If writing an expose on Scientology isn't hard enough, imagine the fact-checking. Lawrence Wright told NPR that "The New Yorker assigned five fact checkers to the story and sent the Church of Scientology 971 fact-checking queries before publication."

The following segment from the NPR story sounded familiar:

Wright says that one of the most interesting parts of the meeting came when he asked Davis about L. Ron Hubbard's medical records. Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, had maintained that he was blind and a 'hopeless cripple' at the end of World War II — and that he had healed himself through measures that later became the basis of Dianetics, the 1950 book that became the basis for Scientology.

"I had found evidence that Hubbard was never actually injured during the war. ... And so we pressed [Tommy Davis] for evidence that there had been such injuries and [Hubbard] had been the war hero that he described," says Wright. "Eventually, Davis sent us what is called a notice of separation — essentially discharge papers from World War II — along with some photographs of all of these medals that [Hubbard] had won. ... At the same time, we finally gained access to Hubbard's entire World War II records [through a request to the military archives] and there was no evidence that he had ever been wounded in battle or distinguished himself in any way during the war. We also found another notice of separation which was strikingly different than the one that the church had provided."

Furthermore, says Wright, the notice of separation that the church provided was signed by a man who never existed. And two of the medals that Hubbard supposedly had won weren't commissioned until after Hubbard left active service.

L. Ron Hubbard as Don Draper?

Related: Paul Thomas Anderson's on again off again movie about Scientology is now on again. Maybe. Thanks to Larry Ellison's daughter?

Pauline Kael is getting canonized

Pauline Kael is getting canonized by the Library of Congress. A lot of her work is out of print, though I've tried to track down as much of it as possible. I'm curious to see what the contents of this collection will be and how much of is rescued from the obscurity of "out of print." It's something to tide us over until someday when we can just buy the rights to the her complete writings.

In a digital age, the idea of some writing being "out of print" sounds like an analog artifact.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

BP writer Larry Granillo dons his tweed hat and deduces which Cubs game Ferris Bueller and his friends attended during their day off.

The movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was released on June 11, 1986. The ballgame then must have been filmed either real early in the 1986 season or sometime during 1985. Looking at game logs from those seasons, we see that there was no game in 1986 in which Lee Smith (#46) faced the Braves at Wrigley Field. There were four such games in '85, though Smith left the Braves hitless in one of those. Of the remaining three games, it isn't hard to find the game we're looking for.

The Super Bowl Ads...a day in review

I spent the day at Hulu HQ with a team of folks watching the Super Bowl to release ads to the Hulu AdZone as they aired on TV during the game. It's a crazed day, and I only have a fuzzy recollection of how the game itself actually unfolded.

But here's a running diary of my notes from watching the ads as they aired...


It was a much ballyhooed battle between similarly unstoried franchises with many similarities. Of course I'm referring to the battle between LivingSocial and Groupon. After Groupon confirmed it had bought a Super Bowl spot, LivingSocial quickly followed suit. If this coupon site war is one of scale, LivingSocial didn't want to be left behind.

Which company's ads will come out on top? And will their ads during the Super Bowl help consumers to understand the difference between the two companies?

Both aired spots during the pregame. LivingSocial's spot came with the message that it could change your life, a lofty claim indeed. Strangely, the transformation it showed was the evolution of a Harley Davidson-looking grease monkey into a...woman?! Transsexuals may not be large enough a demo to raise too much of a protest online for being used as a punchline, but regardless, it's an odd way to debut your service to over a hundred million people.

Groupon's first ad features beloved forgotten actor Cuba Gooding Jr. enlisting our help to save the whales. Oh, wait, no, we're not appealing to your environmental sympathies, we're using it as a joke! See how edgy we are! Early votes on the AdZone are not rewarding this strategy. Somewhere, an ad agency is working on his "Any PR is good PR" explanation.

And then Christina Aguilera screws up the lyrics to the National Anthem. This will be amazing if it's a live ad for Southwest Airlines: [ding] "Wanna get away?"

Commercial Break 1

The first of the Doritos crowdsourced ads runs: "Pug Attack." Since the Doritos and Pepsi ads were chosen by user votes, they've already been vetted and should do well in the Ad Zone. If you treat this entire body of work from the crowdsourced creative community as coming from a single ad agency, the style holds up as coherent: the ads are all comedic, featuring some twist of a punchline in which someone either does or doesn't get away with something.

