Monday, July 31, 2006

SHORTER CHRISTOPHER CHANTRILL. The Seattle shooting was the direct result of liberals and their damned Civil Rights Act.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

MAD SCIENTIST. The recent discussion of parenting at The Corner reaches a watershed of hilarity in remarks by that great man of science, Charles Murray:
There is an interesting question in all this: Does Dad actually have to be alive to accomplish all this? There's an interesting study to be done of the sons of dads killed in war, or absent for some other honorable reason. Is it enough for Mom to be able to say "Your father would be very proud of you" or "Your father would be very disappointed in you"? I prefer to think no; that we're more useful alive and present. But it would still be an interesting study...
I love that "honorable reason" and can imagine Murray's reseachers assigning honor values to various paternal absences. Maybe if Paw went to jail for bombing an abortion clinic, the lad will get a "well-raised in absentia" rating. But what if Father just had a heart attack? No doubt inquiries will have to be made to establish that it was an honorable heart attack -- such as one induced by long consumption of American fatty foods.
As to Derb's question: can the right-hand tail of the distribution, the super-involved parents, who get just the right mobile to hang over the baby's crib, schedule every enhancing intellectual and physical activity, etc. etc., make things worse? I have no data, but I cringe every time I watch such parents at work. If I had to assign my children to be adopted, I'd prefer any ordinarily loving blue-collar couple with no college education and low income over a pair of Super Parents.
A touching sop to the working class! The youngster will learn the value of hard work in our society by watching his folks make a quart of milk last seven days. At least he will be spared excess fussing over his mobiles. There's a son or daughter Charles Murray can be proud of -- in absentia, and honorably.

Why do I get the feeling that all these lunatics were raised in Skinner boxes?
"GODFATHER III: GOOD VERSION." I never saw Godfather III before this weekend, having been advised by everyone in the civilized world that it sucked. Lately, though, I'd felt an urge to finally get through the trilogy. Maybe it's because I've grown older and gained a little more patience -- or desire to be patient, anyway -- with long-distance artists. I just knocked back #2 in Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, and am steeling myself to read #3, not because The Manticore psyched me for it, but because I have developed a superstitious feeling about leaving such things unfinished.

G3 reaches back into the saga's first two parts, and the cinematography, sets, and costumes are a nearly seamless match. As before, they are not only impeccably of their time and place, but deeply imaginative and expressive of the psychology of both scene and character. In the big Corleone party at the beginning, there's a lot of brown and burgundy, velvet and flounces, in spacious but visually overheated rooms: a modern Medici feast. Sicily is a tropical backwater scorched to near-barrenness, the Vatican a labyrinth. And Michael is dressed impeccably but slightly loosely -- to accommodate his Richard III hump, and to suggest a man close to death.

Coppola makes some good use of the franchises' stored-up riches. When he shock-cuts from familiar Corleone environs to the neon sign of the China Bowl, or has Elvis Costello's "Miracle Man" blast from the windows of Michael's Sicilian villa, the thrilling sense of dislocation reminds us how deliriously inventive Coppola can be. (In fact, I'll go further: it reminds me of Scorsese.)

The acting, with one major exception, is perfect. Two of the veterans are sublime. The development of Talia Shire's Connie is organic and chilling: the cowering wife of G1 becomes a terrifying Electra. And Diane Keaton launches her acting renaissance with increasing layers of justification for her relationship with Michael. The new guys are great: Eli Wallach is Tuco resurrected as a Mafia Don, and Joe Mantegna puts spit in John Gotti's polish.

Sofia Coppola's performance is a common object of ridicule, but I find her suprisingly effective. She is, by Hollywood standards -- well, I guess the best word in English is ungainly -- her teeth and lips are badly out of sync, her nose is prominent, and her collegiate drawl has all the simplicity of youth without its charm. (I think she's cute, but I'm a big perv.) But she is believably a great man's daughter (no shock) and her lack of acting skill translates on-screen as a lack of guile -- which makes her attractiveness to Vinny (a brilliant update of young Jimmy Caan by Andy Garcia) more poignant than a more conventional starlet might have suggested. Vinny is Sonny Corleone's bastard son, and he identifies deeply with the Corleone family; his desire for Coppola's Mary is almost sickly familial: his romantic pet name for her is "Cuz." Coppola is clearly in love with him, and Garcia, with seeming romantic innocence, gobbles up her wan screen presence, which suits his character, his circumstance, and Michael's objections.

As in the sublime Godfather II, Coppola wants us to understand what Michael Corleone understands: that the further the Corleones rise, the more crooked things get. He also wants us to understand something Michael never understands: that the desire to rise must destroy. G1, Michael's story, and G2, Coppola's, are the bookends of a tragic vision -- arguably the closest thing to an American tragedy since O'Neill.

What then is G3 for? What is its connection to the first two films; how does it magnify their power or settle their debts?

I can see why Coppola would want to tackle the Vatican Bank/JP1 scandal. In the go-go era in which the film was made, it may have seemed natural for the Corleones to globalize. And, giving Coppola extra credit, that circumstance also gives an opportunity to resuscitate an important character trait of Michael's: his belief that he and his family are different -- that when he wins, it is something more than a tribal victory.

If Michael were merely a competent successor to his father, the Godfather saga would just be another story of a Local Hood who Makes Good -- a version of all our other great gangster stories, only without retribution. But in his youth Michael went to great lengths to evade his family's business, and when family ties finally proved too strong for him, he yet held onto the one part of his father's dream that served his deeper self -- "I never meant this for you... Senator Corleone... maybe even... "

The Kennedy parallel has always been screamingly obvious in the Godfather saga, and one of its great insights has been that a man might dare anything in pursuit of power without relinquishing one conviction: that he and his are yet something better than the most successful brutes in the jungle. Michael's comments on the harsh realities of power -- "Who's being naive, Kay?" -- were never signs of acceptance so much as of contempt. Michael swallowed the corruption of the world without ever believing that it applied to him.

But the Michael of G3 is not capable of showing us this, and it's not just the writing that makes it so. I love Al Pacino, but I think he got boxed in here. At the end of G2 Michael was nearly a living sepulchre: so hardened around his idea of power that he'd lost most of his capacity to express feelings. That was a brilliant performance, referring back to the opacity of Brando's Don, but it left Pacino with no emotional wiggle room for any future Michael Corleone performance -- and in G3 Coppola not only drags him into the future, but visits upon him several emotional extremities designed to expose that weakness. You can almost see Pacino struggling with his strait-jacket; only in a Lear-like explosion after the Atlantic City massacre can he release the deep frustrations of his character, and Coppola perversely films the scene in medium shot with a thunderstorm drowning out much of his ravings. Even when he re-courts Kay in Sicily, Pacino looks like Boris Karloff as The Mummy.

With Michael thus diminished, the international and Sicilian intrigues are allowed to overwhelm him and the story. The widening gyre of corruption expands only itself: the Corleones remain in a small, incestuous knot at the center. All that separates their final agon from any other drive-by resulting from petty blood-feuds is our familiarity with the characters, and despite their copious histrionics, and our sentimental attachments, it's not enough.

"I wanted the film to end as a tragedy... sort of like Hamlet or something," Coppola says in the DVD commentary. He adds, referring to Welles' Magnificent Ambersons, "Michael Corleone got his comeuppance." Coming from a mature artist, that sounds rather feeble. Better to understand that Michael hit the wall in 1962, and that the curtain drawn on him then should stay closed.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

ALTHOUSE UPDATE! Edroso was hypocritical to see political imputations in what Althouse wrote about T.C. Boyle, because she doesn't impute politics -- Edroso does! Plus, "the political vision of the left... feels like depression."

Maybe it's just the manic phase talking, but I think that with some effort I can work some better pull-quotes out of this whole thing.
IRREMEDIABLE READING. In a 2003 column, Josh Marshall argued that managing post-war Iraq -- given the limited war our Administration had planned for that country ("the loss of civilian life in Iraq will be minimal. Certainly, we all hope so") -- might be difficult: "Doing that in a foreign country may require a mauling of the civilian population that we are rightly unwilling to undertake."

Oho, says the Ole Perfesser, snapping his suspenders, so Mr. Marshall was worried that we weren't killing enough Iraqis! Then he looks at the jury, touches the side of his nose, and ambles on back to his table.

Marshall objects, and the Perfesser rejoins: perhaps if his learned colleague had objected when the Perfesser previously got it all fucked up, we wouldn't be settin' here today!

