Showing posts sorted by date for query Kyle smith. Sort by relevance Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by date for query Kyle smith. Sort by relevance Show all posts

Friday, September 30, 2022


Lou Rawls got into some heavy shit during his Axelrod years.

•  So much going on these days -- Vlad P’s little “I now declare these territories conquered” ceremony, Clarence Thomas’ crackpot wife just straight-up telling the House committee Biden stole the election, and Trump’s bought judge further demonstrating her indebtedness, etc. – so the whole rightwing pants-shitting spectacle over Lizzo playing Jemmy Madison’s flute comes as an amusing diversion and a suitable subject for a free issue of Roy Edroso Breaks It Down (Subscribe! Cheap!).

Watching dullards like Matt Walsh and Ben Shapiro dig with their sputter-spoons an ever-deeper hole is fun, but it also reminded me of the old days when I used to pay closer attention to the Konservetkult and Sons of Zhdanov, and what has changed since. Back then the ridiculous fist-shaking communiques conservatives regularly issued about how corrupt our “culture” was and how, once the lumpen were suitably indoctrinated with rightwing wisdom, it would become again fresh and pure were just funny – an endless series of reminders that these clowns were as morons before the Muses, that they had no idea what works of art were for and thought they could hector people into accepting their shabby substitutes. As I’ve said more than once, when they say “culture war” they always mean a war on culture. 

That’s still mostly true and the cream of my jest. But in the Trump age there’s been a slight and disturbing change. First, as has happened generally since I began on this beat, the one-time rightblogger small fry have advanced within the conservative movement, so their ravings receive greater attention from the High Command. Once, George H.W. Bush would just make a dumb crack about how Americans needed to be “a lot more like The Waltons and a lot less like The Simpsons” and let it go at that. But in the Reign of Tubby, their fantasies were promoted at the highest levels; for example, they started to push through a Garden of American Heroes --  a sort of anti-woke Disneyland where tourists could stare at heroic statues and get Cultivated. Albert Speer might have blushed.

And Trump’s arts-beat acolytes got more belligerent. When a Public Theatre Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar imagined, reasonably enough, Caesar as Trump, the wingnuts went wild because in the play Caesar gets assassinated – and they thought (or pretended to think) this meant liberals (because artists are all liberals) were calling for the assassination of Trump. In one of the creepier Trump-era writings, National Review Zhdanovite Kyle Smith cheered when sponsors began withdrawing funding from the Public and crackpots like Laura Loomer began interrupting performances because it meant that “Lefty Actors Are Beginning to Fear Donald Trump” – that is, the Trumpkins were terrorizing the Entarte Kunstlers, the logical endgame of culture war when you can't produce any real culture yourself.   

So yeah, it’s still funny that Lizzo and the Founding Flute can set off these clowns (and don’t let me spoil your enjoyment of the story!), but it’s also a reminder of how far they’ll go if they get any power. 

•  Speaking of culture war, one other thing I wanted to mention was the latest entry in the conservative hate-on-for-cities sector: An essay promoted by the hapless Steve Inskeep and written by Hillsdale legacy pledge Carmel Richardson about how all you stupid liberals complaining about housing prices should move to a big house in redstate Bumfuck like she did. Like all her kind, she describes cities as hellholes (“There’s a reason literature’s greatest protagonists [Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov, for one] go off the rails while living in seedy rented rooms”); Richardson’s innovation is to attribute the continued – indeed, timeless – appeal of cities to fads spurred by social media:

With the rise of social media and online journalism, key housing markets have become trendy in a way they never could have before. A classified ad now has a national audience, and bougie neighborhoods a ream of TikTok viewers. People are moving to areas they have no connection to and no relatives near because they saw it online and thought it looked cool. I know a few. This has the effect of driving up prices in areas that otherwise would never have known such demand.

Actually, the top end of this price-gouging is driven not by Tik-Tok but by realtor greed, absentee tenantssub-tenancy gone wild, and other late-capitalism pathologies. But, perhaps owing to her youth (ha, I’m kidding, she’s an apparatchik and must know better), Richardson misses that the big cities she excoriates are always more expensive than cowtowns for a simple reason that people prefer the cities to the cowtowns and people pay more for what they prefer. In fact, she offers as evidence of the attractiveness of Oklahoma and West Virginia that those states are offering cash bonuses to people who come and settle there – as if she’d never heard the old saying “I wouldn’t live there if you paid me.” 

Her closing is a marvel:

It is true that builders cannot keep up with the demand in places like Colorado, Florida, Tennessee, and Northern Virginia, but in the Midwest and other rural regions across the country, in towns no one ever visits on vacation, countless homes stand for sale and empty -- old, beautiful, and undesired by most.

You don’t say. Why “undesired”?

The towns they fill are thinly populated, and the old storefronts are mostly dark. What would happen if we started buying and living in these towns, dusting out the cobwebs and bringing in new life? One has to wonder what kind of people we would have to become to choose a quiet life over nightlife, and a county fair over a $75 brunch.

You stupid libtards with your brunch and nightlife, why won’t you move to a big house out in the middle of nowhere HURRY PLEASE COME KEEP US COMPANY I’M GOING MAD. Maybe the journalism thing is just a front and Richardson is actually working for brokers. 

Sunday, March 27, 2022


Regulars will know that I have a childhood love of the dumb old Academy Awards and have been running my own annual predix for years, usually not very successfully but sometimes beating the spread in the Best Picture and Best Actor and other categories. Even if you don’t want the betting advice, you can just share my appreciation of the excellent nominees and the fun of the guessing game.

This year I’ve seen all the nominated films, and you can see my reviews at these links --Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Licorice Pizza, West Side Story, Nightmare Alley, CODA, King Richard, Belfast, The Power of the Dog, and Dune

I’ve also seen all the nominated performances and nearly all of the other major nominees -- which in my experience is actually not helpful for predicting, because I can be swayed by quality and pure enthusiasm into error. But I did my best, and included second-guesses. Onward! 

L Best Picture: The Power of the Dog. I don’t see any way around it. I keep hearing intelligent people -- including the New York TimesKyle Buchanan -- say that CODA will win Best Picture. But, quite apart from it being the absolute worst film of the batch, CODA doesn’t have the traditional profile of the five previous No Best Director Nominee Best Pictures (Green Book, Argo, Driving Miss Daisy, Grand Hotel and Wings). Some of those films are sentimental in some way, as is CODA, but they also have at least one established star or, at the very least, a grizzled old-timer lead or two. (Sorry, Marlee Matlin!) With its teen lead and funny-horny parents, CODA would be a run-of-the-mill YA picture but for the deaf angle, and I don’t think that’s enough, especially since the Academy has elected art films the past two years in row -- could they backslide into feel-good goo-goo-ga-ga for such an unworthy product? Not out of the question, but to me at best CODA’s more like Breaking Away -- a scrappy also-ran. 

The other real serious contender (though I wouldn't completely count out the sentimental-but-actually-good Belfast) is Dune, an impressive chunk of movie- and money-making. But this is the same Academy that hasn’t put up any Star Wars films for any serious awards since 1978. Since the days of five nominees, at least one Best Picture slot has usually been dedicated to a big, sleek Cadillac of a movie that shows lots of flash -- but these only win when you can take them to heart, and Dune is just too freakish for that. (You could say the same for The Shape of Water, a Cadillac/art film hybrid, but that was also a love story.) Plus, The Power of the Dog is just really, really good. [If not: Dune.]

W Best Actor: Will Smith, King Richard. I really liked his performance; that it was delivered under the hagiographic pressure of Richard Williams’ still-living and powerful daughters makes the achievement even more remarkable. This is a rich field but Will Smith is a beloved figure in Hollywood and these guys really want to give it to him. [If not: Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog.]

L Best Actress: Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter. This is a tough one. Penelope Cruz is fantastic in Parallel Mothers but even with her moments of maternal horror it’s simply too subtle a performance for the Academy. Nicole Kidman did a creditable Lucille Ball, right down to Ball’s control freakishness -- which deprives her of the big emotional scene(s) that might have advanced her nomination. Spencer is a weird movie and Kristin Stewart’s Diana meets its challenge perfectly, but I think the eccentricity of the project cuts against her. 

