Sunday, April 11, 2010

Notes On (What Passes For) Entertainment

Lisa Schwarzbaum, Let's Call It Even
In her March 15, 1996 review of David Foster Wallace's just-released Infinite Jest in EW, Lisa Schwarzbaum despaired of ever being able to finish the book; it is unclear from her "review" if she ever did, but that did not prevent her from "reviewing" it. She noted its length, its weight, its cumbersome bulk ... hers is a very thorough review of book-as-physical-object. But as a review of book-as-medium-of-transmission-of-plot-characters-and-ideas?

Yeah, not so great. I was always kinda puzzled that the powers-that-be at Entertainment Weekly allowed someone who evidently didn't finish a book (or, if she did, did not, by her own admission, understand much of it — perhaps not any of it) to review it, nonetheless. I don't think it hurt the sales of IJ, because its reputation as being borderline-unreadable was part of its cachet.

But I can no longer judge Ms. Schwarzbaum; because in the current EW, she begins her review of the Steve Carell/Tina Fey movie Date Night thus (emphasis added):
In their respective hit television series The Office and 30 Rock, Steve Carell and Tina Fey play neurotic characters who are amusingly single — his Michael Scott and her Liz Lemon are, in their distinctive ways, pathologically bad relationship material in a world built for couples. Yet the appeal of both gifted comics is rooted in emotional maturity. Carell and Fey (each married in private life, each a parent) project an intellectual sharpness and an understanding of what's important in life — and what's ridiculous — that are the hallmarks of endearingly sane adults ...
Reader, I confess that, after reading that gross mischaracterization of Carell, Fey and both of their shows, I ... I ... could not finish this movie review! One wonders if Ms. Schwarzbaum has ever seen either The Office or 30 Rock in her life.  

Entertainment Weekly is normally about 60 or 70 pages long; the magazine is bendable and doesn't weigh too much (a couple of ounces, tops) and so is readable on long commutes to work on the train or subway as well as in the bathtub or (to put it as genteelly as possible) while sitting atop other bathroom "furniture". Others have told me that Lisa Schwarzbaum can, at times, be a very insightful movie reviewer. But I cannot review her review of Date Night because I could not finish it after that monumentally wrong-headed opening paragraph. And so I have instead reviewed the physical characteristics of the magazine the review appears in. Reader, I hope you find this helpful in your decision as to whether or not to subscribe to Entertainment Weekly.

Sadly, I, unlike Ms. Schwarzbaum, have received no payment for my laziness ingenuity.
I was watching a DVR'd episode The Colbert Report the other day and saw the following (you'll have to watch an ad first — sorry, not my choice):

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Science Catfight - Joe Bastardi vs. Brenda Ekwurzel
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

I thought parts of this bit were pretty funny but, at the end of it, I ended up being more than a little angry with the Union of Concerned Scientists for sending such a blatantly incompetent representative of the scientific view. I actually contribute to the UoCS because I generally like the work they do fighting the inroads of the anti-science obscurantists, but this Brenda Ekwurzel was incredibly inept in her arguments. Most of her arguments boiled down to "we scientists all agree that ..." — a blatant appeal-to-authority fallacy. Nobody cares that you agree on something when the question being posed is why do you believe that. I realize that global warming deniers are not going to be convinced by facts that the science of global warming is valid any more than teabaggers are going to be convinced by the fact of the Hawaiian birth certificate that Obama is a native American, but this Ekwurzel managed to have her behind handed to her by Steroid Joe the Weatherman. She managed not to make even one convincing point in a debate where she had the distinct advantage of having scientific truth on her side.

It's hard to believe that the Union of Concerned Scientists couldn't find a better spokesperson than Ekwurzel. She had a chance to make a good case and she just utterly failed.
It's a beautiful Spring day here in Joisey and so I have plotted out a 10.04-miler which I intend to run as soon as Teh 'B. gets back from her yoga class.

UPDATED 12:11 p.m.: Actual run: 10.49 miles in 1:36:25 for a 9:11 pace according to MapMyRun. I'll take that without complaint.


  1. You know, I think the Phillies post made more sense. Not that the writing is incoherent. Oh no. It's just that I don't know who Lisa Schwarzbaum, Steve Carell, or Tina Fey are. Well, I've heard that Tina will never be out of work as long as Sarah Palin shows up on the political radar screen, but then, I'm not entirely sure who Sarah Palin really is either. I've never read EW. I've never seen The Office, or 30 Rock. I've never read anything by David Foster Wallace. I haven't seen Date Night. I have seen some Colbert clips, even though us Canadians have to jump through hoops to get it. Rick Mercer is better.

    All of the arguments about global warming are adding to the problem by generating more and more hot air with no substance. I suspect we're just barely smart enough as a species to figure out if in fact global warming is actually happening, how fast, how much our activities contribute to it, and what the real impact will be. I don't think we're actually smart enough to do anything meaningful about it, in a coordinated effective way. If the second Icelandic volcano blows, that could undo global warming all by itself, and cool the planet for a decade. Note: when the current volcano, Eyjafjallajokull blows, there is a history of Katla blowing as well, only much worse.

  2. obscurantists and churlishness

    Reading your blog is better than one of those Word-a-day calendars.

    Sheepish admission: this is the first video you have posted that I actually watched.

    Second sheepish admission: I have never watched The Colbert Report (it conflicts with LA Ink. How can I miss that? I mean, really.) but I may have to start.

    I am stunned that the "scientist" used exactly NO data in her arguments. In trying to remain accessible to the viewing public she came off looking smug in her view that everyone should believe her because she was the scientist and not the meathead weatherman.

  3. I didn't have a problem with that review, as I took the "maturity" and "sharpness" to refer to the actor and not the role - but I still can't tolerate Carell. And I know I misspelled his name in a previous comment.

    (btw, that quantitate/quantify gaff of mine WAS particularly egregious)

    Won't bother to comment on a comment on a review from Entertainment Weekly.

  4. Hi Glaven, thanks for your nice comments on my blog,

    Have a terrific Sunday!

  5. Also btw: you ran more than twice as far as I did. Mark your calendar.

  6. I echo Steve Q's comment...your schwartz is bigger than mine...

  7. Re: "Hi Glaven, thanks for your nice comments on my blog, Have a terrific Sunday!"

    Umm... NeilZ, are you aware that just a week ago he threatened to punch a sweet, innocent public school teacher in the oviducts? I wouldn't be too nice to him

    I am just saying...

  8. RBR: I know, I was blown away by the comments, Judge for yourself:

  9. OK, games up. First the niceness. Then using mapmyrun. Who are you and what have you done with GQH?

    I gave up on the mapmywhatever because it took too long to get all the advertising out of the way. I use Google Earth.

  10. A: Who the f*ck plans out a 10.04 mile run?

    B: RE: @RBR - My run's twice as big. Yeah, that is what he said.

    C: 10.49 at 9:11? Now YOU are just showing off. How did I start hanging with the showboats? Damn fast fast people.

  11. Ok, I'll come clean, see the blog for his ACTUAL comment that I have now begrudginly approvel for public view... He is who you think he is...hehe...