Audi runs "Release the Hounds." It feels like a direct attack on Mercedez-Benz and a more tangential attack at BMW. Mercedez = old luxury. Audi = middle-aged luxury. And an appearance by Kenny G! Where has he been? Does he have a Vegas show?

Commercial Break 2

The second crowdsourced ad: Pepsi's "Love Hurts." Yep, it fits my earlier thought on the style of the crowdsourced ads. I wonder if the tone would be similar if a more luxury brand crowdsourced an ad, though by definition those brands would probably be least likely to try such a move.

Commercial Break 3

Budweiser's places a product ad about product placement in the Super Bowl.

Commercial Break 4

Hyundai's "Hypnotized" is an attack on some of Volkswagen's past spots (like this). Will enough people actually get that? I didn't realize Hyundai was attacking that ad style until the end of the ad, and I enjoy the VW ad style, so the reversal didn't work out quite the way they'd intended.

Commercial Break 5

In Kia's "One Epic Ride" a wealthy tycoon surrounded by bikini-clad babes a 200 foot yacht hires a henchman to steal a Kia Optima with a helicopter and fly it over the ocean to the yacht. The Kia ad ends noting that prices start under $19K. I think that guy on the yacht could just buy a Kia Optima with his black Amex card. I feel cognitive dissonance.

Commercial Break 6

The Bridgestone ad serves as a good time to remind people that the ability to recall an e-mail doesn't really work.

Commercial Break 7

Budweiser's "Wild West": copyright Cameron Crowe.

Teleflora's Faith Hill ad is a historic moment. I have no evidence to support this claim, but I believe it's the first time a nationally televised ad in the U.S. has used the word "rack" in that connotation. You know what connotation I mean. Not like a spice rack. Unless, well, I guess with some people you could use it that way.

Commercial Break 8

The girl in Motorola's "Empower the People" spot looks like the offspring of Eliza Dushku and Sarah Michelle Gellar, if they could actually conceive a child together.

Commercial Break 9

We meet yet another one of the Matthews clan, this brother is starring in Thor.

And then we see an ad that was already unveiled to the world earlier this week, Volkswagen's "The Force." Like most people, I'm a fan. What little boy didn't want so much to believe in The Force when they first saw Star Wars? The boy who lived in the house across the yard from me growing up believed so strongly in the idea that he'd blindfold himself and have me throw objects at him while he yielded a plastic sword and tried to swat them away. What occurred was more of an endorsement for the scientific method than the existence of The Force, though I draw on the visual memory of racquet balls bouncing off of his head whenever I need a laugh.

Incidentally: German auto manufacturer, John Williams "Imperial March" theme song, the well-known intentional visual parallels between the costumes and formations of the Imperial Army in Star Wars and German troops from WWII? Interesting subtext.

Speaking of Hitler Germany, if an advertiser licenses the Hitler rant scene from Downfall and remixes it into a Super Bowl ad one of these days, the Internet will explode.

Commercial Break 10

Snickers is doubling down after its success with Betty White last year. Richard Lewis, Roseanne...can Eric Roberts and Joan Rivers be far behind?

Finally, more footage from J.J. Abrams Super 8. The music (James Horner?) and imagery evoke early Spielberg. My nostalgia for early magical Spielberg (E.T., anyone) is almost as strong as my nostalgia for my childhood.

Also, it features Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) from Friday Night Lights. The series finale is this week, and I am beyond sad to see the series end. Why the networks will replace such a fantastic show with some new show that gets cancelled after 3 episodes is beyond me.

Commercial Break 11

Many are disappointed that we live in the year 2011 and haven't achieved the Jetsons future once predicted for us. We don't have jetpacks or robot maids that we can order around just by speaking to them, we can't live forever, we haven't cured cancer, and our cars don't hover or drive themselves...but what's this? Our cars can now read our Facebook news feeds to us? Hah! Advantage...ummm...Facebook?

