Cynical foreign policy thought for today

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has said that Russia will “respond” (read that as “attack Ukraine”) in the event that Russia’s “legitimate” interests, including Russian citizens, are attacked.

Assume for the moment that the Ukrainians are right and the various masked occupiers of towns in eastern Ukraine are, in fact, Russian special forces. If that’s the case, then Ukrainian action to drive off the occupiers would potentially result in the death of one or more Russian citizens (the alleged special forces).

And if we take Lavrov’s words literally, then we would have a situation wherein Ukrainian self-defense against Russian incursions could be used to justify a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NCAA no longer accepting coursework from several virtual high schools

Academic performance by K12 Inc. somehow fails to measure up to rigorous big-money sports cartel standards.

The NCAA has announced it will no longer accept coursework from two dozen online charter high schools around the country. These schools employ a curriculum from a for-profit company called K12 Inc.

The move is understandable, I suppose. K12 has been heavily criticized for producing abysmal results. Continue reading

Fargo: new Coen Brothers miniseries is Minnesota mean

Less than a week after TV lost its greatest asshole (spoiler alert) the TV gods have provided us with a new reigning champion: Fargo’s Lorne Malvo.

by James Brown

Billy Bob Thornton’s Malvo is the protagonist of FX’s dark comedy Fargo miniseries. Based on the Coen Brothers film of the same name, Fargo takes different tack than most TV shows based on films (like the ill-fated CBS chase drama The Fugitive or ABC’s Karen or even the excellent NBC drama Hannibal), breaking with its motion picture heritage. Joel and Ethan Coen, the writer/director duo behind the Academy Award winning film, and Noah Hawley (Bones) designed a new tale that indulges the spirit of the original with new characters and another town: Bemidji, Minnesota. Continue reading

Let’s camera

A song like “Tokyo Storm Warning” is closer to real life than you think…

You have to suck Tokyo into your lungs and let it rewrite your DNA.

You have to piece together your own reality one combini at a time.

Continue reading

Sports

The American Basketball Association: remembering the six best things about a true original

The ABA was an innovator that changed the face of modern basketball.

Some of the league’s new ideas survived and made their way into the game we see played today. Here are our six favorite ABA things, in no particular order.

1: The three-point shot. The ABA didn’t invent it – the idea had been around for some time, and Abe Saperstein’s ABL was the first league to implement it back in 1961 – but they knew a great idea when they saw it and were the league responsible for popularizing the rule that has utterly transformed the game over the past 40 years.

2: Three-to-make-two. When a team was in the bonus, fouled players got three free throw attempts, if needed, to make two baskets. This rule didn’t survive, but I bet Dwight Howard wishes it had. In fact, bringing it back might be a way of helping The League deal with its persistent Hack-a-Shaq problem. UPDATED: I have been informed that this was an old NBA rule that predated the ABA. So scratch item #2, and I guess it’s now the five best things about the ABA. Apologies.
Continue reading

Columbine High School, April 20, 1999, 11:19am MDT: “Go! Go!”

It’s been 15 years since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire.

I don’t have anything new to say, but I thought that we ought to pause and reflect on that day and all that has transpired in its wake.

Through the years I’ve written about Columbine several times, attempting to make sense of it, perhaps create a bit of context and perspective. The first in this extended series, “Columbine and the Power of Symbols,” which was written shortly after I visited the site a few days later, is still very hard for me to read.

I have compiled the rest of my writings on Columbine here, and invite you to track along with my journey.

So much has changed, so much remains the same.

CATEGORY: ArtSunday

Appreciating Gabriel Garcia Marquez: the reality of magic…

Garcia Marquez’s use of magical realism as a literary style gave him  freedom in a repressive culture…

Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 2002 (image courtesy Wikimedia)

Any appreciation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died last week at age 87, will likely drift into a discussion of the literary style he championed throughout his long career: magical realism. Though the style is probably most strongly associated with Latin American writers (besides Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis BorgesIsabel Allende, and Carlos Fuentes are all considered predominantly magical realists) in the public mind, it has a longer history than one might think, and its primary practitioners all point at a small (and not necessarily immediately considered together) group of writers as influences on their work: Lewis CarrollFranz KafkaWilliam Faulkner, and Miguel de Cervantes are all cited regularly by Garcia Marquez and his fellow magic realists as influences.

Magical realism, as practiced by Garcia Marquez in his classic One Hundred Years of Solitude, allows the author to discuss the turbulent history of his native Colombia through the family history of the Buendia family. Continue reading

Book-Review

Donald Barthelme’s Snow White and the Postmodern Moment…

Reading Barthelme’s Snow White reminds us that PoMo is about uncertainty as much as it is about anything…

Snow White by Donald Barthelme (image courtesy Goodreads)

Donald Barthelme is a name closely associated with two of postmodern literary fiction’s most important structural/stylistic innovations: flash fiction and collage. While his reputation was built on his short stories - and Barthelme is celebrated for his innovations to that form – he also wrote novels (really, anti-novels) which, in Barthelme’s case, are constructed pretty much the same way as his stories: resistant to anything as bourgeois as a narrative structure, Snow White is composed of dozens of brief vignettes designed to force the reader to engage the text as a text. Thus, Snow White becomes not simply a retelling of the classic fairy tale, it also serves as a commentary on the fairy tale and its structuralist elements.

Barthelme’s characters have more in common with the Disney version of Snow White than with the original fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm. The dwarfs do not have names related to their predominant characteristics such as Sleepy, Grumpy, Bashful; they have ordinary names – Bill, Dan, Clem. Continue reading

Arts & Literature

Jim Morrison’s Wilderness Volume 1: The Lost Writings

This is where The Lizard King parted ways with us.

Graffiti_Rosario_-_Jim_MorrisonI always hated Jim Morrison. He was what I wanted to be and I assumed he couldn’t possibly deserve it. When I started reading his poetry, I brought my negative attitude with me. I felt vindicated with every cliché. I wanted to destroy the myth of Jim Morrison, the myth he lived, a wild fiery sprint from ordinary, a screaming tear through the night woods of youth, a lingering flash blindness and whispered stories.

He was a consummate borrower. Another way to say this is his poetry is pregnant with reverent homage to great writers. I wish this was a fault, but it’s not. We can never reach farther than when standing on the shoulders of giants. Continue reading