it’s not magnolia

Hello, readers.

It’s Wednesday. It’s occasionally rainy with patches of it will rain again in a minute just you wait. I’ve taken a deep dive into Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. It is, as most of Murakami’s books, both mundane and exceedingly weird. A man loses contact with friends. He meets a man who tells a story about his dad meeting a man who knows he’s going to die and tells a story about how when you know that you’re going to die you can see the true colors of a person’s heart.

Also.

Joss Whedon is still talking about Avengers.

…it’s not Magnolia, where you’re telling all these separate stories that are just vaguely intertwined. They’re doing some of that job for me. By the way, if it was Magnolia, it would be the best movie ever made, but I can’t reach for the stars, people. I’m just a man.

Also, also, and on the same topic.

Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir

Even Joss Whedon, an undoubted pop-culture genius, cannot create that kind of significance from whole cloth, at least not after two dozen or more generally similar superhero movies have worn out the cultural resonance of the form. It would be foolish for me to sit here in a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows and proclaim that the era of the comic-book movie is coming to an end. That’s not happening anytime soon (and anyway I threw that jacket away). It might be accurate to say instead that superhero cinema has reached a decadent plateau, a long-term steady state of self-nourishing bigness and reverberant meaninglessness. Whedon moves on from the Marvel empire not as its Augustus or its Spartacus, but more like one of the later, non-terrible Christian emperors who won some battles, made some reforms and convinced everybody that the glory of Rome would endure forever. Was it worth doing? That depends on what you think of Rome.

Some of that rings true for me. Except, I don’t think the cultural resonance has worn out of the form. Because the form of superhero films is not anything in particular. Superheroes are a genre in the way that romance is a genre which is to say it’s a genre that can be built on top of any other genre. It’s just going to take a different of superhero story to resonate in the way that Dark Knight did (a superhero noir/crime thriller) or the first X-Men (a superhero coming out)

There will be amazing superhero movies to come, a few of which will take everyone by surprise. And I don’t mean in the way that Guardians of the Galaxy was amazing. But, I mean, in the way that Buffy was amazing. And the first X-men with Bryan Singer was amazing. I mean that someone, somewhere, is going to make a superhero movie that’s personal and has something to say.

I’d bet on an adaptation of a novel written in the aftermath of this superhero renaissance.

Also, also, also.

There’s a bit of blue sky out there, between the clouds.

I’m so excited to see what Whedon does next.

 

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hyperbolic surfaces

Hello, readers.

The Guardian wrote about a collection of Jillian Tamaki called SuperMutant Magic Academy which, by the end of reading the title, you probably know whether you should take a look at it or not and the answer is of course you should in case you were still wondering which I don’t know what to do with you if that’s the case.

In essence, this is a book about raging hormones – think existential crises, black moods, impossible crushes and extreme lethargy – that just happens to come with a little magic on the side. (One character is too lazy to get up off the sofa and grab his wand, for all that he’s longing to use it to conjure up some nachos and guacamole.)

Also.

In the 21st century, only corporations get to own property and we’re their tenants

Also. Also.

I listened to THE GRANDEUR AND LIMITS OF SCIENCE on the walk to The British Library. It’s the episode of On Being wherein Krista Tippet talks to my new favorite person in the world Margaret Wertheim. I’m not sure why I bother to point out that this is my current favorite person in the world as though there are other worlds with other people which might result in my having different favorite people on different worlds and now that I think about it there’s a certain One Direction-al logic to it.

Wertheim writes, and acts, to place the worlds of math and physics in the context of their role in the world of experience (culture, crochet, what have you). She’s published books: Pythagoras’ Trousers: God, Physics, and the Gender Wars and The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet, to name two. She started an institute called the Institute for Figuring, whose acronym (IFF) recalls the logic of if and only if and works to bring the aesthetic dimensions of science and mathematics to people. She gave a TED talk: The beautiful math of coral, about the beauty of coral and hyperbolic space and how that can best be understood through crochet.

About cyberspace.

Well, you know we do so much online. We’re in chat rooms. We’re in video games. I think generations of people bought up experiencing literally a sense of themselves existing or being and acting in a virtual universe. I think that generation will not accept pure materialism. And I think this is the great revolution of the cyber era, of the Internet era. The coming into being of virtual realities is representing that reality is not just matter in motion through physical space. And I think that’s absolutely wonderful.

She said smart things about god.

So what is my beliefs? And I’d like to put it this way: I don’t know that I believe in the existence of God in the Catholic sense. But my favorite book is the Divine Comedy. And at the end of the Divine Comedy, Dante pierces the skin of the universe and comes face to face with the love that moves the sun and the other stars. I believe that there is a love that moves the sun and the other stars. I believe in Dante’s vision. And so, in some sense, perhaps I could be said to believe in God. And I think part of the problem with the concept of, “Are you an atheist or not?” is that our conception of what divinity means has become so trivialized and banal that I think it’s almost impossible to answer the question without dogma.