Paramount unveils its trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger. It looks like the usual paint-by-numbers superhero action flick, but if there was ever a time for a Captain America movie, this might be the year. Given our economic difficulties in recent year, the story of a scrawny American who takes a super serum and turns into a muscular superhero may be the type of escapist fantasy Americans turn to Hollywood for. Let's have him create some jobs at home while he's unseating oppressive regimes around the world.

Commercial Break 12

Given some of the occasional social controversy over where and in what conditions our consumer goods are manufactured (e.g. Foxconn), it's a bold and bizarre move for Sony Ericsson to play into that meme head on with their ad depicting an Android mascot being operated on in some dingy back-alley hovel in some unnamed Asian country. Also, the metaphor of grafting a thumb onto the Android mascot is a strange one as it implies, perhaps unintentionally, that the gaming controls in the ad were grafted onto this smartphone rather than being built into the phone from the start.


The ads for (here and here) were shot to bookend the halftime show by the Black Eyed Peas, so they may not play as well out of context. Actually, they didn't play that well in context, either. Were they meant to be abstract? Their only saving grace was the fact that the Black Eyed Peas' halftime show was so awful it served as a much larger target for vicious feedback on Twitter.

Commercial Break 15

Not content to just offend environmentalists, Groupon airs its second ad: "Tibet." Perhaps the blowback from the ad will fade in time. How many people still nurse a grudge over the homophobic Snickers ad or the two racist ads from Super Bowl XLII? But for now, it serves as an distasteful nudge to unsubscribe from the Groupon mailings, none of which have been topically or geographically relevant to me for months now.

Coca Cola doesn't dance anywhere near the line of controversy. Their second ad, "Border," and their first ad, "Siege," are two data points that draw a straight line. This is the Watchmen plot remixed. It's not a common foe that will unite is in world peace but our love of sugary carbonated sodas.

Commercial Break 17

This entire ad break is one epically long two-minute ad, and it's a great one. It builds to a dramatic and unexpected twist, signaled by the quiet fading in of that great guitar riff from "Lose Yourself." Who better than Eminem as the symbol of Detroit reborn: raw, blue collar, tough, steeled by rehab? B-Rabbit! B-Rabbit!

By the way, when is Eminem going to act again? He was good in 8 Mile.

Commercial Break 20

Looking for the Angry Birds secret code in the Rio trailer? It's in this moment embedded below.

Or if you just want to see it...

Hulu - AdZone 2011

Commercial Break 21

With their second ad "Black Beetle" it seems that Volkswagen will be the big winner in the Super Bowl ad battle. Some brands and agencies might extrapolate from this that they should also release their Super Bowl ads before the game itself, but that's the wrong conclusion.

Commercial Break 24

Kim Kardashian for Skechers. You know, I think that sex tape worked out for her after all.

And your Mr. Irrelevant for 2011: Fox's house ad for their new program Terra Nova. The tagline should read: Lost, except on Fox.

Okay, I'm headed home to catch up on this football game that happened today. It's amazing how much people have started caring about that football game that runs during the ads each February. I really think this whole Super Bowl concept might turn into something for the NFL.

Interview with Matthew Weiner

Lots of good nuggets for Mad Men fans in this interview with Matthew Weiner. In light of the Epstein interview I posted the other week, I thought this sentiment from Weiner was interesting.

The other aspects of things that are going on in entertainment right now are frustrating to me. I’ve been very disappointed with whatever has happened to the business model that has made the movies so incredibly unattractive to me. I’m so starved for things, for any kind of entertainment. The Oscar things are coming out right now – maybe they saved everything good for right then and there. But it’s been a bummer. It’s a bummer to see movie after movie where so many talented people get together and so much money is spent, and they’re just bland, lifeless, familiar, fake. I’m not a superhero, it’s not one of my interests. It’s O.K. for it to be a fraction of the entertainment that’s out there, but it can’t be everything. And I have four little boys so I’m seeing everything. And they’re tired of going to the movies.


It’s a bummer. But we have things we watch together. We still watch “The Simpsons.

How TV and Movies switched roles

Edward Jay Epstein offers an explanation as to how TV become elite entertainment while movies became mass entertainment. What's interesting is that he attributes most of the switch to structural conditions and not creative choices.

This role reversal, rather than a momentary fluke, proceeds directly from the new economic realities of the entertainment business.

