Friday, March 31, 2006

WHAT, ME WEIMAR? Today at NRO Elizabeth Fisher makes culture war on... Dadaism. You might have thought that this antique movement, whether or not you find any potency left in it, was all just good fun and sometimes good art. Wachet auf! For Fisher, Western Civ's wounds bleed afresh every time you enjoy a Max Ernst collage. Behold Dada's dark agenda:
What Dadaism represents is the origins of 21st-century moral relativism.

If a work can be called “art” simply because its author claims it to be such, then there is no such thing as art. If anything can be art, then nothing is. And this principle has a broader application: If anything can be true (or moral, good, right, etc.), then nothing is. Rather than a servant to society, the artist has become a spoiled child, creating arbitrary distinctions that only he can decipher. Dadaists, the original brats, considered their audience only as a group to be shocked or irritated. Dadaists do not deserve to be called artists; at best, they are propagandists, but more accurately, exhibitionists.
Nothing quite matches the hilarity of one of NRO's professional anaesthetes calling anyone else "propagandists," but that Duchamp's urinal is the wellspring of her rage is also very rich.

We've well noted here the tendency of the Right's vulgarians to reduce art to propaganda for whatever crack-brained school of conservative bullshit they favor. On the low end we have of course the South Park Republicans, who think farting loudly is an identification of political affinity. Fisher seems to be of a more high-minded sort -- that is, instead of Cletus in a beret, we have Brandine in a Roman toga, shouting "Van-eetus, Cletus!" and blaming renegade art, and enjoyment thereof, for our great Slouch Toward Gomorrah.

Don't wear yourself out too much laughing. When they start talking like this, you know what the next step is.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

SHORTER PEGGY NOONAN: The suckers have caught on to our bullshit! Lie harder!
HOW TO READ JEFF GOLDSTEIN. I guess the Shorter Goldstein in this case (as in so many others) would be "I'm not nuts, you're nuts." (Use Albert Brooks' reading in Real Life for the full effect, or affect.)

To bring you up to speed, Goldstein's first response to news of a possible Al Qaeda bio-attack plan was (his creative linking seems to indicate) righteous anger at the possibility that British foreign secretary Jack Straw might honor a Muslim cricket player.

But his central theme, my team of rant-parsers has determined, was that the civilized world faces real dangers, and that we should make clear to the Islamofascists that, regarding bio-war attacks, we would with "NO options of[f] the table" "do everything we need to do to prevent them before they happen." (Italics and random capitalization Goldstein's, of course.)

I don't find this too unreasonable -- by the excitable Goldstein's usual standards, it's practically a lullaby -- but Tbogg caught the hysterical tone and mocked it.

Well, to each his own. But Goldstein's response helps explain why Tbogg, and so many of us these days, can't resist teasing the guy: because he often reacts in such an amusing way:
...[Tbogg] and his fellow Iraq war critics have started to pretend that the threat from al Qaeda doesn’t exist, and instead spend the majority of their time poking their sticks into the sides of those who aren’t quite so sanguine about al Qaeda’s intentions.
This is almost plaintive: Goldstein only wants to save America, why are we making fun of him? Maybe Goldstein noticed that, too, and quickly butched back up to the belligerent sophistry that is his stock in trade:
Of course, the irony here is that you’d think this would work the other way around: the Bush Kultists, so confident in their flight-suited superhero’s power to cowboy up and protect us all from harm with his nuclear-strapped utility belt and army of super soldiers, would fear nothing from the feeble and impotent robed bluster of a tiny network of bearded hyper-fundamentalist Islamist cranks.
Goldstein, bless him, is channeling Kipling: It's Dubya this, and Dubya that, and "Dubya, you're on drugs!"/ But it's "Mr. Bush will save us" when Al Qaeda sprays th' bugs!

He portrays the liberal point of view with a quote: "hell, when that man says he’s gonna invade a country, by God he does it—none of this feckless, furrow-browed Jimmy Carter bullshit!" Attribution is missing -- maybe it's Joe Lieberman?

