Friday, December 30, 2005

RACE TO THE BOTTOM. Drew Thornley thinks we shouldn't make a big deal out of American torturers when people who are not American are doing even worse things:
The mainstream American media spent months covering in detail the "atrocities" at Abu Ghraib and continues to give negative press to allegations of inhumane treatment at the hands of American soldiers... Yet the events at Abu Ghraib pale in comparison to the real atrocities that receive little or no attention by the same media, such as the crisis in Darfur, Castro's jailing and/or murder of political dissidents, the May 2005 massacre of public demonstrators in Andijan, Uzbekistan, and the hundreds of "honor murders" committed each year.
Roger L. Simon double-underlines the point:
...there is a deep psychological disturbance in our mainstream media, a kind of willed need to ignore the world around them. It probably was, more or less, forever thus, but modern communications, specifically the internet, have brought this willed ignorance to the surface as never before. And yet the MSM continues in the same direction, even in the face of seeming economic failure.
Maybe it's just me, but I believe the scale and scope of international coverage by the commie-pinko New York Times compares very favorably to that of, say, the New York Post, the Washington Times, Fox News, or even Roger L. Simon.

I'll go out on a limb and suggest that Simon isn't genuinely concerned with the lack of global news in U.S. papers, or he'd be asking why Rupert Murdoch stuffs his rags with puzzles and runaway brides instead of dispatches from Uzbekistan. No, it's year-end greatest-hits time, and Simon's doing his usual Abu Ghraib schtick as a treat to his fans.

The persistence of the Abu Ghraib story isn't just a big-media plot. Even when they are in a positive (or at least forgiving) frame of mind about the Iraq War, Americans don't approve of torturing enemy prisoners. We prefer to think ourselves exceptional --- genuinely better, not just comparatively better, than the world's tyrants and their cowed subjects.

Maybe we're wrong about ourselves. Maybe we're not a shining city on a hill, but merely a better deal for the money, torture- and injustice-wise, than the other vendors on the block. Maybe no deep principle sustains us except staying a little ahead of the competition.

If so, then there's no reason not to get worse -- we have a lot of wiggle room compared with other countries. So what if we spy on our citizens? So what if we detain them without charges? Who's gonna give you a better deal than this? Go see what Fidel's peddling!

I have to applaud Simon's ingenuity in dressing this up as idealism, but I wonder how many people he's convincing besides himself.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

AND WHY DO THEY DRESS SO SHABBILY? MUST BE A MORAL FAILING OF SOME KIND. Perfesser Reynolds don't rightly know why poor folks accept bad terms on loans:
But many of the deals offered by a lot of these loan outfits are so bad that it's hard to believe anyone agrees to them understanding what's going on. The interest rates are so absurdly high that merely spelling out the deal would seem to be evidence that the borrower probably didn't realize what was involved.
Quite right. The Perfesser lets lenders compete for his business, and takes the best terms. Why don't the poor do that? They must be very shiftless, indeed.

Next week: the Perfesser suggests that the poor fire their brokers.
SHORTER JOHN O'SULLIVAN: While Democrats labored to keep the black man down, Trent Lott emerged as a quiet hero of the civil rights movement.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

PINHEAD'S PROGRESS. When Rod Dreher lived among New Yorkers, he found us morally distasteful, expressing to the OpinionJournal clods his fear that were his son to grow up in here in Sodom, "he will be immersed in a permissive culture that corrodes the moral structure his mother and I will try to build," whereas "For all the drawbacks of the rural South, a man can raise a family there knowing the seeds of faith and virtue he plants in his children's hearts will have a less hostile environment in which to grow."

Just before he finally got transferred to a Dallas outpost of the conservative empire, Dreher applauded a writer who pointed out that suburban sprawl started when liberals tried to make white children go to school with black children -- and implied that he could relate: "I hate the way sprawl looks," said Dreher, "and believe that more intelligent design could mitigate the worst aspects of sprawl. But all it takes is riding the NYC subway daily, and having to live with fear and loathing of the violent, profane and altogether anti-social teenagers who make public spaces here their playpens, to understand why middle-class people get fed up and move the hell out of town to raise their kids."

Dreher's been in Dallas about two years now, and he has a complaint -- seems the folks in God's Country... well, now don't git him wrong, they got plenty of them seeds o' faith and virtue, and he shore likes 'em better than those "subway" people, but they jes' don't share ole Rod's sophistercated view of housing preservation:
Lord, Jonah, come to Dallas. In my part of town, developers are tearing down older houses left and right, and putting up McMansions on small lots. Whenever the people who actually live there object to what this practice, at least in the way developers are currently doing it, is doing to the aesthetic character of the neighborhood, the developers invoke the Free Market, as if it were the Magisterium of the Church. I remember watching on the late local news one night not long ago a developer saying that if people didn't want to buy these kinds of houses, they wouldn't be building them. As if consumer desire was its own justification.
He says the rampant building of houses he finds ugly is not conservative -- "Libertarian, yes, but as you know, that's not the same thing as conservative."

You made your bed, hoss; now die in it.

"I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you."

HAW HAW HAW! AW HAW HAW HAW HAW! Thassa good one! Yee-haaa!


"I'm from the government, and I'm here to spy on you and perhaps indefinitely detain you without charges."

That sounds reasonable.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

WAIT FOR IT. Now that we have done with the Holiday Formerly Known as Christmas, I fully expect the same humorless cranks who bitched about liberal nonobservance of their Jesusfest (here's a late entry, chastising Google for insufficiently Jesusy gifs) to transfer their rage to Valentine's Day.
...Valentinus was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius the Goth [Claudius II]. Since he was caught marrying Christian couples and aiding any Christians who were being persecuted under Emperor Claudius in Rome [when helping them was considered a crime], Valentinus was arrested and imprisoned. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner -- until Valentinus made a strategic error: he tried to convert the Emperor -- whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that didn't do it, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate [circa 269].
This is tailor-made for the Defend Marriage crowd. They can lambaste us for hurting the economy with our moonbat boycott of candy hearts; pretend we do not distribute valentine cards because of our fear of giving politically-incorrect offense to the romantically-challenged; and bray "HAPPY ST. VALENTINE'S DAY!" while beating themselves with clubs and congratulating each other on a brave defense of tradition.

At least this will be more novel and thus more amusing than their usual Martin Luther King Day bullshit.
ARE YOU NOW OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN A PLAYWRIGHT? "Charles, didn't you say Ralph was always rather... artistic?" "He was willful, stubborn, and this time he went too far. But he was my brother... I will not have you calling him artistic!"

Stanley Kurtz connects the dots swimming before his eyes, and deduces that Hollywood homos are trying to slippery-slope us from gang-marriage to gay marriage, using their most fiendish device -- cable TV:
There’s one late-breaking element of this debate that I think deserves more attention: HBO’s new polygamy drama, Big Love. Newsweek is touting the show, which is scheduled to premiere in March in the slot that follows The Sopranos. Any chance that Big Love is meant to make a statement on the gay marriage debate?
You got it, bro! Just as Dallas was designed to lure Reagan-era Americans into conspicuous consumption, adultery, and shoulder pads, and Seinfeld fiendishly weakened our collective resolve by implanting facile "observations" into the national psyche, leading to 9/11.
It certainly seems possible. One of Big Love’s lead writers, Will Scheffer, is a playwright.
[Sinister music; isn't that Pinter fellow a playwright?]
Scheffer explored themes of gay male identity in “Falling Man, and Other Monologues.” This article makes it clear that a recent staging of that play was designed to make a statement in the battle over same-sex marriage. So it’s suggestive that Scheffer is one of the two creators and executive producers of “Big Love.”
"A recent staging of that play was designed"! Please, nobody tell Kurtz about Orson Welles' "Voodoo Macbeth" -- he'll think Shakespeare was trying to turn us all into zombies.

