The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Monday, February 28, 2005

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The Washington Post's last item in its online Oscar sidebar certainly asks a pertinent question:___Academy Awards 2005___
'Baby's' The Best
"Million Dollar Baby"

__ Online Discussions __

• Film Critic Desson Thomson: Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET
• William Booth and Hank Stuever: Monday at 2 p.m. ET
• Fashion Discussion With People's Eleni Gage: Monday at 3 p.m. ET
• Transcript: washingtonpost.com's Jen Chaney on Oscar Night

__ More on Oscar __
• Full List of Winners
• Oscar's Golden Gloves
• At the Oscars, A 'Baby' Boom
• Tom Shales: Rock, Well ... Didn't
• Hank Stuever's Red Carpet Report
• Oscar's Golden Gloves
• Vent on Our Messageboard
• Essay: Oscar Overload?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

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It just takes a wheezing pope to turn everyone in the Vatican goes Heideggerian suddenly: "“We are afraid of the void, that's our real concern if this situation of impediment goes on for too long,” the Italian daily La Repubblica cited yesterday an unspecified Vatican source as saying. " Wimps!

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For about the past 20 years, Gore Vidal has been getting closer and closer to writing the perfect parody of the Gore Vidal essay opening. Could it be that in this Sunday's NY Times, he's finally got it?
I FIRST heard of James Purdy a half-century or so ago on a bright spring day in London. Edith Sitwell had asked me to lunch. We drank martinis while she put the finishing touches on a letter to The Times of London; D. H. Lawrence's novel ''Lady Chatterley's Lover'' was under attack for obscenity. Although Edith disliked Lawrence for having, she thought, caricatured her brother Sir Osbert in the novel, as the gin took its effect on each of us, I boldly assured her that the offending book was not actually the work of Lawrence but of Truman Capote. The red-rimmed eyes atop the long Gothic face narrowed: ''Surely the dates are not right.''

''Capote,'' I said, ''will never see 90 again.''

She sighed contentedly. ''That would explain the dreadful style.'' She began to write the editor of The Times: ''Dear Sir, I am a little girl of 72 and I have it on the highest literary authority. . . .''

As the bowl of martinis emptied, she put down her pen and declared: ''I have discovered a true American genius. Unknown in your country, I fear. He is called James Purdy.'' I pleaded ignorance, but I did know that Edith, for all her swirling costumes and domino-size jade rings, had a sharp eye for literary genius, if not always for talent. She had been among the first admirers of Dylan Thomas, and she put Purdy in the same class, despite the fact that his books were as carefully ignored by American book-chatterers in those days as they are pretty much in these as well. The novelist Jerome Charyn has described him as ''the outlaw of American fiction.'' Presumably, making Mr. John Updike our supreme in-law.
Gratuitous name dropping, flippant put downs, yet another desperate attempt to coin the phrase "book chat," starting an essay with an episode from Gore Vidal's lifeone that proves that Gore Vidal has been at the start of everything important in the second half of the 20th century history (starting with flying, ending who knows where), an effortless knifing of John Updike, and a brief effective sketch of some one famous. One thing is missing: the declaration that homosexuality is an activity, not people. Otherwise, this could be Vidal's best opening from his late, great, self-parodic phase, which started roughly when the Clinton era ended.

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Ritik was saying this to me a few weeks ago, but not in the same words, and without referencing GDH Cole: "GDH Cole wrote, with obvious approval, of 'socialism so undefined in its doctrinal basis as to make recruits readily among people of different types'. It was enough to be 'a broad movement on behalf of the bottom dog'. That worked well enough when 'bottom dogs' made up 30% of the population. Improving their lot was Labour's moral purpose and they were the foundation on which a parliamentary majority could be built. The poor are always with us - but not in the numbers to sustain class politics. Labour needs a theory to live by."-- Roy Hattersly in the Guardian:

