Monday, February 28, 2005

DUDE, THAT'S HARSH! I didn't like "The Gates" much, either, but check out Alan Bromley, heretofore best known as the right wing's preeminent dramatic fantasist:
But this day, I realized that Christo and his wife had hoodwinked us all and forced us into their monotone vision, one that is anti-American...
Anti-American! Will Christo and Jean-Claude be spirited to Gitmo? If he is as skilled at voices as he is at dialogue, perhaps Bromley can pass the Feds an incrimating tape.

I note also that Bromley objects to the color of the curtains: "...saffron, the color of the Hare Krishnas? New York is a city of Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Muslims, of people who are black, white, brown and yellow, and variations of all of the above, and we relish it, benefit from it, and, at our best, learn from it."

So not only are the artists anti-Americans, they're also anti-Catholic, -Jewish, etc. Or pro-Krishna. Same diff, I guess.

I stick with my original, scholarly judgement: "Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick."
SHORTER ROGER L. SIMON: Like my asshole fans, I say fooey to Hollyweird and their ridiculous Oscars. (several hours later) Well, here we are at the Oscars! (And I brought my asshole fans with me!) He's good, she's not, she's good, he's bad, etc. Why is Chris Rock going on about black stuff? Doesn't he know I wrote for Richard Pryor?
SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: Silly Oscars! Silly actors! I have films my little girl made of the toilet, and I play with U-boats in my bathtub. Who needs Hollyweird?

BETTER THAN TED WILLIAMS. At nine for twenty, I more than batted my weight, so I count my Oscar predictions a success. Of course I missed the big Million Dollar Baby surge. Prolly wun cuz a tha pro-death librul ending. Clint Eastwood is the new Michael Moore!

I was feeling prescient there for a while, thinking the Aviator craft awards were the first clanking hints of a steamroller, rather than gracious pats on the back for an also-ran. When Finding Neverland got the Best Score award, I was convinced I had cracked the code.

But I was surprised by Charlie Kaufman, whose film was one of the few I'd actually seen -- I liked it but figured it was too arty-farty for this lot -- and the Eastwood love-fest. In retrospect, it figures that they would heap garlands on him rather than Scorsese. Let's face it, Hollywood's love for New York -- which reached its fullest effulgence when they honored Woody Allen for making fun of L.A. in Annie Hall -- died when they started using Toronto as a stand-in for us. He'll never win now, and he can't go back -- the mean streets where he made his bones are all cleaned up. Maybe he'll devote the remainder of his life to looking for the director's cut of The Magnificent Ambersons. Well, he could do worse.

I have to say that Sidney Lumet's speech was my favorite bit. To devote his only moment in the Oscar sun to an encomium of movies as they were made in the days of giants was an act of admirable and rare humility. Chris Rock was a little too jazzed -- you could tell by the timbre of his throat-screeches that he had pumped himself out of his zone -- but didn't embarrass himself. And I liked that so many of the men in the audience wore long ties. I still haven't figured out the ankhs, but I expect I'll hear about them when the culture-warriors commence firing on Monday morning.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

TIME TO REVIVE A HUMILIATING TRADITION. Since childhood I have been an Oscar fan. I actually have a book of past winners and nominees, and find the artistic and political calculi by which they are presumed to have been determined more interesting than the equivalent readings of political apointments. I was fascinated to learn, for example, that some dark-horse results of Academy voting in the late 30s and early 40s are attributed by some to the voting strength of the Screen Extras Guild, who were then empowered to cast ballots. (The affected outcomes include former stuntman Walter Brennan's three Oscars, and the triumph of "Sweet Leilani" over "They Can't Take That Away From Me" in the 1937 Best Song competition.)

It is a silly thing, but mine own and, I judge, a harmless late-winter indulgence. Many find the ceremonies an incredibly lurid waste of time, money, and attention, but so is my job; the Oscars are more fun, and certainly less aggravating than politics. I once received a very nice note from John Podhoretz, whose beliefs emanate from a different solar system than mine but to whose authority on the Awards I bow, correcting me on the number of Oscars won by Katharine Hepburn.

One of the appurtances of my insignificent obsession is a tendency to make predictions on the Awards even when I have seen but very few of the nominated films. These are based on gut feelings and usually incredibly wrong, but no one has been able to stop me from making them, and I am unable to stop myself from publishing them:
Best Picture: The Aviator
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray
Best Actress: Annette Bening, Being Julia
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
Best Supporting Actress: Kate Blanchett, The Aviator
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Aviator
Best Original Screenplay: Keir Pearson and Terry George, Hotel Rwanda
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Sideways
Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson, The Aviator
Best Score: Jan Kaczmarek, Finding Neverland
Best Song: "Accidentally in Love," Shrek 2
Best Film Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker, The Aviator
Best Costume Design: Sandy Powell, The Aviator
Best Art Direction: Rick Heinrichs (Art Direction) and Cheryl A. Carasik (Set Decoration), Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Best Makeup: Keith Vanderlaan and Christien Tinsley, The Passion of the Christ
Best Sound Editing: Paul N. J. Ottosson, Spider-Man 2
Best Sound Mixing: Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis Sands, and William B. Kaplan, The Polar Express
Best Visual Effects: John Nelson, Andrew R. Jones, Erik Nash, and Joe Letteri, I, Robot
Best Documentary Feature:Born Into Brothels
Best Animated Feature:The Incredibles
I am on record. Tomorrow I shall take my lumps like a man.

Friday, February 25, 2005

SAVE OUR CITY -- MUG A TOURIST! Again in the subway tunnels this morning, I had to practically tread on the heels of my fellow citizens to get them to move either at an acceptable clip or out of my way.

It seems that in the past few years New Yorkers have gotten slower. At a stage in life in which I could reasonably expect my neighbors to begin brushing impatiently past my decrepit ass, I find more often than not that I am actually ahead of the general pace.

I have no data on this, but I do know that our City recently rose several places in Men's Fitness magazine's study of the Fattest Cities in the U.S., from 21st to eighth.

One unfortunate side effect of the City's ballyhooed "revitalization" is that it has attracted people to New York who might otherwise have stayed away. For decades, only the mad, the inspired, and the professionally obligated came here. We were a jacked-up lot; we had to constantly watch out for muggers and dogshit, and to keep up with unreliable public transportation schedules. We grew accustomed to nervily grabbing whatever pedestrian advantages we could, and on our watch New York street life remained a rather bracing track and field event. In fact, we developed a sort of sixth sense about transportation. I remember one day in the 80s when the automatic turnstile at the Berry Street end of the Bedford Street L station broke, allowing people to enter and ride for free; within a half-hour, no one was using the (primary) Bedford entrance, while traffic on the Berry side was unusually heavy -- people, it appeared, were riding just because it was free.

It was tension-inducing, but it was sort of fun and it helped keep the weight off.

Outsiders gazed upon this behavior with that mixture of respect and disgust usually reserved for the inscrutable customs of the East, like the Hejira or eating live monkey brains. They maybe dug it, but not enough to join it.

But during the reign of Giuliani, New York was made less intimidating to the timorous. Now that the dark-'n'-scary has been policed, gentrified, and strip-malled out of much of our territory, the placid and the bovine flock to us. They waddle our streets in a happy daze, untroubled by anxiety of any sort.

