Tuesday, December 11, 2012

WELL, YOU TRIED. Hey guess what -- Ace of Spades is getting into the conservative-culture thing!
A film is usually about something a little bit more complicated and a little more human than a seven-word bumper-sticker sentiment. A good film always is, a good novel always is. This sort of reductivist approach just isn't interesting or worthy. At least not to me. 
Don't we do some things just for fun? Or read some things simply because they're interesting, without any direct or indirect implication on our politics?
This is so promising -- not profound, just unusually thoughtful for Ace -- that I began to think he was serious. I'm such a naïf! Some paragraphs later:
I suppose I'm suggesting a sort of Invisible Hand in imagination or intellectual inquiry -- a free market in ideas should wind up producing the best ideas, and if it doesn't, the market is rigged to guarantee bad results. 
I think the market is so currently rigged -- first, by a venal monopoly which uses its market position in one market (the media, culture, the academy) to leverage a dominant position in another (the political realm)...
Back to the bitch-bunker, boys! George Clooney can rest easy.


  1. Fats Durston11:04 PM

    "a free market in ideas should wind up producing the best ideas"

    Looks like Roy's not the only naïf here!

  2. Spaghetti Lee11:12 PM

    I'm not much for invisible hands myself, but as an academic matter, shouldn't they be, you know, invisible, as opposed "the deliberate and explicit production and consumption of art that isn't any good, just to prove a spite-fueled political point that no one but you even understands?" Because what Ace is proposing sounds more like the latter.

    Oy. The conservative abandonment of free markets as soon as those markets produce something conservatives don't like (which is always disguised, of course, with the 'well it's not a real free market' crap) reminds me of those folktales where the stupid human thinks he can trick the fairy or leprechaun into being his slave and ends up turned into a statue or something for his troubles. Ace, it's you and your guys that insisted on profit and marketability as the deciding factor for what things are worth. Don't come crying to us when those things turn on you in the form of people deciding they'd rather watch Avatar than An American Carol. Helpful tip: It might help if you guys made an effort to understand people who aren't conservative bloggers, instead of blaming them for not thinking like you.

  3. I tried to wade through his whole glum stream-of-consciousness piece but it was such a morass of contradictions and un-self-aware blather that I skimmed to the end before my eyes fell out.

    But here's the gist. Ace, summing up: "I wish it were 1957 again when liberals didn't exist."

    No, seriously! He even cites the year!

  4. BigHank5311:26 PM

    A so-called free market in ideas winds up producing the most profitable ideas.* Christ, what an ignorant fucknozzle. He's not even capable of comprehending Econ 101, never mind passing the fucker. For starters, you would not believe how constrained an economist's definition of a "free" market is. Shorter version: there hasn't ever been one on this planet, and there won't ever be. Products aren't perfectly fungible, nobody has perfect information, and humans sure as shit don't optimize every decision according to the marginal utility of their time. The best we can do is impose lots and lots of rules on a marketplace (trustworthy currency, truth in advertising, regulated credit, an unbiased judicial system for resolving conflicts) in order to have a marketplace that anyone will even go near. These Randite shitweasels dick around with thought experiments, and then want to pretend they've done something more significant than jerking off between their ears.

    *I'm looking at you, Jersey Shore, Ice Road Truckers, and Honey Boo Boo. What, that's not a marketplace, Ace? What th' fuck is, then?

  5. Spaghetti Lee11:32 PM

    1957, you say?


  6. Fats Durston11:37 PM

    "I think the market is so currently rigged -- first, by a venal monopoly
    which uses its market position in one market (the media, culture, the
    academy) to leverage a dominant position in another (the political

    This is so true, except Ace just hasn't quite sussed out the flow-chart of the feedback loop. See, our history department runs its meetings on a loading dock, first because we like to pretend we're salt-of-the-earth union types, and second, because it's easier to offload the pallets of cash into our waiting arms. After receiving our cut, we send our information (basically, our only subjects of historical research are Goebbels, Adorno, Foucault, et al., no matter what our CV says our 'field' is) we have learned about manipulating the masses toward the left to the Hollywood and TV studios.

