Friday, March 31, 2006

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Monday, March 27, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 25, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 23, 2006

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

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

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

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

Remain calm! All is well!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 17, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2006

SHORTER CRAZY JESUS LADY. Well my gracious, if I'd known President Bush would be spending all that money, I never would have voted for him -- but I still would have voted for his balls!
SHORTER ROD DREHER. Maggie Gallagher should love Crunchy Conservatives -- we hate fags too!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE. I see Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser has gotten into the gay-straightening racket. It takes a little effort to navigate her plausible-deniability screens, but readers of her husband's work will recognize the method.

We can say one thing for the group for whom Dr. Helen shills, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality: it is less overtly homo-hating than competitors such as Love In Action. "We believe that clients have the right to claim a gay identity," quoth NARTH, "or to diminish their homosexuality and to develop their heterosexual potential."

This is new-age gay-straightening -- nonjudgmental and affirming (at least in the advertising!) -- and at first blush seems like a reasonable alternative for self-loathing same-sexers. One would like to give NARTH a break: after all, it's a drag being so negative all the time -- wouldn't it be nice to find one group of dehomofiers you could invite to dinner?

Unfortunately, under its fluffy spa robes NARTH has a sadly familiar political advocacy program: they think Washing the Gay Away should be taught in schools, and their position on gay marriage is simply that "social science evidence supports the traditional model of man-woman marriage as the ideal family form for fostering a child's healthy development" -- which I guess means no. (Ex-Gay Watch has much more, and much uglier, on NARTH.)

In other words, they're just a straight-up anti-gay group who will also do you a wash and rinse for a fee.

But their style is a keeper, I'll admit. They plead their cause in the name of a "multicultural society" and "tolerance." The merest opposition to their program of libidinal reengineering is plain persecution. They even have an official persecutor: the American Psychological Association, which has refused to endorse their bullshit -- and in the topsy-turvy world of conservative victimhood, that's the same thing as the Iron Maiden and the Thumbscrew and the Bridle.

Or should we say "objectively the same thing as the Iron Maiden and the Thumbscrew and the Bridle," because here we transition smoothly into a familiar Reynolds rap, only this time in distaff edition:
Well, the APA (American Psychological Association) is at it again playing the activist role rather than the social science one when it comes to homosexuality...
The beef? APA refused to give continuing-ed credits for a NARTH dequeering conference, and called the whole thing unethical.

A professional association making a professional judgement! What is this, Russia?

Here the Dr. falls into rhythm with NARTH's shimmy-dance: "Personally, I'm skeptical about turning gay people straight." Students of this sort of locution -- Personally, I'm all for equal pay for women -- know it usually ends up with what we call a double-reverse demurrer -- but some of these bra-burning kooks -- half of them couldn't land a man anyway! -- meant to turn the tables, though in this case the Dr. merely bruises her thigh on it:
But shouldn't the client be the one to choose, not the APA? The APA has decided that the answer is no.
Hello, my boy is a big fag and me and Lutiebelle decided to de-fag him but good. First I gotta ask: is your program approved by the American Psychological Association? It hain't? Shoot, Lutiebelle, guess'n we all gots to take dick up the ass! Th' APA has spoken!

The whole Dr. Mrs. post is full of laugh lines -- e.g. "How would the APA act if someone else were trying to shut down therapists who assisted formerly 'straight' clients with getting in touch with their 'gay' feelings?" (I hope we find out, because I think coupons for dick-sucking lessons would make a great gag gift for bachelor parties.)

But the important thing is that she is a worthy practitioner of her Ole Man's passive-aggressive schtick: for example, if the liberals complain of racism, respond that they're the racists because someone called you a cracker. Now we have professional gay-straighteners portrayed as champions of tolerance, and harried by the cruel APA. I admire their nerve, if nothing else about them.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

DRY BUNK. Republican operatives are introducing the idea that the Bush Administration is acting like a stumble-drunk because it's a little overtired. Sympathetic saps are spreading the word.

Tired, my ass. I've heard that crap before -- in fact, I've used it before ("I'm okay, Ma, jus' really tired! I'm goin' right to sleep, bye!") Clearly the truth is that the Bush Administration is drinking again!

Surely you've seen that footage of the Administration fumbling with its governmental responsibilities? (It was on YouTube, but I guess they had to take it down.) And then word leaked about how their poll ratings had fallen into the crapper. You don't just drop something that important into the commode without a little hi-test in the tank, lemme tell ya. And then there are the embarrassing bruises to U.S. prestige...

