Archive for February, 2010

Getting Lost: Lighthouse

Ah....good times

It’s time for another installment of “Getting Lost,” where John S takes you through all the salient questions from last night’s episode of Lost:

So, do you think Jack “has what it takes”? Well, I’ve never been one of the many Lost fans who hates Jack. For the first two or three seasons, he was my favorite character on the show, since he often struck me as the only person on the Island who was rational, prudent, and not totally self-involved. Granted, he’s given to frustrating fits of stubbornness, like when he shattered Jacob’s mirror in last night’s episode, as opposed to waiting patiently to see what exactly the mission he and Hurley had been sent on was all about. But more often, Jack has done what it takes to keep survivors alive. It was Jack, after all, who coined “Live Together, Die Alone,” and it was Jack who found the drinking water, and it was Jack who saved Charlie, and it was Jack who helped spring Sawyer and Kate from the Others, etc. He fails just as often as he succeeds, and his failings are more memorable—like in his unyielding but doomed efforts to save Boone in Season One—but he always goes down swinging. This is what makes Jack both tragic and noble. Continue reading

In Search of 65, Week 3

We’ve moved our weekly prognostication of the final NCAA Tournament bracket to its permanent slot on Tuesdays…finally.

  MIDWEST SOUTH WEST EAST
1 Kansas Kentucky Syracuse Purdue
2 West Virginia Villanova Kansas State Duke
3 Ohio State Michigan State New Mexico Pittsburgh
4 Vanderbilt Wisconsin Temple Georgetown
5 Butler Gonzaga BYU Texas
6 Tennessee Baylor Maryland Texas A&M
7 Missouri Wake Forest Xavier UNLV
8 Georgia Tech Richmond Northern Iowa Florida
9 Louisville Marquette Florida State Virginia Tech
10 California Saint Mary’s Connecticut Illinois
11 Clemson Utah State UAB Rhode Island
12 UTEP Siena Oklahoma State Old Dominion
13 Murray State Charleston Northeastern Cornell
14 Kent State Oakland Sam Houston State Coastal Carolina
15 Pacific Belmont Weber State Morgan State
16 Arkansas State v. Jackson State Lehigh Vermont Robert Morris

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Recapturing Greatness

With news that Fox is close to greenlighting a pilot that would team Will Arnett up with former Arrested Development co-creator and executive producer Mitch Hurwitz (as well as AD co-executive producer Jim Vallely, who wrote the scripts for some great episodes, including “Pier Pressure,” “Righteous Brothers,” and “S.O.B.s”), the big (and sometimes insularly arrogant) Arrested Development fans here at NPI couldn’t help but get a bit excited. After all, the news that Arnett will be playing “a rich Beverly Hills jackass” sounds more than a little Gob Bluth-esque.

At the same time, we’d probably be better off to cool our expectations. The post-Arrested Development career of Will Arnett has been filled with plenty of flops (The Brothers Solomon, Let’s Go to Prison) and only a few mild successes (his guest appearance on Parks & Recreation, Blades of Glory). Even his previous reunion with Hurwitz, the animated series Sit Down, Shut Up (which included fellow AD alums Jason Bateman and Henry Winkler) was a mild disaster, lasting only 13 episodes. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while reconnecting with our Buddhist roots…

  • Tim swears he wrote his ode to curling long before Dan Wetzel and Rick Reilly did their own. And that he hasn’t spent his entire weekend honing his strategy and touch curling online. (By the way, Reilly’s piece is notable for his characteristically condescending portrait of the typical American sports fan via an italicized interlocutor. Nobody disrespects the device of interlocutor as frequently and as frustratingly as Richard Reilly.)


Tristram Shandy and Narrative Limitations

“O ye powers! (for powers ye are, and great ones, too)—which enable mortal man to tell a story worth the hearing—that kindly shew him, where he is to begin it—and where he is to end it—what he is to put into it—and what he is to leave out—how much of it he is to cast into a shade—and whereabouts he is to throw his light!-—-Ye, who preside over this vast empire of biographical freebooters, and see how many scrapes and plunges your subjects hourly fall into;—will you do one thing?