They do not have to adapt to New York's singular ways, because we have lost many of them. Even in poor neighborhoods, you don't really have to have eyes in the back of your head anymore. We have more chain stores and outlets now, too -- Home Depots and Targets and K-Marts -- so you don't have to claw feverishly through racks for bargains. There's a Red Lobster midtown -- a Bennigan's too, so even your palate can remain unchallenged. Public spaces are increasingly organized to resemble, not the plazas of old Europe, but the malls of America. And soon, if Mayor Richie Rich and his dog Dollar have their way, there will be a big, hideously ugly stadium on the West Side, the sort of thing that is the pride and joy of municipalities like Foxboro, MA, as well as the cash cow of their vested interests.

Once upon a time it was less easy to put a giant boondoggle like this stadium over on our citizens than on those of the sticks. But New Yorkers are changing; in addition to getting slower on the street, they seem to be getting slower in the head. One follows the other, perhaps. Perhaps Australian New Yorker Rupert Murdoch believes this, too, and so bids his Postie flacks plump for more malls as well as for the stadium, because the more our citizens come to resemble suburban sheep -- stuffed full of cheap grain and herded, with the occasional aid of electronic stimulation, through pens -- the more easily we can be shorn for profit.

So our new citizens trudge the streets, capitivated by orange curtains and $10.99 chicken wings on Times Square, while the Mayor bullies and bosses his way to a big payday for somebody.

I had hoped that it would not come to this, but I expect it will take a fresh crime wave to weed the unfit from our ranks. And as we have not quite arrived at the End of History, I expect it will come sooner than later, hopefully before I am really too old to outrun both the crooks and the children of the corn who are fucking up the City.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

DA, DA, WE LAUGH! Comrade Simon informs that Chris Rock is making Bush joke, which is nyet funny. Suggests Comrade Rock reform, hire Tim Blair for jokesmith. Gives example of Blair correct comedy ("Listen, legs, this plan wouldn’t fool a Kennedy!").

Is rolling in the aisles, Comrade! Perhaps Comrade Rock to be joined by Dennis Miller for Oscar laff-fest.

(removing black hat, mustache, and ridiculous dialect) Maybe they can send Simon around to the late-night shows to explain to Leno et alia that all the jokes have to be about Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy, and maybe Ward Chruchill if they can get the explanatory pamphlets distributed in time.

Corporations can indoctrinate my little girl all they like, but I'll be damned if I'll let her be bussed to one of those schools that are "bilingual," if you know what I mean.

...CRAZY JESUS LADY: Al Gore didn't invent the internet -- Jesus did. (He also inspires me to show "compassion" by heaping abuse on the recently deceased.)

...RIDICULOUS ECCLESIASTICAL PSEUDONYM*: My people are worshipping a graven image of Mitt Romney. And they lied to me about what they'd do with the money, too. When all this starts to get me down, I just remind myself: that Michael Moore, he shore is fat! Haw haw haw!

* Thanks to Tom for his help.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A SPOONFUL OF SUCRALOSE. Some days my vision takes on a hallucinogenic cast, and familiar things turn into their objective correlatives. In my hands on the subway this morning, the New York Post turned into Pravda. I don't mean it was transliterated into Russian, I mean I could see -- or felt I could see -- behind each story into its news hole, and see to the back of the holes (which, in my imagining, are lined with old wood, and have slots for insertion of the back end of the news peg, by which the stories hang), where masking-tape labels are fixed that read SUBMIT TO STADIUM PROJECT HYPE, THE LEADER IS STRONG, TRAITORS AMONG US, and GLAM CRAP/BRAIN SOFTENER, as each case might be.

Of course one need not suffer from visions to see such agenda in the Post's editorial page. It is always a little festival of bad faith and special pleading. Today we had an attack on the sugar industry's attack on Splenda by the head of something called the American Council on Science and Health. This, from the Council's own website, should tell you what you need to know about them (though if you want more start here): "Sometimes, if reporters complain about our corporate funding, I remind them that they are funded by corporations and advertisers as well." Uh huh.

Such people are not total hacks -- that is to say, while they may be Satan's emissaries on earth, they do take professional pride in their own work, and add filigrees and flourishes partly to increase effectiveness but also, I believe, out of pure love of craft. For example, there is some obvious merit to the author's accusations against the sugar barons -- among others, that they had hooked up with pure-food types not out of altruism but as a way to fight Splenda's increasing share of the sweetener market. This is the spoonful of sucralose, so to speak, that helps work down the public's gullet a larger message: that people who oppose synthetic foods on whatever grounds are anti-technology "chemicalphobes."

Organizations such as this are not about arguing a case, but adding strands to a narrative. Facts may be used as part of the grapeshot, but they are by no means the only or even most important part of the armamature. Painting an investigation of questionable scientific assertions as an inquisition on the order of Galileo's, for example, lifts the issue out of the debating chamber and into the realm of dreams. You certainly don't want to side with inquisitors or chemicalphobes. Now eat this chlorinated sugar.

But perhaps I'm overthinking it. Michelle Malkin may very well think that young women who cut themselves are engaging in a "fad" (and doing it to a "new genre of music -- 'emo'") for which Christina Ricci is more to blame than their home and family lives. She isn't necessarily consciously trying to shift blame for our damaged youth onto Hollywood so that it will continue to serve as a distraction from the crimes of our government and corporate rulers. Say this for my paranoia: it offers a more charitable (if more sinister) interpretation of their efforts than simple idiocy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

THE LATE GREAT HUNTER S. James Lileks, Esq., the MacLeish of the Mall of America, thinks the late Hunter S. Thompson didn't do anything worthwhile after Hell's Angels: "It was all bile and spittle at the end, and it was hard to read the work without smelling the dank sweat of someone consumed by confusion, anger, sudden drunken certainties" etc. etc.

Here is something the Good Doctor wrote rather recently, while Mr. Lileks was shaking all Minneapolis with the thunder of his mediocrity:
There is an ever-growing appetite for Violence as Entertainment in this country -- especially among those in the 18-35 demographic that TV is targeting -- that something Dark & Disastrous is going to come of it. There is a good commercial reason why Fox just paid for TV rights to NASCAR, and it is exactly the same reason why every recently built racetrack from California to Maine is designed about 20 feet Wider than tracks were built in the old days, when it was physically impossible for more than three (3) cars to run side by side at 180 mph in the straightaway -- the new & Wider tracks have created the blood-curdling spectacle of four cars running fender-to-fender at top speed.

"It makes the racing vastly more Exciting," say the auto-sport czars. "It dramatically raises the Potential-Disaster factor & whips the fans into a frenzy."

Right. Blood & guts, bread & Circuses, human brains all over the asphalt. The people of Rome demanded more & more Death & Cruelty on their Sunday afternoons at the Coliseum -- until Nobody was left to Sacrifice. They ran out of Victims.

And so will the NFL, the NBA and NASCAR. That is what makes people nervous about the meaning of Dale Earnhardt's death. It is the American Dream run amok. Watch it & weep.
This was the allegedly enfeebled Thompson writing for ESPN in his declining years. The Fear and Loathing books, and the great essays for Rolling Stone, were also part of Thompson's journalistic work. Till he decided that it was all too much to bear he kept on producing, which is what journalists do. Purportedly as a man, and observably as a writer, he was one true, tough son of a bitch, and I will remember with gratitude his work long after I have forgotten my current anger at the mewling pipsqueaks who seek through their flimsy prattle to minimize him.

UPDATE. It's a sad reversal when the New York Post's farewell to HST turns out classier than that of Richard Brookhiser, whose normal function is to wrangle NRO's shit-ass punks when they stray too far from objective reality. "The druggie Jerry Lewis" doesn't even make sense. Tommy Chong -- now there's your druggie Jerry Lewis! Maybe Brookhiser has got into the blotter again.

