Tuesday, September 20, 2005

NOT EVERYONE IS AN IDIOT. "The subway car was hot, smelly, and crowded, and the humidity at street level was so high that I felt as though I were being garrotted by a vicious odalisque in a Turkish bath." -- Terry Teachout.

"Scotland is the most violent place on earth, give or take the Sunni Triangle and Brazil’s prisons. A Scot is 7% more likely to get chibbed than an English person, and 15 times as likely as an Italian. Their Justice Minister blamed the 'booze and blade' culture, though many attacks may simply reflect Scottish people's understandable dislike of each other. Either way, it's a non-problem. If mutually-consenting drunks wish to beat each other to death in the privacy of Edinburgh town centre, that is surely a matter for them." -- Harry Hutton.

"Unlike this guy, I didn't coin the term 'blogosphere,' but I can lay claim to creating the following: The Virgin Ben, Jenna and NotJenna, The 101st Fighting Keyboarders, and America's Worst Mother™ ...which will be my Canticle For Leibowitz when Internet historians under President Dancin' Jack Roberts survey The Great Blogging Paradigm and try to understand why the people of the era never noticed what a wanker Hugh Hewitt was." -- TBogg.

There ain't half been some clever bastards, eh? Garland their sites with patronage.
DUDE, WHERE'S MY LOGIC? Well, Satch, it's Routine 12: An article about a rawknroll type guy with "a flowing mane of hair" who lends his hipster cred to the Republican Party because he imagines they're all about protecting his rights:
...the thrasher’s day job consists of running a string of adult bookstores christened "The Moonlight Readers."

...Contradiction? Hypocrisy? Paone doesn’t see it that way.

“The commies have closed more porno stores from us than the Bible thumpers ever did,” he said authoritatively. “There are people on both sides that want to take away everyone’s fun, whether it’s for the kids or the environment or whatever. They’d have no porn stores and we’d all be riding horse-drawn buggies to work if it were up to them. Still, nobody believes me, but the Republican party really is the party of tolerance these days."
Here's why they don't believe you, dood:
The FBI is joining the Bush administration's War on Porn. And it's looking for a few good agents.

Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director." That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III...
And it's not records of grossly illegal actions, like child porn, the Bureau's after, but explicit pictures of consenting adults, for no other reason than that they're dirty and, like gay marriage, hurt my widdle fambly by their very existence:
...Gonzales endorses the rationale of predecessor [Ed] Meese: that adult pornography is a threat to families and children. Christian conservatives, long skeptical of Gonzales, greeted the pornography initiative with what the Family Research Council called "a growing sense of confidence in our new attorney general."
Since this Paone guy apparently runs a porn business, you'd think he'd be more sensitive to this sort of thing. Unless he's paying off cops and politicians to make sure his joint never winds up on the big list. In fact, this personal endorsement for the GOP might be part of the deal.

Or maybe he's just a dumbass. Yeah, I think that's probably it.

(And wait till the Pandagon anti-obscenity trolls find out that Paone "swears like he’s in a Make-the-Sailor-Blush contest" -- then he'll really be in trouble!)
MORNING MISCELLANY. Here are two variations on Mallard Fillmore to brighten your day. (Next we get Rex Morgan, M.D.!) It is depressing that the rightwing duck gets so much love while my favorites, the Strindbergian Lockhorns, labor in obscurity. Maybe it's time for my monograph.

"E" for effort to Pandagon's Jesse for explaining why he has to use so many cuss words (What the fuck are you talking about? Sorry, couldn't help myself), but he had to know this would induce jackass bombentary and troll incursions. Still, that has beauties of its own:
You're an example of the left wing blogosphere (and journalism) at its worst. Lies, lies and more lies. And if that doesn't work, just throw in some profanity, and you think it makes you sound intellectual.
Yeah, see, that's how we do, all dressed up at our white-and-cheese liberal-intellectual Manhattan parties: "I say Meryl, have you read that new fucking Cormac McCarthy novel? Goddamn, that nihilistic motherfucker can write like your pussy gets tight. More brie?"
[Jesse] Taylor is the blogospheric embodiement of Jenny's angry boyfriend in Forrest Gump.
No, no, buddy, you're thinking of that hippie crook in that "Mannix" episode. Or maybe Andy Robinson in Dirty Harry. Or one of those pear-shaped libruls in Mallard Fillmore -- oh, look, closure! Buh bye!

Monday, September 19, 2005

A DISTURBING DEVELOPMENT. Look, if you're gonna play this game, play it right, okay, guys? At the Roberts hearings, Chuck Schumer engages in an extended analogy about movies:
SCHUMER: ...You agree we should be finding out your philosophy and method of legal reasoning, modesty, stability, but when we try to find out what modesty and stability mean, what your philosophy means, we don't get any answers.

It's as if I asked you: What kind of movies do you like?... You won't name one. Then I ask you if you like "Casablanca," and you respond by saying, "Lots of people like 'Casablanca.'" (laughter)
Eventually Roberts, a good sport, admits to liking Dr. Zhivago and North by Northwest. Ha ha. Fun on the Hill! Break for shitty food, many drinks.

This would be a cue for the humorless Left to step forward, pipe clenched in teeth, to decode these choices for their relevance to Roe v. Wade. (It was LINCOLN'S nostril! Not Jefferson's, Lincoln's! Roll that scene from The Lodger...) That's a gimmee, isn't it? Doesn't Lileks already have that Screed hot and ready in the microwave?

