Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘futility

Thursday Night Links

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Thursday night links!

* I saw Zombieland tonight and was impressed with how well America kept its Big Cameo secret. (I won’t spoil things either.) The movie itself is pretty fun, if less funny than it thinks and a little cartoonish at times. I find in general that I prefer my zombie movies to be psychologically realistic and thematically bleak, with roughly two-thirds of the film devoted to the building of systematic fortifications and the last third devoted to the spectacular destruction of said fortifications.

* This is a great blog and Imma let you finish, but MetaFilter has the best Balloon Boy thread of all time. Don’t miss what could be the exciting start of Phase 2: “You guys said we did it for the show.”

* Why Your Idea to Save Journalism Won’t Work.

* Nice to see Mad Men getting some press in the Atlantic, but couldn’t they have found someone who actually gets the show?

Mad Men’s most egregious stumble—though seemingly a small one—involves Betty Draper’s college career, and it is generally emblematic of this extraordinarily accomplished show’s greatest weaknesses, and specifically emblematic of its confused approach to this poorly defined character. Betty, the show establishes, was in a sorority. So far, okay. Pretty, with a little-girl voice and a childlike, almost lobotomized affect; humorless; bland but at times creepily calculating (as when she seeks solace by manipulating her vulnerable friend into an affair); obsessed with appearances and therefore lacking in inner resources; a consistently cold and frequently vindictive mother; a daddy’s girl—Betty is written, and clumsily performed by model-turned-actress January Jones, as a clichéd shallow sorority sister. (Just as Don’s self-invented identity is Gatsby-like, so Betty, his wife, is a jejune ornament like Daisy, though without the voice full of money.) But she’s also a character deeply wronged by her serial-philanderer husband, and she’s hazily presented as a stultified victim of soulless postwar suburban ennui (now there’s a cliché). So, perhaps to bestow gravitas on her, or at least some upper-classiness, the show establishes that she went to Bryn Mawr. But of course Bryn Mawr has never had sororities. By far the brainiest of the Seven Sisters—cussed, straight-backed, high-minded, and feminist (its students, so the wags said, preferred the Ph.D. to the Mrs.)—Bryn Mawr was probably the least likely college that Betty Draper, given to such non-U genteelisms as “passed away,” would have attended. So much for satiric exactitude.

As I complained in the MeFi thread, Betty’s problem isn’t that she’s bland, humorless, or stupid but that she hates her life.

* Chicago and the Great Flood of 1992.

* How the Freaknomics authors blew a chapter on climate change in the book’s new sequel, Superfreakonomics.

* “The original Gauntlet was released with no ending. The hundred or so levels were randomised and looped for as long as play lasted. Atari saw Gauntlet as a process, a game that was played for its own sake and not to reach completion. The adventurers continue forever until their life drains out, their quest ultimately hopeless.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 16, 2009 at 3:32 am

Thursday Night Links

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Getting very close to the start of my term at [Undisclosed Location], which will mean a lot less blogging. I won’t be blogging much during the day at all.

In other words, it’ll be kind of like today.

* In the comments earlier today sb offered me a much-deserved Trophy of Perpetual Futility.

* Today’s Infinite Summer writeup comes from the L.A. Times book blog. Via Paper Cuts.

JC: Might this turn into an annual tradition, perhaps with other books?

MB: I have already received a raft of suggestions for next summer’s reading, including “Ulysses,” “Underworld,” “Don Quixote” and the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Whether this becomes an annual or year-around thing will depend largely on how successful this one proves, and whether or not I am utterly exhausted by its end.

* Non-Essential Mnemonics, at McSweeney’s.

What about Jersey? Mafioso, murderers, addicts, juvenile vagrants, Bon Jovi. Here they praise these felonious people. Blighted little Jersey: guns, hookers, Goombas, Atlantic City. “Come home, criminal miscreants” reads the tourism website. And here come the hucksters, racketeers, trannies, and every korrupt-cop. Jersey, news flash: Criminals rarely benefit children, businesses, or organizations.

A short essay on the socio-political climate in New Jersey and a mnemonic for the last names of all 44 American presidents.

* “Locavore,” “frenemy,” “staycation,” and “vlog” make Webster’s.

* Salon’s David Rakoff and Anthony Lane review Brüno. Here’s Lane:

How efficient, though, is embarrassment as a comic device? It’s a quick hit, and it corrals the audience on the side of smugness; but its victories are Pyrrhic, and it tends to fizzle out unless held in by a plot—as it was in “Fawlty Towers,” which, from its base on the English seaside, fathomed the most embarrassable race on earth. Baron Cohen, in exporting his japes, comes up against a people much less devoted to the wince. I realized, watching “Borat” again, that what it exposed was not a vacuity in American manners but, more often than not, a tolerance unimaginable elsewhere. Borat’s Southern hostess didn’t shriek when he appeared with a bag of feces; she sympathized, and gently showed him what to do, and the same thing happens in “Brüno,” when a martial-arts instructor, confronted by a foreigner with two dildos, doesn’t flinch. He teaches Brüno some defensive moves, then adds, “This is totally different from anything I’ve ever done.” Ditto the Hollywood psychic—another risky target, eh?—who watches Brüno mime an act of air-fellatio and says, after completion, “Well, good luck with your life.” In both cases, I feel that the patsy, though gulled, comes off better than the gag man; the joke is on Baron Cohen, for foisting indecency on the decent. The joker is trumped by the square.

I’m sure I’m not the first to think of what George Saunders wrote of Borat, or, for that matter, of the bad taste it still leaves in my mouth.

Written by gerrycanavan

July 10, 2009 at 2:12 am

Wednesday 3

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Wednesday 3.

* First Read considers the curse of the 2012 GOP candidate, noting that only Mitt Romney has avoided total credibility implosion. But stay tuned: it’s a long way to Iowa, and I believe in the Mittpocalypse.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that Obama’s political opponents tend to be cursed in this way: consider that his main opponents for Illinois State Senate were pulled from the ballot for insufficient signatures, that his original run for Senate was facilitated by the scandal surrounding the divorce of Jack and Jeri “Seven of Nine” Ryan, and that his opponent for the presidency actually thought Sarah Palin was a credible vice presidential candidate.

* More on Kay Hagan and health care from Triangulator. Contact information for Hagan’s Senate office is here.

* The MTA is trying to sell name rights for subway stations. Can’t we get a court to bar this kind of silliness? “Atlantic Avenue” is a useful and informative name for a subway station; the name of a bank in London is not remotely. UPDATE: I’m 99% less outraged upon realizing that Barclay’s is building a basketball stadium near that subway station.

* Michael Bérubé on the futility on the humanities. Said futility is not a bad thing.

* Žižek on Iran (at least allegedly).

And, last but not least, what this means is that there is a genuine liberating potential in Islam – to find a “good” Islam, one doesn’t have to go back to the 10th century, we have it right here, in front of our eyes.

The future is uncertain – in all probability, those in power will contain the popular explosion, and the cat will not fall into the precipice, but regain ground. However, it will no longer be the same regime, but just one corrupted authoritarian rule among others. Whatever the outcome, it is vitally important to keep in mind that we are witnessing a great emancipatory event which doesn’t fit the frame of the struggle between pro-Western liberals and anti-Western fundamentalists. If our cynical pragmatism will make us lose the capacity to recognize this emancipatory dimension, then we in the West are effectively entering a post-democratic era, getting ready for our own Ahmadinejads. Italians already know his name: Berlusconi. Others are waiting in line.

* Soccer in South Africa, at the Big Picture.