Orcs and Fourteen-year Olds: At Last the Source

Paul Krugman finally drops the source for the line he often cites about J.R.R. Tolkien and Ayn Rand!

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

My question for Kung Fu Monkey is, What is a “serial hobbyist”? It sounds awesome and fun.


A Southern movie in the way that Beasts of the Southern Wild is a Southern movie. But the signifiers of “the South” have changed from what they were in the past. No longer the cottonfields, plantation and oak groves of Gone with the Wind. No longer the sexual squalor and family drama of Baby Doll or A Streetcar Named Desire. The South of these films is water–a river, a bayou, a lake, the Gulf–each teeming with life but dangerous. Each is full of snakes and alligators or liable to flood. “The South” here is poverty perched on the line separating land from the water and ready any moment to be overrun.

The watery landscapes and the fact that both films follow children who navigate a difficult adult world they understand imperfectly recalls The Adventures of Hukleberry Finn. And yet, the celebratory tone here is very different from Twain’s critique. The other point in the constellation is obviously the “Wild Palms” segment of William Faulkner’s If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem. (cf. too Winter’s Bones and the first season of Justified; in which the “South” is signified by poverty in a very different landscape.)

Can this possibly be true?!? (I fear it may be)

Mark Bernstein talks football for a moment on his blog.  What caught my eye was this:

In much of Red State America, the highest-paid public official in the entire state is the coach of the university football team.

This should be an incredible claim but isn’t really. I mean does anyone else on  state payrolls receive high-six or low-seven figure salaries? Certainly not any of the people hired to govern.

So is Bernstein right? In a better world he wouldn’t be.

A Sad Day in Azeroth

What Hacking Looks Like
A naked gnome is a sad gnome. Especially when hacked.

Selling gold is a scheme and this is how works, best I can figure:

  1. Someone buys gold rather than earning it.
  2. The seller signs onto a hacked account, vendors all items on all toons, mailing the resulting gold to the hacked toon chosen to be the “wallet.”
  3. The wallet toon is then transferred to the server where the person who bought gold plays. This transfer is paid for using a stolen credit card.
  4. When the transfer completes, the wallet toon hands the gold over to a courier, a level one toon created expressly to complete the transaction. (My question: is the courier created on the hacked account? I bet so.)
  5. The courier carries the money to the toon identified by the person who bought the gold and hands it over.

The gold seller makes money by giving the buyer stolen good and finances the whole process with the contents of a stolen account and with a stolen credit card. It’s theft upon theft.

The Days of Deadwood: Christmas 2013

All but grading done for the term, I’ve started rewatching Deadwood. With twelve days until the 25th, one line of dialogue per day seems a healthy tonic for tinsel and elven cheer. So that’s the plan. The twelve days of Deadwood.

1. On the first day of Deadwood, Swearengen said to me:

Change ain’t looking for friends. Change calls the tune we dance to.

Continue reading “The Days of Deadwood: Christmas 2013”

Sarah préfère la course

This movie was praised by critics as one of the best Québecois films of the year. But it is a string of clichés held together by a heavily formal and extremely rigid visual style.

What I can’t decide is whether the clichés support the style by providing it an occasion to display itself, or if the form supports the clichés by giving them the appearance of weight?

The Cherry Orchard

La cerisaieThe Beav and I went to see a performance of this play at Le Théâtre du Rideau Vert. I was fascinated by the performance but wasn’t sure what I was watching. At times, the whole thing played as farce; at others, tragedy. I assumed this was a problem with the direction: whoever he was–and we didn’t recognize him from his bio at all–the director hadn’t figured out what his play was about. Or so it seemed.

But then, intrigued by the whole thing, I did some research online, and it seems like the play has been controversial since its first performance. No one is sure whether the thing ridicules or mourns the passing of the cultured Russian aristocracy. The director of the version we saw staged clearly decided to capture the ambivalence rather than resolve it. Which is an interesting choice and one I can respect.


(Production Details after the break.)

Continue reading “The Cherry Orchard”

Blue Is the Warmest Color

Saw this movie with the Beav after it won at Cannes. The actresses were extremely good, and even the supporting players–especially the other students in Adèle’s high school–seem alive and real.  But the direction was heavy-handed: I especially disliked the way that Adèle and her family were reduced to bodies, eating constantly and messily.

I had hoped that the film could be an addition to the oral presentation film list for my LGBT Literature course, but the ten-minute lesbian sex scene put an end to that idea. There are limits to what you can assign 18-year olds, even in college.

What Hath God Wrought?

What Hath God Wrought?The years between Madison’s presidency and the outbreak of the Civil War are dark country for me. I know bits and pieces of information but lack the general context to feel confident about what any of the bits mean. So when I found this book, I picked it up thinking that I’d fill in some blanks.

So what did I learn? A lot. This is an interesting time in U.S. history and one that felt very similar to the present moment. Changes were happing quickly, but Daniel Walker Howe writes about them clearly, weaving the political, economic and social strands into one coherent story. It’s an impressive feat, and one I’ve probably shortchanged by reading so slowly across so long a time. I took notes, but wow, there’s a lot going on.

My take away, globally, is that Andrew Jackson was a dick.