But the gauntlet must have been overly tempting, because noted Fox News film critics Chris Wallace and Bill Kristol have stooped to grab it themselves:
KRISTOL: [Roberts] did great. The only conservative worries I've heard are about Doctor Zhivago. Isn't that kind of a sappy, liberal movie, you know?

WALLACE: It's a little commie.
If you've ever seen Dr. Zhivago, you know the Former Soviet Union comes off very badly in it. Pasternak, the Russian author, suffered mightily for the original novel's success, as was acknowledged by the Pulitzer Prize Committee in 1958. The David Lean film does not transport the action to Fascist Spain. I saw it as a little boy, and thought, oooh, scary bad Russians (and, why are Dr. Zhivago and Lara in bed together? But that's another story).

I fear the blogosphere's many mutton-headed analyses of popular art have emboldened conservatism's more highly-placed operatives to try their own hand at the game. And, sad as these essays are in situ, they sound a lot worse coming out of the lipsticked mouths of blow-dried pundits. They provoke in me not only outrage, but nightmares. I am just now arising sweat-shirted from a bad dream about The McLaughlin Group analyzing WR: Mysteries of the Organism:
McLAUGHLIN: Will this obscure Eastern European film from 1971 lead to the further corruption of America's young -- Tony!

BLANKLEY: Absolootely! This bleedin' porno film is an ahssault on ahhhr Ahmerica mohrals, ahnd no ahmahnt of Hawlywood sawfistry can disghoise it!

CLIFT: Oh, come on, Tony! The villain is a Soviet soldier! He fucks her till her freaking head comes off! I mean, come on!

BUCHANAN: Eleanor, let me just say that her head was not fucked off, it was removed by the steady chopping motion I make with my hand, and that is how we will remove the heads of all you nagging bitches, block by block!

McLAUGHLIN: Prediction! Roy will awaken from this program in a cold sweat, and attempt to caricature that which is already a caricature, and he -- will -- fail! Bah-BYE!
I wake up screaming.
SO LONG, SUCKERS. Roger L. Simon episodically berates organizations such as Amnesty International and the U.N. for not doing enough about genocide, human rights, and all the world's various ills -- e.g., "Will Amnesty [Int'l] defend this real human rights abuse?... Or will they remain, in Orwell's evocative phrase, 'objectively pro-fascist'?" and "The United Nations, which was formed in the wake of genocide... has not nearly done its job [in Darfur], just as it did not in Rwanda. Why? Maybe there just isn't any money it," etc. etc.

But as we see from Simon's favorable notice of TigerHawk's "Genocide and the Free-Rider Problem," Simon believes there's one organization from whom the peoples of the world should not expect such assistance: the United States of America.

TigerHawk is responding to Nicolas Kristof's criticism of our Government's weak anti-genocide stand in the U.N. TH says we have every reason to resist any stated "obligation" to respond to foreign genocides, and offers several, including a desire to avoid "disrespecting international law" (though I think this is meant as a joke). But his main case seems (near as I can figure) to be that such a promise would encourage "free-riding" on the part of other countries, who should go out and solve genocides themselves instead of always bugging us to do so.

Now, this is consistent with TH's general approach (he frankly admitted in '04 that the best reason to invade Iraq* was, "Put simply, after September 11 we had to wreck a country in the Arab world, occupy it, sustain ourselves in that occupation, and never waiver" -- which is arguably psychotic, but not inconsistent).

But I marvel at the support he gets Simon, who often explicitly talks about the necessity of our Iraq imbroglio in human-rights term -- in fact, he has approvingly cited a Darfur-related apologia for the invasion and, more recently, offered advice on how "we" could "help" women retain their rights in the coming Islamic republic of Iraq.

What happened? Bush's second term, I'm guessing. As the battered Administration leaks copious amounts of money, it is becoming clearer that America has two choices -- bugout or bankruptcy -- and Bush may even take both. Even the most full-throated web-warriors are getting ready to re-declare the Mission Accomplished and produce a revival of Saigon '74. America will forget, as usual, and we'll be on to some other debacle.

Remember those palmy days when the Right was mooning over the poor Iraqis and their rape rooms and the necessity, by any means necessary, to save them? And how these friends of Iraq held up purple-ink-stained fingers in "solidarity" with the newly-enfranchised Iraqi people? Did you worry at those times that perhaps you were wrong about the war, howsoever strong the evidence, because their reasons seemed more humane than yours? "Seemed" is the operative word; it was all bullshit.

Not the oppression and exploitation -- those, alas, were all too real, and we may hope that the Iraqis will not long have to accept a life of chaos as their one alternative to a life of fear. I mean the human-rights angle as an excuse, before and after, for war. The advocates' passion for human rights was an expedient that they used to lure suckers; this handy-dandy little war not only fights terrorism, it also promotes human rights! If you were taken in, console yourself that at least you have a good, soft heart, but try not to let yourself be deceived again. [edited for clarity]

*UPDATE. TigerHawk tells me in comments that I misstated his "wreck a country" crack, which I called his best reason for the war. Well, his post was over 6300 words, and not written in such a way as to command unwavering attention. Looking at his original, I now notice that he merely said he liked the idea (out of Thomas Friedman) -- he had other arguments for war, which you can go see for yourself. I certainly don't agree that this "is tantamount to omitting the word 'not' from a quotation and substituting elipses" on my part, but it was sloppy of me. Roger L. Simon remains a tool.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

THE PASSION OF THE PARANORMAL. Everything good is right-wing! Chocolate, baseball, packing peanuts! You know what else? That TV show with Patricia Arquette:
Red Americans feeling underserved by the entertainment industry have less to whine about these days. If they were to stay up Monday nights just an hour past the president's bedtime, they'd find that NBC's hit show "Medium" is giving them a ringing endorsement from the Other Side.
Because they made a joke about the New York Times, and a character referred to a fetus as a person. The medium also seems to approve of the death penalty -- highly unusual for a cop show! Plus it's spiritual, like.
The show isn't heavy-handed, and its one or two conservative gems per episode are easily missed...
...unless you're a culture scold on deadline, and then nothing gets by you.

