The Vehicle by Which Lileks Manages to Merge His Efforts at Adjusting His Attitude with That Lame Newsweek Article About Beta Males

Filed under:Authors,Heh,Movies — posted by Anwyn on May 31, 2007 @ 11:24 pm

“I don’t want any of this lover’s lament crap. I want something peppy, something happy, something up-tempo. I want something snappy.”

Update: Lileks still has a job. Let’s hope somebody gave him more than 300 words to play with this time.

Weekly Tolkien: Go Not to the Elves, Follow-Up

Filed under:Tolkien — posted by Anwyn on May 30, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

Last week got away from me before I knew it. Not an auspicious beginning to a three-week-old feature, but on we go.

Just a quickie this time, a follow-up to last time’s observations on Elves. LagunaDave said:

In some ways, the Elves remind me of religious people who devoutly believe they will spend eternity in a heaven where everything is perfect after they die.

Dave’s point was ultimately that Valinor (or heaven) is boring and not worth it, but I’ll take it in a different direction: The Elves don’t believe, they know that Valinor is open to them at any time. This marks a huge difference between Tolkien’s Elves and the faith of real, human Christians. Behaving in a certain way on the basis of a nebulous promise of something assumed to be good (heaven) is quite different from having to behave in no particular way to attain what is the only reward (or punishment) available (Valinor). My question is: did Tolkien anticipate this? Did he understand that the Elves would be a dead end precisely because their existence was bound to the seen, known, and earthly? Or was he trying to idealize or knock down heaven to a more, um, equitable state? It’s real, it’s here, it’s free to all unless you screw up royally, just be normal and you’ll be fine. If the latter, he must have been surprised when there was nothing left to do with Elves, simply because the predictability of their fate led inevitably to the predictability of their whole existence–an ironic dead end for beings who live forever. I tend to think that with his emphasis on the Gift of Men, he realized from the get-go that the Elves weren’t going to cut it and was using them as an illustration of what happens when some people get what they wish for–i.e. proof of God and heaven. Hard to say for sure without doing a lot more reading than I have time for at the moment, though.

Sad but true: faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. When you can see it, and travel to it, and live forever idyllically in it, all surety and no faith makes Jack Elf a dull boy. Did Tolkien know this, or did he start with a well-meaning plot to bring heaven to the agnostic and wind up with a whole race of dull boys?

Lessons My Father Taught Me, #2

Filed under:Church of Liberalism,Politics — posted by Anwyn on May 29, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

I thought I already told you, never vote for a damned socialist.

Lessons My Father Taught Me, #1

Filed under:Church of Liberalism,Politics — posted by Anwyn @ 10:15 am

Don’t vote for a socialist.

What Is Fact, My Friends?

Filed under:Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on May 24, 2007 @ 9:40 pm

Gerard Van der Leun discusses the absence of fact checking in publishing. I’m shocked, shocked, that there are copy editors out there less rigorous and stringent about fact checking than I am.

No I’m not. What I am surprised at is the existence of a group called “Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America” and its status as a CBS shareholder. This group is about to get all demanding and shirty with Jimmy Carter about little things like “errors” about the Middle East in his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Van der Leun notes:

The Carter book is chock-a-block full of lies and distortions and weasel phrases that are the hallmark of the sad and irritating career of the worst President the United States has had and the worst it is likely to have. But lies are as much a part of Carter’s post-Whitehouse career as the phrase “I’ll never lie to you” was part of his initial appeal. That numerous associates of the risible “Carter Center” have resigned because this time the lies were too thick to be swallowed smoothly in exchange for a check is well documented.

But to think that Simon & Schuster are going to spend one penny on a “fact-checking” system or a “code of ethics” is simply foolish. Book publishers don’t do that and not because, as was stated in the same article:

“It’s not realistic,” the editor in chief of Publishers Weekly, Sara Nelson, said. The call for publishers to have “full-on fact checking” does not make economic sense, she said, as they publish a lot of books.

Publishers won’t do it because they not only don’t have to (it would be costly, but not nearly as much as the millions they lavish on their pet authors), but because fact-checking our many fanciful and forthrightly lying authors would not be in the publishers’ interests.

It’s not totally economic. Many facts can be checked in 30 seconds of web searching and probably wouldn’t add that much to the money being paid a freelance copy editor, and as Van der Leun points out, even at maximum expense it couldn’t compete with millions paid to celebrity authors. The non-economic problem is twofold: even for the “attack dog” copy editors Van der Leun mentions, it’s not realistic to expect us to expend the mental energy to question every fact in the book, which leaves us checking only the ones we know or sense to be wrong. Which leads us to the second part of the problem. Van der Leun:

Publishers know when authors are lying but, as long as the lies map to the publishing industry’s internal view of itself, that’s just fine with them. It’s not about being “true,” but being “true to your school.”

