craft

Matthew Yglesias:

Trying to do a piece of extended drama that embodied the values of pragmatic progressive reformism would be impossible. The results, if serious and true to the spirit, would be deadly dull. Moderate optimism about human nature and the possibility for change is, if done in an entertaining way, the stuff of light romantic comedies, not big-time drama…

In political terms [The Wire is] a dark vision that, like Dostoevsky’s, veers wildly between radical and reactionary and that exists, fundamentally, outside the lines of “normal” arguments about policy. Simon believes that we are doomed, and political progress requires us to believe that we are not. But aesthetically it’s an extremely powerful conceit. And at the end of the day, it’s a television show not a treatise on urban policy.

craft

Nathan Rabin:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: politics and good intentions have ruined more filmmakers than drugs and money combined. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. That goes double if the knowledge involved is political in nature.

quotes

Two unrelated quotes. Both are interesting.

One:

When a person is scared, a brain area called the amygdala becomes more active, laying down an extra set of memories that go along with those normally taken care of by other parts of the brain.

“In this way, frightening events are associated with richer and denser memories,” Eagleman explained. “And the more memory you have of an event, the longer you believe it took.”

Eagleman added this illusion “is related to the phenomenon that time seems to speed up as you grow older. When you’re a child, you lay down rich memories for all your experiences; when you’re older, you’ve seen it all before and lay down fewer memories. Therefore, when a child looks back at the end of a summer, it seems to have lasted forever; adults think it zoomed by.”

Two:

To a Democrat, if you get a blurb in the Washington Post, one day, that’s a public relations victory. To a Republican, once that blurb is repeated every day for 30 years then they declare victory.

politics

Keen observation: “I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but George W. Bush is being disappeared from the presidential campaign and everyone’s running against incumbent Hillary Clinton.”

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