    These institutions then generate video media that offer indoctrinations that present glorious renditions of Leftist utopias that are completely uncritical of mass action, atheism, homosexuality, brown people, etc. (Happy married gay guy #3? That was mine!) These productions completely dupe the members of the print and video media into shilling for whichever candidate the Left vomits up. As a result, the Left wins every election.

    From this point, the redistributionist policies of the Leftist government are used to siphon money from the wealthiest members of society into a never-ending caravan of tractor-trailers. They unload their ill-gotten gains into academics' pockets and the cycle starts anew.

    Our methods are so effective that no one notices the solid gold weave clothing we wear to our lectures. The papers I am grading right now are proof positive of our hegemony, as the students have regurgitated perfectly everything I have told them this semester, with nary an error among them.

  7. AGoodQuestion11:45 PM

    This, Roy. For a good part of the piece, Ace shows a surprising amount of self-awareness.

    Although conservatives pride themselves on "Not worshipping the government" and "having interests and lives outside of politics" -- as contrasted with liberals -- in fact, if you consume conservative media, you will find our media completely rubbishes that claim, because the expressly conservative media is almost entirely about government and politics.

    He concludes, though, by saying that it's time for conservatives to enter the entertainment field. The problem is, though, that the obsession with government and ideology would - all things being equal - follow these people into the arts. Which in some cases has already happened. If these righties want advice on how to create something greater than propaganda, they'll have to talk to someone else.

  8. GregMc11:57 PM

    Not to mention that the year's Nobel for literature went to Albert Camus! And in cinemas? Jailhouse Rock, 12 Angry Men, Paths of Glory, A Face in the Crowd. Yes, Ford was still in his Flivver in '57.

  9. GregMc12:02 AM

    The Invisible Hand is offering you a palm, Ace: your generous donation will be vital to the success of the Atlas Shrugged prequel series!

  10. whetstone12:46 AM

    I think Ace might have better luck when he realizes that the entertainment business is a "market in ideas" in the way that the restaurant business is "a market in nutrients."

  11. calling all toasters1:09 AM

    I used to have a venal monopoly, but laser surgery cleared it up.

  12. Oh, for FSM's sake, he linked Matthew Continetti trying to analyze A Song of Ice and Fire. (SEK and the commenters over at LGM do far better.) I take it the invisible hand is providing some mental masturbation?

  13. Spaghetti Lee3:50 AM

    Specifically, invisible handjobs.

  14. Yes, that was the idea! (Adam Smith or their Canadian girlfriends.)

  15. smut clyde5:27 AM

    I think the market is so currently rigged

    Needs moar government regulation. We could call it "The Fairness Doctrine".

  16. aimai6:42 AM

    So: Honey BooBoo is not expressly conservative?

  17. Fats Durston6:57 AM

    It's not even that it's the lack of "free" market conditions, it's that they (and he) are so blinkered by the worship of markets that they (and he) take a lousy short-hand to describe why people have the politics they have ("marketplace of ideas") as an accurate description of how the world works.

    If we leave aside for a minute the saps who pay for the newsletters*, no one is paying for these ideas as goods. A "bought" idea can't be resold to defray costs. Supply and demand curves don't set prices for ideas (despite the human demand for idiotic stories).

    *Made by bullshit factories.

  18. Horatius7:18 AM

    I think a better example would be how we manger to make Che T-shirts the best selling casual wear in America.

  19. Horatius7:21 AM

    Manger = manage. Gaaaaaaaaaaaa

  20. 'Tis the season, Horatius. You should see my Marxian-themed nativity.

  21. wileywitch8:51 AM


  22. Helmut Monotreme8:59 AM

    you lost him at 'made an effort' and again at 'understand'

  23. sharculese9:13 AM

    To his credit, he seems to be holding that up as an example of something that is total fucking wank.

  24. sharculese9:14 AM

    Fuck yes. I eagerly await the cultural contributions of a dude whose version of american pie would have ended with biggs and the pie getting back together.

  25. chuckling9:19 AM

    I got sucked into reading those books awhile back, long after I'd sworn never to read any more "imaginative" fiction in which the author, with all of time and space to play with, couldn't imagine any political system more interesting than a fucking monarchy. "Game of Thrones" starts out okay as a mindless page turner, but as the books progress its essence as a ridiculous tale of ridiculous kings, queens, princes, etc. overwhelms anything that made it the least bit interesting at the start.