The Perfesser then offers a new piece of evidence on his own behalf: the testimony of Armed Liberal, who says that when Marshall reported the recent attack at a Seattle Jewish center, he updated with a note from a correspondent angry that Marshall wasn't comparing it to a 1994 attack on Palestinians ("The emails we get" added Marshall) -- showing Marshall is engaged in the same "moral equivalence" his commenter complained he wasn't engaging in.

The Perfesser rests his case! And the cuspidor rings in triumph.

I spent several hours today teaching kids how to read better. Maybe we can save that generation, anyway.

Friday, July 28, 2006

WHITE GUYS HAVE NAMES LIKE "LENNY," AND BLACK GUYS HAVE NAMES LIKE "CARL." The "Why Choco-mut Ice Creams Is Conservative" column of the week -- a designation we will consider making official -- is by Cathy Seipp, who tells us stupid liberals care too much about their area codes in Los Angeles. Conversely, Seipp only cares enough to write a lengthy, retch-inducing column about the alleged phenomenon. The punchline:
And if the rest of those liberal 310 elites can’t get in touch with the rest of us, their elections will continue to be as lost as their area codes.
Do you think they even have editors at NRO? I think maybe there's an old schooldesk somewhere on the premises, behind which Goldberg has placed a blow-up doll from one those infamous Goucher frat parties, with a tie clumsily placed around its neck and a sign reading EDITER taped to its chest. "Oh, but now you can't see her tits!" I can image Goldberg complaining as he gazes upon his handiwork; shifting unsteadily in place, one brown loafer half off his foot, Goldberg gestures wanly with his beer bottle, once, twice; the intern, still holding the tape dispenser, wonders if under her clothes Ann Coulter smells like raw hot dogs.

UPDATE. Thematically related Hit & Run post by Kerry Howley, on the culture scold Suzanne Fields: "Is there a tank somewhere with balls labeled 'Vagina Monologues,' 'college hook-ups,' and 'Girls Gone Wild'? Are these columns composed with magnetic poetry?"

Thursday, July 27, 2006

LE GAI SAVOIR. There's a chance that, being sane people with healthy priorities, you folks will never of your own volition go to the Ann Althouse site, and might not go even if I linked to it; so in an educational spirit I will reproduce here one of her best posts ever:
"The Iraqi prime minister is an anti-Semite."

Said Howard Dean:
"We don't need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah."
So it's the usual anti-war position, with a new spike of rhetoric... that doesn't seem likely to appeal to anyone.
I mean, because, like, um, oh look, a pretty rock!

Professor Althouse's breezy, dismissive style is at its zenith here, but this is not just about great style, but also about amnesia. Since the start of the World War Whatever: Return to Lebanon, conservative bloggers have been busting leftist chops over their less-than-total-and-unqualified support of Israel -- often in the "I don't think criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic, but..." manner. In fact, Althouse herself was giving the folks at Daily Kos a hard time about that just a few days ago.

Now our Government brings in for a speech to Congress Nouri al-Maliki, the PM of our other best friends in the Middle East, and al-Maliki says not one word about how much he supports the plucky little Israelis -- certainly because he doesn't support them, and because our Government let him get away with it. (I'd love to have seen those negotitations: "And we would like you to express your support for Israel." "Those pig-dogs of monkeys, may they rot in hell!" "Okay -- how about you just don't say anything about Israel?")

Our second ally in the region won't speak up for our first, and suddenly the "Say it, say you love Israel!" routine these guys have been pulling stateside is suspended, and they're all cool with nuance and realism. The Ole Perfesser shrugs: at least al-Maliki's not Kofi Annan! Even She-Wolf Michelle Malkin has nothing to say about al-Maliki's lack of Israel ardor, saving her rage for the "Hugo Chavez groupie" who heckled him.

These guys have been having it both ways for so long that simple logical connections no longer even occur to them. The punchline is, many of them are law professors.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

LAME AS IT EVER WAS. Some chatter at The Corner as to whether keyboard kommandos are actually "fighting" the War on Whatever. Cliff May comes up with an interesting affirmation:
There is a war of arms. And there is a war of ideas.

They are not just inter-related, they are interdependent. They are equally consequential. When we get the ideas wrong, when we misunderstand the problem, we end up with the wrong solution and all that follows from that.

Let’s take just one example: In the 1930s, Churchill fought a war of ideas...
Blah blah o fucking blah, snip.
This defeat in the war of ideas led to a conflagration unlike any before, in which tens of millions were killed.

So yes, Kathryn, you are fighting a war. And your e-mailer is ignorant about how wars are fought, about how wars are won and lost, and about the way the world actually works.
Try to imagine The Corner as The Roundabout -- a series of telegraph messages sent among like-minded individuals in pre-war Britain:
GOOD FOR FRANCO [Clifford Mayfair]
Bloody good show in Tereul, it won't be long now. True Britons will rejoice at the impending doom of the so-called "Republican" cause. Damned scruffy lot, rife with poets and whores. And think of all that Moscow gold wasted! Ha ha! Some of us will be having drinks at the Club to celebrate.

Several deviants discovered in flagrante in a Wessex loo last night. No Peers among them in this case, thank heaven; my long war against sodomy is clearly bearing fruit among opinion leaders. Doubtless these Bunburyists will feel the full force of the law, as well they should, for this is single greatest danger facing our Empire.

OSWALD'S A CORKER [John Derbyshire]
The politically correct will be outraged, but old Mosely was in great form at a 'do' for the BUF last night, attended by myself. The good-natured joshing of our Hebrew brethren would no doubt have raised hackles among our intelligentsia, but for me that is the cream of the jest. Oswald told me several stories about his friend Goebbels, who seems a right sort. Why our Government so oppresses the poor man when there are so many shirt-lifters and three-wheelers about is beyond me.

Have you ever noticed that Stanley Baldwin bears a striking resemblance to Oliver Hardy, the film comedian? Well, if Baldwin had a mustache and weighed a few more stone, I mean. I am aware that Miss Lopeshire has banned all references to the cinema, though I would counter that I'm trying to make a serious point about political drift in Britain. But anyway it's late and I have an omnibus to catch.
In any "war of ideas," the Cornerites represent a battalion of spitballers.
CRUNCHY CONS GO DOWNMARKET. I see that Rod Dreher has moved his Crunchy Con blog to Beliefnet. Time has not been kind to his movement, and it seems the come-down in venue has made Dreher more anxious to boost his conservative niche brand into the big time: he's talking less now about the relation of medieval theology to organic food, and more about gay toilet sex:
...a gay Republican male -- very successful guy, well-dressed, in the public limelight, not at all a desperate troll -- told me that this was a pretty normal part of gay male culture. He told me that he used to cruise public toilets looking for sex, in part because the stench of those locales smelled like "nectar"...

...what are the rest of us supposed to think about gay male culture, and the degree to which it self-defines according to behavior that most people rightly find repulsive?... it's pretty clear to me that the media, as a general rule, have a habit of sanitizing coverage that reflects badly on gay male culture...
Yeah, the media never asks Elton John if he likes it up the ass in a crapper. (Maybe Dreher's gay Republican friend can do a special report on Fox!)

Most of Dreher's recent posts are about your basic culture-war bullshit -- like how kids don't say sir or ma'am no more (especially when they's raised by New York bitches!), or how no one takes time to be pals anymore (and neither does Dreher -- oh well, that's life! Bye!) -- or standard-issue conservative belligerence: posts about how Israel must kill more, we must kill more, here is one of God's creatures I really want to die, etc. Not much here about Heraclitus or wheat germ.

Apparently the Crunchy book didn't summon an army of Ned Flanderses, marching with a cross in one hand and a bucket of Seven Stars yogurt in the other, so Dreher's going back to being a ordinary pain in the ass.

Monday, July 24, 2006

MOW-RON OF THE MOMENT -- FIRST IN A SERIES! Busy, no time; will post short bits, clowns & dumbbells, no details. Out of context? You decide!

Our first genius:
This seems to be at the root of the libertarian and liberal allegation, in my non-legally-educated mind. In their ever-present desire to condemn the Administration, they presume that those who do know the program best are willing accomplices to the undermining of the nation. I could perhaps accept this explanation if so many people were not involved, but that is not the reality of the situation.
Give it up for Confederate Yankee! And watch this space!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

THE POWER OF POSITIVE NON-THINKING. Christine Rosen has an interesting TNR article about the Ole Perfesser and why he sucks. She has one very good point -- that is, that the Perfesser's idea that new technology will improve political writing (and just about everything else) is disproved by the Perfesser's own blog:
But what would we-dia actually look like? This is a question that can be easily answered by InstaPundit. Reynolds's blog consists largely of links to news or opinion articles and other blogs followed by comments consisting of such profound observations as "Heh," or "Read the whole thing," or "Indeed." (These are recurring tropes whose centrality can't be exaggerated.)...

