After a decades-long struggle against poverty and racism, a librarian in the Deep South calls it quits. Read this incredibly moving story from the LA Times.
As someone who grew up in rural Alabama, I can tell you first-hand that these underfunded libraries are sometimes all that keeps a spirit alive. I loved the library (and still do), but my parents always had an extra dollar or two for me to order books from The Weekly Reader in elementary school. Once a month, I was called to the teacher's desk to pick up my monthly stack of paperbacks, usually great stuff like The Shark in Charlie's Window and, in a bizarre oversight from Scholastic, the novelization of William Girdler's grisly B-movie Grizzly. I remember realizing at an early age that I was building my very own library and how proud and giddy that made me feel.
I treasure that feeling, and I love the fact that while my library has exploded in the decades since, it still contains those seminal books. But now I look back at my early good fortune with no small amount of shame. My class was filled with kids who couldn't afford these books. Either they didn't have the money or their parents didn't care enough about it. But at least they had the school library, the city's public library, and the county bookmobile. In a region that gave rise to snake-handling and an infamous attack on science and reason, libraries were and still are lifelines to young and old, rich and poor alike.
The darkest threat facing us isn't terrorism or Islam or Armageddon or the devil. It's ignorance. And I'm afraid that we're losing the battle.
For over a decade now, I believed the annual Burning Man festival might be something I'd enjoy. Everything I'd heard made it sound like some utopian rave in an unspoiled paradise, a hip gathering of open-minded folks forging, however briefly, a new culture, a different way of looking at human communities.
And oh yeah, the nudity and drugs were a factor, too.
Everywhere you look a “porno-copia” of sagging balls, flopping peckers, hairy asses, flabby breasts and other uninvited unattractive nakedness will strip away any remnant of goodwill you may feel towards your fellow burners as the caustic alkali dust strips away your exposed skin. What gives these naked perverts the right to expose their ugly fucked-out carcasses? If being forced to view hundreds of hairy ass cracks as you gag down breakfast sounds fun, Burning Man is for you.
Most of their advice can also apply to serialized television, although Heinberg (who also scripts Grey's Anatomy, among other shows) pointed out important distinctions between the media. With comics, you can linger on a page, or flip back and re-read at your leisure. The writer and artist control pacing in a very different manner, and it's always at the whim of the reader to submit to that narrative flow. You can argue that viewers have that same power with VCRs and Tivo, but think for just a second: how often do you really use it? Not nearly as often as you do with a novel or comic that you hold in your hands.
Besides, there's a primal reaction from static visual art we don't get anywhere else. I have to remind myself these images are indeed static, because when it's a great book, my mind is filled with images and ideas in motion. As with the immediacy and intimacy of live theater, comics offer an experience you can't find anywhere else. It's neither better or worse than film or TV ... but the differences, aesthetically and emotionally, are unique. Practitioners of any of these trades are well-served by studying all the different ways we tell stories, and this panel offered some valuable insight.
In 2003, a pride of lions escaped from Baghdad's zoo during the U.S. bombing. Vaughn imbues them with human emotions and follows them on their desperate journey out of the war zone. Here's a print interview with Vaughn, and a good NPR profile.
This isn't The Lion King (not that there's anything wrong with that). And it's certainly not a children's book. You couldn't animate this. You wouldn't even think of filming it live-action. It's the sort of mature, intelligent, and stunning story that only comics can do. With amazing art from Niko Henrichon, this is the graphic novel to read this year.
I liked Studio 60's pilot script when I first read it last spring. Watching the episode air this week was a pleasure. If you've read any of the earlier drafts, seeing the final cut of this first episode was a great lesson in how to streamline pacing, story and character.
But given this TV show's setting -- a TV show -- will it pale in vision to The West Wing? This is not a show about an American president and his hard-working staff dealing with issues ripped from the headlines. This is about people working in TV.
The West Wing's geo-political machinations illuminated sharply a great cast of flawed but noble characters. Even as the show lost its steam, it still somehow felt important. Big Things were discussed and argued and hashed out right in front of you, and the answers rarely felt easy.
