Posts Tagged ‘Episode 9’
* Food for Marquette English’s Hamilton event later this month: A Hamilton Skeptic on Why the Show Isn’t As Revolutionary As It Seems. And another: Hamilton, Inc.
Broadway can be a very poor investment, but when shows hit, they really hit. The most successful of them dwarf the revenues of even the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. “Hamilton” could easily run on Broadway for a decade or more. In September, the first road production will open in Chicago, and it will be a “sit down” show, meaning it is intended to stay there for a year or more. Ultimately, there may be as many as seven “Hamilton” companies, in addition to the one on Broadway, performing at the same time in multiple American and international cities. Ticket revenues, over time, could reach into the billions of dollars. If it hits sales of a mere $1 billion, which “Hamilton” could surpass in New York alone, the show will have generated roughly $300 million in profit on the $12.5 million put up by investors. (There are many eye-popping numbers to contemplate, but maybe the most striking one is this: The show is averaging more than $500,000 in profit every week.)
* Call for Papers: Faulkner and Hemingway conference at the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast Missouri State University. I was just down there to give a talk and had a fantastic time.
* New digital journal, thresholds, co-edited by Fran McDonald and Whitney Trettian. Here’s the CFP for the debut issue:
The debut issue of thresholds will focus on the theme of the extraneous. We seek manuscripts that deal with the extra, the foreign, or the strange from any angle. We welcome contributions that combine the creative and critical in their approach, and are eager to consider work that is experimental in both content and form. Final submissions will be comprised of a short piece (a maximum of 7000 words) accompanied by a series of fragments. Please submit 400-word abstracts and a brief bio to email@example.com no later than May 15, 2016. Final essays will be due July 31, 2016.
* Elsewhere on the Duke alum beat: Huge congrats to Ainehi Edoro and Brittle Paper, which is now part of the Guardian!
* Protest and Power at Duke. Duke Students End Sit-In in President’s Office. A Lawsuit, Unmet Demands, and Coloring Books: Inside Duke’s Sit-In. A Guide to the Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002.
* The point is to implement an authority structure that can control public universities under permanent austerity and in the absence of a growing and rising middle-class. Culture wars are good for discrediting particular sources of sociocultural knowledge like ethnic studies, feminist studies, or Middle Eastern Studies. Budget cuts are good for taking the whole public university sector down a few notches. But to reengineer a static enterprise, after decades in which their boards failed to maintain the state revenues on which the system was built, public university governors need the audit and assessment practices that Europeans have long called New Public Management (NPM).
* In a case showing the reach of college sports corruption, a former head men’s basketball coach at the University of Southern Mississippi instructed his assistants to complete junior college coursework for recruits.
* Can you imagine, just for a moment, being a Chancellor of a university—a position with an enormous amount of responsibility to an incredibly wide range of stakeholders—and have someone interrupt you with a ‘No Whining!’ sound effect while you are trying to describe how many staff members you’ve had to lay off and what programs you’ll be cutting, with no end in sight? Would you have an existential moment of crisis where your inner voice conceded, “Oh my god, I’m an adult”? Well, I guess the ‘flexibility’ everyone wants for Chancellors doesn’t apply to their actually speaking without permission and an approved message.
* To begin answering these questions, we Googled our way to 8,000 screenplays and matched each character’s lines to an actor. From there, we compiled the number of lines for male and female characters across roughly 2,000 films, arguably the largest undertaking of script analysis, ever.
* Incredible narrative about a professor allowed to return to their job at UCLA after egregious sexual harassment. And it’s not even the most unbelievable story of an unrepentant predator allowed to walk free with no significant punishment I’ve read this week.
* Yes, apparently Zack Snyder has the same carte blanche to make Justice League, even after turning the first-ever movie starring three of the biggest, most popular superheroes in the world into a film that analysts believe won’t even make a billion dollars worldwide. Maybe that still sounds like a lot of money, but you know what actually made a billion bucks? Tim Burton’s needless 2010Alice in Wonderland film. If you put Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman together in a live-action movie for the first time ever, don’t you think that movie should probably outgross Iron Man 3?