...Reynolds exposes how the blogosphere, at its worst, values timeliness over thought. After linking to an article on congressional earmarks, he'll add, "Well, that's encouraging. Sheesh." Quod erat demonstrandum. Or he'll carp, "Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, is just dumb"--a point that may be perfectly true but probably requires some explanation or proof beyond the simple assertion. In the end, this method provides the intellectual horsepower of, say, an Andy Rooney commentary. To wit, he wrote in December, "A battery recall on the XM portables. Is it just me, or are we seeing more battery recalls lately." Well, no need for The New York Times, then.
But Rosen is a little compromised here. She characterizes the Perfesser as a "libertarian," and strongly implies that his techno-utopianism is based on that political orientation. Libertarians "believe that technology, in many cases, obviates the need for government," says Rosen, though we may assume that this free-wheeling approach will do for our society what InstaPundit has done for political commentary -- that is, nothing good.

You should keep in mind that Rosen also writes for the Ethics and Public Policy Center -- in this essay, she compares embryonic stem cell advocates to eugenicists. So for her the central meaning of Glenn Reynolds is Science Gone Too Far, or about to go there. But her Reynolds essay is in The New Republic, so she doesn't emphasize the baby-killing power of the Perfesser's brave new world, leaning instead on the blogosphere's threat to the sort of "peer review" and "sustained research" one finds at... The New Republic. This woman will never starve.

We've gone round and round here at alicublog about Perfesser's Reynolds' politics. As I've said before, take any page's worth of postings at InstaPundit, and the POV will remind you more of Hugh Hewitt than of Harry Browne.

What Rosen takes for libertarianism in the Perfesser's case is just laziness. He's an educated Babbitt who thinks everything will work out because it's worked out for him. That's why he loves the idea of robots and gadgets and web toys that will save the world while he sits on his ass. That's why he was so juiced about the "Cedar Revolution," with its cell phone photos of protest babes -- and so bummed when Israel wound up bombing Lebanon anyway. That's the real source of the "triumphalism" that bothers Rosen -- not science, but its opposite: an unshakable faith in one's own obliviousness.
LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND FUCKING BULLSHIT. You might have heard that Christian groups are trying to stop the HPV vaccine because such a vaccine would encourage women to have sex. You might have read the words of a spokesman for the powerful Family Research Council who said, "Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex," and of the President of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, who said, "It sends the wrong message... Our concern is that this vaccine will be marketed to a segment of the population that should be getting a message about abstinence."

Well, the FRC has sort of come around on this:
The Family Research Council welcomes the news that vaccines are in development for preventing infection with certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. We also welcome the recent reports of promising clinical trials for one such vaccine.
I say "sort of" because the FRC strongly opposes making the vaccine mandatory, as its Vice-President recently made clear. Which means, if they get their way (and they will -- look who's in the White House), that the vaccine won't work, basically. Mandatory vaccination would kill HPV as dead as polio, but unlike polio, HPV can be used to scare people out of fucking, which is bigger priority than life and death for the Jesus freaks; so we are fated to a hit-or-miss approach that will keep the cervical cancer precursor around for years to come.

You might be mad at these lunatics, but OpinionJournal says you're wrong -- the vaccine's real enemies are "people who might be called liberals":
They can't bring themselves to fully celebrate a cancer vaccine because it won't be instantly available to everyone. Women in the Third World, where cervical cancer claims the bulk of its victims, can't afford a $360 course of HPV immunization--so only the rich people and pharmaceutical companies benefit, one lament goes. And wouldn't more American lives be saved if the government spent money instead on reaching more people with basic health care?
The author does not provide any quotes to support this ridiculous attribution. And why would he bother? As OpinionJournal authors are taught at orientation, it doesn't matter how absurd and unsupported such articles are, because the only people paying attention are true believers like the one published respondent to this one:
The reason why we are not inoculating our children against cervical cancer is the same reason why we are not issuing birth control pills or condoms to them. In human morality a point is reached where you have to tip your hand regarding your value system and the relative importance of things to you and your family. To many, chastity and celibacy trump physical protection from disease.
That cowboy cracked the code. It remains to be seen whether professional journalists at other venues will be as sharp.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Rent. I saw this thing when it came out on Broadway, and it annoyed the crap out of me: the squatters were idealized beyond recognition, and made shitty art besides, which fatally trivialized their beef with The Man and made them look like the kids from Fame but in an alternate, distressed wardrobe, and with less reliably pleasing tunes (and numbing recitative passages like "What are you DO-ing with this YUP-pie SCUM?"). That left AIDS as the only real antagonist, and I was repulsed by the dramatic shortcut: you mean I paid all this money for a musical version of Spirochette? But what annoyed me most was that I wound up being moved by the thing. It was a mess, but some embers of real feeling burned in it.

My Rent movie experience was similar. The things that had been bad about the stage version are even worse in the film -- the East Village locale is even more slicked-up (which makes the kids' gripes even harder to figure: you live in this sweet loft for free and you're complaining?), the "art" is even more of a joke, and most of the good songs are very badly served by their updated stylings: first, they make them sound like overproduced contemporary pop, which comparison flatters neither party; second, while the stage setting gave the players license to just belt many of the tunes, Chris Columbus is always fussing and it seldom helps. On stage, my favorite song, "Santa Fe," was just sung and enjoyed; here the characters try to find new ways to be goofy in a subway car, which made me wish I was watching The Warriors instead.

And yet. Rent isn't much of a story, but some of the characters are facing an implacable enemy, and their friends try to help them. Jonathan Larson was evidently not prepared to achieve the grand thing he was going for (and never got another chance), but he was able to get some of that situation up and moving. And I find it especially poignant that it was able to poke through all the feeble razzmatazz. That "One Song Glory" Roger is always talking about didn't amount to much, but something did.

Match Point. The movie's virtues are basic: it has a crackling story, it's extremely well-acted, and the directing is as solid as one might expect from someone who's been making a film a year since the mid-Seventies. The ponderous visual strategies of earlier Woody Allen movies like Interiors and Stardust Memories -- cameras lingering on vacated spaces, self-conscious groupings -- have all burned away now; Match Point has only one willful coup de cinema -- parallel shots of an object striking a barrier -- and it's very well done.

The conveyance is fine; what it's conveying is a little dicey. The plot gives us a young tennis pro named Chris who comes to London and happens into great success -- a fortunate marriage and a leg up in big business. But he has an affair which threatens to destroy all he's gained.

As anyone who's read three sentences about Match Point knows, the film is full of references to luck. It starts with them and ends with them and they're peppered throughout. But though chance puts Chris in several pivotal situations, luck has no more, and often a good deal less, to do with his choices and how they work out than does his character. We learn early on that Chris is intelligent and methodical; he knows what he wants and uses considerable skill, and even deception, to obtain it. (We see immediately, for instance, that he isn't interested in the woman who will become his wife but for the opportunity she represents.) Not everyone would play things the way he does, and the pleasure of the film is watching how he, specifically, turns a great setup into a threat to himself, and how he then endeavors to get out of it.

The one stroke of fate that does turn a key plot development is the subject of one of the bravura shots mentioned above, but that only connects it to the other bravura shot -- a moment of serendipity that's pleasing, but doesn't add up to anything except more guff about luck (and, unfortunately, fresh guff about Sophocles).

Woody Allen has cleaned up his mise en scene but he's still got an annoying pretentious streak. Still, it's reassuring that it takes up so little of the screen time, and that he's moving in the right direction. And he's probably got several more movies ahead of him. Any serious artist in that situation is worth sticking with.

Friday, July 21, 2006

ALTHOUSE AND BUTT-HEAD. Ann Althouse, some of whose vaporous aestheticizing has been denounced here before, talks about a big silly artist who said a silly thing:
I want to like novelists. Really, I do. For example, T.C. Boyle. I read him sometimes. That is to say: I subordinate my mind to his and let his thoughts become my thoughts. But then I read quotes like this, and it sets me to wondering all over again about this practice of reading novels. They're written by novelists, you know.
She's already told us she doesn't like fiction films, and now she's starting to come out against fiction itself. I expect her to denounce graven images next month.