That leaves Colman and Jessica Chastain, who in The Eyes of Tammy Faye really kills it; her and the other actors’ playing style is broad but rich in emotional truth, and she makes a woman who’s mainly remembered as a figure of fun into a sympathetic and even, ultimately, heroic figure. (Who didn’t feel that last parallel clip of Chastain and the real Tammy Faye deep in their gut?) The only question is whether the Academy will reward that kind of bravura loser story; it didn’t with Margot Robbie and I, Tonya

Colman’s performance, like Cruz’s, is subtle, but the character is not just experiencing shocks but also having an extended breakdown that’s brilliantly delineated by Maggie Gyllenhaal’s script and direction (and Jessie Buckley’s eerie flashback performance). And Colman approaches it with the guts of a cat burglar -- I was at several points shocked by how ugly and blinkered she allowed her character to be, yet I always saw where she was coming from (if only in retrospect) and was rooting for her all the way. Also the Academy has shown with Hilary Swank and Frances McDormand (and Luise Rainer and Katharine Hepburn) that it doesn’t mind giving Best Actress to the same woman within the same decade. [If not: Chastain.]

W Best Director: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog. [If not: Kenneth Branagh, Belfast.]
W Best Supporting Actor: Troy Kotsur, CODA. [If not: Ciarán Hinds, Belfast.]
W Best Supporting Actress: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story. [If not: Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog.]

These are the kind of sucker bets I usually miss, but not this year! I’m sticking with the conventional wisdom. (Here’s my demurrer, though: If some older voters felt themselves giving short shrift to CODA and the gooey sentiment it represents, maybe Branagh has an outside shot.)

W Best Cinematography: Greig Fraser, Dune. All five movies are beautifully shot but Dune, The Tragedy of Macbeth, and Nightmare Alley are the least imaginable without their distinctive look. I would tip it toward Bruno Delbonnel, but the Academy may feel black and white is cheating. And Dune is the Cadillac of the bunch. [If not: Delbonnel, The Tragedy of Macbeth.

W Best Screenplay (Adapted): Siân Heder, CODA. It’s ludicrous, but if the news of a CODA groundswell is at all true, this will get past The Power of the Dog. (A spasm of insight would shift it to Gyllenhaal’s structurally brilliant script.) [If not: Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Lost Daughter.]

L Best Screenplay (Original): Adam McKay and David Sirota, Don’t Look Up. I was sure the backlash this film got from liberal know-betters would redound in the film industry, but this actually won the Writers Guild of America Award, among others. I guess it’s because Adam McKay does writing that really feels written -- almost as much as Aaron Sorkin, but he’s not up this year. [If not: Kenneth Branagh, Belfast.] 

L Best Film Editing: Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum, tick, tick… BOOM! As the year’s big-movie nominee, Dune should tend to prevail in craft awards unless wildly outclassed, and I frankly admire that Joe Walker and Denis Villeneuve made sense of a convoluted story and kept the battle scenes intelligible. But the underdog rumblings for tick, tick… BOOM!, unlike the rumblings for CODA, make sense to me: It’s such a brilliant assemblage of a messy story (with a first-time director), and it catches the rhythm of both the music and the lead’s hyperactivity. [If not: Walker, Dune.]

W Best Original Score: Hans Zimmer, Dune. As important as the unified visual style of Dune is, I can’t imagine it without the score -- it’s mixed way loud whenever no one is talking and with its blend of noises and actual music it really carries the far-outness of the thing -- it's practically an athletic composing performance.  [If not: Jonny Greenwood, The Power of the Dog]

L Best Art Direction: Tamara Deverell and Shane Vieau, Nightmare Alley. Dune has a great unified vision but so do all the contenders, and -- well, the nearly-expressionistic Nightmare Alley sets are just too good. Also, in this category, the past trumps the future. [If not: Adam Stockhausen and Rena DeAngelo, West Side Story.]

W Best Make-Up: The Eyes of Tammy Faye. [If not: House of Gucci.]

W Best Song: "No Time to Die," No Time to Die, Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell. [If not: “Sometimes You Do,” Four Good Days, Diane Warren.]

W Best Sound: Dune. [If not: West Side Story.]

W Best Visual Effects: Dune. [If not: Oh who are we kidding.]

W Best Costume Design: Cruella. [If not: Cyrano.]

These I am really, really just guessing at:

L Best Animated Feature: Flee.
W Best Documentary Feature: Summer of Soul*.
W Best International Film: Drive My Car.
L Best Live Action Short: On My Mind.
W Best Documentary Short: The Queen of Basketball.
W Best Animated Short: The Windshield Wiper.

Place your bets [not with me, I’m unlicensed] and see you tonight! (Oh BTW, cutting eight categories from the telecast including Editing, Score, and Production Design is straight-up bullshit.)

*UPDATE: One hour since posting, I have already copped out on the Documentary Feature category -- I figure if they give Flee Best Animated Feature they'll feel they've done their bit, while Summer of Soul is a blast of joy that people really want in their lives. OK, I'll stop fiddling with it! 

UPDATE 2, 7:20 pm: Just letting you true vipers know they've started giving out the pre-ceremony Oscars and I'm doing great: Got Best Sound, Best Doc Short, and Best Animated Short right!  They gave Best Live Action Short to Riz Ahmed's anti-racist anti-fascist The Long Goodbye, which I thought was too pushy-prop but apparently they liked it. (I did like the rap, though.) So I'm three for four so far, hooray! 

UPDATE 3, 7:45 pm: But now I'm fading! Dune took Best Editing and Best Production Design. But it also won Best Score and The Eyes of Tammy Faye won the makeup award. It's not too late for me to pull it out.

UPDATE 4. Three hosts is [said with a rich lady gangsta lilt] attrition by addition [dance move]. 

UPDATE 5. That's just a matter of timing. Look, by herself Schumer is a stitch, especially making fun of Leonardo DiCaprio and young girls. The Steve Martin gag still works! 

UPDATE 6. After Ariana DeBose's speech I feel like a little theater kid sitting on the floor in front of the TV sniffling. Brava! 

UPDATE 7. I'm doing great but am mainly commenting on Twitter -- to the extent possible, because I want to relax and enjoy these. But you know me -- I'm a kibbitzer. 

UPDATE 8. Someone should have told Will Smith that Frank Sinatra never smacked people around when the cameras were rolling.  

UPDATE 9. Well. I still think CODA is a drag, but one of the venerable Oscar traditions is bitching about how Oscar doesn't know what it's talking about, and my 73% score is not so bad. So, really, we're all winners! From Hollywood for Ugly People, Good Night! 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021


Republicans are addicted to feeling like winners even when they lose -- witness their never-ending claims that the 2020 presidential election, which Tubby lost by seven million votes, was stolen -- and this is evident in their reaction to Gavin Newsom’s lopsided victory in last night’s California recall, which challenger/lunatic Larry Elder preemptively claimed would be stolen from him as well (though since his 2-to-1 trouncing he’s been pretty quiet about that). Jordan Davidson at The Federalist:

Multiple outlets officially called the referendum on removing the governor a failure on Tuesday night, less than one hour after polls closed. Some California residents were stunned…

Coulda used some corroboration for the “stunned” claim, Jordan.

…but others said they are determined to use the power they amassed to create the recall to keep fighting to hold the governor accountable for his tyranny.

So Californians either were literally stunned that the guy who led all the polls won the election, or they were freshly committed to resistance to the tyrant Newsom. Given this consensus I don’t know how Republicans keep losing out there. 

At National Review, Philip Klein said the problem was “Larry Elder Peaked Too Early” -- that is, Californians knew who would be governor if they ousted Newsom and their blood ran cold (“That was plenty of time for Newsom to turn the race from a referendum on him, to a more conventional governor’s race between him and Elder… that was the sort of race that Elder had no chance of winning” LOL). 

Klein’s colleague Kyle Smith took a similar tack: “A recall election that was a referendum on Newsom had a chance to succeed, but, not unreasonably, once the possibility of ejecting Newsom entered the imagination, voters started to wonder who might succeed him.” 