* My sense is that militarized drones, those machines for remote seeing and killing known in military jargon as “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” should be understood to signify an end of empire in two senses. First, an end as in conclusion, or terminus. Hannah Arendt argued that proliferating death is not a sign of an emerging or persisting hegemony but its waning: “rule by sheer violence,” she notes, “comes into play where power is being lost.” This means that the assassinations proliferating in the name of the American phase of accumulation are the sign not of its strength but its incipient weakness; never mind autumn, we could say that drone war is a sign of the coming winter. Second, I mean an end in the Aristotelian sense of telos, or purpose. If we take seriously the fact that empire is best understood not as a culture or as a discourse but as the monopoly on putatively legitimate violence—the stretching of the state’s power over life and death past the boundaries of its “own” populace—then the power of sovereign decision crystallized in globally operated, remote assassination machines is the very essence of empire: its telos, or end. President Obama’s now-infamous “kill list meetings” sharpen to an obscene purity the American state’s power of judgment over life and death beyond its own citizenry and constitute the distillation of imperium as such.
* Never say never again: ‘Speedy Gonzales’ Eyed As Animated Feature At Warner Bros.
* New Jersey University Was Fake, but Visa Fraud Arrests Are Real. Fake New Jersey University Established by Cops to Catch Visa Fraud Has Pretty Good Job Placement. Fake, real, real, fake, let’s not quibble — are they hiring?
* The ideology of the future: Kiplinger’s presents 20 Amazing Ways Life Will Be Different in 2030.
* Prestige TV is a nightmare from which we are all struggling to awake: Dexter return to television confirmed.
* Our prayers answered, Paul F. Tompkins was finally on Harmontown. I’ve also really been loving the back catalogue of Hello, from the Magic Tavern and (at long last) Welcome to Night Vale after a sojourn through It’s That Episode. Non-podcast news after the link!
* So does this: The Warriors Are Now Long Shots To Win 73 Games.
* Saddest of all: The New Jersey Swamp Dragons? It almost happened.
* Not for me, but maybe for you: LARB has a Grantland-style sports spinoff.
* Grant Morrison was right! Science Says Superman Should Be Black.
* And I don’t need to tell you what’s coming. Every Cool Detail We Spotted in the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Trailer.
(some spoilers near the end of the post, though I try to be vague)
Not long after completing The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien briefly began work on a sequel called The New Shadow, set 100 to 150 years later during the reign of Aragorn’s son Eldarion. (The main link between the two stories is the minor character Beregond, the noble but disgraced soldier of Gondor whose son, Borlas, would have been a major character in The New Shadow.) The New Shadow reveals that the eucatastrophic fairy-tale ending of The Return of the King was extremely short-lived; with the Elves and the Wizards gone from Middle-earth, the Dwarves moving underground, and the Hobbits now isolated in what amounts to an enclave in the Shire, Men are quickly falling back into their old bad habits. In fact the Men of Gondor already seem to have forgotten much of the details of the War of the Ring, even though it remains in living memory: they seem not to remember, or take seriously, the fact that they once strode with gods and angels in a war against pure evil, and were victorious. Instead, children play at being Orcs for fun; the death of Elessar has been an occasion for political striving and reactionary plots; and even something like a secret death cult of devil-worshipping rebels seems to be spreading through the elites of Gondor.
Tolkien wrote 13 pages of it.
He later wrote:
I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall, but it proved both sinister and depressing. Since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless — while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors — like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going around doing damage. I could have written a ‘thriller’ about the plot and its discovery and overthrow — but it would have been just that. Not worth doing.
Instead, Tolkien turned his attention back to the imaginative project that had more or less defined his life: The Silmarillion, begun between 1914 and 1917, which he tinkered with on and off until his death in 1973. The Silmarillion has always marked, I think, the grey line between being a casual Tolkien fan and becoming a Tolkien enthusiast — a path that then leads one even further into Christopher Tolkien’s twelve-volume History of Middle-Earth and the discovery of Tolkien’s own very elaborate (and somewhat fannish) self-commentary on his legendarium alongside many multiple alternate drafts of the narratives that form the barely glimpsed mythological background of The Lord of the Rings.