Monday, February 21, 2005

RETURNING FROM A LONG WEEKEND TO FIND NO ONE HAS CLEANED UP THAT CORNER. "While the networks wasted no time publicizing sexual-harassment charges against Bill Cosby (and don't think that boomlet of coverage had nothing to do with Cosby's tough words about black parenting, no doubt seen as "right wing moralizing")..." -- Tim Graham, National Review Online. Those whose heads do not swim with conspiracy theories may recall very lavish MSM coverage of the Autumn Jackson-Bill Cosby case in 1997. What were the liberal conspirators punishing The Cos for then? Perhaps it was a preemptive strike against "Kids Say The Darndest Things." If so, they should all get medals.

Meanwhile John Derbyshire yells at a bunch of foreign students for not behaving properly in an Amtrak "quiet car" that does not in fact exist. When his error is explained to him, he thunders that "Young Europeans have no manners and no clue how to behave in public." Derbyshire once told an interviewer, "I am not very careful about what I say, having grown up in the era before Political Correctness, and never having internalized the necessary restraints." He seems to mistake being a horse's ass for rhetorical bravery.
TRAGEDY WRIT PLAIN AND SMALL. Saw the Theatre for a New Audience's production of Corilolanus this weekend. The Times calls this "postmodern" but it looked like straight-up Brechtian theatre to me, with actors announcing scenes with apposite phrases from the text scrawled on the grey walls of the box in which it is played, and changing roles more or less in full view of the audience. Most importantly, a good deal of the romanticism has been wrung out of the playing and the concept, the better to expose the play itself to our scrutiny.

From my perspective this seems like an attempt to give the play a fair reading against the difficulties it presents for modern audiences, not the least of which is Shakespeare’s dim view of democracy, at least the Roman variant, which was the only one he knew. (Blog knows I don’t generally approve political interpretations of art, but this is a famously political text.) The Bard uses the phrase "the People" frequently and with obvious contempt: the proles, politically empowered for the sake of temporary peace and stirred maliciously against Coriolanus by their slippery Tribunes, are here even more foolish and dangerous than the "blocks… stones… worse than senseless things" in Julius Caesar, and their unsuitability to power is more crucial to the plot. The parable of the human body with which Menenius defends the Roman system – "The Senators of Rome are this good belly, and you the mutinous members" -- will be familiar to readers of William Camden and Thomas Hobbes. For all its philosophical interest, this isn’t the sort of thing with which most moderns, whatever their politics, can be easily made comfortable.

Very sensibly, the director takes it at face value: she gives one of the key proles a comical hillbilly accent (which he reprises when playing a Volscian of similar station), and the dialects of the Tribunes suggest working-class roots which, however smoothed by political experience, yet feed their resentment of entrenched power ("Doubt not the commoners, for whom we stand, but they upon their ancient malice will forget with the least cause these new honors").

This tidily accomplished, we can concentrate on the noble Romans, and they too are taken at face value: Volumnia talks about her son’s blood-drenched attainments as if they were spelling bee championships, and Menenius the "humorous patrician" is a political fixer whose pusillanimous manner gently cloaks a great heart.

Coriolanus himself is a fascinating case, dramatically. That he lacks the fan base of Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear, or even Anthony, despite his sometimes excellent poetry, may owe to the impenetrability that defines him. One friend who saw this production decided she liked him because "he doesn’t kiss ass," but Coriolanus’ obsessive self-determination does not strike me as particularly attractive. His suicidal/homicidal course admits no counter-argument until the rather base hectoring of his mother finally turns him against his own will, and he seems only fleetingly aware that he might be wrong; there are no deliberative soliloquies on the order of "How all occasions do inform against me" or "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" to draw us into his turmoil – in fact, of turmoil he has but little: his best speech ("O world, thy slippery turns!") is purely self-justifying.

Christian Camargo’s performance appears to admit this. When not raging or fighting, he takes in each situation as if it were a dish brought before him that he could relish or sweep off the table as his mood struck him. If he is noble, it is in his inability to be moved by things smaller than himself, and when his fall comes (from his mother’s stronger will), he is not ennobled by it, but unmanned; his performance of the well-known stage direction, "Holds [Volumnia] by the hand silent," is a wrenching grasp of her wrist, and even the other characters react as if he might break her arm.

This is a clear and highly theatrical reading of the play. Whether it is correct is another matter. The only other production I have seen was at the Public, years ago, and I have forgotten who did it. It was fairly traditional, and not as interesting as this one, but it was warmer and wooed us into sympathy with Coriolanus. At the moment, I don’t know really whether the new production has disabused me of a misapprehension of the play or not. I do know that it seems smaller to me now than when I went into the theatre.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Is everyone in this blogosphere on drugs?

A highly-regarded web operative says former U.S. President Jimmy Carter "isn't just misguided or ill-informed. He's on the other side," and suddenly we're debating the meaning of simple words and phrases, as with this Matt Yglesias commenter:

i must've missed the part where the powerline guy said carter's a jihadist or whatever. i thought the other side was the anti-everything democrats. shows you what I know.
In the context of world politics in a time of war, when you say someone's "on the other side," how the hell is it something other than an accusation of treason?

Meanwhile the aforementioned operative returns to accuse Carter of "aligning himself with America's enemies" and "conspiring with our chief enemy to try to influence an American Presidential election" -- then adding, astonishingly, "We could have called that treason, but we didn't."

This is how the racket appears to work: tar your opponents with terms that unambiguously mean "traitor" -- like "objectively on [Saddam's] side" or "not anti-war, just on the other side" -- and then play dumb ("Barlow proceeds to suggest that I'm calling American liberals terrorists... I'm used to having my posts mischaracterized...").

Heretofore I had blamed poor reading skills, but I'm beginning to wonder if those anti-depressant pills so many people are taking these days are in fact powerful hallucinogens, leading to a massive reality shift I am pharmacologically incapable of understanding.

UPDATE. So many people are on this thing it's getting crowded, so you should probably shove me off and snuggle with The Poor Man's coverage.
DA CAPPO. There was some discussion of Al Capp in comments to a previous post -- and in the context of David Horowitz, no less! Allow me to say that Capp's was one transit from liberal darling (William Faulkner wrote the intro to one of his compilations!) to raving wingnut that I can appreciate and respect. I will explain.

As a political philosopher, Capp was a moron. (Read the 60s-vintage Capp quote here -- it's such damned-hippies boilerplate as would make Michael Totten blush.) I assume Capp didn't get dumber as he went along. But he had a strong feeling about the relationship of the powerful to the powerless, and when he perceived the power flowing from the rock-ribbed Republicans of earlier days to the Great Society crowd, he flipped to the other side.

That doesn't make him right -- merely understandable, if you know how artists sometimes work. When he stopped making fun of General Bullmoose ("What's good for General Bullmoose is good for the USA!") and started making fun of Joan Baez (aka "Joanie Phonie," who upon regarding Dogpatch cries, "Those poor wretches! I'm giving them $1,000,000... in protest songs!"), Capp was no better or worse an analyst of social conditions than he had been. He was simply addicted to irreverence, and took the most obnoxious position he could find. And he was a sport about it; he did a photo shoot with Joan Baez for Time magazine. (The published photo shows Baez singing and Capp wincing theatrically, with his fingers in his ears.)

In the 1960s Capp used to give talks on college campuses -- this while he was mercilessly parodying the whole student movement with SWINE (Students Wildly Indignant About Everything). The kids hated him -- the man who invented the Sadie Hawkins Day their older brothers and sisters had made flesh! -- but Capp kept a-comin', perhaps as much for the collegiate pussy (he pleaded no contest to allegations of sexual misconduct, including an attempted rape) as for the chance to piss off hippies and get paid for it.

In any event Capp didn't indulge in the whiney woe-is-me-I'm-being-persecuted crap Horowitz and his acolytes specialize in. He seemed to like being an outsider; not for him the dogged insistence upon respect that distinguish his far-less-talented progeny. And he kept making funnies, not all of them informed by 60s politics. He kept up the "Fearless Fosdick" strip-within-a-strip, in which the impossibly upright and sexless Fosdick finds his only release in absurd cartoon violence. I personally recall a strip in which Abner's son, brainwashed by TV advertising, begs for a "Junior G.I." war-game kit. "Alright, son," declares Abner. "I'll give yuh the week's food money!" Abe walks into a toy store with a dollar bill but is laughed off -- "You can't even buy a toy dollar with that!" -- and so wanders into an army surplus store, where his dollar buys him a real flame-thrower, with which he causes havoc.

This has more to do with Happy Hooligan and The Katzenjammer Kids than with (God help us) Mallard Fillmore. Capp's 60s comics weren't his best -- go to his 40s and 50s stuff, much of it beautifully collected, for primo Li'l Abner -- but they were comics of the old school. And mourn the days when Li'l Abner and Pogo lived together on the funny pages, and cartoonists understood that if you want to grind an axe in public you'd better make some pretty awesome sparks doing it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

DIDN'T I WRITE ABOUT THIS ALREADY? OR IS IT ALL JUST STARTING TO MELT TOGETHER? Wonkette gave me pleasure (boy, you just read that site and suddenly everything's a double entendre) with a link to Discover The Network, a roundup of "activists for leftwing agendas and causes, radical egalitarians, and opponents of American 'imperialism'" spearheaded by David "Soul Brother #1" Horowitz. They've been at it for months, these guys, and have uncovered the sinister plans of all our top people, from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Roger Ebert. Way to dig, fellas! They even spotted Susan V. Berresford, who is head of the Ford Foundation, which "was instrumental in funding NGOs responsible for the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist literature that appeared at the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa." Berresford may have thought she was covering her tracks by giving money to Jews, too, but Horowitz sees all!

Bonus points for listing Rachel Corrie, who is famously dead ("revered as a martyr by the anti-Israel left"). Maybe in the future we'll get listings for Joe Hill and Victoria Woodhull.

UPDATE. Oh yeah, I did write about this. Back then it was called "FOLLOW the Network." They musta focus-grouped it.

F*!@*%G NUTS. When it comes to stretching, Dorinda Bordlee makes Plastic Man look like Bruno S.:
It's time for all of us in the pro-life movement to learn to appreciate the power of political satire. Comedian Chris Rock, slated to host the Oscars this month, is being accused of promoting abortion.

"Abortion, it's beautiful, it's beautiful abortion is legal. I love going to an abortion rally to pick up women, cause you know they are f*!@*%g," Rock said during his club routine.

Whether Rock is pro-life or pro-choice, whether he intended to use satire or really believes what he said, is beside the point. What's "beautiful" is that Chris Rock has exposed a profound side effect of legalized abortion -- the sexual mistreatment of women.
Going through the text as closely as its overpowering smell would allow, I am forced to conclude that the "senior legislative counsel with Americans United for Life" does in fact mean to say that f*!@*%g women is akin to abusing them ("legalized abortion allows men to sexually prey on women"). To paraphrase Gilbert Gottfried, if this is a crime then I should be on Death Row.

Assuming that this article is not something the merry editors of National Review Online obtained with a secret tape recorder and some Rophynol, we may take her at her word and infer many interesting corollaries:

- When Bordlee's "Roe has ruined romance" replaces You are murdering babies, you baby-murderers as the brand statement of the anti-abortion movement, we will see a stark change in their advertising. Expect fewer helpless fetuses on highway billboards, and more commercials showing a woman weeping bitterly in the night because Roe v. Wade made Jim-Bob forget their anniversary.

- As Bordlee's "abortion on demand makes women into sex objects with the full consent of the highest court in the land" meme disseminates, expect a whole new school of NC BDSM stories in which leering Supreme Court Justices preside over gang-rapes. Also, oral, anal, and other copulative variants will disappear from such fiction, as jaded porn consumers turn against depictions of sexual acts that do not lead to abortion.

- Bordlee will become a media critic for BET, and in her first segment will explain that Jay-Z is telling us the uncomfortable truth that men demand abortion so that bitches will not be among the 99 problems from which they suffer.

UPDATE. For more insight into Bordlee's method, check her quotes from this excellent story about the real change in antiabortion strats. Culture war ain't the half of it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

THE "COARSELY COMPULSIVE" VS. THE MERELY COARSE. Now the culture warriors are feasting on the corpse of Arthur Miller and, as carrion birds will, making a sloppy job of it. My Stupid Dog gets the neo-Hegelian Award for denouncing The Crucible not only for its bulging anti-HUAC subtext, but for being crypto-anti-gay. "People who tittered over the sexual proclivities of Chambers, Roy Cohn and G. David Schine," writes the Dogman, "would have instantly recognized Miller's 'Abigail Williams' as a homosexual man in woman's drag."

When conservatives resorts to Queer Studies charlatanism to attack a dead playwright, you know Culture War High Command has thrown up more flags.

Having the most obvious (not to say egregious) political content of all Miller's plays, The Crucible has been the flashpoint for many wingers' funerary wrath. The New York Post even caps its Miller editorial by declaring that "To ignore [Miller's] contributions would be as wrong as to suggest that communism never posed a danger." Some people can't even recognize the word "class" unless it's printed on their airline tickets.

I give a little more slack to Terry Teachout, as he writes very astutely on cultural issues outside the padded walls of OpinionJournal. While I will say that it is odd to find him denouncing the newly-dead in such harsh terms, I will assume based on his record that his distaste for Miller's petentiousness is the clinical judgement of a critic, rather than the groping after available brickbats seen among the goon squad.

I do think he's missing something about the kind words spoken for Miller after his death -- quite apart for, um, a simple regard for decorum, I see in the remarks denounced by Teachout something other than "more stringently politicized critics and playwrights... willing to overlook Miller's limitations because he thought as they do."

Even Teachout acknowledges the "coarsely compulsive power" of Death of a Salesman, at least. Teachout says that power "manages to mask its aesthetic deficiencies" -- as if it were an air freshener or something. But how often nowadays do we get anything "coarsely complusive" in our theatre -- or film, or music, or etc.? I like coarsely compulsive powerful stuff like the Ramones, Celine, etc. And I can easily imagine theatre artists -- who tend to be romantic souls --wishing their work could have the sort of crude impact that "The Crucible," "Waiting for Lefty," and other plays of that sort had in their time, not because they're Commies but because it seems as if it would be exciting.

We can argue over whether, in Miller's case, the gestures were anything more than outsized; contrary to some of my critics, I approve agitprop only as I approve fruit-based sauces for meat: when they are extremely well done. But I think it's a little wide of the mark to assume that the younger playwrights are only speaking well of their fallen comrade because they're liberals. That seems to me more than a misjudgement, indeed a misreading of basic human nature. And once we start doing that, we're onto something that's much worse that bad theatre.

