In “Good Crazy,” a season 7 episode of How I Met Your Mother, Barney comes up with a “Condolence Five,” a way to offer condolences to someone about something sad. He keeps saying “It’s a thing.” Of course, in classic #HIMYM fashion, by the end of the episode it IS a thing that Barney uses to console a Japanese business man at the blackjack table.
Every now and again, I’ll see a sad post someone put on Facebook, and inevitably there are “likes” on it. These are clearly meant to be reassuring or supportive rather than the more direct “I like that you posted this sad news” or worse, “I like this news you’ve posted.”
The parallel is inescapable. The Condolence Like is a thing.
Insane Clown Posse showed up on The Soup last night. It’s worth a watch.
After the clip, I realized Jenny didn’t know who ICP are, and I proceeded to explain it to her. After which she reflected that, for someone who has never listened to their music, I seem to know an awful lot about the Insane Clown Posse. To which I riposted that ICP has had a number of high-water marks in the larger culture. And then it occurred to me what a remarkable success they are. Consider:
They developed an intense following among white rap fans and professional wrestling fans. See an early discussion of their wavering subculture/mainstream status on the Frontline special THE MERCHANTS OF COOL and a recent discussion on Wired.
They’ve cultivated these committed fans into a die-hard sub-culture with events like “Gathering of the Juggalos,” a yearly campout / music concert which has gained its own Internet fame for its bizarre and hilarious advertisements as well as for the voyeuristic views of the subculture itself.
ICP were the subject of a small meme-storm three years ago when they wrote a song called “Miracles,” which included the line “f’in magets, how do they work?” Saturday Night Live did a very funny send up of the video.
And now they’ve done a very funny (if random) bit on The Soup, a touchstone for tv subculture and weirdness outlet.
One of the more puzzling things about ICP is that at least a significant portion of their fanbase take the horrifying material seriously. And its unclear how seriously the band members themselves take their strange act. What we can’t deny is that they’ve become masters at managing and growing a subculture, of fostering loyalty for their fans, and of using new media to do so.
In a recent post on Popehat, Ken details how he’s been accused of being a “conspirator” and many other weird things. He makes an off-hand comment, at one point, that led me to the weirdest bit of Internet I’ve encountered in a while:
Timecube, it turns out, is a gigantic single page of knowledge comin’ at ya that reminds me distinctly of a guy who used to hang out at the University of Florida, handing out xeroxed sheets of dense math proving something about God or something.
As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1. The term Godwin’s law can also refer to the tradition that whoever makes such a comparison is said to “lose” the debate. (Wikipedia)
I like Godwin’s Law because it reminds us how easy it is to get worked up over things that aren’t really so big. Sure, politicians and other people debating real issues of real consequence still make this mistake, but when a doofus in a comment queue calls someone a Nazi, it almost never makes sense in the broad stroke of history. It also reminds us to keep the Holocaust in mind, as it is a solid lesson in the dangers of groupthink and the sway societies have over individuals.
As a discussion of a creative work grows longer, the probability of someone whining about “overanalyzing” approaches 1. In any discussion of creative work, anyone who says “OMG, why can’t you just enjoooy it??” automatically loses. Hard. (Moff’s Law)
I just encountered Moff’s Law last week. The original rant doesn’t actually include the “law,” but someone in the comments conveniently rephrased it. Obviously, as a popular culture scholar, this will be a useful retort.
Runner up: The Courtier’s Reply
It derives from a supposed spin doctor for the naked emperor in the fable The Emperor’s New Clothes. Essentially it is a form of intellectual bullying that questions a person’s right to rebut an argument on the grounds that the rebutter lacks experience with the subject at issue. (RationalWiki)
As RationalWiki points out, this rebuttal can easily be misused or misapplied. For instance, to rebut someone’s objections with The Courtier’s Reply assumes they have no right to participate in the discussion, whereas an individual can also be intentionally uninformed by, say, ignoring evidence in favor of their preferred reply. It’s a subtle distinction that can be difficult to suss out, but for me the line comes from explanatory power — if the ‘you haven’t read enough’ rebuttal goes to evidence, it’s not the courtier’s reply. If it goes to authority, it is.