Kurtz's upshot is that "polygamy is being used to legitimate same-sex marriage! In other words, gay marriage and group marriage are mutually reinforcing, and both depend upon the larger view that families ought to be whatever people want them to be."

We know that it is now common practice for conservatives to judge works of art without having actually seen them. Kurtz' latest helps to explain why:

They have no idea what art is. The closest thing to it in their universe is propaganda, so they assume art is just a species of that. (Sometimes they're accidentally right, of course, but having no aesthetics, they cannot make informed judgements.) Therefore any work of art that contains something they find viscerally objectionable -- in Kurtz' case, acts of love that do not involve one man, one woman, and (it would seem) one or fewer orgasms -- is analyzed and denounced as if it were a piece of legislation or a policy paper.

So of course many of them no longer bother to watch the things they denounce: why should they bother?

Another reason to be grateful, folks, in this holiday season: that you don't see the world through so pinched a gaze.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

OKAY, ENOUGH PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN. The Perfesser celebrates Christmas Eve with this:
How ironic,a guy who supports a party that promotes Fannie Mae,Freddie Mac,land-use restrictions,zoning,open space laws,and unions is unable to buy a house in the very Blue area of Northern California.All this from a guy who's got a law degree.What is it about Blue America that hates people that aren't rich??? Attention Markos Moulitsas Zúniga :did it ever occur to many in Blue state America that Houston(that doesn't have zoning) is a lot more affordable than let's say Berkeley,California.Also,Houston residents don't have a state income tax that they are paying.It appears Kos can't afford the very values he promotes,which is regulation of markets which leads to artifically high real estate prices.
We leave the response to Mr. Bobby Dupea:
I'm sittin' here listenin' to some cracker asshole lives in a trailer park compare his life to mine. Keep on tellin' me about the good life, Elton, because it makes me puke.
For further related information, see Supply & Demand, Law of.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

AND WE'RE GONNA GET BORN NOW. I am a Christmas crank from way back. As recently as last year I was collecting negative Xmas carols. Old-time fans may even remember my 2000 Charlie Brown Christmas parody, now lost to the internet, in which Linus and Good Ol' Roy Edroso predicted with malign glee an oncoming war and the opportunity for satire it would present (Join the old Jim Baker chorus/"Fuck the Jews! They don't vote for us!"/Pundits shake their tiny fists/What a time for satirists!/Hark the hare-brained George Bush reign/Government without a brain!).

The Christmas scam plays to my strong suit, namely intolerance of nonsense. Let's face it, no one knows when Jesus was born, and anyway it would seem, from the way modern Christians observe the holiday, that it has far less to do with Jesus than with Santa and (as with all big events in this country) with money.

So, when the War of Christmas was declared unilaterally by crackpots, I with grim pleasure volunteered myself to the Santa sniper squads. Christmas has become an obvious racket meant to goose Western economies, shove unhappy families together, and force into the general consciousness the image of Jesus, who in our depraved era is no longer the revolutionary bringer of the New Law of Love, but an avatar of reactionary politics. And, by that reading, what a perfect guise in which to bring him to view -- in his infancy, before he could manage any inflammatory talk of exalting the humble!

But while in public I have always blown the raspberry, in truth I have always been a closet Christmas fan. Privately, every season, I have watched It's a Wonderful Life crying like a child, and the Alastair Sim A Christmas Carol blubbering like an infant. ("Forgive me, Fan! Forgive me!") I even take a moment each December 24th to contemplate the meaning of that invented nativity scene: the despised and outcast family that nonetheless brought forth a child who became a Prince of Peace and the Light of the World. Though the wonder Christmas brought me as a child has long since been burnt to cinders, I have yet guarded a tiny flame preserved from its holocaust. But I would not expose it to public view, lest the fart-winds of our discourse blow it out.

This year, I can't say why, when the Christmas season came upon us (was that Thanksgiving? Or Halloween?), I found myself less grouchy about it. The inflatable snowmen and snowflake arches that graced Greenpoint were less noxious to me than they had been. To even the aggressive, obnoxious commercials ("Happy Honda Days!") I had no objection. It may be that, in the course of maintaining this site, I have witnessed so much stupidity, venality, and crassness that the Christmas variant seems too innocuous to guard against. Or it may be a kind of fatigue. Or it may have been something else. Human hearts, even one's own, are a mystery. In any event, I hunched my shoulders less against the pine-scented incursion.

I started shopping early for presents, which allowed me to space out some of my spending on them, and also allowed me to put more thought into my purchases. This is really new; I usually follow my traditional barroom romantic behavior, and get busy at last call to sort through leavings. But now I threw myself into the fray, and got more enjoyment than anxiety from it. I experienced some wonderful commercial-Christmas moments, too, like the skinny back guy in a Santa suit outside Island Cellular in downtown Brooklyn, singing into a karaoke machine to a Caribbean steel-drum soundtrack, "We wish you a Merry Christmas/We wish you a Merry Christmas/We wish you a Merry Christmas/Come get your free phone!" Or the Macy's saleslady who, upon hearing that I didn't know it was a coupon day (I don't really know how to shop), took a coupon she had lying by the register, swiped me a discount, and flashed me a beautiful smile.

Though I hated, as always, the force-feeding of carols via public address speakers, I let myself remember the pleasure those songs gave me as a boy. I even allowed a tiny, metal tree to grace my bedside bureau, hung with little red globes. And do you know? This Christmas is not such a bad thing.

Everything that is inane about it remains so, of course. But unto you I say, that the ridiculous public hijacking of this old holiday by the lowest scum need not keep one from keeping Christmas, or whichever of the cleverly-disguised solstice festivals you prefer. As has been known since long before there was a Christ, the deepest part of winter is a natural time at which to consider the coming invigoration of spring. Even so, as our own government sinks to new depths of rapaciousness, cruelty, and stupidity, it is worthwhile to remember that seasons change, days lengthen, the exalted may yet be humbled, and the humble exalted.

I'll be playing my favorite Christmas carol -- on vinyl, if you please -- when I get up tomorrow morning. Alex Chilton for y'all. Peace out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT... I'm a grimly purposeful type, but now that I'm on a mini-vacation I am going to do some meaningless things and, as one of my pre-New Year's resolutions is to be less charitable toward other people (a profoundly moral decision, you'll agree), I am going to inflict at least one of them on you good people. That would be this blog thing which caught my fancy and to which no one invited me.

Four jobs you've had in your life: Messenger dispatcher, busboy, Subway sandwich "attendant," freelance writer.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Bad Lieutenant, Strangers on a Train, Taxi Driver, Strange Brew.

Four places you've lived: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Bridgeport, CT.

Four TV shows you love to watch: "Two and a Half Men," "Seinfeld," "The Simpsons," "Like It Is." (If only someone would show reruns of "Don Kirschner's Midnight Special.")

Four places you've been on vacation: Chapel Hill, New Orleans, Berkeley, London.

