The Profit Motive

From this twitter thread of highlights from the state’s filing (PDF) in Massachusetts v. Purdue

Purdue launched OxyContin in 1996. It became one of the deadliest drugs of all time. The FDA scientist who evaluated OxyContin wrote in his original review: “Care should be taken to limit competitive promotion.“ The Sacklers did not agree. From the beginning, the Sacklers viewed limits on opioids as an obstacle to greater profits. To make more money, the Sacklers considered whether they could sell OxyContin in some countries as an uncontrolled drug. Staff reported to Richard Sackler that selling OxyContin as “non-narcotic,” without the safeguards that protect patients from addictive drugs, would provide “a vast increase of the market potential. The inventor of OxyContin, Robert Kaiko, wrote to Richard to oppose this dangerous idea. Kaiko wrote that he was “very concerned” about the danger of selling OxyContin without strict controls. Kaiko warned: “I don’t believe we have a sufficiently strong case to argue that OxyContin has minimal or no abuse liability.“ To the contrary, Kaiko wrote, “oxycodone containing products are still among the most abused opioids in the U.S.” Kaiko predicted: “If OxyContin is uncontrolled, … it is highly likely that it will eventually be abused.“ Richard responded: “How substantially would it improve your sales?”

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zolltan’s public predictions for 2019

Everyone’s doing it! These were predictions I made in the first week of 2019, and already some of them look not too great. But, you’ll just have to believe me that I didn’t change them to appear more reasonable.


Brexit occurs (80%)
No second brexit referendum (90%)
No no-deal brexit (60%)
No UK general election (70%)
Emmanuel Macron remains president of France (95%)
Justin Trudeau is reelected PM of Canada (80%)
Ukrainian presidential elections go to 2nd round (80%)
Petro Poroshenko not reelected President of Ukraine (60%)
Liberal party loses seats compared to previous election (80%)
NDP gains seats compared to previous election (70%)
Tories gain seats compared to previous election (60%)
No attack on the Kurds with >30,000 deaths of civilians (90%)
By the end of the year, there are at least 100 US troops stationed in Syria (70%)
Netanyahu remains as Israeli PM (80%)
New Israeli coalition doesn’t include Liberman or Bennett (60%)
Beto will not announce a presidential candidacy (60%)
Bernie will announce a presidential candidacy (80%)
Less than 1 km of additional wall built (70%)
Shutdown ends without additional wall-specific funding secured (80%)
A woman doesn’t win the physics Nobel (80%)
News related to quantum computing in mainstream publication (60%)
News related to gravity waves in mainstream publication (70%)
No news related to aliens in mainstream publication (90%)
No new CRISPR babies announced (70%)
No European Islamic terrorist incident with more than 100 casualties (60%)
Canucks don’t make the playoffs (95%)
Pettersson wins Calder (90%)
Tampa Bay in the SC finals (50%)
Jim Benning keeps his job (70%)

I also made a bunch of personal predictions which I’m not going to post.

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The best books I read in 2018

Here are the best books I read this year. As usual, I didn’t read any books written this year (although the Fiddler is a Good Woman is close). It’s important to have distance / to not be relevant. This was a much luckier year for reading good books than last year. Unlike last year, there are a bunch of books I read that I really really liked that I didn’t include here.

41Ol3fgKT8L._SX339_BO1204203200_Poulet aux Prunes (Chicken and Plums, Marjane Satrapi, 2004) I was visiting C. when I bought this book, and he pointed out: graphic novels, compared to other books, have a really extreme ratio between the time the author spent making the work and the time the reader spends reading it. One potential advantage of this is that it can give the graphic novel a satisfying feeling of world depth, since the writer has inhabited this world for so long compared to your time in it. This is very true of Chicken with Plums. But it also means that you get a proportionally small glimpse, and for Chicken with Plums it’s a shame because I wanted more of that world. And I know I could go and buy Persepolis and Satrapi’s other work. But I wanted some time to wallow in this specific story. In a tiny number of pages, I got to know the petulant and inspired Nasser Ali. A person whose selfishness isn’t excused by his genius. A person whose heartbreak doesn’t explain his failures. Yet a person whose genius isn’t erased by his selfishness. And a person whose heartbreak is real and really changes his life. And the surrounding cast of characters is ridiculous, and heartfelt and by turns surprising like all good family stories. The story is tragic, but it’s also funny, warm, and takes unexpected turns.  This is a really great book.