I wonder if these guys ever consider what the effect might be on normal people who stumble upon their stories and read how the Republicans could totally win if only the voters had no idea who and what they are. 

Then again, what do they care: conservatives can afford to cruise with this lazy and absurd shit because the prestige press keeps backing them up. When it’s all tallied Newsom stands to take two-thirds of the vote, yet look at all the headlines today that say he “survived.” 65% looks more like thriving to me. And with spectacularly bothsider coverage from the likes of CNN’s Chris Cillizza (“Tuesday night was, weirdly, a very good night for Larry Elder's political future”) and Kasie Hunt (“Democrats have a tough needle to thread both in California & nationwide… Democrats need to prove they can govern for EVERYBODY"), Republicans need never leave their bubble of contentment except to scream “fraud” and do insurrection.  

Friday, December 18, 2020


Warm Leatherette's the killer but I always liked the flip side too

•   I unlocked today's edition of Roy Edroso Breaks It Down, which is about the Biden campaign worker who got in trouble for calling Republican "fuckers" and how she had the right idea and rather than apologize she and all of us should tell the pearl-clutching pissants to eat shit, take their nomenclature and like it. I always opposed them because I thought they were wrong and even crazy, but between Trump nihilism, COVID denialism, and QAnon cultism, they've mutated into a clear and present danger. David Atkins got grief for talking about "deprogramming" Republicans ("We have to start thinking in terms of post-WWII Germany or Japan. Or the failures of Reconstruction in the South") but when their major media outlets and elected officials are transparently trying to get the election results overturned -- not because their fraud claims have any merit, but because those results show that their voter-suppression tactics are starting to lose their potency and their minority rule may be coming to an end -- it's clear a Rubicon has been crossed; if they're willing to defy both democratic principles such as consent of the governed and objective reality, they are not in any sense a loyal opposition, and the absolute least we can do is acknowledge that and stop cooperating with the absurdly hypocritical standards by which rampaging Republicans are treated like entertaining scamps while mild incivilities from Democrats are treated like war crimes. Fuck that and fuck them.  

•   One good thing about Kyle Smith's (roundly mocked) stupid column about Joseph Epstein's (roundly mocked) stupid column about how Jill Biden shouldn't use her "Dr." honorific is that it exposes more people to what a piece of shit Kyle Smith is. You can find several references to Smith's career as a culture-war creep at the New York Post and National Review by searching his name at this site. Among the highlights: Smith venturing into theater criticism solely, it would seem, so he could yell at Will Ferrell for unpatriotically making fun of George Bush ("Is it too much to ask for Hollywood's leading comic actor not to use the deaths of our troops in combat for a giggle?"); the logical culture-warrior conclusion to years of rightwing rage-wank over Lena Dunham, entitled (amazingly) "Lena Dunham’s Ultimately Conservative Message"; and Smith explaining that while Republicans enlist in the armed services for noble reasons, Democrats only enlist to disguise the fact that they hate America.

Smith's absolute nadir, though, came when New York's Shakespeare in the Park did Julius Caesar and made Caesar a Trump look-alike, leading conservatives to the insane conclusion that the venerable theatrical institution was calling for the President's assassination; Smith went further still, exulting that the theater got some of its funding cut and that "Lefty Actors Are Beginning to Fear Donald Trump," as if that were something anyone who pretends to care about culture as opposed to culture war would be happy about.  Well, everything else conservative has degenerated; I guess it's only natural that they culture warriors would, too. 

Friday, July 03, 2020


Brothers and sisters,
There is always a reason to feel good.

•   I keep hearing conservatives crying over the firing or defenestration from executive positions of people accused of racist or sexist remarks. We heard a lot of this during the alleged persecutions of Brendan Eich and James Damore, and are hearing it now over such removals as that of student journalist Adrianna San Marco for dismissing institutional racism in a column and that of Boeing exec Niel Golightly for disputing the role of women in the military.

Of course, when it goes the other way, the conservative free speech squad goes silent:
Springfield police detective Florissa Fuentes fired over pro-Black Lives Matter social media post 
...The image showed her niece protesting in Atlanta. Flames leap up in the background and her niece holds a sign that reads: “Shoot the F--- Back.” A friend’s sign reads: “Who do we call when the murderer wears the badge?”... 
“After I posted it, I started getting calls and texts from co-workers,” Fuentes said during an interview. “I was initially confused, but then I realized they thought I was being anti-cop. I wasn’t. I was just supporting my niece’s activism. I had no malicious intent, and I wouldn’t put a target on my own back. I’m out there on the streets every day like everyone else.”
Fuentes is probably going to have a harder time bouncing back from her dismissal than the Boeing executive. (As for San Marco, she already has a gig with LifeZette. Wingnut welfare to the rescue!)

The PD probably had the right to fire Fuentes -- but if it does, then so does just about any employer have the right to fire any employee for their speech, even outside working hours -- from The Tampa Bay Times:
It played out several times in Tampa Bay in recent days. 
An employee announced publicly they’d been fired for participating in the widespread protests for racial justice. 
Their former employer, facing a deluge of phone calls, weaponized Yelp reviews and cries for them to be sued under the U.S. Constitution, said the firing had nothing to do with any protests. 
Florida lawyers say it does not matter which side you believe. 
Florida is an “at-will” state. “That means you can be fired for a good reason, for a bad reason, or no reason at all,” said Cynthia Sass, an employment lawyer in Tampa. “When it comes to private employers and your First Amendment rights, they don’t apply.”
Here's my modest proposal: End at-will employment. Let every employer and employee contract, and let their speech rights be protected under law. Then, when on your own time, you can not only support your cause -- whether Black Lives Matter or the Klan -- but you can bitch out your boss, just like the Founders wanted. Everyone shall tweet under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid!

I know to a dead certainty that conservatives will never take that offer. Because the truth is they aren't keen for free speech at all -- they're just keen to protect bigots, because bigotry is all they've got.

•   Been a while since I twigged you good people to freebies at Roy Edroso Breaks It Down, my 5-day-a-week subscription newsletter, so here are two: notes from a secret White House meeting, and my address to my fellow honkies. Enjoy!

•   Here's an Independence Day treat: If you feel vaguely guilty looking down on conservatives for their dumb, dishonest arguments, and feel you owe them at least some respectful attention, feast your eyes on this from Paulina Enck at The Federalist:
Why It Might Be Time To Retire ‘Born In The USA’ From Your 4th Of July Barbecue
Not even kidding.
A staple of the holiday for as long as I can remember is Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 classic, “Born in the USA.” However, this song should probably be retired as an Independence Day anthem, due to less-than-patriotic lyrics. 
Play “Born in the USA” at a party and one thing will become abundantly clear: most people only know the eponymous words to the refrain. The lyrical dissonance allows the upbeat tune and instrumentation to mask the darkness of the lyrics. Rather than the patriotic anthem it is perceived to be, Springsteen’s lyrics describe the hardships Vietnam veterans faced returning home after the war. 
The song’s first lines kickstart a song incredibly critical of the country...
It can't be, you think -- even other wingnuts who praise the song, from O.G. wingnut fraud George F. Will to Kyle Smith, usually pretend it's about how great Reagan's America is. Surely this is a Poe, shoved past Ben Domenech's attention by sleeper-cell editors! But Enck is a longtime culture-war crank and she is seriously trying to convince her fellow conservatives not to play the song on the Fourth of July.

Fans of false consciousness theory will note that Enck wants to have it both ways -- if you don't take her advice, she suggests, maybe that's okay too, because if an artifact offends our delicate conservative sensibilities we can just pick a new meaning for it on the grounds that we can't make out what it's saying:
There is something to be said about the song taking on new meaning, lyrics aside. Springsteen’s diction through the verses, while stylistic and enjoyable, leaves much to be desired in terms of clarity. And most people, when they listen, they are left with patriotic fervor, not a desire to upend the American system.
As I've been saying for decades now, conservatives have an obsession with making anything they like -- movies, songs, choc-o-mut ice creams -- into an endorsement of their politics, and now that Trump has made "serious" conservatism into a joke, they're just getting worse.

Friday, January 24, 2020


What was that thing, I associate it with Marshall Crenshaw --
Nostalgic, seemingly unwild, but tight, something tough inside?
Anyway, glad someone's still doing that.

