stroke of the presidential pen, so Obama could take it away.

Apologizing for America ("The Onion" Nails It)

Essay of the Day: 9/14/12: "'Battlestar Galactica'"

Ian Maull and David Lavery, “Battlestar Galactica.” The Essential Cult Television Reader 44-50.

My Brunel student Ian Maull and I did this chapter on BSG for my cult tv book. He deserves most of the credit.

Read it here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"The Guardian" Reviews Joss Whedon's "Much Ado"

Essay of the Day: 9/13/12: "Serial’ Killer: 'Dexter'’s Narrative Strategies"

“Serial’ Killer: Dexter’s Narrative Strategies.” Dexter: Investigating Cutting Edge Television. Ed. Douglas Howard. Investigating Cult Television. London: I. B. Tauris, 2009: 43-48.

I helped dear friend Doug Howard assemble the contents of this book (with a fabulous cover) for Stacey Abbott's Investigating Cult Television series at Tauris and contributed this brief essay, another of my narratological excursions, which you can read here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

“'The Wire' is NOT like Dickens"

Laura Miller (in Salon) is not buying it.

"Not Intended as a Factual Statement"

It's like the judge telling the woman who got raped, 'You asked for it because of the way you dressed.' OK? That's the same thing. 'Well America, you should be the ones to apologize, you should have known this would happen, you should have done — what I don't know — but it's your fault that it happened.' You know, for a member of our State Department to put out a statement like that, it had to be cleared by somebody. They don't just do that in the spur of the moment." — Republican Senator Jon Kyl

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Romney Button Hoax

So the Romney "Made in China" button was a hoax.

Essay of the Day: 9/12/12: ""Lost' and Long Term Television Narrative"

Lost and Long Term Television Narrative.” Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives. Ed. Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2009: 313-22.

Another occasional (but substantial) Lost contemplation, my fullest exercise in narratology, written for an impressive MIT Press book.

Read it here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Essay of the Day: 9/11/12: "Foreword” to "'Buffy' Goes Dark"

“Foreword” to Buffy Goes Dark: Essays on the Final Two Seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Television, ed. James South, Elizabeth Rambo, and Lynne Edwards. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2008: 1-3.

Another one of my brief forewords/prefaces/afterwords to a book by friends.

Read it here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Paralympic Table Tennis

"A Leaf Or A State?"

An utterly amazing website collecting "Google Earth fractals." [Tip of the hat to Andrew Sullivan.]

I immediately thought of this section of my discussion of Koyaanisqatsi in Late for the Sky:

Near the end of Koyaanisqatsi, as a transition to its last somber sequence, we find ourselves, after a jump cut, looking down on a city from above. Experienced air travelers immediately recognize the image. In another cut, the camera moves to an even higher altitude, and it takes the viewer but a moment to discern exactly what he or she is seeing. The world of urban sprawl, eight-lane highways, grid lock, and skyscrapers to which the early scenes had so accustomeed us becomes momentarily disorienting, seen from this high perspective, but some recognizable forms are still apparent: highways, bodies of water, parks, stadia. But then, in fairly rapid montage (a dozen shots), this extreme aerial long shot view is match-cut with extreme close-ups of what appear to be computer circuit boards and the intricate weave of Hopi blankets.

This montage culimnates a theme that has run throughout. For much of the film, we have looked down on the world. In the early natural scenes, such a point of view had expanded our vision of the immensity of the world, of its geological and meteorological sweep. But these aerial views of cityscapes offer us an Archimedean perspective on human affairs, a perspective that, as Arendt foresaw, actually belittles human achievement. As she wrote in "Man's Conquest of Space," "If we look down from this point [of Einstein's 'observer freely poised in space'] at what is going on on Earth and upon the various activities of men, that is, if we apply the Archimedean point to ourselves, then these activities will indeed appear to ourselves as no more than 'overt behavior,' which we can study with the same methods we use to study the behavior of rats" (539).

"Seen from a sufficient distance," Arendt writes, "the cars in which we travel and which we know we built ourselves . . . look as though they were, as Heisenberg once put it, 'as inescapable a part of ourselves as the snail's shell is to its occupant.'" Consequently, Arendt insists, "the overview effect" decreases human stature: "All our pride in what we can do . . . disappears into some kind of mutation of the human race; the whole of technology, seen from this point, in fact no longer appears as the result of a conscious human effort to extend man's material power, but rather as a large-scale biological process" ("Man's Conquest" 540). From such a perspective, simulation seems inevitable, seems almost to be God's will.

From such a perspective, it is possible in the Space Age for Freeman Dyson to hallucinate today's purely technological spacecraft transformed, less than three decades hence, into a living creature able to explore the cosmos. "It is reasonable to think of the micro-spacecraft of the year 2010," Dyson claims in his Gifford Lectures (Infinite in All Directions), "not as a structure of metal and glass and silicon, but as a living creature, fed on Earth like a caterpillar, launched into space like a chrysalis, riding a laser beam into orbit, and metamorphosing in space like a butterfly" (178-79). 