Four websites you visit daily: Instapundit, The Corner, Lileks, OpinionJournal. (The fury of the hour/Anger can be power/You know that you can use it.)

Four of your favorite foods: Pizza, beer, steak, wine.

Four places you'd rather be: Heaven, Valhalla, Nirvana, wherever they gots the 47 virgins.

I hate myself! Next, I'll be writing about movies I haven't seen.

UPDATE. There's some discussion in comments about "Two and a Half Men." I do like Charlie Sheen and the jokes are okay, but I now that I think about it, there's something else about the show that's appealing.

The Sheen and Cryer characters are stuck between two amoral poles -- their awful mother and Alan's surprisingly awful son. (Credit to the creators for making a pre-pub kid so unappealing on a prime-time show.) They're also stuck with each other.

Alan is very aware that he's stuck, and complains about it all the time. Now, if he were the only lead, this show might be as bad at "The War at Home" -- all kvetching. But Charlie's main goal in life is to rise above -- or, to use Mel Brooks' phrase, rise below -- his problems. He's very comfortable ignoring and even exploiting those problems -- like using a gig as Alan's receptionist as an opportunity to turn his brother's chiropractic business (boring!) into a massage parlor. And he usually gets away with it.

What's most appealing about Charlie is that he obviously cares about his family but, also obviously, he determined long ago not to let them bring him down. Thus, the episodes rarely culminate in maudlin lesson-learning resolutions; while Alan works his way into a frenzy, Charlie works his way back to his own lazy horn-dog stasis.

Such moral purity is rare on network television. I can't think of another sitcom character that works quite the same way. It's as if Maynard G. Krebs became fully self-actualized and took over "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis."
WELL, THAT SUCKED. I walked today from Greenpoint over the Williamsburg Bridge, up to 40th Street on the West Side, and back. That's a shade less than what my route to work would be if I weren't off today -- 14 miles all told. And I was just shopping and observing; I didn't have to do any work in between the two treks. My legs ain't exactly feeling youthful.

The sales clerk I dealt with at CompUSA walked in from near Prospect Park. He told me that the Manhattan Bridge wasn't crowded coming in -- "and there are tons of cabs," he added, "Chinatown's wide open." The Williamsburg wasn't bad, either. I note with interest that the citizens steadfastly ignored the bike/walk lane assignments.

I came in late -- a day off is a day off, and I refused to get up early -- but returned around midtown rush hour, which from the looks of things started earlier than usual today, about 4:15 pm. Car traffic was heavy but moving; the sidewalks were clogged, and the usual bear-right patterns transmuted into a more blended arrangement of vortex flows. New Yorkers are awfully good at threading.

Bike traffic appeared slightly up, much of the overage coming from middle-aged gentlemen trying to make those gym sessions pay off. And yes, there were skateboards and scooters. Cab travel was about negotiated settlements, as the drivers were taking multiple fares, so there was a lot of urgent conversation over slightly-opened passenger side windows.

The atmosphere, as it always is here during all but the most dire public exigencies, was one of grim festivity. The ancient struggle between pedestrians and oncoming cars was kicked up a notch. I heard a few people discussing the details of the strike, but most of the related chatter was about how the fuck to get from here to there, and what about dinner.

Of course this crisis has more easily identifiable culprits than does, say, a blackout, and on TV you see a lot of anger toward the union. Tonight's CBS national report featured a commuter who wished Reagan was back to fire everybody, and the Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas, a noted proponent of the "work or starve" theory of labor relations. (I thought they were all supposed to be commies at CBS.) My favorite of these moments came yesterday, when a little guy came up behind a local reporter and brandished a very visible FUCK THE TWU sign.

The shift in the national consciousness from "Good for you, buddy, get what you can" to "If I can't have it, neither should you" occurred long ago, and I doubt there is much public sympathy for motormen who have struck to retire at age 50. But more important than what we peons think, of course, is what the City and the MTA and the TWU management think. I don't know whether a jail term will make Roger Toussaint more agreeable toward binding arbitration, or whether the proposed individual fines of $25,000 a day will convince workers to throw up the struggle. I expect, times being what they are, that the government will try to wear down and possibly break the union; that would take time, but management stands to gain from it, and Bloomberg, a management type, appears down for an siege.

UPDATE. Commenter Chuckling calls New York "the biggest fucking drama queen on the planet." That's very funny because it's very true, and where I think the grim festivity I mentioned comes from. New Yorkers like to brag on their inconveniences. If you can make it here, etc.

Some idiots think we should respond to our crises by moving to the sticks and becoming right-wing. Nothing against other jurisdictions (despite my reflexive use of perjorative terms -- I'm learning!), but folks are still flocking to New York despite our relative inhospitability. Some people apparently think there are higher values than comfort.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

STRIKE DAY ONE. I'm off work this week, so I am not feeling the strike much, though I expect to try hoofing into Manhattan tomorrow.

The 1980 strike was easy on me: I walked from East 11th to East 59th Street every working day. That's right, back then low-life bums like me could easily afford Manhattan apartments.

But those days are gone. The City reports that "To find affordable, high-quality housing, workers are moving further from their jobs. As a result, commute times in the New York region are the longest in the nation. The average commute time into Manhattan is 48 minutes." Another commutation study finds "that people appear to be commuting longer distances [in 27 counties near New York City]. Between 1980 and 2000, the proportion of jobs filled by residents of the same county declined in every county except Manhattan (Figure 2)."

So more of us are coming into Manhattan from farther away. The last strike was in April -- a very warm April as I recall.

Well, my share of the suckage is reduced by fortune, but we'll see what we see tomorrow.

Monday, December 19, 2005

DUMBSHOW. The strange thing about the Leader's speech last night was that it contained nothing to elate, inspire, or terrify ordinary people. Bush is at his best when he is looking the proles straight in the eye and telling them, for example, that "it would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known" -- or, on the brighter side, yay everybody, we get tax cuts and lots of domestic spending all at the same time!

But last night's speech sounded as if it were pitched to "opinion leaders." You've heard that term before -- it's what small-circulation political magazines boast of instead of subscription figures, on the grounds that their small audience counts for more with advertisers than a larger, less exclusive one might.

What did he give ordinary Americans last night? Yet another version of his case for war; yet another declaration that he is, if nothing else, more right than his critics. It was slightly more Jesuitical than prior versions, true. But this isn't Debate Club -- this is Sunday night TV, with viewers thinking about going back to work and Christmas. Who turned to his or her spouse afterwards and said, "Well, he certainly re-framed his arguments effectively"?

He even slid through his 9/11 reference. If I were in his place, I'd be running footage on the wall behind me of people falling out of the World Trade Center, with the words HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN? strobing over them. But Bush didn't even slow down or choke up.

I don't think he was talking to the People (as in American People) at all, but to the people with pads and pens who are either predisposed to worship his every fart, or who, striving mightily not to look biased, respond to the change in PR strategy as if it were a substantive policy shift -- e.g., the Washington Post headline, "Bush Brings More Realistic View of War to Forefront."

The more reliable GOP propaganda disseminators, of course, hail the speech as a breakthrough, indeed a case-closer ("Checkmate, Mr. Murtha," declares John Podhoretz). They would of course do that if Bush threw up on his shirt ("visceral approach favored by voters 18-35"). But the logic, or lack thereof, of their arguments doesn't count for nearly as much as their volume, frequency, and reach.

