His “Star Wars Filibuster” from Parks & Recreation is a thing of utter wonder and beauty. Make time (8:43).
First, seriously: Fuck you, depression.
To think what else Wallace might’ve written had he stuck around is to court despair. I read and loved Infinite Jest a few years ago, but have kind of stayed away from the rest of his pile in an only half-conscious desire to ration what little material Wallace left behind. That’s probably a mistake.
In this book of essays, he’s at the top of his game. It’s like watching Jordan play basketball: nobody else was even engaged in the same activity. He’s just that good. The topics vary wildly:
- there’s a personal memoir of tennis and weather;
- a discussion of the relationship between television, irony, and (then-) modern fiction in America;
- a screamingly funny travel piece about visiting the Illinois state fair;
- a fascinating discussion of poststructuralism and the so-called “death of the author” in literary theory;
- one of the best “behind the scenes” film articles I’ve ever read, about David Lynch shooting Lost Highway;
- a lengthy discussion of the realities of professional tennis as they relate to then-rising pro Michael Joyce; and, finally,
- the eponymous piece about “managed fun” aboard a 7-day luxury Caribbean cruise.
It was, predictably, the final essay that pushed me to read this book now; “A Supposedly Fun Thing…” would be great even with no personal experience, but reading it after having done such a cruise makes it even more clear how perfectly right all his observations were.
This guy really had no peers at all. Even if some of the topics above strike you as banal, or as overly academic — the poststructuralism bit ran in the Harvard Review initially; it’s deep water — I assure you they’re captivating when Wallace gets ahold of them. Reading him is an exercise, for me at least, of muttering “Holy Shit!” every few minutes at yet another brilliant turn of phrase or previously unconsidered insight. The words are delicious, and the essays just get better upon reflection or rereading. This is what great writing looks like.
I feel like it’s kind of unfair to do this, but this is that rare book where a pithy summary isn’t unfair: this is a GenX treatment of superheroes in print, told from a variety of points of view. If that idea appeals, you’d love this book. If not, well, keep walking, because it’s not for you.
You’ve got your soon-to-escape superpowered madman, you’ve got your reconstituted super-team, and you’ve got your mysteriously missing and presumed dead Superman analogue. The ingredients aren’t what makes this inventive; it’s the storytelling that I enjoyed the most.
Plus, there’s a bit more going on here than just that — it’s definitely self-aware, which adds to the fun. Grossman slyly references other books, both in genre (the hat tips to Watchmen are frequent, plus it’s impossible to write about costumed heroes without references to comic antecedents) and out (there are nods to his twin brother Lev‘s well-received novel The Magicians).
It’s a well-crafted little book, and one I found FAR more interesting than I expected. I’m definitely on board for his next book, which is said to draw more on his “day job”: Grossman is a video game designer by trade, and has some seriously solid — even classic — titles on his C.V., including System Shock, Deus Ex, and the last big game played here at Heathen HQ, Dishonored.
Vinepeek is a random 6-second Vines, one after another, forever.
It is amazing. Potentially NSFW, I guess, but I didn’t see anything suspect right off the bat.
Ok, Heathen Nation, here we are. Five days from now, I’ll be on my bike on the way to Austin. I think I’ve trained enough to make it; I’ve logged over 1,000 miles on my bike in these last few months, and deferred no end of amusing invitations that conflicted with training rides. I’ve even lost a pants size, which is pretty cool.
What I haven’t done, though, is meet my fundraising goal. I was super humbled months ago when, thanks to you, I met my minimum donation level in a matter of hours. That’s really incredible, and I can’t thank you early adopters enough. I was even more staggered when, in the hours and days that followed, I rose to the top of the list on my team thanks to the 20+ folks who gave so generously in my name. Now I want us to hit it out of the park this week.
When so many of you responded so quickly, I raised my goal from the rider minimum of $400 to a more lofty but do-able $2,000. We’re very, very close to that right now. I think, though, that we can do even better. One of the reasons I decided to ride this year actually had nothing to do with MS (though obviously it’s a great cause): I want my TEAM, Karbach Brewing, to make a big splash on per-rider donations in this, their first year fielding a team.
Karbach have been super supportive of community efforts in town, and especially bike-related events. They’re a great group of friendly people who happen to make some really awesome beer, and I think they deserve to have a great first year with the MS150.