Next week they'll tell us they're only fucking up because they recently switched to decaf.
JESUSLAND FOR REAL. Let's hear from the good people at Dakota Voice now that abortion has been effectively banned in their state:
First, many baby boomers need to reassess the legitimacy of their existence as demanded by their own moral imperatives. Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1963 (Roe v. Wade), need to ask themselves if they were the first born (frequently unexpected and unwanted in that era), or the last or accidentally born (frequently unwanted in that era). If so, they would most likely not exist today had their parents been given a choice, nor would their children or grandchildren who so delightfully grace their dinner table. If the truth were known, many baby boomers and their prodigy should recuse themselves from the abortion debate. They are alive because of moral law and should not deny that same right to others. In other words, they should exercise an abortive silence in respect to their own existence...

Second, I will begin to consider that a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body only after prostitution has been promoted and legalized by the pro-choice movement. Both abortion and prostitution are products of sexual acts, often with lifelong consequences, and should not be treated differently...

Finally, scientists have made clear what life is and when it begins. In 1996 the world's newspapers proclaimed "Life on Mars" after discovering a fossilized nano-bacteria inside a meteor thought to have come from Mars. What if those scientists had found an embryo fossilized inside that rock? Would they have declared Mars a dead planet?
I know there are real newspapers in South Dakota, and citizens of all political persuasions who are not mentally retarded. But I think they will be eclipsed in the near term by such as Anton Kaiser, author of the coarsely-stitched prose monstrosity quoted above. Both his message and mode of expression seem a perfect fit for his time and place.

I always expected I'd be dead by the time it came to this. Well, I guess you can't win 'em all.

UPDATE. Another lovely story at the Voice:
"Truth For Muslims" to Deliver Texans a Biblical Response to Islam

John Marion, project director of Truth For Muslims, an evangelical Christian group, announced plans to reach more people in Texas with their message.

"Christians in Texas have told us they like our message," said Marion from his Virginia office near Washington, DC...

"We will mail our letters to Christians throughout the state"...

"The gospel is so different from the teachings of Mohammed, but not everyone understands how big the difference is between the two. I'm looking for more Christians in Texas to help me get the message out to people across the country."
After a while you realize that while the Truth For Muslims guys describe talking to many other Christians, there is no evidence that they have ever spoken to a single Muslim -- a good thing, probably, as I don't know how your average Joe Muhammed would react to statements such as "We are bringing the message of Christ to those who are spiritually dead" (though I note with interest that the American Muslim Association in North America has picked up their press release. Slow news day?).

Monday, March 13, 2006

DAVID HOROWITZ NAMES HIS PRICE. To my shock (maybe the Kathryn Lopez rim-job threw him off his game), David Horowitz almost addresses my long-unanswered question: Instead of trying to legislate conservative quotas at colleges, why don't rightwing critics of socialist Harvard, Yale, Columbia etc. just build their new Jerusalem at existing Bible schools like Bob Jones and Liberty University?
As my book shows, the idea that there are tolerant schools — by which I take it you mean intellectually diverse — is a delusion. Among the top 100 there are no such schools. The best a parent could do would be to send their child to Kenyon, where the faculty is still ninety percent Left (the norm) but the curriculum is traditional and probably quite decent. There is no market. This is because the academic professions are organized nationally, and therefore no school that wants to be competitive educationally is safe. The analogy would be, say, newspapers. Even such conservatively owned papers as the Wall Street Journal and the San Diego Union are liberal in their news and features sections because the journalistic profession — trained in journalism schools at Columbia and elsewhere run by Marxists — is left.
Did you get that? First, "there is no market" -- if, instead of talking about education, you're talking about prestige education -- "the top 100." Let us be clear about what Horowitz wants: not academic freedom, but more impressive names on the CVs of his right-wing colleagues. It's not about learning, it's about power.

I wonder if the conservative cowtown colleges know with what contempt Horowitz regards them?

Loved also the union-busting angle -- "the academic professions are organized nationally" -- and the slur on that sector of the Wall Street Journal devoted to excellent reporting rather than to the promulgation of crackpot fantasies.
MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, MUCH SHORTER JEFF GOLDSTEIN: Sure glad I didn't make the mistake of attending Harvard!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

DVD PARTY TONIGHT. Secretary. I’m always up for a good D/s love story, and while this is no Duel in the Sun, it does have spanking and modified pony girl action. I’d be inclined to leave it at that, but the filmmakers aren’t, so there are fantasy sequences, exotic set decoration, and a backstory of self-mutilation and familial and romantic disappointment to provide an explanation for folks who don’t get it. I understand the perceived necessity, but I sort of wish they’d just gone for it – particularly as James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal make the elemental situation entirely clear all by themselves. Of course, I also think someone should make a Bukowski movie that’s exactly like a crappy 70s porno with Bukowski dialogue. Or a film version of Albert Goldman’s Elvis: The Last 24 Hours, done in real time.