• I'm opening up one of my Roy Edroso Breaks It down newletter items on the similarities between Trump and Reagan, the senile titans of modern conservatism. I do believe, as every credentialed conservative now goes to the mat for the grifter in chief -- including even the finicky NeverTrumpers -- ordinary people are starting to catch on.

• At National Review, Kyle Smith on how to determine whether your military service means you're a hero and whether it means you're just a careerist:
People join the military for all sorts of different reasons. Many join because it’s the best available job. Our former colleague David French joined, under no obligation whatsoever, at the Methuselan age of 37 (for which a special waiver is required) because he felt a deep moral urgency to aid fellow Americans in Iraq, where he served in 2007 and 2008. I joined to pay for college. Pete Buttigieg apparently joined because he thought it would add a great line to his résumé when he ran for president, which he planned to do from the time he was a zygote.
Surprisingly, it has to do with what party you belong to! Smith also heaps insults on John Kerry, perhaps because he was out of Purple heart band-aids.

We know Smith is shit; his previous nadir was his expression of hand-rubbing glee that "Lefty Actors Are Beginning to Fear Donald Trump" because the controversy over a Shakespeare in the Park peformance of Julius Caesar had stirred the wrath of such prominent conservative thinkers as Laura Loomer. But this is a new low even for him. I admit uncharitable characterizations of David French's late-life enlistment (he went in as a JAG), for example, have crossed my mind, but I wouldn't give them voice to slam him because a.) like sports victories, enlistment and posting to war zones counts no matter what the particulars, b.) there is so much else to criticize French for, and c.) I'm not a total asshole.

The most interesting thing about Smith's garbage post is I haven't seen any conservatives criticizing it. I would say that in an age when senior Republicans can freely slag the war hero Alexander Vindman, it's no surprise. But then when would it have been? I remember when Saxby Chambliss slurred disabled war hero Max Cleland to win the Georgia Senate election, and National Review had headlines like "Max Cleland, liberal victim," arguing that sure, there was "a tough anti-Cleland ad that Chambliss broadcast featuring Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein" but "the ad didn’t morph Cleland into either of these figures or say that he supported them," so no one would make the connection. The fact is -- and I keep telling you -- Republicans are no good and haven't been for a long, long time.

Friday, April 26, 2019


Charme pour les jours.

•   We have a new entry for the Children of Zhdanov files, those depressing attempts by conservative pencil-pushers to colonize the arts by just slapping a PROPERTY OF THE RIGHT label on any book, movie, or video game that titillates them. It's at National Review, which has published many prime examples of the form -- from John J. Miller's notorious "50 greatest conservative rock songs" to Jonah Goldberg's "there’s a profound conservatism to all great fiction." Suprisingly, this new one's not from Kyle Smith, their full-timer on this beat, but from Kevin D. Williamson, who has so many other ways to annoy you'd think he'd leave this to the pros.
The great works of art that appeal to the conservative sensibility rarely if ever are constructed as self-consciously conservative stories — propagandistic literature lends itself more readily to progressive causes, in any case.
I'm torn here between "please explain" and "no, wait, please don't."
What Coriolanus tells us about populism and mass politics is not true because it is conservative but conservative because it is true.
Coriolanus thinks he's more Roman than Rome and turns traitor, which may make you think of Donald Trump until you consider that his mommy eventually makes him be loyal instead, which he does knowing his new Volscian buddies will kill him for it. The play does exhibit a lot of contempt for democracy, which may be what Williamson is getting at, or maybe it's just a brain chemistry issue.
The relationship between the beautiful and the true helps to explain how it is that so many actual Communists in Hollywood’s golden age produced works that were moving, true, often patriotic, often speaking to religious faith, and in many cases profoundly conservative. They weren’t out to make something right-wing, but something great.
Ha ha, last laugh on you Dalton Trumbo, by being good at your job you were actually conservative all along, PSYCH.
I doubt very much that either Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead...
The few punters still reading relax. Oboy fun stuff, I bet that's rightwing too! the product of an overwhelmingly conservative group of storytellers. (From what I can learn of the politics of the writers, that does not seem to be the case.) But both shows are obliged by the nature of their dramatic structures to consider the fundamental questions of politics, and both invite deeply conservative interpretations.
Deeply indeedly! Williamson tells us the zombie comic book show is explained by Murray Rothbard and "Mancur Olson’s idea of the state as a 'stationary bandit,'" and in the end democracy doesn't work. (A theme emerges!) The tits-and-lizards show, meanwhile, shows the "liberal" leader to be "incompetent" and the "power-mad megalomaniac" to be a great one, thus making "an implicit case for things like federalism and the separation of powers." Also tits, also lizards. Thus the fans are reassured: Everything they like -- tits, lizards, zombies, choc-o-muts ice c'eams -- is conservative.

•   BTW I released the bats, so to speak, on Thursday's edition of Roy Edroso Breaks It Down, my mildly popular newsletter, so even non-subscribers can read it. I already told you this but I'm taking a cue from Ted Bates and hitting the USP (Subscribe! Cheap!™) hard and often. My fortune's assured!

•  Let's have a dash of Dreher, eh?
I know some conservatives who are closed-minded, bigoted, you name it — but I don’t know any conservatives who would refuse to be friends with someone because they are liberal. They must exist, but in general, the disposition to cast out the impure from one’s circle of friendship is something I have seen much more commonly among progressives. Let me be clear: I’m not talking about holding extreme views; that is common on both sides. I’m talking about the way one interacts with those on the other side. It has seemed to me that in general, people on the Left get a lot more wound up about politicizing social interaction, and treating people who hold opposing views as morally tainted, than people on the Right do...
This is a personal view, admittedly. It’s something I’ve noticed over the years.
Oh, I bet he has. It just might be everyone knows Dreher is a twerp, but conservatives tolerate him because he might be good for a few votes or to help usher in a theocracy, while liberals have no such motivation to put up with his nonsense.
A guess: because left-wing politics has become obsessed with questions of power and status, and that breeds a natural sense of personal insecurity. Leftists have forgotten that one can be wrong without being evil incarnate. And, when you perseverate over whether or not you feel “safe” in the presence of something or someone challenging, you cannot help but generate a neurotic politics.
It's hilarious that Dreher keeps going to that snowflakes-in-their-safespace well when his whole Benedict Option racket is that the homos and he-shes are persecuting him with their deviant sex and the godly must join him in WiFi monasteries to escape them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A NEW LOW, PART 1,254,090.

Charles Two Middle Initials Cooke at the conservative flagship magazine National Review:
I’ve greatly enjoyed reading the many responses to Tucker Carlson’s now-famous monologue. We’ve had contributions from David French, Kyle Smith, Kevin Williamson, Yuval Levin, David Bahnsen, Michael Brendan Dougherty, Mike Lee, Ben Shapiro, Mona Charen, Jonah Goldberg, David French again, Kevin Williamson again, David Bahnsen again, Jonah Goldberg again, and more. And that’s just on the website. The question has also been discussed at length on many of NR’s podcasts, and, of course, on Twitter....
Forget the rest of Cooke's post; forget anything else written about Carlson's allegedly inspirational speech -- except what I wrote about it in my newsletter (Subscribe! Cheap!) and quoted in a previous alicublog post. Instead contemplate that Cooke has cited the deep thoughts of no fewer than 11 major conservative thinkers on a dumb TV speech by a racist Fox News bowtie buffoon.