The Silmarillion is nominally a prequel — ostensibly it is the Elvish legends that Bilbo translated and appended to the Red Book while he was retired in Rivendell — but the published version of the book includes a two-page summary of the War of the Ring that culminates in a brief, New-Shadow-style glimpse past Aragorn’s reign. We are reminded of the sapling of the White Tree that Aragorn and Gandalf find in the mountains near Gondor, which Aragorn plants in Minas Tirith as a symbol of his reign, and told that “while it still grew there the Elder Days were not wholly forgotten in the hearts of the Kings.” While it still grew there — which is to say, it doesn’t grow there anymore.
I don’t know that I would call this material “sinister,” but I taught The Silmarillion this semester after having tried and failed to read it as a child, and I think it would certainly be fair to call it “depressing.” What looks, in The Lord of the Rings, like a fairy-tale about how good and decent folk are able to do the impossible and defeat evil (with just a little bit of help from the divine, here and there) becomes in The Silmarillion and The New Shadow and Tolkien’s pseudo-theological commentary only the briefest, most temporary respite from a nightmare history in which things always turn out wrong, millennia after millennia after millennia. In fact Arda, the planet on which the continent of Middle-earth rests, is a cursed and fallen place, infused with evil and wickedness at its material core, and the only thing to do is raze the place and start over, as Eru Ilúvatar will at long last at the very end of time. To study Tolkien beyond Lord of the Rings is to come to a keen understanding of how tragic this history actually is, how Return of the King looks like a happy ending mostly because that’s where Tolkien (quite deliberately and self-consciously) decided to stop writing. But the Fourth Age was no better than the Third, and likely quite worse, and on and on through the degenerative millennia that bring us to the end of the Sixth Age and the beginning of the Seventh with the fall of the Third Reich and the development of the atom bomb.
I’ve been thinking about The New Shadow since it became clear that The Force Awakens would be borrowing from the Expanded Universe the notion that the Battle of Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi did not mark a full or permanent victory for the Rebel Alliance. The Force Awakens is The New Shadow, sinister and depressing, except they decided to go ahead and do it anyway. I joked in the link post earlier this morning that you can tell who read the EU novels and who didn’t based on whether your reaction to The Force Awakens is sadness — but the events of The Force Awakens, as sad as they are, are really only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how horribly Luke, Leia, and Han are punished in the EU novels, over and over, as everything they attempt to build turns to ash and the galaxy repeatedly falls into chaos, war, and catastrophe. In the farthest reaches of the EU universe, the Star Wars Legacy comics, set around 140 years or so after the Battle of Yavin, Luke’s descendent Cade Skywalker wanders a Galaxy that is again in war, as it always is, with a resurgent Empire again ruled by Sith masters — and when one casts oneself into the mists of time in the other direction (in material like the Knights of the Old Republic games, set thousands of years before A New Hope) one finds more or less the same basic story of genocidal total war playing out there too. Star Wars has always been, in the EU at least, a universe more or less without hope, that only looked hopeful to casual fans because they were looking too closely at just a very slender part of it.
This is why, while I can certainly understand the impulse to complain about The Force Awakens as derivative, I really think this is more repetition with a difference than mere or base or stupid repetition. One Death Star is a horror; two Death Stars and one Starkiller Base and whatever horrific murder innovation the First Order will come up with for Episode 9 is something more like the inexorable logic of history, grinding us all to dust. Likewise, it’s true that The Force Awakens hits many of the same story beats as the Original Trilogy, but almost always in ways that are worse: the death of Obi-Wan was sad but mysterious, suggestive of a world beyond death which the Jedi could access, while the death of The Force Awakens‘s version of Obi-Wan is not only brutally material but visceral, and permanent, as far as we have any reason to believe right now. The loss of Alderaan is sad, but the loss of what appears to be the entire institutional apparatus of the resurgent Republic is unthinkably devastating; aside from the loss of life it would take decades for the Galaxy to recover from such an event, even if they weren’t having to fight off the First Order while doing it. The film is extremely vague about the relationship between the Republic and “the Resistance,” but it appears to be a proxy guerrilla war against the First Order fought inside their own territory, secretly funded by the Republic — and prosecuted by Leia, Akbar, Nien Nunb, and all our heroes from the first movies, whose lives are now revealed as permanently deformed by a forever war they can never put down or escape. (If you want to ask me where Lando is, I think he said “good enough” after Endor and walked away, and that sort of makes me hope they never find him, never drag him back into it.) It’s horrible to lose a parent to addiction, or to mental illness, or to ordinary everyday cruelty, however you want to allegorize Vader’s betrayal of his children — but how much worse would it be to lose a child to it, how much worse would such a thing taint every aspect of your life and poison all your joy.