    Anyway, I read Continetti's article about its politics, which was as inane and incoherent as the politics in the novel, in which there basically are none. Nothing beyond "kill for power for the sake of power" anyway. Certainly nothing prescriptive for the world today.

    You could no doubt find 1000 paragraphs from Ursula K. Leguin's work that contain more political wisdom than Martin's rambling mummery about kings and dragons and such. If that's the kind of thing your looking for, of course. Storywise, Leguin knows when to quit. Martin has no fucking clue. Neither does Continetti.

  26. redoubt9:25 AM

    By his own logic, An Inconvenient Truth > "Drill, Baby, Drill"

  27. redoubt9:29 AM

    1957 is also the year Joe McCarthy drank himself to death.

  28. Leeds man10:15 AM

    Methinks the edit button is only there for those who sign on "properly".

  29. Leeds man10:31 AM

    SEK's posts inspired me to start reading it. 500+ pages in, and wavering for the same reasons you give, I discovered that there were five books with two more planned, each one about as long as the whole of LOTR. Sweet Jesus.

  30. BigHank5310:34 AM

    That's good to know, because the pills I bought on the internet aren't making anything bigger better.

  31. "dolla make me holla!"

    sounds pretty conservative to me....

  32. it was the herp of times, it was the derp of times...

  33. Ellis_Weiner11:03 AM

    I want to give this comment tenure, and then applaud as it indoctrinates our nation's yoof, assuring that generation after generation will (as they do now) know everything there is to know about Saul Alinsky.

  34. Halloween_Jack11:08 AM

    I'm not that far into the first book, and although I've found it to be reasonably entertaining so far, I keep finding reasons to pick up other things instead. I think that I've pegged it as an airport-type read, that I can go back to when I've got some time to kill and nothing better to do and I'm sick of playing Angry Birds or solitaire on my tablet.

    The thing that gets me about ASOIAF is how fanatical its fans are, to the point where some fans were virtually stalking GRRM, publishing long angry screeds whenever he'd show up at an SFF convention because that meant that he wasn't writing. They weren't even discouraged in this when Neil Gaiman told them to fuck off.

  35. Ellis_Weiner11:13 AM

    They like "marketplace of ideas" because they like the image of themselves as witting customers, asserting desires and preferences and rewarding providers who cater to them. As such--go be surprised--they're mired in the 19th century.

    Tell them, "It's not a marketplace of ideas. It's memes in non-conscious Darwinian competition," and it hurts their feelings, poor things.

  36. I power read through the first four books before the TV series began (or maybe I mean three books?) and I found them incredibly absorbing and enjoyable. I actually liked the parts that were "about" monarchy or rather about the War of the Roses because they were like a jazz riff on a familiar tune. I also liked, though I found it somewhat garbled, the ways in which the sheer weight of an unwritten historic reality pressed down on the very limited historical awareness of these people--that is: they are confronted by the wall and what lurks behind it, and sheer fact of the social arrangements which were put in place to deal with the threat, but they lack any real understanding of (or ability to) continue to manage the threat. They are clinging, ant like, to an animal that is moving and whose motives and strength they can't understand.

    That being said eventually you realize that the author has no bigger plan and the books simply can't end--because the story isn't a "romance" or a "mystery" or any genre fiction that has an end. Instead it will just fade away into one damn thing after another and total narrative incoherence. He insists on spawning new characters and new stories and you lose faith, as a reader, that there is ever going to be any kind of resolution.

    In that sense he has given me an new apreciation for the supposed fate of Scheherezade. In reality the king would eventually have had her head cut off out of sheer annoyance, or married her to stop her from adding one more new twist to her stories to keep them going. Perhaps he ordered the head chopping to end because he wanted a good night's sleep and it was the only way to stop her from starting a new story?


  37. Ellis_Weiner11:23 AM

    "Although conservatives pride themselves on 'Not worshipping the
    government' and 'having interests and lives outside of politics' -- as
    contrasted with liberals --

    Oh pls. These two tropes aren't even wrong. But this is what always happens when wingnut thinkers (sic) try to write about culture. It always comes out as propaganda. You can hear them thinking, "But if it doesn't trade in dumb-bell anti-liberal stereotypes and explicit Randian buzz words, how will anyone know it's conservative?"

