I know I said we’d do The Yiddish Policeman’s Union next, but would folks be up for doing Neal Stephenson’s Remade instead and Yiddish Policemen’s Union after? I’d really like to read Reamde with all of you. Let me know what you think. If folks are generally OK with this, I’ll post an initial assignment for Reamde on Monday and we’ll get talking on Friday.
This post contains spoilers through the end of William Gibson’s Neuromancer.
Ah, the peril of Kindle indexes without page numbers. I didn’t realize how close we were to the end of the novel when I picked our section break last time. But Molly’s “Ruby Tuesday”-like departure does get me thinking about the character. Are the residents of Babylon correct? Is Molly something more than human, Steppin’ Razor, who brings “a scourge on Babylon, sister, on its darkest heart”? And if so, can a deity be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl?
Molly is deliberately opaque about her past, and while the story about how she got her enhancements is undeniably traumatic, it reveals much more about the society she lives in than about Molly herself. As she tells Case:
“Surgeons went way in, that trip. Tricky. They must have disturbed the cut-out chip. I came up. I was into this routine with a customer. . . .” She dug her fingers deep in the foam. “Senator, he was. Knew his fat face right away. We were both covered with blood. We weren’t alone. She was all . . .” She tugged at the temperfoam. “Dead. And that fat prick, he was saying, ‘What’s wrong. What’s wrong?’ ’Cause we weren’t finished yet. . . .” She began to shake. “So I guess I gave the Senator what he really wanted, you know?” The shaking stopped. She released the foam and ran her fingers back through her dark hair. “The house put a contract out on me. I had to hide for a while.”
The totally unsubstantiated rumor that Idris Elba could be the next James Bond (really, discussion of the True Fact that he would be awesome at it) is back! I think it’s true that Elba, particularly after his amazing turn on Luther, has demonstrated that he has the chops to succeed Daniel Craig. For me, Craig’s main accomplishment, particularly in Casino Royale, was to define Bond who can take a tremendous amount of punishment as well as dish it out, and someone who has tremendous emotional vulnerabilities that he keeps mostly very well-disguised.
And beyond that, I think there’d be some real power, especially for American audiences, in a black Bond. It’s not like we don’t have black cops, black soldiers, and black spies. The Craig movies even gave Bond a black American counterpart, though Jeffrey Wright has very little time on-screen. But given the way our dialogues around black men and violence have failed to evolve; our widespread comfort with the state-sanctioned killing of black men, whether by the police or as part of an execution process; the way our pop culture depictions of black men overwhelmingly show them committing illegal acts violence rather than legitimized ones; I think there would be something significant about a depiction of a black cultural icon who has a license not just to protect people, but a license to kill, and not in self-defense.
Ta-Nehisi suggests that hip-hop doesn’t deal with romantic love particularly well. I agree there are fewer hip-hop ballads than I’d like, but in a way, the genre’s very good and nuanced about responsibility, failure, and compromise. So for Ta-Nehisi’s birthday, here are 10 great tracks from the genre about romantic love.
1. Cee-Lo Green, “All Day Love Affair.” Cee-Lo’s always had the lover-man thing going on, but this makes domesticity look about as blissful as it can get. “I would gladly walk you home but you’re already here,” is as sexy a statement of commitment as there is.
2. Mary J. Blige, “Flying Away.” Perfect flip side to Cee-Lo. I’d actually love to see these two duet.
3. Jay-Z, “Lost One.” I think Beyonce’s generally considered to have gotten the better of the songs that came out of her temporary breakup with her now-husband with “Irreplaceable,” but that Jay-Z teamed up with Chrisette Michele gets him mad points. Also the fact that the song’s a statement of respect of Bey for chasing her career for a while. “But she loves her work more than she does me / And honestly, at twenty-three / I would probably love my work more than I did she / So we, ain’t we / It’s me, and her / ‘Cause what she prefers over me, is work / And that’s, where we, differ /So I have to give her / Free, time, even if it hurts / So breathe, mami, it’s deserved / You’ve been put on this earth to be / All you can be,” is a pretty awesome statement of respect for working women. Because romance is about building a solid, broad-based foundation for both partners to succeed.
This post contains spoilers through the Sept. 29 episode of Community.
As I was writing recaps last night, AV Club editor and Friend of the Blog Todd VanDerWerff tweeted, “As I finish up writing out this Community review, it strikes me that @AlyssaRosenberg probably loved that A-plot.” He is absolutely correct that the prospect of an epic game of Model United Nations that turns into a speculative fiction two-Earths scenario settled by a multidimensional invasion designed by Abed is pretty much the definition of up my alley. But while I thought this was a fine episode of Community, I didn’t think it was a great one, once again concerned with recapitulating old issues — namely, Jeff and Annie’s mutual attraction, and Annie’s issues with success. I actually think both of these characters are fruitful territory and I have some hopes we’ll see something happen with the former, but the latter is handicapped by the fact that the show can’t actually let Annie do what a recovering successful person in her situation would do and transfer to another school.
Increasingly, one thing that bothers me about the show is the way it privileges different kinds of enthusiasm. I appreciate Abed’s pop culture enthusiasm — he is, after all, a stand-in for those of us who are the most passionate fans of the show. And I liked the moment where Professor Cligoris (the always welcome Martin Starr) declared with a little shiver of delight that he’d have to stay all night designing rules for an extra-complicated Model U.N. match. But I think there’s actually something really distasteful about the way the show treats activism as if it’s not just a lesser concern than, say, fandom, but actively stupid. I recognize that some campus activism (selling racially-priced cupcakes, chaining yourselves to things out of sheer cussedness) can be pretty silly. But not all college political engagement is stupid. And the show has treated politically aware students as if they’re all frauds from the earliest episodes of the show, whether it’s Annie and Shirley getting the details of protest all wrong (by Britta’s standards) in some of their first days of school in their eagerness to have an authentic college experience; to Annie and Britta’s mudwrestling match; to tonight’s showdown between Britta and Chang.