So my ask now is actually a little more complicated than it was before. I’ll make my personal goal, no problem. I’d love it if you’d help me obliterate that arbitrary number. That’s a little selfish, sure, but I like being #1. It’d be cool to reach $2,500 or even $3,000.
As an alternative, though, you could go here and choose one of our riders who has not yet met their $400 minimum. Riders are expected to raise or donate that amount, so folks who haven’t reached that level will have to go out of pocket to meet their quota — even after the fairly high MS150 registration fees and team fees. That would kinda suck, so even if you’ve given to me this year, consider dropping another $25 on one of the folks who needs it on my team. That’ll help them, and it’ll help the Karbach Team get closer to our team goal of $40,000.
Thanks again to all of you. You’re awesome. I’m really, seriously humbled by how many of you jumped on this so quickly. It inspires me, and God knows I’ll need that next Saturday; I haven’t ridden 100 miles since Reagan was president.
The Paris-Roubaix episode of How The Race Was Won is a bit bike-nerdy, but still captures the fundamental madcap chaos of last week’s race.
In case you missed it: the Times review of Oxheart and Underbelly.
Note what the current #2 song in the UK is:
Sunday’s big premiere of Mad Men‘s sixth season included what, in a lesser show, might’ve been a throwaway line about the 1968 Cotton Bowl, featuring the Alabama Crimson Tide vs. the Texas A&M Aggies. In Tide history, this game is significant because the opposing coach was Gene Stallings — one of Bear’s former players, and a man who would eventually be a championship-winning head coach at Alabama himself. Alabama lost that game, but Bear was happy enough about his protege’s win that he carried Stallings off the field.
Of course, since this is Matt Weiner, we know there are no accidents. There’s lots to unpack about referencing that game in this context, and some of it may seem like a stretch, but I think the bits about Don being analogous to Bear are probably foreshadowing for plotlines later in the season. Go read the article, though.
“Mexican Barbie” comes with documentation and a passport.
Some elaborate new update to their employee back-end just showed me this warning:
Seriously. If closing a browser window can fuck up my account, I really don’t have much faith in you chuckleheads holding on to all sorts of personal information safely.
Oh, and apparently it’s nearly all fucking FLASH. WTF?
Reasons My Son Is Crying is today’s winner in the “single serving Tumblr site” race.
In a recent study of airline performance, United came in dead last. This represents a bit of a reversal, since pre-merger Continental was frequently at the top of these studies — or, at least, sharing top billing with Southwest (who are still on top in terms of customer complaints per 100,000 passengers — 0.25 vs. United’s 4.24).
It’s a nasty irony that the 1999 story of onetime basket-case Continental’s resurrection and triumph was called From Worst to First.
Congratulations, we guess, to the management team that’s managed to bring this full circle!
We had a great time on NerdCruise on the sailing excursion in St Maarten, wherein we got to crew a no-shit America’s Cup champion boat. The Stars and Stripes is the boat that Dennis Connor used to redeem himself in the sailing world; it’s also the last of the 12-meter monohull boats to win the Cup — which is to say, the racing boats of her era don’t look all that different from the day sailers you see at your local marina.
Times change. Nowadays, the race uses very, very different boats, with spectacular results. While the 12-meter class tooled around at 12-15 knots, the new catamaran multihull designs can nearly triple that.
Remember that weird Italian TV song meant to sound like English? Yeah, now try this short film.
Just thought you should know.
My home state just lost a competitive health care funding grant to an independent network of women’s clinics (including Planned Parenthood) largely due to the fact that they’ve eviscerated funding for the state-run programs. As a consequence, the private group reaches more women.
Governor Goodhair is not pleased.
Got drone trouble? Why not order some depleted uranium shotgun rounds?
Exxon will not have to pay for cleanup after its giant spill in Arkansas because of a loophole that classifies the oil the pipe was carrying as something other than oil.
… allow me to point you to this development.
“Tyromancy” means “divining by the coagulation of cheese.”
As you do.
“Richard was by my side during two of the most important moments of my career,” Radcliffe said Friday.
“In August 2000, before official production had even begun on Potter, we filmed a shot outside the Dursleys’, which was my first ever shot as Harry. I was nervous and he made me feel at ease.
”Seven years later, we embarked on ‘Equus’ together. It was my first time doing a play but, terrified as I was, his encouragement, tutelage and humor made it a joy.
