Monthly Archives: July 2008

got him, got her, gotham

All those stories seem to be ultimately a kind of fantasy borne out of class anxiety: we want to believe that at least a few people will rise from the grueling milieu of working-class poverty, and we hope that their ascent will be ratified by their former peers, because it’s obvious that not everyone will get to go. I find these stories gratifying, but I don’t really believe them, because it feels like the sense of community support is being used to gloss over the fact that the heroine is almost always rejecting what she is.

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fraud, waste, and abuse, pt. 2

But if we’re paying contractors ridiculous amounts of money for half-assed results in Iraq, there are still worse kinds of waste going on in the military. Chief among them has to be the failure of the current system to attract … Continue reading

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the word is nigh, even in thy mouth

Nearly every serious Christian I’ve ever met has been a dabbler in Greek, and Christians in the dorky vein are forever telling you how the translations of the Bible (especially that favorite whipping boy, the old King James) fail to convey the true meaning of God’s word. (If only they knew how Muslim they sounded….) Melissa’s late husband Gene Scott introduced this Koine Greek Picture Pages approach, and Pastor Melissa Scott — for some reason it’s a three-word name, like Dr. Laura Schlesinger, or Haley Joel Osmont — is basically doing the same thing here, beefing up her spiritual credibility with a lot of intellectual showmanship.

But so what? This appeals to me more than the shouting and frothing that old-time televangelists indulged in, or the snarky, clubby humor that the younger generation has adopted. Scott is at least interesting — I learned that the Greek word for helmet is “perikephalain,” meaning “around-the-head” — and she actually seems to be making an effort to educate her congregation: she frequently refers to previous sermons, noting in this case that long-time members would recognize the root “dyn-,” for “power,” which she charmingly mnemonizes by associating it with “dynamite.”

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un-f**kin’-believable f**ckin’ shambolic f**kin’ disaster

The show works, I think, because it taps into a deep-seated capitalist dream — one that goes much, much further into our collective soul than the recognizably tawdry lust for fame so naked and exposed on shows like Idol, The Apprentice, Survivor, and Who Wants To Bang Tila Tequila? Ramsay isn’t helping chefs in five-star hotels or name restaurants; everyone on Kitchen Nightmares is a small business owner, an entrepreneur pouring his or her own sweat into carving out a piece of something personal from the grimly unforgiving food business. Their ambitions are wholesome, modest, and thoroughly middle-class — these people don’t want to become the next Barbara Streisand or Donald Trump, and God bless them for that. Americans, and I suspect Britons too, are suckers for the fundamental capitalist narrative of freedom and personal fulfillment through ownership, and we’re incredibly sympathetic to anyone who’s stepped off the comfortable plateau of employment into the terrifying free fall of ultimate responsibility.

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take a letter, maria

I don’t usually do the straight blog thing, but two really cool items came across my screen today. First, by way of Kevin C. Murphy at Ghost in the Machine, Zeit magazine in Germany is reporting the discovery of a … Continue reading

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a completely irrational reason for liking a movie

I’ve avoided Peter Berg’s films like the clap since sitting through the aptly-named Very Bad Things, and there are still some weak moments here (some macho posturing in the opening sequence and an unaccountable obssession with heads up asses — literally), but along with writers Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan he seems willing to let implication and undercurrent do a lot of the work here — which may be why so many fans and critics are complaining about the largely unexplained climax. If you don’t know what’s going on or what the moral tensions are, you haven’t been paying attention, and they’re not going out of their way to explain it to you. Fine with me.

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