Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘too soon?

More Monday Links!

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Martin Luther King’s Case for a Guaranteed Basic Income. Restoring King. “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” “Beyond Vietnam.”

* Jebediah Purdy: No One’s Job: West Virginia’s Forbidden Waters.

* Well, here’s something interesting from the entrance survey to the “It’s Not a MOOC, It’s a Movement” “History and Future of Higher Education” Coursera course: You are invited to take part in a research study conducted by your instructor, Professor Cathy N. Davidson, and a graduate student from North Carolina State University, Barry W. Peddycord III. The purpose of this study is to assess a tool developed to automatically assess the quality of peer reviews on writing. The tool, called “Automated Metareviewing,” reads the essay and a review of it, and then measures how relevant, helpful, and specific the review was.

* Adam Kotsko has a provocative post today on higher ed and masculinity, reframing the crisis of rape culture on campuses as a byproduct of the hypermasculine spaces of fraternity and athletics colleges nurture for development purposes. In the comments I felt the need to try to extend this observation a little bit to the toxic masculinity that sometimes dominates academic departments themselves.

State Higher-Education Spending Continues Slow Recovery.

* The future, folks: Amazon Wants to Ship Your Package Before You Buy It. Microsoft’s ‘smart elevator’ knows where you’re going.

* It turns out you can get fired as a cop.

* Science has figured out why cold air smells different.

On Thursday, Seay received a $10 off coupon from OfficeMax that was address to “Mike Seay, Daughter Killed In Car Crash, Or Current Business.”

The Air Force has roughly 500 officers in charge of protecting and maybe someday launching America’s arsenal of land-based nuclear missiles. Nearly all of them cheat on every exam they take, at every chance they get, according to three veterans of the force.

* Candy Crush Saga studio claims to own the word “candy” the same way it owns your every waking moment.

* And Tom Tomorrow has your typical day in the governor’s office.


Things Your Publicist Hates to Hear You Say

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Written by gerrycanavan

January 9, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Sunday Night Links

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Sunday night links.

* Details on the Franklin Center’s Sun Ra event this Friday.

* Nigeria has banned District 9.

* Consumer electronics and the Jevons Paradox.

* Atheists: we’re #1.

* See also: Terry Eagleton and “religion for radicals.”

* Does this video from College Humor mean it’s now okay to joke about 9/11?

* And a Daily Kos diary on Ayn Rand.

Interestingly, despite her general disdain for humanity, there were people she seemed to admire greatly, such as William Edward Hickman, whose credo, “What is good for me is right,” she described in her Journals as, “The best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I have heard.” But Hickman was no simple expositor of personal greed and self-interest; no mere modern day libertarian; no pedestrian practitioner of excessive self-love. No indeed. He was a sociopathic murderer. In 1927 he kidnapped a 12-year old girl from a school in Los Angeles by the name of Marian Parker, chopped off her legs, cut our her internal organs, drained all of her blood and then spread parts of her body all over the city.

Of Hickman, this sick murderer, Rand had almost nothing but positive things to say.

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September 21, 2009 at 2:42 am

‘Inglourious Basterds’

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It’s a bit hard for me to understand the person who has heard of both Quentin Tarantino and the Holocaust, who then willingly goes to see a Quentin Tarantino movie about the Holocaust, and yet leaves the theater afterwards claiming to feel “offended.” Putting aside the highly fraught question of what exactly it is we mean when we say we are “offended,” do you really expect us to believe you didn’t know in advance what you were walking into? (See TNR for an example of this sort of strange reaction. Writing as if his meaning were clear beyond all possible clarification, Isaac Chotiner proclaims: “[T]he film is one of the most morally repulsive movies of the past decade.” In what respect, Charlie?)

Traxus and I spent some time after the film trying to puzzle all this out, but our discussion bounced around the question of whether Inglourious Basterds was completely without moral content (my initial inclination) or else the morally weightiest of Tarantino’s films (Traxus’s take and the one I eventually came around to, though it’s not exactly incompatible with the first).

Spoilers about the end of the film follow.

What we were specifically trying to work out was the way the film-within-a-film works as an (obvious) metacommentary on the whole, with a shot-reverse-shot logic that repeats itself almost exactly inside and outside Nation’s Pride. This, Traxus was arguing, suggests a kind of formal moral equivalence between the Nazi enjoyment of their propaganda film and our enjoyment of ours, on at least two levels. First there is the level of content, which we both agree is the weaker of the two. (Nazis constitute a threat that is now so vanquished as to seem completely impossible and even cartoonish, and the impossibly excessive fantasy of a alternate history in which Hitler is machine-gunned to death by Jewish-American GIs breaks whatever remaining hold the catharsis of the moment might have held on us.) But on the level of subject position Traxus has, I think, a much better point—the can’t-miss-it repetition of shot-reverse-shot, over and over, really does suggest the audience’s willing construction of this violence in a way that approaches actual moral weight.

