I don’t write much about poetry here, but I wanted to acknowledge the passing of Adrienne Rich, for whom poetry was a tool in “the creation of a society without domination.” Listening to her read “Diving into the Wreck” is remarkable. And it makes it all the more painful that with her gone, we can no longer access “the wreck and not the story of the wreck / the thing itself and not the myth.” It’s harder for me to think of a better description of our broken world and the quest to bind it up again than her gorgeous quest for “the damage that was done /and the treasures that prevail.”
It’s been nine years since Augusta National Golf Club emerged largely unscathed from a battle with feminist activist Martha Burk, who led a protest outside the club’s signature event, The Masters, over its policy forbidding female members. But in two weeks, the club may be forced into the 20th — er, 21st — century, thanks to IBM’s decision to make Ginni Rometty its first female CEO earlier this year. Rometty’s promotion has the club facing quite the dilemma, as Bloomberg reports:
As Augusta National Golf Club prepares to host the competition next week, it faces a quandary: The club hasn’t admitted a woman as a member since its founding eight decades ago, yet it has historically invited the chief executive officer of IBM, one of three Masters sponsors. Since the company named Rometty to the post this year, Augusta will have to break tradition either way.
Change comes slow at Augusta, a club that clings to tradition proudly and loudly, even if that tradition is full of discrimination. The first black player won his way into The Masters field in 1975, but Augusta ignored outside pressure to admit a black member for another 15 years.
Its response to women has been the same. It trudged on in the wake of the Burk protests, winning over golf fans (equality be damned) by airing the tournament with limited commercials after she pressured sponsors to pull out. Just last year, it banned a female reporter from entering the players’ locker room, drawing protests from male and female journalists alike.
Rometty’s situation, though, gives her leverage Burk never had. The CEOs of the other two Masters sponsors, Exxon Mobil and AT&T, are both members, and they’ll both be donning the club’s signature green jackets next week. If Rometty isn’t allowed to join them (and given Augusta’s history, she probably won’t be), it will send another message to the 6 million American women who play golf and countless others who watch it that even if they are capable of breaking every last one of corporate America’s glass ceilings, they aren’t capable of playing golf with the boys.
The Masters, as CBS likes to remind us, is a “tradition unlike any other.” This year, though, Augusta has a chance to break with one tradition it should have ended a long time ago.
I may be a total naif here, but I’m not sure I realized precisely how totally naked actors and actresses got during sex scenes until I read this Vulture conversation with two actresses and an actor whose names were changed to protect their privacy. It covers everything from psychological prep for filming a sex scene for the first time to on-set arousal. And I thought their perspectives on whether men or women are more vulnerable during nude scenes was, if you’ll pardon the pun, revealing:
Betty: I dunno. Men are sometimes as freaked having to go shirtless as women are getting naked altogether. For me, once I was down to my undies, or a string bikini, I might as well go for broke. What’s a nipple or two between friends? Several times I’d be in some flesh-colored bodysuit or G-string, but they’d keep catching the edge of it on-camera, so I’d just take it off to expedite the filming process. Since I never did an X-rated movie, I trusted that whatever body parts they caught on film that they didn’t want, they’d deal with in editing. But unfair? Probably, but there are so many unfair things about being a woman in film — and other industries — what’s one more?
Veronica: No, I guess not. Let’s face it, for male nudity to be anything meaningful they have to show their dick. A woman doesn’t have to go all the way for it to be a big deal. Guys have so much at stake: “Is it big enough, is it shaped well, is it all shrunk up?” It is harder for a guy to be aesthetically pleasing when naked, in my opinion.
Archie: I don’t think it’s unfair that women show more nudity in movies at all. As a dude, the truth is that a man’s package is way more, well, visible. You’re never going to see much more than a bit of muff from a woman in a scene, and that is really little more than the coming attraction for what really lies beneath. On the other hand, once you see an actor’s dong, you’ve got a pretty good idea of the kind of firepower he’s packing.
Or it could be that women are expected to be naked and visually available in way that men aren’t, so actresses have to get over that expectation or lock themselves out of certain kinds of work while men are allowed to treat their naughty bits as if they’re delicate flowers that will wilt if exposed to the light, and millions of viewers. It’s why Jason Segel and Michael Fassbender get credit for going full-frontal while Sarah Jessica Parker gets treated like she’s a prude for not wanting to go topless in Sex and the City.