Increasingly our traditional forms of public politics -- speeches, debates, rallies, etc. -- seem like set-ups for the real stars of the show, Spin and Hype. Maybe one day a President will just come on our PDAs or brain-implanted chips and go "Blah blah blah, Hugh Hewitt has the story," and sign off. And maybe we'll be grateful to have had less of our time wasted. 'Cause I have a feeling we'll all be working really hard.

Friday, December 16, 2005

MY WAR ON IDIOCY, HOWEVER, PROCEEDS APACE. Rod Dreher, former film critic of the New York Post and professional Ned Flanders impersonator, tells his fellow anti-aesthetes at NRO why he don' gotta see no Brokeback Mountain to know them critics only like it because it's gay and thus appeals to their insatiable hunger for novelty:
Without quite realizing it--this happened to me as a conservative -- critics become suckers for novelty, especially of the transgressive sort. At its worst, you end up with a theater full of the most important film critics in North America at the 1998 Toronto Film Festival, roaring their approval of the creepy and misanthropic Todd Solondz's film "Happiness," which featured, among other transgressive delights, a comic set piece showing a suburban dad trying to drug his son's little playmate so he could anally rape him (he succeeded). It was one of the sickest movies I've ever had to sit through, but it received rave reviews--and, unsurprisingly, flopped at the box office.
The critics had to be wrong, see, because John Q. Public preferred.. what? Let's look at Happiness' opening week U.S. grosses. The box office champ was Eddie Murphy in The Holy Man, by the noted auteur Steven Herek. The title has the word "Holy" in it, so maybe Dreher interprets this as a victory for his pal Jesus. Also, #2 was One Tough Cop, starring noted Republican Stephen Baldwin. Clearly America was sending Solondz a message.

Yeah, critics are frequently out of step with the People. Like that arty-farty Citizen Kane? Those fairies still think it's some kind of masterpiece, but us normal people know better. Hell, it ain't even in color!

Fortunately we have people like Dreher around to tell us that his opinion and, he includes generously, the opinions of all professional critics, from Manny Farber on down, are no more meaningful than that of any brain-damaged cineplex trawler. That's the kind of conservative he is -- the kind that apparently really needs to identify with the LCD, despite his book-larnin'.

Just don't let the boys know ole Dreher gave thumbs-up to American Beauty. In no time he'll be screaming "But I was suckered by its trangressive novelty!" as they back him up against the fag-killin' wall.

UPDATE. I will point out that Dreher hasn't even seen Brokeback Mountain -- though that should go without saying, as the new schtick in rightwing circles is to mouth off about pictures you haven't watched!

For instance, get a load of this Freeper thread about Munich -- it's almost semiotic: they don't know what happens in the movie at all, but boy do they respond to the signifers "Palestine" and "Hollywood"! (Favorite quote: "I love movies about historical events. I would like to see this, but if it becomes a platform for making excuses for what these terrorist scum did, I'll ask for my money back." Oh, boy, wouldn't you love to be there: "Ah done come all the way down t' the city, leavin' behind mah wife an' kids an' giant TV an' the hitchhiker I was rapin' and torturin', an' ah has to put up with this here moral relativism? Fill mah hand, you son-of-a-bitch!")

And there's always Ann Althouse, who blows a gasket when one of her commenters asks why she's talking so much about (unseen by AA) King Kong:
...I'm not "posting a review." I'm blogging, which means I can write about my thoughts however I see fit. I try to make it interesting for myself and for readers. Dutifully seeing movies and reviewing them -- why would that be better? Because I ought to be fair to the guys who make movies? They don't deserve fairness! They try to con us into going to see junk that we end up not liking -- and they get our money all the time for that.
"Seeing movies and reviewing them -- why would that be better?" And a college professor is asking this question! The next time someone tells you that blogs are the wave of the future, show him that. He may still think they're the wave of the future, but he won't be so happy about it.

UPDATE. Professor Althouse declares me a "silly man," links to a movie timetable in Madison, WI, and issues what I believe is called a bleg ("Any examples of an actor or actress that does nostril-flaring spoofily, for deliberate comic effect?"). A commenter notes that Ellsworth Toohey is a bad guy in The Fountainhead. The blogosphere: is there anything it can't do?
HAVE A GROOVY HATE FUCK CHRISTMAS! Last weekend I went to a Feast of St. Lucia party in Greenpoint. St. Lucia is an Italian saint (there is a church in Carroll Gardens called Mary Star of the Sea) whom the Swedes have adopted as their patron, maybe because her very name means "light," and her martyrdom and feast day fall on the solstice as reckoned by the old calendar; in December the Swedes need every reminder of light and warmth they can get. It is also said that, during a terrible famine in Sweden, Lucia appeared on the bow of a boat on Lake Vannern, lighting its way and bearing food to the people on shore.

We ate smorgasbord and drank and stood around the piano singing Christmas carols (old ones like "Good King Wenceslas," with all the verses). Then at a certain hour, as is the custom, with the room lit only by candles, three girls in long white gowns came among us. One of them, the most beautifully Swedish girl you ever saw, with thin eyes and a blockish nose and long, fine blond hair, wore a crown of seven large candles, all ablaze. We sang "Santa Lucia" and dedications were spoken: to absent friends, to the Lutheran pastor who had died that year, to an end to the war in Iraq.

I was feeling pretty damn warm and Christmasy over this. Let's face it, all cold-clime people need a winter carnival -- even the irreligious. When you aren't particularly God-bothersome, but open to human experience of all kinds, any taste of ritual and transcendence you allow yourself will be especially potent. (Moderation is good for some things, after all.) Though I don't worship Jesus, I observe his values -- can't help it; cultural thing -- and I enjoy being among folks who not only observe but celebrate them.

Then I got home and turned on the WB-11 News, which had yet another story about the War on Christmas. Apparently some library somewhere gave out a "Season's Readings" card and the card was festooned with Kwanzaa and Hannukah greetings, but while the words "Merry Christmas" were also there in "several languages," an English version was not included. This drew condemnation from some local asshole, and from some Catholic League asshole, and from some asshole teenager who said that it was messed up because "I don't read those other languages."

This was followed by a "health report" about a new form of tummy-tuck

Then you have all the crap like this. (When Sam Johnson said that bit about patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel, he obviously never considered the possibilities of the War on Christmas.)

And for a while, of course, I was saying fuck Christmas, fuck Santa, fuck that bitch Mary who got this whole mess started by pretending it was God who knocked her up instead of the cute shepherd boy, etc.

But of course, on sober (or at least slightly less drunken) reflection, I can see that Jesus, Santa, and the whole charming cast of cartoon characters should not be blamed for the degeneracy of those who exploit them. And, in fact, those of us who are inclined to enjoy any of these Festivus appurtances should be doubly grateful this year.

After all, these War on Christmas nuts are out there bellowing on the steps of cathedrals about how evil we are, while we get to stay indoors wrapping gifts for our loved ones. While the WOC guys are using Santa and Jesus as weapons -- indeed, seem only to know that use for them -- we get near-exclusive use of them as symbols of hope, humanity, and good fellowship. When they watch "A Christmas Carol," they think, I'll bet those dirty hippies would have a heart attack if they saw me watching 'A Christmas' THAT'S RIGHT I SAID CHRISTMAS! 'Carol.' We, on the other hand, actually get to watch the movie, and share in the lushness of Dickens' conception, the hammy charm of Alistair Sim, and the marvelous spectacle of a man brought back to his lost humanity.

