Reluctant Habits

The Last Blog Post of 2009

Posted by in Uncategorized

This is the last blog post of 2009. If this post were written by another blogger, I would probably be telling you about how 2009 was the worst year in recent memory or I would probably be arguing in very persuasive language about how the noughts were the worst decade since the beginning of the Judeo-Christian calendar — a charge that I cannot guarantee for sure, since I was not alive when we started keeping tabs on the years. But I cannot do this. Because 2009 raped me. And as…read more


These Men Promptly Escaped

Posted by in Star Wars


Either Rush Limbaugh Had Chest Pains Or He’s Acting

Posted by in rush limbaugh

Now this is Rush Limbaugh. He’s got chest pains. And in the news reports, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking as the paramedics take him in. And it’s purely an act. This is the only time I have ever seen Rush Limbaugh portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has. I know he’s got it and he’s raising awareness for it, but when I’ve seen him in public, I’ve never seen him betray any of the symptoms. But these…read more


The Bat Segundo Show: Michael Haneke

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Film

Michael Haneke appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #316. Mr. Haneke is most recently the director of The White Ribbon, which opens in theaters on December 30th. The Bat Segundo Show expresses profuse gratitude and thanks to translator Robert Gray for assisting in this conversation, which is presented here in German and English. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Tying a white ribbon ’round the old oak tree. Guest: Michael Haneke Subjects Discussed: The roots of human behavior within Haneke’s films, the film as a ski jump, the relationship between the cinematic…read more

Review: Did You Hear About the Morgans? (2009)

Posted by in Film

Sometime ago, I attended a screening for Did You Hear About the Morgans? I apologize for the lateness of this review. I have been occupied with more important things, such as clipping my toenails. I wish I could review this film properly, but that would be a bit like putting together a 4,000 word essay devoted to one man’s case of athlete’s foot. The upshot is that there is truly not much to recommend about this film, although I have seen worse films and this braindead offering served as a…read more

Delta Flight 253: We Love to Freak and It Shows

Posted by in Airports, Death, Security, Terrorism

The thwarted Flight 253 attack (followed soon after by a man thwarted from relieving himself) has led to sustained outrage from numerous individuals. Some sensible souls have observed that secure cockpits and the wisdom of passengers have proven more reliable than draconian TSA measures and that, irrespective of any security measures in place, the more determined terrorists will go out of their way to affix explosive tools to their scrotums. (Funny how none of the authoritarians seem to remember United Airlines Flight 93, in which passengers prevented the plane from…read more

Control Your Emotions

Posted by in Propaganda

“Well, that’s a rather simplified suggestion of a complex mental process. But you get the idea. Cause, effect. Nature endows us at first with three general patterns of emotional response: rage is the response to the primary stimulus of thwarting, something interfering with our….behavior. Our actions. Fear is the response to loud noises or loss of support. And the emotional response to love is usually the result of a show of affection or favorite. And these seem to be the emotions with which we start life. Then as we grow…read more


Wait Until They Get Their Hands on Huck Finn

Posted by in Political Correctness

Received in my inbox this morning:

Through Santa’s Red Nose

Posted by in Credit, Holidays


The Gibberish Song

Posted by in Language

An Italian singer wrote this gibberish song to convey what English sounds like to non-English speakers.


LA Times Books Section Gutted

Posted by in Los Angeles Times

L.A. Observed reports the terrible news that Orli Low and Susan Salter Reynolds have been let go from The Los Angeles Times. This leaves a skeleton crew of three manning what remains of the books section. I haven’t met Reynolds. But I am particularly devastated to learn that Orli Low, one of the finest editors I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with, is no longer around. Let me tell you how good Orli was. Orli caught on to nearly all of my writing tricks very fast, constantly challenging me…read more


Permanently Deleted

Posted by in wordpress

I have installed WordPress 2.9. In negotiating the new features, I find myself troubled by the phrase “delete permanently,” which has replaced the more reliable and more permanent “delete.” Posts intended to disappear now reappear in a Trash folder. This is clearly a carryover from Trash and Recycled Bin, features that are found, respectively, on Mac and Windows operating systems. These are both technological concepts that we have all come to know and love. But I am more troubled by “delete permanently” suddenly appearing on WordPress. I did not want…read more


