The Penny Press bounced around quite a bit last week on the profundity scale (or rather I did the bouncing, by reading all kinds of stuff), and of course near the low end of that scale is where you’ll always find anything connected with the latest Hollywood micro-phenomenon, pint-sized himbo Taylor Lautner.
In the latest GQ, Mickey Rapkin is given the thankless task of sleepwalking through yet another high-profile interview with this kid, who’s clearly been given a somber talking-to since he nearly outed himself under Neil Strauss’ careful supervision in Rolling Stone. As a result, Rapkin gets absolutely nothing for his trouble except the standard entirely hypocritical “I’m just amazed to be here!” line. At one point Lautner self-servingly exclaims, “Is this really happening? Am I really here?” In response (to us, not to Lautner, who would have burst into tears), Rapkin gets in a good observation:
Those are pretty good questions. He might also ask: What on earth did I do to deserve that $7.5 million contract and the adoration of millions? He’s handsome, yes. But in two Twilight films, Lautner has logged fifty minutes of screen time. Total. In the first movie, he spoke 239 words.
In other words, the hype associated with this tiny little packet of muscle and mindless ambition far, far exceeds any thespian payoff that’s yet happened or is ever likely to happen. Apart from the Twilight saga, Lautner’s next movie is a special effects extravaganza called Stretch Armstrong – but then, Tom Cruise did Legend and still ended up being a gigantic pain in the ass.
And we’re not free of hype even at the opposite end of the profundity scale! In last week’s TLS, Iain McGilchrist turns in a witty, wonderful review of Raymond Tallis’ Michelangelo’s Finger, a popular science book touching on many subjects, mostly related to the particularly human capacity to charge a pointing gesture with meaning. McGilchrist is chugging along just fine until he gets to the subject of non-human animals – one species especially:
Dogs are particularly sensitive to human attention, to the direction of our gaze, and, for example, whether we will be able to see them stealing meat. They make use of a very human feature, the whites of the eyes, thought to have developed precisely because of our sensitivity to gaze direction, a remarkable turn of events that Tallis oddly does not mention. Tallis says dogs don’t – can’t on principle – understand “meant meaning” associated with a sign, the basis of human communication. But the evidence suggests they almost certainly do just that. Without any training, they will fetch things if merely shown a photograph, or presented with a replica, and, of course, they understand the intentional nature of words and commands. Walkies, anyone?
I don’t know what canines McGilchrist has been hanging out with, but if any dog in the history of the world has ever, “without any training,” gone and fetched an item after being shown a photograph of that item, I’ve never met that dog. I doubt even Taylor Lautner could do that, although he probably understands what ‘walkies’ means.