Seth Madej

Category Archives: Writing

Apr 07 4 comments

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I Know I Won’t Slit My Throat. I Don’t Believe I Won’t Slit My Throat.

razorYou’re reading this blog, which means either you’re in the hands of interrogators working for a government that has not signed on to the Geneva Conventions, or you’re familiar with my OCD and my history of intrusive suicidal thoughts. I’ll assume the latter, though I won’t be so presumptuous to assume that you know that I no longer have a beard. So I’ll mention that I wore one for the better part of a decade but, despite what that big photo on the left indicates, I retired it several months ago.

Okay, with those preliminaries out of the way, I can tell you that sometimes I’m afraid I’ll slit my throat with a straight razor.

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Apr 05 0 comments

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Stuff I’ve Read: Feb.-Mar. 2014

To regularly keep up with what I’m reading, please follow me on Goodreads.

The James Bond DossierThe James Bond Dossier
by Kingsley Amis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t have many opportunities to call things “jaunty,” so I’ll call this book a jaunty defense of Ian Fleming’s work, the kind you’d hear passionately laid out from one fanboy to another after several beers’ worth of debate in an alternate universe where all fanboys are Kingsley Amis, Stephen Fry, and Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes. Like any good fanboy defense, and there aren’t any, Kingsley’s repeatedly turns into a mitigation, admitting to and excusing some of the worst qualities of Fleming’s work. This becomes a tad unbearable when Amis tries to mount a defense for, say, casual racism. But the rest of the time his lengthy essay is astute and harmless and a good time for anyone who’s read all of the original Bond books and wants some light critique of them, i.e. no one. (Barring me and some pasty men who died when Roger Moore still had human skin.)

Six more books >>

Mar 28 3 comments

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Cosmos Animation Producer Kara Vallow Talks to Me About Fending off Anti-Science Wackaloons

A moment in ancient  Mesopotamia, from an upcoming episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

A moment in ancient Mesopotamia, from an upcoming episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

For my very first job out of college I worked as an associate producer for the science radio series Pulse of the Planet, and for my very first assignment I was sent to interview the newly appointed director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson. We talked about another new guy, Hale-Bopp, a recently discovered comet that eventually appeared so brightly in the sky that one night from the light-soaked streets of Manhattan I watched it blaze beside the peak of the Empire State Building. This week, 18 years later, Dr. Tyson spoke to me about comets again, though he was simultaneously talking to four million other people via the third episode of my new favorite show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on Fox. His description of our ancestors watching comets transform the sky into omens of doom was accompanied by startlingly beautiful animation of flaming death’s heads ripping through the night.

That animation was developed and produced by my pal Kara Vallow. Kara’s a TV cartoon guru and executive producer of Family Guy and American Dad!, but I first got to know her from her blogs Teen Sleuth and The Haunted Library. A few years ago I raved about her relentless curiosity, though she’s better known for her relentless progressivism. Kara’s notorious for her readiness to rip into politicians and ‘Mericans who trade intelligence and reason for willful ignorance and self-centered asshattery–the type of people who tried to refute Cosmos’s explanation of evolution, who called the show anti-Christian leftist propaganda, and who, when the next great comet swings by, will likely have Americans digging hidey-holes to shoot AR-15s at it from behind stacks of Lunchables and Vitamin Water.

With that in mind, Kara kindly exchanged a few emails with me about the rise of anti-science.

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Mar 20 1 comments

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Scarlett Johansson’s Boob Problem

Scarlett Johansson at the premiere of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Scarlett Johansson at the premiere of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Last year I wrote a feminist defense of the now infamous song Seth MacFarlane performed at the 2013 Oscars, “We Saw Your Boobs,” in which I claimed that the bit rightly called successful actresses to account for their role in perpetuating Hollywood’s sexism. I don’t want to hyperbolize, but that post was responsible for a thousand times more controversy than Leviticus 20:13. The debate continued in a follow-up in which I and a couple of very thoughtful women discussed whether female stars wrongly profit from an exploitive system by unnecessarily choosing to appear nude.

