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Tag Archives: august 2010

The best of the best from the New York Times, when I find time.

The Third Replicator

We humans like to think we are the designers, creators and controllers of this newly emerging world but really we are stepping stones from one replicator to the next.

The F Word

Flesh suggests messiness, privileging the indiscipline of life over the fierce control of art, the unaerobicized body spilling over the contours of an artificial silhouette, be it Christian Dior’s New Look in 1947 or Marc Jacobs’s New Look for Louis Vuitton this fall. Flesh also suggests the threateningly female, moistness and blood, the hothouse clutches of a heavy-breasted mother — off-putting images for male fashion designers, who are more often than not gay. (Think of Karl Lagerfeld’s withering disdain on hearing that a German magazine would now be using only regular-size women in its fashion spreads: “No one wants to see curvy women… . You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly.”)

Inside the Knockoff-Tennis-Shoe Factory

While looking the shoes over myself, I noticed the label on the inside of the tongue read “Made in Vietnam.” That was all part of the subterfuge, Lin said, adding that there are “different levels of counterfeit. Some are low quality and don’t look anything like the originals. But some are high quality and look just like the real ones. The only way to tell the difference between the real ones and ours is by the smell of the glue.” He took back the shoe, buried his nose in the footbed and inhaled.

The Poetry of Prose

Most striking is that unlike many traditional grammar books, Clark’s reserves its scolding not for students of writing, but for teachers who harbor unduly restrictive views — “members of the crotchety crowd” who “tend to turn their own preferences about grammar and language into useless and unenforceable rules.” Linguistic insecurities and peeves, once they take hold, are exasperatingly difficult to shake. Even though the first edition of Fowler’s book, released way back in 1926, unequivocally states that the proscriptions against ending sentences with prepositions and splitting infinitives are absurd, we’re still arguing about them today, in 2010.

E-Books Make Readers Less Isolated

“I think, historically, there has been a stigma attached to the bookworm, and that actually came from the not-untrue notion that, if you were reading, you weren’t socializing with other people,” Dr. Levinson said. “But the e-reader changes that also because e-readers are intrinsically connected to bigger systems.” For many, e-readers are today’s must-have accessory, eroding old notions of what being bookish might have meant. “Buying literature has become cool again,” he said.

Fixing a World That Fosters Fat

The real problem is a landscape littered with inexpensive fast-food meals; saturation advertising for fatty, sugary products; inner cities that lack supermarkets; and unhealthy, high-stress workplaces.

In other words: it’s the environment, stupid.

Technology Leads More Park Visitors Into Trouble

People with cellphones call rangers from mountaintops to request refreshments or a guide; in Jackson Hole, Wyo., one lost hiker even asked for hot chocolate.

The Value of a Tattoo in Higher Education

David B. Wiseman, a psychologist, showed 128 undergraduate students photographs of tattooed and non-tattooed female models, described as “college instructors.” He found that college students prefer tattoos:

UK Reality TV Programme Branded “Freak Show”

A new British reality TV show, which will film two people — one disfigured, the other attractive — living together in a house full of mirrors, has been branded a “freak show” by critics.

The Sofa Wars

The Times/CBS News survey found that people under the age of 45 were about four times as likely as those 45 and over to say Internet video services could effectively replace cable.

Do the Top Billion Need New Goals?

There’s a set of Millennium Development Goals for the poorest of the poor — a cohort of humanity sometimes described as the “ bottom billion.”

But, as yet, there’s no set of such goals for those who are already living lives that many analysts say are consuming resources at a pace well beyond the planet’s carrying capacity, particularly if the habits that attend affluence — from greatly increased meat consumption to unthinking energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions — are adopted by another few billion people.


Cop Out
(Blockbuster DVD — Cincinnati)
Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan star in this simple cop comedy. The random humor that made Tracy Morgan so popular on 30 Rock is exemplified over and over in this movie. The plot isn’t exactly the most engrossing thing, and I found myself just waiting for more Tracy Morgan humor towards the end of the movie (I didn’t find it that thrilling). I hope Willis made a pretty penny off being in this one. In terms of Naked Gun style entertainment, it’s pretty satisfying, but certainly not intellectually stimulating in any way.