Жизнь — это театр (Life is Theatre, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, 70’s-00’s) – extremely pithy and piercing flash fiction. The narrative voice is often cutting and merciless. But there are moments of grace that have enough sincerity that they separate Petrushevskaya from other talented, merciless writers whom I often can’t read just because their hatred for humanity is too bleak (like, say, Flannery O’Connor). Petrushevskaya has a very idiosyncratic set of concerns: teenage pregnancy, unsuccessful professional musicians, beach holidays, alcoholism, romances with huge age gaps. I don’t know why she thinks these are the most important themes to come back to. But then, it’s not like childhood reminiscences of divorced middle aged women from the Ottawa Valley is the world’s most exciting subject either, but every Alice Munro story with that subject is absolutely captivating. At some point, when you’re writing about human nature, the reader’s initial interest in the content specifics is not that important.

18209268Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2013) this is one of those satisfying melodrama books, centred on a broken off romance between two Nigerian teenagers who then become adults, Ifemelu and Obinze. It’s broken off in part because Ifemelu is in America for a large portion of the book’s plot (she’s the titular Americanah). It’s marketed as being about race, but the race stuff in it is mostly things we’ve heard before and internalized, at least if we’ve spent time as “liberals in the US”. So I didn’t find it super worth it for that alone. But it works as exploration of immigration and of return, and also just as a bunch of characters interacting because Adichie has a gift for writing conversation. By which I mean not just the dialogue of what’s said, but the reactions to what’s said. So rather than each dialogue moving each relationship in one specific direction, you feel the push and pull of all the small and large ups and downs and sidewayses that emotions undergo in conversation. And through it all, it remains a feel-good book because you just know Ifemelu and Obinze will end up together, even if you don’t know how, or whether it will be a good idea.

Coming Through Slaughter (Michael Ondaatje, 1976) Appropriately for a book written by a poet, the greatest strength of this book is the descriptions and choices of words. Appropriately for a book about a jazz musician, the narration changes rhythm, scatters, repeats. The best thing for me is that while being poetic and even elegiac at times, the book is the farthest thing from bloodless. The best passages are raw, visceral, weighted with sex and blood.

19244102Impro (Keith Johnstone, 1979) I think/fear that this might be one of those books annoying tech CEOs who think they are visionaries make everyone in their startup read, and, not gonna lie, I briefly considered moving to the Bay Area, becoming an annoying tech CEO, and coming up with an idea for a startup just to do that.

I can’t think of another book that’s changed how I think about important things so much. It’s changed how I think about teaching (my now once again job), about writing (my main hobby), about enlightenment, and about all human interactions (kind of important things!). And it’s also given me lots of things to try, and lots of games I’m eager to play with others.

The Complete Short Stories (Natalia Ginzburg, 1940’s?) It feels like Natalia Ginzburg shows up in these reviews every year, so I should probably keep it short: you already know the deal. But I won’t. The magic is in the narration. Time dilates and contracts. If someone’s life is a paragraph, several decades can be one sentence. What she wore out to a party once, or how she cooked some meal that’s not even relevant, can be another. Moments of true joy and grief flicker by and are swept away, and behind it all, the background river of the quiet desperation of life.

41iF2psRQlL._SX331_BO1204203200_In terms of analyzing personal actions, people often talk about societal expectations, and how individuals internalize them. But then sometimes we turn around and act like being aware that this is what’s happening is enough to cure it. That people can just be enlightened or shamed out of feeling this way. The people in this collection often find that their expectations of masculinity or femininity, marriage or family don’t resemble at all how they feel. And this makes them suffer. But the idea that telling them “oh, you’re just internalizing bad societal norms! Stop feeling this way, it’s bad!” could somehow help is just the saddest fucking joke in the world.

The Fiddler is a Good Woman (Geoff Berner, 2017) Sometimes books may be better than they were intended, and I think Geoff Berner’s witty “oral history” about a folk violinist from the Island who’s gone missing and whose life is being reconstructed by her former lovers and musical collaborators is one of those.

