Homo homini rodentius est

Gawker Deathwatch, Kimmel advice taken

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Back in April of this year, Gawker editor Emily Gould had her ass handed to her on national television by Jimmy Kimmel who laced into her on [Larry King Live] about the lack of professionalism and ethics at her soulless place of employment. It was great TV but a bit hard to watch because of Gould’s utter meltdown in the face of his onslaught. Not only was the trademark snark nowhere to be seen but she seemed shocked that anyone outside of her little Manhattan bubble could harbor a negative sentiment about what she did for a living. One had the impression confirmed that she and many if not most of the other juvey journos that Nick Denton has built his “empire” upon are no more than commoditized Trilbys — schooled by their master in the ways of sarcastic cynicism in order to meet their burdensome publishing goals, but who are finally too human to endure it for long. This impression was lent further weight by former-then-current-soon-to-be-former-again editor Choire Sicha, who told Vanessa Grigoriadis of [New York magazine] that “not a week goes by when I don’t want to quit this job, because staring at New York in this way makes me sick.”

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Hero with a thousand faces: Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There

Dylan I'm Not There

Todd Haynes began his career with the ultra-low budget biopic Superstar that used Barbie dolls to portray the sad life of singer Karen Carpenter. Mattel and the Carpenter family made short work of that and so the movie hasn’t been seen (legally) since. But the only person who could have objected to Haynes’ latest biopic about Bob Dylan is the eccentric singer himself. And as it turns out, Dylan approves of the film — as well he should — it’s brilliant. This time around, Haynes’ gimmick for capturing the essence of his subject isn’t dolls, but actors — six of them: Marcus Carl Franklin, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, and Cate Blanchett playing Dylan at different stages of his life. From the get go, we know that Haynes is not going to use corny verisimilitude to give us an ersatz depiction of Dylan’s life. It’s going to be an analysis, a stylized dissection, with actors as the tools he uses to explore the body in question.

The film opens with Marcus Franklin depicting the young folk idealist, riding the rails, introducing himself as “Woody Guthrie” and spouting anachronistically of the travails of ununionized labor and telling anyone who will listen that he “wants to be a real singer — on television — or, otherwise, the voice of a generation.” All who meet him are duly dazzled by his precocity, but it takes a plain-speaking black woman to tell him that it’s 1959 and he needs to stop talking about the Depression and “sing about his own time.” The charge of inauthenticity is a leitmotif throughout the movie: the musical genius who worships Depression-era ballads but doesn’t see the crisis of his own time, the folk hero who wants to front a rock band with electric guitars, the idealist who won’t admit to idealism.

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Thanksgiving

Pikachu bears down on fleeing throngs. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 54th Street and Broadway.

My Mother the Bomb

Watcha’ cookin’ up there, Enola Gay?

Most mothers have to make do with the usual childhood tributes that come in the form of homemade tissue boxes and inexpensive knick-knacks. Imagine how tickled Enola Gay Tibbets must’ve been when her son, Paul, named the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb after her. Paul Tibbets, commander of the mission that bombed Hiroshima into dust, died this week at the ripe old age of 92.

To the end, neither Tibbets nor his bombardier Tom Ferebee, who passed away in 2000, expressed any second thoughts about having reduced 100,000 civilians into what Tibbets once described as “a black, boiling mess.” In a 2002 [interview] with Studs Terkel for the Guardian, in which he discloses that there were plans to drop the bomb in Europe as well as Asia, Tibbets maintained that the mission saved more lives than it cost by preventing an allied invasion of Japan. Asked by Terkel if he knew in advance of the capabilities of the bomb, he acknowledges that he was told in advance that the bomb would contain the equivalent of all the conventional bombs dropped on Europe during the war. Pressed by Terkel about what he thinks when people casually advocate use of atomic weapons against enemies, including terrorists, Tibbets responds, “I’d wipe ’em out. You’re gonna kill innocent people at the same time, but we’ve never fought a damn war anywhere in the world where they didn’t kill innocent people. If the newspapers would just cut out the shit: ‘You’ve killed so many civilians.’ That’s their tough luck for being there.”

And what did Enola Gay think of having her name attached to the mission that changed everything forever? In Tibbets’ words:

Well, I can only tell you what my dad said. My mother never changed her expression very much about anything, whether it was serious or light, but when she’d get tickled, her stomach would jiggle. My dad said to me that when the telephone in Miami rang, my mother was quiet first. Then, when it was announced on the radio, he said: “You should have seen the old gal’s belly jiggle on that one.”

A Ghost Story

hat better way to mark the Halloween season than with a good ghost story? Even better if it’s a true story, as this one is. Once upon a time, as they say, I had an aunt who liked to buy run-down old houses and fix them up. She and her husband would then use them as weekend and summer homes until she scouted out her next project candidate and then they would pack up, sell the house and start all over again. One of her houses was an old schoolhouse, built in 1815 but long since abandoned, that she found dilapidated and overgrown on the road that ran between Catskill and the neighboring town of Athens in upstate New York. It was available for taxes, so she bought it and set about making it into her dream cottage. In short order she had accomplished her project and the result was a very charming two-story two bedroom cottage that she was rightly proud of.

It wasn’t long after they moved in that people began noticing curious things about the house. Guests who stayed in the guest room would have their sleep interrupted by the clear sound of rapping in the wall behind the headboard of the bed. That was odd because it was an external wall, with no trees on the other side of it and no pipes running through it. But more disturbing still was the creaking of the stairs just outside the guest room. As one lay in the pitch dark the sound of the steps groaning and cracking would occur in sequence, as if someone or something was climbing the stairs. If that was not enough, after a while the sounds would decline in the opposite order, as though something was progressing back downstairs! I myself heard it and was petrified. My aunt, a devout Catholic, dismissed any suggestion that things were amiss by insisting that it was merely the warming and cooling of air rising from the furnace in the cellar beneath the stairs that was causing the noises and their weird progression. But, as time and events played out, her faith in rational explanations was sorely tested and, eventually, failed her utterly.

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