Monday, February 14, 2005

LOVE IS STRANGE. People keep sending white feathers to Jonah "Do These Fatigues Make My Ass Look Sorry?" Goldberg, and he has begun to yelp.

As often happens when a Cornerite is in peril or discomfort, anonymous and cryptonymous emails of support have materialized. Here is my most favorite passage from my most favorite anonymous email:
I can tell you that reading NRO on my laptop in Iraq even as the mortars impacted on our camp or after taking care of wounded soldiers was enough to buck up my morale. Your support and those of other Americans was just as valuable to me as the body armor I wore and the kevlar plating on my ambulance.
For some it was letter from home -- for others, a picture of the girl they left behind. For "Mike," it was Jonah Goldberg and his merry band of timewasters. It was their sorry asses Mike was fighting to cover -- and cover them he did!

To each his own. As the great Thurber said, "Chacun a son gout/is very, very true/but why should we despise/The apples of others' eyes?" Mike, Jonah, and everyone: Happy Valentine's Day!
SHORTER OLE PERFESSER: I praise Barney Frank to suggest a conservatism friendly to homosexuals, and you idiots lap it up, which is why I'm always going "heh." Neither will you comprehend my comparison of political ideas to cars; it doesn't matter whether the product is any good so long as the advertising budget is large enough.
ARTTIME! Let's stay on aesthetics awhile, shall we? This weekend I saw 12 Angry Men on Broadway. It's old-school hardcore, man: No updating, no special pleading, no higher concept than giving the old warhorse its due. The actors come into the dowdy old New Yawk jury room and start indicating a hot day by pulling their shirts, mopping their necks, and loosening their ties, and we're suddenly back in the days of cheap theatre seats and cheaper epiphanies.

The plot -- all-male jury deliberating in the murder trial of some kid of despised ethnicity goes from all-but-convicting to exoneration on the strength of logic and bleeding-heart liberalism -- makes They Shall Not Die look like Ionesco. Thanks to the generous funding of the Roundabout company we have 12 count 'em 12 major characters, all venerable stereotypes given just enough air by the terrific actors to make them worth enjoying if not thinking too much about.

The play stacks the deck shamelessly; the more eager to convict the juror is, the more repulsively misguided he is shown to be. It's agitprop for fair-mindedness, picturing reason surmounting prejudice through democratic process.

This is a ridiculously old-fashioned idea, and to his credit the director, Scott Ellis, doesn't downplay it -- in fact, he leans on it as if it were revealed truth. In the 1957 movie, Henry Fonda played the raisonneur-holdout Juror #8 -- the guy who keeps saying "I don't know" and thus gets everyone thinking more seriously about the case -- and while Boyd Gaines is good in that role, he's not galvanic in Fonda's way, so Juror #8 melts even more deeply into the ensemble, making the solution to the play's problem seem more like the natural outgrowth of American jurisprudence than the instigation of one righteous man. The actors mill around the stage as if each were as important as any other, and wind up clumping together only to face down Juror #10 at the climax of his racist tirade -- a moment underlined by an exceedingly long stage wait. This is high corn, but as well-done as it is well-intentioned, and I loved it. (Of course, I'm the kind of guy who weeps openly at showings of Young Mr. Lincoln.)

At the curtain call, James Rebhorn gave a little speech about the passing of Arthur Miller. There's not much to say about the great man's passing, but I will add that I was surprised to realize I had seen, rarely as I go to the theatre anymore, the last two major mountings of Miller plays on Broadway: one of Broken Glass, one of The Price. The latter is one of my favorite plays. The struggle in The Price is between two middle-aged brothers, one who forsook his troubled family to take what education and ambition could give him as a doctor, one who stayed behind out of a sense of duty and became a cop. Each gets his full due -- Miller even directs in his production notes that a "fine balance of sympathy" must be struck between them -- and each is revealed to have been vanquished, more or less, by his own decisions. Miller, along with O'Neill and Dreiser, helped create the modern idea of tragedy: He understood that though we Americans have been blessed with an extraordinary degree of control over our fates, we are yet its victims, and a man's fall may be more poignant when it is the product of his own will rather than the gods'.

Went also to see The Gates by Christo (and Jeanne-Claude -- mustn't forget her!). By themselves they are not much: steel wickets with short drapes, all bright orange, snaking through Central Park. Such majesty as they have come from their volume -- it is something to see so many of them running over the hillocks and outcroppings of the Park -- and from the public response. There were more promenading citizens than one might expect on a chilly Sunday in Central Park, and as they walked under the drapes they seemed more cheerful and attentive to their surroundings than they might have been otherwise. I don't know if this is worth the massive expense of effort and someone's money (not ours, thankfully), but it was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. You may quote me.

Also saw a few episodes of "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" on Trio. I had not seen "Laugh-In" since I was a little boy, and was surprised that it still amused me. The psychedelic factor is minor: the guh-rooviest aspect of the show is the very short film montages used as bridges, which have as much claim to fatherhood of the music-video aesthetic as anything else than has been suggested. The makers of "Laugh-In" knew their own bloodlines well; I remember Dan and Dick making overt reference on the show to Ernie Kovacs' "bathtub blackouts," and the overall esprit d'corps (not to mention the frequent cracking-up by cast members) is not much different from that seen on shows starring Carol Burnett and Red Skelton. So how was it different? Schlatter and Friendly, the producers, saw that the contracting attention spans encouraged by Richard Lester, Jean-Luc Godard et alia were thoroughly consonant with the methods of Vaudeville and burlesque, and that topical references were a good way to keep their formulae fresh, fast, and fragrant. They were also blessed with a game and capable company, including the incredibly cute Goldie Hawn and a couple of hipster Vegas comics whose drug of choice seems to have been highballs (Rowan's face maintained a strong vermillion glow) and whose lounge banter was as much a part of the Sixties as acid, pudding-basin haircuts, and all the other insignia that have gone out of date but are by no means unpleasant to revisit. Styles come and go, but troupers having a good time are always good company.

Friday, February 11, 2005

A NATION OF NAHUM TATES*. Lance Manion challenges my harsh response to what I considered an overwrought moral attack on a children's cartoon by one Kate Marie . He does so at length and with great fairness and wit (God, how exhausting that must be!); one of his passages is so well-turned that Terry Teachout almanac'd it:
First off, following your heart is a really bad idea. This is why we have civilization, so people don't do that.

Hearts are like pirate caves. They are reputedly full of hidden treasures but usually when you open one up a whole lot of bats, spiders, and angry bears come rushing out, and there's no gold.
Now, who can argue with that? But here is Lance's thematic money shot:
…to have this ["Follow Your Heart"] message keep popping up again and again and again and again and again and again and again in children's movies and TV shows is very frustrating to parents… Good parents talk themselves blue in the face trying to convince their kids not to follow their hearts. Followed hearts generally do not lead children into good grades, good company, decent colleges, and stable marriages…
All respect to Lance and my many childbearing friends, but if this discussion were really exclusively about what makes the most edifying kid's entertainments, I would have stayed well out of it. As a non-breeder, I have no more business or interest in that than I have in the best brand of pacifier or busy-box, or the most nutritious strained pea formula.

Even if it were about whether adults should Follow That Dream, I would have let it slide. You all have enough trouble without personal advisement from a broken-down poetaster like me.

I don't care about Mulan II, or that someone thinks it is Not Appropriate -- I guess that's the clinical term -- for her kids. Chacun a son goo-goo. But when she pulls Sophocles and Edith Wharton into it, she's walkin' on the fightin' side of me.

People can go their own way, or to hell (frequently the same path), but I think it's worse than a crime when they abuse the arts -- in this case, whittling it into a moral measuring stick for kidflix -- to advance their dreary agenda. Because they're not just hurting themselves. They're fucking with our cultural currency. And I don't mean making Sean Penn look bad; I mean spreading an idea of art that is so narrow, juiceless and stupid that if enough people come to believe it -- and I fear we are approaching critical mass there -- then you can forget about getting any masterpieces anytime soon, or maybe ever, because no one will remember how or why to make them.

Art, like God, is so much bigger than our notions of it that the more insistent we are that we know its true nature, the more we misperceive it. That's why some of us approach it with a humility and respect that looks foolish to non-believers. If you want to know the mysteries, you don't come into the temple like a squad of cops on a vice raid.

This isn't to say you can't do art with politics (or teaching, or cooking, or physical fitness or a lot of other things), but you better give art first billing. You can do Macbeth as an indictment of the Oil-for-Food Scandal, sure, and if the shoe fits the play will illuminate your point beautifully. But if you're just using Macbeth as a sack into which to stuff your ten pounds of shit, it won't work. Check your own experiences for confirmation.

Bad art is too bad, but what I really can't abide are the folks who are so freaking obsessed with values that they treat the great works of our civilization as lessons in deportment. It is a miracle that Sophocles call still speak to us across the millennia, but the more these nuts succeed in convincing people that Antigone and Creon are just a more hortatory version of Goofus and Gallant, the further the play's mysteries will recede into obscurity.

Nahum Tate ruined Shakespeare for his generation. I'm not inclined to give Kate Marie and her pals too much slack.

* UPDATE. Can you believe I originally put Charles Lamb when I should have said Nahum Tate, Lamb's nemesis? There goes my Pulitzer!
HELL HAS NO BOTTOM. As followers of this million-man rugby scrum called the blogsophere will recall, early this week Juan Cole made short work of Jonah Goldberg's ignorant assault upon him; you may read a good summary here. Instead of running so fast the hounds couldn't catch him down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, as tradition demands, Goldberg faulted Cole for "bullying," then took a "victory lap."

Even by the abysmal standards of online discourse, this seemed rather rich. Of course this is Goldberg, who is always blazing new trails of idiocy. But now Jay Nordlinger weighs in on the debate without referring to its contents at all -- merely invoking Cole, and telling tales of his old alma mater involving Palestinians, a fat liberal woman, and his own moral self-regard, as if these had anything to do with -- well, anything.

These guys get paid, right? Why? I know a bunch of unemployed guys who could discuss the political ramifications of last night's ER episode as trenchantly as they do.

Sometimes I really think I've been projected into an alternate universe where the Enlightment never happened.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

SHORTER PEGGY NOONAN: I saw a saint at sunset... No... I saw a saint singing... No... I saw a saint selling seashells by the seashore... No... Yellow is the color of caution... No... Yellow is the color of cowards...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

CATASTROPHIC INSURANCE. I've been wondering why this Administration seems so eager to fuck up Social Security. Ancient animus against FDR? Fulfillment of an old Skull and Bones fraternity prank? Plain evil? But I think I have found a clue.

Attend Stanley Kurtz at Policy Review. He is concerned with underpopulation in the West. He worries about cultural pollution of the West from outside (Theo van Gogh is mentioned) if we don't get those rates up. But there are serious obstacles -- "Secularism, individualism, and feminism," as Kurtz has it. They have reduced childbearing to "a matter of sheer choice." And given the choice, many of us have opted out.

This won't do for Kurtz. As he sees it, we can either have modernism or we can survive. This is "an ultimate choice between feminist hopes of workplace equality with men and society’s simultaneous need for more children."

After considering various economic incentives to advance procreation, Kurtz seems to agree with Philip Longman, author of The Empty Cradle, that "the endless downward spiral [of population] cannot be reversed without a major social transformation." The hope is that people will be driven into accelerated childbearing by social forces.

Here Kurtz turns hopeful. If the safety net is shorn away, citizens may adopt a frontier memtality that forcibly shifts reliance away from society and back to the family. "What will happen if the economy and the welfare state shrink significantly?" he asks. "Quite possibly, people will once again begin to look to family for security in old age — and childbearing might commensurately appear more personally necessary... Widespread contraception, abortion, women in the workforce, marital decline, growing secularism and individualism — all seem here to stay. Looked at from a longer view, however, the results are not really in."

Gaze upon Kurtz' repopulationist utopia:
It wouldn’t take a full-scale economic meltdown, or even a relative disparity in births between fundamentalists and secularists, to change modernity’s course. Chronic low-level economic stress in a rapidly aging world may be enough. There is good reason to worry about the fate of elderly boomers with fragile families, limited savings, and relatively few children to care for them. A younger generation of workers will soon feel the burden of paying for the care of this massive older generation. The nursing shortage, already acute, will undoubtedly worsen, possibly foreshadowing shortages in many other categories of workers. Real estate values could be threatened by population decline. And all these demographically tinged issues, and more, will likely become the media’s daily fare.

In such an atmosphere, a new set of social values could emerge along with a fundamentally new calculation of personal interest.
Well, at least it wouldn't "take a full-scale economic meltdown." But things have to get bad. Our "sheer choice" must be sheared away from us -- and if it takes a little prevarication, talk of "saving" a system the mad doctors of the Right have already decided has got to go, well, you can't make an omelette without piercing a few ova.

These people are mad and must be stopped.

UPDATE. Mouse Words gives Kurtz a closer read, from which he does not benefit.
Still, Wretchard does have a point when he describes the left's (conceited) blindness in making an alliance with irredentist Islam.
Do me a favor, will you? If you read something stupider than that quote today, please post it in comments. I have a bet with someone.

(Disclaimer: I did move recently, so I may have missed the memo announcing our alliance with irredentist Islam. In which case I must ask: does this affect our 401K plan?)
...AND, AFTER THE PRESS CONFERENCE, WENT HOME AND COVERED HER NAKED BODY WITH GOLD COINS LIKE ZASU PITTS IN GREED. Carly Fiorini has hit the road. At Sisyphus Shrugged. Julia demurely clears her throat and pays tribute to the Wall Street cover girl's legacy:
Carly Fiorina, the Chairman and CEO of HP (whose grand [and hotly-contested] strategy to change HP corporate culture by merging outside their core business and firing a really lot of people turned out, surprisingly, not to be a particularly effective way to effect synergy or raise profits) has joined almost twenty thousand other former HP and Compaq employees in being found to be in excess of requirements by the board in the wake of the merger...

She leaves in the comforting knowledge that even though profits never went up, at least nearly twenty thousand fewer people are feeding their children and paying taxes out of operating costs.
We are less eloquent than Julia, so for our own tribute to Ms. Fiorini (and closing film reference), please imagine Daniel Day-Lewis in a wheelchair barking "Cunt... cunt... cunt.. cunt... congratulations!"
YOU POOR, CRAZY FREAKS -- IF ONLY I COULD REACH YOU! Ann Althouse: "I know you people on the left aren't reading this, but if you were, I would tell you: the right is laughing triumphantly."

