Wankers We Have Known, Part Deux

Kaus on the Hillary-Daily Kos brouhaha:

"Of course it helps her, both because attacks from the left make her look centrist and because Kos is one of the few people on the planet with a personality so unappealing he allows Hillary to seem warm and enchanting!"



Wankers We Have Known

This week’s Six Feet Under (which I watched last nite, rather than in the traditional Sunday nite slot, thanks to my DC trip) was very slightly marred for me by the fact that it was directed by Matt Shakman, who is a wanker. I went to college with him and he directed a play I was in, and also starred in another play I was in. It was frequently mentioned in Yale dramatic circles (and what circles they were) that he had been the child star of some 80's sitcom which all the American kids were intimately familiar with but I didn’t know anything about, and whose name now escapes me. Anyway, he was a pretty good director, and his performance, as Sir Robert Scott leading his ill-fated mission to the Antarctic in “Terra Nova” was decent, if self-importantly over-wrought. But jesus what an asshole. We had this one scene where my character, Evans, a member of Scott’s crew who would subsequently go crazy from hypothermia and take his clothes off and then die, confessed to Scott that he, Evans, had been concealing the fact that his hand was almost useless from frost-bite. It was a pretty well-written scene, in which both characters were going thru various interesting realizations, transformations, etc. But for Shakman it was all about him. It was like everything I said or did, he was just waiting to step all over it with his next line. Its hard to describe but I’d never had such a total feeling of getting absolutely nothing back from the other person on stage. It’s incredibly irritating, and fit in perfectly with his personality.

Anyway, he did a good job with 6FU, especially in the scene where that lawyer dude asks Claire out when she’s sitting at her desk, which was very realistic and charming. Claire is by far the best character over the last season and a half. Her whole development feels incredibly believable and real. The fact that she has these arty old friends will definitely make the lawyer dude (who, by the way, will obviously soon be revealed to only enjoy sex in semi-public places – everyone has their weirdnesses when you get to know them and this will be his) like her even more.

This is what I think about in bed

As I was lying in my Holiday Inn bedroom in Bethesda, MD this week, trying to get to sleep I started thinking about this: Imagine a guy who was born in 1790. Imagine that as a newborn baby, he was held by his 91 year-old great-grandfather, born in 1699. Now imagine that John also goes on to live to 90, and right before his death in 1880, he holds his newborn great-grandson. Now imagine that kid also lives to 90 (maybe the family has really good genes) and dies in 1970. That means that John would have known someone who was alive in 1699, and someone else who was alive in 1970. That’s sort of mind-boggling to me. Doesn’t it just make history seem, like, so much shorter than how we usually think of it? It’s like if you could just cast your memory back a little bit further than you can, you’d be back in the 17th century. I know this whole thing is kinda stupid, but it’s just so crazy, and weirdly exciting to me. Anyway.


No blogging so far this week as I was down in DC at NIH. Back in NYC and everything’s cool, although I saw a new doctor who didn’t have any of the records of my previous visit so I had to go thru the whole thing with him again which was kinda weird, and adds support to my “NIH-is-better-than-most-private-hospitals-but-it-still-isn’t-all-that” position. Also, have you noticed that whenever doctors examine your balls they talk to you the whole time, as a way of easing the embarrassment? Unsurprisingly, forced casualness while someone is fiddling with your genitals really just makes things worse all round.

So for whatever reason I had never really wondered about where the word “Eschaton” in Infinite Jest comes from. Then the other day on the train down to DC I was reading this thing in the New Yorker about the pope and his theology. It says:

“In [Ratzinger’s] book, Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life” (1977)…he addresses “the doctrine of the last things,” known as eschatology. He acknowledges that, at times, Jesus seems to have predicted the imminent coming of a literal new world, a “Kingdom of God,” but…anyone who hopes to understand the eschaton must compare Christian texts on death and the afterlife with those of pagans and Jews, which influenced the Christian vision of a kingdom of God.”

So I’m confused: Is an eschaton like an apocalypse, where literally the whole world ends and everyone goes to heaven, or at least the good ones? The eschaton of Infinite Jest seems like that kind of eschaton (which is my kind of eschaton, haha), since the point of the game is metaphorically to blow up the entire world. But the book’s title kind of makes it seem like maybe an eschaton could just be about one individual person’s death, and the issue of them gaining eternal life and what have you. Do Christians believe that these things are somehow, like, the same thing? That seems like the kind of thing they might believe. When we actually have readers, we can throw these kinds of questions open to the floor, so to speak.

This is interesting partly because it sheds some light on what is, for me, IJ’s funniest and best scene. It’d also be interesting to know this about Christianity.


Copy desk should've partial-birth-aborted that ...

It sucks when the liberal media gets tricked into using right-wing jargon.

Although the law that passed this year contains an amendment saying it does not endorse same-sex marriage - and although Maine has a defense of marriage law - opponents fear that a judge could declare the marriage law unconstitutional based on the antidiscrimination statute. [Emphasis added.]
Seriously: "a defense of marriage law"? Why not "a restriction of marriage law"?


'Five Antonio Salieris won't produce Mozart's Requiem. Ever. Not if they work for 100 years.'

One of the themes of this-novel-that-I-should-be-writing-instead-of-posting-this is software programming and development. So I've been reading up on programming, and I'm going to be linking to programming-related things occasionally. Since I am not a programmer myself, this stuff will hopefully be comprehensible (and even maybe interesting, if you like that kind of thing) to normal people.

So ... here's a neat post about the gulf between competence and greatness, that's applicable to just about any field. It includes one of the best why-I-love-my-iPod riffs I've seen recently:

That beautiful thumbwheel with its little clicky sounds ... Apple spent extra money putting a speaker in the iPod itself so that the thumbwheel clicky sounds would come from the thumbwheel. They could have saved pennies ... pennies! by playing the clicky sounds through the headphones. But the thumbwheel makes you feel like you're in control.

And Wes Anderson is currently shooting Littlest Groom 2

What's the deal with Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County? In terms of content, it's your typical reality thing (hot rich young people flirt and argue on-camera before having sex off-), but: How do they shoot this thing? Reality TV, in general, is all about editing, but LB:TROC is all about cinematography. Next to every other reality show, this one looks like it was shot by Bill Pope, and I honestly have no idea how it's done.

Talking with T.S. Eliot about rockism

Franklin Bruno (songwriter/poet/former leader of Nothing Painted Blue) sounds kind of sad and confused about everyone (read: Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker and Kelefa Sanneh of the New York Times, who are not literally everyone but who combined can certainly move the ball down the field) bagging on indie rock. The estimable Mr. B. (last seen, by me at least, playing with John 'Mountain Goats' Darnielle in the Extra Glenns) writes:

Look: Between 1990 and now, I’ve made about 11 full-lengths (plus however many CD-EPs, Shrimper cassettes, 7”s). I can’t see any way out of understanding them as indie-rock that does not involve even more sophistry than I managed to master on my way to a doctorate. (Though oddly, the generic facts failed to convince many “indie-rock obsessives” to direct their custom our way. One problem was that our rhythm section weren’t loadies.) [I'm not sure what this means; my best guess is that it's a typo for 'ladies.' -- gr.] I don’t think one of them has sold more than 4,000, and I’m embarrassed to tell you how few others have. With a couple of exceptions related to playing w/ kindly headliners, I don’t believe I’ve ever been paid more than $400 for a show. I enjoyed the years of heavy activity, felt poor-but-honest most of the time, but I also think I was a bit of a sucker in some respects that I won’t go into here. In any case, it’s difficult for me see how I can avoid instantiating a conclusion or at least implication of pieces like K.’s, and SFJ’s EMP piece can be entirely avoided:

You, Franklin Bruno, as an exemplar of what we’re talking about: Your records (a) suck, (b) do harm. And given who you are and what you come from, it is quite unlikely that those you make in the future will do otherwise. And curiously, part of what actually makes your music bad is that enough people do not enjoy it.
The emerging critical consensus (real or imagined) that FB is referring to here is that indie rock is a bohemia that became hegemonic without achieving popular success -- that it got elected president by the rockcrit Supreme Court, if you like. This is a real argument, but one that goes way beyond this little playground: you could apply it to any (critically esteemed) example of high Modernism.

What I would really like, though, is an artistic defence of indie rock, one that helps me explain why I get so excited about it that goes beyond 'because you are white and middle-class and were born in 1973.'


Unsurprising and yet so delicious

Ann Coulter joins the list of celebrity plagiarists, according to an article in The Raw Story:

Much of Coulter's Jun. 29, 2005 column, “Thou Shall Not Commit Religion,” bears a striking resemblance to pieces in magazines dating as far back as 1985—and a column written for the Boston Globe in 1995.
[Link via Bookslut.]

While we ramp this bad boy up ...

I'm a judge in the quarterfinals of Everything Idol, a tournament-style attempt to determine, once and for all, the Best Thing Ever. (The quarterfinalists are Art, Water, Friends, Love, Science, Infinite Jest, Kitties, and Email.) Come vote at gardnerlinn.com.


Dutch Football, Sports Photography, Franklin Foer, Carl Gilbey-Mackenzie, Eric Stolz, William Blake, etc.

