Monday, July 18, 2005

JUNIOR ANTI-SEX LEAGUE, PART #134,789. "The Party was trying to kill the sex instinct, or, if it could not be killed, then to distort it and dirty it. He did not know why this was so, but it seemed natural that it should be so. And as far as the women were concerned, the Party's efforts were largely successful." George Orwell, guess what book.

Carrie Lukas decries the alleged sexual promiscuity of Washington's female interns. Lukas hails from the Independent Women's Forum, at whose website you can read how The March of the Penguins provides good role-modeling for human families, or at least those human families that live in arctic wastelands and have brains the size of cashews. (Isn't there something weird and hippie-ish about comparing human family dynamics unfavorably to those of wild animals? How did this become a rightwing thing?)

The group does enjoy some laughs that are not clinically hysterical -- for instance, much glee is had over silly podiatrists who try to keep women from their fancy shoes. But on the subject of sex, the peals of girlish laughter subside, and the IWF ladies turn grim as death. Hence this study, which is of interest only to those of us who get a mild thrill hearing about young people in power suits gittin' it awn, and to culture scolds.

If you don't have time to read this whole post, here are some of the key words and phrases found in Lukas' article: thong-snapping seduction, vixen, over-sexed cesspool, casual physical encounter, meaningful relationship, alcohol-fueled hook-up lifestyle. Context doesn't add much to it, believe me, but read on if so inclined:

The meat of Lukas' story is am IWF poll of 200 D.C. interns. 44 percent of them admit to "hooking up" and "40 percent of congressional interns admitted to engaging in 'intimate activities' that they otherwise may not have participated in while under the influence" of alcohol. Only 1 percent admitted to knowing anything about any live, hot legislator-intern action.

Young adults having sex! Stop the presses! But Lukas is concerned. The percentage of interns who have sex has doubled since 2003, she writes. "Why should anyone care that drinking and hooking up are a part of the typical Capitol intern experience — chalk it up to harmless fun and life experience, right?" she asks in a moment of sanity which, alas, passes: "…research shows that many young women experience serious regret after engaging in such encounters."

In other scientific developments, many 21-year-olds fail to plan for retirement, say things they later regret, and find Adam Sandler funny. Regrets, we greybeards know, are part of life. But this is more serious, I guess, because it involves penises and/or vaginas -- so serious Lukas proposes "a running dialogue about the drawbacks of existing traditions and practices so that a healthier culture can develop."

Sister, that dialogue's been running in conservative publications since the days when Malcolm Forbes cruised the West Side on his Harley. Since the primary purpose of this dialogue (or, to be more specific, series of soapbox perorations) is to stimulate outrage among scolds, which can then be transmitted to a gullible public, it will probably never end so long as a few votes can be wrung out of it.

Throughout Lukas speaks of Washington interns as if they were Girl Guides between the ages of 12 and 16. It would be astonishing that a group devoted to the empowerment of women seem to regard sex as some sort of malign force, like terrorism, that persons of the female persuasion can't handle without help from a think tank. Maybe Scaife or somebody should feel them a few mill to produce some TV ads with headlines like "Prayer Meetings: The Anti-Sex."

How stupid do they think we are? Well, they're probably right.

Friday, July 15, 2005

RETURN TO TODAY'S TOONS! Encouraged by my first visit, I returned this afternoon to Free Republic's Today's Toons page. It really saved my Friday. My compliments to the chafed!

TT is reaching out to the Michael Totten constituency: Chris Muir is on board to encourage the elect that not all them urban, black-wearin' coffee-drinkers is librul traitors. Here he makes a gag about the "flypaper" theory -- see, you pull out of Iraq, and terrorists will wind up in big Western cities like London! He also essays a Plame strip, though I vastly prefer this one, apparently done by the same fellow that took last week's prize, and which also explains its own joke. I hope this is a series. I can't wait to see Plame and Wilson as Ignatz and Krazy Kat, Harry and Sally, Sacco and Vanzetti!

"Ima Liberal" is ugly and stupid and "non-judgmental," which is liberal for ugly and stupid! Haw! 'Course, "John Q. Public" isn't stupid, just uninformed, bless him. But the ugliest, stupidest and everything-baddest of them all is of course Hitlery, and I defy my readers to find anything in the history of Clinton-bashing more garish that this -- it makes Der Sturmer look like The Family Circus.

P.S. Abortion is murder, Kerry is fake, etc. Oh, and to avenge London we're gonna get Osama -- for real this time!

How I would I love to shake hands with all these madcap rascals if they weren't destroying my country.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

CENTRISM -- THE NEW LIBERTARIANISM? Had a look at Donklephant, described by Michael Totten as "centrist." I am interested in centrism, as I am assured it is the coming thing, and sought to understand it through this new site, that I might find out where to buy my nephews some rad centrist gear for next Christmas.

I found:

  • A long article explaining that "not all Europeans are our natural allies" -- that in fact "Anti-Americanism in Western Europe often goes well beyond mere criticism and ventures deep into the territory of vituperative hate-mongering." The author allows that this "has been matched by a nascent and often nasty anti-Europeanism in the United States," and follows up by observing that many Frenchmen "proudly joined the Nazi regime at Vichy" and that Spain has "joined the anti-American French and German alignment and may not ever be anything like a reliable battlefield ally" (though she "never was a reliable battlefield ally in the first place, though, so there’s nothing new there"), etc. Conclusion: the West is not united against terror, but it's not Bush's fault.

  • An author wondering aloud if women really do give a damn about reproductive rights, because Virginia Postrel doesn't, and a female friend of his "wants the Dems or the GOPers to come up with something new to offer her besides control over her body." (Not clear whether by "besides" she meant "along with" or "in place of.")