Next week: how "This Old House" is a hymn to the Ownership Society.
OBJECTIVELY PRO-AHMADINEJAD. Oxblog complains that the Washington Post is too soft on the Iranian Prime Minister. No, really:
The [Post] article is basically a summary of Ahmadinejad's press conference in New York. Even when he says things that are fairly absurd or insulting, you don't get a counterpoint from any of his critics, domestic or foreign.
The headline is "Bush Would Kill for That Kind of Press Coverage."

Demurrers follow; "...when you are a charter member of the Axis of Evil, journalists assume that no one will believe anything you say..." etc. Well, yes. Still, the author says that "any article about the Iranian government should also let us know about the ongoing efforts of the Iranian opposition to stop rampant human rights violations in Iran and bring down the clerical dictatorship." Because, one supposes, people who take the trouble to read a Washington Post back-pager about a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad press conference might not have heard about that.

Still, better safe than sorry, I guess; with all those college kids wearing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad t-shirts and taking summer trips to Iran to help the mullahs stone adulterers, it's imperative that we nip these false impressions right in the bud.

(The author also attempts to make a parallel case of the Post's coverage of Rep. John Lewis. "[Lewis'] status as a 'civil rights icon' ensures that his argument will carry the presumption of truth," he complains. Lewis was Chairman of the SNCC from 1963 to 1966, and a keynote speaker at MLK's March on Washington, which might lead some people to take his thoughts on race seriously, further demonstrating the insidiousness of the liberal media.)

Friday, September 16, 2005

NEXT WEEK: AN AEI CONFERENCE ON SWEET HOME ALABAMA. "STOP READING REVIEWS... of the lovely new Reese Witherspoon movie Just Like Heaven--except mine, which comes out in the Weekly Standard tomorrow -- and just go see it this weekend before the reviewers ruin the movie's extremely clever twist for politically malicious reasons."

Poor John Podhoretz -- God's lonely man, the only honest critic! What a load. Years ago, Podhoretz was the film critic for Rev. Moon's Insight magazine, and his reviews were always accompanied by -- I swear to God -- a little meter that measured each film's political orientation from left to right. When he tells you that other critics are politicized, Podhoretz is merely trying to lead you off the scent.

I, on the other hand, am not a critic but a crank, and politicized up the ass, so I will meanly ruin for you what I'm sure is the cinematic equivalent of horseshit whipped to look like pudding.

** SPOILER ALERT ***

It turns out Reese Witherspoon isn't really dead: though her spirit is full-grown, she's actually a seven-day-old fetus about to be aborted by her cruel mother, played by Susan Sarandon. When Mark Ruffalo attempts to intervene, Sarandon gets Janet Reno to throw him out at gunpoint. Eventually Reese and Mark get Sarandon to change her mind by reading The Purpose-Driven Life to her through the airshaft.

Thus Reese is born, a baby with the soul of a woman, and Mark obligingly saves himself till she's 14, at which point he knocks her up and drives her to a Bible Belt state to get hitched.

Then the little kid goes "Radical!" and the guy goes "Is that your final answer?"

And you know what? Bored couples will still flock to it.
THAT'S THE WAY OF THE WORLD. In the New York Democratic primary this week, Freddy Ferrer was a few votes shy of the 40% he needed to avoid a runoff. His nearest competitor, Anthony Weiner, pre-emptively conceded the runoff to Ferrer. The New York Post -- which oversized GOP Chick-tract has always taken great pleasure in Democratic fractiousness (during the 1984 primaries, the Post ran a front-page picture of Mondale, Jackson and Hart shaking hands with the headline THE BEST OF ENEMIES) -- suddenly began complaining that Weiner and Ferrer were giving New York A KICK IN THE BALLOTS because the law will probably require an expensive runoff anyway. "[It] could cost taxpayers as much as $12 million," marveled the Post.

Since a forced rematch would cost the same amount, and since Ferrer and Weiner are trying to get the runoff stopped, we may assume that the Post's position is that Ferrer and Weiner should be compelled to fight just for the sport of it. (Funny, when Giuliani tried to postpone the 2001 election, the Post was all for it.)

WEINER WEASELS, proclaimed an editorial indistinguishable from the next day's "news" story, BACKERS TO WEINER: QUIT BEING A WEENIE, in which some Queens folks were encouraged to say bad things about Weiner ("His name should be Oscar Meyer").

The Post is considered a comical, almost folkloric species of journalistic fraud -- heh heh, cute little propagandist! Let me ruffle his hair JESUS CHRIST HE BIT MY FINGER OFF. But they are different only in tone, and not by much, from numberless publications (and their little, unpaid brethren in the blogosphere) similarly disposed against truth and good sense.