From such a Space Age perspective, the highly unorthodox MIT computer scientist Edward Fridkin, ensorcelled by his own metaphoric internalization, can theorize that the cosmos is itself a kind of giant program being used by a higher intelligence/god/ computer--as unknowable to its creation as any hardware is to its software--to check the efficacy of a cosmic master program through the only means available: the creation of the simulation we know as the physical universe. (See Wright, part 1.) 

Much of Koyaanisqatsi is shot from the Archimedean point. As we watch the transformation of rivers into pipelines, sheer cliffs into skyscrapers, river canyons into the valley boulevards between New York's mammoth buildings, superhighways into the circulatory system of the megalopolis, Indian blankets into cities, and cities into circuit boards, we recognize that we are witness to a profound metamorphosis in the conception of human destiny enacted by the adoption of an Archimedean perspective. 

But in the end the film does not sanction the Archimedean perspective. Its closing shot is of a missile launch, the same missile we had witnessed during the film's title sequence as it slowly lifted off from its pad. As it soars skyward, it explodes in mid air, and for more than two minutes we watch a large piece of its hull fall slowly, slowly back to Earth before the final credits remind us of the Hopi prophecy of white civilization's inevitable collapse. 

Essay of the Day: 9/10/12: "The Island’s Greatest Mystery: Is Lost Science Fiction?"

“The Island’s Greatest Mystery: Is Lost Science Fiction?” The Essential Science Fiction TV Reader. Edited by J. P. Telotte. Lexington: U P of Kentucky, 2008: 283-298.

For another "Essential Television Reader" book, this time edited by my old classmate from U Florida days J. P. Telotte, this essay would wrestle with the question of Lost's SFness a year before the island moved and the residents started time-traveling.

Read it here.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Essay of the Day: 9/9/12: "'Curb Your Enthusiasm"

Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The Essential HBO Reader. Edited by Gary R. Edgerton and Jeffrey P. Jones.
Lexington: U P of Kentucky, 2007: 204-13.

The great television scholar and historian Gary Edgerton had launched a new series on TV at U P Kentucky, and this was their first major volume, which he co-edited with Jeffrey Jones. (I would later do two books in the series myself: The Essential Cult TV Reader and The Essential Sopranos Reader.)

I volunteered to write about Curb. Read it here.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Joss Whedon at the Toronto Debut of "Much Ado About Nothing"

Nikki Stafford's photo.

"Believe in America"

Tip of the hat to David Kociemba.

Heard on "Conan"

[Michele Obama] gave away some nice details about their family life. In her speech, Michele Obama [at the DNC] said her husband has dinner with their girls, where they strategize about middle-school relationships. Which explains why today the Pentagon ordered a drone strike on that "lying bitch Ashley."

Essay of the Day: 9/8/12: "'My So-Called Life' Meets 'The X-Files’: Winnie Holzman’s Influence on Joss Whedon"

“’My So-Called Life Meets The X-Files’: Winnie Holzman’s Influence on Joss Whedon.” Dear Angela: Remembering My So Called Life. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007: 211-216.

My Canadian friend Michele Byers and I decided to do a book on My So-Called Life, and I wrote this piece for it.

Read it here.

Friday, September 07, 2012

The End of "Fringe"

The finale's airdate has been set.

Three Great Political Tweets from Damon Lindelof

Something tells me that when TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE comes out, Clint will be talking to a lot of empty chairs.

Whedon is Offended to His Very Core

Essay of the Day: 9/7/12: "'“Introduction.” "'Buffy the Vampire Slayer': Legittimare la Cacciatrice"

(Rhonda V. Wilcox first author). “Introduction.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Legittimare la Cacciatrice. Edited by Barbara Maio. Grandi Serie Televisive Americane. Rome: Bulzoni Editore, 2007: 27-41.

Another collaboration with Rhonda Wilcox--this one an intro to an Italian book on BtVS --for which she deserves most of the credit.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Clinton’s masterful attack on Paul Ryan’s “brass”

Perceptive, "ballsy" piece by Mary Eilizabeth Williams for Salon.

Essay of the Day: 9/6/12: "''Billy Jack' "'Nanook of the North'"

Billy Jack” (54) and Nanook of the North” (242).
The Encyclopedia of American Indian Literature. Ed. Alan R. Velie and Jennifer McClinton-TempleDetroit: Facts on File, 2007.

At one point I was going to do my doctoral dissertation on Native American literature, and these two brief entries for a reference book were a latter-day (three decades later) afterbirth of this interest, both on movies: the execrable Billy Jack and Robert Flaherty's milestone documentary Nanook.

Read them by following the links above.