  • Another author reporting on a House Republican bill that would give grants to stem-cell researchers only if they can do their thing without harming embryos (and is vigorously opposed by stem-cell advocates including Arlen Specter) writes, "Good news stem cell advocates. It looks like a growing number of Republicans are supporting federal funding of increased stem-cell research." This may be sarcasm.

  • Smackdown on Molly Ivins.

  • Smackdown also the BBC's selective use of the term 'terrorist'; the author says that "Conservatives routinely make hay of policy like this," then makes hay of it ("We all know what happens to those who forget the past. What becomes of those who forget the present?")

  • Link to Arianna Huffington parody site post, described as "dead-on Rove caricature." Linked site is silly, transpartisan, and not especially funny. Speaking of which, lots of links to The Garlic, which is ditto.

  • Clinton joke.
To be fair, one writer does criticize the Patriot Act, and it is generally accepted on the site that liberals should be allowed to live. I'll try back in a few months when it goes totally right-wing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN, EPISODE 782,221. David Ross at Libertas reports on the menace of edible body frosting:
The other day I was shopping in an Eckerd Drug Store and noticed a prominently displayed selection of “deliciously kissable body frostings” endorsed by [Jessica] Simpson. The preponderance of pink sparkles makes it clear that the product’s market is girls let us say between ages nine and thirteen. A little research uncovers an entire line of cosmetics called “Dessert Treats” marketed under the unapologetically salacious slogans “Wear it, then share it” and “Dessert just got even sweeter.” A budding sexual adventuress, for example, might add “Lollipop” body frosting to her sixth-grade sex play...
Also, vibrators etc. are frequently referred to as "sex toys." Toys are what children play with. Therefore vibrators, butt-plugs etc. are being marketed to children. Constable, do your duty!

P.S. And it's about time the Royal Family did something about the Prince Albert.
JUST DON'T YELL "THOMAS!" IN YOUR THROES OF PASSION. You have to wonder whether Christopher Hitchens' heart is in the job anymore. In his latest terror-war fist-shaker, except for his now-traditional condemnation of people who disagree with him as "stupid," Hitchens expends most of his words on Thomas Jefferson. Well, when one's mission is to explicate the work of G.W. Bush to upmarket readers, I can see how, in the long course of contemplation and composition, the bust of one of our more thoughtful Presidents might be more inspiring than Dubya's.

Most of the Jefferson analysis is unobjectionable, even pleasing, but has little to do with the alleged subject, named in the subhead as "Jefferson's ideas presaged the Bush doctrine." While it is true that Jefferson hoped the American example would embolden men to seize freedom, there is no evidence that he wished our soldiers to wander the globe in search of philosophically dissonant states to overthrow. That looks far more like Napoleon's dream than Jefferson's.

Hitchens closes by comparing the Iraq adventure to the First Barbary War:
The most successful "export" was Jefferson's determined use of naval and military force to reduce the Barbary States of the Ottoman Empire, which had set up a slave-taking system of piracy and blackmail along the western coast of North Africa. Our third president was not in a position to enforce regime change in Algiers or Tripoli, but he was able to insist on regime behavior-modification (and thus to put an end to at least one slave system). Ever since then, every major system of tyranny in the world has had to run at least the risk of a confrontation with the United States, and one hopes that the Jeffersonians among us will continue to ensure that this remains true.
When I was a boy American schools still taught history. We were told then that Jefferson sent the Marines to Tripoli because the Barbary pirates kept holding American ships and sailors for ransom, and Jefferson preferred fighting to the payment of tribute. In fact, I see that is still the accepted version.

The pirates, in other words, had directly attacked Americans, and promised to attack still more, and Jefferson responded to those attacks. It is true that Jefferson "was not in a position to enforce regime change in Algiers or Tripoli," but neither was he of a mind to do so -- he was protecting American interests in the most basic terms.

Perhaps in some alterna-history universe -- one, say, in which a bunch of Berbers blow up a warehouse full of New Yorkers, and Jefferson invades some non-piratical North African nation-state in hopes that this nation-state-building example will reform the rest of the region -- there would be some connection between the actions of our third President and those of our forty-third.

Or maybe there is some other version of history left over from Hitchens' socialist days -- some stunning refutation of prior accounts of the Tripolitan War, suppressed by bourgeois historians -- that makes the comparison more clear. Maybe we'll get that clarification is some future installment, to be issued after we've bugged out of Iraq.

Monday, July 11, 2005

KEEP ON BORKING.We've been hearing a lot of pre-emptive criticism of Democrats who wish to have a hand in the process of selecting the next Supreme Court Justice. We have heard the word "Bork," indicating the unfair treatment of a nominee, revived for this purpose.

Thankfully, OpinionJournal has published the latest ravings of the real Judge Bork on "ever-expanding rights" to remind us that, if "Borking" was what kept this lunatic off the Court, then it was a jolly good job:
Contrast Tocqueville with Justices Harry Blackmun and Anthony Kennedy. Justice Blackmun wanted to create a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy because of the asserted " 'moral fact' that a person belongs to himself and not others nor to society as a whole." Justice Kennedy, writing for six justices, did invent that right, declaring that "at the heart of [constitutional] liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Neither of these vaporings has the remotest basis in the actual Constitution, and neither has any definable meaning other than that a common morality may not be sustained by law if a majority of justices prefer that each individual follow his own desires.
Etc. If they get another one of these guys on the Hill, I really don't care what they do to keep him off.
DEFINING VICTORY DOWNWARD. Last September Michael Totten wrote "Don't Abandon Iraq," agreeing with Victor Davis Hanson that a premature departure from Iraq would lead to Mogadishu Saigon Etcetera.