“In fact, any room he walked into was made twice as funny and twice as clever just by his presence.”
You read that right.
Rolling Stone has a little video promo about it that you should watch.
By this point, it should come as no surprise that Martin has a serious music career — he has, after all, won a Grammy for music in addition to the one he got for comedy. However, if you, like me, haven’t seen a picture of Mrs Paul Simon since the 1980s, it may surprise you how little she’s changed. I suspect a portrait in the attic.
Also, it appears this record had its genesis in a dinner party, which suggests there are dinner parties happening that include Paul Simon, Edie Brickell, and Steve Martin. Which is AWESOME.
The record, entitled “Love Has Come For You,” will be released on April 23rd. Mark your calendars.
Fortunately, someone else DID say that. And they took pictures.
I debated whether to include this one, as it’s a slim little tome, but it’s still worth commenting on. The book takes the form of several short articles covering the cycling — what, in the author’s view, is important and what’s not. The central message is in the title: Just ride a bike. No argument there.
Petersen is seen by some as (somewhat) responsible for the return of well-made steel bicycles, among other things. After a career with the Japanese firm Bridgestone (though you probably know them better from tires, they made excellent bikes, too), he struck out on his own with the generally well-regarded Rivendell Bicycle Works, which has been quite successful. A glance at his bike prices may give you a hint why; they’re all very, very expensive. I’m sure they’re very nice, too, but I’ve only ever seen one in the “wild”.
Petersen’s list of things worth ignoring when it comes to biking is long and very idiosyncratic. One review referred to him as biking’s philosopher crank, and that’s pretty fair. Petersen is down on helmets, on clip-in pedals, on athletic/technical clothing (which only means he’s never ridden in the South), on riding predictably, on good cadence, etc., etc., etc. All this rises from something I call the unearned certainty of the autodidact — a weird sort of know-it-all position taken by someone who mistakes their own experience for universal truth, especially when that experience is coupled with a personality that makes one certain of one’s own brilliance. Petersen allows this to color his reasoning and make assertions that are at best tenuously supported by cherry-picked facts.
But that doesn’t mean he’s always wrong. And in fact I hope at least some of the time he’s saying crazy crap to provoke discussion and not because he believes it wholeheartedly.
One area where Petersen and I completely agree is his recognition that race culture has damaged regular-joe biking. Twenty or thirty years ago, racing bikes were absolutely better in all ways than the bikes ridden by normal humans, but somewhere along the line specialization pushed those bikes into completely unsustainable places. As a result, the bikes that the Armstrongs of the world ride are nervous, twitchy, and fragile creatures that withstand the punishing conditions of a multiday race more or less ONLY because the teams have mechanics and spares on hand. They’re all made of carbon fiber, too, which has a pretty dreadful failure mode when compared to metal frames.
But walk into any bike shop, and 99% of what’s for sale that isn’t a low-end comfort bike is basically a racing bike, made of aluminum at the low end (which has a TERRIBLE ride) and carbon from $1800-2000 on up. Carbon’s more comfy, but see above re: failure modes. These bikes typically have no attachment points for everyday niceties like racks, either — it’s all weight-weenies all the time, which is sort of like a car dealership only carrying 2 seaters. Most people who walk into a bike shop don’t want or need a race bike; they are Unracers, as Petersen calls them. But there’s very little above the entry level for these folks in most shops. That’s a problem.
When I was shopping for my bike, I found literally nothing I wanted from either of the “big two” (Specialized and Trek), since even if they MAKE non-racer bikes that aren’t giant heavy comfort bikes, they don’t get stocked because they don’t sell as well. And they don’t sell as well because they’re not stocked. That’s bad. All you see are flat-bar hybrids and racers, so even if the shop can order something else for you, you may not even know something else is an option.
Rivendell makes steel bikes intended for broad use and customization, and they sell well. As I mentioned above, some say Petersen’s success is what made it possible for companies like Surly and Soma and others to make a living selling comfortable steel frames as well, and at a fraction of the cost of Petersen’s no-doubt awesome bikes. If true — and I can see how it might be — that’s an unalloyed good (no pun intended). Just like Petersen’s frames, my Surly has plenty of mount points; the frame could support a variety of build-outs, from true cyclocross to commuting to touring to whatever you want to do. No race bike from Specialized or Trek can say the same thing.
