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?


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!


JALAL: Burka!


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)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

SERVICE ADVISORY. Posting will be infrequent for a few several days. I have a theatrical commitment that is coming to a head and eating into my precious ranttime. I have neither the talent nor the inclination for self-promotion, so I won't steer you to it, but I will say that this one's going a lot better than others with which I have been involved, thanks to the enormously talented folks with whom I have, by some perverse accident, fallen in.

Monday, August 15, 2005

MAU-MAUING THE FLAK CATCHERS. Somebody is promoting his direct-to-DVD movie via the blogosphere with an anti-Hollywood message, assisted by Michael Totten and other such like. The film's site's call to arms:
…a new band of warriors, better known as bloggers… add strength to the voice of the fans, fighting for more choice for themselves and, in the end, all of us. Now there is more new content, as well as more ways to access it and distribute it. There is no reason why you should depend on a handful of major studios to tell you when, where, and what to watch.
Fight the power, brother! And speaking of power, the guy has superstar Jim Treacher for a blog barker. Here's Treacher pulling the suckers a little closer to the tent:
Then Robert Boyd of the NY Sun wrote to me about Rosie O'Donnell appearing in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, after I cleverly compared her to a farm animal. Robert said that it made perfect sense for her to do such a thing, and I was all like: Yeah, but won't she need to trim her beard a bit to play Tevye?
'Cause these anti-authoritarian types, see, they love that sort of stuff.

I have no idea whether this movie, called Blowin' Smoke, is any good, but I have to say I admire the filmmaker's moxie. Show biz is a hard dollar and it seems to me that perspiring artists are well within their rights to use any dodge at their disposal to move product. And from the looks of the comments ("we need to see this gluttonous distribution/production-monopoly rumble and burn. Let's starve the bastards"), the Blogbrothers vs. Hollywood schtick seems to be working, at least among souls who find Rosie the Rugmuncher gags appealing.

'Twas ever thus; a lot of people will buy entertainment products just to show solidarity with some band of outsiders with a grievance against authority figures. Maybe a Blowing Smoke DVD will be the Che Guevara t-shirt of the suburban keyboard commando. And, who knows? This may be the beginning of something even bigger. Blowin' Smoke, the Liberty Film Festival guys, all those Regnery authors, et alia -- maybe these are the faces of the new counterculture! Perhaps, as Lenny Bernstein once feted the Black Panthers, we'll have Jason Apuzzo hosting the Minutemen. Dennis Miller could be their Lenny Bruce, Ann Coulter their Twiggy.

I'd say something about "first time tragedy, second time farce," except it was pretty funny the first time, too.

Friday, August 12, 2005

I'LL BET HE WEARS A BERET AND A JAZZ PATCH AND SMELLS OF PATCHOULI AND GOES AROUND LIKE THIS: "OOH-OOOOH-OOH, LOOKIT ME! I'M SO VERY ARTISTIC!" Well, here's another whining shit of an pampered artist who -- though he makes a good living in a field where, by his own admission, "only 50 to 100 people at a time can be successful," and has been covered with awards -- complains he's being persecuted for his politics:
"There's a deterrent effect for Republicans from joining that community. I recently wrote an apolitical book of short stories, and I was attacked for my politics. When I wrote a book about a World War I soldier, the New York Times book review said in paragraph one that I was a Republican. They wouldn't point out that Norman Mailer is a Democrat."
Ah ha ha ha, let's bring our mystery guest out from behind the curtain: Mark Helprin, novelist and rightwing gasbag.

See, it's funny because... oh never mind. Suffice to say that I don't want to hear any more bullshit about Tim Robbins from these clowns.
COMRADE! I SUSPECT YOUR KEY GRIP AND BEST BOY OF WRONGTHINK TENDENCIES! I actually think rightwing cinephile Jason Apuzzo has a great idea -- that conservatives who are forever bitching about ee-vil Hollywood should cease "verbally ‘rebutting’ these movies like dour lawyers in a courtroom" and start making movies themselves. I should certainly like to see Halliburton Films' epic production, The Joe McCarthy Nobody Knew, starring John Goodman as a hard-drinking Wisconsin Senator up against International Communism and the Democrat Party, played by James Woods. I would also enjoy a new version of The Grapes of Wrath in which the Joads toss flowers to the men who have come to bulldoze their home, and cheerfully take jobs at roadside hamburger stands built by a dreamy-eyed young Ray Kroc (played by Stephen Baldwin).