“I beg and beseech you (in case you will do nothing better for us) that wherever in any part of your dominoes it so falls out, that three several roads meet in one point, as they have done just here—that at least you set up a guide-post in the centre of them, in ere charity, to direct an uncertain devil which of the three he is to take.”

There is a trend in academia to take perfectly good nouns and adjectives, add on –ize, and make them horrible verbs. Take one women’s studies class, and you’ll talk of fetishizing and corporealizing, phallicizing and derealizing, racializing and effeminizing.

There is one term that emerges from this type of bastardized vocabulary that we hear more than anything else: to narrativize.

To narrativize is, as you may suspect, to make something a narrative. Implicit in this definition is the idea that anything can be melded into a narrative, and we as humans tend to narrativize quite a bit. We apply narratives to our own lives (I do this because that happened to me in the past), to history (the first lines of Barack Obama’s keynote address in 2004 established his own personal narrative, and he explicitly said that his “story is part of the larger American story”), to news (while appearing on The O’Reilly Factor, Jon Stewart constantly referred to Fox News’ “narrative”), and to all the aspects of our culture (whether it’s as simple as expecting a certain “arc” out of television shows or an “evolution” from bands). A lot of religion can be explained by the human compulsion to narrativize.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with narratives, with stories that fit and perhaps elucidate events. After all, stories with clear cause-and-effect relationships (the grasshopper was starving because he didn’t work hard) teach us the clearest lessons and are the easiest to remember.

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The Tea Party Question

A specter is haunting America—the specter of the Tea Party. If you’ve read a newspaper, opened a magazine, or watched the news in the last few months or so, then you’ve likely heard already about how the Tea Party is the next great popular force in American politics. The Tea Party helped Massachusetts elect a Republican senator to replace Ted Kennedy; the Tea Party has helped thwart President Obama’s plan for health care reform; the Tea Party helped fan the rage at Obama’s counterterrorism policy that ultimately blocked Eric Holder’s plans to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City. In short, the Tea Party has become the vessel for outrage and disillusionment with the government.

The fact that there is so much outrage and disillusionment, though, shouldn’t be surprising, given the current state of the economy and the look of the political landscape. Populism and indignity traditionally swell when the economy is bad and when people perceive broad change to be afoot. Well, America’s economic woes are no secret, and the current President is a black guy who got to office by promising sweeping change.

This formula has resulted in a situation in which seemingly every decision, action, or event garners some significant backlash or reaction. The populace is currently upset about virtually everything: a sagging economy, a cartoonishly ballooning deficit, two drawn-out wars, national security missteps, health care reform, the failure of health care reform, the bank bailouts, the auto bailouts, Bernie Madoff, and an apocalyptic amount of snow. Continue reading

Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #80: Baby, Let Me Follow You Down

“Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” is the third-highest ranked song from Bob Dylan’s eponymous debut. Of all the 11 folk standards recorded on the album, this song may be the most indicative of Dylan’s later self-penned songs. For one, the song is much more relaxed than a lot of the other tracks on this album. He doesn’t rush through any parts with his guitar, or strain his voice to make it sound unnatural, or force anything into the melody. Instead, the song features a subdued confidence, something that would become a trademark of Dylan’s later folk recordings.

The song also features evidence of Dylan’s strengths as a songwriter. Of course, Dylan didn’t write “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”: As he announces at the opening of the song, Eric Von Schmidt, another popular staple of the East Coast folk music scene, had made it a key part of his act. The song actually goes even further back than Von Schmidt, though, dating at least as far as 1936 when it was recorded by Walter Coleman and called, “Mama Let Me Lay On You”—as usual with folk songs, tracing the origins of this one is like trying to map your family’s genealogy. On the album, Dylan would credit Von Schmidt with the writing of this particular incarnation of the song. So while the song wasn’t written by Dylan, it had a clear impact on his later writing, particularly the lyrics. Continue reading