After I wrote about Klout last week, I started thinking about that last paragraph, where Seth Stevens waxes fondly about the low-Klout users he was seeing on Twitter. To whit, he writes:
The un-Kloutiest’s thoughts, jokes, and bubbles of honest emotion felt rawer, more authentic, and blissfully oblivious to the herd.
I liked this idea, so I’ve started a tumblr feed based on it. The feed is called “Zero Klout,” and aims to post tweets from low-score users. I’m trying to post one a day myself, drawn from the pool of one of the Trending Topics that are active at the time I look.
I would like for this to be an active Tumblr feed, though, so I’m looking for like-minded people to help. If you’re interested, drop me an email and I’ll add you as a contributor to the tumblr. Here’s the process:
Install the Klout add-on for Firefox or your favorite browser. This makes Klout scores pop up next to each tweet. It’s a way to profile people instantly! You’ll find yourself getting judgmental and jealous immediately! (Also mystified — My Klout score jumped from 38 to 44 since Monday, for no reason that I can see.)
Look for tweets from low-Klout users. So far, I’ve managed to feature only people from scores of 10, but those are pretty rare. Anything under 15 is probably fair game. Anything under 10 would be golden. I usually page through the “trending topics,” but you need to click “all” at the top or you end up only looking at the Top Tweets, which are invariably from high Klout folks.
Click “expand” and “details” to get to the page for that tweet by itself. This removes the Klout tag, which I think is nice (alternately, you can get a cap of the tweet in situ). Get a screen cap and export the image.
Post the image along with a link back to the original tweet. Be sure to include the user’s Klout score like this: (K=10)
I’d love it if each contributor posted two or three tweets a week. If we got five contributors, that would be a healthy schedule, more: even better!
Jason took one of these things floating around and mutated it to my own liking. List fifteen to twenty fictional characters (television, films, plays, books, etc.) who’ve influenced you and who will always stick with you. I’m not simply talking memorable characters, but ones that have had an impact on the way you think, the way you speak, the way you dress, or the way you make your way through the world. Characters you identify with, whose strengths or weaknesses you share, or who you wish you were more like. In short, your heroes, your gurus, your avatars, your alter-egos. (Tag anyone whose answers you’d like to know). Feel free to just list your answers in a comment if you don’t feel like writing your own note.
(I’m also cribbing some of these from my 10 favorite characters in movie history)
In no particular order:
1. Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man)– dashing, witty, and thoroughly in love. I’m not into the self-pickling, though.
2. John Yossarian (Catch-22) — Does what needs doing, just tries to get by in a world of madness.
3. Martin Brody (Jaws) — he steps up and does the right thing for his family and his town, even against his biggest fear (the water) and a fear he’d just acquired (being eaten by a shark).
4. Ender (Ender’s Game series) — Ender is an interesting character who wrestles with a lot of fear amid his blazing competence.
5. Lt. Columbo (Columbo) — the quintessential quiet genius, finding the heart of people immediately and standing up for truth when it’s needed. Plus, he’s so darn polite. I love it.
6. Ellen Ripley (Alien) — another badass who doesn’t sacrifice her humanity for it.
7. Elwood P. Dowd (Harvey) — he’s always happy right where he is with the people he’s with.
8. Sam Lowry (Brazil) — I guess I feel like Sam at the beginning of the movie, sometimes. Happy with my lot and not aggressive about getting more than I have. But the film also highlights the terror of the modern bureaucratic state, something I do worry about, occasionally.