I disagree. It’s worse than that: in a book with ideological slant that caters to the editors’ worldview, they can no longer tell fact from opinion or even from fiction, because if lies fit in nicely in with their worldview then, looping back to the first part of the problem, it does not occur to the editor to question the “fact,” much less check it. Something has to seem wrong before it gets checked; “if it sounds good, print it” becomes the de facto rule.

Celebrity authors are all well and good; the author as luminary in the editors’ worldview just makes it that much more unlikely that they will question his facts. Fact checking exists, but a fact needs to seem like it should be checked before it will be. Simple as that. If the distortions and lies are simply part of the worldview a particular editor has been listening to for years, they pass as part of the wallpaper, never noticed or remarked.

I’ve Been to London to Visit the Queen

Filed under:Cool,Television — posted by Anwyn on May 23, 2007 @ 9:04 am

Hugh Laurie gets the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth.

I Take It Back, Ace

Filed under:Television — posted by Anwyn @ 1:19 am

The Quote of the Day actually came from Piz, on the season finale of Veronica Mars: “Rob Thomas is a whore.”

Rob Thomas, lead singer of Matchbox 20 as referenced in the quote, is also the name of the creator of Veronica. Code, my friends, for this little gem at much-reviled (by me) Ain’t It Cool News. I’m just going to quote the whole thing, since the post *this* post is quoting is no longer up at CW forums:

I couldn’t confirm this story, but…

["]HOLLYWOOD – In a shocking move that has fans and critics alike cheering, the News Corp television network MyNetworkTV has snatched Veronica Mars from the jaws of cancellation.

The network announced late Tuesday that it has sealed a one-year, $24 million deal with Veronica producer Warner Brothers, leaving the CW, the series’ home since its transition to the CW network when UPN and the WB merged. MyNetworkTV will fork over about $1.1 million per episode for the first season with the option for a second, the Hollywood Reporter said. The deal also includes a provision that would allow MyNetworkTV to have first pick up on any new Rob Thomas television projects for the next two years. “We are incredibly pleased to have Veronica Mars on MyNetworkTV,” Roger Ailes, the network’s president, said in a statement. “Not just because it is one of the best shows on the air and represents a new era in MyNetworkTV’s life and direction, but more importantly because Rob Thomas is one of the finest writers and producers in television.” During the past season, the show has averaged 2.48 million viewers in its 9 p.m. Tuesday timeslot, but has a passionate fan base which has donated upwards of 300 DVDs of the series to public libraries across the country. The 64th and final CW episode of Veronica Mars will air May 22.["]

Now, I couldn’t find a source for this story, and I had just copied the post when it seems someone at the CW removed it from their forum. It would be very cool to find out this is true, but the one problem I have is looking up stories on Roger Ailes, quoted as the network president in this news story, I find he may actually be the Fox News president. Hopefully this isn’t a sick joke.

You “find” he “may” actually be the Fox News president? Well done on your sleuthing skills, mate. Roger Ailes is the president of Fox News, the chairman of Fox Television Stations, and the president of their year-old UPN replacement, MyNetworkTV, all still according to the Wiki. Also according to the Wiki, however, MyNetworkTV is phasing out its “soaps,” whatever it has that can be dignified by that name, and replacing it with an all-reality format.

If that’s true, then this tantalizing Veronica rumor is just that and nothing more. CW, I’m sure, doesn’t want it cluttering up their already shirty Veronica forums, whether it’s true or not–those of us who were still watching CW are already trying to find out where MyNetworkTV is on our dials. Talk about your cliffhanger–the season (series?) finale was classic Veronica, well done and able to either walk out of our lives into the sunset or to pick up where it left off. Rob Thomas doesn’t seem the type to whore the show right out of its creative integrity, but things got a little shaky this season. I hope it can come back in full varnish, but if not, better just let it ride off while it’s still ahead.

Via my fellow VM fans at Whedonesque.org.

Well, That Sucks

Filed under:Television — posted by Anwyn on May 22, 2007 @ 11:17 pm

I constantly underestimate the effect of teenagers and other assorted young’ns in issues of mass-media voting. Darn those meddling kids. Joey was the consistently better dancer and the better all-around entertainer. I suppose the same could be said of Mario Lopez, as well … which just says all the more for the talent and teaching and choreography choices of Cheryl Burke and Julianne Hough. Sigh.