Even better are her commenters:
But keep in mind (gee, this is going to sound like the "good muslims" argument) that any writer who pipes up with anything but leftist cant will make serious enemies for life.
Imagine T.C. Boyle biting his tongue, terrified to denounce gay marriage lest David Remnick destroy his career! The general consensus is that artists are stupid and bad and nobody should pay attention to them. All pretty hilarious, but I do feel sorry for the more extreme cases:
This is exactly why I almost never read interviews. So many artists have been entirely ruined for me due to the asinine things they've said in interviews.
Think what a horrible, parched life that must be: unable to enjoy art unless you approve of its creators' politics.
SHORTER "DAY BY DAY": Andrew Sullivan's a fag.

These guys get worse all the time. I had some hope for Winger, but the further Carson Fire gets from his bookstore characters, the nuttier he becomes. Here's a fine example: Fire seems to have gone through the C.S. Lewis reeducation program, where all signs of whimsy are draped in heavy allegory until they suffocate. I don't know whether the birds in this one are supposed to be Muslims or secular scientists, but they sure are black!

Thank Gaia for Free Republic's Friday Toons! "The United Nations is a fag" has a mad genius "Andrew Sullivan's a fag" lacks. And if you're going to slag the MSM, I say go all the way! People deserves it for not making Sean Connery the Sexiest Man Alive in perpetuity. ("Sean Connery, 96, died from injuries sustained two days ago, when he tried to wink at some cameras and badly sprained his cheek. Connery will remain Sexiest Man Alive for two more years, said People's editors, if the late actor's family will abide by the taxidermal clause in his contract.")

And their Hitlery-hatred has mutated in a fascinating way: think about it -- not even the Devil would be used this way; it's so random it would offend the judgment of a "The World According to Jim" fan. Right-wingers are often playful in the use of signifiers, but the Clintons push them into visual incoherence. And in a world sorely lacking in transcendence, that's rather touching.
SHORTER NATIONAL REVIEW DORKS: Evil liberals seek to rob us of our war-rage -- Thank Jesus for that great American patriot, Oliver Stone!

UPDATE. To understand what's so deeply funny about this -- I mean besides their sudden, raging hard-on for a man they previously considered one of the "100 People Who Are Screwing Up America" -- I will call out a short yip from K-Lo's ravings:
As it happens, the most refreshing thing about Stone’s new film is that it is anything but political. You want your politicians political, not your movie producers. But it’s impossible not to take a political message from the movie, all the same — whatever the chatterers may or may not say about it in the coming weeks...
This breathless rush of words -- it's not political, but it is political, but oh those chatterers will seek to spin it, against which I chatter and spin... -- shows what the term "willing suspension of disbelief" means to these people: not just a temporary, conditional acceptance of a staged reality, but a descent into global fantasy.

Conservatives of this class (and not all conservatives belong to it, I hasten to remind you) are, like the rest of us, deeply affected by art -- but their creed allows them only one response to any surge of deep feelings: find a way to feed it to the Borg.

At one point, Lopez cries out, "movies matter" -- and if you have any acquaintance with her work, and that of her colleagues, you know exactly what she means: movies matter because they can be used as propaganda. Hamartia, catharsis, a deeper understanding of what it means to be human -- yeah yeah, blah blah, but Ollie Stone's latest pic will "partner" well with "Rick Santorum’s Thursday speech at the National Press Club" in this lot's never-ending PsyOps simulation.

I love Oliver Stone for many reasons, perhaps especially for writing one of the funniest lines in the history of cinema ("Daddy, are they going to kill us like they killed President Kennedy?"). But if I find myself wondering what effect his next film will have on the price of wheat or a Congressional election in Pennsylvania, I will call you and ask you to kill me. (I believe in you! I know you can do it!)

UPDATE II. I may have gotten the JFK quote wrong. This site has it as dialogue between Garrison and his kids:
"Are we going away, Daddy?"
"I don't know, Jasper."
"Because of Kennedy?" "Will the same people kill us, Papa?"
Still pretty funny; I guess I was gilding a lily. I love moments like that, and am grateful to commenter Nance for giving us another Ollie howler ("Well, Jim Morrison! You've ruined another Thanksgiving!").

When life gets me down, I think of Juliette Lewis telling Woody Harrelson, "Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad!" Then everything seems better.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

FETAL FUNHOUSE. It's hard to tell which circumstance produces funnier conservatism: when they lose, or when they win. As Bush's stem-cell veto is a definite victory for the National Review folks, you'd think they'd be in a relaxed and magnanimous mood about it. But their commentaries are comically strained and overreaching -- as if they know that the legislative success were but a chimera, and the struggle against bad wrong people thinking bad wrong things never-ending.

Kathryn Jean Lopez' offering has a wonderful premise: she's not anti-science -- the embryonic research advocates are! The advocates, you see, preferred the bill they eventually submitted to a more watery alternative, proving they weren't really serious about asking for what they didn't want:
Proponents of embryo-destroying research lost one of their favorite knee-jerk rhetorical points on Tuesday, as they succeeded in killing a bill that would have funded alternatives to embryo-destroying research...

Coming from a crowd that regularly throws the word “anti-science” at those who oppose embryo destruction and cloning, this is pretty rich. When given the option to vote for a bill that nearly no one could sensibly disagree with, they acted like spoiled two-year-olds who want their way and only their way — even if it’s impractical and Dad has already said “no.”
(Not sure who "Dad" is in this context. Maybe Lopez means her Dad.) I can see that the Democrats had a political interest in pushing the stronger bill -- might that be what Lopez is trying to say? No, what she's trying to say if these Congresscritters don't care what kind of bill they pass as long as it kills babies, because they are babykillers who love to kill babies until all the babies are killed:
On the federal level this week we’ve seen supposed proponents of stem-cell research say, No, none of this alternatives stuff, we only want embryonic-stem-cell research. The embryo is everything. Or rather, destroying embryos is everything -- that’s where they want research to be focused, and they’re happy to hold research that is free of embryonic entanglements hostage.
I so want to work DESTROYING EMBRYOS IS EVERYTHING into my coat of arms. The end of her article is a joy, too: "...such clear Party of Death votes as we saw Tuesday night in the House should be as deadly to political careers as they are to life." Citizens, do your duty -- stand outside the U.S. Congress waving fetuses and screaming!

Elsewhere, Maureen L. Condic hears Michael Kinsley argue that insensate clumps of cells are not people, and Candic knows where that sort of thinking slippery-slopes: to organ-farming in unwilling, live patients by 2036. (What, no sooner? Destroying embryos is everything!)

And let's not forget: these days, along with being evil and stupid, all liberals are uncivil. Joseph Loconte draws this beat, and compares the dirty-mouthed babykillers to the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, who responded to Bush's veto this way: "That's all right, we'll just sit here in the dark." Well, pretty near that, anyway. "I disagree with [the UOJCA]," says Loconte, "but I’m grateful that they have a seat at the table." Yeah -- if they're as wishy-washy as they sound, maybe Loconte can get 'em to pay for dinner.

I suppose if Bush had suddenly gone crazy and signed rather than vetoed the bill, these writers could have been even more entertaining. But surely it would have been much easier for them: plug a thesaurus into your outrage, and stand back! Today's stories requires something that is almost like thinking, but ever so much more difficult.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

COME BACK, IDIOTS! Strange days indeed on the "Kill 'em all, let Mom sort my socks" Right.

Billy Kristol is going "Vrrrrow, Vrrrrow, rat-tat-tat-tat" and dive-bombing his shampoo and conditioner bottles in the tub; Roger L. Simon is telling the terrified Lebanese citizens to take their bombing like men -- "Starbucks can come later, if you really think you need it" (?!? -- RE); and this guy cheerfully compares the new Mideast war to a plucky little sailor (Israel) beating the shit out a Marine (Hezbollah) -- with (one must assume) Beirut's civilians in the role of unfortunate bystanders to the brawl who are struck by the Marine's flying teeth, which for some reason are filled with high explosives. It's getting so George Fucking Will sounds almost sane.

My favorite so far is Hugh Hewitt, who asks why some conservatives have started to get cold feet about Bush's foreign policy, which Hewitt finds divinely inspired. (Hewitt calls such refuseniks "180s.") Of course he doesn't wait for input, as he is perfectly capable of answering the question himself:
In attempting to tell us what drives Bush, [Jonathan] Chait is in fact revealing what it is that drives the former supporters of the war turned defeatists and the increasingly frenzied denouncers from respectable perches like the big papers, the Council, and the weeklies: They feel disdained.

[Gregory] Djerejian , [Andrew] Sullivan, and Chait... Each wears their exclusion on their sleeve, and their bitterness is bubbling up with every column or post.