9. Virgil Tibbs (In the Heat of the Night) — Once again, a man of character staying strong in the face of awful people.
10. Tom Reagan (Miller’s Crossing) — Tom is an opposite of me in most ways, but I admire him the way we all certainly admire our shadow selves, the cool and collected way they handle themselves, the quick thinking, the badass use of the term rumpus.
11. Mr. Boddy (the butler from Clue) — Sometimes I can channel the frantic arm-waving that he does for most of that movie. The blackmailing murderer part isn’t so influential for me.
12.Josh Waitzkin (Searching for Bobby Fischer) — I know this is based on nonfiction, so he’s not a ‘character,’ but the bravery and intuition of this boy as he appears in the film is to be saluted and admired.
13. Hawkeye Pierce (M*A*S*H) — Wouldn’t we all like to be Hawkeye? In the face of unbelievable carnage he keeps his love for life and his hilarious whistle.
14. Marge Gunderson (Fargo) — Man, I can’t get away from these people, can I? Another sensible, lovable character who balances the challenges of life with the pressures of duty. Plus, the loving relationship she has with her husband warms me to my core.
15. Fred Gailey (A Miracle on 34th Street) — Another righteous everyman who stands up for what he believes. Funny and loving too.
I love the possibility that these really are related the way the title “ripped off” implies. I also equally love the idea that the subconscious effect of the 2003 Simpsons episode might have been to influence a hip-hop artist.
Whether intentional or not, this video makes me happy.
I was thinking over the last few days and thought it would be interesting to write about how movies have worked for me. So here’s one of those annoying lists that everyone loves to fill out and loves to hate. If you’re reading this right now, I’ve TAGGED YOU, and you should fill out the list. If you can post a link in the comments back here (or a link in your own post), feel free to do so.
First movie you remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda was frickin’ scary
The most important movie to you before you graduated high school Searching for Bobby Fischer. Joe, Ben, and Lawrence all do an amazing job in that movie. I still put it in the top three or four ever. Man, I need to bust that movie out and watch it again.
The movie you watched the most in college Blues Brothers or Starship Troopers. I know, I know. The Fifth Element too. I still randomly think of the phrase “You want some more?” every now and again.
The movie you own a copy of, but are ashamed to admit Lost in Space. I got it free, okay? But I’ve watched it a couple times. The director commentary too.
The movie you own a copy of that other people think you should be ashamed of, but which you aren’t Captain Ron. He said “Go-rillas”, not “Gue-rillas”. GOrilla, GUErilla. HUGE difference.
The movie you’ve watched the most times JAWS still holds that title. There was a summer when I was a kid that I watched it nearly every day.
The movie you used to adore but don’t hold so highly any more Apocalypse Now. The film was the first one I really dove into and found a lot to think about. So I held it in very high esteem for a very long time. But I’m not nearly so interested in it as I was before.
The movie you liked that everyone hated I rented Barton Fink for a party one time, and they never let me rent movies again.
The movie that most surprised you The Zero Effect. It’s excellent.
The movie that most disappointed you Alien3. It’s not excellent.
A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock by Evelyn Fox Keller
For Ada Lovelace day this year, I decided to read a book about a female scientist with whom I wasn’t familiar. After some searchin–in which I discovered that nearly every book I could find about Maria Mitchell, the first prominent female astronomer was for kids–I settled on Barbara McClintock, a pioneering geneticist and cytologist who worked from the 1920s into the 1980s. Some thoughts:
Keller does a nice job oscillating between discussion of McClintock’s work and summaries of the concepts and ideas circulating in the field at the time. These chapters taxed my atrophied Advanced Placement Bio 2 knowledge, but were ultimately decipherable. The book does leave a few questions for me in its age: having been published in 1983, it doesn’t cover the continuing influence of her work in the succeeding 27 years.
McClintock faced a number of challenges early in her career based on her temperament and her sex. At one point, Keller quotes McClintock saying something to the effect of, “I could have been a maverick or a woman, but being both was a major hinderance.” Wikipedia mentions a later biography that disputes whether McClintock faced professional barriers because of her sex, but Keller’s reports of places where her superiors openly said a woman wouldn’t be offered a research position make that hard to buy, in my mind. To be fair, I haven’t read that other biography.