Which brings us to the present and this interview with MTV UK in which Scarlett Johansson confirms and explains her long rumored full-frontal blammo in the upcoming1 movie Under the Skin. She highlights the ongoing and worsening problem in the film industry that, as the expectation that female leads will bare their breasts grows, those actors too often turn to explanations for doing so that are at best confusing and at worse disingenuous. And when I say ScarJo “highlights” the problem, I don’t mean by cogently analyzing it in a New York Review of Books kind of way. I mean by exemplifying it in a nonsensical, Sarah Palin kind of way. She says: More… »

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  1. and super intriguing, nudity aside []
Mar 13 1 comments

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Great Works of Literature in the Wrong Fonts

The Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson

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Feb 27 0 comments

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Stuff I Like: “Drunk” by Silkworm

Last night I skulked like Gollum out from under the mountain to go hear the only band with the clout to motivate me to attend a show since  the Schwarzenegger administration. That band is Bottomless Pit, whose latest album Shade Perennial I deemed the best of 2013 and who are one of the great true rock bands playing today.

Gearing up for the show I went back and delved into the music of the band from which Bottomless Pit arose, Silkworm. Silkworm were Nineties indie rock greats who, despite being on the now legendary label Matador, never managed to pull together the following of their contemporaries (all of whom will proclaim their love for the band). My favorite album of theirs is 1996′s Firewater. “Drunk,” its second track, is a tirade against an asshole drunk on an album full of songs about asshole drunks, but listening to it this time — and I listen to it pretty regularly, because I love Firewater — I suddenly and vividly remembered the first time I heard it, and I realized that for me it’s one of the most formative songs of my most formative decade.

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Feb 19 0 comments

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What Can a Hairless Cat Teach You About Compassion?

On most Wednesdays I don’t expect to find humanity’s essential ethical matters expertly deconstructed by a YouTube puppet show, but this isn’t most Wednesdays.

I’ve posted about The Love Me Cat Show before, because it’s so delightfully goofy. But I’m doing it again today because the latest episode is so movingly important. In it guest Maurice LaMarche1 discusses the murder of his father and his subsequent attitude towards the killer.

Maurice’s story perfectly illustrates the necessity of active compassion, not to benefit evil-doers, but to benefit ourselves. It also distills the reasons I so often use this blog to write against the death penalty, mirroring what I less successfully articulated in this post, not having the benefit of a drum-playing robot and a demented sheep.

Spend five minutes watching it, and you might emerge the other side a better human, singing a meow-meow song.

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  1. A great voiceover performer best known for Futurama and Pinky and the Brain. []
Feb 18 0 comments

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“Drop Him From a Bot” by Snoop Dogg feat. Barack Obama

Last year I contributed to the pilot for Puppet Nation, a Daily-Show-style satire with giant puppets instead of middle-aged Canadians. The producers had exceptionally nice latex versions of Snoop Dogg and Barack Obama, so one of the things they asked me to write was a quick parody featuring both of them. Today I discovered that the video’s on YouTube. So here’s “Drop Him From a Bot” by Snoop Doog feat. Barack Obama.1

Some other stars of Puppet Nation:

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  1. Based on Snoop Doog’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” []
Feb 06 0 comments

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My Desperate Letter to Sherlock Holmes

Out of utter desperation and despair, today I sent a request for help to the only man capable of delivering it: Sherlock Holmes. As you likely know, the Great Detective responds to all correspondence sent to him (via his secretary at Baker Street in London).

Feb. 6, 2014

Dear Mr. Holmes,

This is my first time writing to a fictional character. However, this is also the first time I’ve had such a serious fictional problem.

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Feb 03 0 comments

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Stuff I’ve Read: Dec. 2013-Jan. 2014

The Complete SethnutsTo regularly keep up with what I’m reading, please follow me on Goodreads.

Colony Earth by Richard E. MooneyColony Earth
by Richard E. Mooney

To enthusiasts of crackpot literature there is little worse than a Me Too. Me Toos come into existence when a crackpot book crosses over into the mainstream, causing an even more cracked pot (or worse, even less) to roll out a similar theory. In this case the former is Erich Von Däniken’s 1968 bestseller positing that aliens visited ancient humans, Chariots of the Gods?, which Colony Earth me-toos so enthusiastically that it name checks Von D on the cover.

If you write a Me Too you’re already one strike down, so you need to be sure not to break any other cardinal rules of crackpot literature. Definitely don’t, within the first 75 pages, let on to your readers that you’re way more ignorant than any of them, including any hamsters that might happen to scoot across opened copies. That means not claiming that prehistoric humans possessed total recall because of the striking realism of their cave paintings nor noting that a comet colliding with earth wouldn’t do any real damage because a comet is just a “ball of snow.” But if you slip up on that first rule, just keep cool and be extra sure not to reveal that you’re a racist nitwit who claims there to be three species of humans — Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid — who “safely interbreed.”

Richard E. Mooney, won’t you please go now?

Five more books >>