It seems like for the past week every conservative bigwig in the country has weighed in on what is essentially standard-issue You Snobs Care About Foreigners Well What About The Poor Hillbillies on Opioids gush as restated by the heir to the Swanson TV Dinners fortune. I knew Trump had gutted their movement, but this is like an Evelyn Waugh parody, like a sub-basement of a nadir of intellectual decay -- it's as if Cooke had an even lower opinion of his own karass than I do, and set out to make conservatism look stupid. It's too bad we can't have a reliable accounting of who finances this crap, because I really suspect it's mostly supported by rich wastrels as a joke to see how many among the dummies who still support this movement will catch on.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


How far has National Review come since its days as an explicitly segregationist magazine? Well, they have no fewer than three columns on Starbucks' admirable decision to hold a day of diversity training in response to a well-publicized racist incident in one of its stores. Want to guess how they feel about it? Here's David French:
There is near-universal consensus that the Starbucks employee’s actions were racially motivated. Starbucks apparently agrees, and given that the company knows more about its employees than I do, I’m not going to question its conclusion.
Sounds pretty sulky, doesn't he? Can't blame him -- everyone's bought into this racism-exists madness, even the big corporation -- and they're supposed to be on his side! French is pissed that Starbucks is "forcing more than 175,000 employees to undergo 'racial bias' training" (yeah, I bet those baristas are real upset they have to sit on their ass and get trained for a day) but especially that their training will address "so-called unconscious bias," which French calls "Orwellian junk science." Imagine -- thinking people might be prejudiced without even knowing it! Next you'll be telling him about all that stuff the eggheads say we do without knowing about it, like Freudian shits.
Starbucks is a private company and as such it has a right to make this mistake. It can shutter its stores for a day and re-educate its employees. But to the extent it’s teaching them about unconscious bias, it’s teaching nonsense, and when it comes to the fraught issue of American race relations, nonsense always inflicts a measure of harm.
French doesn't explain, but from his previous writings I guess he means if you try to make people less racist, they just naturally get more bigoted and vote for Trump, so you see it's really your fault for hassling them, you Orwellian junk scientists.

Let's see what NR's Kyle Smith has to say:
At a glance, what happened at that Philadelphia coffee shop last Thursday looks like racism. But there’s little context. Does the manager also routinely call the police on white people who loiter in the shop? If a white manager called the police on two white guys hanging around a coffee shop, it wouldn’t make the news, much less become a national obsession.
This guys are really suspicious about the incident that everyone involved agrees happened. Maybe Starbucks and the liberals are in cahoots to make people think racism exists!
The incident is making people unhinged. When the “racism” circuits in our brain get activated, we stop thinking clearly. We go out looking for someone to chastise, and one low-level staffer isn’t enough. We want a larger target suited to the strength of the frenzy. It affects our judgment the way being drunk does. This is your brain. This is your brain on race.
And you sheeple thought racism was bad! Nothing's as bad as anti-racism, except maybe drinking.

Now, Jim Geraghty:
I suspect you can trace the country’s unexpected path to this mindset on racial controversies by following the twists and turns in the career of Al Sharpton.
Shorter version: This Starbucks thing reminds me of some famous black guy I don't like.

Not content with this trifecta, National Review has chosen also to run this:
Enoch Powell’s Immigration Speech, 50 Years Later
I shit you not -- they do indeed mean the "Rivers of Blood" speech, which I believe was last celebrated in NR's pages by John Derbyshire, not long thereafter defenestrated for Making It Too Obvious. If you're guessing this new review is less obvious but highly sympathetic, collect your prize at the door. There are some mealy-mouthed qualifiers, but nothing the typical NR reader can't see through -- when author Douglas Murray says "some portions of [the speech] cannot but induce an intake of breath and a considerable wince or gulp" -- referring to the more overtly ooga-booga passages about "pickaninnies" and so forth -- you know conservatives for whom "politically incorrect" is the highest possible accolade will take it as a recommendation (and so, I assume, does Murray). And anyway, says Murray, none of these PC drags talk about the good parts -- why, "some of the questions [Powell] addressed are questions that understandably gnaw away at us still" -- f'rinstance:
...some of the issues he raised — however well or poorly — remain so pregnant. 
As I wrote in my latest book, imagine you had been a speechwriter for Enoch Powell in 1968, or an adviser or friend. And imagine if you had said to him then, “I have an idea, Enoch. Why not use your speech to say that if immigration into the U.K. goes on at these rates, then in 2011 the official census will reveal that people who identify as ‘white British’ will be a minority in their capital city of London.” Had this been said, Powell would most likely have dismissed the person as an inflammatory madman. Yet that was indeed one of the things that the 2011 census showed. And the news came and went as though it was just another detail on just another day.
London's full of sooties and wogs; the man was a prophet! Ahem, I mean "questions remain."

Welp, looks like National Review's capitulation to Trumpism and its corollary -- that conservatives can be elected with zero support from black people, so why even bother -- is complete. But then, they never really had that far to go.

Sunday, March 04, 2018


I saw Phantom Thread and The Shape of Water — couldn’t get to Call Me By Your Name before the Big Show, but I’ll take a stab at the Oscar thing anyway.

(As to those last two movies: I’ve been trying to figure out whether the last part of Phantom Thread is meant to be taken literally, which inevitably gets me to wondering whether the first part was meant to be taken literally. The odd meet-acute in the Blackpool tearoom, in retrospect, looks like someone, or two, acting out their first meeting, either as a sentimental gesture or for therapeutic purposes; and the integration of Alma into the House of Reynolds, from his sister sniffing her over to her near-erasure among the other white-coated votaries, seems like a highly distilled version of experience, at least. I started out, perhaps influenced by the writing about it, thinking Phantom Thread was about gender roles, but I’m willing to consider that it’s about the weird power of love itself. Definitely the most rumination-worthy of the bunch.)

(Oh, and as to The Shape of Water: This is the Pan’s Labyrinth guy, alright, and another fable, but without the hard fatalism of the Spanish Civil War one, because we’re in America and Americans aren’t fatalists — though if you like you can think of the ending as non-literal, but if you do what’s that make the rest of the movie? [Publicity for the 1978 Superman said, “You’ll believe a man can fly”; The Shape of Water can boast, “You’ll believe a fish can fuck!”] It was thrilling to see the magic realism blend so seamlessly with the caper-suspense elements, and also to see the good guys and bad guys — though, as fable demands, clearly assigned and starkly painted — all get their little bit of humanity; even the Michael Shannonical scumbag moved me when he asked his general for permission to be just decent. [The general, however, can go fuck himself. I hate that guy.] I can see now why kulturkampfer Kyle Smith hated it so much — the black and the gay and the sex vs. The Man! — and, well, that’s just the icing on the fishcake.)

OK, let’s have a crack at these nominees:

Best Picture: The Shape of Water. Sure it’s odd — but it feels like what we used to call a movie-movie. I think Three Billboards has a chance, but Moonlight’s victory last year probably has voters thinking that would be just too much Quiet Brilliance in an industry mostly devoted to producing special effects extravaganzas.

Best Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour. You get old and play a British Prime Minister in heavy makeup, they have to give it to you.

Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I was thinking Johnny Belinda II but great as Sally Hawkins is, voters may be wondering why Hillary Swank has two Oscars and McDormand only has one.

Best Supporting Actor: Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water. This is my sucker bet, some everyone expects either big prize-taker Willem Dafoe or Billboards’ Sam Rockwell to win, but my instinct, such as it is, is that the collision of the two favorites (and Woody Harrelson, who they’d love to give an Academy Award to sometime) will make an opening for a dark horse. Plus Jenkins’ arc is deeply moving.

Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird. I haven’t seen Allison Janney, but Lady Bird needs an award.

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water. I thought they were going to give Christopher Nolan this but

Best Original Screenplay: Get Out.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name.

Best Cinematography: Dunkirk.

Best Production Design: The Shape of Water.

Best Film Editing: Baby Driver.

Best Foreign Language Film: The Square.

Best Costume Design: Darkest Hour.

Best Original Score: Phantom Thread.

Best Original Song: “Mighty River,” Mudbourne.

Best Makeup: Darkest Hour.

Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk.

Best Sound Mixing: The Shape of Water.

Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

And in the Who The Fuck Knows categories:

Best Documentary Feature: Last Men in Aleppo.

Best Documentary Short: Traffic Stop.

Best Animated Short: Garden Party.

Best Live Short: Watu Wote/All of Us.

And now -- magic time!

UPDATE, 8:18: I'm already losing!

UPDATE, 8:32: 1 for 3. There goes the rent money.