    The don't know what art IS. They don't even know what entertainment is. But how can they, when both begin with self-knowledge--i.e., with the one psychological and emotional experience their "philosophy" is created to protect them from?

  38. Leeds man11:35 AM

    "The thing that gets me about ASOIAF is how fanatical its fans are"

    Battlestar Galactica, Lost, and Walking Dead have similarly enthused fans. Must be something in the water that makes people go apeshit for long, drawn-out stories which seem to progress by some sort of Brownian motion ("total narrative incoherence", as Aimai puts it), and end up going nowhere. Or maybe I'm just old.

  39. BigHank5312:00 PM

    I'm not seeing a very happy report card in Ace's future, given the marks he's been given on History, Economics, Critical Thinking, and Human Physiology.

  40. Bitter Scribe12:23 PM

    Oh for Christ's sake. They've got the morons-blabbing-on-the-radio market locked up, and that translates into votes a lot better than some movie. Isn't that enough for them?

  41. That really made me laugh.

    I gather from some of the other comments here that I'm being harder on 'ol Ace than maybe seems warranted. I mean, here he is apparently putting on his thinking cap and giving things an earnest considerin' and maybe we should respect that. But this is the guy that called us traitors a thousand and one times during the Iraq War because we didn't believe the latest school with a new coat of paint was the sure sign of victory or that every single person dying was a guilty terrorist and all the living pure innocents and so on and so forth. He and his commenters brayed on and on about how "anti-patriots" and "terrorist-sympathizers" like us needed to be prosecuted and tortured and on and on. He and his ilk are all about the conservative authoritarian regime.

    He's in a bit of a funk now because of Obama's reelection but he is by nature a shameless brownshirt. I have no doubt that were we laboring under the military regime of Palin/Akin or some other such nightmare that Ace would be the one coordinating our relocation to FEMA camps where we were forced to use our superior creative and thinking skills to produce artful, Mayberryesque propaganda for the state, much to his childish delight. I will leave this earth without ever having turned my back to that treacherous bastard for a moment.

  42. Halloween_Jack1:03 PM

    Yeah, I'd gotten the impression from what people had been saying about the books overall that Martin had effectively written himself into a corner, that he'd been juggling so many balls for so long that he couldn't just start plucking them out of the air in order to wind down the act. And the impression that I got of some of the more entitled-feeling fans was that they believed that Martin had a master plot outline for the entire saga and that all he had to do was simply fill out the outline, and that he was holding out on them out of some combination of sheer spite and/or laziness.

    I've seen that with other SFF projects, as well; Battlestar Galactica was one example where seemingly everyone was unhappy with the ending, and Stephen King's Dark Tower saga was another. (King at one point did have an outline for the entire series, but lost it; at any rate, whatever he had in mind would have been changed drastically by his being hit by a van, which ends up (along with King himself) figuring heavily in the last three books.) And fans of the Mass Effect video game series were so irate at the ending of the third game that they helped make EA, the game's publisher, the worst company in the world in Consumerist's annual tournament-style poll, beating out Bank of America, which has actually ruined many people's lives.

    And it's completely understandable that people want a better ending than "rocks fall, everyone dies." (Or, in the case of Mass Effect, that you come to the end of a big damn space opera in which the decisions that you've made across three separate games--literally hundreds of them--have affected the course of the game, only to be given three choices for the fate of the galaxy which are in no way influenced by the previous choices that you've made. EA eventually revised the ending, although a lot of people still weren't happy.) People who have invested a lot of time in someone's world want a climax that somehow justifies all that time, notwithstanding that they hopefully got a lot of enjoyment along the way, and never mind the journey being more important than the destination. They don't want to hear that the creator was just sort of winging it as they went along.

  43. tigrismus1:09 PM

    Alas, poor Horatius.

  44. you guys...

  45. Gromet1:37 PM

    You would have a hard time convincing me that the market which has
    produced a series of big-budget Transformers movies starring Shia Leboef
    (sp?) isn't rigged. But I'm not sure how that
    rig-job "leverages a dominant position in a political realm."

    disclosure: I never watched any of the Transformer movies, so maybe
    Megan Fox plays a lesbian revolutionary and Shia is gay-married to
    Optimus Prime.)

