Category Archives: articles

Optima. Really?

A number of graphic designers weigh in on John McCain’s campaign’s choice of typeface. The consensus seems to be that a better choice might have been made.

More on Heath Ledger

A report that Heath Ledger “was told to seek professional help for his personal problems while filming The Dark Knight” surfaced earlier this week.

Money Quote: “Heath refused to talk to anyone out of character. If you tried to communicate with him normally instead of The Joker, he would just ignore you.”

This statement seems to support some of the things I’ve been saying for weeks now.

(Related post: “Did the Joker Kill Heath Ledger?”)

The Tenure Gun

From The Chronicle of Higher Education comes an interview with M.H. Abrams. This bit stood out to me: 

The Mirror and the Lamp had been Abrams’s dissertation, and he also reminds us of a different era of academic production, when the tenure gun was not quite so impatiently pressed to a junior professor’s head. Abrams says he took “10 years of hard work revising the text,” rewriting the first chapter “at least six times.”

I love stories like this because they remind me that things, despite the rampant amnesia, were once quite different, and thus needn’t be the way they are presently.

(Related post: “Fewer Books, Better Thinking.”)

It’s Called Erudition

“When a colleague of mine returned from an MLA convention in Toronto around that time, he told a story that nicely illustrated the trend. One afternoon he hopped on a shuttle bus and sat down next to a young scholar who told him she’d just returned from a panel. He replied that he’d just returned from France, where he’d been studying for a semester.

“What are they talking about?” she asked.
“Is there any new theory?”
“Yeah, in a way,” he answered. “It’s called ‘erudition.’”
“What’s that?” she wondered.
“Well, you read and read, and you get your languages, and you go into politics, religion, law, contemporary events, and just about everything else.” (He’s a 16th-century French literature scholar who comes alive in archives.)
She was puzzled. “But what’s the theory?”
“To be honest, there isn’t any theory,” he said.
“That’s impossible.” He shrugged. “Okay, then, give me the names, the people heading it.”
“There aren’t any names. Nobody’s heading it.”

Mark Bauerlein

Lost Highway

To mark the release of Lost Highway on DVD (finally),

The scene is a textbook illustration of that uncanny sensation so specific to Lynch films that they are often simply called Lynchian (per David Foster Wallace, “one of those Potter Stewart-type words that’s definable only ostensively—i.e., we know it when we see it”). At their creepiest, Lynchian moments involve a shock of recognition (or self-recognition) and a metaphysical impossibility: déjà vu, seeing a doppelgänger, being in two places at once. When the heroines of Mulholland Drive are huddled in Club Silencio, the onstage cabaret is revealed as a sham (the singer collapses but the song goes on), forcing Naomi Watts to confront the failure of her own fantasy.

Where Are the Readers?

Today everyone is a blogger, but where are the readers? A New Yorker cartoon reverses the usual picture of a literary festival with book lovers lined up to get the author’s autograph. The cartoon shows a table and a queue, but authors line up to see “The Reader,” who sits behind the table. On the Internet, articles, blog posts, and comments on blog posts pour forth, but who can keep up with them? And while everything is preserved (or “archived”), has anyone ever looked at last year’s blogs? Rapidly produced, they are just as rapidly forgotten.

—Russell Jacoby, “Big Brains, Small Impact”

More on Mamet

In my previous post, I shared with you a recent statement by David Mamet. Mamet’s name has been bandied about the blogosphere of late because of a piece he wrote called “Why I Am No Longer a “Brain-Dead Liberal,’” which appeared in the Village Voice a few weeks ago and created a mild stir. The piece itself is worth reading – if only for the hilarious bit about the World’s Perfect Theatrical Review – as is Counterpunch’s point-by-point response. But for my money, all of the talk about Mamet’s politics isn’t as interesting as the new movie he has coming out: Redbelt, which looks to me like Karate Kid-for-adults. (That, by the way, is a compliment.) As of this writing, there are two trailers online; each gives a different impression of the movie, and each, I think, is worth watching.

The Most Sophisticated Cultural Theorists in America

One might argue that the most sophisticated cultural theorists in America are neither critics nor scholars, but rather artists-writers Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmon Silko, Rudolfo Anaya, and Maxine Hong Kingston or musicians Laurie Anderson, Prince, David Byrne, and Tracy Chapman. Their work revolves around the multiple perspectives, surprising juxtapositions, subversions of language, and self-reflexivities explored within cultural theory. It comes from and speaks to contemporary cultural crises about subjectivity and nationality. Issues that critics discuss abstractly and idealistically seem to flow effortlessly and relentlessly from the texts of popular literature and popular culture.

—George Lipsitz, “Listening to Learn and Learning to Listen: Popular Culture, Cultural Theory, and American Studies” (1990)

Fewer Books, Better Thinking

I am tempted to say – in order to be maximally provocative – that anyone who publishes a book within six years of earning a Ph.D. should be denied tenure. The chances a person at that stage can have published something worth chopping that many trees down is unlikely.

Lindsay Waters, “A Call for Slow Writing”

How to Defend Your Coffee Habit

From “How to Defend Your Coffee Habit.”