27 April 2010

all: morning roundup

Disturbing new video for M.I.A.'s single "Born Free."  So disturbing in fact that I'm not going to link to it.  It was taken down from YouTube, I presume because of content.  It's a scathing critique of American military action and British anti-redhead sentiment, which seems odd to type but works shockingly well in the video.  But it's horrifically violent and decidedly not safe for work, and I really shouldn't have watched it with breakfast.

On a happier, brighter note: Charlie Davies might be able to play for the USMNT in the World Cup.  He was in a terrible car accident back in October that we all thought put him out until after South Africa.  But apparently he's made excellent progress.  Here's the Gray Lady's Q & A.

And Chuck is back!

23 April 2010

politics: chickens

Sue Lowden, GOP political candidate for the Nevada senate race, has suggested that an effective form of payment for health care services would be a barter system.  Her example was, like, you know, we could exchange a chicken for an annual check up or something.  The good folks over at TPM have been tracking this story, and Josh Marshall has just provided this great link to the Lowden Plan. It takes common medical procedures and calculates how many chickens you'll need.  Get breast cancer, no worries, just bring 3494 chickens.

One or two questions though, since Tyson processes 41.4 million chickens per week, are we going to run them out of business now that we'll be diverting chickens from food processing to health care?  Do we need to raise more chickens?  And what about city dwellers and those pesky no livestock within the city limits ordinances? And, what are those doctors going to end up doing with all that livestock?  Sell them on to Tyson at an inflated price?  Just thinking this through to its logical conclusion here.

22 April 2010

epistemic closure

So, a mini-battle about epistemic closure has emerged on the conservative side of our political conversation.  Essentially, some conservative pundits--most notably Ross Douthat--have been arguing for an increased willingness among conservative thinkers to self correct, to call bad arguments and fallacious statements among their own as well as among liberals.  The idea is that conservative thinkers--all thinkers really--need to hone their ideas through rigorous debate between and among others.  Epistemic closure occurs when everyone nods and goes along with ridiculous arguments for the sake of supporting an overarching ideological movement.

Taking up the gantlet, as it were, is Jim Manzi at the NRO's the Corner.  He essentially fisks Mark Levin's chapter in Liberty and Tyranny on global warming.  It's, well, gloriously sharp, witty, and absolutely skewers Levin's misuse of facts and information.  Well, not everyone else over at the Corner was too terribly pleased to say the least; wagon circling has ensued.  Andrew Sullivan, of course, has all the links.

21 April 2010

the victorians in the digital age

I'm currently working an a talk I'm giving on Thursday called the Victorians in the Digital Age.  It's, as the title implies, about the circulation of Victorian periodicals in cyberspace, but it's also tangentially about the ways we re-conceive the Victorians today.  It's a massive deep think piece really, and I'm afraid it's utterly geeky in many ways.  Taking what I do and explaining it to an audience completely unfamiliar with the whole concept of a Victorian periodical or even a field called periodical studies is a daunting task.  Plus, I'm trying to put together a power point presentation that will make the whole thing at least visually relevant.

Since my brain is currently on overload and highly under caffeinated, I won't discuss the larger project yet--more to come.

19 April 2010

forms traced by light

Despite the almost year absence, I have missed this space. So, here I go tentatively restarting this blog.  I blame Kate Flint.  She's a scholar at Rutgers who I heard speak at BWWC in College Station a few weeks ago.  She's, for lack of a better term, the scholarly equivalent of a rock star.  Her talk on reading practices and the kinds of book nineteenth-century travelers took with them was fascinating, multi-layered, and far reaching.

We also all discovered that Professor Flint has a blog called forms traced by light.  I've now added it to my RSS feed, and I figure if she can maintain a blog, then I should be able to as well.  Or at least do so with more continuity and dedication.

28 July 2009

film: the ugly truth

Sigh. I love my best friend; she truly is the best foul weather friend you can have. She has my back all the way, but she like romantic comedies. Now, I do too. I admit I actually own a dvd copy of Return to Me (yes, the film about the heart transplant; it's the old people kvetching about the various merits of Dean Martin versus Sinatra that does it for me). But, I like romantic comedies to be less paint by numbers. (See the old people in Return to Me.) But my best friend will go see anything as long as it has a big enough star and her office will talk about it the next week. This is how I got stuck seeing He's Just Not that in to You (somewhere in there is a touching indie film about Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston's characters), and how I also got stuck seeing The Ugly Truth.

Chris Orr of the New Republic pretty much covers all the bases here, but I think he gives the film too little time. I say that because I think he's right about how much more sexist this film is than Knocked Up, a film I still found sexist (really, did Leslie Mann's character have to be a shrill harridan), but also funny. I think this kind of vilification of career women as both inept and stupid, for lack of a better term, for looking for more in a mate is part of a growing trend of romantic comedies aimed at both genders. Katherine Heigl's Abby is a horrific, narcisstic control freak. It's Bridget Jones on acid with a successful career thrown in. Abby's success as a producer--an astute ability to read situations as well as what an audience wants--does not translate into her personal life in any other way except for her being a micromanaging control freak. In other words, because she's successful professional, she can't be successful in a relationship. Apparently, what makes Abby good at her job--an eye for detail--makes her horrible for relationships, which just makes no sense at all. It's like she's too different characters. I'm sure there's a lot of humor to be found in the oftentimes conflicting messages women receive about where to place their priorities; this movie just doesn't provide any of that humor.

At least we've stopped the pummeling of male leads in romantic comedies, a trend that irked me to no end. Why on earth do producers think people want to see a male romantic lead utterly berated, demoralized, and emasculated? I'm looking at you Ben Stiller. I didn't mind the stereotyping of Mike as a boorish male quite so much, in part because we get a little information about why he's so boorish--a string of bad relationships--and we see him as a decent father figure to his nephew. It's faint praise to be sure, and despite the depth Gerard Butler milks out of the character (helped by Craig Ferguson), Mike is almost as flat as Abby. But with no explanation for Abby's split character, it's impossible for Katherine Heigel to do anything with the role except stand there and read lines while in great clothes. The end exchange is the only place the movie can go because there is absolutely no character development, meaning that there is no reason for these two people to wind up together. "I have no goddamn idea" is the only thing the film can offer. Where's a copy of Bringing Up Baby, Roman Holiday, or even Return to Me when you need it?

24 July 2009

film: tron and the life cycle

I'd just totally had a fan girl moment when I saw the above picture of the Tron life cycle on Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood. I forget how much I liked that movie as a kid, which is a little strange, because I totally resisted watching it until my brother made me. And then I feel for Jeff Bridges's gravelly voice and irascible Flynn. I even liked the fact that Flynn didn't get the girl in the end or even really save the day, one of the few moments of the 80s anti-hero that worked for me. (The fact that Chuck Bartowski has a Tron poster helped to make that character for me; well, Zachary Levi doesn't hurt, but I do notice set dressing.)

Apparently, they're making a sequel. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that. Probably less worried than if someone told me they were making a sequel to the Last Starfighter, one of my all time favorite cheesy scifi films from the 80s. Oh crap, there's another movie night for J and me to add to the Ghostbuster double feature Sat. and the British gangster film triple feature of Layer Cake, Rocknrolla, and In Bruges.