  46. Quick! To the fan fiction archives!

  47. Gromet2:07 PM

    Ha! "Shia, the Decepticons have built a walled village in Idaho. If we don't take that down, our plan to destroy America by providing universal health care will be foiled forever."

    "Gosh, Optimus! You get the ammo, I'll pack our gay sex toys! And Meg, we're going to need your Warriorettes if our plan is to succeed; there is no fighting force more cruel or rejecting of God-given norms in the world today."

    "You had me at rejecting God-given norms," Meg said, looking up from her copy of Valerie Solanas's SCUM Manifesto and pausing just a moment in the throes of pleasuring herself. "Vive les panels du mort!"

  48. wileywitch2:30 PM

    If you're recommending a film just for the sentiment "gay families are just like regular families," why not just be honest about things and write a review of that seven-word sentiment? And write, "I like this sentiment very much," and leave the movie out of it entirely?

    It can't be like any other love story can it? Gay families are bunker stickers. I can't for the life of me figure out what this man wants. Human story-tellling has always had elements

  49. Halloween_Jack2:40 PM

    It's worth not only getting out of the boat here, but even going a bit further upstream; part of Ace's meanderings probably has to do with his not really going back to the source material, but getting Chait's article by way of Rod Dreher. The latter doesn't really do justice to the former, no big surprise; although some of Chait's assertions are a little eyebrow-raising ("Christian conservatives protested Cape Fear" because of De Niro's tattoos? Uh... The Last Temptation of Christ, maybe), he also makes some good points and notes that the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, an anti-communist Hollywood organization, commissioned its Screen Guide for Americans from... wait for it... Ayn Rand.

  50. geraldfnord2:48 PM

    Not for the first time I find myself thinking, 'He would be so much happier as an overt anti-Semite.' I am not implying that he were a covert such, just that as a flaming anti-Semite he could find a level of personal completion, and connexion to a rich history of bigotry with a culture all its own, as opposed to the wan shadows of it.

  51. geraldfnord2:57 PM

    Mr...'Smith', ehh.....suuuuuuurrrrrrre.

  52. wileywitch3:01 PM

    As his "culture cultivates" (say it three times) friend says, "We can lean into the prevailing winds, but only if we know how to stand somewhere solid. Only if we are not being carried by the wind. We need to be able to imagine alternative ways of perceiving reality."; which is why conservatives aren't very creative and why they make such persistent propogandists.

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  54. MikeJ3:24 PM

    Gilligan's Island had the same problem. Week after week virtually no progress was made in getting off the island. I have serious doubts about whether or not Sherwood Schwartz had it completely plotted before it went on the air.

  55. JennOfArk4:09 PM

    Speaking of Neil Gaiman, I happened across a copy of American Gods recently, and having read Good Omens (and shared it with everyone I know), picked it up and read it - and really liked it. Especially the bit about how kitschy tourist traps being the spirtual energy centers and what have you. I always KNEW there was some reason for me to SEE ROCK CITY.

  56. Leeds man4:16 PM

    Sherwood Schwartz? I thought it was Franz Kafka.

  57. aimai2:11 AM

    But, to follow up on Chuckling's point--I think we can at least all see the applicability of Gilligan's Island to modern day political dilemmas. Didn't we just have Thurston Howell the III, or at least the evil incarnation of him, run for President?

  58. JennOfArk2:13 AM

    Apparently Ace has never grasped the concept of the LCD, or lowest common denominator, which is the main force at work in a free-market economy. Take anything that gains a following, then water it down to attract a greater following, and continue watering down until you've turned it into a banal piece of shit, at which point it will attract the greatest market share. See: Fox News.

    There's a reason why Fifty Shades of Gray will make its author an undeservedly rich man (or woman - I have no idea who wrote that piece of crap) while no single novel written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, or Gunter Grass will ever sell as many copies as the aforementioned piece of crap has no doubt sold in a single year, and it's all due to the free market. See also: Atlas Shrugged, a ponderous piece of dreck devoid of artistic merit, which if I understand correctly, is the second biggest-selling book of all time - topped only by the Bible. Mass tastes are lowbrow - always have been, and always will be - which is why the aim of any real work of artistic merit is not to "sell as much as possible," because by definition, most people aren't going to get it or see its appeal.