9781459737082I loved this novel for many different reasons. One is that it’s always heartwarming to have your cultural and geographic touchstones referenced lovingly (Fernwood! The old Sugar Refinery! The Railway Club! Folkfest! Hating on London, Ontario!) This is especially so in a place like Vancouver where so many unfairly dismiss it as basically lacking in culture entirely. Another is that I always try to expand the list of people who’ve both written a song I like and a novel I like, and I’m happy to report I’ve finally succeeded. But the biggest is that it’s a very keenly observed, loving, wry commentary on white left-coast leftist culture. It’s where everyone is mostly on the same page, but they all judge each other by every single person’s assumption of absolute impregnable righteousness of their exact ideology and evaluation of the personal worth of other people mostly by how closely they hew to that specific ideology. And the thing is, these are mostly really great people, but they are dismissive and contemptuous of each other, and of people who aren’t each other (i.e., normies) even more so to an incredible extent.

And Berner sometimes seems to have the same kind of viewpoint in his political writing, but in this novel, it’s presented both with love, and with an understanding of how ultimately ridiculous it can be, so it’s subtle and kind and wonderful.

The Golden Gate (by Vikram Seth) is
A novel that’s made out in verse
Which you can tell right from the preface.
“Good taste” tells us to be averse
To use of over-clever tricks
By which (we’re told) some writers fix
The lack of anything worth saying
But frankly, would you rather read
Another stern and serious screed
Or rhymes, where reading feels like playing?
In that respect I must be frank
I’d love it—even if it stank

One’s Russian lit prof’s pleas and begging
Are things most easily withstood
And so, most do not read Onegin.
Which is a shame: I think they should!
In Pushkin’s verses, he opines
On women, wit, and words and wines
No topic is left undebated
As if what he set out to do
Is give us his entire worldview.
Seth is not as opinionated
Allusions plenty, He’s less game
To share his judgments—that’s a shame

But asking how Seth’s novel measures
up to great Russian literature
Is not to denigrate its pleasures
I recommend it to be sure.
This is the first novel that I
Have read where a main hero’s bi
There’s Liz and Janet, two young ladies
And John, who’s loved by all the three
Despite his douchey bigotry
That’s how San Fran was in the eighties
Which is another cause for cheers:
Some things get better with the years.

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2018 in Review: Quotes Part 2

Continuing with quoting stuff…

“what is sweeter than to have someone you can dare to tell everything, as if talking to yourself? how is enjoyment in happy things so great, unless you have someone to rejoice in those things as much as you do?“ —Cicero, De amicitia

As a postscript I’d like to answer a question before it is asked. The question is: “Don’t you think a descendant of oppressed people is better off as a supermarket manager or police chief?” My answer is another question: “What concentration camp manager, national executioner or torturer is not a descendant of oppressed people?” —Fredy Perlman, The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism

To be in the Duty Free nowhere of the international terminal is to see all that very plainly — all these expensive things, honestly far too expensive to buy, price-tagged and just sort of presenting themselves for their own sake. These stores are in the airport mostly to remind you that they are there, that luxury brands are wherever you are going, as cruelly overpriced and possessed of the same symbolic heft at one end of your journey as on the other. They are the constants, the things that money makes everywhere, de-linked and uncoupled and sublime and ridiculous, unreal by design. They signify wealth and airless consensus; they’re a reminder that, wherever you’re going, it will probably be important to have as much money as possible.

Okay. Now imagine a country like that. —David Roth on Qatar

“I was on the road for so long by myself, I took to reading motel Bibles just for company. Lying on the chintz bedspread before going to sleep, still feeling the motion of the car inside my body, I thought some wrongness in my self had left me that alone. And God said, You are worth more to me than one hundred sparrows. And when I read that, I wept. And God said, Whom have I blessed more than I have blessed you? And I looked at the minibar and the bad abstract hotel art on the wall and the dark TV set watching like a deacon. And God said, Survive. And carry my perfume among the perishing.” —Tony Hoagland, Bible Study

C’est un peu de nous tous en celui qui s’en va et c’est en celui qui naît un peu de nous tous qui devient autre. —Gaston Miron

Years ago a friend of mine had a dream about a staircase you could descend deep underground, in which you heard recordings of all the things anyone had ever said about you, both good and bad. The catch was, you had to pass through all the worst things people had said before you could get to the highest compliments at the very bottom. There is no way I would ever make it more than two and a half steps down such a staircase, but I understand its terrible logic: if we want the rewards of being loved we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known. —Tim Kreider

When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. “This is often considered to be man’s first attempt at a calendar” she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. “My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.” —Sandi Toksvig

We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil. —Jack Gilbert, A Brief for the Defense

2. How I would Paint Happiness
Something sudden, a windfall,
a meteor shower. No –
a flowering tree releasing
all its blossoms at once,
and the one standing beneath it
unexpectedly robed in bloom,
transformed into a stranger
too beautiful to touch.