The Aristocrats. The pride-of-craft angle has been well-noted, and it’s fascinating to watch comedians, who for the most part are philosophical without being particularly thoughtful, rabbinically parse this ancient gag. (George Carlin is both philosophical and thoughtful. My favorite of his observations is, "Shock is just an uptown word for surprise.") The unspoken subtext here is the bottomless hostility of the professional comic. Though full of sexual activity, the eponymous joke is not the least bit sexy, but it is assaultive, and when rendered with Gilbert Gottfried energy it, as they say, kills. The famous and lucky comedians are cute enough about it, but the second-stringers, hollow-eyed and reeking of ancient flop-sweat, linger in my memory. Despite his celebrity, I would number among these Bob Saget. His nearly affectless telling of the joke seems almost like a confession, evoked by the pressure of long-buried shame.
In a conventional war, if one side has tanks, fighter jets, submarines and similar weapons, while the other side does not, who wins? The answer is obvious.

In an unconventional war, if one side has suicide bombers, license to kidnap, torture and violate the laws of war while the other side must refrain from deploying such weapons and abide by all the rules, who wins? The answer, I'm afraid, may be equally obvious.
Beavis and Butthead:
BUTTHEAD: Axl Rose versus a blade of grass.

BEAVIS: Well, I dunno. I mean, if Axl was real quiet and snuck up on the blade of grass...

BUTTHEAD: It'd still kick his ass.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

IS IT ME? Or is Norman Mailer really, really overrated? I've always felt guilty for not having read more of him, but I've had to read the White Negro, his write-up of the Rumble in the Jungle and a couple other things. For research, I'm just now reading Superman Comes to the Supermarket and I find it awfully tedious and astoundingly pretentious.
It's you, Jonah.

People who know how to read are directed to The Executioner's Song, The Armies of the Night, Why Are We In Vietnam? Miami and The Siege of Chicago, etc.

UPDATE. I am sorry to be reminded that Terry Teachout doesn't much like Mailer, either. (Goldberg seems to feel justified that a smart guy once came to a conclusion similar to his uninformed own, and by now has probably turned his attention to his tea-time McFlurry.) As an actual critic, Teachout is admirably specific about what bugs him in Mailer. A lot of what Teachout disdains, though, is actually what I admire; "romantic radicalism rooted in sexual mysticism" -- why, he could be talking about late Dreiser!

And Lord knows I'll take a writer "drunk on ideas" over the relative teetotalers at The Corner. That's the best defense of the old man I have to offer at present, through when Mailer passes I will probably fill several cocktail napkins on the subject. I will only add that, even if you think Mailer wrote one or two good novels and that everything else he did is shit, he has given us more than we are entitled to, and more than most can hope to achieve.
STILL MORE BLESSED RELIEF. A spruce piece of work by Doghouse Riley which, while here submitted for its formal excellencies*, does have its component of anger toward a scumbag utility boss and a rotten, inhuman system, so you may say we are getting slowly back to the social and political subjects that have made alicublog a cause for blinking unrecognition across our nation.

* Nabokov, when he taught Bleak House, would read to his classes the heartbreaking scene of Jo's death ("Dead, your Majesty...And dying thus around us every day"), and immediately afterwards remind the sniffling students, "This is a lesson in style, not in participative emotion."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

BLESSED RELIEF. It seems everywhere I look on the internet today, I find new nadirs of imbecility. To dispel the sensation of choking on my own bile, I refocused on something perceptive, well-written, and beyond politics: Terry Teachout on the Venn diagram of being a musician and being a writer. On a more childish level, this guy is hilarious (hat tip to Treacher, of all people). Give either a look if you too could use a break from the numbing fusillades.

If not, come back later and I'll be swearing at retards again.
SHORTER ROSS DOUTHAT: Let's see if we can't get some poor saps to live in the cowtowns and make yummy food so us smart guys in the city can eat it. Oooh, that's crunchy!

(BTW I love, love, love the part about how Jesus didn't mean all rich people had to give up their possessions to follow him -- just that one poor sap! Maybe they should change the movement's name to You Go First Conservatism.)
I've seen Crash, but not Hustle and Flow, but doesn't it seem there's great disagreement between Terence Howard's roles? In one, he's a slick Hollywood producer, disappointed that white boss Tony Danza makes him dumb down the black character in his sitcom. And in the other, he's a pimp trying to become a rapper trying to rhyme about "hos" instead of exploiting them.
It's... called.... act-ing... you... ass... clown.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

SPEAKING OF IDIOTS. At the Crunchy Con site:
Homer Simpson is crunchy... Homer Simpson is emblematic of a large swath of America that still practices the conservative virtues Kirk touted as best they can in the midst of a culture and system that inherently handicaps those virtues.
Homer Simpson is NOT crunchy. He is the writers' stand-in for a crunchy, existing solely to be used to ridicule anyone with even the slightest conservatism in his life and values!... Want to find a good crunchy con? It's much more likely to be Ned Flanders — that's right, Ned, "okely-dokely" Flanders. A truly devout religious man, devoted to (deceased) wife, and family, running his own business.
One thing you have to give Janet Reno: she would have incinerated these morons days ago.