Consider what happened to Pay-TV. When HBO , now a subsidiary of Time Warner, initially signing up monthly subscribers in the 1960s, it provided the only way home viewers could see movies uninterrupted by commercials, and it (and Cinemax unit) eventually signed up through their local cable systems 40 million subscribers. HBO gets a fixed a fee– about $4.5 per month– for each subscriber, no matter how little or often they watch HBO. To continue to harvest this immense bounty, HBO has to perform a single feat: stop subscribers from ending their service. But since nowadays its subscribers can get movies cheaper and fast from other sources, such as Netflix, retail stores and the Internet, HBO needs a more exclusive inducement to keep them. And so, beginning in the 1990s, it began putting more and more resources into creating its own original programing that would appeal to the head of the house. Not restricted by the need to maximize the audience (it has no advertising), ratings boards (it has no censorship) or non-English speaking markets, it was able to create edgy character-driven edgy series such as Sex and the City, not only succeeded in retaining their subscribers but achieved surprising acclaim in the media. Other pay-channels followed suit. So did other networks so as not lose market share. The result is the elevation of television, or at least some tiers of it, to a medium of entertainment for the elite.

The descent of movies into mass entertainment, a glut of franchises, remakes, sequels, and comic book adaptations, is less mysterious given the rise of the multiplex and its dependence on brute force marketing and the need to create a differentiated experience versus the home theater DVD rental alternative.

The rise of TV as an outlet for elite entertainment is a bit more surprising to me. The ability to write for grown-ups on ad-free channels is certainly an attractive outlet, though it took some time for those channels to gain the scale to finance productions on the level of Band of Brothers, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire, all of which had feature film size budgets. What also fascinates me, though, is the rise of cable as an outlet for serial dramas. A show like The Wire is perhaps the epitome of a type of entertainment that seems entirely impossible prior to the existence of HBO. No broadcast network could have aired that, and even if they had, it's difficult to imagine any broadcast network keeping it on air with its ratings as low as they were during its run on HBO.

The multi-season, multi-story-arc serial drama is a fairly new archetype in the TV world, and cable seems to be the best place creative people can paint on that broad a canvas. It's not just that I'm older, but a night in with a few episodes off of my DVR feels like a huge favorite versus a night out at the movies nine times out of ten these days because cable is where the most ambitious storytelling has migrated.

Alternate ending for ROTJ

Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz parted ways with George Lucas after The Empire Strikes Back over creative differences. Kurtz felt that merchandise sales were driving the story.

I hadn't read details of Kurtz and Lucas' original outline for Return of the Jedi, but they're intriguing.

“We had an outline and George changed everything in it," Kurtz said. “Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.

Pros versus Joes

[One month since my last post. That may be a record, but it's a sincere measure of the dearth of my free time.]

Apple announced a refresh of its Mac Pros recently, and the response from the professional community was, for the most part, one of weary disappointment. Brook Willard's post titled "The State of Apple's Professional Line" became the unofficial lament around which the pro community rallied.

My old G5 desktop, nearly a decade old, happens to be on its deathbed, and so I happen to be in the market for a desktop. I was waiting for the Mac Pro refresh announcement with some excitement, and it was somewhat of a letdown that so many anticipated upgrades failed to come to pass (more PCI slots was the one I really wanted). I'm a prosumer more than a pro, but my video editing needs are pro-level, as are those of my production team.

When fans lament that a band has sold out, it's often seems like some selfish reflex on the part of fans who'd prefer to feel that their tastes are distinguished by being in the minority. That seems illogical and spiteful if the band hasn't evolved its sound to be more mainstream in nature.

In this case, though, I have empathy for the pro community because their beloved enthusiast brand has shifted its attention to the mainstream. Shareholders won't mind, it's the logical financial moves in this case to address the broadest market possible, especially when even the mainstream products command such healthy margins (often the margin/sales volume disparity between the pro and consumer markets are sharper, but Apple's hardware/software design edge has allowed it to keep high margins on its hardware across the board). I'd love to see continued focus on taking products like Final Cut Pro to the next level, but I'm not hopeful.

Can a company of that size be the brand of choice for both the pro and consumer market? Will there be impacts down the road if there isn't a pro line from which technology can trickle down to more mainstream models?