Brittany Murphy: Thoughts on the Saturday Night Live, December 5, 2009 Sketch

Posted by in Censorship, Saturday Night Live

In response to Brittany Murphy’s recent death, NBC has pulled a clip from Hulu depicting Brittany Murphy (as played by Abby Elliott), appearing on the Weekend Update section of the December 5, 2009 broadcast of Saturday Night Live. What follows is the sketch presented in a manner that transforms it from its original medium (video) and therefore permits this to fall under the fair use principle. I have appended commentary near the end of this post to ensure that it will not be confused as a replica of the original…read more

RIP Dan O’Bannon

Posted by in Film


Cultural Name Dropping in Stephen King’s Under the Dome

Posted by in King, Stephen

For the purposes of this list, some of the more oblique cultural references have not been included, nor have references to networks (CBS or CNN), newspapers (The New York Times), institutions (King’s fictitious Shawshank State Prison is frequently referenced), brand names (Slurpees), or the Bible. I have also done my best not to reveal character names, except when absolutely explicit (Ploughshares, for example) or references in relation to plot reveals. Alas, Babylon: “Yep, see you that and raise you Alas, Babylon.” (155) American Family Physician: “thumb through the latest issue…read more

Review: Nordwand (2008)

Posted by in Film

It’s safe to say that Nordwand (known as North Face in the States and presently hitting the film festival circuit, to be followed by a rolled out release) is a better movie than Clint Eastwood’s The Eiger Sanction. Yes, the 1975 film has a few decent mountain climbing scenes. But it also has such preposterous moments as George Kennedy convincing Eastwood to carry beer in his backpack as they climb a mountain, so that he might guzzle the cans at the top. Eastwood’s climb up the treacherous north face of…read more

Liu Xiaobo Indicted

Posted by in Censorship

Some important news. PEN America has informed me that dissident writer Liu Xiaobo has been formally indicted by the Chinese government. Here’s the press release: Liu Xiaobo Formally Indicted PEN American Center Denounces Move, Pledges Solidarity New York City, December 11, 2009— PEN American Center denounced the formal indictment today in Beijing of renowned literary critic and PEN member Liu Xiaobo, calling the move “extremely troubling” and urging supporters and governments around the world to step up the pressure on Beijing to free him immediately. Liu Xiaobo, a leading intellectual…read more


Publishers Weekly’s Shocking New Cover

Posted by in Racism

As reported by HarperStudio and HTML Giant, there is something more than a bit wrong about Publishers Weekly‘s new cover. But the original concept was much worse:

Review: A Single Man (2009)

Posted by in Film

Colin Firth’s swooning fan base has long accepted the unlikely heartthrob as an endearing bumbler. Firth has often played the sensitive (and quietly sensible) romantic populating both mainstream romantic fare (the Bridget Jones films and Love Actually) and projects that are considered highbrow by way of artistic association (Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Darcy or Girl with a Pearl Earring‘s Vermeer). Atom Egoyan was one of the few filmmakers to scrape away at Firth’s squeaky clean archetype in the underrated Where the Truth Lies, giving Firth a raw and dark character…read more

Interview with Keir Graff

Posted by in Book Reviewing, Publishing

In the wake of Kirkus Reviews‘s folding, I asked Booklist senior editor Keir Graff a few questions on the future of book review publications. He was very gracious and offered considerable answers. Do you foresee Kirkus‘s closing having any editorial impact on present Booklist editorial policies? Will you be expanding your reviews? Changing the tone? Attempting to fill in any gaps left by Kirkus? Interesting question. Ron Charles eulogized “the last reliable source of negative reviews.” And, accurately or inaccurately, there is a definite perception of Booklist reviews as being…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Ken Auletta