They get, because they chose it, a Day of Wrath, leaving Christmas to us. Thanks, morons!

Thursday, December 15, 2005


In related news, one wingnut working group has been tasked with indoctri-ma-cating our young on the gloriousness of the Iraq War and democracy at the point of bombardment. Check out these bits from their lesson plan for today's Iraq elections:

United States:
Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, July 4, 1776 (amidst war).

Iraq: Liberation from Saddam Hussein, April 9, 2003 (amidst war).
Have fun explaining how Pulaski and Lafayette carpet-bombed America's cities in order to liberate us (and our rich maple-syrup fields) from George III. Show woodcuts of French dirigible leveling Boston, and grateful citizens waving wooden limbs in tribute.

3. Do you think it is more or less difficult for a country to form a democratic based constitutional government today than in 1787?
Hella simple now! Consent of the Conquered is easier to secure that the support of a bunch of pesky revoltionaries. There'll be no Shay's Rebellion this time, I can tell ya! The money's good, too!

Still more questions for discussion:
Why do you think voter turnout in Iraq has been 60-65% and the average U.S. voter turnout is much lower?
No electricity, no TV. Duh.
Wars are often controversial: many colonists opposed the American Revolution; Abraham Lincoln resisted enormous pressure to compromise with the Confederacy and allow slavery to continue in order to end the United States Civil War; there was opposition to the Vietnam War. Discuss the war in Iraq in light of the goals of the December 15 election. Are there similar moments in United States history that can help us understand the moment?
...and by the time you get to the end of the question, of course, the students forget whatever hint they may have noticed that many (and maybe most) Americans disapprove of the war. Especially when your PowerPoint presentation flashes the Dirty Hippie icon on the word "Vietnam."

Best of all: class projects!
(K-5) Create a dramatization of voting day in Iraq. Have students take the roles of different persons: Iraqi men and women who come to the polls, Iraqi security forces, American soldiers, terrorists, international observers.
SHAUN as U.S. Soldier: Welcome to voting! Everybody vote for freedom! Come to my voting party!

TIFFANY as Iraqi Lady With Scarf Like In The Picture: I want to vote, Mr. Soldier! I want to play with the purple ink!

DYLAN R. as Ahmed Chalabi: Vote for me and my American friends will give you all ice cream!

DYLAN L. as Terrorist: I keel! I keel!

(DYLAN L. gestures with gun; several students fall dead. TIFFANY screams. SHAUN kills the terrorist and several other students.)

TIFFANY: Mr. Soldier is hot! Thanks Mr. Soldier!

DYLAN R.: Now I am President! Ice cream for everybody!


TEACHER: I'm sorry, kids, there's no ice cream!

EVERYBODY: Awwwwwww.

TEACHER: Now everybody help clean this up, and Tiffany, you wash off that purple ink before we start Jesus Made Science class.

DYLAN L. Democracy sucks!

Say, this lesson plan may go better than I thought.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

THE NEW ANTI-GAY-MARRIAGE ARGUMENT! Now here's one I hadn't heard before:
...The picture is of two people of the same gender in full wedding regalia.

They look longingly into each other's eyes as if to say, "I love you so much, I'm willing to make the state fund our forgery of marriage and enforce its acceptance on everyone else". Though the romance is laudable, there is an immediate sense of offense to one's values. This isn't like the bigoted offense of seeing a person of a different race move into the neighborhood, as it is often portrayed by same-sex marriage advocates. It is easier to celebrate the love of two people. But here there is offense because depending on how much one values the ideals of equal gender participation one might see something very precious and dear being imitated and mocked. Whether that mockery is intentional or circumstantial, it may be best described as the offense a black-man who may have seeing old vodvillian actors who pretended to be black by painting their face with shoe-polish and saying "Mammie, Mammie" to the laughter of the crowd. Surely bringing the offense to the crowd would make one in that day and age a party-pooper also.
Gay marriage is to heteros what blackface is to black folk! I guess that makes ass-fucking the equivalent of a Confederate flag or something. And "Will & Grace" is Birth of a Nation.

Give it three days and it'll be a Maggie Gallagher talking point.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Monday, December 12, 2005

NO HONOR AMONG JERKOFFS. Original rightwing Australia spin: John Howard and his brave, plucky, white Aussies are the "third pillar in the Anglosphere." Howard "gets it," WOT-wise. Howard is "Bush's soulmate."

Post-Sydney-riot rightwing Australia spin: "It's like Paris Down Under." The yobs at Little Green Footballs weigh in: "Those guys are just beggin' for a Darwin award as they race toward extinction," "What a shame Australia emasculated their citizenry from protecting their lives & property against these middle eastern assholes. This would last about 5 seconds in Texas," etc.

Sorry, Howard, you've been Chiraxed! Now line up for your Axis of Weasels portrait.

If you don't wish to rely on the Pajaosmas link the Perfesser provides -- at which you will hear nothing about the white-pride types who are involved in the riots (probably the version the LGFers got) -- try an Australian newspaper. It may be "old media," but at least it's not complete bullshit.

And spare a thought for John Howard. Being one of these guys' "allies" is about as raw a deal as you can get.

Friday, December 09, 2005

SPANNING THE GLOBE. Whoops! At PowerLine:
Our friend Mac Owens writes:
I don't know if you saw this. I think it's a pretty good analysis of the president's Iraq strategy document. [Note] my last paragraph in which I refer to the Copperhead faction of the Dem Party (most of them, led by Murtha-Pelosi) and the Copperhead-lite alternative (Kerry and Hilary). I thought of the link when I read [Paul's] reference to "defeatocrat-lite"..."
No, no, Big Trunk or Trunkrocket or whatever you're calling yourself this month! Owens' note was obviously meant to be private! He was just explaining how you should frame his story because you're a little dense and need that sort of prompting. When you show a guy talking so lovingly about his own column, it makes him look like an idiot.

Which Owens is. So nevermind.

Here's a bonus citizen soldier! Nine-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters, one of my favoritest cartoon characters, sounds off about Howard Dean's claim that we can't win in Iraq. The General mocks Dean not only because he "encourage[s] our enemies to kill American troops" (all in a day's work for us traitorous Dems!), but also because Dean "never bothered to serve in uniform" and for "his ignorance of military history." One imagines Jonah Goldberg standing behind the General, shaking his GI Joe at Dean and yelling "Burn! Wicked burn!"

As always with the General, lots of entertaining froth, such as this:
Consider this: Not one of us would consider looking over a neurosurgeon's shoulder and directing an operation. Yet a colonel in our military has more years of formal education — and far more varied hands-on experience — than any surgeon.
Fucking pussy surgeons. I can cut good's they can. (Drunkenly unsheathes his Ka-Bar.) Hold nice 'n' still.

Great fun, but the General grows tedious by pretending to wish fervently for a non-treasonous "responsible and strong Democratic Party." I direct him, yet again (does his adjutant not relay my communiques?), to my Perublican Party Manifesto.

Oh, I mentioned Jonah Goldberg, didn't I? Then I guess I have to mention his latest. It is, as usual, the stupidest thing ever written, and will remain so until he writes something else. Sample quote:
In "Patriot Games," Harrison Ford shot a man in the kneecap to get the information he needed in a timely manner. In "Rules of Engagement," Samuel L. Jackson shot a POW in the head to get another man to talk.