Friday, February 25, 2005

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An article in East Germany was once supressed for mentioning that East German censors supressed articles. No such problem at Pravda:
Regarding the freedom of the press in Russia, what exactly is Bush talking about? The author of this article has written for Russian press outlets for many years and not once has any article been suppressed or indeed have I ever received any guidelines as to what I should say or not say.
I go further, and George Bush had better listen to this: I even contacted the Kremlin asking for such guidelines and the answer was 'we cannot give you guidelines. You must write what you want to write. It is your affair, not ours'.
The point is that the press has to be responsible and accountable. It cannot give away secrets for terrorists to read, for example. Freedom of the Press in Russia is about responsibility, it is about curtailing the trend for millions of dollars to be passed around in exchange for state secrets. Surely, this is common knowledge? Surely someone in the US administration could have warned George Bush about what was really happening before he made an idiot of himself (yet again).

Thursday, February 24, 2005

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Harry Mathews' Corpus: words that are spelled the same but mean different things in French and English. Jean put dire comment on tape is not the same as Jean put dire comment on tape. Can any MacLamity readers come up with better ones than that? (Georges Perec's Trompe L'Oeil poems are uninteresting enough to suggest that this must be damn damn hard)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

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Check out this video for the hallucinatory effects that camera flashes have on this skirmish between police and striking printers. It looks like a rave.

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Even Tsunamis have their bright side: less pirates.

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Pre- and Post-Putin Russia summed upin a chorus:
Also getting glory treatment are the country's current security services, through such TV series as 'National Security Agent,' 'Liquidator' and 'The Motherland Is Waiting.'
Even a popular early-1990s song, 'Accountant,' about a woman who pines for such a husband, has had its lyrics updated to reflect the new mood. That new version's title is 'Operational Agent.'

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The Eleanour Gould award will occasionally be awarded to those whose iron-clad grasp of grammar, makes them sound really weird (like saying "I" at weird moments, as in "Woe is I" or esle something like "This is he.") Today's goes to The Washington Post for the phrase: "a teenaged Vladimir Putin."

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Ken Livingstone has turned the blunt tool of comparing people to Nazis into a fine art. We all do it, and we're all meant to apologize for it. But he won't! Instead, he expands on the comparison he made between the Daily Mail/Evening Standard and fascists. Over three weeks. The reporter was just doing his job was he? Well, Livingstone has a reply for that: "'I'm only doing my job' is the thin end of the immoral wedge that at its worst extreme leads to the crimes and horrors of the holocaust, Rwanda and Bosnia. We are all responsible for our own actions."

Monday, February 21, 2005

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It's an easy choice between the dignity and welfare of animals and watching a chimpanzee riding a taxi. Monkeys, start your engines.

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Perhaps the best tribute to Hunter S. Thompson is the dancing Uncle Duke at Doonesbury's web site.

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Football is like the happily family in Anna Karenina: the passion for it is roughly the same around the world. But the unhappiness of cricket is unhappy in different ways in different countries. In India it's match fixing. In Australia it's drugs. And, then, adding an extreme end-point to the range, there's the distinctive, connoisseur's unhappiness of Kenya's cricket:
Kenya is in East Africa but recent events in their cricket have been straight out of the Wild West. The last week alone has seen the Kenyan government set up a rival body to the 52-year-old Kenya Cricket Association; more proceedings in the law courts; KCA officials taken hostage; players on strike because they have not been paid, while somebody somewhere has been getting rich quick; and two separate teams preparing to represent Kenya in a match later this week.

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The European Council of Princes

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We have a habit of not calling the best novels novels and instead we call them:
Science fiction.
Tale, fable, allegory.
Philosophical novel.
Dream novel.
Visionary novel.
Literature of fantasy.
Wisdom lit.
Spoof.
Sexual turn-on.
Sontag reckoned only one good book is all of the above: "Under the Glacier."

