-Cortés was maybe evil, maybe boring
-Tom Brady is crazy
-Legion is a good TV show
-Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories
-Joyce Carol Oates on George Bellows
On to the report:
–The Curse of Cortés by Alvaro Enrique (The New York Review of Books)
Why not rewrite the history of the Spanish-Aztec war, the conflict that preceded the largest genocide in recorded history? No objections? Great. “I myself ‘love to hate Cortés,'” says the author. But how bad was Cortés? Was Cortés that powerful, or was he just a wayward Spanish accountant? Was Montezuma just vulnerable because he was in a political crisis (not a superstitious man, or one who thought the Spanish were invincible)? Was the claim of rampant Aztec cannibalism just a way to generate new slaves? How do we counter the conqueror narrative? I love revisionist history.
“Tom Brady is Trying to Kill You” by Meagan Day (Jacobin)
“Brady is obsessed with hydration. “Sometimes, I think I’m the most hydrated person in the world,” he says. But that can’t be true, because the most hydrated people in the world die of hyponatremia.”
“Giant Pool of Money” (NPR and This American Life)
The giant pool of money is the total amount that can be invested in the world, at any given moment. Its fiendish desire for growth caused the great recession. This episode of This American Life explains, through stories, how the housing bubble came about. Even after reading about the 2008 collapse many times, I still found this episode to be enlightening.
There’s no doubt the giant pool of money still exists. What will it inject itself into next?
Brooke Masters on the Martha Stewart Pardon (FT)
Is the pardon of Martha Stewart a rebuke of free market ideology? Obviously it is. People won’t play fair if they know that they might just get pardoned. And if markets aren’t fair, people won’t use them. Rules are crucial to effective markets.
” Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories (Adult Swim)Is this just a parody of Italian gangster movies or is it a parody of parodies of Italian Gangster movies?
Legion, Season 2 (FX)
Legion takes style seriously. Lighting, set design, and sound design are pushed to formal limits. The lighting is especially wonderful and challenging. Figures are often primarily obscured, only a sliver of face illuminated. Blinking or intermittent lights are somehow not distracting. Red, blue, and green washes focus the show while simultaneously driving and smoothing the changes, like a professional racer driving stick. The second season of the show is no less inventive than the first. The Jon Hamm narrated Radiolab-ish interludes are lame and not interesting, which expresses the limits of style (they are really really bad). Much like in Noah Hawley’s other TV show, Fargo, the series is only good when it limits itself to the fundamentals and doesn’t try to be intelligent by having characters make big philosophical pronouncements. The most profound elements of Legion are the lighting, sound design, and set design, and they should stick to that.
-George Bellows: American Artist by Joyce Carol Oates
I picked up this book at a store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, not really having read anything about Bellows or by Carol Oates. She finds Bellows, who is best known for his paintings of illegal boxing matches, to be ripe for comparison with another paradigm of American art: Walt Whitman. His painting taps into the same pulsing vulgarity of life in New York, the rawness of what was arguably a third world country for much of his life. His painting Forty-Two Kids exemplifies this spirit, depicting young men, naked, and joyous, swimming in the polluted East River of the 1920s. Carol Oates mediation on this painting is a highlight of the book.
What have you been reading? Let me know!