Their symbiosis was very funny, from Chang’s declaring that the handcuffs he’s carrying as a campus security guard are “just for sex,” to Britta’s bridge-too-far rant, to the other guard’s nostalgic remembrance of college radicals past. “She incited a riot at the WTO. Got choked until she passed out. By a real cop, with a real billy club. Sometimes I wonder, you know?” he sighs. “What are you waiting for? Go show that hippie how the world really works.” But it would land a lot harder if the show was clear that it’s Britta’s approach tor radicalism that’s hilarious rather than political engagement in college.
The bridge is yours.
-Star Wars-horror movie poster mashups.
-The movies Marvel is working on after The Avengers.
-Yup, bankers are still jerks, at least on television.
-Reports from the Man of Steel set.
Yesterday, The Onion caught a tremendous amount of flack for tweeting, as a kickoff to a longer Twitter narrative related to a story about a hostage-taking scenario in Congress (riffing, of course, on the debt ceiling debate), “BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building.” The publication followed that tweet almost immediately with another that was a clear joke, “BREAKING: Capitol building being evacuated. 12 children held hostage by group of armed congressmen. #CongressHostage,” but the initial tweet had already been dramatically amplified beyond the account’s followers and had people questioning whether real violence was underway.
So did The Onion go too far with the first tweet? It’s an interesting question that’s the result of a collision with two sets of norms: first, The Onion expecting that everyone will know that anything comes out under the publication’s name is a joke; second is the assumption that in the case of grave tragedy, everyone breaks character to respond to it. The latter norm is, I think, stronger, and in the age of Twitter, we haven’t really accounted for the few exceptions to that rule. I can’t think of a single situation where The Onion’s broken character. I mean, they did the September 11 attacks brilliantly, but they did them by digging deep and getting back to the core of what had made the site great, and pulling approximately no punches. This story about a Muslim kid getting bullied on the playground is heartbreakingly predictive and really damning, as was this savaging of commercial exploitation of the attacks.
So in a way, I appreciate The Onion’s resolute willingness to go a little too far in the service of what was a fairly sharp story. But I think they should have included a link to the actual story. If you’re playing by a slightly tweaked set of rules from everyone else, it doesn’t hurt to reaffirm that, especially when touching on sensitive ground in a medium that encourages misinterpretation and often loses context in the process.
I’m somewhat anxious about the turn that Raising Hope has taken this season into incredibly broad humor, but this article and watching Deadwood made me think about how much I like Garret Dillahunt. He’s a wide-ranging actor, but he’s also very good at doing something pretty difficult: making sympathetic characters who aren’t very smart.
Maureen, the Bunny who is supposed to be our entre into The Playboy Club in the show of the same name, is hard to sympathize with not because she’s bought into a false idea of liberation (though, the whole my-long-lost-dad-will-see-me-on-the-cover-of-Playboy-and-get-in-touch thing is pretty false), but because she’s really, really dumb. She leaves her blood-stained Bunny uniform poorly concealed under her bed in a Playboy-owned dorm. She keeps the key to the club owned by the man she killed in self-defense. She doesn’t seem to understand that hanging out in her underwear with a man one of her coworkers is dating might not be interpreted as a good-faith attempt not to flirt with the dude. All of her problems are self-created. And the plot doesn’t exist and move forward without Maureen making transparently dreadful decisions. That’s a recipe for disaster and perpetual infuriation.
But Dillahunt is kind of a genius at portraying characters who are, well, not that, but who don’t seem repellently stupid. Jack McCall is an obnoxious, thin-skinned sot, but in Deadwood, you can sort of see why Wild Bill Hickock needles him so much. Hickock has everything, but he’s not happy about it, and he’s not blowing it gleefully: he’s bitter, and obnoxious. McCall has nothing but the power to mess with Hickock, not even the power to resist doing it.
This post contains spoilers through the Sept. 29 episode of Parks and Recreation.
As someone who has spent a lot of time reporting on things governments do and the people who do them, I am constantly surprised by the way Parks and Recreation manages to find specific functions for the various departments it covers and make them slightly, and delightfully surreal. Also, the way it manages to take on various tropes of female behavior and make them incredibly funny.
In this first category is what Leslie describes as “Budgetary thunderdome!” an annual staredown between the various Pawnee departments. “So make lists of why other departments suck, and I’ll get our secret weapon.” As a perfect example of the marvelous dynamic between Leslie and Ron, Leslie’s looking forward to turning Ron into a weapon by targeting his libertarianism at agencies other than their own. Except the arrival of Tammy One is getting in the way of her careful plans. “You love arguing against government spending!” Leslie wails when she finds Ron tamed and shaved, a plot twist that could only come after the discovery of how funny Nick Offerman looks when some of his facial hair is surprisingly removed. I have to say, though, the fact that Tammy One is conducting a totally fake IRS audit of Ron as a way to get back into his life — and more importantly into his gold stashes — makes them seem like an even more perfect odd couple than Ron and Leslie, who clearly should be his work wife until the end of time.