[P.S.] Manx nationalism forces me to say the following about the following: "In Laxness's story, a sojourn near Snaefells does not call for the derring-do of a descent, a penetration, since, as Icelanders who inhabit the region know, the glacier itself is the center of the universe. The supernatural -- the center -- is present on the surface, in the costume of everyday life in a village whose errant pastor has ceased to conduct services or baptize children or bury the dead. Christianity -- Iceland's confession is Evangelical Lutheran -- is the name of what is normal, historical, local.* (The agricultural Viking island converted to Christianity on a single day at the Althing, the world's oldest national parliament, in 999.) But what is happening in remote Snaefells is abnormal, cosmic, global." The Isle of Man's Snaefell, while less grand than Snaefells, has a tram that rides to its summit, which Snaefells doesn't, and its parliament, while slightly younger, has never stopped meeting, which makes the Isle of Man way more abnormal, cosmic, and global than any of the crap Iceland can come up with.

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"[I]slands don't have to be land surrounded by water. To a highland-breeding giant tortoise, each of the five volcanoes along the length of the big island of Isabela (Albemarle to Darwin, who used the traditional English names) is an island of green habitability surrounded by inhospitable lava desert. Most of the Galápagos Islands are single volcanos. But the big island, Isabela, is a necklace of five volcanos, spaced from each other at approximately the same distance as the single volcano on the neighbouring island of Fernandina which, from one point of view, might as well be a sixth volcano on Isabela. To a tortoise, Isabela is an archipelago within an archipelago. Not just to a tortoise. The same is true of some plants, moths, land and sea iguanas and other things." Richard Dawkins, in The Guardian

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Authur Miller and the Crucible of celebrity: "I knew perfectly well why they had subpoenaed me. It was because I was engaged to Marilyn Monroe. Had I not been, they'd never have thought of me. They'd been through the writers long before and they'd never touched me. Once I became famous as her possible husband, this was a great possibility for publicity. When I got to Washington, preparing to appear before that committee, my lawyer received a message from the chairman saying that if it could be arranged that he could have a picture, a photograph taken with Marilyn, he would cancel the whole hearing. I mean, the cynicism of this thing was so total, it was asphyxiating."

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It's hard not to love Wittgenstein, for the same reason that it's easy not to love Heidegger. They both can't stop themselves from writing like themselves, no matter what it is that they're writing. In Heidegger's case, it's his love poems that make you wonder "Why couldn't Heidegger stop being Heidegger, even for a moment, even when he wanted to let someone know he loved them?" It's not a hard thing to say. But he makes it hard. So hard, and for so little pay-off, that it makes you wonder if Heidegger's philosophy is rotten for the same reason his poetry is rotten: for expressing the easily expressable inexpressively (and, also, although this is an extra-textual point, expressing it in bad faith).

In Wittgenstein's case, when he writes a spelling book for the poor elementary school children he is teaching he introduces it with:
Each instance of clinging to a dogmatic principle leads to an arrangement that does not suit our purpose and has to be abandoned, even if this would make the author's work much easier. Rather, it is necessary to compromise again and again.
Now, what's not to love about that? Those kindergarteners must have loved Mr. Wittgenstein's classes, especially when he drew this as entertainment on the blackboard:

and then spent the rest of the class saying "But can't you see it's both a rabbit AND a duck" as if that should frighten them.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

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Fuck this country, fuck belgium

WHY CAN'T YOU DELOVER THE RIGHT FUCKING POUFFE, BELGIUM??????


WHY????




WHY?????


I would wait for an answer, except that i know you'd deliver one on a weekday when i am working and for ENTIRELY THE WRONG QUESTION

Friday, February 18, 2005

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On the night of the 1947 Oscars ("Gentleman's Agreement" won) no one seemed aware of the three forces that were going to transform Hollywood -- TV, the Sherman Act, and McCartyism. Aprt, that is, for Walt Disney.

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Blue Velvet in Manchester

And while we're talking about that, let me just copy-and-paste once again, for no real reason other than I love it so, the final page of Lynch's unproduced Ronnie Rocket screenplay
ALL BECOMES SILENT
Mr. Magic looks into the table. There inside he sees the detective floating towards the Gold Ronny. He floats inside of it.