About particles and waves.

Yes. Physics, for the past century, had this dualistic way of describing the world. One in terms of waves, which is usually conceived of as a continuous phenomena. And one in terms of particles, which is usually conceived of as a discrete or sort of digitized phenomena. And so quantum mechanics gives us the particle, as it were, discrete description. And general relativity gives us the wavelike, continuous description. And general relativity operates at the cosmological scale. And quantum mechanics operates so brilliantly at the subatomic scale. And these two theories don’t currently mathematically mesh. So the great hope of physics for the last 80 or so years has been, “Can we find a unifying framework that will combine general relativity and quantum mechanics into one mathematical synthesis?” And some people believe that that’s what string theory can be. And it’s often — when contemporary physicists write about the world, they talk about this as being a fundamental problem for reality. But it’s not a fundamental problem for reality. It’s a fundamental problem for human beings. The universe is just getting on with it.

One of the things that occurred to me while listening is how this is one of the places I live. In this particle/wave world in which depending on how you ask the question, I might answer in one or another or a third way. And thinking about the word “live” the thing I thought was that I really enjoy traveling between different worlds of thought in the way I enjoy traveling between different countries. Restless in body and mind. Descartes would probably say it that way. But with more words about stuff.

Happy travels, readers.

 

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the heart of a fourteen-year-old girl

Hello, readers.

One afternoon at City Grocery in Oxford, before my father died, and after one or another trip home to spell my sister from taking care of him in his less than self-sufficient state, I mentioned to Barry Hannah how spending time with my dad, and listening to his collection of Abba and Enya and love for Sarah McLachlan, that it was more and more apparent to me that he possessed the heart of a fourteen-year-old girl.

To which Barry Hannah, a gloriously and infamously unpredictable man, known as much for shooting a hole in his car’s floorboard to drain floodwater as for writing the sort of stories where people killed each other with uprooted tombstones, said to me, “And what’s wrong with having the heart of a fourteen-year-old girl?

And I said, “Nothing’s wrong it.”

And he said, “Sometimes I think that’s what I got.”

And I said, “Me, too.”

If at all possible one should choose one’s role models so that a fair share of them are men possessed of the heart of a fourteen-year-old girl.

Also.

Regrettable things our white relatives have said to us.

You’re not like other Asians. You know, the real Asians.

Were you closing your eyes in that photo? I can never tell with you.

Of course I was surprised when your parents adopted a Korean, but I wasn’t unhappy about it.

Happy monday, readers.
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post-avengers

Hello, readers.

Last night, with a couple non-sleep obsessed friends, we attended the midnight premiere of, as it’s known in England, MARVEL AVENGERS: THE AGE OF ULTRON, lest confusion.

avengers_confusion

It was acceptably awesome and gloriously Whedony (sweet and self-aware, funny and cruel, full of creepy lullabies). There’s also some weird stuff that I won’t talk about, but was cool to see Whedon try it out.

Also. I love Ultron and his creepy puppet talk and how so very much of his personality was a subtle twist of Iron Man.

Also, also. I adore midnight films, in particular, midnight crowds. This one gasped and ooohed and laughed, and it was fantastic.

Also, also, also. Check out Brian Hiatt interviewing Joss in Rolling Stone.

On keeping french hours

There’s not a number. Draft is too strong a word…there’s so many changes, there’s so much. I went home from the set every night – because we were keeping French hours, and we got home at a decent hour started at the same time every morning – and I’d go and write, every night. It was partially me, partially notes from the actors, partially the studio, like everybody had a hand in “This could be better.” But I think in some ways its great to stay fluid, to see what’s working and lean into it. There’s stuff between Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch that’s some of my favorite stuff in the movie, and it’s there because they’re the only actors I had. When we started shooting in Italy, I had Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Jeremy Renner; everybody else was busy. So, I’m like “Okay, I guess these guys are gonna have a scene, and I can work with that.”

On going left-of-center

You know, with hindsight… No, believe me, it’s not that weird, but I was like, we’re definitely going to go left of center here. And that was an adjustment for people. So, I’m like, if this doesn’t work, they’re all going to go, “Well, you went left of center!” I just wanted to make it as interesting and complicated – not complicated, complex— as possible, and really get inside these characters’ heads.

On life, post-Avengers.

I just felt like this is the opportunity I have for the first time since I started working, to stop and go in a vacuum, not thinking about deals or friends or genres or networks or anything except what’s in here. What would I do? I don’t know how I’ll approach it, but that’s a huge deal for me.

A lot of smart people have already said that this is a character film wrapped in an extra forty minutes of HULK SMASH. Of course, smashing is part of who these people are. At least they refrain from much in the way of pummeling for information.

