Remember yesterday’s distraction about tweeting a reduced Declaration of Independence?  NewsRealBlog has a problem with it.  Supposedly, it’s further proof of our cultural decline.  Did I mention this is David Horowitz’s site?  Here is an article describing the intersection between my academic discipline and Horowitz.  Looking at the other entries, I am nonplussed.  I thought they’d be funnier.  Meh.

Ian McEwan.  If you’ve not read him, you should.  A quotation I came across this morning, which has occupied many of my thoughts for the day.  I’ll set it out just to emphasize its perspicuity.

Cruelty is a failure of imagination.

Here’s another one by McEwan.  It’s monstrous in its scope if he is correct, of which I am not so sure.  Measuring it is worthy of a career, let alone a passage on some random blog, ergo… a distraction.

When the Enlightenment was being sort of undermined by the theorists in the academies, that was done with a general sense of security about the ultimate cultural victory of Enlightenment values, and now I think that victory is a lot less assured.  (185)

Smith, Zadie & Ian McEwan.  (2005).  Zadie Smith talks with Ian McEwan.  In V. Vida, ed.  (2007).  The Believer book of writers talking with writers (165-191).  San Francisco: Believer Books.

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Twitter feeds.  Let’s begin with LitCrit Hulk.  Here’s a sample:

HULK LIKE DUBLINERS. ANYTHING AFTER THAT MAKE HULK BRAIN HURT AND FEEL RAGE COMING ON.

It pains me to credit genius to someone, as there is then less genius left over for yours truly, but this is genius.  The the #TinyDeclaration hashtag.  People are tasked with in a single tweet summarizing the Declaration of Independence.  My not so brilliant entry:

We’re out. PS. King George, you suck.

Slate will compile their favorites and post it later (I’m guessing on the 5th, unless they take that as a holiday like everyone else.)

Sestina.  It’s a poetic form that seems really complex.  Natch, I feel compelled to try my hand at it.  It is really complex and it has managed to kill an entire Wednesday all by itself.

Not quite true.  I was hungover until afternoon, so it wasn’t completely the sestina.  And the game Spectromancer made by James Garfield and friends.  I have a slight man-crush on Garfield.  He has a big brain and uses it to make the world a more leisurely and fun place.  He has a podcast that is highly recommended, Games with Garfield. If I ever finish the sestina, a distraction unfinished due to other distractions?, then I will post it.  It’s based on a joke.  A good joke, unlike the kinds Nate tries his hand at.

The Blair Witch Project was an okay movie, even though it scared the bajeezus out of me.  Only The Shinning has had more affect on me.  There’s an interesting movie critic gimmick at The Rumpus called 10/40/70.  But the latest piece has branched out to also include House of Leaves, which is not a movie but instead a book about a movie.  It’s easily the most terrifying book I’ve ever read and at the same time one of the best.  I learned a lot.  Let’s just say this piece of criticism is…interesting.

A Bing commercial turned me onto this clip of a Dog Shark versus a Giant Pacific Octopus.  I actually feel badly for the shark.

And this flash from the past.

Entourage is back on.  And I have never been more bored.  Seven seasons and the guys are the same.  No growth or personal development.  There is no subtext, only jokes and gimmicks.  The jokes and gimmicks are great.  The show is entertaining, but oh so predictable.

Brandon, John.  (2010).  Citrus county.  San Fransisco: McSweeney’s Rectangulars.

Gordimer, Nadine.  (1982).  Six feet of country. NY: Penguin Books.

Hartwell, David G., ed.  (1989).  The world treasury of science fiction. NY: Little, Brown and Company.

Haug, Frigga.  (1992).  Beyond female masochism. London: Verso Books.

McQuade, Donald and Christine McQuade.  (2006).  Seeing and writing 3.  NY: Bedford/St. Martins.

McSherry, Jr., Frank D., Charles G. Waugh, and Martin H. Greenburg, eds.  (1991).  Great American ghost stories. Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press.