The fact that Macs could be found in the offices of professionals in the video business always added a certain mystique to the brand, serving as aspirational brand markers the same way runway show outfits that never hit the actual market serve as prestige signals in the fashion world. Will that change?

Mind Heist

One of the reasons the trailer for Inception is so effective is the sturm und drang music behind the eye-catching visuals. It leaves one with the feeling that Inception will be the most momentous movie of the summer. The track isn't by Hans Zimmer, who's scoring the movie, but by Zack Hemsey, and it's called "Mind Heist."

<a href="">Mind Heist by Zack Hemsey</a>

The Restaurateur

The NY incarnation of Eater got a preview of Roger Sherman's documentary about Danny Meyer titled The Restaurateur.

Sherman was fortunate that his documentary spanned one of the more interesting resurrections of Meyer's career, the turnaround of Eleven Madison Park from a two star to a four star restaurant. At the core of that was the difficult decision to replace chef Kerry Heffernan with Daniel Humm.

Heffernan was the chef there when I lived in NYC, and I ate at Eleven Madison Park twice. It had the usual polished service of a Danny Meyer restaurant, but the food didn't have the wow factor that foodies demand.

The last time I was in NYC, I was surprised to hear a friend who was a very particular diner suggest Eleven Madison park for a dinner. I didn't realize the chef had changed and that Bruni had given the new incarnation four stars.

NY Eater quotes Meyer:

The New York Times gets a new restaurant critic Frank Bruni, and he gives it yet another two star review and it was crushing. It started to dawn on me that something was really going to have to change. I love Kerry. Every time he did a big party people said it was the best party they had ever gone to. So I asked if he would become the opening chef for Hudson Yards, our catering company. That gave me the chance to say it's not a brasserie. It is a gorgeous, stately, grand restaurant. And what we really need to do is to go out and find somebody who's cooking is the right piece of art for this frame.

Transformation is difficult, especially for successful incumbents. Next time I'm in NYC, I will have to pay another visit to Eleven Madison Park, which cracked the S. Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants list for the first time this year, sneaking into the last slot.

Dramatizing the digital life

Virginia Heffernan writes about the challenge of dramatizing the online life.

Anyone who has followed fantasy football or an eBay auction at the office — and gotten away with it — knows that many of our everyday activities now look like work. Typing and scrolling and peering at a computer, you could be doing anything: e-mail, accounting, short-selling, browsing porn, buying uranium, getting divorced.

This odd accident of life online — the increasing visual homogeneity of our behaviors — may be a boon to procrastinators, hobbyists and multitaskers. But it has some victims. I don’t mean bosses concerned with productivity (who cares about them?). The crowd truly stymied by the merging of human activities are filmmakers. If fighting now looks like making up now looks like booking travel, as it does when people conduct their affairs online, how do film directors make human action both dramatic to viewers and roughly true to life?

Another anachronism that drives me crazy in the movies is continued reliance on analog answering machines so that either the audience or some other person in a room can eavesdrop on a voicemail meant for another person. Who owns one of those machines anymore? It's a crutch for unimaginative storytellers.

Top movies of the decade

I enjoyed both Film Comment and Sight and Sound's top movies of the decade lists. Film Comment used a poll of international critics to determine their list of 100, while Sight and Sound's editorial team personally curated their list of 30.

Here are the 18 movies that enjoyed the distinction of making both lists, along with Amazon links where available (all except Colossal Youth were up there, and that one is coming out on a Criterion DVD which isn't on Amazon yet but which I linked to at the Criterion website):

I've seen 11 of these and need to Netflix the rest.

White liberal guiltlessness (and some stuff about Avatar)

This is an old link but one I meant to share a while back because I enjoyed it. Giovanni Tiso notes that critical discussion of both Avatar and past injustices against Haiti are being decried as inappropriate, the former because hey, it's just a movie, and the latter because a tragedy is no time to try to hash out our complicity in Haiti's poverty.

Similar backlash occurred after 9/11 in the U.S., when any attempt to analyze whether U.S. policy had contributed to the rise of Al-Qaeda was treated as heartless political pandering. It's just another instance of the tyranny of the OR, where it's assumed one can't be both analytical and sympathetic. I would hope we're able to appreciate that real-life is more nuanced than that, even if we can't tolerate that level of complexity from our mass entertainment.