UPDATE, 9:30: [tears up his tickets and walks away slowly, in the rain]

UPDATE, 11:50: Well, I got the Big Five right, but otherwise wiped out -- 11 of our 23. I'd like to blame the Academy -- huh, Best Costume Design for a movie about fashion! So predictable! -- but really my mistake was paying attention; I always do better when I've seen like three movies all year. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


The Oscar nominations are out, and if I get some time I hope to watch more of the nominated films and luxuriate in stupid prognostication like I used to do back when I was single and had nothing to do but attend the ci-ne-ma. Speaking of nerds, I see the wingnuts are having their usual allergic reactions. Kyle Smith, who went from pretending to be a film critic at the New York Post (and sometimes a theatre critic -- see his review of Will Ferrell's one-man George W. Bush show, "Is it too much to ask for Hollywood's leading comic actor not to use the deaths of our troops in combat for a giggle?" Never forget!) to full-blown kulturkampfer at National Review, tells his readers what they want to hear, i.e. that the nominations prove "#OscarsSoWoke" and are all about appeasing the dark gods of liberalism: in this "highly politicized year... Academy voters are going to be very eager to send a duly left-wing cultural message" and so, Smith predicts, moviecommies will vote for The Shape of Water which he says is leftwing -- because of the human/nonhuman miscegnation, I guess. Then he says,
As for Get Out, I think this is a very fine movie that is being hugely overrated because it’s about racism and I can’t imagine Oscar voters, who are mostly senior citizens, will be as impressed with it as critics have been.
So Academy voters are too "senior citizen" to vote for Get Out, but "woke" enough to vote for some other woke movie? Maybe there's something in there about Hollywood liberals being The Real Racists™ -- I'm stunned Smith didn't tease that out!

In another post called "The Anti-Trump Oscars" (these guys are nothing if not subtle) Smith explains why The Post can't win even though, if we follow his Zhdanovite logic, its journalistic-heroes-beat-Nixon story would seem to be the obvious choice: "Perhaps the Academy found the film just a bit too by-the-numbers... or voters thought the film was a bit too blatantly intended to capitalize on the anti-Trump mood. The Oscars are a fan dance..." It's all so complicated! Or maybe it's actually simple: the whole idea of everything that happens in movieland being a proxy battle between Republicans and Democrats is a bunch of bullshit. C'mon, Agent Smith, think outside the box!

Also, while I think people who mope about "snubs" because their personal love-objects didn't get Academy recognition are silly, at least they're just harmlessly indulging fan-crushes; Zachary Leeman's "Conservative Movies Snubbed by the Academy" at LifeZette, on the other hand, is like a cross between 1984 and Tiger Beat. For example, Leeman tells us Wind River is conservative because it's "about the mental and physical stability and fortitude still needed to survive in some parts of the country." You know, like Cimarron or Walkabout! Thus it "deserved recognition for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay," and because it didn't get it Leeman has thrown himself on his bed sobbing and kicked off all the frilly pillows. (The other snubbed movies were ignored, Leeman says, because they have uniformed personnel in them, and Oscar never honors servicemembers except for The Hurt Locker and Platoon and Saving Private Ryan and Platoon and Patton etc. etc. [voice trails off])

Speaking of snubs, if you thought Wonder Woman didn't get any nominations because, news flash, not every big-budget comic-book movie gets the prestige awards that lonely dorks holed up with their "light saber" and a box of Kleenex believe it should, Brandon Morse of RedState is here to tell you it's really because "Hollywood, being the left wing haven that it is, couldn’t stomach a few of Wonder Woman’s glaring politically incorrect flaws." That seems weird, as I remember when the movie came out conservatives were mainly tumescent with rage at all-female showings of the film. But no, Morse tells us,
For one, feminists didn’t seem to think Wonder Woman was suitable as a rep for their narrative. She was too sexy and too beautiful.
And when he unsheathed his light-saber, an usher threw him out of the theater.

Others among the brethren run their own little fantasy factories -- like Victory Girls' Kendall Sanchez saying Get Out is about "how progressives attempt to understand the cultural experience of African Americans." I know, that's what we all took away from it. Also, while Kyle Smith thinks Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is "about a vengeful feminist looking for answers after her daughter’s murder and also has a racist character" and therefore is "just as woke as The Shape of Water" -- a damning assessment, indeed! -- Kendall thinks "it’s a great movie about a desperate mother urging police to find her daughter’s murderer. I went into the movie thinking it would be a giant slam against police" -- and therefore bad! -- "but it turned out to be a humble and empathetic story that emphasized all humans are 1) intention-driven and 2) both good and bad." Ebbing, Missouri is a land of contrasts!

Maybe Smith and Kendall can do a podcast where they argue over whether a movie is conservative-therefore-good or liberal-therefore-bad. That'll really show the libs and send the walls of Hollyweird tumbling down, and our children's children's children will have nothing to watch on the telescreen but Veggie Tales, God's Not Dead 1-3,927, and the Two Minutes Hate, as God intended.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: For conservatives, culture war is not a war for culture but a war on culture.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


I've said more than once that the "culture war" is a war on culture but, as pithy an aperçu as that is, it doesn't draw the whole picture of what's wrong with culture warriors. Sure, many of them are brutes who are frightened by the power of art and think it must be some kind of ordnance liberals possess that they should try to steal. That's why they're so excited by the Harvey Weinstein thing  -- not because they give a shit about sexual harassment, but because they think it's an angle they can use to break Hollywood's alleged spell over the masses and grab it for themselves; you can hear it in the exultations of Kyle Smith ("Hollywood’s image of itself as a morally enlightened congress of tribunes of the people has been destroyed") and Jim Geraghty ("Hollywood, you don’t get to lecture us about anything anymore") who seem to think this has been achieved.

Sometimes I think this ties in with Trump's war on the NFL; Trump clearly envies the violent passions football excites and hopes, by portraying it as traitor-infested, to transfer that passion to himself.  For conservatives of the modern type, the ideal state would be one where citizens are driven away from sports and movies and, indeed, any traditional form of recreation, and instead spend their leisure hours on megachurch services and MAGA rallies.

 But there's also the aspect of culture war that's sad as well as weird, because it shows just how damaging it is to the warrior. Get a load of an article by Theodore Kupfer at National Review called "Conservatives Should Reconsider Their Opposition to Hip-Hop." It begins:
Most conservatives don’t like hip-hop. The typical conservative case against the genre amounts not to music criticism, but to...
Ha ha but come on, though, you didn't really think they'd cop to it?
...the charge that it promotes dangerous behaviors in the culture.
Well, the dog heard it. (Another thing about these guys: With them it's always "the culture" instead of culture -- just as for Putin it's always "the Ukraine" instead of Ukraine.)

Kupfer says his fellow wingnuts, apparently on the strength of a 30-year-old N.W.A. record, believe "most rap... feeds the violent loop that mars inner cities, whose residents scorn the justice system and settle scores outside it." But Kupfer -- look at him, the fightin' conservative who knows how to rap with the kids! -- begs to differ.
The first track on Straight Outta Compton is a clue that the critique might be wrong. The song begins with the sobering reminder that, “When somethin’ happens in South Central Los Angeles, nothin’ happens. It’s just another n**** dead,” letting that last word echo before the music kicks in. In other words, N.W.A., which became infamous among conservatives for glorifying violence, began its first album by noting how pervasive such violence is in their hometown, and how little anyone seems to do about it.
Sure, they talk about violence -- but they think it's bad! And they clearly don't think the state is the answer -- why, it's just a short leap from that to support for enterprise zones.

It goes on like that -- Nas has a tune about how much he loves his son, and we're all about family values, right?  It might be touching coming from a prep school student trying to explain to his ofay teacher what rap is, but at National Review it's just some young "Fellow" trying to make conservatism a little more millennial-friendly -- NatRev and chill -- and the comments section reveals that actual National Review readers aren't going for it  ("97% of it is garbage and probably an even higher percentage is liberal").

But him being a clueless honky isn't the big thing. It's the ending that gets me:
This remains an unfortunate blind spot for a political movement with a checkered record on race. Reform-minded conservatives have convincingly argued that the path up from white-identity politics runs toward a civic nationalism that is pan-ethnic, one that celebrates the shared cultural and artistic achievements of all Americans. If they’re right, then the conservative mind ought to rethink hip-hop, a sometimes-great and always uniquely American art form.
What is "the conservative mind" and why should it be argued into liking a form of music? What has one's tastes or desires got to do with being "reform-minded" or "a civic nationalism that is pan-ethnic"? You might just as well write an article about why, on the strength of recent trends in The Movement, conservatives should embrace sweet potato pierogies. And Kupfer's if-you-believe-this-you-should-enjoy-that formulation implies that conservatives are hypocritical not to like rap. This isn't like opposing gay marriage publicly while picking up men in toilets privately -- this is music, and it is beyond dispute.

