Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Oliver Stone

Thursday Morning!

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* A major new report suggests serious underemployment among liberal arts majors, affecting as many as 50% of recent graduates in some majors.

* Liu Cixin has an essay on Death’s End up at Tor: Chinese Literature and Apocalyptic SF: Some Notes on Death’s End (and has a review up already as well). My review probably won’t be published for another few weeks, so I’ll just say again: just buy it!

* Once more, with feeling: Student evaluations are useless.

* CFP: The Job Market. CFP: Loanwords to Live With. I know some of the editors of the Loanwords project and I think it looks really exciting. CFC: A Marxist Game.

* Congratulations to Claudia Rankine on her MacArthur grant.

* The New Republic reviews Alice Kaplan’s new book on The Stranger.

* David Fahrenthold’s reporting on Trump’s foundation has yielded a major scoop, evidence of self-dealing in public documents that would appear to be trivially against the law. Even wilder: this is their defense.

* America: taste the rainbow.

* Instapundit has been suspended from Twitter for a tweet about the Charlotte protests. The tweet in question seems pretty indefensible to me, though Reynolds tries at the link, and regardless of its defensibility suspending him for it seems likely to have very bad consequences both for Twitter and for left academics on a pragmatic level. 9:04 AM UPDATE: He’s already back on.

“Actuaries shamelessly, although often in good faith, understate pension obligations by as much as 50 percent,” said Jeremy Gold, an actuary and economist, in a speech last year at the M.I.T. Center for Finance and Policy. “Their clients want them to.”

Seven charts that speak volumes about the opioid epidemic.

* Since the dawn of time, man has fought the rat.

From Back to the Future II to Stephen King’s saving-JFK novel 11/23/63, the lesson one learns again and again is that trying to improve the world through time travel is a fool’s game, creating far worse problems than whatever you’d hoped to fix. Most of time travel fiction these days is one way or another designed to help us swallow the bitter pill that this life is the one we’re stuck with, that trying to make things better will only backfire.

Cut-throat academia leads to ‘natural selection of bad science’, claims study.

* Something has gone wrong with our atheists.

The bear who fought in World War II.

* Stranger Things spinoff greenlit.

* Going to go ahead and greenlight this one too: Family flee home after finding spiders which can cause four-hour erection followed by death in ASDA bananas.

AI will eliminate 6 percent of jobs in five years, says report. Yes, even yours!

Greenland’s huge annual ice loss is even worse than thought.

A Massive Sinkhole Just Dumped Radioactive Waste Into Florida Water.

* In the Criminal Justice System the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups, the police and the police.

* Teaching the controversy: “Should police officers be required to provide medical aid to people they’ve shot?”

* Slate vs. Stone re: Snowden.

* The Internet and the end of porn.

* Know your white supremacy.

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* Communists are everywhere!

* Contradictions of Capital and Care.

* The end, one hopes, of Anthony Weiner.

* “Karen Gillan Promises There’s a Reason Her Jumanji Character Is Dressed Like That.”

* Been there: Child’s Loose Grasp On Balloon Only Thing Between Peace And Anarchy At Restaurant.

School lunch worker forced to throw away student’s hot meal decides to quit.

* Save the Day, from Joss Whedon.

* Take that, every authority figure in my personal history! A new study finds that fidgeting — the toe-tapping, foot-wagging and other body movements that annoy your co-workers — is in fact good for your health.

* Political correctness run amok.

These are the most lewd-sounding town names in each state.

* And now, truly, more than ever: “Tonight the Character of Death Will Be Played by Brad Pitt.”

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We Have to Magic the Magic Before the Magic or the Magic will Magic

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* I’m planning on using this week’s bizarre Lost/West Wing crossover as my litmus test for how seriously to take people’s opinions on science fiction. That was painful, and enshrines what is more or less total garbage at the center of the show’s mythology. (We have to magic the magic before the magic or the magic will magic…) Despite those really good time travel bits in season five, season six has presented a strong challenge to the wisdom of our decision to start watching this show again. The showrunners still don’t have any idea what they’re on about; they never have. I’m hoping the last few episodes can avoid Battlestar Galactica levels of total series failure; I’ll be glad if they can just bring this thing in for a landing…

* Oliver Stone previews Wall Street 2 and 3.