It goes on and on like this, one delirium tremen following another. The gist seems to be that liberals like Tbogg don't have a sophisticated, italicized germ-warfare plan -- "Hey, I can understand that," says Goldstein, "Sometimes children like to close their eyes and go to their happy place."

As it happens, I have a germ warfare plan every bit as interesting and useful as Goldstein's. I plan to run out among the screaming hordes, grab the most attractive woman I can find, and tell her, "It's now or never, baby! Let's die smiling!" I will repeat as needed. If I don't find a taker by the time the spores reach me, I'll start beating off, and try to keep it going until my lungs dissolve.

I have now done just as much to "inspire confidence in the seriousness of a good portion of our electorate" as has Jeff Goldstein. And in this instance I also managed to refer to my cock before he did!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

WE CAN BE HEROES, JUST FOR ONE DAY. Via Atrios and Blogoland, I see that Hugh Hewitt believes he's on the front lines of the War on Terror because he sometimes visits the Empire State Building -- and compares his own valour favorably to that of a Time correspondent newly back from the actual Iraq.

I lived in New York during both the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center attacks. I live here still. Where do I go to get my Purple Heart and military pension? 'Cause if the Minnesotan Hewitt is a combatant, I must be a Colonel at least.

CORREX. Apparently Hewitt lives in California, not the Land o' Lakes. Due to his frequent guesting of Lileks I assumed he lived down the road from Jasperwood, where they and the Big Swede and the Old Dutch and the Little Egypt hung out every Saturday night, consulting with cigars and negotiating with artisanal spirituous beverages.

So maybe Hewitt's danger pay is earned in border watch over the Reconquistadores. Now I see him suspiciously eyeing the gardener. Does he really need all that fertilizer to keep the hydrangea blooming?
DESTRUCTIVE CRITICISM. As Ann Althouse might say, watching whole movies is a big drag! Why not just watch the trailers -- and then (this is the bloggy part) write reviews of them?
The trailer for the new Flight 93 movie is out. Feel free to comment on it below.

The trailer looks fine, and I very much like the way it ends, with one of the passengers saying - with respect to their impending bull-rush on the terrorists: "We have to do it now, because we know what happens if we just sit here and do nothing."
Yes, it's Jason Apuzzo, veteran poster- and trailer-reviewer. He approves the trailer, but pans lead actor Charlie Sheen -- not for his performance in the film (which Apuzzo hasn't seen it and says he doesn't want to see) but for his comments on 9/11.

In wingnut land this is what they "cultural criticism." Usually I assume these guys don't even know what culture is, but today I think they know what culture is, despise it for its humanizing properties, and want to make us all hate and avoid it, and flock instead to their propaganda and uplift (still in production, but I understand Warren Bell has optioned several Chick Tracts). What do you guys think?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

BEING A SPORT. This, from the Tenement Museum, is awfully sweet. Nothing against the musical bits, but I've turned them off so I can just listen to New York (actually, an incredible simulation!) at my desk.

I especially like the kids in the playground. I've lived adjacent to New York public school playgrounds a few times in my life -- I live near one now. It's nice to start your day with a warm breeze of glee coming in the window.

If I were living away from New York, I think hearing these sounds would give me a terrible pang. Maybe for people in that position, the Museum should offer obnoxious alternative sounds -- like tofu-bucket drummers in the subway, or these guys -- to make you glad you left. I'd probably still feel a pang anyway. (Thanks, Flavorpill NYC.)

P.S. I don't usually tell you about fun web things like this because I'm a miserable son of a bitch.
GENE, GENE, YOU'RE YOUNG AND ALIVE. Last night PBS ran the Ric Burns/Arthur & Barbara Gelb documentary on Eugene O'Neill. I think it's a little thin. Of course, considering the great mass of O'Neill's output, and of his definitive biography (also written by the Gelbs and filling two fat volumes), maybe any film shorter than Strange Interlude would have seemed so to me.

But I really think this one is more reductive than it needed to be. It's very long on the O'Neill mystique -- the dreamy kid, the hophead mom, the sea, the suicidal despair -- with phrases like "for Jamie, it was a sentence of death" and "back to the seedy rotgut saloon of Jimmy the Priest's" pronounced sonorously over ghostly daguerreotypes and fuzzy pictures of bare trees.