3. How I would Paint Death
White on white or black on black.
No ground, no figure. An immense canvas,
which I will never finish.

4. How I would Paint Love
I would not paint love. —Lisel Mueller, Imaginary Paintings

Caelum, non animum, mutant qui trans mare currunt —Horace, quoted by A.J. Hammer

I’ll tell you what is harder than dying in Gaza by an Israeli missile deluxe. What is harder is that you get a phone call from the Israeli army telling you to evacuate your home because it will be bombed in ten minutes. Imagine; ten minutes; and your whole short history on the surface of Earth will be erased.
Gifts you received, photos of your siblings and your children (dead or alive), things that you love, your favorite chair, your books, that last poetry collection your read, a letter from your expatriate sister, reminders of the ones you loved, the smell of your bed, the jasmine tree that hangs off your western window, your daughter’s hair clip, your old clothes, your prayer rug, your wife’s gold, your savings; imagine; all this passes in front of your eyes in ten minutes, all that pain passes while you are struck by surprise.
Then you take your identification papers (passport, birth certificate, etc.) which you have ready in an old metallic candy box, and you leave your home to die a thousand times, or refuse to leave and die once. —Mahmoud Jouda

Don: “Up until the age of 25, I believed that ‘invective’ was a synonym for ‘urine’.”
BBC: “Why ever would you have thought that?”
Don: “During my childhood, I read many of the Edgar Rice Burroughs ‘Tarzan’ stories, and in those books, whenever a lion wandered into a clearing, the monkeys would leap into the trees and ‘cast streams of invective upon the lion’s head.’”
BBC: long pause “But, surely sir, you now know the meaning of the word.”
Don: “Yes, but I do wonder under what other misapprehensions I continue to labour.”

Because the Urantia Foundation asserts that its authorship is superhuman, an Arizona court ruled in 1995 that it’s not protected by copyright and is, thus, in the public domain. —Megan Giller on the origin of Sleepytime Tea

The fish got smaller and smaller, to the point where the prize catches were dwarfed by fish that in years past were piled up and ignored. But the smiles on the fishermen’s faces stayed the same size. The world never feels fallen, because we grow accustomed to the fall. —Brooke Jarvis, The Insect Apocalypse is Here

Furthermore, I will ask you to interrupt your reading of this book as many times as possible, and perhaps—almost certainly—what you think during those intervals will be the best part of the book —Felisberto Hernandez, Gangster Philosophy quoted by Esther Allen in Felisberto

His formal education ended when he was fifteen; he had decided to dedicate himself entirely to the piano, and there were also some difficulties about passing exams. (One of his stories, describing a love affair, alludes to the twenty-two days between May 19 and June 6, and we will never know if he really thought that twenty-two was the correct number, or was purposely evincing his disdain for numbers, or was making a tacit but deliberate comment on the experience of love.) —Esther Allen, Felisberto

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2018 in Review: Quotes Part 1

Like the several years that preceded it, 2018 was a year where I wrote some stuff down. Some of it was interesting quotes. Here they are.

Of course all the self-help new-age books all demand that you live in the moment. But what if you actually do live in the moment, which I have done sometimes with DD over the years? You wind up not remembering things that you told people you were going to do, including some promises that you made, and you wind up not remembering things you promised you weren’t going to do, and you forget about planning any plan for the future, because you’re so living in the moment.