I was a vocal defender of the idea behind Smithsonian’s The Art of Video Games exhibit when the dates for it were announced last spring, and I continue to think that an excellent, comprehensive exhibit of video game art is a good idea. But despite some intelligent framing and good curation ideas, The Art of Video Games feels too defensive to be that show.
Perhaps the biggest problem with The Art of Video Games is how much space it feels compelled to devote to testimonials insisting that video games are, in fact, art and worthy of an exhibit of this magnitude. Judging by the massive crowds at the show, that might have been a necessary case to make to donors and curators, but audiences didn’t need to be convinced. One of the joys of attending the show was seeing how excited visitors were to it to see the popular art that’s been important in their lives treated as if it’s worthy of professional assessment and attention. And curating the show more confidently without stopping to justify it would have both eliminated waste space and given little ground to those who doubt the need for The Art of Video Games at all.
Waste space is a problem: the exhibit feels alternately stuffed and and under-full. It’s a three-room show, which doesn’t seem like very much space for an exhibit that’s meant to be comprehensive. The first has concept art, packaging for old games, video interviews with game creators, and a multi-media explanation of the evolution of graphics. But the show’s almost entirely uncaptioned, so it’s hard to tell why these artifacts and not others made it into the show, or what stages of game development they’re meant to represent. The second room has consoles set up that let visitors play classic games on large-scale screens. But once again, they’re captioned with basic summaries of the game rather than any framing that would provide clear context for their inclusion or the advances they represent, and it means that the middle of the exhibit is slowed down by lines of people waiting for their shot at a controller.
The final room is the most interesting, but it still illustrates the show’s weaknesses. The display takes viewers through key games for each major console, with walkthroughs of gameplay to illustrate what console improvements let designers do with everything from character design, to cut scenes, to incentives. It’s a fascinating way to present information, but it also means that viewers are fighting for space at the relatively small screens where the walkthroughs are projected. The audio for each walkthrough’s piped through a single phone at each screen, which means that, even though the narration is captioned on the screen, people end up close to the screen, blocking them. There’s basically no way for any attendee to access all the information in the exhibit.
It’s too bad, because—though I’ll leave it to experts like Harold Goldberg to critique what the voting system that got games into the exhibit included and what it ended up leaving out—there’s a lot of terrific information in the show, whether you’re a long-time gamer or an interested novice. I hadn’t known, for example, that Metal Gear Solid can be played all the way through without killing an enemy. And while it’s not very interesting to hear generic defenses of video games as art, listening to creator Jenova Chen talk about the games he’s designed, like Flow and Flower, which absorb viewers in the natural world, provides a fascinating look at how gaming might answer the demands of a new generation of gamers and a the creative aspirations of a new generation of game designers and developers. It would also have been fascinating—and a good defense of the idea that games are a minor commercial product rather than art—to see games in the context of other media. I really enjoyed seeing the similarities between how Rez, Hackers, and The Matrix visualized the internet in its early days.
But fan enthusiasm and justifying an exhibit don’t a coherent narrative make. There are stories to be told about the development of video games in the past, and where they’re going in the future. And there are stories to be told about the artists, who appear here only in testimonials, rather than accompanied by relevant biographical representation (the show is careful to represent both female gamers and game producers, but it doesn’t discuss institutional sexism in the industry much, or how it affects its output). We’re getting terrific fiction out of the role that video games play in our lives and our economy, like Ready Player One and Reamde. Maybe, if we can finally get a Bioshock, Halo, or Mass Effect movie adaptation off the ground, we’ll have movies to match. And The Art of Video Games won’t be the only museum exhibit we’ll get about this art, this industry. Hopefully, this will lay a foundation for a show that has confidence in itself, and a story to tell about these gorgeous alternate universes.
Deadline reports the latest Rentrak data about DVD rentals:
Consumers spent $5.65B renting DVDs and Blu-ray discs in 2011, Rentrak says this morning citing data from its Home Video Essentials tracking service. That’s down 3.4% from 2010. But consumer defections from disc rentals appear to be accelerating. In the last three months of the year, rentals were -21.3% from the same period in 2010, as business at kiosks — including Redbox, which charges $1.20 a night — grew by 28%.
I’m not sure if this data includes Netflix rentals, but in any case, the same trend is roughly true for that company as well: now that subscriptions to Netflix DVD and streaming services are separate, subscriptions to the DVD-by-mail service are down. And we don’t have data yet about whether the end of Netflix’s streaming deal with Starz, which means that a bunch of content that was previously available streaming is now only available by mail, is driving consumers back to the DVD service.