I'm all about the poets maudit, but this is laying it on a little thick. O'Neill was indeed miserable, but so miserable that he's sort of hilarious. The young-O'Neill Gelb book, Son and Playwright, is full of can-you-top-this stuff like Eugene drinking his own urine out of a bourbon bottle -- hardcore, man! Even after the drinking stopped, you get scenes like (in Son and Artist) Carlotta standing over a crumpled, Parkinsonian O'Neill in the snow and declaiming, "How the mighty have fallen! Where's your greatness now, little man?"

Neither of these anecdotes are recounted in the documentary. Nor is the one about Russell Crouse begging O'Neill to shorten Ah, Wilderness! because, with star George M. Cohan's added stage business, the "comedy" was running so long the stagehands were getting overtime every night. (O'Neill's solution: cut one of the intermissions.) O'Neill was important and gloomy but he was also a man of the theatre, and he had a sense of humor.

Anyway, as must naturally happen in a telling thus weighted, Long Day's Journey Into Night becomes the documentary's centerpiece, framing device, and leitmotif. The framing guides us toward a defining paradox: that after all those strenuously expressionistic plays and Pulitzer Prizes, O'Neill's greatest work was in one sense his least ambitious -- a distilled essence of his life in New London with his mother, father, and brother, and of the pain that was born there and only died when O'Neill did, that came out of his soul as naturally as sap runs from a tree once he found the courage to release it.

There is a noxious hint of the therapeutic in this analysis. Long Day's Journey is certainly an artistic triumph. (Anyone who has never read it should go read it now. Really, it's an emergency.) I'm sure it was also a personal triumph for O'Neill, in a way, but so what? I'm as interested in the real O'Neill as anyone, but centuries hence, we can't expect program notes about Gene's hard luck to convince Romulan ZD75 and his wife Zebop that Long Day's Journey is worth watching. The play will have to make its own case -- and probably will.

I was also bugged at the implication that the ghosts of O'Neill's past were also the agents of his apotheosis into a real artist. More than one commentator suggests that if not for that play, we might not be bothering with O'Neill at all now.

I don't know about that. It's true that the appeal of plays like The Great God Brown and Mourning Becomes Electra will never be as universal as that of O'Neill's family drama, partly because of its amazing craft, but partly and maybe mostly because it is a family drama. As one of the commentators says, whatever kind of family you have, you can still see yourself in it: cataclysmic as the lives of the Tyrones are, they are also the lives of a father and a mother, a husband and a wife, and sons and brothers. Long Day's Journey got a head-start on "lasting" fame (at this writing, 50 years and counting) in part because it was written -- we must assume unconsciously -- in a form that would become familiar to and beloved of all Americans: that of a TV sitcom. If the language and emotions are a little elevated for modern audiences, they can still relate to the arguments between Archie and Meathead -- I mean Tyrone and Jamie.

Most of O'Neill's other plays are much harder to get to. They are conscious (not to say self-conscious) attempts to recreate ancient tragic forms in American vernacular. To enjoy them you have to have some taste for the declamatory, the outsize, and the outrageously ambitious. In a way I like them for the same reason I like Sam Fuller and Oliver Stone -- if we're to have bullshit, let it be (in the immortal words of Tommy Stinson, lecturing on Golden Earring) bullshit that is really bullshit, like this delirious police interview after the death of Billy Brown:
CAPTAIN: (comes just into sight at left and speaks front without looking at them--gruffly) Well, what's his name?


CAPTAIN: (taking a grimy notebook and an inch-long pencil from his pocket) How d'yuh spell it?
Tee hee. But it's not all laffs. Though The Great God Brown is on the whole a little, shall we say, cumbersome, it has attributes of greatness: some dazzlingly poetry, great stage moments, haunting characters. Most importantly it is clear in its purpose. You learn quickly what the central metaphor is, and O'Neill by God sticks with it. That may be his greatest gift as a playwright: clarity in conception and ferocity in execution. There is no wavering about his plays: they have the certainty of tragedy. Whether or not they have the other necessary components, we'll leave to history. It hasn't been that long, anyway.