* Climate change watch: no more lizards.

* The Great Unwinding: Detroit to begin its demolishing of 10,000 homes.

* And Boing Boing has a helpful graphic about Virgin’s SpaceShip Two. Booking my ticket now.

Things Your Publicist Hates to Hear You Say

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Written by gerrycanavan

January 9, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Debate Day 3!

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Debate Day 3. So what are people talking about?

* The head of John McCain’s transition team lobbied for Saddam Hussein. Really. Really.

* The Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of Troy Davis, set to be executed in Georgia in the absence of forensic evidence (no weapon, fingerprints, or DNA) and solely on the word of nine witnesses, seven of whom have since recanted their testimony and another of whom is the other primary suspect in the case. More at MeFi.

* Rats-leaving-a-sinking-ship Watch: Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for Bush-Cheney ’04, walks away from Team Maverick™.

“They didn’t let John McCain pick the person he wanted to pick as VP,” Dowd declared during the Time Warner Summit panel. “When Sarah Palin got picked instead of Joe Lieberman, which I fundamentally believed would have given John McCain the best opportunity in this race… as soon as he picked Palin, that whole ready versus not ready argument was not credible.”

Saying that Palin was a “net negative” on the ticket, he went on: “[McCain] knows, in his gut, that he put somebody unqualified on the ballot. He knows that in his gut, and when this race is over that is something he will have to live with… He put somebody unqualified on that ballot and he put the country at risk, he knows that.”

* The Oliver Stone W film comes out this weekend. Here’s an interview from the Times, where Stone doesn’t hold back.

Stone has said repeatedly that if Bush had fought on the ground in Vietnam he would never have gone to war against Iraq (he also maintains that if Bush had been president during the Cuban missile crisis, “we would have been in a nuclear war. Definitely. Wiped out. We wouldn’t be here talking.”). So I ask him what he makes of John McCain. After all, the Republican presidential candidate was both a supporter of ousting Saddam and a long-time resident of Vietnam’s “Hanoi Hilton” POW camp.

“I think McCain’s a very special story because he was never a soldier,” Stone says coldly. “He’s said he never saw the results of his own bombing. I saw the damage we did, I saw the corpses, the decay, I smelt the flesh, I saw people who’d been napalmed, people who’d been killed by shrapnel, mutilated. I saw horrible things. McCain was a prisoner and he has a siege mentality. He doesn’t see a balanced portrait of cause and effect – there’s something missing in the man, mentally.”

* Nouriel Roubini says the economic hurt has only just begun.

* Biden says we’ll win West Virginia. And he has a little bit of fun with it.

According to NBC’s Mike Memoli, Biden asked the crowd in St. Clairsville, Ohio, “Which way is West-By-God-Virginia?” He then said, “I want to send a message to West Virginia — we’re going to win in West Virginia! … We’re going to shock the living devil out of y’all!”

* The latest CBS/NY Times poll says we’ll win everywhere.

Obama 53 (48)
McCain 39 (45)

* They’re still yelling out awful things at McCain/Palin rallies.

* And the Paradise Up North continues to hang with a bad crowd.

Internet Tuesday

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Internet Tuesday!

* Parsippany, NJ, is looking to put up red light cameras that know you only came to a rolling stop before turning right on red. Dystopia is now.

* Are we already nostalgic for the Bush era? Salon investigates using the leaked trailer for Oliver Stone’s W as its source text.

* Via Boing Boing, Crooked Timber has a pretty good piece up about the vacuity of the commonplace rhetoric that “managers of corporations have a fiduciary duty to maximize corporate profits.” It turns out, of course, that this duty actually refers to nothing in particular and can be used to justify any action.

So we’re left with “maximise the present value of future profits”, or maximise the intrinsic value of the company, which is already a bit of a problem because our maximand is now an intrinsically unobservable quantity, which reasonable people can differ wildly in their subjective assessment of. But even if we grant a massive epistemological free lunch and pretend that managers have a set of reliable conditional forecasts of the consequences of different courses of action, we’re still surprisingly far from a workable decision rule.

The reason is that all the paradoxes of choice theory which arise at the individual level are still there when you try to impose a maximisation rule for corporate decisions. For example, it can’t possibly be the case that we want an interpretation of “maximise the value of the shareholders’ equity” to mean that corporate managers have a fiduciary duty to play the (Defect) strategy in a business situation analogous to a Prisoner’s Dilemma game. Or for that matter to be two-boxers in a business situation analogous to Newcomb’s Problem (such situations are incredibly common, as the kind of deals you are offered are very definitely related to people’s assessment of whether you’re the kind of guy who grabs every nickel he sees). Economists can ignore these problems and paradoxes in choice theory with a shrug of the shoulders, a mutter of “oh ordinary people, will you never learn” and a few quid for the Experimental Economics lab. But fiduciary duties are important things, so if we’re going to make our maximisation criterion into a fiduciary duty, then we have to interpret it in a way which allows for strategic behaviour.

* And the Pinocchio Theory has a similarly good post on capitalism, consumerism, and waste.

We are forced, as Karatani says, to buy back as consumers the very goods that we initially created as producers, and that were taken away from us. This “alienation” is the reason why my subjective jouissance as a consumer has nothing to do with my objectified toil as a producer. I do not consume in the same way that I produce. Even the money that I spend wastefully and gleefully, as a consumer, on (as Deleuze and Guattari say) “an imposed range of products (’which I have a right to, which are my due, so they’re mine’)” seems utterly disconnected from the money that I earn painfully in wages or salary — despite the fact that it is, of course, exactly the “same” money. It is only, and precisely, in such a climate of disconnection that “acts of consumption” can be exalted as our only possible “expressions of freedom.” Or, as Graeber puts it, “rather than one class of people being able to imagine themselves as absolutely `free’ because others are absolutely unfree,” as was the case under slavery, in consumer capitalism “we have the same individuals moving back and forth between these two positions over the course of the week and working day.”

* Corrections to Last Month’s Letters to Penthouse Forum.

* List of fictional films from Seinfeld.

* And, via Neilalien, an in-depth investigation of why Star Trek: The Next Generation should actually be understood as a creative failure, in two parts. This sums it up pretty much exactly—like all huge nerds of a particular age I remember the show rather fondly, but it’s no accident that it’s been fifteen years since I watched an episode. And the point about “alternate universe” episodes is especially well-taken:

“Best of Both Worlds” has only one real rival for the title of “best TNG episode”: “All Good Things”. It’s one of the best — if not, hell, the best series finale I’ve ever seen. It summed up, in two hours, everything that was good about the show, as well as putting much of the preceding seven years to shame in terms of showcasing interesting, well-written, dynamic and downright awesome sci-fi writing. It deals with alternate realities — TNG was always good when it dealt with alternate realities, probably because they could get away with the illusion of consequence in alternate realities where things could actually “happen”, at least sort-of. Most importantly, watching “All Good Things”, the viewer can fool themselves into thinking that there really was an alternate-universe TNG where all that cool character development and sharp writing came together every week, and not just a handful of times over the course of 178 freakin’ episodes. But of course, since it was the last episode, they probably thought they could get away with actually changing things up a bit. A shame, that.

I liked “Parallels” and “The Inner Light”, two more alternate-reality episodes that actually seemed to cut to the heart of the respective spotlight characters — Worf, in a rare non-Klingon-centric starring role, and Picard himself. Again, though, in order to find something interesting to say about the characters, the writers had to go out of their way to concoct Rube Goldberg plot machines that would allow for emotional arcs without messing with the precious status quo. If you start looking, you can find a lot of episodes that go to the same well: there’s always something to trigger or mitigate unusual behavior, something to excuse the characters from acting like real people as soon as they put on those damn Starfleet unitards.

Even now you see Heroes doing the same sort of thing with their repetitive “Bad Future” arcs, which give the illusion of plot rather than plot itself.

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?”

Written by gerrycanavan

March 29, 2008 at 5:23 pm

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