Although everyone says we are supposed to do that, it is actually something that annoys people a lot, to say the least, when you do it.  —Geoff Berner, The Fiddler is a Good Woman

The desire for virtue is frustrated in many men of good will by the distaste they instinctively feel for the false virtues of those who are supposed to be holy.”  —Thomas Merton

I was very lucky to have my own professional record cutting lathe when I was in 7th grade due to my father being involved in the broadcast industry. I would cut records for friends at school of songs off the radio and learned the art of record making long before learning to play music. I would spend countless hours studying the grooves I would cut under the microscope that was attached to the lathe and loved the way music looked, moved and modulated within the thin walls. I might have spent too much time studying music through a microscope because it gave me a completely different outlook on what music is and a totally opposite understanding of it as well. There was something very magical and private when I zoomed into the magnified and secret world of sound in motion. I got to the point that I needed to create and paint my own sounds and colors into the walls of these grooves. —Greg Sage of the Wipers

We always make fun of it and stuff. But isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more? —Julie Delpy in Before Sunset

In the same period I knew a Scottish doctor who used to hurry his children along by saying “the tooter the sweeter,” blending tout de suite with something like “the sooner the better.” —David Bellos Is that a Fish in your Ear

The modern conservative is not even especially modern. He is engaged, on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor. The man who has struck it rich in minerals, oil, or other bounties of nature is found explaining the debilitating effect of unearned income from the state. The corporate executive who is a superlative success as an organization man weighs in on the evils of bureaucracy. Federal aid to education is feared by those who live in suburbs that could easily forgo this danger, and by people whose children are in public schools. Socialized medicine is condemned by men emerging from Walter Reed Hospital. Social Security is viewed with alarm by those who have the comfortable cushion of an inherited income. Those who are immediately threatened by public efforts to meet their needs — whether widows, small farmers, hospitalized veterans, or the unemployed — are almost always oblivious to the danger. —John Kenneth Galbraith

For centuries kings, priests, feudal lords, industrial bosses and parents have insisted that obedience is a virtue and that disobedience is a vice. In order to introduce another point of view, let us set against this position the following statement: human history began with an act of disobedience, and it is not unlikely that it will be terminated by an act of obedience. — Erich Fromm

However, the English translator of Indian texts suffers a double jeopardy. Thus, the first reader he must endeavour to satisfy is the Indian reader—from some other linguistic region of this multilingual country. For this reader there are many things that do not need to be translated, because they belong to a cultural context with which most Indians are familiar. Not only is the translation of such items unnecessary, it is also inadvisable. The Indian reader of English is notoriously prone to suspicion that it is not he that is being addressed, but an international reader, somewhere behind his right shoulder. And one way in which this suspicion might be allayed is by not translating certain things. —Alok Rai, translator’s note to a translation of Nirmala

Saeta que voladora
cruza arrojada al azar,
y que no sabe dónde
temblando se clavará;
hoja que del árbol seca
arrebata el vendaval,
sin que nadie acierte el surco
donde al polvo volverá;
gigante ola que el viento
riza y empuja en el mar,
y rueda y pasa, y se ignora
qué playa buscando va;
luz que en cercos temblorosos
brilla próxima a expirar
y que no se sabe de ellos
cuál el último será;
eso soy yo que al acaso
cruzo el mundo sin pensar
de dónde vengo ni adónde
mis pasos me llevarán.
—Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer Rimas  

When I ask if it is her first time in Australia, she says: “That makes it sound as if there’s going to be a second time.”  —Brigid Delaney interviews Fran Lebowitz

It’s a tautology to say that normal people are the most suggestible, since it’s because they’re the most suggestible that they’re the most normal! —Keith Johnstone, IMPRO

‘It’s nice of you to see me at such short notice. I know that psychiatrists are very busy . . . I . . . ‘

(Puts on glasses. Sees Governors)

‘. . . I know it was wrong to commit suicide, God, but . . .’

(Puts on glasses. Sees Governors) —ibid.

Skinner spent a year in Afghanistan, often under fire from Taliban positions, and returned several times in the next decade. He kept a note pinned to his ballistic vest that read “Tell my wife it was pointless.” —Ben Taub “The Spy Who Came Home” in the New Yorker

Карлсон говорит: «Ничего я никому не должен. Я махаю всем рукой и кричу “Э-ге-гей!”. потому что я веселый и приветливый мужчина в самом расцвете сил. Но таким занудам, как ты, я даже махать рукой теперь не буду». И Карлсон летит, сначала машинально машет ручкой, а потом прижимает ее, немедленно входит в штопор и с криком «сволочь!» разбивается о бетонный столб —Dmitry Bykov из “лекций о литературе и не только”