Happy Thursday, readers.

Go see the movie.

It’s superheroes. It’s evil robots. There’s a sex joke involving a zucchini. It’s Whedon. You won’t be disappoint.

Unless you want to see a black-and-white Russian film. In which case, well.

 

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p.s. If you’ve never read this, you should.

well played, lions. well played.

Hello, readers.

Daredevil, on Netflix, hurts, but if you make it through, there is some catharsis. Also, Pavarotti.

Still, one wonders, and tires, with the torture. I would rather my plot move without feeling like, or depending on, torture, thank you. Is there a superhero show, besides Doctor Who, which moves without torture? Even Buffy had its fair share of pummeling for information. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

Netflix renewed Daredevil for a second season. Doug Petrie will be running it, as DeKnight goes off DeKnighting. DeKnight, himself, took over for Drew Goddard. With Whedon doing Avengers, and Jed/Maurissa doing S.H.I.E.L.D., sometimes it feels as if Mutant Enemy is sitting in the secret volcano lair with Kevin Feige and Elon Musk.

Oh, yeah. Elon Musks is possibly getting himself a secret volcano lair if the Tesla battery launch goes as well as he hopes.

If, instead, as probably won’t happen, something goes horribly wrong, and it creates superheroes or, I don’t know, the end of the world, John Oliver is prepared.

Well played, lions. Well played.

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p.s. I love John Oliver.

tuesday nostalgia

Hello, readers.

It occurred to me, as it often does, how my life divides itself around moments. For example, it’s been 18 years since Buffy premiered on the WB. Which is a longer amount of time than I had been alive at the time of that premiere, which I didn’t actually watch. I didn’t start watching until a few episodes in. For shame.

Also, this happened in Seoul, during protests surrounding the sinking of the Sewol Ferry, this being the anniversary of that.

Speaking of anniversaries, Facebook, and companies like Timehop, enjoy reminding us that every day is the anniversary of something.

Nostalgia was originally thought of as a mental illness. Swiss doctor Johannes Hofer coined the term in 1688, combining a pair of Greek words: nostos (homecoming) and algos (pain). Nostalgia, in other words, was homesickness — an affliction suffered by Swiss students and soldiers who went abroad. Some doctors of the era considered it a “hypochondria of the heart,” and thought it could be cured by shaming sufferers until they stopped feeling nostalgia, or by covering them with leeches. If nostalgia got bad enough, some believed, it was possible to die from it.

Now, less so.

The researchers began bringing people into their lab and trying to trigger nostalgia, sometimes by showing them certain photos or playing certain songs, but most often just by asking them to write about fond memories. Their stories almost always involved social memories, created with friends or family years ago — and when surveyed afterward, participants reported feeling significantly more loved and connected with others, and had higher levels of self-esteem, compared with a control group.

The above come from “The Nostalgia Machine” by Joseph Stromberg.

It’s funny to think that a long time ago, in more or less this galaxy, people couldn’t see their past. And then they learned to draw, and they could see a representation of it. And then they took pictures, and that was still a representation, much in the way that film and sound and, I suppose, tweets or posts are. There’s a whole Radiolab episode about time and objects and the tangibile intangibles of things, including email.

I just finished listening to a Mutant Enemy Reunion podcast done by the Nerdist Writers’ Panel.

Once, I told someone that Joss Whedon was the most important man in my life that I never met. This is probably true.

See you next time, readers.

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yeah, so

Hello, readers.

Here are some things about some things.

1. Necessarily, the news

A fantastic discussion of The Daily Show’s hiring of Trevor Noah, and the subsequent questioning of that hire, in the context of a very large context including, among other things, Brian Williams, the state of satire, what the Daily Show has come to represent in the political and televisual media landscape of the U.S. Also, South African pop culture.

2. The Radical Vision of Toni Morrison

It takes a long time to record a book. Many authors use actors. But that’s not how Morrison hears her own sentences, so she does these tedious sessions herself. That day, she would go into a narrow, low-lit booth, carrying a small pillow for her back, sit down and read from her new book for hours. We followed along in the control room, listening to her barely-a-whisper voice read from a chapter called “Sweetness”: “It’s not my fault. So you can’t blame me. I didn’t do it and have no idea how it happened.”

Morrison is a treasure. Did you see her on Colbert? You should do that. Also. Read her books. She’ll teach you stuff about love and ghosts.

Her latest, God, Help the Child, is out this month.

3. How to use the iCloud Photo Library

In case you need help with that.

4. Natalie Tran – Asians in Media Talk

She is a funny, smart lady. And seeing YouTube famous people speaking at Brown feels like a watershed.

Though, also, here’s Psy teaching students at Oxford.

So. Yeah.