You're not going to get this sort of thing from, say, David Chase. You won't get Marco Millions, but you won't get The Iceman Cometh, either. I think that's too bad, but I'm a dreamy sort, a little in love with death... (Go, for the love of God, you mad, tortured bastard! -- Ed.)

Monday, March 27, 2006

JESUS HATES YOU. The Crunchy Conservative blog is in its what-is-to-be-done phase. The Crunchies were previously examined here. At that time, I thought of them as latter-day friends o' Jesus in a VW micro-bus -- only with more money and expensive tastes: grooving to the infinite on an IKEA altar with granola eucharists served fresh from a Crate & Barrel monstrance. So after a few laughs I ignored them.

I peeked in again today. All these weeks of being mocked even by their conservative colleagues seem to have raised the Crunchies' choler, because now they have thrown off their cheery Godspell threads and are questioning this "freedom" thing with which the heathens amuse themselves. Bruce Frohnen:
I find particularly striking Chris's statement that "that the free market is, like democracy, only as good as the people who participate in it"... Frank Meyer, father of fusionism, himself noted, not just that virtue requires freedom, but also that freedom requires virtue.

Burke said "intemperate men cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters." And no institution, no matter how well crafted, can alter that.
So, does that mean we the unchurched (and thereby unvirtuous) only think we're free? I guess when the God-boys teach us true freedom, we will be deluded still, and imagine that they are oppressing us. Later, Crunch Daddy Dreher himself quotes some nut who thinks that, in this godless age, homicidal Muslims sorta have a point. Dreher, ever the reasonable sort, tries to make this sound less mad:
I don’t think Spengler is saying that a culture must either apply the hammer to all heretics, or sign its death warrant. None of us wants to live in a culture that punishes those of minority faiths, or no faith at all. Is he saying, though, that it’s a law of nature that once a culture grants permission to apostasize without (serious) consequence, it has already started down a path to self-destruction?
"None of us wants to live in a culture that punishes those of minority faiths, or no faith at all" -- how can he be sure? After all, some of these guys want to follow St. Benedict into monasticism -- presumably with enough of a budget to keep the neo-monks in Priuses and organic toothpaste for as long as it takes Moloch to fall. Our very presence they find corrupting. Their only conflict seem to be over whether to abandon us to our sin, or to try and live among us as a corrective influence.

I guess these are the kind of Christians who smile at you on the street and then imagine you roasting in hellfire. And then smile for real.

UPDATE. Why don't they all just move to Disney's Celebration? Oh right -- the gay thing.
THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL: Charles Murray, co-author of the popular conservative book Niggers are Stupid, makes a new offer to the American people: we give up all government assistance, including the accursed Social Security, and once a year he will give each of us ten shiny new thousand-dollar bills.

When future scholars (if we have any) look back on this era, perhaps they will consider this a watershed event: the moment when conservatism became so discredited that its disciples had to pay people off to adopt it.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

THE TRUE BELIEVER. After just a week, Ben Domenesch has lost his WashPost blog for prior incidents of plagiarism. Go here, and to surrounding posts, for schadenfreude; elsewhere you’ll find more, but not better. From Domenesch himself we have that familiar blogospheric trope, the long, belligerent nolo contendere followed by a brief apology. The grapes of many of Domenesch’s co-religionists are very sour indeed.

As previously observed here, anyone can do Domenesch’s job as poorly as he did, and when the new guy steps in I’m sure there will be the usual chest-beating all around.

I do find it interesting that the sword Domenesch gave his enemies was plagiarism. I can understand – barely, and not to say approvingly – why an undergraduate might plagiarise on a term paper under deadline pressure, on the assumption that the student sees the paper as a mere nuisance to be gotten through, not as a representation of himself. I guess I’m not enough of a careerist (look at me, I’m wearing a cardboard belt) to understand why a professional pundit – an idea man, as it were -- would so egregiously lift whole passages and claim them as his own.