Quote of the Day

Filed under:Heh — posted by Anwyn @ 1:04 pm

“If it weren’t for super left hippy chicks giving it up to guys just for mouthing leftwing platitudes, I swear, this country would be 80% conservative.”

Live TiVo-Blogging Dancing with the Stars Finals

Filed under:Television — posted by Anwyn on May 21, 2007 @ 9:30 pm

A little behind even the West Coast feed since I’m TiVoing it.

First up: Laila and Maks’s paso doble was about >this< much better than their last paso doble. I have to go by what Carrie Ann said about it being technically so much better, because I really don't see it--that is not Laila’s dance, and I really don’t think it’s even Maks’s. They both do better in the high-energy “drive” routines.

Next: Julianne and Apolo’s rumba. Bruno, SHUT UP ALREADY. I know I called him a “shrewd judge” in the past, but I think I was smoking something. He is far too enthusiastic at all times and far too generous with 10s. And far too blabbery with his mouth. It’s Len’s turn to speak–let him speak. And, surprise, once again I agree with Len. Julianne cannot help herself picking fast songs to go with slow dances. Too fast. Other than that I did agree a little with Bruno–that was far more chemistry than I’d seen out of those two all season. Apolo insisting in every early show that they’re like “brother and sister” didn’t really help the dance-floor vibe.

Here we go: Joey and Kym’s cha-cha-cha. Uhoh … speaking of too fast. Is that a real cha-cha? I don’t know that I like this new thing of having the judges pick which dance each couple needed the most work on and making them dance it in the finals. It’s too much like what my voice professors used to do to me at boards time–pick the song they think I don’t know. It doesn’t do them any favors with the fans voting on their score, and let’s face it–there’s not a dance future riding on whether they improved or not. Joey’s hips need help, and they shouldn’t still need help after ten weeks. What is that in the middle? Save it for the freestyle. Other bloggers have observed it before now: sometimes the music choices on this show simply suck hard. “Groove is In the Heart” for a cha-cha? Lame. Sorry, Joey. Love ya. Bring it in the freestyle.

Judges’ verdict: I’m vindicated! No cha-cha, too much freestyle. Sorry again, Joey. Len scores 8! Ouch!

Laila and Maks: Freestyle. I hope to God it’s not all The Snake and The Butterfly. Enough, already. Ohmigod, Maks, not you too with the Michael Jackson nonsense. Okay, this is looking good: not all one style of move, easy-going in music and movement, sexy enough without beeing too raunchy for Len, a little boxing motif going on, and comfy shoes for Laila’s knee problem. NO YOU DIDN’T: She did the Running Man. Aieee. Verdict: Cute and energetic without being wild. Oooh–Karina in the audience with Mario Lopez. Maks shirtless: Yes please.

Posting this now, will update through the rest of the freestyle …

Update: First freestyle scores: Carrie Ann’s giggling. Good sign. Okay, they wanted sophisticated, but please, are any of them going to do that in freestyle? Bruno: her strength is sex appeal and she should play more to that? I don’t know. She’s pretty well rounded. They should’ve taken the freestyle for what it was.

Update: Okay, tomorrow they’re going to dance their favorite dances. Good.

Aw, kids writing Laila letters–good for them and good for her thanking them. Damn, Len gives another 8: this is not last year’s finals.

Update: Julianne and Apolo freestyle. Why is she wearing hip-hop pants? Now sex appal is one of her very big strengths. I’m starting to hate the freestyle round: too many of them go straight to hip-hop, which really doesn’t do it for me to begin with, and ignores all the totally gorgeous dancing they’ve been rigorously taught. Joey, please don’t do us wrong like that.

Judges’ verdict: Len loves it. (!!!) Bruno says “original.” Um. Breaking to “Bust a Move” is original? I guess it is, for kids who were in diapers while I was listening to that in high school. Tens. Bleah.

Update: Emmitt, Drew, and Kelly tomorrow night. Whee, Emmitt!

Update: Ballroom clothes on Joey and Kym. Freestyle departure? Come on, Joey, knock our socks off.

Update: Okay, no departure. Ripped off the clothes and went into the … DISCO? YES. Joey, I have to say, is not looking like his usually flashy self, but the choreography and music (and Kym) are more or less making up for it. Awesome shot of the mirror ball wit them dancing disco. Nice.

Update: Bruno loved it. Carrie Ann loved it. Len … Good God, a Harry Potter analogy out of the mouth of Len, and Bruno shuts up long enough to let him get it out. The TV world is ending. Lifts: “Effortless.” “I wish we had more than tens to give.” Excellent.