Unfortunately Apuzzo doesn't take his own advice. In recent blog entries he has gone even beyond the classic "Never mind the script and acting, is the film pro-family?" approach pioneered at National Review, doing close reads of a movie trailer ("I think I’m right in being a little concerned about the messages Hollywood will be slipping into this film...") and -- get this -- a movie poster. I eager await his future analyses of the political content of ancillary merchandise ("This Wookie's long, flowing locks are clearly meant to justify the hippie movement of the 60s").

He talks a good game, but I suspect Comrade Apuzzo would be content to never work on another film if, comes the Revolution, he can have a gig at the Ministry of Culture, purging the cinema of erroneous aesthetic and ideological views.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

SHORTER PEGGY NOONAN: Well, I did it: wrote an entire column boiled out of my mind. Damn, I'm good! And a theme like "people like Bush 'cuz he's normal" is not easy to pad, lemme tell ya. So I made up the shortfall with some gush about First Ladies. I even stuck in something about the President's balls -- again! Hee hee. Now that's how the pros do, bitches.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

OOH, MY HEAD... HEY, WHERE AM I? You mean I didn't have Lawyers, Guns & Money on my blogroll before this? Why not? (shakes small wooden effigy) I want answers!

Scott's post today is particularly good, but they're all good. And, for the most part, closely-reasoned even when enraged. I go pretty much exclusively for rage here, so LG&M's a nice change of pace.
CITIZEN JOURNALISM: DON'T TRY IT OUTSIDE THE HOME! A few years ago Jonah Goldberg laughed (spraying cracker crumbs and globules of Marshmallow Fluff, no doubt) to think of Al Franken and his sissy liberal colleagues trying to compete in the rough-and-tumble world of talk radio. "Conservatives are more entertaining than liberals," said Goldberg, because liberals always had to watch what they said -- "They respect all sorts of false pieties which conservatives can poke fun of. They dance around politically correct landmines and confuse themselves for ballerinas" -- whereas wingers could let the good times roll a la, well, Jonah Goldberg. And of course the straitjacketed libs were always bitching and moaning that oooh, the wingers were being demogogues. Bwa ha ha. Fuck those guys.

Flash forward to last weekend, when liberal op James Carville managed with the rhetorical equivalent of a pinky thrust to knock crusty old Bob Novak right off his rocker. Jonah Goldberg, now scowling parentally in his toga, reacts:
This all illuminates the rot in cable-news political discourse...

...I disagree with the Bush administration on a wide number of issues — from immigration policy and “compassionate conservatism” to its grotesque overspending. But it’s very hard to offer a balanced defense when your opponent is shouting that you’re a whore to the GOP and that Bush is a liar with his pants on fire...
Yes, the world of talk TV is too rough-and-tumble for Goldberg. Maybe the addition of visuals pushes the thing over the edge for him.

Now to be fair, this is not the linchpin of Goldberg's argument. Maybe he started out like that, then realized how ridiculous he, wielder of the NatRev whoopee-cushion, sounded in Comstock mode. In any case, he guides our attention to the harrumph-harrumph real problem: too many political operatives on TV, as opposed to creatures of pure air, light, political philosophy, and barbecue sauce such as Jonah Goldberg.

Tucker Carlson and Bob Novak "are journalists," says Goldberg, "opinion journalists, to be sure, but journalists nonetheless. They speak for nobody but themselves and they have a long-term interest in maintaining their credibility." Whereas trash like Carville and Paul Begala, he informs us, are "party operatives and always have been. They were even advisers to the Kerry campaign while still keeping their 'analyst' jobs at CNN."

Yes, Jonah Goldberg is arguing that professional journalists are more credible than outsiders with other jobs. Good thing Ole Perfesser Reynolds is on vacation, because I'm sure the celebrated Citizen Journalist would pounce right on that elitist thinking! In fact, I'm sure all the pie-eaters are rising up against Goldberg as I write this. There must be something wrong with Technorati, which is not showing any such activity.

I wonder if Goldberg would consider the problem solved if the nets replaced operatives like Carville and Begala with -- oh, let's say Eric Alterman and Juan Cole. I'm guessing not.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

JUST A LITTLE JOKE AMONG FRIENDS. Mithras is teasing the bears again. He allowed himself this bagatelle a few days back, and you could hear the screams a mile away. Now he wonders aloud "Where Are All the Funny Conservative Bloggers," and the switchboard's lighting up.