    The free market is entirely capable of producing "the best ideas;" the problem is that by definition, they won't be the most popular ones in terms of being financially successful. The "rigging" is all in the whole "free market" concept itself.

  59. aimai2:15 AM

    Years ago Mad Magazine did a brilliant riff on the ways in which Hollywood creates its next show by simply inverting the premise of the previous show. They had a pie chart and they spun an arrow: on one side would be "Beverly Hillbillies" (rubes in the city) on the other would naturally appear "Green Acres" (city folks in the country). There were quite a few others but I can't remember them. It is, however, nearly infallible.


  60. Another Kiwi2:16 AM

    Yeah American Gods is good

  61. Ding Ding Ding Ding

    That is some funny shit.

  62. Leeds man2:18 AM

    It would be even funnier if Gilligan's Island was earnest, self-important and pretentious.

  63. montag22:18 AM

    Atlas Shrugged retains that distinction not because of a "free market of ideas," but because its distribution is much like other wingnut welfare schemes. Rand's followers set up a foundation to bulk-buy and give away thousands of copies every year to high schools and libraries, which has artificially inflated its "sales" figures. I think this has been going on ever since the early `60s (can't imagine the school system of the tiny town in which I went to high school buying thirty copies as textbooks).

    In the United States, particularly, the "invisible hand" belongs to an evil proctologist.

  64. montag22:19 AM

    Ah, well, I would say that self-knowledge is not the root of creativity (there have been too many instances of very creative people whose self-knowledge--based on their behavior in their everyday lives--was not exactly running on a full tank (William Styron immediately comes to mind). We still don't understand much about the nature of creativity (and that might actually be a good thing), but we do know that ideological conformism and rigidity of thought are not conducive to creative enterprise. We also know that the principles of propaganda can be used imaginatively, but the results are rarely, if ever, considered to be genuinely creative work.

    This is the simple undoing of conservatives everywhere whose primary lament is that they have no dominant voice in the popular culture. They insist on treating it as something to be shaped, codified and disseminated. They're like Goebbels in his prime, asserting that "our propaganda is superior to their propaganda!" It's the only way they can see something which is actually rather amorphous and affected by manifold influences (not the least of which are profit and simple novelty).

    Without doubt, though, this is something they're never going to understand, because they are consumed by the expectation of a desired result, rather than an immersion in the creative process itself.

  65. Chris Anderson2:19 AM

    "... reminds me of those folktales where the stupid human thinks he can trick the fairy or leprechaun into being his slave and ends up turned into a statue or something for his troubles. Ace, it's you and your guys that insisted on profit and marketability as the deciding factor for what things are worth."

    So true, and well-put. I'm tempted to say this is their core stumbling-block. They like systems, and culture, and this and that, always but in a purely provisional sense. Underneath the principled veneer they're just defending some privilege or another, none of which can bear close examination.

    No matter how many earnest minions the Koch brothers buy, however, the Kochs do not really suffer from the failures you cite. David and Charles aren't enslaved to leprechauns or turned to statues when it's demonstrated that their ideologies are nonsense. They just lose a few dollars, relatively speaking. In the temporal scope of things, if they can parlay a bit longer, muddy the waters, buy a bunch of stooges: well that's quite enough.

    That's the game for the hyper-rich. Buy enough people who are unprincipled or naive but understand human lifespan. Can you give them and their children a better life, in exchange for enthusiastic vassaldom? Of course you can, you're a Koch or an Adelson. You can afford millions of lifetimes, with benefits.

  66. chuckling2:20 AM

    Gilligan's Island is politically much more interesting. Shows the benefits of communal living and a social safety net for economically worthless folk such as parasites like the Howells and artistes such as Ginger.

    Our right wing friends are always looking to break into television, that could be a good show for them to update. Thurston Howell, would, by natural right, be the Island's CEO. The professor would build weapons for him and the skipper would be his security, Ginger would be his mistress and maybe have a few profitable dalliances on the side. Gilligan and Mary Anne would do all the work. The poor near-sighted Japanese sailor would, of course, be tortured.

  67. KatWillow2:20 AM

    What about Lovey?