McClintock made a number of key discoveries, which I will try to relate here with a layman’s understanding of this stuff: she developed a number of new ways to document meiosis and chromosomes, and her early study of maize chromosomes provided evidence to support several key ideas in the 1920s.
She discovered transposition in maize in the 1950s, but the idea was so contextualized and difficult to understand outside that narrow field that it didn’t really get traction until others discovered it in the late 1960s and later. In 1983 she won the Nobel prize for this discovery.
She also did some work helping biologists in South America preserve species of maize that were threatened, and realized that the chromosomal differences documented the human migratory pattern across the region. Her survey of the species and reports to anthropologists were also important.
My favorite story, though, comes from 1944. McClintock was invited to Stanford where they were studying some kind of mold for which the cytology (meiosis, etc) had not yet been worked out. She was there for about a week before she figured it out and explained it to everybody. Kick ass.
Keller’s biography is largely laudatory, with a little nod to the fact that McClintock’s personality had a lot to do with the ill will she felt from many. But it goes a long way to document how her differing perspective, one of surveying the whole subject (hence the title) gave her insights that led to new bits of knowledge.
September – In an essay about the rise of zombies in popular media, the author takes a pot shot at “brain dead” English classes, and uses me as a counter-example (someone not brain dead?).
October – Bryson has long been one of my favorite writers. He has a sure hand in storytelling and a sure hold on the English language. His turns of phrase twinkle.
November – It’s been a grueling first year, with some big lapses on my part but some successes as well.
December – The time thing seems “important” (as important as FB notes get, anyway), since if I sat down at a different fifteen-minute period, I would come up with a slightly different list (although the top five would probably always be there).
Brian points out, quite rightly, that you can’t have a second-favorite without a favorite. Likewise, I also adore Miller’s Crossing. Its tommy-gun dialogue and crisp Irish squinting and betrayal captured me. And made me want to cultivate my own ideosyncratic dialect with words like twist and powder. And get a catch- phrase like “Always put one in the brain.”
But second favorite has to be Raising Arizona. As much as the brothers have honed their artistry and effect, the early mania of “Hi” and his police-officer wife haven’t been matched. Between the thug-heavy race for the baby and the bits of Arizonian characterization, the movie makes me want to watch it every time I think of it. “The g’vt, she takes a bite, doesn’t she.” “You got to get the dip-tet!”
2) Movie seen only on home format that you would pay to see on the biggest movie screen possible? (Question submitted by Peter Nellhaus)
Nosferatu. But on a crisp remastered print with an orchestra.
3) Japan or France? (Question submitted by Bob Westal)
Japan, clearly. Have you seen Stacy? Godard’s got nothing on schoolgirl zombies.
4) Favorite moment/line from a western.
Clint Eastwood rides back into town after Morgan Freeman is strung up dead by Gene Hackman’s corrupt sheriff. It’s the closest moment in cinema to a depiction of the fourth horseman of the apocalypse.
“Any man I see out there, I’m gonna shoot him. Any sumbitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only gonna kill him, but I’m gonna kill his wife, all his friends, and burn his damn house down.”
5) Of all the arts the movies draw upon to become what they are, which is the most important, or the one you value most?
I’ll say storytelling. It’s a cop-out, I admit, but my interest in the changing nature of storytelling as we shift from the literate to the electrate ages (is 2012 the official date of change?), cinema’s interpretation of the changing nature of culture in the era of the Internet draws on past techniques for shaping narrative and pulls them in new and strange directions.
6) Most misunderstood movie of the 2000s (The Naughties?).
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Apparently, this movie was supposed to be RDjr’s come back, but instead nobody watched it. They all should have–it’s striking and funny and grotesque and amazing. Amazing.