Anyway, this is running long. If you like biking, you should probably consider reading Just Ride, even if you’re sure you won’t agree with Petersen’s more outré pronouncements. His central message, which can get lost in his crankiness, is that biking is fun and you should do more of it, and not worry about the clothes or getting fast or any of the ancillary stuff.
In that, he and I agree completely.
OH MY GOD this book may be one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. Lawson, net-famous as The Bloggess, has had the sort of life that begs for a memoir, due largely to her truly bizarre upbringing in rural west Texas. (To say more about it would be to rob her book of impact, but it’s literally all I can do to not quote her at length about, say, the 11 ways her childhood was different than yours (raccoons!), or the story of the most freaktastic puppet ever, or her issues with rural wildlife, or the tale of the scorpions, or any of a hundred other bits that left me in tears with laughter.
I’m currently only reading my 15th book of the year (these little blurbs lag), but it’s a cinch Lawson’s screamingly funny memoir will be near the top of my year-end list. She’s astoundingly gifted as a humorist and writer, and her voice stays hers even when she’s recounting painful or scary episodes (Lawson battles arthritis as well as an anxiety disorder).
Every single one of you should read this book RIGHT NOW. Seriously.
Turns out, though, that Johnson’s first feature — also starting JGL — is absolutely worth your time and, in some ways, is better than Looper. Brick was made for less than half a million bucks back in 2005, and went on to win a special jury prize at Sundance that year. Levitt plays a high school kid named Brendan who’s a bit of an outcast. He had a girlfriend for whom he still pines, but she’s gone missing until one day when she calls him for help before promptly vanishing completely. The movie track’s Brendan’s ersatz PI maneuverings around the teen underworld as he pieces together the rest of the plot. It’s a pure homage to noir, complete with snappy, clever, and confident dialog.
For example, when Levitt’s character is brought into the vice principal’s office for questioning, we get this fantastic exchange:
VP: You’ve helped this office out before.
Brendan: No, I gave you Jerr to see him eaten, not to see you fed.
(The VP, by the way, is Richard “Shaft” Roundtree.)
Or, earlier, when hatching his plot, after his sidekick suggests involving the cops:
No, bulls would gum it. They’d flash their dusty standards at the wide-eyes and probably find some yegg to pin, probably even the right one. But they’d trample the real tracks and scare the real players back into their holes, and if we’re doing this I want the whole story. No cops, not for a bit.
Or this beautiful bit, opposite the genre-obligatory femme fatale, Laura:
Laura: You’re quite a pill.
Laura: Where are you going?
Laura: Why did you take a powder the other night?
Brendan: Same reason I’m taking one now.
Laura: Hold it. I wanna help you.
Brendan: Go away. Look, I can’t trust you. You ought to be smart enough to know that. I didn’t shake the party up to get your attention, and I’m not heeling you to hook you. Your connections could help me, but the bad baggage they bring would make it zero sum game or even hurt me. I’m better off coming at it clean.
Laura: I wouldn’t have to lead you in by the ha…
Brendan: I can’t trust you. Brad was a sap. You weren’t. You were with him, and so you were playing him. So you’re a player. With you behind me I’d have to tie one eye up watching both your hands, and I can’t spare it.
See. This. Movie.
There’s a trailer on YouTube, too.
Elements of the fringe GOP group are now boycotting Fox News for being too liberal.
Note the info card text.
James Franco challenged Stephen Colbert to a “Tolkien Showdown” the other day. It did not go well for Mr Franco:
I know at least two Heathen will be interested to read the history of the firm, and account of its loss.
The “modern” W&G was the work of Burt Avedon:
Burt Avedon (cousin of the famous fashion photographer Richard Avedon) revived the company two years after it went out of business in 1977 and helmed it until it was liquidated in 1999. Now 89 years old, Burt is one of the last remaining people to have hands-on experience with the brand. His bio reads like a Most Interesting Man in the World skit: He was a pilot by age 12, raced cars, played football for UCLA, fought at Iwo Jima, was awarded a Purple Heart in the Navy, went from Harvard Business School into cosmetics and fashion, married an Italian princess, and later led attempts to excavate downed World War II planes from Greenland ice. After a short search, I tracked him down at his home in Verona, Wisconsin, to find out what had happened to what many consider to be the greatest outdoor-clothing brand of all time.