I have friends who don't like rap, and/or country, and/or other musics I love. Hell, my wife can't stand most of the music I like. But that is, to those of us whose minds have not been turned to glue, the way of the world and something we can live with, if we have attained a certain very basic degree of perspective. Imagine being the kind of person who felt the need to argue someone into enjoying the music they liked. Sure, the famously ugly John Wilkes said that when he was trying to get laid he could talk his face away -- but, well, he was trying to get laid. What's Kupfer's excuse?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Trump has really taught conservatives to turn on a dime and accept new realities that were once (if you ever believed a word they said) disgusting to them. Remember when it was a wingnut rite of passage to hatewank over Lena Dunham? (My detailed examinations here, here, and here.) Now that her show Girls has ended with her character apparently getting a ridiculously impossible academic job and a kid, the brethren are in love with her.

Well, it's a kind of love. They want to have their cake and eat it too -- and in this their attempt is very like what they do with Trump as well: They say mildly bad things about her, but endorse her policies -- that is, endorse what they think her show's conclusion means in the purely political terms they think apply to every area of human life. Here's Erika Andersen at The Federalist:
Don’t Tell Her, But Lena Dunham Just Made A Pro-Life Season Of ‘Girls'
See, Andersen says, in the real world Dunham's a baby-killer -- "I don’t know for sure if she supports abortion up to 9 months of pregnancy," she says, "but let the record show, she probably does." (Despite the vinyl revival, Andersen doesn't seem to know what the word "record" means.) But the Invisible Hand of the Art-Marketplace forced Dunham to call for the repeal of Roe v. Wade, culture-war-wise, by having her character have a baby:
They could have thrown in a late-term abortion (and wouldn’t the pro-choice media just love the “stigma-reducing” that would showcase?), but they wouldn’t dare go there. 
Why not? It’s her body, right? Because it’s not, and everyone — yes, EVERYONE — knows it. 
Every time a character on TV has a baby, it's a thumbs-up for the Republic of Gilead. (Except Murphy Brown -- she's still a whore.)

Meanwhile Kyle Smith -- National Review's new culture-scold hire, probably enlisted to appease the readers who are confused and angered by Armond White -- praises "Lena Dunham’s Ultimately Conservative Message." Dunham, you see, is the bad Hannah -- "[she] says unconscionable things, just like her narcissistic screen alter ego" -- but "Dunham the writer," ah, she's almost as good as Jonah Goldberg, and "Hannah’s reckless, destructive self-absorption" betrays Dunham the writer's awareness that Dunham the slut is a filthy slut and abortion is murder. Maybe in her next project, Dunham the writer will kill Dunham the slut, like Dr. Jekyll did Mr. Hyde! In the meantime, comrades, let's keep our wits sharp with our guiltily-retained Fappening files!

Of course, the show's not over till Chunky Reese Witherspoon sings, and one can only approach Ross Douthat's contribution with a certain Hell No. Take this:
Tony Soprano pining for the days of Gary Cooper set a tone for all these stories, which then echoed and re-echoed in the Louisiana swamps of “True Detective,” the New Mexican borderlands of “Breaking Bad,” the halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Again and again the viewer watched a male protagonist trying to be a breadwinner, paterfamilias, a protector and savior, a Leader of Men; again and again these attempts were presented as dangerously alluring, corrupting, untimely and foredoomed...

On “Girls,” though, something very different was going on. The fall of patriarchy had basically happened, the world had irrevocably changed … and nobody knew what to do next.
You young people today -- Destroy! Destroy! When are you going to find time to build! By the time you get to Douthat's fuzzbeard Catholic version of Lena Dunham is Conservative ("True, this was motherhood solo, without a mate or male provider. But the male absence felt more like a signifier of masculine failure than feminine empowerment") you have...

Who am I kidding -- I'm sure nobody ever actually gets to that part; why bother to read that far? (Certainly not for the pleasure of the prose!) In the end, these exegeses are unneeded: the people who liked the show will bid it adieu and go watch something else, and the culture warriors will just scan the headlines and quickly flip ahead to the Ann Coulter column, taking it on faith that their public scribes have properly informed History how everything they like -- TV shows, Clint Eastwood movies, choc-o-mut ice creams -- is further proof that tax breaks for the wealthy and persecution of minorities are God's holy will.

Anyway now they can move on to Emma Watson. She too is a libtard, and hot, and ripe for conversion fantasies. Which of them with be the first to write that Beauty and the Beast shows the good Emma's desire to be done with Pajama Boys and instead enjoy the violation of a true conservative mangoat? My money's on Rod Dreher!

Friday, January 08, 2016


Funeral today tomorrow. Words of wisdom from the deceased. 

•   When Obama said he was going to do all those gun orders, Charles C.W. Cooke did a long, weirdly wound-up post called "President Obama Has Let His Emotion Get the Better of His Judgment":
Has Obama lost his mind? This is a man, remember, who is supposed to be admirably dispassionate; a man who is supposed to understand how the game is played; a man who is supposed to reflexively refuse to be taken in by the emotion of the moment. And yet he’s going to use a good deal of his last year’s political capital in order to tweak a few minor rules around the edges? Why?
Also, "Which is to say that Obama’s behavior is not at all rational," "Even if he wins this round, he will have done precisely nothing of merit," "Were I a gun control advocate I’d be livid with him. Livid," "Obama has let his emotion get the better of him here. He and his fellow travelers will likely pay a price," etc. Lots of italics, there, Chuck. Today we see what he was so hysterical about: A CNN poll finds that, while they disapprove of Obama using executive orders to do it, the American people approve of his gun control measures 67%-32%. Even 51% of Republicans and most gun owners support the measures. The respondents are also skeptical that the measures will work, which makes sense -- but what a pity CNN didn't also ask why they were skeptical, and list "because the Republicans will do everything they can to fuck it up" among the possible choices. (Extra credit, BTW, to, which headlines its poll coverage "CNN POLL: MAJORITY OPPOSE USE OF EXECUTIVE ACTIONS FOR GUN CONTROL" and adds this kicker: "The majority of respondents to the CNN/ORC poll were not gun owners. Only 40 percent said there is even a gun in their house." So how can true patriots even take them serious! Show us a poll taken by gun owners instead, preferably not while they're on the way to the emergency room.)

•   So many examples, but I might as well take one of the more egregious, from The Federalist:
Hillary Clinton Should Stop Excusing Juanita Broaddrick’s Sexual Assault
Juanita Broaddrick recently opened up on Twitter over her sexual assault by Bill Clinton and Hillary's dismissal of her suffering.
Look on the bright side: At least there's one woman in America conservatives believe was raped. Favorite kicker and author bio on the subject, from Newsday:
I’ve often wondered how she and Juanita Broaddrick and Eileen Wellstone and Sandra Allen James and Christy Zercher, among others, have felt watching Bill Clinton go on to become a revered national and international statesman. 
If Trump can give them a second hearing in the court of public opinion, maybe his candidacy is worth something after all. 
William F. B. O’Reilly is a Republican consultant.
I guess it could be true -- the guy pushed through NAFTA, after all, so in my book he's capable of anything.

