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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Luke Skywalker Speaks, by Dave Itzkoff, New York Times

Since 1977, when the original “Star Wars” went supernova and started a multibillion-dollar franchise, Mr. Hamill has been synonymous with Luke Skywalker, the desert-dwelling tenderfoot who destroys the Death Star, becomes a Jedi knight and reconciles with his villainous father, Darth Vader.

In 2015, “The Force Awakens” found more substantial screen time for the senior incarnations of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford). But Luke was withheld for maximum anticipation, a decision that Mr. Hamill came to accept — eventually — as a gift to him and his character.

“It is, if you can be objective about it,” he said a few weeks ago, sitting in his home here near the Pacific Ocean.

If You Want Peace, Go To A Graveyard, by Jason Diamond, Catapult

In the case of the man in black at Green River Cemetery, my fear went away once I realized where I’d seen him before: at another cemetery, Green-Wood in Brooklyn. Maybe I’d seen him next to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s difficult-to-find headstone, or admiring the Van Ness Parsons mausoleum shaped like a pyramid. I couldn’t quite recall, but it hit me that the stranger was not a ghost angry with me for disturbing his rest; he was a tombstone tourist, just like me.

What ‘Halloween’ Taught Me About Queerness, by Richard Scott Larson, Electric Literature

John Carpenter’s Halloween opens with the post-coital murder of a half-naked adolescent girl at the hands of her younger brother, Michael Myers. He has just witnessed his sister’s seduction of a beautiful young man while spying on them through a window on Halloween night. What follows is a dreamlike first-person sequence that ends with the viewer looking through the eyeholes of a mask. As his sister’s lover bounds down the stairs and out the door, casually pulling on a striped T-shirt over a perfectly toned chest and torso, Michael seemingly takes the young man’s place, retracing his steps up the stairs and into the bedroom where his sister sits topless at a vanity table. He notices that the bed behind her is unmade, the sheets ruffled, evidence of an exchange that Michael doesn’t yet understand but for which he intuitively believes she must be punished.

The revelation of heterosexual desire seems to have triggered the onset of a latent evil inside Michael’s young body. This evil finds its mode of expression in the shiny blade of a kitchen knife, the first iteration of what will become his weapon of choice. After donning a clownish mask that had been discarded on the floor by the departed lover, Michael hacks his screaming sister to shreds before enacting his own post-climax exit down the staircase and out the front door. Outside the house, he encounters his parents emerging from the family car, and his father calls out to him by name as he approaches the street. But rather than relieve his son of the bloodied knife, Michael’s father first removes the mask. The imperative in this scene isn’t immediately to disarm the costumed Michael Myers of a murder weapon — rather, it’s to reveal him, to show his face.

The opening of Halloween is a coming-out story.

Desperately Seeking Cities, by Nikil Saval, n+1

A half-century after the urban crisis, it appeared that the American city was becoming a source of national hope. In the 2016 presidential election, there were few indicators of how one would vote more salient than whether one lived in a city or far outside one. This result has given rise to the idea that cities would increasingly form the nucleus of the soi-disant “resistance” to right-wing nationalism and Donald Trump. Since last November, marches have repeatedly converged on urban cores; against the threats of the Attorney General, mayors touted their cities’ “sanctuary” status; and environmental standards retired federally have been upheld municipally. If the US had any chance to build a progressive, cosmopolitan future, the path lay through the cities.

Then came the contest to locate Amazon’s second headquarters. It turned out that the unifying power of hating Trump was nothing compared to the overwhelming national ardor for Amazon. Over the last two months, cities of every size and in every part of the country fell over themselves in a lurid, nauseating pageant of suitors. To whom would Amazon give the rose? The solidarity supposedly endemic to urban life was revealed to be the narcissism of minor differences, an inveterate competitive streak, a zeal to scrap every public plan in a fever of tax breaks. Faced with a corporation with monopoly power as great as the old railroads, cities genuflected. Millenarian apocalyptic rhetoric over Trump gave way to salvific paeans to Amazon. The company took on the form of a 21st-century Christ, offering its living water to the thirsty urban samaritans. Only San Antonio—appropriately, the city that once housed stolid, reliable, tedious pleasures like Tim Duncan—distinguished itself, refusing to enter a bid. “Sure, we have a competitive toolkit of incentives,” the city’s mayor wrote, at once inhabiting and parodying the language of the corporate brochure, “but blindly giving away the farm isn’t our style.”