And the audience is expected to cheer, or at least sympathize with, all of it. Now, I know many will say, "It's only a movie" or "It's only a TV show." But that will not do. Hollywood plays a role in shaping culture, but it also reflects it. It both affirms and reflects our basic moral sense (which is one reason why it dismays some of us from time to time).
No person, not even Goldberg, could speak those lines aloud and believe that they made any sense.

To end on a unreasonably high note, here's Free Republic's Friday Toons, made by people who are as crazy as our other subjects but so much more fun, bless them. In fairness, I must point out that some of the cartoons are actually funny, and a few diverge from the Freeper party line. But for the most part it's the usual:

I note with interest that "State of the Union" now features Jeff Jacoby.

This fellow hates newspaper publishers so much, he makes them turn black! (BTW, this isn't racist, why would you think that? You must be racist yourself.)

I'll let this guy wrap things up -- he sure can write a punchline!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

SORRY, OLD CHAP. I really hate to say this, but Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize speech was not well played.

In a way I admire it. He had a world stage, and gave from it (or from a TV set perched on it) the explicitly political lecture he wished to give. There is a touch in this of Brando sending out Sacheen Littlefeather, which I also admire. Fuck 'em if they can't take a rant. What makes their party more sacrosanct than the Oscars? It's his party this year, after all.

My quarrel is that he did not explicitly tie his gift to literature -- the occasion for the speech -- to his political argument. This judgement may be based on ignorance of his more recent work, which I have seen mostly on right-wing websites, by which torn pieces covered in wolves' spittle no sensible person could judge it.

That notwithstanding, I do see a break in Pinter's speech that cut his authority as a great writer away from his reasoning as a world citizen. And without that authority his argument, again given the occasion, loses the force it might have had.

All the early stuff about his working method is, or should be, nectar to writers:
In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), 'Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don't you buy a dog? You're a dog cook. Honest. You think you're cooking for a lot of dogs.' So since B calls A 'Dad' it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn't know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.
This is excellent, largely because it approaches the universal by way of the particular. Not everyone starts as Pinter does, but the conclusion at which he arrives is both philosophically astute and common knowledge – it’s also funny, which demonstrates that the mystery Pinter pursued is one we all can acknowledge, and gives evidence of his lasting gift.

Pinter remains on the right track with his first relating of language to politics:
But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.
This is inarguable. Shortly thereafter:
Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.
Well... okay... but...
As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.
Here you get the feeling that only the thinnest reed connects Pinter’s argument with its target: he has begun to compare the quest of earnest travellers toward truth, such as himself, with that of professional liars. It isn’t that the argument is too big for the target – though I think it is – but that one has nothing really to do with the other.

By the time we get to the painful descriptions of Reagan’s Nicaragua policy, Pinter’s argument is as far off the mark as a bird’s argument with a cat. It is beyond the province of literature, and, I fear, there is nothing in it that can wrest the argument back toward terms more favorable to literature. That may be Pinter’s assessment, too, and while I appreciate his dire conclusion –
I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.
-- the speech, meant to accent the "crucial obligation," because it plays on the enemy's field is forced to leave its weight on the "enormous odds."

It may be that Toni Morrison’s Nobel Speech has as little relevance to the real, bleeding, scheming world as Pinter’s, and Lord knows I prefer his work to hers. But her Speech hinged on a metaphor – a blind woman trying to discern the fate of a bird in hand – and tightly connected her gift, such as it is, to the enemy it faced in the State:
The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek - it must be rejected, altered and exposed.
I would be remiss not to mention the Speech by the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky:
"How can one write music after Auschwitz?" inquired Adorno; and one familiar with Russian history can repeat the same question by merely changing the name of the camp - and repeat it perhaps with even greater justification, since the number of people who perished in Stalin's camps far surpasses the number of German prisoncamp victims. "And how can you eat lunch?" the American poet Mark Strand once retorted. In any case, the generation to which I belong has proven capable of writing that music.
This is not to play Dueling Oppressions, but to recognize that oppression remains what it has always been, as art has, and though the former tries like hell it has not in all these centuries been able to eradicate the latter. Pinter might have spoken of the particularly seductive language oppression, Western-style, has learned to deceive its subjects; what a speech that might have been!

But we already ask too much of our artists when we ask them to tell us how they do what they do. And I note with displeasure that the Nobel Speeches get longer each decade – look at Knut Hamsen’s! If Pinter’s speech disappoints you, read the plays. They contain everything you need to know.
TIGHT-LIPPED, CONDESCENDING, MAMA'S LITTLE CHAUVINISTS. The right wing observes the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death:
  • New York Post wishes Lennon could have gotten to know and love Rudy Giuliani (then, at least, he'd merely be in jail instead of dead);
  • Washington Times hopes Yoko Ono, having been "mugged by reality," has become more conservative (maybe they should send her a card);
  • NRO crackpot tries to convince himself that he and John Lennon shared some of the same politics, because he rilly, rilly likes John Lennon's music. Which, come to think of it, explains a lot of that "Top 10 Conservative Movie Trailers/House Music Records/Book Jacket Designs etc." type of horseshit that they do over there.
SHORTER PEGGY NOONAN. (to the tune of "Who Put The Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder") 

Now me Grandma came from Ireland a hundred years ago
And she had things so much tougher than them boys from Mexico
True, Mexicans risk life and limb to get into th' States
But Grandma briefly wore a card all marked with names an' dates

One night me Grandma had to sleep out in th' open air
(I guess th' campesinos, bein' campers, wouldn't care!)
Now Mexicans are runnin' wild -- Lou Dobbs showed me th' tapes -- 
And they laugh at dear old Grandma as they come to pick our grapes! 

Who let th' Mexicans in Peggy Noonan's country?
Soon racially we'll be naught but gallimaufry
Grandma slept upon a bench
Now I'm grand as Judi Dench
No Mexicans in Peggy Noonan's country!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

PUTZ COUNTER PUTZ. Finally saw one of those "blogjams" at PJOSM Whatchamacallit. It went something like this:

Like my colleague, I was against the war in Iraq. I wanted instead to invade Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and kill everyone in them and replace them with our own illegal Mexican immigrants. Still, the Iraq thing is going great.

I must disrespectfully disagree that the Iraq war is going well. Just look at the evidence...

Why isn't President Bush sending AmeriCorps volunteers to plant trees in Iraq? I eagerly await your response.

What? I don't see what that has to do with...


Why do you keep dodging my questions? This is typical of the Left. Don't you agree that the left threw poisoned kittens over my fence in an attempt to make my Rottweilers sick?

That's terrible, Michael. I guess some Leftists are pretty crazy, sure. It didn't used to be this way. I have fond memories of when they had that I Ain't Gonna Play Sun City thing and the Boss sang along. I guess things have changed...

Why do Leftists fart in elevators and then say I did it? Why do Lefists make me look bad by wearing certain fabrics, like gabardine and flannel, with a flair I cannot achieve? Your evasions do nothing for your case. Again, I keep agreeing with you that Bush erred in not biting open the throats of the illegal detainees and marching into the World Court, hauling their corpses in with one hand and giving the judges the finger with the other! We are not so very different, you and I.