I am tempted to attribute Domenesch’s offense to a lack of interest in the work of writing. It may be that he saw his star rising fast and ceased to care whence came the fuel he shovelled into the restless engine of his ambition*. Pollyanna that I am, though, I think he may have stolen for a higher purpose. He may have really believed that his success was part of the success of his movement. He might not have cut corners to exalt himself, but to save America from the depradations of its enemies – who were, by logical extension, his enemies too, at whom he railed this week as the flames consumed him, "I take enormous solace in the fact that you spent this week bashing me, instead of America." This is not the language of a Grub Street hack, but of a true believer.

* I don’t normally cite my hommages, but in this instance I probably should note that this turn of phrase references William Herndon’s famous assessment of Lincoln.
TIME, TIME, TIME THAT YOU LOVE. This is supposed to be Spring, but it's freezing around these parts. Further chronometric disorientation is provided by Marty Langeland at Dum Luk's, with a lovely essay on the non-existence of time.

Friday, March 24, 2006

AGAINST ORDERS. Every couple of years I haul out the Lester Bangs comp Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung for pleasure's sake. With each reading a little more melacholy accrues. Not so much over his early demise -- that's sad, but Bangs was in a way lucky (as Greil Marcus' pretended message from beyond the grave suggests) to be spared what we got after the deluge.

Bangs, as you may know, was the great chaos theorist of rock music. In the early 70s he glommed onto the nuttiest music he could find. He pleaded the case for Iggy back when Iggy was a joke. He championed the Godz because they were so totally fucked up, and after declaring mellow-rock king James Taylor "marked for death," he softened toward the guy just on the grounds of general fucked-upness ("Just look at him on the cover of One Man Dog, out in a canoe with his mutt, wearing a necktie even which is a cool move at this point in time. Or those pictures of him at the McGovern benefits, in an oversize sportcoat..."). When he loved artists, like Lou Reed and Richard Hell, he rode their asses mercilessly just for the snap- or smash-back; he asked Reed questions like, "When you recorded Berlin, did you think people would laugh at it?" Who would ask Reed anything like that now?

Bangs didn't want catharsis, he wanted agon, because he knew rock and roll was, or was supposed to be, the irritant from which came the pearls. Of course, too much can be made of this. One has to be careful about celebrating any life that was so quickly washed away by Darvon and Romilar. Self-destruction is not cool. Well, no, it is cool, actually, much cooler than spa treatments and star treatment certainly, but once you adopt that yardstick you find that that the life by which you measure it gets smaller every day, until it's roughly the size of a cemetary plot. Which is why Iggy himself finally had to turn against his own personal tide and stop beating his brains, beating his brains, with liquor and drugs. And maybe why I got the feeling, riding one night in another van full of gear out of town and hearing on the radio news of Kurt Cobain's death, and hearing all around me people asking why, and hearing a voice in my head asking "why not," that I myself got the idea to get out of the game.

Still, this paradox obtains: moderation can get out of hand. Everything in our public life has tended toward an increase in order for a number of years, and while we all enjoy the benefits, and are lectured on several bases that going even a hair in the other direction would most hurt the most vulnerable among us -- the poor, the weak, the children -- we have to acknowledge that this civic rehabilitation has not been without cost. To stay with the topic just a little, if you think concerts are as good now as when people were getting routinely fucked up, you're dreaming. I am tempted to cite Bill Hicks ("You think the Beatles weren't high when they made 'Yellow Submarine'? They had to scrape Ringo off the ceiling for that one!"). But I am averse to the argument from authority. I would only suggest you look at the record, or at the records.

I remember when you couldn't go to an outdoor classical concert in New York without hearing the announced name of the corporate sponsor booed lustily by the crowd. (This was well before you had to have a pass to get onto the Great Lawn to see the likes of Dave Matthews.) I was reminded of this by Bangs' essay about a 1977 Tangerine Dream concert at Avery Fisher Hall (!!), at which event spectators screamed obscenities at celebrity DJ presenter Alison Steele the Nightbird -- and we liked Alison Steele! Bangs himself, on assignment and cough syrup, treated the event as an occasion for psychedelic ramblings, judging the unruly crowd and his hallucinations superior as subjects to the music (though of that he was neither unmindful nor ineloquent). "So finally, picking up my coat and lugging my clanking cough-syrup bottles, I push my way through the slack and sprawling bodies -- out, out, out into the aisle. As I am walking up it, I am struck by an odd figure doddering ahead of me, doubled over in ragged cloth and drained hair. I don't trust my Dextromethorphaned eyes, so I move closer until I can see her, unmistakably, almost crawling out the door... a shopping bad lady!" Again, one can make too much of it, but that sounds like a pretty good show to me.