I guess Iraq must have shaped up quite a lot in the past 10 months (despite outward appearances), because now Totten is open to an early exit; something to do, for all I can tell, with some rope-a-dope strategy of depriving the rebels of a target, and the eerie persuasive powers of Donald Rumsfeld. (Victor Davis Hanson doesn't see it the same way, of course, but he is not a famous moderate, to say the least.)

No word yet as the whether this calls for another "Mission Accomplished" banner, but as word of the new reality spreads it will be interesting (and fun!) to see who lines up and who doesn't.

Friday, July 08, 2005

MORE CARTOON FUN! I see by his latest installment that Mallard Fillmore creator Bruce Tinsley does indeed think that a parody of his strip in Jon Stewart's America: The Book is meant "to deceive people into thinking it was a real one."

Originally I didn't see how anyone with brains enough to breathe could think that, but I understand better now that I've surveyed "Today's Toons" at Free Republic. How have I missed this before? It shall join Photoshop Phridays and as one of my unmissable end-of-week delights.

Tinsley is here, of course, as are several lesser known artists bringing you the latest in anti-Kerry and anti-Kennedy/pro-torture gags. Some panels are surprisingly abstract (this one suggests The Turner Diaries illustrated by Barbara Kruger); some are just book covers; one suggests that Live8 was either part of a "Blame America" movement, or merely waved a torch and emitted intoxication bubbles in the vicinity of a "Blame America" movement.

There is a maudlin British flag thing, of course, with an audio link -- not, I am disappointed to report, to a new version of "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" as sung by Alan Rickman and Lulu, but to "God Save the Queen" (pre-Pistols version).

Points for purity to the Howard-Dean-with-crazy-eyes thing, but the palm this week must go to a little animated parody of Valerie Plame on a "Get Smart!" theme -- at the end of which the author takes time to explain the gag to his viewers. If only Jon Stewart worked like that -- Mallard wouldn't have his feathers in such a twist!
TODAY'S SHOWTRIALS! As mentioned here earlier, some conservatives gave big ups to London Mayor Ken Livingstone post-attack speech, but the Ministry of Truth has since informed the comrades of their doctrinal error, and a round of self-criticism is in order:
I posted those comments by Mayor Livingstone yesterday, thinking them good and strong. But I knew absolutely nothing of his politics or past statements. (Since coming to the Corner, I've really expanded my personal library of things I know nothing about -- that is, it's hard to know what you don't know.)...
Applaud the comrade, but let him sit in dunce cup awhile so error is not repeated!

Further down, Kathryn Lopez proposes Rudy Giuliani as "London's Mayor, Too" (on the evidence of a letter Giuliani wrote to the London Times, not from any apparent groundswell of public opinion). Positive imaging is useful! We dream, we plan, we can!

Rather than wish him away, Hurry Up Harry just hopes Comrade Livingstone will become right-wing. In context, that sounds almost reasonable.
PARAGRAPH OF THE WEEK: "Asher B. Durand's 'Kindred Spirits' (1849)... depicts Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, with the poet William Cullen Bryant. The two stand along a rock ledge, a tree arching above, a river tumbling below and a hilly vista stretching to the horizon. It's as if, looking out on the scene and imagining America's great potential, they can almost see a Wal-Mart rising in the distance."

That's from a Walton family blowjob in OpinionJournal. The piece is unsigned, but I detect in it the hand of Luis Buñuel.
HOW TO TALK TO YOUR RIGHTWING FRIENDS ABOUT LONDON."You either surrender to it or you defeat it. President Bush knows this, and you hold out hope that the Bush-haters might get it but I don't have much hope in that regard because I think there's so much seething rage and hatred for Bush out there that the majority of the Bush-haters are already gleefully blaming Bush for this, and blaming the war in Iraq for this, and blaming Afghanistan for this, and feeling sorry for Tony Blair that Bush roped in into joining us in Iraq. That's the kind of thing. You can expect it to exist in a free country, but it's going to continue to be an impediment, as those people represent forces who attempt to weaken our ability not only take the offensive but to defend ourselves as well. But here's the interesting thing for those of you on the left to consider. The terrorists today not only attacked civilization. They attacked you. They attacked you liberals, you leftists who may think that you're the ones who have the ability to forge a common understanding." -- Rush Limbaugh
"You're pretty goddamned negative. Do you believe in God?"

"Not your kind of God."

"What kind of God?"

"I'm not sure."

"I've been going to church since I can remember."

I didn't answer.

"Can I buy you a beer?" he asked.


The beers arrived.

"Did you read the papers today."


"Did you hear about those 50 little girls who were burned to death in that Boston orphanage?"


"Wasn't that horrible?"

"I suppose it was."

"You suppose it was?"


"Don't you know?"

"If I had been there I suppose I would have had nightmares about it for the rest of my life. But it's different when you just read about it in the newspapers."

"Don't you feel sorrow for those 50 little girls who burned to death? They were hanging out of the windows screaming."

"I suppose it was horrible. But you see it was just a newspaper headline, a newspaper story. I really didn't think much about it. I turned the page."

"You mean you didn't feel anything about it?"

"Not really."

He sat a moment and had a drink of his beer. Then he screamed, "Hey, here's a guy who says he didn't feel a fucking thing when he read about those 50 orphan girls burning to death in an orphanage in Boston!"

Everyone looked at me. I looked down at my cigarette. There was a moment of silence. Then the woman in the red wig said, "If I was a man I'd kick his ass all up and down the street."

"He doesn't believe in God either! said the man next to me. "He hates baseball. He loves bullfights, and he likes to see little orphan girls burned to death!"

I ordered another beer from the bartender, for myself. He pushed the bottle at me with repugnance. Two young guys were playing pool. The youngest, a big kid in a white T-shirt, laid his stick down and walked over to me. He stood behind me sucking air into his lungs, trying to make his chest bigger.