UPDATE. Jesus fucking Christ: "But oh-man-oh-man-oshevitz is Caleb off his rocker on this one. Bruce is right in so many ways. Homer is a consumerist qua consumerist..." Along with his other lazy columns about the Crunchy Cons, this is proof that Goldberg could defend 2+2=4 and wind up losing the argument.
SURROUNDED BY IDIOTS. John Podhoretz steers suckers to the Ole Perfesser's tent:
IT'S only March, but I can guarantee you there won't be a more exciting or inspiring book published this year than "An Army of Davids"...

Reynolds is so excited by the empowerment of the individual that he connects the technological improvements offered by the computer to the technological improvement of humanity. The advancement of knowledge means that in the next 30 years, we will be better and stronger and smarter due to the integration of high technology into our bodies and minds.
I'd say we could achieve the same end now, by replacing these guys' brains with coffee roasters.
"An Army of Davids" is infectiously optimistic. There are reasons to argue with its optimism, to mistrust Reynolds' always-look-on-the-bright-side-of life tone. But it's amazingly pleasant to read a provocative and thought-provoking book that doesn't say the present stinks and the future will be worse.
It's the feel-good hit of the slummer! Even rightwing blood-brotherhood doesn't explain this abject puffery, but that last paragraph might: as the conservative movement goes increasingly mad (to which spectacle Podhoretz recently had a front-row seat as an appalled spectator at Brother Dreher's Traveling CrunchyCon Show), these guys figure it might buy them a few more hours' grace in the control booth if they distribute happy shiny texts about how Garageband is going to start the Groovy Revolution.

Meanwhile this quote, from one Patrick Goldstein and circle-jerked by Ed Driscoll and the Perfesser, tells those of us who actually know how to read what's wrong with all this blogger-knows-best bullshit:
Even though the show ["American Idol"], for me, is little more than a tedious night at a karaoke bar, its contestants offering second-rate renditions of familiar pop fluff, it has captured the imagination of its young, largely female audience. They don't need any gray-bearded critics to tell them what they like — they prefer creating their own stars...

Our bottom-up culture puts little premium on subtle craft, not to mention expert opinion, whether it's Olympic judges or academy members. Young people want to be a member of a group, encouraged by their peers.
What's the opposite of elitism? Hint: it has to do with the elevation of the admittedly imbecilic over that stuff those stupid smart guys, with their expertise and their standards, say is "good." I mean, gray-bearded critics think this old black-and-white movie about this old dude who says "Rosebud" is better that Big Momma's House II. I mean, when they made the dude fat at the end, why didn't they made him black and a chick too? Guess they didn't have the technology. Losers.

I didn't like "Greed is Good," but "Crap is Good" is even worse.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

POST-OSCAR RIGHT WING STYLEE: PAJAMAS MEDIA STRIKES BLECH! Let's see how the coolio conservatives responded to this year's Oscars:
Beginning to wonder how long it will take Jon Stewart to crack an anti-Bush joke.
Waking up with George Clooney next to me would make it very easy for me to get out of bed.
And so far, [Jon Stewart]'s making fun of Hollywood's devotion to the Democrats. So, I'll say good for him.
"A return to glamour" is tonight's theme, says host John Stewart. Has he seen any of tonight's nominated movies? I know I haven't
[it was a joke, tanning-bed boy! snip!]
Clooney's award was payback for being robbed for his performance in "Return of the Killer Tomatoes["].
YAY!! For March of the Penguins!!!!!! A well-deserved victory.
J-Lo just spoke of forgiveness and resentment in a very angry tone: Which do you think she (and the Academy) really wants us to feel tonight?
I love Sam Jackson, but hate it when Hollywood jerks itself off. Bo-ring.
[I should interject that there are intentional jokes embedded in this horseshit, in which right-wing bloggers pretend to be Hollywood celebrities making catty comments about the participants. Follow the link and prepare to laff ("prepare" meaning, in this case, drink a bottle of Jack Daniels and get Gilbert Gottfried to read it to you). snip!]
Robert Altman is the most overrated director in Hollywood history. There, I said it. He's so beloved by actors because he over-indulges them.
[fuck you. I mean, snip]
Compare Witherspoon's speech to Julia Roberts's from a couple years back. The gal has class.
Here's the statistical rundown: Crash, with a theatrical box office of $53 million, is the lowest-grossing Oscar winner since "The Last Emperor," going all the way back to 1987. And that's in non-inflation adjusted numbers. The average box office for all of this year's Best Picture nominees was the lowest since 1984. I believe history will mark this year as the beginning of the end for traditional, big-studio Hollywood. Of course, I could be wrong. Of course, some say that year transpired long ago.
[Very astute. And what might the sell-by date be for a combine of Republican bloggers playing at red carpet? snippety snip snap!]

