Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Archive for March 2008

Showing Up Late, Leaving Early

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I don’t like showing up this late on the blog, but due to factors including

* class;
* getting what must be my fourth cold in two months;
* what can only be described as the Unfortunate Incident of the Apple Juice in the Nighttime, which has rendered my space bar completely inoperable;

I’m only getting around to blogging now.


Here’s some stuff to look at it:

* Lord of the Rings as Property Law.

* Alternate universe baseball.

* Alan Kirby on the death of postmodernism and the birth of pseudomodernism.

Postmodernism conceived of contemporary culture as a spectacle before which the individual sat powerless, and within which questions of the real were problematised. It therefore emphasised the television or the cinema screen. Its successor, which I will call pseudo-modernism, makes the individual’s action the necessary condition of the cultural product. Pseudo-modernism includes all television or radio programmes or parts of programmes, all ‘texts’, whose content and dynamics are invented or directed by the participating viewer or listener (although these latter terms, with their passivity and emphasis on reception, are obsolete: whatever a telephoning Big Brother voter or a telephoning 6-0-6 football fan are doing, they are not simply viewing or listening).

* The Valve, re: Deadwood, The Wire, and The Sopranos: What interests me is that, whatever their differences, all three of these shows elicit our sympathy and concern for brutal and violent people, mostly male, operating outside the law. What’s that about?

* Infinite Thought announces a new competition: “Down with Existing Society!” These are the terms:

Each and every one should express in a succinct manner his or her rationally hostile feeling about the current state of affairs.

I’m not sure I have the wherewithal to put together an entry right now, but if I did I’m certain it would probably have a lot to do with our sympathy for brutal and violent people, mostly male, operating outside the law.

Or else, you know, this:

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March 31, 2008 at 8:44 pm

The World’s Hardest Game

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Presenting the world’s hardest game. I made it about nine levels before I decided I just couldn’t afford to go on. Via MeFi.

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March 30, 2008 at 4:15 am

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JFK, Nixon, W

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I wasn’t an especially big fan of World Trade Center, but I’m pretty interested to see what Oliver Stone has to say about the life of W.

Stone has said that the film, which will focus on the life and presidency of Bush, won’t be an anti-Bush polemic, but, as he told Daily Variety, “a fair, true portrait of the man. How did Bush go from being an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world?”

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March 29, 2008 at 5:23 pm

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Experimenting with new fuels for our flying saucers

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The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.

But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Although it sounds bizarre, the case touches on a serious issue that has bothered scholars and scientists in recent years — namely how to estimate the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead.

I’ve pointed before at one of my favorite passages from Slaughterhouse-Five, in a similar discussion. Via MeFi.

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March 29, 2008 at 5:13 pm

On Spoiler Whores

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Jason Mittell has a good post up explaining the differences between watching (Viewer A), watching-when-you-already-know-what-will-happen (Viewer B, the spoiler whore), and rewatching (Viewer C), using Lost and Veronica Mars as models. It’s good stuff:

…if the pleasures of suspense are in the telling more than the story, then viewers B and C use their story knowledge to focus attention on the discourse, absorbing and enjoying how the story is told and the subsequent emotions that the telling stimulates. Again, our survey bears this out – many spoiler fans claimed that by knowing what was going to happen, they could actually appreciate episodes of Lost more fully! Fans wrote that they used their foreknowledge of story events to focus on textual details, subtleties of performance, foreshadowing and clues, and stylistic flourishes. Thus by knowing the story ahead of time, spoiler fans approach a “new” episode more like academic critics, simultaneously experiencing and analyzing a text. I’ve discussed this practice in the context of the broader trend of narratively complex television, arguing that such programs stimulate an “operational aesthetic” that combines the act of reading and rereading simultaneously. As Jonathan and I write in our essay, “If typical fan consumption practices for programs like Lost straddle the experiences of first and subsequent viewings, then spoiler fans are taking this process one step further, increasing their expertise to more fully embrace the logic of rereading, and, as one respondent noted, ‘allow[ing] for a deeper analysis while you are viewing it.’”

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March 29, 2008 at 5:07 pm

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Intelligent Discussion Is Occasionally Still Possible

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You don’t see it often, but intelligent discussion is occasionally still possible in this country. There’s even people managing to discuss the Rev. Wright kerfluffe intelligently, believe it or not—check out this clip from last night’s Bill Maher.

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March 29, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Superman Law

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Another big turnaround in the rights to Superman: on the heels of a 2004 decision that assigned Jermone Siegel’s heirs the rights to the Superboy character (upheld in 2006), a judge has now ruled that the Siegel heirs have also owned a share of the copyright on Superman himself since 1999. In terms of things it’s nice to discover you still own, the multi-multi-multimillion-dollar rights to Superman has got to be pretty high on the list. And even bigger news for the future of the Superman franchise:

If the ruling survives a Time Warner legal challenge, it may also open the door to a similar reversion of rights to the estate of Mr. Shuster in 2013. That would give heirs of the two creators control over use of their lucrative character until at least 2033 — and perhaps longer, if Congress once again extends copyright terms — according to Marc Toberoff, a lawyer who represents the Siegels and the Shuster estate.

“It would be very powerful,” said Mr. Toberoff, speaking by telephone on Friday. “After 2013, Time Warner couldn’t exploit any new Superman-derived works without a license from the Siegels and Shusters.”

Of course, my feeling is that a character created 75 years ago shouldn’t still be under copyright at all—but it’s certainly nice to see copyright law for once protecting creators rather than corporations (albeit belatedly), particularly creators exploited as badly as Siegel and Shuster were.

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March 29, 2008 at 1:30 pm

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