So when the President makes another passel of promises which, history teaches us, he probably won't keep, it is no shock when the usual gang of idiots runs up and starts dancing around the Leader, waving banners and blowing conch-shells; nor that, when our rock-ribbed conservative President proposes an astonishing outlay of gummint cash (that's our money, fellow libertarian pricks!), the conch-dancers begin talking excitedly about what we're going to -- get this! -- cut from the Federal budget to make up for the cost, which rather reminds me of cave full of vampire bats discussing which sort of soft drink they will buy once they have stopped drinking blood.

Those who find this sort of work overchallenging can always cook up another librul-media scandal -- even if their own transcript shows their charge to be an absurd stretch -- and wait for the sheep to bleat back.

Sometimes this whole gig seems like fire-watch in a land without firemen.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

SHORTER JAMES TARANTO: Black people had better stop trying to make us feel guilty or we shan't have anything to do with them.
SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: This jury duty room is unpleasant and stocked with outdated diversions! I certainly hope my tax cuts aren't paying for this!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

SHORTER JAMES PINKERTON: The mainstream media, which we naturally assumed had been utterly destroyed by a coalition of suburban househusbands, seems to have deceived the public (which had heretofore been crying the names of Volokh and Lileks in the streets of our Republic) into believing their "news." Those bastards have the facts, but we have the arguments; so take courage, brothers and sisters, and continue speaking power to truth.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

MARCH OF THE MORONS. I had thought wingers of a "cultural" persuasion, like kittens with a bit of string, might have tuckered themselves out after weeks of batting around the notion that March of the Penguins is a plea for traditional marriage (for humans, not for penguins). But now that the New York Times has energized the meme with "March of the Conservatives," I'm sure there'll be no holding them, for nothing excites this lot more than acknowledgement by the allegedly-hated MSM.

Of course, some of the quoted operatives are not content to make penguins into monogamy role-models (with the eventual result, one imagines, that mothers will start pushing their strollers over 70 miles of ice and snow to the Walmart), but must press on till the clowns of the Arctic come out Christian:
Ben Hunt, a minister at the 153 House Churches Network, has coordinated trips to the local theater to see the film.

"Some of the circumstances they experienced seemed to parallel those of Christians," he said of the penguins. "The penguin is falling behind, is like some Christians falling behind. The path changes every year, yet they find their way, is like the Holy Spirit."
Someone buy that man a copy of The Gospel According to Peanuts*.

Michael Medved picks up the flag:
"This is the first movie [Christians] have enjoyed since 'The Passion of the Christ.' This is 'The 'Passion of the Penguins.'"
Somewhere an enterprising B-movie producer is trying to convince a young filmmaker that, if he will just allow the ending of his crazed-stalker film to be changed so that the stalker is revealed to be a Christ-figure coming to bear a half-dressed starlet up and out of her life of sin, this baby could be huge

(* or The Gospel According to Popeye. This comes from a Jesus site, by the way, but a very [intentionally] amusing one. And there's my Come On People Now Smile On Your Brother moment for the month, and probably the year.)

Monday, September 12, 2005

VALUE ADD. If you are tempted to read Jane Galt's multi-part contemplation of the problems of poor people, leave me cut you to the chase:
I also don't agree with liberals that money is the answer. Money buys material goods, which are not really the biggest problem that most poor people in America have.
Aren't you glad I pointed this out? You might have wasted whole minutes listening to her on-the-other-handing (poor people gots bad behaviors, but so did I in high school!), and by the time you reached the part where she says poor people aren't poor because they're poor, your eyes might have been too glazed to pick it up.

The fact that I do not demand payment for this service (or put up a "If you like the site help me keep on blogging!" begging bowl, which I guess is the Objectivist approach), shows that I am mired in a poverty mentality and will never amount to anything.

UPDATE. PZ Myers plays Bert Brecht to my John Gay.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

GREETINGS FROM OUR NATION'S CAPITAL. Just a short note from a hotel computer to apologize for my AWOL status. My testing has been rigorous this time out, and I am short of free time as well as funds, so I spend my downtime drinking cheap grocery beer, obsessively flipping through the free cable*, and reading the local papers. The WashTimes is still a Republican president's best friend, and has picked up its blogbrethren's trick of defending Bush by finding a wacko webpost from the Left and waving it like Exhibit A. My few cursory scans of the newish DC Examiner have been inconclusive; other people have had trouble with them, and I was kind of puzzled by this softball article on Scientology in the Faith section of today's paper (do they maintain this same politely-nodding tone when they describe voodoo rituals and Black Masses?), but the makeup's good and it's free, so what the hell.

I'm staying in Georgetown, which is getting on my nerves more than usual. Maybe the more gentrified my own hometown gets, the greater is my tendency to look at überYups like the G-town crew as the responsible plague carriers. Or maybe I'm just sick of pastels. The last time I saw this much pink, violet, and pearls was at a Douglas Sirk film festival. Of course, I'm walking around this Arcadia in a filthy t-shirt and jeans with visible needle marks on my arms, and that tends to raise my alienation levels somewhat.

* I finally saw an episode of Rome. Are the main characters always this unpleasant? Were I blessed with cable at home, I don't know how often I would be compelled to return to watch scumbags duke it out for the title of chief scumbag. Maybe it'll wind up as a saga, and we can watch Christianity fatally weaken the empire. Of course, if I wanted to see that, I could just watch the news.

OH YEAH: I finally got a good review. I knew they'd come around if I just sulked long enough. That's how Monty Clift did it.