That Star Wars implies a world of sorrow belied by the spectacle of Jedi‘s happy ending isn’t a surprise to me — I told you, I read the EU books — but I can see why it’s a surprise to someone whose last memory of these people is smiles, a fireworks display, hugs, and a picnic. Return of the Jedi never asked us what we thought would happen when those people woke up the next morning and the Empire still had 90% of its guns, ships, territory, generals, and soldiers, ready to descend into vicious, scorched-earth fanaticism as they slid into defeat; it just wasn’t that kind of story. The Force Awakens is that kind of story, and I find that interesting enough to be excited about 8 and 9, to see where they try to take this story now that it turns out fairy-tales aren’t real and that deeply entrenched totalitarian systems don’t have exhaust ports, trench runs, or single points of failure. So I think the emerging critical consensus that The Force Awakens infantilizes its audience by re-presenting us with the same images we all saw as children is actually deeply wrong: The Force Awakens condemns Luke, Leia, and Han to actually live inside history, rather than transcend it, and it condemns us too.
* Malcolm Harris reviews Ivory Tower.
Speaking for the elite private liberal arts school is Wesleyan President Michael Roth, who argues for small classes, a balanced education and a lot of contact with professors. “Ivory Tower” gives Roth a fair hearing, but he can’t avoid coming off like a huckster of humanities when pitching the $60,000-plus annual price tag to the parents of potential students. (Hell, for 60 grand you could rent an apartment in Brooklyn and your own post-grad fellow.) The cost of this kind of education makes it both a model of learning for learning’s sake — yes, a high cost but a priceless reward — and totally inaccessible to most young people.
* Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Ian Bogost, when the walls fell.
* Prosecutors closing in on Chris Christie and Scott Walker. How the State of Wisconsin alleges Scott Walker aides violated the law, in 1 chart.
* James Madison University Punished Sexual Assault With ‘Expulsion After Graduation.’ Department of Education Offers Proposed Campus Sexual Assault Regulations. Rape Victims At Fundamentalist Christian College Say They Were Told To Repent For Their Sins.
* I’m losing hope for Episode 7, but Episodes 8 and 9 have promise.
* One more on Louie: This isn’t a model for romance. It’s a blueprint for abuse.
* Labor and the Locavore shows that our society’s tendency to idealize local food allows small farmers to pay workers substandard wages, house them in shoddy labor camps, and quash their ability to unionize to demand better working conditions.
* “It’s a much bigger, more powerful question to ask, If today we are using management techniques that were also used on slave plantations,” she says, “how much more careful do we need to be? How much more do we need to think about our responsibility to people?”
In Kansas, 9-year-old Spencer Collins has been told by authorities that he must stop sharing books with his neighbors, and close the little free library–honestly, it’s just a bookshelf–in his yard.
* And Better Call Saul already has a second season. We just have to wait to see if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…
* Nevertheless, these arguments are potentially more intellectually coherent than the ones that propose that the race is “too close to call.” It isn’t. If the state polls are right, then Mr. Obama will win the Electoral College. If you can’t acknowledge that after a day when Mr. Obama leads 19 out of 20 swing-state polls, then you should abandon the pretense that your goal is to inform rather than entertain the public. Obama has 431 ways to win; Romney has 76.