A Critique of Jim Emerson’s Recent “The Dark Knight” Critique

You’ve probably seen by now film critic Jim Emerson‘s critique of a certain action sequence in The Dark Knight (2008). Many, many people forwarded it to me; they probably also forwarded it to you.

Now, I have said many mean things about Mr. Nolan in the past. But I actually disagree to some extent with Mr. Emerson’s analysis. (Maybe I just disagree with everyone?)

So allow me, if you will, to defend my buddy Chris Nolan.

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Art’s a Fucking Mess

My friend Tadd over at Big Other has a post up about why Plato wanted to kick all the poets out of his ideal republic. And I’m no philosopher. But my understanding has long been that Plato’s problem with poets/art (besides the whole mimesis “copy of a copy” thing) is that art is messy, uncontrollable.

Like, consider this:

Someone—some artist somewhere—decided to make this. Is it good? Bad? Funny? Sick? Evil? Juvenile? Calculated? Hip? Clever? Stupid? Immoral? Amoral? Sure—it’s all those things, and more! It supports a variety of readings. In fact, the better an artwork is (I think this is a pretty OK one), the more irreducible it tends to be (at least, according to certain lines of aesthetic reasoning that I think Tadd would agree with).

Good art disrupts the social order. It wakes you up, shocks you, makes you feel alive—it makes you see the world again, differently. Bad art is boring, predictable, prescribed, a weak illustration of what you’ve already been thinking. (That’s my problem with so many depictions of September 11th, Roxanne—they reduce that day into something so digestible, so mundane, it’s as though it never happened.)

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Teaching Creative Writing

This is a response to Roxane’s recent post, “How the Hell Do We Teach Creative Writing?

I am a firm believer that creative writing can be taught; I’ve been teaching it for years now (at DePaul University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lake Forest College, and StoryStudio Chicago). Below, I’ll break “creative writing” down into five pedagogical areas (I’m a rather analytical fellow); when viewed from that perspective, I think, a whole host of practicable exercises and activities become apparent. (Note that this will be a blanket overview; I’d be happy to discuss any of this in much more depth.)

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Magic The Gathering as Literature, part 3: The Vocabulary

Players react as Josh Utter-Leyton defeats Sam Black in the semifinals.

Part 1 | Part 2

It’s day three of Pro Tour Philadelphia, and the final (“Top 8”) competition is underway. This part of the tournament is webcast (you can watch it live here), and is also being transcribed. (Since this is such high level play, players will want to read descriptions of what, precisely, happened on each turn; this is what Bill Stark was doing in the photo at the top of Part 2.)

These match transcriptions often read like a foreign language to non-players. For example, here’s an excerpt from a write-up of a match played yesterday between Jeremy Neeman and Luis Scott-Vargas:

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Magic The Gathering as Literature, part 2: The Articles

Bill Stark (seated far right) documents a feature match between David Williams (seated left) and Brian Kibler (seated right).

Part 1 | Part 3

Greetings once again from Pro Tour Philadelphia! The second day of the tournament is well underway. As you’ll recall from Part 1, I’m curious to what extent this event—and all Magic culture—is a literary phenomenon. The most obvious place to start seems to be the wealth of Magic articles produced every day by the game’s players, designers and developers, judges, and casual bystanders, some of which I think will interest the upstanding gormandizers at HTMLGIANT. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

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Magic The Gathering as Literature, part 1 (introduction)

Jon Finkel (seated left) plays Patrick Chapin (seated right) in a feature match at Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011.

Part 2 | Part 3

Hello! I’m new here.

I am in Philadelphia, attending a professional Magic: The Gathering tournament (Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011). The event runs through Sunday, and throughout the weekend, I’ll be posting updates “from the floor,” so to speak. I’m currently sitting in the pressroom (I have a press pass!) alongside a few other reporters; they’re busy Tweeting and posting about the current tournament standings, what the format looks like, which cards and decks are proving the best. It’s high stakes stuff—one of four invitational tournaments held annually around the world (the last two were in Paris and Nagoya; the next will be in December in San Francisco), with a top prize of $40,000.

All of which, I think, should interest even those who know nothing about the game. Here’s why:

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