DOUBLE OH YEAH: Do you think Volokh or somebody bet him that he couldn't work "poor people are fat" into a Katrina post?

AND ANOTHER THING: I did get to a few museums -- the ones that are free, anyway. Where has William Beckman's Diana IV been all my life? (At the Hirschorn, it seems.) It's one of the best nudes I've ever seen, as strong and supple as a tree. The Hirschorn also has some DeKooning women, and I was surprised to notice that the more I see of these, the more I like them. The little gates of teeth he throws in used to creep me out, but now I think of them as a recurring joke: here, I'll get you started -- this is where the mouth is; now put whatever other distinguishing characteristics you like on this great splash of pink. And that'll be your "woman." Also: first time at the Renwick -- very lovely, but if that's really how they used to hang salon shows, no wonder painters drank.

Monday, September 05, 2005

SWAMP FEVER. New Orleans means this to a guy calling himself Proteus: he and his buddies are great – though he says he’s embarrassed to admit it (at nearly 7,000 words’ length) -- and people he doesn’t like are pink. Like bunnies. Or sheep. It’s a little confusing. He also talks about shooting people and kicking ass.

After we drain New Orleans, can we please drain the blogosphere?
SERVICE ADVISORY. Posting will be infrequent (yes, again) while I take my yearly "medical vacation" at the National Institutes of Health. In between CAT scans and MRIs I will wander the streets in a daze. Anyone who knows DC bars where a tab is allowed should leave a note in comments.
I’M RELEASING YOU ALL TO A GARBAGE BARGE WHERE YOU WILL BARE-KNUCKLE-BOX TILL ONE OF YOU EMERGES AS KING OF YOUR FLOATING HELL. I have spent hours reading about the Gulf disaster online. I am applying to FEMA for compensation. It was a waste of time.

Some sites have been great about pointing readers to informed sources. And many of the informed sources are actually informative.

But in general the weblog coverage of the Gulf disaster has been a festival of imbecilism unchained -- as if a levee broke in the id of every idiot with access to an internet connection. I have seen the flood's horrific aftermath blamed on unwed mothers, a scarcity of guns in New Orleans (great, then we could have had Thunderdome even without the hurricane!), and, of course, on New Orleans itself, and black people in general.

I have seen the blogbrethren exploit the event as yet another Advantage: Blogosphere! moment. So what did I get from this blogosphere that I couldn't have gotten from newspapers and television? A bunch of extra horror stories (including bogus reports of cannibalism), and more names of people to blame, most of them pulled, it would appear, from the tipsheets of political operatives.

I have my own ideas about who to blame – mainly, myself and all my fellow citizens for going along, passively or actively, with the cruel gag that the government that governs best governs least for the past 20-odd years – but for now I can’t stand to be part of the noise. Instead I direct you to this miserable defense of bullshit libertarianism against its obvious consequences. If that doesn’t make you sick without my enlightened commentary, I can’t guess what would.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS. There's a good reason I haven't written about the floods: I have nothing meaningful to say about them. Neither does just about anyone else who is not on the scene -- and neither do even many who are.

Maudlin crap has been the order of the day. Even Peggy Noonan disappoints. You'd think Full-Blown Lunatic + Apocalyptic Event would = Stem-Winding Strangeness. But her flood column sounds like a condolence memo from a public relations executive.

I only recently visited New Orleans, fell hard for it, know people from there, feel sick at the loss. But with such grief now available by the truckload, I expect breastbeating and pontification means a lot less than, say, a donation to the Red Cross.

It all reminds me of a story Bennett Cerf used to tell of a cub reporter who happened to be in Johnstown, PA in 1889 for some minor assignment when the celebrated flood hit. His editor breathlessly waited for this young tyro -- his only reporter in the city! -- to file his first wire copy. The kid began, "God looks down upon a desolate Johnstown tonight..." The editor immediately wired back, "Forget flood. Interview God. Rush photos."

Things are horrible enough. Bad writing just makes it worse.

UPDATE. On the other hand, some observations are worth noting.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

HE SAYS IT LIKE IT'S A BAD THING: "Other 1990s films that apparently couldn’t get made today include The Siege, The Peacemaker, and True Lies." -- Jonah Goldberg.

Don't bother with the rest of the column, which is one of those rightwing evergreens about how Hollywood Hates America. I used to think this was the one topic on which Goldberg was nearly sane. I guess when he said "I get squeamish when people talk about 'conservative movies,'" he meant that he was afraid the schtick would get so overused that he couldn't milk it himself whenever he had nothing else to talk about. But as we have seen, for conservatives some jokes never get old.
SHORTER JAMES LILEKS: The suburbs are America, and the cities are -- well, you know.

(Postscript: in his tireless and irrationally aggrieved support of majority tastes, I suggest that Lileks is the new Chum Frink.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

PSSST, MEESTER! WANT GIRL? I have had a team of experts inspect this thing, and I don't think it's meant as a joke. OpinionJournal was apparently so tickled to find a Russky playwright who would say harsh, yet poetical, things about Communism that they affected not to notice the strong odor of hashish and spooge emanating from his manuscript:
All across the country, a plethora of beautiful girls has sprung up.