Update: So who am I voting for? Apolo surged at the end, but no way I’m getting behind him with Laila and Joey to choose from. (Sorry, Julianne. You’re still the firecracker.)

I gotta go with Joey. It pains me a little for Laila; 1) watching the athletes really get into the dancing is part of the fun of this show; 2) the women really are at a disadvantage because it’s harder for them to look good doing this alongside professional male dancers than it is for the guys alongside professional women; 3) it almost seems like cheating for a guy from N*Sync.

But not enough like cheating. They put him on the show despite his entertainment/dance background, much like Mario Lopez, though I guess Mario had a little less dance experience, so all’s fair in love, war, and dancing. Joey gets my vote. But here’s the thing: they really are still neck and neck. I’ve no idea who’s going to take it. Knock ‘em dead in the dancers’ choice round, Fatone.

Weekly Tolkien: Go Not to the Elves, Seriously

Filed under:Tolkien — posted by Anwyn on May 19, 2007 @ 9:14 pm

‘You are leaving the Shire … is not that so?’

‘It is,’ said Frodo; ‘but I thought my going was a secret known only to Gandalf and my faithful Sam.’ …

‘The secret will not reach the Enemy from us … I do not know for what reason the Enemy is pursuing you,’ answered Gildor, ‘but I perceive that he is–strange indeed though that seems to me. And I warn you that peril is now both before you and behind you, and upon either side.’

‘You mean the Riders? … What are the Black Riders?’

‘Has Gandalf told you nothing? … Then I think it is not for me to say more … The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out. … I do not think the Road will prove too hard for your courage. But if you desire clearer counsel, you should ask Gandalf.The choice is yours, to go or to wait.’

‘And it is also said,’ answered Frodo: ‘Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.

Tolkien’s Elves are a problem. When I was a child reading Tolkien, of course I couldn’t analyze them, but I instinctively wanted to be one, vaguely feeling how high and set apart they were. Why shouldn’t they be? They have no incentive whatsoever to live in the world and share its burdens. Would you care, if you could leave the world any time you wished to live forever in a realm of unspoiled bliss?

Yet it wasn’t always so. The Elves of The Silmarillion strove for power in the world and dominion over one another–Galadriel’s temptation to accept the Ring from Frodo represents the last flicker of that grasping spirit. The Elves, it seems, have had to learn the hard way that lunging for power will get them nowhere, and their only alternative is to accept what they’ve been given and to stay out of the remaining power struggles to the world. They say it outright: their day is past, mankind’s rise is at hand. I guess Frodo and company should have felt fortunate that Elrond and Galadriel should help and comfort them at all.

Tolkien tries to weave them into the story more integrally. At the Council Elrond claims a place in the battle for the Elves:

‘But it seems to me now clear which is the road that we must take. The westward road seems easiest. Therefore it must be shunned. It will be watched. Too often the Elves have fled that way. Now at this last we must take a hard road, a road unforeseen. There lies our hope, if hope it be. To walk into peril–to Mordor. We must send the Ring to the Fire.’

That at least is clear and not ambivalent like Gildor’s advice to Frodo. But it seems pretty easy to pronounce from on high that the Ring must be taken to the Fire, knowing full well that somebody else will have to do the actual taking. What makes the Elves so aloof?

The story was written for the Hobbits. The Elves serve as their surrogate parents in their maturation, but it is the Hobbits who must carry out the deeds, aided by their fellow Mortals, the Men of the West. Thus, like the best of parents, they know when to let their children take decisions and actions upon themselves, but it can be hard to watch from the outside. It’s easy to scorn the Elves as deus ex machina in matters such as the flight to the fords of Bruinen and finger them for sending Frodo into dreadful danger on the road to Rivendell without properly warning him of his peril. But their looming shadow behind the stalwart fastness of the Hobbits and men like Aragorn is what strikes the fear, such as there is, into Sauron and the Orcs and evil men who serve him. They represent the goodness and freedom of the West, and since their own coming of age they have guarded the heritage of man- and hobbit-kind until they should be ready to come into their own. The Lord of the Rings is about the transition of that power from Elves to Mortals, and if the Hobbits and Men don’t perform the task on their own, then they show they’re not ready for the Elves to retire, so to speak. As I’ve gotten older, I no longer want to be an Elf. Their advice is tempered, their power dwindling. But I still respect them as those who have been through the fires and come out grey and somewhat weary on the other side. They will have their reward in their own land, but never know the true release and freedom from care that will come with the Gift of Men–death and freed spirits. Go not to the Elves, but respect their counsel when it comes, nevertheless.