My guess is that ultimately DVDs will become a luxury-item business. People will still want to buy fancy box sets with extra features that come all wrapped up in gorgeous packaging for their very favorite things. But most of us, they’ll become an inconvenience: the discs and the cases will take up space, and even a several day wait to get them will seem so irritatingly slow as to not be worth it for all but the most desirable content. And making both video and books impulse purchases that are instantly available may increase how much we use them. Netflix streaming’s grown to be a huge proportion of internet use, and while the numbers are self-reported, there’s some data to suggest that e-reader owners buy and read more books. It’ll just be interesting to see at which point television and music creating companies accept that they’re in the same position book publishers are, and offer dual formats rather than pushing DVDs over downloads. Ultraviolet is a step in the right direction, but I’m not sure getting cloud storage space with a disk is as attractive as getting cloud storage space with a download: the whole point of cloud storage is not having to deal with those pesky discs and format transfers.
The bridge is yours.
-This new James Brown biography looks pretty good.
-Modern Family‘s cast would like all the money, please.
-Could The Hunger Games get a Best Picture nomination?
-Gamers have bigger reward centers in their brains.
-One more day until Community day!
I’ve written in the past that perhaps the greatest sign of Hollywood’s racism is the deeply boring white actors it gives chance after chance when compared to the wildly talented black actors it refuses to aggressively promote and develop. But the industry is determined to keep giving these fellows chances. So not to get all Regina George about it, but here are five boring white dudes I wish Hollywood would stop trying to make happen. Because to some degree or another, it’s never going to happen. I’m not saying these men don’t deserve to find work, or that they’re bad people (with one exception). But if Hollywood has limited capital and advertising dollars to spend, it could be spending it more interesting places.
1. David Lyons: There is no penance too great to be done for The Cape, NBC’s epically awful attempt at a superhero story. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make a show that looks and feels like old-timey comics, but it doesn’t work when a stump is standing in for your lead actor. But Lyons is getting another shot, in the J.J. Abrams show that people are still insisting is about “a world where all forms of energy have mysteriously cdased to exist.” I guess from one ludicrous premise to the next?
2. Alex Pettyfer: Need a generic-looking dude for your adaptation of a book that came out of James Frey’s Young Adult fiction factory? For your silly remake of Beauty and the Beast? Pettyfer is your dude, as long as you don’t mind him acting like a diva on-set (or the rumors that he stalks his ex-girlfriends). Bland handsomeness is a dime a dozen. If only Hollywood was willing to jettison the bland jerks, and recognize that they can get bland personalities to match, and at least get to neutral.
3. Jason O’Mara: To be fair, Terra Nova had problems other than its totally generic leading man, including expensive special effects paired with a total lack of careful thought about what to do with its promising concept. But O’Mara didn’t exactly bring anything special or original to the party. But never fear: of course he’s getting another shot, this time, in a new show from CBS about former Las Vegas Mayor Ralph Lamb.
4. Sam Worthington: Perhaps the most egregious example on this list, Worthington’s the face of two franchises—Avatar and the Titans movies, despite an utter lack of a personality or much in the way of a range of facial expressions. Neither franchise is particularly dependent on Worthington’s performance, but man I’d like a more interesting actor to get at least a bit of the credit for carrying them.
5. Zac Efron: Yeah, I know, there’s the teen and tween factor. But strip Efron of his trademark swoop of hair and the opportunity to sing overblown songs on the Disney channel, and it’s not particularly clear what his appeal is or his talents are. Sure, there’s a viable romantic comedy market out there, but people like Channing Tatum, who have actual personalities, might have an up on Efron there. We ladies? Not stupid.
My decision in the Morning New’s Tournament of Books is finally live, so I can reveal that I picked Teju Cole’s Open City over Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, and I can finally discuss both books without tipping my hand about what—or how—I’d be judging.
There’s a fascinating discussion in comments about the key event in the book. Julius, a somewhat depressed psychiatrist who is the main character in the novel, spends much of the book reconnecting with Moji, a girl he knew when they were both growing up in Nigeria. But towards the end of the novel, Moji reveals her real motivations for getting to know Julius as an adult: Julius sexually assaulted her when they were young teenagers, and she’s wanted to see if he remembers his actions and feels regret or remorse. Commenter Neighbors73 raises an objection that others brought up as well: “I guess I’m the only one who is still struggling with the idea of a 14 year old boy forgetting he’s a rapist?”