I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.  My reading has taken a hit.  I think it’s because I have strayed from the ground I enjoy.  Exploring is great, but there’s a reason why some of the explored territory is so poorly travelled.  Palahniuk did become tiresome, but I think I am ready to return.  Chabon never became tiresome.  Instead he became established.  I am ready to return to the safety of popular opinion.  Chabon’s popularity is no marketing ploy, unlike The Last – sooooo effing bad – Airbender, his stories are just legitimately good.  In any case, I am disappointed with my June readings and to keep things going I will return to established safe ground.  It is July, and I am clamoring for fireworks.  It is, after all, July.

I’m not sure it qualifies as a distraction, since the series of interviews done by The Believer are writers talking to writers, usually about writing.  Reading this stuff is necessary to be a writer.  Meh.  In any case, this morning I read “Vendala Vida talks with Shirley Hazzard.”  Hazzard is a voracious – and vicious, if you believe Graham Greene – writer, and she had some of the better stuff to say in this series of interviews.  The one that left me stunned was, “one wouldn’t dare put into a novel the amount of coincidence that occurs in life itself.” (100)  What stuns me about this is how true it is.  My life has been ful of coincidence and my biggest complaint with stories is how full of coincidence they are.  I should probably temper my ‘bullshit’ threshold.  As long as the line between coincidence and deus ex machina remains solid.

I have also been catching up on The Office.  Netflix streams it, so the cost is sunk if I watch it or not.  Some episodes bore me, but some are great.  The best portion of the show is Michael’s hatred of Toby because Toby is the one person that constantly calls Michael on his silly inappropriateness.  Which brings me to a thought about politeness.  Slavoj Zizek:

Are not all good manners based on the fact that “what is said is not what is meant”?  When, at a table, I ask my colleague “Can you please pass the salt?”  I do not say what I mean.  I ask him if he can do it, but what I really mean is that he simply should do it.”  (13-14)

It’s not the most persuasive of examples, but it does get at what he is trying to claim.

Hazzard, Shirley.  (2003).  Vendela Vida talks with Shirley Hazzard.  In V. Vida, ed.  (2007).  The Believer book of writers talking to writers (97-109). San Francisco: Believer Books.

Zizek, Slavoj.  (2010).  Living in the end times. London: Verso Books.

See more of his stuff here.

It’s not just me, or rather it’s not just me-reading-Zizek.  These really are strange days.  The Wall Street Journal ran a story the other day about the failure of free markets in an epistemological sense.  The Wall Street Journal!  It’s one thing for them to defend some government intrusion, that is after all the basic premise of neo-liberalism.  But to go this far really strikes me as strange.  Here’s the gem of the article:

But the current market creates the wrong kinds of incentives for doing good research or admitting failure. Novel ideas and findings are rewarded with grants and publication, which lead to academic prestige and career advancement. Researchers have a vested interest in overstating their findings because certainty is more likely than equivocation to achieve all of the above. Thus the probability increases of producing findings that are false. As the medical mathematician John Ioannidis tells Mr. Freedman: “The facts suggest that for many, if not the majority of fields, the majority of published studies are likely to be wrong.”

The problem is that the media tend to validate these findings before they have been properly interpreted, qualified, tested, and either refuted or replicated by other experts. And once a lousy study gets public validation— think of Andrew Wakefield’s claim about autism and vaccination—it can prove almost impossible to invalidate.

Too funny, if only because it is so true…

When Mr. Hibma pulled into the lot, he saw a fleet of cars adorned with Citrus Middle School parking stickers.  He stepped around a bush and peeked in a window.  Librarians.  They’d bunched the tables together.  Assistants.  Even volunteers.  There were maybe nine of them, sipping determinedly at pink wine.  Mr. Hibma knew when he was beat.  He leaned against his car, face upturned toward the sky, racking his brain for something else to do, some other way to salvage the night.  (121)

It’s an okay book.  It’s about two disaffected youths and one of their teachers, Mr. Hibma, who identifies with them.  What’s with this new trend of literature capturing the weirdoes and their weird ways and acting as if they are all special and different just because they don’t behave normally.  It smacks of melodrama, the writer proclaiming her yawp so others see how special she is.  I’m just as guilty as the next person (ok, more than the average person) but why do we as a culture now buy into this stuff?  I still like heroes and the average guy acting like a fool in the face of danger.

Brandon, John.  (2010).  Citrus County.  San Francisco: McSweeney’s Rectangulars.