With bared midriffs and piercings, they are outwardly very like one another. In fact, there is an immense gulf dividing this throng of beauties. One group is astoundingly uneducated; their lives consist of nightclubs, concerts and narcotics. The other (and these are many) is just the opposite. They are highly educated, and have plunged rapturously into the ocean of literature now being published in Russia--those famous books by which the world lived in the 20th century and which have only now come to us. These women study with merciless obstinacy, hours and hours every day. Each knows several languages. In spite of their youth, they have already visited the great capitals of Europe, as if realizing the dream (so recently unattainable) of their grandmothers and grandfathers.
Bared midriffs! Piercings! Merciless obstinacy! Comrades, perestroika has brought a newer, more exciting class of The Wooman -- and, when they won't fuck us, others who are all doped up. But wait, the author informs us, there's more!
There is yet another amazing group among our new youth. Their fate, as a rule, was chosen by their parents, themselves generally former athletes. Therefore, they correctly recognized the value of a very small ball which very quickly helped their Cinderella daughters turn into real princesses.
You like Sharapova? You like Kournikova? In Russia we have many girls like this!

This fever dream meanders (or was perhaps guided by a cautious editor, as a drunk may be diverted by a friend from a plunge into the river) toward an appreciation of women's rights. During decades of Commie lip-service to feminism, "Party leaders lived meekly with their ugly old wives who never appeared in public" (nor played tennis, nor pierced their navels). With perestroika came true equality, rich businesswomen, and the new race of superchicks. As for the "thousands of prostitutes currently filling the cities of Russia," that regrettable exchange of sex for money cannot be attributed to capitalism, but to "the 70-year exile of God from the country, a land where only airplanes remained in the heavens." Market forces, you see, only create glamorous sex.

The author, as mentioned, is a playwright, and so even in his delirium retains a feel for stucture and literary payoff: the piece closes with an important character revelation -- the whole fantasy has been aroused by his Proustian observation of feminine beauty at his own reading:
Recently, I witnessed something now possible only in Russia. I completed a book on the great and enigmatic Russian emperor Alexander II and decided to speak about the book at one of Moscow's largest auditoriums, the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, seating 1,500 people. Orchestra tickets cost $50 apiece. This is a large sum of money in Russia, yet the hall was filled to bursting. Eighty percent of the public was young, for the most part young girls. The evening was recorded and replayed on TV over three days. The ecstatic cameraman repeatedly cut to the faces of the lovely young women in the audience who, for over three hours, listened in rapt silence to a tale of the history of their Fatherland. This new generation of women promises to become the most successful in Russia's history.
The money shot and mystery solved! Young girls, with funds enough to get into a concert hall, and beauty enough to incite cameramen to ecstasy, and brains enough to be held in rapture by the author for three hours!

Light of my life, fire of my loins, who wouldn't go nuts? I don't whether to laugh or go beat off to Birthday Girl.

Monday, August 29, 2005

DEATH OF IRONY, PART 769,199. Oh brother:
Atrios’s blogsite is full of this kind of stuff. In general, he has a hard time completing a sentence without name calling.
One sentence later:
Duncan Black is an angry, walking intolerance machine.
They don't make intellectuals like they used to.
ONLY NOON ON MONDAY, BUT WE JUST MIGHT BE ABLE TO CLOSE THE "ASSHOLE OF THE WEEK" COMPETITION EARLY. National Review's "The Buzz" has infilitrated Camp Casey and posts exclusive photos of Cindy Sheehan smiling and relaxing, proving that the traitor MSM is covering up for the traitor Sheehan:
Most of the photos I have seen in the media today reflect the moment where Sheehan was crying. I do think this is somewhat misleading. While she is certainly entitled to her grief, most of the scene was quite jovial, which is not reflected in the mainstream media’s coverage. I’m not denying Ms. Sheehan her right to a cathartic moment, merely bringing you the full story and facts from the ground.
And I'll bet the traitor Pulitzer Prize committee won't even give this guy a nod, that's how treasonous they are.

Jesus Christ. Someone's taking the short bus to J-school.

Friday, August 26, 2005

IT'S A LIVING. Well, here's another Hollywood Republican who says he can't get a break. He admits he has "made a good living in Hollywood," but he is forced to hear all kinds of nonsense from his liberal studio overlords, and that steals the savor from his salt. Commissioned to write "a bio-pic about a very famous Republican talk-show host" (!), he gets flak for his fair-minded portrayal. Other assignments go similarly. He begins to develop a reputation for being "difficult"...
If you are known as difficult in Hollywood, You... Do...Not...Work. Exit parnassah.

My agent, a wonderful woman, told me, “Just do what they want and walk. It’s only a movie.”

Every day, I step into my office and write the words to the script. Every night, I go to bed and repeat to myself the mantra “It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie.” So why is that I cannot sleep — have not, in fact, been able to sleep for weeks and weeks?
I know how it is, bro. In my corporate writing practice, I have encountered many such indignities. Check out my first-person testimonial:
"Edroso, your copy describes our product as 'better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.'"

"Well, it is, isn't it?"

"That's not how you sell hand cream."

"But your hand cream feels like salad oil and smells like moose pee. Don't you people care about the truth?"
In the end I capitulated. After all, as my creditors always tell me, it's only collateral marketing material. Yet each night my bed burns, and the faces of Tolstoy and Orwell loom out of the blackness, and gaze upon me with contempt. I think Arthur Koestler actually spit at me the other night.

I don't know why these people think that, just because they pay you, they get to decide what you write. What do they expect me to do, go work for somebody else?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

BASE MOTIVES. KJ Lopez hears about alleged (i.e., Drudge-reported) anti-war protests at Walter Reed and seethes: "Have you ever been so disgusted?"

Then she hears that the famous military hospital is actually being closed down by a federal commission -- the same one that did Joe Lieberman a solid by exempting New London from the bloodletting -- and sighs that it's a "bad p.r. move." Protesting outside a place is apparently worse than shutting it down, in Bizarro World at least.

Meanwhile the Crazy Jesus Lady, her mind now a melange of old MGM movies and Reagan feet, pretends to be a Shirley Temple talking to Old Mr. Government -- not a bad man, just cranky, played by Lionel Barrymore -- and says, with her finger in her mouth, goodness gwacious, what if those bad dusky men take pictures of St. Patrick's again, and I'm too busy tap-dancing to make faces at them? Amewica will be in bad, bad twouble!

I'll actually be out at the NIH in a few weeks, on one of my medical vacations. I imagine the folks there feel about the Walter Reed closing pretty much what they feel about all the cost-cutting that's been going on in our federal health services lately. But hey, I'll tell 'em, at least you don't have any damn hippies!
IT DEPENDS ON WHAT YOUR DEFINITION OF THE WORD 'BULLSHIT' IS. And I thought it was hard to be a law perfesser:
After ranting near incoherence all day, one of the commenters finally expressed himself in a way that gave me a clue what was pissing him off so bad. He read the phrase "a further good has been created" to mean that I thought that it's worth it that the man died, because a higher good had been created, offsetting the death, as a sort of crude utilitarian observation. The phrase "a further good" just means there is a second good thing that has resulted, not that the good made it worth killing an innocent man, as if I would have, if I knew in advance what was happening, authorized shooting the man in order to produce the good! That's quite a bizarre misreading, but I'm spelling it out in case you happen to be reading it that way. Why would I say such a thing? Before posting and ranting based on such a misreading, you ought to stop and consider whether I would say something so absurd. Or do you think making a hasty judgment and acting with hostility is good way to act? Because that would be a tad hypocritical.
IOW: I couldn't have possibly meant what I said because why would I say such a thing?

Like Perfesser Volokh's recent treatise on homosexual recruitment, this reminds us that while any thug can just beat up common sense, it takes a law perfesser to parse it into carpaccio.

Of course, the head of the guild, the Ole Perfesser hisself, should immediately start spending eternity in a T-group for suburban gearheads, preferably in some plutonium-lined tank where their "So, how does oppressive liberal regulation affect your rig, Zeke?" bullshit cannot contaminate the general discourse.
IRAQ, THE MUSICAL! While they work on the constitution in Iraq, local operatives work on the spin: sources high and low compare the Baghdad fracas to the actions of our own Founding Fathers. This sounds like a good basis for a musical: 2005!

(The Iraqi President appears center stage.)

JALAL: Good Allah, I have had this Congress! If Mohammed could move a mountain, why can't we write a bloody Constitution?

CHORUS OF REPRESENTATIVES: Sit down, Jal! Sit down, Jal!
For Allah's sake sit down!
Jal, you look like hell!
Duck, here comes a shell!
The Green Zone will soon be blown
to bits.

JALAL: I say vote yes, vote yes,
Vote for this democracy!

CHORUS: The Kurd says "Can Do!"
But Sunni gets blue.
Will al-Sadr be coming here?
Let's flee!

(They leave the stage as JALAL converses with his wife.)

JALAL: Ah, Nisreen, what am I to do? I may have to put a burka on you and all Iraqi women for the good of our country.

NISREEN: Fuck that noise! Today I met with three French engineers who were ready to buy us a house on the Riviera for one lousy contract. You think I dodged assassins' bullets just to go back to playing the hick?

(sings)

I'm living like a princess now here in Public Works
I will not hide under a cowl for any Sunni jerks
I'm dining off fine china and my trainer's got me fit
Our home has indoor plumbing and it doesn't smell like shit
I'm gone so very modern --

(lifts skirt)

JALAL: (sings) Oh no! You've pierced your clit! (speaks) Get a grip, Nisreen! Our American advisors were very clear: if you want to run a modern democracy, you've got to act like a rube! Tomorrow I go back to Kirkuk to clear some sagebrush -- whatever that is -- and meet with some priests to talk a lot of shit about Islam. You do your part -- go get a burka and have your picture taken with some cows!

NISREEN: Fuck you!

JALAL: Burka!

NISREEN: Prada!

JALAL: Burka!

NISREEN: Prada!

JALAL: Burka!

NISREEN: (sighs) Done, Jalal.

JALAL: Oh, Nisreen, how I long to rim your juicy asshole.

NISREEN: And how I love your pet name for it -- "Facing Mecca!"

(They both laugh)

JALAL and NISREEN: (sing) Till then, till then,
Things remain, and ever shall be,
Fixed, fixed, fixed.

All the other songs fall into place: "He Makes the IED" ("and it blows off part of my knee"), "The Bomb" ("We're waiting for the tick, tick, tick, of democracy exploding"), and "Crude to Petrol to Gas." I smell Tony!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

SHORTER EUGENE VOLOKH: Say it! Say it! Say you fags are trying to recruit! (more strongly applies logical chokehold)

Next week: how come they get to call each other "nigger" and we can't?

Here is where the nonsense starts. It includes tables. Jesus. Maybe this sort of thing comes from premature exposure to debating societies.
APPLAUSE, APPLAUSE. Thanks to all who expressed interest in my theatrical endeavor. I have thus far received two reviews: one calls my performance "strangely flat," while the other insists it is "grating rather than ingratiating." Of course both these things are frequently said of me offstage as well, so the critics are inadvertently paying tribute to my naturalism. In any case, I think their judgement may have been colored by my rejection of their sexual advances in the theatre's men's room.