I think the disdain they feel is more imagined than real. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld etc haven't really got time to worry about the left behind and now embittered former supporters of the war.
Here one might ask: what kind of access and attention were these guys receiving before that has since been withheld, causing their illusion of being disdained? Did I miss Condi Rice whirling Djerejian across the dance floor in NeoCon People? Has Sullivan ever needed more peer approval than the occasional drunken midnight phone call from Christopher Hitchens doubtless still provides?

Of course not. This is pure slander, of the sort that straight-up GOP operatives like Hewitt are using more than ever, in this their degenerate phase, to warn waverers away from the path of open rebellion.

I cannot respect this, but on the theory that all God's creatures deserve respect of some sort, I can give it up for Hewitt's nerve in playing the game even further out, and suggesting a concrete plan of action for making the apostates feel the love once again:
Hand holding may, however, be necessary. It would be good if Karl Rove considered some way to at least address various members of this set.

It is summer. Set the interns to finding the 180s, and have them over to the Indian Treaty Room. Hear them out. Have the president drop by for a face-to-face...

Make sure the retired generals -- all of them, not just the vocal critics -- are in the room, and the Beinarts, Wills, Djejerians. Keep the numbers relatively small, and hold a few of them if necessary.

The stakes are too high to allow such divisions to grow unaddressed. Even if some are too far gone into opposition to be recalled, some will wake up.
What's most interesting about this plan is that, while it suggests that the dissenters be put in the same room with Bush and his crew, and thus "addressed," it does not admit any possibility that the Bush people will take any suggestions at all from their former, passionate supporters.

Hewitt seems to think all the President has to do is meet-and-greet these lost lambs, and a significant number of them will rescind their objections and get back in for the Big Win.

Were I one of these former saps, I'd have to wonder if Hewitt had always felt this much contempt for my intelligence -- even in the days when he was patting my back.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

THE U.S.S. POSEIDON. Ross Douthat has up a couple of unusually contemplative posts about the unacquaintance with war of many war fans. From the latter:
Specifically, if you believe fervently in the idea that the War on Terror really is World War IV, the defining foreign-policy moment of your generation and the most important challenge facing the United States for forty years to come, and you happen to be the ideal age, marital status, and so forth to sign up to serve your country - in the military, the CIA, wherever - then you have a real obligation to strongly consider it. And I do mean strongly - not just bat it around as a possibility, as so many of us did after 9/11, knowing that we would never actually do anything about.
I should add that Douthat favors this POV over an alleged declaration that non-combatants should never authorize military force, which I have never heard anyone seriously make.

Actually Douthat takes the thing further than I would. He suggests that involvement in combat would make policymakers and pundits better qualified to decide matters of war and peace on a human level -- chickenhawkery as "less a problem that flows from cowardice, and more one that flows from ignorance."

But it should be pointed out that there are already plenty of active-duty soldiers who favor the war -- and many of them have blogs. Their writings are available to all Americans with internet access. Why then not fire the chickenhawks, or at least push them to one side, and back to the max the folks who are already living the Douthat dream?

I assume that Douthat knows about these guys, but isn't getting from them what he wants -- because no one, not even a grunt with a way with words, can give him what he really wants.

Today there is much talk among the cognoscenti about World War Whatever, but while we are often told by our leaders about threats we must defend ourselves against -- "one vial, one canister... to bring a day of horror like one we have never known" etc. -- no one has been able to tell the American people what shared cause they must fight for. War advocates frequently admit this, but suggest terms that are not very rousing -- e.g. Victor Davis Hanson:
The Bush administration should stop repeating that it is fighting the war on terror for truth, justice and the American way. Instead, the president and his staff should be blunt and explain that, since Sept. 11, it has had to choose between options that are bad or far worse.
This is a war cry as given by realists, and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" it ain't. The basis of their argument is not a shared American purpose, but a shared American fear. We are not put in the position of patriots fighting to keep aloft the flame of liberty, but of movie characters trying to get out of an upended U.S.S. Poseidon -- though the overwhelming majority of us feel not the rising waters.

I have puzzled for a long time over the ungodly fury of conservative writers at Hollywood and other outlets of popular culture for not providing war propaganda. Why don't they make their own movies, I have wondered, with the backing of one or another right-wing millionaire, of which there are plenty? I see now that they are actually pleading for help. They don't have what it takes to reach their fellow-citizens at the deepest level -- they have the reach, the money, and the power, but they don't have a song. And without a song a man ain't got a friend; without a song the road would never bend. Despite their political dominance, their ideas -- being paltry things, having to do with the right of people with money to more money, and hatred of homosexuals -- only accumulate upon the topsoil of culture, and do not penetrate to the water-table from which dreams are fed.

By throwing some of their fair-haired boys into combat, they may hope to get some war poets for themselves. That crop doesn't always come out as they might want. But if gets Jonah Goldberg into a uniform, I'm all for it.
RAISING THE TONE OF OUR DISCOURSE. More dudgeon at Nat Rev about out-of-control lefty blog-commenters. Someone brings up Free Republic; John Podhoretz actually takes the point for a couple of seconds; scientists watch in breathless anticipation, hoping for a chain reaction of common sense; alas, outside forces put a quick end to it:
UPDATE: Gerry Daly of RedState e-mails that I'm being unfair to Free Republic, which does moderate and delete inappropriate material. Its guidelines include : "Free Republic reserves the right to remove any postings that are considered inappropriate. Examples of inappropriate posts are those that are off-subject or contain advertising, pornography, obscene material, racist material, bigotry, Nazi (or other hate group) material, materials promoting violence, threats or illegal acts, etc." Couldn't find anything comparable at tpmcafe or DailyKos.
Nor will Podhoretz find anything like this -- from a July 17 Oprah Winfrey thread at Free Republic which took me three seconds to locate -- at tpm:
Oprah has the right body type for being a 'fag hag'. Most of them I've known are usually obese straight gals who have low self-esteem.
This is only a present example, of course. Assuming he's not just playing dumb, Podhoretz could learn a lot about Free Republic by following it for a few days, or even just for a couple of Lincoln's Birthdays, when the Freepers really let their hair down ("Happy Birthday to the American Hitler known as Abe Lincoln"). It's always enlightening to read them on the topics of the day; as a fellow citizen, Podhoretz might be interested in Freeper attitudes about New Yorkers and 9/11 ("The liberal parasites of New York are not capable of recognition of bravery, of sacrife....the liberal trash of your state is only concerned WITH SELF, encouraged on by their witch of a so-called Senator..."), etc.

Freepers are for the most part more hilarious than offensive (except to the extent that they offend logic), but equally hilarious is the claim that a worn-out and often disregarded sheet of dos-and-donts stuck on the door makes Free Republic a cleaner establishment than Kos'.

Monday, July 17, 2006

COME LET US REASON TOGETHER. In his latest contribution to the liberals-hate-jews meme drive, James Lileks quotes with scorn a guy who asks, "is it totally beyond the pale that these two Israeli soliders were instructed to allow themselves to be kidnapped in order to foster the chain of events" leading to Mideast war.

That does sound a little silly. Contrast it with the musings of major conservative intellectual Jonah Goldberg:
...several readers have raised the other possibility that some of the [Lebanese] "civilians" [killed so far] are in fact members of Hezbollah and the Western press takes casualty reports at face value. Maybe. It's not like we haven't see that before. Still, most of these casualties must in fact be civilians — the refugee caravan for example — and Israel has not denied as much.
Sometimes I try to imagine what it's like inside that rat's-nest Goldberg calls a brain. Through the centuries artists have had a hard time representing the processes of the human mind, but for Goldberg a loud recording of "Alexander's Ragtime Band" regularly punctuated by Kool-Aid Man yelling "Oh, yeah!" should just about cover it.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

SHORTER JOSH TREVINO: The terror attacks of July 7, 2005 did not break the will of the British People. Well, better luck next time!
LET US CLASP HANDS OVER THE BLOODY CHASM. Just when I'd posted again on the Perfesser's dodginess on gay marriage, he comes up with an exceptionally long post that is much less equivocal on the subject.

I could comb through the thing and come up with cavils, but in general I Approve This Message. The Perfesser previously took the position that the greatest obstacle to gay marriage was gay marriage advocates (whom he obliquely compared to the Black Panthers). This was typical of his tendency to turn every issue into a stick to beat liberals, and I reasonably inferred that it was his only interest in the pro-marriage argument. But the new post is a lot less like that.

At the same time, I was wondering what terror-warrior Michael Totten would feel about Israel bombing all those nice (and not so nice) people he met while touring Lebanon earlier this year. Turns out he reacts like a normal human being:
Insulting my personal friends while they are driven out of their homes as war refugees is not acceptable. My old neighborhood is under attack. My friends are terrified and in danger. How on earth do you expect me to feel about this right now?...

