The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘television’

Where Nothing Can Go Worng

September 29, 2016 | by


We’re not spying, but it feels like we are. Each moment is tracked on surveillance monitors, recorded, studied. On one screen, a man, dressed moments ago in cowboy gear, is now postcoital with a robot prostitute. She soon makes herself scarce, heading back to recharge her circuits in the break room. The cowboy stares up at the ceiling, his six-shooter cooling in a holster draped over a chair. He’s luxuriating inside a simulacrum of an 1880s Western whorehouse, one situated within a network of amusement parks in an unnamed desert expanse. It’s the end of the first act of the 1973 film Westworld, written and directed by Michael Crichton, a master of the techno-thriller novel whose occasional forays into filmmaking—he directed a half dozen features over two decades—yielded more modest, earthbound results than the fantastical predictions he packed into his paperbacks. But Westworld, his feature debut, continues to haunt. Its vision of a pleasure dome with exploited, humanlike robots as moving targets has been reprogrammed into a highly anticipated HBO series, premiering Sunday. Read More »

A Fan’s Notes

August 5, 2016 | by

How sports taught me to think.

The 1994 NBA Finals.

The 1994 NBA Finals.

Noam Chomsky once said that he was amazed at the insight and sophistication that the average American brought to the discussion of sports. Chomsky considered this use of brainpower to be a diversion that operated in the service of power. “One of the functions that things like professional sports play,” he said, “is to offer an area to deflect people’s attention from things that matter, so that the people in power can do what matters without public interference.” I guess he is right enough in his way, but for my part I hold with the literary historian Gerald Graff, who has argued that his youthful fascination with sports was not a form of anti-intellectualism, as he once thought. Instead, Graff has come to believe, fandom was a form of intellectual development by other means. Read More »

Not That New York Review, and Other News

July 27, 2016 | by

One of the underground papers from the exhibition “Realize Your Desires.”

  • To all the rich folks shopping for Common Projects sneakers and neon signs: your “minimalist” aesthetic isn’t the latest iteration of an artistic philosophy. It’s just consumer culture. As Kyle Chayka writes, “Despite its connotations of absence, ‘minimalism’ has been popping up everywhere lately, like a bright algae bloom in the murk of postrecession America … So long as it’s stylishly austere, it seems, it’s minimalist. Part pop philosophy and part aesthetic, minimalism presents a cure-all for a certain sense of capitalist overindulgence. Maybe we have a hangover from pre-recession excess—McMansions, S.U.V.s, neon cocktails, fusion cuisine—and minimalism is the salutary tonic. Or perhaps it’s a method of coping with recession-induced austerity, a collective spiritual and cultural cleanse because we’ve been forced to consume less anyway. But as an outgrowth of a peculiarly American (that is to say, paradoxical and self-defeating) brand of Puritanical asceticism, this new minimalist lifestyle always seems to end in enabling new modes of consumption, a veritable excess of less. It’s not really minimal at all.”
  • From Melville to Wallace, most of your prototypical “office novelists” are dudes, and their takes on bureaucracy are concerned less with work than with minute social shifts in hierarchy and class. Office novels by women have a different agenda, Lydia Kiesling writes: “The last two decades have seen a boom in workplace novels written by and mostly marketed to women … These books provide mapping, contextualizing, and rich illustration of women’s working lives. They form a kind of counter-tradition of office literature, dealing with the same bureaucracies and white-collar doldrums that have inspired male novelists but reflecting the particular challenges and preoccupations of women in the workforce … These novels often arrive at the same place: a woman who can’t cope with the demands of family and modern work finds a more flexible arrangement, usually capitalizing on her latent creative or entrepreneurial spirit.”
  • The Chilean writer Roberto Merino remembers his early experiences with television: “A Sunday session of Tugar, tugar, the dance program which Baila domingo later replaced, was a protracted sexual torment. Ah, what ochre sundowns were whiled away in fantasies of oneself waiting outside the Manuel Plaza gymnasium for the most ravishing of the contestants before sauntering off with a careless arm around her, drinking in that longed-for blend of odors: the scent my mother would have disdained as ‘cheap,’ the sweat, the cigarette smoke infused into the denim jacket, the fading sweetness of Adams or Bazooka chewing gum in the brazen kisses.”

Ad Me

July 22, 2016 | by

Growing up in the context of no context.


A few years ago, my late friend D. G. Myers and I had a disagreement about the relationship between advertising and literary culture. Myers argued that the ads and articles in the Saturday Evening Post had a bearing on the stories F. Scott Fitzgerald initially published in the magazine, on the grounds that all three came out of the same cultural context. At the time, I was unpersuaded—the ads, I said, were just there to pay the bills—but I have come to see his point.

Last week, I rewatched an episode of Reading Rainbow that I have long cherished. As the episode begins, LeVar Burton, the show’s host, appears alone on a smog-filled dock on Charleston Harbor. Wearing a trench coat and fedora in the style of a hard-boiled detective, Burton is on the trail of Big Mama Blue. Suddenly we hear someone singing opera, and Burton introduces Mystery on The Docks, by Thacher Hurd. The story, narrated by Raúl Juliá, is about an opera-loving short-order cook who saves a famous singer from gangsters. All the characters are rats. Read More »

Ownership Culture

May 4, 2016 | by

The Real Housewives, owning it—or at least dwelling in it.

Those of you who were spared the three chapters of the saga that was The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills “Reunion” missed something. Well, you missed a lot of things—mainly people accusing Lisa Vanderpump of various machinations involving the rumors of Yolanda Foster having Munchausen syndrome. The last installment centered primarily on whether or not Lisa had said, on the way out of somewhere, “Why don’t you involve Kyle?” and whether this constituted throwing Kyle under the bus, and how long Kyle had known this information, and what it meant if it was true, and if Kyle is Lisa Vanderpump’s toady, and whether or not Lisa Vanderpump has a hard time apologizing, generally. It would be a good exercise in language proficiency to have to translate this entire situation to the proverbial extraterrestrial. Even by the standards of the Real Housewives franchise it was petty to the point of inscrutability—idiotic and exhausting. It combined the moral rectitude of the Weimar Republic with the elegant good taste of a Trump building. Read More »

Liftoff Is Like a Fingerprint

February 18, 2016 | by

Aaron Gordon’s best slam dunk in the whole world, ever.

Aaron Gordon’s best slam dunk in the whole world, ever. Via Twitter.

This past weekend, Toronto became the center of the NBA universe as the NBA All-Star Weekend, with its various constellate events—the celebrity game, the skills competition, the three-point contest, slam-dunk contest, and other haute nouveauté—once again went down with its familiar mix of gauche, sizzle, and panache. I was asked more times than I can remember if I’d be in Toronto for the festivities but I maintained my proud record of never having attended an All-Star game. That won’t change anytime soon.

I get All-Star Weekend, really I do. I understand where it’s coming from and how it can be considered exciting. The best basketball talent in the world all gathered in one place for one weekend and something with something that seems somewhat like a game of basketball eventually happening in the end. I get it. Give me Westbrook, Curry, Thompson, Leonard and Green on the court at the same time. Give me Wall, Wade, George, Anthony, and James on the court at the same time. I get it. I want to anoint my soul with it. But it’s simply not my thing. I watch out of habit far more than out of awe. And at some point I realized that to be the objective of it anyway: to be accounted for more than having a profound feeling. It is what it is. And I can live with that. Read More »