"This is a nice bar. We don't tolerate assholes here. We kick their butts good, we beat the shit out of them, we beat the living shit out of them!"

I could feel him standing there behind me. I lifted my beer bottle and poured beer into my glass, drank it, lit a cigarette. My hand was perfectly steady. He stood there for some time, then walked back to the pool table. The man who had been sitting next to me got off his stool and moved away. "The son of a bitch is negative," I heard him say. "He hates people."
That's from a Bukowski story called "Beer at the Corner Bar." If you get a chance, read the whole story, and the book it's in, Hot Water Music. Then read everything he ever wrote, poems too. Then read it again.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

DUCK AMUCK. Remember that little "Mallard Fillmore" parody in Jon Stewart's America ("Oops! I forgot to tell a joke!")? The nation's favorite right-wing duck does not seem to recognize it as a parody. In fact, he smells (can ducks smell? Well, "senses" then) an MSM smear job:

"This isn't me!" Fillmore quacks. "I mean, it is me, but Jon Stewart has cut and pasted me into a fake 'Mallard Fillmore' strip... put me in his book and even dated it 'October 1, 1998,' to make it look like this comic strip said stuff it didn't say..."

It would be easy to assume that cartoonist Bruce Tinsley is either unacquainted with the concept of satire (an assumption for which his strip provides daily evidence), or that he has been swept up in the War against the MSM, and recognizes from the behavior of the generals that, when it comes to armament, the creation of smoke and noise means a lot more than scoring a true hit.

But it's only Thursday; maybe Tinsley has a twist ending prepared that plays with objective reality, a la Chuck Jones, revealing a more nuanced view of things. I'm going with that. After all, we are all Britons now; even the least likely of us may have suddenly acquired some wit.
BOMB SQUAD. Condolences to my London friends on the awful attacks Thursday morning. I hope you're safe and stay so.

If you want to follow the bombing news, the best source I've found for updates is the Guardian's news blog. And I thought mainstream news didn't """get""" (*) blogs! Why, they have better info than a Tennessee law perfesser. The citizens' tributes posted there are especially good.

(* that awful usage really requires triple-quotes, as no human now living can use it without evincing at least three layers of alienation from normal speech patterns.)

As for idiocy on the subject, there are sources aplenty, though as usual Goldberg's Frat House holds its own. While the Man Who Would Be Bluto himself seems about two bongs shy of a pantload, speculating muzzily about possible "useful" outcomes, other Cornerites wave Union Jacks and shake fists energetically. "We Are All Brits Now," announces Den Mother Lopez. Funny, I don't remember ever being told that we were all Balinese (have you forgotten October 12?). I vaguely recall being told we were Madrileños, but I think the Ministry of Truth revoked Madrid's status as a Place of Which We All Are shortly thereafter.

I imagine some readers may find it offensive that I am expressing my opinions on even so ancillary an aspect of these bombings as their press coverage without resorting to the seemingly requisite clenched teeth and offers of prayer. My feelings for the horrible deaths of several people I do not personally know are probably about the same as yours. Every man's death diminishes me, whether or not it is on the news, but I try not to intrude upon the funerals of strangers.

For my own part, I am more offended at the cunning use of public tragedy for propaganda purposes. For example, the Perfesser's jape at Ken Livingstone's response to the attacks on his City -- that "they've got even Ken Livingstone sounding Churchillian" -- seems to me appallingly cynical. Red Ken, bless him, is simply being Livingstonian. To talk about his call for solidarity as if it were some sort of deviation from the norm makes no sense, unless your business is to interpret basic human behaviors and emotions in political terms.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

WELL, THERE'S ALWAYS EMINENT DOMAIN IN THE ATLANTIC YARDS. The big news today was New York's Olympic bid, and I gotta say I don't see how they missed from what I heard was in the presentation:

  • Robert DeNiro surprising International Olympic Committee Chairman Kevan Gosper with his knowledge of Gosper's biographical details, including the names of his children and the address of, and security codes to, his home.

  • Mayor Bloomberg throwing fistfuls of money a la Rip Taylor.

  • Billy Crystal breaking down in sobs as he relates his father's heartbreak over never getting to attend a live synchonized swimming event.

  • Donald Trump promising gold shotputs, garishly appointed athletes' quarters, and prostitutes.

  • Muhammed Ali, a large and familiar presence from which nearly all the once formidable strength has been cruelly sapped, now conveyed from place to place by powerful men using his reputation as combination bragging standard and begging bowl; a perfect avatar for our City.

It's London's headache now, and jingos get to laugh at France -- everybody wins! Citizens, carry on.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

A LONG WEEKEND. I suppose I could put it down to a slow news week. The big stories have been few: one butt-ugly WTC tower being replaced by another butt-ugly WTC tower; further fist-shaking about the memorial therein (I say have David Allan Coe do twenty-minute-on-the-hour sets in the lobby and leave it at that); a Presidential speech and Congressional babbling. Who wants to read about that, let alone write about it?

But the plain fact is I'm burnt. Between a work schedule that never lets up, the demands of human beings (Christ, they're always trying to talk to you and get you to talk), and nightly wrestling matches with the Angel of Death (at least that's who he says he is, though I could swear I saw him in a Bumfight video), I have been hard-pressed to find tranquility enough to recollect emotion, or even to collect stray thoughts and ball them into blogposts.

So, with apologies for the slow pace of production, I am getting the fuck off the merry-go-round for a few days. I'm going to New Hampshire to visit Editor Downs and his family, and eat pie and walk in the woods. I am not much of a tree-hugger, but on the excellent chance that I will have a nervous breakdown in the maddening cricket-encrusted silence, a tree will be useful to cling to when I feel as if I am about to fall off the earth.