Just today I picked up this message from my old pal Lach:
I went out this week to a local music venue (doesn't matter which one, that's not the point) and was asked for ID at the door. Now, this alone pisses me off as I don't drink. If I order a whiskey, ID me, but why do I have to be 21 to hear a singer/songwriter perform? Anyway, what happened next astounded me. The door guy wanted to swipe my license through an electronic reader and download the information into the scanner! What the fuck?!? Did you know NYS licenses carry info like your social security number, address, tel. no., etc? Identity theft potential aside, what an extreme invasion of privacy just to hear music. The bar manager said that the police pressured them into using the device...
Giuliani, that fuck, knew what he was doing when as mayor he strictly enforced the City's ancient cabaret laws, and Bloomberg, that cunt, knows what he's doing, too, with this shit. Order's a popular electoral gambit. People squawk when you hit them up for tax money, but applaud your sense of responsibility when you dig your entrenching tool into the pleasure centers.

When you read, as any ordinary internet trawler will, fulsome odes to the iPod and the pay-per-view concert, please try to keep in mind that things were once way more fucked up. And seriously consider whether that means they were worse.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

DON'T DREAM IT, BE IT. "While Saletan cites my 'Here Come the Brides,' he doesn’t talk about the most potentially stable form of multi-partner union: a man and two bisexual women. That union does reduce jealously, and also points to the potentially powerful bisexual constituency for multi-partner unions."

Stanley Kurtz has obviously given this a lot of thought. After a couple of shoulder-rubs and some white wine, I bet we find him living full-time in his summer house, following the ways of Gor.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

KEVIN BACON IN ANIMAL HOUSE, PART 3,498: You might add this to the Ole Perfesser's list of failed anti-war predictions: we didn't predict producers of Iraq TV comedy programming would be gunned down in the streets.

When this kind of thing happens in The Netherlands, of course, it means the country is going to hell.

Remain calm! All is well!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

GENIUS, I TELLS YA! The appointment of Ben Domenech is a brilliant if cynical move on the Washington Post's part. On the evidence of his first posting, the Red America blog will contain the sort of Fantasy Football you can get at a million other crappy rightwing blogs: Republicans are shown to rool, while Democrats are posited to drool. There is even that staple of the rightwing blog, the Questionable Anecdote (about how liberals don't understand their own film references), and a clove of conventional wisdom (some Republican legislators spend as much as Democrats!) to give the dish a soupcon of high-mindedness.

Any one of a million conservative bloggers could have written the same thing every bit as badly. But because it appears at the Post site, right at the heart of the Death Star, it becomes important, at least to those who share Domenech's politics. "The moonbats will go nuts, I promise you," exults Michelle Malkin. "WaPo Surrenders to the VRWC!" cries Jeff Goldstein, fist clenched and raised. Etc. It's pretty much like when The Clash appeared on "Fridays" and Joe Strummer had a mohawk and a boombox.

Now all those timewasters who spend their days mega-dittoing Michelle and Glenn and Eugene et alia will flock daily to Red America to see Ben Sticking It To Da Strawman. And the Post gets credit for their traffic, and can tell its advertisers that the Post's reach is broader than ever, and innoculated against any mass-defection, in the coming Bloggy Revolution, of such rubes as still read newspapers.

As little as it takes to enrage them, it takes so much less to make them happy.
TIME AWAY. Appy polly loggies for the gap in posting. Like the devil, I went down to Georgia, on a long-weekend visit to editor Martin and his family. Their little slice of heaven is best described by themselves, here, but I will say that, contrary to the impression I often give of myself, I always love going down South, where people are unfailingly polite and the pulled pork is like God intended. Down Kingsland way, I also enjoyed Spanish moss, cypress, wisteria, bourbon, and the tannin-brown waters of St. Mary's River.