Besides, I’m a consumer of information just like everybody else, of serious, sometimes cataclysmic front page news that bleeds into entertainment news and back again, a phenomenon made even more pronounced by the design of Web pages and aggregators and by the nature of hypertext if, like me, you get most of your news online.

In that environment, it is quite natural that James Cameron should accept an award in the name of a people that is indigenous only to his head, and that it should be greeted at best with a collective smirk or shrug or guffaw, since after all it was done in the spirit and logic of the times, while actual political statements of demonstrable historical urgency, like Peter Hallward’s, attract offense and derision. And this same spirit and logic will dictate that an immense human tragedy that weighs on the shoulders of the international community should be consumed as an act of God, outside of history, in the same present tense as entertainment, asking of us only that we fill that void with as many random quick fire donations - think of the convenience of texting for relief - as we can fit in the course of our normal activities and in the time allotted for caring for such things.

There is only one thing worse than white liberal guilt, and it’s white liberal guiltlessness, demanding that history not be ‘brought into it’, that memory be erased. We must fight that. And, yes, give, and give discriminately.


Lindsay Beyerstein defends Y Tu Mama Tambien from a detractor who implicates the movie's female lead Luisa as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. What is a MPDG?

Onion AV writer Nathan Rabin coined the term to describe Kristen Dunst's character in a scathing review of Elizabethtown: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an all-or-nothing-proposition. Audiences either want to marry her instantly (despite The Manic Pixie Dream Girl being, you know, a fictional character) or they want to commit grievous bodily harm against them and their immediate family.

Natalie Portman is usually trotted out as Exhibit A in MPDG litigation.

I liked Y Tu Mama Tambien and endorse Beyerstein's defense against said charges. But I also enjoyed adding MPDG to my vocabulary.


A touching Roger Ebert story. No, not that one, though that is a great one that's gotten a lot of coverage recently, and deservedly so. In losing his voice, he found a new one in his online journal (his output has expanded into Twitter as well). I have my own Roger Ebert stories from having chatted with him a few times at Sundance, but I'll share those another day.

I DVR'd Ebert on Oprah today, but I'm not sure tonight is the night to watch. I must brace myself for the emotional impact.


"All the Good Stuff Always Happens in the Ladies Room" by Paulina Porizkova

It's a funny read, honest and not ironic. It evokes my sympathy when I read about her "frequent bouts of self-doubt and the occasional humiliation of being a celebrity past her prime" and I don't often feel sympathy for supermodels, the title granted her in her byline.

I link to it mostly because it reminded me that we live in an odd age when celebrities are writing at us in an unmediated fashion more than I can ever remember. Celebrity Twitter accounts, blogs, websites, and iPhone apps. I'm not sure what I should feel when a celebrity tweets from their high life: what other celebrity they just ran into, what it's like on the red carpet or on the movie set or the exclusive party they're at. It seems like vanity, or perhaps insecurity, or maybe they have nothing else to write about because their lives are really one long string of parties punctuated by an occasional gig that resembles work. I'm not sure how I feel about this other than it should be the subject of a Chuck Klosterman essay.


Shawn Blanc makes his plea for a good iPhone feed reader. I made a similar wish earlier this month.

I use three newsreaders on my iPhone today: Byline, Reeder, and NetNewsWire. Use might not be the right word. I bounce between them depending on my mood, but none of the three thrill or delight me yet.

I differ from Shawn a bit in my primary complaints about the three. Byline is the fastest of the three and allows offline reading which I love, but a few things about its UI irk me. One is that after loading its initial set of items, you have to click a link at the bottom to load more stories from your feed. But that link is placed right below a Mark All As Read link which I hit by mistake all the time. The second is the inability to select stories from an individual feed. Sometimes I don't want my full newsfeed, I just want the latest from one feed. I'd also love the option to save state the way Tweetie does so i can start browsing forward from the last article I was shown in my previous Byline session.

Reeder allows me to select individual feeds, but it doesn't save state. The worst problem is that it chokes on syncing all the stories from all my feeds. I spend a lot of time waiting for Reeder to register my screen gestures as it syncs; those long delays drive me crazy. I can't tell if my iPhone has frozen or if Reeder is just constipated (I have syncing turned on at startup so every time I launch the app I'm waiting around for something to happen). I've had to all but turn Reeder syncing off to use the app which is too bad because it has a lot of other features I appreciate.