See you Tuesday. Meantime have a glorious Fourth and remember, when the roaring madness of the times gets you down, the immortal words of Neil Young: "Got people here down on their knees and prayin'/Hawks and doves are circlin' in the rain/Got rock 'n' roll, got country music playin'/If you hate us, you just don't know what you're sayin'."

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

SIDESHOW. I didn't watch the Leader's address on TV, so I cannot rate it for stagecraft any more than I could a speech of Lincoln's or Millard Fillmore's. I will say that I was misled to expect that Bush would overtly echo the anti-liberal-traitor theme foreshadowed by his operatives. The Ft. Bragg setting, and the President's call for Fourth of July flags 'n' fan mail for the troops, were clearly meant to tie support for the Iraq adventure to support for the troops. But such devices were already old news in the days of "Pride Integrity Guts" buttons and yellow ribbons. The hardcore supporters will enjoy them, but the White House cannot seriously expect these gestures to restore the faith many citizens have lost in the occupation.

This is a little disappointing, because it left the President without a bold gambit to revive public faith in his plan, leaving him only a restatement of familiar talking points: 9-11, international cooperation, madman Saddam, 9-11, Iraqi sovereignty, and 9-11.

You can see how useless this regurgitation is from the nostalgic commentary of the President's more reliable supporters, such as K.J. Lopez: "He always nails that freedom thing--let freedom ring," etc. Yes, the fans love it when The Boss does the old songs. But we have been hearing freedom ring, and mission statements, and success stories (flowers strewn in the path of beloved conquerors and so forth), for a couple of years now, and from the looks of things, this cheerful litany has ceased to work.

So the sanest way to view tonight's speech is as an aside. The President is now focused on reforming (or destroying, depending of your point of view) America's politics, finances, and judiciary. From that point of view, the Iraq occupation is a nuisance, a constant reminder of how this Administration's peculiar obsessions do not coincide with this nation's needs. So a few hours were set aside for a few soothing words to momentarily defuse a small groundswell of non-support. Time well spent, in this Administration's view, if it muddies these particular waters for another little while, leaving the wrecking crew to do its work undistubed. Like most of us, they live day to day, looking for the main chance.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

HOW ROVE CAN YOU GO? Lately, the temperature in the conservative fever-ward has been climbing like a Neopolitan busboy at Monte Carlo with a stolen dinner jacket.

OpinionJournal has picked up Karl Rove's "Traitors among us!" tone, complaining that Americans are turning against the war because of their tireless attendance upon the words of Edward Kennedy and Chuck Hagel. OpinionJournal is where the Crazy Jesus Lady stores her scrawls and shopping bags, and even on good days hosts some pretty deranged commentary, but lines like "Where the terrorists are gaining ground is in Washington, D.C." really represent a new low.

Of course, the New York Post has never had any guardrails whatsoever, but even Murdoch's Money-Pitbull is straining its already well-stretched leash. The Post decreed on Sunday that the Supreme Court's Kelo decision was all the work of "liberals." I thought Ward Churchill was the Face of Liberalism – when did Anthony Kennedy get the job? In January the Post ran Ryan Sager's complaint that liberals all hate Wal-Mart; maybe now that the Post has decided that liberals actually want to give people's homes to private developers – the sort of thing Wal-Mart thrives on -- perhaps the paper will print a retraction.

Or maybe they'll just go a little crazier. On Monday the Post declared two museums proposed for the World Trade Center to be a threat to our way of life:
What if, some years from now, a latter-day Andres Serrano turns up at the Drawing Center's new home at Ground Zero, with an American flag submerged in a tub of urine — calling it, say, "Piss Flag"? Or with an image of the Twin Towers covered in cow manure?

Could such outrageous "art" be banned from the site?

If that sounds ridiculous, just think back a few years — to Serrano's "Piss Christ." Or to the Brooklyn Museum's 1999 exhibit, "Sensation" — featuring the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung…

Let's face it: New Yorkers are known for abusing the First Amendment… Once the IFC and Drawing Center are up and running, there'll be no stopping them.
If either of the institutions has planned an installation that shows Michael Moore pointing at the burning Twin Towers and laughing, the Post has not shared this scoop with its readers. Apparently the whole tsimmis is based on the revelation that one of the IFC guys worked for George Soros, and that the WTC exhibit might include information about other atrocities that could not be so easily exploited by Republicans as 9-11.

Free Republic concurs in its usual guttural roar: "The liberal parasites of New York are not capable of recognition of bravery, of sacrife....the liberal trash of your state is only concerned WITH SELF, encouraged on by their witch of a so-called Senator…" etc.

But we expect it from them. It's the mainstreaming of such froth that's noteworthy. What's up? Well, the Leader is expected to defend his Iraq policy on TV tonight – flanked by soldiers, we hear. Some of the President's cheerleaders are calling on him to better explain his policies; others want more inspiring rah-rah.

But, given the advance work done by his press functionaries, I expect the message will involve less explainin' and more traitor-baitin'. What else does he have left, really?

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has noticed an uptick in the crazy meter, too, though he (probably wisely) refrains from drawing conclusions.

Monday, June 27, 2005

SHORTER JAMES LILEKS, PART #34,701: I don't know why you people want to see movies by that child-molester Woody Allen when I have these perfectly good matchbooks here. Plus which, being a lifelong New Yorker, Allen doesn't understand 9-11.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

QUOTE OF THE DAY -- PERHAPS EVEN QUOTE OF THE WEEK! The newly invigorated Poor Man points us to a blog maintained by the President of GoDaddy. I liked GoDaddy's Super Bowl ad, but this guy's posting on Guantanamo Bay contains another sort of outrage entirely -- an unexpected gloss on the "Gitmo is not as bad as [insert atrocity here]" gambit:
Compared to those Americans and others who were forced to jump to their death on 9-11, the detainees at Gitmo really don't have it so bad...
But maybe those detainees should be forced to jump from a tall building, because they might have had something to do with the WTC attacks -- or they might not; maybe they're in there for parking tickets; we'll probably never know, but hey, how about that 9-11? Coming soon: Gitmo compared favorably to Hiroshima!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

FUTURISM IS EASY. one can really stop the perfect storm. That's why it's important for mid-career journalists to get their hands dirty in using the technology of the personal media revolution instead of thinking about how and where to learn about it. Become a 'doer' of the word instead of a 'hearer' only. Learning is always accelerated by experience, so those who feel their careers slipping away need to get involved. Start a blog. Build a Web page. Pick up a camera. Play a video game. Get close to young people who are comfortable using technology, and ask questions. Read a book, or better yet, go online and look around for tutorials. They're everywhere. Most of all, don't let fear get in the way. It's only technology. DO something!

-- Some Guy at some website.

BROWN: What up, G. I'm Brown from the Sun. Are you Winslow Cosloy?

THE HAMMER: (offering awkward soul shake) What it is. Yeah, I'm Winslow, but call me The Hammer.

BROWN: Hammer, my editor says you can hook me up, so to speak, with the New Journalism.

THE HAMMER: That's THEE Hammer, dude. And it's Citizen Journalism. (busts out Playstation 2) Let's play The Simpsons: Road Rage 2.

BROWN: What, may I ask, will that achieve?

THE HAMMER: That's what's wack about you MSM types. You're all about, like, what comes next, or why somebody did something! Don't stress it. Just read the board.

(THE HAMMER points out bulletin board which reads:


Next to this is tacked up a picture of Andrew Sullivan with horns drawn onto his forehead and the words BYE QUEER scrawled underneath.)

BROWN: Are we supposed to work these angles into our stories?

THE HAMMER: I dunno. I just like stare at them every morning and then everything just flows. But gaming builds up your journalism muscles! Good eye-hand coordination, son. Like, if I was on the street, and news came around the corner? I would be so on it.

BROWN: So where do we get our information?

THE HAMMER: Check my bookmarks. Dude, sure you don't want to play? When Homer goes "D'oh" it's rilly funny.

(BROWN checks computer)

BROWN: This "Butt Trumpet" guy just seems to link to other bloggers and call people traitors.

THE HAMMER: He's rilly funny. Score! I runned over Moe.

BROWN: Do any of these people do any actual reporting?

THE HAMMER: Butt Trumpet interviewed me once! It was awesome. We talked about Star Wars and what a dick Lucas is. Do you like Jar Jar Binks? I hate him.

BROWN: But I don't understand. If they don't report, and they apparently can't write, then what's the point?

THE HAMMER: (clicking off the game)The point is it's distributed journalism! 'Cause like if you have just one or two old dudes like you, with your lame clothes and no iPod, saying "Blah blah, this is the news," then it's like propaganda. But if you got a thousand dudes like me, totally pimped out with camcorders and digital cameras and Rios, and we're all linking to Glenn Reynolds, that's, like, a revolution.

BROWN: Sounds like a flash mob to me.

THE HAMMER: Flash mob? Oh yeah, my older brother was into that. He's so old. You're, like, even older. You better get out of here, you're getting old-man smell in my house.

(The Hammer later writes about the incident with MUCH INAPPROPRIATE CAPITALIZATION, a picture of Nosferatu with stink lines radiating from his armpits and captioned "Brown from the Sun," and pictures of pretty girls in Eastern European peasant costumes, holding up signs saying BROWN MUST GO! Brown is later replaced at the Sun by JimZ of the Ass Farts blog, who draws salary for weeks without submitting any work, though he writes every day in his blog about what a bunch of assholes he works with at the Sun.)
UNHAPPY IS THE LAND THAT NEEDS A HERO. I see Senator Durbin has finally bowed to political necessity and retracted his perfectly sensible comments of last week.

Some chest-beating types are calling Durbin's retraction a defeat for "the leftie blogosphere," as it has "cut them off at the knees." Because I am a grown man, the forced recantation of a professional vote-grubber does not cut me, particularly, at the knees or anywhere else.

I still assert that Durbin's original remarks are unobjectionable to people who do not misread them, willfully or otherwise. That a sufficient number of people pretended to be offended, and stirred the ill-informed to actual offense, to score a political hit doesn't change that.

Common sense is its own reward.
TRUE DAT: A SUMMER HOLIDAY. I'm watching this AFI "100 Years of Movie Quotes" thing. It's pretty cute, in the usual AFI see-how-fun-we-are-bite-me-Henry-Langlois way, and fifty seconds of White Heat is better than no White Heat at all. But though a few of the stories and a very few of the commentators are interesting (who knew Chris Sarandon was so well-spoken?), it's faintly disgusting to see so many great movies ground down into sound bites, however potent. And of course Top Tennitis is a disease of our age that may not be as harmful as increasingly bold governmental lying, but is all the more distressing to sensitive temperments such as mine for its very puerility, because we imagine that when future generations (if there are any) look back at us, they will be appalled by our great crimes, but they will be contemptuous of our peccadilloes, and it is the contempt that stings. Atrocity, statistic, etc; the oceans of blood spilled in the Terror of the French Revolution are literally awesome, and supercede our capacity for revulsion, but the Carmagnole and the Marriage Federal finger the pit of the stomach.

My natural reaction, of course, is to replicate this nightmare on my own arty-farty terms. Yes, I'm throwing a meme, boys and girls. Head for the hills! Or descend with me into the warm, soothing muck.

The theme is quotes. We all have favorites, but I'm going to pitch this high and inside. I would like to know what your truest quotes are. Let me explain. Some quotes you like because they're poetic or amusing or charming. They sound good to you. Some, though, stick with you because they really reflect your beliefs, and have done so through whatever life experiences you've had.

The true-quotes become obvious when you think about them in that light. You realize that these little scraps of mental paper have become your watchwords, the identifying labels on your ego. To name them is not always a pleasing thing, I have found, because those labels usually floated onto your ego long ago and only stuck because you never cared to brush them off. They have the persistence of habits, and most habits are bad. So they sting to note. But that sting is what makes this such an elevating enterprise! Let me open:

'Tis a terrible thing to be lonesome, but it's far worse to go mixing with the fools of the earth.
-- J. M. Synge, The Playboy of the Western World

A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people.
-- Thomas Mann

For even honest folk may act like sinners
Unless they've had their customary dinners

-- Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera (as translated by Marc Blitzstein)

-- Charles Bukowski, story title

And if you're lonesome, ah-ha... Listen to a friend's Judy Garland album at Carnegie Hall... Big nelly-queen audience, lotta tsuris, lotta dues... her dues, their dues, tell us about the dues... 'Don't worry, we'll sing 'em all and we're gonna stay here all night...' Then came the line that really did me in... "'Cause I never want to go home!" Whew, and they don't wanna go home either... because nobody wants to go back to their room alone... "Ma, gimme a glass of water, 'cause I don't want the water, all I want is the water with your hand attached to glass with your arm attached to the hand and stay there... and don't sneak out, 'cause when you wake up I wanna see you there, and if you stay there I'll drink as much water as you want me to drink." Later.
-- Lenny Bruce, Live at the Curran

Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this end she must come. Make her laugh at that.
-- William Shakespeare, Hamlet

You know talent is an aphrodisiac
They don't stock it on the shelves
Some people say opposites attract
And some people just love themselves

-- Loudon Wainwright III, "Aphrodisiac"

We are living in the future
I'll tell you how I know
I read it in the paper
Fifteen years ago
We're all riding rocket ships
And talking with our minds
We're wearing turquoise jewelry
And standing in soup lines

-- John Prine, "Living In The Future"

If I'd asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse.
-- Henry Ford (almost certainly apocryphal)

It's no longer a world of men, Machine.
-- David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross

I play it the company way
Executive policy is by me O.K.
(How can you get anywhere?) Junior, have no fear,
Whoever the company fires, I will still be here

-- Frank Loesser, "The Company Way" (from How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying)

Man hands misery to man
It deepens like a coastal shelf
Get out as early as you can
And don't have any kids yourself.

-- Philip Larkin, "This Be The Verse"

I don’t wanna have to shout it out
I don’t want my hair to fall out
I don’t wanna be filled with doubt
I don’t wanna be a good boy scout
I don’t wanna have to learn to count
I don’t wanna have the biggest amount
I don’t wanna grow up

-- Tom Waits and K. Brennan, "I Don't Want to Grow Up"

You can't take life too seriously. Otherwise it doesn't pay to live.
-- Joey Ramone, New York Times interview, 1978

The whole world's a circus if you know how to look at it.
-- Charles Beaumont and Ben Hecht, The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao
Excuse me now while I throw myself upon the couch to re-read Reader's Block.

(PS: No invites. All are welcome, in comments or in their own blogs.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

CULTURE CLOWNS: A PROGRESS REPORT. Roger L. Simon -- perhaps dreaming of the day when Victor Davis Hanson and his troops will march boldly into the Ministry of Culture, kick Michael Eisner off his throne, and install Simon as Commissar -- is trying to pump up a new book about how the Hollywood Ten had it coming. Movie attendance is down, gloats Simon; the beast is weak, der Tag is at hand! His readers agree that the "Hwood Communist Party" is headed for the ash-heap of history except for Team Incredibles of the Christ, Batman Begins (with reservations: "Since it's contemporary Hollywood, though, there's nary a kaffiyah, an 'Allah Akbar' nor a fifth-column media figure to be had"), and, oddly, the Coen Brothers -- though this last seems a case of some softhearted comrade trying to sneak personal favorites out of the camps, despite the Coens' lack of Party bona-fides. Is exceptionalism, Comrade!

In idle moments I like to imagine Simon attending a barbecue with his readership. "Waaaaiitt a minute... yew done wrote a movie fer Woody Allen and Bette Midler???" (Grill-tipping, fire-spreading, rebel yells as the Boys light out for Warren Bell's place.)

The McCarthy book itself gets a fuller treatment at "libertarian" (excuse me, I can't say that word without laughing anymore) magazine Reason, where Cathy Young explains that while McCarthyism was a bad thing -- though, perhaps to protect herself from Durbinization, she adds that "it's absurd to treat the blacklist as somehow equivalent to the Soviet purges" -- blacklisting was kinda sorta not so bad because the Communists that got blacklisted (along with a lot of other guys, too, but let's not nitpick) were worse: though they committed no crimes but thought crimes, they said good things about bad people, and their tragic legacy is "today's celebrity radicals" who "blast American policies while ignoring the evil of a Saddam Hussein."

I have addressed this imbecilic point of view back in the old Alicubi days, when Jonah Goldberg and, sadly, Kevin Drum fell (well, Kevin fell, Goldberg just grabbed his knees and cannonballed) into the same fallacy:
Goldberg says that McCarthy was a "lout" but essentially justified because Communist agents were afoot in America. He brushes off the prosecutions, official or otherwise, that disemployed many citizens who had committed no crimes. "When they denounce McCarythism," he writes, "they are working on the clear assumption that McCarthyism victimized only innocent people. That is a lie. And it also a lie that the USA Patriot Act is being used solely to punish innocent people."