MR MAGIC
He did it

Mr Magic begins to scream silently. All is quiet.

Now we see the Detective floating in golden light. He floats to a small golden temple building in the golden light. He breaks the seal on the double doors and pulls them open as he floats. White golden light fills the screen

-----Bill's living room goes to light

-----The wart lady's place goes to light.

-----Mr Magic gets smaller and smaller and turns into a black tar man
then to a tar ball, getting smaller

-----Ronny starts to float up on stage, ten feet in the air.

-----The city turns to gold.

-----The black tar ball dissappears

-----Ronny glows golden light.

-----The Band and Mr Bucko disappear in gold light.

Ronny floats gold in a blue-black space sky.

The Detective merges with Ronny

The smiling woman merges with Ronny.

The golden city is golden inside Ronny

Ronny moves his hands and Bob and Dan and Deborah as little angels, float around him.

Ronny sings a beautiful cosmic love song and all goes to gold

T H E E N D
They still don't make them like they didn't used to make them in the old days.

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If P Diddy is late with his book he shouldn't be sued. He's only following the tradition upheld by Moses, Proust, Howard Brodkey and Mick Jagger. Tardiness for writers is like punctuality for civilians.

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Germans discussing humor:
Mr. Kosslick, some people say the festival program isn't much better today, or rather wasn't much worse before. Still, ever since you took over, even Berlin's chilly temperatures don't seem as cold. How do you do it?
The movies we show are serious enough, and I want people to feel comfortable while they're here to have a good time. That's why I am trying to convey a party feeling and to sell them a humorous Germany.

Maybe we can learn something from you. What's a witty welcome address? Would you recommend addressing someone in the audience directly, react to coughs and what's a good last sentence?

That's actually the most difficult part, to stand in front of a crowd of journalists, like recently at the first Berlinale news conference, and to start on a witty note. Americans have a special technique. They always start off with a joke, and everything works out. My problem is that I am no good at all at telling jokes. So I always try to come up with an idea, and that often goes awfully wrong. Sometimes I get muddled, start mixing things up, but that may, in fact, come across as cute. In the end, it's always good to have a catchy comeback ready.

What was your catchy phrase at the news conference?
I didn't have one. I only thought that if I want to talk about sex - which is what I did, since that's the focus of this year's Berlinale - I'd have to come up with something really interesting.

So?

There's a good story about that. It used to be a joke, but I couldn't remember it. I only remembered the punch line. It's about this guy who goes into a pharmacy to buy Viagra and asks the pharmacist to grind it for him in a mortar. Aghast, the pharmacist says that the man has to swallow the drug, that it won't be of any use as a powder. But the man snorts the Viagra like a line of cocaine and says: ”You know, sex is only in the brain.” So I thought that was a good story to tell.

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Alan Riding shows how very uncool he is in his IHT piece. What is culture? It's opera houses and museums! Ergo, culture is struggling in Berlin. The Riding index (Operas+Museums=Culture), it should be noted, was very low in the Lower East Side in the 1980s, Fitzrovia in the 1930s and Greenwich Village in the 1920s. Maybe he's missing something? It takes him three of those idiotic IHT web pages before he considers that artists make art, not museums, and that Berlin has a shit-load of them because you can live in one of Europe's most strange and grand cities for the price of living in a po-dunk town in Belgium.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

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"'One of them, a tall coal-black bastard, kept grinning at me, real insolent. I slapped him hard, but he kept on grinning at me, so I kicked him in the balls as hard as I could ... When he finally got up on his feet he grinned at me again and I snapped. I really did. I stuck my revolver right in his grinning mouth ... And I pulled the trigger. His brains went all over the side of the police station. The other two (suspects) were standing there looking blank ... so I shot them both ... when the sub-inspector drove up, I told him the (suspects) tried to escape. He didn't believe me but all he said was 'bury them and see the wall is cleaned up'.'" -- The British Empire at work in Kenya in the 1950s. Always good to remember just how recent and bad it was. And it's for this reason that Philip Larkin's worst poem is "Homage to a Government." With an incredible slippiness, he manages to say that it's not the end of Empire he's angry about, just the way it's ending. "The places are a long way off, not here,/ Which is all right, and from what we hear/ The soldiers there only made trouble happen." The narrator of the poem is saying that people have lost their sense of duty to such an extent that even when they're unpacking the Empire, it's not because they're against it. But thank God. Thank God Britain lost the drive to care enough to shoot the smiles off people's faces .

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The New Criterion's comparison of quotes from Thomas Kincade and Christo is depressingly devastating. Still, if Christo can't talk about his work properly it's not his fault. And I'd rather have Christo's colorful umbrellas in a California valley than have a Kincade painting on my wall, and I'd pay much more for the former than I would for the latter.

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The suppression of all the good jokes in the Bible. It's not mentioned here, but I understand that in Hebrew Genesis 38:28:
And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.
And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez.
Is an absolute scream, Pharez being a quick-footed pun on an opening and pushing your way out. So, perhaps just an awful lot of jokes got lost in translation in the 16th century. (Pharez by the way is the name that connects New Republic owner Marty Peretzwith MacLamity favorite Georges Perec).

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

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I was actually scared of this kid when i read the headline. But, reading on, it turns out he's just a very clever toddler, rather than a freak of monstrous intelligence that we'd all have to persecute and/or chase in mobs with burning torches.

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Here's another thing I've written in my dreams. Why are my dreams getting this lucid? Because I keep trying, and failing, to get up at 8 and I half-sleep until 9, and my mind, not knowing what to in the meantime comes up with weird shit like this:

I have a robot called Bobot the Robot
Who says "Me No Feel so Good"
"Why No Feel So Good?" I ask Bobot the Robot
Because Bobot would die if Bobot could
Said Bobot the Robot, "But Bobot No Die,
Bobot Go On, Recharge, Without Terminus Ad Quem"
"Terminuses ad Quem?" I say, "Why worry about them?"

And that's about as far as I got, I think, if i remember correctly. Really, why can't I dream about things like hitting the six that brings the Ashes back to England or detonating the Dento-Collider that destroys Thrarg's base. Bobot the Robot? What is that?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

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Finally someone takes on The New Yorker's compulsive mentioning of the weather. At the same time, it would be nice if someone other than Richard Posner, or at least other than the recent version of Richard Posner, had done it.
There is irony in the book's blizzard of anecdotal details. One of Gladwell's themes is that clear thinking can be overwhelmed by irrelevant information, but he revels in the irrelevant. An anecdote about food tasters begins: "One bright summer day, I had lunch with two women who run a company in New Jersey called Sensory Spectrum." The weather, the season, and the state are all irrelevant. And likewise that hospital chairman Brendan Reilly "is a tall man with a runner's slender build." Or that "inside, JFCOM [Joint Forces Command] looks like a very ordinary office building.... The business of JFCOM, however, is anything but ordinary." These are typical examples of Gladwell's style, which is bland and padded with clichés.
I wish Posner had said, as I would, that the mention of the weather is irrelevant because it doesn't serve the anecdote. Posner's problem seems to be with anecdote itself. That someone is "a tall man with a runner's slender build" could make all the difference in the world to an anecdote, even if it doesn't affect Gladwell's argument. The machinery of the punchline doesn't require that it's a barman who asks a horse why it has a long face in a bar, or indeed that the horse had just walked in. Nevertheless, these details make the joke stick in the head for a long time.

I miss Posner's former incarnation as the suave, unhurried assassin of the unreasonable. Something has made him pedantic and angry. I suspect that he has decided that he has a turf -- the space where science/economics/statistics can be applied to fluffy things like beauty and justice -- and will crush anyone who dares trespass on it. Even when that person is Sherlock Holmes
The observational acuity of which Holmes is so proud is epistemic nonsense. Invariably upon first meeting a prospective client, Holmes will recite to an amazed Watson after the person leaves all that he learned about the person from the scuff marks on his shoes, the calluses on his fingers, and so forth; and this is taken as a sign of Holmes's perspicacity. The reductio ad absurdum is Holmes's wowing Watson by "deducing" that the window in Watson's bedroom is on the right side of the room from the fact that the left side of Watson's face is not shaven as smoothly as the right, implying that the sunlight was coming in from the right in the morning when he was shaving. But only if Watson was facing north--and no points of the compass are mentioned--would the window on his right be facing east and thus admitting the morning sunlight. And there's a deeper problem. The sun's position is irrelevant; the window just has to be to the right of the mirror as one faces it for the outside light to hit Watson's right cheek.
Actually, Holmes is right, as long as Posner will allow that Watson shaves in the morning. It doesn't matter that it's the left cheek that Watson hasn't shaved well, just that one cheek is more shaven than the other. I suspect that Posner thinks that the hero of the Sherlock Holmes stories should be Richard Posner, and then they'd be realistic. Well, that's fine. But, God, how boring they'd be as well.

Holmes is fascinating because he is a reductio ad absurdum. A statistics professor of mine once said that no matter how much he might want to he could never know for sure if his wife loved him, since he could not open her heart and look inside. [Posner sez - Actually there's a large scientific literature, of which, MacLamity you seem to be unaware, that shows the state of the heart and love have no correlation] All he could do was analyze her behavior and compare it to the behavior of a person in love. Holmes's vision of the world is even more terrifying. He sees people as data factories. The world are interesting only in sofar as it produces data which are difficult and stimulating to reconcile. He, too, would try to determine whether his wife loved him. But only if it interested him as a puzzle. And he wouldn't care about the answer.

Holmes's power to manipulate data seems all the more like an occult power when you contrast it to the feebleness of the world in its inability to stop itself from providing him with what he needs. No matter what anyone does in the stories, information bursts from them in all directions all the time. Even when a dog is silent, Holmes detects the information that it gives off. The books are fluff. The plots are laughable. But Holmes is fascinating. He has the power of statistics the way Dracula has the power of the night. That's why people read stories about him.

Posner was considered an iconoclast early in his career for arguing that economic statistics could define justice as well as, and in some cases more efficiently than, our sense of right and wrong could. Now that he's gone from iconoclast to Grand Old Man, the next step is to become a Highlander-esque Only One. And yet, Posner will just have to go to the grave knowing that Holmes would beat him, no matter how unrealistic, and how unfair that might be.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

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Please, please don't be shit.

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What idiot inserted the part in bold to this sentence: "Thanks for your interest in Movielink, the leading source for movies delivered directly over the internet. We want you to enjoy our powerful movie download experience, but it is presently unavailable to users outside of the United States."

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The mercator projection of a man

Monday, February 07, 2005

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The U.K.'s most well-attended films. Of all lists, the ones that don't involve conscious voting interest me the most. There's no taste in this list. No judgement. Just the movies that a lot of people decided to leave home to see, whether they liked it or not, whether they later changed their mind about it or not. I doubt that anyone ever really like The Wicked Lady. And yet more people have seen it in the cinema than Harry Potter I. The number of now-unknown films on this list is inspiring.

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I think Kwame Anthony Appiah and I would get along. It's unfair that he had all my ideas before I had them. And it's also unfair that he's had much more and better ideas. And that he expresses them better for more money, by which i mean for money. But I wouldn't hold it against him. I intend to visit Left2Right frequently. I just hope that it's not one of those things where the Left says it's finally going to break down barriers and talk to the right according to the prinicple that the Right is made up of zombies who only need to hear the words "Abortion is about the choice of wome, Republicans are stealing money to pollute the environment" to emerge from a trance and say "What have I done? O my God, what have I believed."

Friday, February 04, 2005

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Woody Allen has a memory of the 1920s which is a lot like Mel Gibson's memory of the 0030s
I mentioned before that I was in Europe. It's not the first time that I was in Europe, I was in Europe many years ago with Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway had just written his first novel, and Gertrude Stein and I read it, and we said that is was a good novel, but not a great one, and that it needed some work, but it could be a fine book. And we laughed over it. Hemingway punched me in the mouth.
That winter Picasso lived on the Rue d'Barque, and he had just painted a picture of a naked dental hygenist in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Gertrude Stein said it was a good picture, but not a great one, and I said it could be a fine picture. We laughed over it and Hemingway punched me in the mouth.
Francis Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald came home from their wild new years eve party. It was April. Scott had just written Great Expectations, and Gertrude Stein and I read it, and we said it was a good book, but there was no need to have written it, 'cause Charles Dickens had already written it. We laughed over it, and Hemingway punched me in the mouth.
That winter we went to Spain to see Manolete fight, and he was... looked to be eighteen, and Gertrude Stein said no, he was nineteen, but that he only looked eighteen, and I said sometimes a boy of eighteen will look nineteen, whereas other times a nineteen year old can easily look eighteen. That's the way it is with a true Spaniard. We laughed over that and Gertrude Stein punched me in the mouth.
In the Mel Gibson version of this story, no matter what Jesus does, it ends with a Roman punching him in the mouth. He has a memory of water at dinner. A Roman punches him in the mouth. He remembers delivering the Sermon on the mount. A Roman punches him in the mouth. He doesn't do that much at the very beginning, other than look worried and holy, and then a Roman punches him in the mouth. Of course, there is more to The Passion to the Christ than that. Sometimes, Christ says that he is the Messiah, and a Jew spits in his face. Sometimes he just stands there, and a Roman whips him.
Mel Gibson's vision of Christ has to be one of the most disturbing visions the sober have ever had. The heat of controversy, which I felt so keenly a year ago, has cooled and the Passion didn't seem such a nest of theological vipers as it would have had i seen it then. But, even now, I was shocked by who Mel Gibson's Christ was. What Mel Gibson's Christianity is apparently made of. The poverty of his religious feeling.
This is a movie by someone passionate about a ritual's form, but dead to its content. It is a movie of a man who is outraged is that the Mass is in the vernacular, but who speaks little Latin.
In the 80s they liked to do a little trick with the videos where they'd loop the singer turning to the camera and sync it to the drums. Cyndi Lauper would do the same heaad-snap forward three times in 1 second. It didn't mean anything. And it doesn't mean anything when Mel Gibson performs the same trick: even if it's Christ instead of Cyndi Lauper, even if it's falling with a cross on the back rather than moving the head, and even if it's done in slow motion over 30 minutes. O how Gibson loves to lavish each station of the cross with slowmotion gravy. Jesus falls once, in slow motion. Later, he falls again, in slow motion. Later, he falls again, in slow motion. A soldier has his ear cut off in the Garden of Gethsemane, in slow motion. It's like in the Bible I have, where on the spine it says WORDS OF CHRIST IN RED. Here it's BITS IN THE BIBLE IN SLOW MOTION. But just as red ink is a poor token of respect to the words of christ, slow motion is a poor token of respect to the significance of Christ falling. And, in fact, the two thoughts that Mel Gibson has about Christ is that:
1. His ass was kicked but he could take it because he was bigger than it. Not that that was easy.
2. He'll kick the ass of the evil right back: Temple rent in twain. Judas pursued by demons. Satan screaming in defeat.
Mel clearly has a reverence for Christ. Indeed he gets some fantastic expressions of awe and astonishment at Christ's presence, particularly the soldier who has his ear replaced, and by Barabas's doubletake. But, let's be clear, Jesus doesn't inspire in people feelings of love. He inspires terror in the sinner and humbleness in the devout for reasons 1 and 2 listed above. The tone of the Sermon of the Mount, which appears briefly, is comically at odds with the tone of the rest of the movie. As a good Catholic, Mel Gibson understands love mostly as being what Mary felt for her son. Indeed, he exaggerates it to such an extent that when baby jesus falls and scrapes his knee, Mary runs to him (in slow motion) as if the shack behind her was goig to explode according to Jerry Bruckheimer specifications. Christ's love in the movie is all about taking it in the gut. And this has the effect of inspiring revulsion for Christ's persecutors, rather than, as Jesus apparently said, love for them.The movie has a fascination with evil's horror and thinks that that is the same thing as a feeling for goodness.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