As for NetNewsWire, on the iPhone it is essentially unusable for anyone with any healthy number of feeds. It feels as if my phone has just frozen.

My hope is that someone solves this on the iPad because that has the potential be a fantastic newsreader device, especially as the Kindle is not great in that area. An iPad with a great Google Reader app and access to browsing all the usual news websites through mobile Safari and a great ebook reader would be something I spend a lot of time with on the toilet. Did I say toilet? I meant "around the house."


Is this the same old woman who looks like a little girl from Orphan?

The intentional fallacy

This profile of Quentin Tarantino in the LATimes is notable for revealing the director's desire to reign in the deep mining of his movies' for key source material.

But as it turns out, after all these years of happily giving it up for his favorite filmmakers, Tarantino has become deeply conflicted about discussing the sources of his influences, in large part because Tarantino's honesty has often been used against him by critics and bloggers when they want to belittle his films or blame the filmmaker's endless parade of movie references for the swarm of mindless Harry Knowles-style fanboys who now dominate the online movie scene. In the course of a long conversation the other day, Tarantino managed to go--in a matter of minutes--from saying he "loved having influences" to saying that he was "unbelievably annoyed" with critics who used his reliance on influences as a way of trashing his movies.

After checking out some of the critical feedback to Tarantino's films, I began to feel his pain. In the course of an otherwise admiring review of "Basterds," Roger Ebert argued that judging from the way Tarantino photographed Melanie Laurent near the end of the film, focusing on her shoes, lips, dress and facial veil, "you can't tell me [that] he hasn't seen the work of the Scottish artist Jack Vettriano." (Cackling with laughter, Tarantino's response was a resounding: "No.")

But the critic that really got under his skin was Salon's Stephanie Zacharek, who in the course of reviewing "Kill Bill" said the movie felt as if Tarantino "were holding us captive on a moldy postgraduate couch somewhere, subjecting us to 90 minutes worth of his favorite movie clips strung together, accompanied by an exhausting running commentary along the lines of 'Isn't this great?' "

To say that Tarantino finds this aggravating would be an understatement. "Here's my problem with this whole influence thing," he told me. "Instead of critics reviewing my movies, now what they're really doing is trying to match wits with me. Every time they review my movies, it's like they want to play chess with the mastermind and show off every reference they can find, even when half of it is all of their own making. It feels like the critics are IMDB-ing everything I do. It just rubs me the wrong way because they end up using it as a stick to beat me down with."

This is a classic critical analysis dilemma: can we, should we, guess the artist's intent? I side with the thesis of W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley's essay "The Intentional Fallacy" that argues that interpreting a piece of art based on knowledge of the artist's life or factors external to the work itself should not be the primary type of criticism. That type of criticism is not replicable, and as is clear from the article above, is often fallible. Many movie critics are taking wild guesses, often wrong ones, about what Tarantino's influences are.

A closely related problem is one that is hinted at in a line near the end of A.O. Scott's review of Shutter Island, and that is whether critics bring too much historical appreciation of director to their later works. Maybe we can label this the "auteur delusion"?

Mr. Scorsese in effect forces you to study the threads on the rug he is preparing, with lugubrious deliberateness, to pull out from under you. As the final revelations approach, the stakes diminish precipitously, and the sense that the whole movie has been a strained and pointless contrivance starts to take hold.

There are, of course, those who will resist this conclusion, in part out of loyalty to Mr. Scorsese, a director to whom otherwise hard-headed critics are inclined to extend the benefit of the doubt.

This has been a common addendum to many critical reviews of the movie, which I have not seen. Those who don't like the movie imply that many who do are Scorsese fanboys who see art in even his weakest movies.

It's hard to argue with the idea that each movie should be approached on its own merits. For me, the tendency I must combat is the reverse, and that is my attraction to contrarian opinions. People whose opinions offer differ with me and who seem like bright thinkers intrigue me. It's the Sherlock Holmes mystique, the idea that there's a thinker out there so logical and unemotional that his thinking clarifies your own.