Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘The Dark Knight Returns

Sunday Morning Links!

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* One might, it’s true, wonder how cultural capital has survived the last half century’s apotheosis of pop, the rollback of the old patrician-bourgeois culture of the West, postmodernism’s putative muddling of low and high. But the sociologists have gone and checked, and the answers are not hard to find: Fancy people are now more likely to consume culture indiscriminately, that is, to congratulate themselves on the expansiveness of their tastes; indistinction has become distinction. They are more likely to prefer foreign culture to their own, at least in some who-wants-takeout? kind of way. And they are more likely to enjoy culture analytically and ironically, belligerently positing a naïve consumer whose imagined immersion in the object will set off everything in their own approach that is suavely arms-length and slaunchwise. Such, point for point, is the ethos of the new-model English department: of cultural studies, new media, the expanded canon, of theory-courses-without-objects. To bring new types of artifacts into literature departments is not to destroy cultural capital. It is merely to allow new things to start functioning as wealth. Even here, the claim to novelty can be overstated, since it is enough to read Bourdieu to know that the claim to interpret and demystify has always been an especially heady form of symbolic power. The ingenious reading confers distinction, as do sundry bids to fix the meanings of the social. Critical theory is cultural capital. Citing Judith Butler is one of the ways in which professional people outside the academy understand and justify their own elevation. Bickering recreationally about the politics of zombie movies is just what lawyers and engineers now do.

* The Kindle edition of The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson is (still) on sale for $1.99. Here’s the LARoB review!

* Meanwhile, LARoB also reviews Paradoxa 26, which has my essay on Snowpiercer in it.

* Extrapolation 56.1 is now available.

Sherryl Vint, “Skin Deep: Alienation in Under the Skin
Isiah Lavender, “Reframing Heart of Darkness as Science Fiction”
Sharon DeGraw, “Tobias S. Buckell’s Galactic Caribbean Future”
Karen May and David Upton, “‘Ser Piggy’: Identifying an Intertextual Relationship between William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones
Lee Braver, “Coin-Operated Doors and God: A Gnostic Reading of Philip K. Dick’s Ubik”

Nepal After the Earthquake.

* Baltimore after Freddie Gray.

* The good inequality. Policy debate in the age of neoliberalism.

* Gene Wolfe, sci-fi’s difficult genius.

* The slow apocalypse and fiction.

* Can you fix the NBA draft?

In the meantime, we will all have to cope with the fact that education technology has just become weaponized. Arizona State is now the first predator university. They are willing to re-define what education is so that they can get more students from anywhere. If they don’t kill other universities by taking all their students with a cheap freshmen year, they’ll just steal their fish food by underselling 25% of the education that those schools provide and leaving them a quarter malnourished. The result is that schools which stick to reasonable standards with respect to the frequency and possibility of teacher/student interaction now have to fear for their very existence.

Contingency and Gender.

The Invented History of ‘The Factory Model of Education.’

The obvious corollary is that, in order to stem the tide of tuition increases, we should seek to stabilize or increase state funding and curb the power of administrators.

Why They Hate Cornel West.

* I’m seeing it mostly mocked and dismissed, but I think the Columbia case (K.C. Johnson summary at Minding the Campus) will be important flashpoint in Title IX law. My sense is that the wind on this is really changing strongly against the feminist left; we’re going to see many of the received truths of campus anti-rape policies coming under serious challenge. It’s going to be difficult, and it’s going to require some unpleasant reconsideration of the way we talk about this issue.

New Simulation Shows How The Pacific Islands May Have Been Colonized.

Incredibly, the percentage of parents throughout the state who engaged in the civil disobedience of refusing the test for their kids is higher than the 15 percent of eligible voters who cast a ballot for Andrew Cuomo in the low-turnout election last year.

* All of the juniors at Nathan Hale High School refused to show up for state testing this week.

* Against the creative economy.

* What if Man of Steel was in color?

* Gasp! The Apple Watch May Have a Human Rights Problem.

Microsoft Word Spells the Names of Game of Thrones Characters Better Than You Can.

Nine Months After He Filmed Eric Garner’s Killing, the Cops Are Trying to Put Ramsey Orta Behind Bars.

“We must disband the police: Body cameras aren’t enough — only radical change will stop cops who kill.”