I didn't look at the internet the whole time, and I guess nothing much changed -- in fact, I see the Ole Perfesser is still calling people traitors as if it were 2003. Or 1954. One of the benefits of making fun of people who never learn anything is that you can go away for a long while and when you come back, they're still idiots.

Friday, March 17, 2006

WHAT CORPORATE-CHURCH DOMINATED MEDIA? Well, Tom Cruise got the "South Park" Scientology episode pulled.

Come to think of it, "South Park" recently buckled to the Catholic League on the bleeding Virgin Mary episode, too. Looks like there are indeed limits to the show's famously limitless irreverence.

You realize, of course, that if Barbra Streisand and Alec Baldwin had tried that kind of arm-twisting, you would have heard Glenn Harlan Reynolds screaming all the way from Bumfuck, TN.
POGUE MAHON. A reader points out that the leprechaun on today's National Review masthead looks gay. Oh, yeah? Well, Allan Bloom was still a fine American, pal!

Anyway, St. Paddy's is celebrated at Nat Rev, as you might expect, by a Scotsman bitching that the Irish are not authentically Irish enough to suit him. (Maybe he's a Crunchy Conservative!) Said Scot also seems to think that "fine, honest, unpretentious Dublin pubs... 'renovated' to look like the fake Irish pubs you might easily find in places such as Frankfurt Airport" are an example of "postmodernism." Really? Sounds like American-style, tasteless capitalism to me -- but of course, except for Dreher's hippies, National Review is in favor of that sort of thing, so the Scot is obliged to use the conservatively-correct swear word "postmodern" instead of the right one. What a horrible way to have to go through life; I hope they pay these poor dolts well.

Oh, and the NatRevvers do spare a few tears for a colleen done doort by the fookin' RA, but only as a lead-in to one of most hilarious Bush blowjobs of all time:
Ah, but here President Bush reveals his moral depth. He grasps how one of the fundamental lessons of Sophocles’ Antigone applies to this case: in a democracy the purpose of the state is to safeguard the dignity of each and every individual.
One likes to imagine Bush tentatively mouthing "Soffi -- soffi -- sofficle --" as his thought-balloon fills with corned beef and cabbage, frosty mugs of O'Doul's, and a leprechaun commanding him to invade Iran.

Finally there's this silly bint, who uses a War-on-Christmas lede to barge into the magazine, then just wastes everyone's time. OK, not entirely -- she does offer a solid contender for the Worst Multicultural Moment Contest:
One year at the Irish fair — to which the Scots also come with their Highland games — I brought along a Hispanic friend. After wandering the grounds watching the dancing, eating grilled bangers, and listening to the music, she remarked, "I didn't realize white people had culture!" And after being transfixed by a hot bagpipe player, she was hooked.
Have I been wrong all these years? Does a St. Patrick's Day parade really reflect white culture? Then Vive la Reconquista! Also, she closes, "In the sense that silly traditions keep the Irish in America from being more than just another pale face, the culture war is won." It is? It's over? Does that mean she and her idiot friends will stop bitching about homos in the movies and such like? I can't wait to check tomorrow and see if it's really true!

Till then, y'all have as authentic or inauthentic a St. P as you like. I don't think I'll have time to get to one of our few remaining Blarney Stones earlier than noon, which sort of defeats the whole self-loathing purpose, but I will taste at some point the Water of Life, and think of you as I do.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY. I see that in the new movie "She's The Man," Amanda Bynes pretends to be a boy. Why hasn't Stanley Kurtz written a column yet about how this will destroy marriage?

UPDATE. Kurtz does post, just to sympathize with fellow nut Charles Krauthammer for having gay friends ("It’s a position many are in").