Go read the whole thing.
Kottke’s headline nails this except from the Danish show whose title translates to “Stupid & Dangerous”: Stupidity Captured at 2500 Frames per Second. Make time. Don’t miss the camper.
I picked this book up from IO9 at some point, and it’s been languishing on my Kindle forEVER, so I thought I’d finally give it a go. I was hoping, based on press, for sort of a speculative/alt history police procedural a la Chabon’s Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which I found utterly delightful.
Sadly, I was to be very disappointed. Empire State is Christopher‘s first novel, and it shows. It’s all over the place, with elements of noir, steampunk, alt history, mystery, superheroes, and more, and none of it ever quite gels into a coherent story.
I can’t say as I recommend this. Amazon’s reviews seem to bear this out, though that’s a notoriously fickle metric. The narrative just doesn’t hold up, and the characters are kind of flimsy and interchangeable (and not just in the way allowed for in the book’s universe). Christopher’s attempt at worldbuilding here is, well, a good attempt, but it doesn’t really work. The kitchen-sink approach to plotting — masked heroes! war! airships! robots! alternative universes! detectives! conspiracies! — rarely flies well, and this is no exception.
Seriously, check this out. A money quote:
For readers interested in learning more about how not to be labeled as registered sex offenders, a good first step is not to rape unconscious women, no matter how good your grades are. Regardless of the strength of your GPA (weighted or unweighted), if you commit rape, there is a possibility you may someday be convicted of a sex crime. This is because of your decision to commit a sex crime instead of going for a walk, or reading a book by Cormac McCarthy. Your ability to perform calculus or play football is generally not taken into consideration in a court of law. Should you prefer to be known as “Good student and excellent football player Trent Mays” rather than “Convicted sex offender Trent Mays,” try stressing the studying and tackling and giving the sex crimes a miss altogether.
Hodgman stops there, but for my money the next graf is easily as strong:
It’s perfectly understandable, when reporting on a rape trial, to discuss the length and severity of the sentence; it is less understandable to discuss the end of two convicted rapists’ future athletic and academic careers as if it were somehow divorced from the laws of cause and effect. Their dreams and hopes were not crushed by an impersonal, inexorable legal system; Mays and Richmond raped a girl and have been sentenced accordingly. Had they not raped her, they would not be spending at least one year each in a juvenile detention facility. (Emph. added.)
Direct link to Gawker here.
Good LORD I’m behind on these things — plus, as my general posting frequency has showed, I’m a little swamped at work. A few books will have to get the short shrift to allow me to catch up, as over the weekend I finished book #13.
THAT IS ALL is Hodgman’s final entry is his “Complete World Knowledge” trilogy, and what you get here is more of what you got in the other two. I’ll confess I actually skipped the second entry, but enjoyed the first when it came out back in 2005.
Because of this, I can’t really tell you much about how the style evolves, but I can tell you that Hodgman is playing at a more substantial game here than just a recitation of made-up facts. TIA concerns itself primarily with a countdown to the end of the world, events leading up to or contributing to it, ways in which one may prepare, and how he intends to survive as a deranged millionaire.
But there’s a metaphor at work here, too, that Hodgman winked at during his performance on the nerd cruise last month, when talking about his children. He noted that everything ever said, more or less, about one’s children boils down to “children are awesome, and I am dying.” He’s not wrong. Obviously, a meditation on the end of the world is a charmingly and grandiose way of confronting the sense of mortality one inevitably acquires in middle life.
Frankly, I was a little surprised how much I enjoyed TIA as an actual book (instead of a multi-hundred-page joke, which is what I expected). I’m actually considering revisiting the first book, and reading the second, as a consequence.
One note, btw: don’t skip the list of 700 ancient and unspeakable gods. There’s gold in there (just as I’m sure there’s gold in the list of hobos in the first book).
Terrible Nerd is Savetz’s memoir of sorts of growing up nerdy in California around the same time I was growing up nerdy in Mississippi. Near as I can tell, it was much easier going in California. ;)
I met Savetz on the Giant Nerd Cruise last month, and he gave me a copy of his book as we were playing Cards Against Humanity. I read it on the boat, which tells you how far behind I am on these posts.
He’s a nice guy, and his book is a fun read, but probably only if you’re part of our tribe.
Frankly, the VHS artifacts in this video only add to the hilarity.