television

The American version of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares on the Fox Network is like a blackened hamburger made out of AAA filet mignon. The footage is ugly, the exposition clumsy and obvious – like a drunk repeating himself.

The opening sequence mars the entire operation: where the British series used the motif of a single knife cutting through the air of a kitchen, the American series uses a dozen knives – and throws them, inexplicably, at the star of the show.

television

Deadwood, which turns out to be about America and Shakespeare, ends badly. It’s as if the producers found out the show had been canceled with two episodes left in the third season and then devoted those remaining episodes to killing the show slowly so the audience wouldn’t miss it when it was gone. What a tremendously great show, otherwise.

politics

Jonathan Chait:

Short-term fluctuations, often driven by events beyond the control of the party in power, are inevitable. So the way to win is not to win every election but to control the terms of the debate. The conservative movement’s signal triumph is to have done just this, reshaping what is possible in American politics over the long term.

Politics is a test of imagination.

music

The new Queens of the Stone Age album, Era Vulgaris, is excellent.

Like a great dessert, it is slightly perverse, simple in its presentation and complex in its elaboration. Turnin on the Screw, the opening track, has a lengthy bridge that is spun cotton candy: both mindless and elaborate.

Josh Homme is one of the most versatile rock singers of our time as well as an inspired songwriter. And where other bands struggle to perform live – producing stale covers of their own material – Homme and his collaborators can dig deep into a track while performing in front of tens of thousands of spectators.

theology

While reading Distant space collision meant doom for dinosaurs I thought: what if, by chance, there had been no such collision? Would they have evolved into something more like “us”?

The dinosaurs had a good run: 62 million years. What would another 50 million have done for them?

Then again, you could say they never went away. Without them, we wouldn’t be who we are today: consider the role of fossil fuels in human evolution. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and all that.

It’s tempting to see a thread of continuity, of a very loosely phrased “evolution,” in which we follow them and are, in turn, followed by some other.

We have no certain explanation as to why mammals took off just as the dinosaurs went extinct but we do know that the history of our planet consists of alternating cycles of life and death: “a rise and fall of marine animal diversity [occurring] every 62 million years [followed by] a weaker cycle of rising and falling marine diversity, which repeats every 140 million years.”

The details of death – or, on a mass scale, doom – don’t really matter. Even if the dinosaurs had evolved enough to detect the coming asteroids and deflect them (oh, to see that movie! Jurassic Armageddon!), chances appear to be such that they would eventually “mistakenly” transport world-ending weapons from one base to another or succumb to some ingenious, fatal virus – all while competing with one another for resources.

I’ve seen enough movies to know that even “Dinosaurs in Space” would end badly. The obelisk in 2001 is a tombstone. It’s the living (and dying) planet of Solaris which holds closer to truth.

At least, this is how I talk myself back to sleep in the middle of the night.

television

Deadwood is the best telenovela* I have ever seen. Everyone has just arrived, there is no law, life is cheap, labor is back-breaking. It should have been on Telemundo.

politics

Matt Taibbi:

The room twitters in amazement. It’s hard not to applaud the balls of a man who walks into Congress short $72 million in taxpayer money and offers to guess where it all might have gone…

A year later, Iraq is still in flames, and your president’s administration is safely focused on reclaiming $485 million in aid money from a bunch of toothless black survivors of Hurricane Katrina…

Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam ­Hussein’s Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient…

This is the triumphant culmination of two centuries of flawed white-people thinking, a preposterous mix of authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire profit­eering, with all the worst aspects of both ideologies rolled up into one pointless, supremely idiotic military adventure…

politics

  1. Yesterday

    “Some 100,000 Islamists have met in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, to press for the re-establishment of a caliphate across the Muslim world… The BBC’s Lucy Williamson in Jakarta says that of the estimated 100,000 people packing the stadium hired for the event, the overwhelming majority were women, who have travelled from across Indonesia to attend.” – The BBC

  2. Yesteryear

    “It is now clear that, contrary to claims of women’s removal from public life, American women throughout the 19th century were very active in public politics. They could pursue this activity most easily when it was put under the sign of “morality”. – The White Ribbon Reform

dreams

it’s been so long since i slept long enough to dream.

    1. an American soldier in Iraq runs away from his unit, takes off his uniform and hides from the ubiquitous enemy by taking shelter in a school. teachers refuse to share a room with him. he’ll try to pass himself off as not-an-American. a pair of black-clad mercenaries pay him a visit, challenging the logic of his plans.

    2. a restaurant deep under ocean water for the wealthiest of the wealthy.

movies

notes on a scandal

the philip glass score is deliciously suggestive. the pan across the notebooks in the opening sequence. the sober conversation that follows the freak-out – in front of the press. the high drama of the scene in the driveway: a dead cat vs. a special needs child. an inside-out Hitchcock movie.

the novel takes place over the course of two years. i would have loved another 10 minutes.

music

  1. nirvana, nevermind, 1991

    with the passing of time, the guitars no longer matter. instead, i notice how the vocals distort naturally with emotion. how the bass bounces and travels, how impeccably the drums were recorded, the drummer’s wit and vehemence. it could be released in 2008 and still sound new.

  2. my bloody valentine, loveless, 1991

    just as vertiginous and beautiful but somehow dated, like an orphaned technology. probably, the drums are to blame.