If you really want to know how these people think, why not go straight to Free Republic ("Looks like Brokeback got rear ended") and be spared the pathetic attempt to be hip?
TIME-LAG OSCARS PART SIX. Stewart is funny still, but he has also sort of faded into the background – in other words, he’s an emcee, not a star galvanizing the event. Makes sense in an Oscar year of small Hollywood movies. Montage films, elaborate gags, nice moments in the acceptance speeches, and a brisk clip – why, you’d almost think they planned it this way.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY. I’m losing the pool, but I’m a traditionalist so I like that one movie is sweeping the craft awards.

BEST ACTRESS. First time I saw her was in Freeway. Then I saw Election. Then she made a lot of movies that I had no interest in seeing, though I peeked at them because she was in them. I thought she was wasting her talent, but I’m sure she was just taking such opportunities as arose to build her audience and her power. Her speech looks and sounds like pleasant treacle, but her comments about her family and her emphasis on T-Bone Burnett show some spine, taste, and wisdom. I haven’t seen this one yet, but I will now.

BEST ADAPTED SCRIPT: Larry McMurtry has a good gig. His dual academic/redneck cred makes it possible for him to resist all kinds of pressure in Hollywood. And he uses it well here. "All are contributors to the survival of the culture of the book." Hear, hear, cowboy.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY. Quoting Brecht? ‘Sokay, America went to bed already.

BEST DIRECTOR: I liked Crouching Tiger etc. Lee's tribute to "all the gay men and womens" is very sweet, partly for being rote. Not having seen The Hulk I don’t have a full read on his artistic personality, but I’ll go to the theatre next week and get more information. Hey, Oscar is doing his job!

BEST PICTURE. Whoa. Big coup! Newspapers full of Oscar ink! Was Oscar scared? Who is Paul Haggis? Is this picture The Greatest Show on Earth, Chariots of Fire, Driving Miss Daisy, or An American in Paris, In the Heat of the Night, All the King’s Men -- that is, a cop-out or a split decision? Again, you’d almost think they planned it.

Now time to clean up my own vomit! Thank you, get home safe!
TIME-LAG OSCARS PART FIVE. BEST SONG. "How come they’re the most excited people here tonight?" Because they think it’s the Grammys. We’ve come a long way from "Sweet Leilani."

BEST SOUND EDITING. Thanks, sound editors everywhere say, for giving us a novelty film.

DEAD GUY MONTAGE. Clooney was a good pick to intro – if he’s not the appropriate new Hollywood guy to bid adieu to the old, who is? I’m sorry there is apparently no one left to mourn, with applause, Moira Shearer and Teresa Wright, and that John Mills has to take runoff from Chris Penn. But hard workers in every industry die every day, and being applauded or mentioned or not, "handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now."

BEST FOREIGN FILM. I picked this one! It had commercials! I saw them on DVDs! It looked heart-rending!

BEST FILM EDITING. Which one had boxing? That was Cinderella Man, so I picked it in the pool… Crash? Was there boxing? I have to go to the movies more.

BEST ACTOR: Omigod, I just realized Hillary Swank has two Oscars. They came close together, not as close as Katharine Hepburn’s first two, but pretty close. Will she wait twenty-odd years for her third? Is the lack of good female roles in movies the modern equivalent of "box-office poison"? Halle Berry’s coming out with another X-Men movie, which will be crap. Laura Linney can’t catch a break casting-wise. I hear Philip Seymour Hoffman was pretty good in Capote.

UPDATE. I always make this mistake: Hepburn won her second Oscar thirty-three years after her first.
TIME-LAG OSCARS BEER PART FOUR. ART DIRECTION: How do you portray the "climate of fear of McCarthyism" in art direction? With sketches! Keanu should be appointed Oscar Presenter Partner for life. I’ve never seen him better.

SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS MONTAGE. I love the eazy-flow music they use to bring out Samuel L. Jackson, but I really wish they’d mix things up by giving him something like the Yale Fight Song. Now what is Hollywood, that chancred whore, trying to tell us? They call me Mister Hollywood – and you shouldn’t hate me for making you think with movies you don’t go see! You like some of it, don’t you? Like when Jack Nicholson pushes those dishes off the table? That was cool, right? So gay cowboys are just like Tom Joad! Well, it’s Chuck Workman, probably, and it’s a nice warm bath of righteous both self- and unhyphenated for all us rebels & dreamers! And Jon Stewart deflated cannily! And whatshisname the President re-inflated deadly-ily! Uncomfortable truths! And please go to movie theatres, where you get "sound coming at you from all directions" (I thought they closed the Selwyn) and New Orleans and hey, wake up people, here’s Salma Hayek!