Actually I am very much against the mistreatment of our detainees. But, hey, that's a discussion for another time

MARK TWAIN VS. MAX BOOT. At OpinionJournal Max Boot sings -- as Homerically as such as Boot can manage -- the praises of Leonard Wood, a doctor-soldier who assisted greatly in the subjugation of the Philippines and Cuba during America's earlier age of empire. "Never has Wood's example been more timely," says Boot. Here's part of that example as described by Boot himself:
...[Wood] dealt ruthlessly with all opposition. The primary threat [in the Moro district of the Philippines] came from juramentados, knife-wielding assassins who thought that they could win a place in paradise if they died fighting Christian infidels. To defeat them, Wood shelled numerous cottas (forts) containing not only enemy fighters but also women and children. His scorched-earth policy sparked controversy but achieved results. Moroland had been temporarily pacified by the time Wood left for Manila to take over as military commander of the entire Philippines in 1905.
Let us pause briefly to think what America's new bestest friends, the Iraqi People, would think to hear such activities described as exemplary behavior of conquerors toward the conquered. Then let us hear the same incident as reported by a very different sort of journalist from Boot -- Mark Twain:
A tribe of Moros, dark-skinned savages, had fortified themselves in the bowl of an extinct crater not many miles from Jolo; and as they were hostiles, and bitter against us because we have been trying for eight years to take their liberties away from them, their presence in that position was a menace. Our commander, Gen. Leonard Wood, ordered a reconnaissance...

Our soldiers numbered five hundred and forty. They were assisted by auxiliaries consisting of a detachment of native constabulary in our pay -- their numbers not given -- and by a naval detachment, whose numbers are not stated. But apparently the contending parties were about equal as to number -- six hundred men on our side, on the edge of the bowl; six hundred men, women and children in the bottom of the bowl. Depth of the bowl, 50 feet.

Gen. Wood's order was, "Kill or capture the six hundred."

The battle began-it is officially called by that name-our forces firing down into the crater with their artillery and their deadly small arms of precision; the savages furiously returning the fire, probably with brickbats-though this is merely a surmise of mine, as the weapons used by the savages are not nominated in the cablegram. Heretofore the Moros have used knives and clubs mainly; also ineffectual trade-muskets when they had any...

General Wood was present and looking on. His order had been. "Kill or capture those savages." Apparently our little army considered that the "or" left them authorized to kill or capture according to taste, and that their taste had remained what it has been for eight years, in our army out there - the taste of Christian butchers.
One hates to use the phrase, tainted as it is by the touch of the Ole Perfesser, but: read the whole thing.

In any contest between a propagandist and a genius, you may be sure the early returns will favor the former; but thereafter the tide may turn. Boot regrets history's neglect of Wood, though I would say in this case history is actually maintaining an embarrassed silence on him. I suspect Clio's treatment of Boot will be less kind.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I OUGHTA GO TO WORK, BUT I AIN'T GONNA DO IT/BECAUSE I'M REALLY JUST NOT QUITE UP TO IT. It’s low-hanging fruit day. I mean, who really wants to follow the "You take back what you said about Uncle Irving" thread at The Corner? It’s like Long Day’s Journey Into Night as performed by the Willowbrook ’72 Dramatic Society. Today I just don't have that much jam.

So let’s indulge in some really dumb shit. Tbogg points to this charmer’s “Rock Songs Conservatives Can Love.” Now, you all know by now how I feel about the relationship of art to politics – if the former is not master of the latter, bullshit ensues. And many if not most overtly political rock songs, whether you like the politics or not, are terrible – for every “London Calling” there are a dozen or more like “Gun Control” or “Do They Know It’s Christmas” or that horrible thing your sister’s boyfriend sang about apartheid at the 1983 talent show.

But when I read trenchant analysis like this --
Camper Van Beethoven - Might Makes Right (anti-Iraq war but with only in one line. Ignore the line and the song plays like “Team America”)
-- what can I say except, hey, buddy, let me help you out with some real conservative rock songs:

“No Feelings” – Sex Pistols

“White Minority” -- Black Flag

“I Live, You Die” – Flotsam & Jetsam

“Pray I Don’t Kill You, F****t” -- Run Nigger Run (Steve Albini project!)*

“N****r Loves His Possum” -- Collins and Harlan*

And anything by the Allendale Melodians! Here’s me bus! Bye!

UPDATE. Oh, for Christ's sake, the madness is not limited to the margins -- one of the numbskulls at The Corner is now compiling his own "conservative rock song" list! Feel free to send him my suggestions.

UPDATE 2. Lotsa good suggestions -- "I Don't Care About You," Fear -- "Suit & Tie Guy," DRI -- "Killing an Arab," the Cure -- and, meta as always, Jeremy Osner suggests "Psychotic Reaction" by the Count Five.

Let me say this in response to commenter Kyle -- because he contends honorably, and because it has to do with what we always talk about when we talk about culturewar here: I don't see evidence for the subtler argument you attribute to SMB. His language is as knuckleheaded as that found at The Corner, where conversion of otherwise poli-sci-neutral artworks into rightwing rah-rah is a thriving business. The difference between "songs that conservatives would find especially agreeable" and "songs that were written to cheerlead for conservatism" is as real as you suggest. But the words you put in front of these phrases -- "looking for" -- changes everything. That's what our nemeses do, because they can't imagine any art that isn't -- oh that phrase -- politically correct by their lights, and by making such lists encourage a false understanding of what art is for. If we get to the point -- a point these guys are working toward -- where a person can't enjoy a song or a story or a poem without first being assured that it reflects his reified world view, then we are lost, not just politically but as human beings.

I mean, "Okie From Muskogee" and Leonard Cohen's "The Future" and Graham Parker's "You Can't Be Too Strong" are great songs. If I worried about where they fell on some bean-counter's notion of a political spectrum, I'd be deprived of their pleasure. And some poor kid sucked into the blogosphere's sorting machine may never get the chance to enjoy them as I did.

Even Rod Dreher could enjoy the Clash. Jesus Christ. If that clueless Flanders can enjoy music without a political imprimatur, why can't everyone else?

UPDATE 3. They just keep getting worse. Highlight of this particular "Everyone I like must be exactly like me" fantasy: "I feel [Lennon] would have become a card-carrying Republican and voted for President Bush in the 2004 election. Perhaps his latest song would have even been a cover of 'G-d Bless The USA.'" J-s-s Chr-st, what an -ssh-le.

* -- titles expurgated to please illiterate bureaucrats at Google, who consider straight quotations (with quotes around them, even!) to "incite hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion," etc.  Please, nobody tell them about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and N***r Jim.

Monday, December 05, 2005

SHORTER MOE LANE, OR CONSERVATIVE ARTS APPRECIATION DEFINED: Here is a long, derogatory review of a film I have not seen.

UPDATE: A commenter points to a related post by Doctor Mrs. Professor Reynolds, in the comments section of which DMPR vomits contempt upon artists in general, then complains that they don't want to hang out with her. Somebody ought to check the Instahouse for stupid gas.

Friday, December 02, 2005

FORWARD, KVETCH! Meet Keiran Michael Lalor, shown here posing with right-wing celebs and yelling at protestors. Lalor has served his country in Iraq, a fact which all his published work announces. As you can see from the photos, he is a fine specimen of a lad with a shaved head and a "I have killed many men and I will kill you" look omnipresent in his tiny eyes. You do not want to fuck with this Marine.

We do not hear much specific about Lalor's military service, but we do know that he has been held prisoner and tortured -- not by the Iraqis, but by the professors of the Pace Law School. Hear his woeful tale in today's New York Post, as he describes his student days as a series of psychological torments that would not be out of place at the Hanoi Hilton:
I started law school just days after returning from a tour of duty in Iraq. Orientation centered on a case of determining the rightful owner of a painting stolen by a soldier in World War II.