  68. aimai2:20 AM

    I think one of the things you guys are missing is that Ace nailed his flag to the mast of the idea of the Republicans as serious, technocratic, disciplined, electoral machine/wonks. He went all in and actually left his cheetoh stained lair (stepping gingerly over the play doh and bacon on the way out) to help GOTV and Poll Watch for what he thought would be a dominanting political and policy presence: President Romney. His experience, so bitterly described that even I pitied him, has thrust him back onto mere culture as an explanation and as a crutch. If Romney had gotten in it would have been triumphalism all the way down.


  69. aimai2:20 AM

    She'd raise dressage horses, or oysters if no horses were available.

  70. chuckling2:20 AM

    Aimai beat me to it, though I figured she'd use Gilligan as the dressage horse.

  71. BigHank532:20 AM

    I'd pay good money to see a dressage oyster compete.

  72. BigHank532:20 AM

    To be fair (!), they do have the massive handicap of starting with their desired result and working backwards, which isn't any kind of way to make art. But they'd never allow themselves to work any other way: what if you were thinking the wrong kind of liberal-ish thought and your brain got stuck that way?

  73. @aimai: Yeah, the first three books are pretty good as genre fiction, and the HBO series has been very well done. The fourth book takes a huge plunge in quality, and with the exception of a few chapters, becomes Martin spinning his wheels, marking time. The fifth is better, but still a transition novel. (I tore through them all, summer of last year.) There's been some smart speculation about the end of the series (at least one element of it), but we'll see if Martin can stick the landing. Like aimai, I enjoy the War of the Roses riffs, Martin crafts some good characters and makes some interesting choices. There's also plenty to poke fun at ('they broke their fast with capons…' pt. 453), but I prefer to do that in an appreciative way.

  74. @Halloween Jack: Good points, especially about petulant fanboys (and fangirls). Although on the creation angle, novelists don't suffer time pressures as intense as those of TV series writers. Martin originally planned on three novels, but then he kept expanding it, and that's where things got bogged down. (J.K. Rowling actually pulled off it fairly well, all things considered, but fan anticipation can be a dangerous, teenage love full of fantasies, and can turn viciously bitter.) I've heard several of the Lost writers speak out here, and many of the problems with the series (which had some gems) are attributable to those factors. But they also made some questionable choices when it came to the overall story arcs, and that was definitely the case with Battlestar, imo (I love parts of the series, but also hold it as a writer's cautionary tale). They went for a gimmick for shock value to end season 3 (or maybe it was desperation), and that wrote them into a corner they could never fully work their way out of, although they still delivered some good moments. That's the lesson I've taken from it (also from Matchstick Men, and some other works): don't pull a "twist" that might have shock value in the short run but makes the overall story (or key character dynamics) less interesting.

  75. I've long wanted to do a Gilligan's Island-Lost mashup.

  76. smut clyde4:09 AM


  77. Halloween_Jack11:19 AM

    If you haven't seen the House on the Rock yet, I can't recommend it strongly enough. I went there as a kid and had dreams about it about every other year until I went back there thirty years later, and it was even weirder when I toured it as an adult. It's like walking through the mind of a world-class obsessive.

  78. Ellis_Weiner11:50 AM

    I think what I meant by "self-knowledge" is emotional honesty, either w/ regard to one's own experience or what one has observed about the lives of others. I may only be talking about narrative art (fiction, film, drama, etc.), but still. They see art and entertainment as being commercials for "values," and bitch and moan that "our culture" doesn't allow their commercials to be aired enough. This is especially true about standup comedy, which requires some kind of emotional honesty, and which they completely lack.

  79. Ellis_Weiner12:06 PM

    Atlas Shrugged isn't even in the top twenty of best selling books. What you're thinking of is a survey conducted in 1991 by the Library of Congress, asking people about the most influential book they'd read. Atlas was number two. The Bible--still in print after two thousand years!--was number one.

  80. "Christian conservatives protested Cape Fear" because of De Niro's tattoos?

    Having formerly been ensconced in that world, I can say that there actually was a minor fuss about the Cape Fear remake over Max Cady's Biblical tattoos, his Bible quotations, and his Pentecostal upbringing. I guess that somehow suggested that Christians are all violent sociopaths, or that Pentecostalism is child abuse, or something.

  81. i would like to put a bullet in this comment, right after i peel andy warhol's cap back.

  82. Don't disillusion me, man. Somewhere there is a college course on this.