1. “Doc Jensen on The Strain—and when real life interrupts TV.” A wonderful, heartfelt piece in EW from Jeff Jensen about the Guillermo del Toro show, our “Ebola jittery moment,” and the recent death of his wife.
“The Strain is another vampire story about people willing to trade their better selves for love and more life. But unlike many vampire stories, it takes place in a post-Christian world, ruled and rocked by reasonable atheism, dog-eat-dog selfishness, and too many dispiriting catastrophes. In this miserably materialistic expression, love is not something people make, only consume. At one point, our heart-challenged, all-brain hero of science ogles the design of parasite-morphed bodies, marveling over their improved efficiencies. Only someone who thinks of human beings as mechanical animals that eat and sh– unto death could find such hyper-human creatures beautiful. The Strain presents a world where humanity has been infected not only by a virus, but also by a degradingly low opinion of itself. Here’s hoping our plague-fighters find the balls to be and believe in something bigger, or it’s flush city.”
2. “Marilyn Burns R.I.P.” The Texas Chainsaw Massacre star dies at 65.
“Marilyn Burns, one of the original ’scream queens’ who starred in Tobe Hooper’s original 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, died Tuesday in Texas. She was 65 and was found dead in her home near Houston. Texas Chainsaw Massacre was her first lead role; in it she played teenager Sally Hardesty, who goes with her brother and friends to the cemetery where her grandfather is buried and ends up as the only survivor of an encounter with the insane family led by chainsaw-wielding Leatherface. Burns was born in Erie, Penn., raised in Texas and had small parts in films including Robert Altman’s Brewster McCloud while she was still in high school, and George Roy Hill’s The Great Waldo Pepper.”
3. “Israel has broken my heart: I’m a rabbi in mourning for a Judaism being murdered by Israel.” I’ve always been proud of Israel, but the brutal Gaza assault requires Jews worldwide to be honest, not nationalist.
“But it is the brutality of that assault that finally has broken me into tears and heartbreak. While claiming that it is only interested in uprooting tunnels that could be used to attack Israel, the IDF has engaged in the same criminal behavior that the world condemns in other struggles: the intentional targeting of civilians (the same crime that Hamas has been engaged in over the years, which correctly has earned it the label as a terrorist organization). Using the excuse that Hamas is using civilians as ’human shields’ and placing its war material in civilian apartments, Israel has managed to kill more than 1micha,000 civilians and wounded thousands. The stories that have emerged from eyewitness accounts of hundreds of children being killed by Israel’s indiscriminate destructiveness, the shelling of United Nations schools and public hospitals, and finally the destruction of Gaza’s water and electricity, guaranteeing deaths from typhoid and other diseases as well as widespread hunger among the million and a half Gazans most of whom have had nothing to do with Hamas, highlights to the world an Israel that is rivaling some of the most oppressive and brutal regimes in the contemporary world.”
4. “Cinemax’s Terrific The Knick Is a Statement About the Past.” Matt Zoller Seitz on the Steven Soderbergh show.
“Whether it’s women trying to mine a bit of autonomy from the margins of a male-dominated society or newly arrived European immigrants struggling with whether to assimilate or wall themselves off from Wasp culture or African-Americans less than a half-century away from slavery fighting to define themselves, every scene admits that, to quote the song, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody. TV dramas set in the modern era rarely examine this stuff in such a head-on way, urging viewers to draw inferences about power relationships simply by how they arrange the material, yet always keeping the scene’s meanings fluid and open-ended, so that one can never accuse the writers of making a single, simplistic point about history and congratulating themselves on their supposed cleverness.”
5. “William S. Burroughs and the Dead-End Horror of the Centipede God.” Mark Dery takes a deep, dark look at the world of Chilopodophobia, compliments of William Burroughs.
“Obsession, more than character, plot, or scene, structures Burroughs’s fiction; centipedes are a recurrent motif throughout his work, unchanging as the Mayan codices and temple friezes that fascinated him. In his literary debut, Junkie (1953), the thinly fictionalized ’confessions of an unredeemed drug addict,’ the smack-addled narrator recounts a heroin daydream in which centipedes and other arthropods rule the ruins of a derelict, post-anthropocene world—a cynic’s eulogy to human potential. ’One afternoon, I closed my eyes and saw New York in ruins. Huge centipedes and scorpions crawled in and out of empty bars and cafeterias and drugstores on Forty-Second Street. Weeds were growing up through cracks and holes in the pavement. There was no one in sight.’ A lifetime later, Burroughs still has centipedes on the brain: in a journal entry written in 1997, the last year of his life, he mutters to himself, ’What hideous dead-end led to the creation of the centipede?’ The centipede’s reason for being, he decides, is to remind Homo sapiens of the ’fall’—evolutionary, not biblical—’we might have taken.’”
Video of the Day: A blooper reel from Community’s fifth season:
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