Shutter Island ^
(Blockbuster DVD — Cincinnati)
This film got a lot of hype before its release earlier this year, as is understandable with whatever new Scorsese project is in the works. After its release, as with most hope, it came against a wall of critics. Which is where I fit in. Interestingly, I thought DiCaprio acted pretty much the same character as he did in Inception. A hard-ass, strong willed, albeit mentally weakened professional forced to deal with his, up until now deflected, love driven psychosis. Again, a woman is the ultimate (leaky and disruptive) devastation to the man’s reality (same as Inception). The film is just beautiful, though, and the story is told fantastically—making you feel just as insane as the star. Greatly enjoyable, and a must see to capture Scorsese’s film style.

Inception *
(Esquire Theater, Clifton Cincinnati)
On all accounts, this movie is incredible. There’s also no doubt it’s a great conversation starter—more so than The Matrix but more accessible than, say, Waking Life. Here are my criticisms, though. Firstly, Christopher Nolan has provided us primarily with an action movie. As mentioned previously, it’s pretty much a better version of The Matrix, in terms of sci-fi action and conceptualization (fuck the sequels). As a result, during the first half of the movie we’re being rushed in and out of explanations for the films universe (note, this happens in The Matrix, as well. There is a purpose, though. The final sequence of the film would be completely and totally indiscernible if it weren’t for the hasty context we’re given earlier. (Which is why Ebert calls this film, “unspoilable” and “process” oriented). Let’s take Nolan’s ‘Memento’, on the other hand. Here’s a movie that hadn’t the need to focus so much on the action and as a result allowed us to experience more of the protagonists interior space. In an almost Hitchcockian sense, we sometimes learn more from what we don’t see of the characters interior space than what is manifested for us on the movie screen. That said, the manifested interior space is an unbelievable Matryoshka of conceptualization. The street flipping dream (including the mirrors and stuff), the Escher style staircases, the entire hotel hallway/elevator sequence, and the ‘totem’ shots (including the final one) were the most memorable for me. However, I hated the final dream setting (the wintery subconscious-defense-station). It seemed so boring as a dream setting compared to the other places. Many have concerned themselves over the ending: is it all a dream, or…er…where do the dreams start and end. Clearly this isn’t what drives interest in the film. Instead, it’s the idea of the ‘totem’, the ‘architect’ work, the ‘theif’ chameleon, Cobb’s abilities, Robert Fischer’s life, etc. But, just see the movie, it’s brilliant. On a more personal note, I wasn’t that interested in the stability of Cobb’s psyche—it wasn’t the driving force for my interest in the film’s mythos, it was a simple solution to Nolan’s problem of ending a film that threatens to be bigger than one man’s psychological well-being.

(Cable Television)
So much of this movie seemed to pick up right where Goodfellas left off. This is probably exemplified by Ray Liotta’s casting in the film. Anyway, Depp is fantastic as the lead character. In terms of stories that sober audiences to the reality of the drug business, it’s a good one, but not a classic—and certainly not original in any way. Depp’s character reminds me of a mixture of his roles in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Donnie Brasco. Penelope Cruz plays another great crazy bitch (a la Woody Allen’s recent Vicki Christina Barcelona), and as always, she does fantastically in this role. The costuming of the movie is pretty underrated, it’s got late 80’s early 90’s down to a sick science.

50 First Dates
(Cable Television)
I don’t want to spend much time reviewing this movie, so I’ll say a couple words about Adam Sandler. Despite the criticism he often gets, his movies fill a very profitable niche. Films from Big Daddy to Click all run in the same sociological vein, they aren’t that expensive to make, and generally guarantee a profit. Having grown up hearing quotes from Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore throughout my adolescent school career, I have to admit that I really enjoyed his movies growing up. With 50 First Dates he still manages to achieve some of that really satisfying, and somehow endearing, childish humor, but in a slightly more conservative, understated presentation than, say, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. Drew Barrymore plays a caricature of girl next-door cuteness, and though she does it well, it’s not exactly the most impressive roll of her life. Still, the movie tickles romance, and may, for some at least, offer a drop of intellectual exploration.