I feel compelled to state for the record that no sensible person, including Mithras I'm sure, thinks conservatives are incapable of humor. The same goes for liberals, of course (the fact that morons disagree only underlines the point). But I will admit that I don't laugh much at allegedly humorous authors of conservative blogs, and I am always surprised (pleasantly and gratefully, but still) on those very rare occasions when a conservative tells me he has found humor in mine.

I think this is only right and natural. You may be the most scrupulously fair person imaginable -- the sort of person who admits that the other fella makes a damn good point even if it kills you. But if someone's making fun of that which you hold dear (like, say, your Mom), you may be forgiven a disinclination to laugh, no matter how well-played the jest. You can't find something funny on principle. Either you are physically tickled by a joke, or you are not.

It's hard to find a class clown on either side of the political aisle who can rock the whole house. The greats, of course, transcend politics, though trace elements of it may be found clinging to their outlines. Evelyn Waugh was a High Tory, but if you think Scoop is funny because it is a "satire" on the press suitable for shaking at New York Times reporters, I think you must be a very dull fellow indeed. It is really the story of a fellow who would rather be writing prose poems about small animals, and eventually gets to return to it, but only after much heedless, unnecessary, and hilarious anguish, including an African war. Restoration of equilibrium -- that's entertainment! Especially when the scale of the absurdity preceding the restoration rivals that of life itself.

Maybe someone can work at that level, I gotta say, it ain't any of us blog clowns -- at least, not in our current incarnations. But who knows? Don DeLillo used to write ad copy.

Monday, August 08, 2005

WHEN I WANT YOUR OPINION, I'LL TELL IT TO YOU. A while back I commented on the National Review's declaration that the British public was getting more rightwing on terror, immigration, etc., which was based on no better research than a scan of published Tory war cries. (This ripping Mark Steyn piece shows the public is with us!) The height of this madness was reached this weekend, when Stanley Kurtz announced that "The British reconsideration of multiculturalism has reached a new stage, with the Tories now engaged in an internal debate." An internal debate in the British Conservative Party! What'd they get last election, fifteen votes? And they're divided on the issue. Talk about gilding the stinkweed!

The export version of this psychodrama has arrived in America via OpinionJournal's Brendan Miniter:
July 7, 2005: the London bombings. In the four weeks since this happened, I have talked about it, on the West Coast and East Coast, with people one could describe as "non-Bush voters." To a man and woman, they say in so many words that the time has come to "get tough on the terrorists." One event, London, appears to have caused an internal reassessment among some Americans formerly ambivalent about the war on terror.
Oh, and did I mention they were all cab drivers? Now, that's data you just can't fake.

Which is good, because Miniter doesn't show any other kind. The rest of the piece devolves into medical fantasia:
Tony Blair said last week that after September 11 much of the world "turned over and went back to sleep again." So why won't Ambien and Valium induce again the sleep of fatal innocence?... The post-9/11 slumber was both psychological and political. It became a partisan mindset. London was electroshock therapy...
And if the terrorists attack Brussels next week, it'll be a CAT scan followed by hydrotherapy, and then a break for lunch.

The drumbeat of terror -- be afraid be afraid be ver-r-r-y afraid, be afraid be afraid be ver-r-r-y afraid... -- was once a powerful goad. A politician could just rev that up, adding appropriate visuals (a flag, an eagle, a fireman's cap), and the punters would do whatever he wanted. Now, after years of heedless employment, the drumbeat may have become just background noise. People are getting sick of the Iraq mess, and exploding tube stations seem not to have rekindled their ardor.

Unable to convince the public, our opinion leaders have hit upon a brilliant alternative: to simply announce the public's support. Who's gonna call 'em on it? The blogosphere -- that little strip-mall of guerrilla-advertising boutiques that plant message for the big boys? Not likely. Besides, that lot's too busy complaining about how the MSM plants coded anti-smoking messages into the obituaries of famous lung-cancer casualties.

Well, they're outsourcing everything else; about they got around to opinions.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

NEXT UP: THE FABULOUS FURRY STRAIGHT BROTHERS! This story about right-wing comic-book superheroes has been getting a lot of play, but I would urge caution. Remember the old NatLamp parodies like "G. Gordon Liddy: Agent of C.R.E.E.P."? Maybe that's what the boys at ACC Studios are going for, in their ham-handed way.