* Meanwhile.

* Yes please: Telltale is making some kind of Marvel game.

The Feds Say One Schmuck Trading From His Parents’ House Caused a Market Crash. Here’s the Problem.

* See, Dad? I knew you could survive on girl scout cookies.

* There’s always money in the banana stand: The Fed’s Cold War Bunker Had $4 Billion Cash For After The Apocalypse.

* Won’t you give? What you can? Today? Poetry is going extinct, government data show.

* I believe any crazy story with China in the headline. That’s my policy.

* Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything.

It’s Time To Stop Treating Childhood as a Disease.

* And you thought The Dark Knight Strikes Back was bad.

Sunday Links!

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* The science fictional sublime: the art of Penguin science fiction.

* From the syllabus of my wonderful Cultural Preservation class: “Can Auschwitz Be Saved?” and “The Myth of the Vanquished: The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.”

* Great moments in the law school scam. Wow.

Fraternity expels 3 linked to statue noose, suspends Ole Miss chapter.

* Where the money goes: what $60,000 tuition at Duke buys you.

duke_exp

* The Definitive Guide to Never Watching Woody Allen Again.

Pedophiles Are Still Tearing Reddit Apart.

The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks’ Most Devious Scam Yet.

* The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy will launch in 2015.

* Always worth relinking: StrikeDebt’s Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual.

On most policy questions of any importance, there are enough academics doing work to generate far more policy ideas than can seriously considered by our political system. When it comes to systemic risk, we have all the ideas we need–size caps or higher capital requirements–and we have academics behind both of those. The rest is politics. What we really need is for the people with the big megaphones to be smarter about the ideas that they cover.

Milwaukee’s childhood lead poisoning prevention program running out of money. Income inequality grew rapidly in Milwaukee, study finds.

Actually, climate trolls, January ended up being the fourth-warmest on record.

EPA moves to toughen pesticide safety standards for the first time in 20 years.

Scientists are appalled at Nicaragua’s plan to build a massive canal.

South Carolina Legislators To Punish College For Assigning Gay-Themed Fun Home Comic To Freshmen.

* David Graeber explains fun.

A sequel film for Farscape is in the early phases of development.

* NBC officially giving up, bringing back Heroes.

How wrong is your time zone?

Presenting the lowest possible score in Super Mario Brothers.

* The Donkey Knight Returns.

* The Legographer.

* The Amtrak Writers Fellowship.

* And now they’re saying the Voynich Manuscript might not be a hoax after all. Oh, I hope so.

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Superheroes and Presidential Politics

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Of course, if we’re talking about superheroes and presidential politics, we can’t leave out Watchmen.

Or Reagan in Dark Knight Returns.

Or Luthor.

Or JFK.

Or Superman himself, in the classic and criminally underrated Red Son.

A few more here and here

Written by gerrycanavan

January 18, 2009 at 5:11 am

Monday Links

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Monday, Monday.

* The Criterion Collection Bottle Rocket is out tomorrow. Here’s the Amazon link.

* Nate Silver projects Al Franken will win by 27 votes.

* The World’s Best Colleges and Universities. Duke clocks in at #13, but more important, longtime domestic loser Case Western (#90) beats Tufts (#156) in the far more important world rankings, finally giving Neil the humiliation he deserves.

* Amanda Marcotte had the bright idea of reading Mad Men alongside some of the literary texts it makes allusions to, most notably the Frank O’Hara poem that bookends the season, “Meditations in an Emergency.”

* Longtime reader Eli Glasner has a great new film blog.

* 10 Stories Behind Dr. Seuss stories. Thanks, Lindsay!

* “Who Stole My Volcano? Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dematerialisation of Supervillain Architecture.” Via Neilalien.

* A school in New York has already been renamed for Barack Obama. Students initiated the renaming.

* The things you learn from Poli-Sci-Fi Radio: Val Kilmer is mulling a run for governor of New Mexico. Kilmer’s only the second-worst Batman, but the one I think I’d want least in elected office.

* Top 25 Comic Book Battles. #1: Batman vs. Superman from The Dark Knight Returns.

* Heroes creator Tim Kring has apologized for calling his fans dipshits. Remember, a gaffe is when you accidentally tell the truth…

Three for Sunday: Superman, Seinfeld, The Dark Knight Returns

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Three for Sunday.