BEST SCORE: The best one of these medleys I ever saw starred Liberace, who opened the proceedings by announcing, "I made my greatest contribution to the movies years ago – I stopped making them!" and then pounded the keys to lead the Oscar Philharmonic in classics like Theme from "Beastmaster". Still, I won’t let nostalgia prevent me from acknowledging the good work on auditory view, though I doubt that any of these scores is improved by having Itzhak Perlman carry the melodies on his fiddle (and wrapping it all up with a cute little flourish)… oh great, more homosexualist propaganda and by a foreigner yet! Somewhere Roger L. Simon is chewing the rim of his fedora.

BOMBAST MONTAGE. Jake Gyllegehuillahall says, "there’s no place to see them like on the big screen" and the audience pat their palms as if they don’t want to look too eager to drag us wretches into the cineplexes for their benefit. Then another Chuck Worman joint. Point taken, and thank Skerner God of Wood the Hollywoodians have King Kong and The Matrix to remind people that you can still have a good time stoned and watching things go kablooey, and you won’t even get ringworm by leaning your head back on the theatre seat.

BEST SOUND MIXING: You get the difference between this and Sound Editing, right? This is basically Best Sound. They split off Sound Effects Editing years ago because… fuck, I forget why. King Kong! I might win this pool if everyone else in my office had a bad hangover on Friday.

ROBERT ALTMAN! Holy fuck! Robert Altman! Even Streep and Tomlin doing a stupid bit about overlapping dialogue (Hello? Howard Hawks?) and improvisation (hello Cassavettes?) can’t fuck this up. Or can it? Shouldn’t they be smoking joints? Big, fat spliffs would have sewn up the urban youth demo. What a pleasure, though, to see him honored. But what’s the ornery old coot gonna say? "I thought this award meant it was over…" Then he tells what he’s up to. Then he tells about his next movie. "It’s not over." And "to me it’s just one long film." Well, yes, auteurist that I am, I cannot disagree. Nice analogy of the sand castle. "Have a drink, watch the tide come in, and the ocean just takes it away… I’ve built about forty of them…" And a nice "one more thing… eleven years ago I had a heart transplant… the heart of a young woman, I think in her late thirties… I think I’ve got about thirty years left." God, I hope so.

ROBERT ALTMAN CONT. What did Robert Altman do? Worked in almost every conceivable genre: detective story, gambling drama, service comedy, space movie, westerns, English murder mystery, L.A. murder mystery, musical, filmed theatre, etc… Illuminated everything he touched. Let actors breathe. Let the soundtrack breathe. When Hollywood funding was not forthcoming he scraped it up himself and kept working. Made beautiful images. Warren Beatty dying in a snowbank. Helicopters descending on Los Angeles. The Last Supper in a Korean MASH tent. Michel Gambon smashing away a rocks glass. "Rufus Rastus Rawlston Brown, whatcha gonna do when the rent comes ‘round?" "Y’all settle down now – this isn’t Dallas, it’s Nashville."
TIME-LAG OSCARS BEER PART FOUR. ART DIRECTION: How do you portray the "climate of fear of McCarthyism" in art direction? With sketches! Keanu should be appointed Oscar Presenter Partner for life. I’ve never seen him better.

SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS MONTAGE. I love the eazy-flow music they use to bring out Samuel L. Jackson, but I really wish they’d mix things up by giving him something like the Yale Fight Song. Now what is Hollywood, that chancred whore, trying to tell us? They call me Mister Hollywood – and you shouldn’t hate me for making you think with movies you don’t go see! You like some of it, don’t you? Like when Jack Nicholson pushes those dishes off the table? That was cool, right? So gay cowboys are just like Tom Joad! Well, it’s Chuck Workman, probably, and it’s a nice warm bath of righteous both self- and unhyphenated for all us rebels & dreamers! And Jon Stewart deflated cannily! And whatshisname the President re-inflated deadly-ily! Uncomfortable truths! And please go to movie theatres, where you get "sound coming at you from all directions" (I thought they closed the Selwyn) and New Orleans and hey, wake up people, here’s Salma Hayek!

BEST SCORE: The best one of these medleys I ever saw starred Liberace, who opened the proceedings by announcing, "I made my greatest contribution to the movies years ago – I stopped making them!" and then pounded the keys to lead the Oscar Philharmonic in classics like Theme from "Beastmaster". Still, I won’t let nostalgia prevent me from acknowledging the good work on auditory view, though I doubt that any of these scores is improved by having Itzhak Perlman carry the melodies on his fiddle (and wrapping it all up with a cute little flourish)… oh great, more homosexualist propaganda and by a foreigner yet! Somewhere Roger L. Simon is chewing the rim of his fedora.
TIME-LAG OSCARS PART THREE. FILM NOIR: What are you trying to tell us, Hollywood? That you remember your roots? Or that Lauren Bacall forgot her contact lenses? I think the corny-wonderful coming-attraction supers are kind of a cheat. Are we supposed to laugh at some of the best movies ever made? But we chase the bad taste with the genuine bad taste of a Steve Colbert joint!