Or maybe they're just after a fast buck. As a creative type, I can sympathize with that! (Hell, somebody make me an offer, and I'll be bashin' traitors so fast it'll make your head spin like Jefferson in his grave. I've worked for ad agencies!)

There is of course a slight chance that they believe in this crap. In which case, God go with them and teach them to write better.

In a related item, famous centrist Michael Totten tells liberal filmmakers to shut up.
SHORTER PEGGY NOONAN. Tourism copy like this can be yours for a mere $50,000 per assignment (kill fee 100%). Contact me at my New York office... what! Move to West Virginia? You gotta be kidding!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. I'm all for protecting the public from fraud, but I think this is a bit much:
An American judge has approved a $1.5m (£850,000) settlement between Sony Pictures and a group of filmgoers who claimed that the Hollywood studio used quotes by a fictitious film critic to promote features in 2001.

Movie fans who saw classic offerings such as The Animal, about a man who is transplanted with animal organs, or A Knight's Tale, with Heath Ledger as a peasant boy aspiring to be a knight to the sounds of Queen's We Will Rock You, can now apply for a $5 (£2.80) refund for each cinema ticket they bought...
It should be mentioned that Sony had already been dunned by the Connecticut AG for the imposture. The new ruling amounts to pain and suffering damages for credulous moviegoers.

Personally, I think if you paid money to see A Knight's Tale you deserve all the pain and suffering you got.

Years ago, the producer David Merrick tried to run a display ad in New York papers with the names and pictures of Broadway's top critics, all unanimous in praise of Merrick's latest, Subways are for Sleeping. Only the men whose raves were to run were not critics -- they were just guys Merrick had found whose names were the same as the critics.

Only one paper got fooled, and the story has been a good laugh in showbiz circles ever since. I don't think anyone sued Merrick, or thought of it.

Now, Broadway's a small world where an outlandish act like this would be more easily forgiven. And I understand that the global cinema audience is not quite so partial to in-jokes -- and that the busted marketers were certainly not just being impish. People handling that kind of money tend not to play around.

But come on. If suckers were ne'er shorn, whither show business? I shudder to think what might be if this logic were applied in bygone eras. Bust the medicine shows, and a lot of country legends never make it to the Opry. P.T. Barnum would have spent his life, not entertaining the masses, but breaking rocks in the Bridgeport Penitentiary. And let's not even talk about magicians. Harry Houdini would be doing community service telling kids not to lock themselves in underwater trunks.

Seen from approximately the same angle, most movie trailers are at least as deceitful as the Sony stunt was -- with their jacked-up editing rhythms and soundscapes, they usually make movies look much more exciting than they are, or could possibly be without the assistance of lysergic acid. What about that TV ad that's been telling us The Skeleton Key heralds the return of the psychological thriller? Will the authors of these recent films come to the bar to argue that the psychological thriller came in with them? I suppose the next step will be to subpoena film stars who go on Entertainment Tonight to speak well of whatever sorry product they're in, and submit them to lie-detector tests.

I am at least half serious. Maybe even as much as 60 percent!

At least someone has a sense of humor about this.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

MALAISE. You have always supported the war. In fact, you have been an unusually stalwart advocate, because it is war, and war is serious; "This is war, not a Dr. Phil show."

But things have gotten strange. The Administration, which you supported for its steadfastness on the war, now says the war is actually more of a "struggle." This seems to fit its recent conduct. The Brits have decided to respond to terror attacks with police work instead of indiscriminate foreign invasions, and that seems to be working out pretty well.

Is the war a "struggle"? You yourself have written that it wouldn't be such a bad thing if the U.S. just pulled out of a still-exploding Iraq. A sensible position, perhaps, though rather at odds with your previous don't-abandon-Iraq position. Maybe you and the President have grown together. Maybe this is what centrism is all about!

But maybe this is also far less satisfying than the certainties of days gone by.

On the mild provocation of some ill-chosen words by Juan Cole, you roll out terrorism's greatest hits in 22 colorful pictures. This lengthy exhibition does demonstrate that terror is more than, to use Cole's glib phrase, "four guys in a gymn (sic) in Leeds." But a sentence or two would have done as much. Why the warnography? Perhaps just for the thrill of "fisking" a notorious dissident in language (or lack thereof) that even your densest commenters will understand.

