Sunday. It gets away from me a little at the end.

I did the crossword puzzle today, went to the movies with friends, and wrote this:


The movie I saw was The Dark Knight Rises. I won’t deny there was a little part of me eying the exits, on the lookout for suspicious behavior, a little extra-jumpy at the (not infrequent) sound of gunfire on the screen. I’m really angry and sad that the conversation about the film, which I thought was very good, has to accommodate the terrible tragedy that happened earlier this week in Colorado. That our enjoyment of the movie had to be so horribly undermined by a murderous asshole with a gun.

At the same time, of course I recognize that that’s the very least of the tragedy. And by calling the gunman a murderous asshole, I’m neither trying to make light of his terrible crime nor suggesting that I don’t have some small amount of…well, not exactly sympathy, but maybe empathy, or understanding, for the very real mental problems he might have, which led him to this horrible act.

But I also don’t want to make him out to be something that he’s not, something that fits into the narrative of the Batman films. Because that’s just feeding into his delusion, and I can’t help but feel that when the media does it — and have they ever — they are in no small degree complicit, or at the very least encouraging to other deranged and violent souls. If your goal is to prevent this sort of thing from happening again, you don’t call the gunman “the Dark Knight Killer.” Better, I think, that you call him a murderous asshole.

Those who are truly complicit, of course, are the gun manufacturers and the NRA and the lobbyists, and moreover the state and federal representatives who have failed to protect anything but the interests of the former three. It’s important to remember that the gunman in Colorado purchased his guns legally, and yet I’m hard-pressed to think of any legal reason why a private citizen would need, or should be allowed, a semi-automatic weapon.

I’m not wholly, across-the-board anti-gun. I’ve fired one myself all of once, on a firing range when I was a Boy Scout, and I’ve never really seen the appeal. But I understand, to some extent, their use for hunting and for self-defense. But a weapon like the one that did most of the killing in Colorado has one purpose — to kill — and because of that we need more, not less, safeguards against it falling into the wrong hands.

I feel like this post has gotten away from me a little bit, more half-formed thoughts than anything else. (Hey, there were some silly superheroes up above!) But it really was impossible to talk about The Dark Knight Rises without talking about what happened in Aurora. In many ways, the film is an indictment of those who would use violence and terror to achieve their ends. It’s a fitting conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy — and that, quite frankly, is the conversation I want to be having.

Happy Independence Day

Tonight the fireworks (or at least noise-making, pop-pop-pop explosions) are flying fast and furious outside, but otherwise today was just an ordinary day. It’s a little weird to have a day off in the middle of the week, and it’s hard not feel like the day ought to be given over to quiet reflection of what it means to be American, or the history that’s led us here, or something like that. I mean, if you’re not dressing up like Ben Franklin or another founding father, you’re obviously doing something wrong, right? But I spent the day pretty much just like I did yesterday, only Kaleidotrope submissions and a couple episodes of Would I Lie to You? instead of work.

That’s right. Today, on our nation’s birthday, the date that two hundred and thirty-six years ago we declared our independence from Great Britain, I spent watching a British panel game show.

You have to understand, though, I kind of love Would I Lie to You?

Anyway, no great plans for the evening either. We did a little barbecuing, but just because, well, it’s like a thousand degrees outside and who wants to light the oven in that?

Happy July 4th!

Wednesday various

  • tudent receives free cocaine with Amazon textbook order. Is this where we’ve going wrong with our textbook sales? [via]
  • How College Football Bowls Earn Millions In Profits But Pay Almost Nothing In Taxes. Are you ready for some economic disparity?! [via]
  • The Texans who live on the ‘Mexican side’ of the border fence: ‘Technically, we’re in the United States’ [via]
  • Roger Ebert on why movie revenue is dropping:

    The message I get is that Americans love the movies as much as ever. It’s the theaters that are losing their charm. Proof: theaters thrive that police their audiences, show a variety of titles and emphasize value-added features. The rest of the industry can’t depend forever on blockbusters to bail it out.

  • And finally, Scott Tobias on why 2011 was secretly a really good year for movies:

    I don’t mean to be bullying or schoolmarmish about it, only to point out that when great films get pushed to the margins in our technology-rich times, far more than just a handful of self-selecting New Yorkers have a chance to see them. The key is to not let awards-season hype color your perception. We consider 2007 a monumental year because its strongest achievements—movies like There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men, and Zodiac—happened to have healthy budgets and the backing of major studios. Compare that to a 2011 where a pleasant-but-disposable trifle like The Artist is leading the charge, and it’s little wonder that perception marks it as a weak year. (The Tree Of Life may be the only 2011 film high in both ambition and visibility, and will almost certainly top every critics’ poll as a result.) But for the adventurous—and again, you don’t have to venture off the couch to be among them—2011 was an embarrassment of riches, full of lively, diverse, form-busting visions across all genres and around the world. And the best of them ask something of the viewer, offering rewards in exchange for an active engagement. Just don’t expect all the question marks to turn into exclamation points: To quote some advice to Michael Stuhlbarg’s spiritual seeker in A Serious Man, “Accept the mystery.”

Friday various

  • An Outtake from Word Freak: The Enigmatic Nigel Richards. Possibly the world’s greatest Scrabble player…though he doesn’t take much enjoyment from the game. [via]
  • Israeli Man Changes Name to Mark Zuckerberg to goad the company into suing him. I have no love for Facebook, but his company seems like a pretty clear violation of Facebook’s terms of service, and the man himself seems like an ass.
  • Jon Scalzi on the “flying snowman”:

    This is not to say that, when encountering fantasy work, one has to abandon all criticism. But if you’re going to complain about one specific element as being unrealistic, you should consider the work in its totality and ask whether in the context of the work, this specific thing is inconsistent with the worldbuilding.

  • Zach Handlen on the TV adaptation of Bag of Bones:

    A good genre story is designed in such a way as to distract you from its inner machinations. Intellectually, you can go back and say, yes, this was a scene of rising action, this was a character development moment, this was a piece of information that will become crucial later on, this was was a resolution of an earlier mystery. Everyone quotes Chekhov’s comment on a gun in act one going off in act two, and at heart, that’s all stories really are: First you load the pistol, then you aim it, then someone pulls the trigger. It’s a method of delivery for a series of stimuli designed to provoke audience response, and the better the book, movie, or TV show, the less time you spend thinking about the mechanics of the process, and the more time you spend luxuriating in the response.

    I have to admit, I kind of want to see it now.

  • I noted this on Twitter, but it bears repeating: if you’re offended just by the idea that some Americans are not Christian…then you are a bigot.
  • Terry Gilliam continues to dream the impossible dream.
  • As much as I think I’d love any movie where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy do nothing but talk to one another, I kind of hope they don’t make another Before Sunrise movie. The two, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset work so well together, and I feel like revisiting the characters would be going to the well one too many times. (They also appear in Waking Life together.) Still, I’m willing to be proven wrong.
  • A gorgeous photo of the Milky Way from the top of the world [via]
  • Speech Synthesizer Could ‘Resurrect’ Dead Singers. I think that sound you’re hearing is the echo along the Uncanny Valley. [via]
  • And finally, some wonderful bedtime stories from Doctor Who cast members: