Tag Archives: The New Yorker

You say ‘content,’ I say ‘composition’

Someone on Twitter recently defined himself as a "word herder."

"Clever," I thought, "but wrong."

Bloggers and twitterers are not herding words.  We are choosing words and combining them. And in a more perfect world, we would take inspiration from those who are good at this very difficult task.

I have two candidates for our admiration.

Leah Greenblatt offers this review of Contra by Vampire Weekend in a recent Entertainment Weekly.  Notice the "slaphappy dazzle" of her prose.

With the band now a known quantity, sophomore album Contra inevitably lacks the slaphappy dazzle of breakout singles like ”A Punk” and ”Oxford Comma.” Still, the album, recorded in Brooklyn and Mexico City, stays largely faithful to the sound they’ve built, with the international-groovy experiments of Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel still clear signposts — Simon’s almost glaringly so. On summery first single ”Horchata,” singer Ezra Koenig gets drunk on multiculturalism, (loosely) rhyming the Mexican rice beverage of the title with ”balaclava” and ”Masada.” If the lyrics sometimes seem to showboat their 10-carat educations (look, Ma, three continents!), the music remains happily inclusive: somewhere between limbo contest on the lido deck and cocktail hour in Cape Cod.

And here David Denby of The New Yorker write richly and admiringly about Avatar even as he exposes its weakness.

Science is good, but technology is bad. Community is great, but corporations are evil. “Avatar” gives off more than a whiff of nineteen-sixties counterculture, by way of environmentalism and current antiwar sentiment. “What have we got to offer them—lite beer and bluejeans?” Jake asks. Well, actually, life among the Na’vi, for all its physical glories, looks a little dull. True, there’s no reality TV or fast food, but there’s no tennis or Raymond Chandler or Ella Fitzgerald, either. But let’s not dwell on the sentimentality of Cameron’s notion of aboriginal life—the movie is striking enough to make it irrelevant. Nor is there much point in lingering over the irony that this anti-technology message is delivered by an example of advanced technology that cost nearly two hundred and fifty million dollars to produce; or that this anti-imperialist spectacle will invade every available theatre in the world. Relish, instead, the pterodactyls, or the flying velociraptors, or whatever they are—large beaky beasts, green with yellow reptile patches—and the bright-red flying monster with jaws that could snap an oak. Jake, like a Western hero breaking a wild horse, has to tame one of these creatures in order to prove his manhood, and the scene has a barbaric splendor. The movie’s story may be a little trite, and the big battle at the end between ugly mechanical force and the gorgeous natural world goes on forever, but what a show Cameron puts on! The continuity of dynamized space that he has achieved with 3-D gloriously supports his trippy belief that all living things are one. Zahelu!

Surely, this is another relationship to establish between the old and the new media, that we the noisy rabble may take guidance from our betters.


Denby, David.  2010.  Going Native.  The New Yorker.  January 4, 2010.  here.

Greenblatt, Leah. 2010. Vampire Weekend. Entertainment Weekly. January 15. p. 72. here.

Note: this post was lost in the Network Solutions debacle of last year.  It is reposted December 24, 2010.