Saturday, 26 May 2007

The Most Important Blogging Panel Ever* I wanted to wait until the promised podcast of yesterday's event was up, but since Brad's already posted his notes, I thought I'd enter into the fray.** Some random points, as I am very tired, very busy, and very tired: As I was waiting to fly to Sacramento on Southwest, Delta paged "San Jose customer Scott Kaufman to Gate 8." After the third time—and despite being painfully confused—I walked to the Delta counter. The attendant told me that I'd been bumped to a later flight. I told them I was flying Southwest, but they didn't appear to be listening. They wanted me to sign something. I tried to explain the confusion. Finally, I walked away. (Tomorrow, this will be the topic of a "You Finish the Post" Contest, in which I narrate the first half of the conversation, and you provide the humorous esprit de l'escalier. I learned that I'll be sharing a panel with this guy and this guy come November. You should attend! I'll be the zebra sitting between them. Brad and I learned not to fear The Ogged, for The Ogged is a gentle soul who, when he cuts, does so politely. (And, despite being Iranian, only with words.) Speaking (again) of Brad, I might have been an economist if I'd had him as a professor. His quiet hilarity is a quality I gravitated toward as an undergraduate. Speaking of which—and this and the previous bullet will be verified when the podcast's published—Eric Rauchway is also much more soft-spoken and funny than I imagined. (His colleague, Ari Kelman, is equally funny, but not quite so quiet.) (Apologies for the double parenthetical, but I feel the need to add: I'm not trying to reconstruct what they said that was funny because you'll be able to witness it for yourself soon enough.) *Which I'll describe in more detail on a day which doesn't involve hours in airports and/or above California. **In today's bit of web-meta, when the podcast hits the 'Net, pay close attention to the Brad first scribbling, then typing as Tedra and I speak. Not only is he composing a post about a blogging panel during the panel itself, he's reenacting the very history of letters he discusses in his talk.
The Worst of All Possible Moments in Popular Film I think I speak for everyone when I say that the titular moment is, without question, the titular line. The only sure way to prevent a titular line from being laughable is to have a short title named after a central character (Napoleon Dynamite, Donnie Darko) or a primary location (Chinatown, Manhattan). Otherwise, you risk committing an Independence Day ("We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!") or Back to the Future ("Next Saturday night, we're sending you back to the future!"). That both of those are examples end with exclamation points is fitting, because it is the emphatic quality of such statements which rips you from your comfortable suspension of disbelief and reminds you that you are, in fact, watching a movie. Terrible moment, that is ... although there are some exceptions. In Michael Mann's Heat, for example, Robert De Niro's McCauley twice says: Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner. In Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, Vincent D'Onofrio's effectively pulls off Seven-six-two millimeter. Full. Metal. Jacket. But those exceptions only go to prove the rule. For the most part, you wince when Sir Ian McKellen informs you that these nine shall be the fellowship of the Ring. Where in this continuum does the following paragraph (ripped from my current chapter) fall? In a recently discovered essay written shortly after returning from England in 1902, “Telic Action and Collective Stupidity,” London describes how “the individual is capable of, and does perform, telic actions—that is, adjusts his acts to remote ends; a thing which society never does.” He laments the stupidity of the crowd, here functioning metonymically for society at large, which despite being composed of individuals capable of telic action, en masse behave as if such feats of foresight are impossible. Although he posits no solution to this problem—concluding somberly, that humans “are as individually wise as [they] are collectively foolish”—he strikes one optimistic note: it is possible for “two or three individuals, or a score, [to] organize a company or corporation and collectively perform telic actions.” Telic actions cannot be performed by acephalous organizations; democracy is hamstrung by “by the arrant idiocy of political organization.” Telic actions can only be undertaken by undemocratic organizations whose leaders are chosen not because they represent society at large, but because they do not. Such leaders will accelerate the process London believes already at work: namely, that “from the facts of [human] history…the trend of [social] development is toward greater and greater collective wisdom.” I'm the only one likely to find that cheesy, right? (Observant readers will find that first sentence there familiar. I swear I'm not cramming all my poor prose/excessive corniness into one paragraph. Trust me, the rest of them are equally embarrassing.)

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