* Superbugs: all about the new generation of treatment-resistant infections.

“My basic premise,” Wetherbee said, “is that you take a capable microörganism like Klebsiella and you put it through the gruelling test of being exposed to a broad spectrum of antibiotics and it will eventually defeat your efforts, as this one did.” Although Tisch Hospital has not had another outbreak, the bacteria appeared soon after at several hospitals in Brooklyn and one in Queens. When I spoke to infectious-disease experts this spring, I was told that the resistant Klebsiella had also appeared at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, in Manhattan, and in hospitals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Cleveland, and St. Louis.

*Will the next Christopher Nolan movie be a straight-up adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns?

By leaving the Joker (literally) hanging at the end of The Dark Knight, Nolan left open-ended a story that begs to be finished. Even Tim Burton knew he had to kill Jack Nicholson at the “end”. Nolan himself killed Ra’s at the end of Batman Begins and he even tied-up a loose end regarding the Scarecrow in The Dark Knight. These are both clear signals Nolan knows the story has to have an end and has some idea for that end already in mind.

Nolan further foreshadows the future in The Dark Knight’s climatic moments as well. Remember when the Joker tells Batman the two of them can “do this for years”? Filmmakers of Nolan’s talent don’t throw away lines like that, especially in a moment like that. That was the director signaling to the audience that he understands one of “The Dark Knight Returns'” main themes – that the Joker’s very existence is primarily to be Batman’s nemesis and their fates were inevitably intertwined, as well as a signal that their final showdown will in fact come years down the road.

Which brings us back to the three-act structure: Act One (Batman Begins) was the first Batman story. Act Two (The Dark Knight) was a classic tragic turning point.

So what does this demand Act Three be?

Well, not only the final battle of Batman and the Joker, but also the last Batman story, of course.

More discussion of the idea, which I can personally guarantee will never, ever happen, at io9.

* A not-quite-complete list of Kramer’s business ideas. Not quite complete, because Wikipedia has even more.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 10, 2008 at 3:43 pm

The Dark Knight

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If The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero movie of all time—and I think it probably is—it is entirely on the back of Heath Ledger’s immaculate turn as the Joker. Ledger is utterly, utterly, utterly perfect in this role—so perfect in fact that it is impossible to imagine either anyone else ever playing the Joker or any other villain stepping in to carry a sequel.

(Who’s even still on the bench at this point? The Penguin? Riddler? King Tut? Catwoman can’t carry a movie all by herself. The best bet, it seems to me, would be to go forward with the long-teased Batman vs. Superman project; it’d be something of a genre mismatch for the Christian Bale franchise, but at least it’d spare us all another round of movie nonsense with the highly overrated Riddler.)

There’s no question about it: Ledger’s performance is simply stunning. His sociopathic Joker is so good that it’s hard to say that the movie is actually enjoyable to watch—I feel exhausted after seeing it, disturbed and just a little bit broken. In this sense The Dark Knight isn’t really a superhero movie at all, but a horror movie, a slasher flick, and really—with Ledger so famously dead by suicide* just after shooting—a snuff film. As David Denby put the point in the New Yorker:

When Ledger wields a knife, he is thoroughly terrifying (do not, despite the PG-13 rating, bring the children), and, as you’re watching him, you can’t help wondering—in a response that admittedly lies outside film criticism—how badly he messed himself up in order to play the role this way. His performance is a heroic, unsettling final act: this young actor looked into the abyss.

This is in all respects an astoundingly dark movie that’s hardly suitable for adults, much less children. And if The Dark Knight doesn’t quite possess the necessary sense of self-awareness to be the Watchmen of superhero film, it may well be its Dark Knight Returns (wiki)—or, perhaps more directly, the story from which it draws its most direct inspiration, Alan Moore’s definitive Joker story, The Killing Joke (wiki).

What Moore gets, of course, is what the film is only able to hint at: the extent to which Batman and the Joker (to mix my supervillain metaphors) are two sides of the same coin. It is not just that they are both insane, but that they are both equally insane and insane in exactly the same way—just in opposite directions.


* Abe rightly points out in the comments that Ledger’s death by overdose probably wasn’t a suicide. Obviously I’m not watching enough entertainment television.