But for my money it’s the scene that follows the cinema massacre that finally implicates the audience in this fantasy of brutal violence. Faced with the unhappy choice between letting Nazi Hans Landa walk away from the war a false hero or else executing him against orders, Brad Pitt’s Aldo Raine squares the circle by carving a swastika into Landa’s head (but otherwise letting him live). It’s an act he’s done earlier in the movie, but the callback is (first) a moment of genuinely pleasurable narrative cleverness that (second) turns rapidly disturbing as the actual scarring is performed on-screen. Several bloody shot-reverse-shots later, Aldo says something like “I think this is my masterpiece” directly into the camera, followed by an immediate cut to the credits: WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY QUENTIN TARANTINO, with Tarantino thereby claiming his guilt/authorship over all these events and, by implication, once again accusing us of our participation in them.

Only here do I feel as though Tarantino has drawn out my dark side. Everywhere else, the violence in Inglourious Basterds is not pleasurable, at least not for me. (There’s also not all that much of it, hyperbolic reviews aside; most of the film is calm dialogue.) I don’t revel in violence, even against Nazis, and I’m no more glad to see an actor playing Hitler pretend to be shot than I would be to see him pretend to get away. The cinema fantasy scene and the film’s other violent set pieces have, I think, no real vibrancy to them; it’s only Hans Landa who gets under my skin and exposes my inner possibilities of hate to light. (And I don’t think it’s exactly fair to blame Tarantino for something that was inside me all along.)

While not exactly parodic, the rest of the violence does take on (for me) a cover-charge quality, a price that must be exacted to get to the good stuff. And there’s quite a bit of good stuff here; this is a great and enjoyable film, with good acting, typically skilled directing, and a better-than-expected script. If it’s not exactly a perfect film, it may well be a perfect Tarantino film. And I would humbly suggest that anyone who likes Tarantino’s other films, but hates this one, isn’t evaluating this one on the merits but is instead letting the fear of irreverence towards the Holocaust cloud their aesthetic judgment. It is, to butcher Adorno, still possible to make an exploitation flick after Auschwitz.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 25, 2009 at 4:01 am

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‘Inglourious Basterds’

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“Holocaust movies always have Jews as victims,” he said, plainly exasperated by Hollywood’s lack of imagination. “We’ve seen that story before. I want to see something different. Let’s see Germans that are scared of Jews. Let’s not have everything build up to a big misery, let’s actually take the fun of action-movie cinema and apply it to this situation.”

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg profiles Quentin Tarantino and his latest film, Inglourious Basterds.

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August 11, 2009 at 7:05 pm

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Everything You Need To Know About Hitler’s ‘Missing" Testicle

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December 3, 2008 at 7:28 pm

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Monday’s Daily Show Today

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The current test of personal character in the Obamasphere is clearly whether or not one is dickish enough to run with this story:


Hillary Clinton enthusiastically picked a filly named Eight Belles to win the Kentucky Derby and compared herself to the horse. Eight Belles finished second. The winner was the favorite, Big Brown. Eight Belles collapsed immediately after crossing the finish line, and was euthanized shortly thereafter.

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May 4, 2008 at 1:22 am

They Saved Hitler’s Farts

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The untold story of Hitler’s flatulence. Via MeFi.

Hitler’s stomach problems may even have played their part in his losing the war, thanks to this shadowy figure of Dr. Morell, an incompetent quack who took over Hitler’s medical care in 1937. The pair had met at a Christmas gathering in the Berghof, the bucolic mountain retreat decorated with Bavarian knick-knacks and edelweiss, the year before. Morrell was an unpleasant figure even by Nazi standards – grossly obese, with frog-like features, sulfurous B.O. and venomous halitosis. But when he cured a painful case of eczema on Hitler’s legs and provided temporary relief for his stomach cramps, the Führer was won over. To the irritation of other Nazi doctors, Hitler then proceeded to swallow any of Morell’s advice, no matter how hair-brained, for the next eight years.

For example, to combat recurrences of the volcanic stomach problems, Morell plied him with a remedy called “Dr. Köster’s Anti-gas pills,” which contained significant amounts of strychnine – and Hitler often took as many as 16 of the little black pills a day. The sallow skin, glaucous eyes and attention lapses noted by observers later in the war are consistent with strychnine poisoning; another ingredient in the pills, antropine, causes mood wings from euphoria to violent anger. Even more peculiar were the injections of amphetamines that Morell administered every morning before breakfast from 1941, which may have exacerbated the erratic behavior, inflexibility, paranoia and indecision that Hitler began to display increasingly as the war ground on. And there was a barrage of other supplements — vitamins, testosterone, liver extracts, laxatives, sedatives, glucose and opiates, all intended to combat the dictator’s real or imagined ailments. After the war, U.S. intelligence officers discovered that Morell was pumping Hitler with 28 different drugs, including eye-drops that contained 10 percent cocaine (up to 10 treatment a day), a concoction made from human placenta and “potency pills” made from ground bull’s testicles. But despite the barrage of medicines, Morell’s diaries (which were recovered from Germany and are kept in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.) make clear that the bouts of “agonizing flatulence” remained a regular occurrence.

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November 3, 2007 at 4:05 pm

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