Jan 25, 2011
Tim Pawlenty is running for president, and he has an ad masquerading as a movie trailer to prove it. We’re all counting on you to defeat the aliens, Tim!
a set of sharp and cogent notes
Nine years after the fact, says Jesse David Fox, we can see that Zach Braff's Garden State "was good enough to define the things that we come to hate in certain movies (and certain characters and people)"—and that, at least for the most part, we've retroactively "confused its influence for cliché."
Peter Frase in Jacobin on the naïveté and/or disingenuousness of policy-wonkery, "an appealing way to give one’s prejudices a fact-like veneer."
"Money should not be wasted on futile preventive programs to detect mental health problems that don't yet exist," says Allen Frances of Psychiatric Times on President Obama's sole politically-viable proposal post-Newtown. "Instead, resources should be invested where there is desperate need—to properly treat and decently house psychiatric patients who are now shamefully neglected."
Esquire's Stephen Marche, in an astounding piece of bullshit that manages to be both self-indulgently myopic and profoundly unselfconscious, "argues" (J.K. Rowling is richer than the queen! Famous authors are famous!) that today's whiny writers of literature and literary nonfiction are enjoying a "golden age."
Evgeny Morozov reviews Gavin Newsom's disappointingly naive tract on substituting Silicon Valley capitalism for the hard work of thinking: "After all, if we can make our own cheese, knit our own sweaters, and homeschool our children by having them watch TED talks for days on end, why bother with those pesky public institutions?"
James Wood says that while Tom Wolfe "is not wrong about those horses in Zola," his prefab "realism" amounts to details "scooped up off the sidewalk" and fails the demands of his own manifesto.
Joshua Rothman laments the demise of Google Reader, which "felt like filling up a bookcase. It was a place for organizing your knowledge, and also for stating, and reviewing, your intentions and commitments. It kept a record of the things you meant to read but never did; of the writers you loved but don’t anymore."
Both Pope Francis and his saintly namesake are contextually kind and humble—today's tends to modern-day lepers and takes the bus to work—but our new Francis's vision is less radical, less loving, and likely less relevant than his choice of name implies.
Charles Petersen runs through the philosophy of Stanley Cavell, an essential thinker whose project, at least from one angle, is to channel our essential subjectivity into a positive and generous approach to the world.
W.H. Auden reluctantly extols Sigmund Freud, whose dangerous method understands that "psychological events are not natural events but historical" and "stands for treating everyone as a unique and morally responsible person, not as a keyboard."
University of Chicago anthropologist Marshall Sahlins has resigned from the National Academy of Sciences last week citing objections to its electing a scientistic cultural imperialist, University of Missouri Professor Napoleon Chagnon, to its ranks.
Outgoing MLA President Michael Bérubé looks at the humanities and "can't avoid the conclusion that the value of the work we do, and the way we theorize value, simply isn't valued by very many people."
Alex Pappademas joins deposed Community dictator Dan Harmon on his podcast tour. A look into the tendencies of an obsessive, self-aware asshole whom friends and audiences still love.
Nitsuh Abebe considers the Beyonce brand, and how she turns perfection-focused overachievement from a bug to a feature.
"Stressing austerity, as part of a determination to get the public finances under control, is a cheapish way of exerting some agency." John Lanchester on Britain's counterproductive, feel-good stabs at deficit reduction.
The morally-bereft Chamber of Commerce of Portland, Maine, worries that the city's homeless shelters both function too well and aren't profitable enough.
A trenchant and important reply to Liza Long's much-fêted but ill-considered "I am Adam Lanza's Mother": "We gave credence to this post precisely because it told us that some people are inhuman, broken from birth, bad, and therefore unknowable."
"We walk around with a well-worn romantic idea of sex as a kind of overwhelming, animalistic force that possesses us and leads us to action, whether we like it or not. But of course sexual desire can also, in the crucial moment, fail to overwhelm us, and in our world this is really the more urgent, anxiety-provoking, and lonely situation." Elaine Blair reviews Lena Dunham's Girls.
Unabashed bigot Antonin Scalia is such a petrified, retrogressive prude that he equates anal sex to murder, while the inept Clarence Thomas is flabbergasted that someone so sleepy and pubic-hair-obsessed as he gets any say in the equality of millions of Americans.