7) Name a filmmaker/actor/actress/film you once unashamedly loved who has fallen furthest in your esteem.
Kevin Spacey. Go back and watch Se7en, then The Negotiator, then The Usual Suspects. And there’s Glengarry Glen Ross. He starts to slip with American Beauty, which isn’t as good as everyone thinks it is. And then K-Pax and then, jeebus, look at the rest of his filmography. Man.
8) Herbert Lom or Patrick Magee?
9) Which is your least favorite David Lynch film (Submitted by Tony Dayoub)
I’ve only seen a few, but I found Eraserhead interminable. I liked Dune better. Dune.
10) Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)
11) Second favorite Don Siegel movie.
I’ve only seen two. I like Invasion of the Body Snatchers more than Dirty Harry, so I guess DH is my second favorite. It’s strikingly lacking in Kevin McCarthy.
12) Last movie you saw on DVD/Blu-ray? In theaters?
20) What’s the least you’ve spent on a film and still regretted it? (Submitted by Lucas McNelly)
Like Brian, I saw a lot of movies for free when I was working at the movie theatre. One of those was The Phantom. I also had a plastic skull ring that was supposed to be a giveaway to a customer. Hells-no. That was a popcorn-scoopin’ ring.
21) Van Johnson or Van Heflin?
Van Johnson, because there’s a great line in the Simpsons about Van Johnson. And Heflin sounds like Teflon.
22) Favorite Alan Rudolph film.
As soon as I see one, I’ll let you know.
23) Name a documentary that you believe more people should see.
Who Killed the Electric Car. It will make your blood boil; by the end you’ll find yourself sharpening your car-exec-stabbing spear. That one you keep in the shed between your stray-cat-smacking golf club and your monkey gloves.
24) In deference to this quiz’s professor, name a favorite film which revolves around someone becoming stranded.
No Escape, the Ray Liotta action vehicle.
25) Is there a moment when your knowledge of film, or lack thereof, caused you an unusual degree of embarrassment and/or humiliation? If so, please share.
Being able to name a zombie movie relevant to any topic or discussion is sometimes embarrassing. It comes in handy when I teach my zombie class, though. And I’m rarely out-matched by students any more.
26) Ann Sheridan or Geraldine Fitzgerald? (Submitted by Larry Aydlette)
Yes. One or the other, for sure.
27) Do you or any of your family members physically resemble movie actors or other notable figures in the film world? If so, who?
28) Is there a movie you have purposely avoided seeing? If so, why?
I almost always avoid seeing movies that I know are about death. Realistic death. So no Beaches, no Steel Magnolias. But those aren’t movies I’d run into a lot. I know I’m going to avoid watching The Road because the book broke my heart open and dumped it out on the street. I’m not driven to pursue that feeling again.
29) Movie with the most palpable or otherwise effective wintry atmosphere or ambience.
There are three, for different kinds of “wintry” atmospheres. I grew up in Minnesota, where we might not have 7 words for snow, but we sure know different winters:
1. Loneliness of the winter hike. Kurosawa’s Dreams, “Blizzard.” The twenty minutes of quiet trudging, breathing, and swirling white reminded me very palpably of the trek across the hills to Nate’s house on snow days.
2. The Majestic twinkle of falling snow. A Christmas Story. The closing moments of the film, when the Old Man and Ralphie’s Mom settle down to have a drink and watch the snow drift outside the window. I love those moments, basking in the warmth of a fire while big fat snowflakes float lazily past the window. It brings home the classic opening line from “Let it Snow.”
3. Sludge and the long winter. Fargo. Particularly watching Steve Buscemi’s cold hands scrabbling at the crusty snow next to the freeway.
30) Gerrit Graham or Jeffrey Jones?
I don’t see why this is a question. Jeffrey Jones was in Ferris Bueller. Jeffrey Jones was in Ravenous. Jeffrey Jones was in Mom and Dad Save the World. Graham. Pshaw.