DOC SHORT SUBJECTS: Terence Howard, your moment in the sun has arrived – oh shit, cat’s throwing up on my bed, gotta go. (P.S. not kidding.)

PENGUINS. Oh, those wacky French. What would they have done with the stuffed penguins if they’d lost? What an embarrassing post-show interview. "We do not win, but, eh, we steel have ze penguins!" and then they hug the penguins and make moues. Did I spell that right? This is liveblogging, no time to check sources.

ANOTHER BEST SONG NOMINEE allows me to clean up cat vomit without abdicating my citizen-journalist responsibilities.
TIME-LAG OSCARS PART TWO. BEST MAKEUP: "I’m just glad Clooney doesn’t do makeup!" Finally I’m getting the cheese I’ve been craving. Makeup Guy, though awarded for The Chronicles of Narnia, extensively references Maurice Sendak instead of Jesus. Do I have to spell it out for you people?

TECHNICAL AWARDS: "I’m glad I could be a part of it," says Rachel McAdams. This is how they haze starlets. Later she’ll sit in the green room with Julia Roberts and have a laugh, and it won’t all be cocaine-fueled.

BEST SUPPORTING CHICK: Boy, I hope McDormand wins, so she explain that tree-thing on her jacket… oh shit, I’m never going to win this pool. What do those entertainment reporters know that I don’t? Do they, like, go to the movies? A John LeCarre shout! This is all so puzzling, and it’s all moving so fast, I’ve forgotten, if only momentarily, about homosexuals.
TIME-LAG BLOGGING THE OSCARS IN REAL TIME-LAG! PAAAAART OOOONNEE BOYEEEE! Welcome to the Oscars, which all good Americans are supposed to hate for their liberal gayness. I’m actually grateful to have that all out in the open. I sorta had an inkling when I started following these things as a child that my interest was corrupt and vile. Sometimes, like when John Podhoretz gets into the Oscars, we forget that. But thank God or the flying spaghettini spaghetti sauce monster or whatever we decadent creatures are supposed to call it/him/her/Gaia, we have Roger L. Simon, an actual screenwriter, to tell people the real truth. I’ll give you the link later. Or you can go to his site and find it yourself, it ain’t hard.

Well, I don’t have cable, so this is how I get to see Jon Stewart. He’s hilarious. I should have realized that Jon Stewart would be a little ahead of his audience. It works fine because he’s usually a little ahead of his audience (but packs his TV auditors with homosexuals who will laugh at anything). The tentativeness of the laughs just add a little extra layer of hilarity – like Stewart cracks on Walk the Line and Joaquin Phoenix just inflates his face a couple of centimeters.

Music during acceptance speeches? That’s what Oscar has been missing! Now everyone sounds like piano-bar performers telling the crowd to tip their waitress.

BEST SUPPORTING DUDE: Clooney’s speech has humor, and righteousness and self-righteousness in equal measure (well, maybe a little more of the former). Obviously a depth-charge (ah ha ha ha! Git it?) on behalf of the homosexual agenda.

BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS: Does it say something about our culture that a very talented comedian must pretend ineptitude to get laughs? The metaphor for a closeted lifestyle is obvious.

BEST LONG CARTOON: The two guys wearing big bow-ties are obviously channeling teh gay! Why don’t they thank their life-partners?

DOLLY PARTON: Tomorrow when I sober up I’ll look around for links telling us how Dolly isn’t what she used to be since she got involved with the transgenderalist agenda. I am of course talking about The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Whorehouses in a musical comedy! These people will do anything to tear down our moral infrastructure.

BEST SHORT MOVIE: Who knew? I based my office pool pick on the pictures and synopses at I lost. That guy looks gay.

BEST SHORT CARTOON: See above, except it’s a couple accepting so the gay – oh wait, life partner check!

BEST "CULINARY CONCEPTIONS THEMSELVES": I should be writing this copy. "Novelist Jane Austen herself would have nodded with approval" – or maybe she would just be nodding!

Vomit break!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

EYES ON THE STREET. The Crazy Jesus Lady announces her latest tour of bus stations, ladies' rooms, and public atria:
"You are embarrassing the angels." This is what I intend to say for the next 40 days whenever I see someone who is hurting the culture, hurting human dignity, denying the stature of a human being. I mean to say it with belief, with an eye to instruction, but also pointedly, uncompromisingly. As a lady would. All invited to join in.
Well, at least she's not threatening to tackle Arabs in the street anymore.

But in its own way, this could be even more CrazyJesuLicious! Try to imagine some female Midwestern tourist walking near Grand Central, wearing (as I have seen them do) running pants with the word ANGEL written across the butt. Picture a horrified Crazy Lesus Lady abandoning her shopping cart to accost the woman and, wagging her finger the way the nuns used to (except more violently, so that clouds of dust shake loose of her gauntlets), crying "YOU ARE EMBARRASSING THE ANGELS! YOU ARE EMBARRASSING THE ANGELS!"

