Monthly Archives: November 2012

Whale song

Maybe you got flogged through Moby-Dick in high school and the experience left you scarred. Maybe you’ve seen one of the many film versions, which range from okay (John Huston’s version, undermined by the bizarre miscasting of Gregory Peck as Ahab), to hilarious (the John Barrymore version, in which the Cap comes to terms with his obsession and goes on to lead a happy life), to simply mediocre (all the rest). So how about having a parade of actors and writers read you the whole thing, chapter by chapter, on whatever device you care to use? How about listening to a chapter with China Mieville? Or maybe try a chapter with Benedict Cumberbatch, if only to get an idea of what he’ll sound like as Smaug whe the second Hobbit installment rolls out next Christmas? Believe me, you’ll be glad you gave it a try. Start here.

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The magic of the marketplace

Having spent a good portion of my life in the newspaper industry (as it used to be called), I always get a good laugh whenever I hear somebody chant the conservative catechism about the superiority of private enterprise over government intervention. I’ve worked in plenty of shops where the only real difference between the management and a swarm of lemmings was that the lemmings have a better sense of direction.

Apropos of which, this news story has the chief executive of Hostess Brands — manufacturer of Twinkies and Wonder Bread — trying to blame labor troubles for his decision to shut down the company. History will remember him as the only man who couldn’t sell sugar and fat to Americans. Talk about the magic of the marketplace.

ADDENDUM: Dow Jones has the scoop. Anybody who tries to blame this fiasco on the unions is full of something, and it ain’t vanilla creme.

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Howard Shore’s extraordinary music was a big part of why I fell hard for all three Lord of the Rings films, so I was delighted to hear that Shire was on board to score all three installments of The Hobbit, due to hit the cineplexes¬† in about a month. His music for the first film is streaming here. Shore is still the perfect composer for Middle-earth.¬†

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Robert Olen Butler at Noircon

I couldn’t make it to Noircon, which makes me all the more determined to get to the 2014 convention. Here’s what I missed the most.

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Icarus with a laptop

It’s not exactly a language peeve, but I do get a chuckle every time some freshly minted celebrity is described as enjoying a “meteoric career.” After all, a meteorite is a chunk of rock that falls to earth at an incredibly high speed, burning up as it descends, until it either explodes in midair or leaves a big crater in the ground. I think a meteoric career is the last thing anyone would want.

Disgraced New Yorker science writer Jonah Lehrer — now there’s a meteoric career for you. Elevated at an early age, destined for greatness, or at least lots of lucrative speaking engagements, book deals, and TED talks. First he was accused of recycling his own material. Then he was caught recycling other people’s material. Then he was caught making stuff up. Apparently he even fabricated a quote from Bob Dylan, whose detail-oriented fan base served as a pre-Google Google before the Internet was even a glimmer on the horizon. Cue Addison DeWitt’s line in All About Eve: “That was a stupid lie! Easily exposed!”

I’m not here to grind Jonah Lehrer into the dust, but I will be following this American Science series of posts about Lehrer’s career and what it tells us about Big Ideas journalism of the sort epitomized by Malcolm Gladwell — of whom Lehrer was once considered an intellectual heir.

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