I tell ya, despite all the makeup and hairspray, the stage ain't for sissies.
SIDESHOW. Ann Althouse:
Should Democrats bring back the Vietnam era anti-war imagery, with folksinging gatherings and get-out-now rhetoric? I can understand wanting to express yourself that way if that's what you feel, but you know it didn't win elections back then. There were some intense events, like the Democratic Convention of 1968, but then Nixon got elected.
And yet the U.S. eventually wound up bugging out of Vietnam without a trophy anyway. While some still blame this on Democratic treason, the choppers retreated from Saigon on the watch of President Gerald Ford.

It seems not to have occurred to Professor Althouse that for the most part the anti-Vietnam movement was not first and foremost a Democratic Party strategy, though a lot of protestors stormed that Party's weakened gates as a tactic. As things worked out, the War collapsed of its own weight without the intervention of President McGovern or his champions. That some longhairs who had hoped for that result stuck around to build careers within the Democratic Party just shows that the allure of politics for bright young things in the right place at the right time is eternal.

That's probably how things are going to work this time around, too. Chuck Hagel, no statesman he, is just getting an early seat on what he perceives to be a bandwagon. Sooner or later, non-statesmen of either party will probably get with it, too. The War was good politics when War President Bush was heading the ticket, but there are already plenty other fish getting fried in the run-up to 2006 and 2008, and whatever bloggers may bellow, the guys who want to get elected have their eyes on the main chance rather than any nation-building escapade. (Hillary Clinton's rightward lean on the issue is the same sort of gamesmanship, practiced by the leading candidate of a Party that has been comically labelled anti-war.)

The folks at Camp Sheehan are, for all their good intentions, players in a sideshow. Power holds the main stage, as it always has. Why do you think Joan Baez is getting headlines out of this? She's got name recognition. She knows it, the reporters know it. The stories get thrown out there, and bloggers snatch and raise them in their teeth, baying through the shredded newsprint that Democrats are smelly old hippies that you should have nothing to do with.

The blogdogs are pleased, their audiences are pleased -- for a while. Public relations is all very fine, but our citizens' current war fatigue probably has less to do with poor Cindy Sheehan, or with any imagined plot by MSM reporters to deny the public the happy-puppy Iraq stories war boosters demand, or with (it is almost embarrassing to say) anything a stupid blog can accomplish, than with a human, not to say American, nose of our people for a con job.

It is not a very sharp nose, not quick to offense, but once its nostrils are disturbed, antipathy kicks in fast. As the Backstreet Boys and Menudo could only glitter at the summit of fame for a moment, however protracted, so the Iraq War, in its disastrous third season, has seen its Q rating suddenly plummet. Well-lit fakes can only hold our people's attention for a while; then comes the puzzled look into the chest of drawers -- did I really buy a T-shirt bearing this tawdry image? Off it goes to the Salvation Army or the dump. And the politicians see the ashcans being emptied, and take notes.

We talk about the War as a crucial event, and of course it is. But the way things work, your reason, your cause, your snark, your cri de coeur, your blog post is just another yelp from the balcony. Back on the main stage -- not even on it, but behind it -- the real work is being done, and the real money is changing hands.

Monday, August 22, 2005

BUT I THOUGHT SHE WAS GOING TO WIND UP WITH THAT RICH SNOB! Saw two of the summer hits this weekend -- Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I understand the good reviews each has received, but I think both films are getting graded on the curve.

There's great stuff in both pictures. I love the way the "Shout" medley in Crashers encapsulates both the animal joy and the depressing childishness of the crasher schtick; the pursuit looks exhilarating, and the sex looks tiresome, which is of course absolutely right for the characters and the movie. And Steve Carell's Virgin is a brilliant creation:­ an overgrown boy with all the enthusiasm, likeability, and nervous stares of incomprehension pertaining thereunto. When I saw these, I was fascinated: could it all go this quickly and surely?

Alas, no. Both movies drag in the middle, with occasional jet-blasts of schtick to revive the viewer, instead of tight plotting to guide him or her to the inevitable happy endings. No matter how well-played, the sex-starved and/or humorously foul-mouthed older people, horny temptresses, devious richies, stoners with hearts of gold, etc., are such glaring and antique contrivances that I would have to be in a ridiculously good mood to shake them off. And I am rarely in that good a mood.

Worse still, I'm sorry to say, are the allegedly adorable love interests. In Being John Malkovitch Catherine Keener's character is a delightful surprise; in Virgin the woman Keeler plays is earthy, quirky, and sweet ­-- that is, a compilation of descriptive terms for the Catherine Keener persona, all of which I adore, but which add up to considerably less than a character.

I think the movies get over on the acting (Wilson and Vaughn especially benefit from having a real love affair to play), and on the general perception that they are "sweet" -- i.e., despite the grotesqueries and nude bodies lying about, these entertainment machines are gonna make you feel good about life and love. Yes, we are all terrible, terrible people and we want to experience vicarious redemption, even if we need the Rappin' Grandma to help us along. Well, for my part, I dislike being prodded and goaded into vicarious redemption. I have nothing against sweetness, but after three plus hours of Hallmark sentiment with dirty words scrawled around the margins, I really wanted to watch some Billy Wilder. That's sweet too, but considerably more substantial.

OK, I'll shove the crayon back up my nose now.

(Update: fixd stupid spellin misteak)