I'm morbidly afraid of bees myself, but over the years I've pretty much gotten it under control.
ANIMALCULE AND HOMONOCULUS. Just read How The Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis. Riis is of course well under our American skin by now, partly because of the famous photos he took while assiduously documenting the slum conditions of lower Manhattan as a pioneer photojournalist of the late 19th Century. (One of my old bands, Lancaster County Prison, used his photo of Bandit's Roost for the back cover of our first album.) Riis was Danish, and from all I can tell his English is largely self-taught; his prose is stiff, but his style beautifully suits the earnestness of his mission and temperment. Here is a lovely example from his autobiography, The Making of an American, in which Riis, who flailed through several occupations before dragging himself upon the perch of Reformer, describes the issue of a job peddling furniture in upstate New York:
I got home in time to assist in the winding up of the concern. The iron-clad contracts had done the business. My customers would not listen to explanations. When told that the price of these tables was lower than the cost of working up the wood, they replied that it was none of their business. They had their contracts. The Allegheny man threatened suit, if I remember rightly, and the firm gave up. Nobody blamed me, for I had sold according to orders; but instead of $450 which I had figured out as my commission, I got seventy-five cents. It was half of what my employer had. He divided squarely, and I could not in reason complain.
"I could not in reason complain" -- Riis is an accommodating soul, and as he accommodated his employer's needs with his own, notwithstanding the wretched, disadvantageous state in which that bargain left him, in How the Other Half Lives Riis similarly accommodates the outrage of slum misery to what he takes to be the American bargain, that is, assimilation as the price of human dignity. The inhumanity of the tenement was to Riis a result of disorder, and for him the chief disorder was that of the inchoate, pan-European mob that peopled the Fifth Ward and thereabouts:
The one thing you shall vainly ask for in the chief city of America is a distinctively American community. There is none; certainly not among the tenements. Where have they gone to, the old inhabitants?... They are not here. In their place has come this queer conglomerate mass of heterogeneous elements, ever striving and working like whiskey and water in o glass, and with the like result: final union and a prevailing taint of whiskey.
Riis' characterizations of the various unassimilated downtown ethnics are hard on modern ears. Among the Jews, "The old women are hags; the young, houris... thrift is the watchword of Jewtown, and of its people the world over." The "tractability" of the Italian is noted: "he is welcomed as the tenant who 'makes less trouble' than the contentious Irishman or the order-loving German"; also, "as the Chinaman hides his knife in his sleeve and the Italian his stiletto in the bosom, so the negro goes to the ball with a razor in his bootleg, and on occasion does as much execution with it as both of the others together." In every event these people are pictured as childish and prone to anima that overwhelm common sense, and on those occasions when common sense prevails, Riis sees the victory as much over the man's blood as over himself.

It is plain that Riis saw and drew this little world in the simplest terms, and simple also was his diagnosis and his prescription: he saw the slum itself as an agent of dissolution, and had faith (and some evidence) that the reformation of the slum would lead to the reformation of its inhabitants into something more, as he saw it, American. And lo, his work did help to reform the tenements, and good things did come from that.

Sociologically, we have to see Riis now as a primitive who succeeded, as all scientific pioneers do, by means of metaphor -- like the Leeuwenhoeks who found "animalcules" in water and began to dream of their relationship to the larger world. We who value the metaphor itself, and the record of progress of a human mind struggling to fathom the uncomprehended, can get still more from Riis. His chunky prose is a pleasure to me even when it eddies in sloughs of prejudice, and because its author is a good man looking not to slither comfortably along a Bell Curve but to find the harder way to truth, he often transcends the surly bonds of social work, and ascends to literature, carving a path for Dreiser (another blockish writer), Crane, Algren, Di Donato, and many another:
A man stood at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fourteenth Street the other day, looking gloomily at the carriages that rolled by, carrying the wealth and fashion of the avenues to and from the big stores down town. He was poor, and hungry, and ragged. This thought was in his mind: "They behind their well-fed teams have no thought for the morrow; they know hunger only by name, and ride down to spend in an hours shopping what would keep me and my little ones from want a whole year." There rose up before him the picture of those little ones crying for bread around the cold and cheerless hearth -- then he sprang into the throng and slashed about him with a knife, blindly seeking to kill, to revenge.

The man was arrested, of course, and locked up. Today he is probably in a mad-house, forgotten. And the carriages roll by to and from the big stores with their gay throng of shoppers. The world forgets easily, too easily, what it does not like to remember.