I can understand why some readers might find this jarring. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t. The power of that conversation between Moji and Julius lies in its dissonance, the fact that an event that was shattering for one person was forgettable for someone else. And this is the kind of thing that can happen when we don’t treat boys and girls equally about what consent means. It’s just as important to teach boys that no genuinely means no as it is to teach girls to say no in the first place. Putting sole responsibility on women is a sick joke when men can override their lack of consent.
And when we don’t teach boys what consent genuinely means, and why obtaining it is critical, this is where we get these horrendous differences in memory. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that someone would forget a one-time sexual encounter in a lifetime of them if that’s the way their lack of knowledge and empathy lead them to read an assault. And I find it all too plausible that a 14-year-old could rewrite what for a woman was a lifechanging sexual assault into a routine, and barely-remembered hookup at a party. Julius didn’t forget assaulting Moji because he’s a sociopath who can easily put a rape out of his mind—he forgot assaulting Moji because he doesn’t understood himself to have assaulted her in the first place. This doesn’t absolve him of moral responsibility, then or now. In fact, it shows him to be more globally detached and inconsiderate than we’d previously seen. It’s a revelation that forces us, and Julius, to revisit everything we’ve come to understand about him.
This post contains spoilers through the May 27 episode of Justified.
I was joking on Twitter last night that sometimes, the best endgame I can possibly see for Justified would be that Wynn Duffy and Raylan Givens lay down their arms and their Bluetooth headsets, forgive their old enmities, and open up a bar in a convenient holler somewhere. Perhaps with barbeque catered Ellstin Limehouse, if he lives through this season, though given that the title of the finale is “Slaughterhouse,” and an awful lot of people want his money, is not something I would particularly count on. But I think there’s something to that: Raylan and Wynn are both cantankerous, both wily, and in their own way, both quite competent. You’ve got to wonder if at some point they might recognize that they have more in common than not and make common cause.
This, however, seems unlikely to be that day, mostly because right now, Wynn and Raylan share a similar objective but very different plans for what they’d do if they achieved it. At the moment, Wynn seems closer to having a handle on Quarles than Raylan does. No matter how slippery a man is, shackles and the determination of a riled-up Boyd Crowder can be an excellent deterrent. One would guess that would be a fragile alliance. Wynn may have a deal with Sammy Tonen to turn him over—though that’s a risky proposition when, as Tonen puts it, “To kill Bobby Quarles? Yeah, I plan on sending more.”—but Boyd’s sense of self, which has taken repeated knocks this season as he attempts to set himself up as Harlan’s most impressive kingpin, has been injured.
Our other dirtbag alliance du jour is between Dickie Bennett and Limehouse’s henchman, tied together by an aggrieved sense that they could run things a lot better themselves. “Man won’t let us change with the times. I think you might have had experience dealing with someone like that yourself,” the man from Noble’s Holler tells Dickie, after warning him that Mr. Limehouse doesn’t take kindly to disparagement. I suspect this union is little more than plot mechanics, but it would be interesting to see the Bennetts and Limehouse’s operation in fuller juxtaposition. Harlan’s history is so rich.
Beyond the criminals, our lawmen aren’t in the best of shape. Raylan’s a mess, whether from offending bartender Lindsay or throwing down with Quarles, prompting a fatherly lecture from Art on what may be the real problem at hand. “The prospect of first-time fatherhood can make a man feel unmoored,” Art advises, trying to calm his best man, and his twitchiest. “To be clear, I just don’t need you to be any more reckless than normal. Whatever your failings are likely to be as a father, I’m pretty sure your child will be better off if you stay above ground long enough to make his acquaintance.” Rachel, on the other hand, is doing better, though she has to make a knee-punctuated point with a handsy criminal, and even that little bit of work made me immensely glad that she’s back.
There are a lot of television shows where I find myself wishing they were more clearly focused on one of the multitudes they contain because the main storyline is unsatisfying. It speaks well of Justified that I love the core of it, but could easily watch any one of a number of shows set in its universe in addition to it. Whether it’s Rachel or Noble’s Holler, I’d love to watch a show about Harlan through an African-American perspective, to see it in conversation with the white men in white hats.