31) The best cinematic antidote to a cultural stereotype (sexual, political, regional, whatever).
32) Second favorite John Wayne movie.
Liberty Valance is certainly my favorite. But my second favorite?
I’ve always liked the look of Brannigan! My boss when I worked as a janitor in middle school had a Brannigan! poster on his wall, and I spent hours staring at it as I sipped my cola while I joined the crew on their union-negotiated half-hour coffee breaks and hour-long lunches.
33) Favorite movie car chase.
The chase sequence in Ronin, buzzing through the narrow European streets, is unparalleled. The Bourne movies just borrowed from this one. Plus there’s an attitude of world-weary ennui on the mercenaries’ faces as they blast down cobblestones and shoot at the other car.
34) In the spirit of His Girl Friday, propose a gender-switched remake of a classic or not-so-classic film. (Submitted by Patrick Robbins)
I’d say Night of the Living Dead, but the 1980s remake turns Barbara from a mouse into a solid character. How about Psycho? Norma Bates?
35) Barbara Rhoades or Barbara Feldon?
I like anyone named Barbara.
36) Favorite Andre De Toth movie.
I’m gonna do a double-feature with an Alan Rudolph.
37) If you could take one filmmaker’s entire body of work and erase it from all time and memory, as if it had never happened, whose oeuvre would it be? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)
I really dislike John Woo, but I’m going to have to go with Joel Schumaker.
38) Name a film you actively hated when you first encountered it, only to see it again later in life and fall in love with it.
Blade Runner. I saw it on laserdisc at a friend’s house when I was 14 and understood none of it.
To answer an alternate question (Name a film you liked but everyone with you hated): Barton Fink. I loved it immediately, while my friends fake-gagged and rolled on the floor. For years, they scorned my suggestions at video stores, trumpeting “Barton Fink!” when I dared point to a movie.
39) Max Ophuls or Marcel Ophuls? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)
You say Ophuls, I say potato.
40) In which club would you most want an active membership, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, the Cutters or the Warriors? And which member would you most resemble, either physically or in personality?
Delta Tau Chi. The shy guy, “Pinto.” Honestly though, none of these people.
41) Your favorite movie cliché.
The slow clap. I made the mistake of mentioning the slow clap in class one day and at the end of the semester, they applauded the course. Snarky bastards.
42) Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen? (Submitted by Bob Westal)
43) Favorite Christmas-themed horror movie or sequence.
Jack Frost. I don’t mean the one about the sinister snowman with sharp teeth. I mean the movie about the sinister party-guy musician with the porkpie hat.
44) Favorite moment of self- or selfless sacrifice in a movie.
Nick Frost’s decision to stay behind while Shaun and his girlfriend make a run for it, Shaun of the Dead.
45) If you were the cinematic Spanish Inquisition, which movie cult (or cult movie) would you decimate? (Submitted by Bob Westal)
Are there Tod Solonz cultists? Cuz I’d chase them away. With a stick.
46) Caroline Munro or Veronica Carlson?
Veronica Carlson has more “c”s in her name.
47) Favorite eye-patch wearing director. (Submitted by Patty Cozzalio)
Blackbeard. Oh, director. I thought it said pirate.
48) Favorite ambiguous movie ending. (Original somewhat ambiguous submission—“Something about ambiguous movie endings!”– by Jim Emerson, who may have some inspiration of his own to offer you.)
Limbo. It’s a careful character development movie with an excellent plot and excellent visuals. And then the ending leaves you twisting. In Limbo, eh?
49) In giving thanks for the movies this year, what are you most thankful for?
Zombieland. I haven’t even seen it, but the story about Woody Harrleson punching a reporter was really funny. And I liked the new Harry Potter movie. Though Draco can’t wield the word Potter with the same spittle and bile he infused it with in the early movies.
50) George Kennedy or Alan North? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)