It is said that analysing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article. —Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

by a statute of the 25th year of King Edward III, sleeping with the king’s eldest daughter before her marriage constitutes an act of high treason punishable by death. —Wikipedia on Princess Anne

In April, the New York Police Department responded to a 911 call about a tiger—presumably the Bengal, not the Tasmanian, kind—roaming the streets of Washington Heights. It turned out to be a large raccoon. —Brooke Jarvis in the New Yorker

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The best movies I watched in 2018

For the first time in the existence of this blog, I think I actually watched enough movies this year that I can make a post like this. I don’t think I watched anything that came out this year that was any good, though, so please don’t think this is somehow relevant to the awards or something. We at Rated Zed shy away from relevance whenever possible.

deathofstalinThe Death of Stalin (2017, dir. Armando Ianucci) reminded me of Moloch (Alexander Sokurov’s, I mean), and that part in Fahrenheit 9/11 where Paul Wolfowitz is trying to keep his combover down with his own spittle. The effect it plays with is that it’s paradoxically comforting to see history’s monsters as serious, as forces of nature. To see them as ridiculous within the context of the enormity of their crimes is hard to take. The Death of Stalin turns up this creeping dread to the max. Moloch was the first film I saw doing this and it made a huge impression, but the Death of Stalin almost hits harder. Whereas in Moloch, as far as I remember, the Nazi atrocities were kept offscreen, in the supposedly less serious Death of Stalin, they’re right in your face. Every punchline is a death, a rape or a prison sentence, so it’s not “ha-ha” funny. But a lot of it is bitterly funny. The extravagant, gorgeous verisimilitude of the sets and costumes amplifies the feeling: making the characters look even smaller, like they’re borrowing someone else’s clothes to play in a set built for grand empires.maviesexuelle

Comment je me suis disputé… (ma vie sexuelle) (1996, dir. Arnaud Desplechin) A movie about several intertwining relationships centred around Paul, a humanities academic (Mathieu Amalric) and his circle of friends.

Paul’s attracted to women that are more than his equals, but then he wants them to be his. And it’s a contradictory desire, where either he succeeds in taming his partner, and so loses what attracted him to her, or he doesn’t, and is continually disappointed and struggling, and either way he’s lost.

The movie is three hours long, but I could easily watch another three hours of these people. I didn’t even want to stop, even though the ending of the movie is beautiful and genuinely uplifting. The cast is spectacular, in particular Emmanuelle Devos, who plays Paul’s long-term girlfriend Esther and manages to brilliantly navigate the hairpin turns in character that are required of the role. The use of narration in the film is also particularly good. The narrator’s tone is brisk and newsy, but he manages to relay difficult nuances of feelings and relationships. I just loved the movie.

The Lobster (2015, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos) Sometimes all a movie needs to be entertaining is an original premise and the commitment to following through. The Lobster, a movie about life in a hotel where you turn into an animal of your choice if you can’t find a partner in one month, has that in spades. I don’t think it’s worth spending a lot of thought on whether our world corresponds to the one in the film and looking for social commentary. Still, I admired the brazenness, the slapstick gags (like the bactrian camel passing through the forest), and Léa Seydoux’s deadpan performance as the leader of a faction rebelling against the pro-partnering dogma of the society (the rebels are against any interpersonal affection, she explains, and “this is why we only dance to electronic music”).

La Vie d’Adèle (2013, dir. Abdellatif Kechiche) A realist coming of age tale, it’s kind of like “Boyhood” with a lot of scenes of lesbian sex.La_Vie_d'Adèle_film_poster

Also, Léa Seydoux’s paintings are so fucking kitschy, I can’t get over that.

Still, one thing realist fiction is worth it for is that moment which is just so recognizable and so lived-in that you’re amazed no one’s brought it up exactly that way before. For me, it was Adèle at the house party. I’ve been the partner/the host at a party where every single person seems like they’re cooler than me before and man, I know exactly how Adèle felt. And every detail of it, from not knowing who Egon Schiele is to Léa Seydoux telling her all her friends loved her afterwards it all just rings so very very true. Realist fiction is about savouring these moments of recognition, and I am thankful to this movie for it. And it made me trust that it knew what it was doing even when it was showing experiences that I haven’t had.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, dir. Denis Villeneuve) the story isn’t much, but it’s also mostly irrelevant. What’s relevant is the cinematography in monochrome palettes, centred on grey or red or ochre. It’s a beautiful movie, and a tense one. Last week as I was sitting in a coffeeshop I overheard two people talking about how much they loved Roger Deakins for like 10 minutes. If your cinematography can inspire that kind of response, you’re doing it right.

