So, everyone noticed that Clint Eastwood at the RNC appeared determined to portray a cranky old man – scolding an invisible President Obama, represented by an empty chair. Eastwood seemed often incoherent, and fairly goofy.
But it seems also worth noting that Eastwood’s imaginary Barack Obama was angry, inarticulate, foul-mouthed – uppity, even; in need of correcting by an older white man. And Eastwood dispatched him with a movie line he used to cow an African American punk.
I read Henry Adams before I read Gore Vidal, but I liked Vidal better. Both were funny, but only Vidal was having fun. Which is not something everyone understands, that you can have great fun at the apocalypse. It was perhaps his least American trait.
A critic complained about the versions of Henry Adams and Henry James that Vidal made up. Vidal responded, but they made me up. He shared with Adams an apparent sense that American politics ought to have belonged to him, and as it didn’t, American history would. As motives to write history go, it isn’t the worst. He knew that the affairs of the republic were run by a small group of people who wanted to protect its property. He judged each faction of the group more or less by its tendency to agree with him.
In consequence, he had mixed feelings about FDR, who employed his father and disagreed with his grandfather; he held enduringly…
I loved Jeremy Irons’s performance in Margin Call, and not only because of John Tuld’s final monologue – which is in turn brilliant not only because it contains a tacit arithmetic tribute to the New Deal that undermines the thrust of what he’s saying.
In the list of dates, following 1797, the longest stretch without one of these crises is from 1937 to 1974 – the period of the New Deal’s sway over banking, finance, monetary and fiscal policy.1 Which undermines Tuld’s subsequent suggestion that there’s nothing we can do about it.
Prometheus wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the Star Wars prequels, but my saying that tells you about how good it was. And it tells you what kind of movie it is, too - it is after all a prequel, that exists to explain a lot of the weird stuff in Alien. The thing is, as Patton Oswalt shrewdly notes, just because we like ice cream doesn’t mean we’d like to eat a bag of rock salt. We don’t actually want to see Darth Vader as a little kid; we don’t, really, need to know where the Alien came from and what the space jockeys were unless it’s wrapped in a story bigger than “oh, that’s what that thing was.”
There are, though, some parts of Prometheus that are truly excellent. Michael Fassbender is the main one. His performance as the android David is excellent. Fassbender should have been in a decent adaptation of an Asimovian robot story; he knows how to wrestle …
I cannot understand the alleged crisis now reportedly plaguingThis American Life – a program I have loved and listened to since its beginning. Indeed, even before I liked it, I liked Ira Glass’s reporting on NPR and even his stint hosting Talk of the Nation. I am, I think it’s fair to say, a TAL nerd. And the reason is the same reason people become nerds for anything – they believe they’ve found a group of people who share the same sensibility. But this sudden po-faced shock that David Sedaris’s stories might not be strictly factual reportage makes no sense in this sensibility, and leads me to wonder if I have been listening to a different program than TAL has been producing.
I always thought TAL aired stories chosen for their goodness as stories, and they might be true or not. Each episode of TAL is divided into “Acts” – which is something you do with a theatrical production, not…
RIP Levon Helm, who was not only of course the voice of The Band, but also of The Right Stuff, the voice warning softly,
There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their controls would freeze up, their planes would buffet wildly, and they would disintegrate. The demon lived at Mach 1 on the meter, seven hundred and fifty miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way. He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass. They called it the sound barrier.
Helm also played Ridley, the trusted friend of Chuck Yeager, as depicted by Sam Shepard. I thought it was a kind of subversive genius, casting those two countercultural Dylan-associated types as these otherwise strait-laced American heroes.
As Pierce says, and as seems appropriate in this particular sidelight on Helm’s career, Godspeed.
The incomparable Michelle Vaughan, who did the typography for this marvelous piece of work as well as 100 tweets has done a much more affordable limited run of Rupert Murdoch’s tweets. I recommend them to all discerning readers with a spare $30 (plus S&H) looking for some frameable wit. (Murdoch would surely like you to think of him as framed.)
Speaking of Charles Forsman as I was yesterday (he of the brilliant Raiders of the Lost Ark/Popeye mashup) I realized that the timing of the hiatus prevented my sharing with you my own Forsman original sketch.
So it was with mixed feelings I discovered that this week was the first time UC Davis cleared the Now Show threshold (in Josie Long’s bit, starting at 21:21).
To be honest, not so mixed: mostly deep unhappiness; this is also the first week I’ve seen UC Davis show up in a BBC headline. After all this time, with so many people working so hard to get UC Davis identified with serious research, this is what puts the campus on the international radar.
Scott Lemieux says don’t pin the misogyny of The Social Network on Sorkin, because the film takes a critical stance towards Zuckerberg’s contempt for women. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it strikes me as relevant that in real life, Zuckerberg had a long-term girlfriend,worked with women when he created Facebook, etc. I think even if we take it as given that Sorkin rewrites Zuckerberg to make him a misogynist and added all the details about Asian girls so mad for geeks they give blowjobs in bathroom stalls and Harvard parties where girls lose their tops all the time, and then critiqued it successfully, there’s something… off about erasing the creative role of women in the creation of Facebook completely in order to make that critique.
Whether that’s an aesthetic failure is a different question, and one that would have to wait until I get around to seeing the film (check back in…
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This blog is a blog about history, Yiddishkeit, and the Muppets, neither exclusively nor necessarily in that order. And as William Gibson said about this very blog (no, really), “History can save your ass.” Yiddishkeit and the Muppets are just extras.
is the associate director of the Cornell in Washington program and a senior lecturer at Cornell University. He teaches courses on European history, modern military history, guerrilla war, and the role of popular will in waging war.
is an associate professor of history at UC Davis. He is the author of A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans, which won the Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize in 2004, and his new book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek, will be published by Harvard University Press in fall 2012.
is a professor of history at UC Davis. She is the author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (Oxford, 2009); Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley (North Carolina, 2002); and Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI (North Carolina, 1996).