This is a breathtaking switcheroo: a complaint against the prosecution of innocents is answered by the fact that some people are not innocent... is interesting that no one much questions another large, unspoken idea here --that being a Communist made one fair game even if no espionage or other crime had taken place. McCarthy's whole schtick was enabled by the notion that there could be such a thing as a thought crime -- that if you thought Marx was right, you could be taken down, whether you collaborated in espionage or merely believed in the widespread redistribution of wealth. Even [Drum], in his generally thoughtful consideration of Goldberg, says, "It is not McCarthyism to accuse a communist of being a communist." It's actually something much worse, because our freedoms aren't worth much if we do not have the right to be wrong.
Hey, that wasn't bad. Maybe I should take a month off and just recycle my greatest hits. But that's hardly a testimony to my own skills; American Constitutional values age very well -- though their enemies, as we have seen, work very hard to sell us on an alternative philosophy.

UPDATE. Comments are, as usual, very interesting (Simon may have the numbers, but alicublog has the guns!), but FMGuru drops some especially sharp science: "[The decline in opening grosses] has everything to do with plasma screens and dumbasses talking on cell phones, and nothing to do with The People rising up against the corrupt Quisling coastal elites... H'wood is one of the most brutally capitalist places in America..." The correct response to this home truth would be "D'uh!" if so many flattery-driven numbskulls were not impervious to common sense. Well, we few remaining thinking people (yes, but I need a majority!) can enjoy it, at least.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

BUILDING A MYSTERY. Reader Chris V pointed out to me this article at the Liberty Film Festival site Libertas , and it's a pleasant surprise. I've had fun with these guys before, but fair is fair and I have to commend Jason Apuzzo for chiding fellow-travellers for "evaluating films exclusively on the basis of their ideological content, or ideological implications." Hear, hear, buy that man a beer!

In fact Apuzzo goes further than I would:
So when my conservative friends know or care to know more about film, or when they know more about the arts in general, then I’ll accept their opining about Star Wars more than I do now. When my conservative friends can tell me who Tyrone Power is, or something about Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, or Wagner’s Ring-cycle, or maybe what the difference is between motion-control and motion-capture … then maybe I’ll be more patient when they fulminate about Jar Jar Binks...
Now I think this is in the right direction but a little too narrow. More knowledge of whatever one is talking about is always a good thing. But do you really have to know Final Cut Pro to judge films?

Well, like the guy in the old joke said, it couldn't hoit. Some critics have learned enough about the process to go out and make their own movies, and the criticism of Fielding and Nabokov is at least as much fun to read as their novels.

But a lot of very fine critics never played the game at all, and have still had useful things to say. So what do they have in common with the critic/creators?

This reminds me of the bit in The Bad and the Beautiful where Kirk Douglas' mogul decides to take over as director of a film from a difficult old von Sternberg type. The old director wonders: does the mogul have the humility to make a film?

That's an interesting word: what kind of humility? The easiest call would be a simple lack of hubris, which the Douglas character has in spades, but given that a lot of fine artists are monsters of ego themselves (so was von Sternberg, come to think of it), I believe the writers might have been thinking of something else. Or maybe only I'm thinking it. Well, here goes in any case:

Anything worth looking at or listening to carries some sort of mystery. Skills get that mystery from a creator's brain to the audience, ideally in decent enough shape to be recognized. But ten tons of skill and a platoon of genii may be employed in a waste of time -- that happens a lot. When Martin Scorsese and the cream of Hollywood make a crap film, what was missing or betrayed? The obscure object, to borrow a phrase.

The thing that makes a piece of work worthwhile is the mystery, but that's doesn't mean an inspired fauve who doesn't know what he's doing can put it over without skills. (Usually.) The talented, trained people who get that thing on the stage or the page or the screen must be good with their tools, but they must also be working to realize the mystery, whether they would think to say so or, as with some hard-bitten old magicians, would rather portray themselves as clock-punchers trying to keep up their pay grade. You see the total absorption of great craftsmen at work: is it all for the money, do you think? Anyone who has worked on a production of any kind knows what it feels like when magic is being made -- or failing to be made. Audiences know it too.

And so do critics. The best of these try to trace the evidence of what is put before them back to the places where it went right, or wrong. To do this, they have to learn about what they're watching or listening to. Some of them get very technical about it -- others, less so. But they all know what they're looking for and will dig through a ton of information to get as close as they can to it, and try like hell to do it justice in the review.

So it's kind of a self-sharpening process. You try to get better at whatever technique you've got in order to give shape to something that is otherwise insubstantial.

This is where humility comes in. When I look at a work of art, I am always hoping for something more than a pleasing agglomeration of whatever materials were used. A pleasing agglomeration would be nice, of course, and often I consider myself lucky to get even that -- and wander the gallery or squint balefully at the screen, grumbling to myself about the decline of standards and so forth.

But sometimes I get much more, enough to lift me out of myself. Whatever garbage I brought with me into the experience gets pushed aside. Suddenly I'm not looking at paint or film or words -- though I might go back later and try to figure out how the hell the guy did it. The mystery has been realized. Whether it was Michael Moore or Jason Apuzzo who had made it, I would happily -- and, I would hope, eloquently if I chose to do it in writing -- doff my hat to him. And if you know me, you know that's humility, baby.

This is where ideologically-minded critics go wrong. They aren't at all interested in the mystery. When I read their poli-sci reviews, I can see that they're trying to assess the impact of the work in question -- as if it were a social program or an economic stimulus package -- on something they are pleased to call The Culture. In that sense, their work is indeed technical, and they often know their own grim metrics very well. But it has nothing to do with humility, or mystery, or art.