Israel should not have bombed Central Beirut, which was almost monolithically anti-Hezbollah. They should not have bombed my old neighborhood, which was almost monolithically anti-Hezbollah. They should not have bombed the Maronite city of Jounieh, which was not merely anti-Hezbollah but also somewhat pro-Israel.
This is encouraging, too. I can imagine, say, Jonah Goldberg going to Lebanon and having the same encounters Totten had and, upon returning, still cheerfully discussing which World War this is. But it is nice to know that some of the people with whom I disagree are not thoroughly depraved.

Friday, July 14, 2006

SHORTER RONALD RADOSH: When Batista told the world Castro was dead, Herbert Matthews dug around, learned the truth, and reported it. And that treasonous method persists to this very day at the Times!
SHORTER OLE PERFESSER. Don't worry, fans -- I'll come out against gay marriage before Giuliani does!

(He's halfway there already. The libertarian beard has outlived its usefulness, and the Missus needs new clients.)
MAKE A WISH. Finally saw Brokeback Mountain. It was good to wait to see it, I think; during its theatrical run I was too incensed by the many,many, imbecile ravings about it to keep myself from siding with it. Now it's barely even a Leno punchline anymore, and I have more space to appreciate it calmly.

All I know of Ang Lee besides this is Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which I like with reservations, though with no reservations at all about the elegaic final movement. Early on, I was convinced Brokeback's slow pace was a device to keep us from busting out laughing at the sharp deviation from traditional form -- you know, two cowboys bond on the open range, then, presto, ass-fucking. But like most slow-paced movies, Brokeback is very concerned with and serious about time. Ennis and Jack's early days are a cherished memory, so of course they are made long enough to stay in the mind through the rest of the film.

I was surprised and impressed by the absence of villains. A few horrible people pop up (like Randy Quaid with his bullet head), emissaries from the rottenness that keeps the boys apart, but for the most part Ennis and Jack are surrounded by decent people, doing the best they know how, and for the most part these folks are more hurt by Ennis and Jack's frustrated love than they are inclined to hurt them for it. ("Girls don't fall in love with fun.") The cowtowns of Brokeback are not cesspools of ignorant hatred, but small, simple communities where enmities as old as time have never been questioned, and it would take more than most of us have in us to question them under those circumstances. The boys might almost have been a Hatfield and a McCoy.

In fact, for (I think) straight viewers at least, the gay angle actually illuminates rather than limits the love story, because the taboo on their love is so ingrained in us that we don't need to have it explained in artificial "two houses, both alike in dignity" terms -- terms we know are a writer's invention, and which our minds will automatically try to get around throughout the story, devising alternate, happier endings. Not that we won't root for Ennis and Jack -- of course we will -- but nobody goes into a love story between two men in 1963 rural America with any hope that things will work out.

Lee's use of beautiful landscapes reminded me of Kubrick's in Barry Lyndon. They have very different strategies, of course, but they're equally canny. In Barry Lyndon, the natural world is an ironic counterpoint to the artifice-obsessed machinations of the characters. In Brokeback, where the skies are most exhilirating when the boys are together, it's a way of showing the richness of the romance that might have been, especially when the characters are most tormented by it. The final frame, with its little lush photo-card and window views set off by Ennis' single-wide sarcophagus, is only the most sublime example.

Time slows back down for the end of the movie. I thought of Crouching Tiger again, with the daughter (there spiritual, here actual) heading off into the unknown to plumb those mysteries that had betrayed our heroes. I got the feeling Ennis' girl knew something about Jack, though not enough to connect her destiny in any way with her father's -- but youth is ever optimistic. For all the heartbreak, it was good to be left with even a provisional note of hope.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

SHORTER NICOLE GELINAS. Long Islanders won't buy flood insurance because they saw the luxurious Federal benefits enjoyed by Hurricane Katrina survivors and thought, "Hey, how can I get some of that?"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

THE HE-MAN HOMO-HATERS CLUB. Since gay people can't get married, and in the view of oafs like Tim Graham and Brent Bozell they should never ever ever ever be able to get married, shouldn't they then be encouraged to channel their frustrated familial energies into some kind of healthful physical activity, like sports? Apparently not. Graham:
The New York Times is a "global sponsor" of next week's international "Gay Games" in Chicago. Just how much can the Times lend its prestigious "mainstream media" brand to the libertine left?
The newspaper is a "global sponsor" of the seventh "Gay Games" taking place in Chicago from July 15 to 22.

Yes, you read that correctly. The Gay Games.
(Cue sinister music, archival footage of Joe DiMaggio slowly subsumed in a pink wash.)
Who would sponsor this stupidity? The New York Times is not alone; it is joined by other "objective" news outlets. The Chicago Sun-Times and WMAQ-TV, the local NBC-owned and operated affiliate, are also "global sponsors." They share the Gay Games goals, to "foster and augment the self-respect of lesbians and gay men throughout the world and to engender respect and understanding from the nongay world."

Got that, nongayers? Whatever happened to "objective" media outlets at least pretending to avoid taking sides?
First, I have to object to this new nomenclature for heterosexuals. I refuse to let myself be called a "nongayer." I'll suck cock first!

Second, if the idea of "respect and understanding" for homosexuals is partisan, then so are faith, hope, and charity, buying Girl Scout cookies, etc. I doubt Bozell's analysis extends that far, but then, to paraphrase Jack Warden in Bullets Over Broadway, I also doubt that his spinal cord reaches his brain.

Some years back I saw an early Gay Games event -- a hockey match in miserable old Abe Stark Arena in Coney Island. As hockey is not a big gay sport (or wasn't at that time -- I haven't kept up), the teams were ragtag, and the playing clumsy though spirited. (Again I was reminded of that old Detroit sportswriter, lost to history or to me at least, who had described inept outfielders chasing fly balls: "like kittens chasing after bees.")

But in the course of the game the players improved in confidence, and began to complete passes and make creditable shots on goal; there was even a little hard checking and shoving. In short, they were acting like your basic hockey players. If the sparse crowd seemed less likely to evolve into your basic hockey crowd ("KILL 'EM!" cried one fellow, and his companion countered, "NO, DON'T KILL 'EM, JUST WIN!"), that was fine; fans in Tampa Bay are never going to act like fans in, say, Philly, and that's all part of the beautiful rainbow.

My friend who was in the match was an inveterate Rangers fan who regularly hauled his gay ass up to the blue seats (Hextall... get a Porsche!). He loved the game but rarely got to practice his moves -- not a gender-pref thing, just a New York desk worker thing. The Gay Games wasn't his shot at being scouted into the NHL, but his chance to be on a team, try himself in competition, and maybe get a little better.

The Gay Games organization was in the same boat. I see it has indeed gotten better, and drawn more high-level support. Now why would anyone be angry at that?

For guys like Graham and Bozell, the chance to rip the Times is always as ripe cheese to a rat, and the gay factor jacks up their blood-lust considerably. But what builds up the (as the trainers like to call it) explosive strength of their fury is the notion of gay folk playing sports.

Once homosexuals were total outcasts, fit for whatever abuse (including the sexual variety) the straight world wished to dish at them. Then gays started popping out of closets, marching down Fifth Avenue, appearing on TV shows. It became explicitly not cool to beat them to death. In fact, the Grahams and Bozells found to their horror, it became uncool to even joke about it.

It was the times, not the New York Times, that created the tension under which our Grahams and Bozells currently labor. Usually, to dispel some of the stress they go take a vigorous ride on their gay-marriage hobbyhorse. But every once in a while they get a signal to go into Amok Time.

And what can blow a bigot's mind worse than some sissy-mary being able to beat him at sports?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Am I the only person who loved the first “Pirates of the Caribbean,” yet fears the sequel will feel like six hours of rubber hoses to the kidney? Hollywood ruins everything, it seems...
The first Pirates, as we all know, was not made by Hollywood, but by ordinary citizens like you 'n' me who banged open the doors of Universal Studios with an airline beverage cart.

I could keep this up all day, and maybe I will.

UPDATE. For all the people who think I'm unfair to Lileks -- and I am -- get a load of this new Bleat, in which he strenuously and at length misapprehends a Joel Stein column, finally comparing Stein to a man peeing in a public pool. One is reminded of Ben Stiller yelling at a duck in that episode of "Friends."

There's only one language these people understand. The eternal slap-fight continues!

*UPDATE II. Typo in my own headline! I, a former proofreader! A Vanyaesque comedown. Fixed.