Having informed me that I am not reading what I am reading, Althouse goes on, as is her wont, to harsh at length on liberals, forcibly injecting from time to time a tone of sorrow-not-anger that is belied by the words they accompany. For example:
Another reader disagrees that "the right is laughing triumphantly":

I think people on the right are also horrified at just how left the left has become when people like you and Jeff Jarvis and Instapundit are labeled as conservative or hard right, and are unable even to read what you have to say.

When people who are professors at NYU start believing that David Corn of all people [is a] Karl Rove plant at worst and betraying their own side at best - and thus seek to ostracize him - they've gone all unhinged.

I mean, if they can't read you guys, the centrists, and think even the left is betraying them, and this wave of thought is becoming more and more status quo, how can anyone actually on the right have a conversation with them? They've made themselves unreachable and untouchable.
I concede that plenty of people on the right agree with me that it's terribly sad.
Am I totally illiterate, or did Althouse's correspondent basically say that conservatives are "horrified" that we liberals are "all unhinged" and not worth even talking to? This is only the same thing as finding our plight "terribly sad" if you're being sarcastic, as in, "It's really too bad that you're such a fucking psycho."

What a weird, passive-aggressive schtick. The appeal escapes me. Maybe it's about getting to call people names without having to accept that you're calling them names. Also, if one of the loonies disagrees with you, you don't have to answer his point. Because he's loony, y'see.

I suppose it's one way to deal, but it makes dull reading after a very short while.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

THE WORLD AS WILL AND IDEA. A good deal of this Ann Marlowe piece is devoted to the sort of weird attribution of personal traits to political movements that mark one as a comer in the New New Right: e.g., wearing a Bush button is "punk rock," Democrats are "smugly self-righteous, prissy and joyless," etc.

The article purports to be a review of The Neocon Reader, but fails to seriously discuss the book's contents -- with one notable exception, James Q. Wilson's "Broken Windows" essay:
Wilson's title refers to a theory that if a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired, all the windows in the building will soon be smashed, and his article is frequently credited with sparking the new approaches to urban order that led to the revival of New York under Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

What is not so often recalled from Wilson's article is that the novel idea of placing officers on foot patrol did not actually reduce the crime rate; it only reduced citizens' perception of the crime rate. But that was enough. That turned out to be what urban vitality was
There's much more, but no references to any actual declines in the City's crime rate -- though these did come -- nor to the role of increased arrest rates (misdemeanor arrests in the City went up by 70 percent in the 1990s; felony arrests rose nearly as much). To hear Marlowe tell it, the perception of a crime drop by itself, the "feeling of public safety that allowed neighborhoods of poor and working-class people to flourish," as Marlowe puts it, caused the City's "revival."

Marlowe calls Wilson's essay "exemplary of neocon thought." If neoconservatism means a serious expectation of concrete results from public relations gestures, she may be right. A mindset that attributes our crime drop to good feelings, rather than to police work or demographic factors, could easily envision a democratic revolution in Iran brought about mainly by our good wishes. And it is not too much (or too little, depending on your point of view) to expect that when these wishes are finally effected by brute force, this mindset's sufferers will continue to believe that the will of the conquered nation's people was always with them, and that the little shove our armed forces gave to history was no more important than the tedious police work that accompanied the revival of New York.

Marlowe is much more specific in matters closer to home: in denigrating the hipness of present-day Berlin, she compares it unfavorably to "the East Village in the 1980s." Why of that decade, one wonders, and not the present time? I would guess because Marlowe remembers the East Village of those days, as I do, and knows that the upscale shopping and dining district the area has become does not generate the, to use her words, "cultural ferment and creativity" it generated in the days before our City was, to use her word again, revived. It's an instructive dodge. When you're pushing the power of ideas, it is helpful to ignore the collateral damage.

IT'S JUST A MOVIE, KATE MARIE. This Friend of the Perfesser, Kate Marie, complains that the cartoon Mulan II... well, you might think I'm trying to make it sound worse than it is, so let her tell it:
I just watched Mulan II (I have two young girls), and -- I kid you not -- "my duty is to my heart" appears to be the explicit message of the film (as it was in the Princess Diaries II). In the immortal words of Ryan O'Neal at the end of What's Up, Doc? -- that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. If you want a succinct and hilarious refutation of the idiotic notion that one's duty is to one's heart, watch the "Be Like the Boy" episode of The Simpsons.

Duty is a category which is by definition separate from "heart." It represents all those things -- family, tradition, state, law -- which have a claim on us that transcends personal affection and selfish desire. For goodness' sake, what does our generation make of Antigone? ("Antigone? Huh?" -- never mind.)

At the end of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence (and in the finale of Martin Scorcese's film adaptation), the story's protagonist, Newland Archer, watches from a bench as his grown son enters the home of the woman blah blah blah...("blah blah blah" added)
Yes, this woman is actually subjecting her afternoon child-quieting videos to strict moral-aesthetic analysis. And not just the "How many swears in Ray" type of analysis you find in newspapers -- real, arcane wingnut analysis, of the sort we like to cover here.

It can be useful to examine the moral underpinnings of a work of art, but this is fucking Mulan II. Comparing it to Antigone and Edith Wharton is a little like demanding that your local school board candidates each state and defend their positions on global nuclear regulation or the Law of the Sea.

There has been a contingent of scolds doing this sort of thing for over a decade. One of its early practitioners, Melanie Kirkpatrick, plagued the Wall Street Journal in the 90s with similar kernel-picking exercises. Here's one of her classics, in which she faults Paul Rudnick's AIDS comedy Jeffrey for not being more about duty and honor. She thought the play's model should have been Camille.

This would seem an unusual recommendation to an author of light comedies, but you have to remember that, for a certain type of person, even pop art is not at all about pleasure -- it is about morality, or rather, that modern, debased version of morality called Values.

What horrible lives such people must lead, seeing dark messages everywhere -- in children's entertainments, in TV shows, in popular songs. Sounds like paranoid schizophrenia without the relief of upswings.

Kate Marie has two young daughters. I pray she isn't trying to scare the Mulan out of them a la Piper Laurie in Carrie: "First comes Mulan, then comes moral ruin!"
SHORTER JUAN COLE: Here are several proofs that Jonah Goldberg doesn't know what he's talking about, starting with his own astonishing admission that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

SHORTER JONAH GOLDBERG: I don't know what you're talking about.

Monday, February 07, 2005

SHORTER MICHAEL TOTTEN. Me and Chris Hitchens are like that (crosses fingers). I helped him talk down an inexplicably angry Iraqi.
WHY WE FIGHT. Above and beyond duty is Comrade Shawn Macomber, National Review Online Film-Criticism Warrior Unit, in review of Assault on Precinct 13 remake treason! Comrade Macomber not content to scorn bad morals and swearing, loose women of new film! No, Comrade also explain mission of Film-Criticism Warrior Unit:
Removing the sap from our action movies should be a matter of national pride. After all, it's been well documented that Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, and other various tyrants have had a predilection for American action movies. (Although a certain Iraqi dictator won't be seeing Assault on Precinct 13 unless the Red Cross brings it to him on DVD.) Who knows who is watching now? We wouldn't want anyone to start thinking we've gone soft.
Is maybe joke? Comrade, is in National Review -- only reference to Animal House signals joke! Sometimes not even then!
TENURED RADICAL. Professor Ward Churchill says (more or less) that the victims of the WTC attacks were yes-men for a murderous regime, and that this vitiates his sympathy for them. This prompts calls for the professor's dismissal, most notably by Governor Bill Owens.