Imagine, too, a nearby cop, aware that his first duty as a NYPD officer is to shield tourists from negative experiences, gently laying hands on the Crazy Jesus Lady and bidding her be silent.

Sweet Jesu! call her synapses across the gaping void of her skull, It's the airport strip-search all over again! But now the heathens dare to assault me in public! Thrashing, her arms thrown out in emulation of Christ crucified, she lets out a long, shrill scream: "REEAAGAAAAAAAAAAAAN..."

(I gotta say, I knew this day was coming, but I didn't think it would come so soon.)

UPDATE. The madness spreads! The Anchoress volunteers to join Noonan on global babysitting duty: "When I see teenage suburban girls talking like 7th Avenue streetwalkers while they flick their cigarettes, I will say it. When I hear my feminist friend railing at the unfairness of a biology that forces women to menstruate, but not men, I will say it." Oh, but Sister, have you thought what they might say back to you? Or will you only nag those who seem too weak to talk back? (Yes, evil times indeed, when a lady can't insult with impunity anyone she pleases! Though if you look and sound like Maggie Smith in Gosford Park, you might get away with it.)

To be fair, The Anchoress also pledges to crack on herself when she does wrong in her own eyes, which puts her a step at least ahead of the Crazy Jesus Lady.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

ALL IS WELL! We seem to be getting lots of panicky Don't Panic messages about Iraq these days. The authors of these messages curse liberals and the media, as usual, but increasingly include on their shit list the American people as a body.

Victor Davis Hanson, for example, reads a list of negative features of our occupation (tendentiously conflating Abu Ghraib with the flushed Koran story, as if torture/murders were the equivalent of a newsman's gaffe), and then dismisses any and all concerns with this ineptitude and depravity as "American hysteria," "acrimony at home" about which there is a "disturbing sameness." (Well, what the hell, why not throw in an aesthetic objection?) Among the wrong-thinkers, Hanson interestingly names not only his usual despised liberals but also some conservatives "who insisted that we needed more initial troops are often the same ones who now decry that too much money has been spent in Iraq."

In fact, we -- not the Royal kind -- are to blame, at least as compared to the sainted military: while "we point fingers at each other," says Hanson, "soldiers under fire point to their achievements." This is followed by patriotic mush, Kiplingesque complaints about how hard war is to do properly ("Put too many troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we earn the wages of imperialism... Yet deploy too few troops, and instability arises in Kabul and Baghdad"), and finally the warning that we are in danger of losing the war at home. (That means you, citizen! Put out that light!)

A similar tactic is employed by Fifty-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters only, as we have come to expect from the General, more hilariously. The Kipling musk here suffuses the entire column: the Iraqi people are portrayed as children whose "moral infrastructure" was "wrecked" by Saddam Hussein, and who must be re-parented by the U.S. Armed Forces. Like a good Daddy, G.I. Joe will "deliver expertise and spare parts, but won't do their work for them." That's how they learn! (And all those bombs we dropped on them? That's like a skinned knee.)

By God, these little monkeys may yet make it -- if you treasonous Americans don't fuck things up! "I didn't see any of our self-righteous critics in the Risalah slum," sneered the General. "But I did see Sgt. Maurice Harris, Spec. Victor Tsung and PFC (hey, promote that guy!) Brad Sheets, along with their comrades in arms. They were soldiers to the core..." And we see them marching into history, superimposed over an American flag on a hill, while the soundtrack plays "Have You Forgotten When Saddam Bombed the WalMart?" So who are you punks to question the soldiers' successes at sewage treatment in this little town -- and, by extension, throughout the Middle East? In a sidebar the General warns the People: "You are being lied to. By elements in the media determined that Iraq must fail. Just give 'em the Bronx cheer." And we'll be paying attention to who blows and who doesn't, maggot!

The thing you have to remember is: these people have been in charge for years. They run the Executive and Legislative Branches of the Federal Governments, and most Statehouses and State Legislatures. We are ruled, for all intents and purposes, by an unfettered and barely-challenged Republican Party. They have been left free to put their heaven-sent recipes for glory into operation.

And yet, citizens who are not commie-faggot-punk-MSMers are still losing faith in the cooked-up Iraq adventure.

So the Party in Power scrambles: they're going to shift from blaming whatever little troubles (be it a humorously misplaced Koran, or a man beaten to death by U.S. military "consultants") on that bale of straw called Libruls, to blaming it on us, by which they mean you.

It's worth a try. If it doesn't work, South Dakota can always float a law instituting the Rule of the Saints up to the Supremes. For every problem, there is a solution.

UPDATE. Must be something in the air because lots of smarter people than me are on this case. (Warning: some of this stuff involves Jeff Goldstein, so if you follow the links back to their source be prepared for long debate-club dissertations about how you don't understand English etc.)