5. Happy weekend, readers.

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the modern age

Hello, readers. Felicia Day periscoped herself watching herself in Supernatural. She expressed it thus, “I’m alone in a hotel room sharing a live video of watching myself on TV. This is the modern age.” Another fantastic element of our modern age is William Boyle. He’s a human, through and through, and sometimes titles his blogs, ‘death in the world’ and also he has appeared on television, even. We shared a few drinks in our time at City Grocery, and, one day, we will again. Here’s us and Barry and the gang. 1908385_10203729754668614_3777624354595359285_n He also writes wonderful things. His stories punch you in the heart and ask if you’re okay and then hug you and punch you and that’s how it is with life. He just did a reading at Oxford’s Off-Square Books for his new collection, DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY, that I wished I could have attended but oceans. Alas. Feel free, though, like me, to compensate for your lack of skills re:traveling through space and time (the modern age has connected everyone and still we end up so far apart) by reading all the wonderful things on the internet related to my faraway friend. Here he is at largeheartedboy, taking part in Book Notes.

Death Don’t Have No Mercy” is an early story, written in 2007. I pretty often take a title of a song I love and play off of it. I was listening to this obsessively back then. I knew I wanted to write about bad luck and trouble and the meanness of the world. The lyrics hit so hard. No matter what you think, there’s death waiting at the end of everything. Shut up and put your ear to the floor. Here comes big bad death. It doesn’t care what you know or don’t know. It’ll cut you down blindly.

Here he is in an interview with Nerve.

You can understand a lot about a character by knowing what he listens to. I’m not trying to make a character listen to a certain type of music to make him seem cool. Or to make me seem cool. Music can be a lonely occupation. A character in one story makes a mixtape for a girl he’s slept with. I can remember staying up late at night making mixtapes. It was a lonely experience and kind of wonderful. Cassettes are sad, too. There’s another character in the story “Poughkeepsie” who still listens to Alice in Chains. He’s stuck in that moment from the ‘90s. And I understand that. I have great empathy for those people. I understand that feeling of nostalgia for hearing something for the first time. Or associating what you heard in the past with the only time you felt good in your life.

Here’s a link to a Spotify playlist Bill made for DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY. Fantastic. Music and film and tv and Whedon played a large part in many of our talks. He’s a damn fine fellow and you should go buy and follow him. I am. Happy Thursday, readers.   ttfn.

get in trouble

Hello, readers.

It’s terrifically blue out there today. This morning, I finished Kelly Link’s newest collection of stories, Get in Trouble. I really loved the one with a haunted space ship. And the one with shadows too many and too few.

If you have a moment, here’s an interview with Link on Between the Covers, in which she discusses doubles and income inequality and how being a well-rounded writer shouldn’t be your goal.

Also.

GRRM responds to Larry Correia’s response to his posting about puppies sad and rabid.

If nothing else you will learn a lot of acronyms people use as shortcuts to hating what they believe other people represent.

Other things of joy:

Life is Not a Shoujo by Isabel Yap

House of Aunts by Zen Cho

Read. Rinse. Repeat.

Be wary of shortcuts.

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13 (early) thoughts on daredevil

Hello, readers.

Daredevil premiered on Netflix a bit ago. People have said things. Rotten tomatoes gives it a score of 97%. Which begs the question, when did Rotten Tomatoes begin doing television?

Here is a list of things I imagined saying before I wrote them down and made them no longer imaginary.

  1. When did ‘bald’ become synonymous with evil?            title
  2. I swear to all the flying kung-fu spaghetti monsters in all the multitudinous realities that if one more person screams their need of an unknown name, I will yell “MOONCHILD!” and expect luck dragons to fall out of my television.
  3. This thing where everything’s happening in real time is really kind of cool.
  4. I should be watching Agent Carter.
  5. There are a lot of different kinds of evil on this show. Heroic evil. Gentrified evil. Lazy evil. Ambitious evil. Cowardly evil. Aforementioned bald evil.
  6. I’m not sure trunks are all that different from fridges when it comes to women but, Rosario Dawson. She’s cool. Not always in the show. But, in general.
  7. I’m on episode seven, and there’s a thing I like in how much Matt Murdoch sucks at this superhero thing. Which makes sense. He doesn’t have any mentors. Magical or otherwise.
  8. The dialogue wavers between pulp awesome and pulp dumb with dashes of Foggy said a funny thing.
  9. Drew Goddard began running the show and left. Steven S. DeKnight took over. Both Buffy alums. From them comes a certain benefit of the doubt and so far it’s been rewarded.
  10. Real-estate may be the source of all evil in this show.
  11. Murdoch has had some backstory. Very little for everyone else. This show is told in PRESENT TENSE. Fascinating.
  12. That is all. For now.
  13. Except. Violence. There is that. Not any worse than OLD BOY and not any better, either, but there’s an exhausting fight at the end of episode two that’s so long I cringed with empathy.

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