The Ole Perfesser has apparently judged that Churchill is more useful to his cause as a negative example than as a celebrity scalp a la Dan Rather. In two high-profile essays, while maintaining plausible deniability on the free-speech thing, he drags Churchill across the whole of academia (excepting, presumably, the sleepy southern sector of it that supplies his own paychecks) -- in hopes, it would appear, that the stink will rub off, and that common folk thus alerted will rise up and do something about them pointy-heads.

At MSNBC, the Perfesser writes
Academics are supposed to be skeptical and questioning, even about their own societies. But there's a big difference between being skeptical -- which requires actual thought -- and being adversarial, which requires only contradiction. What's more, the doctrine of academic freedom -- which goes well beyond the general freedoms of speech encompassed by the First Amendment -- is supposed to be about freedom for individual academics to think, well, freely -- not about the freedom of academic institutions to escape scrutiny from the outside world.
While I'm told law professors like to split hairs, I don't think mere love of craft is driving the Perfesser to be so specific here on the distinctions between adversarial and skeptical, and between "the doctrine of academic freedom" and First Amendment rights. I suspect he is looking for (or, rather, offering to his better-placed comrades in the commentariat) loopholes. By such means, one can call for a professor to be expelled for what he teaches (provided it is "adversarial" enough), and have a high-sounding answer ready for any Constitution-based challenges that might come up.

The Perfesser probably needn't have bothered. After all, the coming generation clearly think the First Amendment goes too far; if such like believe the doctrine of academic freedom goes even further than the notoriously libertine 1A, the targeted reader may feel comfortable dispensing with the whole concept of academic freedom, and not worry if some Constitutional liberties happen to get thrown out along with it.

At Fox News, the Perfesser embellishes and amplifies. In this telling, academia's great offense to normalcy is changed from adversarialism to "cleverness" and "being contrary," perhaps to prevent Fox's readers from having to look up the word "adversarial." The Perfesser also says that "America's campuses are not free-speech zones, but among the most pervasively censored environments in our society." Just like a tenured radical -- I bet he's never worked in a modern corporation: Try taking one of those patented heh-indeeds over underage sex Reynolds gets away with in his little ivory tower, and repeating it around the water-cooler! You'll be up on harrassment charges in no time.

But in his innocence (feigned or genuine), the Perfesser still portrays his own world as so dangerously "politically correct" that it must be reformed -- but not on anything so retrograde as free speech grounds. The Perfesser likes some forms of administration-mandated behavior surveillance -- "Harvard President Lawrence Summers has joined in, calling for his university to embrace patriotic values and get more in line with mainstream Americans," he notes encouragingly. Just some kinds of wrong thinking have to eliminated.

Which would those be? Why, the elitist ones, of course: what place has elitism in an instutution of higher learning? One can see the torch glimmering in his hand as the Perfesser points out to the pointy-heads that he has a whole army of citizens behind him who will happily supply them with a list of permissible attitudes and subjects for discussion:
Not surprisingly, people who would rather be clever than right, who confuse oppositionalism with originality, who hold ordinary Americans and their beliefs in faux-aristocratic contempt, and who do all of this with an unshakable degree of self-righteousness, are not likely to be especially popular.
And if you have long hair and dark sunglasses, that's double-plus-ungood. If you're wondering what sort of end result one might expect from this sort of thinking, read A Canticle for Leibowitz. Or history.

Friday, February 04, 2005

“LAS Vegas” hottie Nikki Cox has broken off her engagement to Bobcat Goldthwait and is now dating another comic, Jay Mohr. Cox and Goldthwait dated for five years after meeting on “Unhappily Ever After.”
The mysteries of the human heart just got a little more impenetrable.
SHORING UP THE BASE. (N.B.: I now have a phone line, of sorts, so as John Henry said, I reckon it's time I did some work.)

Andrew McCarthy takes a full page in National Review Online to make sure he hasn't offended the all-important Confederacy Fan bloc. In responding to a Southern Appeal author who does not share his lenient attitude toward that bastard Lincoln, McCarthy does come close to a Sister Souljah moment ("I do think Lincoln is the hero of the Civil War, just as I think President Bush will be remembered as a hero of the current war"), but mainly tries to convince the Southron that "we have a lot of common ground," and heaps praise on Confederate soldiers. That ought to keep them Rebels in the tent a while! Up next: Jonah Goldberg denounces Chevy Chase for making jokes about Franco.

(Actually Goldberg already seems to be on culture watch this week: The Arts & Letters Daily has rejected one of Goldberg's manuscripts, which means ALD is "sliding to the left," which means ALD is "predictable." Maybe next he'll send William Bennett and Michael Medved over to ALD's offices to lean menacingly against the doorjambs and flip coins.)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE UNAVOIDABLE DELAY. WE WILL BE MOVING SHORTLY. "Aren't you feeling euphoric?" asks Andrew Sullivan. Well, no -- I still haven't got phone service in my new apartment. All politics is local.

The human waste products called Verizon Customer Service assure me they will take care of business tomorrow between 8 a.m. and the vernal equinox. Then, and only then, Andy, will we know whether freedom has won! Meantime I'm like a fish out of water, or a Lileks without a 7,000-pound home entertainment center and a barrel of Olestra snacks to fuel the "commentary."

Still, in those small moments of electronic access I have been able to snatch, I have seen some corkers. I note with pleasure that the cultural commissars of National Review and professional Ned Flanders impersonator Michael Medved have turned on Million Dollar Baby. The chronic inability of such types to distinguish between the actions of dramatic characters and the contents of position papers is, like Wimpy's chronic inability to pass up a hamburger, a reliable laugh-getter, but in this case connoiseurs of their follies may also contemplate the piquant dilemma of their followers. Can they accept their beloved Clint Eastwood as an agent of the commie pinko Left? Will they, with tears in their eyes, burn their Dirty Harry DVDs? Will their blogospheric enablers up the ante by reporting that Clint spent years in Yurrup working with a feller who might just as well have been a Marxist? (Lookit the fella! Looks jes like Castro! Or Ward Chuchill hehindeed!)

(Speaking of the Ole Perfesser, the aforelinked post is now officially the stupidest thing ever written, and I know that for a fact because moving gave me an opportunity to review the previous title-holders: my book reports from sixth grade, and my journals from the late 70s. Reynolds is by now so deep in the tank, whip-tailing his faux logic in whichever direction he thinks will make the maximum number of Democrats look bad, that his brief mention of the "idiotarian" coinage came as a shocking reminder of his old poses: when was the last time the Perfesser gave an even halfway decent impersonation of an independent thinker?)

I see also that folks are still ringing bells over the Iraqi election. Closer to home, of course, voting is not seen as a panacea, or even a cea. Here in the Apple, Gifford Miller and Freddie Ferrer, two men who want to unseat New York City Mayor Richie Rich and his delightful dog Dollar, have suggested that the gigantic boondoggle-slash-stadium Hizzoner wants us all to pay for should, like other large public expenditures, be subject to a referendum. Eric Fettmann of the New York Post is outraged: "But the biggest problem with the Ferrer-Miller approach is the notion that this is something 'the people' should decide," writes Fettmann. "That may do well for two men duking it out for the Mr. Populist label, but it's irresponsible governance... If the stadium should be decided by referendum, why not place every issue before the voters?"

Why have referenda for anything if not for this? The City itself admits the project will at minimum require a $300 million investment, leading to $21 million in annual debt service paid by us suckers. But in this case I suppose Democracy is not very Whiskey or Sexy if the moneyed interests stand a chance of losing.