Holy_Motors_posterHoly Motors (2012, dir. Leos Carax) There is this genre which relies on the grandeur and loneliness of people who are somehow chosen, marked, and float through the normal everyday world interacting with it glancingly. In the world, but not of it. Some touchstones of the genre for me: Ender’s Game, Only Lovers Left Alive, Foucault’s Pendulum, the character of Merlin, that one song by Соломенные Еноты where they sing «счастье нужно всем на свете/против счастья только мы». To dream of that kind of life in the real world is delusional or even evil. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the fantasy in a movie.

Holy Motors is this kind of immersive, all-encompassing fantasy, similar in a way to Only Lovers Left Alive, except instead of vampires, it takes… actors? Or are these beings actors? In a very literal sense, they definitely are. But are they also supernatural beings? Maybe.

Apart from the fantasy, what makes the movie are the static composition skills. For every setting, and there is an unnatural abundance of settings, there is a meticulously made choice of shot, and it is stylish and interesting.

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2018 in Review: Articles, etc.

Here are the most interesting things I read on the internet this year, in an annual version of “No Value Added”. As you know, reblog does not imply endorsement, etc.

The News

Narrative & History

  • Lake City Quiet Pills Melanie Porter picks at a mystery in Dirge Magazine (which seems to no longer exist, hmmm…)
  • Mangilaluk’s Highway Nadim Roberts in Granta writes about one small piece of history: it’s indigenous history and residential school history and arctic history and it’s a fascinating and heartbreaking story.
  • Notes on a Suicide Rana Dasgupta in Granta manages to fit everything into this appraisal of the current state of France and the world: suicide, urban planning, celebrity culture, French rap, wealth inequality and radical Islam. The exhilarating feeling of isolated facts connecting with big ideas. If you click on one link from this list, make it this one.
  • The Obsessive Search for the Tasmanian Tiger Brooke Jarvis in the New Yorker asks if we might ever re-find a living Tasmanian tiger, and also, why we so desperately want to.


  • Jonathan Franzen is fine with all of it Taffy Brodesser-Akner in the New York Times Magazine profiles America’s most famous literary chronicler of middle-aged male angst (and thus a cultural flashpoint for discussions of whether chronicling middle-aged male angst is worthwhile), who also happens to be America’s most famous bird aficionado.
  • Ottessa Moshfegh’s otherworldly fiction Ariel Levy is a writer I admire greatly, and here she threads the thinnest of needles, writing a profile that’s positive and respectful, while subtly hinting that the subject is insufferable, while even more subtly hinting that her work is still worth reading even if you can’t stand her.
  • Young Jean Lee’s unsafe spaces Parul Sehgal in the New York Times Magazine profiles an intriguing playwright
  • The Spy who came home Ben Taub in the New Yorker writes a sympathetic profile of a cop who sees a lot wrong with the way his town does policing. The disconnect between the online world and the offline world can be illustrated in that offline, the provocative part is the indictment of the police as a whole; online, the provocative part is the suggestion that a policeman can be sympathetic in any way.
  • Qatar Chronicles David Roth at SBNation profiles a country on the occasion of its winning world cup bid



  • Public Enemy Harper’s Magazine compiles transcripts from the jury selection for Martin Shkreli’s trial, and they are hilarious. I don’t often feel schadenfreude, and even I wallowed in it here. To people who generally enjoy that feeling, this must be amazing.
  • Calvinist dog corrects owner: ‘No one is a good boy’ somehow the only people who can compete with the onion write for The Babylon Bee. I don’t get how that works.

Fiction and Personal Essay

  • Now More Than Ever Zadie Smith writes a modern dystopia in the New Yorker
  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern W.S. Gilbert (of the & Sullivan fame) apparently wrote a hilarious sendup of Hamlet before it was cool
  • My Gender is Nick Cave everyone I tell about this essay by C.I. Fautsch at Electric Lit is extremely skeptical based on the title, but just give it a chance.
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