I suffer from a very rare form of prosopagnosia in which every time I try to picture Mandy Patinkin, I imagine Steven Seagal instead. This has made watching Homeland a somewhat disconcerting experience. Or at least thinking about it, I should say. Though Claire Danes and Patinkin are well cast, I don’t think Damian Lewis or Morenna Baccarin are altogether plausible in their parts, though Lewis is obviously a fine actor.

I Believe in (Joe Pantoliano as Teddy) Magyk

I finished Elmore Leonard’s Glitz recently. It reads very much like a photoplay wasn’t far from the author’s mind, though I haven’t read enough of Leonard to know if that is his typical style. A made-for-tv version did come out in 1988, with Jimmy Smits as Miami detective Vincent Mora. I couldn’t help but picture Joe Pantoliano in the role of Teddy Magyck, a rapscallion who shoots Mora and plans to do so again for the remainder of the book.

The Cabin in the Woods

In 2004, the first year I had cable television in a very long time, I watched a Labor Day West Wing marathon on Bravo pretty much the whole day. I like to think that I loathed Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue before it was fashionable, and, among the host of platitudinous shitheels and dim-witted cynicules on display, Bradley Whitford’s insufferability was truly distinguished. (Veep is almost a perfect antidote for the West Wing-style treacle, but I think the characters remain too sympathetic.

A Review of Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story, by D. T. Max

The publicity for this book worried me. I thought that some of the revelations sounded improbable or sensationalist. In just about every case, however, this worry came from the journalists responsible for exaggerating or misrepresenting the book. I was promised by those who had read the book already that it contained much that I didn’t know about Wallace, and that’s certainly true. Max’s sources go far beyond what’s been published about Wallace and what’s available in the Harry Ransom Center.

Gustavo Fring, Businessman

The writers of Breaking Bad probably had something in mind by making Gustavo Fring a Chilean. Don Salamanca contemptuously refers to him as “generalissimo” at one point, and Don Eliado reminds him pointedly that he’s in Mexico now in the flashback where Fring’s chemist-partner is murdered. He apparently had the power to sponsor this chemist’s education, though I don’t remember if that was in Chile or Mexico. [Update: It was in Chile.

Beginning Adventures in Topic Modeling

I have finally done some experimenting with topic modeling. Though there are a variety of pre-existing packages for this (MALLET and the Stanford Topic Modeling Toolbox are two), I used the R package topicmodels combined with Will Lowe’s JFreq to create a topic model of some of Marjorie Bowen’s historical novels. Why Marjorie Bowen? Let me admit something: I haven’t actually read any of her historical fiction. And besides, topic modeling is thought to work best on large and distinct corpora as I understand it.

Continuing Adventures in Topic Modeling Infinite Jest

I thought I’d continue my experiments in topic modeling with Infinite Jest. A twenty-topic Gibbs sampling turned up such free-associative gems as: {“alarm,” “fur,” “nude,” “matrix,” “rehab,” “warns,” “hallway,” “underwear,” “hispanic,” “beach”}, which I’d argue is a pretty good thematic summary. (I especially love that “matrix” showed up there; bless the randomized oracular algorithm and its serendipitous discoveries.) Anyway, the full list is below. Sorry for the formatting. Topic 1 Topic 2 [1,] "alarm" "granted" [2,] "fur" "blocked" [3,] "nude" "anticipate" [4,] "matrix" "paint" [5,] "rehab" "guilty" [6,] "warns" "nurture" [7,] "hallway" "lord's" [8,] "underwear" "lurid" [9,] "hispanic" "piss" [10,] "beach" "check" Topic 3 Topic 4 [1,] "leisure" "context" [2,] "booth" "valuables" [3,] "hiked" "distress" [4,] "descend" "petropolis" [5,] "darts" "mark" [6,] "fate" "pure" [7,] "lottery" "bldg" [8,] "raison" "realizing" [9,] "ironed" "logic" [10,] "designer" "stern" Topic 5 Topic 6 [1,] "dropping" "smothergill" [2,] "required" "teaching" [3,] "utilize" "openness" [4,] "compromised" "hawaiian" [5,] "she'll" "abstraction" [6,] "feature" "millicent's" [7,] "pour" "bowls" [8,] "homosexual" "stations" [9,] "undistinguished" "hesitant" [10,] "invitational" "tend" Topic 7 Topic 8 [1,] "admission" "perform" [2,] "casually" "tones" [3,] "really" "january" [4,] "stink" "scalp" [5,] "thorax" "bush" [6,] "suspects" "drip" [7,] "decade" "high-resin" [8,] "soma" "discussed" [9,] "acquire" "ascend" [10,] "toothless" "km" Topic 9 Topic 10 [1,] "protect" "gathering" [2,] "helped" "vast" [3,] "straightened" "dismantled" [4,] "birthday" "fatal" [5,] "untitled" "panels" [6,] "kindness" "prostitute" [7,] "named" "intellectual" [8,] "sucking" "newspaper" [9,] "troubling" "bangs" [10,] "frustration" "trained" Topic 11 Topic 12 [1,] "unspeakable" "legend" [2,] "dependence" "jennie" [3,] "temples" "amused" [4,] "wept" "dart" [5,] "magic" "arrayed" [6,] "tapered" "deeper" [7,] "planes" "delivering" [8,] "knuckle" "supreme" [9,] "wiping" "gardens" [10,] "swell" "sooty" Topic 13 Topic 14 [1,] "wears" "subtly" [2,] "dial" "spectral" [3,] "theaters" "fuzzy" [4,] "blowing" "vividly" [5,] "roach" "steaming" [6,] "colleague" "caution" [7,] "latin" "fire" [8,] "psychology" "pronounce" [9,] "tear" "rhetorically" [10,] "citizens" "neglect" Topic 15 Topic 16 [1,] "overwhelming" "separatism" [2,] "philosophical" "strategy" [3,] "altered" "lowered" [4,] "go" "surprisingly" [5,] "formality" "m.

Breaking Bad and the Improbable

I have recently caught up with Breaking Bad, which seems to be everyone’s favorite television show these days. And like most people, I have enjoyed it a lot. I think it’s fair to say, however, that it strains suspension of disbelief in many ways. For instance, in the first season, Walter sends Jesse to meet with a violent meth distributor named Tuco Salamanca. Jesse loses both the meth and some blood.

La Grange

Highway 71 between Austin and I10 is America in all its glory. Things I saw: Teenager in a Joy Division t-shirt, walking on the side of the road toward Austin with sun-dazed eyes. Fresh deer carcass, ungralloched. A viewing stand constructed to survey, as far as I could tell, miles of excavation and burnt pine. A billboard for a resort just outside of Austin showing a roll of toilet paper on a stick.

Jack Vance's To Live Forever

I believe that the following scenario is comparatively rare in science fiction: humanity has developed viable interstellar travel and has discovered habitable planets but has not colonized any of them because of a static social structure. The social stasis of Jack Vance’s To Live Forever has been produced by a combination of artificial intelligence central planning and population control. A relatively small geographic region of a future Earth has sealed itself off from barbarous tribes and has separated its population into strict castes: brood, wedge, third (arrant), verge, and amaranth.