As much as I admired the concept and writing, I doubted that Studio 60 had the potential to equal Aaron Sorkin's previous project. And you know what? Maybe it doesn't have to. I'm willing to see if it stands on its own. But after reading Warren Ellis' recent take on the matter, I'm suddenly very hopeful that this show's stakes are higher than anyone suspects:
If [Sorkin’s] going to imagine an American show that says something worth listening to using social satire and thereby clawing back the high ground of public broadcasting, then we really do have the same themes as WEST WING back in play: a paean to public service that can only be told by idealising the work and workers of government.
Which he wrung some terrific stories out of. Which is all that matters in the end. What interests me is that Sorkin’s working in a country that takes its television a hell of a lot more seriously than it takes its government. He could catch a lot of flak if he really goes after his theme.
That piece was a follow-up to his earlier review of the show, which has many things to love, from his description of "the uniquely punchable-looking Nate Cordry" to this dead-on take of the show's female lead:
Amanda Peet, as new network head Jordan McDeere, is just from fucking Mars. All of her acting choices are just downright weird; she seems like she’s coming in from a completely different angle than anyone else, stiff and mannered and wide-eyed and strangely slowed-down and nowhere near the actress she actually is. I have no idea what’s going on there, and the writers, producers and directors I know who’ve seen STUDIO 60 all agree she’s a really jarring, odd presence in the show.
I think Peet's take on her character works because it's widely known that network executives are from Mars. But when Ellis is on, he's on, and the rest of us just shake our heads in wonder. (He's developing his own show for AMC and it's fun to watch his creative gears grinding all this data for us).
I don't really care one way or the other that Paramount is hoping to jump-start the road-weary Star Trek franchise. Good luck with that. Just, um, remember to leave out the suck.
But when I heard that CBS is re-releasing the classic original Star Trek series with new-fangled CGI enhancements ... I wanna beam my barf straight to the desk of every studio exec responsible.
When are we gonna stop polishing and remaking stuff that's already been done? George Lucas started this crap with his "Special Edition" Star Wars releases in the 1990s and it's led to a culturally unhealthy attitude that anything older than five minutes can't be any good.
Here's the original Enterprise. You can probably see composite lines shimmering around the edges, and it's sorta grainy, and it's one of those five or six stock F/X shots they recycled dozens of times. Despite all that, it totally rocks:
And here's the new CGI Enterprise they're gonna insert in its place:
I'm starting to suspect that Edith Keeler really didn't die in that traffic accident, that we're in an alternate timeline where bastards rule supreme. But as Kirk learned the hard way, sometimes you gotta let go of the past to save the future
(Speaking of good old Edith, turns out she's at the crux of a new lawsuit from Harlan Ellison, regarding new works of fiction based on her. I don't understand the legalities in any detail, but if Ellison was savvy enough to secure rights to a TV character he created back in the 1960s, more power to him).
The original Trek means a lot to me. It's dated and hokey and the future never looked more square. But that's fine because at its heart was a timeless message that, if it hit you at the right moment in your life, packed one helluva moral wallop. Here's Battlestar Galactica guru Ron Moore saying it much better than I can, from a recent NYT guest column:
Kirk, for me, embodied an American idea: His mission was to explore the final frontier, not to conquer it. He was moral without moralizing. Week after week, he confronted the specters of intolerance and injustice, and week after week found a way to defeat them without ever becoming them. Jim Kirk may have beat up his share of bad guys, but you could never imagine him torturing them.
A favorite quote: “We’re human beings, with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we won’t kill today.” Kirk clearly understood humanity’s many flaws, yet never lost faith in our ability to rise above the muck and reach for the stars.
* * *
And as I grew into an adult, and my political views took shape, I treasured “Star Trek” as a dream of what my country could one day become — a liberal and tolerant society, unafraid to live by its ideals in a dangerous universe, and secure in the knowledge that its greatness derived from the strength of its ideas rather than the power of its phasers.
Kira's done over half a dozen of these segments and they're some of the most watched clips at NBC's website. You can find most of them here. So set those TiVos and VCRs if your parents don't let you stay up that late.
Kira's gonna be a correspondent in upcoming episodes, which means you'll be seeing her face on your TV. Until that happy time, here she is:
Like way too many movies of late, I'm lukewarm on The Illusionist, a lush indy romantic thriller that's doing well at the box office. Well-acted, nicely shot and edited ... but with a thin, predictable storyline that bored me at "hello."
In fact, I spent a lot of time grinning at Rufus Sewell's horrendously fake moustache ...