Star Trek VIII: First Contact
(Netflix Watch-it-now) 
I started watching this film out of boredom and ended up finishing it despite my original plan not to. In that regard, it was sort of like sitting down on a Saturday in the 90’s and settling for a mediocre movie on TV that just happened to start when you wanted to watch something. I had originally thought this was the Star Trek with the desert stuff and the meeting of Kirk, you know, uh…oh yeah: Star Trek: Generations. But, in fact, it wasn’t—but like I said, I finished it anyway. Ok, so, there’s the odd-number Star Trek films suck, theory. I pretty much agree, except that (though I haven’t seen all of them), most Star Trek movies are unimpressive. I’m very rarely super satisfied with any movie made from a television show. Additionally, the bad Star Trek movies have ended up like cult classic episodes of the corresponding series. In that sense this movie was about as good as any episode of TNG. The special effects are pretty cool, but nothing really happens in this one that’s absolutely universe shattering (besides good old fashioned time travel)—I mean, it’s hard to compare with the crash landing of the Enterprise in Generations. Geek wise, it was probably super satisfying the see the warp engine’s inventor, and ‘First Contact’ with the Vulcans. Anyway, the movie is just another franchise film, and nothing like Abram’s recent prequal-reboot (which was brilliant, if you ask me). If you really want to nerd out for a couple of hours, save yourself some money and check out Jandrews Edits on Youtube.

Life is Beautiful ^
(Netflix DVD)
This movie won best foreign film and best actor in 1998 at the Academy awards, which is basically why I decided to watch it. In that regard, Roberto Benigni is amazing, and perhaps the most notable thing in the film. In fact, the most memorable thing the film offered to me was Benigni’s acceptance at the Academy Awards. The film reminded me of some other postwar films that exemplify the imaginary as a method of coping with trauma—thus, I’d say, this film is a perfect pair with Goodbye Lenin. It’s hard to believe the story in any way plausible, but I think Benigni’s character is something that is fundamentally human. I know people love this film, but having watched it this particular week, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Adam Sandler was Italian and made a holocaust film—I imagine it couldn’t be that far off from this. It’s an uplifting story, but not in the same way that Schindler’s List is uplifting.

Trouble the Water *
(Netflix DVD)
There is so much to talk about with this film. As the website for the film indicates, it’s not just about the Katrina disaster, it’s about the inequalities of citizenship in America. Kimberly Rivers Roberts’ and friends’ camera work is terrible, and as she captures the storm, those who couldn’t flee, and a strangely authentic pre-apocalyptic atmosphere. The titular moment of the film comes when Roberts’ puts one of her own raps on the boombox and does an impromptu karaoke version, to me this sums up the film’s power and message. We’re seeing an individuals struggle to promote individuality in a country that idolizes individuality but somehow sadly fails to adequately foster that individuality for all its citizens. See this movie.

Youth in Revolt ^
(Blockbuster Free Kiosk Rental Code)
Michael Cera star-drives this cathartic strange boyhood romance story. In comparison to Superbad the protagonist often talks about his desires to do things that are clearly ‘immoral’, and somehow awkwardly manages to overcome these societal pressures to do the ‘right’ thing, and get the girl. In this case: blowing up a bunch of stuff so he gets sent to live with his dad (near the girl), sneaking into a boarding school and trying to have sex (with the girl), and drugging his the girl in hopes that she’ll fail out of boarding school and have to come home. In contrast to Superbad, though, the film takes place in a much lower class setting, which I think allows it its strangeness. The family troubles, the floozy mom (Ray Liotta cameo), and Steve Buschemi as a dad, make the film a lot less mainstream in terms of what most audiences can identify with. I particularly enjoyed when the jesus-freak parents end up perpetually on shrooms because of the older brother character. You’re still getting an awkward Cera film, but you’re getting a lot more eccentricity.