Dutch football may seem like an odd note to kick things off on (pun intended, haha), but i've been reading this book called "Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football", by this guy David Winner. It's about how Dutch football is a reflection of Dutch culture and society and everything. At one point during the chapter on how Dutch players use space differently from others players (which, according to Winner, is because the Dutch in general see and use space differently -- I think because their country is so small and they're very big, and have to build a lot of dykes and so on), he talks to this Dutch photographer who takes pictures at football games. Only they're not sports pictures, they're, like, art pictures. But they're not all arty either. They're really about the football, showing key moments in the game from a panoramic, TV-style view. This part's really interesting:

Van Der Meer has taken memorable photographs of Ajax matches too - but never from the traditional photographers' vanatage point at eye level behind the goal or on the sidelines. He perfers to work high in the stands, ususally near the halfway line, from where he aims to capture what he calls the "moment of tension." His deep-focus, pin-sharp images freeze the game, the crowd, and the trees and clouds beyond the stadium. Although his pictures are taken from a similar angle to that of TV cameras, they capture something quite different. 'Football is a game of space, so why should you leave the space out?' he says. 'Every Monday in the newspapers you see the same stupid, boring closeups taken from behind the goals with long telephoto lenses which distort the space. Those pictures show you the football siutations but you have no idea what they mean. Two players fight for the ball. So what? Where on the pitch are they? In the 1950's we had different pictures, more interesting photographs of the crowd, wide-angle pictures of the game. The closeups tell you so little. When the sports photography archives are opened in a hundred years, there will be a whole part of the history of the game missing because all the interesting little things around the pitch were simply not photographed...Newspaper picture editors always say its much more dramatic to have a closeup. That is bulshit. The problem is basically they don't understand football, they don't know what they're looking at. Of course, yes, it is nice also to have closeups, to see footballers looking like heroes. But you need both kinds of picture.'
I never thought about it like that but it's totally true about how lame the pictures that newspapers run are, and how they totally fail to capture anything interesting or important about the game.

What's also cool about all this -- both Van der Meer's pictures and Winner's book -- is that it's actually interested in what's going on in the game, not, like, the socio-economic background of the fans or whatever. I mean that can be interesting too, but it's nice to read serious sports writing that's not afraid to get its hands dirty. Very little sports writing is both A) willing to treat sports as a serious cultural subject, etc, AND B) actually concerned with the nitty-gritty of what happens on the pitch. Too much serious sports writing does A but not B. One thing that sux about Frank Foer's (I'm allowed to call him Frank not Franklin because i once received an email from him, after i had written him a long and rambling message taking excited issue with a minor point he made in a New Republic Online piece about the European Championships) otherwise annoyingly good "How Soccer Explains the World" is that, for all the fascinating ways that he shows football bound up with local political, religious, social, and cultural issues, he doesn't seem to actually like football all that much. I mean, I'm sure he likes it. You'd have to, wouldn't you, to go to all the games he went to and so on (that sentence sounded very Hornbyesque, btw). But, beyond the pedestrian observation that the Italians play a defensive style called catenaccio (which means 'bolt', like a lock) he has nothing to say about the action on the pitch. Maybe this is unfair, because that would be a different book (my English teacher when i was 11, Mr. Carl Gilbey-Mackenzie -- about whom regular readers will surely be hearing more in future posts -- once wrote at the bottom of an essay in which I had criticized the film "Mask", starring Cher and a young Eric Stolz, that my objection -- the substance of which remains lost to me -- was like saying "I like chocolate but why is it not toffee?") So anyway, maybe it's like that, but it's a shame that Foer's not so interested in the on-field action because (as Winner shows, both in "Brilliant Orange" and in "Those Feet: A Sensual History of English Football", his possibly even-better followup which does the same for English football as B.O. did for Dutch -- although maybe it's only better because the English are more interesting than the Dutch, or maybe I just know more about them -- and whose title, brilliantly, refers to William Blake's "Jerusalem") it's on the field, and in specific tactics and styles of play, that much of the best material for the sort of clever socio-cultural observations that we all so love can be found.

As Matthew Yglesias would say, "All Done".



now i will link to the ny times

posting on safari

lets see what happens

Just to clarify

Of course Blogger supports Safari in the sense that you can view this page on Safari. But to post, you pretty much need to be on Firefox. Unless you are me or Zack, this should not affect you. (If you're still using Internet Explorer, consider switching to Firefox or Safari: way better in every regard.)


And I can link, too!

Like for instance, here's Zack's article from Salon the other day.

One thing that's a little annoying about Blogger, though: I wish it supported Safari.

Look out web!

Here we are!