Or maybe these wan days of unwar have awakened in you a need that even fisking cannot fulfill. Maybe, by repeated viewing of atrocity photos, you're trying to relive the outrages of 9/11, 3/11, 7/7, and all the other soul-stirring number combinations. Maybe they remind you of the days of flags and unity, the days when "God Bless America" during the 7th inning stretch was still a big deal, when Rudy Giuliani was America's Mayor and Fox was America's Network -- when the Leader's numbers were in the stratosphere rather than the toilet -- when you could just cite a number or a show a picture and suddenly everyone was right on board with whatever you wanted to do.

Either that or you just aren't very eloquent.

UPDATE. The great philosopher known as The Editors has expanded on this here.

Monday, August 01, 2005

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT. Amanda's sick of anti-hipster backlash. I take her point. We greybeards flail and froth too much on the subject, and always have. There has been trend and anti-trend since the dawn of self-selecting communities, and kicks at anomic, gimme-capped urbanites (they still wear gimme caps, right?) are about as meaningful as a ringing denunciation of flappers, or that awful scene in Yankee Doodle Dandy where Cohan meets the bobby-soxers.

If there is any legitimate component to antihipsterism, it is the educational impulse of the wised-up geezer to tell a scruff the big mistake he's making. A choice of jeans or music, however, is seldom so crucial as to warrant comment. If I can point out aesthetic reasons why Band A is no good, I can argue with men and women of goodwill and any age who share my intrest in the true and the beautiful; if I posit that Band A is no good for generational reasons -- if I argue that Band A is the perfect avatar of the bought-out, gutless, anomie-ridden sub-generation that produced it -- then the fight is over whose demographic rulez. I'm old-fashioned enough to prefer the former kind. (Hey, that was a dig at you young punks! Ha ha! Go pay $150 for jeans, bitch!)

I'm not even sure how much bile I can work up over this:
One mile from the Las Vegas Strip, East Village is a 960,000 square foot, multi-level commercial development on 44 acres at the corner of Tropicana Avenue and Paradise Road. It is slated to open in early 2007. The emphasis of East Village is retail, restaurants and entertainment.

The urban lifestyle center will create Las Vegas's missing "meeting place" - America's fastest growing city has no urban "epicenter" and East Village presents a true streetscape of retail shops, a "market place", cafes, restaurants, offices, entertainment and nightlife in a village setting. Architecturally stimulated by Manhattan's eclectic East Village, this lifestyle center has the sense of local authenticity and a cosmopolitan energy. It will be shaped by world class tenants - a place for tourists and residents alike. The locally based developer is driven to create East Village as a legacy for the City.
Photos of the atrocity here. Normally this would be my cue to spray bullets, or at least spoor, in all directions, but I figure, the way things are going, they might as well build East Village Las Vegas in the actual East Village. What's the difference? The rent would probably be the same.

I still think the East Village of my own youth (high crime, low rent, big excitement) was a better Left Bank than the current, culturally-deficient mall version. But if a 90-year-old wheeled up to me and started talking about how it all started going downhill when the Irish and the Italians stopped throwing bricks at each other, I don't think I'd have much of an answer for him.

So, until my next mood swing (any second now...), I'll leave the fist-shaking you-ain't-no-punk-you-punk beat to actual cranks.
BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH: The other day I linked to a poll that said, despite 7/7, a clear majority of the British people do not agree that multiculturalism has "gone too far." Even so, a torrent of British opinion pieces seem to say that multiculturalism has indeed gone too far...
The yobs say no, but me Tory mates say yes -- motion carried!

Kurtz adds, "In the wake of 7/7, Britain continues to conduct a searing re-examination of its own culture..." followed, not by affirming evidence from the Bloke in the Street, but by links to the handful of rightwing columnists who apparently represent "Britain."

Kurtz seems to believe that a few articles by his buddies (preferably with appropriately self-hating headlines like "Confronted With Our Own Decadence" and "We French Are Pathetic Losers") trump whatever foolish opinions may be held by actual citizens, as these will soon make way for whatever the Weekly Standard deems more suitable. The common people... they will sell liberty for a quieter life! That is why they must be led, driven -- pushed!

I am inclined to bet that the Brits are not as stupid as we are, but it would have to be a small bet. As some people never tire of telling us, Everything Has Changed.

UPDATE. Further rightthink suggestions from Kurtz: "Let's Face Facts, Europe's Being Run By Cowards" and "Fundamentally, We're Useful Idiots." I'm guessing the authors of these and all the other "We Suck" articles actually have very high self-esteem themselves, but are skilled at finding and exploiting a lack thereof in others.