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Google

Ken Auletta appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #315. Auletta is most recently the author of Googled and writes the “Annals of Communication” column for The New Yorker. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Wondering if his Chinese food takeout history can be Googled. Author: Ken Auletta Subjects Discussed: Clarifying Auletta’s theory of Sergey Brin and Larry Page as “cold engineers,” responding to Nicholson Baker’s review, whether an engineer’s viewpoint is applicable to business, the efficiency of newspapers, Talking Points Memo, journalism that is translatable to the online medium, addressing the Gray…read more

Kirkus Reviews (1933-2009)

Posted by in Book Reviewing, Publishing

Romenesko has published an email from Nielsen Business Media President Greg Farrar, revealing that both Kirkus Reviews and Editor & Publisher, unable to find a buyer, have folded. The move comes five years after a controversial attempt to raise revenue through the online-based Kirkus Discoveries and failed efforts to sell advertising. Kirkus never really had much of a sizable circulation, but, as Washington Post books editor Ron Charles put it shortly after the announcement, Kirkus was “the last reliable source of negative reviews.” (Interestingly, during his days at the Christian…read more

The Top Ten Years of the Decade

Posted by in Best of Lists

1. 2005 — This year demonstrated its commitment to the decade’s center. It was clear by March that it was no longer 2004. Audiences became aware that they were now living in a decade that was no longer the 1990s, and there was something special and poignant about that. Critics have been discussing this overlooked year for the past four, and with good reason. Few recent years seemed as driven by pure, organic intuition. 2. 2007 — Set amidst a backdrop somewhere between 2006 and 2008, this was a year…read more



Posted by in Arrogance


The Dining Experience

Posted by in Dining, Restaurants

When one investigates the impermanent practice of occupying a restaurant table, distressing logistics begin to emerge. Let us assume that the customer waits four months for a reservation at a fancy restaurant. Let us also assume that the dining experience extends to a generous two hours. The customer waits 120 days, or 2,880 hours, to lodge at a table for one twelfth of a day. The hotel offers free towels. The restaurant offers free napkins, with the waiter sometimes placing the napkin upon the customer’s lap. (One wonders whether some…read more

New H+ Issue Up

Posted by in Reviews

The latest issue of h+ has been released, and there’s loads of good stuff: an interview with Ray Kurzweil, Andrew Hessel discussing the formation of the first DIY drug company, and Jonathan Lethem discussing Philip K. Dick. You can also find my review of Daniel Pink’s forthcoming book, Drive, which can be found on page 85.


Pennies Saved

Posted by in Currency, Money

There are more than a hundred pennies crammed into a corrugated tumbler on my desk. I am not particularly interested in imbibing this elliptical manifest, but the thought of putting my money where my mouth is might allow for a strange and stomach-destroying hobby. The pennies share this impromptu open-air housing with a few random dimes and several Canadian coins left by the person who used to live in this room. I can only assume that this ex-roommate experienced a moral dilemma similar to my own, but I’ve been too…read more

The Future of Magazines?

Posted by in ebooks


Scott McLemee: A Wildly Weak and Untrained Mind

Posted by in Academics

In 1998, a Salon byline revealed that Scott McLemee was “at work on a book, Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: Conspiracy Theory in American Culture.” Eleven years later, that book has not materialized. Indeed, not a single book has emerged from the McLemee Easy-Bake Oven, save for two books he edited: 1994′s C.L.R. James and Revolutionary Marxism: Selected Writings of C.L.R. James 1939-1940 and 1996′s C.L.R. James on the Negro Question. So what has McLemee, a man who doesn’t even possess a bachelor’s degree, been doing on the book…read more


The Bat Segundo Show: Terry Teachout

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Terry Teachout appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #314. He is most recently the author of Pops. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Playing for handy water closets. Author: Terry Teachout Subjects Discussed: Managing professional duties, the exigencies of sifting through 650 reels of Louis Armstrong’s tapes, Armstrong’s encounters with the mob, Armstrong’s relationship with manager Joe Glaser, the aborted Duke Ellington collaborative album, Pierre “Frenchy” Tallerie’s rough tour management, Frenchy as company spy, the effect of Armstrong’s star status on his musicians, the disparity between the net worth of Armstrong’s estate…read more