Review: Come Early Morning

Filed under:Movies,Reviews — posted by Anwyn on May 18, 2007 @ 10:22 pm

**SPOILERS**

It frequently happens that I see movies in pairs where one informs my opinion of the other. After Tuesday night’s viewing of Waitress, I sat down last night to watch Come Early Morning, writer/director Joey Lauren Adams’s ode to … well, I’m not sure to what, actually. Her hometown, where she insisted on filming despite greater financial advantage in other southern states? To her own difficult past? In that last link Premiere says that the lead character is trying to “overcome her humble hometown,” but it’s far less about the town than the classic tale of a family’s dysfunction setting up difficulties for one of its daughters. If anything, the setting, familiar and welcoming, peopled with concerned and loving neighbors in addition to her difficult family, is what keeps Lucy (Ashley Judd, in a part Adams wrote for herself before opting out of acting in the film altogether) going and seeking for some way to improve her road.

Essentially, both Waitress and Come Early Morning went after the same story, “young woman lifts herself out of a stuck past,” but Come Early Morning managed it much better. Both films are set in the South, but Come Early Morning is peopled with far more believable Southerners. Where Waitress went in for quirky comedy, Come Early Morning set up some plodding reality–it actually would have been almost stilted had not it been for the quick transitions between short scenes. Where Waitress allowed its heroine to come into glory through good fortune and simple deservingness, Come Early Morning presented us with a flawed woman barely even likeable through much of the movie, matched with a guy (Jeffrey Donovan, doubly interesting to me on account of A) his incredibly authentic Southern accent and mannerisms despite his New England upbringing and B) his being a dead ringer for my brother-in-law) who had a little more going on in the emotional department but not enough patience to stick with her. Thus both women end up alone and heading up the “strong and independent” road, but the end of Come Early Morning left me hopeful, while Waitress, as aforementioned, just left me disgusted with the breakup. Where in Waitress I felt that event after event just happening to Jenna with little control on her part devalued her character, in Come Early Morning we watch Lucy’s struggles to change her own behavior, take her own choices in hand, and leave behind what of her family’s troubled past she can’t reform. Her financial good fortune, unlike Jenna’s unexpected windfall, comes because she has the guts and the belief in herself to ask for control of the company her boss is leaving behind.

Kudos to Ashley Judd and Jeffrey Donovan for their heart-tearing portrayals of troubled and striving people. Kudos to Joey Lauren Adams for presenting Southerners, even charismatic holy-roller types, with sympathy and integrity. In one of the best scenes in the movie, Lucy goes to the minister and tearfully demands to know the meaning of a verse that describes God “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” The preacher, a leather-vest ’70s-sideburns type, offers her some straightforward advice when she wails that she’s been defrauded by the promise of “knock and the door shall be opened.” He tells her: “So stop knocking. And just walk in.” The Southerners in Come Early Morning, including and especially the preacher, are the kind that in almost any other film would be set up for mockery. Here they are the heroine’s saving grace. And she gathers up their kindness and moves forward, creating her own new growth and a better life. Hopeful indeed.

“Damn, Damn, Damn, Damn”

Filed under:Sad,Television — posted by Anwyn on May 17, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

Veronica Mars is cancelled. And apparently CW head Dawn Ostroff doesn’t know what the $#@& she’s doing:

12:47: The press conference is over. I tackle Dawn just as she tries to escape and I ask her to level with me. Is Veronica dead? “Veronica Mars is over, but we’re talking about something else. I don’t know if it’s going to be anything. I’m being honest with you. It could come back in some form, but I don’t know what form that would be.” She confirmed that the deadline to make a decision is “somewhere around” the June 15 date I referred to previously.

So “being honest” is the excuse for dangling uncomfirmed nonsense. Show creator Rob Thomas reacts:

No one has talked to me about a new, non-Veronica project. All my writers have been offered jobs elsewhere, and I believe they will now all accept these jobs. Very, very, very sad day around the VM offices.

“I assume that anything Dawn would be talking about in the realm of a Rob-Kristen project would involve a new from-scratch pilot as they don’t have me in a deal, and they’ll lose Kristen in a couple of weeks.”

I really don’t care if one of them is lying about whether anybody talked to Thomas about something new; it’s simply abysmally stupid of a head of network to talk about these uncoalesced potential things and put that out there to people who are invested in watching a TV show–and then she looks ten times as bad when the head of the show says he has no frackin’ idea what she’s talking about. Just say it’s over.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace