Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Saturday Potpourri: Immortality, There Will Be Blood, Comics, Zombies, The Affluent Society

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Saturday potpourri:

* Science is still teasing me with dreams of immortality:

A genetically engineered organism that lives 10 times longer than normal has been created by scientists in California. It is the greatest extension of longevity yet achieved by researchers investigating the scientific nature of ageing.

* At culturemonkey, Ryan’s got an essential take on There Will Be Blood that I think people who have seen the movie should be very interested in reading. (There’s a good sidebar on No Country for Old Men too, the movie with which There Will Be Blood will forever be paired.) Click the [+/-] for a brief, spoiler-laden excerpt.

In TWBB one gets the impression from Eli, a grotesque parody of Christianity as both the paradigmatic model for non-capitalist politics and a type of show business, that stories can no longer be seriously invested in. Instead we learn to see Plainview the same way he sees others: “I see the worst in people. I don’t have to look past seeing them to get all I need.” In the much-criticized final showdown in the bowling alley, this impression of God and his earthly salesmen is rendered painfully concrete. It’s the scene where the film’s facade of realism, though always unsettled, is strained to the point of absurdity: the priest recants, he is made to suffer for his sins, and behold, his milkshake, it hath been drunk! But not even the grand narrative of entrepreneurial capitalism can survive past the last shot. The realization that has been building over the course of the film, in the form of Plainview’s increasingly strained encounters with Standard Oil and the unstoppable expansion of monopoly power it represents — that the individual capitalist is no longer a suitable vessel for the daemon of capital — comes at last to fruition, and so with the resignation “I’m finished,” the lights go out. The camera apparently hasn’t the right to follow. But is it irrational hope to wonder if nostalgia for the end of a distant era can reflect any light back on the end of one still present? Or has Plainview eaten that as well?

Not to toot my own horn, but I think there have been some interesting points made by both Ryan and myself in the comments of that post, too.

* Sci-Fi Weekly has a good interview with George Romero on Diary of the Dead and what’s next for the definitive zombie franchise.

Romero: I have this balls-out comedy zombie thing that I have wanted to do for three years. It’s basically the coyote and the roadrunner. It’s one human and one zombie. You can do a lot of damage to a zombie and it still lives. So I just had this idea that I’d love to do that as almost a cartoon. That’s the one that’s closest to my heart, but I don’t know if anyone’s ever going to get it enough to say, “OK, we’ll finance that.”

* Although most people have been saying that the writers’ strike won them a good deal, delightful crackpot Harlan Ellison insists the writers actually got taken for a ride.

* It has become so much part of conventional wisdom that affluence is a problem that it is hard to imagine that attitudes were ever different. The media is full of stories about problems that allegedly owe much to our affluent lifestyles, including environmental degradation, social inequalities and even mental illness. Daniel Ben-Ami at the Spiked Review of Books remembers John Kenneth Galbraith’s excellent The Affluent Society as a prelude to launching a broadside attack on it.

* And at the Valve, John Holbo says Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics is the best work of literary criticism of the last year. I’ve been meaning to pick this up; now I have no excuse not to.

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