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Best BBC show in a while

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For no reason other than that I'm thrilled it's available, I recommend you read one of the funniest comic series ever written and proof that Alan Moore can do anything. Sadly, the BBC only scanned the mediocre Time Twisters that introduced DR and Quinch.

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The Sartrian good faith of The Fonz:
Henry Winkler, whose friendly tough guy, Fonzie, became the most popular figure on the show and probably the key factor in its success. Winkler discusses very seriously how he wanted to play a "hood" who did not stand in front of the mirror combing his hair, unlike all other TV and movie hoods, but the writers thought this absolutely had to be seen in the show, following the dictates of the stereotype.

So Winkler came up with a cute compromise: Fonzie takes out his comb and looks into the mirror, then, realizing his looks are perfect and cannot be improved upon, shrugs and puts the comb away. "I was being true to myself and respectful to what was written," he says.

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Hey, back off, New York Times reporters have feelings too. At least that's what Berand Weinraub claims.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

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Renata Adler meets the kids:
I don’t mainly teach journalism. I am in two departments. I am in the University Professors department, in which I have a course called “On Modernism and Feeling,” which is mainly a fiction course. And then in the journalism department, I have a course called “Misinformation.”

RB: [chuckles]

RA: So it’s a different thing. But as always, some of them are really, really good. And then the ones that are to me something new, which took me too long to understand, are people who wouldn’t think of reading what they have been assigned. I mean, it can be a four-page story and they won’t read it. They go directly to the Internet. I hadn’t realized this until the middle of the second semester, when I had just assigned Bartleby and I got the strangest papers, including one about Eros and Thanatos.

RB: [laughs] They wouldn’t think about reading the assignment because—

RA: It’s completely new to me, about three generations away from what I remember. I assigned a short story. There was no way to get it wrong. It was Salinger. And I got this piece in which everything was totally, inexplicably wrong. I thought, how can you get this wrong? I kept noticing that the footnotes were to people, critics on the Internet. And it turns out they are people with ‘blogs’ and they have theories—about stories they may not have read either. It would have been so much easier to read the original story, instead of these web commentaries. So I said, “OK, no more quoting from anything but the text for while.” And things have looked up.
So, there are limits to the almighty blogosphere after all.

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Press freedom in the U.K. is a sad, sad joke. At the same time, British journalists of a certain stripe will write lengthy articles about how the Bush administration is curbing press freedom in the U.S., without mentioning that even then the press's freedom in the U.S. is as expansive as a wild horse in that Disney movie with the Bryan Adams soundtrack, compared to the freedom in the U.K., which is as expansive as the George Lucas movie with the space trash compactor and a John Williams soundtrack.

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Richey Edwards keeps on being seen, like everyone who disappears.

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I was about to criticize Chatterbox for misrepresenting the Tragedy of the Commons, and was going to give a little speech about clever Washington DC writers and their warped grasp of economics, but then got blind-sided by the incredibly moving last paragraph. MacLamity has finally finally found his version of the weepy movie ... if only someone would pass him the Kleenex and some chocolates.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

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So, the new MSN search is here. "More precise." And where are MacLamity's fans going to be led when they search for him? Here. Boy, thanks Bill Gates. The people want MacLamity and you give them Diego Velazquez??? How would you like it if i developed a search engine where people typed in Bill Gates and the first result was MY ASS, huh, punk? How'd you like that?