Jack Reacher

I didn’t like this movie for all the reasons that I don’t like Arrow.

Summarily executing people has become “the right thing to do” in film and television, and it speaks badly for our understanding of justice. It also signals the limits of our constrained imagination: we can identify with and admire the powerful shooter who moves beyond the law when the law can’t get the job done, but we can’t seem to imagine being the grotesquely ugly guy getting shot. Don’t we realize that to a sociopath, we are all grotesque? That outside the law, we are all brutes?

And yes, I do think all of this is a symptom of the moral deadening caused by a decade of illegitimate war and an on-going campaign of assassination through robotic drone strikes. Twelve years on, we’ve convinced ourselves that a sociopath who gets things done is a comforting presence.

But isn’t killing bad guys outside the law is a staple of action cinema and television? After all I’ve praised Justified. How’s Reacher any different?

Well, most basically, Justified fantasizes about The Bad Guy getting what’s coming to him. Often this means jail. When it doesn’t and he’s killed, it happens at the limits of but still within the law. Satisfaction with The Bad Guy’s death remains merely poetic and is tempered by a preoccupation with the shortcomings of Givens’s actions. When Givens shoots someone in Justified he’s investigated. It also affects his personal life. People around him question their opinions of his character. All of this insists that the law still bounds our actions.

Reacher and Arrow fantasize about a world where law is inadequate, lacks authority and is explicitly rejected. Might makes right. Executions look like justice. Violent uncaring machine-people stand as heroes. This is an ugly, dangerous view of the world, and I don’t like it.


SexyA few years ago, a colleague suggested that I read the young adult novel Sexy by Joyce Carol Oates. I did and found it well-done and moving, but also disturbing. However sensitively done, this book sides with the straights in a world divided by sexuality. I jotted down my thoughts about the novel over the course of several days. Those pages are printed uncorrected or revised below the fold.

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Emoji, Limitations

The other day I was texting on my iPhone. At the end of the last one I put the purple-smiling-devil emoji. But it’s tone was wrong: not a mistake but false. I was suggesting my message had a snarky lightness it didn’t have.

So why did I send it? Partly because without it my message was “serious” and “serious” is definitely outside of the emotional range of most of texts. The emoji brought things back inside the margins.

So why didn’t I use this moment of seriousness to expanded the emotional range of my texts?


Formerly a high prestige dead-end job.*

Now without prestige.

* strange as it may sound, this was a good thing in it’s way. It allowed scope for both ambition and security.

Arrow, pt. II

I had hopes for this show. They have not panned out.

Why is the “hero” killing people? If I grant for the sake of argument that a “hero” might legitimately hunt down and kill the bad guys (which is nonsense), wouldn’t it make sense that there is more justification for the killing than “their names are in a book (origins unknown) and therefore they must die”? I dislike The Punisher but at least he has reasons for what he does. It’s repugnant that a well established anti-capitalist, Robin Hood-figure would be remade in his likeness. Only dumber and less morally conscious.

When the plot compounded the confusion by setting-up a Spider-man v. Green Goblin/Hobgoblin triangle as it’s central drama, I called it quits.

Yet the episodes keep coming. Why doesn’t a season of Justified last this long?


Decent sci-fi. Looked great, and by the end I liked the story. But I spent most the movie annoyed by plot inconsistencies that in the end fed into the twist. I suppose I should have seen it coming but I was annoyed and nothing I was seeing pushed me to care enough to guess about the end.

What should I make of a twist that leaves me wishing that the movie I’d been watching had been the one created by the twist and not the one leading up to it. Is it boring to wish the twist had come earlier and played out over more screen time?

Queer Gems

 Two films with queer subjects, both skillfully and smartly done. 

The Kids Are All Right feels authentic, and Annette Bening is extremely good.

Dans la maison: François Ozon is the most interesting filmmaker working in France today. Bar none.

I Don’t Like the Mall

But many people clearly see it as a place to go hang out. Tourists, teenagers, older people with their newspapers or their complicated notebooks of whatever it is they’re writing or calculating in the food courts.

I just don’t have that in me. Shopping is not fun or leisurely for me.