•   How about a quick run through the gibberish pits of the culture war? Ross Douthat did something for National Review that defies analysis....
And then there’s pop culture itself. In the original Back to the Future, Marty McFly invaded his father’s sleep dressed as “Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan.” Thirty years later, the biggest blockbuster of 2015 was about . . . Darth Vader’s grandchildren. It is directed by a filmmaker who’s coming off rebooting . . . Star Trek. And the wider cinematic landscape is defined by . . . the recycling of comic-book properties developed between the 1940s and the 1970s. Even fashion shows a similar repetition, as Kurt Anderson pointed out in Vanity Fair several years ago...
Yeah whatever beardo, fast forward:
...we’re dealing with issues (from an aggressive Russia to, yes, Libyan-linked terrorist groups) that Marty and “Doc” Brown would recognize immediately. (Though in fairness, we do make movies about colonizing Mars, and the special effects are excellent.) 
The word for this kind of civilizational situation is “decadence.”
Well, at least it's highfalutin' and incoherent. Most of the current cultwar crop is quotidian propagandist yak: Operatives like John C. Goodman and Steven Hayward, for example, instructing their minions to see The Big Short as an indictment not of unregulated greedheads wrecking the economy, but of poor people getting mortgages. Connoisseurs of longform cultwar can take in Kyle Smith, who at Commentary tells us that Hollyweird often changes the details of supposedly "true stories" -- not to make them more dramatic, as you may have thought, but to please their Stalinist masters! Keep fucking that culture war chicken, comrades.

•   Speaking of culture warriors, Virginia Postrel says David O. Russell's Joy is better than The Social Network (a movie from five years ago) because it's nicer to capitalism:
The respect extends to products and customers. “Joy” acknowledges the wealth-creating value of incremental improvements even in the most mundane items.
Book my seats now!
...Most of all, however, “Joy” makes its protagonist an untragic hero. She gets tough and she gets rich, but she winds up neither lonely nor mean. 
Mildred Pierce was originally like that, but FDR made them change it to promote socialism.
Audiences embraced Sorkin’s compelling but dark fable of the friendless tycoon as if it were a much sunnier story. The real-world triumph of Facebook overpowered the fictional desolation of "The Social Network." 
“Watching this movie makes you want to run from the theatre, grab your laptop and build your own empire,” wrote one moviegoer. If Hollywood won’t give people an inspiring movie about big-time entrepreneurship, audiences will imagine their own version.
Hollywood's always trying to tell us that ambition may isolate us from other people, but that's just because they're communists; what regular people really see in The Social Network is wealth production -- because why else would anyone see a movie except to celebrate an economic theory? The whole thing's full of howlers, but here's my favorite part:
Hollywood regularly produces positive movies about small businesses, often in the hospitality industry. “Chef,” “The 100-Foot Walk,” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” come to mind.
But really, what's the point of these recommendations when audiences will imagine their own versions? Helps her meet her word count, I guess.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Politico reports that Jon Stewart visited the White House twice in the Obama era. To you and me and other ordinary citizens, no big; but to the Washington Free Beacon it’s “Jon Stewart Secretly Visited Obama White House Two Times” — that’s two (2!) times, America! — a development “previously unreported in the media.” The story concludes: “Stewart has become infamous for his consistently negative portrayal of Republican lawmakers. He will appear in his final episode as host next Thursday.”

You may be wondering, why the ominous tone? Turns out it’s widespread among the winger brethren. “That’s the clown-nose-on, clown-nose-off issue again with Daily Show and its clones,” seethes Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, replicating a ten-year-old wingnut talking point; “they want to be taken seriously as cultural drivers and news disseminators, but don’t want the responsibility for disclosing their biases or their slants.”

One wonders: What “desire to be taken serious” or “responsibility” is Morrissey talking about? The responsibility to look glum and serious like Ben Shapiro? (If Chuck Todd decided to try and be funny, would he be more likely to increase his effectiveness, or to embarrass himself?)

“Secret visits, unprecedented access,” sputters Amy Miller at Legal Insurrection under the title “It’s Official: Jon Stewart is an Obama Shill.” “Comedy is an effective buffer against criticism,” Miller says, carefully sloshing the volatile essence of comedy between two beakers in the pale moonlight, “and now we know that there was a coordinated effort to control which Administration foibles got ha-has, and which were exposed for actual critique. It’s not a particularly shocking revelation, but it does serve as one more layer of slime covering the travesty that is the relationship between liberals and the media.” (You disgusting jokesters! I knew there was a reason why they made you sit at a table far from the paying customers!)

The Politico reporter “never questions the appropriateness of Obama’s private meetings with the liberal comedian,” gasps Newsbusters. "A DEMOCRATIC OPERATIVE, MASQUERADING AS A COMEDIAN... Potemkin Village? We’ve got a whole freakin’ Potemkin Culture," crypto-fascizes Ole Perfesser Instapundit (h/t @punditdotcom).

“While President Obama was leaving the money on the nightstand for the rest of the press… he was making waffles and fresh squeezed orange juice for Johnny in the morning,” says alleged comedian Steve Crowder. “…If you ever needed any more proof as to the corrupt relationship of not only the press, but the entertainment industry with the Democratic party… you’re welcome.” In a healthy democracy apparatchiks would encourage the people to laugh at Steve Crowder, not some commie oaf!

“Confirmed: Jon Stewart Was Obama’s Official White House Jester,” snarls Philip Wegmann at The Federalist. His lede is precious:
Molière, the 17th century French playwright, once observed that “comedy alone can correct the vices of men.” Too bad he never watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It turns out that the Comedy Central funnyman was just another flak for the Obama administration.
Whereas Molière was always telling people what a treasonous bastard Louis XIV was. Surely you remember “La comédie de l'acte de naissance”? Wegmann closes,
Comedy probably won’t see another Stewart anytime soon. His comedic genius will be hard to match. But one can’t help but wonder, what if Stewart had really gone after everyone? How many laughs did he lose by telling canned-political jokes? How many vices went uncorrected?
Does it strike you as it does me that these people have never told a joke — I mean, never done so just for the pleasure of making their friends laugh? (Though they may have lab-tested some pieces of ordnance marked “humor” for their loathsome work of correcting vices or whatever, and stood sadly in their lab coats watching them fail, wondering why their creatures never came to life.)

This is sort of the essence of conservatives when they talk about culture. They show not the slightest awareness of the fundamental truth that comedy, like drama and film and music and everything else like it, is animated by something much deeper and more elemental that politics — though artists may become political themselves and be motivated to approach those subjects, particularly when the society they’re born into is as fucked up as ours. Art confuses conservatives, so they despise it, and treat it as some unfair advantage that liberals have. They don’t think artists tend to be liberal because liberal society gives human beings the breathing room to develop their talents — such a thing is impossible for them to grasp; they think it’s because ObamaHitler and his fellow Hitlers have found some community called “Artsilvania” or something where people are temperamentally just like conservatives except talented, and paid them a great deal of money to promote liberal lies (which, in the conservative imagination, they would do happily because money is more important than anything).

I’d feel sorry for them if they weren’t working so hard to destroy everything I love.

UPDATE. Angergrams keep coming in. "I’ve always viewed Stewart as Obama’s messenger boy and this pretty much confirms it," says American Spectator's Aaron Goldstein, whose usefulness in any capacity has never been demonstrated. And the New York Post's Kyle Smith calls Stewart a "partisan hack" who "allowed himself to be seduced by power. He sold out. He dined with those he should have been dining upon." Back in 2009, Smith was yelling at Will Ferrell for making fun of newly-evicted POTUS George W. Bush: "Is it too much to ask for Hollywood's leading comic actor not to use the deaths of our troops in combat for a giggle?" his subhed sputtered. Smith was talking about a bit where Ferrell's Bush interrupted a moment of silence for the war dead to take a phone call. This is an ancient gag (there's an especially funny variation involving Ralph Richardson in O Lucky Man! starting at 6:45 here) but Smith seemed never to have heard of it, and to be mortally offended:
The problem is, during what turned out to be merely a pause to set up the punchline, I actually was thinking about our war dead, and so were a lot of others. Left and right, we all believe, or supposedly do, in honoring the sacrifice of our servicemen and women. 
Here, Hollywood is letting its mask slip...

But is it too much to ask for our war dead to not be ridiculed by wealthy comedians? Maybe those who fly on private jets, live in closely policed communities with surveillance cameras covering every inch of their property and send their kids to private school don’t understand that there is such a thing as public security, and that it isn’t a joke...
Also, how about that bastard George Grosz, painting deformed World War I veterans so disrespectfully instead of promoting kinder, küche, and kirche like a good citizen?  That Smith's talking about anyone else's hackery is rich, but I'll say this for him: What he lacks in talent he makes up for in nerve.