Monday, July 10, 2006

TALENT SHOW. Got bored, decided to check out some of those Republican-with-an-explanation types. You can get a good idea of how Neo-neocon operates from this meditation on a "Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Republican" bumper sticker:
Someone's idea, no doubt, of humor, based on the slogan "Friends don't let friends drive drunk."

But it doesn't seem all that funny to me, not by a longshot. Although it's ostensibly being said tongue-in-cheek, there's a certain hardnosed sentiment behind it, one I've encountered way too many times. It's a sentiment that -- although espoused by a person who no doubt would identify him/herself as a liberal -- embodies the opposite of traditional liberal thought.

What an interesting idea of friendship, that it must march in lockstep, belief matching belief. What an interesting idea of Republicanism; that it's something pernicious and dangerous, something from which friends must be protected. What an interesting idea of voting; that it's something you "let" or "don't let" someone do.

Yes, I know: lighten up, neo...
She didn't leave the Left, the Left left her. It's easy to see why.

Git yer Liberal Hunting License here, though you might prefer one of these.

UPDATE. I meant this to be a mere bag-o'-shells but this joke, like "The Aristocrats," opens itself to some charming variations. N-NC is linked by Dog in New York City. Dog, though misnamed ("I happen to live in a liberal, college town in the Midwest"), is a treasure. The Fatal Bumper Sticker prompts the revelation that he once had this liberal friend...
I was a bit taken aback upon discovering that my friend had been pulled into the radical circles of the “artsy” Left...

...When it became clear that I did not share my friend’s and his cohort’s conviction that “America had it coming” and that 9/11 was our (i.e. Americans’) damn fault... he became vicious. From a friend he turned into a bitter and vindictive enemy... He demanded that I return all things that he ever gave me - which a promtly did; he kept sending me nasty letters, returning my responses without opening them, until I, too, stopped receiving his; he badmouthed me to our mutual friends (whom he eventually managed to alienate as well).
Dog is a former resident of Eastern Europe, where apparently friendships between males are a little more hysterical than we're used to.
Why can’t I see it as just an isolated incident - a single guy, perhaps mentally unstable, turning into a vindictive asshole because someone disagreed with him? It’s not a proof that the whole Left is like that! Of course, that’s what I thought for a while...
...and then he describes a reign of terror in his small Midwestern town by, it would appear, affluent, well-educated liberals who key cars and rip up lawn signs. Dog compares his life there unfavorably to his days in the Soviet bloc:
When I was still living under a totalitarian regime, one of my friends remarked bitterly: “When you are afraid of criminals, you can always go to the police for protection. But when you’re afraid of the police, who do you go to - criminals?” I did not know than that there existed a lower circle of Hell, one in which you have to be afraid of your co-workers, neighbors, friends, and people you pass on the street.
Dog's circle of Hell is similar to that of other folks who talk a lot about how badly they fit into whatever community they have inexplicably chosen: Dante called it "Il Hilarioso."
SPANNING THE GLIB. The Perfesser is bummed at the Orange Rev crack-up in the Ukraine, which is almost (note the "almost," moonbat-hunters!) reason enough to approve of it. But one of PubliusPundit's commenters actually has some good perspective on events:
Hold the phone here. What was the Orange Revolution about? Was it about installing a one-party system in Ukraine for years to come? Of course not - it was about democracy - about taking the decision out of the hands of corrupt officials and putting it in the hands of the people, where it belongs...

The Orange Revolution was not about giving Yuschenko a life term. It was about getting a party’s shady and corrupt political system to abide by the rule of law. OSCE and other monitors determined the parliamentary elections to be far and away better than the first two votes in 2004. That’s something we should be happy for Ukraine about. I don’t like Yanukovych at all, but the people did vote for him.
Looked at this way, the current Kiev shenanigans actually seem more democratic than what we've got going in our own Congress.

That gets a finger on something that bugs me about conservatives even when they're on the right side -- that is, when they back popular movements like Yuschenko's. They think of the struggle for democracy as a souped-up Lord of the Rings battle, with lavish sets, outsized personalities, protest babes, and memorable quotes fit for repeating outside the theatre ("Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" Remember that one?). When the show is over, or the Mission Accomplished, they lose interest. No wonder they think we're doing great in Iraq. They've seen the movie a dozen times; who are we to tell them that they don't know how it ends?

And anyway, shouldn't conservatives be happy at the defeat of another George Soros creation?
TECH BALK. Absence of the customary bomb graphic indicates that once again I have neglected to renew the NetSol account on my home domain. If you need to reach me fast, here is the temporary address. A Yahoo! addy! That it should come to this. In my 14 years of computer use I have vacillated between enthusiastic early-adoption and something like Luddism; in our current era of fast connections and iPods, the latter has become my default mode. But even the momentary loss of makes me feel like a Republican without a flag pin.

So let us retreat into the cool shade of dead trees. I spent much of the weekend reading my first Robertson Davies novel, The Fifth Business. A lovely book, taking the perspective of a precocious rural Ontarian (special pleasure for me there: my mother's people came from Picton) to alternately slash at and grudgingly approve the first half of the Twentieth Century. In 1908 little Dunny Ramsay, our narrator, dodges a snowball thrown by a jacked-up little shit who grows into a local power; said projectile strikes the Baptist preacher's wife, Mrs. Dempster, in the back of the head, causing her (we are told) to go "simple," give premature birth to a future outcast and magician, and become a fool-saint. This incident informs the destinies of all concerned through to the climax -- an admirable unifying device that supports Dunny's notion (or is it the other way around?) that "the traits that are strong in childhood [never] disappear; they may go underground, or they may be transmuted into something else, but they do not vanish..." (which reminds me of Salinger's Franny and Zooey: "There are no big changes between ten and twenty -- or ten and eighty, for that matter. You still can't love a Jesus as much as you'd like to..."). The young brute becomes a callow world-beater (think Boss Mangan in Shaw's Heartbreak House), the young outcast follows painful byways to occult power and, finally, vengeance, and the narrator becomes an overeducated and self-examining scold, which is to say, the voice of an author of a very fine novel of the upper-middle register -- too obviously special-pleading to completely convince (lacking the utmost Dickensian talent of enlisting a seeming Universe in support of his childhood grievance) but giving a fine account of a certain Anglo-Christian perspective in the late 1960s: reflexively prudish, painfully aware of its limitations, attempting through the generosity of Novel writing to set the world to rights, at least privately. I can't wait to see where Davies went next.

Friday, July 07, 2006

MORE HELPFUL ADVICE FROM YOUR MORTAL ENEMIES. Our current headline, or some variation of it, has been used here before in posts about Republican Routine 23 -- which is: Tell, in a tone more of sorrow than of anger, how your good, good friends the Traitors have err'd, and how they might be sav├ęd by accepting your well-meant counsel.

The current iteration has to do with New York State's judicial decision against same-sex marriage. Several conservatives are telling gay not-quite-citizens that this defeat is really a victory, as it will someday (don't ask how or when) lead to gay marriage.

John Podhoretz acknowledges that, seen in a short-sighted way, the ruling looks like a loss for his pro-homo opponents -- but he insists that for them it's really "A Lucky Loss." Declaring "I am not a supporter of gay marriage," Podhoretz yet maintains that "supporters of gay marriage should hail yesterday's decision by the state Court of Appeals not to legalize same-sex unions - indeed, perhaps those supporters more than anyone else."

Sounds like something out of an old puzzle-book, like "I'm my own grandpaw. Who am I?" Actually it's the usual malarkey whereby conservatarians claim to have nothing against unlimited abortions and open faggotry so long as they are the will of the people as expressed by laws, and not some black-robed tyrants' idea of a so-called Constitutional Right.

Podhoretz tells gay folk that they shouldn't desire short-term rights from a ruling, because legislation is "the only way to ensure that that gay marriage achieves the status its backers desire." And Podhoretz will be fighting you every step of the way -- but don't be mad, it's not like it's about anything important! See you at the after-party!

So pleased is Podhoretz with this sophistry that he decides to go for politically-incorrect broke in the objective correlative:
Gay-marriage advocates often liken their struggle to the civil-rights movement. Well, consider the following contrast. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court nobly ruled that "separate but equal" education was unconstitutional - a view that did the justices enormous credit. But what happened in its wake? Open revolt in the South. Black schoolchildren assaulted. The National Guard mobilized just to ensure kids could enter the school buildings of Little Rock. Riots in Alabama and Mississippi as their universities were forced to open their doors to all.
No doubt anticipating a "Springtime for Hitler, Scene 1" reaction from readers whose minds had not yet been turned into harmless glue, Podhoretz later says some nicer things about Brown vs. Board of Education. But it's not very convincing. Surprisingly, some people find it harder to be charitable when they're winning.