It struck me as odd that with countless legal decisions in Anglo-American jurisprudence, the school chose — as an introduction to the study of law, during a time of war — to focus on a case where the bad guy was an American soldier.

The professor leading the class used examples from his practice to illustrate legal concepts. And he had cut his legal teeth defending draft dodgers, so his lessons typically involved a bumbling and heartless U.S. military persecuting a saint-like draft evader.
Yes, Good Soldier Lalor is forced to listen to this filth and worse: "a guest speaker compare[d] U.S. soldiers to Nazis... one question on the final exam of her legal ethics class incorporated an anti-military theme mocking operations in Iraq..."

There is more, but I can see my readers are overcome, so I will spare you the details.

I have to ask: why is Lalor attending this Stalinist indoctrination center? For one thing, there are plenty of fundamentalist Christian law schools -- Jerry Falwell has one! -- which I'm sure would welcome a mean, lean, logic-killing machine like Lalor.

For another, it's not like Lalor didn't know what he was getting into. According to an earlier column, this is his second stint at Pace! Highlights from his 2001 tenure:
I was then in my first few weeks at Pace Law School with a front-row seat to the left's post-September 11 reaction...

[My professor] mentioned the "My Lai massacre" in Vietnam, slavery and the treatment of American Indians as examples of American terrorism. Twenty-five miles from Ground Zero, where rescuers struggled in hopes of finding survivors still alive, this law professor chose to focus on the blemishes in our history as an introduction to our first post-September 11 class. I have to give him credit for being on the cutting edge of liberalism because at this point the now notorious International Freedom Center slated to occupy Ground Zero was just a twinkle in the left's eye...

A few months later, I left law school when my Marine Corps Reserve Unit was called to active service. We prepared for the war that had been brought to our shores on September 11 and resolved to defeat the enemy. At school, some students and the bulk of the faculty seemed markedly unconcerned about U.S. victory or defeat. There was a reflexive, leftist preoccupation with trying to understand, defend, and excuse al Qaeda. The rhetorical energies of my teachers and some classmates were focused not upon responding or defending the country but on proving the U.S was somehow to blame...
...and so he came back a took a seat in the same school, where, chained to a desk and withstanding horrific assaults to his patriotism, he bravely blinked out a New York Post column in morse code.

One might ask why, but, for that matter, why do I bother to read and write about this crap? I guess we both just like to complain!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

THE CULTURE WAR'S REAR ECHELON. Writing is a hard dollar in any case, so I can understand why a lot of marginal scribes have over the years flocked to National Review, the Claremont Institute, etc: they're always hiring, it seems. I have myself written utter hogwash for corporate clients, so I will not judge these factota on moral grounds. (Oscar Wilde could. When a friend of his whose hackwork offended Wilde shrugged, "A man must eat," Wilde replied, "In your case, I fail to see the necessity.") But as a professional, even as a mercenary, I find myself increasingly offended by the increasingly low quality of their work.

Not that it was ever good. During the Reagan-era goldrush of right-wing propaganda gigs, tractability trumped talent -- prickly Old Guard authors like Karl Hess gave way to faux-contrarian bloviants like R. Emmett Tyrell (who, with the aid of a thesaurus, impersonated an author just badly enough to convince the sub-literate that he was one, and thus emblematized his profession and his age).

But nowadays it's even worse. Consider that it took two authors to write this. Most of the piece summarizes the plot of a comic book -- and while this job is poorly performed, it at least gives the reader some tangible details and images; the passages that are (apparently) meant to analyze the comic book actually make it harder to tell what the thing is doing or trying to do:
If satire is the stuff of Jonathan Swift — intelligent, probing, witty, sharp, and scathing — then Liberality falls woefully short. It is, in fact, none of those things. Walking a blurry line between oblivious self-parody and conscious self-deprecation, it is a hysterical, hilarious romp through a nightmarish right-wing fantasy land...

Regardless of how Liberality's humor is intended, it's there in spades. On the back cover of one of the comic books, Hannity's metal fist clenches a squirming caricature of an Arab terrorist by the throat, holding him up in a gesture of triumphant contempt. Purposefully or not, it is the perfect culmination of this carnival of colorful absurdity.
How does this sort of thing get published?

Desperation is a possibility. Figure that every young toff who announces himself to the wingnut network by joining the local YAF or Protest Warriors chapter will eventually be recruited by agents of Scaife or Moon. These lads and lasses cannot be forever happy working in the mailroom. They know that to break out, they either have to blow George Roche (or his not-yet-disgraced equivalent), or publish something high-profile enough to make a name and a place on the path to editorships and junior analyst slots.

Think how many essays this must engender! And think what sort of people are writing them: Bible-college yearbook editors; clench-fisted debate-club nerds; and, probably more than anything else, political hacks who sincerely believe that literary greatness, like everyone and everything else they have yet encountered in their short lives, must fall to their energy and powers of persuasion.

For the most part these are young people who lack both the experience to comment sensibly on real-life experiences, and the patience or depth to comprehend theoretical abstractions. And, like nearly everyone else in these United States, they think that first-class writing is distinguished not by clarity but by opacity.

So they pick topics that will not get them called for ignorance -- because their editors don't know about them, and nobody else cares about them: comic books, movies, TV shows, celebrity bloggers, etc. On such bare themes the young Turks hang words, metaphors, subordinate clauses and apothegms in (their articles suggest) whatever order they happen to come to minds only hazily acquainted with the rules and traditions of English composition.

Like all amateur artisans, they lay their materials on thick. When they make a mistake or intuit how lost they are, they just add more. Eventually the accretion is so monstrous that it seemes singular: maybe, the budding authors muse, this is what they mean by style.

Such monstrosities pour over an editor's transom. The editor sighs; there is no money in the budget for remedial education, and he has no time to educate all the sprats himself. He keeps hoping they'll get better; but they don't. They spend their free time horsing around. The males try to mack on the females, and the females try to make each other jealous. The editor wonders why they didn't go into advertising. Maybe if Rupert Murdoch owned an agency...

Meanwhile his boss -- a moneyed crackpot who lives in a Georgian mansion in North Dakota and practices incessantly at his private rifle range to prepare for the coming Mexifornian invasion -- looks in: any new talent coming up?

The editor hands over some of the less deformed creations. The boss scans the copy of one, cannot make heads nor tails of it. This is not unusual, but it seems even worse today; maybe, he thinks, it's time for a new contact lens prescription.

Nonetheless he sees keywords of which he approves -- Hannity, Liddy, Limbaugh, Rand -- and that pleases him. That's usually as much as he needs to see when reviewing the magazine, certainly: he will trace the conservative signifiers just far enough to assure himself they are connected with flattery, and the liberal signifiers far enough to assure himself they are wedded to scorn.

In this respect, all is well with the article; if he cannot quite follow the through-line, he figures, it may be a "youth" thing. The kids have their own language; funny books, iPods and so forth. Who is he to judge? The boy wouldn't be aboard if he weren't right on the issues.

And his approving grunt cues the dawn of a brilliant career.

It may of course be simpler than that. Maybe the places are like monkey houses before the advent of humane zoo management: a chaos of screams, leaps, and masturbation. Maybe the cause is not so much editorial desperation as depravity. Maybe the stuff is generated by computer programs while the interns and tyros lay around the office smoking crack.

But speculating on it sure beats the snot out of reading it.