You can see more of this sort of bullshit from alleged gay marriage supporters all over the web. We have an Althouse cheer (it'll stop the DMA!), and a Gay Patriot huzzah (it'll get our people to work on lobbying!). There's something for everyone here, it seems. Why, you wouldn't know there was any downside at all, were it not for all those gay people mourning (or, as Gay Patriot would have it, "reacting in a juvenile manner" to) the latest reminder that America thinks they're less than human.

I sort of love this idea that homosexuals shouldn't want any rights until they are the sort of rights of which their mortal enemies approve. Reminds me of that old Beyond the Fringe bit in which a politician argues with a condemned man about the death penalty:
"Surely you don't want to be cooped up for the rest of your life."

"Yes, I want to be cooped up for the rest of my life!"

"Come, come, now, you're playing with words."
For the most part, the people pretending that this decision is great news for gay marriage don't actually give a shit about gay marriage. It is interesting that they like to pretend otherwise. If I were a little more of a Pollyanna (okay, a fuck of a lot more of one), I might suspect it meant they were capable of shame. Unfortunately for my faith in my fellow man, I know something about marketing, and how much may be gained by interests who can confer on consumers unjustified, inflated feelings of self-worth.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A NEW ONE. I recommend Rick Pearlstein's TNR essay on a topic very familiar to alicublog readers: the habit of conservatives, who run everything, to talk about themselves as if they were a small, beleaguered minority.

At NRO, Mark Bauerlein responds that conservatism and Republicanism are most certainly not the same thing -- a fair point in the abstract, though Bauerline would be more convincing if his own publication were not tirelessly sticking up for the Bush administration most of the time. (It's not like NRO's editors are trying to build a groundswell for Michael Peroutka.)

Bauerlein cites the usual institutions of liberal influence -- but adds one that I can't say as I've heard before:
There are other, smaller [liberal] realms to list (hip-hop, malls, etc). But Perlstein would probably claim that, for instance, malls are a free-market zone entirely in accord with conservative economic freedoms, not recognizing a difference between, on one hand, cultural values and effects, and, on the other, economic behaviors...
Malls are culturally liberal! How so? Bauerlein doesn't say. Maybe he's upset by the mannequins at Victoria's Secret. Or maybe it's those high-end stores, where floorwalkers practically insist that you try the latest fragrance for free -- talk about your creeping socialism! Or bookstores where they lead you read just any old thing...

Or maybe they're not to his taste, so naturally they can't be conservative. That's usually what they mean, even when they don't know it.

UPDATE. Kevin Drum thinks Bauerlein's mall problem reveals tension in the "conservative alliance" between capital cons, who want the free market to rule, and social-cons, who would prefer Jesus:
...After all, successful capitalism requires lots of educated workers, provides those workers with lots of money, and thrives on the notion that corporations should be allowed to produce anything they want to satisfy the needs of consumers.

In other words, give the customer what he wants. But guess what rich, educated customers turn out to want? Something different. And something different is precisely what social conservatives don't want.
I think Kevin rightly perceives the inherent conflict. But when he asks "how much longer" it can persist without turning into a coalition-busting schism, he sounds hopeful, and we can't have that.

Guys like Bauerline, Ross Douthat, Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con Brigade, etc., see the same sort of connections that Kevin sees (without drawing quite the same conclusions, of course). That makes for some lively discussions at the nerd table, no doubt.

But Joe Septuagint and his missus wouldn't know Crunchy Conservatism from Nestle's Crunch. Those God-bothered by boobs, curses, or any such like, will get an amen from their version of major media voices (e.g., the 700 Club, Michael Medved), but it won't be in the form of scholarly critiques of late capitalism -- it will be in the form of jeremiads against Hollyweird and homosexuals.

Not that they're so very propagandized -- human nature has a lot to do with it. Even if Joe and his missus aren't all that into Pat Robertson, or even Bill Bennett, whom do you suppose they picture when they think about the decline in culture or corruption of morals? Businesspeople -- that is, those good folks of their local Rotary, Kiwanis, and B.P.O.E.? Or of those odd creatures they only know from television: gays, actors, and Democrats?

So despite what they're saying at think tanks and niche websites, out there in America the accepted story is that bad liberals and their weirdo pals make smutty-smut and to defeat the smut you must defeat the liberals, through whom you can get at the otherwise insubstantial weirdos. And under this covering arrangement, the hard-working folks who commission sexy cologne ads or sweatpants with JUICY written across the ass need never face the wrath of outraged prudes. In fact, if one should cross their path, "I'm in men's fragrance" or "I'm in women's apparel" will not excite any suspicion -- admiration, perhaps; maybe even envy (hopefully not too much, though, lest one starts to obtain some taint of Otherness).

The only place I can recall where conservative Republicans have in recent years directly intervened on behalf of God against Mammon has been at the FCC. Big fines are a temporary hassle for big business, but the problem is usually resolved with the dismissal of the problematic talent, after which one can regroup and conduct business as usual.

I don't think those boys are worried that their names will replace Michael Moore's as a curse word, do you?
AND IF TEDDY ROOSEVELT WERE ALIVE TODAY, HE'D BEAT YOUR SORRY ASS. This National Review/Heritage Foundation examination of a book on William Jennings Bryan proceeds just as you might expect: the reviewer hates everything about Bryan except the faith-based ignorance the Great Commoner embraced at the Scopes Trial. The critic even suggests that, were Bryan to return from the grave, he "would be supporting intelligent design and non-sectarian prayer in schools; criticizing his party’s embrace of abortion on demand; and favoring the constitutional protection of traditional marriage."

In other words, Bryan would be a typical cracker asshole, all notions of economic justice subsumed by common bigotries. I can understand why conservatives like to believe the worst of people -- the circumstances of their recent electoral successes would make any sensible person into a misanthrope -- but they really go too far when they bring the dead into in.

The critic goes on to say that unkind moden assessments of Bryan's Scopes performance "overlook something important: Bryan’s opposition to Darwinism encompassed a deep concern about the corrupting influence of materialism and modernism on society and intellectual life." He maintains that Scopes Bryan, rather than Cross-of-Gold Bryan, is the model Democrats should be following.

I detect the makings of a pattern. Just a few posts back we saw the boys at The American Scene telling women to fight "the imperialism of economic life" by returning to unsalaried childcaring and housework. Rightwing thinktank types, who never have to repeat their absurdities into the astonished faces of real people, may be test-marketing amongst themselves the idea that by opposing conservatives, liberals are betraying their own true heritage -- i.e., fighting "materialism" and "imperialism" and such like.

We have already examined the Perublican schtick, whereby wingers crocodile-teared-up at the sad state of a Democratic party too weak to save Republicans from their own baser natures. Maybe the poindexterati now feel that, while this routine was fine right after the 2004 election, when everyone was talking about how vestigial the Democratic Party was with its measly 49% of the vote, there is enough evidence of outright popular disgust with the Republican Government that tales of Democratic impotence may no longer convince.

So the New Idea is that the Democrats stand against their own best traditions when they champion reproductive rights, separation of church and state, etc. Presumably, the target voter is meant to feel shocked and appalled, and revert to the Republicans, who cannot betray their principles, having for several decades had none at all.

Will it work? Considering what they're gotten away with in the past, it's certainly worth a try.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

SHORTER JOSIAH BUNTING III. On this the anniversary of our Nation's independence, it behooves us to remember that you're all a bunch of pussies.

(I actually rather enjoyed this grumpy essay by the former superintendent of VMI, but am astonished that OpinionJournal put it up for the 4th of July. The gesture reminds me of the planetarium speaker in Rebel Without a Cause, raining visions of cosmic death on the surly delinquents of his audience with obvious satisfaction -- "Thank you all for your attention. Thank you very much." Perhaps the WSJ braintrust is feeling a bit outcast these days, and wants us to feel their displeasure. Soon they'll propose that we farm out the hard labor of patriotism to guest workers or offshore concerns. Anyway: Happy Fourth, you pill-headed, mewling careerists!)

UPDATE. The phenomenon is apparently trans-Anglospheric. Andrew Stuttaford is enraged that Britons were mean to America in a survey, and uses quotes to demonstrate that Britain is, except for some dead soldiers, no damn good.

This time I am reminded of the old Brecht quote about Government leaders, disappointed by popular disapproval of themselves, electing to appoint a new populace.

UPDATE II. In comments, Chuckling notes a possible literary jest in the selection of the article's title. That's the kind of close reading that will get you a job at Crooked Timber, Chuck, and incur the jealous rage of semiomaticians everywhere.